Saturday, December 29, 2012


A few months ago I found that ComEd, our electric supplier, has some new energy data on their website, including a comparison of one's electricity use to 100 neighbors within close proximity (3 miles) and with similar sized homes and natural gas, rather than electric, heat.  So, apples to apples.

When I first looked, I was not in the top 20 (called Efficient Neighbors) for least electric use, though I was getting close.  When yesterday's bill arrived in my inbox, I checked my account on the website to see where I stood, and, at last!  I used 5% less electricity than my Efficient Neighbors.

Besides there being one less person in the house (not insignificant, as Gerrit was home most of the time, which meant the television was on a good part of the day), I finally started turning off the power strip for the TV and cable box, as well as the power strip for the computer/printer/monitor, when I wasn't using them.  The only downside to turning off the cable box is the TV guide program listing takes about 20 minutes to refresh after the cable box is turned on.  All the programs are there, I just can't see what's coming up next until that 20 minutes or so has elapsed.

I can live with that small inconvenience to reduce my energy bill.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas, one and all!

I'll be holding my loved ones tight and counting my blessings.
And hoping you will have the same opportunity.

Sunday, December 23, 2012


Flight Behavior, the newest novel from Barbara Kingsolver, is set in Appalachia and has a marvelously imaginative scenario involving climate change.  It has wonderful, complex, flawed characters who still manage to be likeable.  As the main character, Dellarobia, struggles to find her place in life, she is reminded of the Bible verse, "Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares."

I read it twice: once for the plot and the second time for the imagery (which sometimes distracted from the plot).  A very satisfying book.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Oscar loves Dora

Dora and Oscar at Dora's house
I don't know if Oscar actually loves Dora or not.  But I love Dora's family.

They took care of Oscar for a long weekend in October when I was with family in Washington, D.C. 

Dora's family was so enthusiastic about having Oscar, and it was wonderful for me to know he was in such loving hands.

 So - a Christmas present from Oscar for Dora (there were some goodies for Dora's people, too).

Friday, December 21, 2012

My amusing choir friends. And sun!

 The view out the front door at first light this morning

Despite dire predictions, our area wasn't hit that hard by last night's snow.  We woke up to find just enough to coat the grass but leave the streets and sidewalks clear.

Our choir director is in the hospital, so the following email exchange between choir members occurred over the course of several hours yesterday afternoon. 

Elizabeth:    Peter provided a card with this photo printed and I thought we could sign it tonight and send our greetings to Charles.  I'll bring it to rehearsal.

Lea:           The photo is fabulous!  Would someone please forge my signature as I don't plan to come tonight.  It's all about the coming storm.

Judy:         Me, too------regarding forging my signature.  I am home with a voice lower than Lauren Bacall!  I hope to be okay by Christmas Eve.

Elizabeth:    hell, if snowed in I will just forge for everyone.

Tricia:        When you dot the "i" in Tricia can you make them each a little heart?

Elizabeth:    yes and if only one of you had a q in your name I would make it into a cat

Christina:    Lucky for you my middle name is Shaniqua

Elizabeth:    you rock shaniqua

 Oscar and squirrel enjoying today's sun.

I love our choir members.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Draco who?

My Wisconsin sister emailed mid-morning to say she and two of her sons had just finished shoveling the seven inches of snow that had been dumped so far and that another seven is expected.  (Mrs. Micawber, thinking of you!) 

I haven't listened to much news the last couple of days beyond hearing we are supposed to get our first snow later today.  We have been having dreary, rainy, gloomy skies here, which is not helping my blue mood.  So I clicked over to see the Weather Channel's forecast and was surprised to find out they are naming winter storms

From the Weather Channel website
Draco sounds like an appropriate storm name - as mean and nasty as J.K. Rowling painted him.

I'll be glad for the Winter Solstice tomorrow - I'm really feeling like this week is the dark before the dawn.  My brain needs sun - luckily it's predicted for Saturday.  Come on, sun!

