Spring is here! (Well, sorta)

The “Winter one day, Spring the next” weather we’ve been getting reminded me that I forgot to start up my Aerogarden last October. Well, not so much forgot as kept putting it off due to hectic schedules this year. Lazy on my part, since it takes maybe a minute, or two to set the whole thing up.

Do you have a green thumb? I do, but only for outside herbs. Inside herbs last maybe two months and then die a sudden death. It didn’t matter what I tried. Something (too wet, too dry, my cats ate them) always killed them off.

This all changed when I went to hydroponics. Suddenly, I could enjoy fresh herbs indoors all winter long. Moving my herbs upstairs to my craft room and away from my animals also helped. I’ve grown basil, chives, and parsley from a kit in my Aerogarden. Transferred those to outside pots that grew just as well from late Spring to Autumn. I’ve also transferred other outdoor herb cuttings to the Aerogarden with great success.

This time around I’m trying lavender, lemon balm, and lemon mint. The first two grow great outdoors for a while. Then burn off during the hotter summer days. I haven’t found a great place for them thrive in our yard yet. My hope is I can keep them happy in my hydroponics unit.

Want to see how well the plants do? These seeds say they germinate anywhere in 8 to 24 days. I planted them on February 28th. Here they are at 6 A.M. on March 4th. Yes, 4 days later.


Although you can see the tiny leaves in the lavender and lemon balm, all of them had growth. The soil in the lemon mint dropped, but the herbs are growing well.

Here they are again today on March 13th.

aerogarden 3-13

Once they grow too tall for the dome it’s time to remove it. The lemon mint in the back is as tall as the lemon balm in the front. It’s just making it to the paper height though.

I’m concerned the lavender won’t bud, or be as strong as it should be. Time will tell.

So, here’s what I have this time around. I hear we’re due to get a blizzard tonight through Wednesday. At least, I get a little bit of Spring indoors for now.



Alphasmart Word Processors, More than Distraction-Free

With all of the talk lately about how pricey the Freewrite (formerly the Hemingwrite) word processor/typewriter by Astrohaus is, I’ve noticed a few writers mention a cheaper alternative. The Alphasmart. Continue reading Alphasmart Word Processors, More than Distraction-Free

Summer Started Out Great, and Then…

I’m having trouble concentrating on any one thing. I’ll tell you why.

This June started out great. It was the end of my daughter’s junior year of high school. She received a huge, unexpected scholarship from R.I.T. (so proud of her!) and it looked like everything else was going great for our family. The biggest problem was trying to figure out how she’d get the rest of the money for school by the end of her senior year.

A week later, I ended up in the hospital. It started with a bloody nose that wouldn’t quit. Learned I had extremely high blood pressure and my kidneys functioned at less than 15%. After a bunch of tests and biopsy, we learned I have IgA Nephropathy. Probably had it for at least 20 years. No diabetes, no doing anything to myself to get to this. It just is. I am, otherwise, healthy.

I was told I’ll need a transplant and that I should get an AV fistula fast in case I need to go on dialysis before that can happen. All this, I learned in July. Not long after, my husband was laid off after 23 years of working for the same person. It seemed his boss (the same boss we’ve done things for over the years like family) didn’t like that his hardest and more reliable worker would have to take a few days off to be at his wife’s side. He made up some other excuse, of course. But we know the truth. My husband was the highest paid and, even though he opened the business each day and barely ever missed a day in all the years, it was an opportunity for his boss to get rid of him and hire two more guys making far less. Maybe it makes sense somewhere along the lines, but I can’t say it doesn’t hurt like hell to us. Especially with the timing.

While this was going on, I had to fight for health insurance. Couldn’t get it easily before when we had jobs. They wanted too much a month. And yes, we were penalized on last years income tax. It wasn’t like we didn’t want health insurance. It was impossible to afford it. Anyone owning property in New York knows our problem. The taxes for property and school alone are sky high, while businesses are disappearing. Jobs that are left suck. Any hope of starting up your own business ends quick because our state always finds ways to need (demand) our money. Apparently, more than we do. It’s for the greater good and all. Yadda Yadda.

