Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, Part 2

What is this flowering tree?

As we strolled the gardens, sometimes I thought to check the labels of the plants and flowers, but not always.  I have no idea what this tree is, but I thought the blossoms were so creamy and frothy.

 This reflexology labyrinth was a pretty cool feature in the Lerner Garden of the 5 Senses.  We removed our shoes and socks and meditated our way around and around.  
 Even if you wish to leave your shoes on, you can trace the route with your finger.
I wish I had taken a picture of the whole thing, so you could see that the smooth stones gradually decreased in size as you travel further inward, and the massaging effect on the soles of your feet changes.

 As you travel around the first outer circle, you can reach the soft and furry lambs' ears plants, and who can resist them?
 So healthy and gone to flower.  And look at that brilliant contrast with the plant behind.
 Next, while your feet are bare you walk between two pools, the one on the right has a weir about 3 feet high, and there is a cascade of cool water flowing over it, and across the walkway into the lower pool.  For real refreshment, I stepped right up to the little waterfall, and let the cool water splash on my feet and ankles.

I have no idea what this is besides pretty.

 Love the color contrasts....
A close-up of my favorite color contrast.

More next time. 

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Sunday Driving

Sunday afternoon, Jeff and I drove up the coast to Boothbay.  This was not our first visit to the area, we were here a few weeks ago to take Evan to the University's coastal research center, so he could complete his SCUBA certification.  But that trip was really just a utilitarian fly-by.  This trip, on Sunday, was truly leisure.
The water feature in the Lerner Garden of the 5 senses
Our destination was the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens.  I had heard of it, but never been. And believe me, I want to go back, again and again!  If you visit Maine, consider a day here.  It is that magical.  The largest Botanical Garden in New England at 270 acres, it has only been developed in the last couple of decades, and a great deal of thought, talent, and resources have been brought to bear among its many themed gardens and winding woodland trails.  We were there for almost 3 hours, and probably saw a little more than half at a somewhat leisurely pace.  Our pace was determined by photographic opportunities.  We didn't do as much sitting and drinking it all in as I felt invited to do by its many seating alcoves, mainly granite benches, with lovely vistas.  There were water features, lovely steel dynamic (kinetic?) sculptures, impressive stonework, and even a large glass orb, all of which were displayed in harmony with the surroundings.  Native plant species are effectively showcased, and beds of plants and flowers arranged so as to delight the eye with their contrasting colors and textures.  Upon reviewing my photos, I find that I took 150 pictures!  I was going to edit some out, but they are all wonderful!  I had borrowed my son's better camera and that was a good idea.  I've had another pass through them to select which ones to share here.  I'm down to 49.  So, I'll spread them out over more than one post.  
Here's today's gallery; let's start with a bang:
PoW!  How's that for CoLoR?
And this was just on the walkway from our parking lot to the visitor center.  I happily noted that the parking "lots" are very small and verdant, no blacktop, just packed dirt and gravel, with lots of fallen pine needles making it look very woodsy indeed.  It feels a little like you have arrived at a campground, or the head of a hiking trail.  And of course you are surrounded by trees, so you can't see over to the gardens, which enhances the feeling of anticipation and breathless discovery.
Salvia with bee

I had never seen a yellow peony.  Most of the peonies had just gone by, but this was quite a beauty.

Why don't I have peonies in my garden?
Who wouldn't want to go for a Sunday stroll with this tall, dark and handsome guy?
In the Lerner Garden of the 5 Senses, you are invited to see, hear, taste, smell and touch.

And that includes taking off your shoes and walking the smooth stones of the reflexology labyrinth, and even splashing in the water splattering over the weir of the upper pool to flow into the lower pool.

Ferns are one of my most favorite forest plants, they seem so delicate and shy, somehow.  Remind me sometime to tell you how you can eat them.

I like this photo for the tease of the stone wall in the distance.

Goodbye for now.  Pat the bunny before you go.  So smooth...

