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Thursday, August 24, 2017

Slowpoke Sloth Ventures Out

Little Miss Abby, a.k.a. Doc McAbby, heard that I went into sloth mode on  the days I have a chemo treatment. She decided  that if Grandma was going to  become a sloth, maybe I should take a sloth with me to "get my medicine." I'm not sure how that is supposed to work, since sloths are somewhat solitary creatures, but maybe in this situation two sloths are better than one.

So Abby brought me a sloth  a week or so ago. He's a very handsome fellow and doesn't seem to mind  being here instead of  living in a tree in the rain forests of Central and South America.
Although  the three-toed sloth, which is what Slowpoke is,  has an official family name of Bradypus, I've named him Slowpoke, because like  his relatives in the trees, he moves verrrry slowly. A sloth moves  only about six to eight feet a minute. The name  Bradypus comes from Greek and means slow feet, so I figure Slowpoke is a very similar word in English. As you can see, Slowpoke has a lovely shiny coat. When  living in the trees he moves so slowly that algae grows on his fur, so he looks green. This is good in a way because  the green lets him  blend in with the leaves so  predators can't see him. He's very vulnerable to attack when he's on the ground because he moves so slowly. His hind legs are very weak so he has to move forward by digging into the ground and dragging his body along. He has a hard time  getting away from larger animals that might attack him-he has to try to defend himself by  biting, and scratching with his claws.  He doesn't come out of the trees very often, though.  For instance, he  comes down from the trees to  use the bathroom but since it takes so long to digest a meal he only needs to relieve himself once a week. He eats mostly  tough leaves that are very hard to digest.  They are so hard to digest that a sloth has a four part stomach to  break down the leaves, and it can take anywhere from  two weeks to a month  for  a sloth to digest a meal. His diet provided very little nutrition or energy, which could be why sloths move so slowly. Slowpoke must still be digesting his last meal because he doesn't seem hungry at all.

Although sloths spend  most of their time in trees and come  down rarely, sometimes  they  drop out of the trees over water to go for a swim.  Sloths may move slowly on the ground but they are strong swimmers and can do a mean breaststroke with their powerful front arms/legs. We don't have a pool and don't live close to the water, so poor Slowpoke won't get  a chance to show me what a good swimmer he is while he's here.

Slowpoke, like all sloths, and some teenagers, likes to sleep a lot, sometimes up to fifteen or twenty hours a day. Needless to say, I had a hard time waking slowpoke up yesterday to go to the clinic with me. But I finally got him up and let him sleep in the big bag that I take with me to treatments. I keep a couple of blankets in the bag because it's very chilly in the  infusion room so Slowpoke  had a nice soft ride in the car and seemed quite contented as you can see, although I think he was a little unnerved to be moving so fast with no effort on his part.
Once we arrived at the clinic and I had  my blood pressure taken and blood drawn for a blood test (Slowpoke had to turn his head away- he doesn't like blood tests at all) we  went to one of the exam rooms. Slowpoke  chose a  red chair to sit in and wait for the  doctor. I thought he looked a little worried that  somebody might try to examine him but I assured him that wasn't going to happen.
After I'd seen the doctor and introduced her to Slowpoke we went across to the infusion room, where Slowpoke settled into one of the big blue recliners, waiting for me to come back from the restroom.
Once I was in the chair, covered with my nice warm blanket and hooked up to my chemo treatment bags and pump on a pole, we settled in together for the  four hour infusion. Needless to say, Slowpoke  fell asleep, and I  kept dozing off myself.
When we were finally unhooked and headed  up to the  waiting room to check on my next appointment and let Mr. G know we were ready to go,  we ran into  my medical oncologist, Dr. Katisha Vance, and my radiation oncologist, Dr. Clint Holladay. Slowpoke said he'd like to have his picture taken with them, and they kindly obliged. I'd love to know what Slowpoke is whispering in Doc Holladay's ear, it must have been funny, though, the way  everybody is laughing.
Once at home, both Slowpoke and I  went to sleep. I woke up and played on facebook for a few minutes, ate and drank something, then went back to sleep off and on all day. In other words, I  entered sloth mode, but this time I had a friend in the same mode.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Strange Lights and Crescent Shadows

We had a partial solar eclipse here yesterday.  For me, the most interesting thing about it was watching the play of light and shadows as the  moon moved to block the sun. As the light began to dim, it seemed to take on an eerie quality; not exactly like  a storm  brewing, or the sun setting, but there seemed to be a glow,  with heightened shadows and  an edge to the colors. I took this photo of a Gulf  fritillary on the deck about ten minutes before the peak. The butterfly had been flitting about back and forth  across the deck seemingly in a confused state, before finally settling on a spot to land.
I think it may have been a spot that Victoria had used  when she  couldn't or wouldn't make it all the way off the deck to relieve herself. Maybe she does it because she knows butterflies love urine for the minerals it provides, but I doubt  Victoria is that altruistic. Anyway,   you can see how  deep the  butterfly's color is in the fading light.