The one good thing about losing a long time job is that now we have health insurance. I say that with a bit of sarcasm. I hate, hate, hate having to rely on government at all. It took 30 days after he lost his job to get health insurance. And because I didn’t have it, I wasn’t allowed on the transplant list yet. I wasn’t seen to put an AV fistula in until late September either.

That in itself was an ordeal. Traveling 80 miles to Syracuse with nothing, but unemployment to support us. Had to go up once to meet the surgeon. Again for pretesting, which could have been done near us, and again for the surgery. I was there for the surgery. The doctor wasn’t. Not his fault. There was an emergency. So, after 16 hours of fasting, they finally gave me some food and sent me home. They rescheduled for October.

In between this, we had to go back to Syracuse to learn what we needed to do to get on the transplant list. A lot, but I’m happy to say all, but one of it is done now. Just have to get a note from the dentist, which I will be seeing today.

The AV fistula surgery went well. At least, we thought. For two weeks I couldn’t use my left hand much. The artery and vein were fused in my wrist. So, it made it a little hard to move. When it was time to go get the stitches out, they told me that I had to do some short surgery thing where they put a thin catheter in my artery/vein to widen them, or see if it works. Ten minutes into it I felt the worst Charlie horse throughout my arm. As they tried to numb the pain, I felt the needles. They ended it and said the surgery worked, but was unusable.

It seems I have a calcium build up in the way. The doctor told me not to worry. I had to do more ultrasounds on my arms and they’ll reschedule another surgery. He said my kidney doctor seems to think there’s no hurry on it. Which is not what my kidney doctor told me. That, and it can take up to 6 months to get it working.

It’s been almost two weeks since that happened. My arm looks like someone beat the crap out of me. New, angry bruises keep showing up, while the others are fading. I was finally able to straighten it out a few days ago. The pain was unbearable. I ended up using the pain killers they gave me for surgery that I didn’t end up needing at the time. Still, they didn’t touch this pain. My wrist aches as the weather gets colder and my tendinitis is acting up. Most likely from the way my arm was held as they tortured…I mean, worked on me. I keep being told I have the best kidney doctors and surgeons around. Yet, I feel miserable. Not from my kidneys though. No pain at all there. The pain is all from what they’ve done. I haven’t mentioned everything.

I’m thankful at this moment that I feel no pain from my kidneys. I’m stressed beyond belief though. I keep trying not to be. It’s hard. So many bad things keep happening. I cry every time someone asks me how it’s going. Then I get mad at myself for crying. I have always been the independent one and now I have to rely on strangers. Let doctors and government decide if I get to live or die based on their rules.

This is my daughter’s senior year. I looked forward to sharing her excitement with it. There’s still so much to do until graduation. But the last few months have all centered on me. And I hate that. I’m trying to turn things around though. And hey, like I said, I have most of what I need to get done to get on the transplant list.

So, this is why this blog has been neglected and I’m sorry. Will still try to make something of it though. I’ll feel better. I’m sure.

Thanks for listening.


Ah! So There’s Where the Sun’s Been Hiding

©2015 T. R. Gates

     I used to think I’d write a lot more if I lived somewhere near the beach. That inspiration would come as I sat in the sun’s rays with the sounds and scent of the ocean nearby. It seems calming, inspiring, mind clearing.

     I need that right now.

     New York can be so dreary during certain times of the year that cabin fever can set in for months. While reading and writing by a warm fireplace seems ideal, the winter blahs tend to hit hard around February to April.

Normally, I could fight it. Enjoy the warm fires, the hot cup of cocoa, and a good book. The ideas just flow. But this long, frigid winter kicked butt. Not just mine, either. Everyone I talked to in this area seemed depressed and miserable. Irritable even. Of course, it didn’t help that the cold made way for dozens of flu and viruses. Get rid of one and another one came along. Or, that there were days so cold we didn’t dare get out of the blankets. My fingers were too cold to even to type.

We all needed a vacation. We needed warmth.

