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What Gets Me Through

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Over the years, I've come to realize that this blog is not just my journal. It's my family's journal. 
I don't write as many posts as I used to, and when I'm otherwise occupied, I may not be able to get three posts out in a week (always the goal). I try to make what I do manage to post worth reading: for me, for my family, and for you. There is a good bit of perfectionism going on, because a writer has to satisfy herself first, before opening the door and putting it out for readers. 

When my blog is the only writing I'm able to fit into an overstuffed life, I try to make it good.

Corey and Phoebe returning from the Meat Pile, where he's put a trail camera set to snap away for a few months.
Note Meat Bowl.

I've just finished a cool book by Elizabeth Gilbert called Big Magic. It's about kindling one's creative flame. Shila gave it to me for Christmas. I'm savoring it slowly, munching on a few chapters at a session. It's full of underlined passages, exclamation points and notes--signs that its message is sinking in. I hope to pass some of that good fire on in talks and workshops in 2017. 

For years, I've been collecting quotes from writers. One that's sticking with me lately is by poet Grace Paley. 

 "The best training is to read and write, no matter what. Don't live with a lover or a roommate who doesn't respect your work. Don't lie, buy time, borrow to buy time. Write what will stop your breath if you don't write."

Come on, Mether.  You need to walk faster. I am not going anywhere without you, not even home.

Write what will stop your breath if you don't write.  OK. I choose to live in gratitude, because living any other way is not an option. And the thing that's keeping me focusing on joy of late is having Phoebe here with Liam for a month's midwinter idyll, she fresh off 6 months away, first in San Diego and then Panama. Bringing Corey into the mix for ten days kicked it up a couple notches, and carried me through a hard time. I don't like to think of where I'd have been without the kids around to talk with, laugh with, feed,  be fed by, photograph, and watch. 

The hard time included mid-December surgery (nothing scary, but painful) complications (painful, inconvenient, but healing nicely) and, for good measure, a case of shingles, blossoming right through the surgery site (ow ow ow. Ow!).  Happy New Year! You're grounded for a month! Maybe two. Shingles: We'll get back to you on that. We like it here, gonna hang around awhile. Basically, the shingles virus, which has been sleeping in my spinal ganglion since the day John F. Kennedy was shot, woke up and raced to the torn-up tissue at my surgery site to have a great big party. Recognizing the suspicious blisters, we caught it within 40 hours with Acyclovir, or I shudder to think what I'd be going through. Followed up with a vaccination once the vesicles dried up. And now I'm bathing it in apple cider vinegar, and that seems to be getting through. Anyway, it's not fun. If you haven't had a shingles vaccination yet, please get one. The government has just bumped the age limit for getting them down to 50 (it was 60). The vaccine will cut your risk of developing shingles by 51%, and believe me, that's a percentage you want on your side.

As is my wont, I like to wait to see how things are turning out before saying anything. A month in, I can see that things are going to be OK. I'm still weak, still don't feel like hiking, much less running, and I'm struggling to catch my mojo, which has wandered off through the muddy winter woods, walking faster than I can right now. I can see it from here, though! 

Back to better things. I don't mean to fawn on these kids, and I try not to embarrass them. I just mean to celebrate all the good they bring to my life. It makes me happy to get out in nature with them and shoot with my telephoto, as if they were frolicking deer (my usual subjects when I can't get any humans to frolic for me). 

More from that rare sunny New Year's Day walk!

Liam waits in ambush.

Corey and Phoebe pause for a little canoodling in gorgeous sidelight. Liam, bombing the photo.

We all read Reader's Digest. And laughter IS the best medicine. Dr. Liam is in the hizzle! That kid has all his dad's funny, with his own odd twist. I can't get enough of him.

He climbs aboard a tractor, the bigger twin of our old Massey 35. I think about how very different this strapping lad's life would be if this were 1917, or 1957. He might have to know how to run that thing, know all the implements, know what a PTO is, and what needs to be done with it. He might need to know when the hay is ripe, and what the weather will be doing in the coming week. Nowadays, hardly anybody needs to know that stuff, it seems. I still want to know that stuff, still want to hang out with people who know. I wonder if he ever will.

