New Year, New Start

At least, I’m hoping.

I sort of dropped off the face of the earth after my trip to Michigan. Sorry about that. The trip was fun, if tiring. Then there was life stuff, and some health stuff, and anyone knows that the longer you go without doing something, the harder it is to get back to.

I did post a bit to my social media, especially Twitter, but I don’t think I’ve logged into Facebook for months. Probably should do some catching up there, too. *Sigh.*

Anyway, to recap:

Michigan

The trip to Michigan was great. It was awesome visiting with my mom and getting to know her boyfriend. I got to visit with my aunts and uncles, several of my cousins, and my nieces and nephew.

One of the best parts of the trip was connecting with my sister. We went on a couple of walks together, and she had me and Mom over for lunch one afternoon.

I haven’t always been good at staying close with my family, and I feel blessed to have a chance to reconnect now. I also (re)learned that I can manage without MrH, though to be fair I didn’t really stretch my wings or go anywhere without my family. There was just so much to do!

Guess I’ll just have to go back!

I’ll take “Things That Aren’t A Good Sign” for $200, Alex…

In mid-September, MrH went to the ER with blood in his urine and excrutiating abdominal pain. The ER doctors diagnosed a massive infection, gave him antibiotics and pain medication, and referred him to a urologist.

But wait. The urologist had bad news: An enhanced scan showed not an infection, but a mass in MrH’s kidney. The size and position of the growth suggested cancer.

That isn’t ever a word you want to hear in relation to someone you love.

On the good side, both the urologist and the oncologist to whom he referred us have been very positive. We seem to have caught this thing in its early stages, and kidney cancer is very treatable. Many patients experience complete remission. Naturally, we’re hoping for the best.

Oh, Crud

December hasn’t exactly been a great month for my health, either–though nothing so drastic as MrH has experienced.

Early in the month, I came down with the crud. No big deal, and it had almost cleared up by Monday the 11th when our son drove us to Chapel Hill to meet MrH’s surgeon.

As we came out our front door, I slipped on some ice on the front steps and landed hard on my left shin. Ouch! There didn’t seem to be any serious damage, though, so we continued on.

The surgeon seemed very nice, and he had good news: His plan was to remove only the part of the kidney with the growth in it, meaning MrH wouldn’t be down an entire kidney.

The rest of that week sped by, full of church activities, visiting with friends, and general busyness. I probably should have rested my leg more, but it seemed to be okay.

Sunday night I felt a little nauseous, but chalked it up to something I’d eaten. Not. I went to bed early and woke in the middle of the night with fever and chills, sinus drainage and a cough that wouldn’t quit.

I chalked it up to a repeat of the crud, but no, it turned out to be full-blown flu. And I’d gotten a flu shot, too!

My fever finally broke Thursday, by which time mrH was feeling run-down and feverish. And it went on from there.

Yes, the entire family got the flu for Christmas. Worst Christmas present ever.

We did have a nice (if simple, because no one felt much like cooking) Christmas dinner together and exchange a few small gifts. In spite of everything, it was a pretty swell Christmas.

Happy New Year!

So what’s in store for the year ahead?

I don’t make resolutions, but I’ve spent some time today thinking about goals I want to set. (Clearly, I’ve already blown “Avoid procrastination.” out of the water.)

I want to write more, here and elsewhere. I’ve got some lovely fiction developing that I really ought to do something with. I want to be more physically active. I want to include more veggies and grains in our diet. I want to continue to work on decluttering and organizing the house. I want to spend more time with family and friends. There’s a post in here somewhere, but those are the highlights.

How about you? Was the second half of 2017 good to you? Anything you’re looking forward to in 2018? Goals, resolutions, or neither? Let me know in the comments below!

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Playing Catch-Up…Again

OMG, y’all. Computers!

As some readers may know via social media, early this year we replaced my dying computer with a new-to-me refurbished machine. Great, other than the steep learning curve of upgrading from Windows 7 to Windows 10–until the new hard drive tanked and had to be replaced.

We backed up my files, but I lost all my settings, programs, bookmarks and cookies. So, for the second time in a few months, I was back to square one, trying to remember what settings I’d tweaked and where, finding and reinstalling programs, recalling what sites I wanted to bookmark and relocating them, digging up passwords so I could log back in.

