Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Search

I was just looking through some old journal entries on my computer, for some reason--wanting to compare my beliefs now to the ones I had in spring or summer of 2009. What I found was this, right at the very beginning of everything that happened--less than a month before I conceived, when I wanted it so badly but still had to wonder.

At any rate, I wanted to share, because ... well, because I felt compelled to.

Here it is, complete journal entry from 30 May 2009, nothing changed, except names shortened to protect the innocent.

Saturday 30 May 2009

Where are the answers?

What kind of selfishness is it to want to bring a child into this world? As we spin on this great marble of blue and white and green, this beautiful place, with all its terrible truths? What selfishness is it to bring a child into the world. Even to ensure that child has a smooth life, a pleasant life, a good life, there’s the terror—always the terror of what COULD happen, of what WILL happen, of death. We watched an episode of a TV show today that had a lady say, “I don’t want to die!” And the truth struck me—how many times do we all think that? In the middle of the night, when we wake up in a cold sweat, dreaming of a world without us in it; in the middle of the day, when we nearly get hit by a car and our lives flash before our eyes, and we glimpse the possibility of ceasing to exist. What terror is this—the possibility of the utter ceasing-to-be of our consciousness? Sometimes I think I’ve found peace. But then the old terror renews itself. Even those who believe in an afterlife are sometimes frightened of death—aside from the doubts that may crop up (Maybe this IS all it is, and there is no higher power. What if I didn’t do the right thing in God’s eyes?). What beauty is it, what peace, to not fear death. There is so much we don’t know.

And on this beautiful day, as I sit in the comfort of my living room, I stare at the trees moving in the breeze, in the gorgeous sunshine outside our window, and I contemplate the terror that is likely running through the very essence of some extended family members. M’s Uncle J (K’s husband) had a seizure in the middle of the night a few weeks ago, and since then, they’ve learned that he has terminal brain cancer. They expect him to have two years, at most, with treatment. I think he’s had a good life, but he is relatively young. But even if he were old and had lived a very full, very rich life…would that make his impending death any less tragic, any less painful, for his family—for HIM?

And M’s sister, about the same time as their uncle’s seizure, discovered some bumps on her neck and went to the doctor. After several tests, they still aren’t sure what it is, but it could be lymphoma. To try to learn if it is, she’s having a lymph node excised in a couple of weeks... What kind of terror must that be, to wait and wait and wait, dreading the worst but hoping for the best? I had to worry about it for only a few days when my mother had problems in the fall—but weeks to learn a prognosis? What hell is that for her and her family?

I wonder how M feels about all this, whether he finds comfort in anything. I want to cry, and I’m not as close to them as he is. But am I crying for them? I suppose I am, as I cry for so many people for so many reasons, but I also cry for myself, for their family members, knowing what it is to have a loved one go through this, this fear, this waiting, this chance to “come to terms” with death, with loss.

I cry because at times like this, I always doubt. I vacillate between believing there is something more and fearing that there is not. The mind and the body, always warring—the body screaming for all it’s worth to survive, to not accept that death awaits it, and the mind calling for peace, trying to uncoil the knots in the pit of the body’s stomach, to slow the pounding of the heart, to deepen the breathing. Ultimately, they compromise—the body leaps up, to stretch, to expend the energy pumped through in flight-or-fight response. The body walks, outside into sunshine if possible, and the mind tries to shut down, or to at least distract itself by the sun, the sounds, the utter LIFE surrounding it. But then comes the melancholia—the realization that this all ends. Perhaps it doesn’t end, and only evolves, but such CHANGE! We humans dislike change, even if we say we don’t. Some of us fear it so much that we embrace it. But we fear it, nonetheless—we just cope with it differently. And what bigger change is there than death? We all go through it, but it’s not like childbirth or puberty—we can’t ask others who’ve been through it what it’s like and how to deal with it.

Yes, there are the folks with near-death experiences, the folks who claim to speak to the dead, the ones who claim to have been to heaven or hell, the ones who claim memories of previous lives and of life between lives. But we think they are crazy, or delusional, or just plain wrong. Or maybe, we think, they ARE right, but how can we KNOW? After all, we can only KNOW what we, ourselves, experience, and we often doubt ourselves, or fool ourselves.

As I sit here and write, I also reflect on the fact that when I volunteered as a hospice worker, helping those who were dying, and their families, my peace concerning death was greater. I still feared death—at least physically, I had the fight-or-flight response—but I knew that there are more important things—bringing comfort to those who are grieving the loss of life (their own OR their loved one’s), truly living and experiencing what we can instead of getting bogged down in what will happen, making the world a “better place” so that life isn’t torture (or so we help each other through the “tortures” that we can’t prevent). And then I get the crazy notion that that would make it so that death is the only thing we’d really fear. As if the human brain works that way—everyone has at least one fear—maybe spiders, maybe zombies, maybe clowns—but it all is ultimately the fear of what those things, in the fearer’s brain, bring—death. And then there’s the really crazy notion that if life weren’t all that great, if it weren’t happy, we could look to death as an old friend, as a comfort, as a long peaceful sleep.

Philosophers and common people alike throughout history have debated death, have pondered it, on its own merits and in relation to life, and have come up with no answers, so I ask, where ARE the answers? I certainly don’t have them, even if I like to think I do.

