Thursday, September 12, 2019

Happy September, Sort of

Greetings! September is flying by, and the cooler weather has been wonderful. 

Some of you may be wondering where I've been, since I haven't been posting here. Let me tell you what's been going on as we watch the local vultures hover around Wendy, who likes to take her time over her supper dish. I spend extra time every night keeping various boys out of her food dish and she is entirely ungrateful.

For more than a month, I've been dealing with a few strange and annoying nerve issues that may be the result of years of daily bad habits (sitting too much at my laptop, walking too much in bad footwear). I've also been extremely anxious — not entirely without reason, since the nerve sensations are weird, but the anxiety seemed abnormally intense, even for me. 

I inherited my anxiety from my mother and grandmother, who struggled with it all their lives and probably my father, too. I've had medical anxiety — fear of doctors, illness, symptoms, tests, and test results, since I was a toddler. It hasn't been fun lately. 

(I think my father had it since he managed to avoid all of those things by never going to doctors unless he broke bones or needed stitches. He died this past Valentine's Day at 104, loathing and criticizing doctors and nurses almost to the end. May I have inherited his good genes and not his poor manners . . . .)

All of this started happening after I'd been using a tiny amount of estrogen gel for a few months to treat severe hot flashes. I never felt good about using it, and I wondered if it could be contributing to my other issues, so I stopped using it nearly three weeks ago. I am beginning to feel a little more like myself and a bit less anxious. The hot flashes have yet to return with a vengeance so I probably still have a ways to go before the estrogen has stopped affecting me. I never imagined I'd be happy to have hot flashes but life is hilarious.

Estrogen made me lightheaded when I first started taking it. One day in May, I had a few seconds of tunnel vision out at Mount Auburn Cemetery, but most of the time it was just the sensation that my brain was floating lightly above my skull. It went away after several weeks, but it's back now. More fun. So I eat, and drink lots of water, and remind myself that I've never come close to actually passing out. I've start exercising again, both at a gym and by walking up and down five of the hilliest Beacon Hill Streets. That walk always makes me dizzy, and I don't feel any worse now. I have all of my strength, balance, and coordination, such as they are. If I wasn't such a mess, I'd actually feel pretty great!

I've seen my doctor, a neurologist (a two-fer, in fact), and just had my first visit with a physical therapist. I regularly see a psychotherapist, and we have so much more to talk about now. I'm learning ways to make myself feel better and I'm taking a magnesium supplement. I plan to do whatever it takes to get back to being myself again, and I'm trying to be optimistic that I'll succeed.

I'm also avoiding those bad habits. I'm spending a lot less time sitting and I am trying to use my laptop much less,, since even standing at it for long stretches is bad for my back and my feet. So I will be taking an even longer break from writing here, aside from maybe posting occasional photos (you can probably find more from me on Instagram). 

On the plus side, I've known I was injuring myself by sitting in a crappy chair for most of my days (and nights) without enough breaks. I knew my feet weren't happy; I developed plantar fasciitis in both feet three years ago, which never really healed. I've had tingly soles and toes since then, and now it's spread to my calves. 

Since my body just felt uncomfortable but didn't actually hurt, I kept ignoring all the trouble signs. Now I pay attention. I stand much more, and move around a lot more. I lean against walls, and I read instead of being online. For perhaps the first time since my 20s, I am up-to-date on The New Yorker. I'm reading three books at once right now, which I haven't managed since I was a kid.

For a while I was pretty sure I was losing my mind. I'm still not 100 percent convinced but I'm getting there as experts keep reassuring me. Both here and on vacation in Maine, I spent way too much time consulting Dr. Google. I'm a bit of a hypochondriac, and I managed to convince myself that I had every horrible neurological disease out there. I've been like this my whole life, and you'd think I'd learn. But I had one of those Big Milestone birthdays last month, the kind that gets you thinking about mortality. And, as you know, sooner or later, mortality happens.

My husband has been even kinder and more patient and understanding than usual, as have some of my neighbors. In a nutshell, I've also become hypersensitive to mechanical vibrations that others can't feel, so I feel all the rumblings of dehumidifiers, big fans, washing machines, and so on that are not in my own apartment. When I feel our bed shaking, I can't sleep. I feel our sofa shaking, I can't relax anywhere. I feel our cats purring more intensely, too. 

Apparently this hypersensitivity is a "thing," as the neurologists put it, in technical terms even I could understand. The physical therapist told me it is probably related to the unhappy nerves in my back, legs, and feet, which are causing similar "purring" sensations from my backside to my toes.

