Sunday, December 27, 2009


Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom in order to make a change and get yourself together again. It may be a life event, a situation, or simply the time of year that will illicit the change. Life consists of many paths and fortunately we are never stuck on one; it's always possible to alter our course or reverse direction depending upon our need.

Putting things in writing always helps me. Sometimes it's a list, a memo or just a bunch of free-floating ideas. I thought it might help keep me focused to put my priorities into writing, just to keep me reminded of the things that are important to me, the things I want to focus on right now.

Cultivating and nurturing existing friendships: the good, bad and ugly
Taking care of myself (physically, emotionally) and not putting the needs of others ahead of my own, unless it's emergent
Prioritizing what is truly important, what can wait and what isn't worth worrying about.
Taking care of my responsibilities (pets, houseplants)
Maintaining a home that I feel comfortable in and that welcomes those I care about
Living within my values

In order to maintain these priorities I will engage in:
meditation daily
neb/vest treatments twice a day
volunteer once a week
continue to do typing for Yoshi
set aside time to maintain the house and yard
schedule time with friends, but allow spontaneity
enjoying every moment.

Thursday, December 24, 2009


Family. Friends. A warm house. Enough to eat. What else is there?

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Counting Down

One of the reasons I'm really looking forward to getting home on Tuesday........

Friday, December 18, 2009

Our Bite of the Big Apple

Above: The view up 48th street as we were sitting in traffic.
Below: The lit tree at Rockefeller Plaza

Before I wrote my last post devoted to Paul, this was the one I intended to write next. It's taken me
a while to get back on my feet after that to get my thoughts together to post this.

As adventures go, this was an exciting one, and one I'm sure we won't soon forget. We were summonsed to testify as witnesses at a trial on Friday and had planned to make a mini-vacation of it, by staying Friday night and doing a bit of sightseeing on Saturday. We traveled to NYC on Thursday afternoon, in order to have time to meet with the lawyer that evening.

The drive down was uneventful; we made it in 3 1/2 hours and arrived just in time for rush hour but the GPS guided us right to our hotel on Lexington Ave. Unfortunately, the main entrance was on 48th street and we had to drive around the block in order to drop the car off with the valet. It took us quite some time to make it around the "block" as we ended up on a through street that didn't allow turns, but that allowed us to drive by Rockefeller Plaza and see the tree that had just been lit the day before, as well as the throngs of people who were also there to see that site.

We arrived at the main entrance of the hotel like a couple of country bumpkins: shoes flying everywhere, all my medical equipment and several trays of pastries we had brought as gifts for my cousin. Our car was whisked away and we were shown up to our room, which was on the 22nd floor with a pretty view of other buildings, all lit up. Cars driving down 48th street below looked so tiny! After setting into our room we decided to take a walk and get the lay of the land. We walked up 48th, back the way we had driven, to see Rockefeller Plaza, the Christmas tree and the skaters. What a pretty site! People were everywhere, Christmas music was playing outside many stores and there was a festive feel in the air. It was easy to forget the real reason we were in NYC: the trial.

After exploring a bit we met with the lawyer and my relaxed feeling soon turned to panic. Yikes! We were going to be on the stand and questioned about the accident we were witnesses to 5 years ago by both lawyers. I wasn't worried about the plaintiff's lawyer, but was very nervous about the opposing counsel, after hearing he was "ruthless" to the witness on the stand the first day. We were given our depositions to review and instructed to meet the lawyer at the courthouse, in lower Manhattan, at 9:30 the next morning. We were due to testify at 11.

We both re-read our depositions to refresh our memories and retired for the evening. The next morning, not sure how long it would take to get from our hotel to lower Manhattan, we left t 8:30 by cab. It seemed a good omen that we hit all green lights on our way to the courthouse, which was just on the edge of Chinatown. We arrived so early that we had time to walk around the neighborhood and do a bit of shopping at one of the neighborhood shops. When we returned to the courthouse, the lawyer reviewed our depositions and the questions he would be asking us. We were left to wait.

Eleven o'clock rolled around and went to the courtroom where the case was being tried. Joe was called in at 11:30 and questioned on the stand for an hour. I wasn't allowed in the courtroom while he was testifying, but I'm told he did an outstanding job. I was next and was only on the stand for about 30 minutes, 15 of which the lawyers and judge spent outside the courtroom, conferring about lawyerley matters. I was more than relieved when allowed off the stand and the experience was over. Whew! The judge declared it was time for the lunch recess and were excused for 30 minutes.

The sense of relief after being done with the testimony was enormous and we were able to enjoy a quick lunch of Chinese food at a small restaurant in Chinatown. Joe and I decided we would like to be in the courtroom to hear the testimony of one of the expert witnesses, a doctor who had treated the plaintiff since the accident. It was interesting to follow the testimony and second-guess the lawyers.

That evening we had an impromptu dinner of bread, cheese and fruit purchased at Grand Central Market, which was an amazing bazaar of shops all under one roof: butcher, baker, fruit stand, prepared foods, cheese shop, spices.. it was truly a feast for the senses. Unfortunately everyone else was shopping at the same time. With our bellies finally full, the fatigue hit me like a ton of bricks. I needed to crash and we took a cab back to the hotel and I fell sound asleep, only to awaken the next morning to the sad news of my close friend's death. There would be no sightseeing; how could I even consider it after such news? I had some calls to make before posting the news online, at his mother's request.

Friday evening and Saturday morning, before the phone call, I had such a feeling of relief and also satisfaction that we not only survived the experience, but hopefully did a good job and didn't make complete fools of ourselves. Even at this advanced age, I still have plenty of self-doubt, but it's reassuring to know that stressful situations like this can be handled and we not only survive but grow and gain confidence from the experience.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Fly Away, Cystic

The unthinkable has happened. Since we met, I've been preparing myself for this, knowing it would be the biggest blow of all, but the preparation made not a speck of difference. How could it have? I never truly believed it would happen.