My head simply spins, my heart races, my breathing quickens, my tears fall. And then I look at my husband and think of my parents, and I smile and laugh and think "This is what it is truly about. This is peace, this is love.” These, who have nurtured life, fostered love, they are my role models in life. They are what drive me forward to try to make the world a better place somehow, even if it is in a hundred little ways, instead of One Big Way. I leave it to others to devote their lives to trying to find the cure for cancer, to battle for the rights of patients with Hepatitis C or AIDS, to try to end. Instead, I try to improve the world by planting another tree, smiling at the people I meet on the street, speaking words of encouragement. These things don’t undo death, they don’t make the fear of death or of losing a loved one any less. But somehow, they do some good. THIS I can believe in with less reservation than life after death, somehow.

But this isn’t about me—it’s about all of us—all of the people I know and love, that M knows and loves—even the people we really can’t stand, the people we sometimes think “deserve” death. How precious is life that we are willing to throw it away, to take someone else’s right to it? And who are we to bring other lives into this world to have to go through death, at the very least, and intense physical and emotional suffering, at most? But that’s the brain talking, the consciousness. The body screams that propagation of the species must continue and fights to continue life, to procreate, to force life into this world to keep the species alive.

I remember reading in one of my books talking about “life between lives” that someone in hypnotic regression said that Earth is chosen by souls who want to progress quickly, because it is a hard world, but one that teaches many lessons for all that. I also read another statement that one of the reasons Earth is one of the hardest existences because of the human body—the constant warring of the consciousness and the physical body; the resulting inner struggle is great and terrible but gives us incredible potential.

Maybe that’s so, and maybe it’s all a bunch of hooey, but who can say?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Joy to the World!

The past few days have been really good. I have felt better and had more energy than I can recall having in months.

On Friday, M and I spent 14 hours out and about, running errands and enjoying one another's company. Among other things, we finally got my handicap placard (just in time for icky parking lots), bought several of the tool's he's required to have for his job, and had a fantastic sushi lunch.

Sunday, I had an entire day free from editing and used it all to tackle house chores that have been sadly abandoned or undermanaged since M started working back in March/April. I scrubbed the walls and showers and sink in the main bathroom, where mold and hard water stains accrue. I folded laundry. I cooked several meals, I did dishes. Oh, the things I did in all my day! I only sat down and played WoW for 30 minutes or so. The entire rest of the day was spent cleaning and organizing.

On top of all this, since M's been at his new job and I've been on MY sleep schedule and not HIS work schedule, I've been able to have a hot dinner ready for him and his lunch packed almost as soon as he walks in the door, in addition to washing a load of dishes nearly every day. With the load M did on Saturday, the pile of dishes that was threatening to swallow our kitchen whole (it's a large kitchn with a lot of counter space, and I'm NOT exaggerating) is down to just one dishwasher full. And it will be destroyed tomorrow.

What does it matter that what should be routine housekeeping tasks are actually, well, routine housekeeping tasks? It matters because I've had the ENERGY and the INTEREST and the STAMINA to do them in addition to my editing work. Finally! More than a year since the miscarriage and my near-blindness and my diagnosis with IIH, I am regaining stamina! I no longer put in a "lot" of physical activity (read: normal activity for most people) one day then have to sleep 14 hours that night to make up for it!

Today, I woke in a good mood, with plenty of energy, despite being awakened by the alarm clock. I immediately started at the day. It still takes me a while to build up my head of steam, but I was soon chugging along and kept up the pace for a full 9 hours. Woohoo!

When M got home from work this evening, he said he was given an application today by the company he works at, "now that he's already doing the job." Almost as soon as the words left his mouth, though, he realized what he was saying. The application was from the company he works AT, not the one he works FOR as a temp. Then he realized this is probably a good thing--that the company wants to have the application complete so they can hire him directly as soon as they can (most likely about mid-February, if I've done my math correctly, as they usually wait 3 months to hire their temp-to-hire folks so the temp agency can get whatever money they have been promised).

* Stringham high: Christmas is coming soon!
* Stringham low: Cold. Brr!
* Stringham super-high: Strength! Stamina! Good-paying employment!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Ah, Life

It's been a busy month. M has changed jobs. So far, he really likes the new one and sees the company as a place he could stay at for years. Literally. The number-one reason for losing workers there is retirement. Now he just has to get hired on full-time from the contract position, which we're hoping will be only a few months rather than an entire year.

Of course with the job switch, we are left without health insurance again, though the temp agency offers some mediocre coverage for mediocre-to-high cost. We're considering it, though, because of the waiting period and my need to visit the doctors and have labs every few months...but we're trying to determine if paying cash will be more affordable than the coverage provided. Same old story, different day. (If he gets hired on full time by the company he's working at now, we'll have coverage for my health, apparently. Their insurance covers preexisting conditions with no waiting period and is reasonably priced--so the story goes. Maybe it's just a fairy-tale, but if so, it's a good one.)

Of course, the appointment with the new neuro-ophthalmologist that I made back when I had no insurance then did have insurance that would cover happened just four days after Mike left his old job, so the visit wasn't covered by insurance. The new doctor says she wants to try lowering my dose of the medicine I'm on but doesn't want to try it until I've lost the weight I "gained from the pregnancy." She didn't seem to understand that I didn't gain any weight from the pregnancy and am now lighter than I was before I got pregnant. Still, she wants me to lose weight, and so do I. Here we go trying again. This time, we're enlisting the help of ankle and wrist weights and having me sit on an exercise ball for a few hours a day while I work at my computer. And, of course, as always, we're trying to adjust my diet again.

