A View From the Field








April, 2002


April 25

Time for an update, I guess. Things are beginning to crunch together. Two weeks...


First of all, the visit to U of M today went very well, except that they couldn't do the blood draw out of my port, which I was afraid would happen.  They did get it flowing eventually, but they had to get the blood out of my arm. Grr.  They think I'm doing very well, as does Dr. Lehman, I discovered. He had written Voravit to say that.  Apparently my stomach and nose problems are typical, as I suspected, and should eventually clear up. I can stop taking the acyclovir, so that is two large pills I can delete from the handful I throw down morning and evening.


So we ended the afternoon with a festive dinner at the Gandy Dancer and we got back here before dark. That's the kind of doctor visit I like.  I will have to go back next year, but they said I can schedule it earlier than the end of April.


I will try to push next year's back to the end of March or early April, so no doubt there will be so much snow I won't be able to go north any earlier anyway.


Things have been interesting around here.  I have been having so much problem with the screen on the kitchen slider that I asked Greg's people to look at it, and they informed me that I need a new door, not just a new screen. It didn't surprise me much. Twice last year, I managed to pull the sliding part off its track, which told me it was wearing out.


I spent part of three days getting the kitchen in shape. It is so nice to be able to walk across the kitchen floor without dodging a box!  This is one of the dangers of living alone, though: since most of the time nobody else sees the house, it is really easy to let even the most basic cleaning go completely. Since I honestly hate housework anyway, it tends to get pretty bad around here. I decided, though, that I just wasn't going to let Debbie see the kitchen in the same shambles it was in the last time she was here, and besides, I could not possibly leave it like that when I go north, so I cleaned.


I decided to ask Cynthia, my organization lady, to help me pack up the rest of the  vases and get the cruddy baker's rack out of the corner of the kitchen, and then Sunday, I went into the laundry room for the first time in a couple of weeks and found water all over the floor, coming from the furnace. There is a thing called a "condensate pump" in the furnace that has given me trouble before, and the tubing that connects it to the laundry tub was evidently plugged up again. The pump was also running constantly.


The trouble really was that there were a number of cardboard boxes and an old manila portfolio with my first sky atlases in it in that room, and the atlases had a wonderful case of mold, so I was afraid of what we would find in the rest of the stuff. It turned out not to be quite so bad as I had feared. There was one box of yarn (that I'd forgotten about) and the yarn was wet and musty but it didn't get moldy, thank goodness, and it will dry out. There was a really large box with all of my old, large embroidered pictures in it, but it turned out to be thick enough that the only pictures that got wet at all were a set of old framed photographs that were so faded that I'd never hang them again anyway. 


However, clearing out the rubble was a real job. The fruit cellar is now inaccessible, and I will have to move stuff before I can do any laundry, which is on the agenda for next week. I need to wash my down parka and my mid-season jacket so they are clean to take north with me, not to mention all the other dirty stuff. All the cardboard boxes in that room are now moved, and the furnace man could get to the furnace when he came.


By the time the furnace man arrived, the pump had burned out (no surprise there - it's not supposed to run continuously). He also found that the reason that I didn't have enough humidity in the house all winter was that I needed a new medium for the humidifier. So here comes another big bill.


Anyway, besides that room and the packing, Cynthia and I ended up cleaning up the entire downstairs and the porch. She may have done the heavy work, but I was right in there, too. Needless to say I was wiped out by the time she left, and I went right to bed when I got home from choir practice. Whew! A nice quiet day today was just what I needed.


Cynthia is coming back tomorrow and we do the garage and maybe take a crack at the upstairs hall, although I'm not sure if we can do any good there. The front bedroom is full of piles of clothes, too, and I probably won't start packing until next week, so we'll see what happens.  It would be nice to leave the house relatively neat for once.