Paul is gone. My longstanding cystic buddy. He was at the brink so many times and was able to right himself by force of sheer will, I honestly believed he would do it again this time. He had more lives than 10 cats. He was a cat. A cool cat. He hated water, being touched and was a finicky eater. In the end, though, he was just as human as the rest of us and had finally had enough. He went the way he wanted to: in the comfort of his home, in his favorite easy chair, with his devoted mother by his side.

How do you capture a person's essence with mere words? Paul could. Paul would have. I can't do it. He was a very caring person, at times confused by human relationships and interaction, but that never deterred him. He never stopped reaching out. He was an amazing support and teacher to those in the CF community, often contacting people privately to shed light on a question they asked. He had an amazingly quick wit, was able to find humor in almost any situation and made puns that I sometimes didn't figure out for days. He was one of the most intelligent people I've ever encountered yet never talked down to people. He had the gift of being a natural teacher and no topic was beyond his grasp. I often teased him that if it was physically possible, he would have been able to perform his own double lung transplant, he had researched it so thoroughly.

Another friend said it well: this is the end of an era. Paul was a fixture online, often holding court in the CF2 chatroom, entertaining everyone with his witty banter and offering support to those who needed it. I really can't believe he's gone and probably won't for quite some time.

The biggest burden of CF, for me at least, is not the daily treatments, the hospitalizations or even feeling sick, listless and short of breath; it's saying goodbye to those we meet along the way who touch us profoundly and become part of us through our association.

'Bye, Paul. I hope you know how many people loved you deeply and how many lives you touched. Thanks for being my friend and meeting me at the Terminal; I'll treasure that memory always.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

How to Measure?

As we approach the end of another year I find myself assessing and reviewing 2009. Was it good? Was it bad? Certainly a lot of good things happened: Joe found a job after a year of being unemployed, which is a much better fit than his previous one. Wilson is doing well in college, enjoying his classes and has a wonderful group of friends. Our house looks nice and is comfortable after some renovations. My parents are healthy and happy. My brother is in his newly rebuilt house, has a job and is content. We have 3 pets that we love dearly who continue to amuse us with their funny antics.

On the other hand, we lost our beloved Charlotte and my health has been a bit more of a struggle than some years. There have been quite a few losses in the CF community as well, all of which are difficult.

Each day, each month, and each year has its trials, tribulations and triumphs. This is a given: no day, month or year is going to be free of stress, some heartache or conflict. That's just life. How can you compare one year to the next? Each one is unique and will have its share of joy and pain. As long as we're alive that's the price we pay, so best to enjoy every moment while we have it.

Practice Makes Imperfect

There's a reason meditation and living mindfully are referred to as a practice - it is a continuous process; there's really nothing to be achieved, no point at which you are done. Sometimes it will be easier than others and the goal is just to keep at it.

I've been getting a lot of practice with my practice this week in the context of a situation that is beyond my control - something that is typically quite difficult for me. I could allow the issue to dominate my thoughts, but what would that do? I can't make things happen any faster than they are meant to evolve; the key is to be able to accept the things as they occur and take them as they come. My mind tends to leap forward, playing out different scenarios that have yet to happen- hoping to prepare itself against any possibility, planning my reaction in advance as a way to keep control over the situation. Yet, most often, dwelling on events in anticipation rarely does any good. I have no way to predict the future and it only causes me to lose my focus on what is before me at the moment. The present is where my attention belongs because it's the only thing that is. Everything else is just thoughts to keep my mind busy and distracted.

There are so many variables in life over which we have no control. Yes, we have control over ourselves and our reactions, but anything else is really a delusion. Oftentimes the more control we try to have over situations and people the less we actually have. I've found that letting go and not trying to control things, although scary, is a good way for me to decrease my stress level in the long run. I'm still practicing!

Monday, November 30, 2009

How Bazaar

The word bartering conjures up images of an open market, goods and produce being swapped for services or assets, people haggling, making deals and trading. It doesn't strike me as something that has a place in today's society, though Wikipedia tells me that it is and that there are internet sites set up specifically for this purpose.

The idea has always intrigued me and my first experience with it was this past summer when we ran into a Swiss baker at the Salem Farmer's market that Joe was acquainted with. We were buying some organic bread when Joe learned that Armand loves hand made soap and suggested a trade. Armand was more than happy, as were we, in that we got 2 delicious loaves of organic, artisanal bread for just 2 bars of soap. What a deal!

Last evening, at the "Don't Look a Gift Pig in the Eye" Holiday fair, the woman at the table next to me was a jewelry designer that I had met last summer at the Jazz and Soul Festival. She had purchased some soaps then and said she was going to buy some more last night. I told her I'd love to trade some soap for a piece of her jewelry, and she was enthusiastic. Sure enough, at the end of the night she came and picked out 4 bars of soap and I found a gorgeous pair of dangly blue earrings and a Tibetan jade key ring. This is fun!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Three Percent

There's a commercial that has been on TV recently which talks about cutting down on our electrical usage by 3% a year for the next 10 years. A good way to cut down on carbon emissions, consumption and our electrical bills. What a great idea! Three percent isn't all that much and who doesn't love a challenge?

Our average electrical bill is about $80/month. To save 3% would be about $2.50 each month. Not so much, but over the course of a year and increased by 3% each following year, it would make a difference. A few years ago we switched out all our light bulbs (much to Joe's dismay!) to CFLs, even the outdoor ones. Sure, they take a bit of time to reach max brightness, needing a few minutes to warm up, but the decrease in our electrical bill was noticeable. We keep our automatic thermostat at 63 during the day and 58 at night. We don't heat the upstairs. We've switched out (again, to Joe's dismay) our shower heads to low-flow ones. Some things are a bigger sacrifice than others, no doubt about it.

