February/March AudioBook Club

It’s hard to believe it’s March already. The last month has been somewhat of a blur to me. A week into the month, my son called to tell me that he hurt his knee while sitting on his air mattress which has been doubling for a couch while he waits for the couch he ordered in December to arrive. The good news is that we learned just yesterday that it is scheduled for delivery the last Friday of this month. Finally.

Me and Mom

The second week of the month started with my mother experiencing her second stroke in 5 months – this stroke ultimately took her life 5 days later. Since then we have said our goodbyes to her as a family graveside and with extended friends and extended family via a zoom memorial. I miss my long conversations with her and now continue to grieve. It will take some time but life goes on.

I have been reminded of that fact this last week as I have been consumed with dealing with my son’s knee surgery and having to care for him during his recovery. My mother always said ‘the job of a parent isn’t ever really fully done.’ She was always there for me when I needed her and I will always be there for my kids when and if they need my help. In the last 7 days, I have averaged 3.4 miles of walking and 10 flights of stairs daily in my own house simply running around, going up and down the stairs (the house unfortunately is not set up with a first floor bedroom). My left knee hurts a little bit.

I find listening to my books to be such a relief. It’s my me-time. I have been downloading my tax forms and filing stuff from last year that never got filed in 2020. I haven’t felt very artistic lately but I am trying to relax and get back into the routine of drawing.

I listened to 2 books in February, the first was a title I had in my library for a while and as part of my resolution to read the older titles in my library and stop accumulating more books – which I still do anyway – I finally tackled it. I am so glad I did too! Beneath a Scarlet Sky is a phenomenal story by Mark T. Sullivan. The audiobook which I listened to is narrated by Will Damron and runs 17 hours and 43 minutes and is just amazing! Wow! I found this to be a fascinating book.

“It all made Pino realize that the earth did not know war, that nature would go on no matter what horror one man might inflict on another. Nature didn’t care a bit about men and their need to kill and conquer.

Mark T. Sullivan, Beneath a Scarlet Sky

The story is about the remarkable life of Pino Lello, a young boy from Italy during WWII. I was on the edge of my seat plenty of times throughout the story. I highly recommend this read to anyone who is interested in history and adventures. 5 Stars.

I decided to switch gears afterwards and listened to another Taylor Jenkins Reid novel – The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. I found this book to drag in areas, granted that’s a lot of husbands to go through. Overall the plot is interesting and Evelyn Hugo character who I found to be very deep and complex. However, the character of Monique annoyed me bit. She seemed a bit whiny at times and I don’t like hanging out with whiny people and I have begun to notice I don’t like books as much that feature whiny protagonists. The book is narrated by Alma Cuervo, Julia Whelan and Robin Miles and runs 12 hours and 10 minutes. 3.5 Stars.

I am able to focus so much better on things and block out all the external clutter of the world which has been great lately. I continue to listen to The Word of Promise Audio Book, New King James Version which is narrated by Michael York, Jason Alexander, Joan Allen, Richard Dreyfus, Louis Gossett, Malcolm McDowell Jr., Gary Sinese, Marisa Tomei and Stacy Keach. This behemoth runs 98 hours and 1 minute. I’m only 2 hours 26 minutes into it so far but I have enjoyed listening to it. I have only read parts of the Bible and it is one of my resolutions to complete.

I began the March with A Burning: A Novel by Megha Majumdar. A classmate of mine who now lives in Australia recommended the book. The audiobook runs only 7 hours and 22 minutes and is narrated by Vikas Adam, Priya Ayyar, Deepti Gupta, Soneela Nankani, Neil Shah and Ulka Simone Monhanty who all take on the voices of the various characters features in this story about class, corruption, justice and the individual roads fated in life.

I found this to be an interesting glimpse into a different culture. The characters are unique and captivating – yet, all somewhat relatable despite living in a country where societal norms differ greatly from those in the western cultures. I felt frustrated for Jivan and Lovely and what they endure as women in India.

Many years ago I would have been asking why is this happening? But now I am knowing that there is no use in asking these questions. In life, many things happen for no reason at all.

Megha Majumdar, A Burning: A Novel

I thoroughly enjoyed the The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey. Since finishing it, there are descriptive scenes which have stayed with me and I thought about repeatedly. I love old fairy tales and I love the idea of taking a children’s story and turning it into a novel. I loved the passages about the landscape and I found the characters to be as deep and full as the Alaskan snows they endured. I highly recommend this book to readers who are interested in adventures in the Alaskan wilderness with a touch of old fashioned fairy tale weaved into a modern day story of love and survival. 4 stars.

Currently I have started to listen to The Garden of Evening Mists by Tang Twan Eng, a recommendation from my cousin who first heard about the book from my Aunt. My cousin raved about it and thought I would enjoy since I love nature and gardening so much. I’ll let you know what I think about it next time.