I had decided to  view the eclipse from the front yard, using  the leaves on one of the young oak trees as a filter. I went out  about twenty minutes before the eclipse began to  find  what I thought  might be the best spot, and took a pic  so that I could compare it to  pics  taken  during the  eclipse itself.
What struck me as quite strange is that there was no noise.  Normally   there are  many sounds: birds calling,  crows cawing,  dogs barking, the neighbor's  rooster crowing, cars driving by,  traffic noise from the highway a few blocks away. But it was eerily quiet.Every once in a while there would be a slight breeze that  moved one  of the fallen leaves but it was  almost imperceptible. I had read about  how  the gaps in the leaves act as pinholes during an eclipse, casting an image of the eclipse in each gap in the form of crescent shadows. 
There were crescent shadows all over the ground- it was quite delightful!
It was all over in just a  couple of minutes. The moon moved away from the sun,  the bright sunlight returned, and the rooster began crowing again.  He was probably trying to herd  the  hens back outside while trying to explain to them that he'd made a mistake and it hadn't really been time to roost after all. I'm sure the hens were in shock.  Not  because of the eclipse, but because roosters, much like males of other species, rarely admit to being wrong.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Even Weeds Can Have a Good Side

For the last few days   the bane of my gardening  endeavors  has been  a weed that looks like  a  miniature mimosa tree. It has taken over large areas in the flower, herb and veggie beds to produce  forests of miniature mimosas. Its  official name is  Phyllanthus urinaria,  but  it is more commonly known as chamber bitter, gripeweed, shatterstone, stonebreaker or leafflower. And although the plant looks like a little mimosa, it isn't even in the same family. I can see why  people call it gripeweed; I've been griping about it for days!


Since I don't use herbicides I've been pulling it out by hand- a job made much easier if the ground is wet. We haven't had any rain, or not enough to  soak the ground, for  a few days so pulling without breaking the roots has been  quite a job and I haven't been all that successful. Its  strong root system is the reason it is sometimes  called  stonebreaker or shatterstone. It does have a pretty extensive root system, as you can see here:
According to what I've read, it also has  yellow or white flowers, but I haven't seen any yet. Or maybe I just didn't look at the right time.  What it does have  though, are explosive little seeds- a kazillion of them,  on the underside of its leaves,  so it's a pretty safe bet that for every plant I've pulled there are  hundreds more ready to sprout from all the little seeds that have  dropped.
Because of those little seeds,  it's not a good idea to  put the weeds in your compost pile unless  your compost gets hot enough to kill them.  Mine doesn't, so I bag them up and send them to the dump. I'm not sure how our county dump handles yard waste and whether they  compost it in nice hot, steaming compost piles, but I doubt it. I fully expect to drive past the dump one day and see that it has become a  forest of tiny  fake mimosas.

But, as with so many other things, Phyllanthus urinaria is not all bad (unless it's growing in your flower beds) and I've discovered that it is reported as having many useful properties and has been the subject of several scientific research studies for it's possible effectiveness as an anti-tumor and anti-angiogenic agent in certain cancers. It has been used for hundreds of years  in  the  Far East, where it is native, as a remedy for various liver and kidney ailments. Tea made from the leaves  is sold as an herbal medicine to aid in everything from boosting your immune system to lessening the effects of a hangover. All of which makes me wonder whether I should be  saving the leaves and drying them rather than dumping them. But  then I read that in India  the crushed plant is used as fish poison and I don't really want to poison any fish. I do plan to read more about it, since it  has turned out to be such an  interesting weed. But not interesting enough to let it grow unchecked in the flower beds!


Sunday, August 20, 2017

Weeding and Mulching

It's been so hot and humid this summer that  I've neglected the garden.  The once pristine (well maybe pristine is pushing it a little 😉) flower beds now resemble a jungle of weeds and grass. This nice little area, for instance looked fairly tame in May.
But now it looks like this:
The iris  and shasta daisy bed looked even worse, so I decided to tackle that first and managed to get  an hour or two of work in yesterday and this morning before the heat and humidity drove me back inside.
I pulled a lot of weeds- some were over knee high.  I filled one trash can and had to start on another.
Mr. G filled up a wheelbarrow with mulch for me so I wouldn't have to haul heavy bags of mulch around and it didn't take very long at all to use most of it up.



There's still a lot of work to do and  it's frustrating  to not be able to work for very long at a time in the heat and humidity, but  it feels good to have made a start.  And I think the butterflies agree. There were several fritillaries  flitting in the zinnias  this morning, and this lovely swallowtail who  kept me company for a while.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Little Moments of Peace and Beauty

In a world  on the edge of chaos, filled with  tragedy, hate and violence, I am grateful for hummingbirds. 

And flowers. 

Friday, August 11, 2017

Vet Visits and Views From the Kitchen Window

Today was vet visit day for Agatha and Victoria.  They are both caught up on their shots and meds now and are good for another six months.  Agatha had gotten too chubby for her harness so I bought her a new adjustable one  and it came yesterday.  I adjusted it as far as I could but it still had a lot of slack in it when I put it on her this morning. Come to find out she's lost a pound and a half.  Victoria, on the other hand,  must have found what Agatha lost because she'd gained a pound or so.  But the vet said they're both in good shape, all things considered, and both are  all set for the next six months, I hope.  I did tell them they both needed to  find a job so they could help pay their vet bills before they drove me to the poor house. But they are both   too lazy for that, I fear, and prefer to  spend their time lolling about like ladies of leisure.




