old enough to die

“Old Woman with Child & Goose” by Willard Metcalf

Once I realized I was old enough to die, I decided that I was also old enough not to incur any more suffering, annoyance, or boredom in the pursuit of a longer life. I eat well, meaning I choose foods that taste good and that will stave off hunger for as long as possible, like protein, fiber, and fats. I exercise — not because it will make me live longer but because it feels good when I do. As for medical care: I will seek help for an urgent problem, but I am no longer interested in looking for problems that remain undetectable to me. Ideally, the determination of when one is old enough to die should be a personal decision, based on a judgment of the likely benefits, if any, of medical care and — just as important at a certain age — how we choose to spend the time that remains to us.

In giving up on preventative care, I’m just taking this line of thinking a step further: Not only do I reject the torment of a medicalized death, but I refuse to accept a medicalized life, and my determination only deepens with age. As the time that remains to me shrinks, each month and day becomes too precious to spend in windowless waiting rooms and under the cold scrutiny of machines. Being old enough to die is an achievement, not a defeat, and the freedom it brings is worth celebrating.

~ Barbara Ehrenreich
(Natural Causes: An Epidemic of Wellness, the Certainty of Dying, and Killing Ourselves to Live Longer)

A year after my cancer surgery it seems like a good time to mention a book that tumbled into my life at just the right moment. After my brush with a life-threatening illness, the ideas set forth in Barbara Ehrenreich’s book, Natural Causes, make a whole lot of sense to me.

I spent many years carting my mother-in-law, my aunt and my father around to those “windowless waiting rooms,” getting test after test, some of them downright painful. My aunt finally put her foot down and proclaimed, “Whatever I’ve got, I’m taking it with me.”

She lived to be 103 in spite of refusing all the standard tests recommended for her in the last years of her life. When she died, it was from an infection. After accepting treatment for a day or two, she finally refused treatment for that, too.

Nothing ever came of those countless tests.

In my own case, because my mother died of breast cancer, I have submitted to many “required” mammograms and wound up with three false positives, causing weeks of anxiety. Now I refused to have any more. At this point in my life I am old enough to die, and if I wake up one morning and feel a lump in my breast, so be it.

The endometrial cancer I wound up getting? Well, there is no screening for it. Irony.

Fortunately I’ve found a general practitioner who understands my feelings and treats my “urgent problems” without pushing me into a “medicalized life.” Barbara Ehrenreich’s book has all the facts and figures I needed to convince me that as a culture, we are indeed killing ourselves, or at least making ourselves miserable, in order to live longer. All these expensive, invasive tests have not increased our lifespans.

Therefore, I have chosen to enjoy spending whatever time I have left to me without borrowing trouble.

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. 🙂

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…

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. 🙂

adventures in geology

6.10.18 ~ Braxton County, West Virginia

Geology is not my thing, but, I was willing to tag along with my sister to visit relatives and rocks in West Virginia last week. The only thing I really know about these outcrop pictures is that the black seam is coal and that Beverly was impressed with the photographs my camera was able to capture. Perhaps she will use them in her classes.

6.10.18 ~ Braxton County, West Virginia
6.10.18 ~ Braxton County, West Virginia ~ using Beverly to illustrate how massive this outcrop is
6.10.18 ~ Braxton County, West Virginia
6.10.18 ~ Braxton County, West Virginia
6.10.18 ~ Braxton County, West Virginia
6.10.18 ~ Braxton County, West Virginia
6.10.18 ~ Braxton County, West Virginia
6.10.18 ~ Braxton County, West Virginia

We had a lovely time visiting our aunt and our cousin and her husband on their farm. The first night we were there Beverly woke me up at 2 o’clock in the morning to see hundreds of lightning bugs sparkling in the nearby woods. It was magical.

6.10.18 ~ Braxton County, West Virginia

We saw deer and heard about bear sightings. We took long walks and ate whole foods, both at a farm-to-table restaurant and from Kappy & Bruce’s kitchen. We watched movies with Aunt Em, who will be 90 in August. I will miss enjoying the margarita Aunt Em made for me each evening with dinner, and the early morning chats over our black coffees. 🙂

6.10.18 ~ Braxton County, West Virginia

Beverly collected quite a few rocks for her collection and packed them up, cushioning them in her dirty laundry, to mail home to Connecticut. It was heartwarming to see her having such a good time. Bruce & Kappy paid close attention to the geology lessons they received as they were carting us around. We had such a wonderful time!

6.10.18 ~ Braxton County, West Virginia

busy, busy, busy

5.25.18 ~ great egret at Eastern Point Beach

The fatigue from radiation has finally gone away, just in time! I’ve been neglecting my blog because we’ve had a lot of company and I’ve been over the moon cooking for them, having folks at my table again, and getting out and about with them.

