Archived Posts from this Category

Summer finally begins for me

Posted by on 16 Jul 2016 | Tagged as: allergy, friends, fun, Gardens and Life, good things, health, seasons, Uncategorized

I was still recovering from the allergic reaction into the middle of the first week of July. Not fun. But had energy to have a nice dinner for my parents on Sunday the third, which of course wiped me out for the next couple of days.

Then, on July 7 I had a chance to meet up with a friend from New Zealand — it was a very spontaneous visit, so we didn’t have as much time as I would have liked. But … so glad we were able to finally gives in-person hugs instead of virtual!

On July 8 we had a silk painting session at my house. LOVED it. My friends are such amazing artists. Planning another session next month.

But I pushed myself a little too hard… the following weekend was unproductive, and it wasn’t until Wednesday that I started to have some energy again. Managed to get cars swapped around so one of them could have service done. Then I figured out some ideas for school and dug in on Thursday and Friday with some thinking and planning. Not a lot of organizing going on in the physical world, but a good bit happening with setting up ideas and lessons. AND I pruned a few trees and shrubs…

And I still have a reasonable five weeks of vacation to look forward to. I am glad. I will need every minute to be ready for the upcoming school year.


Posted by on 25 Jun 2016 | Tagged as: allergy, health, Uncategorized

Most of the time as a child my allergies manifested as upper respiratory — sneezing and runny nose.

As I grew older, I realized the recurring intestinal discomfort was also an allergic reaction.

More recently, I began to get hives on my face and upper body (mostly, though I also get them sometimes on my legs).

Yesterday, I woke to terrible hives on my face, neck and random short occurrences on my back, arms and legs. With cool compresses, hydrocortisone cream, and LOTS of antihistamines, they began to subside.

This morning — the hives were still present but much less uncomfortable or noticeable. Instead, I have significant angioedema all over my face and down onto my neck. And, as I discovered about thirty minutes ago, mild edema everywhere else (my wedding band was a little tight).

So… Likely not continuing to react to something I ate on a trip this past week, nor a contact allergy on that trip. Instead, I think I am reacting to my own bedroom!

Angioedema noticeable below eyes and on neck.  Blotchy skin is the remnants of hives.  I hate when things like this happen!

Angioedema noticeable below eyes and on neck. Blotchy skin is the remnants of hives. I hate when things like this happen!

What do I do when things like this happen? If it were one of my children, or my darling Tom, I would be at the hospital already. They don’t generally have any sort of allergic reaction. But this is me — and I know that the hospital/urgent care doc would give me a large dose of diphenhydramine and watch me for several hours. I don’t think it’s worth a 40-minute drive to do something I can do at home. I also know that the most alarming symptoms of low blood pressure and wheezing are not present, so my airway is clear, and I can take some time. If I were wheezing, or the edema was getting worse, I would be on my way already. And, if I am not significantly improved in another hour I will at least call the consulting nurse to have this particular event recorded on my health record.

It’s not a lot of fun…

But I do know that I will recover, and once I have identified this new allergen I think this particular chapter will close. Possible candidates: a shampoo I used the night before our trip (I always wash my hair in the evening and let it air-dry overnight), the particular type of Oxyclean we picked up when our normal, unscented type ran out and Costco was closed – it wasn’t bothering me before the trip but it definitely isn’t my favorite scent which is often a clue, a food or combination of foods (not as likely), or possibly contamination of the bedroom space by an animal of some kind (bird or cat?).

If YOU have allergies, a type of hidden disability, remember that it is okay to ask for what you need, and to be clear about and reject things that you need to avoid. Remember, also, that when you are feeling poorly, it will get better. Even if, for the moment, you just want to crawl under a rock and disappear.

Dodging figurative bullets

Posted by on 28 Nov 2013 | Tagged as: allergy, health, Uncategorized

Today for the first time I went to urgent care while experiencing the reaction to cow products. Eating out (my end-of-week treat) I didn’t notice that one of the types of sushi I ordered was made with cream cheese. Fortunately, I know the symptoms and get pretty weirded out by the “precursor” bits. So I got Tom moving, paid the bill (wasn’t so bad or fast that I felt it required calling an ambulance) and Tom drove me to Urgent Care. I did not use the epi-pen, though the doctor sort of scolded me and said I probably should next time…

He did say that it was okay to take the benadryl [diphenhydramine] (which is the first thing I do when exposed because of course the real problem is the histamine reaction), and that as long as the other symptoms (swelling tongue, difficulty breathing, hives) don’t show up I am probably fine this time. But he reminded me that the epi-pen is the best first response when I start to have a reaction, followed by someone driving me to the hospital (or calling medics). So I did not grade any papers or student writing tonight because I was too far out of it.

On the other hand, so far I am not having any sort of recurrence (it has now been about 6 hours) or additional symptoms so I think I will take more Benadryl and head for bed. Funny thing, when I need the antihistamine for the allergic reactions, I don’t feel sleepy or anything from it. Or maybe, since the “scary” part of the reaction is the low blood pressure that I am just too woozy too notice any additional weird symptoms.