Saturday, December 15, 2012


 Greens from my yard, instruction by my dad

My cousin and her husband and my parents coming for brunch this morning 

was good motivation to create some festivity.

Egg casserole with two cheeses, mushrooms, & green onions
Our favorite breakfast sausage
Brussels sprouts cooked crisp-tender with bacon and garlic
Fresh cranberry-orange-apple salad
Tea bread

A delicious morning.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Happy memories

The temperature today is in the high sixties, 
very similar to the unseasonable weather we had 
on our wedding day 24 years ago.


Having pictures taken outside the church before our wedding 
was a pleasure.

The warm temperatures continued into the evening 
at the beautiful old house where we had our reception.

It was a wonderful, wonderful day.

I miss that man.

Sunday, November 11, 2012


 The beautiful Auditorium Theatre, designed by Adler & Sullivan
Photo from the Auditorium website

Last night a friend organized a small group to see A Prairie Home Companion with Garrison Keillor at the Auditorium Theatre in Chicago (she always has such good ideas).  It was so much fun, and there was a surprise guest in the cast - our very own governor Pat Quinn, who turned out to have perfect comic timing.

I'd seen another live taping of A Prairie Home Companion in New York in 2000, when Gerrit and I spent a long weekend there.  This was just as good as twelve years ago.

We're having a warm weekend of high sixties (soon to change to rain and snow tonight), and today was very blustery while still warm.  Oscar and I walked the neighborhood to enjoy the mild air and the bits of color still left.

 Golden in the intermittent sunshine.

 Burning bush (I think?)

 I don't know what kind of tree this is, but I love the variation in color.

 Crab apple - I love them at this time of year,
when the leaves are gone
and just the deep red fruit remains

Oscar doesn't care if his hair gets mussed.  
Though sometimes he has to squint his eyes to keep the dust out.

And I can't resist including this picture of a single leaf, 
suspended in air,
from last year on an equally blustery day in late October.
It took me scores of shots before I captured this one.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

America Recycles Day

Who knew?  Thursday, November 15 is America Recycles Day.

And because recycle is preceded by "reduce, reuse..." here is a link to opt out of catalog mailings.

At the Zero Waste Home (Béa Johnson is busy writing a book now, 
but her past posts are interesting and instructional, and an interview with the family is here),
they've added "refuse" (as in "turn down") and "rot" to bracket the "reduce, reuse, recycle" slogan.
Since reading her info, I've been purchasing more foods from bulk bins, as that cuts down on packaging, whether recyclable or not.

Gerrit and I have been recycling-conscious for years, and prior to him needing disposable supplies to deal with incontinence, it took us a month to fill a garbage can.  

Now that it's just me (and Oscar), our trash is even less.  Because our village has an option to pay for trash with a purchased sticker (as an incentive to recycle for free at the curbside) rather than a flat monthly fee, it's been almost three months since I've put out the trash.  When the can is full, I'll put it at the curb with a sticker - but I think I'm still a few weeks away from that.

What are you doing to recycle?  Anything to share?

Friday, November 2, 2012

Autumn flowers

 Chrysanthemum koreanum ‘Sheffield Pink’, aka Dendranthema morifolium
 I love these chrysanthemums - very late to bloom, 
they add color to the garden at a time when most of the trees 
have lost their leaves.

 Lysimachia ciliata ‘Firecracker’
This is the first year I have had beautiful fall foliage color 
on this plant.  In summer, the leaves are deep purple, 
with tiny yellow flowers.

Aster Peter iii
Even when tumbling over, they make a colorful show.

Added to a bowl of apples and pears, 
along with some Northern Sea Oats.

 Flanked with pie pumpkins for a Halloween dinner.

The occasion was a visiting cousin who couldn't get home to
New Hampshire because of Hurricane Sandy 
so spent several days with my parents
and dinner here on Wednesday night 
with my parents and another cousin.  
It was a nice reunion.

Thursday, September 27, 2012


 My wonderful parents

I do adore these people, 
as well as that fluffy one in the middle
who is looking out of the corner of his eye at the camera.

