Sunday, December 09, 2018

Another snow day during which we still have power

I've received more alerts of potential power outages in North Carolina than in any other place I've ever lived, even without adjusting for the fact that I've lived here for a relatively shorter time. Despite this, we've only experienced a few brief power outages. The current snow storm has been no exception; I've received approximately three warnings about a possible loss of power, and here we sit, warm and well-lit. Beyond the presumptive closures of almost everything, here's what happens when it snows here:

 Our tiny pine tree was bent with the weight of the snow and ice, but recovered nicely after being brushed off and coaxed upright once again.

 Cyril was gravely displeased with the weather. Here he is being carried in the front yard to find a place to relieve himself. 

Cyril was much relieved (pun intended) that we could move the yard waste bin and reveal a small patch of grass for him. 

 Once we came back inside, he was very willing to let me try on his winter hat in progress. 

The cats' desire to frolic in the out-of-doors has been conspicuously absent this morning and afternoon.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Just another rainy Sunday and a dog video that is only impressive if you knew Walter (Day #4)

Although people closer to the coast are continuing the feel the effects of the wind and rain from Hurricane Florence, those of us only experiencing the effects of Tropical Depression Florence are mostly doing alright. There are some downed tree limbs, and a little bit of standing water, but mostly we are okay. We keep getting texts from the electric company letting us know that they are working hard. We've had power consistently, so are just keeping our fingers crossed that they can get the lights back on for the many people who are still on flashlights/generators/sunlight.

Yesterday morning it wasn't even raining, and we played outside with the dog. For those you who knew Walter, you may recall that his version of fetch involved running about halfway toward the newly thrown ball before losing interest and eating some grass or a stick. He would then run enthusiastically alongside you while you walked to retrieve the ball and amble back toward whatever the starting point was and repeat the whole process. Fetch with Walter was profoundly aerobic exercise for the person throwing and retrieving the ball, but mostly allowed the dog time to bask in the sun and frolic in the grass a bit. Although I knew that there were Boston Terriers who did fetch things, I'd always attributed Walter's unique approach to the game to his breed. I'd laugh and casually think, "Well, he's definitely not a retriever..." Imagine my surprise, then, when it became clear that Cyril was not only enthusiastic about playing fetch, but was actually pretty good at it. Here's a video of him demonstrating his skills yesterday during the break in the rain:

In the background of the video, you can almost see the most substantial of the branches that fell in our yard, wedged into our baby pine tree such that it looks like some sort of graft/hybrid situation.

The cats have actually been weathering the storm surprisingly well, perhaps because there isn't much thunder, just rain. They have both enjoyed actively participating in our indoor fun ranging from the somewhat typical rainy day activity of board games to Lynn's decidedly unusual Saturday activity of building screens for our windows. The pre- and post- photos of the screens are for another day. 

Eli takes his turn at the board game. 

Eli is fairly certain that the scraps of screen were in fact the entire point of the screen-making enterprise. He will not give them back. Don't even try to take them. 

As I'm writing about the rain and all of the time we've been spending indoors, I am reminded that my Bike MS: Waves to Wine ride is actually next weekend. The hurricane has definitely put a little bit of a damper on my training, but I'm still planning to ride. My distance may be slightly diminished, but my enthusiasm and the need for amazing fundraising efforts to get us toward a world free of MS will not be lessened in the least. I'm a little over halfway toward my goal - can you help me get there? 

Friday, September 14, 2018

Life on the edge (Day #2)

Today was another uneventful day on the edge of Hurricane Florence. We have been following the news, and know that more than half a million people are without power in NC, and that they have already had to do some attic and rooftop rescues of people from New Bern, NC, but the Triangle remains relatively unscathed. We've heard a little thunder, felt a little wind, and noted some rain, but it feels more like an end-of-summer storm than a hurricane.

The sky is a bit grayer today, and there's more rain. Cyril is disinclined to go outside to pee, but otherwise we've had minimal ill effects of the storm. 

Weathering the storm...

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Missing the hurricane (Day #1)

The path of Hurricane Florence was initially predicted to hit the Triangle region of North Carolina. It has since turned south and then will swing around such that much of the state will get much heavier exposure to the storm than we do. We've got all the requisite preparatory things, courtesy of Lynn, so for now all is well.

