Tuesday, November 14, 2017

I'm Thankful for Much, Not the Least This

We are thiiiiis close to Thanksgiving, and all around me are things for which I am thankful.

The gorgeous colors on the trees, which made us wait this year until we thought it was going to be a drab autumn then surprised us with splendor.

My morning gig as a middle school accompanist which has turned out to be so. much. fun.

That my dental work is in the past rather than in the future.

And Acorn television, which is a cheap way to feed my addiction to British procedurals.

Thanksgiving also means I'm in frantic hurry-up mode on all the cozy projects I hoped to finish by Christmas so I often have Acorn playing in the background while I'm knit-one-purl-two-ing, and because I am not always exactly sure what the Brits and Scots and Irish are saying, I keep the closed captioning on.

That's fortunate, because as binged on The Clinic I mistakenly thought this mother was taking her son to the cinema to reward him for good behavior when he got a shot and it wasn't until I glanced up at the screen that I realized the Irish apparently reward good behavior differently than we Kansans do.

Whshew. I'm really thankful I'm a Kansan.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Do Not Google This

I'm doing very well after my oral surgery, thank you. The self-pampering continues, and I intend to make that last for a very, very long time.

Part of the reason the pampering can continue is because I'm looking a little fairly horrifyingly ragged around the edges. You see that ankle in today's illustration? Transpose the bruise to my right jaw, add six square inches of yellow shading around the edges, throw in a heaping helping of swelling and you have an idea of what I look like six days post-operation.

I am pretty, pretty, pretty.

I am so pretty that I could not bring myself to use any of the eight selfies I took in an attempt to show just how marked I am. Did you know that when make-up artists try to make someone look older, they shade in natural smile lines and wrinkles? And that when subcutaneous bleeding settles from the upper jaw to the lower jaw, it settles into the smile lines and wrinkles? Yes. I am vain enough that I don't want that shared on cyberspace.

So I turned to the internet for an image I could use to show just how bad I look, and that brings me to the point of today's post:

Do not ever, under any circumstances, Google "image face bruise following oral surgery."

Oh. My. Gosh.

People, those images are truly terrible. You not only get the run-of-the-mill discoloration I'm sporting these days, you also get images of THE SURGERY ITSELF, complete with broken teeth, gaping wounds, and Sharp Instruments Inside Mouths.

It is...off-putting.

That's why, instead of a picture of what my face really looks like, you see a bruised ankle and a yellow flower. And because I value the sensibilities of anyone who might see me in person, I'll make a concerted effort to turn the other cheek to the public.

You're welcome.

Friday, November 3, 2017

This Food Picture Has a Story

Pure delight
It's a shame I posted the picture of my lunch on my Facebook page yesterday--it was so much more colorful than my supper that you see here. Baked sweet potato, banana, Costa Rican mug of cafe con leche next to a bottle of pain pills. 

Supper, on the other hand, was monochromatic. Baked potato. Cottage cheese. Ice water. Salt and pepper. 

It was one of the most delicious things I've ever tasted

Three hours before my colorful lunch, I had been blissfully unconscious and unaware that an oral surgeon was in the process of removing my final (unerupted) wisdom tooth, which had decided it was ready to leave this world one way or another and was dissolving and taking part of my jaw with it, and hey! Let's see if this back molar is ready to go, too!

Several decades ago, I had oral surgery to remove my bottom two wisdom teeth. My experience was not nearly as cushy as Husband's wisdom teeth removal which, in his college days during the halcyon days of insurance largesse, included a three-night stay in the hospital. My (impacted) teeth, on  the other hand, were removed in an office procedure that left me fighting pain and a lingering abscess for the next six months. 

So I was not at all delighted when my dentist discovered that the tooth I had lovingly cradled under the skin waaaaaay in the back of my mouth all those years was going rogue. 

Not. At. All. 

However, I discovered yesterday that oral surgery has changed in the years since that first extraction. The most obvious difference was that back then the dentist offered a few of whiffs of nitrous gas to ease the process. While that was a decent step up from biting down on a stick, yesterday's surgeon gave me an IV that obliterated the time between "I'm just going  to tape this needle down now" and "Okay, please step from the wheelchair over into the recovery chair. Your husband is bringing the car around." 

Seriously, it was mind-boggling. 

I know that something happened in my mouth because I have a tiny mark where some sort of retractor kept my lips pulled back, and oh, yeah, I look like an over-industrious squirrel preparing for winter by storing  All The Acorns in her right cheek, but after a single pain pill yesterday, no pain. Thankfully, the back molar was discovered to be intact and it's staying put. 

And Husband has been pampering me endlessly. That colorful lunch (which was pre-pain pill and I was still a little too dopey to fully appreciate) was served on an inlaid wood tray. After a no-breakfast, no-lunch day, though, the baked potato with cottage cheese supper was soft and salty and hit the spot like not even a Kansas ribeye could have done.  

