chronic illness, Health, life, mental health, MS

May Garden Tour

Aloha! Since my backyard urban farm in-development has taken up all my focus and energy and I haven’t been writing at all, I thought I’d share photos of how I’ve been staying busy.

Honestly, it has become a full-time job. There are days when the MonSter awakes and I drag myself out of bed hardly able to face the thought of all the tasks calling for attention. But I make myself get out there every day at least for 20 minutes. Usually that ends up with me outside all day.

Besides the obvious advantages of all that vitamin D and fresh air, I know that digging in the dirt is helping rebuild my immune system and my gut microbiota. So even on the toughest days, I rest a lot but I make myself do the lighter tasks. The trick is to not focus on everything that needs to be done but to put the blinders and just do one, small, task.

Anyway, enough of that. Have a wander through our garden.

Food garden, Lavender , buddleias, wallflower, chives, irises, onions, beets,
10 years ago this was a grassy hill.
Chives,   Snapdragons , lilies ,  succulents , irises,lavender , lilac, buddleia
All the boulders, dirt and driftwood were hauled in and set by hand (and occasionally a rickety dolly with flat tires) by my very determined and creative husband. Those are the boots he wore out during the first few years.
Lilac, iris, lupin,  cosmos, daisies, Corsican mint
We obviously don’t play much bocce ball. 😏
Angelica,  alpine blue,  garden steps
One of my favourite statues because I bought it with a gift certificate from one of my grade one classes.
Rockcress, alyssum, lavatera, wallflower, buddleia, lavender ,garlic, kale, lithadora, ornamental  oregano , snapdragons, iris, strawberries, peonies
The oldest part of the garden. We found the sign buried when we moved in. The alyssum(bottom) reseeded itself from last year.
Petunias, onions, rose, garlic
Pallet deck at the top of the garden.
Hopefully one day a greenhouse.
Lemon, blueberry , kiwi,  artichoke, cucumbers, beans, onions, garlic, carrots, dill, nasturtium , leeks, petunias
Top garden – the Mediterranean garden
Lemon tree, artichoke, kiwi vine, blueberries and apple trees in the distance.
Oh, and that pepper in the tub is called a “ring of fire”. 🤣🤣🤣
Artichoke bud, food garden
Here comes an artichoke!
Daphne, Angelica, garlic, peonies, buddleia, Rosemary, lupin
Mid-garden
New vegetable bed growing zucchini, cucumbers, carrots, radishes, leeks, kale, dill, kohlrabi and buckwheat. Little bird was a Mother’s Day gift from my girls.
New vegetable bed beside the rhubarb and
the Nelly Moser clematis(far left) and anemones (right) finally flowering!
Instead of being chowed down by the deer. 🤞🏻👩🏻‍🌾🤞🏻
Apple tree bed growing onions, beets, potatoes, kohlrabi, radishes and carrots.
View from the apple tree bed
Barbie skinny dipping with a 20 year old bath toy.
Hmmm…that sounds strange… 😳
View from the bottom, the newest part just finished this year. This is where we mostly sit because it’s cool and shady beside the cedar hedge.

I know not everyone is fortunate enough to have a yard to garden. But even a small pot on a windowsill can grow parsley, basil and cilantro. Food security is a serious issue that has finally been brought to the forefront of people’s minds because of the Covid-19 situation. Start small and grow your own!

Alright, thanks for joining me. I didn’t even get to the vegetable beds by the house, but I’ll leave that for another post.

Take care, stay calm and stay safe. And garden!

❤️ Amanda

chronic illness, MS

Crafts and chronic illness

I recently had some surprising reactions to the fact that I’ve been playing around with watercolours and calligraphy. Surprising, as in not terribly positive or supportive.

So, partly to get it out of my head but more importantly to share the BEST little craft for us spoonies, I decided to pass on another discovery.

First of all, as to the why am I doing ‘weird’ things like watercolour and calligraphy? Ummm…have you met me? Well, most of you haven’t, but whatever. Besides being Handy Mandy, I’ve always been crafty like that.