Nate tells me someone has been trying to hack my blog, several times, and he’s spent hours investigating and remotely taking measures to protect it. I am so grateful he knows what he’s doing!

A new little brother or sister for Katherine will be arriving in Ireland near the end of October!!! Of course I will be spending a month or two over there to help out. Wouldn’t miss this big event for the world. 🙂

5.25.18 ~ Eastern Point Beach ~ Tim, Aunt Delorma and Allegra ~ when I suddenly noticed I was being watched while taking pictures of the great egret

I’ve taken a Photoshop course at the senior center so I’m looking forward to using my new skills. We’re still taking our Tai Chi class. Not sure I will ever master it. If I pay attention to my leg movements then my arm movements and breathing can’t seem to stay coordinated. And vice versa. But I get an “A” for effort and the instructor is very encouraging.

On Friday my sister and I are flying to West Virginia to visit our aunt and cousin. We’ve never been there before so it will be a new experience. I hope to bring back some good pictures. The last and only time Beverly and I have flown together was in 1974 when we flew home from Greece.

In September Tim & I will be driving to Kentucky for our niece’s wedding and a 3-day family reunion immediately afterwards. On our way home we plan to stop at a few places in western New York to do some family history research.

5.25.18 ~ great egret at Eastern Point Beach

So much to look forward to!

Blarney Castle

2.5.18 ~ Blarney Castle, Blarney, Cork, Ireland ~ our first glimpse of the famous castle

Waking up Monday morning my cold wasn’t too bad, mainly a sore throat. Katherine had to go to school and her parents had to work so Larisa dropped us off at Blarney Castle. It was another damp and chilly day but we had fun.

2.5.18 ~ Blarney Castle, Blarney, Cork, Ireland ~ detour

The usual path to the castle was blocked off because they are in the middle of some major renovations.

2.5.18 ~ Blarney Castle, Blarney, Cork, Ireland ~ another glimpse ~ we were definitely taking the long way around!
2.5.18 ~ Blarney Castle, Blarney, Cork, Ireland

When we got close to the castle we stopped and had the most delicious and warm bowl of Irish Stew at the Coach House Cafe. It really hit the spot. In spite of my sensitivity to wheat I took a bite of the warm brown bread that came with the stew. Yummy! 🙂 It’s not often one finds something that tastes so good at a cafeteria!

2.5.18 ~ Blarney Castle, Blarney, Cork, Ireland ~ seating for summer tourists and an orb

The cafe was in the old stables and we ate in the main room. As we were leaving we saw that in the summer there was space right in the stalls for overflow dining. My only complaint was (again) no heat in the restrooms! Brrrr….

2.5.18 ~ Blarney Castle, Blarney, Cork, Ireland ~ another building in the stable yard
2.5.18 ~ Blarney Castle, Blarney, Cork, Ireland ~ looking though the book on Irish birds I bought at the wildlife park, I think this bird might be a pied wagtail ~ he was surveying the stable yard
2.5.18 ~ Blarney Castle, Blarney, Cork, Ireland ~ the best shot I could get of the impossibly narrow steps

Because of the castle renovations we could not take the usual stairway up to the Blarney Stone. We never made it to the stone at the top because, well, the alternate steps were very small and continued to narrow the higher we went. We made it about 3/4 of the way up before we called it quits and retreated. We had to return home without our gift of eloquence. Notice in the picture above that the only railing we had was that wobbly rope. I’m only 5 feet tall and I had to duck to go through that doorway. And going down was even harder to pull off for these senior citizens. Phew!

2.5.18 ~ Blarney Castle, Blarney, Cork, Ireland ~ well, at least we made it up to the kitchen
2.5.18 ~ Blarney Castle, Blarney, Cork, Ireland ~ scaffolding for those working on the renovations
2.5.18 ~ Blarney Castle, Blarney, Cork, Ireland ~ snowdrops
2.5.18 ~ Blarney Castle, Blarney, Cork, Ireland ~ friendly European robin

On the castle grounds there are several other things to see. For this trip we chose the Rock Close. Pictures of that magical place in my next post…

Inch (Ínse)

2.4.18 ~ Inch Beach, Kerry, Ireland ~ a family enjoying a ride on the beach

Next stop was Inch Beach! Another location where part of Ryan’s Daughter was filmed.