On the bird scene, the white-throated sparrow finally arrived this week. When I got around to checking my little bird diary, I discovered that he's right on schedule. The song sparrow comes through early, then the chipping sparrow, who has been around a week or so, then the white-throated, and finally the white-crowned. The reason I started the bird diary in the first place was to track the arrival of the migrants, because otherwise I forget.


For a couple of days this week, there was a visitor to the patio that I am relatively sure was a common redpoll. Not common to me - I've never seen one before. It somewhat resembled a house finch, but it wasn't quite so red in front,  its belly was much lighter, and it had prominent bars on its wings, which the house finches don't. I never did see it fly off away from me to be sure it didn't have any red on its back, but I'm confident it wasn't a house finch. One of the advantages of my afternoons in the kitchen was that I got to watch the feeder a lot.


This morning, there was a horny house sparrow displaying for a female who kept trying to peck him to make him go away. I got a laugh out of that. The mourning doves have been chasing each other around lately, and one day when the windows were open, I heard a female blue jay making her calling noise.  So our feathered friends think it's time to make eggs, which means that in spite of the cooler weather, spring is here indeed.


It cooled off just before my pear tree blossoms came out, so they are still just buds. The old lilac in the front part of the yard is coming nicely, so I will get to smell the lilacs here, too. The early daffodils came and went too fast, and the tulips are out. At the U of M cancer center, the beds in front of the main entrance are full of masses of tulips, which are really beautiful.


So that's all the news, and I'm beginning to yawn..


Two weeks...


April 19

Well, spring just didn't spring around here, it exploded! After three or four days of temperatures in the mid to upper 80s and high humidity, Whoosh! The bushes are green, the early flowering trees are out, and the grass is green, green, green. The grass is also lumpy, because each kind of grass grows at its own rate. After being bare on Sunday, the magnolias are completely open and starting to drop their petals. And that's the pity: I hate to see this happen, because the beautiful spring trees and bushes come and go before we really have a chance to see and enjoy them. Fortunately, a front came through this afternoon and the wind switched around to the north and the temperature dropped 9 degrees in an hour or so, so if we're lucky, the magnolias particularly will hold a little longer. I hope so. I'd never want one of my own - they're far too messy - but they are a pretty tree, with all the lovely purple and white blossoms - there is (or was some years ago) one down on Lakeshore Drive that was actually all purple - and they have a lovely pale gray smooth bark. I just wouldn't want to put up with what all those petals do to the grass. I have enough trouble growing grass as it is!


I had a meeting with a mortgage broker in Troy this morning, and this afternoon, before it cooled off, I was sitting on my bed finishing a sock, and I kept getting whiffs of the most delightful fragrance (much nicer than the smell of something that seems to have died between my house and my neighbors that I've been smelling for the past couple of days - or perhaps it was the wind blowing the scent of our neighborhood snake-pit supermarket). When I came downstairs later, I discovered what I'd been smelling: the gooseberry is in flower. This isn't a fruit-bearing gooseberry, and it is an awkward looking bush, but oh! does it smell!  I could sit and just inhale it for hours.  Some years, it and the lilacs are out at the same time, and while the lilacs are coming, I'm not sure whether the gooseberry will hold until they bloom.


I wish I could transport a piece of the gooseberry north to Copper Harbor, but I don't think it would do too well there. It seems to just hang on in our climate here, and I'm afraid it would be too cold. Some year I may try it. Filling that big bed is going to be hard, I think.


It's going to be hard to get the roses, because most mail-order nurseries are either in the south or west, and they have all stopped shipping bare root. I have found one nursery in northern Wisconsin (I think) and two in Canada, and I will be checking their websites. I got so annoyed with Jackson-Perkins last year that I'd rather not order from them, and they don't have everything I want anyway.


I always have trouble sleeping during the change of seasons, and this really warm weather did me no good at all, so I am planning to start early and end late tonight.  One trouble, which I've mentioned before, is that it's noisy around here!  Cars, ambulances, planes landing at City Airport, people's poorly maintained air conditioners, as well as lawn services, tree trimmers, and dogs, make it really hard to go to bed early or stay in bed late. Ah, for the peace and quiet of Copper Harbor...


