Monday, March 13, 2023

Another Sunday, Another Snowstorm

 As I started writing this on Sunday afternoon, the snow was gently wafting down past the upstairs windows.  Every now and then a startlingly brilliant flash of red would appear as two male cardinals fought over who is the boss of the bird feeders.  Even though the feeders are at ground level, the spat rose to the height of the second story as the birds settled their argument, albeit, grudgingly, and went back to scrounging in the snow for sunflower seeds.  Another Sunday afternoon, another blizzard.

 This blizzard, for me at least, lacks the intensity of a December/February assault as much of the snow is melting simultaneously.  However, I've not been out on the roads driving, so what that is like at the moment, I can only hazard a guess.  Slippery, I'm sure.

Monday, February 13, 2023

Walking Backwards Through Life

 You've heard it said before, 'Hindsight is 20/20'. I suspect for almost everyone, this adage holds true.   If I'd only known what would have happened when confronted with many decisions throughout my life I could have avoided a great deal of pain and subsequent regret.  But, it is also said that life can only be lived moving forward.  We cannot go back.

 I'm an avid walker, five miles a day, on average. I'm not an athlete by any means, not apt to break any land speed records.  I walk for my health, both physical and mental.  It is obvious the older I get that walking won't be the magic exercise to shed all the pesky pounds that have somehow hitched a ride on my midsection. 

 I read somewhere stress is a big culprit.  I have had my share of stress, starting from when I was a young child.  Things at home were always tense as my father had a hair-trigger temper which led to my mother and me walking on eggshells for decades.  Waiting for the other proverbial shoe to drop all my life led to anxiety, worry, sleeplessness and a massive craving of sugar to cope. 

I was still farming up until I was twenty, and was able to counter any weight gain with the higher metabolism of youth.  Though it wasn't something I was consciously trying to do, muscle-building activities, such as tossing bales of hay around and carrying forty pound milk pails to and fro on a daily basis probably allowed me to eat far more and not see any weight gain.  Farming is all about weight-lifting, and being exhausted at the end of the day, hitting the pillow and being instantly asleep.

Well, then I married at twenty, going from hard physical labor to working an office job for a decade, and slowly, the weight came on.  I was never a thin girl, but my height was an advantage and could hide a lot of flaws on my frame.  Motherhood at twenty-eight and again at thirty-two coupled with even more sedentary activities added a few more ounces and then the big one, menopause dealt the biggest blow of all.   

Well, not quite the biggest, I guess, the diagnosis and subsequent surgeries since 2021 haven't helped one bit. Since my mastectomies, I look like a little old man with a large pot belly.  Not very attractive to say the least.  As blows go, cancer is a tough one.  Though so far I have no further evidence of disease, I was not able to tolerate the prescribed hormone blockers; the additional pain of rapidly increased joint issues, liver and kidney function decreases, insomnia and depression, led me to make the decision to forego the treatment and see what happens.  

The oncologist isn't happy with me, but did admit I am far from the only person who cannot live with the side effects.  I was blessed to not need chemotherapy and could bypass radiation, the latter because I opted for complete removal of the breasts instead of a lumpectomy.  My presence on many survivor groups has shown there is no perfect answer.  The hormone blockers might work to prevent a return of cancer, but they will also wreak havoc on all body systems as they leave no trace of estrogen behind.  Heart disease and osteoporosis, joint replacement, on and on. 

There's no absolute guarantee the drug will prevent a return as I've met women who bravely battled all the side effects of the blockers for years and, sadly, the cancer returned. What's a woman to do?  If I remain blessed in the future is something only time will tell. There's that 20/20 hindsight thing again.

As I am not young anymore, I know my best years are behind me.   Stressing over the right decisions to make and the fears of what if I do take the meds and then this happens? Or what if I don't take the meds and that happens?  Or what if I do take the meds and all of the above happens?  What if pigs could fly?  I wasted months beating myself up over those decisions.  In the end, sadly, no one makes it out alive.

