To speak gratitude is courteous and pleasant, to enact gratitude is generous and noble, but to live gratitude is to touch Heaven.
Johannes A. Gaertner
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Hello my friends!
Gosh, it feels so good to be back in blogland! Now if I could just be in the land of the fully mobile and conscious, that would be grand. I am not complaining, however. I feel better with each passing day, requiring smaller doses of narcotics to keep the pain down, while gaining more strength and mobility. When I first got home, I was popping pills like crazy and had to use my walker (remember that?) every time I wanted to go anywhere, though my trips were mostly limited between our bed and the bathroom. Going all the way to the kitchen was considered a big feat!
Now, I only need the walker about half of the time, moving quite freely on the first floor of the house. I don’t know when I will muster up the strength to go upstairs, but, thanks to my superstar hubster and guest blogger, I have practically everything I need in our bedroom: a borrowed air conditioner for this hellish weather (107 today, ugh), a boom box, television, lap top, watercolors, books, and snacks! It’s pretty darn cool, pun intended.
Since a lot of people have asked questions about the endometriosis that led me to my surgery and this cozy bedroom lair, I thought I’d give a little information about it, and why it was causing so much trouble for me. In a nutshell, endometriosis is when tissue from inside the uterus migrates elsewhere in the pelvic cavity (no one knows why, when, or how). It is problematic because it has hormones and a monthly period just like the uterus, only it can’t exit the body like a normal period does, so it stays inside a woman’s abdomen, where it creates adhesions, like scar tissue. Think about it like this – you spill something on the counter without cleaning it up right away. When you return in a few hours, you touch the spot and your hand sticks to it, and sometimes even creates a kind of gooey, taffy-like bond. Only with endometriosis, you can’t wash it off. The taffy just spreads, connecting tissue and organs that have no business being such close neighbors, and, at least in my case, causing some pretty intense pain.
This is why my surgery could not be completed laparoscopically, and I had to be opened up. My insides were so thoroughly bound and twisted with taffy-like adhesions that my doctor needed to get inside and carefully cut everything apart. Thankfully, she was able to do so. In the process, she removed my uterus (complete with a large adenomyoma), my fist-sized right ovary, both fallopian tubes, as many adhesions as she could, and then zapped the remaining visible endometriosis with a really good laser. It’s no wonder it took over six hours!
Being in the hospital was a very emotional experience for me, like I was out at sea and riding a series of waves to shore, to home, and with each wave came a different emotion: gratitude, release, sadness, disbelief, joy, and wonder. Gratitude - I survived my surgery. I was alive, and the healing process was underway. Release – I am a pretty independent person, but in this situation, I had to, quite literally, hand my body over to strangers. They fed me, clothed me, bathed me, all with great kindness, compassion, and respect. Sadness – Even though I had never wanted children, I felt sad that this definitively left that choice out of my hands, though I guess it never really was. I am not driving this bus! Disbelief – For my recovery, I was placed in the Family Birthing Center, as the staff there would best know how to treat someone in my condition. Perhaps this seems a logical choice for someone who has already had children, but for me, it seemed a bit, well, odd. The lady who can never have children, infertile Myrtle, chockablock with mothers and babies? This same feeling of disbelief, however, was replaced by Joy – To be in the most precious place in a hospital, to witness those first days of life, the first tiny cries, each beautiful babe swaddled, hatted, and loved by all. Finally Wonder – There is so much kindness in the world, so many talented people doing their best work, so much love, and I am a living, breathing part of it all.
Now it is time for some shout-outs. First and foremost, to my amazing husband. Through our eighteen years of my increasing pain and suffering, he has always been a source of great love and support. I could not imagine a better partner or friend, no siree Bob. During my hospital stay, it was the hours he was there that I felt most safe. Listening to him type away on his laptop or hearing his whispers in the dark, it was almost as if I were home and not hooked to a catheter, pulse oximeter, and an IV. I was free.
My fantastic doctors. First, to Petra Caruso, Naturopathic MD. One of the most kind and compassionate health care professionals I have ever had the privilege to meet, she has been on this journey with me for nearly two years, constantly striving to find new, healthy solutions to make my life more comfortable. When she realized our options had been exhausted, she recommended my awesome specialist, Dr. Liz Newhall. Oh goodness, I am ever so pleased to have found her way while on my own. She is an amazingly talented woman, highly educated in her craft of women’s health, with a heart and humor to match. After my surgery, when I asked her how bad it was, and she told me that it was one of the worst cases she’d seen in her thirty years of practice, she said, “You would have won a blue ribbon at the fair, no doubt about it.”
YOU, the people of cyberspace, across the street, across town, across the world. Thank you so much for your prayers, kind thoughts, cards, meals, visits, everything. I felt and continue to feel so bouyed by all the love being sent my way, so incredibly grateful to be alive!
Colleen and I are often “accused” of having rose colored glasses on. It used to be something I felt guilty for, as if I didn’t have a grasp on reality. I now view this ‘trait’ as something to embrace since there are many events in life beyond my control. Sometimes the only thing I do have the ability to shape is my view. Colleen is fond of saying “I’m not driving this bus”, and I agree.