Happy Reading –
“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies . . . The man who never reads lives only one.” – George R.R. Martin

Adjusting To the New Norm

My daughter just called, she returned to her home today and has safely arrived. She has been here with me at my house for the last two months. About 10 weeks ago she sustained a concussion which considering the quarantine, we thought it better for her to be home on the mountain. It was already difficult enough to get food for someone who could deal with masking up and possibly having to wait in lines outside the store because they only allow a certain amount of people in the supermarket. Plus all the anxiety that the quarantine initially caused made it an easy decision to bring her home. She needed to be in a dark room and completely shut down which she had not been able to do on her own in her curtainless house. It’s just that at the time we were all in a bit of denial as to how long this lockdown could actually be and what it ultimately would mean for all of us in the near term and medium term, let alone the long term.

I am anxious about her returning to her home two hours away. She’s anxious but excited. Thankfully she has her dog, Blue to keep her company. In a few weeks, she will be called back to work at the retail store that she had started about a month before the quarantine. There will be retraining and work to be done to change the store for the new norm. It will be good for her to see her co-workers again. Soon after that they will reopen the doors to the public. She’ll be exposed to people, strangers – something that I never considered the way I do right now before this pandemic: the total amount of people we come across in our normal daily lives. At this point in my life, I don’t come see a lot of people on a daily basis anymore. But that was my choice and it had nothing to do with the pandemic, more to do with the fact that I prefer dogs (and now chickens) to most people.

I was born and raised in New York City and lived there the first quarter of my life before easing myself out of the crowded city. When I think about the number of people that I used to see on a daily basis – in my building, on the bus and subway, at work, after work, hanging with my friends in crowded bars and clubs…The crowds I’ve been in at Grateful Dead shows…hugging everybody.

But leaving all that was my choice. But for my kids, they don’t get as much of a choice right now and this experience will change their future choices most likely. I love New York City but I just couldn’t live there anymore. and had left New York City before 9/11 but lived within commuting distance at the time. Although relieved not to be in the city on that tragic day, I remember thinking that ultimately I would need to move further away someday.

Last night, my son sent me an article about how ‘tidal wave’ of people from the city are frantically looking for houses in Connecticut now. Being in quarantine has made a lot people reassess where they really want to be when the shit hits the fan scenarios come up. I am exactly where I want to be and this pandemic has reinforced what I good decision I made four years ago in moving up here.

I am grateful for the time we have spent together these last eight weeks. Eight more weeks of waking up under the same roof together, being able to give my little girl a hug when the feeling struck. Fumbling around working together in the garden, watching our TV shows, making cookies together or playing a game together. Time I never imagined being alloted. Now I don’t know exactly when I will see her. She has a lot to do in getting back to where she lives, settling back in and into some sort of new routine in the place she has chosen to call home. There is one less in the pack at home now, two actually including Blue of course, her faithful mini Aussie companion.

It wasn’t easy the first time she left the nest and after such a long visit under these stressful conditions, it hasn’t gotten any easier. I just take comfort in knowing that she knows she has a place here at our home on the mountain where she and Blue are always welcome for however long — or short they want to stay.

Daily Word Prompt

A Letter to Myself

Dear Christine,

Today you stepped up to the plate when you had to and overcame a fear. You learned a new skill that will serve you well in the future. Proving to yourself that you can keep on learning new things no matter your age – you just have to want to learn. You knew if was a possibility, even before Mark left. You finally got behind the wheel of the truck and learned to plow. You had to, no one else was going to do it and deliveries were on the way. And if you are going to live up here on this mountain for a good long time, you can’t depend on someone else to always be there to do certain things, like plow.

our double black diamond driveway

These days have been so difficult and trying on everyone. Just processing the pandemic and what these means for our world, our country, our family, the kids, Mark and I. Everything will change. You know that — just like you did the morning of September 11th. You watched the people come off the train, covered in ash, looking like zombies. Shock. We were all in shock. Your birth home – the place where you were born and raised – attacked. Life would never be the same. Just like now.

Looking back – hindsight 20-20 – you see the evolution of how how your journey to New Hampshire evolved. Two pivotal moments that lead you to your change in life and career and eventual move to new Hampshire: 9/11 and Shannon’s death. You are forever changed when you watch a young, smart, beautiful 21 year old girl die before your eyes. The memory branded into your memory, your heart and soul forever. Rocking you off your axis.

Your days as a research analyst, all those years ago when you covered food, agribusiness and water sectors taught you so much. It made you think twice about what was actually important. Lately you been having flashbacks to the days of SARS when you kept tallies on the victims and the survivors. You put Clorox into the portfolio then and kept it there – knowing that there would be another virus that would possibly occur and go global. Bleach is good – everyone uses bleach during a pandemic outbreak. You always loved their commercials too with that comedian lady that you never remember her name – so funny.

