Monday, June 23, 2008

Oh! And, BTW - Yes, We Both Feel MUCH Better Now!

It worked.

Walter'd filled the car with fuel around mid-week. He'd already told me he wanted to take us out on a jaunt as soon as we could go. We don't know when he may be suddenly ordered back to work; he's still getting tests done and waiting for time to heal his injury.

The checks are coming steadily now, which is a huge relief. But after such a long period of low to no pay - two months, I think?!, I don't want to know for sure, really - we have a lot of financial catching up to do. That's just ordinary budgeted expenses, outside of the debt we're still working off.

So Mr. Budget did not look upon excursions with a kind eye. Filling the tank on the Isuzu cost $66. I have never paid that much for one tank of automobile fuel in my entire life.

Walter filled 'er up after carefully listening to my accounts of where we stood, knowing that at least we weren't secretly overdrawn or about to have the internet shut off. Walter knew that if the tank was full, it would be a lot harder for me to say, again, --No, we can't afford it yet, maybe next weekend...

He also knew how very much it would mean to me to go out, especially where we went.

Can you tell how much I love that man?

Picture us staggering around allergic Sunday morning, fighting to stay awake, doing better or worse as our allergy meds freshened or wore off, or new waves of pollen came through like they do. Carefully parceling out our necessary belongings, putting them by the front door, not daring to open it until the last minute. Open the door and pollen comes in...

Earlier in the morning, Walter was a little better off than I was. He cleaned out two air machines; then he went down, and I perked up a bit. Good. I fed him. He was getting so fatigued he was about to pass out, and surely would be in no condition to drive. Lunch woke him up a little.

Meantime, at long last, I packed the car as quick as I could. I turned the key in the ignition and ran the HEPA and ionizer machines in there for a while.

It was already early afternoon by then. You see how pokey we get? Both of us are seriously experienced travelers. Despite this being an unusual type of trip, it shouldn't have taken more than an hour or so to get going. I wanted to bring some odd items as a sort of practice run for camping out in the Isuzu. So maybe two hours packing, maximum.

Not five.

Here's one of those times I think, --This is why they call it *disabled...*

I came back in and told Walter, --Ride shotgun, I can drive. Just getting into a small space with both air machines going will help us.--

Between the cleaned air and trading environments with the Everglades, we're both doing much better today. Me, I slept until late afternoon, and felt pretty vigorous when I woke up. Walter's eyes are almost normal, not all black and purple and swollen shut. He's been able to stay awake all day. He got up to get his chest CAT scanned this morning (hooray!).

I got up at the same time to take my AM meds, then fell asleep in the office chair. When he came home around 11 AM, I thought it was 8:30 and he was just leaving for his test. Nope. It was time to wake up, take my noon meds, and go back to bed.

I woke up refreshed. Been awhile since I did.

We have no idea how long the good effects will last. But we'll be sure to enjoy the hell out of them while they do.

This Place of Unearthly Beauty

We went to my all-time favorite place in the Everglades, off US 41. I had a need to go a-swamping, and so we did. The trees you'll be seeing are mostly cypress (bald and pond cypress). But what I love just as much as cypress are the plants that live upon them. Here, it's forests of bromeliads. And orchids, lichens, ferns, all sorts of beautiful plants.

It's one of the only places I've ever been where a swamp looks like the *Swamp* scenes from the movies.

The water is like a mirror. It's so reflective it's hard to tell where the surface is sometimes.

Those bushy looking plants growing up the trunk of the cypress tree are bromeliads. Many are way bigger than your head.

Plants that live on other plants are called epiphytes. They don't hurt the host plant. Here, it's not just bromeliads and orchids that live on the trunks of these trees. The ferns and lichens and such do too.

We Were Entertained By All Sorts of Critters...

Well, hello!

heh! Everybody knows alligators can't read.

I have to look this one up. Maybe a Painted Lady?

Zebra longwing. Perfectly common down here, but I never ever get tired of them.

