Friday, March 27, 2009

I Really Love This Part

Finally, finally about a month after the last cold symptoms disappeared I'm seeing some progress in the right direction. I have been increasing the time I'm using the incline on the treadmill by 5 minutes a day; I was at 6 minutes per session last week and now am up to 20 minutes as of today. I hope to be up to the full 30 minutes by the middle of next week, just in time for my exercise tolerance test at MGH. Hopefully if the weather is nice this weekend we'll be taking some long walks outside, which will help with my endurance.

I was doing so well last spring and early summer, easily in the best shape I'd ever been in. I had an exercise tolerance test last March and was in a pulmonary rehab program to maximize my abilities. My lungs will unfortunately never get any better, but I can strengthen my muscles and improve my endurance, which will give me greater functional ability, allow me to exercise well and in turn help to keep my lungs as healthy as possible. I felt great- strong, vibrant and healthy. Then with the trip to Ireland, no vest or bipap due to our converter not working properly and everything sort of slipped away from me.

After many fits and starts, some IV antibiotics in January, followed by the setback of the most recent cold, I'm finally getting some endurance back. The downhill slide is quite depressing; the not knowing how long it will last and when, exactly, it will stop. The lack of control, lack of energy and lack of ability to do anything about it. You can only wait and once things have leveled off, again begin the long process of rehabbing. Starting again at square one can be so daunting and quite frankly discouraging. But once a bit of progress is being made there is a boost and it becomes easier -actually enjoyable- to exercise.

When I'm not feeling well and attempt to exercise (as the docs and PTs tell me I need to do- easy for them to say!) I feel worn out and exhausted afterwards, even when not exercising to my full capacity. So depressing. But when things are on the upswing, after about 15 minutes of exercise, I get the proverbial endorphin rush: suddenly it becomes easier. It feels like weights have been removed from my ankles and my chest releases. Breathing is smoother and less of an effort. It almost feels like I could break into a jog, or maybe even fly. Gotta love those endorphins!

I know that it's important to enjoy all parts of life, both the good and the bad. To the extent I can, I do try to. But it's so much easier to love this part, when exercise is easy and a pleasure; when it feels good; and when I can see some progress from day to day. And especially when I have enough energy to enjoy my day. Results, at last.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Trying Something New

Yesterday I bought some wonderful-looking seeds for "black beauty" eggplants,-a small fruited eggplant that only grows about as big as your fist (which I guess could vary quite a bit, depending on the size of your hand!)

I had prepared the seed starting pots last weekend and gave them a few days to absorb all the moisture and settle down before planting the seeds. I had already picked up tomato, bush bean, zucchini, and broccoli seeds a few weeks earlier. All the pots were dutifully labeled and I started 5 pots of each type of seed, so if a few don't make it I'll still have a couple. Millie, who enjoys taking the outer mesh off of the peat pots, is doing her utmost to undo my hard work. I had to shut the seed starting trays in the spare bedroom to prevent her from wreaking havoc with them.

I wish I had enough space for a proper veggie garden; as it is I'm going to try growing most things in pots, or maybe a few in the ground mixed in amongst the shrubs and flowers: A true cottage garden! I've had the soil tested and there isn't any evidence of lead, which is good, but I still worry about the neighbors on either side, whom I know aren't organic, and I don't know what sort of things they throw down on their properties. One of the drawbacks to being so close together in our community!

I'd like to get some photos of the seed trays to document the process, if for no other reason than future reference. It's exciting to be trying something new and different. No doubt there will be some failures mixed in with the successes; trial and error is the best teacher as far as I'm concerned. I'm excited to grow some of our own food and will see what works and what doesn't so I can plan for next year. Gardening is all about patience.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

My Spiritual Practice

I had lunch with a good friend today whom I consider to be a very spiritual person. She is, after all, a religious education director at a church in Brookline. What I enjoy about her is that it's not just about the "church stuff" and that she makes me think, though sometimes it's easier not to!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

I'm Not a Photographer

I'm not a photographer, nor do I play one on TV. I do find it fun to play around with the camera in the garden and around the house though I'm completely aware of my lack of talent in the picture -taking department. Once in a while I do get lucky and a photo comes out well, unfortunatley through no composition or planning on my part. Thank goodness for digital cameras, it's so easy to delete all the shots that aren't quite up to par.

