Friday, May 17, 2019

Now We Are Two

Violet had her second birthday last Sunday.  She did not have a birthday party.  Her parents do not think much of having parties for a one or two year old.  So while they will definitely have a third birthday party, she did not have one this year.

She hates her stroller now, and doesn't want to ride in it.  So my husband and I sent her a tricycle stroller for her birthday.  It is a full-sized tricycle but with a canopy and handles to make it a stroller as well.  It's a pretty large tricycle and she is not quite tall enough to reach the pedals so she uses the footrest.  When she no longer needs a stroller, the stroller parts can be removed and she will have a real tricycle that adjusts a lot so it will be the right size until she is six or so.  The trike/stroller is a genuine Bentley, made by the Bentley Motor Company.  My son said he always wanted to drive a Bentley and now he does.  Violet loves it because she can "steer" with the handlebars.

Violet and her Bentley  Yes, that's a Pink Floyd shirt.
Who doesn't love "Dark Side of the Moon"?

Violet's other big present was from her parents.  An outdoor gym, complete with slide, swings, ladders and a picnic table.  She loves going to a nearby park so she was really excited to have one in her own yard.  Before the workmen had driven off after assembling it, she grabbed her jacket and took it  to her father.  She climbed up the ladder and slid down the slide time and time again.  Her father told her she could come down the slide one more time and then they must go inside.  "Understand, Violet?  You may slide down one more time and then we go inside."  So Violet climbed up to the top of the slide.  She gave her father a defiant look and sat on the top of the slide.  Since she knew sliding down meant going inside, she simply sat there.  It's going to be an interesting year.

She loves the gym

Most readers know that Violet is adopted.  Her birth mother selected my son and his wife to be her parents when the adoption agency gave her several biographies and photographs of potential parents.  While my son and d-i-l would have preferred an open adoption, the birth mother wanted the adoption closed so they have never met her.  Immediately after the routine care after the birth, the little baby girl was taken to a room adjacent to the delivery room and handed to her adoptive parents.

Immediately after her birth in her new mother's arms

The hero of Violet's two years on earth is the courageous young woman who gave birth to her and who made two of the most difficult decisions any woman can make;  1.) to give birth and 2.) to have the baby adopted.  We are blessed and think of her often.  All of us still hope that some day she may want to be a part of Violet's life although we will continue to respect her decision.  Our son and d-i-l maintain a portfolio of Violet's life and send regular updates to the adoption agency to keep in case the birth mother wants to see the photographs.  And they have told the agency they would be happy to receive the mother in their home should she desire at any time to see Violet.

Instead of a birthday party on Violet's first birthday, our son and d-i-l held an open house for all the people who assisted in Violet's adoption.  Friends who wrote references and went for interviews, friends who helped get their house ready on short notice, the social workers from the adoption agency and others involved in any way dropped by for champagne and hors d'oeuvre and left with a small potted plant.  A violet, of course.

And beginning with her birth and both Mother's Days since Violet's parents plant violets in their natural yard in honor of the woman who gave them the most precious gift possible.

Violets are symbolic of love and harmony

Today's quotes come from birth mothers written anonymously.  They are the true heroes of the adoption story.  While people say how lucky the child is, the truth is how lucky the adoptive parents are.

"A mother's love for her child is like no other.  To be able to put that feeling aside because you want the best for your child is the most unselfish thing I know."

"He is mine in a way he will never be hers, yet he is hers in a way he will never be mine.  So together we are motherhood."

"If you love someone unconditionally and with your whole heart, then you will do what is best for them, not you.  I have never learned a harder lesson than giving my child up for adoption, and I probably never will.



Friday, May 10, 2019

Golden Lucy and Sweet Toddler

Lucy takes a very expensive arthritis pill every morning before breakfast.  So first thing when my husband gets up, she takes her place near the kitchen cabinet where the pills and treats are kept.  The two of them get up very early.