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This Campsite is Taken. Hey!

The deer are slightly skittish, but not enough to leave. They're really almost tame.

Which, as the rangers tell us, is not a good idea. This preserve contains about half the state's population of panthers. Those are very big cats, folks. The sign explains how you shouldn't jog alone here, or let your toddlers or dogs run around untethered.

nom nom nom! Oh - the reason it's not a good idea for the deer to be so tame is because deer are the panthers' favorite dinner, along with feral hogs. If dinner's tame, it'll hang around humans, and the huge cats will follow. So please don't feed the deer and hogs. Thank you.

There are giant grasshoppers here too, lubbers and such. Probably you can feed them all you want. But the signs don't say.

This bird, and his wife, were vastly entertaining. More about them later...

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Sunday, June 22, 2008


We are both incredibly allergic here. The pollen counts are skyrocketing and Walter is getting the extreme symptoms I used to live with daily. Back before the high-dose steroids, that was.

Most people wouldn't understand these are symptoms of extreme allergies. I'm watching him and it's like looking into a mirror. I've talked with other superallergics, but almost never seen one in the middle of a bout.

We were walking through the house to the laundry room. He suddenly wavered, recovered his balance, tried to take another step, and his foot went way off to the side instead of in front of him. Like someone who's had too much Happy Hour.

I told him, --Put your hand on the wall. Something solid. Stand up as straight as you can: line up your bones. If you touch anything at all it'll help you balance.

Around his eyes, he's so swollen and purple it looks like he was in a bar fight after that too much Happy Hour.

He's sleeping constantly. Gets up for an hour or two, can't do anything, can't stay upright, goes back to bed. Taking Zyrtec helps some, for a while. It makes his nose leak like crazy.

Fatigue. Dizziness. Loss of balance. Extreme sleep. Weakness. I ask him a question and his mind goes blank.

Walter was always allergic. He gets these reactions to food, like eggs, where his skin makes huge patches of hives, nearly covering his back and thighs. But this? This is new.

Long ago I wondered if some obscure virus may play a role in this superallergic condition. If so? He caught it from me.

He's been getting more and more like me in his allergic reactions the past few years. I'm far more protected now than I was seventeen years ago. There's a reason I take all these pills. It's not for recreation, believe me.

He doesn't take those allergy meds, and most of them are barred to him because of his heart condition and the meds he takes for that.

Bear with me. I'm here. I'm sleeping too, most of the time, just not as much as Walter.

Right now we're contemplating running off for a nice recreational drive. If we pack the Isuzu with HEPA air machines, a drive will probably do us both a lot of good. Just going to another area, not even far away, can help calm down these reactions. Walter says whenever he leaves Florida he's normal again. I know this is a factor in his desire to go back to work.

Meanwhile...I've been hearing from some of you, too, about exceptional allergic reactions, hay fever, like that. Your dizziness and fatigue are part of it, yes.

And I've got a stack of unanswered comments and emails about other stuff. I'll get back to you as soon as I can.

I'm okay. I'm used to this. Just slow, for now. I'll get there though.

I always do.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Happy Birthday Dad! Oh. Happy Father's Day Too!

My father was a Texan, although you'd never know it to speak to him. A Californian as well. He moved all over the country in his childhood and youth. Granddad was a college tennis coach, then became a civil engineer. A Navy lieutenant during WWII. After the war, when Granddad moved up into high-level defense construction as a civilian, they did some more moving around.

But when Dad was a little boy, they stayed put long enough in Texas that he kept a pet spider for quite some time. It wasn't in a container; it was free. It had spun a web between his bed's headboard and the wall. He feels this was very effective for keeping his mother out of his room. Hey. Kids need their privacy.

That spider was a black widow. Now you know one reason I've loved black widows all my life.

