I Don’t Have Blood Cancer

What a drag it is getting old...
-Rolling Stones Mother's Little Helper

I’ve had persistent tonsilitis for a couple years now which is probably going to mean a trip to an ENT before long to get them removed.

I’m hoping this is the reason for my persistent high white count, inner ear pain and the unbelievable exhaustion I’ve been experiencing for the past several months.

My doctor had other ideas this week though. I got a message from the nurse that said, “Now this test we’re going to order is going to come across as a little scary, but it’s how it’s in the system, so don’t freak out.”

I look at the test. They’re checking to see if I have leukemia.

I went and got the test that day. I didn’t want to put it off. I spent the next two days pouring over all my labs for the last several years and reading website after website of symptoms, disease process, etc.

There were a lot of tears and a lot of not sleeping and a lot of waiting on pins and needles for the results to come back. If you’ve ever been sick, like really, really sick… or been around people that are really, really sick- then you know, if you don’t have your health, you have nothing.

The curse of having a medical background is that you’ve seen the worst case scenarios for years. I took care of a lot of really, really sick people as a nurse. I watched plenty of them go through cancer and chemotherapy. I’ve had friends that fought through/ are fighting cancer, I’ve lost a parent and two grandparents to cancer- one of those, my Grandpa Keith’s second wife, JoAnn, was to leukemia.

I could fall off a ladder in the orchard, snap my neck and be finished. I drive I-44 at least several times a month with people I swear are qualifying for the Indy 500 while staring at their cell phones. I know there are no guarantees of tomorrow. I also know from losing people that there’s never enough time. Ever.

Still, somehow the idea of leukemia was worse than death by distracted driver or landing on my head while trimming trees. It was all too easy to imagine my slow decline over a handful of years that I’d be too sick to really enjoy, yet desperate to cling to every last minute. I saw that average life expectancy after diagnosis was about 5 years and calculated that at least my daughter would be out of high school.

That is my greatest fear/sadness of being sick or dying… what it will do to my baby. I’ve raised her to be strong, to hold her own, to be independent. Yet I know that no matter how capable or in control you feel, sometimes you just want your Mom. The idea of not being there for her if she wants or needs me… that’s what hurts the worst.

The doctor messaged me yesterday and said that the tests were all negative. She put me on a strong antibiotic for the tonsil. I’m hoping that’s the end of it. The stress of this week was a serious reminder though that I need to not put things off. I need to figure out how to go do those things I’ve always wanted to do or learn the stuff I wanted to learn. I also need to make every minute with my loved ones count.

I also need to stop chasing people and ghosts too. I’ve poured far to much time and energy into things and people that did not give back. If it doesn’t make me happy, I’m not doing it anymore. If I’m not your priority, you’re no longer mine. The time I have left is too precious to waste.

I know some of you are wondering, isn’t this an art and gardening site? Why does she keep writing about personal stuff? Sometimes ya’ll get art. Sometimes you get plants. Sometimes you just get what’s in my head at the moment. Yeah, I’m sorry for that. LOL. At least I’m not sharing what’s in there EVERY moment, now THAT probably would be something to really apologize for.


Ps. Laundry and dishes do NOT make me happy, but clean clothes and having silverware does, so on that I must compromise. 😉

Surviving Christmas

I got really depressed over Christmas this year. 

I went to fill stockings on Christmas Eve, which now hang on hooks in front of the ‘stein cabinet’ because we no longer have a fireplace. As I was pulling the stockings off, I started noticing the photographs in the cabinet: my Grandpa Keith,  who used to call every Christmas from Oklahoma City, when long distance calls were still something really special. Tom’s dad, Wayne who never got to meet Ely, but would have adored her. Tom’s grandparents, my Great Grandma…

I used to have a huge family.  I have Christmas photos where there are 4-5 generations in a single picture. My Grandma’s house at Christmas was packed with grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, significant others, friends. We’d barely fit in the house without tripping over each other. My grandma would cook for days.

This year, I got a card from one brother, the other sent my daughter a card and some cash. I got a text from my sister.  That’s it. My world of family and friends has gone from a stuffed-house-full to the three of us and the dogs. 

Which I’m ok with. Really I am. I love that it’s quiet,  that I can sit around all day in sweats and slippers, that I can be with my favorite two people in the world without drama or distraction and enjoy my holiday.

Still, there’s that photo.  My grandpa smiling at me from inside the stein cabinet… I can hear his voice on the phone,  feel his legendary laugh. It breaks something inside when I think about how we looked forward to those Christmas phone calls,  that it’s been almost 30 years since I’ve had one… that I’ll never have one again. 

