Category Archives: Life

May Check-in

A hill nearby covered in Crimson Clover…

I will start with an apology for not checking in sooner and for leaving this blog sitting too quietly for the last while. It has been an up and down month, a very emotional month, since my last post. The update on my husband, Byron, is that he has continued with his chemotherapy treatments with infusions every three weeks, and we have played the waiting game now for 9 weeks to see if the chemo is actually working to [temporarily] halt the progression of his cancer.  We had to wait until a certain period of time had passed to repeat his CT scan. The scan was done last Saturday, and we finally received the results yesterday. At this point in time, it is working. *Big sigh of relief here!*

So he will continue with his three-week cycle of infusions, and our lives are adjusting accordingly. The infusions are on Mondays. That first week is a challenge for him, with deep fatigue and other struggles. The second week, he feels better but not great. And the third week, he is almost back to “normal,” feeling well enough to work on projects (although his stamina is low), and have family come to visit. Then, the cycle is repeated …until it no longer works, or the side effects become too much to offset the benefits.

With this major change to our daily/weekly routines, plus the anxiety about whether or not this treatment is working, I simply couldn’t focus enough to read a book, and writing a post seemed too difficult. But, I am very thankful that we have a lovely grief counselor who is helping us through this roller coaster time, and she recommended a book that she thought I would enjoy. I downloaded it onto my Kindle directly after my appointment and read it in just a couple of days.

 The Last Bookshop in London: A Novel of World War II, by Madeline Martin, brought me back to my reading.

Inspired by the true World War II history of the few bookshops to survive the Blitz, The Last Bookshop in London is a timeless story of wartime loss, love and the enduring power of literature.

The Last Bookshop in London is an irresistible tale which showcases the transformative power of literacy, reminding us of the hope and sanctuary our neighborhood bookstores offer during the perilous trials of war and unrest.”
–Kim Michele Richardson, New York Times bestselling author of The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek

My counselor was right! I enjoyed it very much, and all of a sudden, my world seemed to right itself again!  She added one other recommendation for me:  she suggested I get myself over to Powell’s Bookstore for an hour of wandering.  Do you see why I love this counselor?

Back to my apology for leaving you without an update on our situation for so many weeks… I will try to check in with you here, dear blogging friends, at least once a month as we continue on our current health journey. And thank you so much for your care and concern.

Byron heading into Kaiser for his CT scan…

 

April Activities

Is it only April 7th today? It seems like April has already been a month long! How much Life can be packed into seven days, anyway? Well, I have to answer my own question with: A LOT!

April Activities thus far:

I have finished two books already in April. I read Round the Bend, by Nevil Shute, for my Classics Club Spin book. I will be reviewing it soon. Then, I listened to the audiobook version of When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi. It’s a beautifully written memoir of a young neurosurgeon’s battle with lung cancer. It made the waiting room time go much faster.

 

Our daughter came to spend time with us, which is always a delightful time for us. Once again, she helped out with our yard work and gardening, something she loves to do and which we appreciate so deeply.

Our daughter starting the spring clean-up the butterfly garden…

Byron underwent his second chemotherapy infusion, and in these first few days of April, has completely lost his hair. He is tolerating these chemo treatments every three weeks pretty well, with fatigue (and hair loss!) being the main side effects so far. During the times that he is feeling deep fatigue, we have been watching (and really enjoying) a YouTube channel called 4kSeoul. A very talented young man films his walks through the beautiful city of Seoul, South Korea. There is no narration, just sounds of the city surrounding you (especially if you put on your headphones to listen). Byron loves to see the architecture of the city as we walk through different neighborhoods. I am fascinated by the people we see, the energy of that city, and the historical structures we come across on these walks. It’s a fun way to experience a different place and a different culture.

On a walk in Namsan Park, in Seoul, South Korea…

So, hello to April! Life is full and busy for us right now, albeit in some ways we didn’t anticipate, and we are enjoying and appreciating the beauty of early Spring.  I hope you are enjoying your April, too!

Two Stories About Refugees

As I said in my previous post, I am heartbroken for and inspired by the people of Ukraine. There is so much violence and death right now, and so many people are having to flee for safer places. But their fighting spirit and resilience are incredible.

Recently, I read two books for young people about having to flee their homes and homelands because of war. Mali Under the Night Sky: A Lao Story of Home, written and illustrated by Youme Landowne, is a picture book and the true story of a five-year-old girl whose family had to flee the civil war in Laos. They left their home under cover of night, and the little girl carried only her memories with her. She has shared those memories over the years with many people across the world. It’s a lovely little book, and one that can help with discussions with young children about the difficulties of being a refugee. Certainly a timely discussion to have right now.

The other book I read on the struggle of refugees was Katherine Applegate’s young adult book called Home of the Brave. It is the story of a refugee boy fleeing the brutal war in the Sudan. His father and brother have been killed and his mother is missing. His aunt and cousin, earlier refugees from the Sudan to the United States, welcome him to their home in Wisconsin. He arrives in the middle of winter, and his culture shock is mind boggling. He has never seen snow nor felt the deep cold of a Wisconsin winter. He is heartbroken over the loss of his family and especially traumatized by not knowing whether or not his mother is alive. He starts school right way and struggles with the language, the loneliness, the discrimination, and the cold. But he is a boy with tremendous resilience, and his story is inspiring.

There are many other excellent books on the humanitarian crises brought on by war, and I’m glad I found these two to read right now.

Back to my Walking

Painting: The Garden, by Pauline Palmer (American, 1867-1938)

There have been many disruptions in my daily outdoor walking ritual in the last few months, cold and darkness accounting for most, but I am happy to report that I am back to my early morning walks! Two photos below, taken yesterday and the day before, show how beautiful it is out there and why I love these walks.