Dad's mother, my Helen, was an artist. Oh, she was a pistol, Grandma was. Outspoken and funny, intelligent and flirtatious, intimidating as all get out. She could charm the eyes off a snake, and had a pilot's license too. A true Texas woman. Besides all their family dogs, she tolerated Dad's many personal pets, his scorpions and spiders and I don't know what-all. Well, she better; she kept pet rats as a girl, herself.

One day the movers came, packing the family up for yet another relocation, and they went by a little box Dad had put on the dining room table. The lid of the box opened up. Out came his collection of pet tarantulas, crawling over the dining room table, escapees.

That was one of their more interesting household moving experiences.

A lover of science and medicine and biology all his life, Dad went on to medical school, became a doctor, helped deliver his own kids, then went into pure microbiological research - his lifelong dream. It's been an interesting ride ever since.

It's perfectly common now to see extraordinary things; we take them for granted, watching the Discovery Channel or National Geographic. But when I was small, viewing any microbial life was an unusual privilege for adults, not to mention kids.

Dad the Scientist had access to one of those rarities called an electron microscope in the early 1960's. Looking through those eyepieces, seeing things so small that almost nobody in the world had even dreamed of them - that fascination has never left me. They were black and white images, not color. But for the first time in history, with an electron microscope you could see certain internal structures in very small microbes. Particles of minuscule life that had only been theorized until then were actually being viewed. And as a small child I got to see some of those first-ever sights.

Our parents used to take us up to Mt. Baldy when we were kids. We'd get pond samples and bring them home to look at all the pond life through the microscope. Oh, it was beautiful! Diatoms and paramecia and amoebas and protozoa and I don't know what all, swimming around doing their bit. You could watch them move, propelling themselves about with their little flagella or whatever their usual means, eating, engulfing fellow denizens in great maws. They blithely went about their business of life in the tiny universe they dwelled in - a partial drop of water on a slide.

Dad's done a lot of tissue culture, meaning he grows tissue cells, human, mice, rat, whatever the need. The containers the tissue cells live in are kept in an incubator at just the right temperature, and fed just the right medium to grow and reproduce as fast and healthy as they can.

They need some TLC from time to time. For example, the containers may need periodic rotating to bathe all the cells in the medium. These days that's automated, using roller bottles. You can see how well they're doing by simply counting a sample, to see how their numbers increase over time. Perhaps adjustments in temperature or food are called for. So the ritual of counting cells by putting a sample, or the whole bottle, under the microscope is a familiar one. A nurturing activity, checking the little ones to see how they do.

So is mixing medium. Like most foods, it's a lot cheaper and better if you make it yourself. Dad gets the ingredients and mixes up big batches, often in a 5-gallon water jug. Different foods have different mixing procedures. Generally, though, they take several steps that include putting a big bottle of stuff on an electromagnet plate. Inside the bottle is a piece of steel. Turn on the electromagnet, and the steel inside the bottle rotates fast, mixing the medium.

Add some more stuff and mix again. That step may involve a more gentle mixing procedure: rolling the big bottle across the floor. I've had the pleasure of helping in that one. Dad stands across the room, puts the big bottle on the ground, shoves it over to me with his foot, and I send it rolling back to him. Ah, fun! We roll it back and forth until he deems it Mixed Enough.

The incubator temperature can be tricky. No matter how much care is taken with the incubator room, with its thermostat, its HVAC system, it can still be just a tiny bit off. That tiny bit can mean days of delay in cell reproduction, and thus in production of whatever he's after. Sometimes the solution is a wonderfully simple one: add a light bulb. The tiny increase in heat by turning on, say, a 40-watt bulb can keep the temperature exactly right.

Dad has accomplished great things in his life. If I gave you his name to google, you'd find some of them. Part of why he was able to do these things is because he's always been a person to think *outside the box,* as they say. He took great care, raising us kids, to teach us to follow this approach as well. To think for ourselves, no matter what others say. To be truly independent, and true to ourselves. It's why he mixes his own medium. Why he rolls the bottle across the floor. Why he added a light bulb in the incubator. Why he had a pet black widow spider.