Lucy waits patients for her morning treat

Hurry up, Dad.  I'm waiting.

The pills have worked magic for her and she does not seem to have any pain when she takes them.  Her lameness has not progressed to other areas and does not seem any worse than before.  So if she does have a tumor (as the veterinarian highly suspects), it must be a slow-growing one.  She still seems to enjoy her life and we definitely enjoy having her around.

As Lucy ages and no longer runs in the outdoors, our Violet is growing fast  and running and discovering the wonders of the outdoors.  Their very large front yard is full of trees, so they do not plant grass but allow the natural bed of ground cover, weeds and wildflowers to flourish were the grass will not.  They did scatter daffodil bulbs all over which is gorgeous when they are blooming.  Regular trimming keeps the yard attractively managed so the neighbors don't complain about a "field" growing there.  But while others are killing off the dandelions and other wildflowers, our son and his family are enjoying them.

Violet recently discovered the art of blowing dandelion fluff.  She hasn't quite mastered it but she is learning.

First, you find just the right one.

Yes, this one is perfect, so I'll pick it.

Then you hold it up and blow and blow like this.
I think you need to hold it a bit closer, Violet.
But you have the right idea.

It's a common passage of life, isn't it?  Our dogs grow old and our grandchildren grow up.  It's Nature's way and we cannot stop either from happening.  And that's a good thing.  We humans have demonstrated over and over again that we should not be in charge.

Noted anthropologist, the late Margaret Mead provides our first quote:
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world;
Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."

And we would be remiss if we did not include a quote by Jim Fowler, renowned zoologist who died only two days ago:
"Our challenge for the future is that we realize that we are very much a part of the earth's ecosystem,
And we must learn to respect and live according to the basic biological laws of nature."

Compare those quotes to the ones from our (gulp) Secretary of State, Michael Pompeo who is excited about the melting sea ice in the Arctic.  In a speech at the Arctic Summit in Finland, Pompeo gave us the following quote:
"Steady reductions in sea ice will open new passageways and new opportunities for trade...the forefront of opportunity and abundance."
Yes, the Arctic region has reportedly lost 90,000 square miles of sea ice since last year alone, and the United Nations reports over a million species are at risk of extinction due to human influence in climate change.  But  Pompeo also defended President Trump's decision to pull out of the Paris climate agreement.  Because he said:
"Collective goals, even when well-intentioned, are not always the answer."
No, Mr. Pompeo.  But they are at least a beginning.


Friday, May 3, 2019

Loving Lucy

Yet another week of nice weather.  I was surprised to find one-way traffic twice this week while road crews cleared up more landslides and fallen trees.  Looking at some of the ridges above the roads one can see exposed roots of large trees.  It appears they could fall at any time.  So while the rains have stopped, the dangers remain.

I find myself more and more looking at old photographs of a younger Lucy.  She was such an active and competitive dog.  Independent and somewhat difficult to train, and acting more like a puppy or adolescent far into her adulthood.  She loved to run and we were fortunate to have several places in which our dogs could run freely off leash.  Lucy routinely ran until she was exhausted.  No such thing as pacing oneself, it was all about going.

Lucy, the eight-year-old puppy

On the one hand, it's sad to see her so much less active.  She rarely runs and then only for a few feet.  But on the other hand, she seems to enjoy life.  She isn't having pain and she still approaches us for extra hugs.  She enjoys her food and snacks and loves sitting on the deck.  She really loves the sunshine and will find a sunbeam if there is one to find.  Best of all is that she is still with us and still enjoys life.  What more can anyone ask?

Snoozing in the sun once again

Hard to imagine, but our Violet will be two years old this month.  Our daughter sent her Neil Gaiman's set of books about Chu, a sneezing Panda.  She included a stuffed Panda as well.  When it arrived, Violet decided it must be hungry after the trip so she fed it a toy cracker.  She is very serious about caring for her animals.  (She learned a sad lesson about feeding stuffed animals real food like blueberries.  That didn't turn out so well.)   Her little kitchen, complete with microwave is behind her.  She does a lot of cooking there.