 Can't resist another garden pic. Several months ago, when the zinnias first came up in the back yard, they came in so thickly that I had to thin them out. I potted them up and asked  our next door neighbor if she'd like to have them. She was delighted, and planted them in  the flower bed in front of her house- which  we can see from our kitchen window. In no time at all they had  grown nice and bushy and covered with blooms. Soon butterflies and even some hummingbirds discovered them and  began visiting, fluttering about all day long. So  all summer, as we've stood at the sink washing  dishes we've had a delightful view of colorful  blooms, birds and butterflies. 




Thursday, August 10, 2017

Bees and Butterflies

Yesterday was chemo treatment day. Four and a half hours of getting pumped full of chemicals.  I  fell asleep on the way home and slept off and on most of the day.  Which is probably why I was wide awake for most of the night and dragging again this morning. So this will be one of those posts I mentioned that is mostly pics from the garden.

The zinnias have been attracting a nice assortment of butterflies and bees.  I tried to capture a shot of a hummingbird moth last week but he was too fast for me, as was the  zebra swallowtail.  But  a  few skippers, a Gulf fritillary,and a black swallowtail were more cooperative. A couple  of the pics are a little fuzzy and don't show these  jewels in their full glory, but. . .


The Gulf fritillary pic is  fuzzy and I couldn't get a good shot of him (or her) with wings fully open.
            






These two skippers were traveling together.  Where one went the other followed.










This busy bee  had pollen all over his body.  Maybe the weight of all that pollen slowed him down just enough for me to get a pic.😄



This swallowtail  swooped from one flower to another and spent quite a bit of time on each.


The zinnias are getting quite bedraggled by all the rain we've had lately and   may not be attracting   pollinators much longer, but it's been fun to watch for the last  couple of months.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

To Blog or Not To Blog

One of my blogger/writer friends wrote on his blog the other day that he has written a blog post every day for the last  ten years. And that's in addition to books he's written and his regular newspaper column! And here I  was, thinking I did well if I managed to make two blog posts a month! It takes self-discipline to write every day,  especially on days when you have nothing to write about and  your muse has abandoned you. I  lack that self-discipline.  But then again, I don't claim to be a serious writer, much as I like to rattle on sometimes. Then  there's that burning question, "Does anybody read this stuff or am I just writing to --to what? To vent? to  persuade? To share something interesting that happened? Why DO people blog, anyway?

I've noticed that  many of the people whose blogs I once followed regularly now blog  infrequently or no longer blog at all. Maybe  facebook, twitter,  snapchap and other social media sites have replaced blogging. There are still a lot of die-hard, disciplined bloggers out there -- some  blog about causes they believe in, some blog to  help their businesses, some blog about their passions, political and otherwise, and others blog to share some aspects of their lives. There are probably almost as many reasons to blog as there are bloggers.  There are  also quite a few cancer blogs, where people diagnosed with various forms of cancer share  their feelings, treatments, challenges, etc. I've been doing that to some degree, but I don't want to   concentrate on cancer.  It is part of my life now,  as I navigate through various tests, procedures and treatments, but it is  just one part of my life, albeit a fairly large part. So it is part of my blog, too. If  my  experience with cancer can help someone else  facing a similar diagnosis, that's good.

And so I continue to blog-  sometimes  in spurts of entries every day, sometimes with no more than one or two blog posts a month, and sometimes there are stretches of several months where I don't blog at all. But I will try to be more disciplined and post  more often- even if it's just to post a  picture or two from the garden. Which may be what  happens tomorrow, since I'm scheduled for another four and a half hour chemo treatment in the morning and will spend much more time dozing off than typing once I get home..

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Peaches and More Ponderings


I am happy to report that I have  survived   the latest CT scan, colonoscopy and chemo treatment  relatively intact.  The CT scan indicated that everything is stable and there is no evidence of new disease, so that’s good.  The colonoscopy prep was worse this time than the one two years ago, but thank goodness I was  put under for the actual procedure which shows that I now have  radiation colitis, so that probably accounts for some of the  bleeding, as well as  the scar tissue and scabs that have been sloughing off.  I haven’t seen any of the written pathology reports yet, but will probably know something in a week or so. I had another chemo treatment this week and am almost recovered, but still feeling a little fatigued. I think perhaps it was not such a good idea to schedule a scan, colonoscopy and chemo treatment within the same eight day period. The oncologist   and surgeon are supposed to get together to discuss   treatment options after they get the written report from the gastro doctor, whether to continue as we have been with the chemo or if now is the time to go ahead with surgery, etc.  I’ll hopefully know more  at my next   doctor visit next month.

The garden  is looking pretty sad and neglected.  Weeds are growing with wild abandon, plants are getting long-legged and spindly and even the bright zinnias are beginning to look a bit bedraggled. We have had a lot of heat and a lot of rain, which has resulted in sauna like conditions outside. In the few early morning and evening hours when the heat is not quite so oppressive, the gnats and mosquitoes and most active.  Those nasty gnats form clouds and hover in the air, just waiting for you to  pass through. Then they get in your eyes, ears, up your nose, even  in your mouth if you happen to  open it for a second. 