So far it's sprinkled lightly and there is a breeze that's gotten a bit stronger as the day has gone on. Doesn't much compare to the 105 mph winds that are happening on the Outer Banks right about now... More updates to come.

Sunday, September 09, 2018

Back in the saddle, again

Not so much an homage to Gene Autry as just using a turn of phrase to describe the feeling of September, 2018. I'm one month into my faculty job, and in the past few weeks I have been reminded of several things:

  • Transitions are hard. No matter how many new positions I start, or how many spreadsheets I create, starting something new is all at once exciting, wonderful, overwhelming, and terrifying.
  • When the going gets tough, the tough get on their bicycles. 
Finding time to ride my bike through all of the transitions of 2017 and 2018 has been really difficult. This meant that reprising my #200in2016 endeavors was all but impossible this year, and it made me a little sad to realize how long it had been since I'd ridden my bike. In fairness, only some of this was the crazy nature of my life, because some of it was just because of crazy nature. It has been so hot and humid here! Excuses aside, I've now set up my commuter bike on the trainer upstairs, so while it doesn't commute much at this point, it does provide a convenient way to exercise without leaving the house. I've also signed up for the 2018 Bike MS: Waves to Wine ride. They offer the option to ride as a "Virtual Rider," so I can train and fund raise as part of Team Menstrual Cycles, and then ride on my own in North Carolina at the same time that my team is riding up the coast of Northern California. I've not yet decided what distance I'll be riding - the Saturday routes in California are either 100, 86, 43, or 22 miles, and the Sunday routes are 63 and 42 miles. So far, I'm up to about 20 miles training, putting really only the 40-ish mile distances in range. Further reports to come.

While I'm training, however, I'd love for all of you to donate to Bike MS! I ride every year in honor of an amazing mentor with MS, with the goal of ultimately reaching a world free of MS. This is my fourth Bike MS ride, so consider donating $40 or $400, and it is the team's tenth ride, so $10, $100, or $1,000 all seem reasonable to me! And if you aren't in a place to donate right now, consider reposting this or passing it along to someone who might be.

I got a new bike-mount for my cell phone and I captured this terrible photo without stopping. I think it might be cool to try to get one from the handlebars each ride, but I already forgot to do it on today's ride... 

This is the moonset in the morning before I catch the bus for work. It's already hot out...

Sunday, August 19, 2018

The yard that time forgot

We bought our house in the dead of winter, shortly before a record-breaking stretch of low temperatures and snow in the Triangle. When we moved in, we estimated that the back yard hadn't been raked in several years and the front yard had been relatively untended for almost as long. Apart from my successful stint at succulent husbandry, my track record with plants is not good. My somewhat confessional post about the series of Clyde plants I'd nurtured and killed preceded the demise of what at that point was the current plant by just a few short months. Given this history, when it came to tackling our yard I did what any smart person would do and called my mom. Enthusiastic at the idea of being able to transform our yard into something that would quickly become an important stop on any house and garden tour in Durham, she asked for some photos. Sobered at the images of an overgrown disaster in the front, and a scorched-earth-style sand pit in the back, we discussed how best to proceed. As we made plans to tackle the front on her upcoming trip to Durham, she packaged some hostas and a fern from her yard into a Priority Mail box and they were on their way. I managed not to kill them in the few days between their arrival and hers, and we went to work!

Things we did:

  • Removed another trash bag's worth of poison ivy from the front yard
  • Trimmed the "grass," or what passes for grass in our front yard that is comprised of plants we've tentatively identified as Virginia creeper, mint, crab grass, a small amount of residual poison ivy, and approximately 1,000,000 as yet unidentified weeds
  • Dug out four dead or dying shrubs
  • Positively identified, rescued, and trained the fig tree that Lynn attempted to demolish in the fall because she thought it was unsightly
  • Mixed in some compost into the dirt in front of the house and planted the hostas
  • Planted two ferns in the corner by the fence
  • Came up with a clever watering scheme that involved using the water from the dehumidier each night to water the hostas in the front yart, and each morning to water the herbs and ferns in the back yard
The results: 
The fig tree! This is after some pruning and also training the three branches to form a trunk. It's starting to look like a proper tree. You can almost see the baby hostas in a line behind it. 