This is creativity, invention, independence, individualism. I feel all this when I walk into his home turf - his lab.

I want you readers to have some idea of what that home turf looks like. To see, perhaps, some of why I love the place, and love to see my father in it, doing his work. So I'm publishing some pix from the very many I took when I visited the lab last year.

I really don't know what would have happened to me without my father's teachings. Did we butt heads? Oh, you bet. At times, very badly. But the older I get, the more I realize how much both my parents gave us kids, gave me. And how difficult I must have been to raise. There are no parents in the world who can raise children without ever making a single mistake, without ever doing their kids some wrong, large or small. If we had it to do over again, I'd do certain things very differently, and I've no doubt my parents would too.

It takes a special father to raise a *gifted* child. Dad...In those long ago days, lashing out in anger, I told you plenty about the negative parts. I think, I'm pretty sure, I left out thanking you for the good things you gave me, for the strength to deal with the unusual brain and heart I was born with. And for the wonderful times not just out in the world but also in your lab, that place of peace. I want to thank you for all of that now, and to tell you how sorry I am for how very long it took me to say so.

Today is Father's Day. My father was, and is, an unusual dad. Lucky for me, an unusual dad is exactly the kind I need. I would not exist without him, of course. But you know I mean that in more ways than just me being born - with Doctor Dad helping.

His own birthday is very close to Father's Day. This tends to confuse me. Dad, once again this errant daughter, despite carefully watching the calendar, neglected to call you on the Actual Day. Probably, in fact, slept right through it. So I hope you'll accept this as a Double Happy Day, and forgive me my transgression there.

I love you, Dad. Happy Father's Day to you. And happy birthday, too.

Welcome! Come Into the Laboratory.

NOTE: I'm publishing these *backwards,* with the first in the series at the top of the scroll, not the bottom. There are 6 separate picture posts in this series, with four pix in each post. (This is because I'm too lazy to figure out how to do more than four pix in Blogger once again.)

We're going to take a walk through the lab, and see some of the special things it holds. The vast majority are things I can't begin to identify, sry! But some I can. Enough, I hope, to take you on a reasonable tour.

Click away, embiggen to your heart's content. Some of these pix are more blurry than I like, and the subjects are visually complex. Embiggening is good for you!

And just in case you wondered: Dad knows exactly what, and where, everything in here is.

This is the view that greeted me as I walked into Dad's lab last year. I hadn't been in this one before. They never look the same to me, but I always like them all.

There's always some Wonderful Mysterious Glassware.

All KINDS of glassware. Some look exactly like you'd expect them to.

And there's usually a fridge holding bottles of mystery substances.

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Many Mysterious Bottles of Substances, Actually.

Some come labeled by Official Scientific Companies.

Some make you think you're at the pharmacy.

Some are hand-labeled concoctions that only a father might know for sure.

Some are perfectly sensible to the regular visitor: *Antibodies.* I like antibodies. Well, most of them, anyway. The good ones, I want more of.
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...And Some Perfectly Recognizable Ones.

One day, Dad required some pure alcohol, as scientists often do. He had a choice. He could fill out a huge wad of requisition forms for the government project he was working on at the time, then spend scientific market price for it.

Or, he could run down to the liquor store and get some Everclear, cheap and fast.

Works that way with distilled water, too.

Slides! How's that for Regular Lab Stuff?

And other Important Ingredients and Glassware. Tea and mugs. Not for the microbes. For the microbiologist. And any human guests who might wander in.


Lord above. Those little bitty cells sure consume a lot of Everclear. You'd never think it to look at them. Hollow legs.

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One Takes One's Ingredients, Measuring Means, and Implements...

Ummm...I dunno what. Scary looking though, huh? heh!

A beautiful classic Laboratory Scale.

More heavenly Special Glassware, tiny this time; a perfectly recognizable syringe, and, oh, other stuff.