Needless to say, I haven’t been working outside much lately.  And it shows. I have rooted and potted up some cuttings and repotted  a few herbs,  and weeded one of my little square foot gardening sections, but there’s much more  that needs to be done. We don’t have much rain in the forecast for the next week or so, and there are several partly cloudy days with  temps in the 80s predicted, so maybe I’ll get out and get some work done  this coming week.

If it’s  too muggy to work outside, there’s plenty  that need to be done inside-  we need to paint walls in several rooms.  It’s been years since they had a fresh coat of paint and  dingy walls  can be depressing.  At any rate, there’s  plenty of work to be done, so  there’s not much chance  of complaining that there’s nothing to do.  But right now I’m going to make another  rustic peach and raspberry tart.  I made one  the other day with some peaches  Mr. G had bought at the farmer’s market.  Although  it was a little more “rustic” than I’d hoped it was delicious and  calls for an encore. 

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Post-treatment Ponderings

Today is my red face day- a combination of  steroid flush and side-effects of Erbitux that hit me the day after a chemo treatment.  This week's treatment was a day early- my oncologist is out of town this week and her partner works at another location on Wednesdays, so with no doctor in the clinic all Wednesday's patients were  scheduled for days when  a doctor would be there should any problems arise with the infusions. I'm glad I was one of the "day early" patients since I should be  more energized and able to do things on the week-end. Not that we ever do much on the week-ends, but who knows, something interesting might crop up. And if it does, I'll be all fit and ready to go.

I missed yoga this  week, which was a bit disappointing. I'd been  cleaning carpets and probably got carried away over the week-end pushing and pulling the behemoth carpet shampooer back and forth across the carpets. I thought  I'd pulled a neck muscle- every time I raised my arm above shoulder level, one of the muscles in my neck and shoulder would harden like a bone, then twitch and throb.  It wasn't terribly painful so much as being very annoying. That combined with the shin splints I've been having after walking on the treadmill made me think that I should sit this Monday's class out, especially since I'd be sitting tethered to a pole  full of infusion bags for four and a half hours  on Tuesday.  Everything seems OK today-no shin splints  or twitching muscles, but I've been pretty sedentary.  Being sedentary is not something I'd recommend as a general rule, but every now and then it's not a bad idea to let your body rest from its labours, I think.

I have a CT scan scheduled for next week, then a colonoscopy (Thrill!) the week after that, followed by another chemo treatment. I'm beginning to have symptoms indicating the rectal tumor may be growing again.  The chemo cocktail of Erbitux and Camptosar I'm currently on has been doing a good job at keeping everything in check much longer than I thought it would,  but we may be looking at the possibility of surgery now, which would result in a permanent colostomy. Not the most wonderful thing to contemplate,  but it probably wouldn't be such a bad thing either, once  I got used to it.  Having   suffered from IBS for most of my adult life going out to eat had been  a no-no, unless I could get a table  very close to the restrooms.  It was always easier to just eat at home, but it would be nice to  try out some of the eateries I've been reading about without  worrying about having an embarrassing accident. My main  concerns about surgery are that I'm  not too keen about being put under with anesthesia for a four hour operation and  since  this is a stage 4 disease, there is always the possibility that it will pop up elsewhere soon after surgery making chemo more difficult because my body  has been weakened by surgery. Anyway, we'll have to see what the scan and scope find and then  discuss the options with the surgeon and oncologist. Once again, I'm hoping for the best but preparing (mentally) for the worst.



Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Don't Believe Everything I Say


I was going to say that one of the most frustrating things about being on chemotherapy long-term is the chemo brain. But then I got to thinking- -  at my age,  it’s really better to be able to blame memory lapses and such on chemo brain than it is to have people shake their heads sadly and say, “Poor thing, she’s really getting old and forgetful, isn’t she?”  

But actually, I’ve had strange things going on in my brain for years- just ask Mr. G or the kids. When I was a child, I could look at a picture of a giraffe and call it a kangaroo.  And vice versa. The same thing with a hippopotamus and a rhinoceros and a sequoia tree and a sycamore.  In adulthood this  took the form of  mixing up the kids' names. Often, when I went to call one of the five, I’d sometimes have to do the whole roll call before I got the right one.  But that’s another problem entirely, and I’ve heard other mothers say they’ve  done the same thing. Other than those few examples,  I had no problem identifying objects or animals or trees or people. Until recently.  And this is why I have to tell you: if you hear me say I use a walker everyday, don’t believe me.

When I started chemo, I was told to stay out of the sun, and quite frankly, I  reached the point where I couldn’t take Alabama’s summer heat and humidity. I knew exercise was important and signed up for a yoga class and began doing yoga exercises at home. Then I  read a lot of articles on the benefits of walking. So I thought, if we get a treadmill I can walk every day no matter what the weather is doing. We bought a manual treadmill.  But once it was set up in the house I developed a mind block and couldn’t think of what it was called. I began calling it a walker.  Now   there’s a big difference between using a walker and using a  treadmill, not that there is anything wrong with  using a walker- they can be wonderful aids to mobility,  particularly for people recovering from surgery or suffering from fatigue or weakness that makes walking difficult.  And there are times when I am definitely fatigued and when  my hip still remembers that it was hurt in a car wreck years ago and  protests loudly.  But so far, I haven’t needed a walker. So if you hear me say I used the walker today please don’t think I’m a poor little elderly creature who needs to sit down and have her pillows plumped for her. Just think of me as some scatterbrained eccentric who envisions herself stalking  rhinos through the sycamores while  trotting along in relative comfort on her treadmill.😉

