baby boy!

Our new little grandson arrived yesterday afternoon! After an evening of trick-or-treating Larisa went into labor, only a few hours past her due date. She wound up having a Cesarean, but she and baby are all right. 8 lbs, 4 oz, 20.25 inches! When I was allowed into the recovery room he was already nursing contentedly. He has beautiful gray eyes, which I enjoyed gazing into as I rocked him. I’m in love.

And Tim got the best birthday present ever! A grandson born on his birthday!

due date

Larisa ~ 10.31.18 ~ Chapel Hill, North Carolina

The due date has arrived! It seems this baby plans on being late, too. Larisa is very uncomfortable and trying her best to be patient.

Tim has returned from Connecticut and has resumed taking Katherine to and from daycare. I’m doing laundry and cooking and we’ve both been helping out where needed.

Katherine is excited about Halloween and her best friend is coming over soon to go trick-or-treating with her. We have birthday celebrations scheduled for the next two days and another one next week. (Tim, Dominic and Dima) Lots of activity and a bit too much stimulation for me, but I’m pacing myself with periodic escapes to my room.

Dima got an early birthday present from his family, a combination smoker and grill. We’ve been having some fantastic dinners while we continue to wait for baby. 🙂

historic elm

10.23.18 ~ American Elm ~ Carrboro, North Carolina

The other day I went out with Larisa so she could vote. (They have early voting in North Carolina. Tim & I used absentee ballots before we left Connecticut.) We pulled into the Carrboro Town Hall parking lot and a HUGE tree caught my eye. We parked under its massive branches. I looked at the leaves and said, “I bet that’s an elm tree!” An American Elm.

10.23.18 ~ Carrboro, North Carolina

While Larisa went inside to vote I got out of the car and had a nice long visit with the tree. According to the Town of Carrboro, the elm has a spread of 114 ft (35 m) and a height of 40 ft (12 m). It was registered with the Elm Research Institute in 1985.

10.23.18 ~ American Elm ~ Carrboro, North Carolina

The American elm was the most popular tree to plant in the booming cities of the 19th century, so that by the 20th century many streets were lined with only elms and were shaded in summer by a cathedral-like ceiling of their branches. When Dutch elm disease (which actually originated in Asia) spread to the US in the 1950s, it was able to mow down elm after elm through their grafted root systems or with the help of a beetle. Today, arborists and foresters are careful to plant a diverse range of trees that will not all be vulnerable to any particular pest, disease or weather conditions.
~ The Morton Arboretum website

10.23.18 ~ American Elm ~ Carrboro, North Carolina

Some of my readers may remember Grandmother Elm, the tree I fell in love with when I was going through one of the most difficult years of my life. She was a great source of comfort and wisdom. Interestingly, Grandmother Elm is 60 ft (18 m) high, 20 ft (6 m) taller than Carrboro’s American Elm. But this elm is much wider than the one in Connecticut. Both of them are lovely, just the way they are.

rainy night and toad

10.16.18 ~ Katherine with toad ~ photo by Dima

So, I’ve been in North Carolina for almost two weeks now, spending lots of time with Katherine and helping out her parents as best I can. Tim, too, but he left very early this morning and made it all the way home to Connecticut this evening! He’ll be back, though, after taking care of a few obligations.

Larisa has been pretty miserable but now that the shingles is improving she’s feeling a little better. This morning she remembered that my friend, an interpreter, told us that in Spanish pregnancy is called “la dulce espera,” the sweet wait. I hope these last couple of weeks will be sweeter now.

On the day tropical storm Michael arrived here, Katherine observed her Grandpa frequently tracking the storm on his weather app. She happened to be outside when the first raindrops fell so she rushed inside, so excited, and exclaimed, “Tell Grandpa the storm is here!” And so it was. We listened to the torrential rain and from her bedroom window watched the ferocious wind pelt the lower roof with twigs and branches.

We lost power late in the afternoon, 45 minutes before the pot roast was done. We ate it anyway, and it was delicious. We each had a flashlight to navigate in the dark. When it stopped raining we took our flashlights and went out for a walk in the dark. Katherine had colorful flashing lights on her rain boots which made it easy to keep track of her. Dima’s flight was diverted to Atlanta so he didn’t make it home until the next day. Our power came back around noon the next day, too.

Our niece and her husband learned that their house, of newer and more hurricane-resistant construction, was spared. They returned to help their neighbors and search for missing persons. They even had a story written about their efforts in The New York Times!