My husband, daughter and I went to Florida to visit his father. It was our 5th trip since my father-in-law moved there years ago. We go every time during Spring break and watch the temperatures and scenery change as we drive south. It’s nice going from frigid, windy, dreary weather to bright, sunny, heat. It’s a nice little break before returning to finish winter. The most we spend is usually on gas back and forth. We visit a few beaches, but my father-in-law’s house is on the lake. It makes it convenient to go out in the boat, or watch wildlife. Which, I admit, distracts me from writing.

Tricolored heron on Bird Island in the center of Cedar Lake. New Port Richey, Florida.  ©2015 T. R. Gates
Tricolored heron on Bird Island in the center of Cedar Lake. New Port Richey, Florida.
©2015 T. R. Gates

If my husband had his way, he’d be out fishing every day for the rest of our lives. If I had mine, I’d be taking photos of the wildlife every day. Worked great for us both as we went out in the boat each day and enjoyed ourselves. (Of course, we had to take our daughter to the mall and to Tarpon Springs since, if she had her way, she’d be shopping every day.)

We find something new each time we visit. In 2013, I took photos of adult and baby alligators in the lake. Keeping my distance, of course. We discovered that large soft shelled tortoises lived there. Both were something that my father-in-law and neighbors didn’t know where there. They were used to the white ibises, great blue herons, cattle egrets, anhingas, wood storks, and a bunch of other types of birds and animals hanging around a tiny island in the middle of the lake. This year, I photographed tricolored herons and glossy ibises, both seemingly new to the island.

Nesting Tricolored Herons ©2015 T. R. Gates
Nesting Tricolored Herons
©2015 T. R. Gates

I had fun taking over 400 photos. Showing a few of them here. As distractions away from writing go, these are some good ones.

Glossy Ibis  ©2015 T. R. Gates
Glossy Ibis
©2015 T. R. Gates

Our week went by too fast. I miss the warmth already. Even so, my winter blues are gone and my creativity has returned. Yay for that! Did I mention I paint too? Well, I haven’t in over a year. With all of these photos, inspirations returned for a few of my creative outlets. Writing is among them. Even though I’d been distracted away from it while vacationing in Florida.


Make My Day

Once, I caught a man in our front yard. With leash attached to the dog’s collar and gripped in the man’s hand, he watched as his dog urinated on our newly planted bushes. Right then I realized why one underside of the bushes kept turning brown and how long he must have been doing it.

I admit it. Surprise and anger hit me all at once. First, I’ve never seen this man before. To my knowledge, no one in my family had done anything to him. Secondly, the bushes were nowhere near the sidewalk. He walked his dog into our yard on purpose. Third, our house sits on the corner between two streets, but there is a large mowed field on the other side. Plenty of space for his dog to go. All he had to do was walk five more feet. And finally, this jerk acted like he owned the place as my friend walked by with her daughters, who were coming over for a play date with mine.

“Do you know that person?” my friend asked when I opened the door.


I still don’t know who he was, but he got an earful from both of us. He said nothing though. Just walked on, a little faster, as if he’d done nothing wrong. He wasn’t the first person to allow his dog on our lawn rather than go those few steps to the field. After that, my husband and I finally gave in and bought a couple, “keep your dog off our lawn”, signs. I hated it. It looks horrible, but the darn things have kept people off our lawn. I never thought they would. We also put up security cameras. We’d been considering getting them before that anyway. No reason to wait.

I could give you a list of the wrongs people have done. How it seems unbelievable that anyone could be so thoughtless, rude, or cruel. From those refusing to move aside as they take up an aisle at the grocery store, to someone stealing my neighbors furniture from their front yard after their home went through a flood. It can seem like the world is full of horrible people. More than once I’ve thought of becoming a hermit. I’m just not sure I could pull it off.

But, thankfully, I’ve seen good and kind people too. Even if it seems they’re one in a million.