Through circumstances that are beyond the scope of this blog post, I have recently augmented my cicada knowledge, and can tell you that the insect husk you see here on one of the fig leaves is a scissor-grinder cicada, which is, if not annual, more frequent than the q13 or q17 year cicadas that are frequently referenced. 

This Fresno pepper is the only one we've harvested so far this year. There are some flowers on the plant as of this post, so fingers crossed for more.

I candied two green figs! I wasn't sure whether birds would eat them once they were more ripe, so I decided to go for it. They are pretty mild and mostly just taste like sugar with a faint fig undertone, so I'll be hoping for ripe figs for the next batch. 

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Reflections, new directions, and pet photos (!)

Tonight is the residency graduation ceremony at many OB/GYN programs across the country, and marks approximately a year since I finished residency and and we moved across the country. I've struggled a bit to get back into the swing of the blog, in part because we've gone through a tremendous number of transitions this year and I think we've hardly had time to process one before another is upon us. I posted earlier this spring about the evolution of the blog, but it was a bit of a half-hearted attempt that left me feeling even less certain about the direction going forward. Here's a short list of some of this year's transitions that I'm hopeful to share more about in the coming year.

I'm so close to being finished with medical training - That's right, folks, it's really happening. For those you who thought I had been in college for the past 17 years, you should stop lamenting my slow progress and start celebrating the fact that in that time I have earned three (3) degrees, one (1) certificate, three (3) medical licenses, four (4) DEA numbers, including a special one for prescribers of medication assisted treatment for opiate use disorder, two (2) bilingual provider certifications, and eligibility to take my general obstetrics and gynecology board exams this winter. I also have a job. I think it's okay to let you all know at this point that I'll be joining my current division of general obstetrics and gynecology as an assistant professor in August. In the coming year, you can expect more thoughts about medical education, work-life balance, and the challenges of providing health care in the prison system.

The weather here is completely different - And it turns out that biking with seasons is a whole different ballgame. It's one that I had blissfully and intentionally forgotten while living in the Bay Area. Aside from the occasional rainy day, I could count on being able to use whatever portion of my free time I desired to ride a bike. Although the fall and early winter in North Carolina were seemingly designed for cycling, the "spring" and "summer" have been nearly indistinguishable and have involved temperatures and humidity that make me hesitant to leave the house walking, much less cycling. Despite this, I have lots of cycling goals for the year to come, so you can look forward to more NC scenery views from the saddle.

We have an extremely anxious dog - Walter's entire life was chronicled on the blog, and it still makes my throat catch a bit to see his name as a label option for each post. Cyril, too, has struggled with the loss mightily. He had some significant anxiety issues when we adopted him, and they worsened appreciably after the attack. It turns out that veterinary medicine offers some of the clearest evidence that medications for anxiety change lives. Our little dog is a patient at the NC State Behavioral Medicine Clinic and in addition to the equivalent of doggie therapy, he is now on lots of anxiolytics. He is making great progress, and you can anticipate some reflections on the challenges of a totally differently high needs dog from our last one.

Eighty-five years of questionable decisions in our house - The "what were they thinking" posts will not stop. I have a back log of "before" and "in the midst of it" photos to share, including some demolition photos from what we have been calling "the forbidden bathroom" due to it's lack of non-rotted structural support. This week will also mark the start of the first professional work on the house.

Suffice it to say, there is a lot going on right now and so I'll share some photos of the pets relaxing to remind you (and me!) to do the same.

Cyril loves relaxing in a lawn chair. He tends to cycle between the sunny grass, the shady grass or pavement, and the lawn chair as his temperature needs demand. 

Eli is perhaps the most effective pet at reminding me to take a break. Here he is, seemingly saying "Now it is my turn to use the computer."

This is not some high-tech cat bed that we are using now. It is a high tech washing machine that the cat is using as a bed. I may or may not have started placing a folded bath mat in the washer for him to sleep on. In my defense, it needed to be washed anyway...