Urgh! And, frankly, it was a lot harder to drum up the same enthusiasm the second time around.

Balls were dropped–among them this blog.

I did write you a few posts, but, daunted by the complexity of logging back into WordPress, relocating my dashboard, changing the settings in the editor to accept my html tags, and actually posting, I let them lie fallow in my blog folder.

Bad blogger! No biscuit!

So, other than the harrowing tribulations of the modern computer age, what’s been going on here?

A Plethora of Produce

When our younger son found out we’d signed up for a weekly produce box through a local CSA program, he didn’t miss a beat.

“Just what this family needs,” he said. “More things we don’t eat going bad in the refrigerator.”

Thanks, kiddo.

So far, that’s a fate we’ve mostly managed to avoid, though I’ve been kept scrambling trying to figure out how to use all of our veggie bounty–another contributor, no doubt, to my lack of internet presence.

We’ve enjoyed fresh figs and blackberries, discovered that our son likes oven-roasted beets and I rather enjoy stewed okra, and reconfirmed that none of us particularly likes spaghetti squash.

I wanted us to try new fruits and veggiesand to increase the amount of them in our diet. I think I’ve succeeded, but but it remains to be seen whether the gains will last past the last fall produce delivery.

MrH Goes to Kamp

Kilt Kamp, that is, where participants start on Sunday morning with a pile of fabric and notions and leave the following Friday with a completed kilt, taught and assisted by professional kilt makers along the way.

MrH has wanted to go for years, especially now that he’s trying to establish a historic/fantasy men’s tailoring business, and I’m so glad we had the chance to send him. We couldn’t have done it without the help of a couple of generous sponsors (who prefer to remain anonymous) and I want to thank them for helping make this a reality.

Visiting Michigan

I’ve been kind of down lately, wishing I could visit family and old friends in Michigan. Well, it looks like I’m going to get a chance to see at least some of them!

My neice is getting married the first weekend in September, and my mom and her boyfriend are driving down to North Carolina next week to pick me up. I’ll be there for about two weeks, and I hope I’ll get a chance to dosome visiting and reconnecting.

I’m so excited! And also apprehensive, because this is the first time I’ll be away from MrH and the boys for any length of time in an environment that isn’t specifically set up to deal with us blind folks.

I’m pretty secure by now about my ability to handle the big stuff–getting around the house, eating, dressing, bathing. It’s all the little things–will I be able to use their microwave? Find things in their kitchen if I want a snack? Run the washer and dryer?

Mom and G will be there to help me, but what if they’re asleep or they need to go out? Or what if they get frustrated by all the little things we’ve gotten so used to we just take them for granted?

What if I get bored? What if I get overtired? What if I get stranded somewhere at the wedding and don’t know where to go?

I’m sure it’ll all work out fine. I think this trip is going to stretch my boundaries in a good way, and I’m excited about that.

It’ll be an adventure.

And having adventures and being visible in the world are pretty much the reasons I started this blog. So…here I go!

A Memorial Day Video: Green Fields of France

I stumbled across this WWI remembrance song by Eric Bogle a few years ago and was really taken with it. I’ve wanted to share it for a while, and today seemed like a good time.

I wanted to post a video of Eric Bogle performing the song, but couldn’t find one without an ad. So here’s a video of The Corries, one of my favorite groups, singing it. A search on YouTube will turn up dozens more versions if you want to check them out.

I wish everyone a safe and happy Memorial Day weekend. I hope that along with whatever you have planned, you’ll make space to remember and honor those who have fallen in service to our country.

Be well.

Update on The Irish Music Concert: Now There’s Video!

Unbelievable. I tried to edit my previous post, but WordPress opened the editor in the wrong mode, so that my html tags didn’t work. I closed the window and tried again, and now it’s giving me a dialogue I can’t read or seem to get past. Because WordPress.

But on to more exciting news: There’s video!

I linked to my post on FaceBook, and Simon replied:

It’s on YouTube! Here is a message from videographer James Gemmill: It’s posted. Currently at 360p, it’ll take a few hours before it’s ready in 4K:

So now you can not only hear what songs were played, you can hear them played–and see the trio in action.