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Musings on the 2016 election, being pro-life, and social safety nets



I  read an article today noting that  many of the people who voted for Trump are now  feeling voter’s remorse. They feel Trump lied to them and misled them.  Too many of the comments and responses from  my fellow liberals amounted to a lot of name-calling and blaming,  implying that  Trump voters were  all  ignorant racists. Some of them may be uninformed or misinformed, and some may  be hate-filled racists, in fact many of  Trump’s supporters  seem to make an effort to prove that point with  hateful  racist comments,  and worse, directed at anyone who   is of a different ethnic group, nationality, or religion.

 But I have met quite a few people who didn’t vote FOR Donald Trump  as much as they voted  AGAINST Hillary Clinton.  The people I’m referring to for the most part are not racists, they are not ignorant, but they are devout Christians, and the reason they give for voting against Clinton is that she “believes in abortion” or is “pro-abortion.” It does little good to point out to them that Clinton is pro-choice, which is very different from being pro-abortion.  Trump made some of these dog-whistle charges in an October  19, 2016 debate, when he said, “I think it's terrible if you go with what Hillary is saying . . . In the ninth month you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb of the mother just prior to the birth of the baby.”  Clinton responded to these scare tactics by stating, “You should meet with some of the women that I've met with—women I've known over the course of my life,” she said. “This is one of the worst possible choices that any woman and her family has to make. And I do not believe the government should be making it. . . I’ve been to countries where governments either forced women to have abortions like they used to do in China or forced women to bear children like they used to do in Romania, And I can tell you the government has no business in the decisions that women make with their families in accordance with their faith, [and] with medical advice and I will stand up for that right.” Despite the rhetoric from her political opponents, she does support a ban  on late-term abortions and has held that position consistently for years. In an Oct. 8, 2000, debate, Clinton said: "I have said many times that I can support a ban on late-term abortions, including partial-birth abortions, so long as the health and life of the mother is protected. I’ve met women who faced this heart-wrenching decision toward the end of a pregnancy. Of course it’s a horrible procedure. No one would argue with that. But if your life is at stake, if your health is at stake, if the potential for having any more children is at stake, this must be a woman’s choice." 

When I tell these people that I wish they were as concerned about protecting children after they’re born as they are in protecting the unborn, they note that rather than being aborted, babies can be adopted by loving families. But information compiled by childrensrights.org indicates that

on any given day, there are nearly 428,000 children in foster care in the United States.
In 2015, over 670,000 children spent time in U.S. foster care. According to  recent statistics, there are 107,918 foster children eligible for and waiting to be adopted. In 2014 50,644 foster kids were adopted — a number that has stayed roughly consistent for the past five years. The average age of a waiting child is 7.7 years old and 29% of them will spend at least three years in foster care.

Every year, about 23,000 children age out of foster care without finding a  permanent family.  Only 2% of children who age out of foster care will go on to get a college education, and 80% of the prison population comprises adults who were in the foster care system at some point on their childhood. (Source: http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/life/parenting/a35860/adoption-statistics/)

And then there are the children who are abused: In 2012, U.S. state and local child protective services (CPS) received an estimated 3.4 million referrals of children being abused or neglected. CPS estimated that 686,000 children (9.2 per 1,000) were victims of maltreatment.
Of the child victims, 78% were victims of neglect; 18% of physical abuse; 9% of sexual abuse; and 11% were victims of other types of maltreatment, including emotional and threatened abuse, parent’s drug/alcohol abuse, or lack of supervision.
(Source: https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/childmaltreatment/datasources.html)

Then there are the equally alarming statistics on child hunger and poverty.  13.1 million children lived in food-insecure households in 2015. Twenty percent or more of the child population in 22 states and D.C. lived in food-insecure households in 2015, according to the most recent data available.  In 2015, the top five states with the highest rate of food-insecure children under 18 were Mississippi, Arkansas, New Mexico, Alabama, and Arizona. Most of the time, these families shield children from hunger. The adults will go without meals so the kids can eat. Still, the government says there were about 274,000 households in 2015 in which children went hungry at some point during the year. As bad as that was, it was the lowest level since before the Great Recession and a big decline from 2014 — when 422,000 families reported that their children went hungry at some point.

And yet these voters   put a man into office who, along with other Republicans in Congress, has voiced  an intent to cut the  very services that  provide a safety net to these vulnerable children and their families.  And  those families are not, despite the hateful rhetoric, lazy do-nothings.  Many of those receiving SNAP (food stamp) benefits are   people with disabilities, the elderly, and the working poor. According to the USDA , 55 percent of SNAP recipients, are bringing home wages. The problem is, those wages aren't enough to actually live on. Even more startling is that in 2014 more than $84 million-worth of food stamp benefits were spent at military commissaries, indicating  that there are active and retired military   members who need food stamps in order to make ends meet and feed their families.  This, in a nation with the highest military budget in the world.  