A shift in perspective can be a powerful thing. As I look back over the past year and a half, it has been a little bit of a roller coaster and I thought I would share some of my hospital reflecting…
This was a fairly serious body change for Colleen and obviously at the forefront of our lives at the moment. With the amount of endometriosis, it is probably one of the more invasive hysterectomies that a person can have. (Actually, the hysterectomy was a small part of the procedure. Think trying to free up taffy growing inside you that has been twisting your organs for 20+ years.)
With glasses: I have a lot of hope that Colleen will feel a good sense of freedom from the abdominal issues that she has suffered with. After all, the whole point is of all this is to make things better than they are now. I’m hopeful she will enjoy her time in Colorado without having to worry about serious cramping and pain this September. From a “me” perspective, the event has been a great chance to be able to help someone I love who can’t help herself. It is a great gift to be able to make a difference in her recovery and feel that much closer to her.
I have changed positions three times in the last year, gone from having a large chunk of vacation to having to fight to get a chance to help Colleen for a day or two, and taken a fairly significant financial hit.
With glasses:I now work for a functional company with people I enjoy being around. My commute is smaller. I am not making as much and not as able to save as much, but a good portion of the 401k savings went up in smoke anyway! My work is much more varied now and I really enjoy this variety. My boss and colleagues are pleasant and I feel a strong desire to truly help the company I work for grow and improve. I find myself very content and intrigued with the possibilities that the future holds.
It is certainly not always easy to find a positive perspective on perceived ‘bad’ situations but I have enjoyed the challenge and awareness that comes from the search.
I think I will put my glasses on now and rest near my lovely wife as she does some healing…
This is our house last April, right after having it painted the utterly perfect green color. To the left is our ginormous apple tree, a few blossoms open. Little did we know this would be the last spring for this marvelously productive tree.
We worried about the apple from the moment we moved into the house. Someone had done some very strange shaping and the enormous root system made it appear as though the tree was planted about eight feet from it’s current location, then snaked on the ground to the right spot and allowed to grow, and grow, and grow. The tree was tall and made tons and tons of apples. I spent many a day lining them up along the front wall, ready for any passerby who had a hankering. Then there was the time contemplating recipes for cider, apple butter, apple sauce, apple muffins, apple crisp, apple pie, apple cake, triple apple cake! Sometimes it made my head spin.
Then, one day about a month ago, I was out front weeding and felt a certain springiness. Had it been a spring in my step, I wouldn’t have worried. I’m that kind of gal. As I walked closer to the crazy roots, it increased, and I noticed a hole, small, but enough to signal trouble. The tree was starting to heave out of the ground. Thankfully it lasted through the awful wind storm. Having it topple then would have been a rather big bummer.
This is our yard without it, a gaping space of light and emptiness. I cried the day the men cut it down. It had provided so much for us – a riot of beautifully scented blooms, a place to watch and feed the wildlife, shade, secrecy, wonderfully crisp apples, the opportunity to share with friends and strangers. Thankfully there is always a silver lining. It opens up the view of the house and provides us with the space for me to indulge in a sometimes obsessive love for cherries, especially the tart kind that are great for pies and drying. Now I can have my very own tree! I hope there is a dwarf variety to suit our small front yard. I don’t want a repeat. Think good thoughts, won’t ya?
When I was younger, I looked on in wild wonder at a certain breed of older ladies. While they looked normal – well groomed, no nervous tics to speak of - they had habits that set them apart from the crowd – kooky habits. Despite saying, “I will never ever be one of them,” I’ve somehow, over the past couple of years, turned into one and am now likely the focus of some other young person’s mocking. Though there are many facets to my kookiness, here is the most glaring example of my transformation: I feed animals.
To be fair, Gregory started it! Oh, listen to me, blaming it on him. Seriously, he did though. We were at the coast a few years ago and he saw some hummingbirds darting around a feeder. I was so tickled at his excitement, “Buddy, did you see that one? How about that one? They’re so neat!”, that I bought him a feeder. Placed just outside our kitchen window, we’ve had many a tiny visitor.
Then there were the Bushtits, literally the cutest birds, and aside from the hummingbird, the smallest in North America. They twitter around in flocks, and despite their rather drab color, they bring so much cheer, bobbing and darting through the trees. Anyway, I kept seeing them in our yard, and then I saw them en masse at a suet feeder at my neighbor’s house and, well, you can see the giant snowball forming, can’t you?
So, we started with one suet feeder outside the bedroom window, and got lots of traffic from the Bushtits, as well as Warblers, Flickers, Jays, Starlings, Chickadees, and Juncos. As you can imagine, I got excited about all these birds, and thought, well, wouldn’t it be neat if we could watch them in the dining room, too? Feeder count: three.
Then I noticed all the house finches on the wire and wondered why they weren’t gobbling up the goodies at the suet feeders. As I later learned, at the Backyard Bird Shop, they’re not big on suet, but boy do they love sunflower seeds. Feeder count: four. Additional birds: House Finches, Purple Finches, Song Sparrows, Pine Siskins, Golden Crowned Sparrows, Gold Finches, and Lesser Gold Finches.