Saturday, July 4, 2015

The times, they are a-changin'

Storm clouds scudding over Biddeford Pool at high tide

Wow.  Yup, it's been a long time.  I gave serious thought to shutting down this blog, due to my not feeling inspired to express myself.  And yet, I'm back.  Who knows what changes my motivation....
There certainly has been no lack of happenings in my life.  Maybe I've had a lot of attention consumed by other people's life events, drawing me away from my simple pastimes.  The little avocations that are easier to share, like needlework and domestic arts like cooking and sewing.

Here's a little update on what has consumed my attention and time for the last several months.

David.  David is doing quite well.  Now.  We have been through some seriously scary times.  He was in a clinical trial for a new cancer drug, to which he seemed to respond beautifully.  The study protocol then introduced the older drug, and his troubles began.  It's not clear to me whether the older drug caused the problems, or if it resulted from the addition of the older drug after the newer drug.  You see, both drugs work by stimulating/facilitating the body's immune system to kill off the cancerous melanocytes. Some people experience complications that seem to be primarily related to inflammation in organs unrelated to the melanocytes.  The more commonly noted conditions are pneumonitis and colitis, inflammation of the lungs, and the large intestine.  In severe cases, the inflammation can render the afflicted to be minimally functional, even to the extent of complete failure.  And when major organs fail, it is life-threatening.  The treatment is high-dose corticosteroids to fight the inflammation and thus allow a return to normal function. This buys time to determine and treat the cause of the inflammatory response.  David developed severe colitis and moderately severe pneumonitis.  He ended up in a hospital bed for 5 weeks!  And since that time, he has been fighting from all the complications of which there have been many, including adrenal failure, GI bleeding, severe anemia, requiring blood transfusions, malnutrition requiring intravenous feeding, deep venous thromboses requiring blood-thinning and complicating the GI bleeding and anemia, pulmonary embolism, taxing his already compromised lung function, atrial fibrillation, which I attribute to the strain on his heart by the PE and anemia.  Oh yeah, and opportunistic infections from his immunocompromised state, including fungal pneumonia, systemic cytomegalovirus and possibly bacterial pneumonia.  Oh yeah, and diabetes due to the steroids, requiring insulin injections and blood sugar testing 4x a day.  Fortunately, he has recovered from most of these complications.  In March, he had some back pain from one of the tumors in a vertebra compressing his spinal cord, and received a week of radiation.  Next week, he is due for his quarterly check-up to see if tumors are still receding or staying the same size, or if they are growing or spreading.
Whew, writing the David update has taken a lot of words and energy, so I'll quit for now.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Things are looking up

What a lovely summer it has been.  We have had a cooler summer than usual, having never even seen a single day where the temperature reached 90 degrees.  We're getting a little warmth and humidity now, but not unbearable.  Living on Maine's coast the way we do, we do not have central air conditioning.  There are so few times that we really wish we did.  Oh yes, it gets hot, and we find ourselves languishing in front of fans, but the worst is usually over in a few  hours.  A couple of weeks ago, it felt like autumn was arriving, with daily highs in the 70s, and nightly lows in the 50s -- heaven!
I have kept myself busy with household and family activities.  My two college boys were home.  All three of the boys came home filthy each day, having worked hard on a landscaping crew that helps keep Kennebunk and Kennebunkport looking immaculately manicured. (Laundry hint here:  1/2 cup of Borax, hot water and a double measure of cheap laundry detergent does the trick for their work clothes -- sometimes I ran an extra rinse cycle too.)  Ian lobstered for Sheldon on the weekends and worked on refurbishing his own lobster boat in every free minute.  Evan surfed at Fortune's Rocks (the beach near our home) every chance he got.  His dear sweet GF Christina came over once or twice a week.  I can't get enough of the happy light she shines around here.  And Sean worked hard, worked out hard in preparation for his senior year football season, and worried hard about his upcoming college applications.