If we’re really pro-life, let’s make sure that we take care of the children already born. Let’s make sure they have enough food to eat, that they have educational opportunities to pursue their dreams, that they have shelter, and clothes to wear, and  medical care, and that they receive love and attention.  There are many who say this is  the responsibility of parents, not the government.  But  in a society where the  middle class has been steadily shrinking, where median income has been declining, where poverty has been growing and where there is a large level of income inequality, it is imperative that the government take steps to combat poverty by providing  a safety net for its citizens.  The Center for American Progress  notes that economist Harry Holzer of Georgetown University found that poverty costs our economy 4 percent of gross domestic product per year, or more than $500 billion as a result of low productivity and earnings, poor health, and high levels of crime and incarceration among adults who grew up poor.  They also report that ,”Similarly, Brandeis University professor Donald Shepard and his colleagues have calculated that hunger costs our nation at least $167.5 billion per year in lost economic productivity, public education costs, avoidable health care costs, and food charity. Public investments in the safety net—specifically, programs that target poor children—have been shown to generate exceptionally high returns that benefit all Americans. For example, University of Virginia professor Chloe Gibbs; University of Chicago economist Jens Ludwig; and University of California, Davis, economist Douglas L. Miller estimate that Head Start produces a benefit-cost ratio of more than 7-to-1”
(Source: https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/economy/reports/2014/03/31/86693/the-safety-net-is-good-economic-policy/). Providing that safety net can also help insure that parents  are not so stressed, so overworked and so worried about making ends meet that they don’t have quality time to spend with their children.

And let’s make sure that women  have access to  reliable, affordable birth control. Abortion rates have been steadily declining.  In 2014 the  abortion rate was 19%,  the lowest abortion rate since the supreme court handed down Roe v Wade in 1973,  and the number of abortions between 2011 and 2014 also fell, by 12%.  Researchers have found a strong link between the lower rate of abortions and the wider availability of very effective contraception. If plans to repeal  the Affordable Care Act are successful, that availability will be in peril.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Garden Progress Pics

Nearly a month has gone by since my last post. I have no excuse and make no promises that I'll do better, but I'll try. Although some days, like today, when I really don't have much to say, I may just post pictures of the back yard and my little garden spaces to show how it's progressing.

This is how the  herb/flower garden looked in March as I was weeding and moving things around:
This is how it looks  now- almost finished weeding and mulching may need to move some plants to fill in  bare spots.


Here's the veggie bed as I was beginning to work on weeding and cleaning up in March:
And  here it is now, still need to mulch  the paths and pull more weeds and vines which pop up overnight every night, it seems.
 Here's a pic of the chard-  we had some last night, steamed with ginger and lemon.  Quite  tasty.
Some baby  Tiny Tim tomatoes  that are growing in the container garden on the deck. I may have  planted too many of these- they are all absolutely loaded with tiny tomatoes.
It has gotten too warm  to be out in the middle  of the day so  I'm trying to get  in a few hours in  the mornings and in the evenings when it's cooler, and Mr. G is digging a new bed for me to move some shasta daisies, iris and  other odds and ends to which should keep me busy for awhile.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Beans, Bindweed and Burns' Bonie Bell

Yesterday Mr. G and I celebrated our  forty-fourth wedding anniversary. Actually, celebrated isn't the right word.  Mr. G worked on getting the drip pan off the car so he could see whether the leak that he discovered  the day before was coming from a hose or the radiator.   Unfortunately, it was coming from  the radiator.  At least now we know what  we'll be  getting each other as an anniversary gift.😞

On a happier note,  the  eighteenth bean  seed  finally decided to show itself. We now have 100%  germination! The second piece of good news is that we got a nice soaking rain. You can almost hear the plants  breathing a sigh of relief.  They much prefer rain over tap water and seem to  perk up and stand straighter after a nice rain.  Of course, the weeds also love a  soaking rain- as evidenced by the growth spurt the nasty things put on  during the night.  My nemesis for the last few years  has been  bindweed. It is nigh on impossible to eradicate, and reading  that its roots can extend and run more than 20 feet below the soil and that its seeds can that remain viable for as long as 50 years is not very encouraging. I  avoid using herbicides so have been diligently hoeing and digging it out where I can and cutting  it off at ground level  when it's too close to other plants to cultivate. By cutting it off at soil level I'm hoping  to deprive it of the light necessary  for photosynthesis so it will  eventually weaken and die.  I'm pretty sure, though, that the stuff is so persistent that it will  outlive me by a decade or more!

I'm hoping that once the ground dries a little,  we'll be able to begin  working on the second  herb and flower bed on the  other side of the rose arbor. The plan is to relocate the wood hyacinths to the front yard and replace them with iris and shasta daisies from another section of the back yard, where  they'll be joined with some Mexican and Jerusalem sage and  other ornamental herbs and a few flowers. That's the plan, but it could get scrapped or changed like so many of my schemes and  best laid plans that  as Robert Burns wrote, "gang aft agley."

In homage  both to gardening through the seasons, and to  a relationship that has  endured and flourished for  forty four years, I'll leave you with Burns' poem/song,  Bonie Bell.  It seems appropriate, both for its recognition  of the changing seasons and the constancy of  love.