All this "vibrating" is why I thought I was crazy. I've had to play detective for weeks, rooting out the causes, and for the most part, I've figured them out and have been able to stop them, at least at night. It's amazing how much our world vibrates and roars from all kinds of equipment: HVAC, vacuum cleaners, refrigerators, trucks, planes . . . . Until last month, I had never had to pay attention. 

After I've explained to people why their ordinary devices are suddenly torturing me, they have often in turn confided in me about their own struggles with anxiety, neurosis, noise, etc. It's been quite an education, and a bonding of deeper friendship. We are all dealing with something, although most of the time we mask it well.

Anxiety doesn't give me panic attacks, it makes me sick to my stomach sometimes, but more often I feel trembly and shaky. Those sensations are exactly what I do not need right now. On the plus side, I also lose my sugar cravings and interest in food of any kind. I've lost about 5 pounds on the Severe Emotional Distress Diet, patented by me. I don't recommend it for you. I force myself to eat regular meals and drink tons of water. I also take a few basic supplements now, including calcium, plus the magnesium capsules both of the lady neurologists take themselves for healthy nerves. 

And now I need to take a walk because I've been writing for too long. Walking seems to be very good for my stress levels and my back and legs  — my feet are tolerating it, so far, and I've promised them a pair of actual sneakers or walking shoes instead of junky sandals and flip flops. Soon. 

Please wish me well. I hope to be back here soon!

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Last Postcards from Maine: Thuya Garden

Let's have a look around Thuya Garden. That's Thuya Lodge, above, which has a botanical library on the second floor and old-fashioned rooms below, which you can see here

Mid-August is prime time for the garden, with everything is in bloom:

We saw more butterflies at Thuya than we did at the Charlotte Rhoades Butterfly Garden:

The lilies are amazingly abundant this year, and I can relax and enjoy them since dogs and cats are not allowed in the garden:

I don't think I've ever seen such masses of lilies anywhere.

I've become a big fan of coneflowers, or echinacea, lately. I love their big centers and rich colors.

Phlox is pretty wonderful, too:

This is an old Thuya occidentalis or northern white cedar, the fragrant tree that inspired the name of the house and the garden:

As we leave the garden but before we head down the hill to the parking lot, let's check out Northeast Harbor and its boats:

After walking around in the sun, it's nice to get back to the pool. Here are two of my summer friends, the blue whale pool thermometer and my trusty kickboard for floating around:

Monday, August 26, 2019

Postcards from Maine: Around the Island

Maine seems like forever ago, so it's time for more postcards from Mount Desert Island.

We ate breakfast on the inn's porch whenever we could get a table, and one morning we were treated to the din of trucks, heavy equipment, and a team of yelling guys. The family across the street was having their driveway resurfaced. Since we have four houses on our block of Back Bay undergoing gut renovations, it was a familiar sound and we had to laugh. It's the same everywhere. 

Things were quieter down the street. I believe this lovely harbor-front house was sold several years ago, but the seller still lives nearby and still returns frequently to work on its amazing garden:

Across the street is a couple that sells homemade jam, bread, and vegetables on the honor system from their front yard:

We caught a sunset in Bar Harbor, across from Bar Island, both named for the natural sand bar that connects it to the mainland at low tide:

We've never walked across to it, but it's a popular thing to do as there are walking trails there and nice views of the town and MDI. You just need to get the timing right and plan a short visit, to get back to the mainland before the tide comes back in.

Here's another view of Bar Harbor, with the Margaret Todd coming home from a sunset cruise:

We met a friend from Boston for a walk to Indian Point:

We'd never been there, and it's a beautiful spot:

The lupines of June are long gone to seed, and now goldenrod is everywhere:

Our friend pointed out Deacon Oliver's Cemetery, along the way:

I was often too interested in going out to dinner to watch the sun set over Southwest Harbor, but I didn't miss much. We didn't have any dramatic red or pink ones. I was around for this one:

The Charlotte Rhoades Park and Butterfly Garden on Main Street in Southwest Harbor did not disappoint:

We went into Bar Harbor on a few evenings for dinner and to visit with our cousins, who live there. I was irresistibly drawn to this large painting in a gallery window. I wonder why . . . 

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Postcard from Maine: Driving North

We're back from Maine and glad to be back with the cats, who seem very happy to have us. Here are some photos from the ride north.

We see a lot of interesting cars in Maine. Unfortunately, the guy who collects antique Porsches and other rare sports cars sold his house down the road from our inn. Now a boring Toyota or something is always parked out front. 

But there are other kinds of car candy on the road. The best thing about this one is the color, of course:

Our first stop was Freeport, where I had to return one of my L.L. Bean swimsuits from last year, which had gone sheer down the (unlined) back after less than 10 days of use. According to customer comments, this happens a lot to certain Bean swimsuits. But they are easy to wear, modest (when not sheer!), cute enough, and dry quickly, so I bought another one. One sale, they are worth it, as long as I remember to inspect the back every time before I wear it.