I love the names of some of these products. Labquake! Doesn't that instill a strong sense of confidence, that this thing can do its quaking Exactly Right?

Just because it's a highly scientific product doesn't mean they know nothing about marketing.
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Apply Such to Various Mysterious Machinery...

I really don't have the faintest idea what this is.

Or this.

The toaster-looking thing? Nope. Dunno.

This either.

I believe one of the above may be a centrifuge, but I'm not sure.

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Add One Dad, and You Get...Tissue Cells! Yay!

One bottle in the microscope, with Dad having a look. The upright bottle there is another one. See the medium in the bottom? It's so pretty.

These are the incubator shelves, with some roller bottles on them.

And...the incubator room itself. With its light bulb.

Sometimes this is simply the right room to use. Hey. Whatever works.

Checking more little kittens under the scope. Everybody looks healthy and happy today. Good!

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Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again. It seemed to me I stood by the iron gate leading to the drive, and for a while I could not enter for the way was barred to me. There was a padlock and a chain upon the gate...
--Daphne du Maurier, Manderley

Mother's Day and Father's Day make me think back on childhood. I had another dream, last night, of the suburban Illinois home where I spent my life from age seven to seventeen. The same place where my parents still live, where I stayed again for the first time in sixteen years last spring and summer.

There are things about my childhood that haunt me. When we moved - my parents, my younger sister and older brother - from California to the Far North Suburbs of Chicago, the change was hard for us kids. We'd gone from a sunny climate to terrible winters; from the sunny kids of our Pasadena area home to the vicious little snobs of our new suburban community.

The lands surrounding that upper middle class development were still quite rural then, with woods and cornfields and cows and two windmills, no public transportation, and little to do in the way of entertainment as we usually think of it today. Did I read? Hugely, and gladly. I loved our outdoors life there too, in summers at least. We had a beautiful park with a spring-fed swimming hole and a knotted-rope swing to fly out over the water and drop in, and lots of places to explore; we'd ride our bikes all over...but still, too much time was spent in boredom. Enough to foster some of the evil that was done to kids and young women like me.

Or not. Perhaps that sort of badness needs little reason to thrive.

Back in California we had a big black and white TV. When you turned it off, a beautiful eerie white-blue dot would flash on, then get smaller and smaller and disappear.

Five years old, watching President Kennedy's funeral procession, not really understanding...I remember the boots backwards in a horse's stirrups, the saddle empty; my Goldwater Republican mother watching with me and trying to explain, sitting in our hushed living room, silent tears rolling down her face; this child grasping only that something momentous and terrible and sad had happened. It was more than the death of a president. I didn't understand the word *assassinated,* or the crushing violent death of the innocence of a nation.

1968, when I was 10, was a year of riots in Chicago and elsewhere, and in August the Democratic National Convention came to town. The convention and its protests were on the air and in the newspapers. *Shoot to maim, shoot to kill,* the mayor had said, back in spring. The order was for arsonists and looters, but some of the public weren't entirely confident that the police could accurately single those out from ordinary neighborhood residents. Shutting off the electricity in Rogers Park, now, that was democratic enough; everyone's frozen meat spoiled, innocent resident or resident evildoer alike. Well, the visiting looters had no meat there to spoil, so they lucked out I guess.

A year later, mankind first landed on the moon. I was at Girl Scout Camp when it happened. There was some debate among our adult leaders over whether we should be allowed to stay up to watch this momentous event live on TV. You see, it happened at 10 PM, which was past our bedtime. They decided bedtime was bedtime, and we shouldn't be allowed to stay up for the moon landing. I never went to Girl Scout Camp again.

I've often wondered if, over time, any of them regretted that act of enforcing the letter of rules against the spirit of such very special circumstances. We lived in a time when the issue of rigid enforcement was a battleground all its own. On one side, rules were rules, and not to be questioned; they were absolute and valid in their own right, dissevered from the causes and reasons that gave them inception. Simply to enquire into their origin could brand one a Hateful Unpatriotic Rebel. And Generally Bad As Well.