But those days back in the office – oh so long ago, was not your dream but someone else’s. Thank you Dennis Hopper. Thank you for helping me reach that epiphany. Check out my past blog post Dennis Hopper Kick off My Mid-Life Crisis – part 1 which explains this more in detail.

You started growing your own food. You started your business with Homegrown Harvest because of what you learned all those years reading about Monsanto and syngenta and others and decided to help other people learn to grow their own food. Learned how we destroyed our farmlands and use water so inefficiently. You know how important it is to have food security especially in this ever evolving world where food contamination has become a regular occurrence. Romaine and spinach pulled from grocery store shelves.

Right now it’s another one of those watershed moments in history. You know it’s time to readjust – adapt to the new reality, the new normal whatever that may be. You know you need to be flexible and bob and weave hen you need to. You will get through this. We will get through this. The greens are growing in the Tower Gardens and their are crops growing under the cold frames. Now if the snow would melt and the sun warm the earth we can continue to start growing more. For now, we will just work with the Tower Gardens.

Our Tower Garden

Enjoy your day. Relax now and sit back and look at the pretty snow. Winter’s last hurrah. Your back hurts a little, probably from the bumpy road and your nerves. But your did it! So you can relax – or what passes for relaxing during a pandemic. Put some CBD on your back.

We’ve started our self quarantine. Yesterday the last day going to the post office or grocery store. no need to go out any more. You have what you need for more than a month if you had to. Benefits of being on the mountain, you’ve been in training for this for four years now. Thank god you got the side of beef in the freezer back in January. Now all you have to do is manage the multiple personalities in the house. Can’t I go back and just do the driveway?

We haven’t all lived together under the same roof in 8 years. And never in this house. This wasn’t set up for that sort of close living – weekends sure, holidays – ok. Pandemics. Umm, not so much. Especially when everyone is used to having their own space. It’s not easy listening to two grown adult children snipe at one another like when they were teenagers. Funny how families fall back into old roles despite years of personal growth on their own. But they are working on bettering their communication, trying to use the period of quarantine to better themselves. Break old habits and form new ones.

Pour yourself a tall one, you deserve it, now go rest. There will be more to deal with – like everyday life which keeps moving on.

Your very best friend, Christine

This is my letter to myself for the writing prompt – Let’s Write Letters

Concussed Again

I can’t focus on my work right now, focus on what I should be doing which is writing about gardening or photography for one of my blogs or writing another chapter of the book I’m working on. There are plenty of things I need to be focusing on, but I can’t focus.

She can’t focus on anything because her head still hurts from the fall she took snowboarding last weekend. She hit her head, not once but twice – on two separate but consecutive days. She is my daughter, a young single woman living with her mini aussie shepherd, Blue — two hours away from me. She now has sustained her third lifetime concussion equaling the amount her brother has had in his lifetime as well.

My Grand Dog, Blue – @adventures_of_blue

You may be thinking my kids are klutzy. They are not. They are athletic and coordinated, albeit probably a little less so now. You may be thinking who gets so many concussions, sure possibly a professional boxer or football players but neither of my children are either one of these. Actually, it isn’t uncommon at all to receive another concussion after you have sustained your first.

March is Brain Injury or Concussion Awareness Month. I was made very aware of concussions and the chaos that can ensue as a result of this seemingly invisible injury.

My daughter was in high school when she got her first concussion. A varsity lacrosse goalie, starting on the team in the 8th grade – she defended against girls initially much bigger than herself but was always up for the challenge. She was fierce in the net, she wasn’t afraid to take a hit.

Unfortunately when you get hit in the head, contrary what one might think, you don’t always know you took a hit to the head. She didn’t know that she took a hit to the head until a few days later when she was found “lost” in the hallway at school by a teacher and she had no idea where she was or where she should be. We had to circle back to her teammates to find out if anyone saw something. Someone did but didn’t know to say something. I also found out that at half time my daughter took some Advil because she was complaining about having a headache. Again no one thought – hmm, the goalie has a headache – did any one see her get hit? I was not at the game that day, so I didn’t see the hit either. You shouldn’t take and aspirin or ibuprofen if you suspect a concussion as they increase your risk of bleeding.

A few days later while trying to rest she smacked the back of her head on the windowsill while trying to lay down on her bed which it was pushed up against. BONK! Remember your are 3x more likely to get another hit to the head after a concussion since you’re foggy and you’re reaction time has slowed. Your vision may be a little off to and you misjudge the distance between your head and the windowsill. Her headache returned that day but luckily her symptoms left after a week of staying quiet. and she was able to return to school and the net without incident.

People who have been fortunate enough to never deal with concussions, have no idea that even the small taps to the head can cause damage. You don’t need to lose consciousness to experience a concussion. Although when that happens, you know the blow happened at such a force that it was lights out for even a few seconds.