The biggest news of my summer is that my dear brother David is doing really well in his battle with melanoma.  I hardly dare write about it, since I feel almost superstitious about it, like if I say out loud that I think he will win his fight, that I will jinx his odds.  I know it's silly, but there it is.
David was diagnosed with stage 4 melanoma, which in the past, really has been a death sentence.  As in, 6 months - 2 years survival.  But that was before, and now, I am immeasurably thankful to say that he is getting the best of the best treatment available, and that other people with more dire cases than his(!), are being called cured.  By their oncologists.  You don't hear them utter that word often.  Years and years ago, I removed a melanoma from David's back.  That was a bit scary.  I referred him out to a specialist, who performed a wide excision, and a sentinel node biopsy, both of which confirmed that the melanoma was in situ, meaning no evidence that it had spread, and that it had been cured by the original excision.  Going forward, it meant that he had a higher risk of another melanoma, and that vigilance with limiting sun exposure and regular careful and thorough skin exams were indicated.  And he has done that.
This spring however, he had a black toenail.  Being a builder, he usually has a black fingernail or two, from bruising.  He didn't remember getting an injury, but sure enough the nail shed as he expected it would.  Instead of healing, and new nail appearing, the nail bed was getting worse, bloody, swollen, and he was having trouble wearing shoes, because of the bulky bandaging he was wrapping his toe in.  A biopsy showed melanoma.  This was surprising because we always thought that any new melanomas would occur in a more consistently sun-exposed area (back, shoulders, head). All the information I've ever found about melanoma in the nailbed was that they predominantly occur in dark-skinned individuals.  David and I are both very fair-skinned Caucasians. Further testing showed that he does not have the most common "melanoma gene", and therefore wasn't eligible for the gene-targeted therapies.  He has melanoma tumors in most of his bones, and some in soft tissue.  But none in his brain, or heart.  This spread of tumors distant from the original tumor automatically places him in Stage 4, which is the most serious.  Here's where the story improves.
David was referred to the Melanoma Clinic at Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.  He qualified for a clinical trial which is being accelerated due to the success they have had so far.  He has been getting intravenous infusions of a wonder drug every 2 weeks all summer long.  He has felt well enough to work, to play, to live his life, mostly.  His dear wife Paula, has devoted herself to feeding him all the best fresh organic healthy foods, and eliminating stress, seeking tranquility and peace as much as possible.  We want his immune system at the top of its game.  We have all been praying our knees off, and loving on each other overtly, instead of quietly, with New England restraint and dignity.  Oh, the hugging and kissing, the smiles and laughter, the declarations of "I love you" right out loud and everything.
Today, David will get news of his first round of imaging tests, a quantitative measure of how he has responded to his treatment.  I am dying for word, although I am pretty sure the news will be good, based on how well David looks on the whole, and that the tumor on his toe has receded and stopped bleeding.  He has been wearing shoes (instead of sandals with socks).  We joke about how many new pairs of shoes he has been sporting.  His sis-in-law gave him a plaque showing a glass slipper, and a quote from Cinderella:  "The right shoe can change your life."  I call him Imelda.
For now, that's the news from this corner.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Irene as Home Nurse, or Bedside Sitting, Part Two

