Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Wind, Facebook and Postal Workshop

        The left over energy from Hurricane Irene has managed to reach our island country.  Last night the velocity of the wind increased and the temperatures dropped.  This morning the wind comes in great rolling gusts like ocean waves; battering, bending and pounding the trees, then rescinding into rippling, breeze-like gentleness.  One minute I expect tree limbs to be breaking off and falling, the next only the leaves are aflutter.  Along with the wind is rain—great splattering drops pounding against the windows. 
        Today the Langley Community Coffee shop resumed operation at the local library.  As I sat on the couch studying the weather, I had my doubts as to whether anyone would show up for the morning coffee and chat.  To my amazement, when My Midnight Man and I arrived, we found a full house.  Most of the folk who attend are over sixty—some even in their 80’s.  A few are younger who have retired or are homemakers.  It’s a nice mix, and for some of the attendees, the coffee shop is the only social interaction they get during the week.  Miss Amy, who is over 90, says she would have come even if it had been snowing—because she and Robert didn’t get visitors at home.  At the end of the morning, I overheard that 32 people had come for coffee.  Just goes to show that the threat of being blown away was not sufficient to stop the faithful.
        My Midnight Man and I had a day of being flummoxed by Facebook.  Imagine how our minds worked when after My Midnight Man had spent a week with his oldest daughter—“Chantilly”—and seeing his middle daughter—“Walley”—as well, coming across the following Facebook posting by “Walley”:
“I’m eighteen weeks and craving pickles.” 
The next day, My Midnight Man calls me into his office to look at this posting by “Chantilly” on Facebook:
“I’m twelve weeks and craving Twix.” 
Surely, if the girls were “in a family way” again they would have told him whilst he was with them. 
        On Monday evening (5th Sept.) “Chantilly” rang to ask about her dad, as she had just seen the blog about Midnight Man's Eye surgery.  I answered the phone, and she asked me how I was.
 “I’m okay.  The question is, How Are You?” 
She immediately laughed and said, “It’s a game!  It’s for ladies to post and not tell the men what it means.  You see what kind of remarks you get.”
“So you’re not pregnant!”  I confirmed.
“No, we’re not pregnant.”  She laughed. 
I laughed with her, delighted by the girls’ mischievousness and playful silliness.  Thankfully, My Midnight Man laughed at the “con”, but also laughed with a bit of relief.  It was good to know that the beloved daughters would not post such news on Facebook without telling us first. 
Once this post is published, I shall be working on Chapter Three of the book manuscript that I am wrestling with.  I belong to the Association of Christian Writers.  http://www.christianwriters.org.uk/
One of the resources of the association is the Postal and E-mail Workshops.  Up to five ACW members belong to a group and focus on a specific genre.  I belong to a group of four people who write fiction.  Writer Number One sends a manuscript to Writer Number Two.  Writer Number Two writes a critique, adds a piece of his/her own work and sends it to Writer Number Three.  Writer Number Three writes a critique for Writers Number One and Two, also adding a piece of his/her work and sends it on to the next writer.  The final group member sends all the manuscripts back to Writer Number One after writing critiques and submitting his/her work.  Writer Number One writes a critique for the others, takes out the first piece, puts in the next piece and sends it to W-N-Two.  The great thing about this group is that it keeps me motivated—the need to have a new piece (chapter or two) to send on is a nagging little encouragement to keep at it.  We pray for each other as well. 
I’ve heard the song “He Who Began A Good Work” sung by Steve Green twice today on www.allworship.com.  My heart was greatly encouraged, because it gave me the confidence to know that I can get this book re-written and take the next step.  The song is based on Philippians 1:6  “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” 
I hope you will all take heart and cooperate with the good work that God has called you to—never giving up on your dreams.
Serving Jesus, Author of our faith,  “Lady Helene”

