• Thursday, 30 June 2005

Out of the Attic…

The days bleed together as I find my thoughts preoccupied with Bubba.  He came out yesterday.  I found him curled up in the bathroom sink.  It was 3 AM.  He stared up at me plaintively, fleas leaping and somersaulting like circus acrobats using his face for the center ring.   His back paws and body carried the kind of dirt collected from crawling around in the attic.


Despite his sad condition, my heart leaped for joy! 


He remained in the sink while I lovingly pinched bugs and scratched nits from his sweet face. 


After while I rubbed some spray on him.  He did not resist.


After a long drink of water, he finally jumped down from the sink.  He headed back to the attic door and was unhappy to find it firmly closed.  He made caterwauling sounds, but I did not give in.  He started to enter the other room, but kept backtracking to the hallway, as if he was afraid to enter.  He crouched sadly in the hallway, making a mournful sound that simply puzzled me.


Finally I advised him I was going back to bed and (despite my distaste for fleas) he could join me if he liked.  A few moments after I turned out the light he sprang up on the bed and remained there for quite awhile.


Later, after sunrise, I visited the downstairs bathroom and found my big orange friend huddled in the bathtub.  I spoke to him, but did not bother him.


Later in the day he made a surprise appearance.  While I was on the phone he came bounding into the center of the room like a demon was chasing him.


Later in the day, I put his collar on him and a leash.  I gave him some catnip and then took him out on the patio where he sniffed around and rolled on the concrete.


In the evening I found him in the kitchen sink, eyes again looking panicked and with fleas on his face.  I combed the fleas out, dropping them into a jar full of soapy water and spoke softly to Mr. B.  When I was done, he made no move to get up so I headed off to bed and left him resting in the kitchen sink.


Today we plan to take him to the veterinarian, but I have not seen hide nor hair of him and it is mid-afternoon. 


  • Wednesday, 29 June 2005
  • Tuesday, 28 June 2005

Still no Bubba…

My flea-ridden friend is still in hiding. 


It appears he may have eaten some cat chow and Marty says she heard him skulking about in the night.  I scour the house looking for the illusive places only cats can discover.  I find nothing.


The attic door remains open since he may have taken up residence there.  Today the temperatures are milder, but it still is a death trap for any creature to survive. 


  • Monday, 27 June 2005

Cat’s in the attic…

During the night I awoke to a clatter, but when I investigated things I could find nothing amiss.  I got back into bed and spent a couple hours engrossed in reading “Accordion Crimes,” by E. Annie Proulx.  I drifted off to dream about the time the rooster decided to crow.


When I got up, I found the door to the attic open.  Heat poured out like a brick oven at a pizza parlor on a Saturday night.  I suspect the cat pried it open during the night since the latch is not too efficient.  The door generally stays put because of the carpeting in the adjacent hallway, but a highly motivated cat can conquer a challenge as easy as that. 


I am uncomfortable with the idea of Bubba loitering in the attic.  It is an unfinished room with insulation lining walls and between the beams that make p the floor of the room.  I easily imagine him falling between the beams and being caught in fiberglass where he could stay until he wastes away and dies.  


I cannot see or hear him.  I place a bowl of water outside the door and prop it open so he can escape the inferno.  Leaving the door ajar will make the air conditioner work overtime and the upstairs will still remain impossibly hot.  What are my choices?


The day drags on and the cat does not appear.


I go to bed early, hoping my once friendly pet will join me on the bed.  He does not.


  • Sunday, 26 June 2005

Cat wranglin’ scars, backwoods culinary adventures, & bathing pigeons


At first dreams seem impossible, then improbable, then inevitable.

- Christopher Reeve

It is about 10 AM on this Sunday morning here in grey, overcast Georgia.  Marty and Pat had a couple people over for an informal dinner last night and we stayed up late swapping animal stories.  The horse trainer and her husband and son are originally from South Africa so their tales take on a slightly exotic edge in the telling, but mostly they were simply stories about various pets.  It was fun.

Sometime during the night it rained and it is gloomy today - I rolled over when I woke up, thinking it wasn't really daylight yet, and maybe that s what Pat and Marty did too.  Pat is just now heading out to feed the animals.  Marty is on her way to her farm to care for the stock there and to work on trimming the hooves of one of her larger horses.  There is always something needing attention here. 


I have not seen Marty slow down except for those few hours last night when we sat and visited.  She flies around at warp speed most of the day and is always a bit behind on her personal checklist.  

I like this quote (see above).  It is inevitable I will be returning to Ukraine and I am counting the days (figuratively actually...I prefer to think in terms of weeks - it seems less intimidating...about ten more Sundays and I will be there or at least on my way there!). 


This week flew by and I must admit I have yet to open my Russian books/CDs.  I think this week ahead things will be a bit more structured.
We bug bombed yesterday, but due to the horse sale and dinner plans, the Bubba bath got dropped down a notch on Marty's priority list and I am not yet up to handling the task on my own. 