So other than turning off lights when we leave the room, walking to shops when possible, using rain barrels for watering the gardens and replacing our old appliances with energy star approved models as they wear out, I'm wondering what else we can do to save electricity and resources? Suggestions are welcome. Thanks!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Before the Fall

Each year around this time I try to remember to get a photo of the Japanese Maple in front of our house, and each year the leaves have fallen before I get around to it. But not this year, this year is different; yesterday I grabbed the camera after a woman walking by with her dog commented on the great color and I was able to catch the image before the first fiery red leaf fell off.

In the spring the tree produces lovely reddish-maroon leaves, they're pretty but not stunning. During the last week of October, on cue, the leaves go from "nice" to an amazing fiery red before the leaves curl up and fall off.

We also have our outdoor lights up and functioning after 8 weeks of no lighting-- just in time for Halloween and the trick-or-treaters. I'm so happy with how the house looks and the Japanese Maple is the icing on the cake.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Don't Look a Gift Pig in the Eye

There's a funky little bar in Salem called In a Pig's Eye that's been there as long as I've lived in the area. We've been a few times, either for a quick bite to eat or a refreshing cocktail on a hot summer's eve out and always liked the atmosphere (casual) and the food/drinks.

Saturday I got an email with an invitation to participate in a Christmas Fair there on Nov. 29 - first come, first serve. There's only space for 10 crafters to participate --so despite it being Halloween in Salem (something we try to avoid at all costs!)-- we drove over and dropped off a check to reserve a table.

I have no idea what to expect, how many people will be attending, or if the people who have participated other years will resent a "newcomer". Another learning experience, to be sure, but it's only for 3 hours. I'll get through it whether it's fun or a disaster. Above is a picture of some cranberry-orange marmalade soap I made so I'll hopefully have enough for the fair at the Swampscott High on the 28th and then the Pig's Eye on the 29th. I won't mind if there is a lot left over because I love the scent!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

View from my Window

Although it's depressing to think about the short days and cold weather of winter, I love fall: the vibrant colors, the dry, cool weather, the return of routine. Autumnal hues are warm and healing-- the reds, oranges, yellows-- all fiery before the drab browns and dirty white of winter that follow the first pristine snowfall. If only we could hang on to fall a bit longer, but the brevity makes me appreciate it all the more.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Reality Bites

This is what makes me different.

I don't always feel isolated and separate from my "regular" friends but the sensation has been more pronounced lately. Maybe I'm in a bit of a funk after E's death, or there is just a fresh wave of reality washing over me. Whatever the cause, I'm just trying to experience it and not do too much dwelling.

I've never been too concerned with being part of the crowd and, in fact, have for the most part avoided group interactions, preferring one-on-one social situations. I find groups overwhelming, with too many conversations whizzing around, my hearing loss making it more difficult to keep up with all the chatter. Give me a nice heart to heart with one person and I'm in my element. Nevertheless, I do have a group of women friends that I dearly love being with and see on a regular basis.

This past weekend, during the drive up to our dinner I was really feeling like the odd man out, not because I wasn't taking part in some of their activities, but because my life is just so very much unlike theirs. I know there are people who understand my unique situation, but even for them, it's impossible to fully grasp. I have trouble taking on more than I already do, though it is unfortunately my nature to want to. A good 4-5 hours of my day is taken up with self-care and equipment maintenance- such as washing sterilizing nebs, a major chunk by any standards. I don't think anyone can imagine the burden and tiresomeness of the routine, twice a day, every day of my life. Luckily, I'm able to back-burner it (as I think most cystics do) and just dwell on the time that is spent not doing treatments.

I remember a time when I was a teenager that I didn't want to have to "rely" on any medications. Yes, I took them as prescribed, but pushed my doctor to get me off them. Looking back, I wonder why I ever felt so strongly? I have come to realize they are part of my life. There are certain things about the internal workings of my physical body that are defective or missing; if there are pills to take that replace or "fix" these defects, why wouldn't I take them? So, I do.

I'm not sure of the purpose of this posting, other than to jot down some of these feelings I have. I imagine it must be difficult for a non-cystic to understand why we form these tight, intense relationships, usually over the internet ('cuz we're not supposed to be face to face due to infection control issues) but this feeling of being different is really it. It's comforting to speak to others in the same situation who have a level of understanding that nobody else truly can. The relationships are no less real or heartfelt simply because they aren't face to face, and they have been invaluable to me in my life. So, thanks to Paul, Kelly, Ellie, Laura, Laura, Shawn, Tina, Tamara, and Liz; some of the best people around. My whiny rant is now over and I'll give myself a good kick in the arse and start my day now that my nebs are finished. Edited to add: A huge omission! I had the feeling there was someone very important I was forgetting but for some reason couldn't figure out who it was. I'm lucky she let me know -- Lisa!! Now how in the world could I forget her? We share a name :-) Sorry, Lisa, you know I love you!!!

Saturday, October 17, 2009


The front of the house is nearly shingled and I love the color. I wasn't sure it was exactly the same as the previous paint job we had done, but the dormers are still the original shingles and there is in essence no difference between them and the new ones. I love our new look. Now all we need is a few sunny days in a row so the guys can come and get the other 3 sides done. I don't blame them for not wanting to work out in this frigid rain we've had!

Friday, October 16, 2009


When someone leaves the earth I imagine there must be a huge splash followed by tiny ripples that widen and eventually reach everyone that person ever touched.

Yesterday I learned that a friend had died, not a few days or even weeks ago, but back in August. How could I have not known for so long? Yes, I had known she was sick and had surgery, but my old friend denial was working his magic and it never even occurred to me that she might not be with us any longer, though I hadn't heard from her in a couple months. We'd email, chat online or speak by phone and it wasn't unheard of for us to not speak for a month or so at a time. She was incredibly busy with 2 young children, a husband and having moved a couple years ago. That was why I hadn't talked to her, right?

But still, how could I have not known? Maybe, deep down inside, I did, but didn't want to acknowledge it. Maybe on some level I felt the small ripple wash over me, but it was too much to face. Better to keep busy and ignore the growing sense of unease.