Feeding her new panda

Oh, and she's learning to do duck lips

It is fitting that today's quotes involve the environment.  The first is from Gaylord Nelson:

"The ultimate test of man's conscience may be his willingness to sacrifice something today for future generations whose words of thanks will not be heard."

The other quote is from Mohandis Ghandi:

"Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's needs,
But not every man's greeds."

As proof that the fox is not a good guardian of the henhouse, the head of the Interior Department has announced a relaxation of the rules for deep water oil drilling.  These rules were put in place after the BP Deepwater Horizon catastrophe and will put the oceans in danger of more.  The new rules allow the oil companies to do their own safety inspections and will not be required to report the results.  Does it make you feel better that this will save the oil companies money?  Me neither.

The "leaders" of the United States do not seem to be willing to sacrifice anything for future generations.  They seem to think the entire earth belongs to Americans and that we are free to make terrible decisions that affect the other people inhabiting this planet.



Friday, April 26, 2019

Friday with a Golden Lucy

Another week, more rain.  Today is bright and sunny but with scattered showers.  Rivers are still high and fields are still flooded.  While an inconvenience for us, the continued rain has been disastrous for farmers and early crops.  And for families who enjoy having a garden.  Especially for those families who really need the garden to supplement their food supply.

The rain has definitely increased the beauty of the spring trees and flowers.  We hear a lot of birdsong every morning and a pair of wrens have built several nests about our deck.  There's no guarantee they will use any of them, but it is interesting to watch them working.  Towhees are once again nesting in the bushes near the driveway.  Chickadees have found two of our bird boxes to their liking and are nesting there.  The Pileated Woodpeckers come to the suet looking quite dirty and take food back with them so we are certain they have nestlings in hollow trees nearby.  Quite often we find a Tufted Titmouse flying out of the garage, but so far we have not found a nest.  It's a wonderful time of year.

Lucy is holding her own.  She manages to walk around a bit outside and indoors but she definitely spends more time snoozing than she did before her leg went lame.  She seems happy and has adjusted to the changes in living and eating upstairs rather than the den and "doggie room."  We try not to leave her alone for very long at a time, because she seems to want someone around.

A raggedy but comfortable old girl

Our Violet loves to be outdoors and especially loves bubble time.  Notice the amazed look on her little face when she actually caught a bubble in her hand.  Her sitter had put her hair in a "Cindy Lou Who" style.  Her hair does seem to be growing.  Finally.  My son allows that she might be cuter with hair, but grooming a bald-headed daughter is easier.  Especially after she gets something like syrup in her hair.  She had her first croissant recently and has a new favorite food.  She continued lip-smacking and saying "good" in the car all the way home.

Delighted to be holding a fragile bubble in her hand.

I had my endoscopy this week and it showed a narrowing of the esophagus near the stomach.  The procedure included dilating the area so that my diet was liquid for 24 hours and then soft for two more days.  The gastroenterologist did not think this was a significant problem but did biopsy the area to make certain.  Everything went smoothly and Lucy enjoyed seeing our marvelous dog walker/sitter again.  Now that I can drive myself to chemotherapy, it is no longer necessary for leave her alone and have the dog walker come by.  Lucy really loves her and the walker always stays around long enough to give Lucy a good massage.

I have mentioned before that there were times last year when I wasn't at all certain that I would see another spring.  But here it is in all its glory and here I am, optimistic with a healthy dose of realism.  Just looking out at the trees and birds and flowers makes me happy.  It helps that I do not watch any "news."  I stick to reading, driving, and watching movies and documentaries.  No need to get upset watching politics.

I often quote Marcus Aurelius because he had a lot of sensible advice that rings true yet.

"You have power over your mind---not outside events.
Realize this, and you will find strength."