This morning I checked on the big orange guy (BOG) and he is looking pretty lethargic.  He has not come back to sleep on my bed since the night he startled me so much and I tried to spray him with the flea spray. 


He is not a happy cat and my heart just hurts when I look at him...sigh.  Before Marty left this morning we discussed taking him to the vet tomorrow afternoon - he hasn't used his litter (or left any surprise packages) and I don't think he has eaten and taken any water in a day or so... 

We "dined" at a funny local establishment Friday night - it is a bait store/convenience shop with a café/restaurant hidden in the back room.  There is no sign indicating the restaurant is there and you certainly would not expect to find one in such an unlikely place.  On the wall is an award for “best steak of the year” but despite that encouragement, it definitely not for the squeamish!  Without a local “guide” I would probably not have ventured in. 


I felt a little like I was in an old movie or a foreign country - they obviously do not follow the rules about lots of stuff here in the back woods of Georgia!  A bare-chested, tattooed man wandered into the kitchen and hugged the cook while we looked on.  The waitresses were straight out of a southern novel and the customers were a mixed bag, but locals for sure.   There were lots of other things they were pretty casual about, but aside from the possible health violations, I have to admit, the food was wonderful and generous.   Definitely some local color. 

This morning I did some cat-wrangling and managed to get a few scratches on several parts of my body.  It started with Bubba.   I gave BOG a sponge bath of sorts in the sink, but despite a cats natural dislike of bathing, he did not give me much of a struggle. There are fleas hopping all over his sweet moon shaped face!  Fleas do not like soapy water so some of them fled and some of them drowned! 


After I bathed him, Bubba remained in my arms and lapped up lots of water from a cup in the sink.  I think his lethargy is from being a bit dehydrated.  He didn’t put up much of a fight when I scrubbed him and sprayed him but I did get one long scratch from an errant back paw when he lunged out of my arms. 


So one belly scratch from the big guy, but it was the tiny kittens that really left their marks!  The two baby cats were exiled to the barn last night since company was in and out.  I went out to bring them back into their comfortable digs in the sun room, but when I attempted to scoop them up they squealed and rebelled.  They are two little fireballs with lots of energy.  By the time I released them on the porch they had tattooed my arms and hands pretty well.  They know how to use their weapons!


Outside my window is a funny sight.  The resident homing pigeons are getting a Sunday bath in the puddle of laundry water spilling from the washing machine hose (it vents outside).  They are cooing and taking turns splashing in the water.  They fluff up their blue and grey feathers and look huge as they strut around in the sun.  Miss Zoë is at the end of her leash watching them very intently. 


So goes life on the farm where I am biding my time and growing stronger everyday.


  • Saturday, 25 June 2005

The future is not some place we are going,

but one we are creating.

The paths are not to be found, but made.

And the activity of making them changes

both the maker and their destination.

 - John Schaar


It is true.  We build our lives, one minute, one choice, one word or action at a time, just as brick-by-brick one builds a castle, a fortress, a wall or a cozy home. 


People often speak of finding a path or discovering who they are.  I think John Schaar is correct – we make the changes that become the path. 


It is always about the process isn’t it?


  • Friday, 24 June 2005

Turn your face to the sun, and the shadows fall behind you.

- Maori proverb

Random acts of cleaning…

I fell asleep quickly upstairs in the small, cool room under the eaves.  The window air conditioner and small fan remove the humidity and heat from the air and transport me to another place and time.  I dream quiet dreams and wake rested. 


I stretch and roll over on my side.  This is still a chore, but I remind myself it is easier today than it was last week.  I can still feel the places where the two drains invaded my body.  They are healing nicely, but still feel very tender. 


As I descend the stairs to the kitchen on Friday morning, I feel the Georgia heat envelope me.  Despite the heat, I fill the coffee pot and start it brewing before I make my way out onto the carport. 


Miss Zoë is stretched out on the concrete and barely lifts her head when I open the screen door.  Her stumpy tail wags, her eyes flash and she bats at her nose with her front paw in a special doggie greeting, but she does not waste energy by doing her usual morning doggie dance to welcome me to the new day.    


In a few minutes, I wander back into the kitchen by the magnetic pull of the coffee.  The smell fills the room as I fill my cup and enjoy those first delightful, comforting swallows.  The day officially begins when the coffee is poured.


One of the glories of houseguest status is there are no real routines to abide by.  In my own home, there are rhythms that take me away from myself and move me forward through the day.  As an interloper in someone else’s home, I can break that inertia and explore new roles. 


Some routines stick wherever I am.  I make the bed; I wash my face and comb my hair, etc.  Most mornings as I pull the sheet taut, I remember my mother saying “I would rather be found drunk in the gutter than to have someone find the bed unmade.”  Strong words and often repeated, but words that make me smile as I remember her aversion for “slovenly” living. 