Handmade candles for 250 at our wedding, many Halloween costumes, school costumes for my students’ annual plays. Oh, and my extended family has always loved getting handmade gifts for Christmas. BAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

Too bad, it amuses me. 🤓

My happy place

Anyway, the crafties have returned because the writing muses have gone on strike, or fled to a tiny house in Timbuktu. Also, I like learning new things so the rest of my brain doesn’t join them.

And the truth is, I spend a lot of time resting, not by choice. Sitting on my butt reading, watching tennis or skating, because that’s all my body will tolerate.

Fatigue is a son of a bitch. Worse for me in the winter. But even though my body is pretty much permanently conked out so it’s like moving through setting concrete, my mind wants to be doing something productive.

So at the moment, I am queen of the simple crafts. I’m so excited to decorate for our handmade Christmas, but that’s another post. And not handmade gifts, as our children feared when I mentioned it last night. Just decorations people, you can all relax. 😂

Right now, I have to share the best craft I’ve found that I can do with little effort and not even looking – finger knitting! So simple and forgiving but the possibilities are endless.

I had a 6 year old try to teach me in my last year teaching but I was already struggling so focusing on the instructions while multitasking in a busy classroom was beyond me. Boy she was patient as she tried to teach me with so many interruptions and my clumsy brain and fingers tangling everything up. Sweet kid.

Anyway, in the quiet of my bedroom I’ve figured it out and it’s perfect. Here’s the link I used to learn:

https://m.wikihow.com/Finger-Knit

If I ever knit anything beyond a long string, I’ll post it here. 😏 Planning to try for a scarf. People make all sorts of cool things with it though.

❤️ Amanda

Now I found out you can finger crochet too – look out!!

chronic illness, life, Poetry

Voodoo Doll: MS Awareness

Huge stakes pierce my heels

Burning red hot fire

Millions of minuscule knives

Flay the insides of my feet

A giant vegetable peeler slices off

The bottoms

*

I’m sorry to those I squashed

Those I looked down upon

From any temporary high ground

I believed I held

I am your voodoo doll

And you will have your revenge

Over and over

*

The burning piercing spreads

To hands, up legs, then forearms

Who needs to work on abs

When they stay contracted constantly

Holding in the moans

And the nausea from the pain?

*

I’m sorry to those I squashed

Those I looked down upon

From any temporary high ground

I believed I held

I am your voodoo doll

And you will have your revenge

Over and over


I don’t really believe that my chronic illness is a matter of revenge, but it’s an easy trap to fall into when I’m trying to pretend all is well but the pain is overwhelming. I think of myself as a kind person but I know in my past immature, insecure life I wasn’t always the best person I could be. However, we can only go forward and try to do better.

Kindness is the answer.

❤️ Amanda

chronic illness, life, MS

Some people – Practice kindness

I had a really wonderful then upsetting experience yesterday. I was in the ‘accessible’ lineup at the grocery store – simply because it was the shortest line, I’m still totally mobile. I left my cart to get another item and when I came back the cashier had put up her ‘closed’ sign but said I was fine because I was there before she closed.

As she was checking me through, very attentively asking me about the weight of the bags, saying how she was always careful because you never knew if someone had had shoulder surgery or something and how would you know?

Wonderful awareness for invisible illness, which is rare, but in the meantime, an older (72-ish) gentleman in a motorized wheelchair was waiting at the end of the belt trying to get her attention. When I signaled her, he asked if she was closed for a single bag of chips. She explained that she had no choice, she had to close and not take any more customers.

The man was understandably shocked that as a visibly disabled person she couldn’t bend the rules to make his day just a tad easier. To be fair, she was a lovely young woman who was following the rules – too young to really understand the implications of rigid rule-following.

I offered to check the chips through on my account, had her scan them and passed them back to the man. He insisted that I take the money from his bag and seemed a bit offended when I offered to pay. Finally I begged him to let this be the nice thing I did for the day and he laughed and let it go.

Then he got stuck. In the accessible aisle.

