Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Easter Birthday

This is my sister-in-law's photo of Skagit  Valley in NW Washington. Aside from the daffodils here, there are spectacular fields of tulips too. Would love to see them in person. We will be in Holland too late for them. I do have a few frozen daffodils herein Michigan

A vegetable soufflé I made for the Moms. Should have made a sauce as it was sort of dry

The Moms decorating bibs for two new grandbabies, one who popped out 2 days after this photo. Naomi is here too as we had Maya for the weekend and I asked her to be there while I entertained. How long have I had my Danish modern table? 41 years. I think it is the only piece of furniture from our very first house that we still use. It's a bit newer than the 140 year old marble topped chest adjacent to the far right

a glass pretty to add color to the continuing drab
Although we have had a few warm days, winter still continues. I ran through snow yesterday though at least it didn't stick. Endless rain and wind make it difficult to bicycle although I am in good enough shape for the easy riding coming up in Holland and Belgium. Our snowbirds, juncos, are still here. According to the migration map, our hummingbirds are at the Michigan border. One appeared here April 28th last year. I will be ready.

Having a birthday relatively late in the season, makes for few Easter birthdays, though Naomi born on an Easter has had three already. I did have one when I was four which I remember clearly. It was a warm sunny day, unlike most April days cold and wet that we had in the Finger Lakes region of New York. I wore a new pink puffy dress and my mom made a special lamb cake for me decorated with coconut and colored eggs. As she was quite pregnant with my brother, this must have been an effort. But more than 60 years later, I am having another one, a double Easter as the Orthodox one happens to fall on this day too, usually later. How will I celebrate? I will make an Easter brunch and have an Easter egg hunt for 5 of the grandbabies. Some of my friends are taking me out before and after my birthday.

I set all these tasks for myself for the cold winter months when I can't exercise for so long or garden. Sadly not much has been done. I have spent much time learning Dutch. I have run errands for my sick friend. She is ending a relationship with her boyfriend, her principal caretaker so she will need much more help in the future. I went to my cancer survivor cooking class, an emphasis on one pan 'easy' meals. Still lots of slicing and dicing. The local hospital has a farm and hot houses, which generally donates vegetables for us to take home. This month we got bags of fresh spinach, which I later put among other vegetables, in my soufflé for the Moms that I cooked several days later. As it is artichoke season (not here in the tundra)I made the Moms artichokes too. I also experimented with making drinks with elderflower syrup, much more popular abroad than here. It has such a subtle flavor that most additions drown out the flavor. I had fun experimenting at least.

Two of the moms are having grandbabies: a girl and a boy so we decorated presents for them. It was fun.

Tomorrow I go see a doctor finally to deal with lessening my health risks. Ugh. This was a box I wish I had not opened.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Grandpa blue

A belated birthday for Tessa She and her siblings all wear glasses now

We took a walk along the river in Dexter. The boardwalk goes over wetlands. You can see the peepers' airsacs inflate just below us. In the spring here, there is a constant drone of peepers in wet areas. Song sparrows were merrily singing. Finally spring

the town, now a city I see, has numerous sculptures around

another one

it's just water under the bridge

With the app that came with our new car, I can track down where it is.

A warm Sunday. We took this one to the park

my Easter wreathe
A few months back, I went out car shopping with Josh. He wanted last year's model, which would save him about $3K. He could only find two left;  a silver one and a blue one with their plusses  and minuses. When he was explaining to his wife the choices, she said Oh no, is it Grandpa Blue? Apparently this dusky bluish gray only appeals to people of a certain age. And indeed it does. Shortly after a good friend ( a grandma) bought the same color. And Steve upon seeing it said was the best color by far.

We were down to one car, a situation I found intolerable as we are out in the country. Steve thought we could hold out until the fall (when presumably prices fall and the model we wanted would be improved) I feel insecure relying on a 9 year old car. And although Steve doesn't have a heavy schedule, we managed to need the car at the same time last week. So he had to drop me off and later come pick me up. About twenty extra miles of driving. And I like to travel particularly in the summer but I really can't leave him stranded. In a 6 week period, Naomi managed to total 2 cars, not her fault. She had purchased Josh's not so old car, a considerable upgrade for her. And she could give him more than the dealer would so win-win. Until some lady ran a red light into her The insurance did pay her more than she had paid for the car but what could she buy? We sold her one of our cars, a car that we had sort of promised to sell to  her ex husband in the fall leaving us down to one car.