Here in someone else’s home I am somewhat free from the tasks that make the house run.  My hosts are long gone when I arise so I pick and choose what I will do. 


I commit random acts of cleaning.  I take pleasure when I wash morning dishes in a sink filled with hot soapy water.  Cleaning the sink is one of the chores that is somehow satisfying – I like to make it shine and spend time on this simple task.   I spend some time making clean a few neglected spaces that usually get a lick and a promise in my own home. 


Of course my own kitchen can always use attention, but somehow when the chores are not your own, they seem less onerous. 


I think about the Brownies that steal into homes at night and clean.  My sister Rosemary taught me about them.  In the big yellow house on 8th Street, they used to come on evenings when my parents were off at meetings.  When they arrived home, long after we were sleeping, they would find dishes washed, floors swept, and other chores neatly done.  Sometimes there would be a plate of brownies on the countertop.


  • Thursday, 23 June 2005

My cat has fleas…

The week has flown by, but times I feel as if I have been on this farm forever.  I am happy to just wake up here in this quiet place with no defined responsibilities except to heal.  Part of that involves sorting through my feelings.  This is a good place for sipping coffee and taking my time.

This morning I took my coffee and yogurt out to Miss Zoë’s spot on the patio.  I am happy to hear NPR playing from the porch radio that Pat never turns off (a happy coincidence - I love NPR and always have it on in my own home).  I sit in the lawn chair and when my yogurt is almost gone, I let Zoë lick the last few bites of yogurt off the spoon.  She is, after all, a snow princess, and deserves to be spoiled a bit!

Wherever I am, there is something about the morning light that intrigues me.  I indulged myself with a walk through the wet grass and while I walked, took some snap shots of the farm which I will share later.  One of the farm cats trailed behind me, rolling over on her back and making pretty cat-sounds whenever I stopped to look around. 


"Pet me, scratch my belly," she purrs.  I nudge her with my wet foot. 


Bending down to pet the cat is still too difficult for me.  So are several other fairly simple tasks – I could not even take the lasagna out of the oven last night and rolling over in bed is still a challenge. 


I haven't taken a pain pill for 40 hours - the last one was because Mr. Bubba, the big orange guy, charged into my room in the middle of the night and did a cat dance on my chest - I sat bolt upright and of course that was really painful.  It also freaked out my usually reclusive cat and he took off leaving a few puncture marks on my legs and a few of his many flea buddies to annoy me. 

I leaped up (another mistake) and grabbed the flea spray and gave him a quick squirt of chemicals as he blazed through the door and under the bed in the next room.  I felt pretty bad, for my scaredy-cat and I also ached myself.  I took a percoset, tried to get comfortable and eventually went to sleep, itching and scratching all night long....sigh... 


My cat has fleas…sigh. 

I like this Garth Brooks "poem"... there is music and photo at the site (use link below). 

You know a dream is like a river,
ever changing as it flows
And the dreamer's just a vessel that must follow where it goes
Trying to learn from what's behind you
Never knowing what's in store
Makes each day a constant battle
Just to stay between the shores


Too many times we stand beside
Let the water slip away
Till what we put off till tomorrow
has now become today
so don't you sit upon the shoreline
and say you're satisfied
Choose to chance the rapids
Dare to dance the tide

~ Garth Brooks ~


(from The River -- enlightenment is where you find it....)


Web version: www.panhala.net/Archive/The_River.html 


  • Wednesday, 22 June 2005

…there doesn’t seem to be enough time

to do the things you want to do

once you find them…

-         Jim Croce


The bright summer day shimmers ahead of me offering so many possibilities.  I agree with Jim Croce – there just does not seem to be enough time to do all the wonderful things I want to do. 


Right now I find myself caught up in my e-mail.  I enjoy interacting through e-mail with friends and family and individual notes and conversations are a delight.  The past many months I have not had that pleasure often.  I have resorted to less personal notes, the generic kind, just to keep people updated and let them know I am thinking of them. 


While in Washington DC, I spent more time on the telephone.  That is really not my medium.  I could go for months, possibly years, without resorting to using the phone.  I must admit though, it was good to hear familiar voices.  I could close my eyes and almost believe someone was across the table from me, sharing a cup of coffee and sweet conversation.  I do not know why I do not initiate phone calls, but I do not do it often.


I do have a cell phone now.  The magic of the cell phone will allow me to hear Mark’s voice someday soon.  I love to hear his voice.  When I know he will call, I make myself crazy with anticipation. 


The trouble with phone calls is they begin and then they end.  There is nothing there but a memory.  With e-mail, there is a note to re-read, to cherish and ponder. 


Letter writers often complain about e-mail because it really leaves no trail.  E-mail is so casual, so immediate.  It captures personality on a way that differs from a phone call or from a real letter.


When my mother wrote a letter, she often actually composed it.  She used to write a draft and then transcribe it onto proper stationary.  People seldom do that anymore do they?


Of course, people seldom write letters anymore either.