The smiling spring comes in rejoicing, 
And surly winter grimly flies; 
Now crystal clear are the falling waters, 
And bonny blue are the sunny skies. 
Fresh o'er the mountains breaks forth the morning, 
The ev'ning gilds the Ocean's swell; 
All Creatures joy in the sun's returning, 
And I rejoice in my Bonie Bell. 

The flowery Spring leads sunny Summer, 
The yellow Autumn presses near,
Then in his turn comes gloomy Winter, 
Till smiling Spring again appear. 
Thus seasons dancing, life advancing, 
Old Time and Nature their changes tell; 
But never ranging, still unchanging, 
I adore my Bonie Bell.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Back to Beans, Blooms and Blogging

Back  to blogging after a  ten day break. Yesterday was another chemo treatment day and today is the day  I begin to emerge, steroid flushed red face and all, from yesterday's  afternoon lethargy. I did try to get as much weeding done in the garden as I could before going for treatment, and while it's been very slow going, I may actually get things sorted and in shape before winter!

Today's post will be picture-heavy with some of the exciting developments in the garden. First- the Maxibel French filet bush beans.   I though they would NEVER pop their little heads up, but they finally did- at least seventeen of them did, which gave me a ninety-four percent germination rate. Not bad, but I had hoped for a hundred percent. Here is a pic of  a bean that  popped up and is just beginning to raise its head and look around.

Pretty soon, the others followed and  there were two squares of  beans showing their leaves.  Here are the beans in one square with their marigold next-door neighbors:

 Here's a pic of the three square foot beds so far with the beans, some peppers and tomatoes in the first bed,  Swiss chard, peppers and tomatoes in the middle bed, and  some leeks and herbs in the far bed.  There are a few blueberry  bushes, an asparagus bed and abundant  weeds just out of view. Eggplants,  a zucchini (just one-  I don't want to over-feed the squash bugs again this year) more tomatoes, peppers, parsley, and odds and ends are in containers on the deck along with some herbs, flowers and  tropicals from the greenhouse.  



One of the Tiny Tim tomatoes in one of the the Earthboxes  already has some yellow blooms forming! I always get so excited when seeds I've planted begin  to grow and blossom.
Here are  a few pics of  blooms and blooms-to-be  in the garden  and on the deck, plus a pic of the Danish pastries I  made to celebrate spring!

I hope your spring and your gardens are filled with the promise and hope that exists in a garden.  And that the weeds and plant eating bugs are at a minimum.

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Planting Time

The veggies are planted- well most of them, anyway!  We've had lovely weather for the past few days and I have  taken advantage of it by spending most of my time playing in the dirt.  I've  been really disappointed with my seeding this year- for some reason  several things  didn't germinate well at all, and  of the ones that did germinate, they  died  shortly thereafer.  I have no idea what  went wrong,  since I  used the same method that's been successful in past years, and  the tomatoes did do very well, but  everything else was a disappointment-  although  a few of the  Slim Jim eggplants  look pretty good, but none of the  white fingers eggplants   came up.  So yesterday we  drove  to  Julian's Hardware in Sylvan Springs and bought Swiss chard, some pepper plants and a few other odds and ends, including a bale of ProMix.Yesterday and today I've  planted bush beans, set out the chard,  tomatoes (three varieties),   peppers,  eggplant. a squash (again- I never learn-  this is probably yet another sacrifice to the   squash vine borer gods).  Only one squash, though- an heirloom zucchini. I also  set out  some thyme, Greek oregano, purple basil, sweet basil, dill, and weeded the  earthbox  filled with  weeds, sage and chives. Now all three little  square foot beds are planted and  I've used up almost all my containers.

We  brought all the plants out of the greenhouse today, which also involved weeding some pots, repotting  some plants and  some  doing drastic pruning on the  lemon verbena, pineapple sage and some of the   tropical ornamentals. I'm hoping to finish up with the potting and repotting tomorrow and getting the deck all  straightened and spiffed up. Mr. G   used the pressure washer on some sections of deck that had gotten   nasty looking over the winter- primarily from the  leaves that have fallen, leaving stains and debris.

 Maybe tomorrow I'll have some pics to post, but tonight I am happily exhausted and about to turn in for the night.



Thursday, April 06, 2017

Hail? No. To Chemo We Go

I am happy to report that we made it to my chemo treatment without running into any of the really nasty weather. It began thundering and lightning here in the wee hours of the morning followed by  a lot of rain, but thankfully, no hail, and  the rain actually slacked off a little as we drove to the  clinic. Other  places around us weren't so lucky. There was  quite a bit of hail damage, and some trees were blown down in the surrounding areas. Of course, Agatha and Victoria,  having the good sense to come in from the rain, wouldn't venture out into it either before we left.  I finally lifted Agatha  and put her out, but she refused to move  out from the eave of the house. We had visions of  coming home to a stinky mess, but  there was actually little evidence of accidents.

 We left a little early because of the weather and took the back route in case there was any construction or flooding going on  along our usual route. I signed in at the clinic ten minutes early and was called back to the lab almost immediately for my blood tests and vitals. My blood pressure was  a little high, but that's not unusual. My white blood cell count was a little better than it has been and I haven't needed any of the Neupogen shots this go round, maybe because of the shiitake mushrooms I ate Tuesday night. Some research studies have shown that  shiitake mushrooms do boost immunity and I would love to  have  more of those lovely white cells  coursing in my veins so I could  get out  and be around people more often without risking catching something.  I should keep shiitakes on my grocery list. Oh- and I've gained another pound- I now weight a whopping 93 pounds! Maybe it's actually muscle from the gardening I've been doing, and the yoga. I'd much rather think of it as muscle than flab, and I've read that even elderly people can actually  build muscle mass with the proper nutrition and exercise program.