Take yesterday, for instance. What can I say about this winter? Well, it sucks. The snow is hard. The ice is thick. The town seems to have forgotten our street even exists. When a plow does finally come — sometimes days later — it speeds through the middle of the street leaving the sides thick and the salt thin. They don’t do this with the other roads around us though. They’re nice and clear. Once our neighbors and us slip and slide through our street, the rest of the roads are safe going. I swear it’s because there are only six houses left and they don’t think anyone drives down it. They’re wrong.

Yesterday was grocery shopping day. My van moved two thirds of the way out of the driveway before it got stuck. I’ve had that thing for a few years and it’s never happened before. I tried driving forward. Nope. Tried backward. Nope. Tried a few times. Uh-uh. It didn’t even rock. Just sat there, tires spinning away. I messaged my husband, who was at work. Then I turned on the hazard lights, grabbed our ice breaker, some rock salt, even kitty litter, and got to work. I’ve never seen ice cake the road that bad before. It wouldn’t even break at first. Eventually, it did though, but in small pieces. It was slow going. As I worked, the grade school bus turned down our road. I signaled that I was stuck, but he made it passed my van anyway. Whew. After that, other vehicles went by. Do you think anyone stopped to ask if I needed help? No. The lady across the street (the one with a dog that barks the moment it steps outside and doesn’t shut up until it goes back in) came outside to her car, looked at me, and drove away. She came back five minutes later, sat in her car for a while and then drove off again. Not long after that, a man turned the corner onto our street. I know he doesn’t live this way. There was plenty of space for him to go around me. He chose to sit there, glaring at me as if that could make my van move. He did this for a while before he finally backed up and drove the other way.

“Thanks for your help,” I said as I tried to drive forward and backward again. Nothing.

A neighbor up the street walked by with her four dogs. “Are you stuck?”

“Yes,” I said.

“Oh, that sucks. I’d try to help you, but I need to get to work.”

“That’s ok. Thanks anyway.” I understood.

By this point, I was about forty minutes into it. My husband was on the way, but it would be a while. Then another neighbor got in her SUV. Her driveway is across from ours. So, it took her a little bit of maneuvering to get out around my van. Then she got stuck. Lucky for her, it took little effort before she was able to get out. Her SUV slid down the road, but she made it. Not a word to me though.

Not long after, the other lady who lives there came out. I’ve known her for fourteen years. We’ve helped her out a few times. She’s borrowed our tools too. Once I saw her, I thought, “Whew. Finally someone will offer to help.”

She walked down the street without a word. Really? Really people? Is this the kind of world we live in now? I miss our old neighbors. They would have come right over the moment they saw I needed help. No, not any of these younger ones.

I shouldn’t say that. We do have one who would have helped if she, or her fiance, were home at the time.

Eventually, an older lady walked around the corner with her golden retriever. I thought she’d be like the others and walk on by. I wasn’t prepared for her to actually stop.

“Are you stuck?” she asked.

“Yeah.” I knew I’d be sore later.

“This ice is awful. I got stuck yesterday. It took forever to get out. Do you need any help?”

I nearly cried. Finally, someone offered to help. I let her know my husband was on the way. I didn’t know what she could do. She offered to push one way or another, but I didn’t think it was safe. The driveway is slanted. She told me they used boards to get her car out. Once she let her dog in our backyard we looked for some wood in the garage. Tried it a few times. It wasn’t going anywhere. Just wasn’t getting any traction. She stayed with me coming up with ideas for around fifteen minutes, but nothing worked. I could tell she was getting cold. So, I thanked her for being so kind to try to help. It meant a lot. Even though we didn’t get anywhere, it was nice to know someone was willing to try to help a stranger.

As she was leaving, I noticed some puddling where I put the rock salt. I broke the ice carefully at the tires edges. Then shoved kitty litter by them. The van moved! I parked in the driveway, relieved. It took over an hour to free it. All on a little bit of ice. How ridiculous is that? Two minutes later, my husband drove up. Figures. He broke up more of the ice and cleared it out so that I could get groceries without worrying I’d get stuck again. Yay!

I’m glad that ordeal is over. I’m also glad that lady took a moment to offer help. It just proves there are still caring people out there. It made my day.


Finding My Niche