On Sunday, while M was out getting my Christmas present, he noticed a crack running the full length of the windshield. Apparently, a very small chip turned into the crack almost overnight, because we hadn't seen the crack when we were out on Friday. Fortunately, I have comprehensive coverage on the car, so the windshield will be replaced at no cost to us--not even a deductible. That's the first time I've ever had to use my auto insurance. Funny thing is I had only ever had one insurance claim before we lived in this town--in 6 years of renters/homeowners insurance and I have no idea how many years in car insurance. Since we've lived in this house--a grand total of 2 1/2 years--we've had three claims, car and house combined. Not to mention the health stuff. Crazy, crazy few years.

Still, all in all, we're good. We're looking forward to the holidays, M likes his new job, I'm trying to get more active and regain more energy and take back "control" of the housework (and so far succeeding, though slowly), and we stay mostly warm in the house despite single-digit temperatures and the heat pump running constantly.

* Stringham high: It's almost Christmas.
* Stringham low: Cold, cold, cold.
* Stringham super-high: M likes his new job; I am regaining lost energy.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Yee-haw, y'all!

I've been lax in writing lately, partly because of the ability to provide quick updates via Facebook, partly because of a very busy work schedule, and partly because of life's demands. For those of you who look forward to these little updates of mine, I apologize.

So today, what am I writing about? I have no idea yet. I guess we'll figure it out as I write...

Since my last post in mid-October, life has been constant change. (I know, since when is that different?) M got put on a different schedule at work to help an injured coworker; my work has been steady and a bit overwhelming at times because the balance of project types has changed; I spent a couple of weeks in Nashville, IN, Gatlinburg, TN, in my trek to be a bridesmaid in the wedding of my friends T & M; my M got a new job, which he starts in a few more days, on day shift, so we have to switch from nights to days; and my mom just spent a couple days in the hospital again. We have done almost no winterizing around the house, no preparation, and have no idea if we'll be spending the holidays with family, friends, or both. Some of the trees in our orchard have lost all their leaves, some have all brown leaves, some are completely green, and some (the five-in-one trees) have green, brown, orange, and no leaves.

You want details, you say? Where do I start? The wedding in TN was a success. T & M were married. Despite some bumpy patches in the days leading up to and the morning of the wedding, everyone pulled together like seasoned pros, and the bride and groom seemed extremely happy at the end of the night. And the wedding party and friends had a lot of fun in the evenings at our gigantic cabin. We were a little crazy--at least the women; the men mostly played Munchkin, billiards, and video games. Still, I think it was all good.

Nothing much to report about the new job yet. He'll still be working 12-hour shifts, but his drive will be about twice as long as it is now. He'll work 4 days on, 4 days off. He'll start on days, then eventually go to nights, then back to days, then nights. We don't know details on how long each swing will be. He'll be a contractor right now. Year-long contract or until he gets hired full-time. Or they could extend the contract. The company seems to like hiring people out of this position, so it's promising. Plus, even though the job technically requires only a high school education, the company likes having people with chemistry or chemical engineering degrees--quite unlike most jobs, for which companies are afraid to hire people who are "overqualified." So yes, promising. Oh, and M knew he was going to receive almost twice the pay for this job as for the one he's leaving. He has since learned he'll be making even more. We are VERY happy about that, especially the possible added flexibility it gives us in some aspects of our life.

My mom went to the hospital a few days ago because she was in a lot of pain in her abdomen, like with her flare-up last November and leading up to her intestinal surgery a couple of years ago. The hospital did an X-ray and found a a blockage in her intestine. They gave her some pain medicine and put in an NG tube and an IV. Within a few hours of checking in, she was transferred to a larger hospital, the one where she had her intestinal surgery back in 2008, so she could be seen by one of the doctors who had conducted the surgery. They did X-rays when she got to the larger hospital, and they found the blockage was gone. We don't know what did it. Some theories are that the NG tube had something to do with it, or Mom vomiting while they were trying to put the tube in, or that prayer did it. Or a combination of the three. I look fondly on the idea of all three, as we had several people praying for her before she got transferred to the larger hospital. If you don't like my theory, choose one of your own. :D Anyway, last night, Mom was given a liquid dinner, and today she was given a breakfast of soft solids. All went well, so she was discharged. She's at home now. She says if she feels up to it, she's going to go deer hunting tomorrow. We'll we know where I get some of my orneriness...

Tonight is the last night for M at this current job. We have a few days to get back on a day schedule, then he has two days of 4-hour orientation (yes, 4 hours each day). And he might start his new job the next day, or that weekend, or the following week. We won't know until sometime during his orientation. This should be a fun week. In the past month, I've already switched from nights to days, then back to nights again. Now I get to go back to days. Yeehaw!

* Stringham high: New doctor (neuro-ophthalmologist) in a few days.
* Stringham low: Today? Nah, it's all good, but I hear one of my mothers-in-law is feeling not so great. Keep her in mind, if you would, and pray/send loving thoughts and energy.
* Stringham super-highs: M starting a new job; most recent season of Doctor Who begins arriving via Netflix on Monday.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Remembering Together so Sadness Loses Its Power

A year ago yesterday, I was told I may never read anything but large print or braille again. A year ago this Wednesday, I had double optic nerve sheath fenestration performed to halt my vision loss. Some of the loss was reversed, so I can read normal text and still work, though I can't see very well in the dark or drive or see much of anything in my periphery.

To all of you who prayed and/or sent positive thought and energy my way then, thank you for being part of that miracle. I will forever be eternally grateful.

To all of you who still pray for me and send positive thoughts and energies to me, please keep it up. I have a lot more vision to be restored, and right now, modern technology can't help, though we are moving closer. Right now, you, me, the power of positive thinking, the Divine, and our combined healing energies are the only ones who can make the miracle continue!