In these days of widespread shouts of Christianity from people who do not behave at all like Christians, it is well to keep in mind that there are many gods, each as powerful to believers as any other.  We must be more tolerant and come to value a good life more than a specific belief or non-belief.  Another Marcus Aurelius quote says it well:

"Live a good life.

If there are gods and they are just, they will not care how devout you have been, but will welcome you based on the virtues you lived by.

If there are gods and they are unjust then you should not want to worship them.

If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones."




Friday, April 19, 2019

Wet Golden Friday

Severe thunderstorms seem to be the weather of the week.  I sound like a broken record, but once again the roads are flooded and rivers are running high.  We did have some sunshine earlier in the week and totally enjoyed it.  But the rain is torrential today with widespread flooding, landslides and fallen trees.  Debris in rivers is hitting the bridge pilings, threatening the integrity of the structures.

We have bought several sets of boots for Lucy, since they get wet every time she goes out.  At a given moment we have several boots hanging to dry on the hooks in the garage.  She spends much of the day curled up or stretched out although she has done a little bit of running in the driveway.  She does not seem to have any pain.

A little bit of light but no real sunbeams.

Violet is mostly recovered from her GI virus.  Our son learned from the pediatrician that it is rampant in their area.  No need to worry unless she starts running a fever or stops urinating.  So she was kept on electrolyte drinks for most of the week.  She likes the drink and kept hydrated.

We sent her a book for Easter.  And a little lap board with some "magic" stamps and markers that make marks only on the special paper.  We sent an extra packet of the paper as well.  She loves them and spent quite a bit of time drawing.  It was almost impossible to keep a hat on her when she was smaller.  Now she loves them and often wears one all day inside the house.  Her wise parents do not see that as a battle in which they wish to engage so they let her wear them as long as she wants.

I'm not sure what distracted her from her work.

In these days when so many euphemisms are used for lies, it is well to recall what the Buddha had to say about truth.

"There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth;
Not going all the way,
And not starting."
The Buddha

So don't fall for "slip of the tongue" or "alternative facts."  They are in fact, lies and we need to start holding people accountable for them.  Too many people wear their blinders and utter, "well, that's just the way they are."  No.  It isn't.  It's wrong and sends such a bad message to our Nation and the rest of the world.

Holy Week ends on Easter Sunday for Christians all over the world.  Today also marks the first Seder, the special meal that begins the Jewish Passover.  In a spirit of unity, some churches will co-celebrate Good Friday services with a Seder meal.

Whatever you will be celebrating, or if you will not be celebrating anything...



Friday, April 12, 2019

We Love Lucy and Spring

It's finally spring around here.  The proof is in the first hummingbird we have had at our feeders.  Because we live very near the Southern Blue Ridge Escarpment, we note on maps that hummingbirds have been seen to our east, to our west, and to our north for several weeks before we see them here.  We put out the feeders and then wait.  And then they come.

Not a great picture, but the first of the season.

Further proof of spring can be found in our very strange weather patterns.  While we didn't have a blizzard like much of the northern Midwest, we did have severe storms, one of which brought very large hail.  We've had strong damaging winds and loud thunderstorms.  Flash flooding is common throughout the county.  And we're in for more this weekend.

Downtown Brevard
(Photograph from The Transylvania Times)

Lucy continues to be the same.  We are happy that the storms do not seem to bother her at all.  I have shown you a similar picture, but I love this one.  It shows just how happy she is in spite of her lame leg and restricted living space.  On nice days, she loves to sit on the deck soaking up the sun.  And while she no longer goes downstairs, she seems happy enough remaining on one floor.  She still has that internal "clock" that tells her when feeding time comes around.  And she loves her food.

We are so please that Lucy remains happy and pain-free.

Our Violet had a GI "bug" for a day or so.  She spent the day in her jammies sipping clear fluids and getting lots of extra hugs and attention.  A huge treat for her was that she got to watch much more television than is normally allowed.  She loves television, perhaps because she doesn't get to watch much.  She is wrapped in one of the blankets I knitted for her and one of her handmade quilts is on the back of the sofa.  It is "Sunbonnet Sue" and is one of several made for her by a 90-year-old woman who is like a grandmother to our d-i-l.  The quilts are works of art and such treasures.  The woman makes them for Violet because our son and d-i-l so love and appreciate them.  She wants them to be used and not packed away.

There are two television shows that their family watches together on a regular basis.  The first is because Violet LOVES it.  She watches "Wheel of Fortune" as if it were created for her.  They all love "Jeopardy" because my son so often shouts out the correct answers.  [BTW: Have you seen the current champion?  He bets every cent on each daily double he encounters and has set a record for winnings.  Wouldn't you know?  He is a professional gambler.]  After that, it's story time and then bed for Violet.

Too absorbed in the program to look at the camera.

She is much better now and pretty much back to her usual busy little self.

A word about my own health:  I saw my oncologist when I had chemotherapy on Wednesday.  He is delighted with how well I am doing.  The "cancer marker" blood levels are still low and I am feeling quite good.  We will continue the chemo as "maintenance" for six more weeks and then stop.  We will follow the blood levels and do another PET scan in the summer.  So while we are realistic we are also profoundly grateful that my cancer responded so well to the chemotherapy.  It rather makes all that pain, weakness, and discomfort worth the outcome.

The quote today is a thought-provoking one from Albert Schweitzer:

"At times out own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person.

Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us."

During some of my worst times the past eighteen months, my own light certainly flickered and threatened to go out.  And each time it was rekindled by a spark from someone else.  I am eternally grateful for those sparks that kept me going in dark times.



Friday, April 5, 2019

Golden Dog and Golden Granddaughter

Life has been blessedly uneventful for us.  Lucy is certainly no worse and we are grateful for that.  It's already spring downtown but is a bit slower up here on the mountain.  We've enjoyed  sunshine most of the week although it's a bit chilly for this time of year.  Unfortunately we are expecting rain over the weekend.

The bike ride "Assault on the Carolinas" will occur tomorrow, rain or no rain.  Limited to 1,000 bicycles, there are two rides, a 50K and a 100K.  Neither is for the faint of heart.  The 100K is 66 miles over hills and dales with an ascent of 3,700 feet.  It goes up the mountain, then  down to South Carolina and then up the mountain again.  The 50K has a 1.1-mile hill climb with as much as a 15% grade.  Traditionally, fans will line the highway in certain areas, ringing cowbells to cheer on the riders.  Both routes go past the gate to our community and both routes begin and end downtown.  Needless to say, we do not plan to be on the highway during that time if we can possibly avoid it.  Sharing the road with bicycles in the mountains is difficult enough.  Sharing with 1,000 bicycles is near impossible.  Even with rain in the forecast, lots of fans will stand by to cheer and welcome the riders at the various drink/rest spots.

Lucy is really looking rugged in spite of being groomed often.  She has become a rather shaggy dog and as she sheds her winter coat, we have lots of dog hair around.  But she doesn't seem to mind so neither will we.

Curled up and waiting for her maximum sunbeam.

Meanwhile...someone gave Violet an Easter Duck outfit.  And yes, it does remind one of Ralphie's bunny suit and she seems rather overwhelmed by it.  Yes, it quickly came off and was worn only briefly for the photograph.

I don't get it, Daddy.

This bright sunny day started out as bubble-chasing fun.  Then Violet discovered the shadow that copied every thing she did so it became more of a shadow game for a while.

Lift up your foot, shadow.  Just like me.

Because she celebrated a birthday this week, it is appropriate that the quote comes from one of the people I most admire, Jane Goodall.

"I think my message to the politicians who have within their power the ability to make change is this:  'Do you really not care about the future of your great-grandchildren?  Because if we let the world continue to be destroyed the way we are now, what's the world going to be like for your great-grandchildren?'"