After not seeing a new blog post from her in 3 months, I finally became concerned enough to check her facebook page and there I learned the dreaded news. Ellie had died back in August. She had emergency abdominal surgery in July and was quite ill afterwards, developing a serious pneumonia that never went away. She didn't leave the hospital.

We connected because we both have CF, and are mothers, though she had 2 adopted children who are quite a bit younger than my one. There are unique concerns when you are a CF mom and it is somewhat comforting to be able to voice them to another person who feels exactly the same way. It was Ellie who, as a former college admissions office employee, read over Wilson's first draft of his college essay and gave the feedback that it was one that most incoming freshman write: "an event that changed my life". When he heard that he changed his topic and was quickly accepted early admission to the college of his choice. Her feedback was invalauble.

Ellie was also the one who encouraged me to start a blog. She had one for a few years, and gave me the link to it one time. I'd shyly read it, feeling a bit voyeuristic, but intrigued. It's amazing to read someone's thoughts and daily struggles, things they might not necessarily talk about openly. When she asked me one time if I was reading it I sheepishly admitted I was. She laughed and said, "I gave you the link, its OK for you to read it- I want you to!" She was a wonderful writer, open honest and she had amazing insights into situations. She was brave beyond words and so loved being a mommy. Her family was her life.

Ellie was very supportive as W went off to college, and when I was in the hospital for 2 weeks during his freshman year she sent me a helpful book - Letting Go. Her concern and caring for other people was extraordinary, she always wanted to hear about the other person and what was going on in their life, despite some serious challenges in her own. Clearly, she was in the right field as a social worker!

I'm going to miss her laugh, her stories of how Michael and little Gabe are doing. I'm sad they didn't have longer to know this special person who was their mom, though I know Charlie is going to keep her memory and spirit alive for them. Rest easy, my friend, and know that I miss you and always will.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

I've Got Shingles

But thankfully not the Herpes zoster kind. These are red cedar and will be going on the outside of the house - finally we get rid of the naked, Tyvek-wrapped look! The truck arrived promptly at 7:25 and it was quite exciting watching the pallets being unloaded. I'm sure the neighbors appreciated all the noise and the large truck taking up one lane of the road. The pallets are stacked in our driveway but luckily I got my car out of the garage before they arrived. Hopefully tomorrow I'll have pictures of the front of the house with its new, red, facade.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Lady Grace

Gracie loves jumping on top of the desk and looking down on me while I do my treatments (when she's not on my lap). The camera was nearby and i snapped a couple photos of her, this one was actually an accident, though I wish I could say I took it intentionally. She looks like she's singing... maybe a Modest Mouse song?

Friday, October 9, 2009

Fall Drinks

I came across these recipes for some of my favorite Starbuck's lattes and rather than leave them on the scraps of paper that I'll just lose, I figured I could write them down here where I can refer back to them. Sorry, Starbuck's!

Pumpkin Spice Latte
1/4 -1/2 cup espresso
1 tsp Torani Pumpkin Spice syrup
1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
2 tbsp vanilla
8 oz steamed milk

Gingerbread Latte
8 oz steamed milk
1/4 cup gingerbread syrup (recipe below)
1/4-1/2 cup espresso

Gingerbread syrup:
makes enough for 6-7 drinks, refrigerate between uses
2 cups water
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla
bring to a boil and simmer uncovered for 15"

Peppermint Mocha Latte
3tbsp baking cocoa
3tbsp water
1 1/2 tbsp Torani peppermint syrup
1/4-1/2 cup espresso
8-12 oz steamed milk

Yum, yum, enjoy!


As soon as I saw the envelope arrive I knew what it was; folded twice, with my address in my own handwriting. Thick enough to contain 3 photos, a returned check and a letter. When the envelope was opened my guess was confirmed- a rejection letter!

I had applied to a 2 day juried holiday craft show in Newton and this was the "non-acceptance" letter along with the photos and booth fee I had sent in. No reason or explanation was given so I'm left guessing. Perhaps they already had their quota of soapmakers, or that they preferred not to carry soaps at all. Or, maybe they just didn't like mine! The bottom line is that I wasn't accepted.

Surprisingly, I'm not as upset as I imagined I might be. A little disappointed, but not devastated by any means, and I certainly don't take it personally. There are always going to be minor (and this is so very minor in the scheme of things!) bumps in the road and it's important not to let it get you down or discourage you. I'll just have to trust in fate and figure that it's for the best that this one didn't work out. Back to the drawing board!

So often it appears that successful people just seem to arrive at their success, when actually there are many hours of work, small successes, failures and twists and turns to their journey. It's all a process and this is just one step along the way. I hope I'll find another fair to participate in, but if not, heck, I know what everyone is getting for Christmas!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

All Decked Out

The carpenters finished the flooring on the deck on Tuesday, after the new windows went in. It looks amazing! The size is just perfect and the stairs are solid and wide, unlike the narrow, rickety ones that were at the back door before. It will be the perfect place for our grill and a few plants, maybe a window box. We can even fit a table and a couple small chairs if we want to sit and have a glass of wine in the evening.

I planted 2 peonies and a white climbing rose that Mary gave me in front of the new lattice, hopefully they'll survive the winter. There's been a good bit of rain in the past week, great for the plants I've moved and the many daffodil bulbs I planted. Bulbs are somewhat of a let-down; after all that work, there's absolutely nothing to show for it- until spring when there are all these beautiful yellow flowers. Delayed gratification!

Today I'll be applying 2 coats of urethane to the new windows to protect them, then I can put the inside of the house back together, something I'm looking very much forward to. Maybe then I can relax in our new old house!

Saturday, October 3, 2009


The contractor tells me that the singles still aren't in, but he assures me they are on their way down from Canada, somewhere between here and there on a truck. No matter, the carpenters have other things they can be doing. Friday the deck was framed, and hopefully it will be completed on Monday. It's exactly as I had hoped it would look; enough room for our grill and a few plants, without taking up too much room in the back yard.

