Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Three more days

Unlike many, I haven't found myself afire with hatred of the year 2016. My benchmark for feelings about years was 2006; both the happiest and unhappiest events of my life occurred then: the marriage of my son to a wonderful woman whom I consider my daughter, then the death of my husband a few months later. Neither of which had anything to do with the numerals we assign to a twelve-month period of time.

Nonetheless it hasn't been the greatest of years here. I've been fighting depression - real depression - for the first time in my life, since way back last winter. It robbed me of my interest in things I'd loved (knitting, walking, cooking, baking, EATING) and sat on me like a goddamned satanic elephant throughout the summer and fall. I did get a prescription - which didn't work - and a different one which *may* be working but it also is having some side effects I could do without (that isn't an ironic understatement, they really are minor, though annoying). And of course, losing my dear cat Adams all of a sudden in October didn't help matters, either. But at least in the past couple of weeks the elephant seems to have lost some weight and I've ben getting back into caring for my house (a bit) and getting caught up with household things I've let go completely. I mean, last evening I put away six baskets of clean clothes, and there are six more waiting in the laundry room to be washed, dried and put away.

The lack of appetite has had something of a silver lining, leading me to about a ten - to - fifteen-pound weight loss. It's not a method I would recommend AT ALL. But it does mean I've got more energy and I don't wipe out quite so fast.

But ALL of this could just as easily have happened any other year. I grieve for all the wonderful talents we as a society have lost this year, and for the world because the Orange Clown takes the Presidency next month. But all is not despair. Lots of people are banding together to challenge whatever awful offal he sends down the pipe at us.

A lot of people are looking around at their neighbors and thinking we could maybe be more friendly and caring toward each other, and be mindful wherever we are of how others are being treated - and to step up and do something about it, in whatever way seems right to us at the time. And artists will keep doing their work, and doctors and nurses will keep doing their work, and people will go on being kind and helpful to each other (I believe that's a huge majority of people - the nasty ones get all the headlines) and we will get through this.

So I think 2016 contains exactly the same weird mixture of stuff any year has. And 2017 will, too, but a LOT of people have been awakened to the fact that we need each other. And that cannot be a bad thing, can it?

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Adams Pussycat Hairypaws Hickman, 2004 - 2016

On October 11, my two cats and I were enjoying a nice, quiet afternoon in the front room reading (me) and snoozing (them). Adams was on the couch. Suddenly he started a sneezing barrage. It woke him up. He stood up looking grumpy, and I said, "Gesundheit!" and he turned his sweet face to me, all bright-eyed and interested, and I know he was thinking, "She's talking to me! Ima gonna go get some pettins!" I said, "God bless you!" (in case he didn't understand German).

And he turned around and jumped down off the couch, now hidden behind the lounger. He started making noises like he was going to puke (he did that several times a week) so I grabbed a sheet of newspaper and leapt over there to try to catch it - but he wasn't vomiting, he was seizing. In the one second it took for me to get to him, I could see by his eyes that he wasn't there any more, even though his body was still seizing. I ruffled his fur and spoke to him - I don't remember what I said - then raced upstairs to get my shoes and back down again - and in those 5 seconds (I was *really* moving), he had gone for good.

One second, peacefully, happily sleeping in one of his favorite spots. 5 seconds later, gone. Not really knowing what I was doing, I called his vet. She came right on line, and then I realized there was nothing she could do. I apologized but she kept me on the line for several minutes, sympathizing and oh, just being so kind. She had pulled up his records, and said the last time he was there, in July, for his lion cut, he was in perfect health. They did blood screens for him every time he got shaved, because they had to sedate him else he wouldn't tolerate the process. And that day when I picked him up, the other vet who handed him over to me exclaimed about what good shape his teeth were in: "He's got the teeth of a two-year-old cat!" So on October 11, the vet told me it was most likely a stroke that killed him. She assured me emphatically that they could tell he was well-cared-for. 