Gee, this is a cheery little post.  

Anyway, back to the walking thing. I walk every day just hoping to get a little less flab in front of me and keep my mind from splintering off in all directions. Lately I've noticed my left knee is acting up a little bit now and then.  My back, on the other hand, is throwing a fit almost all day and night, along with my pectoral muscles from the surgeries.  

It's been a free-for-all in this wreck of a skeleton of mine, which then led me back to Miranda Esmonde-White of 'Classical Stretch' and 'Essentrics' fame.  Now in her seventies, she is graceful and lithe and promises me every day to 'age backward' as long as I show up to stretch religiously with her.  I used to do her workouts now and then probably ten years ago, but what really spoke to me recently was the fact she is also a breast cancer survivor.  

I don't know her entire story, but she was a former ballerina who was teaching stretching classes in Canada when PBS made her the offer of her own show.   I'm not sure how old she was, possibly her early 50's or so, but tragically, just as she was to start filming for PBS, she was diagnosed with breast cancer.  She has a video online where she discusses what happened to her physically as well as emotionally; she felt she would never be able to stretch or move her arms again after her surgery and descended into a dark pit of depression.  But she persevered with the help of her daughter and a physical therapist and is still 'aging backwards' with her very contagious enthusiasm for what exercise can do for everyone.  She gives me so much hope.  And believe me, though 'Classical Stretch' looks easy when watching it from a recliner, the rubber meets the road when you actually do it.  

Over the years I've run the gamut of punishing, seemingly endless aerobics, and other silly things, but her program is one I feel builds a person up and doesn't tear them down.  'Pain is weakness leaving the body' was another saying from back in the day, along with 'no pain, no gain' attitudes, that may work when a person was younger, but also does a lot of damage.  Miranda's program is about regaining what I've lost, flexibility and strength, all in a half hour a day. 

My physical therapist warned me I'll have to stretch my pectoral muscles every day for the rest of my life or they will tighten up and cause more trouble down the road.  It's a habit now, something I don't really dread doing, but it would be nice if the pain would subside eventually.  It's not quite a year since my last revision surgery and over thirty inches of incisions, so maybe with a little more time.  I remain hopeful.   And I try not to stress.  After all, anything can happen and often does, good and bad, in life.  Often it is what you least expect.  My mother always said she never worried.  There's something to be said for that philosophy, as she lived to be ninety-six.

On my walk on Sunday night, I was delighted to have another beautiful sunset.  

The weather was a balmy forty degrees during the day which is warm for February.  I can only go so far from home as dusk falls, because I do not want to be walking back entirely in the dark. Subsequently, I have devised an odd plan to keep walking and not have to turn my back on the sunsets.  

I'd read knees can be strengthened by simply walking backward for some distance.  With nothing to lose,  I've been trying it, and it actually does seem to help.  Walking backward isn't something that comes naturally, and I guess there's some evidence it actually burns more calories than walking forward, but for that to work perfectly, I have to make sure I don't strap on the feedbag afterward.  

I head out an hour before sunset and walk west to my designated stopping point a mile from home and then walk backward for a quarter mile or more, and then go forward again and repeat until time's up or the sun has set.  (It really helps to live on a semi-deserted side road with no curious onlookers, or I could be hauled away, I suppose.)

Walking backward and forward, I can enjoy the lingering sunsets and get my steps in as well.  It's a win-win.

I guess it doesn't take much to entertain me, does it?  But before I know it, the hour is up and I'm back in the driveway.

How's that old joke go?  

'Grandma started walking five miles a day when she was sixty.  She's ninety-seven now, and we don't know where the heck she is.'

Someone should have told that grandma to walk backwards now and then.  She'd be a lot closer to home.





