I’ve been harvesting broccoli since late June.  It’s October 4th and my asters still aren’t blooming.

My dog Gracie likes to play Frisbee with one (or sometimes two) Frisbees already in her mouth.

The Aussies went on daylight savings time over the weekend, making our usual 7 AM calls 11 PM for them.  We changed this morning’s call to 6 AM at their request, so I was in the office at 5:45 AM.  On a Monday.  No one from Australia was on the call.

If I have my first cup of tea immediately after I eat breakfast, it has a completely different effect on me than if I wait an hour or so.

The trees in the front yard are losing their leaves rapidly.  The big maple tree in the back yard looks like it still thinks it’s July — green, glossy, midsummer foliage.

No matter how much or how little sleep I’ve gotten, I feel far more human if I don’t get out of bed in the morning until 5:00 or 5:30, instead of 4:30 (like this morning).  Even if I’ve been awake since 4:30 anyway.  Once we’re past 5:30, it doesn’t seem to matter whether it’s 5:31 or 9.

Public radio announcers tend to let their speaking voices drop into the lower register (thus becoming unintelligible) more often than commercial radio announcers.

Basses sing flat.  Sopranos sing sharp.

Pop-Tarts™ don’t seem to come without frosting anymore.

  1. hippopotamus
  2. orange crayon
  3. luggage
  4. apostasy
  5. triangle
  6. lead solder
  7. helmet
  8. bluebird
  9. oregano
  10. platypus


For my 40th birthday, I got bifocals.  For my 41st birthday, I developed arthritis in the large joint of my right thumb.  I could hardly wait to see what 42 would bring me.

Now I’m kinda wishing I’d stopped at the arthritis.  It became clear about 3 years ago that Something Was Up, but I wasn’t entirely sure what it was.  I was getting very forgetful — about where I’d put things, about what I was going to do or say just the moment before, sometimes to a ridiculous degree (like the day that, between the time I thought, “Something!” and turned my desk chair 90 degrees to handle “Something!”, I’d forgotten what “Something!” was, just that there had, in fact, been “Something!”).  I would get horribly depressed for a week or two, then it would get better, but it would come back again.  Sometimes my mood would swing like a seven-year-old on the playground swings trying to touch the sky with her feet.

The thing that worried me most, though, was my sudden inability to recall words that I knew perfectly well.  Verbal facility has been my stock in trade since I was a little kid and one of the neighbor kids asked my mom why I talked so funny.  My mom was puzzled, as I’d never had a speech impediment of any kind, nor did I have a regional accent other than the one associated with the region we were living in.  Turned out “talking funny” meant I used a lot of big words.  I talked like a PBS special from early on, probably because as an only child I spent a lot of time around adults — adults who were talkative and well-read.  So, suddenly having to stop dead in the middle of a sentence because I couldn’t extract a word I knew perfectly well out of the speech regions of my brain was a very troubling thing.

We’re not necessarily talking about fancy words not commonly used in everyday conversation, either, like “onomatopoeia” or “gastroesophagitis”.   We’re talking about everyday common words for everyday common things.  A perfect example occurred when my SU and I had lunch at one of our favorite local  restaurants.  I had ordered a burger, my usual, and when the waitress brought it to me and asked if there was anything else she could bring us, I said, “yes, please, could you bring me 2 packets of … ummm… shoot, I know this… phooey… it starts with ‘M'”.  “Mayonnaise?”  she asked.  No, that wasn’t it, but it didn’t get me any closer to what I wanted.  The waitress tried again:  “Mustard?”  “THAT’S IT!!!  Thank you!  Yes!  Mustard is what I’d like!”  I felt like a complete idiot.

