Tuesday, June 30, 2009


Whenever I was slogging through another Hong Kong summer of rain, heat and humidity, I would wonder if Austin’s summers of triple digits day after day after day would seem better or worse. I found that first summer in Austin simply unbelievable. Missouri temperatures would occasionally rise into the 100’s, but it was usually a temporary, and unusual, occurrence. Not so in Austin. By late July the highs were consistently 100+ degrees, and stayed that way week after week. I remember walking across the mall parking lot on one of those days and thinking you could die out there amid the asphalt and cars shimmering in the intense heat. That was the word for it, intense.

See how the heat makes the plants in our yard droop! And we have a sprinkler system!

Hong Kong summers were pretty nasty, but once the endless days of rain stopped, usually by the end of June, it wasn’t unbearable. The highs were in the low 90’s, and although the humidity usually matched the temperature, at least you could always go to the beach or the pool! And if you went to Central you could walk almost everywhere without ever going outside. The air conditioning in most places of business was cranked so high that you had to carry a sweater where-ever you went. Somehow it made me feel a little cooler to watch the Asians stroll purposefully down the street, looking cool and calm under the umbrellas they used to protect themselves from the sun.

Summer in the City, Hong Kong Style

The heat hit early this year in Austin. By mid-June we were already into triple-digit days. Even the natives were upset by this early onslaught of the worst of summer. We’ve had at least two weeks of this weather, and although today a “cold front” blew through, bringing some much needed rain and cooler temperatures, it’s temporary. The long-range forecast calls for more 100 degree days.

Every time I step outside in this weather I feel assaulted by the heat. I scurry into my air-conditioned car or house as fast I as possibly can. I’m still running of course, but even getting out the door before six only means I get to run when the temperature is in the high seventies, still very hot for long distances.

For some reason this weather has had me thinking of summers past. We never had air conditioning in St. Louis when I was growing up in the ‘50s. In fourth grade my parents finally got a window air conditioner and put it in their bedroom to make it easier to sleep. I remember the novelty of the cool air in their room, but it seemed like a luxury, not a necessity. And when I went off to college in 1970 the dorms were un-air-conditioned, as was every place I lived until I moved to Nashville in 1975. And I really don’t remember suffering very much or feeling uncomfortable. It’s pretty amazing how our bodies adapt to the weather. I feel like in the past five years I’ve become a complete wimp. I can no longer handle hot OR cold weather! I guess the only thing left for me to do is move to the Caribbean, or California! Ya think? :)

Friday, June 26, 2009


When we put in the new carpeting in the bedrooms it looked great with the light tan walls in most of the house. One bedroom, which we use as an office, was painted blue. The blue looked fine with the old carpeting, but the new carpeting is a shade of brown. With the blue walls, not so great. So we decided we needed to paint that bedroom a different color.

It took me a couple of months to work my way up to wanting to paint again, but I finally felt ready to tackle this last bedroom. Off we went to Lowes, a scrap of carpet in hand. We found a “beach umbrella” colored yellow and a creamy brown that looked great with the carpeting. Our plan was to paint one wall brown, and the other three walls yellow. Good plan we thought, until I started painting. That yellow more like a yield-sign than a beach umbrella! Way too dark, way too shiny, way too everything! I painted one wall in hopes that the color would improve but finally we decided we couldn’t live with such a brilliant shade of yellow.

Back to Lowes we went again. This time we went about three shades lighter. Much, much better!

I painted two walls yellow and one wall brown. The brown wall was a bit of a challenge. They said one quart was enough paint, and it was, but just barely. It took Lee helping me scrap the very last bits out of the can before everything was covered. I think we should have mentioned how heavily textured the walls were. It takes more paint to cover textured walls.

I’ve become a better painter with all the practice I’ve had painting this house. I kind of like it for some reason. It’s a task that has a definite beginning and end, and it’s not something you have to do over and over again, like house-cleaning! But Lee is a really excellent painter. He says he’s painted hundreds of walls over the years. He doesn’t need to tape woodwork; he can paint the edges free-hand. I’m very impressed by his talents in this area (as in so many others)!