We double back to check something out and little Mr. Set in his Ways Chet Baker wants to head for home instead. So Phoebe carries him.

Good boyfriend: loves family dog

Chet's getting triple the love he usually does.

Love keeps us all going.

Phoebe and Corey spot and catch a New Year's Day bullfrog! Who's ever done that in Ohio? That frog should be sleeping in the mud.

Maybe he wanted some of that love, too. Ah, the blues in this photo, and the reds.

If all this weren't enough, there's music, sweet sweet music. I captured three of Corey's fiddle tunes on video, and I wish I'd recorded all of them. Suspect there will be other chances. I love the communication between Corey and Bill, whose backup guitar style is likely something the old-time music world hasn't seen. But it works so well! The synergy between these two musicians is palpable. Yes, I'm glad to have these videos. I go back and watch them, listen to the music flowing out of those guys, and remember how it feels to have an old-time band in your own kitchen, with the cauliflower sizzling in the pan.


Yikes, shingles! I saw my grandmother go through a very bad case in the early 90s and my mom had a mild case about 20 years ago, when she was quite young for having a case, early 40s I think. Not something I want to experience!

I like that you write not just for your audience but for you and your family. It's one reason I keep blogging, too. My hand writing is now terrible because I type far faster than I can write so online journaling is easier. Bloggers I have followed keep fading out as the years go on but I think there's always something to write about and share, even if I can't get to it every week right now.

Also: Big Magic---one of my most favorite books from last year. It was as if EG was sitting next to me, whispering these little tidbits I needed in my ear. So, so good.

Ouch on the shingles. Spots be gone! I haven't seen Big Magic but you can be sure I'll be putting it on my nightstand soon. Tractors are like riding horses, watching foxes and getting dog kisses. Mostly sweet. I spend a lot of time off with the fairies when I'm on mine, an old and kind of cranky Case IH.

Your post is heartwarming and heartrending in its sweetness and love. You are a role model in these troubling times, reminding me to focus on joy and love. I remember seeing my beloved grandmother suffer with shingles on her head when I was young; it is what convinced me to have my son vaccinated for chicken pox so he could avoid that possibility. And thanks to your tip, I will be asking my doctor (when I meet the new one I've chosen on March 6) about that vaccine. Corey has an unorthodox way of holding his bow, but no arguing that it works for him!

Well, yes, I also want to thank you for the heartwarming, heart rending post.
And to comment on shingles--yes, get the vaccine, but you can still get shingles after having gotten the vaccine. I did--however, I think the vaccine moderated the severity of the shingles. I had to convince my doctor that shingles was what I had. She was not convinced because she said--you didn't have any pain. To which I replied--oh, I had pain; I just didn't mention it.

And, as I type this comment, I am listening to Corey and Bill make beautiful toe-tapping music.

Aww honey. It's so hard when you're feeling bad to imagine feeling good again. You have only your experience as a grown human being to know that you will. Dave has been scratching a little area on his shoulder for seems like months now, and it only just blistered out--like, three blisters--and someone recognized it as probably shingles, but it doesn't hurt, and it's got to be the world's mildest case. He'd gotten the vaccine earlier. Maybe that enmildened it. By the way, you have me personally to thank for the vaccine. I was in a massive (okay, there are other people to thank) test to see if people in their 50's would benefit from it. They were taking men in their 50s and women in their 50's who were post-menopausal. I said I was. They said they'd have to make sure. So they drew some blood and went off to test it for signs of Youth and Vitality and came back and looked me up and down and said "Oh, yes, you're DEFINITELY past menopause. DEFINITELY."

So I got the vaccine or a placebo and reported in once a month for a couple years, and everything came out fine, and now you can get the vaccine when you turn 50. And they told me I got the real deal. You're welcome.

Even with surgery and shingles, you still see the world through eyes of love and joy. Truly that is the best medicine. Thinking of you and sending the best healing thoughts your way. Take care, my friend.

Oh dear me! Poor you.
I got that shingles vaccine a few of years ago when the husband suddenly got shingles. I took one look at his situation and said "Oh, hell no!" and toddled off to get that shot post haste. So far, so good. Too bad it doesn't protect more definitely, but I'll take whatever protection it provides.
I hope you're feeling up to snuff and back to your normal crazily energetic self very very soon!
xo K

Aw, dang. I hope you are feeling better Julie. Be well.