Especially if you look closely at that monochromatic picture. The only dab of color is smack in  the middle, and it's the frosty blue label on a York Peppermint Pumpkin. 

Thank you, trick-or-treaters, for not eating this piece of candy. It was perfect for what ailed me. 

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Soup Season

First of all, please accept my apology that I didn't style today's food picture. I was a dozen spoonfuls into the bowl before I remembered I had intended to artfully compose a still life so succulent and steamy it would make you lick your monitor. Instead, you get a half-eaten bowl of soup with flecks of tomato and seasonings messing up the bowl and the artfulness.

Bobby Flay would be appalled at the presentation but I regret nothing.


I basically have two seasons on my calendar--soup season and non-soup season, and during the past few weeks Kansas has finally been cool enough that I don't feel guilty putting soup on the table at every meal. (Well, not breakfast. We are not savages. Also, bran flakes know no season.)

Just in those two weeks I have made Cabbage, Sausage and Potato Soup, Chicken Tomatillo Soup, and Minnesota Heartland 11-Bean Soup. (Click on the links for recipes and a much more beautiful shot of the bean soup.) I recommend them all, with the caveat that the tomatillos caused Husband to drink two glasses of water in a row and consequently I inherited all the leftovers. But that was not a problem at all, because they were delicious.

Husband, bless his heart, indulges my soup explorations, although once in a while he plaintively asks if I remember that one really good casserole I used to make. Then I have to remind him why everyone should love soup.
     1. It is delicious.
     2. Easy menu planning--no side dishes needed.
     3. It tastes good.
     4. It seems virtuous. I do not know why this is, but when slick-covered magazines talk about the simple life they often name-check soup.
     5. Easy clean-up.
     6. Have I mentioned the delicious factor?

And for a few giddy moments during the cross-over between summer and fall, as chronicled in the messy-bowl picture today, there is the perfect confluence of soup and WATERMELON! I sigh with bliss.

Ahhhh. Is it time for lunch yet? I think I'll have soup.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

I'm New to This

Alligator log. Another photography class project, and you have to squint to see it.
Why, yes, this is me. Posting twice in two days. Or, as my Loyal Reader(s) might think, posting twice IN THE SAME DAY.

The last post about my photography class? Was posted yesterday. But you might not have seen it until today because Facebook is a terrible nag. Let me explain:

A couple of months ago I decided there might be people visiting this space who aren't my Facebook friends in real life (or IRL, as we hip web-sters say). These people might not give two hoots about my personal opinions on baseball results (oh, Royals, we grieve) or on whether the latest episode of Outlander was boringly Claire-centric, or at least boringly Claire-in-Boston-centric.

So I set up a Facebook page especially for this blog. It's right here: Empty Nest Feathers.* That page is navel-gazing and trivialities all the time.

What I didn't know was that Facebook is the biggest nag since Edith Bunker, but in a much less lovable way.

"You haven't posted for six days--your readers miss you!" this new page informs me if I look away for a moment.

"You could increase readership if you posted more often," it whines, as if I weren't aware of this pretty obvious fact.

"Where are you? Do you still exist?" it guilt-trips.

Okay, I made that last one up, but I am not making up that my blog's Facebook page nags incessantly.

That's why yesterday when I posted my positive review of my photography class I made sure to link it to the blog's Facebook page. That's the only reason I can think of that I didn't link it to my personal page, and instead set the privacy setting of that link to "groups."

What does that even mean? Does it mean my high school class reunion pals now have special insight into my non-skills in photography? Or the group that shares pressure cooker recipes? Or the fans of The New Yorker? All I know is that I did not get one single reaction to yesterday's post that didn't come from the blog's own Facebook page, and that meant either I had done something wrong or my Much Older Sister no longer loved me. (Thank you, MOS, for six decades of being my staunchest supporter. Mwah!)

This morning, when I discovered the errant setting and undid that goof, the world settled back into its normal groove. My Loyal Reader(s) read, my terrible photography prevailed, and Facebook nagged me that I could "Improve interaction with more posts, MomQueenBee!"

Ah. Back to normal.

*Thank you, thank you, if you have liked that page! It gave me a warm glow!

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Say "Cheesy"

Over-edit much?
There is a woman in Small Town who takes the most beautiful pictures with her cell phone.

I am Facebook friends with her, and Mr. Zuckerberg's algorithms consistently pop J.'s shots straight to the top of my feed because I click the heart-y emoticon every time she posts. Sunflowers, people, architectural features--they're all good in a way that's inexplicably visceral, and she shoots them on her iPhone.

That's why I was in the first few students to sign up when J. agreed to teach an iPhone photography class.

I am a terrible, terrible photographer. Of all the classes I've ever taken in my life, my worst grade was in my (required) college photography class. Granted, that's only because I saw the Cyrillic handwriting on the wall and changed my Russian class from graded to pass/fail before a Deh was recorded in my transcript, but the psychic scars from that photography class left have persisted through a career in which I was regularly called on to take pictures.

But guess what? The iPhone is a magic gizmo that has none of the trauma of f-stops and apertures and ISO and film speed and whatever. (Maybe you're seeing why I got such a terrible grade in photographer? It was the "whatever" factor.)

And J. is a delightful teacher who acts as if each of her students is so clever for seeing that afternoon light, or that interesting bark texture, or look! It's a butterfly on a flower!

She and her co-teacher, E. (who is in charge of the Android users), continually encourage as they lead us old ladies--yup, all women in the class--through the different on-screen editing techniques.

So now I've been thoroughly converted. The pepitas I made Saturday suddenly weren't just a crunchy salad topping, they were texture! Color! Autumnal! And my phone wasn't just a camera, it was crop! Sharpen! Adjust saturation! Add golden glow!

Four classes and I've moved from someone who's afraid of photography straight to one of those annoying over-editors who think their snapshots are Old Master landscapes.  It's a shame I missed the interim stage of taking good pictures and leaving them alone.

But I'm finally having fun with photography. Now if I could only exorcise that Russian class....

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Remembering the Day of No Time Left

I only used this twice, but it reminds me of when the walk from the car to the store was too much.

Six months ago last Monday I went to work thinking I might have pneumonia. I'd had a cold, and just couldn't seem to shake the breathless feeling that goes with all those viral bodies sharing mine. I felt worn-out, and even walking up one flight of stairs left me gasping for air.

Of course, if you've read this blog for any length of time you all know that it wasn't a cold. My visit to the doctor's office revealed that I was having a heart attack, which an emergency room scan showed was caused by multiple pulmonary embolisms.

Spoiler alert: I didn't die. But this is the kind of thing that kills (I'm trying to decipher the statistics, but it looks like about one out of five patients with my diagnosis don't make it) and certainly during that day I was coming to grips with the fact that I might be that one out of five. Instead I was sent home after two nights in the hospital with a prescription for blood thinners and orders to take it easy for a while.

Now, six months later, I'm always a little surprised when people ask how I'm feeling: That ambulance ride seems like a long, long time ago.

The short answer is that I'm feeling fine. Robust, even. I'm eating better and am back on the exercise bike routine. I have been more self-preservational in saying 'no' to new volunteer commitments, and Husband is solicitous about watching to see if I'm getting worn out when we travel.

But the experience has forever changed how I look at time.

When I was young, and even through the Boys' growing-up years, I assumed I had All The Time. There was time waiting for me out there to travel, to spruce up the shabby spots in the House on the Corner, to learn to quilt and to play the accordion. Most of the time, though, I was paddling so hard just keeping up with a job and a family that those things were put on hold until the house was clean.

The house was never clean.

As I neared retirement age, it occurred to me that time wasn't an unlimited commodity, but I still had Most Of The Time. I was healthy and privileged, and I could choose the best uses of my time--I'd be one of those people who see the world and run marathons while on Medicare. (See also: My father.)

That day in April, when I thought I had arrived at No Time Left, has left me acutely aware of my status as one with Not Much Time. This isn't because I necessarily think my lungs are going to try to kill me again, it's just a fact of life that I have arrived at the final quarter of my fourscore years.

And Not Much Time brings with it the realization I won't be traveling to all the places I had hoped to visit in my life, or reading all the books I had hoped to devour. The time I have to spend with people I love is not unlimited (if you're in the mood for a really good bout of depression, try the calculator in this story). Heck, even the good hair days I have left are probably trackable.

You may think this is the most awful thing in the world, to realize that you've arrived at Not Much Time, but I'm here to tell you that, mostly, it is not. Not Much Time, it turns out, is a wake-up call and not a sentence.

Instead, I find myself really appreciating moments and events so much more than I did when I had All The Time. Because I might have missed so much I'm really present in the good moments--discovering again and again that I won the Husband lottery; seeing all of the Boys finish school, and appreciating their persistence during the days when nothing was easy or enjoyable; wearing a hat to accompany two different musicals; taking my dad to South Dakota in the fall; heck, even the all-pie restaurant was part of the last six months.

I plan to live a good long time longer, but on the day I thought I had reached No Time Left I also realized that my plans aren't driving the bus or dictating the schedule. If tomorrow is my actual No Time Left day, I want to make sure I've done that day right. So now, I'm knitting when I want to knit, sitting when I want to sit, reading the good books and enjoying the great moments. Oh, and I'm hugging my loved ones as if...well, you know.

I'm feeling great.