Mother wrote to me often during those many years I lived so far from her home.  I would receive her lovely letters several times each week.  Often she would enclose a clipping from the local newspaper or from the Christian Science Sentinel or the Monitor. 


In later years we resorted to phone calls each week.  It was not the same.


The next few weeks and months will be an almost magical time for me.  I can sit and read without interruption.  I can play at painting and writing.  I can simply think.  I love the opportunity to be alone with my thoughts.  Sometime people cannot understand that I am happy in my own company.  Sometimes people take it personally.  I am grateful for friends and family that simply understand my needs.  


I am here to recover from surgery, but this unique opportunity to retreat from the world is also very practical.  It is an opportunity to recharge my battery.  I believe we often fail to do that.   We let things divert us from the very things we need to make us stronger.  


There is a full moon tonight…


  • Tuesday, 21 June 2005

Summer Solstice…

The fine summer day stretches out ahead of me.  It is, in fact, the very first day of summer, the longest day of the year.  Each day from now until the Winter Solstice in December, days will become shorter and shorter. 


That means nights become longer. 


With Mark n Ukraine and me here in Georgia (that is the Georgia in USA), nights already seem long.  Nights are the hardest times to be alone. 


Of course there are advantages to being alone at night.  I can read far into the night without disturbing anyone with my bright light and my page turning.  I can leave the radio on and allow the National Public Radio programs to keep me informed and edified even while I drift in and out of sleep.  These are small pleasures, especially when measured against the simple satisfaction of curling up in the arms of my husband and simply closing my eyes, safe and secure, at home there. 


Last night I had no trouble sleeping.  We stayed up late and by the time I headed upstairs to the little room under the eves, I was ready for bed.  Pat and Marty arrived home from her farm quite late.  We talked about the events of the day till after midnight.  They sold several (6) yearlings and that involved getting young horses into trailers; always a challenge and always more fun in the retelling than in reality!


The horse sale was a rather unexpected bounty.  Marty has been blessed with lots of young horses and is eager to find homes for them.  She and Pat work at other jobs each day to support their individual farms so all this brushing and grooming and loading up takes place after regular duty hours.  I wonder how many people (in the USA) in this day and age can afford to run a farm without holding down another job. 


Now it is a brilliant, crisp morning and the first day of summer.  As I look out the window at the clean, neat farm buildings, the bright white fences, the contented animals and the lush green grass under a picture-perfect blue sky, I am content.  I feel as though I am flipping the pages in a children’s reading text.  The details outside the window are as delightful as any graphic artist could conjure up on paper. 


I close my eyes for a moment.  A rooster crows, I hear the mother cat mewing at her two young kits, and there are turtle doves cooing near by and a few song birds warble to one another out in the pasture.  I hear horses snorting and donkeys braying.  Leaves rustle as the wind passes over them.         


I open my eyes again and my eyes delight again in the bright red barn, green, green grass, stark white fence and azure skies.       


  • Monday, 20 June 2005


A soul can create only when alone…

- Abraham Joshua Heschel


The glory of being alone!  I am happy to have the house (and farm) to myself today.  My days have been so filled with people and appointments.  I need time to myself to remember who I am and to think, heal, grow, plan, dream, create. 


I set up a personal space in a bright corner room with windows of three sides.  I look up and see Miss Zoë stretched out dreaming doggy dreams and I turn my head to watch the miniature donkeys rolling in the dirt.  I hear the horses greeting each other, braying and pawing at the dirt.  In the doorway of the red barn are several cats busily grooming themselves and no doubt sharing cat-gossip as they enjoy the warm morning sunshine.  A few tiny chickens have escaped the coop and are venturing out into the green grass near the house.


I sip coffee from a mug Mark bought at the bazaar in our Peace Corps training village.  It is a pleasant reminder of him.  The bright orange day lilies on the cup are right at home here in Georgia where similar day lilies grow happily everywhere.  They even grow wild in ditches this time of year. 


The radio on the porch is tuned into National Public Radio.  I hear bits and pieces of interesting news. 


This day will unfold slowly and I have time to take pleasure in all the small, happy details.  I set the pace and I choose the activities.  I am happy and I am healing.


  • Sunday, 19 June 2005

Meeting the past – touring the area


Outside the car window I see images that make me feel as if I have stepped back in time.  Beside me, Pat expounds on what life was like when he spent his boyhood days here.  In the back seat, Marty stretches out and takes a rare opportunity to relax.  She has had the tour several times and would be happier snoozing on her bed I think.


We drive down red dirt roads and Pat points out the sites to me.  He tells me family tales and I conjure up images of the people who lived and worked there.  We visit the grist mill by the river, the fishing sites, the old church and school and finally the cemetery. 


There are no trees in the cemetery.  The sun beats down on us and bugs bite at my bare ankles.  We walk among the gravestones and I hear stories about Miss So-and-So and Mr. Guy…it is pleasant to hear the reminiscences.  The people who have been long gone still influence us today.   