Monday, 5 September 2011

August High-lights

        Autumn is evident in the air today, chilly, breezy, yet sunny.  We might have a few showers this afternoon—as the United Kingdom often gets remnants of the storms that blow across from American, thanks to the jet stream.  Autumn is my favourite time of the year, because of the colours, the harvest and the sun that warms, yet doesn’t burn the skin.  Deep, satisfying sigh. 
        Since my last blog, there has been turning of colours.  For instance, My Midnight Man’s eyes are healing well—the bruises are now turning that greenish colour that happens as the days pass.  Four times a day, I clean his eyes with sterile cotton wool pads and cooled boiled water.  After the cleaning, I administer liquid antibiotics into each eye.  On the table two boxes sit—one marked “R” and one marked “L”.  I have everything organised so that I can open the correct bottle for the correct eye.  So “R” sits on the left and “L” sits on the right.  That is backward to me, but in the right order for Midnight Man. 
        One thing that My Midnight Man struggles with is fighting the impulse to rub his eyes.  It is inevitable that a person becomes aware of the inadvertent actions done through out the day when suddenly one is not allowed to do it.  MMM often stops his hands mid-lift as he remembers not to touch his eyes.  In a few weeks, touching them will be okay—but due vigilance is required for now.  My Midnight Man sees the doctor again on Friday, 9th September for a check-up and to remove stitches.  Overall, My Midnight Man is handling the situation well.
        Stepping out onto the balcony yesterday I saw that the tomatoes are increasing in size, and another one seems to be a brownish orange—on its way to ripeness.  One or two days of warmth do make a difference.
        The geranium has bloomed now.  How brilliant and deep the red is.  Once a frost is in the forecast, I will have to cover the plant for the winter.  I’ll set the box onto layered newspaper for insulation and use a black bin liner (garbage bag) to cover it.  I have been surprised by how big the plant has become.  I think it has doubled in size! 
        The month of August got by me without much of anything productive happening—no writing, no sewing, no reading.  However, on 3rd August, step-daughter “Chantilly” and her family came for overnight.  We have a three bedroom flat.  Trying to find space for five children, four adults and two dogs was quite a challenge.  Thankfully we have a single fold-up bed, a double size futon mattress we can put on the floor, and a single bed in our guest room.  I did enjoy having them here and made a large casserole for dinner. 
        I layered pre-cooked potatoes, cheese, celery, onions, courgettes (zucchini), and ham in a large baking tray, and then baked it for 45 minutes.  They licked the pan clean!! 
"Mr. Biz" with Alfie
        I really enjoyed having the dogs around, as it gave me an idea as to what it will be like to have my own dogs here one day.  I am hoping that by our tenth wedding anniversary our finances will allow me to get them.  Alfie is a male King Charles spaniel.  Shiloh is a miniature female dachshund.  I had just crawled back into bed after having my medicine when I looked over My Midnight Man to check the time.  Two furry heads were looking at me with hopeful eyes—morning walkies were needed by two eager dogs.  I immediately thought, “This is what I have to look forward to!”  “Mr. Biz” was awakened and he took Alfie and Shiloh out.  They didn’t take long as it was rainy!
        The purpose of the visit was to keep an appointment for our grandson, “Jay” (aged 10) to Wexham hospital.  As a baby, “Jay” was diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy.  “Chantilly” and the family have been working and praying for a miracle and healing.  We do see God at work through this process.  But “Jay” had outgrown his leg splints that he wears at night to help stretch his muscles.  His appointment was to be fitted for new splints.  After the appointment, they came back for a cuppa and then headed home. 
        On 10th August I went to see the nephrologist (kidney doctor) due to having protein and blood in my urine.  As some of you may know, I have been struggling with fatigue since at least 2008.  Seeing this doctor is the most recent step in trying to find an answer to the problem.  The doctor did a thorough exam and sent me for blood tests, as well as taking a urine sample from me.  I will be seeing her again on 15th September.  I hope the results of the test reveal some sort of answer.  I would certainly appreciate your prayers. 
        My Midnight Man went to Dorset from 22nd August to 29th August to visit with “Chantilly” and her family.  Walks down to the beach, a wonder into the town centre, picking blackberries with the grandchildren all contributed to his being refreshed.  I had not been able to arrange for time off work, so had a week to myself.  Also, I’d been having some “down days”, so I wasn’t sure my energy levels would be sufficient to be away for a week. 
        So now you know the high-lights of August for us.  I’ll keep you posted on the progress of things in September.
Blessings to you all.
Serving Jesus, Author of our faith,  “Lady Helene”

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Racoon eyes!