My (rambling) point is that I am okay, but I really need to ask EVERY time if something is safe. The people at this restaurant are so nice, they were so sad that I got sick! If you, like me, don’t want to inconvenience people, the lesson here is to inconvenience them a little bit and you might avoid inconveniencing them A LOT through by-passing the drama of trips to the Emergency Room.

Or, as I tell my students who have glasses they won’t wear… don’t worry about what other people will think, use all your tools. In this case, a voice to make sure things are “copacetic.”

A month later… Photos of the garden

Posted by on 17 Dec 2012 | Tagged as: fun, garden, Gardens and Life, good things, Green Living, health, hope, rain, seasons, Uncategorized

In the fullness of autumn, we wandered around the yard, putting things more or less in order, getting ready for the long, cool winter. These are pictures from November, when the rains paused long enough to get a bit more done. Pruning the medlar and the biggest fig tree. Running around the yard with a toy in mouth. Looking at (and eating) the last, sun-deprived-sour blackberries. Admiring the shapes of trees being exposed by leaf fall. Waiting for a change in the weather (which, not coincidentally, occurred just this week; today, in fact).

The pics in the gallery can be expanded to full size by clicking on them, use your browser’s “back” button to return to this page.

The next post will be of some December moments…

Autumn Begins: The Garden Matures

Posted by on 26 Sep 2012 | Tagged as: food, fun, garden, Gardens and Life, good things, Green Living, health, seasons, Uncategorized

As Autumn begins in the Pacific Northwest there are certain things that we expect such as smoke from scattered wildfires and a gradual shift from the dark greens of the surrounding forest to a golden hue as willows and indian plum trees at the margins respond to the fading light. There are some things that, year after year, come as a pleasant surprise – the last few sunny, warm days when the sky feels close enough to touch and the occasional burst of bright color from the bigleaf maples that are native and the many sweetgum trees that are the tree of the decade for landscapers of commercial properties.
Continue Reading »

The long slide into autumn

Posted by on 31 Aug 2012 | Tagged as: fun, garden, Gardens and Life, good things, Green Living, health, rain, seasons, Uncategorized, weather

Last Sunday, it rained. The day was gray, humid to a point, and the overcast made everything seem bluer than normal. I worked on refinishing some picnic furniture, getting a coat of polyurethane on to help it make it through a few more years. As the day wore on, the clouds lowered, settling in near the tops of the trees with sinister intent. It was still. Nevertheless, we watered the garden, knowing that if we didn’t the rain would hold off. It always does, when the plants need it in August. So we watered, and went inside.
Continue Reading »

Garden: A week of progress

Posted by on 14 Jul 2012 | Tagged as: garden, Gardens and Life, good things, health, hope, Uncategorized

Almost every day this week we made significant progress somewhere in the garden.

Yesterday, it was finishing the flowerbed that defines the parking space in front of the house. It holds a variegated St. John’s Wort, a Japanese Maple (which appears to be dwarf), and a Witchhazel, along with a few flowers (glads and a geranium) in the ground and more in pots.

Now, the pots need some attention. And the driveway needs a lot of hot water poured over weeds.

I have brought the wicker rocking chair home from the storage locker, with the intent of spray-painting it with some pretty color, along the lines of this project at the Krylon webpage.

It rained last night — rather a lot, between the lightning and thunder — so I don’t have to water anything today (yay). But I will spend some time in the garden, trying to pick some of the dainty native blackberries that we uncovered the other day. And maybe the currants that I didn’t get to pick earlier in the week.

Yesterday, I actually spent most of my time indoors, canning. I bought two flats of strawberries and one of raspberries from our local growers, Spooner’s. I canned four batches of strawberry jam and one of raspberry jelly. I froze half a flat of whole raspberries and half a flat of whole strawberries. I made strawberry puree and froze that… and Tom came home and made a strawberry pie out of the quart I had set aside for him. Between measuring, stirring, and washing up, it was a lot of standing! Glad I bought a couple lovely gel mats for the kitchen.

And Grant helped me get the living room in better order. Not quite as nice as the dining room, but good enough that we can have people come visit and not have to spend ten minutes making space for sitting!

All week long, it has been a series of small steps, little progresses at a time. I am not a patient person, as those who know me in real life can attest! But I am becoming more patient with myself and with others. I am learning to look, not at how far I have yet to go, but at how far I have come.

So today, small things. A little bit here, and a little bit there. And tomorrow, more of the same.

I know that, when I need to, I can push to do a lot in a short time; and I know that I can do more over a longer period of time if I pace myself.

The garden, like the rest of life, needs constant upkeep and occasional large surges of energy. And Life, like the garden, blooms in its own time, and sometimes has moments of excruciating beauty in the middle of what seems to be an impossible tangle.

Next week… who knows?

Happy Gardening!