The new windows will be going in on Tuesday, which is exciting. I've taken down and washed the curtains so as soon as the windows are finished I'll be able to put them back up and have everything nice and sparkly clean. I've been putting off doing a good, thorough cleaning until after the windows go in because I know with workmen inside, it doesn't really make sense to clean beforehand. I'm looking forward to the end of the clutter and chaos!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Our House is a Very, Very Fine House

As the workmen are busy on the outside of the house, I'm working on the inside. The painting is complete, except for the ceilings, which I'll tackle after everything else is finished and the weather is too cold to spend time outside. For now, I'm working on the window sills and trim, which are in horrible condition from years of neglect and abuse. I took these photos to remind myself just how bad they look! I sanded half the trim and sill so it's easy to see the difference. Soon they will look as nice as the new windows that are going in a few weeks from now. Bye-bye, old, rattly, windows! Hello new, energy-efficient, wooden windows.

The last photo is of our new dining room rug. The cats aren't quite sure what to make of it. The spent a good deal of time sniffing it when it first arrived and have slept on it a lot, trying to make it "theirs" no doubt. Maybe there were cats in the home where the rug used to live? Cats sure do have a good sense of smell. Gomer couldn't resist getting his nose into the photo!

Friday, September 25, 2009


No I'm not stuttering.

Most things in life are cyclical, from the seasons to the days to our moods and so forth, and I really do try to accept and enjoy the nature of things. One aspect of my life that I don't enjoy being cyclical is my health. Right now I'm on the upswing: it feels great. The Prednisone I took last month worked wonders (I *heart* that drug) and I was able to breathe much more easily. I was able to go from being a listless couch potato with no energy back to my spunky self.

I love rehabbing! It's so encouraging to be able to add more minutes on to the treadmill each week, or an extra set of reps with the weights. It doesn't happen overnight but any improvement is always a good feeling. This week I'm up to 35 minutes on the 'mill with 18 of that at a 3% incline. My goal is to be back to 30 minutes of incline, which will probably take 2-3 more weeks. It's so nice to feel energized after exercising, rather than feeling like I need to lie down and take a nap. Isn't that how exercise is supposed to be?

When I told Joe I am up to 18 minutes he said, "soon you'll be back up to 30", to which I replied, "yeah, then I'll get sick and have to start all over again".

Unfortunately, that's true. I'm not one to dwell on the bad stuff and I don't often think about getting sick, but I do admit to dreading the "next time". It's so discouraging to lose stamina and strength after working so hard to regain it, in addition to feeling sick. Ah, this is the fate of a cystic, I suppose. A cystic cycle. ( I sense a clever play on words here, but can't quite get it to work out. Paul?)

So I rehab. And get sick. And re-rehab. And get sick again. Then re-re-rehab. And so the cycle continues. That's life. For now I'm going to enjoy the upswing of and hope I get to stay at the top of the Ferris wheel for a long while. The view from up there is amazing!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

More Progress

The work continues. The entire house is stripped of shingles and wrapped, except for the front and back dormers. It's very noisy here during the day with all the banging, creaking of the house, the compressor, and music from the workers' radio. I don't mind so much because I know things will look so much better once they are finished and I enjoy seeing the progress each day.

On the interior, I've finished painting the spare bedroom and the bathroom. I'll take a little break before doing the computer room since I feel the onset of tendinitis in my right arm. No sense in aggravating that!

Once the new windows go in I'll need to stain and urethane them, as well as refinishing the sills, which are in bad condition from water damage they sustained before we moved in (17 years ago?????) It's going to feel like a new house when we are finished! The ultimate repurposing project.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Monday is Laundry Day

Monday is laundry day in our household. Millie finds laundry to be exhausting.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Before and During

I love taking before, during and after photos whenever we have work done on the house so years later I can look back and remind myself of how things looked. This is going to be a rewarding project as it is one everyone will see: the entire outside of the house.

The first photo is of the house before any of the construction started; the paint is peeling off the shingles, which are in bad shape. The workers are going through the laborious process of removing each shingle, wrapping the side of the house as they complete it, and once that is done, they will nail individual shingles (already painted with 3 coats of paint! yay!) in place. So far the back of the house and the 2 sides have been stripped and wrapped with only the front to go. Needless to say, it's pretty noisy during the day. They will also be building a small deck to the right of the 3-season porch on the back of the house where we can keep the grill.

The interior photo below is of the spare bedroom, which had been cream is getting a new color. I finished painting it yesterday and will start in on the downstairs bathroom next: stripping the wallpaper and hopefully priming the walls today. One room done and 2 to go!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Little Miss Millie

The kittens have been a bit out of sorts with all the chaos around the house lately, though they seem to be able to make the best of it. For example: Millie discovered this plant basket I was storing on the porch (without the plant) and decided it made a wonderful bed. Up high, safe, and with a nice view. She settled in for a good long nap in the afternoon. What a disappointment it will be for her when the house is put back together and the basket once again has a plant in it!

Friday, September 18, 2009


For me, fall is a time of doing things inside the house, partly in response to having a bit more time on my hands, and also in preparation for the winter months and spending more time indoors. Nesting behavior, if you will.

The dining room is finished, save for the new rug; the table is re-done and a fresh coat of paint is on the walls. The new windows haven't gone in yet, so I'll refinish the trim after that part of the project is completed.

With the dining room looking so fresh and spiffy the hallway looks extra-dingy. Ok, same color and I have some left over, I'll put up a fresh coat of paint in there too. Hm.... the guest bedroom would look much better in a different color and the "office" needs a spruce-up... Off to the home dec store to pick up 2 more gallons of Benjamin Moore. I'll tackle the 2 rooms over the weekend, but for now I'll bask in the glory of having finished the dining room. It's a race to see if the carpenters finish putting on the new shingles on the exterior of the house, or I finish painting the inside. My money is on the carpenters.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Colored Glasses

It's amazing how some days nothing seems to faze us and we can fly through the day letting things roll off our backs. On other days everything seems to go wrong. Is it how the stars are aligned? Cosmic karma? Luck?