I live alone (except for my cats)(er, now, cat) and I held my sweet Adams in my arms and just howled. I cried until I couldn't anymore. For the next week I went around in a daze, crying when I saw his kibbles bowl, a patch of his fur, when I cleaned the litter boxes. I kept expecting him to be coming around the corner, talking to me. Whenever I was doing stuff in the kitchen, he would get up on top of the microwave on its rolling cart, and do a little Adams dance with his front feet, and talk to me demanding pettins. And he always got them, he was so damn cute I couldn't resist. In the couple of months before he died, I was *finally* getting to where he'd allow me to brush him all over - for a few strokes. He loved me brushing his cheeks, but it took a long time for him to realize the all-over brushing felt pretty good, too. (His sister gets brushed every morning and loved it from the start.) I called him my Eeyore cat, because when O'Keefe would barge in between us, jealous of my petting him, he'd meander off to the other side of the room and sit there, his head down, looking dejected (I always made it up to him). He was timid, and quiet, and so loving.

On the night in early 2014 when I had an infection go septic, the only image I remember of the moments the EMs were in the house bundling me up to go into the ambulance, was Adams' worried little face, looking at me between their legs, trying to get to me (my dear friend who'd come when I called her, mostly delirious. kept having to pull him out of the way, she says). That image, and the last, bright, happy look just before he jumped down off the couch, will stay with me until I die.

I can still feel his fur, the muscles in his back, the delicate bones in his front legs, his whiskers tickling when he rubbed his face on mine, his warmth. It still doesn't seem quite real. But, he's gone. Another loving little soul tucked deep in my heart that I will treasure there forever. 

ETA: Well, really to subtract the "last month" since I only just realized that we're already in December, so October is not last month. - T.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Me, too.

I know this is small comfort, but it's how I feel. Gonna stick to this one:

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

On the anniversary of Kristallnacht

From Wikipedia:

Kristallnacht was a pogrom against Jews throughout Nazi Germany on 9–10 November 1938, carried out by SA paramilitary forces and German civilians. German authorities looked on without intervening. The name Kristallnacht comes from the shards of broken glass that littered the streets after Jewish-owned stores, buildings, and synagogues had their windows smashed.

Estimates of the number of fatalities caused by the pogrom have varied. Early reporting estimated that 91 Jewish people were murdered during the attacks. Modern analysis of German scholarly sources by historians such as Richard J. Evans puts the number much higher. When deaths from post-arrest maltreatment and subsequent suicides are included, the death toll climbs into the hundreds.

Like many people who identify themselves as progressives, I'm in shock this morning. I'm trying to work through it, reading articles and blogs and Twitter feeds, trying to connect with others who are also stunned and sick at what has happened to the country we thought we knew.

People are saying, hold your loved ones close. Work through the grief and pain. Then stand up and start fighting.

So that's my plan for this week: mourn, then start arming myself with information, connection, increased involvement. And don't descend into Trump-world. Fight for love and inclusion and acceptance and moving forward. When they go low, we must go high, or else what is the point?

Hillary Clinton, for all her faults, had a clear and ringing message: We ARE stronger together. We cannot forget that.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016


My beloved Adams cat, 12 years old, died suddenly yesterday. He was in the pink of health. The vet said it was probably a stroke.

I'm still in shock. I will write a page for him when I can.

Love your pets extra.

Emperor Adams Pussycat Hairypaws Hickman.
2004 - 2016

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Early October, a little bit coming along

Got the bike/pedestrian count done. During one of them I barely escaped getting hit by a runaway automobile tire, which took out its frustration on some poor innocent car by exploding its headlight and seriously crushing the whole right-front of that car (whose driver KEPT DRIVING???) and then I treated the whole rush-hour linear parking lot to the delight of seeing an overweight old lady, tripping out of her sandals, trying to catch up to a tire that was accelerating down the sidewalk right at a giant pile of garbage bags and bins - fortunately a trash-hauling truck was right there and the passenger jumped out and caught the thing before all of Leavenworth Street got strewn with garbage.

So, that was exciting.

Now I've committed to visiting the Benson Library every Monday in October to do whatever yard work and trash pickup is needed. It's good to have a steady job LOL. Also, October is my month for purging more stuff out of the attic. There is a bunch of old camping cookware and other accessories that have to go. And no doubt a lot more. I'm ready to toss the old Christmas decor - some of it from my childhood in the early 50s, but of no emotional meaning to me now. And do you know anyone who wants a LARGE, sepia portrait that was hand-colored, of me in a corduroy skirt-bolero outfit and the most astonishing curls, age about 5? If I remember, I'll post a photo. It's a hoot. But who wants this stuff any more? Not me. Maybe I could sell the frame...