It hasn't helped that the city bought up the last three houses along Moross, and to decrease demolition costs, the firemen (whatever they call them now) are using them for training purposes, so all week long the neighborhood has been subjected to fire engine sirens and horns and the sound of big engines. I haven't gone by to see what they've done, but it can't be pretty. If they ever get the snake-pit supermarket out of there, there will be a nice big parcel of city-owned land that will take the next fifty years to decide what to do with. They've only been discussing it for five years or so, and they can't agree. One idea was senior-citizen apartments, which might be handy if I live long enough to outgrow Champine. I doubt my grandchildren's generation will see anything there. 


I haven't wanted to use the air conditioning, because it's going to cool down again, and besides, I don't sleep well with it on, either. I know - picky, picky, picky. Actually, what that means to me is that Copper Harbor is the best place to be.


John Dee got a new webcam, and in so doing, he found the website I've been looking for since I saw an ad for it a couple of months ago. Thanks again, John!  It gives great pictures, clear and sharp with really good color. So I ordered one last night.  I won't install it the instant I get to Copper Harbor, because I want to change software first, but I want to make sure I have the camera and I'm not waiting on that. Then I will uninstall the Intel and send it back.  So that was a little excitement.


Another accomplishment of the week was to finally get all of last year's magazines out of the living room and into the recycling. Now I can start on the kitchen, and that will be a major undertaking. I've just decided that I'm not going to let my kitchen look like it did the last time Debbie was here, which means I'd better start now.


I also framed a little piece of needlework I made last summer, attached three things to backing boards for Carey and finished one hanging and almost finished the birds. So I guess I did do something this week.


No new birds to report, but the juncos are still here - or they were yesterday - and there were three fat robins - two males and a female - in the yard this evening. A couple of mornings, I woke up and couldn't go back to sleep because first the robins and then the crows were making such a racket they kept me awake. Today, while I was getting ready to go out, there was a crow sitting on the fence, yelling at the top of its lungs.


So that's been the week. Is it really just three weeks until I leave? Yaaahhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!


April 12

It was a beautiful afternoon in Copper Harbor today, and while it was raining over the past couple of days, the sunset crawled behind Lighthouse Point. Pretty soon it will be out of the picture on the right, and it will stay behind the point until sometime in August, I think.


I noticed from the pictures that it was still raining this morning there, but at least it cleared up.   I was down here sitting in the virtual chair looking out the virtual window again. The last picture of the day just posted, and it is almost dark, and Venus is shining through the branches of the birch tree. Oh, how I wish I was there, weather or no!


On that subject, I decided as I crawled into bed at 1:15 this morning that I am going to try to start getting up earlier - not today, of course - and do some of the things I have to do around here before I leave.  To that end, I washed and pressed a number of the embroidery pieces I have finished over the winter, including the birds. I will probably go to see Carey next week, and there are a couple of things I have the backing boards and mats for that I want to get framed. She is supposed to have some of my backing boards from the last batch ready for me, so I wouldn't want her to run out of work (that is supposed to be a joke - she has several hundred pieces to frame, and since she works completely alone, it takes her a while).


I have to lace two more things to their backing boards, then I will start on the hangings, the birds and a piece I finished a couple of years ago called "Real Roses" that I need to hang in the office in Copper Harbor. The verse is about putting aside your embroidery and getting out into the garden. I need to be reminded of that sometimes.


The other part of the getting up earlier is going to bed earlier, of course, and I am going to do that tonight, I hope.  Since the camera doesn't shut down until 9:30, that means I won't be downloading the files and cleaning up the server quite so diligently as I was doing over the winter. The software only keeps 99 old pictures and cycles them off the bottom, so I may miss some things, but soon I'll be seeing them in person and taking pictures with the Nikon, so it isn't so important now. I think I can continue to monitor the sunset pictures, which are the best ones anyway, in my opinion.