I take a photo of a decorated gravesite with a faded bundle of plastic flowers and a weathered sign that says: “Happy Fall, Y’all!”  


I have wandered in cemeteries in so many parts of the world – I wonder as I walk and listen and observe, how many people have had the opportunity to visit so many cemeteries…is a tour of the cemetery typical?


We continue the windshield tour.  Many of the buildings Pat remembers are long gone.  The world has changed so the industries that brought people to this rural Georgia area are no longer here, and neither are most of the people either.    


It is amazing how quickly nature reclaims land that once served as cotton, tobacco or corn fields.  Old home places that housed large families are gone – totally obscured by vegetation.  Vines and jack pines cover everything.


It is hard for an Iowa native to really grasp how all this vegetation could conquer the land so quickly.  It is as if no humans had ever lived here, yet there is evidence everywhere, if you know where to look. 


I feel as though I have been looking at old B&W photos from the 40’s.  The people and homes that remain have a quality that makes them belong to another era.  They are like images from an old scratchy home movie.


We stop at a convenience store just at closing time and watch as the local’s line up to buy lottery tickets before the doors close on this Father’s Day Sunday afternoon.  I listen to the talk and hear the lowcountry language (Gitchee or Gullah) and accents are thick.  People here are not all influenced by television and movies. Their speech patterns remind me that I am from far, far away.


When closing time rolls around, we sit behind the counter with the proprietors, Pat’s brother and sister-in-law, and visit.  I watch their 6 year old granddaughter play and sip a cold drink.    


I think of the life I was leading in Washington DC and then I turn my mind further back to my months in Ukraine…I try to synthesize all I am seeing and thinking and feeling.      


  • Saturday, 18 June 2005

Mark’s last day here…

Today is Mark’s last day here.  At midnight he will make the 500 mile drive back to DC alone and late Sunday afternoon board the plane for Ukraine. 


These separations do not come easier with repetition as one might think.  In fact, I am inclined to rebel.  I do not want him to go and leave me behind.  The truth is that leaving is the right thing and other choices would lead us to regrets.  He will go ahead and break trail for me.  I can look forward to a happy reunion when the time is right.


We spend the day accomplishing mundane, yet urgent tasks.  Somehow this false sense of normalcy helps us make it through the day.  Mark chooses a cell phone for me so we can communicate more easily while he is in Ukraine.  He spends time setting it up and then works on the Internet connection he established for me yesterday.  We go over banking and bills and other details of managing our life.  We make a grocery store stop so I can have all my favorite foods available for at least a while.  All this busy work keeps us from thinking too much about the lonely days ahead. 

At midnight, as good as his word, Mark wakes up, dresses and says a quick goodbye.  I walk him to the car.  Miss Zoë and I watch as he drives away.  I fight back fears and sadness and start thinking instead about the day in September when I will see him again.  I stand there stroking Zoë’s head for a few minutes as the taillights fade from sight and then I go upstairs and crawl into bed.


  • Friday, 17 June 2005

I woke up with Mr. Bubba snuggled close to my ribcage.  The big orange guy (BOG) crawled under the covers last night and stayed there by my side till I finally decided to rise and shine for the day. 


What a simple pleasure.


  • Thursday, 16 June 2005

Seeing Miss Zoë…

The very best part of the day was seeing my good friend Miss Zoë! 


I have missed her so much. 


Before we left for Peace Corps, my blue-eyed Miss Zoë was my daily companion.  She nurtured me through some rocky roads as I maneuvered through the grief work following the death of our son a few years ago.  She literally walked me back to joy. 


The most challenging part of the decision to join the Peace Corps was leaving behind my beautiful Siberian snow princess.  She and our big orange cat, Bubba, are my joy in life.  They are both staying at the farm here in Georgia.


When we first pulled into the lane at the farm today, I saw Miss Zoë stand up and sniff the air.  She had not seen me since mid-February.  She sniffed the air and then when she heard my voice she leaped in the air, dancing as only a Siberian Husky can dance.   


My heart took flight. 


Those big steely-blue eyes looked up at me and her tongue licked at the air as she wiggled and waited for me to stroke her head and shoulders.  It is so hard for a husky to hold still.  She is made of energy, but she seemed to know I cannot handle her usual physical enthusiasm.  She sat on command and wiggled and licked and leaned on me as we shared a happy homecoming together.  I am grateful to have her here for me to enjoy as I mend.


These past few months seem brief, but so many things have happened…life moves us forward.  Coming here is a small vacation in the past – a chance to spend quiet time with my dog and my cat as I gain back my strength. 


I will miss Mark during the coming days and weeks, but my animals will be strong medicine for my spirit.


  • Wednesday, 15 June 2005

Two weeks since surgery…

I am impatient to feel good again.  I still take pain killers at night and often need Tylenol during the day.  I stay pleasant and cheerful, because that is my nature, but I withdraw from conversations and cannot focus my attention on things very well. 