Yesterday I brought the camera out into the gardens. Other than a few crocus and snowdrops that are beginning to poke up the yard is definitely devoid of any color and not a very rewarding place to take pictures. I do enjoy documenting the changes from week to week as things really start taking off though it's going to be another month before the changes are very apparent. The kittens make great subjects (when they hold still long enough). Since Millie and Gracie are going to be indoor cats I don't have the opportunity to photograph them outside, but Benji and Gomer were always willing subjects as they lazed around the gardens, under shrubs and amongst the perennials.

I've been trying to get some nice photos of my soaps lately; here my lack of skill with the camera is pretty evident. I feel like the pictures look very contrived and artificial. Maybe I'd have more luck with them outside in a more natural environment? I seem to be leaning in that direction with the props I've been using - the stone birds and beach rocks. I suppose like anything else it takes practice. I think I know what I'll be doing today!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Getting Big

I've been quite remiss in posting photos of the kittens lately. The fact of the matter is that we have a new camera and I've yet to figure out how to use it well, or how to upload the photos onto my laptop! It's just a matter of sitting down for an hour or so and figuring it out, but I haven't made time for it until today.

I finally got out the instruction booklet and did a bit of reading then snapped a few photos of the kittens. They are amazingly cooperative about being photographed, until one of them notices the dangling camera cord (why on earth did I put that on?) and decides that is much more interesting than sitting and posing for a picture.

They both love to sit in the kitchen window because they can see the bird feeder from there and sometimes, to their delight, a bird will actually whiz by the window, giving them a real closeup. It's quite a jump from the floor, easily 6 times their height and the sill is relatively narrow, but they manage it quite gracefully. Gone is the clumsiness of kittenhood! They are just a bit more than 6 months old now and I wonder how much bigger they will get.


The title of this post makes me thing of the Heinz ketchup advertisements from the 70's: a family sitting 'round the dinner table waiting for the ketchup to come out of the bottle. I'm not waiting on a condiment, though, I'm so anxious for spring. Today was my first day out in the yard, it was probably only 50 degrees but the sun was bright and it felt glorious. I stuck to the south side of the house so I was plenty warm and even worked up a bit of a sweat with my labors.

I was able to entirely clear the one side of the garden of all the old leaves and twigs that found their way there over the winter. Unfortunately, I couldn't remove the evergreen arrangements from the containers as the soil inside is still frozen and they were stuck fast. Hopefully within a few days things will thaw out and I'll be able to get rid of them, they're looking a bit worse for the wear and I'm ready to see color. Bulbs. Spring flowers.

If tomorrow is as warm as today I'll work on clearing the front flower beds. I left quite a few perennials standing for winter interest last fall so need to do quite a bit of work, cutting them back and getting rid of the debris, but at this time of year it's absolutely welcome- any excuse to be outside is wonderful. Welcome spring!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Who Said it's Not Easy Being Green?

Anyone who has been around in the latter part of the last century will know it was Kermit the Frog who used to sing "It's Not Easy Being Green". I'm told by my musical guru (Joe) that Van Morrison also did a version of the song, though I've never heard it. Back in the '70's Kermit was referring to the fact that it wasn't easy to be a different color, "green" now has another meaning: being environmentally friendly.

Living in a green manner has always been a priority of mine, even back before it was stylish. I'm not claiming to be a trend-setter, it had more to do with the fact that it just didn't make sense to me to throw things away, to have them sitting in a landfill, when I knew they could be reused. Before curbside recycling was available I'd dutifully collect cans, plastic and newspapers and drive them to the recycling center in Lynn, Wilson as a toddler in tow. How much easier it is now to just set a couple bins out at the curb every other week! It blows my mind that there are still people who find that to be too much trouble.

It could be argued that what one person does won't make much difference to the planet as a whole. Whether or not I add a few cans or plastic jugs to a landfill each month, or toss the laundry in the drier won't alter the track of global warming, certainly. It would be simpler to throw worn out batteries and CFL bulbs into the trash rather than collecting them and bringing to the recycling center; yet in reality, it only takes a few moments to drop them off at the store where we would be shopping anyway. It adds and extra step and I need to remember to bring them when I go. I think a lot of it is to do with getting into the habit. There was a time when I never would have remembered to bring my own bags to the store with me, now it's as natural as grabbing my coat or car keys.