And, October is my last chance to actually do a hard-labor project in the back yard. It's so intimidating - and at the same time so mundane - that I don't even want to describe it. I'll do pics if I actually get at it.

I was going to mow the back yard today but it's been raining steadily all day. I am SO broken-hearted har har har.

So the rest of the day:

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Mid-September, nuthin much goin on

I've signed up to do six 2-hour bicycle/pedestrian counts at various spots around Omaha this month. Two Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, and noon - 2 pm on two Saturdays. I did this at three sites a couple years ago. It's a good way to contribute to the civic well-being (Omaha is trying to scope out how to make our transportation systems more human-friendly! Yay!) and it's always interesting. Aside from hosting our little group's Game Day the last Sunday, that's all the excitement I have lined up for this month.

Still fighting the depression. I don't know that a double dose of this depressant is making any difference, but I suppose I have to give it a few weeks. I seem to be able to make myself do a few more things per day but man, it's hard, and I've been sleeping more than usual recently, too. Ah well, life goes on.

Oh, yeah, also, I found this gizmo at an estate sale a couple of weeks ago. Anyone know what it is? It is NOT handmade, as I'd first assumed. On one side is lightly embossed "Scofield's Pat." and below that and partially hidden by that metal clasp-thingy, " '0, 085". (That is an apostrophe before the zero.)

My photo quality isn't good but if you have an idea what this might be, leave a comment please?

I first took this as a pen nib (above) but it doesn't have the split from the point to the hole, so I may be wrong about that.

The prong on this thing is *not* sharp in the concave area, so maybe it isn't a cutting tool, even though you slide the two "guitar" halves lengthwise and either the pointy or the concave instrument extends past the other one, which *could* be a slicing operation, I guess.

I'm baffled. Cool, huh?

Friday, August 19, 2016

My one-year post-op checkup

was this week, and I got another "A" from my oncologist. She says I don't need to come back in for another year, AND that seeing the PA will be fine. From that I take it that she feels confident I'll be doing OK. And, of course, if anything comes up I can always call and book an appointment.

So - it's actually been 13 months since my cancer surgery and all still seems well!

Yeah, I'm happy.

Friday, July 29, 2016

What has changed?


We have an official, main party candidate for the President of the United States who is a woman.  I never expected to see that in my lifetime - until we had a black POTUS. Then, I began to hope ... a little bit.

And now it's real.  It's so big that I can't really *feel* its reality yet.

I'm aware of her faults; politics is compromise (among adults, anyway). But I think she's the best candidate we've had for many a long, long year. Even Obama, while excellent in many ways, didn't have the years and breadth of experience she's got.

I can't wait to see what she accomplishes.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Just a sentimental scientist...

Just saw this on Bobak Ferdowsi's Twitter feed:

Philae Lander  Verified account  @Philae2014
It’s time for me to say goodbye. Tomorrow, the unit on @ESA_Rosetta for communication with me will be switched off forever...

LIKES 2,522

7:00 AM - 26 JUL 2016

and was very glad to see I'm not the only sentimental science lover whose eyes are a little bit wet right now.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Mom's birthday

July 25, 2016. Mom would have been 97 today. I’ve been thinking about her a lot. I know while I was responsible for her, 2002 - her death on Jan. 1, 2004, I tried very hard every single day to do it right. I knew after she died I would feel guilty no matter what I did but I tried every single day. Nowadays, I find I was right: I feel guilty anyway. But intellectually I know that her life was her own: she lived the consequences (and rewards) of her own choices, just like we all do. I found it hard to feel love for her, but I must have because it really hurt when she died. But that inner glow of love? Not so much felt.

But when I was a kid she could be a lot of fun. That was why so many people (including my friends) visited our house so frequently. She was the life of the party. And when there weren’t people visiting (okay, drinking - her adult friends I mean) we often had fun together. She gave me my love of reading, and of words. Some of my favorite times were when she was washing the dishes and I (grudgingly) was drying them (god I was an asshole kid; I resented having to do ANYTHING), out of sheer desperation I suspect, she would start word games: spelling, definitions, but especially the one where you say a word, the other person has to spell it - and then has to give you a word back that starts with the last letter of the first word. There was strategy involved! I loved it.

And I was in awe of her ability to rescue baby birds and squirrels and rabbits. No matter how young they were, seemingly she had it in hand.

I *think* we’d sometimes play two-person Rummy together. And maybe Scrabble. We weren’t hard-core Scrabble players, but our word games certainly enhanced Scrabble for us. But that wasn’t very frequent because I can’t actually *remember* these table games, I just have the feeling we played them.

She was also extremely kind and generous-hearted towards people having a hard time in life. She'd been a child of The Depression and that never left her. She'd help out down-and-outers and though she would complain if one occasionally ripped her off, it didn't stop her helping the next person on whom life was crapping.

Anyway, it’s a day to celebrate again those things she bequeathed me: love of reading, love of nature, love of humor. Those are mighty big things, and I can't imagine myself without them. Thank you, Mom. We both did our best.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Summer in the city, for sure

So last week when we had that little three-day run of days in the 80's, I was in the inertia phase of my mood and didn't get anything but the front yard mowed. The back yard is much bigger, and I kept thinking "tomorrow." We all know where that gets you. It gets you where I am: on a day when the heat index now at 1 p.m. is 105 degrees F, there is no way in hell I'm going out there to try to mow. I wouldn't last ten minutes. And the yard foliage grows and grows and grows - we've had rain the past 3 nights, I think, so the planties are very, very happy. 

Well, so (I hope) are the bees (who love all the Creeping Charlie when it flowers) and the lightning bugs (who love the taller, wetter grass or at least seem to; I think we should be at the end of their usual display season but they don't seem to be abating). And therefore all the other little crawly critters are happy and therefore the birdies who eat them like popcorn are happy. I'm a biologist and I love mess and diversity in my yard - but I think it probably drives my recreational-mowing neighbor crazy. I don't mean to, honest. 

Thursday, July 14, 2016

One month later...

I haven't been posting because I've had nothing interesting to post. Oh, I've been reading books, but kind of lost interest in writing about them. I visit several book reviewing blog sites and I don't have near the skills or insights those folks have, so I figure it doesn't hurt to let one tiny insignificant corner of the internet shut the hell up for a few days/weeks.

Everything's fine. I'm just really really low-energy this summer. And enjoying it!

NASA photo: Earth from Mars, a Curiosity rover photo.Yes, it's there. About a third of the way from the left side, and about a third of the way down from the top. It's maybe one light gray pixel. (Click on the picture to enlarge it.)


As in, yesterday it was one year exactly since my cancer surgery last summer. I'm doing great. My one-year check-up will be next month; I'll get nervous the week before, I'm sure. I tend not to take things for granted anyway, but since last summer, I really don't take any doctor's exam for granted. You never know what those wacky folks will say!

But seriously: I adore my oncologist, Dr. Nadkarni. She is the BEST. Thank you, Dr. Nadkarni.

One month later...

I haven't been posting because I've had nothing interesting to post. Oh, I've been reading books, but kind of lost interest in writing about them. I visit several book reviewing blog sites and I don't have near the skills or insights those folks have, so I figure it doesn't hurt to let one tiny insignificant corner of the internet shut the hell up for a few days/weeks.

Everything's fine. I'm just really really low-energy this summer. And enjoying it!

NASA photo: Earth from Mars, a Curiosity rover photo.Yes, it's there. About a third of the way from the left side, and about a third of the way down from the top. It's maybe one light gray pixel.


As in, yesterday it was one year exactly since my cancer surgery last summer. I'm doing great. My one-year check-up will be next month; I'll get nervous the week before, I'm sure. I tend not to take things for granted anyway, but since last summer, I really don't take any doctor's exam for granted. You never know what those wacky folks will say!

But seriously: I adore my oncologist, Dr. Nadkarni. She is the BEST. Thank you, Dr. Nadkarni.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Still slowly stumbling along

and really, enjoying the summer by not going out in this gawdawful heat very much. I have been looking at the grass in my yard, and it does not look like it has grown 1/4" in the past week, so I don't think I'll mow the front today (Tuesdays are designated Front Yard Mowing days) because I am not into Recreational Mowing. The back yard, done last Friday, or was it Thursday, is also not showing many signs of growing (I don't water my grass unless we've had weeks of no rain). So I may be off the hook Thursday/Friday (my two options for Back Yard Mowing) too. That would be nice ('cause I'm lazy).

There are plenty of other yard jobs to do, though, but until the heat lets up they'll wait. When I push and exert myself in the heat and humidity, I'm subsequently flattened for at least 24 and sometimes 48 hours. What a wuss, I know. But it's true.

I read a good book last week: Quiet Neighbors, by Catriona McPherson.

I thought it would be spooky, but it's more of a three-pronged mystery with a kinda unreliable narrator, which I don't usually like. But this one - it really pulled me along, trying to figure out what she's hiding, and what he's hiding, and what the other she is hiding ... all the secondary characters were interesting and of course the premise - when you live in the middle of the cemetery, you have quiet neighbors OR YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO - is a real grabber. And then, somewhere towards the end, it does a kind of gentle double flip and reveals its true nature and I'm glad I read it.  Is that spoiler-free enough?

Friday, May 27, 2016

Getting back in the swing of things, slowly

I've accomplished two mowings of each the front and the back yards. I think getting that push-button starting mower, and investing in the real, effective filter mask may have extended my yard work lifetime by about ten years. I hadn't realized how anxious I would be, having to work myself up into going out and yanking on that damned mower rope just to get it started, all these years. And it wasn't getting better, I'm getting older and every time I ended up more sore and worn-out. So, yay! for push-button starters! I would have loved to get an all-battery mower but those are like $1300 so that's out of the question. This one is "self-propelled" but the handle is only on the right side so my right hand gets a little tired (hmm...maybe that's why my right hand has been a bit swollen at the base of the thumb for a couple of days...?) but I just need to retrain myself to take advantage of the front-wheel drive better (don't bear down on the machine's handle, lift it up a tiny bit so the front wheels do more of the work!) and we'll be fine.

And it's SO nice not to be wheezing and hacking and coughing and sneezing for two hours after mowing! I LOVE my zombie apocalypse face mask/filter system!

It *is* hot to wear and my face is even redder than it gets usually once I'm done with the mowing, but man, is it nice not inhaling all that dust and pollen and Yark knows what else. Refreshing!

Today is indoor work, I don't have the stuffing to tackle yard work again. At least both the front and the back are mowed nice and neatly now. I wanted to get that done before the long weekend in case my neighbors have friends over, they don't have to be embarrassed by my messy overgrown yard. 

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Little to report

other than yard work, yard work, yard work. Last summer's forced hiatus (recuperating from successful cancer surgery) really set me back from the plans I'd made before the diagnosis. So, I'll feel happy if I can just catch up and stay caught up with the mowing - although I've invested some money in annual flowers and pots to hang, so I'm hoping I'll be able to do a *little* better than stay even.

Saturday, May 07, 2016


Yesterday I mowed my front yard for the first time this season. It's very late; the dandelions and patchy grass (it's a very shady yard from neighbors' trees and my own maple in the front; also maple trees exude substances that discourage other plants growing in their proximity) were halfway to my knees. But until I'd got rid of last year's leaves, I couldn't mow, and I didn't get around to that until Wednesday and Thursday. I'd planned to mow then Thursday but discovered that the battery for the pushbutton starter on the mower needed to be charged for a full ten hours before using it. So, yesterday I put in the oil and gas and it started right up on the first try. I was very relieved, it was a lot of money (for me) to spend on a machine that wouldn't work well. Anyway, it did, and the grass in the front is of uniform height now. The perennial bed still has leaves in it, but those are my free mulch and part of the nourishment I'm leaving there.

It is humiliating how little physical labor it takes to flatten me these days. Two hours of raking and bagging leaves sent me indoors completely knackered; I lay down for a 30 minute nap Wednesday and conked out for three hours! And was ready to go back to bed at 11 p.m. Same Thursday - a couple of hours of (slow-motion) raking & bagging and I was Done. However, I hope to keep pushing myself so that by the end of summer I can do both yards (mowing, weeding) in one day and still stay awake at least until nightfall.

Next (Monday) I start on the east side of the house (*drifts* of last year's leaves) and the back yard (many times bigger than the front). That will be slow-motion, too. First, patrol for sticks (courtesy of the ever-shedding 90-foot Chinese elm) then walk down the east edge of the lawn with the weed-whacker, so that I can use the mower with only half its width (or less) cutting the tall grass and Creeping Charlie. Most of the yard has Creeping Charlie now; I like it - because the bees love it. I can't bring myself to mow it all down, so I'm leaving a mower-width strip along the west fence-line, and I'm leaving the entire back 15 feet or so along the back fence to do anything it likes - though I'll keep after the weed trees. I've got the brush pile in the corner back there, and I know that snakes, birds and rabbits use it, so that makes me happy, if not my neighbors (the neighbor across the back fence can't see my yard, that fence is wooden and 6 feet high).

There are several problem spots I will need to work on - all of this work I had planned out step by step on paper last spring, but then the cancer diagnosis landed and nothing else got done until now. So I'm playing catch-up really, with a whole year's yard work delayed. I've decided my five day a week job now will be working on the yard this spring and summer.

Changing the subject now: I tried soft-boiled eggs for breakfast this morning, thinking of all those Golden Age mysteries where Lord and Lady What's-it sit down with their country home guests for a leisurely buffet breakfast, with eggs perched in charming little gold-rimmed Royal Doulton china egg cups. But ye gods, what is the point of soft-boiled eggs? Half the white stays with the egg shell and the rest is a mutilated mess. Also, what's with those toast racks? Is that specially designed to make sure every piece of toast is equally cold by the time you try to apply the butter to it? And KIDNEYS? for BREAKFAST? And the British wonder why people mock their "cuisine."

Sunday, May 01, 2016

Revisionary, by Jim. C. Hines

It has taken me SO long to work down through my towering To Be Read pile before I could get to this one, and it has acted as a spur to keeping me reading those ones before it. Finally, I got to read Revisionary, the fourth and last book in Jim C. Hines's Magic Ex Libris series.

Look at the gorgeousness of that cover! Just LOOK AT IT!!!! All four covers are just glorious and prove that it IS possible for a publisher to take enough care so that the cover artist knows what the book is about! 

All I can say is, after the first three books I had no idea how Jim could possibly do justice to them in the last of the series, and NO idea how he could wrap it up - but he hit home runs on both counts. This one is fast-paced and surprising and fun and harrowing, and the end is satisfying on several levels. And there's lots of Smudge in this one, too! Smudge! I adore Smudge. Wondering who Smudge is? Read the books! (Jim's original Goblin Jig series is Smudge's actual starting place and you won't be sorry for reading those, as well. I promise!)

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

In case anybody visits this blog

I thought I should enter a note. I haven't posted much for awhile because I've been kind of grappling with depression, which for me takes the relatively innocuous form of total inertia. Not emotional anguish, just a giant MEH, and being content to literally do nothing at all but sit in my chair all day before going to bed. It finally occurred to me that 1) this mood has lasted a LOT longer than usual (the usual is 2 - 3 weeks then suddenly I find myself up and at 'em again for a couple weeks, then back down in the burrow, lather, rinse, repeat) and 2) I haven't been able to logic myself out of it, and nothing behavior-therapy-wise that I've tried (and I *have* tried, a lot) was working, and 3) this is not healthy and 4) I need help. So I called my doctor and we're trying a prescription that seems to be helping since I've experienced a moderate amount of increased energy and interest in life.

And, I have been reading books, and I went to a movie with a friend, and there's been some small amount of house & yard stuff (really, really small amount), but I just can't get motivated to do a real post about any of it.

I'm fine, just need some more time getting my feet back under me.

Here's a picture of my cat as a reward for reading this far.


Thursday, April 07, 2016

Step by step

Spent a full day yesterday getting the living room windows finished:



And it's incredible how mood-lifting that difference is. Today, I do the dining room's windows and get the dining room all cleaned up, and the plant shelving re-organized (since I'll have to take everything off it and get it off of the marble-topped sideboard it sits on, right in front of the windows). At some point, I need to decide whether to paint or stain & varnish that shelving unit, but it can wait.

It is good to feel like I've accomplished something.