Healing distant hugs going out - you are good at finding the smiles, and sharing them with us. thank you, & keep feeling better.

Julie, m'dear, as readers of this blog can guess, you've been working too damn hard these past couple of years (for good reasons, I know). But set you down and take yourself a rest. Get over these afflictions quick. The world needs you.

take good care of yourself, my distant, but still vivid friend,xxx

My gosh, what a rotten set of happenstances… that as always, you’re plowing gloriously through (or maybe you only show that side to your readers ;) And as they say, growing older ain't for wimps.
Never had shingles, but known enough folks who have (including under 50, and in unpredictable places) to be appropriately afeared of it. The vaccine is expensive, not always covered by insurance, and as you say, only about 50% effective! — but yes, still worth it.
Always so good, so hopeful, to see those younguns starting out on life, bright-eyed and wise-beyond-their-years; just wish I weren’t so ashamed of the world we’re leaving them. Sometimes feels like the world takes 4 steps backward for every 3 steps forward (especially today of all days!)
Anyway, keep helping the rest of us stay sane! and best wishes in the months ahead.

I'm ever so slightly disappointed to learn that you are indeed human. I had my doubts. I'm sorry to read this and you have my sympathy. My aunt has been going through battle with shingles, also made worse by a surgery. She said the worst part is that her kids are reluctant to hug her because they're worried it'll cause her pain.
You'll claw your way out and enjoy your body, freedom, and energy even more than before. As a fellow Ohioan and daily beauty seeker-- we can be real and admit at least if you have to be running on a half charge, at least it's during this persistently greeeeeeey, dull time. though I'm thankful for the long thaw because I have daffodils that still need to be planted! Gonna wrap that up this 60 degree weekend.
So happy your hawks were there to share their blessings.

I love reading your blog.....and today, especially, when I am feeling "down" and worried Your spirit lifts me up! And reminds me to look out my window at the beautiful scenes I glimpse from our condo window.....Lake Michigan, the bike trail through the woods, the hill with "our" deer, people walking their dogs......birds at the feeders.....the geese who sleep in the marina a night starting to wake up and call to each other before taking off in "v" formation to head to nearby fields for the day.

My world is a fortunate one.....and after today's second cataract surgery I will see it more clearly!

Now off for a hug with Mr. Fenway Underfoot Woodard! (OUR Boston!)

Heal and mend quickly my Ohio friend (that's how I think of you!) I've had the shingle too....NO FUN!

Linn Woodard in Port Washington, Wisconsin

So, so sorry to hear what you've ben dealing with - a surgery and shingles. Our bodies do have a way of letting us know when we need to slow down, don't they? So very happy to know you've been surrounded by your family that's full of youthful energy and love and music. Thank you for continuing to share with us. I wish you well and continued, speedy healing. I'm finding the mid- to late 50s to be a very challenging time of life -- physically and emotionally. So much of it is about loss, so I greatly appreciate the sweetness, smiles and music of this post. Kim in PA

I went back and read this warm, wonderful post twice. The only thing I didn't like was the cauliflower.

I have been terribly missing your and Mr. Chet Baker's posts...and it looks like there actually were a few, but somehow i missed those too, so worried a bit more than necessary. So sorry that you had to have surgery, and then got shingles on the surgical site...what a misery! I hope you're feeling much better soon. In the meantime, please try to rest a bit, and enjoy those wonderful young people. The "canoodling" photo made me giggle, so sweet!

Shingles! How awful, I'm so sorry. My mother had a bad bout last summer-fall :-( I hope you are fully healed as soon as possible!

Having read this blog for some time it's lovely to see your grown children as their amazing grown selves. I can identify with your "fawning". It just strikes you sometimes when someone is becoming himself or herself right in front of you! Have you listened to the Big Magic podcast? I believe it was called Magic Lessons. Not sure if you are a podcast listener but I binged through these ones on my commutes to and from work and thoroughly enjoyed. Finally, glad you're healing up and I'm so sorry you got the damn shingles! Blurg!! Based on the beautiful writing and photos you're gifting regularly I never would have guessed. Apple cider vinegar and good family will cure just about anything.

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