I cannot believe people routinely have plastic surgery…I do not care for this discomfort and the prospects of 4-6 more weeks of this disturbs me.   


Of course each day I feel a bit better and for longer too. 


It is much like starting the day with a pack. When you first put it on, it seems light and easy to manage, but by day’s end, it seems so cumbersome and heavy and it has chafed you physically and worn away at you so you do not cope well or over-react. 


I think I am generally a good patient, but it is a challenge.  I always say, even under the best circumstances, it takes real character to remain pleasant and cheerful. Anyone can be a jerk!


  • Tuesday, 14 June 2005

When I awoke, Mark had already lined up my clothes boxes outside the bedroom door.  After several months away, it was gratifying to pull out my favorite old jeans and pull them on. 


Today was a lazy day.  We relaxed, watched movies, cooked and ate.


We made arrangements to meet friends in Edgefield for lunch on Thursday.    


  • Monday, 13 June 2005

Arriving in Sunny Greenwood

Through the windshield of our rental car I take in the view: our front garden is a colorful jungle.  Day lilies blossom next to tall Shasta daisies and a spring breeze causes the black-eyed Susan’s to dance in the sunlight.  The butterfly bushes we planted last year are tall, full and laden with purple blossoms.  Some annuals have broken the rules and have returned a second season to add their brilliant shades to the palette. 


Our garden has never been a tidy one and after a few months of being on its own it still manages to be filled with abundant color and vitality even if it is not neat, orderly or disciplined.   There are healthy weeds growing alongside the flowers, but they add diversity and texture to the wild bouquet that the yard has become. 


It is good to be welcomed home with all this color and exuberance. 


I have missed having flowers to enjoy.  It is not the gardening that I really take pleasure in; it is the opportunity to observe the blossoms and color and to choose among the daily surprises that greet me.  In the past I would gather odd assortments of flowers and greenery and fill small vases throughout the house with these offerings from nature.  I have missed that privilege these past few months during my Peace Corps training and my Medivac status.  How good it is to arrive at our house when the garden is so full of color.


Friend (and house-sitter) Jim meets us at he back door as we make our way into the air conditioned comfort inside.  The weather is beautiful.  Yes it is Jim says, after weeks of unrelenting rainfall. 


We talk as I wander through our house seeing the odd mixture of my furniture and things with Jim’s possessions and personal items.


It does not take me long to wend my way to one of my favorite spots: the front porch.  I drop my bruised and swollen recovering body into a comfortable wicker chair and once again look out at the front lawn. 


Jim apologizes for how the yard looks and reiterates that he does not have a green thumb.  He makes me laugh (as usual) with his tales of pulling up daisies, thinking they are weeds, only to have the neighbor lady clue him in on his mistake.    


We light candles, sip wine and nibble on manchego cheese and our dough bread as we relax and watch the afternoon wind down to evening.  Later we grill food out back and watch the fireflies rise up in the moonlight.


  • Sunday, 12 June 2005

The mall…

Sunday we are off to a leisurely start again. 


We end up stopping at a large mall near Charlotte, NC where we wander slowly through the stores and look at all the amazing things available.  We indulge in Starbucks coffee and spend lots of time in a huge bookstore exploring books and choosing a few.  Later we decide to have an early dinner/very late lunch at the Pizzeria Unos. 


It is late in the day so we spend the night at a motel just down the road a bit. 


Saturday, 11 June 2005

On the road again…Slow and steady

I love yard sales.  I peruse the morning paper and find a few listed in Georgetown and coax my spouse to stop at a few on our way out of town.  After months of relying on public transportation or walking, it is such a pleasure to be able to visit areas out of reach. 


The yard sale is a delightful neighborhood event in a delightful beautiful area near a perk.  We stroll up and down the street admiring many unique items and talking with the sellers.  Mark gifts me with a pair of lovely silver bangle bracelets and a scarf.  I find a few treasures and he also finds a couple things he cannot pass up. 


As the morning heats up and we climb into the air conditioned comfort of the car and begin the trip south. 


I love road trips and enjoy the time alone with Mark.  We listen to the radio, I read aloud to him, we talk; we listen to a Russian vocabulary program and practice our skills.  Time flies.


Despite some discomfort, I enjoy the day.


  • Friday, 10 June 2005

Packing again…

The plan is to rent a car and drive south. I will begin my summer of recuperation at a friend’s farm in Georgia.  Mark will escort me there, get me settled and then drive back to DC to catch his plane back to Ukraine.  It will be a leisurely drive, a bit of a vacation really. 


The entire time in DC has been tiring and stressful, though friends and family and almost everyone have done their best to make it less difficult than it could have been.  For that I am grateful.  A lazy road trip with my husband will be a pleasure.