Because we have painted over fairly dark blue walls with two very different colors, even with taping, there are places along the edges where the blue shows through. Lee has to paint those edges. Then we can move the furniture over and I can paint the last wall. I think then I will need another project. I wonder what it will be?

Friday, June 19, 2009

If You Don't Want to Read About Menopause, Skip This Post!

I’ve been going through a stop-start-stop-start introduction to menopause for around two years now. The current official definition of menopause is cessation of menstruation for 18 months. My periods have stopped for 3-6 months at a time about 4 times now. Just when I start thinking “maybe this is really it” I’ll have another period and have to reset the counter. This particular go round is into month 3…so we’ll see what happens next.

I have had a great deal of hesitation about fighting the symptoms of menopause with drugs. After all, it’s a natural, normal part of living and getting older. And I don’t suffer that badly. My main complaint is hot flashes. I actually wouldn’t be bothering to write this post at all if it wasn’t for the strange experience of having a hot flash.

I know these are different for everyone, but here is what happens to me. I start to get a sensation of heat. It rises from somewhere inside me. It’s very different from going “whew it’s hot in here”. Instead I’m going, “it’s hot in ME”! As the sensation develops I have a variety of reactions. Sometimes if I’m not busy doing something else, I stop and observe the sensation. There is a bit of a “rush” involved which is probably the heated feeling moving through my body. Sometimes I break out in a sweat, but not always. Occasionally I have a sudden attack of anxiety along with the hot flash. I leap out of bed, or once, ran out of the room I was in until I gathered my senses and reminded myself that the sensation was internal and I couldn’t escape it by moving somewhere else.

I think I would simply live with this except for the effect it has on my sleep patterns. As we get older its normal for our sleep to get interrupted more than it used to. I’m a very light sleeper to begin with but hot flashes have been waking me up 2-4 times a night. The strange thing is, I will be woken by a hot flash, but once it passes I go right back to sleep. I also don’t usually feel tired during the day, so I must be getting enough rest. But it still can’t be healthy to have my sleep interrupted so consistently.

The other thing, and it’s a big thing, that concerns me about menopause is osteoporosis. To say it runs in my family is an understatement. My mother broke her hip. My father broke his hip. My aunt (my mother’s sister) broke her hip, and my grandmother broke her hip, twice. I started getting bone density exams in my mid-forties, and bone loss started showing up soon thereafter.

Science has gone through rather recent developments while discovering what can be done about bone loss and how to prevent it. When I started getting the bone density exams, around ten years ago, there was Fosomax and drugs like that. They are supposed to prevent bone loss and even reverse it, but you have to be careful. Taken incorrectly these drugs can cause severe esophageal problems. I’ve been taking some sort of bone loss medication for three or four years now. It helps, but only to a point. My bone loss has definitely slowed down, and even stopped in some areas of my body, but it has not reversed.

Several years ago, doctors started suggesting that I take medications for hypothyroidism, or low thyroid production. The dosage I take has gradually risen, as my thyroid has gotten more sluggish, and doctors have gotten more aggressive in the use of this medication. The thing I didn’t understand until the doc I went to in Hong Kong took the time to explain it to me is that a sluggish thyroid affects bone density. Once I understood that I got more enthusiastic about taking this medication. I’ve recently changed to a different type of thyroid med called Amour, that is supposed to be more efficient. We shall see.

The other thing doctors are practically gaga about nowadays is vitamin D. In Hong Kong the cloudy skies and pollution ensured that much of the population was vitamin D deficient. Wearing sunscreen may help protect us against skin cancer, but it also filters out the vitamin D. There is an increasing body of evidence that vitamin D deficiency affects bones in more ways than just preventing rickets in children. So my doctors started me on higher and higher doses of this vitamin. My latest doc actually wants me to go off of the bone-density meds and try very high doses of vitamin D instead. I’m willing to do this for the 6-9 months until my next bone density test. If it doesn’t work I’ll go back on the bone density meds.

I feel kind of like the science is evolving as I age! I’m trying a bio-identical hormone cream for the hot flashes. I’m still having the flashes, but it’s only been a couple of weeks so I need to be patient. I think the cream might be giving me strange dreams though! I’m very sensitive to male and female hormones and notice changes fairly readily from their application, so I’m cautious. There’s no point in solving one problem only to create another!

Overall I am very lucky health-wise. In spite of some of the serious problems some of my relatives have experienced I’m in really good shape for a lady in her mid-to-late fifties. I’m fit, happy, on an even keel, and the potential health problems I do have are being treated (and I have the insurance to treat them).

So all-in-all I’m not complaining. I’d like the hot flashes to go away, but they won’t kill me, at least in the short run. In the long run…well pick your poison, you know? :)

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Mount Bonnell and Mayfield Nature Preserve

On Friday morning instead of taking my usual walk around the neighborhood for a non-running exercise day, I hopped in the car and drove over to Mount Bonnell. Mount Bonnell is the highest point in Austin. I had already driven over to that area, just to see how to get there and what it was like. It’s over by Laguna Gloria, the Austin Museum of Art, so I already knew that it was in a hilly, beautiful area of Austin.

Austin isn’t mountainous by any stretch of the imagination, but its definitely hilly on our side of town. Austin kind of sits on a divide. To the east toward Bastrop and Houston, the land flattens out. You run into pine forests and different plants and animals. West Austin is the beginning of Texas Hill Country, without question the most beautiful part of Texas. Well I guess I shouldn’t say that, since I guess some people would say Big Bend and the Rio Grande should lay claim to that. But the hill country really is beautiful. None of the hills are huge; I think Mount Bonnell is around 875 ft above sea level. But the land is full of rolling undulations and endless valleys followed by steep inclines. In the valleys in the springtime flowers bloom and little creeks roll over rocks.

So I drove to Mount Bonnell and parked in the spaces provided at the bottom of the steps. Now Hong Kongers will laugh; to get to the top of this “Mount” takes 108 steps! Heck, the Big Buddha has close to 400 steps, and most of our hikes in Hong Kong included at least one trek up 800-1500 steps. So 100 steps is truly nothing, and as a workout Mount Bonnell was a disappointment. But the view was really nice! It was quite panoramic.

In one direction I could see UT and downtown Austin.

In the other direction the hill country spread out endlessly, with Lake Austin and the Hwy 360 Bridge providing a nice contrast with the mansion-covered hills.

I needed more exercise, so as I was driving back home I decided to stop at the Mayfield Nature Preserve, close to Laguna Gloria and see what they had. They had some nice trails that I explored for a bit, and what looked like a beautiful garden, that I decided to save for another day.

The True Blue Flower Gail featured in her gardening blog the other day was right along the path!

And, they had peahens and peacocks! The peacock was quite entertaining. He put on a show, and I could only assume this was just for me, since the other peahens had wandered off, and I was the only female around! He kept turning in a stately circle, as I crept after him with my camera. It was a nice way to end a very pleasant morning!

First he coyly peaked at me around the corner...

Then he spread his beautiful feathers!

Delighted, I crept closer and he started to turn, first one direction...

And then the other!

For more information about Mayfield, click here: http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/parks/mayfield.htm

Friday, June 12, 2009

Tom Faulkner Paintings

Last week I went over to a new friend’s house for coffee. We had a good time chatting and she gave me a tour of their home. I kept being distracted by these amazing paintings that were everywhere, on almost every wall of their house. Finally I said “I really love these paintings! Who is the artist and where did you get them?” She told me that a very good friend of theirs created them. He recently passed away (this past winter I believe). She said he was a very talented person with all sorts of different abilities. The paintings were completed in the last couple of years of Mr. Faulkner’s life. He used acrylic paints, very thickly applied, so that it took them very long to dry. He would set the painting outside and let the elements affect the final results.

