Book-Making of Another Sort

Just a super-quick update, because I’m over-the-moon excited: after eight long months, I finally wrapped up my most recent round of developmental edits on my book manuscript this afternoon. Five of those months were spent not working on the edits due to the impact and aftermath of my parents’ bouts with COVID, but it’s been an even longer road than that. I started writing this book in late 2018. I knew I needed an editor who understood me and what I’m trying to do well enough to inspire me through some very difficult reshaping of the structure of the book, and, thanks to my publisher, I have her. She’s put me through my paces, to be sure, and I’m feeling like we’re finally almost there. I’m ready to celebrate!

Happy Friday everyone!

My Parents Both Have COVID 19

And I’m pissed

coronavirus news on screen
Photo by Markus Spiske on

Why? Because this is another unnecessary episode in the $#itshow that has been 2020. Because we have now come to point where politicization of objective science and equally objectively ludicrous conspiracy theories apparently have equal merit in the name of “balance” in the news cycle.

There was a time when we as a nation rallied excitedly behind science to achieve the dream of a moon shot. Now we have a large percentage of our population that has been so bludgeoned by alternative “facts” as to be convinced that the wearing of a mask (as DOCTORS and SURGEONS do every day to protect and be protected) is somehow an infringement on their freedoms.

I know this argument has been made before, but indulge me, oh snowflakes who don’t want to wear a mask because it’s uncomfortable or you think it means that you get less oxygen or too much carbon dioxide, or, what? It leaves a mark on your face? It fogs your glasses? It messes up your makeup? It’s “the man, telling you what to do?” F*&k you. It’s a small sacrifice to make, and is a joke compared to the rations and other sacrifices this country happily endured, for example, during WWII for. . . what? The. Greater. Good.

The background

My parents are in their early 80s. Both have dementia. The last time my dad left the house (before the visit last week to the doctor that delivered his, and my mother’s positive diagnosis) was a month ago, when I took them for their flu shots. His vascular dementia has mostly affected him physically, rendering him incapable of most aspects of self-care, and now, the ability to get himself into and out of bed, or to even walk a few steps.

Mom’s dementia is different, likely exacerbated by hearing loss. She loses words. She gets frustrated. Agitated. Confused. Angry. The angry part was always there– I have said in the past that anger is her default emotion. The dementia amplifies it. As does the non-stop blaring of her choice of TV “news” media. I watch as it pushes all her fear and anger buttons. If faced with the unavailability of television, she will fall back to talk radio that stokes the same emotions. I used to try to discuss these things. It was fruitless. I was the enemy. I gave up in the name of peace.

Because of their dementia and its effects, we have caregivers in place to support them, 12 hours a day, seven days a week. I’m there several times a week, and recently, daily. When they received their positive diagnosis last week, I assumed that, despite all the precautions taken by their caregivers every day, either one of the caregivers (or I!) must have been the vector that infected my parents.

The plot thickens

Yet, all have tested negative thus far. Including me.

As I communicated updates to my sister last week, she enlightened me to something I didn’t know, which my mother had shared with her in a recent phone conversation. With apparent glee, she laughed while she told my sister how she sometimes “forgets” her mask when she goes grocery shopping (she may have dementia, but she knows she’s supposed to wear a mask. There is always one in her purse). She waits for someone to approach her to “remind” her before she’ll put it on.

So, let’s lay out our facts:

1) Everyone who has come into my parents’ home in the past two to three weeks has tested negative (I might also add that the caregivers are required to get tested every two weeks anyway);

2) My dad has had no contact with anyone during that time outside of their home;

3) My mother has gone grocery shopping at least twice in the past three weeks. While doing so, she has decided to sometimes not wear a mask while in public until someone asks her to put one on.

I should note that I offered, months ago as this all began, to do the shopping for my mother to keep her from being exposed. This irritated her. How dare I try to take away her one shred of independence? So I let her have her independence with a warning: “you’d better make sure you always wear your mask.”

I believe it is safe to conclude, based upon these facts, that my mother managed to be in the right place at the right time, failing to take the right actions, which made it easy for the virus to do what it does so masterfully: propagate itself through any available host.

The punch line

So here we are. It would be a stretch to arrive at any conclusion other than this: my mother brought this upon herself. And upon my father. So yeah. I’m pissed.