Enjoy!

[Hmm. I just previewed my post. Apparently I didn’t just link to the video; I embedded the video. So you can watch it here or on YouTube. :)]

Fun Times–An Irish Music Concert with Sean, Maryanne and Simon

I think I’ve mentioned our friend Simon Spalding here before. Simon’s a musician, historian, teacher and author—and an all-around awesome guy.
Simon performs both solo and with other musicians—all over the place, really, but most often in our local area. When MrH and I found out that Simon was giving an Irish music concert at a local coffeehouse with his friend and fellow musician Sean MacMahon and Sean’s daughter Maryanne MacMahon Ford Friday night, we knew we were in for a treat!
We’d planned to stop for dinner and make a full-blown date of the evening, but we were running late and only made it to the venue shortly before the concert was to begin.

The Venue: Trent River Coffee Company

The Trent River Coffee Company is a coffee shop in downtown New Bern, NC. I’ve never seen it, you understand, but it’s a really neat little place.
It’s got these uneven cement floors, and the tables and chairs are frequently rearranged for events, so that the tables are often a bit tippy. There’s a fountain to one side, turned off for performances, that I understand is populated with koi. And, though I didn’t know it until Simon mentioned it last night, there are works by local artists displayed on the walls.
The coffee is excellent, and they have tea and milkshakes as well. I’m told there are pastries, too, but I’ve never indulged.
Anyway, it’s a really nifty place, and if you’re ever in downtown New Bern, you should totally check them out.
The place was packed Friday night!
I could hear and feel people all around me and had to follow MrH carefully to avoid bumping into people who were already seated. MrH said that by the time the concert began there were at least fifty people in the audience, and for a while it looked like standing room only—but they managed to fit everybody in.
MrH parked me in what turned out to be a front-row seat and went to get our coffees.

The Concert

I really love Irish music, and this concert offered a great mix.
There were jigs, reels and hornpipes, and a waltz composed by Sean’s brother Patsy MacMahon, The Tara Waltz. Some pieces were familiar, but many were new to me. I tried to remember the names so I could look them up later, but I wasn’t very successful. Too busy enjoying!
Simon and Maryanne each sang several selections, and encouraged the audience to join in. I did know The Fields of Athenry, and was glad to join Maryanne and others in the audience in the chorus—though they might not have been as glad to have me join them!
Simon sang a very funny song, Off to California, about an Irishman who has been evicted and plans to seek his fortune in California.
There were fun or funny stories about some of the songs or the musicians’ experiences playing them, as well.
I couldn’t see who was playing what, so I’m cribbing a bit from the concert page here. Sean played the accordion. Simon played his fiddle and the octave mandolin. Maryanne played tin whistle, guitar, and bodhran. (Which, I learned, is pronounced something like “bough-run,” so I’ve been saying it wrong in my head. So the concert was educational, too!)

A Great Time, Some Great Memories

During the break between sets, MrH was hungry, so he ordered a “Gritty Kitty” milkshake. This delectable concoction consists of chocolate milk, chocolate ice cream, a shot of Irish Crème syrup and ground chocolate-covered espresso beans.
Wowza! I only had a couple of sips, because dairy and caffeine are not my friends, but that joker was goooood. If you get the chance to order one, I highly recommend it! (MrH reports that it is available with white milk and vanilla ice cream as well.)
Simon had copies of a CD he and Sean had made, and we splurged and bought one. We listened to part of it on the way home. The part we listened to was all accordion and fiddle, and I think the rest of the CD is probably the same. Very nice!
Unfortunately, the CD was a limited run and isn’t available online, so I can’t post a link to it. But! You can preview and order some of Simon’s other albums on CD or in mp3 format at his website.
I looked for a link to Sean’s music, in case he’s got any for sale, but couldn’t find one. If I find out more, I’ll try to update here.
If you’re local to the New Bern, NC area, you have an opportunity to hear Sean and Simon (and a bunch of other awesome musicians) at the Trent River Coffee Company at the Celtic Music Jam Session the second Tuesday of every month from 7-9pm.
Admission is free, though they do pass a tip jar, and you’ll definitely want to order one of the great drinks to sip while you listen. You’ll probably catch MrH and me there!
What about you? Do you like Irish music? Been to any great musical performances—Irish or otherwise—lately? Or do you perform yourself?