Spring finally came to southeastern Michigan yesterday, and it was beautiful, sunny and in the low 70s. The cats were in their glory, because for the first time this year, the doors were open and they could sit by the screens and smell the fresh air.  Today wasn't so nice. We had a thunderstorm around 6am, I think, and it was warm and muggy.  It got into the 70s again, but it wasn't nice out like it was yesterday.  And while I was downstairs waiting for my casserole to cook, we had another downpour, so that when I went up to take the dish out of the oven, the backyard had turned into Smith marsh. There was some nice lightening and close-by thunder, too. I don't know what it's doing now.


Some of the daffodils in the backyard are opening, and they look nice and cheerful.


It was so warm today that I worked up quite a sweat, both while I was cutting mat board and while I was putting my dinner together. Too hot too fast, as usual around here.  I changed quilts to the light weight one a couple of days ago, and I changed into a cotton nightgown last night. There is stuff in front of the door in my bedroom which I will have to move, because if it stays this warm, I'm going to want some outside air, even though it's noisy. At this time of year, it's hard to regulate the heat, and the upstairs gets very warm and never cools down much at night.


The bird of the day for yesterday was the one that crawled under the 4" pvc pipe around the bird feeder pole and got caught. I noticed it when only its head and one wing were sticking out of a crack in the patio, and it was clearly not going to get out by itself, so I went out in my bathrobe and moved the pipe. Fortunately, it wasn't hurt, or at least it flew away like it wasn't.  I suppose that's why they call them bird-brains.


Speaking of birds, I'm a little puzzled that I haven't seen the white throated and white crowned sparrows yet this spring. It seems to me they should have turned up by now. Strange.


So I will wrap this up and crawl up to bed. In four weeks, I will be running around like a maniac trying to get everything together so I can leave Saturday instead of Sunday. Four weeks....Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


April 9

The bird of the day is a chipping sparrow. It was rooting around at the base of the feeder this afternoon. The juncos are still here, though. They are pecking around the yard and below the feeder, too, getting ready for their flight north, probably.


Spring is definitely here. It's been around 50║ for the past couple of days, which feels quite warm to me, and it poured rain yesterday. The grass is green and the daffodils are sprouting at a great rate. The weather forecasts claim that by the end of the week it will be close to 70║.  Too warm too fast, as usual.


Dr. Lehman looked at me and said come back in a month. He seems to think everything is going well, though, and he was actually quite upbeat yesterday. I said I wanted to keep the Mediport, because I'd hate to take it out and have to have it put back in a year, and he said he didn't think that would happen. I'm hoping not, too, but I'm learning to temper my natural optimism and not think too far ahead.


 My new glasses came in today, so I am now looking at the world slightly differently. I do think they look all right, and since they are about the same size as the old ones, I'm not having quite the problem getting used to the middle focus, like I did the last time.


I am definitely not on daylight savings time, though, and neither are the cats. Last night I was so warm that I ended up sleeping past 10am DST this morning, and by the time I got up, Buster had given up and started his morning siesta, so he never even came down for breakfast!


When I downloaded the pictures from the live camera, a couple of times lately I have seen a large thing flying across our end of the harbor, and I have to believe it's an eagle, because I don't know anything else that would look that large.  Apparently they like it around Norland and they've come back from wherever they went last fall.


Yesterday, there was just a little pancake ice in front of my house, but today it had frozen over again. It's been above freezing but not really warm up there. I guess the snow is melting, but that turns into a really ugly time of year, with lots of mud and things. Times when I'm glad I live on a pile of pebbles.


I've been dreaming about the house. Five weeks...


April 7

Time to update, I guess. It was sort of an interesting week.