* Stringham high: Being able to work and read.
* Stringham low: Meh. Why get bogged down in that stuff?
* Stringham super-high: Amazingly supportive friends and family like you.

And now for the educational segment of this post! For those who are interested, the title on my blog page links to a short video bit about how science is helping some people see. There are somewhat similar techniques being worked out for blindness caused by other issues (for example, people who have damaged corneas), all slightly different because several things can cause blindness and visual impairment, so they all have to be "fixed" differently. They're also working on reversing damage that happens in the normal course of aging, which is pretty similar to the damage to my eyes. (That's why I sometimes make a crack about having "old" eyes or "old people" eyes.) Researchers haven't quite figured out how to make it work for people like me yet, because my retina is actually physically damaged rather than "simply" deficient or undergoing natural atrophy. Still, someday soon, maybe extreme visual impairment won't have to be so scary and debilitating for so many people.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Preparing for Hibernation

It's been a busy, yet calm, sort of two weeks here in IN. We've been trying to fit in garden and yard work in the waning daylight hours and around the rain and cold weather on M's nights off. We got potatoes not long ago (see previous post), then mowed and weedeated several parts of the garden and other patches of yard to put in winter cover crops to improve the soil further. We found volunteer tomato plants hidden amidst the weeds where we had planted the corn this year. Today, while pulling up weeds and tomato cages, M pulled up a few turnips from the test bed--very large but not very globe-shaped. He also found a few red bell peppers, of all things. This late in the season, with the cool weather we've had--4 palm-sized red bell peppers. Very sweet, very tasty.

A week ago, the kitties managed their very first mouse kill all on their own. We got home from grocery shopping to find that they had a mouse cornered, and the next thing we knew, it was dead on the floor. Go kitties! Let's hope they take that newly learned skill and run with it with pride. We were late getting out poison in key spots this year, and the corn in the fields around our house came down earlier than we were anticipating, so our furry little houseguests moved in early this year. :(

That's all we have to report. Life continues to run. Halloween is approaching, as are the nuptuals of my friends T and M. Bridesmaid duties call.

* Stringham high: autumn
* Stringham low: meh
* Stringham super-high: Halloween

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Revisiting Autumn

After a bumpy start to my evening, I finally managed to be calm, even cheerful, for most of the night. I've had a crockpot meal cooking, and several windows open to let in the fresh (and cold!--49 degrees) air. It smells like fall in our house, with the combination of fresh cold air and cooking pork, onions, and green chiles. That's great, the smell of fall, and it makes me happy.

But then I got a headache spike a little after 2 AM. It wasn't terrible, and it resolved after a few minutes, so I attributed it to the weather, as we've got a couple squall lines moving through. But then I felt anxious out of the blue. I was working--editing--and felt anxious, then started thinking about the hospital and going in for my D&C last fall. (It was a warm and rainy night when we went to the hospital with my heavy bleeding, but the next afternoon when they wheeled me down for surgery, they had the doors to the basement open and I talked with one of the doctors about how great the new first cold air of fall is, because it had just arrived that morning.) My feelings of anxiety, like my pain spike, went away fairly quickly and are mostly gone now, but a trace of them lingers, in the way that the feel of a particularly peculiar dream hangs around for a few hours after you wake up.

I wonder if these ups and downs are going to be common for the next few weeks, over the anniversary of...well, anniversaries, I guess...of the hospitalization for the miscarriage, the D&C, the beginning of my vision loss, my weeks of pain, and my eye surgery. It's been nearly a year since I've driven a car. Nearly a year since I've been able to look at my husband's face and see all its details all at once without having to shift my gaze just so.

Normally, I love fall. This year, I'm not sure how it's going to go. The next month promises to be an interesting revisit to an...interesting combination of bad and good.

Normally, I might expound upon the thought that's been chasing around in my head about autumn being the death of things preparing for rest and rebirth, and the cycle of life and healing, but tonight, I think I'll leave that for another time.

*Stringham high: autumn
*Stringham low: not-so-happy anniversaries (see above)
*Stringham super high: happy anniversaries (my parents' 36th year of marriage, my friend B's 1st year of marriage, my and Mike's 7th year of being together)

**Title links to a song that I'd like to "dedicate" in honor of those happy anniversaries and to our child, whom we never got to meet.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

This Spud's for You

M and I dug up our 4 rows of potatoes this evening. We were fairly disappointed after our first row--golds. Most of them had been nibbled on by mice and were being further broken down by nature's composting helpers. We managed to save a few for "immediate" use, but we certainly didn't get a return on our investment. Not enough for storage to even register on our scale when we tried to weigh them.

At the end of that first row was a transplant or two we had discovered early in the year as volunteers in other parts of the garden--a couple of reds. They did really well, those two. They produced almost as many potatoes as the entire row of golds.

The second row was our russets. Not a huge number of potatoes, but boy, were those things big! We got a paper grocery bag of russets, 17.5 pounds. They won't go very far, but they'll store. Still, we were wondering if the potatoes were a return on investment, as russets aren't really expensive in the store.

The third row proved to be much more fruitful. This was a row of reds. They went hog wild. Most of them were nibble free and had grown without snarls and damage. (Yay!) We had so many potatoes from this row that when M started to uncover the fourth row, I had to sit down to clean and sort the reds from this row. It was certainly more than just a handful of potatoes to wipe the dirt and bugs off was an entire pile. Now we were thinking we may have gotten our investment back in seed potatoes and straw and fertilizer--not to mention the richness that the potatoes and straw seemed to be adding to our once low-nutrient soil. It was clear where the potatoes were, as the soil was much darker and richer, though still more compact than we'd like.