I really didn't want to wait so last week, we went car shopping. Not difficult as we get a considerable discount at my son's company so there is no negotiation.. As no one wants sedans anymore (do they think gas is always going to be cheap?), they are discounted still. We were left to decide between a hybrid and a traditional engine and colors. We could get a silver traditional engine (not desirable by us at a deeper discount0 or get a hybrid in any color we wanted. So Grandpa Blue it is . The hybrid will take 4-5 years of driving to make up the cost difference but at least we are polluting a bit less. And if gas goes sky high, we'll make up the difference even quicker.

I continue to learn Dutch, which is becoming more difficult. Crazy, crazy grammar. In 6 weeks I will be biking in the Netherlands. And it is it is warm outside. So bicycling is easy (except for a day I went out in 30 mph gusts, not fun) and more running. Some of my flowers are out. We can sit outside in the evening with wine. Hope winter is gone for good.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

Sugar and cancer

My fused glass horse. Sort of pricy but still a fraction of its original cost

interesting sculpture in a Dexter alley

Last night I went to Dexter, where I haven't been in a while. As Dexter was fairly close to my grandparent's place, I visited it a lot as a child even when I was still living in New York. The Dairy Queen and this bakery are still here. In college on, I would bike to Dexter and back either stopping for an apple fritter here or a malt or the nearby Dairy Queen. Isn't a wonder I had cancer? During my marathon days, I would run to Dexter and back, 20 miles for training runs and I usually did the Dexter Ann Arbor half Marathon. Later Josh and his ex-wife moved here. His ex had a puppy boutique across the street from this photo where Naomi worked. But Josh and I have since moved further away so no more Dexter.

Sugar and its closely related high glycemic starches (think potatoes) are the new dietary villains versus fat, which gram for gram has more calories. Sugar consumption in the US (and probably elewhere) especially in the form of 'high fructose cornsyrup" has gone way up leading to increased obesity and diabetes. Also certain cancers are occurring sooner and more frequently than in the past. 
Not long ago (Oct 2018) there was a symposium in NYC hosted by the Cornell Medical School and its associated hospital New York Presbyterian entitled Not so sweet: The hidden Cancer Risk of Sugar and Inflammation.  The premise is as follows: eating sugar increases blood glucose levels which triggers insulin production in the pancreas  An enzymeP13K produces a lipid PIP3 that moves the insulin and glucose to be used in the liver and muscles. However if levels are too high, PIP3 can cause cancer itself. If there is any tiny tumor in the body and if there is a genetic mutation in the PIP3 pathway, the glucose will be driven into the tumor, not the muscle. Tumors take up more sugar than normal cells enabling them to be visualized by PET scans, which use a labelled sugar to visual where the sugar goes. Tumors especially vulnerable to this pathway are uterine, breast, colon, ovarian  and bladder. There are drugs such as metformin used for diabetics that lower glucose levels.

Excess body fat also triggers certain cancers in several ways. First fat cells produce estrogen which feeds hormone dependent cancers such as breast and uterine. But it can also trigger inflammatory processes. Enlarged fat cells outstrip their oxygen supply and die.setting off release of cytokines which lead to more inflammation. Even people who have chronic inflammatory conditions such as H. pylori are much more susceptible to cancer.

What to eat then? Certainly not sugary and starchy stuff. If one is hungry, high fat nuts and cheese will satisfy hunger for longer. We do need the vitamins that are in certain starches and fruits. It is suggested eating only slow glucose starches such as oats and that whole fruit paired with fat such as whole milk yogurt or cheese. Also high fructose corn syrup alters the flora in the gut in ways more conductive to cancer. Colon cancer has suddenly become more common among the young. Could it co-incide with the introduction of high fructose corn syrup?

