Monday, December 27, 2010

The Holidays

Christmas has come and gone already which is so hard to believe.  I do not know where the time went.  For awhile there, I didn't think we'd have much of a Christmas at all as things got a bit more hectic than usual.

On December the 15, I was giving our little gray dog, Pudding, a bath and noticed a nasty lump on her back.   I called the vet and they graciously allowed me to bring her right in, around 5PM that very night.  Turns out the lump was nothing to worry about too much, the vet put her on antibiotics and it seems to be healing.  Since she is eleven years old, many thoughts crossed my mind, and I was glad I did not have to face any impossible decisions just yet.   She is eating and romping around just fine, so thankfully, this time, she should be ok.

Joel had driven Pudding and I to the vet and since it was rather late at night and I hadn't a clue what I was going to make for supper, we stopped at a fast food restaurant and brought supper home with us.  Carl and Joel ordered the usual fare, and I opted for something different, which was tasty, but by 2AM that night, I found myself in dire straits, even sicker than my proverbial dog.  I don't know if it was the food or a virus, but whatever it was, it was nasty.  My timing was impeccable, I was supposed to be going  for my second sleep study the next day, and was so looking forward to getting it over with before the first of the year. Alas, it was not to be.

I thought maybe it would be a 24 hour bug, but it turned out to be a lot longer than that, almost five days later, before I finally felt a bit better.  No one else in the house fell ill, thankfully,  so whatever it was, it was my own private plague.  (Maybe that's what I get for not cooking??)  Psychosomatic or not, it will be a long time before I visit that fast food restaurant again. 

Luckily, I was able to reschedule the sleep test for December 22, which was last week Monday.  I went back into the hospital and got all wired up for the second time.  Once again, I crawled into bed and tried to sleep, just like the first test, but now with the addition of a sleep apnea mask on my head.  Oh, dear....I had no idea the masks were so tight.  I'm hoping that's something that can be adjusted because I have to admit, the thing was far from comfortable and I sure was not having any better luck sleeping, so the technician brought me another sleeping pill.  I think I could have used two or three sleeping pills, but she said I did fall asleep eventually.  She tried four different face masks on me, from one that just covered my nose to a full face mask, which I ended up with since, apparently, I open my mouth a lot.  Figures, I can't keep my mouth shut even when I'm asleep.

I still don't know what the results of the study were, but I guess I'll hear from them eventually.  One thing I do know the result of, the sight of myself in a sleep apnea mask is not one I will soon forget, wow..!

Of course, being sick set my Christmas preparations way behind, and since I am a Procrastinatoe in the first place, you can imagine how far behind I was.  I managed to write out Christmas cards while I was sick, but then had a few 'Returned to Sender' because I forgot to put stamps on them.  Good grief.  I can only imagine what the postman thought. (At least none of the cards I sent out with proper postage came back that way.)

Just before Christmas, I finally started to feel more healthy and enthusiastic and managed to get my Christmas sewing done even though I burned a lot of midnight oil in the process. We had a very nice Christmas Day with Mom and Ann as our guests.
2009's Poinsettia Lamp

Carl has a few days off of work, so we are trying to reorganize the sewing room and stained glass studio so I can finish up some sewing projects and we can get back to work on our next stained glass lamp.  Last year we somehow found the time to work on the Pachyberm right up until the first week in December and had a good start on our Poinsettia lamp.  This year didn't work out quite as well, but we do have a lot of winter in front of us yet; we should be able to get at least one shade made before spring.

If we don't procrastinate.

But, hey, if I get my sleep problem treated, maybe I'll find I have a lot more energy.  So far, I have found people divided into two camps, those who have CPAP machines who feel their lives have changed for the better, in some cases, amazingly so much better, to those who dislike the machines and don't think it helps much at all.  After listening to my snoring when I tape recorded myself, I really don't know if it would be possible to have a worse night's sleep then I do now. If I ever do get a machine,  I sure hope I'm in the first camp.  I can always hope, right? 

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Doggies, it's Cold Outside

A Rare sight...
I know it's cold out when our two dogs are this close to each other!  Pudding, on the left, and Teddy, on the right, are brother and sister, about six months apart in age.  We have had Teddy since he was a puppy, over ten years now, but Pudding is a late arrival, having been with us only a year, she was Ann's family dog but needed a new home and we are happy to have her.

