Hummingbirds, Spiderwebs and My Left Foot

hummingbird in flight

Anna’s Hummingbird at the Feeder

Hummingbirds flap their wings about 55 times a second!   The resulting sound is soothing, like a constant heartbeat. We have three feeders in our garden, in addition to several of their favorite flowers. When the plants are in bloom, the Anna’s Hummingbirds enjoy Salvia (we have four) and Abutilon (we have six).

While taking pictures of my lemons for a different post, I could hear one flapping over head.  I took a few shots near one of the feeders, before she flew past me into the shrubs. For the first time, I saw her dip her beak into a spider web. I managed one shot before she flew away.

hummingbird gathering spiderwebbing

Anna’s Hummingbird Gathering Spiderweb for her Nest

Did you know that hummingbirds line their nest with spider webs? They also eat soft-bodied insects when they’re feeding their young. The prospect of a nest of hummingbirds nearby has me feeling giddy.


It’s been almost three months since my foot surgery. If you’re new to my blog, you can catch up here.  Dr. Sheth said I’m actually “ahead of schedule.” She kindly added that she thought my positive outlook and my commitment to following the healing protocol all worked in my favor.  So while I still have some pain and swelling, I have the all-clear for walking again.  I’m one happy woman.

Catching Up, Slimming Down and the Long Farewell to Sugar

Hiking Trail

Almaden Quicksilver Hiking Trail

The first Monday of the year rolled around and the house emptied out. My eldest son returned to college, his brother went back to high school and Mike headed in to the office. It seemed time for me to get off the couch and rejoin the world as well.

In late December I put on a pair of shoes for the first time in months. Then I went for a short, albeit painful walk around our local park. Meanwhile, my crutches, knee scooter and foot brace stayed home.

Though it will be awhile before I can hike on local trails, it felt good getting out for a stroll.

Then I saw my doctor on Monday.

She’s been pleased with my progress at every post-op appointment, but this time she looked concerned. Dr. Sheth said that I was doing too much, too soon, using polite phrases like “you’re an optimist” and a “go-getter” while telling me to slow down. The swelling I assumed was normal is actually my body’s way of telling me to please back off.

On the brighter side, she prescribed physical therapy to strengthen the foot and to reduce the edema. I’m going three days a week for treatment: heat and ice therapy, ultra sound, manipulation and exercises. Although the exercises are work, I feel pampered too. Drew and his team are a warm and caring group of folks. I’m learning how to get rid of my limp and I’ve also gained a better understanding of the healing process. Tendons do not have their own blood supply so they take longer to heal than a broken bone or an injured muscle. Who knew?

All this brings me to my word of the year: Health.

While I have many good habits, I have bad ones, too. Simply put, I’m a vegetarian who likes junk food. Shortbread cookies, rich chocolate of any kind, soft taffy and Red Vines. Raise your hand if you know what they all have in common.


I’ve been in a life-long, dysfunctional relationship with the sweet stuff. My height and rabbit-like metabolism kept me slim for many years, so I never gave it much thought. About a decade ago I started gaining weight and joined the ranks of dieters. I increased my exercise from four hours a week to seven. I lost fat, but I didn’t lose weight.

All roads lead to refined sugar. It’s a powerful drug, all dressed up in creamy chocolate, buttery cookies and chewy bites of candy. Swoon.

Sitting on the couch for the past eight weeks while recovering from surgery didn’t help. Extended couch-sitting during the “season of sweets” means I’ve started this new year ten pounds heavier. Add that to the extra fluff I’ve been struggling to lose and I’ve moved past slim to a weight that feels uncomfortable for my health and my self-image. Enough.

I want to focus my emotional energy this year on improving my health. Saying goodbye to sugar is at the top of the list. Some people can moderate their intake, but I’m not one of them. There are other areas I want to focus on this year.

  • I want to walk and hike pain-free
  • I want to return to Pilates two days a week
  • I want to add a yoga class
  • I want to return to my practice of Mindfulness

Hopefully those last two will help support the hardest of the goals: showing sugar the door.

Is there an area of your life that you struggle with despite your good intentions? What do you think about the idea of choosing a word for the year?


Just Call Me Grace

sharon's way rampThe good news: I’m fine.

The embarrassing news: I took a dive on the sidewalk this weekend. Human error. It almost always is.

I was heading down the ramp on my knee scooter, moving from the deck to the sidewalk. I was planning to sit in the sun while my husband hung lights on the house. As Mike backed out the car, I slowly headed down the ramp, hand breaks fully applied. That scooter can really pick up momentum on an incline.

Just as I reached the curb, the front wheel of the scooter made a small detour. The wheel found it’s way into the corner of my freshly tilled garden. Gravity took over from there.

Every cliché applied.

I knew I was going down.

Time slowed to a crawl.

My brain screamed, “Protect your foot!”

As the scooter stopped to re-calibrate in that freshly tilled hole, momentum carried me forward. I felt myself sliding over the top of the handles.

All sorts of awful things could have happened.

None of them did.

I landed in front of the curb garden bed, managing to drag part of the scooter with me. My injured foot flipped up in the air, but escaped further damage. I rolled on my back, stunned and scared, newly bruised and feeling utterly ridiculous.

Mike got out of the car, found me lying on the sidewalk, and said “What have you done now?” before helping me up. He doesn’t rattle easily. He brushed the leaves out of my hair and helped me back into the house.

Five days later, I have a sore neck, a bruised shin and a renewed respect for gravity.

I know it could have been so much worse.

Now it’s your turn. Surely you’ve made a fool of yourself at some point in your life. Do you have a juicy morsel to share?