M dug up the fourth row while I cleaned all the reds. We knew the fourth row wouldn't be too productive, as the plants hadn't gotten very large this year, but M was digging and uncovering almost the entire time I was cleaning that huge pile of reds. This row seemed a mixture of russets and reds for some reason. Again, we had more of these damaged like the first row.

It seems our experiment of simply working up the first inch or two of soil and mixing in some fertilizer worked. We simply laid the seed potatoes on that softer earth and covered with straw, then kept covering the plants with straw as they grew. Yes, that was much better for growing spuds this year than putting them in the heavy, clay-like, waterlogged soil so prevalent on our property.

All told, we brought in a lot of potatoes this year:

21.5 lbs (mixed) for "immediate" use
8.5 lbs small reds
17 lbs medium reds
11 lbs large reds
17.5 lbs russets

Grand total: 75.5 lbs of spuds. With all those tasty reds, we're going to have a lot of garlic mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving and Christmas this year!

* Stringham high: gardening
* Stringham low: disappointing gold potatoes
* Stringham super-high: almost half of M's body weight in potatoes for the year!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

My Moment of (un)Zen

I'd like to say I'm posting about the woes of garden pests.
But what I'm really posting about today, dear reader, is my heebie-jeebies.

From our driveway today, I saw the allure of bright red globes. They peeked at me through dense foliage, calling my name. Ah, more tomatoes! I thought. I moved toward them and started collecting them. Then my hand stopped just short of possibly the biggest tomato hornworm I've ever seen.

Yes, I was raised in the country. Yes, I should be immune to such things. I had an aunt who used to play with snakes. Seriously. I was never one of those kids who played with bugs and worms and caterpillars as a kid. You know why? Worms and caterpillars and grubs all give me the heebie-jeebies. Maggots too. Snakes, too, though only when they move. (I won't just kill things I don't like, either. I recognize their importance in the grand scheme. I just don't want to touch them. And I really prefer not to see them.) Tomato hornworms, though, they are garden pests, mostly not at all beneficial. Still, I don't like killing them. And they don't even move much--they mostly just get in the way while they look like giant bumps on logs. Scratch that. They look like giant logs attached to much smaller logs. But they still give me the heebie-jeebies. Probably because they camouflage so well. Right next to the tasty, tasty tomatoes. Last year, we watched for them, but they covered well. We teamed up, and M took down the worms while I reached around the spiders and spiderwebs (those were good--we wanted to leave them intact). I dealt with his heebie-jeebies, he dealt with mine. But now M's at work and the hornworms have come out in force in the past 5 days. They're everywhere. I saw no less than 8 without having to look for them. No small feat, considering my damaged eyes. Of course, they've stripped the foliage off the tops of all the tomato plants, so they aren't hiding as well as they did last year when only one or two usually made it to adulthood. (Three or four are "hiding" in this picture.)

Well, here we were thinking we had good soil and such and were having no problems with the worms this year. Guess we thought wrong. I sent pictures this evening to M at work to show him how many there were, and how huge they were. I guess he's having a rough day, because he told me to "Just get a pair of f**king scissors and kill them." Ew. First off, they're huge. Second, ew. Third, I know they'll pop all over me if I cut them. Fourth, ew. Fifth, when did I ever tell him to just get over it and smash the damn spider? Sixth, scratch that last question; it might come back to haunt me.

Still, I might have been okay. Honestly, I went back after seeing the first worm. I thought maybe I could get most of the tomatoes and just leave a few until M gets home to help me. That was when I saw all the others. And I saw some of them eating (like these two). Which is to say, I saw their heads moving as they sucked on green tomatoes. That was the worst. Ick. Ick, ick, ick.

Okay, if you aren't already, you are more than welcome to laugh at me now. I just had to share, because I couldn't scream at the top of my lungs outside how disgusting that was.

* Stringham high: Yummy, gorgeous, red, ripe tomatoes.
* Stringham low: Hornworms
* Stringham super-high: Possible opportunity to work a contract job for a few months (meaning not losing 45% of my money off the top to taxes of one sort or another)...

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Beauty of a Country Morning

No complaining today, just the sharing of a beautiful morning. I looked outside to see fog hemming in our backyard. It's not a deep backyard, so those of you who've seen it can imagine how surprised I was to not be able to see past the edge of our yard.

Still, it's a lovely fog--light. One might almost want to use the term "fluffy." It was so pretty, I had to take a few pictures--very few, as it turns out, because my camera

battery died. When I stepped outside, however, the fog was even lovelier. (Yes, I keep using that term. There is nothing better for it.) The fog was more of a light mist, as it turns out. I could hear the slight drip of moisture collecting and running down our downspouts and feel the very gentle gathering of dampness on my skin. The air temperature was cool, but not cold, without even a hint of summertime heat or the chilliness that often accompanies heavy fog.The mist seemed almost magical, it was so light, so cool, so lovely. It dampened noise but didn't mute it. Everything simply seemed reverentially hushed, like worshippers entering a holy space. It was like Peace took a moment and descended on our little home. See for yourself:

Friday, August 20, 2010

Somewhere Beyond the Sea (to Somewhere over the Sun)

In the networking tradition of referring people you know or have met--but in my tradition of not referring someone unless I really think the person credible/worthwhile for the job or task at hand--I'm letting you all know about the author of the fantastic book I was mentioning on Facebook last week (yes, Adi, I was...) and that inspired my last blogspot. Here is the blog for Adi Alsaid, author of Somewhere Over the Sun. (For those of you who don't get the linky goodness when this blog posts on FB, down at the bottom of the post, click "Go to Original Post" or whatever it says, and visit my blog directly.)