He's thinking,
"Hurry up! Take the picture! You know I'm afraid of stairs."

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Yes, we have no bananas

When I went to the local market to buy prebagged, 
overripe, discounted bananas
(which I cut into chunks and freeze
for later addition to my morning oatmeal), 
I also saw another display with unbagged bananas.

And this sign:

You'd think these would be the ones discounted, wouldn't you?

Disclaimer: Since I don't speak or write another language, 
I have enormous admiration for all who make their best attempt at my language.  
I'm very grateful to those who make the effort that I have not.
So no disrespect intended.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Walking to End Alzheimer's

 2011 Walk to End Alzheimer's

 Last year on a cold and blustery day
Gerrit joined me in the Walk to End Alzheimer's.
Thanks to the generosity of our family and friends, 
we were the top fundraisers for our local walk.

 This year, I walked in memory of Gerrit
with my cousin and two friends.

It was a glorious day.

And our family and friends came through.  Again.
I have much to be thankful for.

2012 Walk to End Alzheimer's

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Friendship therapy

Since Gerrit's daughters departed for the Netherlands, I've been:
   at a neighbor's for a picnic lunch,
   to the movies,
   out for ice cream,
   at a friend's for an envelope-stuffing party in preparation for our choir director's 25 anniversary celebration,
   to the cottage with my friend C to spend the weekend with my parents.

And now, this week, I have house guests:  my friend (and neighbor) and her husband and cat moved in Monday morning to spend the week while the floors in their 1920s home are being sanded and refinished. They had planned to move to a hotel for the duration, but I convinced them that I had plenty of room and they were welcome to stay.  They agreed only if I promised to let them know if I suddenly felt the need for "space" and as long as I let them take me out for dinner each night, since that was one of the perks my friend was looking forward to while staying in a hotel.

It's working out well, and it turns out to be good therapy for me, having them here.  It's distraction, in a good way, and is helping me adjust to life without Gerrit.

Friday, August 24, 2012


When we planned Gerrit's memorial service, there were a few things we decided on that I knew would have meaning for me and that reflected a kind of balance, or symmetry, or that seemed especially fitting.

Twenty four years ago, when Gerrit and I were planning our wedding, he suggested that we ask the choir if they would sing for it.  I'd never heard of that, but they were thrilled to be asked and added so much to our wedding ceremony.  And last week when I asked our choir director, who had directed the choir at our wedding, and who has been our friend through all these years, if the choir could sing for Gerrit's service, he said, "Of course they will sing.  There is no question that they will sing."  I couldn't have kept them away.  So the loving voices of my church choir, who sang Gerrit into my life, sang for us in the celebration of his life.

My sister-in-law Maggie, who is a lector at her church, taking her turn every few weeks to read the lessons for the day at the Sunday service, also had read at our wedding.  The passage she read at our wedding is a very familiar one to most people and is often used at weddings, 1 Corinthians 13:4-13.

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

We asked, and Maggie was kind enough to read this at Gerrit's memorial service.  And of course it took on new meaning, hearing it at the end of a life rather than at the beginning of a new relationship.

In my remembrances of Gerrit, which were beautifully read on my behalf during the service by our associate rector, I talked about the Safe Return bracelets that Gerrit and I wore.  Safe Return is a program we learned about early in Gerrit's diagnosis which includes an ID bracelet for the person who might be prone to wandering.  The bracelet has an ID number and a toll free phone number, so if the person is found far from home, they can easily be identified and their contact people notified.  I had suggested to Gerrit that we get one for him; though he didn't have any of the symptoms that would indicate a propensity to wander, it was possible that as the disease progressed, his condition might change.  When I was ordering his bracelet, he noticed that the caregiver could have one, too, so he asked that I get one for myself.  I didn't want one, but after I got it I realized it was more likely that I would get hit by a bus and need my emergency contacts notified than Gerrit would wander.  So we both wore our bracelets, always.