I was worried enough that I asked my nurse-practioner about it —  am I developing early dementia, or what???  She looked at my chart, and said, nope, nothing to worry about, you’re right on schedule for moving toward menopause, and forgetfulness and inability to come up with words is common in perimenopausal women.  Turns out when I mapped things out a bit more carefully that the depressive episodes were absolutely in lock-step with my menstrual cycle as well, and emotional turmoil is also a usual part of the perimenopausal process.  ( I was going to say, “normal” part of the process, but nothing about it feels particularly normal to me.  Some days I feel like a walking, talking abnormality.)   The brain gets so used to being bathed in its predictably-changing hormonal soup that when you tinker with the predictability, it fusses, generating the sorts of phenomena I’m experiencing.  So, I’m healthy — moody, forgetful, frustrated, but healthy.  I also understand better what was going on with all of my older female relatives when specific nouns left their conversation, replaced  with things like “whatchamacallit” or “thingamajig”, or when they  just stopped dead in the middle of a sentence (that was my mom’s way of coping, as she swore she would never go the “whatchamacallit” route that her own mother and aunts travelled on so enthusiastically).  I’ve learned when it’s time to give up and just laugh at my inability to remember something, and how to be more gentle with my emotional self when its being unreasonably friable.  It’s made me slow down a bit, which I believe is a good thing, even if it is annoying at times.  So, bring on the weirdness, bring on the forgetfulness — I’m as ready as I’ll ever be for anything that… oh hell, what’s that word???… dammit… I’m just ready.

Things I’ve learned or had reinforced recently:

1.  Don’t use a salt scrub in the shower after you’ve been picking raspberries.  Really.  You have far more scratches than you think.

2.  Cut salad greens early and often.  They grow back quickly, and are so much tastier than anything you can get in the store.  Lovely texture, too.

3.  Ditto with thinning:  early and often.  Otherwise things get spindly.  I’m going to have some peculiar-looking radishes.

4.  Cut lots of flowers and bring them in the house.  That’s why you grow so many.  Besides, it’s good for them as well as being good for you.  Many of them will give you either a second bloom in a month or two (like yarrow) or will branch out into a bunch of blooms instead of a single stalk (hyssop).

5.  Do not throw the Frisbee into the garden unless you really want stuff trampled on.  Learning to throw a Frisbee with some degree of accuracy was one of my better moves.   Of course, if it’s the end of the season and you want stuff broken down a bit, go for it — throw the Lab into the garden.

6.  Don’t plan on anything.  Most years there are far too many beans.  When you plan on there being far too many beans and cut back a bit, the beans grow for crap.  Just put in 30 feet of beans and deal with the oversupply.

7.  Just because something starts growing doesn’t mean it will continue growing.  See, for example, this year’s peppers.  Last year we couldn’t get them to germinate, got them in the ground small and late, but they ended up doing very well.  This year we had no problems with germination, even bought some already-started plants, planted them at a reasonable time, and they’ve done squat since then.  I see farmers’ market peppers in our future.

8.  Tomatoes fresh out of the garden are one of life’s miracles.  Savor them.

9.  The deer will eat stuff.  The rabbits will eat stuff.  The woodchucks will eat stuff.  You can fence all you want, but something will come in and eat stuff.  Accept it and move on.

10.  Get over being squeamish.  Just pick the damned cabbage worms off the cruciferous veggies and squish ’em.  It’s better than eating them later.

Idle conversation at my Grandma’s house when the family was there en masse often included a discussion of whether the Irish part of the family was “shanty” or “lace curtain.”  The terms were used in the late 19th and early 20th century to describe the two different social classes of the Irish immigrants to the US, and generally translated to “low-class” and “high-class”.  Since my ancestors on both sides emigrated to the US during the Great Famine in order to keep from starving to death, they would’ve been solidly in the “shanty” camp — hard-working, hard-drinking survivors of anything life threw at them.

In our time in this country, many members of the family have embraced the United States’ promise of opportunity for immigrants who work hard, and have made it into the comfortable “lace curtain” level of society.  I’m certainly in that number:  I have the advanced degree, the professional career with the good salary, and the good fortune to not have to worry about where my next meal is coming from.  However, they say blood will out, and it did this weekend.

My mother-in-law is recuperating from knee replacement surgery, and Saturday she got to go home from the transitional care facility she’s been at since a few days after her surgery.  We decided to borrow my SU’s ex-MIL’s Lincoln Town Car to go and get his mom, as it’s easier to get into than his car and has a much smoother ride than mine.  On the way to the care center, we came across a juvenile dove sitting in the middle of the street.  It didn’t move as the land yacht approached, just sat there and looked at it, so my SU stopped the car to let me out to shoo the silly birdie out of the street.  That took a bit, as the bird’s first response was to walk directly under the car.  I finally managed to shoo it up onto the curb, and went to get back in the car.  I opened the door, and was almost knocked on my tush when it hit me in the chin.  It left me with a big bruise on the left side of my chin, right where somebody might have punched me.  (Of note:  the punch would’ve been from a right-handed person.  The SU is left-handed.  Just so we’re clear.)

While I have opened room doors into my face more than once, and have run my face into doorframes more often than most people, this is the first time, in all my years of riding in and driving cars, that I have hit myself in the face with a car door.  We decided that I was simply not classy enough for the Town Car, and the Town Car knew it, and tried to leave me behind in the street.  It’s the only reasonable explanation.

Yup, still shanty Irish.

I spent some serious time in the garden yesterday, at long last.  I didn’t do what really needed to be done — plant the seeds in the vegetable garden — because it was just too hot down there in all that unshaded blackness of black dirt and black weed mat.  However, this ‘n’ that needed doing, so I did this ‘n’ that:

Deadheaded the irises.

Pulled the white (boring!) yarrow out of where it had infiltrated the blue flag (which is going to be fabulous this year; digging it all out, untangling it, and giving it more space 3 years ago is paying off!).

Cut back ostrich ferns from where they were interfering with other, more interesting plants.  There are far too many ostrich ferns.  Would anyone like some ostrich ferns?   Please?

Lopped the seedheads off the wood anemone.  It’s done quite enough self-seeding, thank you very much.

Cut down the stems of dame’s rocket that were flopped over onto the sundrops.  In this garden, you manage on your own, or *whack* off with your head.

Ripped out the wild ginger that was overcoming the toad lily.  Toad lily is relatively unusual; wild ginger is common as dirt, at least in our front garden.

Ripped out Canada wind flower that was overcoming everything else — painted ferns, Japanese forest grass, foam flower, strawberries, pulmonaria, geraniums, baby’s tears sedum, yadda yadda yadda.

Ripped out large-leafed aster.  (I was in ripping-out mode and it got a bit hard to stop…)

Pulled common milkweed out of the many places I didn’t want it to be.  Getting to be a little too common, if you ask me.

Picked weeds out of the assorted flower seedlings north of the lower birdbath.  At least I think they were all weeds.

Moved a purple coneflower that was getting choked out by daylilies and columbine.

Pulled out the plants growing in the cracks in the garden steps.

Cut and cleaned rhubarb.

Trimmed the asters down so they get bushy instead of leggy.

Got the anise hyssop out of the way of the blazing star, so the latter can get some light.  I think the blazing star’s grown about 6″ since then, no lie.

These were all good things, and very satisfying.  However, they appear to have made my cold, which was getting lots better, get worse.  The coughing has started, never a good sign.  I have to blow my nose more than I did yesterday.  My voice sounds like I should be singing bass.  No good deed goes unpunished, eh?  I planted the cosmos starts out in the upper garden this morning, but that’s been about it other than snorfling and guzzling water and tea as if I’m dying of thirst.  Maybe tomorrow I can get the seeds in…

My friend and colleague K– and her husband A– are two of the best people you’d ever want to meet.  They’re devoted to each other and their families, generous to a fault, hard-working, really good at what they do, thoughtful, fun, all that good stuff.  Over the past 6 or so years that I’ve known them, they’ve been through a lot:  A–‘s (successful) treatment for  cancer; K–‘s two surgeries and the subsequent discovery that she can’t tolerate opioid pain medication (imagine going through major abdominal surgery and getting to use nothing but Tylenol for pain…); having their house on the market for forever; a beloved niece’s struggle with severe sickle-cell disease; A–‘s forced retirement from the history teaching he loves; K–‘s severe autoimmune disease that came out of nowhere; and her mom’s sudden death less than a year ago.  This is all on top of the usual ups and downs of any family, and through it all they’ve made it work and stayed the wonderful people they are.

Now this.

A– has been in Sierra Leone, his native country, for the past month, working on the house he and K– are building for their retirement.  K–‘s been preparing to move them out of their apartment on the first of May, to a place with more space and quieter neighbors; she hasn’t found it yet.  Thursday afternoon, A– dropped dead.  Heat exhaustion probably played a role in whatever happened, which still isn’t clear.  He was in his early 60s.  K– had spoken with him earlier in the day, and he was in great spirits and feeling fantastic.  A few hours later, he was dead.

K– can’t even leave to go and bury her husband until mid-April, as she needs to wait for a visa and flights only go to Sierra Leone twice a week.  Her apartment is rented to someone else as of May 1st.  Her health is still pretty fragile, and she’s heading for a country that doesn’t have the facilities to deal with it should something go wrong.

The Universe  needs to go pick on someone else for a while.  Seriously.


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