The Vietnam War was claiming the lives of my classmates' big brothers, and photos of the realities of war were being displayed in news media, not censored in the same way they are today. Protests were everywhere. At Kent State, with a community's fears heightened after prior looting, the National Guard was sent in. Four students were killed and nine injured - after a nonviolent protest had mostly dispersed. Two of the dead weren't even protesters; one was just walking to class. Even if they were, why were they killed for it? They were not rioters.

What they were doing appeared (to us puzzled kids at school) to be engaging in emotional, but essentially innocent, free speech and public assembly. Those activities were deemed so crucial to our founding fathers that they made sure the rights to conduct them were written in to our constitution. Our civics classes taught us all about that constitution. It was fresh in our minds. To their credit, most government entities involved in sorting out the mess over the next decade agreed; and crowd control measures evolved into better planned, less hostile, less lethal ones.

I was 15 when the Watergate hearings were first broadcast live. A TV was turned on at our school, a shocking and radical thing to do at the time; an act to match the hearings themselves. During and between classes students and teachers gathered in front of it, watching the proceedings, listening to news of far-reaching organized wrongdoing, of CREEP, of slush funds and hush money and I Am Not a Crook. The counting of the votes for Nixon's impeachment as more and more information came out rang like a death knell, like Madame Lafarge with her knitting, until one day the impeachment vote was finally high enough to succeed, and Nixon chose to resign. Another national loss of innocence.

Has reading this tiny synopsis of a very few historical events raised emotion in any of you, especially those old enough to remember them? No matter which *side* you were on, then or now?

Think, for a moment, how fraught it was to raise a child then.

Those were emotional times. Turbulent times. So very much so. The generations of my parents and my peers were constantly clashing with an intensity that's hard to fathom for younger people today. Parents everywhere, all over the world really, had great trouble raising their children, and often couldn't understand or control the reasons why. And me, I would not have been an easy child to raise in the easiest of times. Not at all.

Being born with a high IQ, *gifted,* is not something anyone can ever take credit for. That's your genes at work, with which you had nothing to do. No bragging rights attach. It works the other way too: nobody, ever, should be looked down upon for being born with a low IQ. That's not their fault any more than a high IQ is an accomplishment. Either way is just an accident of fate.

Gifted children aren't easy to begin with, and I was one. I was also angry and rebellious, bullied and ostracized and resentful. I despised the people we lived among, and hated cold snowy winters with a deep and abiding passion. My parents took the brunt of my anger against events and circumstances they didn't always understand or even know about.

I have Seasonal Affective Disorder, which my mother has been dealing with herself the last fifteen years or so. When I was seven, though, this was not a condition anyone really understood yet. If they had, a child's sadness probably wouldn't have been attributed to it anyway. Society was intensely committed to certain preconceptions about children: one of them being that kids don't suffer from maladies like depressive disorders. Those were Phases, and Phases were not to be taken seriously; if they were, it might harm the child.

Playing in the snow and ice was rational parental advice, by way of a cure; but my hatred of it could not have seemed rational. I wasn't yet diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis that first winter. Besides, the idea that cold could make RA hurt worse was held to be an old wives' tale. Unfortunately, it was true for me. How was anyone to know I had fibromyalgia as well, that playing in the cold caused such brutal pain it could only be rational if the physical conditions were known?

But I don't want to make you think my early years were some sort of universal state of misery. They most certainly weren't. What I'm trying to do is explain, from my childhood's point of view, how difficult it must have been to be parents back then. Especially parents of mine. We had those incredibly turbulent times in society overall, and we had...small me.

I have wonderful memories too, and there were ongoing saving graces in my life. A second grade teacher, Mrs. Wills, took me to an exceptionally good local library whenever she could, as did my mother. My parents had always been lovers of nature and of science. We went camping and fishing in California, in the mountains, in the deserts of the Southwest, in the Northwoods of Wisconsin, in Colorado, in Florida, in far north Canada. We took day trips to the local forest preserves. I love nature, and loved those excursions.

My mother is a writer, and as a child I *helped* edit some of her articles and a wonderful book she wrote. I've got my doubts about how useful I was. I've no doubt at all how much good I derived from those experiences. They were fun in themselves, and gave me confidence and comfort that fit me when many of a child's more usual endeavors could not.

And from the earliest years, I spent bits of time in my father's various laboratories. To this day, those times are etched in my memory, oases of happiness and wonder, of fascination and acceptance. A place where I fit.

Last summer's odyssey, that return to Chicagoland, started with the simple desire to see my nephew graduate from college. I had some trepidation about staying in the area where so many demons had haunted me. There are things that happened there, in the suburbs and Chicago too, that my parents know nothing about, and probably should know nothing about. The bulk of my nightmare memories were acquired there.

But I love this young man, my excellent nephew. Love draws us to be strong. He was only doing the graduation walk because I'd asked him to. If demons lived up there too, well, perhaps it was time to stare them down, or do battle to their death. Put them to rest or put them in their graves. The young woman I was no longer exists, really, except in memory. I felt ready. Finally. All these years later.

My parents and I share a love of taking a drive for fun, and they took me all around that suburban area to see how it looked today. The nephew I went to see graduate knows something of my history, and with his customary great and gentle generosity, offered to drive me around to visit many of those places in the city, including one I'd discovered but never seen: the current residence of my first ex-husband. The kind we refer to, these days, as an *evil ex,* an EE. Our divorce was amicable; the evils were committed before and during the marriage alone.

Understand this: Last time I'd been out there at all, driving quickly through in 2002, I still couldn't enter that zone without shaking from head to toe. I had heart palpitations, night sweats, panic attacks, and the flashbacks and nightmares came into my head whether I slept or stayed awake. PTSD.

Not last summer. No. To my surprise - to my wondering, scared-to-believe-it, slowly dawning glad shock - everywhere I looked for them, girded for battle, those demons were gone.

They just weren't there any more.

Place after place I visited, those scenes of horrible experiences long ago were calm and free of taint. My old grade school, junior high, high school. That home suburb and others nearby. My old apartments and neighborhoods. The apartment the EE lives in today.


Every single one of my human tormentors had moved away by then. Buildings were either torn down, so rebuilt, or so surrounded by strange new things that they weren't recognizable. The whole area had become so developed, my parents had to think very hard to figure out if there was a single cornfield or cow pasture left in the entire county. I was sorry to see that. I prefer nature. But it helped me that the face of that place was so altered.

All of it helped. But even if those great changes hadn't happened, I bet the demons still would have moved on.

How could I fight something that no longer existed?

I lay down my sword.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

A Very Fine Cat-us Has Joined Us Today

This morning, on our way out the door for a long day of physical therapy and shopping, we discovered the UPS guy had left us a package last night.

Naturally, we had no interest in leaving for that PT and shopping until we saw what was in it.

Oh! The return label was Desert Cat's, so I knew exactly what it was. --Walter! Walter! It's here!!!

It's gorgeous! Check it out! That is one healthy, happy cactus.

Walter loves cactus and other desert plants. That's why I planted him Walter's Western Garden. Not just because it's on the west edge of the property, but because he wanted western plants in there.

This beautiful kitten has R. E. D. flowers. (Granny J loves R. E. D!) You can even see the red remaining in the spent blossoms on the plant. Since our only three true cacti all have yellow flowers, we are tickled pink!

I'm a tiny bit nervous about this one, I want to be very careful with it. Not all cacti do well in our humid climate. I think I'll clear away the pine bark mulch and give it an inorganic mulch instead, like coral. Let it dry out faster after it rains. That should help prevent fungus from hurting it.