At this point, I could see the kooky transformation happening in a big way, yet, rather than stop right there, I asked Laura (yeah, I’m on a first name basis with the bird shop manager) what kind of birds eat at the flat feeders they have in the shop. Well, gentle readers, a whole new crop that wasn’t visiting before, and since I had already crossed the threshold there was no going back. Feeder count: five. Additional birds: Black Headed Gros Beak and Evening Grosbeak, plus a Hawk (not sure what kind) that came to munch on these fellas (he missed – this time).
But, you may remember, I said animals. I feed animals. Well, as those in my situation already know, feeders don’t just attract birds, but squirrels, too. They are tenacious, I might add. So, as the package of squirrel food says, “Don’t fight ‘em, feed ‘em!” Feeder count: six. Kooky lady transformation: done and done!
Perhaps it is the fact that I had three siblings growing up. Perhaps it is just my nature, but I love to share. I love baking up a big batch of cookies or a Bundt cake and delivering plates of their yummy goodness to the neighbors. It’s fun, and it feels good. I like giving of myself in that way. If I’ve got extra of anything, I really want someone else to have it.
So, not surprisingly, these tomatoes and cucumbers are for sharing. Later this morning, they will be heading to our favorite local bakery and cafe, Sweetness. Since I’ve been doing my cleanse, I can’t actually eat anything there (or the tomatoes, sigh), but I can share the bounty in our garden.
Since I am sharing, let me share with you the deliciousness that is Sweetness. First, the name. It’s not just for the baked goods. It’s a tribute to Walter Peyton of “da Bears.” The equally sweet mother and daughter team, Gretchen and Kay, are big Chicago fans (check the bathroom out if you don’t believe me). They’ve also got some very lovely ladies working for them, as well: Alana, Kathleen, and Jenny.
It is a rather homey place – bright and cheery, with a good music selection, and goodies galore. Gretchen arrives early every morning to bake everything. There are many, many delectable sweets, of course, savories, sandwiches, omelets, and different brunch menu every weekend. The coffee drinks are nothing to sneeze at either.
My favorites, however, are the FoPo Sandwich (salami, capers, roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts, cheese, all on a challah roll that was made by Gretchen), and the All Day Breakfast Sandwich (a yummy mixture of cream cheese and eggs, cheddar, topped with bacon on that yummy roll again). I top mine with a little hot sauce and am in heaven.
Now for the sweets. Every cookie they make is delicious – big, the perfect balance of chewy and crisp, great flavors: snickerdoodle, ginger, chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, and the cowboy (nuts, chocolate chips, and oatmeal). The coffee cakes are divine, the muffins, always dense and delicious, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
They’ve got a lot to choose from, and it is all so good! If you’re in the neighborhood – give them a try, you won’t leave disappointed! At least we never do.
Despite the fact that I’ve never actually wanted children of my own, I am a sucker for them.
Take these cookies. I bought the dough from the cute neighbor boys in support of their little league baseball team.
Next time, I think I’ll just make a donation – straight up, no purchasing of wrapping paper, junk food, chocolates, or cookie dough. It will save me the agony of having all these things that I don’t really need, like Slim Jims and three pounds (yes, pounds!) of peanut butter dough taunting me every time I open the refrigerator.
“You know you want to eat me. I am rather tasty by the spoonful, or you could stud me with chocolate chips (the way Gregory likes), so I get that mutant cookie look, and then bake me up. How great would I be with a glass of milk on a perfect Portland day?”
Well, darn it all if the dough wasn’t right! Now if Monday’s weather would return…
I am touched by the kindness of whomever left this delightful surprise on my door. Thank you!
I love this beautiful planet of ours, and I do my very best to be a good steward of the land I occupy, always striving to make one more change for that seventh generation. I’m hoping you are too.
But, as I am never satisfied, I’m wanting us all to do more. Would you look at the list below and find one item that you aren’t already doing and give it a try for Mother Earth? I’d appreciate it, and so would she.
Here’s what our household pledges to do:
If you are like me, and your crafty eyes are sometimes too big for your crafty stomach, and you’ve got more fabric and do-dads than you’ll ever use, and you happen to live in the Portland area, give them to Knittn’ Kitten! It is your local fabric, bead, and craft supply thrift store.
I just donated this rather large tote full of fabric, plus a few new and vintage patterns that, despite my eagerness at the time, I know I will never ever make.
Even if you don’t have anything to donate, the shop is certainly worth a peek. They have a very interesting inventory of inexpensive crafty goodness: patterns, stickers, great yarn (lots of wool), fabric, and many many notions. They also have some vintage clothes and bric-a-brac for the home, a little of everything. Though, I must say that my favorite bit has got to be the vintage linen room. Were it not for the fact that I’m not buying anything until June, I’d have gone a little nuts in there.
The store is owned by a lovely mother and daughter team, Ethel and Rome. A real gem – check it out!