TBI word cloud on a white background.

The doctors describe to you what happened to your son or daughter’s brain when it takes an impact like this: picture your brain is a fragile egg inside your skull. You take a hit from the left side and what happens is that your brain takes that hit on the left side and then moves slightly and bangs up against the right side of your skull now causing some damage to the right side too.

My son’s second lifetime concussion I watched from behind my video camera get hit – he never saw it coming – he had his eye on the ball arching his way in the clear blue sky. Lacrosse again – a helmeted sport, thank God. Except for girls’ lacrosse only the goalies where full helmets, but even helmets don’t keep you from getting a concussion.

My son was unconscious for 9 seconds, 9 of the longest seconds of my life. They suggested I take him to the ER right away. We sat and waited in the ER for hours for the doctor to simply say “He has a concussion. Go home and rest”. He told us about other concussion symptoms which may arise like nausea and vomiting. This is all they told us back then in spring 2010. Three days later, my son was puking all other and his head was pounding. Three days later all the symptoms the ER doctor told us to look out for presented themselves. There was no question – concussion.

For a couple of weeks, he “rested” but to no avail – the headache wouldn’t stop and he was feeling very foggy. Somehow, and I don’t remember how exactly I found a doctor in the county that specialized in treating patients with concussions. Dr. Michael Lee of Southport, CT would become an integral part of taking over treating my son’s concussion. He administered an ImPact test which is an FDA approved medical test to help access and manage concussions. I’d never heard of it before but would become very familiar with ImPact testing between the two kids during their high school years.

Dr.Lee also introduced us to the ‘dark room’, the place where you stay in bed in the dark for days on end hopefully sleeping. Sleep as much as possible. No stimulation from the outside world at all. My son was in his dark room for weeks before we could slowly start to introduce outside stimulation. Shutting your brain down is extremely difficult.

When he finally returned to school after missing three weeks – teachers didn’t understand that he was still injured. He looked fine, he could laugh with his friends after all. But as soon as he tried to focus or read, it would be difficult to impossible and headaches would return. There’s no bandage that they wrap your head in that announces to the world I HAVE A BRAIN INJURY HERE PEOPLE! It wouldn’t be for another 5 months before the November 10th, 2010 Sports Illustrated’s cover article discussed concussions in football and made the the world aware of the damage concussions a.k.a. traumatic brain injuries were doing to our NFL athletes. This was just the tip of the iceberg.

I want to bubble wrap my children but they aren’t kids anymore but full fledged adults, albeit young adults in their mid twenties. I still want to bubble wrap them both.

My daughter recently started a new job and has had to miss work already because of her injury. She’s scared she’ll lose her new job. She worried they may not understand- most people don’t unless they’ve had a concussion themselves or have a close family member who has had a concussion.

When my son suffers his third concussion he was a freshman in college. A ski accident which left him with a partially punctured lung and a night in the hospital. Three days later he was driving when he skidded his car on ice, bumping his head when the car hit the curb. Your reflexes are slower when you have a concussion. He shouldn’t have been driving. He was concussed but his symptoms hadn’t presented themselves yet. He was lucky nothing worse happened. He ended up taking a medical leave of absence for the rest of the semester. He returned a year later to be sure his brain could take the strain of studying. We were thankful to have the option of a medical leave and we thought it best to take it since you have no idea how long it will take to heal. And it takes longer to heal when you have a history of previous concussions.

The concussions have left behind in their wake problems with sleep and depression. He struggles with staying focused more often than he used to too. He’s done biofeedback and neurofeedback therapy to help him with some of the problems that he struggled with after his concussions. It helped a little. He’s sleeping better but we have also started using CBD along with the melatonin the neurologist recommended he start using while he was still in recovery.

Now my daughter, an adult has her third concussion and is trying desperately to shut down her brain. Her place in Maine is bright and sunny despite blinds being drawn. Dark it is not. She tacked up a blanket over the window but it still looked pretty bright in her bedroom from the photo she shared with me. I’m frustrated that there’s nothing I can do to help her heal faster. When you have a concussion you can feel foggy and very unclear. Dr. Lee used to liken it to having a computer virus which makes your computer run slow and improperly. You need to shut down everything so that you can reboot.

In today’s high tech world where we are all in front of some kind of screen – and things seem to happen quicker than they used to – disengaging from stimulus is challenging. My daughter is a freelance graphic designer who uses her computer all the time. Her part time job has her up and down and can’t be on the more physical side. Plus she coaches girls’ lacrosse. So all I can do is hope and pray- doesn’t seem like much of a strategy – that she will be able to return to her normal activities soon – after she’s given herself time to rest.

Links to some of the resources we’ve used:

Dr. Roseann

Management Recommendation Report by Dr. Micheel Lee

Weight blanket to help sleeping issues