2.4.18 ~ Inch Beach, Kerry, Ireland ~ the scenery was indeed breathtaking

Inch or Ínse meaning Sea Meadow (Oilean Ínse – Island of Inch) is best known for its impressive Blue Flag beach. It offers miles of golden sand and breathtaking scenery showcasing mountain, beach, valley and sea. Standing on the beach, the 360 degree panoramic view before you encompasses the McGillycuddy Reeks, Rossbeigh Beach and the northern shores of the Ring of Kerry, Dingle Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, the Slieve Mish Mountains which form the backbone of the Dingle Peninsula and the magnificent sand dunes that stretch along this amazing sand spit. A majestic setting, which has inspired artists, poets, writers and was chosen as the location for the Hollywood films Ryan’s Daughter and Playboy of the Western World.
~ GoKerry website

2.4.18 ~ Inch Beach, Kerry, Ireland ~ another adventure with her Papa
2.4.18 ~ Inch Beach, Kerry, Ireland ~ sand, sea and sky as far as the eye can see
2.4.18 ~ Inch Beach, Kerry, Ireland
2.4.18 ~ Inch Beach, Kerry, Ireland ~ drawing on the sand with Papa
2.4.18 ~ Inch Beach, Kerry, Ireland ~ amazing vistas even if my family was all looking down for shells
2.4.18 ~ Inch Beach, Kerry, Ireland ~ it’s good to know there is still much beauty left on earth
2.4.18 ~ Inch Beach, Kerry, Ireland ~ uncounted shells, beauty in the small details
2.4.18 ~ Inch Beach, Kerry, Ireland ~ time to turn around and walk all the way back to find lunch in the restaurant on the right

After a nice long meandering walk on Inch Beach we had lunch in a crowded beach restaurant. The parking lot was full so some cars were parked right on the sand. And so we were off to our next destination where I encountered my first Irish forest.

The Plough Bed & Breakfast

2.4.18 ~ view from The Plough Bed & Breakfast, Ventry, Kerry, Ireland ~ morning light and the moon

After our long afternoon at Coumeenoole Beach we found our bed and breakfast, The Plough. The hostess, Beatrice, made us feel right at home. When we got warmed up and settled, we headed out again for dinner at Lord Baker’s, Dingle’s oldest gastro pub and largest restaurant. Tim & I had one of that night’s specials, Slow Roast Shank of Kerry Lamb & Red Wine Sauce. (local and grass-fed lamb) It was so delicious that we are still talking about it!

2.4.18 ~ view from the The Plough Bed & Breakfast, Ventry, Kerry, Ireland

When we returned to our B&B I was feeling chilled so Beatrice warmed up a hot water bottle with a faux fur covering to take to bed with me. I warmed up quickly and slept very soundly. 🙂

2.4.18 ~ The Plough Bed & Breakfast, Ventry, Kerry, Ireland

Sunday morning Tim & I woke up before the others and took a morning walk. The surrounding scenery was soothing and pastoral. We were overlooking Ventry Harbour and the moon was still in the sky.

2.4.18 ~ The Plough Bed & Breakfast, Ventry, Kerry, Ireland ~ some whimsy in the garden

When we returned for breakfast we had a pleasant surprise. The first thing offered was porridge and was it ever tasty! Beatrice said the “secret” ingredients were local, sweet cream and a little shot of Bailey’s. 🙂 Then we had a choice of various egg, ham, and sausage breakfast combinations.

2.4.18 ~ The Plough Bed & Breakfast, Ventry, Kerry, Ireland ~ beautiful stone wall and daffodils!
2.4.18 ~ The Plough Bed & Breakfast, Ventry, Kerry, Ireland ~ the plough
2.4.18 ~ The Plough Bed & Breakfast, Ventry, Kerry, Ireland ~ Ventry Harbour
2.4.18 ~ The Plough Bed & Breakfast, Ventry, Kerry, Ireland
2.4.18 ~ The Plough Bed & Breakfast, Ventry, Kerry, Ireland ~ daffodils in February!
2.4.18 ~ The Plough Bed & Breakfast, Ventry, Kerry, Ireland
2.4.18 ~ The Plough Bed & Breakfast, Ventry, Kerry, Ireland
2.4.18 ~ The Plough Bed & Breakfast, Ventry, Kerry, Ireland ~ a very cold me!
2.4.18 ~ The Plough Bed & Breakfast, Ventry, Kerry, Ireland
2.4.18 ~ The Plough Bed & Breakfast, Ventry, Kerry, Ireland
2.4.18 ~ The Plough Bed & Breakfast, Ventry, Kerry, Ireland ~ whimsy at the front door
2.4.18 ~ The Plough Bed & Breakfast, Ventry, Kerry, Ireland ~ reading nook

I loved the pillows Beatrice used in her sitting room! This was our first time ever staying at a bed & breakfast ~ thank you Larisa & Dima for the special treat!!!

2.4.18 ~ The Plough Bed & Breakfast, Ventry, Kerry, Ireland ~ deer pillow
2.4.18 ~ The Plough Bed & Breakfast, Ventry, Kerry, Ireland ~ woodsy pillow
2.4.18 ~ The Plough Bed & Breakfast, Ventry, Kerry, Ireland ~ robin pillow

We had a long day ahead of us and so we were then off for the next adventures.