I don't have the answer but I do believe that our moods greatly influence our interpretations of the events during our day. The expression "wearing rose colored glasses" comes to mind for people who don't want to acknowledge the darker side of life, so why not consider the opposite? Wearing dark glasses.

Some days, for whatever reason, we put on our rose colored glasses. Little things don't bother us and we can take the bigger stuff with a grain of salt. Our perspective is good; the bigger picture is easy to see and small events are recognized for what they are: small events. Other days we don our dark glasses: little issues irritate us and it feels like the whole world is out to get us. Things don't have their usual flow and we feel out of sorts. It's easy to take things more personally, whereas if we had been wearing our other glasses it might be easier to see that some days shit just happens. It's not all about us.

In a perfect world we'd all have bifocals, or maybe one lens of each, for balance. But as it is we have to settle for being aware that some days we're wearing our rose-colored glasses and some days we have on our dark ones and that the events in our day don't change; it's our perspective that does.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Happy Birthday Girls

A year ago today Millie and Gracie (in that order) entered into the world, assisted by their foster-mom, Joyce. Millie was first and her feline mom, a stray named Chelsea, wasn't quite sure what to do. Joyce to the rescue! She removed the amniotic sac and - voila!- Millie was born. As a tiny kitten she was always a bit slower than the rest of her litter-mates, but she's just as clever as any other cat now. A bit more hesitant and timid, but no less intelligent.

Millie is the first one to greet us in the mornings and as soon as she hears us stirring she hops up on to the bed for her attention. She's a skilled mouser and has brought up several trophies from the basement in the past couple weeks. Hopefully her presence will deter any more rodents from setting up shop down there. After all that hunting she must be a bit tired; she has decided to spend her birthday lounging on the 3 season porch in the sun. Aaah, the life!

Gracie, on the other hand, is the more outgoing of the two. She loves to play with toys and asks us to throw bouncy balls for her, which she delights in chasing. She'll play fetch with yarn balls, depending upon her mood, and will bring them back to be tossed again. She loves sitting on my lap when I do my treatments and is a good sport about getting her claws clipped. She is taking some extra time to pamper herself with a good bath on her birthday.

Happy Birthday Millie and Gracie, and may you have many more happy, healthy ones.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Bad Cystic

We returned last night from 4 days at Joe's sister's house and oh boy is it good to be home! I don't think my own bed has ever felt so nice. It was a fun-packed, fast-paced good time, although exhausting. We saw 2 concerts, ate out at Reids, Fat Bob's Smokehouse, The Basket Factory, the concession stand at the concert venue, and my personal favorite: Cold Stone Creamery. My sister-in-law and brother in law are wonderful hosts; we had a delicious meal on the night of our arrival and they cheerfully put up with a house full of people despite the chaos.

One of my biggest flaws is not being able to keep up with my treatments when I'm out of my environment. I'm not perfect at home, but am extremely compliant- rarely missing a neb or vest session, dutifully taking supplements, enzymes and exercise on a daily basis. Somehow when I leave home I morph into this non-compliant person who thinks nothing of abusing her body for days at a time. True Confession Time: I didn't do one neb or vest treatment while we were gone. Bad, bad cystic.

Part of it is that I forgot my vest. Doh! I packed the machine, tubing and cord but left the jacket hanging on the back of my chair, which made the rest of the equipment pretty much useless. I did bring my nebs and compressor, but rationalized that while I was skipping my vest I might as well be really bad and skip the nebs, too. Yes, I'm well aware this is downright stupid. I know better. I also know it's going to take me a week or 2 to get back on track after this little holiday from reality.

I'm aware that when I'm on vacation I'm not as good about doing treatments and always vow that "next time" I'm going to be better about it. I suppose that as compliant as I am, there are times I need to take a break from reality and pretend to be a "normal" person, if only for the purpose of realizing that no matter how much I pretend, it'll never be the case. I'll skip treatments and then feel terrible for a number of days, all the while thinking: this was NOT worth it!

I know what I need to maintain my level of functioning: a solid 8 hours of sleep with the Bi-Pap, 2 full vest treatments a day with nebs, frequent, healthy meals -lots of fruits and veggies, plus at least 45 minutes of exercise. Time consuming? Yes. Pain in the ass? Yes. Impossible to do on vacation? No. A challenge, definitely, but nothing that isn't within my reach.

Memo to myself as I work to undo the hopefully-not-permanent damage done while away: no more vacations from reality- the price is too high. Sometimes I really piss myself off.

Monday, August 31, 2009


Last year it was painting projects and this year it appears the theme is going to be furniture stripping and refinishing.

I didn't expect it to be as difficult this year, and it isn't, W's moving back into the dorm, though the house does seem a bit empty without him already. It hasn't even been 24 hours! Not a good sign.

After tackling 2 very small household projects yesterday afternoon I started in on one that became much bigger than I anticipated: refinishing our dining room table. It had been given to us by Joe's mom and is special for that reason. It had seen its share of wear and tear from 5 kids and 3 decades of use when it came to us. I did a light sanding and 2 coats of polyurethane over the summer to spruce it up, but for some reason the last coat didn't stick well and began flaking off in a couple places. Oh well. I figured I'd to a very light sanding and reapply another top coat. Ha! Think again.

As soon as I began doing that light sanding, the top layer started coming off in earnest. Ok, so it all needed to come off, I can do that. But....... while I'm at it I might as well take it down to bare wood and do a proper job of it, no sense in cutting corners now. That burn mark where the candle fell over during an enjoyable dinner with friends can be sanded out, as can be the deep scratch of unknown origin.

The "small project" I thought I'd be able to tackle in an afternoon or two has now become a full-blown refinishing, and will take a week or 2, depending on how much time I devote to it.