Usually I can smile,  appreciate the bittersweet memory and move on.  This year,  I couldn’t get past it. Maybe it’s because we’ve all been sick for a week and my resilience was down I saw that picture and just spiraled. I missed him horribly.  I couldn’t deal with the old movies this year,  they were a stark reminder of watching them with Mom.

My cousins, I haven’t seen since we were kids. Only one I have on Facebook, the rest I have no idea where they are or who they are anymore. Of my aunts and uncles, the last time I saw them in person was at a funeral.

I didn’t even send out Christmas cards. It was just depressing how few people I had to send them to. I wondered how many of those actually noticed or cared.  I tried telling myself that we have SO much and I should be over the moon happy instead of mourning what’s missing.

But everything was just hard this year.  It didn’t matter what pep talks or admonition I gave myself,  it didn’t change that or snap me out of it.

So today I decided enough was enough.  It was time to kick some dirt over that shit and move on. I packed up the holiday and put it away.

You know what? I feel better. 

The house is cleaner, it’s less cluttered and so is my heart.

I remembered whole cleaning that several years ago, I made a vow to myself to stop chasing after people. If I was not a priority in their life, I didn’t go running after old memories or relationships that were one-sided. I let them go and focused on the people that I was important to.

I realized this Christmas that I’d basically been doing the opposite of that. I was chasing after ghosts, mourning what was lost instead of celebrating all the amazing things I have. I’m thinking I’ll have a better New Year’s. Next Christmas I’ll go read this post if I start to spiral and remind myself that it’s ok to miss those that are gone… but it’s not ok to go lie down and die along with them.

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas, or at least survived as well and that you have a hopeful (and healthy!) New year.


Now Blooming In a Yard Near You

Some of you may remember me talking about growing birdhouse gourds in the garden and drying them a couple years ago. They’ve been hanging out on a wire in our utility room since. I had painted three or four- one and gave to our neighbor with a barn scene for his birthday, I drilled holes in a couple and played with the idea of making lamps.

I was looking at a social media thread discussing Missouri Native trees and wildflowers when I decided I knew what I wanted to put on these gourds. I’ve been paying more attention to what I plant here at the farm than I did at our previous place at the Lake. When we bought that property, the topsoil had all been scraped off, there was a barren red clay mess of a yard that not even weeds wanted to grow in. I planted and encouraged the growth of what would take, which was often aggressive and even invasive plants like Chinese Wisteria, Floribunda rose and Mimosa trees (Chinese silk tree). Not that they weren’t all beautiful and they grew like wildfire, but at least one of those is on the no no list of Missouri invasive plants and the other two clearly aren’t native to our state.

You hear people stressing “Grow Native!” all the time now, but I feel like a lot of folks still don’t understand why it’s important. Native plants are already adapted to local conditions. From a gardener’s perspective, they save time, money and water. If you’re from any of the states running out of water right now, you know what a precious resource it is. Native plants and flowers provide vital habitat for birds, wildlife and pollinators. Some species of butterfly only exist if their host plant is available. Most of the public knows about monarchs and milkweed, but did you know that the fritillary butterflies need violets as their host plant to survive? Many consider violets a weed, but no violets, no fritillaries.

Another plant that gets hate is the dandelion, though it is a very important early flower for emerging bee populations, it’s edible, has medicinal properties and if you have kids, they love the fluffy seed heads.

Ok, I know, I ran off on a tangent about natives and this post is supposed to be about painted gourds, but the paintings on each of these isn’t just a pretty flower to look at. I chose each one because it has value as a Missouri Native Wildflower.

Here are my gourds, they go up for sale this week on Etsy.

Wild Violets (Missouri Wild Violet. Viola missouriensis)

The one below is already sold. We had friends over for dinner last night and they wanted it before it went on the store. 🙂

Black-eyed Susan (Missouri Coneflower. Rudbeckia missouriensis)

I had some Prickly Pear at the Lake that I had gotten a start of out of my Mom’s yard. I had no idea at the time that it grows wild in Missouri. I’ve since seen some in the ditches alongside roads and found some near the edge of a pasture here at the farm. I bought some from the Missouri Wildflower Nursery last year.

Prickly pear cactus (Opuntia humifusa)
Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa) with Pipevine Swallowtail butterfly
Eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis)
Flowering dogwood (Cornus florida)

I love my little lions, I think the one below is my personal favorite.

Common dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)

I hope if you choose to buy one of these, that you’ll look up the native flower painted on it. Do a little reading on your plant and share with your friends why native plants and trees are so important and what it does for our state’s ecosystem. Even if you aren’t from Missouri, it’s something you can talk to folks about besides doom/gloom and politics. We could all use a little light and nature in our lives right now.


My Poor Doomed Cows

Our cow’s “date with destiny” (as my DH calls it) is almost here. Next week Tom and our wonderful neighbor, Jim are taking one next door to our other neighbor and the other will be going to the processor in Cuba.