My mother used to be more rational, despite her propensity for anger. Now the toxic combination of her dementia, her emotional nature, and the constant drum of conflicting information she gets from the single-sourced media flowing into her brain have combined in the worst way.

But I bite my tongue and leave my rage in the car with every trip I make to their house to check in and take their temperatures and blood oxygen readings (three times a day). Overall their conditions have worsened in the past week, but they fluctuate from fine to concerning and back again.

It’s become quite difficult to find caregivers who are willing to put themselves at risk to help my parents. Their main caregiver has been a trooper, but the ongoing coverage is a juggling act. They receive full PPE from the agency, but these wonderful souls signed up to be companions and caregivers, not medical professionals dealing with a highly infectious virus. I don’t blame any one of them a single bit for opting out.

No perfect solutions

I’m working with the transitional care nurse at my parents’ doctors’ office to get visiting nurses in place as an immediate solution for ongoing assessment. That way I can stop putting myself (and, by extension, my husband, who has emphysema) at risk by taking their vitals multiple times each day.

Simultaneously, given the level of close contact that my father’s care requires, we all agree that the best course of action will be getting both of them into a COVID-certified care facility ASAP, where they would remain until they get the all-clear. So we’re also working on that. This assumes, of course, that their blood oxygen or other vitals don’t hit a point that demands hospitalization before that.

Don’t let this happen to you

If you’re in a high risk group, don’t expose yourself to this virus unnecessarily. Here are some ideas:

Let people shop for you. Spend that time going for a walk in the fresh air instead, or visiting in a socially distanced, safe way with friends or loved ones. If you can’t go for a walk, sit outside, or near an open window.

Turn off the news. Stop doing as many things as you can control that cause you anxiety or anger or evince any other negative emotion. Over-production of cortisol (the hormone our bodies release when our “fight or flight” response gets triggered) is linked to suppression of immune response.

Get your flu shot (there is reason to believe that it may help boost your immune response if you do contract this virus).

Eat healthy, fresh foods as much as possible. Drink plenty of fluids.

And everyone, for the love of God, yourself, and your fellow citizens, WEAR A MASK.

Let that be a Lesson (for Me)

As perhaps the biggest, most obnoxious finger-wagger in the world when it comes to procrastination, I just swallowed a heaping portion of irony for breakfast.

If you made it through my post the other day, you may recall that I noted it was time for me to apply more cayenne pepper to the three accidental cantaloupes growing over my retaining wall. My first application was in response to a previous critter taste-test. A new set of teeth-marks had just appeared on another.

I failed to heed my own suggestion, however, getting sidetracked by some other task. I’ve thought about it at least once each day since then, each time choosing to attend to something else.

About an hour ago, James insisted that it was time to pick the cantaloupes. He said the one on the ground had a hole in it, and wasps were flying in and out of it. James can occasionally be given to mild bouts of hyperbole, so I questioned his observation. (I was also in the middle of crimping a pie crust with flour and dough-clotted fingers, so the timing wasn’t particularly convenient). He pressed more forcefully, so I reasoned that they were probably close enough, and gave him the go-ahead.

He returned a couple of minutes later with two of the three, and I have now drawn a clear line between my procrastination and the fate of my poor third melon, which I am dubbing the “can’taloupe.”


When a Plan Comes Together

I know. It’s been forEVER since I’ve written anything. Not that there’s been any lack of activity–on the contrary, perhaps there’s been a little too much, on too many fronts. That includes a couple of rounds of developmental edits on the book I’ve been working on about this entire, decade-long . . . initiative? Dream? Thank goodness I have a patient publisher.

This, however, will be the first of what I plan to be a few updates. If you follow me on my Facebook page or Insta, I’ve been posting some photos of the landscaping progress there. This should catch everyone up.

Since my last post to this page (I think in January), winter’s planning gave way to a spring waiting game. I decided in December to work with Earth Tones Native Plant Nursery in Woodbury, CT to help with my garden designs. God knows I didn’t have the attention span or depth of knowledge to do it on my own. I had general ideas for how I wanted to fill all these great new spaces we began to construct last fall, but that was all I had. It took some time, but it was one of those cases where patience paid off.

In early May, I received the proposed plans. True to Earth Tones’ name and my objectives to support our local fauna, would utilize only native plants and shrubs. I could hardly wait to get going. I spent several days prepping planting beds, roto-tilling old grass, weeds, and rocks out of the dirt; raking, shoveling, and laying down landscape fabric to keep anything from growing until I was damned good and ready for it.