Luckily, we have this wonderfully draining sugar sand, and I've mixed some peat and compost in all the sand in the yard. So according to what DC says about its usual conditions, it should do well in our soil.

And in Walter's Western Garden we'll find just the right place for it, to give it a little shade protection from the midday sun. It's actually the best spot in the yard for that.

Walter says --Thank you, very much!-- to you, Pops. He really is delighted.

Me too.

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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Mortgage is Paid

And not a peep out of Chase.

Not yet, anyway.

That's good enough for me. I feel like the weight of the world has been lifted off my shoulders once again.

Now I can go have a niiiiiiiiice nap. Sleep for the day, actually, since we're in pollen times. When I wake up I'll come back here and do some visiting again.

Thanks for keeping me company throughout the long watch.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

And...They're Up

This is one of my favorite pieces. It's a small one, from a yew tree.

I started hanging the big ones off the eaves on my patio. Suspended from the eaves are wrought iron pieces, all around the house except in front. They make great orchid hangers.

However, since they're right in front of many of the windows, it might tend to look unsafe to a Windstorm Inspector. Now, I know perfectly well the guy is just going to measure things and write up a boilerplate report. But I can't help thinking I'll get that one in a thousand who will prefer to Make Waves than to have a nice easy boilerplate job, and may call his boss's attention to this odd habit of mine.

So I figured it was time to hustle them off the eaves, and onto my ficus patch. That's the infamous Ficus Patch I spent a week or so chainsawing last January. See, an adjustor for my Citizens claim was coming out, and the ficus had grown so tall you couldn't see the dangling branches in the slash pine any more. I thought a tree trimmer was covered under my windstorm policy. Surely they don't want my big tree dropping limbs on my roof, right?

Next time I'll read the policy.

Well, I got an interestingly weird leg infection out of it, and an Eye Contamination Incident months later; a lot of exercise and fun; and huge stacks of ficus trimmings I chopped up in my chipper and am turning into much-needed compost. And lots of firewood. So it wasn't a total waste of time. I really do love climbing up my trees with a chainsaw.

While I was up there, I notched some trunks to hold these very long galvanized horizontal fence poles. I hung a good number of them way up in the ficus patch. These, you see, will hold very many orchids and other stuff that ought to be hung off the ground and tidied up. It's away from the house, doesn't use up my carport space, and the ficus leaves will quickly cover most of the stuff with lush green leaves. From here on out, I want every single thing about my house to look as nice as possible.

One problem...Galvanized fence posts are ugly. They just ARE. I've been told that no matter what you do for prep, what kind of primer you use, etc., they can't hold paint for more than a year or two down here. So if any of you engineering/handyman guys out there have any good ideas for making galvanized poles look less ugly, I'd be thrilled to hear them.

Walter and I scrambled to get the wood off the eaves and onto the ficus. He was wonderful. He knew perfectly well that none of my cleaning fits were actually necessary. He's got significant real estate and management experience - bureaucracy type, no less - of his own. Sure, that was going to be a boilerplate type inspection. And he knew it.

But Walter also knew perfectly well that it made me feel much better to work off a little Pre-Inspection Anxiety, and also to have the place tidied up for my own sake. I don't like it messy. At all.

Not to mention, it's just...sweet handholding activity. You know. Uh, supportiveness.

Aww, mush.


Well. The ficus patch poles filled up quickly, especially as they weren't really set up yet, so I made a space by the patio to lay the rest of the newly wired wood on the ground. I layered a bunch of plastic crates down first to keep the wood off the ground. At this point I don't want more ants and bugs eating it.

So the last pic is after the inspection. There was probably over a ton of wood strung up already when it was taken. If not? There sure is by now.

I've been stacking it and stacking it and stacking that stuff up like nobody's business.

I'll try to pick out some nice individual pieces for photos tomorrow. Right now it probably all looks like just a jumble of wood to you guys.

But me? Oh, am I excited! There are the most beautiful things in there, you just won't believe how gorgeous they can look...

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