I offered to maneuver the chair but he said it was too heavy. It just took time for him to figure it out with his fisted hand that he could hardly control as he was wedged between the two counters.

He looked up at me and said, “This is just what it is to have MS.”

After a gulp, I responded, “I have MS too. I’m not where you are but I get it.”

He looked at me with tears in his eyes, went back to un-wedging himself and when he was free said, “Thank you very much. I really appreciate it.”

A wonderful exchange. Simple human caring and courtesy.

As I finished checking out, I saw that the same gentleman was slowly making his way out of the grocery store. A woman about my age was behind him with her cart, maintaining a respectful distance as he tried to make his body makes its way out of the store.

Just as he was almost through, a man with a single item, again about my age (ie.not a teenager or early twenties, ie. SHOULD KNOW BETTER) came up behind and yelled, ‘BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!’

WTF? Are you kidding me??

The asshole is lucky I couldn’t catch up with him or he’d be needing an ice pack.

chronic illness, life, mental health

Milestones and Reflections

At the beginning of June, I celebrated the first year of my blog. It was a huge step for uber-private me last year but the response once I finally faced my fear and hit publish was unreal. I can’t believe I have over 500 followers. More importantly, I can’t believe the support I’ve received and the friends I’ve made in this wonderful community. I’m so grateful. Thank you all. 💕

On this day four years ago, I received my MS diagnosis in the morning before going back to school for the last afternoon with my class. I didn’t know it would be the last afternoon I would spend as a teacher at the time.

It’s been an interesting journey, to say the least. The physical symptoms, especially the fatigue, stopped me teaching but the mental gymnastics associated with being chronically ill really stopped me in my tracks.

Fear, grief, anxiety, depression, guilt. Oh, the guilt! Learning to say ‘I can’t’ – especially to my children, forcing myself to stop when I ‘should’ get a little more done, unable to enjoy the good days because I ‘should’ be working.

I’ve learned to mostly maintain perspective when the anxiety and depression hit because I know it’s temporary, no matter how black. The fear hits pretty strongly when my body does it’s weird party tricks. (numbness, tingling, burning, buzzing, dizziness, tinnitus, spasms, trembling, pain and the fatigue that courses through my veins. #msawareness)

But life is scary for everybody in one way or another. Perspective.

The guilt has been the nastiest of the negatives. It comes up over and over and I’ve struggled to gain the same perspective, especially on the good days. I’d love so much to be back in the classroom that when the uglies lessen a bit, I forget how bad they are and feel I should at least try to go back to work. When they inevitably reappear, I remember why I can’t do the job I love so much.

Four years on, I’m done with the guilt on my good days. I won’t compromise the health I’ve regained since I stopped working by forcing myself to go back to work. And I won’t waste the bonus time I do get feeling guilty anymore, dammit! So there, MS. 🤗 From now on, I’m doing ‘jazz hands’ any time the guilt creeps in – haha!

This day marks a milestone for each of our younger children as well. After knocking our socks off at her Variety Show on Monday singing ‘Defying Gravity’ – (check out my instagram or facebook for the video), our youngest is finishing her last day at elementary school. It’s truly the end of an era, as we started there an unbelievable 15 years ago when our eldest was in kindergarten. Not to mention that my husband and his mother also went to the same school!

Our son is finishing his last day of high school, heading across the country to study Economics at Western University in September. Needless to say, we are incredibly proud of his achievements so far and excited for him, but there will be a big hole in our family that will take getting used to. It’s all as it should be and we can’t wait to see where he goes with his life. This kid is motivated!

Finally, our eldest got her first car so now we have our own taxi 😉 she’s embarking on a whole new level of independence and financial responsibility. We have no doubt she’ll manage her shiny new car with her usual attention and responsibility, and have lots of great adventures in the years to come.

So it’s the end of June and the beginning of summer vacation. The garden’s in great shape, the kids all have exciting plans for the summer, and we have lots of camping planned in our new tent trailer. It’s going to be a great summer!

❤️ Amanda