My Great-Grandfather, James

For years after my great-grandmother died, my grandmother Irene took care of her father, my great-grandfather.  He and his sons had always “worked in the woods”.  In Maine that means logging.  Nowadays, logs, once cut and limbed, are “skidded” out of the woods to be loaded onto log trucks using heavy machinery, specifically “skidders”.  I once heard a logger bragging on his wife because she could “droive a skid-dah” as well as any man.
But in the old days, loggers dragged (“twitched”) the logs out of the woods using draft horses.  A good team of horses didn’t need driving; they knew the way on their own.  But a young boy's introduction to logging might be to drive the horses back and forth.  My father did that, learning to holler “gee” and “haw” for right and left. 
My Great-Grandparents, Beulah and James
I don’t know the details, but one day my great-grandfather was under a tree when it came down the wrong way.  It happens from time to time, and many of these accidents result in fatality.  So I guess you could say Great-Grandpa was lucky to survive.  His back was broken and spinal cord injured.  He became a paraplegic for the rest of his life.  I didn’t know him as he died before I was born, but I have always heard glowing reports of the love and respect his descendants had for him.
So I suppose that it is appropriate that I think of my grandmother Irene when I think of a  model for Bedside Sitting.  She was always busy and cheerful, and took so many hardships in stride.  She was the kind of woman who was up with the dawn every day, and to bed soon after supper was cleaned up.  I remember her thinking her light bill must have been minimal.  She always kept a garden, and was known to have awakened one morning to see a deer eating her peas.  She grabbed her .22 and sneaked out into the “daw-yahd”* in her bra and panties, and had venison for her freezer.
I could go on and on telling little “rustic” stories about her (she was a registered Maine guide, and known for her ability to track bear for her urban clients looking for a hunting adventure), but my main focus is how she was an example of how in former times, illness was attended in the home, and necessarily part of comprehensive domestic training.  More people were at ease with illness, as it entered and dwelt right in their own homes with them.  I am not for a minute lamenting the advent of hospitals and other healthcare facilities, just recognizing that the removal of sick people from our homes can have a distancing effect.  I have heard too many people describe having a fear of hospitals, and observed enough people looking anxious and ill-at-ease just entering the building to think that all of their discomfort in visiting the ill can be attributed to their concern for the patient.  I contend that both visitor and patient can benefit from somehow eliminating this anxiety.  I’m not sure exactly how to accomplish this, but I suspect that simply talking about it is a good place to start.
Have you a fear of hospitals?  Are you uncomfortable around people when they are sick?  Have you ever been the “home nurse” for a loved one?  Did you feel comfortable in the role?  I really want to hear your stories.  If you want to express an opinion on this topic, leave me a comment; maybe you’d like to be a guest poster.  I have no doubt that whatever your experience, someone will be helped by hearing your story.

*  In Maine, a “dooryard” is essentially the driveway, or more generally, the part of the yard which constitutes the approach to the house.  The term undoubtedly precedes the automobile, and every winter it is important to keep the dooryard clear of snow, so you can get in and out to the road.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Being Irene (or Bedside Sitting, Part One)

My grandmother and my father

I don’t much like giving advice, unless it is asked for.  And when it is asked for, I can do a better job if given a chance to sort out my thoughts on the subject.  Today, I am posting unasked-for advice, only because I think it may help someone.  I don’t consider myself an expert in any way, but I have experience in two areas:  1) I have been a healthcare provider, and as such have worked in hospitals, nursing homes, and medical offices; 2)  I have been a family member when my loved ones have been ill.  My father battled cancer a few years ago.  My mother has had her hospital episodes.  My stepfather is in the midst of chemotherapy, and now my heretofore robust and healthy older brother is in a battle for his life.  Two of my children were hospitalized as neonates for Respiratory Syncitial Virus, and one of them also for hyperbilirubinemia.  (I also have been a patient, enduring 5 days in hospital for a particularly challenging case of Clostridium difficile colitis, an occupational hazard of nursing home work.)
I have encountered many patients, family members and healthcare workers.  I have found it helpful always to keep in mind that patients and their families are rarely at their best in the midst of a medical crisis.  At the worst, their world is crashing around them, perhaps changing their lives forever, and at the very least, they are experiencing a disruption in their daily rhythm, adapting and absorbing a cost of resources, time, etc, and challenging their coping strategies.
I had a grandmother, whose first name was Irene, who taught by example that loving people brings out the best in them.  And for her, “loving” people was not an emotion you experienced passively.  Loving people involved active intent, being consistently kind, jovial and accepting.  I never saw her react to someone’s negative behavior.  Ever.  She never seemed to nurse a grudge, even a score, or retaliate a slight.  (And there were plenty of slights, believe me.)  She blessed everyone around her with her cheerful disposition, and strength of character.  She was unconventional in many ways, and as such, not universally admired; for many people it took a long time to understand and accept what she was all about, but I think that, sooner or later, most who knew her “got it”.   
A long time ago, I concluded that one of the most worthwhile character strengths to develop was to be someone who brought out the best in others. A little like Melanie Hamilton Wilkes in GWTW, Lately however, I have taken to calling it "Being Irene".  For the most part, the old-fashioned idea of “etiquette” seeks to accomplish just this.  I needn’t lament here the shocking examples we can see on TV of the impact of abandoning such behaviors.  There has been such an emphasis on “being yourself”, “do your own thing”, “do what’s right for you”, in the last few decades that I fear we as a society lose something if we don’t consider one another more.  
We could all use a little more "Being Irene".