Adi's blog mentions that he was filled with a little trepidation about seeing a review about his book out, even though it hasn't been published yet, and that's why I had not given away too much information about it before. Being professional, I try not to mention any book without author approval, but this manuscript just made me overflow with enthusiasm. And then Adi found me. (Isn't that a literary sentence?) He found me accidentally. Happy accidents are good, I think.

Go, read his blog. Support his book. Buy a copy when it's published. Buy three copies and give them to people you love. (No, I'm not getting paid to say this. If you were on FB, you've seen my rants about this book.)

It might sound fake if I keep at it, so I'm leaving it at that. I'm actually using my blog to "plug." Ordinarily, I might feel cheap, but I'm not getting paid in any way, shape, or form, so I feel good! Remember, it's Somewhere Over the Sun by Adi Alsaid and will be published by Dog Ear Publishing. If you're so inclined, you can read the full text of my review on Adi's blog or at LibraryThing.

* Stringham high: words, flowers, air-conditioning
* Stringham low: meh, just pesky annoyances
* Stringham super-high: great books

Friday, August 13, 2010

What if this idea had never existed?

I'm editing a wonderful book** right now and came across a gem (or a pearl, if you like) of wisdom on why the main character "can't resist putting (his thoughts) down on paper": "The thing with thoughts is that they die, like everything else. But almost everything else leaves a trace behind, even if it's a tiny carcass, some proof that it existed."

It's so true. Each of us has his or her own reality (or 5 or 100 realities) in his/her head in addition to physical life. That's why I love reading, why I love conversation--because those ideas, thoughts, only propagate and live on by being shared with others. What if Shakespeare had never written his words? If all the songwriters in the world had not turned their thoughts into song lyrics? If the composers had never turned their thoughts into music, notes, symphonies, arias? If Georgia O'Keefe hadn't painted her thoughts? If the "giants" Newton referred to hadn't given more permanent evidence of their thoughts and Newton had thus never been able to build on their ideas, pull them into cohesive ideas that propelled our science, our physics forward so quickly these past few centuries? What if the people you love most in the world never gave voice (literal or figurative) to those thoughts of love? Or if this ( had never been written and performed?

I think everyone should provide proof each day of even just one thought--through drawing, conversation, writing, composing, creating.

Give tangible life to your thoughts.

**Working title: Somewhere over the Sun [working title may change, and I'm not sure what name the author is going to publish under]

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Thank Goodness for Credit Monitoring

So amidst all the chaos of my computer drama this week, I got an email from my credit-monitoring service to alert me to a concern in one of my credit reports. So I checked it out this evening. It turns out that the collection agency we went around and around with back in the spring has reported that I have an unpaid balance of $8,666. Yeah, that's right, that eye surgery that I am not responsible for got reported as me not paying it. And even after one party apparently got their money for it.

IMC Credit Services now, apparently, has this account and has made it show on my credit report. I'm disputing the account, of course. I am STEAMED. Absolutely effing PISSED.
Mike and I bent over backwards not only to make sure that we really weren't responsible for the charges for this surgery but also that the hospital got PAID for this surgery. We did the due diligence that we should have done, plus all the work and diligence that the freaking hospital AND health management organization AND this collection agency should have done, and my credit is suffering from it. Those freaking bastards! I should have known things had been too quiet for too long after we thought they had been's been about three months since I've heard anything about this, and then it just got reported on my credit.

* Stringham high: Starcraft II, World of Warcraft
* Stringham low: failing laptops, disabled desktop computers, and m-fing bills for money that I don't owe.
* Stringham super-high: fantastic, supportive and helpful friends and family

Monday, July 19, 2010

Mixed Feelings

Finally printing the form to apply for a disability hangtag for the car. I want it not for days like this, but for the winter, when it’s so cloudy and there’s ice and slush and snow on the ground and I can’t tell the difference between them but I have to walk through half a dimly lit parking lot with such problems. But I can’t help but wonder, is this selling out? I still have faith that my vision will be restored. Is applying for this card the same as telling God that I no longer have faith? I try to reason with myself, saying no, it’s not, because I can get a short-term placard that works for just a few months, but it will take longer than just a few months for my vision to not be so limited any longer. Somehow, those words seem a little hollow.

And then I worry about all the hassle, because if I get this placard, it is the same as telling them that I can no longer drive, and my license will be revoked. I mean, I’m not using it anyway, but that’s hardly the point. It’s giving up another potential freedom. Of course, what really bothers me is trying to get everything back when my vision does finally come back—dealing with the hassle of proving that my vision has returned and I wasn’t just scamming before, etc. Still, that could be years away, and won’t that be worth it if, thanks to the placard, I haven’t broken a leg or an arm falling in a parking lot in inclement weather?

Still, sometimes it just feels like a cop-out, like I’m taking the easy way out, like I’m taking advantage of every little benefit offered to me. Of course, then part of me says, Of course you’re taking advantage of every little benefit offered. It’s because you can’t get any REAL benefits offered to you. You’re fighting and scraping for every little bit of humanity left in you, to make it on your own with your husband without trying to get disability benefits. All you want is healthcare, and you can’t get that, so why not a friggin’ hangtag that lets you be a little closer to the building when people drive you places? Is that petty? It’s certainly small comfort.

* Stringham high: World of Warcraft and homemade sweet pickles
* Stringham low: "Blahs" that come with the clouds
* Stringham super-high: M's now being permanently assigned to days and, hopefully, a regular, steady schedule.