Thursday, February 2, 2023

February 1, 2023

 January, traditionally Wisconsin's coldest month is now behind us once again. There wasn't a whole lot to complain about this year as far as temperatures went, I was able to walk the road and even the farm almost every day as most of the snow melted mid-month.  It wasn't until a week ago we had enough snow to cross-country ski since December.  Bitterly cold temperatures were back for a few days last week, but moderated to 17 above zero today.

Trekking around the Back Eight on my skis, I found myself huffing and puffing more than I'd like.  Apparently too many chocolate covered peanut balls at Christmas wasn't too bright an idea after all. 

A few days of being cooped up with cold weather and high winds takes a toll on this old gal.  Watching the birds gather at the feeders is always entertaining, though.  The amount of bird seed we go through in a season is amazing.

Sometimes I perch in the upstairs window to watch the flurry of activity, especially when a snowstorm is in progress.


Not much else is going on around here.  We've been working on going through decades of 'stuff' that has accumulated over the years.  Carl has always been the optimistic person in this marriage and his collection of assorted things needs thinning.  He's working on it daily, but letting go is not his strong suit.  It's a daily battle for me to keep my mouth shut out of frustration and I admit, I fail more than I win.  That's why it's important I get outside to exercise every day for as long as my hands and feet can stand the cold.  Curbs the ol' tongue.

Every new snowfall has a different effect on the view.  The normally all brown woods across the road transformed into look-alike birch trees for a few days last week.  I like to walk a mile before noon or so and then again at sunset for a total of five miles a day.  

 For a few weeks, it seemed every day was cloudy.  My geraniums in the windows upstairs were suffering from the lack of light, dropping leaves. 

On January 9, we had a beautiful reprieve from the gloom.  Sunny days are very welcomed after so much darkness.


On nights like these, I never want to quit walking west into the sunset.  My cellphone cannot capture the beauty of the sight, though.

The blizzard in December left us with some very high and extremely hard drifts which almost all melted in January.  The tractor weighs over five thousand pounds.

Sadly, the 574 was making some strange noises, so she is now in for repairs with our mechanic friend, Adam.  He picked the tractor up last week Friday.  It's always melancholy watching her go down the road on a trailer, but I know she'll be back in better shape than ever.  The preliminary diagnosis is a possible water pump in need of replacement, but whatever it is, let's hope the next snowstorm holds off until we have her home again.  (Hey, isn't it normal to refer to ships as 'she'?  Well, my tractor is my ship, we sail around the farm together.)

 Tonight after skiing around the backyard, I walked on the road, pacing back and forth in front of the house for over an hour.  I am in yet another Fitbit challenge this week and since I missed going for my morning walk due to working on some tax paperwork (ugh) I had to make up for my sedentary nature in the afternoon by walking after dark.

 Tonight's sunset was very different with a large column of sunlight reflecting straight up for a few minutes. 

Once I hit the 10,000 step mark, I headed in to make supper.  Standing on the front porch, I took a picture of the stained glass silliness in the house with all the paperwork strewn on the table.  Hmmmm, perhaps we have gone a bit overboard.

February always goes by quickly.  I hope we have some time for a little creativity before spring.  All work and no playing with stained glass is no fun.

After all, eating too many peanut butter balls may be bad for the waistline, but is there ever such a thing as too much stained glass?


They are really a lot like potato chips, it's hard to stop at just one.

Thursday, January 5, 2023

January 5, 2023

 Well, here I go again, unable to sleep.  I read some article a long time ago which stated lying in bed wide awake trying to force slumber is fruitless and raises anxiety levels. The article was right.   My mind goes just about everywhere as I stare at the ceiling.  Since the mastectomies, I have four pillows carefully arranged to attempt comfort, but by the time I get them just right, I'm wide awake.   My back is cantankerous, too.  The new adjustable bed helps a bit, but there's no setting for instant sleep.   Too bad, for what the dumb bed cost, that feature should have been standard. 

 Listening to Carl snoring slightly, I alternately envy him and try to match my breathing to his, but it doesn't lull me into dozing off.  May as well get up. 