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Hay, I mean, Hey, I'm working on it.......

Probably my great grandfather and great uncle?
Haying, Dallas Plantation, Maine (near Rangeley)
Probably 1930's

Every once in a while, I will be composing a post, and hit some key that deletes everything.  I have no idea what I do, but I think it may be related to the heel of my palm brushing my laptop touch pad as I type.
Usually, what I have lost is fresh enough in my mind, or unedited enough to warrant re-writing, and while it is exasperating, I get over it and re-write.
It just happened again, and I lost a story I'm not up to re-doing at the moment.
I've been writing down my thoughts most of the day, and finally decided that I would do a blog post.
And then it vanished.  I bet there is a way to recover these things, but I just can't figure it out.
I have often thought that I should compose my posts in a Word document first, but I think I then found cumbersome to get photos in the right places.
Anyway, besides some reminiscing I was doing, I was simply going to post that I am working on some posts.  I still am; I think that some of what I have been writing today will appear in this space in future, just needs a little more work for blog-readiness.
I will say, however, that I have seen many blogs whose authors primarily write about hobby/crafty activities, and apologize when they are pre-occupied with life's challenges, and "fail" to post regularly.  Or even, apologize for making reference to their personal concerns, which may be "unhappy" topics.  "I don't want to be a Debbie Downer, but....."
I happen to feel that we, none of us bloggers, have an obligation to our visitors.  Like any other medium, people can take or leave what we have to say.  Not that I don't work at expressing mutually gratifying content, but I usually don't shy away from being direct about what is on my mind.  For one thing, I use this blog, not so much as a personal journal, but at least as a general chronicle, suitable for sharing.  I think there is value in what I have to say. After all, if I didn't, why bother?  I trust that the occasional visitor will find value too, since I find value in the simplest of blog posts.  Want to discuss the merits of how you store your coffee filters?  I'll listen.  Rant about the frustration of getting your vacuum cleaner fixed.  I'm all ears.  Puzzle over why you couldn't make sense of a sewing pattern instruction.  I'm captivated.  Maybe I find comfort in our commonality.  Likewise, if you are struggling with bigger issues like being sick or out of work or worrying over something, I never feel disappointed when reading about it on your quilting blog.  Maybe I'm just nosy.
Thank you to you if you came to visit and read my last post, and had the time and words to leave a sympathetic comment.  If you read it and didn't know what to say, that's okay too.  I know it doesn't mean you were indifferent.  If you were disappointed not to find pretty little baby clothes or something like that, I know it was only temporary, and you wandered off and got your "fix" somewhere else.  I hope you came back and here's why.
Sooner or Later.  Mama always said there'd be times like this.  Unless you die young, or don't love anybody, you will face the fear and worry of having someone you love be sick, or possibly even die.  And while blog-surfing may be "merely" an escapist activity for you, I believe our blogs can serve an even better purpose.  Escapism is a perfectly good coping strategy, to an extent, but it is limited.  Their can be real power, however, in knowledge.  If the information you consider is truly wisdom, and you apply it to your life, you have broadened your options for coping.  Many peoples' experiences garner them wisdom, and those who can benefit from the experiences and wisdom of others will avoid needless suffering.  No amount of wisdom can insure against suffering, but facing tragedy with limited coping resources causes suffering that is truly needless.
So, I will be sharing a bit about the challenges my loved ones are facing, but I think the focus will really be on what it is like to be a relatively healthy Bedside Sitter, wanting desperately to make things better, but feeling powerless.  Being in the immediate support network of someone who is sick can be vulnerable and lonely, but it can also be fulfilling and empowering.  If you're up to it, read my posts.  If you're not, they'll be archived for later.  And I'm not done stitching and homemaking and laughing and enjoying life.  I'll share that stuff too.