I try to imagine actually having to fly.  I do not know if I could have managed getting through the ordeal of security and all the waiting and lifting and everything else associated with the airport experience.  Even remaining in an airline seat would be a challenge.  My body is healing quickly, but after only a week, it is not up to that kind of challenge.


During my 45 days here I have accumulated many things. I arrived with only a small rucksack of clothing and Russian study materials and my laptop.  Now I have the interim clothes I purchased, clothes Mark brought to me from Ukraine and all the other things one accumulates during an extended stay.  Packing is a challenge.  I shove things into shopping bags and think about the real meaning of the term bag lady…  I will regroup during our stop at our house where I can retrieve clothes suited for he farm and leave behind my Ukrainian wardrobe. 


  • Thursday, 9 June 2005

Drains removed & stitches snipped…

A week ago I was still in the hospital waiting for the powerful anesthesia to wear off and, a week later, here I am tramping all over Washington DC to accomplish all my close of service requirements.  I will be ready to sleep tonight. 


I spend time filling out paperwork at the headquarters offices and then I visit the plastic surgeon.  She snips out most of my stitches and removes the horrible drains I have been tolerating all week.  We discuss continuity of care and possible complications then say good bye.  Mark gives her some chocolates and a tiny bottle of soap bubbles in a champagne bottle shape…we are celebrating this day.  She smiles and we talk about the magic of soap bubbles.


After a bit of lunch we visit the surgeon who removed the cancer.  She and I have gone through three surgeries together.  I like her very much and though this is a professional visit I am glad to see her.  Mark also shares chocolates and soap bubbles with her and she laughs and spends some time visiting with us.  She is a warm individual who loves what she does.  I feel a special bond with her.


We trek back to the headquarters for more paperwork and to collect more money.  We sit through briefings on filing for disability – I laugh…I guess I will never be a stripper or a topless waitress now will I?  8-)


At 4 we ride the shuttle bus back to the hotel and I crawl into bed for a nap.    


  • Wednesday, 8 June 2005

45th Day Party – Close of Service

Today is my magic 45th day here in Medivac status.  My mastectomy and reconstructive surgery took place one week ago and I am well on the road to recovery, but they say I am not yet ready to return to my Peace Corps post.


In keeping with the nature of any good bureaucracy there is an action associated with this new phase of my life; it is time for my very premature close of service (COS).  The rule states that those who cannot return to duty after 45 days must be separated.  I have reached that day.


Since I am now the veteran of current volunteers in Medivac, I decide to celebrate my change a status with a small open house.  I hand scribe invitations to all the hotel-dwelling PCVs who are living here in the hotel.  Mark slips the invitations under their doors. 


My spouse does the shopping for me, toting home bottles of white whine and rich, delicious cheesecakes.  I arrange flowers and make the table looks festive.  Mark uses the computer to lay music.  We light candles and invite our guests in for our little celebration.


I am sore and uncomfortable and dressed funny too, but I enjoy playing hostess as our guests arrive and relax in our temporary home.  The drains (they resemble two plastic hand grenades and are suspended from long tubes hanging from two holes in the area under my arm near my ribcage) make it hard for me to relax.  I have tried to hide them, but they poke out and my side aches from the constant pressure, the friction.  My whole left side is stiff, swollen and sore.  I feel like I have a bad sunburn and have been wrapped tightly in ductape.  My back feels as though a steel rod is holding me up.  Still, I am glad to be among people and to hear them telling stories and laughing.


There is nothing like the stories Peace Corps people share with one another.  Like any other sub-group or collection of people who share a similar interest, there is a kind of shorthand in their speech.  They have similar experiences so they do not linger over some things.  The volunteers are pretty frank about their experiences and opinions and manage to have funny stories to tell, stories that were probably not too funny when they were actually happening. 


I relax, sip wine, eat too much cheesecake and am grateful Mark encouraged me to do this. 


Tomorrow I will sign the papers and end my short adventure as a Peace Corps Volunteer. 


Who knows exactly what is ahead for us, but I know Mark will return to Ukraine soon and I will share his Peace Corps experiences vicariously as I recover somewhere here in the USA.  When I am well enough to travel, I will join him there and when the time comes, I may be re-instated and serve myself. 


For now, I am sorry to say, this is the end of my Peace Corps adventure. 


  • Tuesday, 7 June 2005

Iwa Jima…Commandant’s Own Concert & Silent Drill Team…

My first real adventure outside the hotel room since my surgery involved a walk across the street to the Iwo Jima monument.  On this hot, humid spring evening, thousands of people have congregated on the soft green grass surrounding this famous monument.  We joined them there just as the Marine Corps marching band took to the parade grounds to wow us with their musical expertise and their marching discipline and dazzle.  


Mark hovered over me as I gingerly made my way across the grass to find a place to watch the performance.  Once the marching band executed its performance, a battalion formed up and an actual military parade followed, complete with a 21-gun salute.  The Marine Corps Silent Drill Team also performed a precision drill and amazed the audience with their moves.   