Design by Lisa Turoczi, Earth Tones Native Plant Nursery

I also enlisted the boys to help me with the gargantuan task of clearing, leveling, and adding soil and compost to a large part of the backyard that had been left rutted and full of gravel in the wake of last year’s hardscaping work. There, I wanted grass. Spoiler alert: the grass grew. It looked fabulous for a while. Then, we fell into drought conditions, which remain. We have well water, so the grass is always the first casualty. We’ll see if the early work pays off and the grass returns next spring. I gave up on trying to keep the weeds and crabgrass at bay.

One of our neighbors graciously offered to let me dig up some overgrown perennials in their gardens. My found treasures included some common milkweed to get a head start on the pollinator gardens to come. Transplanting everything gave me another project to keep myself occupied while I waited to get onto Earth Tones’ packed schedule.

Their plan included two new features that were well-beyond my pay grade. First was a dry stream bed running alongside the patio on the west side of the house. That would realize a vision I’ve had for years, bringing a huge natural rock-ledge formation there the attention it deserved. They also proposed constructing a “rain garden” where most of the runoff from the property emptied into the backyard.

Finished Stream Bed
Finished Rain Garden (and lots of drought-stricken grass in the background)

My plan was to do most of the planting myself. Nine larger shrubs, the areas along the stream bed, and in the rain garden would fall to the Earth Tones team. Nine smaller shrubs, approximately 120 other perennials, and over 30 annuals they threw in as a lovely little bonus for me, were mine to handle.

Five tons of soil, five yards of mulch, and three days of grueling work later, everything was in its place. The Earth Tones team’s magic took only two days, as did the vast majority of my planting efforts. However, I am a glutton for punishment. We’d planted many of the shrubs along the border between the back yard and the woods. I decided that entire area needed a lot more mulch. I ordered another 10 yards and spent two more days spreading it with a huge assist from the boys. Five-plus weeks later, I can now say with confidence, as the weeds stubbornly poke through, that it wasn’t enough.

For anyone who may have the stamina to have been following this effort over the past year, you might have noticed that my photos of the patio, which leads to the stairs, which, in turn, lead to the backyard, has shown that the stairs and landings on that west (a.k.a. rock ledge) side remained unfinished for the past 10 months. The guys had to call it quits right before Thanksgiving last year because it just got too cold to work. The top landing and step for the stairs on the opposite side of the back deck suffered a similar stall.

(Note the gravel on the two landings at the top of the photo)

I am beyond delighted to report that they are now all complete, as of last weekend.

And, finished!!

Those following on Insta and Facebook are probably already sick to death of the tales of my accidental cantaloupe and grape tomato patch, which sprang from my use of apparently not-yet-ready-for-prime-time compost as I was prepping those garden beds this past May. The cayenne-pepper treated grape tomatoes that manage to escape the determined appetites of the chipmunks ripen in relative abundance every few days. Amazingly for New England, we’ve also harvested one beautiful cantaloupe, and three more are now within days of picking. It is definitely time for another generous application of cayenne to those as well; I noticed some new teeth marks in one of them this morning, but whoever it was didn’t have the fortitude to chew through to the good stuff.

Excellent. More for us!

The Ever-Interesting Vagus Nerve

It’s been a loooooong time since I’ve posted anything on my Food Friday page (sorry…. life…!!) but this piece caught my eye and I really want to share it.

I first heard about the vagus nerve and its connection to the immune system and inflammatory disorders a few years ago as I learned of and was compelled to study more about the human microbiome.

I find this fascinating, important and worthy of attention, and I hope it sparks your interest and curiosity!

Happy Food Friday (even though it’s Saturday)!

Making Landscape Headway

Well, despite other jobs conflicting with a lot of the guys’ work during the weekdays, whenever they show up, they seriously crank.

Here were some results, a couple of hours into day three:

Then, about five hours later, we were here:

Then came day four:

And on day five, the efforts of just one guy got us here:

Believe it or not, even with all that stone we had delivered, we need more! The order for that is in process, and hopefully, we’ll have delivery by late this week so the guys can keep the momentum going this coming weekend.

Here are a couple from this morning, now that I’ve added some seasonal decorations to the front. We’ll see how long the pumpkins and gourds will last before the squirrels feast on them.

And in the meantime, Tim also attached the finial to the garage cupola: