Summer goes by at warp speed here in Chicago. Once the weather starts to warm a bit, the pace of outdoor social activities and events works up to a frenzied pace pretty quickly. Here it is the end of June already and we are in the thick of it.

Yesterday I had my pick of all sorts of things to do: Taste of Chicago, the White Sox/Cubs game, Taste of Randolph Street [why there are so many “taste” things in Chicago is beyond me], Fountain Square Festival in Evanston, and many, many more events that just didn’t register in my full conciousness. And then there was my summer party.

Several weeks ago I realized I haven’t thrown a party at my house in a couple years and decided one was well overdue. Last night was the big night and I was quite pleased with how it all turned out. As hard as I try to be well prepared, there always seems to be a tense hour where I’m scrambling around trying to pull out platters, prep food, put out snacks, etc. Luckily that passed by without me becoming too cranky with all the helpful friends who gladly pitched in and endured my anxieties. Put a little food in me, and I generally get better when I’m like that, and last night was no exception.

Surprisingly, the big attraction of the evening was the garden. Last Sunday, I was finally able to muster enough energy to spend the day dead-heading, weeding, and generally tidying up. I lucked out with the landscapers, too, and was able to get a fresh application of mulch just a few days ago. The weather has continued to be just wet enough that the garden becomes more full and lush every day. Similar to the summer festivals here in Chicago, we have entered peak season in my garden and it shows.

So, last night we all enjoyed an evening of incredible bounty: good food fresh from the garden, juicy and engaging conversations, and the lovely congeniality that comes when you find the friends from all the corners of your life really do get along and enjoy each other as much as you enjoy each of them.

Waiting Game

I feel like I’m in limbo, and it’s really weighing on me. Fair warning: I try not to bitch and moan too much here, ’cause we all hear plenty of that elsewhere. I’m making an exception today since I’m so miserable.

Last week, I saw a new internist. The appointment went well, and I left feeling very positive about working with this doctor as a partner. I had prepped for this appointment by spending some time writing down major milestones in my medical history, like surgeries, onset of any sort of physical symptoms, etc. We used this during our conversation and it ended up being very helpful as we looked for patterns and put together a game plan for how to get me feeling better. However, I still had to get some blood tests, and this is why I am in a state of suspended animation now; until we get the labs and diagnostic tests over with, we’re sort of not sure what to be doing right now.

The B-12 situation is one thing that needs to be followed. I had lab orders from the allergist to get those tests run about 5 days after my last B-12 injection. So, I had that blood draw done last Friday. And I’m still waiting for the results.

The internist wants to dig a little deeper around the B-12 situation. She wrote orders for antibody tests for intrinsic factor (yep, that’s what it’s really called) and antiparietal cell antibodies. If I have either of these antibodies present, I have pernicious anemia and will have to take sublingual or injection B-12 regularly.

The other course of action we are taking is testing for thyroid antibodies, to see if my body is trying to destroy my own thyroid: in other words, if I have an autoimmune thyroid disease (Hashimoto’s disease). I have many of the symptoms of hypothyroidism — unexplained weight gain, joint pain and stiffness, fatigue, moodiness, trouble concentrating — and the previous thyroid function tests were either borderline hypothyroid, or on the low end of functioning. With the exception of the weight gain and join pain, the symptoms above could also be due to the B-12 deficiency, however there’s no reason why I can’t have both going on at the same time.

I’m also recording my early morning body temp. First thing in the morning, before I even really rouse or get up, I stick the electronic thermometer in my mouth to take my temp. The internist wants me to do this for an entire month to see if my my body temp averages below 98 degrees. I told her that would be no problem, as even when I am up and about and active my body temp is never as high as 98. So far, the highest my morning temp has been is 97.7. Today it was 97.0 and a couple days ago it was 96.4.

So, all of this busy work to find out exactly what is wrong is good. But I’m still miserable. The past week has been a bad one. I ache a lot. I am tired, tired, tired; I have barely enough energy to get through the day and my home time is spent mainly laying down with a book (’cause that’s all I have the energy for) or sleeping.

I did go to the gym twice this week to work out with the trainer, and have been wiped out in the process. Yesterday I barely made it through the workout; I was getting dizzy and light-headed just doing squats with no weights. Afterward, I spent most of the day in a fog and went to bed at 8:30 (and this was after having taken a nap from 5:30 to 7 PM).

I just want to cry half the time because I am so frustrated and miserable. I end up spending most of my precious energy on work (and not even work that I feel is done well), leaving me with none for my personal life. The weather this week has been perfect for outdoor activities (low humidity, pleasant temps), but I barely get to enjoy it. I struggled this morning just to get up and water the veggie garden, which desperately needed it. I want to be out in the yard every day after work tending to my garden: weeding, pruning, dead-heading, etc. I love doing this stuff. But I just don’t have the energy right now. Nor do I even have the energy to sit up and knit in the evenings.

I’m going to get through this and find a way to make it better. I know I will. In the meantime, though…well, it’s rough…that’s all I can say.

Love and roses

I’ve had a difficult week with pressing deadlines at work and really low energy. But, I found time to get outside into the yard last night and tonight.

Last night was all about weeding. The plentiful rain has helped many weed seeds germinate fairly quickly. I focused on the veggie beds last night for only about an hour, which was all the time I could muster up energy for. Tonight, I just cut some lettuce for tomorrow’s lunch, and took in the spectacle.

Wall full of blooming roses.

Blooming red roses, splashed with yellow.

Blooming pink roses.