Tuesday, I saw the ophthalmologists.  As I suspected all along, they were quite concerned about my story of the floaters I had when i was in the hospital, and they tell me there is still sort of a mark on my left retina, probably where there was bleeding into my eye.  I will have to relate that story to the people at U of M, because they're the ones who dropped the ball. As a result, I got one of those horribly extensive examinations where they shine a very bright light into every corner of your eyeball and when you're through, everything looks green for a while. Now I know one reason my mother didn't like to go to see them. Fortunately, they didn't find anything wrong, so far.


There is also apparently something not quite normal about my corneas, but except that I may be susceptible to abrasions, it isn't critical. Apparently my lenses are turning yellow, which means that the cataracts are starting to form, but that doesn't surprise me. There have been flares around lights at night for several years now.  And my fluid pressure was up a bit, to the high end of normal. This was a condition my mother also had, which they were trying to keep under control with drops so it didn't develop into full-blown glaucoma.  I'm far from that, but because of it, I will have to go back next year, and probably every year thereafter, so they can monitor it.


So overall, my eyes are in pretty good shape for my age, heredity and degree of myopia. That was good news, and Wednesday I ran right over to the opticians and ordered some new glasses. It's been three years with this frame, and that's long enough.


I still thought the sunglasses were in Copper Harbor, but Friday the window washers came, and when I moved the stuff off the floor on the backside of the bed so they could wash the window, there was the case on the floor!  All I can figure is that it slid out of my purse onto the bed when I got home, and since I didn't know it was there, it went on the floor when I got into bed. So after my windows were clean, I went back to the optician and ordered new sunglasses.  There wasn't much change in my prescription, but I don't think it would have been easy to switch back and forth. The new sunglasses are also polarized, which should cut down a lot on glare when I'm driving. I'm going to use my old frame, because they just aren't making big metal frames these days, and I like the coverage of big sunglasses.


I'm not going to admit what I'm paying for all this, what with the progressive bifocals, all the coatings, and thin lenses. I've always thought that, as my principal prosthesis, I deserve full-function glasses. I certainly wouldn't be driving back and forth to Copper Harbor without them! Or using the computer, or doing much reading or embroidery, either. I can see to do the close work without my glasses (sometimes have to) but when I do it for any length of time, I get horrible headaches.


My other adventure of the week was with the vaccinations and setting things up to get my Mediport flushed over the summer.


It turned out that the only tetanus vaccine Henry Ford Health Services had was down at the main hospital, downtown, and they were not about to send even one dose to my local clinic.  I just didn't want to go down there, so I called U of M. There was also the issue of what to do about the next doses of those things that I need in two months, when I won't be here.


The result is that U of M will give me the shots when I see them, and I had a nice conversation with a nurse at the Western Upper Peninsula Health Department, and all I will need to do is make an appointment when I need the second dose and they will give them to me.


That worked out so well that I attacked the problem of who will flush my port. I needed to do that before I see Dr. Lehman tomorrow anyway, so he can talk to the proper people and pave my way.  It turns out that the oncology department is at Marquette, which makes me feel a lot better. One of their doctors goes to Hancock every Monday, and sees patients in the Ambulatory Care Unit at Portage Health Services, and they give chemo and flush Mediports and those things.


Marquette General is the regional hospital, and I've heard much better things about it than I have about the Keweenaw medical facilities, so that relieves my mind. Besides, they won't be doing much beside the flush. If I need attention, I will drive home.


So I have some names and telephone numbers to pass on, and all that turned out better than I was thinking it might around the first of the week.


The weather has been cold-ish. In fact, when I came upstairs Friday night, after the screens were put on all the doors, it was snowing. There was maybe an inch on the ground Saturday morning, but of course, it was gone by afternoon.  It was a little warmer today, and it's supposed to warm up during the week. Maybe spring is coming. My daffodils and hyacinths think it is. Nothing is in bloom yet, of course, but the early daffs are showing buds, and I saw some crocuses in bloom today.


DC and Buster certainly think spring is here. With all the sun, they think it is warm out, and they want the doors open.