Katherine still loves to take her nature walks, even in the dark. One night her father spotted a toad and took the picture above. So much wonder in the world!

And the sweet wait continues…

Hurricane Michael

NASA-NOAA’s Suomi NPP satellite provided this visible image of Hurricane Michael after it made landfall in the Florida panhandle on Oct. 10. Credit: NASA Worldview, Earth Observing System Data and Information System (EOSDIS)/ NOAA

If we were still in Connecticut this major hurricane would not be affecting us. But since we are in North Carolina we have what is now Tropical Storm Michael raging outside today.

The storm first became very interesting to us because our niece, who just got married last month, lives in Panama City Beach, Florida, with her new husband. They evacuated, of course, with their three kitties, and fled to North Carolina to stay with her parents (Tim’s brother and sister-in-law). So the four of them came up here to Larisa’s for dinner last night, and we sat around the table for hours looking at the pictures people had shared online of the devastation in their area. Presumably taken after the tempest had passed. Several buildings near their home were severely damaged and a brick and mortar middle school was a pile of rubble. No pictures of what might be left of their home as of last night. They are very close to where the eye made landfall.

We’re waiting for more news…

Tim & I are down here helping Larisa while Dima is on a business trip. Larisa is in a lot of pain but is putting on a brave front. We all hope this baby decides to come sooner than later! Since Katherine wanted me to play with her this morning it fell on Tim to follow my recipe and start a pot roast in the slow cooker. Hope we don’t lose power! Dima should be home tonight unless the storm interferes with his flight…

varicella zoster virus

electron micrograph of a varicella virus ~ Public Health Image Library, Centers for Disease Control & Prevention

When our daughter Larisa was seven weeks old her two older brothers, ages 3 and 5, came down with chicken pox. This was before a vaccine for the disease was available. Not to worry, said their pediatrician. Because I was breast-feeding her my own immunity would protect her. But, a couple of days later, a few poxes appeared on her tiny little body.

The pediatrician examined her and scratched his head. He had never seen a case like this before. He said he couldn’t know for sure if this mild case of chicken pox would offer her immunity in the future. Years later, when Larisa was pregnant with Katherine, she was tested and did have chicken pox antibodies, removing any lingering uncertainty about her immunity.

But the story wasn’t over! Yesterday we got a phone call from Larisa who had just been to the doctor and had been diagnosed with shingles! Of all things! As far as I knew most people who get shingles are over 60 but she’s still in her 30s. And almost 8 months pregnant. But the doctor assures her that shingles poses no danger to the baby, even though chicken pox and shingles are caused by the same virus. (Chicken pox would have been dangerous.) Which tells me that they must have seen cases like hers before.

I haven’t posted in a while because first, I was very cranky about the relentless heat and humidity waves, and then, we were very busy with preparing for and traveling to Kentucky for our niece’s wedding and the family reunion immediately following. And now we’re getting ready to go down to North Carolina to help out. But I do have much to write about and hope to do so soon.

The good news is that autumn weather has finally arrived here and my mood is much improved!!! 🙂

Katherine’s Children

Katherine Fusiak (1887-1943) and three of her eight children: Augusta Jean Chomiak (1913-1986), Theodore William Chomiak (1922-2013), and Lillian Elizabeth Chomiak (1915-2016).

It’s simply amazing what comes into the light when cousins start exploring family history, too. Several weeks ago I shared a picture one of my maternal cousins discovered and today I’m sharing a portrait found by one of my paternal cousins.

The woman is my grandmother, Katherine, who died long before I was born. I’ve always been curious about her because she is the one grandparent I never knew.

Катерина Фюшяк (Kateryna Fusiak ~ my Aunt Lil showed me how to write her name in Ukrainian) was born on 19 November 1887 in Luzok Horishni, Ukraine, when it was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. She died on 22 October 1943 at New London, Connecticut.

Katherine’s parents were land-owning farmers. When her husband William, the son of peasants, left for America, she was pregnant with her second child and they already had a small daughter, Mary. According to my aunt Mary, who grew up with her grandparents in Ukraine, Katherine’s father, Konrad, who did not approve of his daughter’s marriage, was furious about not hearing from William, and with great resentment sold a cow to buy passage to America for Katherine and her new nursing baby boy, Jon. At the tender age of 22, on 19 February 1910, Katherine and 5-month-old baby Jon sailed to America on the SS Finland from Antwerp, arriving in New York City on 4 March 1910. She had no ticket, but was in possession of $19 which she used to pay passage for herself and her son. She was 4’11” tall with a fair complexion. She was identified as a “Ruthenian” on the passenger arrival record, a term used to refer to a group of Ukrainians living in Ruthenia and eastern Czechoslovakia.