His bracelet was returned to me, along with his wedding ring, the day before the memorial service.  He doesn't need the bracelet any longer.  He is safe now: free from pain, free from disability.  In the arms of God, is my fervent prayer.

But I am still wearing my bracelet, because I'm not quite ready to let go of it.  Last Sunday afternoon, just before I took Gerrit's daughters to the airport to start their journeys back home to the Netherlands, they presented me with a gift.  I told them that they were my gift, but they wanted me to have something tangible.  When I opened the box, I found a beautiful silver bracelet, with two charms, one from each of them.  After much hugging and crying and laughter, they helped me put it on my wrist.  

It wasn't until late that night, after I had come home and hugged Oscar and done some straightening up, that I realized:  the bracelet that bound me so clearly to Gerrit is being replaced by a new bracelet - one that binds me to his daughters.  Isn't that a beautiful balance?

Sunday, August 19, 2012



I am so sad to tell you that Gerrit, known to you as G, died very suddenly last Sunday evening.

He had had a very good couple of weeks just prior to that, as the new medicine that he had started taking in early July was really making a difference: not just in his ability to move, but in his ability to think and to speak.  The improvement was quite remarkable, although he was still very compromised.  Since we returned home after our family vacation, I had composed dozens of blog posts in my head about how our vacation had gone, and how things were going now that we were home again, and that Gerrit had started back at the day program...lots to tell you about, but the pictures stayed on the camera and the words stayed in my head.

We had the memorial service for Gerrit yesterday, and right now his two daughters are somewhere over the Atlantic, headed back home to the Netherlands.  They arrived here on Wednesday, and we had an extraordinary and healing time together dealing with Gerrit's death and planning the service.  I had so much support from family, friends, neighbors, and church family, and the events of this weekend felt so right in honoring Gerrit and creating meaning and comfort for ourselves, that I am still experiencing a kind of euphoria.  I know it won't last and that there are rough waters ahead as I cope with this loss.  But I am so thankful that Gerrit's last few weeks, and even up to those last few minutes, were good ones.  And that he is no longer in pain, no longer suffering.


Thursday, July 12, 2012

Silver lining

 Cut flowers from our garden, ready to travel to the cottage

There may be a silver lining to G's most recent trips to the ER and subsequent hospitalization: while he was there he was seen by a neurologist who suggested a medicine that might help smooth his gait and make it easier for him to walk and move.  G has taken the medicine for 9 days, and the physical therapist who is working with him at home thinks he has seen some improvement.  And so far, no bad side effects.  So prayers said and fingers crossed that this drug helps, as G's geriatrician says this medicine is only effective for a small percentage of people with parkinsonism.

We leave in a few hours for 10 days at my parents' cottage in Wisconsin for our annual family reunion, one of the highlights of my year.  I think G is strong enough to make the trip; the big question mark is getting him out of the house, which involves going down 5 stairs to the back door.  He hasn't done stairs since the first trip to the ER June 18th.  More prayers and crossed fingers.

Have a good week, everyone!

Our normal Thursday delivery of CSA boxes 
ready for the subscribers to pick up.
One of my neighbors will be entrusted with our garage door opener
so she can open and close the garage on Thursdays while we're gone.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Hot mama

 Ten days ago I took a picture of this robin's nest,
tucked behind the vines on the trellis G built.  
Can't see it?  Look closely.

Now do you see it?  
Sheltered behind the clematis flowers.

 Two of the three eggs are visible
(if one is atop a step ladder with one's camera).

For a while I wondered why I never saw a robin sitting on the nest.
Then I realized that I only looked when I came out the back door, 
which is right by the trellis.

D'oh!  Of course I'm not seeing a bird; I keep scaring them away.

Today, in yet another 100 plus degree day,
I was able to see one of the parents.
The other flew off just before I took this picture from inside our back door.

Saturday, June 30, 2012


 Yesterday I walked out of the Y to see a storm rolling in.

The cloud formation was like nothing I've ever seen - like waves rolling in to the beach.

 The temperature dropped from the 90s to 69...

...and we got a blessed half hour of rain.