A Surfeit of Stuff

Lately I’ve been thinking about a lot of stuff.
As in, “Man, we have a lot of stuff.”
Stuff on the kitchen counter. Stuff on tables. Stuff on chairs. Boxes of stuff on shelves and piled on the floor. Stuff that makes it hard to put anything down and awkward to have anyone stop by.
Most of it is good stuff. Stuff we want, stuff we’ll use. But it’s getting in the way.

The Slider Puzzle That is Our House

I’ve long maintained that we have room for all our stuff, if only it were organized and put away.
If, for instance, MrH went through his tools and the tools he inherited from his dad and the tools he inherited from his aunt, they’d be much more accessible and take up less space. Then he could get around to some of the projects he’s been wanting to do.
If we could move the big bookshelf into the dining room, we could unbox and shelve the books sitting there waiting for a shelf.
Ah, but we’d have to move the stuff against the dining room wall where we want to put the shelf. And my computer table, which has the shelf boxed in. Oh, and the boxes of stuff currently on the shelf. Because of course there are boxes of stuff on the shelf.
And we have to move the bookshelf before we can move the writing desk from the living room. And we have to move the writing desk before we can move the other shelf. Which is also covered with boxes. Andandand.
I’ve been itching to work on this, and I have—or could make—the time. But there’s a lot I can’t do without MrH.
I’m not sure I could identify all the power tools, let alone organize them. Someone else could identify the books on the shelf for me, but only MrH knows which he wants to keep and which he’s ready to let go.
Unfortunately, his time is much more limited than mine.

How Much Stuff Is Too Much Stuff?

Though the overall process has been slow going, I have been sorting what I can. This has led to a few burning questions:
Do we really need more than a dozen coffee cups? (No.)
Is there any sane reason this household has fourteen refillable soap dispensers? (Also no.)
How on earth have we managed to accumulate over eighty cookbooks? (Because reasons. Shut up.)
Apparently, somewhere along the way we’ve slipped into Too Much Stuff territory, at least in some things.
I’m a long way from becoming a minimalist, but the older I get and the more I value space over stuff, the easier it’s become to let (some) things go.
Coffee mugs and soap dispensers have been winnowed, mugs into a box destined for our church’s yard sale, soap dispensers into recycling. Our son is going to go through the cookbooks with me, though I suspect he’ll be disgusted by how many I choose to keep. Baby steps, kiddo, baby steps.
I’m ready to pass on embroidery kits I once looked forward to but now can no longer use. Some nick-knacks that, as my son so tactfully put it, “don’t fit our aesthetic” will go to the church sale along with the mugs and a box of dishes.
As I look around, I have to remind myself that the house didn’t get in this state overnight, and it won’t get straightened out overnight, either. But I want to—need to—keep chipping away at it.
What about you? Are you comfortable with the amount of stuff you have? Do you find it difficult to let certain things go, or is it easy for you to pass them on? Are you an organizer or a clutterbug?

Four Years In

So…been a little quiet on the blog lately. Okay, a lot quiet.
What generally happens is that I write a post, or most of a post, set it aside to tidy up and post a little later, and suddenly it’s several days later and my brilliant post is no longer current.
Meanwhile, I’ve yakked about whatever it was on social media, or hashed it over with MrH, satisfying my desire to talk about it and draining the urgency to post the piece.
There’s been some other stuff in the background siphoning off my drive to write, which I may or may not get around to talking about here.
But. In the meantime.
The first of this month marked my fourth anniversary of being admitted to the hospital to evict the trespasser lurking in my brain, to emerge two weeks later into a world that had faded to black.
So. What’s changed, and what hasn’t, in the intervening four years?