        What a way to start the new month!  There was a phone call on the 31st August from the Eye clinic in Windsor.  The call was for My Midnight Man (MMM).  The Eye clinic had a cancellation and wanted to know if MMM wanted to take the appointment for the next day.  “Take it!” I encouraged him.  After all, any medical procedure usually takes weeks to get scheduled and then even four to six weeks after that for any treatment to be received.  Equally, MMM’s classes through Open University are due to start and having a surgical procedure only a few weeks into his studies would be detrimental.  Working out the details of getting to the hospital would have to be sorted after MMM accepted the offer and hung up.
        MMM was willing to use public transport to get to the hospital over five miles away.  But he would need help getting home.  The problem is that MMM hates feeling like an imposition—especially if it seems that the only time we ring people is if we need a lift somewhere.  There are times when not having our own transportation is a real irritation! 
        The alarm clock went off at 5:30 am on Thursday morning.  MMM groaned.  I sighed—knowing that both of us would rather just go back to sleep.  “You’ve got a bus to catch.”  I murmured to my beloved.  “Oh yes, thank you.”  Appreciating the explanation as to why the alarm was sounding at such an unusually early hour. 
        MMM got up and about fifteen minutes later comes back to me.  “My Darling, when you asked me yesterday if I wanted you to come with me, did you WANT to come with me?” 
        “It’s okay, you talked me out of it.  It would be a long day if you have to stay four or five hours after the surgery.  Plus it would be an extra expense of a bus ticket for me.”
        “ Okay.  Just thought I’d ask.”
        MMM kissed me good bye before he left, and I drifted off to sleep.  About 7:30 a.m. the phone rang.  I scrambled out of bed to answer it, knowing it was probably MMM.  Sure enough, he rang to let me know he had misunderstood the instructions.  The total time he would be at the Eye clinic was approximately five hours—being released shortly after the operation.  I would have to organise a lift home sooner than expected.
        St. Mary’s has a pastoral care team, and I knew that probably someone on the team would be available to give MMM a lift home.  Our dear friend, Mrs. Tr., quickly assured me that she could give me a lift to Windsor to bring MMM home. 
        Mrs. Tr. Is a very active volunteer with Berkshire County Blind Society.  With her years of experience of assisting blind and visually impaired folk, she was well qualified to help us.  Within minutes of Mrs. Tr. And myself presenting ourselves to the reception of the Prince Charles Eye Clinic, MMM was rolled out of the surgical theatre.  Both eyes were bandaged over, blocking any vision. 
Thursday evening--post op.
        My Midnight man had undergone a procedure called blepharoplasty—the removal of superfluous skin above the eye.  Hooded eyes can be caused by the natural drooping or sagging of eye lids as a person ages.  MMM’s eyelids has drooped sufficiently that it was interfering with his vision. 
        Because the operation was done under a local anaesthetic, My Midnight Man was surprised that the surgical staff didn’t discuss the technicalities of the procedure whilst working.  Instead they discussed hobbies, the weather and even the grocery list.  Even more amusing was the fact that MMM joined in the discussion!  J
        After having some tea and a slice of toast, MMM was allowed to leave, with a bag of eye drops and ointment.  In the bag was a set of instructions about cleaning the wounds, applying the drops and contact numbers in case of an emergency.  The nurse pushed the wheel chair and Mrs. Tr. and I followed. 
With eyes closed--Saturday
        My Midnight Man is many things, including impatient and independent.  Mrs. Tr. guided him to the end of the fence, instructing him to wait until I could get out of the car and help him upstairs.  Of course, that didn’t happen.  MMM guided himself to the front door by feeling the fence posts.  Not content to “show off” with that, he even managed to find the electronic release for the front door and get it open.  I did guide him to the stairs and up he went on his own. 
        The rest of the afternoon, MMM dozed—first on the couch and then on the bed. 
        My idea of having pancakes for dinner was scuppered when I realized that MMM would have to use his hands to eat instead of utensils, as he couldn’t see.  So it was a sandwich day. 
        Friday was a very busy day for me:  up at 7:00 a.m. to take my daily meds; dress and walk down to the doctors’ surgery (office) by 7:40 to schedule an appointment for MMM with Dr. Asaad. (To get an appointment on the day, one has to be at the doctor’s office before 8:00 a.m. to stand in line.  The doors open at 8:00 am.)  Back home, I removed the dressings from MMM’s eyes, cleaned them and put in the liquid antibiotics.  I ate a bowl of cereal then hurried out the door to work. 
        I’m supposed to work from 9:00 a.m. until 11:00 a.m. on Wednesdays and Fridays.  But on Friday I kept myself busy until almost 12:00 in the office and then had to go to the church.  A wedding was scheduled for the 2nd of September and I had to fill in the register books—a set of four!  So it was almost 1:00 pm by the time I finished.  Time to go home and put more drops into the sore and tender eyes of my husband.
Saturday--eyes opened!
        By the time I arrived home, MMM was wearing his bruises like a masked crusader!  The colours change from red, to purple and I’m sure in a couple of days they will be kind of yellowish.  In the mean time, I’m sure we will both be on the receiving end of teasing—me being asked what I did to my husband, and MMM being asked what he did to deserve such treatment. 
        Each time I look at him, I think of our honeymoon!  We had racoons visit our hotel room in Clifty Falls State Park in Indiana.  http://www.in.gov/dnr/parklake/inns/clifty/  You know, some men will go to a lot of trouble to perform romantic gestures.  I don’t think My Midnight Man’s intentions were to create a “starry-eyed” ambiance at home when he went for the surgery.  Yet, inadvertently he accomplished this by stirring my tender-hearted, nurturing feelings.  Well, except when he was irritating me with his independence!  Still, how can I resist a man who makes racoon eyes at me? 
Serving Jesus, Author of our faith, “Lady Helene”