Pudding is a very loving; she would rather roll over and have her belly scratched and lick your hand than do anything else.  Teddy is feisty and though he enjoys a good belly rub, he'd much rather chase a ball  than be a couch potato.  Pudding loves to be loved, and Teddy loves to growl.  We always said he had a greeting disorder, because try as I might to socialize him, his usual greeting to most people is a growl.  These two dogs are polar opposites.

Teddy had to give up being an 'only' dog and has had to share many things he would rather not, but I have to say, he's been a gentleman for the most part and always defers to his sister in most things.  Pudding gets to go out and come in the door first, gets the first treat, and picks the best place to sleep.  For the first year, they spent most of their time basically ignoring each other, it was clearly a case of Canine Cold Shoulder/Silent Treatment.  "Talk to the paw, I'm like so not into you."  If they bumped into each other by accident it was as if they had touched something electrical.....they would both stop dead in their tracks and go the other way.  Going for walks was another adventure in knot-ology, because they were constantly getting wrapped around each others leashes.  But with the onset of colder weather, these two have grudgingly given up the feud, apparently, and have come to terms with their territorial issues for the sake of comfort.

And it has been cold.  Single digit cold.  And with the windchill factored in, well below zero.  But we're blessed with a nice, deep blanket of snow on the ground which is always a good thing.  The last snowstorm on the weekend was a doozy, I think we received about 12".  It had to blow around alot and made some fantastic drifts, too.  Joel spent all afternoon on Sunday just clearing out the yard here and at Mom's.  By mid-afternoon the wind had picked up very much and the temperatures were dropping steadily.

Carl's car, under cover

Big drift in front of the garage door.
Joel to the rescue.
The road is there somewhere.

Carl shoveling out to the chicken coop

Hard to believe, less than 24 hours before, there was no snow at all.
Might be awhile before we get back into Mom's old shed.
For all the work this much snow makes, there's also another side to it, the beauty.

One cool chair.
It's cold out, but we just have to make the best of it.  We'll do what we have to do to stay warm.

Desperate times call for desperate measures, up to and including:

Sleeping with the Enemy.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Angels on High

   I can truly say I am done working in the garden for a few months now.  We are in the midst of a winter blizzard and by the looks of things, come morning we'll have over 12" of snow on the ground.  I went out this afternoon in the midst of the storm to buy groceries in case we get snowed in.  Just before dark,  Carl and I went out to deal with a few last minute chores.  Since we are getting 'snowage' of epic proportions, I decided it was time to put away the lawn chairs we still had out by the campfire ring.  Hard to believe last weekend we had a campfire, my, what a difference a week makes in the winter.  The wind is howling through the trees in the woods and the snow is pelting the house.  It is a good time to stay indoors, nice and snug.

I really don't know what it would be like to garden all year round.  This was the first year since 2002 that we didn't have a major garden project in the works right up until the snow put an end to it.   I can honestly say it is a relief to be able to take a break from the garden for a few months and concentrate on things in the house that need doing.  (And boy, do things need doing.)

Last weekend we were working on clearing out the lower limbs from our eight acres of white pine trees and while Joel had the chain saw out, I asked him to cut down a small volunteer Scotch pine I had growing on the back of the quarry hill.  The tree had come up from seed a few years back, having sprouted in a rock crevice.  I decided to let it grow and harvest it for the holidays.  No, it is not a beautiful tree by any means, but it's homegrown and free.
Since the tree is little, I don't have enough room for all the decorations I own (and I do have way too many) but there are two very special ornaments that always had a place on the tree every Christmas for the last seventy years.
With her body made out of a clothespin and her wings made from a pipe cleaner covered in tin foil, wearing a  robe made from an old curtain, this angel is always on our tree.
Along with this angel, with  her pipe cleaner arms and halo.
My mother, Lucille, doesn't think they are special at all, but that's because she made them back in 1940, the first year she was married.  The Depression was supposedly over by that time, but money on the farm was tight that Christmas.  Mom said she had a tiny little Christmas tree to decorate with one set of twelve blue light bulbs, a few blue plastic bell ornaments and nothing else.  Mom was a 20 year old farm wife and had daily chores to do, milking cows twice a day, getting up before sunrise and going to bed very late some nights, but she loved to craft, so she transformed pipe cleaners, clothespins and an old curtain and some aluminum foil into angels for their tree. 