Sometimes they would be rained upon.

Sometimes the sun would bake them.

And one painting even has the residue from being buried in snow!

I just thought they were beautiful. I’ve tried to find him on Google, without any luck. He wasn’t a professional artist, but he certainly could have been. His friends are hoping to be able to get a gallery somewhere to do a show of his art. I hope they are successful and that he gets some recognition for his amazing work.

Thank you Kathy for allowing me to take photographs of your beautiful paintings and publish the results on my blog!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


This week I’ve actually had a fun thing to do almost every day. It’s good because I’ve started getting bored and when I get bored I get into bad habits – eating, TV, shopping…

On Monday I went to a meeting of a group called Women for Good Government. They are a liberal political group. They’re not a PAC and they’re not part of the Obama umbrella groups that have formed to get various legislation passed. I went to lunch with the ladies and then to their meeting afterwards. I liked them a lot; quite a few of them had lived overseas and they were intelligent and fun to talk to. But….they are quite passionate about Democratic politics and very active, maybe more active than I really want to be. I don’t want to be a precinct captain! The thought of block-walking and knocking on stranger’s doors fill me with dismay. So, I don’t know….I’ll certainly try a few more of their meetings and see if I think I fit in or not. I went to a meeting of the kick-off for Obama’s Healthcare initiative, and although I support some sort of healthcare reform, being that politically active is just not for me…

I’ve contacted the League of Women Voters here in Austin and now that may work out well, if we stay. They are large enough to have study groups and I think I would really enjoy participating in one of those. I like the League because they are non-partisan and because they use consensus to take a position on issues but don’t support individual candidates. I may help out with an Austin Energy conservation study group.

Then yesterday I went to a coffee for new members of the Newcomers Club. This is where the bittersweet title on this blog entry comes in. It reminded me SO much of AWA in Hong Kong. And, while it made me very happy to think that I’ve found a group that will give me an opportunity to participate in all sorts of fun activities – mahjong, hiking, needlearts, lunchbunch (sound familiar?), canasta (CANASTA????), it also made me incredibly sad. I miss my friends in Hong Kong. I miss the AWA. Rats, rats, rats.

I guess this is what they are talking about when they talk about the ups and downs of repatriation. This was definitely an up/down all mixed up together. I need things to do that get me out of the house and keep me from spending all my time obsessing over deer or laughing at the blue jays because they weigh too much to be able to eat out of our bird feeder (It has a weighted bar that closes the feeder if something lands on it that weighs more than a certain amount. Keeps out the grackles, blue jays and mourning doves and lets the cardinals, nuthatches and chickadees eat their fill. It drives the blue jays crazy though. The other big birds give up but the blue jays keep landing and flying off in frustration, sitting in the trees complaining with the squirrels.) See why I need to get out of the house!

Today I’m going to do a couple of fun things. I’m going to bake bread for one thing. We bought a Kitchen Aid mixer; a beautiful machine. It has a dough hook so you can use it to knead bread. My first effort wasn’t very successful but I’m going to try again. I have a great recipe that includes polenta and millet (high fiber). The second thing I’m doing is at 1 pm I’m meeting the sweet young lady that does my brows (her name is Mandy Wright) at Nordstrom’s for an eye makeup lesson. I’m just about out of eye-shadow and I’m ready to have somebody help me buy the right colors and teach me some new techniques. As we age our makeup needs change so it’s good to take a lesson like this every couple of years.

I have other things to blog about…paintings, hormones…but they’re going to have to wait until another day. If I don’t get out there for my walk soon I’m going to be sorry. Its 8 am and its already 78 degrees!

Deer Adendum

I know I said enough about deer...but a couple of days ago I saw the three babies, this time with three moms. So, it really was a playgroup, and apparently the mamas babysit for each other! How funny...

Yesterday I also saw a teenager with the beginnings of antlers. Shoot that's like when our kids get their car keys: antlers = raging deer hormones. Which means fights, and random attacks on trees. Sigh.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

A Ha!