From the lab I was sent over to the infusion room, which had fewer patients  than  normal, probably because of the weather. I took my usual seat near the restroom  and by 9:30 AM was hooked up to the bags hanging from my pole. I always make sure that I have a book or video ready on my Kindle Fire, but so far I've been unable to read or watch anything. I keep dozing off once they hook me up to the diphenhydramine and  don't get really active again until the last bag (the Camptosar/irinotecan), is hooked up a few hours later  when I'm  up and dragging my pole to the restroom every ten minutes it seems, to unload the fluids that have been pumped into me. I will say that   my speech wasn't quite as slurred  yesterday as it usually is.  I keep meaning to ask what the cause is, but I suspect it's a combination of  side-effects from the drugs and the  dry mouth resulting from the atropine injection.

I was finally unhooked around 1:45 PM and we headed home, with the sun brightly shining. I was glad to have my sunglasses with me, especially since it was so  dark and grey  when we left home that I questioned whether I would need them at all.

Once home, Mr G  scrambled an egg for me and brought me a cup of coffee. I went to sleep and slept almost all afternoon and into the evening, waking up to eat some chicken soup and toast. And then I went to bed for the night :-) Today I'm up  but not about much and am having the  red face, hot   steroid flush side effect. Actually the red face is an improvement over   yesterday's color, which was its usual post treatment zombie gray pallor. The wind  was blowing early this morning.  It was whistling around the corners of the house and sounded like a nor'easter. As I gazed out the front door this morning, I saw that the rain yesterday had washed  everything clean, revealing the  myriad shades of green on the  trees as they are donning their spring finery and swaying not so gently in the  wind.



Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Stormy Weather

This will be a short post tonight.  We are expecting some very nasty weather tomorrow with  thunderstorms, possible  baseball size hail, and the possibility of tornadoes. Schools all over the state have already announced that they'll be closed tomorrow, and the governor has declared a state of emergency in anticipation of storm damage. Of course,  Mr. G and I will be on the road  since I have a chemo treatment scheduled for tomorrow morning unless the   clinic decides to cancel, which isn't very likely. Wish us luck- the idea of  driving down the road in heavy rain with lightning flashing  while being pelted with humongous hailstones  is not exactly my idea of fun.  That's one of the things I like most about being retired- not having to drive out in all sorts of  horrid weather.  Well,   not having to drive in it most of the time, anyway, except for days like tomorrow. I'm glad our dogs aren't too terribly upset by storms, and usually hide out under the bed during the worst of them,  but I still hate  the thought of them being here alone for  six hours or so tomorrow, especially with the possibility of  tornadoes.

There are very few  flowers left on the dogwood.
Tomorrow's rough weather should   take care of the remaining few. I mentioned in yesterday's post that  the ground under the tree was  littered with petals.  here's  a pic of the  petal snowfall.
If you're in the path of the storms, stay safe and dry and   if you hear the sirens go off, get to your safe place  quickly.  I hope  things aren't as bad   as  predicted,  but  it's better to be prepared, or as I like to say,  it's a good idea to prepare for the worst but hope for the best. So here's hoping for the best for all of us.

Monday, April 03, 2017

Before the Rains Came

Since  my last post I finished weeding the veggie patch-  including the asparagus bed and   the  row of blueberry bushes. I left the  clump of  curly parsley that had run away from its mother and taken up residence between the blocks in the retaining wall. I also put up part of  the white fencing intended to keep the dogs from using the  area as a  doggie litter box. If only there were a fence to keep weeds out!

As I was weeding around the blueberry  bushes, I was about to   dig up one of the many clumps of wild garlic when I noticed something strange about it. Clinging to the leaves was a badly battered luna moth  with its wings in tatters. I   lifted the  clump of garlic and relocated it to what I thought was a  somewhat protected area, hoping for I don't know what. When it began to rain, I went to check on the moth and saw it trying to flap what was left of its wings. I moved it into  a pot of jasmine in the greenhouse and it began to climb on the  stems. When I went to check on it the next morning I couldn't find it. It may  be in one of the other plants or it may be  dead by now, poor thing. I have no idea how it ended p with its wings  torn, and even though they have a short life,  it seemed a cruel way for such a beautiful creature to  make an exit.

 The rain  has given me a chance to work inside, so I've  been vacuuming, mopping and  doing laundry, all of which has  made me even  more sore than the  weeding made me! My hip and shoulder have become completely discombobulated and some  movements send nasty little electrical  shocks down my leg. So in between that and the   dull toothache like pain  in my arm  when I  move my shoulder in a certain way, I decided to skip yoga class tonight and give  the joints and muscles another day or so to recuperate.

We had some torrential  rains  complete with  a  sound and light show and very high winds  in the early hours this morning. The ground under the dogwood tree is littered with  white petals and there are very few flowers left on the  branches. I took this pic  before the rains came.