Garden Talk

Posted by on 26 May 2012 | Tagged as: fun, garden, Gardens and Life, good things, Green Living, health, hope, Uncategorized

I have a garden, a yard, an orchard, flower beds, lawns and woods. There is a marshy area down by the road that I call a “seasonal water feature.” Some years it’s soggy later than others. There is a “sacred grove” of cedars and maples that I protected from clearing when we bought the place, though I allowed several large cedars to be harvested to help us pay for part of the work. The woods in the far back of our lot (which is only a little more than an acre) are third-growth with a few snags that are alder (they don’t live very long), some cedar and maple, and a fir or two. For understory there are lots of red huckleberries which are the native vaccinia in our area, sword ferns and deer ferns, trillium and other lilies depending on the season and assorted invasive and native shrubs like holly and mahonia (Oregon grape).

Usually when I am talking about the garden, I speak of the area between the marsh and the orchard, or the flower beds that are scattered around the front half of the property. Today I worked in the vegetable garden, my 30 x 30 foot spot of tilled earth close to the road. Yesterday I worked just under the medlar tree which is in a kidney-shaped bed by the front door, about 3 feet wide and 15 feet long. Tomorrow, if the rain holds off and I am not incapacitated from working outside today I will work to clear blackberries from the heather plants under a little cedar in front of the house.

Every day I am in the garden there is something to see, something to hear, something to touch, and often something to taste! Even now, long before the fruiting plants are bearing and before most of the vegetables have even germinated there are lovely native sorrel plants that have the tang of citrus when I chew a leaf, and sweet chickweed that feels meatier and tastes sweet and nutty. Being in the garden is restorative, invigorating and motivating.

Here are a few pictures from this morning and afternoon, showing (I hope) a few things that are particularly nice.

my kitchen window

the cold frame with lettuces in the ground and tomatoes and a single apple in pots

the native bleeding heart that volunteered in an awkward spot but is too precious to risk damaging by moving. I will garden around it as long as it wants to stay!

Tom, helping transplant potatoes

Lucky, helping us not get too focused on nonessentials

one lupine, with pinkish petals

another lupine, showing flower spikes both just emerging and more mature, this one has white tips on the blooms

blueberry flowers, and small green berries already starting — the berries form first deeper in, and last at the tips

the first little pink buds on the “nosegay” rosebush

Native phlox — almost white, but a light lavender hue

the trellis arch with my clematis finally trained up it

a small white-petaled geranium from my mother in law

the snowball bush, I liked how the sun made the picture glow

peach leaf curl already starting to deform and discolor the leaves; some years the peaches still manage to mature

Poem A Day April 26, 2012

Posted by on 26 Apr 2012 | Tagged as: health, NaPoWriMo, poetry, Poetry Month, science, Uncategorized


standing-straight in the sun
seeking the warmth
finding the light
you made your own strength

sitting-low in the office
huddled over the desk
flourescents flickering
your weakness company profits

We are surprisingly fragile creatures, we humans. As any engineer knows, the more complex the design the more likely something will fail — something important. For humans, changing the availability of a single hormone or, in this case, prohormone, can wreak havoc among the many interrelated systems. Vitamin D is not a true vitamin because the body can make it when the skin is exposed to direct sunlight. It helps control many systems in the body, most well known perhaps is the ability to help the body absorb and use calcium as in making bones. It also appears to regulate how the liver and kidneys function, how well the heart beats, some neurological functions and immune system responses (inflammatory diseases in particular).

Cholecalciferol is made then transformed in the body in three steps: first skin converts UVB into a preliminary form, then the liver creates an intermediate form and finally the kidneys excrete the usable hormone. Without the final form, the body cannot use the cholecalciferol to regulate and support the many functions, and people get ill (and even die). It used to be that rickets was a sign that the body needed more Vitamin D (as well as C and Calcium), but with supplementation of cereals and milk children generally get enough to appear physically healthy. However, a host of other ailments can appear in both children and adults, partially or fully hidden until a major health crisis occurs.

Vitamin D can be made by most people with a few minutes’ exposure to sunlight. It can be stored in fatty tissues once made and gradually used by the body during times that the sun is not available. At one time, when most people worked out of doors throughout the year they probably got enough just from their normal activities. It can be obtained in the diet, through careful food choices as well as with supplements (pills). Again, in times past when people in colder climates relied on particularly fatty fish and animal foods they likely were getting most of what they required. Most people probably think they are getting enough Vitamin D in their diet, but additional factors can interfere with the body’s ability to make and use this essential hormone. A simple blood test for Vitamin D deficiency can help identify if a person needs more Vitamin D in their diet — or sunlight (within reason, skin cancer is still a real issue!).

Here are a few of the websites that talk about the purpose of this hormone and its structures.

From Colorado State, a page on the Endocrine System

Medline’s entry on Vitamin D, sponsored by National Institutes of Health

The nonprofit organization, The Vitamin D Council has a wealth of knowledge and summaries of peer-reviewed research available. The page About Vitamin D is a good place to start.

And here is Medscape’s entry on Rickets. This was eye-opening to me.

Progress in the garden

Posted by on 03 Apr 2012 | Tagged as: garden, Gardens and Life, Green Living, health, Uncategorized

I am making progress in the yard. I work about twenty minutes at a time, and I go slowly, but I am working faster and getting more done each time. Here are before and after shots of the little hedge in front of the large fig. I didn’t prune last year, and it was very much in need!



And one pic of the debris pile… About half the foliage!


Next Page »