I've captured the deer...yesterday afternoon a regular playgroup of fawns was in our neighbor's yard, so I crept out on the deck and shot these pictures. Still having trouble figuring out the correct light setting though - our yard is incredibly shady!

Here's the playgroup. I don't know why there were three of them today. They can't possibly all belong to the same mother!

Here's one of them staring at me. The babies were scared of me; the mama couldn't care less!

Here's one of the babies with the mama.

Lots of yummy grass to eat in my neighbor's yard. Now, you all just stay away from MY plants!

I was going for a walk yesterday morning and saw some deer in the yard of one of my neighbors. They were agitated and I soon realized why - one of the deer was actually INSIDE a tall iron wrought fence! "Wow", I thought, "How did he get in there?" The fence was very high, higher than a deer can jump. I kept walking slowly, watching the situation with interest. And then I realized that there was something else in the picture - there was a woman in the back yard as well. And guess what she was doing - feeding that d*mn deer! She must have let him into that yard. Some people have no sense.

Okay, enough on deer...!

Thursday, June 4, 2009


Like the title? Haha, gotcha…no, no humans that I am related to are pregnant, thank goodness…this entry is about deer…

Okay anyone that has known me for any length of time already knows this – I HATE DEER. Hate them hate them hate them…O WHY? Do you ask? They are so cute, they are pretty, how can you hate Bambi? What’s wrong with you woman???

Well, here’s the thing, I’ve be “blessed” to live in areas with a surplus of deer for most of my home-owning life. Deer are destructive, and dangerous. They eat plants. In Missouri they ate our tomatoes, our strawberries, our daylilies…heck, they came right up on the patio and ate my hostas! And they wandered out onto roads willy-nilly, leaving damaged cars and sometimes injured drivers and passengers in their wake.

And if you get up close to them, they really aren’t that pretty. The deer in Missouri were fearless and came right up to our bird-feeder, peering in the kitchen window curiously, so we could see their mangy, parasite-ridden coats.

Our neighborhood in the hill country of Texas is absolutely jam-packed with deer. They don’t seem to bother to wander out on to the highways that much; they’ve got it way too good off in the secluded hills and valleys where subdivisions have flourished around Austin in the past 30 years. Many of our neighbors have tall, spiked wrought-iron fences, the better to be able to grow a flower or two, and maybe keep the deer from falling into their swimming pools, who knows. But we don’t have a fence, at least not yet. They’re expensive, and since we don’t know what the future holds…but I digress.

A couple of weeks ago, we discovered a mama deer and her new-born baby hanging out under our trees. I mean, a brand new baby fawn, barely able to walk. Now, even I thought this was pretty cool. So, we’ve been following the progress of the baby deer. This mama actually has a pair, twins I guess. I’ve been dying to get a photo of them. The other day I was coming back very early in the morning from taking Lee to the airport and I saw them, right around the corner from the house. I quickly put the car in the garage, grabbed the camera and walked back up the street. They were still there and I began snapping away, but dang it, it was too dark for my little camera. This morning I was on my way to run and saw one of them crossing the street. But alas, I didn’t have my camera with me.

You can see the deer eyeballs in this picture, but not much else!

I tried a different setting, so you can see a blurry picture of a baby crossing the street, but there still wasn't enough light.

I’m conflicted. I want them to walk across our yard so that I can go out on the deck and get a picture of them. But yesterday I went out to see how our plants were doing, and discovered that the deer have been eating some of our new bushes! Rats! So I got out the Liquid Fence (a repellent) and sprayed it along the perimeter of our yard. That will keep them out for a couple of days, hopefully. But last night I thought I heard something creeping through the yard behind our house. What’s a matter with those animals? I thought…don’t they know that stuff stinks?

So, no good pictures of the baby deer yet. I’m going to try to be more diligent about bringing my camera with me and maybe I’ll capture them before they turn into completely annoying grownups.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...