Do the actions of one person make difference? Maybe, maybe not. What is important is that I'm living in accordance with my values. When enough people are of the same mindset that is when we will see some change.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

One of those Days

You know when you have a day when everything just seems to go wrong, no matter how well you've planned for it? Well today was one of those days for me. I'm not usually one to rant or whine, but I think today is definitely rant-worthy, if for no other reason than to look back onl later with amusement.

I had a doctor's appointment in Boston at 9:30, usually a 3o minute ride, but I thought since we had a foot of snow yesterday and it was at rush hour that I'd give it a bit of extra time. I left the house at 8, allowing myself a good hour and a half, and within minutes found that traffic was at a dead stop. It took me an hour to drive what would have normally taken me 15 minutes.

I thought I was extremely clever in coming up with a plan B: I'd park my car and take the T into Boston. Yes! Apparently a few other people had the same idea. When I pulled into the parking lot the attendant informed me that he didn't have any space left and there wasn't any to be had at any of the other parking areas either. Wonderful!

I thought I was very resourceful when I found a parking lot designated for patients parking at the MGH in Chelsea. A minor technicality that I was going to be a MGH patient in Boston. I snagged a spot and walked to the T stop, paid my fare and waited for the train.

Guilt began eating at me; what if my car was towed? That would be a whopping fine. Ok, I'll leave the station, forfeit my fair, move my car and find a spot that is legal. I drove around for a bit and found a 2 hour meter on the street, plugged the meter and headed in the direction I thought was the T station. Found the station, paid my fare (again!) and got on the train. By now it's 9:15; my appointment is in 15 minutes. Even if I catch the 2 connecting trains immediately there is no way I'm going to be on time.

I call the office from the train and let them know I'm going to be a bit late; should I reschedule? After waiting on hold the answer was yes. Ok, so I get off the train, reverse direction and hope I can find my car on the side street whose name I no longer remember.

After a few wrong turns I did eventually find my car. No matter that it was only 22 degrees out with a wind chill in the single digits. I had my heated seat and thoroughly enjoyed the ride home. The rest of the day turned out to be quite like the first few hours with nothing going smoothly. To add insult to injury I ended up missing my afternoon yoga class (which I had been looking forward to even more than usual) because the furnace tech, who was scheduled to show up between 1-4, didn't appear until 4:30, which incidentally was the time I had to leave.

Thankfully days like this don't happen that often and when they do I can laugh about them (albeit after a hefty glass of red!) Looking back on the events they actually seem comical, but maybe that's just the wine talking. I'm really looking forward to tomorrow.

Sign of the Times

I'm probably the furthest thing from a financial wizard or economist, but it would take a lot to be able to ignore the latest news of the stock markets: the DJIA is down below 7,ooo for the first time in almost 10 years. It seems like the global economy is in a free-fall and I don't think anyone knows when it will stop. This is such a clear illustration of how we are all interconnected financially; we all depend upon each other. When will we realize that we are all responsible for each other's wellbeing as well? What happens in one corner of the world affects us all, whether it be financial, famine, civil war or genocide.

Despite all the dire financial and economic predictions, I'm not feeling that panicky about our own situation, probably because of Joe's new job. I don't worry that he's dispensible for this company. He's setting up procedures and policies that they've needed for quite some time, which will ensure the safety and quality of their product. After what happened with the peanut butter supplier everyone is quite aware of just how important that aspect of production is. So we're lucky that he is employed and not worried about the stability of his job.

Another reason I'm not as concerned as I might be is that during the year of his unemployment we learned many ways to economize. I hadn't realised how wasteful we used to be! Sure, we have always been fairly careful, but there is always room for improvement. We've discovered the difference between want and need. We have found ways to repurpose or recycle items so that even if we can't use something we can give it to someone who can. We've also taken things off other people's hands that they no longer want, saving ourselves the expense and the other person from tossing something into the landfill.

I guess you never truly know how little you can get by on until you have to: necessity is the mother of invention and all that. The lesson I'm taking from the times is that we're all stronger than we think; we don't need as much as we think we do and finally, it isn't the freedom money gives you that makes you happy- it's the freedom from wanting what you can't have.