Do doctors ever tell their patients to lose weight if they don't want cancer. Not mine. When I was diagnosed with cancer 10 years ago, I was overweight. I had broken my arm the year before which could not be set, so I could not exercise at all leading to a big weight gain. . Also for menopause I was taking Prem-pro which I found out later that my body lacks the enzyme to metabolize estrogen leading to high blood levels of estrogen, food initially for breast tumors. My cancer morphed into a non hormone dependent type.

Two and a half years ago, I decided to do something about being fat. Aside from not looking good, there are numerous health risks with being obese. I am most afraid of my cancer returning. Recent events have made that fear more intense. I did drop almost 80 pounds in a year. I have gained about 4 of it back and that will be gone in a month. I still fit into my size 4s though right now they are annoyingly snug.  I didn't eat much sugar but I did have a weakness for carbohydrates such as pasta, bagels, crackers. For a year, I hardly ate any of them. I did eat nuts and cheese even though they have more calories. I did not count calories. Hardest was limiting my wine intake. I allowed myself one glass for social occasions. Now I am back to drinking too much. Need to stop that. I filled up with fruit and vegetables. For protein, I would make a big veggie omelet (I have a garden) though eggs again are some sort of villain. My cholesterol and triglyceride levels are low or normal.. I do eat lean meat occasionally and tofu (estrogen!!!). I have a weakness for expensive chocolate and will eat it hoping its high fat moderates its sugar. I also exercise at least an hour a day if not 90 minutes. In warm months, I will be biking for more than 2 hours so it is easier to be thin in the summer. Still I surprised myself and others that I was able to lose the weight without drugs (unless you count coffee, sometimes if I felt especially hungry between meals, some coffee would satisfy me) or having my stomach stapled (which chunky as I was, I still wasn't considered obese and not a candidate not that I would as in the long run it causes health problems and people gain the weight back). I regularly train with weights to keep my muscle mass high.

Spring is finally here (sort of..tomorrow back to coldness cancelling a hoped for bike ride). One night this week, it was actually 67! and a friend and I were able to sit outside with wine (too much!) In the past 2 weeks I've biked 80 miles. In the wetlands, I hear the peepers. The cranes and vultures are back. The goldfinches are getting their breeding colors. Some people have crocuses in bloom though I must live in a colder zone but I am sure they will come out next week. This winter has been especially tough and I do look forward to being in the sun.

My friend is back in the hospital initially unable to move even when on oxygen. She has influenza A despite having a flu vaccine. Presumably a flu vaccine is considered effective if it protects 60% of those who get it which sounds low to me. I get the shots yearly. I've had the flu only once and that was well before vaccines so I am either lucky or have a strong immune system. When I saw her a few days ago, she finally was able to walk a few feet without collasping. I will help her next week at home when she is released. I will whine (to myself) how long it takes me now to do my 6 mile run versus when I would place high in my age group doing races in the past but not being able to walk because of non-functioning lungs puts things in perspective

Saturday, March 16, 2019

tornado warning

Our outing to the Purple Rose. Why do I look so damn big?

This has been in Ann Arbor forever Have I ever been there? Not until yesterday. Signature dish: hippie hash

Shanna's mother in law's orthodox church back in Syria  Very old.   Christianity spread there first, not to Europe

these are my northern lights night light that I put up in my hall. Different light patterns slowly emerge. Would love to put it in my bedroom but my light sensitive husband who has already removed additional lights I put up so I don't stumble at night would object

my mom's dad. I don't believe I ever heard him speak as Parkinson's made that impossible

This has not been a good week. On Xmas eve, a heard of deer ran into Naomi's car totalling it. The insurance gave her enough money to buy Josh's car, a considerable upgrade for her so that worked out. She had this car only for 5 weeks before a car ran a red light into her. Fortunately lots of witnesses came forward to prove it was not her fault (but it wouldn't have hurt to look before going into an intersection..she claims the car came out of nowhere) Lots of damage. Will they total this car too? We know the estimate but what will they give her. At the very least it will take 3 weeks to fix and she has our extra car so our mobility is somewhat reduced. I had thought about taking a trip somewhere without Steve but that is now out.