The first photo is of my “wall o’ roses” in it’s full glory: all three varieties are displayed. (Forgive the weeds; I haven’t gotten to that part of the yard yet.) But this last photo with the pink roses is of my new love: Zephirine Drouhin.

I picked this rose variety up at the Chicago Botanic Garden sale about 3 years ago. It sounded wonderful: a climber with no thorns that provided scented blooms even in part shade. For the past two seasons it has been a vigorous grower, but the blooms have been few and far between. Last year, I recall getting 2 measly blooms on the entire, humongous plant.

But this year…ah…this year she has finally found her stride.

This wall of my garage is very visible to my neighbors. They have commented to me how incredibly beautiful the roses are this year. My neighbors directly next door are an elderly couple, and the husband is very ill. He doesn’t even make it outside anymore, but his wife said he was sitting on their three-season porch in the back, looking out the window and commented how beautiful the roses were this year. I’m glad they brought him pleasure, too.


Well, this past week was great if you’re a plant. We’ve had rain and high humidity nearly every day for the past week. While there’s been no need to water the garden, it has been difficult to do general maintenance chores like weeding when it’s this wet and generally icky outside.

My garden is filling out very well now, but the weeds are sprouting up all over, too, and need to be managed before they get out of hand. Just a couple weeks ago the maple tree in the backyard dropped all of its samaras [Isn’t that a great word? That’s what all those little whirligig/helicopter seed pods are called: samaras.] so we have many exuberant little maple trees sprouting up in the oddest places.

At least the roses are really popping right now. I’m quite happy that the Zephirine Drouhin has finally settled in enough after 3 years to toss off multiple scented, pink blossoms; in past years, I’ve only gotten one bloom each year from this climber. The wall o’roses along the garage is definitely looking mighty fine, and if I can actually get out there with a camera and not get drowned in precip or my own juices in the process I’ll take a few photos.

Last Sunday I finished planting all of my pots, and with the blessings of rain we’ve received this week every one of them is growing/sprouting very well. I’ve decided to use pots not just for ornamentals this year. I nestled some big pots (a few “recycled” from shrubs and things I’ve planted in the past few years) down into the mulch to help retain water, and planted them with herbs (parsley, basil, epazote, and rosemary) and a few veggies. I have two pots of slicer cucumbers, two pots of zucchini, and 2 pots of icebox watermelons. Yep, I’m growing watermelons this year! This is my grand experiment plant and it will be quite exciting if it turns out well.

Yesterday I found time for some outdoor fun in the early morning before the weather turned unbearably humid and rainy. Betsy and I went out to the Morton Arboretum for a little tour and then brunch at Dali’s Cafe in Downers Grove. I had never been to the Morton Arboretum before (shocking, I know!), so during this visit I was just barely able to get an idea of the grand size of the place. Everything was so green and lush; it would have been great to spend more time, but I knew I needed to get back into the city during the early afternoon so we had to leave after a couple hours.

As an added bonus, I got to visit Knitche very quickly, too, since the car was parked right in front. I showed great restraint and didn’t buy anything, but Betsy seemed very tempted to start knitting again…hmmm….This is definitely a wonderful shop to visit and conveniently just a couple blocks from a Metra station, so it’s possible to visit without a car. Not only did they have a great selection of yarns, but they have Intelligentsia coffee and teas, as well as baked goods. (I really, really long for a knit cafe within Chicago, why can’t someone open one up???!!!)

We’re still living without a TV and coping quite well. I think I miss viewing the local news the most. We had an exciting Saturday afternoon/evening here in Chicagoland with some strong storms moving through. I was listening to the radio and as soon as I heard them say that a tornado was spotted moving through the south suburbs, I immediately thought about Adrienne and had to check in on her. She was already in the basement, eagerly waiting for the all-clear. (If she had thought to bring some knitting down with her to keep her company, maybe she wouldn’t have been so cranky about having to spend an hour in the basement!) Here we just had lots and lots of wind and heavy rain.

The TV should be fixed at the end of this week, so we will once again be able to rent DVDs and spend endless hours watching mindless entertainment. In the meantime, I’m continuing to plug away at listening to my huge backlog of podcasts and enjoying this simpler pace. Maybe we’ll continue to spend some days completely TV-less….nah, with the election season heating up this fall, I’m certain Mark will be glued to CNN and MSNBC in every waking moment.

Chocolate Breeze

There’s this chocolate factory just west of the Loop (business district) in Chicago. Every once in a while — if the wind is just right and they’re working on a fresh batch — the aroma of chocolate envelops you as you walk across the river from the commuter train station. I think it smells like baking brownies and it is a delicious way to start your day.

When I bike into work, I ride right by the chocolate factory and always get to catch that heavenly smell. Just a few minutes away on my bike route is the bread factory which smells equally delicious. Bread and chocolate in the morning…sounds like a great combination to me.   

The chocolate factory is on the west side of the river, and for some reason the smell doesn’t seem to make it across the water. Maybe it’s all those tall office buildings in the way. Whatever it is, by the time you get across the river, the smell is gone and you’re back to the usual urban sensory data: cars, buses, and all of their attendant sounds and odors.

I often enjoy my short walk across the river and wish I had a camera handy. The sights are usually quite pleasing: commuter boats (yes, during the warmer months here you can complete your commute via boat to the east side of the Loop instead of walking it), ducks, sculling crews, barges (reminding us that the river really is still used for commerce and not just pleasure), and patterns in the current. I guess since I usually can’t juggle a camera, a loaded backpack, and a cup of coffee, these sights, sounds and smells will remain my private pleasure. But you can imagine you’re here, walking next to me, enjoying them, too.