I was laughing at myself a bit as I was working on the table yesterday, noting the coincidence of my starting this project and the departure of W for college. As Freud said, there really aren't any coincidences, and I suspect he's probably right. Ah well, we all have our strategies, and mine is clearly that of working with my hands.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

More Homemade Cleanser Recipes

After reading this article- link- I was very disappointed to learn that one of my favorite companies, Burt's Bees, was owned by one of the most un-environmentally friendly companies around- Clorox. I suppose I should have known: products that used to be found at out of the way, small shops could now be found at commercial giants such as CVS and even Wal-Mart. Is nothing sacred anymore?

In response, I thought I'd post a couple more recipes for things I can make on my own. I have a terrible habit of jotting things down on pieces of scrap paper and then losing them, so this will at least ensure that I can find the recipes down the road when I need them.

A dear friend swears by a recipe of brushing her teeth with baking soda, then mashed strawberries for sparkly white teeth, which her Nana taught her to do. Can't wait to try it!

Homemade Toothpaste
6 tsp baking soda
4 tsp vegetable glycerine (available at Whole Foods)
1/3 tsp salt
15 drops peppermint extract
Mix all ingredients.
I may try adding a few drops of oregano oil, which has antibacterial properties.

Homemade Deodorant
2-3 Tbs unrefined Coconut oil
1/8 c baking soda
1/8 cup cornstarch or arrowroot powder
Mix dry ingredients and add to melted coconut oil; Pour into glass jar or old deodorant container.

And here's a recipe for another household cleaner:

Toilet Bowl Cleaner
1 cup baking soda
1/2 cup vinegar.
Let soak 15 minutes in toilet bowl and scrub as usual.

I can't believe how much money we've been saving since I started making most of our household cleaners. On top of that, they're much more environmentally friendly. As we use the store bought ones up I'm replacing them with the ones I've made. Maybe I'm a total egoist but I actually think mine work better!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Millions of Peaches

Peaches for me. Millions of peaches, peaches for free. - Presidents of the United States

Well, maybe not millions of peaches, but an abundance, certainly. And yes, they were free! My generous friend Cynthia has a peach tree that produces really ugly fruit, but they are the best tasting peaches I've ever had. I made a peach cobbler yesterday and had so many peaches left over I thought I'd try to make some jam. After calling around trying to find canning jars (who knew they were so uncommon?) I finally found some and got all the supplies.

Mmmmmmm, summer in a jar. These will be great next winter on toast!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The KISS Principle

I first heard the idea of the KISS principle in college, one of my professors mentioned it in reference to our term paper: Keep It Simple, Stupid!. It got stored away in some dusty corner of my brain, along with what I considered to be other, non-essential information and was there waiting for me to re-discover it when I was ready to really understand what it was.

I've discovered that keeping things simple is really one of the keys to happiness. Bigger isn't better. Less is more. Yep, keep it simple, stupid! I think the last word is there because it seems so blatantly obvious; we think we understand what it's saying, but perhaps it takes 4 decades of living under your belt to really "get it". At least that is how long it has taken me.

It started without my realizing it, a downshifting of the household to make things more streamlined. I hadn't realized I was making things more complex than they needed to be! Once the lightbulb went on and I had that "a-ha" moment I was able to see many things in my daily life that were superfluous and unnecessary. All that junk that we're storing in the basement in case we need it? Guess what- it's been there for 15 years and hasn't been touched. Common sense would tell us that we're not going to be using it if we haven't already. Why keep it?

We're programmed to hang on to things, some of us more than others, but this is just one example of how we are sometimes our own worst enemies and make things more difficult on ourselves because we're unable to break our old patterns and habits. Not an easy task, let me tell you, but slowly and surely I'm trying to look at all aspects of how I live and simplify, simplify, simplify. Less possessions, less purchasing, less products, less chemicals, less clutter = more happiness. And isn't happiness what it's all about?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


We awoke this morning to the news that Senator Ted Kennedy, age 77, had died late last evening. Although the news wasn't unexpected, it is very sad to know that this advocate for the people has died after battling brain cancer for a little over a year. He definitely left the world a better place than he found it and will be sorely missed on many levels.

While listening to the recaps of his life, it struck me that his effectiveness was due to the fact that this man had truly found his niche in the senate. There must have been tremendous pressure for him to fill his brother's shoes and strive for the Presidency, which he did attempt in 1980, but it seems that he realized his place was working behind the scenes for change, and that was where he remained. I applaud his ability recognize his particular skill set and work with it to maximize his individual potential. Clearly, his gifts were the ability to advocate for fairness and equality, in addition to being able to compromise and work with senators from both parties.

We're all presented with a unique set of gifts. So often we get caught up in what we "should" be, or in the quest to be "better", or move up the ladder, but that doesn't always translate to using our own skills in a way that is best for us, personally. Not everyone is cut out to be a senator, businessperson, doctor or lawyer; the trick is to figure out what your skills are, what you want to do with them, and be the best at it that you possibly can.

Rest in Peace, Senator Kennedy and thank you for being such a powerful role model on so many levels.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Testing Positive

I've always wondered about steroids and cystic fibrosis and now I'm wondering no more. I'm on my first course of Prednisone for PFTs that were an all-time new low for me. It was pretty weird to see the FEV1 results as I did the tests, they started out horrible, sure, but as a rule they improve with a couple more tries. Not this time, they didn't budge.

I knew I wasn't feeling great, although I wouldn't say I was feeling "sick". This is my least favorite time of year - hot, hazy and humid weather with lousy air quality. Yes, we have air conditi0ners, but they don't purify the air so although it is cooler, the quality is still sub-par. The poor air quality really affects me and I have a much more difficult time breathing, my energy is low and just generally feel crappy. I've been a slacker with the exercise which in turn creates a vicious cycle. I got a lecture from the PT to start up again, which I'll be doing today. Hopefully the 'roids will give me the jump-start I need along with some cooler, drier weather which will be coming in on Thursday. I don't like to wish the summer away, but is it autumn yet?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Diamond in the Rough

This morning Joe and I went on a yard sale-ing excursion with some friends who are veterans. In the past we've occasionally stopped in at a yard sale if we happen to be passing by, but have never made an effort to seek them out. Our friends checked the paper and plotted our route. These people don't mess around!