Mary stayed behind with her grandparents and so Katherine did not see her firstborn daughter again until Mary was 18, when she finally joined her family in America after World War I. By then, Katherine and William were living on a farm in Montville, Connecticut.

Katherine was a devoted mother who admonished her eight children to stick together no matter what, as she believed that family was all they would have in this difficult world. Her grandchildren called her “Baba.” Katherine died of a strangulated hernia at the age of 55. She lies buried with her husband in Comstock Cemetery in Uncasville, Connecticut.

Three of her children did not survive into adulthood. Jon Stephen died when he was 9 years old, of appendicitis. Augustine was about two when he got into some pills or something that poisoned him. Olga, a toddler, met her death by scalding when she pulled a pot of boiling water off the stove, a horrific accident that my aunt Lil was old enough to remember first hand.

In the portrait above, daughter Mary is missing because she was still living in Ukraine. Jon had already died. My Aunt Jean is on the left, my father is the little boy, and my Aunt Lil is on the right. My Aunt Em was not born yet.

Katherine had a very hard life as a farmer’s wife who made it through the Great Depression living off the land. Her husband was a harsh, bitter man, who regretted leaving Ukraine and apparently hated this country. I admire her courage and fortitude.

My father always spoke of his mother with great fondness and missed her dearly. Even during his last illness he asked for her. He had enlisted in the army during World War II on 4 February 1943. Sadly, only eight months later, on 22 October 1943, his mother died. Only 22 years old, he came home on leave for her funeral and then returned to duty. I am struck with a little synchronicity here because Katherine was 22 when she saw her mother for the last time, and my father was 22 when he saw his own mother for the last time.

My father often credited his mother with raising him to respect women and appreciate their strengths. As an example, he often told the story of her ability to drive a hard bargain. A butcher came down from Norwich to the farm in Montville three times trying to buy a calf for less than the price Katherine wanted to sell it for! But she got her original asking price, impressing her son, and the sale was finally made!

learning is spiral

8.21.18 ~ garden flowers from our local farmers market

For many, learning is spiral, where important themes are visited again and again throughout life, each time at a deeper, more penetrating level.
~ Jerold W. Aps
(Teaching from the Heart)

For much of this summer I’ve been down in the dumps, cursing the oppressive humidity and climate change. After reading my complaining post on August 9, my kind neighbor invited me out to happy hour at Harbour House Restaurant & Bar in Mystic. I was apprehensive because bars often terrify me ~ too much noise and too many people. But I decided to go and give it a try.

We went at 3:30, before the crowds, and chose to sit outside on the deck, under the dappled shade of a gorgeous birch tree. The restaurant sits high on a hill overlooking “the best ocean view in Mystic.” There was a lovely sea breeze which made the humidity surprisingly bearable. I had a frozen lemonade and some chicken wings and celery. Delicious! It really hit the spot.

And then we were treated to a breathtaking sight. An eagle flew directly overhead with a large fish in his talons. We had a nice conversation with the young couple at the next table. I’m so glad I went ~ thank you, Susan! It was an afternoon I won’t soon forget. Sometimes the squeaky wheel does get the grease.

For me, learning is a spiral. Last summer I decided that leaving any one kind of food out of one’s diet was too extreme. After a year of eating meat, grains and legumes — everything and anything gluten-free — I was getting terrible stomach aches more and more often. Finally one night I had one that lasted for twelve hours, after a meal of gluten-free pasta, beans, goat cheese and veggies. My body was trying to tell me something. I decided to pay attention.

Over the years I’ve tried most of the diets from paleo to vegan and the one that made me feel the best was paleo. So, in the middle of July, after another flurry of research, I decided to listen to my body and go back to the paleo, eliminating beans and grains, even gluten-free grains. An “important theme” that I needed to “visit again.” It’s been about a month and I am feeling better. No more heartburn. My stomach has settled down and one of the things I remembered from the last time eating paleo has returned: I can go much longer between meals without my blood sugar dropping.

Now that Tim is retired it’s been fun trying new recipes with him, going to farmers markets and shopping together. We’re eating lots more vegetables. Tonight I went 5 hours between lunch and supper, and felt hungry but not desperate. What a blessing!

It turns out Larisa & Dima and Katherine will be moving back to North Carolina in September, which means we won’t be going to Ireland for the arrival of our new grandson. Our frequent trips to North Carolina will begin again. 🙂