Buster has learned how to hook his claws in the screen onto the porch, which was open this morning and the smaller elephant foot palm had been tipped over. He only chewed off one leaf, though. I think they are a little older and tougher than he thought, but I'm not taking any chances. I shut the door more firmly. I don't want to lock it because I've been coming in that way.


So time is marching on, and I keep looking around at the mess in the house and thinking I should be doing something...


April 1

Seeing as how it's April Fool's day, I was tempted to just leave this page blank, but very few other people on the internet are playing around for the day, so I won't either.


I was simply too tired to finish off the month yesterday. 


I didn't sleep well Saturday night - this is becoming a  habit: whenever I have to do something specific, thinking about it keeps me from sleeping. Anyway, I arose at 5:30, had a hearty breakfast, and made it to church on time. Singing was even more of an exercise than normal, because we were missing two loud sopranos, so the rest of us had to try to make up for it. Besides, Easter is one day when we and the organ can all sing at the top of our lungs - the top of our ranges, too.


One of the sopranos had a bad cold which she was coming down with last Wednesday, but Carol was the other, and she was on her way to Indiana because her brother died Saturday night. Not only is she a stalwart of the choir, but I was going to eat dinner at her house.  I guess she is planning to have her dinner next week, but we'll see. I've mentioned her before: she is a good friend, a wonderful cook, and a wonderful Christian who has had more of her share of grief over the past twelve months. I hope this is the end of it for her.


Anyway, after screaming at the top of my lungs for two services, I was exhausted.  I took a rest when I got home, and spent most of the afternoon sitting in bed knitting. I went to bed around 8:30.


And got up around 8:30. I still feel sort of blah, and I will be off to bed shortly, but it was time to pay a few bills, so I did that for most of the afternoon, as it turned out. I got a little thrill because my usual transfer of funds from American Express hadn't gone through, but we are hoping it was just because part of the financial system was shut down Friday, and it will be there tomorrow. I hope so, because I wrote checks like it was there, although I won't mail them until tomorrow. This is the reason I won't have any of my bills paid electronically. If they can screw up my funds transfer in, they can certainly screw up the transfer out.


Tomorrow afternoon, I have my eye examination. Most of the time I can see all right, but my glasses are three years old or so and it's time for a new frame, and the lenses are getting rather scratched up. I can see so much better with the anti-reflective coating that I wouldn't do without it, but it does scratch easily, and it's hard to keep clean. I am seeing the doctor I saw in the hospital when I had the shingles, and whom I liked very much. He is a nice man, and I am sure he will make certain everything is right with my eyes and my glasses.


It also means another big bill, because usually when I get new glasses, the total cost comes in at over $500 a pair, sunglasses more, and I may just go for a new sunglass frame, too, because I guess my sunglasses are still in Copper Harbor.  The Boosts are out of town, and I'm not sure when they'll be back.


Anyway, my other task of the day was to finally cook the dish I have been planning since I went food shopping last week. I wanted to use that green pepper before it went bad. I haven't had pork chops with Spanish rice in over a year, because the tomato sauce didn't taste good with the chemo, and after I got my taste back in shape, I just never got around to it. There were two packages of pork chops in the freezer, one of them pretty old, which I wanted to use, but every time I planned it last week, something came up and I didn't have the time (or the energy, maybe) to cook. 


Anyway, this is one of the easiest recipes I have - you brown the chops then dump everything else, including the raw rice, into the pan, and simmer it for half an hour, covered. It's the reason I originally bought the sautÚ pan. When you serve it you sprinkle grated sharp cheese over the top. It tasted as good as I remember, and it's even better warmed up, so I will eat well for several days this week.


So now I will get this published, get the rest of the pork chops put away, and reboot the computer. I am having to do that regularly because of my trouble with Windows Explorer, and it's getting annoying.


It's April, and in six weeks I'll be sitting in the real ugly chair looking out the real window.


Last  updated 08/04/11 08:45 PM