Monday, July 12, 2010

A Bad Rant Turned Enlightened

Someone very close to me suggested to me outright today that they think I’m depressed and that’s making me THINK there’s something wrong with my eyes when there’s nothing going on. I told that person I don’t think that’s the case. It could be, I admitted, but I don’t think it is. I suggested, too, that it could be that the sinus adjustments my doc and I have been making have affected my vision and that it’s so slight that most people would never notice such a change because their brains would account for the problem, but that because my field of vision is so small, I notice even the slightest changes. That’s one thing that people forget—that our brains adjust to changes if they are small enough, so we can gradually lose vision without ever noticing.

But then a little later, this same person suggested that maybe I was making this up subconsciously as a way to get out of the house, because I often feel "trapped," as I no longer can get out of the house on my own accord. I can't go more than just our 3.4 acres without someone else, so I often leave the property one day a week. At first, I just scoffed at the thought and said, “No. No way.” But the more I think about it, the more it saddens me that this person could think such a thing. If it weren’t for my health, I’d really want something to show up as wrong so I could at least “prove” that I’m not making it up for attention or to get out of the house. But I DON'T want anything to be wrong. I’m a little hurt by the thought. And true, this person did say “subconsciously,” but still, the implication of the statement—what it means this person thinks of me—saddens me. This person doesn’t trust me at all, I think the implication is. Or at least that’s what it feels like to me. Maybe that’s not at all what it means, but that’s how I interpret it. But then it gets down to the heart of what a lot of really ill people have to face, doesn’t it? Health care practitioners and loved ones thinking (not meaning it unkindly) that the sick person is doing this all for attention, or that it’s “all in their head.” I’m not doing it for the attention. And if I truly wanted to get out of the house, I’d do it defiantly. I’d ask someone to come take me out for the day for no good reason. Because, by God, going to sit in a doctor’s office is not the way I really fancy getting myself out of the house, especially since I have to call in every favor and humble myself to ask everyone I know—everyone I’ve already asked for favor after favor—to take me. Yeah, sounds just like my idea of a good time.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

"We cannot hold a torch to light another's path without brightening our own."

The earlier in the day I reaffirm myself as an instrument of Divine will, the better I feel emotionally that day. Today, I prayed right after I got up and brushed my teeth instead of waiting for showering and eating and being completely clean “out of respect for God.” I prayed, reaffirming my desire to be an instrument of Divine will, to spread love and understanding, to act the way the Divine wants me to work, to say the things the Divine wants me to say. And even though my heart has been heavy for several days and I have been full of fear and worry, today things don’t look so bad. It took a while after praying, to be sure, but then suddenly, the feeling of calm hit me, and the words came to my lips: “May my life be a light to others in the darkness. May it give hope to people who have none. May my life serve to spread hope, and faith, and praise of the great works of the Divine.” I cried a bit, out of joy, and out of a little fear, fear of the responsibility, and of the implications of my “little” life doing so much. But if this is the good that can come from my life, if nothing else—if the pain and fear I have endured can help others, then so be it.

* Stringham high: Oodles of fresh green beans from our garden.
* Stringham low: Readjusting to yet another of M's new work schedules.
* Stringham super-high: Kick-ass geothermal heat pump cooling on days that are 91 degrees with a heat index closer to 100.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Greeting the Day

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a sunrise. I’m still not really watching the sunrise, but I’m up for it. I’ve been up working all night. All week, I’ve almost made it but then had to go to sleep. Tonight/this morning, I’ve had, just had, to finish this book I’m working on, so when Mike left for work at a little after 5, I went ahead and opened the front door, opened the window on the screen door, and opened the curtains on the living room window facing east. The birds have been fantastic to listen to. They are absolutely raucous. I’ve heard so many that I couldn’t even pick out many of the individual songs. I hear crows and owls, and some chirping, some singing. Early, before it started to really get light, I heard one song that just made me think of the shooting sounds in an early ’80s video game.

And the smell! Nothing beats the smell of an Indiana summer sunrise. The humid, cold air are crisp but almost cloying, but there’s a heavy scent, almost of iron, to go with the smell of lawn clippings and damp asphalt and damp earth. Soon, the corn will be tall enough to offer its own musk to the blend—one of my favorite smells in the world, corn in the middle of an Indiana summer, though its smell is usually strongest and best in the evening, just around sunset.

I just wish I were more awake and didn’t have to work right now, so I could REALLY enjoy the morning with a nice walk. I guess I’ll have to be content with my cup of hot, strong, very sweet English breakfast tea while the birds sing to me as I edit, stealing glances out the window to see one narrow strip of sky slowly change from purple to pink to powder blue to baby blue…

And I guess I’m going to have to eat some more strawberries for breakfast.

* Stringham high: Sunrise
* Stringham low: Sleepiness
* Stringham super-high: Caffeine and sugar
(It's the simple things today...)

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Call Me Old-Fashioned (Update)

Well, after doing some digging (it's amazing what you can find on the Internet if you're persistent enough--what's that? Fine, you can call it stubborn as hell if you insist), I learned who owns the property around us. Crazy us, we always thought it was people with the last name of German. Nope, when people referred to "the Germans," they were actually referring to a German man and his son who own the farmland (and boy, is there a lot of it!) around us. They once also owned the hog farm but got into some nasty, nasty trouble, apparently--too much pollution killing too many fish in our little creek--and were forced by the state to sell that operation. Anyway, I now have the knowledge of just how much land around us this guy owns, including houses. So we can make housecalls. I totally would, if I could drive... But that's neither here nor there. Now I just need to find a way of contacting this gentleman. But that seems to be a little more difficult, as he's not listed in the phone books. (Gee, I can't imagine why, with a great part of the county getting pissed off at him and his dad a few years back....)