 By the time I was born in 1958, the little angels were already 18 years old, and every year when Mom and I decorated the tree, she would sigh with embarrassment when she found the two angels in the box of ornaments.  One year, she threw them both in the wastebasket and I was  horrified.  I ran and fished them back out and made her promise not to ever throw the two angels away again.   Mom tsk-tsked at me, but agreed she wouldn't.

    When I got married and moved to our new home, Mom gave me all her Christmas ornaments, and the little angels came along.  When our two boys were little, I told them we had to hang the angels close to the top of the tree so Grandma couldn't reach them (Mom's only 5' tall) because once again, she was so embarrassed to see them on the tree.  The boys readily agreed to guard the angels because they were Special and helped me hang them far, far up in the tree to protect them from Marauding Grandma.

"Why do you keep those silly old things?" she chided me again this year.  "You have so many other beautiful, fancy ornaments for your tree."

It was my turn to tsk-tsk her.

No, they are not fancy or made from costly materials, but they are priceless to me.

The angels turned 70 this year.   
My dear mother turned 90.

Yes, our tree is short, but it is still taller than my mother, and the angels are at a high enough elevation to be safe for one more Christmas.  

But we'll still keep an eye on Grandma.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Progress, or Lack Thereof

Things here at Procrastination Headquarters are going about the same as usual, I'm still putting things off that need doing and time is still going faster than ever.  Over the weekend, I tried to decorate some of the urns in the driveway, but I waited too long and the leftover potting soil was a frozen hunk.  I was trying to cram assorted pine, spruce and twig branches into the soil with no luck.  Of course, I picked a very cold, raw day to do this project, and didn't get out there until almost 4PM and sunset.  I decided to ask dear old Carl what to do because he never fails me when it comes to ideas.

Carl has been working on trying to get our old oil barrel out of the basement for over a week.  Since we put in the geothermal heat pump last year, the barrel is simply a waste of space as we have no need for fuel oil in the house anymore.  However, getting the barrel out of the basement is proving to be a monumental task because Carl's Piles of Useful Things are getting in the way and there's really only room for one person to work on it at at time right now.  So he was glad of the break to take on my dilemma of the moment and suggested I use a cordless drill with a large bit to drill holes in the dirt.  What a good idea, and it worked like a charm.

Unbeknownst to me at first, he followed me out of the house to take pictures of his wife drilling holes in dirt.  My, we lead an exciting life, don't we?

Ernie the Urn and My Best Side Again (sigh)
At this point I didn't realize Carl was photographing my diligent efforts.  (I should add here that I haven't finished decorating Ernie yet, so there won't even be a pretty picture of a completed arrangement forthcoming.) 
Why won't this twig fit?  Must drill the hole wider.
And I'm still oblivious to my stalker.
It was at this point that I noticed the camera with a grinning husband attached to it.
So I turned my back on him again.
Yes, there is nothing more beautiful than a bunch of long-legged pine branches stuck straight up and down in an urn, no sirree.  Doesn't get any better than that.  Where's the different  foliage textures and colors, the natural spacing and drape of the boughs?  How about some color?  It was getting dark...heck, I've got time yet...right?  I'll come back to Ernie eventually, hopefully before Christmas is over. 
Luckily the sunset was much more beautiful that night.

Joel and I (and Ann, this past weekend) have been working on clearing out the lower branches from our white pines in the back eight acres.  When Carl and I planted the pines back in 1992, they were planted in rows and too close together and of course, many of the limbs are dying off on the bottom.  Of the original 8000 trees we planted, only around five hundred survived, but it is from these survivors we harvest the pine needle mulch for the gardens.  Clearing out the lower branches makes it much easier to walk through the little woods.   Joel takes a chainsaw and cuts the dead limbs off and then we toss them on the trailer and light the campfire turning it into a bonfire.  Though you get a little cold working in 20 degree weather with a strong northerly wind, having the bonfire to come back to warm up with is nice. 
Quarry Pond frozen already and Procrastinator Karen did not cut back the lilies which will make for rather bumpy ice skating.