Native Garden, My Left Foot and a Bit of Bad News

Our new and sustainable native garden is moving into the home stretch. The last swath of lawn is history.

native planting

Native Plantings will grow up to fill this space Design by Bergez & Associates, Installation by R. J. & Associates

Trichostema 'Midnight Magic' Hybrid Blue Curls

Trichostema ‘Midnight Magic’ Hybrid Blue Curls

This didn’t happen over night. First to go was the sidewalk strip almost two years ago. It took some convincing around here as both my husband and younger son like the look of the lawn. While I too can appreciate the lush, green swath of suburban grass we grew up with, it’s not sustainable. Four years of drought and mandatory water-rationing helped my case and the lawn is finally gone, replaced with California native plants that are more than happy to spend a summer without water.

Last fall, Mike agreed to removing half  of the lawn in our back yard. When the boys were young they played for hours on the grass. As teens, their interests lie elsewhere. So over the course of a few weeks, I gathered cardboard and leaves and gradually sheet mulched the area. It worked beautifully. By spring of 2015, the lawn was history, leaving behind a nice, healthy, organic swath of earth.  Calls for further rationing this summer meant turning off the sprinkler system entirely, leaving a sad-looking patch of dead grass in front of the house.

For years I mowed the grass myself. I had a manual push mower like my dad used to have and spent an hour each weekend mowing to and fro. I hated edging, but that had to be done too. Weeds grew among the turf, so out they went as well. Mowing a lawn week after week, I realized is less like gardening and more like mopping the floors. It had to be done, but it was tedious at best. Then I had a baby, and three years later his brother. My husband traveled extensively, sometimes gone for a week or more. We eventually hired a lawn service to come once a week and in local parlance, they did the “mow, blow and go.”

Now that all that grass is gone I feel liberated, but it’s come at a cost. I’ve put a friend out of a job. Nick took over the job of maintaining the lawn after Mr. Tran retired. Our sons went to school together. I hired Nick to build our little free library and I refer him to my clients for handyman jobs as well. Everything we do has a price.

My Left Foot

I saw my super-cool doctor again this week for my second post-op visit. She removed layer upon layer of bandages and gauze, the brace and finally the stitches. My foot looks other-worldly. The wound site is still tender but she’s pleased with the progress. They used cryogenic amniotic tissue to graft the damaged tendon. It’s supposed to reduce inflammation and speed healing while suppressing scaring and adhesions. Amazing! There’s a short video explaining the technology via the National Institute of Health I think it’s fascinating. Dr. Sheth sets a high bar for patient care and bedside manner. I’m so fortunate to have her on my team.

Dr. Sheth with student

Dr. Sheth (left) and a medical student shadowing her that day

Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Two days before my foot surgery I had a skin biopsy on my arm. The dermatologist suspected squamous cell carcinoma. I got the call last week confirming the diagnosis and asking me to schedule surgery. It’s a thirty minute procedure, done by a skin surgeon in their office. They layer down till they get what they call the margins. With early diagnosis, there is a 95% cure rate. The scariest part of this for me is how quickly it appeared. I have skin checks twice a year because I’m at high risk for skin cancer. One day I was fine, and then a large, painful sore appeared on my upper arm. I was pretty sure I had some sort of insect bite.

If you’ve been putting off getting something checked, please schedule with your medical provider today. Early diagnosis is key.

new landscaping collage front

Front Garden in Process

I sat outside on the deck for about twenty minutes yesterday after the crew finished mulching. It was brisk but a welcome change of scenery. As you can see, I had company. These kitties bring me comfort every day.

Unremarkable Achilles Tendon

That was the good news.

I met with my doctor last week to review the findings of my foot MRI. Now that I know what’s going on, it explains why all the other interventions weren’t working. In medical speak, I have a:

near-complete tearing of the peroneus brevis. The tearing begins just posterior to the lateral malleolus and extends the length of the tendon to its distal insertion on the base of fifth metatarsal. Impending complete tear/rupture cannot be excluded.

There is an approximate 2.4 x 0.7 cm conglomeration ganglion cysts abutting the periphery of the peroneus brevis at the level of the lateral malleolus inferior tip.

and finally, the partial tearing/longitudinal split tearing of the peroneus brevis tendon demonstrates prominent intrasubstance cystic dilatation of the tendon measuring approximately 4.2 x 1.2 cm throughout the length of the tendon from the lateral malleolus to its distal insertion. Findings likely represent prominent intrasubstance ganglion cyst formation within the torn tendon.

Did you get all that? I think Google Translate should add medical terminology to their list of translatable languages. I really struggled to understand the report.  In short, I need surgery

I’m already feeling emotionally vulnerable getting my son off to college, so the tears bubbled up. It was a lot to take in

Dr. Sheth wants me to have surgery yesterday and I want to have surgery never, so we’re trying to come up with a compromise. I’m getting a second opinion on Monday, but I don’t expect a radically different approach. After leaving Sheth’s office with my report, I stayed up till 2 am researching the specifics.  My stomach did a few cartwheels after viewing the more graphic images so I finally turned away form the computer and carried my weary bones to bed.

I’m worn out from months of dealing with the escalating pain, and now the added burden of wearing a pneumatic walking brace. I have a pitiful case of Feeling Sorry For Myself.

alys and kelly big chair

In lighter and brighter news, Boomdee is coming to town! I can hardly believe it. Just one week from today, she’ll swoop down from the great city of Edmonton, bringing her special brand of joyful effervescence. We’ll talk for hours and we’ll laugh and sing. Seriously, we sang the Boomdeeadda song into her smart phone on one of her prior visits. You can hear our musical debut here.  We’ll stay up too late because there is always one more thing to say while I’ll do my best to slow time. I. Can’t. Wait.