I wandered into the dark living room at 2:30 am, remembering to sidestep the fake garland I took off the railings on Tuesday.  I left my glasses in the bedroom, but not wanting to wake Carl, I'll leave them where they are.  From what I can tell, it snowed since 11:30pm when I first went to bed.   However, I'm very myopic, so I have no idea if the snow continues.

The weather had been wet and windy, sometimes sleet, sometimes pouring rain, but no snow until now. Good intentions were to take the outdoor decorations down on Monday, but well, we all know how good intentions go.  I did take what lights I could wrestle out from the snowbanks down last night (Wednesday) but they are all lying in piles on the front porch because I forgot the big trash can I use to store everything in which resides in the garage. 

Ugh, the garage.  To get there, I have to cross the driveway, which is an ice skating rink, albeit a bumpy one, and treacherous.  There is nothing graceful about me on ice, weird how that tendency changed over the years.  I decided to wait until Thursday, I'm nothing if not a great procrastinator. 

When I was young, there was nothing more fun than sliding around on ice.  Now I'm 64 and my pace and lack of gracefulness is showing.  When did I become so slow and stiff, terrified of falling?  Audrey and Joel caper across ice as if walking on dry ground, thinking nothing of it.  I mince along, holding my breath as if each step might trigger a trapdoor.

I wonder why I can't sleep, these are all things that go through my head.  Of course, I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop healthwise, I doubt I'll ever feel confident in that regard again, but no one ever knows what will eventually happen anyway, so my thoughts go from the what ifs to praying for those I know and back again. Weird how every ache and pain, heart racing or slowing can be unnerving. Things always do look darkest before the dawn.

There are also rules about not looking at screens before bedtime.  I agree,  reading a book or journaling would be preferable to writing a blog post on a cellphone because I'm too lazy to climb upstairs to my laptop.  But as I grow older, rules don't interest me as much. 

I have a young friend who is in her early 20's and it is always a delight to talk with her.   She has just delivered a baby boy two weeks before Christmas.  I know she's having some sleepless nights right about now, too.   How I remember those nights, pure torture at times.  Of course you love your baby, but never getting more than an hour or so of uninterrupted sleep is like walking in deep mud with snowshoes on.  Absolutely exhausting.  I never understood new motherhood, why when a woman needs rest from giving birth, does she have to be sleep deprived for months?  I should volunteer to take her night shift if she didn't live so far away.

I follow some forums on breast cancer, and I know I'm not alone with the persistent thoughts of gloom.  

However, I've led a quirky life, so it stands to reason my demise may be unexpected as well.  Icy driveways, sneaky staircase missed steps, rogue tree branches, jaywalking, heck, driving is terrifying.  Yes, I'm officially a senior citizen.  I have a Medicare card. 

But now that I've got all of this silliness off my chest, it's time to get those pillows arranged again. 

 Thanks for listening. 

Thursday, December 29, 2022

December 28, 2022

 I have to admit, I spend far too much time on the social media sites lately, but the one thing I read truly made me laugh out loud today was this:

"Look at this weather being all Springy and cute like it didn't just try to kill us last week."

I couldn't have said it better myself.  What a change from single digit temperatures with -35F below 40 mph windchills to a balmy near 40 degrees tonight.  

 I write my posts upstairs in the newly remodeled part of the house, right under the steeply slanted roof.  The weather must be warming up quite a bit as I was startled by the noise of the snow sliding down the steel roof overhead.  It is the strangest racket, and does raise my pulse quite a bit until I remember it's not Santa's sleigh and eight tiny reindeer prancing around up there.

The geraniums occupy the southern windows, basking in whatever sun they can during the dark days of winter.  I occupy the north side of the upstairs.
There's the back of my chair (in case you're interested) in the upper right-hand corner.

Carl sometimes joins me upstairs at night, but he prefers to watch Youtube videos downstairs on machining, welding, and to be perfectly honest, stuff I haven't got a great deal of interest in.  I think he gets a bit bored at times, too, because he drops the TV remote at regular intervals when he dozes off.  It looks downright painful to come downstairs and see him sleeping with his head dropped forward down to his chest, but luckily for him, he doesn't suffer any detrimental effects.

 I went out skiing on Monday night at sunset.  The wind had died down and it was around 2 degrees, though it felt much warmer without the incessant 'breeze'.  Years ago I invested in some rechargeable hand warmers that I can slip into my mittens.  They work very well, but don't last more than an hour in extremely cold temperatures.  I have one for each hand and a third goes into my pocket to keep my cellphone warm enough to work in case I need to call home.   Even new technology dislikes getting cold.

As I was out in the field taking pictures of the sunset, my dear high school friend, Dorothy, called me from Florida.  We were just recently reunited through a social media site, so good things do come from the internet at times.  Dorothy said Florida was facing record low temperatures, too.  We had a nice chat while I slowly skied around the farm.  I had to quit and come in when my feet started to ache, I don't have any foot warmers for them.  After being cooped up in the house for almost five days, I inhaled the pure, cold air like a parched man thirsts for water.  There is nothing like the silence of the snowy fields and the scent of the pine trees to make me feel alive again.

The snow is so hard in places, the deer can walk on top of the drifts, leaving their hoof prints in perfect condition.

We left tonight to pick up a prescription for me at the pharmacy in town, but the lights were out when we got there, so we decided to go for a little jaunt and see Christmas lights instead.  I guess we should have gone last week, because there were a lot of trees out in the snowbanks already, but we did find a neighborhood of very aristocratic homes that were still lit up in their Christmas finery. 

I'm always awed by how many extension cords the terrifically elaborate displays must entail.  Even for what we have set up on our humble home, the rat's nest of cords is almost overwhelming.  One home had dozens of their tall trees wrapped in lights all throughout their woods, so beautiful.  

I'm glad there are a few people like me who leave Christmas linger awhile.  It seems we're all in such a rush to start Christmas right after Halloween and then on the 26th, out it all goes.  I really don't get in the spirit of the holiday until a week or two afterward. 

When I was a little girl, my mother would wait until I went to bed to haul in a live Christmas tree and decorate it.  This, after she had been up since 5AM herself to milk cows in the morning and had worked all day long baking when she wasn't in the barn.  And knowing full well she'd have to go back to the barn at 5AM the next morning, too. Poor Mom, her Christmas Eve night was very short.   

When I woke up in the morning and crawled out of my warm bed onto the ice cold floor and made my way down the second story stairs to the heated first floor, the first sight I saw upon opening the door was a glistening Christmas tree with all the presents wrapped and waiting for me.  Mom and Dad would still be in the barn, but I would sit in awe and just stare at the beautiful spruce with each carefully draped tinsel strand shimmering.  I had to plug the tree in, of course, because they wouldn't have left a lit tree unattended while they were doing chores, but the joy of seeing those big light bulbs spring to life and be reflected in all the glass balls was magical.  This must be where I developed the love of flowers in bud and not in full bloom, for the promise of the beautiful presents and wondering what they all contained was enough for me.

I had to wait to open presents until my parents came in for breakfast after milking.  I didn't mind the wait, it gave me more time to soak in the beauty of the tree and the mystery of wonderful old Santa who made all this magic happen.  

It took me a few more years to realize the mysterious magic was due to a mother who loved me enough to make my very early Christmases a memory I will always cherish.  Mom had lost her own mother at age forty-one to tuberculosis when she was eight years old, and often told me she knew nothing about parenting, since her mother had been too sick to care for her as a child.  

Oh, Mom, there was never a time I didn't feel loved.  You were the Magic of my Christmas.

Sunday, December 25, 2022

Frosty Christmas Eve

 Merry Christmas 2022!    We're in the midst of the first winter blizzard of the year and though I'm usually patient with whatever Mother Nature dishes out, the last three days have been long.  The official snow total was around 7" for our area, but the wind is the big problem, along with the bitterly cold temperatures.  So far, we've been lucky and the power has stayed on.  After the past summer's tornado, power outages have been very common, six so far since June.

Lucky for me, I decorated the house and yard right after Thanksgiving, before we had any snow.  As of now the horse decorations are half buried and the banks are right up on the porch. 


 What a change from June, but that's why there's never a dull moment living in Wisconsin.  If you don't like the weather, stick around, it will change.

Backing up a month, we had a beautiful November.  My sunset walks were always sure to please with mild temperatures.  I always get stir-crazy during the gun deer season as I have to stay in the house for the most part.  I do wear blaze orange when I'm out in the garden, but it's no guarantee I won't end up having a few holes in me in case of overzealous hunters in the woods surrounding us.

I imagine most people would be bored walking the same mile of road for sixty-four years, but I never tire of the views.  My family has lived on this farm since the late 1890's and the road itself hasn't changed much over a hundred years.  If my grandparents were to see the farm  and surrounding area again, at least in this mile of ours, they would probably notice very little had changed.

Standing in the shadow of the old Aermotor windmill.
How green was my valley?  Back in early November, it was emerald green and lush.  Now it is snow-covered in drifts that resemble waves on the ocean. I cherish those last days of fall when most of the outdoor work is done and I have the freedom to wander around the land on foot.  Of course, I do the same in the winter on skis, but fall is the best of all.


The bright, blue skies of late October.

Our Audrey is six now, and growing up so fast.  She is such a delight to us.

Carrots are her favorite vegetable, and she planted the seeds and tended them right up to harvest.

 If it weren't for Audrey, my Christmas preparations would be far behind.  She decorated the two little trees we have and encouraged me to get going on the holiday baking.  She can roll out dough like a professional already and in a few short hours, we had Christmas cookies.  Grandpa got in on the action, too.

 I wish I had gotten going on my shopping earlier than I did; sadly, the orders weren't delivered today, though if the delivery person would have let me know they were coming, I could have gotten dressed and slogged through the snow to get to the road.  I guess we'll have to wait until we all get plowed out.

The last time we did any snow removal was Thursday, but with the nonstop wind, there's no point in getting a tractor out in subzero temperatures when the drifts will be right back with the 40 mph winds and -30 degree windchills.

Friday afternoon, the bird feeders were a little higher off the ground.
Also Friday night, the deer in the backyard were starting to disappear.
Christmas Eve, and the wild birds have a slippery slide to ride while they are eating.  Carl's been keeping the feeders full and they seem to appreciate it.

I can see why the delivery person decided to take a pass on trying to get into our yard.  We've had whiteout conditions at times today; actually the conditions were much worse today than when the storm began on Thursday.  The forecast is for the winds to die down a little by morning, but the temperature will only be around 9 degrees.  If the winds drop from the 35-50 mph back down to 15 mph, it would help.

I have peanut butter ball dough chilling on the front porch, so I guess I'd better bring it in before it's a frozen wad. 

The slippery slide is getting taller.

Wishful, wistful thinking, looking out the window today at sunset, and longing to go for my evening walk, but it will have to wait for a warmer day.   Funny, it doesn't look like -35 below windchill.  

Reflections of the railing rondels in the last of the sunset.

Joel let me know that little Audrey has a fever of 103.6.  We hope she feels better by morning, there's never a good time to be sick, but especially not on Christmas.  There's been so much illness lately. 

We ended Christmas Eve by making a batch of chocolate covered peanut butter balls.  No, we don't need the calories, but it's a tradition.  It's nearly 1AM now, and the wind doesn't seem to be shaking the house as much as it was earlier.  Maybe tomorrow we can dig ourselves out of the driveway. 

 Merry Christmas from our house to yours.