It was almost 7 years to the day that the Dexter tornado hit swirling over Josh's house. He chose to outrun it, not a good idea. It hit the subdivision just north of him reducing several houses to piles of lumber. He had almost bought one of those houses but I could tell they were shoddily built. As it turns out, the framing was not connected to the foundation as it should have been so that's why they so easily collasped. No one was hurt but some were trapped in their basements for a  while. His trees were covered with pink insulation from the destruction. Looked like cotton candy. I was away in Massachusetts for the month waiting for Tessa.

The other night I get a call from Naomi who just had gotten a message on her phone  to take cover immediately as there was a tornado 'in the area' Sirens screeching all  over the place. But what does 'in the area' mean? In the same county which in her case was 25 miles away. Where was this tornado? Scheduled to hit approximately where I was with the Moms on one of their farms. She has lots of windows so we could see lightning and hail all over the place. My former hairdresser, five miles away from the farm, claimed to see the funnel cloud. We lost power for awhile. At the same time, we were to go see a play in town about 15 minutes away. The playhouse said the performance would be delayed and  that all the patrons who got there early were huddled in the basement. It would not have been a good idea to drive there in the storm but eventually there was a lull in the action so we got to the play. We missed the first 5-10 minutes of it.

I kept waiting for March. I have old photos showing all my crocuses in bloom by now. That didn't happen yet. There is a thin, slippery layer of snow on the ground. I am waiting impatiently for it to melt. Back  in the year of the Dexter tornado, magnolia and cherry blossoms were in bloom now due to the early warming. But April came and all the fruit blossoms froze wrecking Michigan's fruit crops. Peaches managed to survive.

After the weather cancelling February's classes, I went to the cooking class the other day. Healthy breakfasts. Hope my 'healthy' eating delays this dreaded thing from coming back

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Orchids versus dandelions

One of my friend's creations. She invited me over for a fancy lunch last week that she spent much effort preparing. She is quite talented but I feel guilty that she does so much work when she has very limited energy

My daughter and her daughter

I bought this homemade paper collage

and this stylized kitty

and this silver and abalone ring

My mom would have turned 92 yesterday if it were not for Alzheimer's

According to a podcast I listened to in the middle of the night, kids according to pediatrician and behavioral psychologist Dr. Thomas Boyce kids can be divided into two, not equal groups: dandelions and orchids. Dandelions are common and will thrive in about any condition whereas orchids are rare, very sensitive but also very special. By administering a few simple very mildly stressful tests, the kids can easily be distinguished from each other. How to raise your ultra sensitive orchid? With a lot of care. Lots of set routines and comforts as orchids adjust poorly to new situations. Hmmm. My gut feeling would be to help these orchids adjust. I've run across too many adult orchids.

Orchids definitely would not have lasted long in my childhood house.  All I will say about that is what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. I was counting down the days until I could be on by own.

It seems that orchids are becoming much more common these days. Someone calls child protection services because a nine year old girl was allowed to walk her dog around the block (in a 'good' neighborhood). I walked a few blocks to kindergarten by myself. My kids usually went in groups to a school that was almost a mile away. I didn't worry about abductions, just the nature pond that Josh loved to break the ice on. Now the woods they crossed through has a deer culling program in the winter. There are signs for the kids not to cut through (and walk considerably further) but do they pay attention? although judging from the parking lot when I pick up Maya, no kid seems to walk anymore.

Winter may be finally disappearing though I had to wait for the strong sun to melt a path in the bit of snow that fell last night on the bike path and it was a not so toasty 20 degrees. For the three days prior, I worked out on our elliptical machine, boring but my heart rate goes even higher than running so I guess I am getting a workout. Plus I lift weights.

Still learning Dutch. In Spanish, there are two verbs meaning to be (estar and ser). One describes a temporary state of being such as I am happy. The other is a more permanent state of being such as I am tall.  This could be tricky as what verb do you use to describe a generally happy baby, not just one that is happy for the moment? Well Dutch doesn't seem to have temporary and permanent states of being but they have a new one for me: positional states of being. Words aren't just on a page, they stand on a page. Amsterdam just isn't in the Netherlands, it lies in the Netherlands. And you are not just in prison, you sit in prison. Sometimes it is tricky deciding if an object is sitting, standing or laying. Flat objects lie, vertical stand and things inside sit but balls are tricky. And the language isn't so pretty. Van Gogh sounds like one is expelling mucus from ones throat. Some of the words sound obscene as Ik hoor het vaak. (I hear it often). Hopefully keeping all these rules straight will keep me mentally alert longer.