I’ve never owned livestock before. (Been with a jackass or two of the two-legged variety) I did my best not to get attached or have feelings for these cows, but it’s hard impossible to spend time tending to an animal and not feel anything about it’s demise. Since March, I’ve fed these ladies grain every day, changed out their water while they eat and sprayed them with essential oils to keep the flues and ticks at bay. I’ve watched them grow from 300lbs to something roughly the weight of our car. I didn’t name them. We called them whiteface and blackface only out of necessity, it was confusing to remember which cow was Cow1 or Cow2. Despite not really naming them, they still learned their “names.”

They chase the lawnmower when I mow to get the cut grass blown in from the other side of the fence. Whiteface is the more cautious of the two, but also less skittish once she decides it’s safe. She’ll let you pat her neck and scratch her ears, which I’ve only done once at my daughter’s urging. No matter how fuzzy her ears are, I can’t pet something we plan to murder.

My daughter has no such qualms- she will hang over the fence, scratch the cow’s ears and pet her, then tell her, “You’re looking mighty tasty today!” I asked if this doesn’t bother her that we’re going to eat them, she just shrugs and says she’s looking forward to a good steak. My kid will make a farmer. I watched my great grandma once- walk out in the yard, pick up a chicken, talk to it and wring its neck. She then plucked it, cleaned it and put it in salt water to make fried chicken for dinner the next day. My daughter must take after her.

Yesterday our neighbor backed this trailer up to where I grain feed. The plan is to get them used to going inside the trailer to eat, so that we can get them in there on Tuesday, shut the door and that’s that.

Trailer of doom

Next year we may fence the field closest to the house and get two new cows and maybe a horse or two as well. I CAN be friends with the horse, so I’m looking forward to that almost as much as my daughter is. Maybe a little donkey to keep the horse company. Hopefully that takes some of the sting out of letting go our next pair of cows.

I’m afraid I’ll always be better with the garden and orchard. You would think I’d be great at compartmentalizing after almost 20 years in nursing and surviving multiple narcissists; but like it or not, I’m going to miss my cows. 😦

My elegant dining table

Is not a thing. 

Though sometimes I wish it was. I see pictures of other people’s beautifully decorated homes with everything in its place, fall themed table runners and centerpieces… I wish sometimes I were one of those people.

Alas, I am more the scramble around the living room making sure no dirty underwear are lying on the couch because someone showed up without 3 days advance notice.

We don’t even HAVE a dining room table.  We don’t have a dining room. The kitchen island I occasionally try to decorate,  but mostly it’s just a catch-all for everybody’s crap. Like right now,  I have the pumpkins from our garden displayed for fall.  They looked nice, but slowly became surrounded by some library books, and inhaler, random vitamins,  deodorant,  a lighter,  a can of Dr Pepper from yesterday,  a random spoon I don’t know if it’s clean or dirty,  a lint roller,  dog meds… it is NOT elegant. It’s functional, lived in and messy like my life.

We have no dining table, we eat on TV trays, watching HULU at dinner against all parenting and family advice.  I am at least,  currently working on our TV tables.  They were pretty when we got them 3 years ago, but the finish had chipped on several and some of the edges were peeling. My daughter helped me chip all the formica coating off with a razor blade. 

I painted the tops with a heavy bonding primer and now I’m sketching scenes to paint on each one. We’re going to epoxy the tops when I’m finished, to make them durable. I have the first sketched out and ready to start painting.

I’m not nearly as brilliant an artist as my friend Jennie, who can sit down and while looking at nothing but the image in her head, make things just come alive from 2D white nothingness.

I have to do some planning first. I go look at my photos, outside, browse the web a bit. My kid even screen captured a bunch of stills from Red Dead Redemption II (they are really quite gorgeous!). I gather stuff I like, then start sketching out individual elements. Those I lay out on the table like a puzzle In putting together, so I can try the dog in different places, or move the cows to a different position on the fence. Once I’m happy with layout, I do a very quick drawing of the basic shapes or outlines to show them in their proper place. THEN I actually start re-drawing them on the table top.

Lol… I approach art like I’m writing a novel.

After I sketch everything, I take pictures of the sketch, in case I lose my bearings by painting over something. After all this, I finally start to paint. The painting part I think I actually approach like most painters- background, lights and shadows placement, layer details over all that.

Once paint is finished, I’ll let it cure for two weeks. Then it will go to my new She-shed and get a flood coat of epoxy over the top to protect the painting while we’re eating on it.

I don’t expect they’ll be all finished until next year, since this is more or less my nighttime TV watching project. I’ll try to remember to post pictures as I make progress.