We split three fabulous donuts from Frosty's (the only place we ever get donuts in recent years) before we visited Freeport's antiques cooperative. It used to be in Wiscasset until the lease ended a couple of years ago. My husband went crazy over a pretty European table covered in inlay, but we have nowhere to put it.

I wanted to buy and read this, but I already have more than enough to read:

I contemplated getting this for my brother, since he and his wife keep chipmunks as pets, but decided against it since we are no longer children who torture each other. Or at least we shouldn't be:

Back on the road, I finally got a halfway decent shot of this crustacean on Route 1: a drive-by shooting:

This was fun to follow. When we were beside it, we could see our reflection in the Airstream. I wonder if it's all pink inside:

We had lunch at Sprague's in Wiscasset, as usual. I go into a few shops while my husband placed our order. When I returned, we still had to wait an eternity in the heat for our meal but it was worth it.

While we waited, I went, as always, into the tiny shop that is covered floor to ceiling with vintage toys, kitchen items, etc.:

I've never met the shopkeeper in all of my visits but I know it's a woman because I've met her husband, who runs a shop across the street.

Usually I have her shop to myself. It's just one room, attached to another, owned by a guy who sells old books, African and Native American artifacts, and nautical antiques, so I guess he will ring up purchases and help you decide which of her 50 plastic rabbits or plush puppies you really want.

I hope I've captured the place well enough to give you the sense that it's pretty overwhelming. And did you notice the tags on every item? They are amazing: tiny, carefully crafted collages. They make the shop feel even more like an art installation "experience."

You can just buy tags over in the other antique shop for a few dollars apiece:

I have yet to find anything that I really want, so I don't know if the tag is included in the price of the item. But in many cases, the tag is more interesting than the item. But I find that the place is so packed with stuff that I feel like going back home and start throwing things away. Maybe that's why I keep going in there.

We stopped in Camden so my husband could get an iced coffee from the deli. He also picked up one of their excellent mint-frosted brownies. It was a day of sugar overload, and I'm supposed to have very little, but I vowed that it would be just this one day. And aside from having a milkshake for dinner one night, and sharing one dessert among three of us, I pretty much kept my vow.

After Camden, we start wondering what has happened to the deteriorating house in Searsport. I'm sorry to report that there's been progress since we last saw it in June:

The owner has stripped everything off the left whatever-it-is . . . turret? And the roof is much more of a mess than it was.

I was looking at Instagram as we were driving, and happened that someone I follow had already driven past the house a few hours earlier. He posted a shot of the owner actually working on the roof. I don't know this person, but I was truly a follower that day, and was glad he prepared me to see it like that.

After that, we drove to Ellsworth, where we avoid the Big Chicken Barn, and then went onto the island. It is always great to get onto the island.

I didn't shoot these photos of Somesville on this drive, but I'll include them here since we always pass this way and look forward to these sights.

So here's Somesville's famous footbridge, which everyone photographs all the time:

And here's what everyone crops out, except me:

I took these on Saturday, after we went to the tiny Somesville Library's Annual Blueberry Festival and Book Sale. We didn't buy any books or blueberry muffins or cake, alas.

Here are Somesvilles' famous petunias, which are having a banner year:

When we got to the inn, one of the innkeepers was waiting to greet us. He had left some beautiful roses in our bungalow, and we caught up on some of the local gossip. We unpacked, picked up a pizza from the Little Notch, and hit the hot tub and pool as the sun went down. Same as always. And always so good.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Recent Adorableness

Harris is still figuring out how to eat with four fewer teeth, and Toffee would still rather be fed from our fingers instead of his bowl, but both are slowly but surely finishing their meals. And just in time: we are heading to Maine tomorrow.

On Monday afternoon, I realized we were about to be late for our vet visit and sprang into action. I corralled Harris, held him tight, and smooshed him into a carrier as he struggled and fought. My husband assisted but he was muttering things that didn't make sense. After Harris was zipped in, I finally realized he was telling me that Harris didn't have to go to the vet; only Wendy did. I'd forgotten that the vet had checked Harris's sutures on Friday. Oh.

All the other cats were hiding so they missed Harris's miraculous reprieve and mad dash from the carrier. Only Wendy went to the vet, meowing all the way. Her mouth is healing well. I knew it – she eats faster and tries to steal more food from others' bowls.

Possum has been extra sweet to Harris lately. He knows Harris has been having a rough time:

But these last photos were taking after Harris got tired of having his head washed and started a swatting match:

It seems that Harris's willingness to be treated like a baby has its limits after all.