The other day I was helping Maya with her homework which was to write a letter to her principal to persuade her to give kids more recess.

But I don't want more recess. I stand outside freezing just waiting for the bell to ring so I can go inside where it is warm.

But lets pretend it is warm out and actually have fun outside. What would the advantages be?

So hard.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Social insecurity

our snowy house with the full moon  A few days later the snow was covered with a thick coat of ice which gave cool reflections but messed up other things

Naomi and Maya More of Maya thanks to more storms

my suet cake raider. Actually we have three of these travelling great distances in the winter. In the summer, they don't bother

Depot Town Ypsilanti  Went for a Happy Hour there

new addition to my doll wall

Wall art for my bedroom
Steve had been spending hours calculating and recalculating. When should we start taking social security? Our former financial person had already prepared us an elaborate spreadsheet but some factors have changed since then. Unknown: when are we going to die (this has moved up for me), are the payouts increasing and how much, will social security be raided to pay for some ego wall. One person can start collecting now and the other could get spousal benefits. Which one? Finally I agreed to look at all the possibilities (or some of them as the possibilities are endless) and decided on the original timetable that the advisor gave us.

If all goes well, this should be my last visit to the understaffed social security office ever though Steve will have to go back in a few years when he starts collecting on his own account. I did have to make a rush trip to them last year (right before I was to leave to Costa Rica) to correct some mistake THEY made or I wouldn't get Medicare (and would not have anything else so I couldn't ignore it) but this was not so time sensitive and we were tempted to go home when there was absolutely no where to park. Steve waited in the driveway while I got in line. The numbers were not sequential so one had no idea on the wait. They actually had an employee whose sole job was to make sure no one stood in the waiting room (not enough chairs) You could stand in the vestibule or sit outside (another frigid shitty day here) He did have another job: patrolling the parking lot to make sure there were not any illegal parkers (there were some empty employee only spots..surprisingly few handicapped spots). People would naively assume he was answer man but all he would say is get a number and no you can't stand here.  I would have guessed we would be some of the younger clients but most people seemed much younger than us. Finally after an hour our number came up. Our guy was helpful. What we needed? Our wedding license (all tattered up) and a routing number to send the money. We didn't need our birth certificates (they had them already) So this annoying job is done and we no longer have to worry whether our medicare payments have been lost in the mail (which has come up too many times!!!!) We celebrated with a rare lunch out. We used to go out all the time but ever since the Big Diet, I've been limiting that. You would think all the soup and salad you could eat would have been the most diet friendly option but when the soup is lobster bisque and a tasty version at that, all bets are off.  My big fear of all the weight coming back is a constant. Some of it annoyingly has come back but I still comfortably fit in the size 4s. Still I want to be back at my low. And then the next day I caved and had a slice of good homemade cheesecake at my friend's house and then Happy Hour...my weight started ballooning to scary heights, since reversed.

Still doing things that I only have time for while waiting out  this incredibly long winter like repairing jewelry and organizing closets. One day I will have a glue day to repair everything at once that needs gluing. I bought the glue...just have to get started. Dutch is much harder and less fun when I discovered that in clauses (and there are all sorts of clauses with different rules) word order is changed. So you have to decide whether you have a co-ordinating clause, subordinate clause or a relative clause signaled by various phrases. Now romance languages are starting to look easier though they have that nasty subjunctive set of verbs that one only uses in clauses but at least the syntax doesn't change. I am getting better at distinguishing words. And most people don't speak in clauses so I should be able to understand simple sentences, preferably spoken to me as if I am a toddler. In Italy, I usually could understand children given the simplicity of their language. Newscasters reading at warp speed the news was a different story.