  • Monday, 6 June 2005

My good friend gives me the shirt off his back…

I have nothing to wear, or at least nothing that will hide my hideous drains.


The drains that foil my fashion sense, irritate my side and make getting comfortable so difficult are hard to hide.  They resemble plastic hand grenades and are too large to put under my shirt so they hang on their chords down my side and bounce along on my thigh.


Friend Jim fulfills an old saying and actually takes the shirt off his back and hands it to me to wear.  The large, soft chambray work shirt is just the thing to conceal my equipment. 


The shirt is also like a comfort food for me – it is a comfortable reminder of those days in my youth when I routinely donned Mark’s similar work shirt. 


I am still tired and sore and not ready to face the world.  The guys take care of me – feeding me, making me smile…


  • Sunday, 5 June 2005

Moriah’s birthday…

This day marks the anniversary of a day and a person who changed my life.  My daughter Moriah joined our happy home many years ago on this date.


I allow myself to slip back into a reverie about the hours before I went to the hospital to deliver her…such pleasant memories.  I can hardly imagine life without her.  Back then I could not even imagine how my baby daughter would grow up and fill my life with so much joy.


She is a veteran mother now herself.  I wonder how her husband and children will help her celebrate her special day. 


I sleep a lot…recuperating is hard work.


  • Saturday, 4 June 2005

Jim arrives, again…

Our housesitter is abandoning the house again and making yet another marathon trip to DC!  What a friend we have in Jim!


Jim should have been a nurse – he is so nurturing and eager to help. This is the third time he has been here and every time he comes he is warm and gracious and finds remarkable ways to make me feel better.  This visit will be easier for him because Mark is here too.  The guys can reminisce and maybe even escape together and have a little fun.  I can use some private time and they will enjoy time without me too. 


This whole surgical/medical madness could have been a very agonizing, melancholy time, but I have been blessed with good and faithful friends and family.   I am so grateful for all the support and frankly, I am humbled by it too.  Life is so good.


  • Friday, 3 June 2005

I am discharged…Rain, rain, rain…

Outside the hospital a dark cold rain falls.  A technician wheels me to the lobby and helps me take a seat on the wide window ledge.  My flowers and small bag are at my side. 


I watch through the window as Mark hails a cab.  It seems to take a long time.


Getting into the vehicle proves to be a challenge and the seat belts are like instruments of torture on my tender shoulders.  I am like the Princess and the Pea – I feel every bump in the road.  Each time the car turns, I grimace.  Mark looks forlorn. 


I watch the rain falling outside and remember what our Ukrainian friends say about it – when there is rain at the start of your journey, it is a blessing because it means the sky is weeping because you are going away.


I find a smile in my heart and send it to my lips…Mark smiles back at me. 


I am on the road to recovery.

  • Thursday, 2 June 2005


It has been said before – a hospital is no place to be if you need rest. 


This first night, I sleep intermittently, or maybe I am still drugged.  People wander in and out at will.  Some turn on lights and chat with me.  Some whisper and work in the dark and make me think they are demons or angels.  


Throughout the night nurses and technicians and physicians and interns wander in to take care of their own special tasks, changing dressings, emptying bags, taking vital signs and other routine chores. 


As the grey sky brightens, the crowds get heavier.  The dietician drops by and day shift arrives so new Nurses and crew drop in.  The doctor’s make their rounds.  They travel in packs and crowd around the end of my bed.  Then the surgeons come by.  The book lady knocks on the door. 


Once breakfast is delivered, it grows quieter.


I think the trick is to sleep all morning rather than at night.


I am groggy from being wakened often and from the ordeal of surgery yesterday.  This surgery was more intrusive and lasted for 6-7 hours.  Coming out of the anesthesia was not as easy as the two previous surgeries and left me exhausted.  It was frightening and disorienting and something I do not care to relive in writing or in reality.  I was so very cold, shivering so intensely and my body was in pain. 


That was last night.


In the daylight, and finally alone, I actually ring for the nurse.  He arrives and helps me wobble over to a chair by the window.  He turns on the TV and brings me a phone.  He is competent and caring and smiles often. 


We talk a bit.  We share stories about Africa.  I speak about my brother in Malawi and he speaks of his homeland in Ghana.  I am glad to have this nurse caring for me. 


He comes by throughout the day and cares for me in a gentle way that nurtures my spirit.  Others here may be competent and efficient, but that is not what I need just now.  Now I need to be treated as a human.


  • Wednesday, 1 June 2005

Surgery…mastectomy and reconstruction…

Today is the day.


This is my third surgery this month…does that make it easier?  No, not really. 


Sine I have been through the routines at the hospital, I am probably less anxious, but for Mark, this is all new.  I can diffuse my nervousness by focusing on him. 


I have always felt that things are more difficult for the individual who stays at home or the individual that simply observes or waits.  I will sleep through surgeries and be almost oblivious to what is going on.  Mark will be awake and worried or concerned.