 There's Joel, adding more fuel to the fire.  We were done working by around 7PM and though the campfire felt good, I was too wimpy to stand out in the cold and eat, so I brought some hot dogs out and we cooked them over the fire and went back inside to eat them for supper.  This was probably the last campfire cookout until spring.

So, today I went back to see my doctor.  Things are looking a little better, though we really don't know what happened, probably chalk it all up to menopause and hopefully---to sleep apnea.  One thing the doctor did not like is my weight.  I don't like it much either, so she's not alone with that sentiment.  Since I haven't been feeling well, my weight has crept up again.  She gave me some very specific advice, "You have to watch what you are cramming into your mouth and exercise more." 

I assured her I do watch what I cram in, every delicious last morsel of it.  

Then I made a mistake, I said, "My goal is to walk five miles a day, and admittedly, lately I haven't been reaching that goal, but I hope to get back in the swing of it."

She was staring at the computer screen they use for record-keeping nowadays, and at my proud declaration of 'exercise' she turned to me with a bemused look.

"Five miles?  That is nothing.  You need to walk at least ten miles a day to see results.  In fact, 15 miles a day would be better.  I walk at least that on a daily basis just seeing patients in the clinic here."

Whoa.  Ten miles a day?  Fifteen??  Oh, I felt like a failure.  Here I go and say I'm aiming for five measly miles and think that's a respectable number only to get blown off the blacktop so to speak.   Seriously?  I have to walk 15 miles a DAY?  Wow.  See, I fell for the information that said a person should try to walk at least 10,000 steps a day for exercise and I never leave home without the trusty computerized pedometer Joel gave me several years ago. 
When I was feeling better awhile back, in the late winter and early spring, our son David would drop me off about three and a half or four miles from home in the morning on his way to work and Procrastinator Karen would have no choice but to walk home.   On many mornings, I brought our two little dogs, Teddy and Pudding along, too.  If they got tired, I would carry them for awhile.   It worked out very well, really, because there was no way I could cut the walk any shorter if I ever wanted to see home again.  During the rest of the day, I would easily get my 10,000 steps and I felt invigorated.  I will never be skinny, but I sure felt physically fit.  In the summer, I have no problem getting five miles on just working in the garden, so I don't need to walk as much on the road.

But then, some things happened that messed up my workout.  The most alarming thing happened in early March of 2010. 

 Teddy and Pudding and I had already walked two miles and were on our last mile.  On our rural route, we have to go past a house with two big German Shepherd dogs with Nasty, Pointy Teeth (to quote Monty Python).   There is an electrified, invisible dog fence where the poor dogs wear shock collars to keep them in their yard, but for over a year, they would charge the electronic fence, snarling and barking and running along the perimeter of their yard until I would get past.  They would get so frustrated barking and not being able to get at me that at times they would turn on each other and mock-fight in their own yard.  Their behavior gave me the creeps, but they stayed on their side of the invisible fence, so I hoped and yes, prayed, that the batteries in their shock collars would never go dead.  

It didn't matter if I had my own dogs with me or not, they acted just the same if I was alone.  When I did have Teddy and Pudding along, I would pick them up until we got well past the Psycho Dogs' Yard, then I would put them down and we would finish our walk in peace. 

Well, on this sunny morning in March, we approached the yard and neither of the dogs were in sight, so we quietly walked on by.  Some days we would get lucky like that; either they were asleep or locked in the garage, but it was always nice not to have them salivating just a hop, skip and a jump across the ditch away from us.  

On this fateful March morning, we were just past their yard when they were alerted to our presence and came charging out on a dead run like usual, barking and growling fearsomely.  I never made eye contact with the dogs, knowing this would only egg them on, but I did keep them in my peripheral vision all the time just in case today was the day the Energizer Bunny Batteries failed.

We were about 30 feet down the road past their house when I chanced a glance over my shoulder at the two snarling dogs and that's when it happened.  Uttering a frenzied yelp of pain from his shock collar while going through the electronic fence, the male German Shepherd came careening out of his yard and charged out onto the road at me and my two little dogs.  

I have to back up a little here in this story:  Carl and I used to own a German Shepherd named Sparky.   Sparky lived to be 13 years old was a wonderful pet, but I must confess, if he had not been my dog, I would have been terrified to have to face him if I were an intruder. 

And I was terrified of this snarling, growling and wildly barking dog coming straight at us at a breakneck pace.  It all happened so fast.   Teddy and Pudding were so scared they took off running in the opposite direction, but I had the presence of mind to grab their leashes up close to me and reel them in as near as possible so I was between them and the approaching menace.  I knew if either of my dogs slipped their collars and ran, the attacking dog would be upon them in a second and kill them.  I had seen our Sparky kill a raccoon once, they are incredibly powerful dogs.

Faced with an oncoming Hound from Hades, I stood as tall as I could and whirled around and faced him.  I let loose a guttural bellow that even startled me; I didn't just yell, I roared at him.


Thank God Above, this stopped the galloping dog in his tracks.  He did not know what to do with this turn of events.  I was supposed to run away and he was supposed to rip off my leg.  That was his Canine Plan.  He hadn't counted on a Crazy Woman standing stock still in the middle of the road screaming at him like an incensed water buffalo.

He stopped, shocked, about four feet from me.   I could see all the hair standing up on his back and his bright, white canine teeth flashing in the sun; not a pleasant sight, let me tell you.     I knew I didn't have much time.  And just as suddenly, the shock wore off and he crept closer with his head down, growling ferociously and eyeballing me and my two terrified ten pound Shih Tzus who were right up tight to my legs.  I wanted so badly to scoop them both up, but knowing if I took my eyes off the big dog he would be upon us in a split second, I couldn't risk it.  I had to stand tall and not back down.  I know there are warnings out there for just this sort of thing, you should never pick up your dog if another dog is going to attack you because then you will be in the middle of a dog fight.  Well, my Smothering Instinct (yes, I have to admit, I do love these little dogs of mine so very much) kicked in and there was no way I was going to let this demon get to my two pets if I could help it. 

I continued my roaring back at him, but he kept advancing.  Finally, desperation got the best of me and I took several stomping steps toward him, flinging my free arm at him and ordering him to go back home.  When I advanced on him, it unnerved him and he backed way off, and started barking again, but clearly confused.  When he backed up, I did too, but as soon as I did, he came charging again, so I kept up the bellowing and stomping routine until the little dogs and I were about 25 feet away from him.  Finally, after about six minutes of this (and believe me, it felt more like an hour!) he gave up and with a few parting barks, turned around and headed back towards his yard.  Then he gave another yelp of pain as he could not cross back into his own yard again due to the shock collar doing it's thing, shocking him when he got too close to the line. Our would-be attacker headed for the nearby highway since he couldn't go back home.  

I scooped up my shaking dogs and walking backwards until I could tell he wasn't going to chase us again, made a beeline for home.  The adrenaline rush set in then, and I was very shaky for awhile.  This was just too close for comfort.  I contacted the owners and they said I didn't have to worry, he never bit them, and they would look into the fence problem.   I don't know if the problem is solved or not, but I don't want to test those waters again.  I was lucky once.  I might not be so lucky the second time because dogs are smart.

So I was done walking that stretch of road.  But it was nearly summer and I could get my walk in around the farm.  Things were ok until August, when I started feeling odd, for lack of a better word and I didn't get in nearly as many miles afterward.  And now, though I'm feeling a little better, it's winter.  I'm still walking, but I can tell you this, I'm not putting on ten or fifteen miles a day.  Barely five, and sometimes, barely three.  And some days, when I was really down and out, barely one.

My next sleep study test is scheduled for two days before Christmas.  My doctor said it will take about three months to feel the full effect of a good night's rest and I'm hopeful.  She says I should get a treadmill.  I suppose she's right.  But the thought of plodding on a treadmill for 15 miles seems like punishment. I could join a gym. (If I had any money left from the hospital bills, LOL!)  I guess I could become a mall walker.  I don't go to malls very often, but I have seen the groups of grimly determined folks speed-walking down the hallways of the mall in the winter.  They don't look very happy. 

I'd have to drive 13 miles to get to the nearest mall every day....but, wait, I could WALK to the mall and then I'd only need to walk another two miles IN the mall...but I can't bring my doggies.

Pudding, all dressed up for Winter Walkies
Oh, I'll think of something.  But I'm still stunned by the 10-15 miles a day thing.  Wow.  All of you people out there who are in shape, hear this:

I SALUTE YOU!  You are my idols!

Fifteen miles makes my head spin.  Just like last night:

Spinning a strand of Christmas lights
Walking on,


Saturday, December 4, 2010

Night Moves

In my desperate attempt to get things ready for Christmas here at Procrastinatoe Gardens, I have been trying to get our Annual Family Photograph ready for mailing along with the Christmas cards.  All of the other blogs I have been visiting are in full swing, the trees (yes, many of you have multiple Christmas trees!!) are up and decorated fantastically along with the rest of your homes and gardens.  (I am feeling inadequate here and time is running out....but I do have an excuse-- I AM sleep deprived, ha!)

Some of you may remember my post about the actual photo session (In Our Natural Habitat) and how we just couldn't get our act together.  Out of a mere few hundred pictures (gotta love digital cameras) I think we had four that were slight possibilities.

The reason I am on this silly quest for the Perfect Family Photo is all the fault of a magazine article and the Win A Tractor!  Show Us Your Backyard Makeover Contest.   (More about that in the aforementioned post if you're interested.)  We were cutting it close to the deadline for mailing our entry, I know what else is new? and using a tiny digital camera on a tripod and the automatic timer along with Joel's fantastic sprinting ability, we managed to get a nice photo.  Not a tractor-winning photo (or even an honorable mention) but a nice photo nonetheless.  (By the way, when the magazine announced the contest's winner a few months later and interviewed the lady, she said she was going to sell the tractor because she had no room to even turn around in her very small yard with it.)  I used the picture we took for the contest in my Christmas card back in 2006 and many people said they liked it and the rest is history....we keep taking a family photo every year with mixed results.

Anyway, last night I went to work on trying to get a picture ready.  Some of the commenters on the photo shoot post thought we had some possibilities in October and one of them, I think it was Junebug, said we should make a mosaic of the pictures.  So, I've been trying out my vast, ok, teeny talents at putting photos together.

This was my first attempt...until Joel reminded me I have to stick to a size I can stuff in an envelope and keep the budget under a dull roar and keep the family photo large enough so people don't need a magnifying glass to see us.
Ok, here's that size........hmmmmmmmm.  Next.

Eileen over at Gatsby's Gardens suggested we use just the shot of Carl and I in the dome. (I do like this one!)

Here we are, busy bees in the middle of the lily
The one above isn't too bad, but on second thought, this doesn't look very much like Christmas, does it?

Since I am trying to do a mosaic, I thought why not add a Christmas theme to the photo?  The one area I do have sort of kind of decorated is outside.  (Did I ever mention I don't really like to be in the house much?  Gads, I miss the garden.)  Joel was home from work last night and I asked him to take some photos of the Christmas lights in the yard for me while nagging Carl to help me get the lights fixed on several of my decorations.  Here is the end result of the nagging and the photo shoot:

Reindeer on the Pachyberm
Back to Mosaic Land:
This one is ok.

I think I may have found one we could use:
Should I add the Christmas border, or not?

 Decisions, decisions.

If I had more time, I'd work longer on the mosaic editing, but one thing is sure, time is running out!  I still have to take these images to a local big box store and see if I can figure out how to make their machine print them up, which should be good for another post, I can about imagine the fun I will have with the machine.  Maybe I'll print off a few different ones just to be goofy. 

Oh, I did get a phone call from the sleep doctor (somnalogist?) on Friday just before 5PM. I had given up hope on hearing from him before next week.  Turns out I do have moderate sleep apnea and my oxygen saturation is not all that great, so they want me to come in for another sleep test, this time with the CPAP machine on all night.  I hope I can get in before the first of the year, even if it means I won't have everything done for Christmas.  

Maybe if I qualify for a machine, I won't be tired all the time....there will be no more procrastination...I won't need to Create A Crisis to get things done, why, I might lose weight, I'll look younger, I'll..........ok, I'll quit dreaming out loud here;  this Miracle Machine had better come with a Magic Lantern and a Genie too, huh?