The latest storm (Quiana,could we getting at the end finally?) was advertised well in advance. Maya would have a shortened stay up north which meant she'd be with us as Naomi works when she is gone. It fortunately came a few hours later than planned so very early sunday morning, it was calm and warm. I ran into  the direction of the wind. Still calm. And then a long put off (thanks crappy weather) bike ride heading into the wind. It was started to pick up and the temps dropping. By the end of the day, gale force winds and the temps 35 degrees below what they were in the morning. The winds howled for almost 24 hours but we still had power and didn't seem to have damage.

We started getting those subscription meals though I feel tricked into it. A friend offers a 'free' meal to try but they need your credit card and then I hear, good luck cancelling. I hate the tricky, dishonest marketing but we will try them for awhile though it is hard to believe it is cost effective and they seem like too much work. I had let Steve do the 'easy' one but took over when I found out how much slicing and dicing it involved (he is so bad at that).

In an advertisement of all things, I read that 25% of girls miss school because they don't have hygiene products at home. Could that be true? The advertisement said if you buy their products, they will donate so much to schools to maintain a supply for those in need. So will these girls have to go ask someone for a tampon? Or will they just keep a basket of them to be raided. Although I didn't have everything I always wanted or in some cases need (glasses were a luxury, I shouldn't have wrecked my eyes) I was supplied with those ridiculous pads in the days before adhesive strips were invented (or super absorbent materials). I was given a belt with metal nickel teeth to tenuously hold the pad (huge!!!) in place and lived in fear that the pad would come unattached. Also I had the cheap belt that didn't have the nice satin tab preventing the nickel (very allergic) from touching the skin. Careful folding of the pad ends could prevent contact but sometimes I ended up with contact dermatitis and once a secondary infection (impetigo of the nether regions..so much fun). Tampons could have prevented many of my worries but these were specifically not supplied nor were there directions on how to use them. Glad all that craziness is over. Now waiting for spring..impatiently.

Monday, February 18, 2019

the long winter

In the winter, the deer cross our yard in the evening. Usually there is no more than five but the other night 15 or so. I see from the hoof marks in the snow they have close to our house

I've killed more orchids than usual this year probably by overwatering Steve gave me this for Valentine's Day

And this balloon You can see my craziness in the background I put fairy lights over the screen

Winter drags on. Last night we were hit with another 5 inches of snow though the schools are closed anyway today. At least for the previous three days there was an almost clear path for me to run outside as long as I didn't mind 20 degree temps . I've been struggling to keep in a good mood. The smallest slights however unintentional put me near tears. The other day Steve finds me staring into space wondering what was wrong. I had been just disinvited from a Happy Hour. He wondered if we went out, maybe I would be happy so we did and it was nice.

We seem to have less birds these days. No titmice, no nuthatches, only a few pair of cardinals, no hairy woodpeckers, where are they? We do have squirrels traveling great distances to raid the suet cake and the 'squirrel-proof' feeder. Yep they always find a work around for that. Yesterday one was sitting on a tree branch separated only a few inches from me by glass. Suddenly it lunged but went smack into the window. Was it trying to attack me or maybe it looked like their might be food where I was.

And the news, I try to avoid listening. The country is being run by a tyrant with the emotions of a toddler. Just hope all the check and balances still work but he is only a symptom, not the disease itself.

Some nice times: a friend came over to share some wine. Good talks. And Allie and Josh came over the next day. Previous to coming here, they spent an hour in the park near us. As it was 20 degree and icy, they were the only ones there. That Allie is tough. I've been trying to tackle not fun jobs that I have no time for in the summer. Organized my closet, still learning Dutch..yes I know that everybody speaks English there.

We got a recall letter the other day for our almost 13 year old car. Apparently if the airbag ever deploys, it will spray with great force metal shrapnel in our faces. As this is dangerous, we were urged not to drive it and immediately have the dealer fix it. And when will that be?  The requisite part won't be in for at least 4 weeks. When have I ever had an airbag go off? Never but the day I received that, a woman from blogsphere that I meet up with was  t-boned at 60 mph which set off all her bags. She survived with relatively minor injuries despite the car doing cartwheels. So accidents can happen.


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