Anyway, that'll probably be a fight for another day. I actually need to get some work done today...But if anyone's got any ideas on how to find a phone number for this guy without paying one of those "background information" companies $40 or so, I'd be open to them.

Call Me Old-Fashioned...

But I like to know the people who make regular jaunts across my property.

I opened the front door this afternoon to see the day and saw a white Chevy(?) club cab our by our power lines. I was interested, wondering if this was a truck from our electric co-op as was here a few weeks ago. But then I remembered this is Sunday. And they were cutting across our property rather than driving along the nicely mown path along the edge of our property (you know, the one we mowed so if they wanted to drive farm equipment across our land as a shortcut, they wouldn't mow over anything we had planted like they've almost done before). Well, I watched the truck as much as I could. I don't know if they were already planning to turn around or if they did it because they caught sight of me opening the door, but they started driving away (across our property and toward the field behind our house) almost as soon as I saw them.

I lost sight of them for a bit because the garage got in the way, but I walked outside and watched the truck drive along the path they are apparently keeping mowed next to their field. I immediately walked our property to see if they had damaged anything, and to be fair, I don't think they did. But there's a sinkhole near the area they cut across, and I don't want someone else getting their truck stuck in OUR property. And besides that, I'd like to know who the hell thinks he has the right to just drive onto our property whenever he feels like it.

To be fair, I don't really mind people on our property too much, having grown up in an area with a feeling of community, but I sure as hell like to KNOW the people DRIVING across my YARD. Well, if I could drive, I would have gotten in M's vehicle and driven to the hog farm and asked there, but alas, no such luck. I did walk a bit in the tracks the truck left behind, walking along the cornfield. But I gave it up after I had walked only a small portion of the track and realized that it would probably take me a half hour or more to walk the length of the track around the field and trees and creek, and then I'd have to walk all the way back. I thought about firing up the Montero and driving along their field, too. I figured it would be equal...but I gave up the idea. I plan to introduce myself and just say I like to know the people who are moving across my property, but you never know when my temper might get the best of me and I let loose with a, "Who the fuck do you think you are, just driving across our property without asking or introducing yourselves!" And if that happened right after I'd done the same thing...well, righteous indignation has a little less to be righteously indignant about in the face of hypocrisy.

So I wait patiently for M to get home from work (yes, on a Sunday...good OT) and see if we'll ever finally carry out our plan to meet these people. (Incidentally, anytime they're out in the field and we're out, they're always gone on their high-speed equipment before we can get near. I'm not sure if it's because they're rude, afraid we're people like the previous owner--who purportedly liked to approach people in his driveway with a shotgun--shy, or what.) But this is getting silly. I'm getting tired of being the only one home and seeing a strange vehicle in our driveway or field. I figure walking out there with my rifle, just in case, would send the wrong impression, especially if I'm trying to set up neighborly ties. *sigh*

* Stringham high: Weather below 80 degrees!
* Stringham low: Preparing some strawberries last night to make freezer jam and encountered an inchworm on one. I knew it was just a matter of time before something like that happened, but, well, there went my enthusiasm for cleaning them at 2 AM. Guess I'll have to tackle them again today. lol.
* Stringham super-high: Going to help a friend with wedding plans this week!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Seeing Red

I know, I know, you're all tired of hearing about strawberries. But seriously, how can I not share this crazy abundance? After today's haul, we're out of large bowls. We're going to have to resort to using plastic tubs unless I get some of these strawberries frozen or canned. I guess freezer jam is in my future tonight. (That's just one bowl of berries...for scale, ook at the full-size mouse in the lower left corner and the 32-oz mug in the upper left corner of the first picture...)
And Becca's entire household will be sick of eating strawberries by the time I leave, I think...unless I accidentally make too much freezer jam. I'd live to make perserves and conserves and other such tasty canned morsels, but I just don't have the time. Still, jam works. We can make lots of tasty things with jam :)

* Stringham high: Our garden is growing carrots this year!
* Stringham low: Transplanted tomatoes are struggling so far :(
* Stringham super-high: Salad greens and turnips and radishes growing insanely!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Strawberry Supernova

I eat them for breakfast, I eat them for lunch, I eat them for dinner, and I eat them for dessert.
I'd even eat them for elevenses and tea and supper if I were a hobbit.

No, this isn't a repeat from a few days ago. This is what we hauled in in a little more than an hour this evening...this white bowl is much larger than the other, and it was filled by ONE of the five rows of strawberries.

The mustard container? Strictly mustard, vinegar, and salt.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

I, For One, Welcome Our New Strawberry Overlords

...Into mah bell-ay! Before M had to leave for work today, we decided to gather the strawberries, as neither of us has felt up to it for a couple of days. Teamwork would make the task go faster, we figured, especially as well as those little buggers hide! (You'd think, being bright red, they would be easy to see amidst the dark green of the leaves and grass surrounding them, but you'd be wrong.)

We. Hit. The. Mother. Lode.
The first row we encountered gave us a full pint on its own. The next three rows gave us a combined 2 pints. The fifth and final row...well...see for yourself.

All told, we gathered 4 pints:Plus however many are in this bowl (we ran out of half-pint containers):
* Stringham high: Strawberry Supernova!
* Stringham low: M's sick (still/again)
* Stringham super-high: M's new job starts Tuesday, and he works four 12s, followed by two days off, then four 12s, two days off, etc. This equals 8 to 20 hours of automatic OT a his new level of pay. My husband rocks!