My Vision

By now, I think my vision has pretty much stabilized. I can’t foresee it getting any better, but I don’t expect it to get any worse.
My left eye officially has no light perception, but occasionally I seem to sense light or motionon that side. It’s not consistent, though, and it’s hard to tell how much of that is my brain helpfully filling in.
I sometimes get headaches on that side, centering in or behind the eye, and I suspect the pupil doesn’t contract as quickly or completely as it should, exposing the eye to too much light. Something to ask my optometrist about.
I’m not sure how much the vision in my right eye has improved since those early days, or if I’ve just become more adept at interpreting the patterns of light and shadow and movement that make up my vision these days. It really is like trying to puzzle out the picture on a staticky black-and-white analog TV
If the contrast and proportions are just right, I can sometimes make out simple shapes, letters or numbers. I can’t do it consistently, though, and it’s really tiring.
On the plus side, I’ve gotten so used to relying on my other senses that most of the time I do it without even thinking about it. Sometimes, when I’m describing something to someone or thinking about what a character perceives, I have to stop and remind myself that they have the superpower of vision! They can see that thing across the room!
I’ve even had a dream (just the one, so far) where my level of vision was the same in the dream as it is awake. I guess even my dreaming mind has finally internalized my blindness!

My Brain

It’s a lot easier to talk about the effects of my vision loss than the aftermath of my brain tumor and brain surgery, because they’re a lot more noticeable on a day-to-day basis.
Overall, I’d say I’m on a much more even keel. I’m much better able to take the long view, consider both sides of a question, and to empathize.
But.
I’m also more susceptible to stress and can be emotionally volatile, particularly when I’m tired. I’ve learned that I have to manage how much I take on and keep from overextending myself.
Every time I think I’m completely healed, I get a little farther along and realize that nope, I still had a way to go. So even now, I’m probably still a work in progress.
I think my memory, both short-and long-term, has improved dramatically. I don’t remember everything, but I’m consistently impressed by my ability to dredge up long-forgotten names, factoids and incidents, or to recall exactly the ten-digit phone number I’ve just dialed.

My Life

The past year has felt like one big plateau, full of roadblocks and frustrations.
It seemed like whatever I’d done on my own, I couldn’t keep moving forward because I needed help with one tiny part of the process I was working on. I felt lonely and bored, trapped at home either by lack of funds or lack of people to do things with. Writing had hit a dead-end wall, and on the rare occasions I had an idea for a story or blog post, I lacked the gumption to run with it.
I think I’m moving past that now. As my friend Z wisely said, “The important thing to remember when you hit a plateau is that you’re still moving forward.”
MrH and I have moved away from some groups and tried to connect with others. I’m trying to reach out more, both to current friends and to potential ones, and to get past the feeling that when I invite someone to do something, I’m really just imposing on them to take me somewhere.
I’ve broken up with Vocational Rehabilitation. It just wasn’t working out, and going into an emotional tailspin after every encounter wasn’t productive. I plan to focus on writing, online opportunities, and (potentially) marketing my crafts, areas in which I’m fairly confident my knowledge base already exceeds theirs.
Perhaps it’s no coincidence that my writing mojo, which had dwindled to a trickle, seems to have returned in full force.
Or perhaps it is a coincidence, and this upswing will give way ere long to another slide into the Slough of Despond. Either way, I’ll go there on my own terms.
Over the past year, I’ve taken a far more active role in meal planning and managing our finances, and it’s made a difference. Our grocery budget (and our eating out budget) have gone down, and I think we’re eating better. It’s taken some of the strain off MrH, a trend I want to continue!
Our younger son started his first job a couple of weeks ago, and our older son is looking. This is going to ease the strain considerably, even if they’re just putting gas in the car and paying for their own entertainment at first.

Looking Forward

As I move into Year 5 AB (After Bob or After Blindness, take your pick) there are several things I want to accomplish:

  • Write 1000 words a day, at least five days a week.
  • Submit at least one piece of writing to a paying market or contest before the end of the year.
  • Continue decluttering and organizing so that our house becomes a more pleasant place to live and work.
  • Find a place to walk at least a couple of times a week.
  • Explore new hobbies and handicrafts.
  • Find more places to go and things to do, with and without MrH.

What about you? Hit any milestones lately? Set or changed any goals? Have you taken a turn in a new direction, and how is that working out for you? Inquiring minds want to know!