After the Diagnosis Reading


A few weeks ago, I published a post about the books I have been reading since my husband’s diagnosis of cancer. I called it “My Other Reading” because I felt at the time that it was a separate reading journey for me. It was also a little easier than coming right out and saying that I am reading about disease, death, dying, end-of-life, and grief. But I have come to understand that it is not a separate reading journey for me. It is a very important pursuit of knowledge, and is taking central stage for much of my reading time these days. So I’m going to keep an ongoing list of this new journey, (like I do with my other reading journeys) and the books I am reading that help me understand and process what Byron and I are going through. I hope you will check back here occasionally to see where this search for knowledge and understanding is taking me.

I recognize that “end-of-life” is a topic that is uncomfortable for many. It is a very private journey, and our culture deems it to be something we just don’t talk about very much. But I make sense out what is happening in my life by reading, learning as much as I can, and then writing and talking over those ideas/learnings with my friends and loved ones. The conversations that have already been sparked, the book recommendations from friends and family, the kindnesses being shown to us by so many around us and in so many ways, are all deeply appreciated and help us with our processing. I also hope that in talking openly about our experience, it may help someone else process their own experiences with loss and grief.

And I am finding such interest, understanding, and solace in my reading about what we are going through right now. My reading is empowering me to do the best I can to be supportive, helpful, and understanding of Byron’s daily struggles with this disease. It is Byron’s illness, but our journey, together. And I want to do it well.

Red = click to read my review
Blue = Read but not reviewed yet

NON-FICTION:

FICTION:

 

 

 

New!

Welcome to the family, new computer! It’s a late Christmas present to ourselves. We couldn’t decide what we wanted for Christmas 2021. Finally settled on a new desktop computer. I can sit in the bay window area and work on my photos and my blog. Heavenly!

A Busy Week


It’s been a busy week even though we are spending most of our time at home these days. We are trying to avoid exposure to Omicron because of Byron’s impaired immune system, and earlier in the week I found myself feeling quite blue about being so housebound. But then I started looking at how we are spending our at-home time and decided that we are actually spending our time very well and I have nothing to complain about! The photos above are of this busy week:

First of all, I read three books this week. Love in an English Garden, by Victoria Connelly, was a gentle read, a light romance with garden at the heart. Then, The 1619 Project: Born on the Water, by Nikole Hannah-Jones and Renee Watson, was a powerful and beautifully written and illustrated story about the first slaves brought to America in 1619. I highly recommend it!  And then, I listened to an audiobook of the first book in a new-to-me mystery series, Murder is Binding (a Booktown Mystery), by Lorna Barrett. It was fun.

We watched Shakespeare’s The Tragedy of Macbeth, starring Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand. It was an awesome production, and I thought it was very much like a film by Ingmar Bergman. That’s a high compliment!

I have been working each morning on my Spanish, using the app/program, Duolingo. I’m really enjoying the challenge, and am hoping to regain some of the Spanish I have lost over the years by not speaking it often enough.

And one last activity…Byron and I trapped and relocated a pesky squirrel that moved into our attic recently. This seems to happen almost every winter so we’ve become quite skilled at using our trap and taking these squirrels to a decent relocation spot.

Overall, a pretty interesting week. Feeling blue can definitely be part of this ongoing pandemic, but I am trying to make positive choices about how to spend my time  and emotional energy.

 

Winter Entertainment

Although reading books (and listening to audiobooks) is the favorite entertainment at our house, Byron and I are also avid birdwatchers. We have always enjoyed watching the birds that frequent our yard, no matter where we have lived. However, watching birds has become a major entertainment since we have been mostly housebound in the last few months while continuing our Covid precautions because of Byron’s impaired immune system, and because of our recent snowy and icy weather.

A few months ago, with our daughter’s help, we expanded our bird feeding station, added new platforms and a suet holder, bought a 40-lb box of Audubon bird seed at Costco, and put our binoculars and our favorite bird book in the drawer by the kitchen window. The birdwatching entertainment has been endless!

I’ve been keeping a list of the birds we’ve identified. There are two other birds that don’t show up at the feeders, but that we know are keeping close tabs on the entertainment below (the Great Horned Owl which we hear often in the early morning, and the Cooper’s Hawk that has taken two of our scrub jays in the last few years). And of course I must mentioned the squirrels that add even more drama and entertainment out our kitchen window.

Here’s a collage of the winter birds we’ve had visit our yard recently and keep us highly entertained by their endless antics. (Photos from the internet)

In order to see birds it is necessary to become a part of the silence.
~ Robert Wilson Lynd

My Word(s) for 2022


For the last few years I have chosen a word as my focus for the year. That word becomes my guide to positive thoughts and behaviors, and my reminder to myself to live up to the essence of that word.

The first word I chose was “HOPE,” and it was so appropriate for 2019. Then I chose “GRATITUDE” for 2020, and that turned out to be the perfect word for such a crazy year. It reminded me each day to focus on the positives instead of all the negatives that surrounded us all during a year of pandemic and quarantine.

When 2021 arrived, I chose a word that reminded me each day to be present in the moment, to appreciate the love and beauty that surrounds me, and to treasure all the people in my life. That word was “CHERISH.”

Here I stand at the beginning of 2022, a year that I already know will be filled with challenges like no other. I will need to continue to be guided by HOPE and GRATITUDE, and I will continue to CHERISH the people in my life and the precious moments of each day. But to face the unknowns, and all the physical and emotional challenges of Byron’s declining health, I will need courage, and all the different words that help define it, such as grace, vulnerability, strength, love.

So my word of the year, for 2022, will be COURAGE.