Sunday, June 26, 2022

The Mystery of the Popping Hip

Sometimes growing older presents some challenges. Don't get me wrong, there are also a lot of good things as long as a person stays fairly healthy. There are less expectations from everyone. My family, especially my grandchildren, treat me as a fragile old lady so I'm not expected to do so many physical things. I can sit out playing basketball and jumping on a trampoline. They hug me and pat me on the back. I sit in a chair and watch them. I hardly have to drive anywhere. I only drove 5,000 this entire year, and I get invited for meals regularly.

In my attempt at better health I started walking for exercise a while ago. My algorithm promotes walking every time I open social media so I figured it was probably the safest form of exercise for me apart from the chair yoga that also pops up regularly. That might me my next option. All winter I walked on the treadmill, but as soon as the ice was gone I walked outside. All was well. I enjoyed it so much more than walking inside the house. Never being satisfied with the status quo, I tried to increase my heart rate and better my time slightly everyday. I am not a runner and my personal best times are like a turtle, but I was down to seventeen minute miles. Then it happened. My hip started popping with every step. I googled it and it is something that happens to dancers and elite runners. I am neither but just plain old pushing the envelope. I backed off slightly but the hip pop continued. I read that stretching and rest was the cure. I am not going to the doctor for this unless it gets painful. They will prescribe pain pills, and I want to avoid any of that. 

For two weeks I didn't go on my walks and I stretched as best I could. It didn't help a great deal, and so I decided to get some new shoes. Shoes break down overtime and mine were pretty old. They still looked fine, but a lot of people look wonderful and are a mess inside. I went to a store specifically for running and walking shoes called Fleet Feet. When I arrived they had me stand on a measuring device and the information was recorded on an iPad. Then I had to walk across a mat several times to record how I walk. We sat down afterward and they went over the information. It measures the foot, determines the arch and where you put the most pressure. After that they bring out options. Here is the shocking part. I always wore a 8 1/2 shoe. It isn't tiny and is pretty average for a woman, but now I measured 9.3.  The salesperson said they always round up a size so because I was so close to 9 1/2, he brought out a 10 1/2. WHAT??  I wasn't buying skis! I tried on several pair and settled on a certain shoe.  They felt really good. Of course they did. I had two inches of toe space. I walked back and forth and my hip was not popping. I was thrilled. I wore them out of the store. There was a 60 day return policy if they didn't work out.

My next stop was the grocery store. I was a little self conscious about the size. I kept humming "My Darling Clementine". The part that says "and her shoes were number 9 (or 10 1/2) herring boxes". You young people won't understand this reference, but there actually is an old song with this title.  It's a sad song so be prepared. There was a learning curve wearing these shoes especially on navigating corners and getting out of the car but overall they felt good. Then the popping started again. The difference was I could make it stop my shifting my foot in the shoe. I worked with tying the shoes tighter or looser. That was a few weeks ago. I went back to walking every other day. Then yesterday it didn't pop at all on my whole walk, but that isn't always the case. It comes and goes. Sometimes my other leg hurts. I am walking slower with a shorter stride. Whether it has healed with time or its the $150 clown shoes, I am not sure, but I hope it continues to improve. It's probably old age, and I should be grateful I can do as well as I can.  I kept the shoes. Next time I will downsize slightly, but overall the shoes helped. In my opinion it's a much better option than therapy and pain pills. 

Saturday, May 14, 2022

A Belated Mother's Day

We all know Mother's Day is a Hallmark holiday and that mothers (and fathers) should be celebrated all year long, not just on a pre-determined day. I am not writing about my own Mother’s Day this year. Mothers come in all forms. Mothers are special in the wildlife realm as well. This is a bit of a belated Mother's Day story.

Back on April 10-12, I noticed a pair of Sandhill Cranes making a nest. I was familiar with this behavior because I have seen it before. They love marsh grasses and cattail grass. While both parents gather the grasses, Mama Sandhill stands in the center stomping it down. Two years ago I watched this same process very close to my deck, but unfortunately it didn't end so well.  
That is why I anxiously watched and am so delighted to see a successful hatch this year. I have read that Sandhill Crane pairs mate for life, and they usually return to the same area. I am hoping this pair is the same pair as I have seen for a few years, but I will never know that for sure. Around April 13, I noticed they had begun sitting on the nest. Since both mom and dad sit on the nest, I am not sure which is which.  I think the female sits all night and about mid morning he comes to give her a break. He sits until early evening when she returns for the night shift. If he doesn't return in a timely fashion, she starts hollering until he comes back. I believe it's the female yelling because the males usually call with their heads straight up toward the sky. A Female’s call is usually from a horizontal position. The weather was cold, windy, and rainy at times, but they persevered and made it through.  