At one place I saw this sweet little painted table. It had quite a few dings in it but the owner - who said it was an "antique, from the 60's" -only wanted $3 for it so I couldn't resist. A fresh coat of paint on it and it would look good as new.

But wait a sec.... I wonder what's under all that paint? Curiosity got the better of me and I had to see the wood. Beneath the 2 coats of stubborn white paint was a mustard yellow layer with black curlicues and flowers. It had probably been pretty at one time, but the color reminded me of the 70's and all my scraping didn't do it any favors, either. The wood, once I was able to see a patch, appears to be walnut or cherry, absolutely lovely. It would be a shame to cover it with another coat of paint. This baby needs to be stripped!

I'm glad I got a "before" photo because this is going to take a lot of work and I want to be able to remind myself how it looked once it's all finished. Being the tree-hugger I am, I won't use any chemical strippers to remove the paint and will do it all with elbow grease. I'm going to be scraping for quite some time!

Saturday, August 15, 2009


For the past 10 days we've had a purple finch visiting our thistle feeder. He's been easy to identify because he has a feather on his little head that is broken and sticking out at an odd angle. Joe was able to get quite close to him and discovered that he must have sustained an injury - either an animal caught him and he was lucky enough to escape, or perhaps he flew into a window.

He spent a lot of time on our feeder at first, the first day we noticed him he was there all afternoon, sleeping on and off, eating a few seeds and then just resting.

I was worried about him but knew there wasn't much I could do other than let nature take its course. I didn't know what we'd find when we came home from Maine, would he gone? Recovered and moved on, or succumbed to his injuries? I resigned myself to the not knowing but was very pleasantly surprised to see him still visiting our feeder and spending quite a bit of time there. I see it as a good sign that he's eating, I imagine if he was in very dire condition he'd just hole up somewhere and stop eating.

It seemed appropriate to give him a name since he's been around so much, I didn't feel right just calling him "that purple finch" or "our birdie". Barney seemed appropriate since he's purple.... after all, when Wilson was 4 he named Joe's Saturn Barney because it was plum-colored. Feel better soon, Barney!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Hey, It's Good

To be back home again.

After a wonderfully relaxing few days in Maine with my parents and brother we are back home again. Each year around my mom's birthday we all gather, it's become a fun tradition.

The cabin is very rustic, with 2 outhouses -though there is indoor plumbing and electricity now. No TV. No internet. No neighbors. Life slows down and we all take the time to read, talk and relax without the interference of the outside world. Meals are a bit slower because there's nowhere to rush off to afterwords.

Picking blueberries from the surrounding fields is a favorite activity, as well as baking blueberry muffins, pies and pancakes. The crop varies from year to year - last year was very sparse as the fields had been mowed, and this year was only slightly better. Hopefully next year we'll have a bumper crop and I'll be able to make some blueberry jam.

Occasionally, if we're awake early enough, we'll be lucky and see a deer or possibly a moose. This year I saw a female deer at the edge of the field, but by the time I had gone inside to get the camera she was gone.

The night sky is especially beautiful and on a clear night the stars are so bright. No light pollution here.

As relaxing and restful as it is at the cabin, it's always good to return home to Gomer, Gracie and Millie, our little house, gardens and neighborhood. Nothing like some time away to make us appreciate what we have and take for granted every day.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Ebb and Flow

I suppose anyone who pursues a creative endeavor will experience times that are more fruitful than others. While I was learning to quilt I noticed there were periods when the desire was there but I just didn't have any ideas. I found this incredibly frustrating but soon learned that everyone goes through these dry spells. You can't force it, no matter how much you want to, and you just have to be patient and wait for your mojo to return. (On a side note, I have tried to force it and learned that it is just a waste of time and energy).

My quilting drive seemed to have been replaced by a soap-making drive; I haven't quilted in months. Lately I was feeling a bit of the 'itch' and I've been rearranging my fabric closet and tidying up the room. This sort of nesting behavior usually precedes some project or other. Sure enough- I got out my machine the other day and several ideas immediately popped into my head.

I made a padded sleeve to protect my laptop when traveling, and I made one for Joe as well. I'm anxious to start a baby quilt for one of my students, who is expecting her fourth baby in January. I have a feeling it's a girl so will make a girl-baby quilt, but may have to make a backup blue one just in case my intuition is wrong. The drought is over- hallelujah!

Friday, August 7, 2009

We're Pretty Lucky

Every Thursday evening in July and August there are free concerts at Red Rock Park in Lynn, which is within walking distance from our house. In previous years we've taken advantage once, or maybe twice, but this summer we've made it a habit to grab some takeout or bring a light meal, a blanket and listen to whichever band is performing. Even if the music isn't our style it's great to sit outdoors on a warm night, overlooking the ocean, watching people and listening to a live band.

By attending every week we've come to recognize other regulars: the crazy woman who dances all alone in front of the band, the older group that appears to be doing aerobics, and the kids who run around and play in the grass. It's all part of the fun.

Last week as we were munching on Mexican takeout, listening to the band and watching the sailboats in the harbor our friend Brian said, "we're pretty lucky to live here". Indeed we are, and it's good to be reminded.

Friday, July 31, 2009

A Link and Garden Photos

There are several blogs I read on a regular basis that spark my creativity, one of which is Park City Girl - the blog of a very talented quilter. I am
always inspired to see her work. She has created a pattern for an adorable bag, which she is selling in her shop. Click here to see her blog and the bag.

The above photos are from 7/31/09, just prior to a heavy downpour. It had rained most of the morning, then cleared a bit, only to rain again. I'd guess we got about an inch of rain, all told. The happy flowers have enjoyed all the moisture, but the drippy, wet tomato refuses to get much bigger, much less turn even the slightest shade of yellow. At this rate we'll be eating fried green tomatoes this fall!