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Balcony Garden Update

        The repeated pattern of the weather over our summer months has been:  sun and a bit of warmth for two, maybe three days; heavily overcast, cool, grey days that hold in the sound of aircraft engines; two or three days of rain, some gentle showers, some heavy down pours, accompanied by thunder and lightening.  It has done wonders for keeping the grass green and lush.  Officially, this has been the coolest summer in Great Britain in eighteen years.  And the result is that crops that need heat and sun to flourish and ripen have been stunted—for example my tomatoes and strawberries. 
        Seeing as how all my plants are in pots, they need regular feeding with fertilizer.  I’ve used both Miracle Grow and a local brand.  I must say that once I became consistent with the feeding, my plants cheered up and the blossoms actually started fruiting.   
The tomato plants have lots of little green tomatoes.  To date only one has ripened—and I ate it on Monday (22nd):  firm, juicy, sweet—still not the size of a golf-ball.  Disappointing when one thinks I planted tomatoes that should have been at least two or three inches in diameter.   What other tomatoes are on the vine are no bigger than marbles.  I will leave them and see if they get bigger and/or ripen.  I’m not keen on green tomatoes—though I know some people like them.
The strawberry plants have given me about half-a-dozen sweet berries.  I suppose I would be doing very well with them if I had more than three plants.  Yet, it is pleasing to walk out onto my balcony and notice about three or four blossoms coming on just as I pick the other ripe berries. 
Three weeks ago Midnight Man went blackberry picking.  We’ve had black-berry crumble, black-berry and apple crumble and just plain berries.  On Thursday morning (25th August) I had about a litre of berries and new I had to do something with them, or they would all go off.  They had already been frozen and then thawed once, so they couldn’t be refrozen.   I found a packet of pectin (from 2004) in my cupboard and made a small batch of jam.  I think there was too much juice, as it is more like syrup than jam.  But it tastes great!  And blackberry syrup goes nicely on pancakes, ice cream and toast.  So I’m not disappointed. 
The apple trees in our vicar’s garden are now ripe and dropping lot of apples quickly.  Midnight Man has brought home a bushel of apples—and we’ve enjoyed crumble, baked apples and simply eating them raw.  But I had a bunch that I need to cook and/or preserve, or they would all spoil.  So, I baked the apples, first I peeled the apples, sliced them, then sprinkled brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg on them.  I’ve never liked apples baked in the skin.  So it was a lovely treat to have warm, cooked apples for dessert.  And Midnight Man kept going back until they were all gone.  I don’t know if I’ll get enough apples this year to make apple butter.  And the other factor is having enough energy to actually do it. 
Two sunflowers bloomed beautifully.  But one stock broke—so I had to cut the flower off.  L  However, the other flower has been delightful.  When I sit on the couch, I can see out onto the balcony and enjoy the big, yellow flower dance in the wind.  Some evenings the sky is azure and the yellow contrasts to create a Mediterranean feel.  Later in the evening, the skies turn rosy, then golden and there is a hint of autumn as the gold petals of the sunflower hint at the yellow the tree leaves will turn.  Such a simple pleasure.  The photo I took is facing east in the evening—with a large sycamore tree in the background.  
As I was writing this, I talked myself into pulling some carrots—to make sure they weren’t rotting and to see how big they had grown.  As you can see, there are a couple of nice sized carrots and others that are small and round.  Since the vegetable crisper drawer if full of large carrots, I guess I’d better start eating some—and improve my eyesight!
The beet root are doing well—although I have a feeling that since I’ve not thinned them out, they will all be small instead of having some nice sized one.  The leaves are still a pretty colour. 
Since July there have been no more beans.  I suppose I could dig up the plants and put in some autumn plants—like chrysanthemums.  Those will grow through November into December. 
In July I bought two marigold plants and a geranium plant at a “Save the Children” event hosted by a friend of ours.  The geranium has doubled in size and will soon bloom—which I’ve very excited about. 
Pepper plants were purchased in May at a friend’s plant sale.  Bugs did a fine job of nibbling them, so I thought they would die.  But I sprayed them with insecticide, just to see what would happen.  Green leaves indicated recovery, and so I resumed watering.  I am curious to see if I do get any peppers this late in the year. 
That’s the update on the balcony garden.  I hope you enjoy the photos.  J
Serving Jesus, Author of our faith,  “Lady Helene”