Their eggs usually hatch in 28-30 days, but Baby Sandhill arrived on day 27, May 10. We had 90 degree temperatures and the young one probably couldn't stand the heat. It needed to escape. It was really hard to see the hatch, but I could see the egg shell. If you look closely, you can see shell in the next photo.

Less than 24 hours later the parents have left the nest with their offspring following close behind. They did return to the nest and incubated all night. I was hoping the second egg would hatch, but it appears to be abandoned. It probably wasn't viable. I briefly saw the egg when she stood up to stretch, but about mid morning they left again and haven't returned to that nesting spot. 

It will be so much fun to watch how fast the baby grows. I really hope they stay in this location for a while. They are surrounded by water and it seems safe from predators.  Although they wandered off a little further today and I lost track of them for a while, they returned and currently are directly across from my deck. The baby can't fly so wherever they go, it will be on foot. The baby has grown already and it's only a few days old at this point.

My other nesting pair are Mourning Doves. I decorate my porch for all seasons. Last summer I had a hanging basket lined with some type of fiber. When fall came, I removed the flowering plant I had in it and put in some fall foliage. Then in the winter I put in some pine cones, pine boughs and colored balls. This spring I removed the boughs but left the hanging basket thinking I would be getting some flowers soon. We didn't know that Mother Nature had a different plan for us this Spring.  It was way too cold here in Wisconsin to put flowers outside. On April 23, I noticed some activity in the basket. I often see birds perch on the porch so I didn't think a lot about it. Then my porch camera started to go off. A pair of Mourning Doves was preparing a nest in the basket. He would bring items, and she would arrange them. Usually Mourning Doves are pretty sloppy with their nest building. I have had them build nests with only a half dozen criss-crossed sticks out in the open on a platform. These nests never did well and blew away almost immediately. They often lay eggs and raise babies under our deck on a flat cross beam. This is the first time I saw them take such care with the nest. He brought feathers, flowers from a dried up hydrangea bloom, little twigs and pine straw. 

When everything was arranged as they liked it, the egg laying began. As with a lot of birds, or at least the ones I have observed, they lay one egg a day. I have watched the bluebirds do it. They usually lay 4-6 eggs in total. I have seen the wood ducks do this as well. Incubation doesn't start until all the eggs are laid. Mourning doves have several broods so they usually only have two eggs.

When all the eggs are laid, the process begins. I don't know the male from the female but they do take turns sitting on the nest. I have to go out my front door on occasion but if I am quiet, they aren't disturbed. I was worried they would be so stressed out by having to leave each time the door opened that they would abandon the nest. That is not the case. She (or he) just watches but doesn't fly off unless startled. 

Incubation for a Mourning Dove is only 10 days compared to almost 30 days for the Sandhill Cranes, and the Mourning Dove babies arrived on May 12. This was just after the first egg hatched and before the second egg. You can see the egg is cracking in the next photo. The mom immediately removed the egg shell after the hatch.

It has been an exciting few days.  I hope the Sandhill family does well and I will see them visit my bird feeders as soon as the baby can forage. For the first ten days, the parents feed it but then the colt is on its own.  I don't worry as much for the Mourning Doves.  They grow very fast and are on their own.  This pair will probably have more broods this summer.  They will have to nest elsewhere because I need my porch for my flowers!

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Some Answers Come In Mysterious Ways


My husband passed away on June 8, 2021 at the age of 76.  His sudden death was a surprise to us even though he was living with a little known or understood genetic disease.  People would ask his cause of death, and I had to be very vague.  It wasn't because I didn't want to talk about it, but it was because we really didn't know until recently.  Comedian Gilbert Godfrey died on April 12, 2022.  His cause of death was heart failure as a result of Myotonic Dystrophy.  Through the media reports and facts about the disease posted by his family, we have learned more about what most likely happened to my husband Mike. 

Let me start from the beginning.  Several years ago my husband's brother was having some muscle and swallowing difficulties.  He went to several doctors and was finally diagnosed with a disease called Myotonic Dystrophy.  It is an inherited disease that affects the muscles.  There are two types.  Type 1 usually appears in the early years of life and is very debilitating.  Type 2 doesn't appear until middle adulthood.  The symptoms are so subtle that it doesn't always cause obvious problems for a long time.  My husband was so strong and capable it didn't occur to us that having cataracts at age 50 was anything out of the ordinary.  Most doctors know nothing about this disease and most have never even heard of it.  Years went by before his brother found out his diagnoses and alerted my husband to the problem.  Being in denial, we felt terrible for his brother, but since inheriting it was a 50/50 chance, we assumed that he was fine.  He was fine for many years and then gradually he began having some difficulty saying some words and swallowing certain foods.  He checked out healthy for his wellness checkups so there were no red flags.  Then about three years ago he was having soreness in his shoulder and was sent to physical therapy.  He told the therapist that he probably over did the exercise because he was having discomfort near his upper chest.  They told him that wouldn't be where he would feel pain and to go directly to the doctor.  He found out that day that he had A-fib or Atrial Fibrillation.  We were just about to go on vacation but the doctor assured us it would be fine.  He was given medication, and we were told to monitor his heart rate and blood pressure.  I have to say we were a bit obsessed with doing that because this was the first time heart issues were ever mentioned.  We were on vacation with my sister and brother in law.  I am sure we were not much fun on that trip with this new diagnosis in our minds.  When we returned home from our trip, we had the first appointment with a cardiologist.  His first words were "why do you talk like that".  We explained the Myotonic diagnosis and that it sometimes affects speech.  The doctor pretty much ignored that and said his Afib was probably caused from sleep apnea.  He ordered a sleep study and sure enough that is what he had.  We got set up with a  CPAP machine and all was well.  Mike hated the machine and had a hard time finding a proper mask, but he used it religiously every night.  He checked out good with the heart doctor and only needed to see him every year.  That was until last spring, about a year ago.  He had a routine echocardiogram and it found he had some numbers that weren't great.  It was suggested he get more tests and possibly a pacemaker.  They said the lower chambers in his heart weren't beating in unison.  We were set up for further testing, but before that appointment could even happen his heart rate started being erratic and we went to the ER.  He spent the next 12 days having tests and procedures.   He was written off by almost every doctor he saw.  They passed the buck from one to the other.  No one could give us good answers and not one knew anything about Myotonic Dystrophy except what they read on the internet.  After 12 days of getting nowhere we just wanted to go home.  A few days later he suddenly and peacefully died.  At the time we didn't really know what happened, he just went to sleep.

Now back to the Gilbert Godfried story.   Shortly after his death we received a text from someone about Gilbert's cause of death.  It was from ventricular tachycardia, a result of his long illness with Myotonic Dystrophy.  Included with the death notice was information that we had never heard or seen before.  It stated that this Myotonic Dystrophy disease can present itself in many forms depending what muscles are affected.  It can be legs and arms, eyes, breathing, swallowing, vocal cords or the heart.  It said death can be sudden from a fatal drop in blood pressure. Ventricular tachycardia is a rapid heartbeat preventing the heart from pumping enough blood into the body.  If this lasts too long it can cause the heart to stop beating.  That is exactly what happened, my husband's heart just stopped beating. 

Gilbert Godfried's family has requested donations be made to the University of Rochester for Myotonic Research.   They are doing research and gathering information.  I could never have imagined that the death of a well known personality would answer some of our questions.  Hopefully awareness and research can bring successful treatments and early diagnosis to peoples lives so they can live healthy productive lives.  One of the neurologists we saw said, "this disease won't kill you but problems created  from it could".  He was so right. 

Friday, April 15, 2022

Princess My Party

As my life plods along day to day I noticed it moves at a much slower pace.  Mentally, physically and emotionally I have turned from the Energizer bunny to the tortoise, but the days and years still pass by quickly.  As long as I close the circles on my smartwatch, I feel pretty accomplished.  Anyone who doesn't know about a smartwatch, it allows you to set standing, exercise and moving goals.  I have to stand up every hour for 12 hours, I have to exercise 30 minutes a day and move enough to burn at least 270 calories.  This was a good day.  They aren't all like that but I try.

Some people are motivated without the encouragement of devices or others, but I'm not one of those people.  I have to see it in a tangible form to be accountable.  It could just as easy be a pencil and paper, but a smartwatch is more fun.

As the days go by for me, they also zoom by for everyone else.  That includes my family.  One day your grandchildren are toddlers and the next they are grown adults.  I have written about all of them over the past ten years.  Yesterday my granddaughter came over to do a project for her part time job, and I realized that it's been a long time since I wrote of her.  I started blogging when she had just turned twelve, and she didn't appreciate me sharing everything.   Now she is 21.  I asked if I could write about her latest endeavor and she said "yes".  She said I had been posting without her permission for years so it was fine.  I thought I had been really good about over sharing, but apparently not perfect.

I admit I have posted about her love for acting and the high school plays.  After high school and since the start of COVID she hasn't had much opportunity for performing.   This winter she remembered being told of a company she may be interested in.  During her senior pictures the photographer could see she had a flare and suggested she look into a company called Princess My Party.  She called them and was hired.  She has a full time job but this was the opportunity for a part time job doing what she loves.  She gets to dress up as characters. It's mostly parties for children or an event of some kind.   The people that hire them can choose the character and activities such a story reading, face painting, singing and others.  She has been mascots like Paw Patrol and the Easter Bunny, Barbie, Anna from Frozen 2, Ariel from the Little Mermaid and many others.   She will be at my house tonight to do a Facebook live.  

Here are just a couple photos I have.  I didn't dare copy from the website.  They are on all forms of social media if you want to search for Princess My Party.  

Our life is a culmination of all of our memories.  Some are good and some are bad.  Not one person has the same life story.  I have a feeling no matter how long my granddaughter sticks with this job, she will always remember it fondly. 

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

What To Do With Old Slides and Movies?

Over the years I have talked about many small appliances but rarely do I write about technology items that I can't live without.  I was reminded of this from a recent photo I posted on Facebook.  It was taken from a 45 year old slide.  In the 1970's nothing was digital.  If you took photos, you would load film into the camera and take the pictures.  You never knew if they were good or bad until you had the film developed.  You could get printed pictures or have them made into slides.  Those slides had to be viewed on a special projector.  We thought it was great to see our pictures on the big screen.  It was a version of the old movie camera.  Those movies were put on reels and were also shown on a screen with a special projector.  Never did any of us think we could some day take photos or movies from our phones.  Now if a shot doesn't turn out, we just delete it and try again.  

We had a lot of slides from the early 1970's.  I had them in a box and out of sight.  One day as I was cleaning and organizing, I came across them.  I held them up to the light and could tell they were from a long time ago.  This is when I decided to google saving slides to the computer.  Surprisingly there were a lot of options, but I decided to order this.  It is a slide viewer.  If you like the picture and you want to save it, it can be saved on an SD card or you can transfer it to your computer.  It was a lot of fun viewing these old pictures.

I had just recently gone through all of our old slides, when we received a package in the mail.  It was from my husband's brother.  He had taken all their old family movies from the 1940's and had them put on CD's.  We had only viewed these movies on a jumpy old projector, but now they are preserved on disks.  They will be preserved until CD's are obsolete and then the next generation will have to figure out how to view them with more modern media.  I know we still have several BetaMax tapes that can't be viewed.  We even bought a machine that converts tapes from Beta to VHS but you needed a Beta machine and a VHS machine.  I managed to figure out converting VHS tapes but not the Beta machine.  The Beta player was so old, it chewed up the first beta tape we tried to copy.  Technology changes faster than we do so we still can't view them.   Maybe there is a magic device that can save these BetaMax tapes but I don't know about it, so I will pack them up for someone else to throw away in the future.  For now, I have some old movies and special slides saved. The color isn't always so good, but the originals were not of the quality we enjoy today.  They were fun to discover.

 My grandma and grandpa.

Me and my oldest daughter from 1973.

Oldest daughter shoveling snow.

Thursday, March 24, 2022

St. Patrick's Day and Spring Break 2022

Every year our family celebrates St. Patrick's Day.  It is one of our favorite holidays, and I have written about it on this blog for nine years.  My husband especially loved the holiday mainly because he liked corned beef and cabbage and there were none of the pressures associated with a holiday like Christmas. He passed away last summer, but since he loved it so much we wanted to honor him by continuing the tradition.

I prepared fifteen pounds of corned beef and two racks of barbecued ribs along with a lot of sides and sweets, but nothing ever goes completely as planned.  The day of our dinner, my oldest daughter called.  Her husband and oldest son had a stomach virus,  Neither of them were even able to get out of bed.  We knew this virus was going around but no one had gotten it yet.  Since they didn't want to spread it to the rest of us, none of them came.  Suddenly half of our group would be missing.  Despite missing everyone, we had a great time and a lot of leftovers which were enjoyed later.  

Our leprechaun named Shamus had started to move back into his summer home.  He is a tricky little guy, but some new household items appeared in his house so we knew he was in the area.  His home needs a little upgrading before he moves in permanently.  It will be exciting to see what he does with the place.  Just search for St. Patrick's Day in the search bar if you want to follow the hunt for Shamus over the years. 

My grandson Ewan made a beautiful Leprechaun cake.  He is always up for a challenge and this definitely was that.  He posted the process on his YouTube channel Old Time Skills.  Leprechaun Cake  

It was a nice day, but the next day or two, the virus hit again.  Two more members of the family got sick even though they had no contact with the others.  

Five days later it seemed that everyone was feeling good and on track.  I had planned a short Spring break trip to Florida with my family.  It had been a long winter, and we were looking forward to a little warmth and sunshine.  Six of us headed to the airport, we went through security and were waiting at our gate.  Then it happened.  The virus hit again.  Another person got sick.  This time it was my thirteen year old grandson.  There was no way he could fly.  My daughter cancelled their tickets and took him back home leaving me with a 17 year old, a 21 year old and my son-in-law.  My daughter had planned to take another flight the next day.  It didn't happen.  It was impossible to make connections and still have time in Florida.  We were left with an odd group of people, but it still turned out well for me.  I'm not sure how two young adults and my son-in-law felt about spending that much time with grandma.  I got to visit with some very good friends I hadn't seen in a long time.  That was very special.  We ate at some fun restaurants.  They ordered alligator, fried green tomatoes and hush puppies to name a few.  I even branched out a little.

We also spent some time at the beach.  Our house was just a short walk away.  It was a full moon during our time there, and so beautiful to see it rising.   

It wasn't the vacation any of them had planned, but I really appreciate that they included me.  If I didn't want to do some things, they understood.  One day they went to the Kennedy Space Center, and I stayed back to explore a bit.

I am now home and back to reality.  Spring is on it's way to Wisconsin, but it isn't here quite yet.  The temperatures are slowly rising, the grass is turning green and the ice is gone, making room for the migrating ducks.  It is truly a rebirth.  Everyone is back in good shape.  The strange part of the virus is that it hit all the men in the family.  Six in all but none of the girls.  2022 will be a spring to remember.

Monday, January 31, 2022

"Whatcha Got" Soup

I have a Facebook friend I have never met in person.  She is the kindest and most upbeat person.  I became friends with her after seeing her on a local cooking show.  She was known as The Cookie Lady, and I'm always fascinated with people who can flawlessly ice cookies.  I don't have that kind of patience.  She is retired from full time cookie making but still appears on the television show now and then with delicious recipes, she loves her family and has even written a cookbook.  A few years ago I posted another one of her recipes.  Several times over the past few years, she has mentioned making a "whatcha got" soup. Thank you Christine because I started doing that too.  I am not sure how she does it, but I make some variation of this basic soup almost every week with the intention of freezing some.  I have CorningWare 20 oz. mugs with covers that are perfect for freezing a single serving portion. It's good in theory but I usually end up eating it up before it gets to the freezer. 

This is the basic soup recipe.

Sauté any vegetables you have on hand or anything that needs to be used up…onions,  carrots,  celery,  sweet potatoes, white potatoes, peppers, garlic, any combination that works for you.  I usually have cut up peppers and onions in the freezer for omelets, and they work great in the soup.  You can buy diced sweet potatoes, mixed veggies and many others in the freezer department of your grocery store.  It's amazing what is available if you just look,  and you can have them on hand if you don't have fresh vegetables.

In this batch I diced a small onion, two large carrots, two stalks of celery, two cloves of garlic, a cup of shredded cabbage and a bag of frozen green and yellow zucchini.

After sautéing add:

1 can diced tomatoes

1/2 teaspoon dried basil, oregano or Italian seasonings, salt and pepper

1 carton of any broth (vegetable, beef or chicken) or 4 cups of homemade broth

1 cup dry macaroni or (cooked) rice

Simmer for 15 min. or less until the macaroni is done but not mushy.

There is no meat in this recipe but you could add beans or meat for protein.  If it’s too thick after adding the extras, add water or more broth.  

This is the batch with sweet potatoes, peppers and rice.  Making this soup doesn't take much more time than opening a can, and it is "real" food.