The lonely tale of Mr. Sage and Mr. Thyme

Sage sproutWell, after letting more and more days pass without seeing any activity in the rosemary, oregano, and catnip pots, I’ve decided to add some fresh seeds to each of these and give them another go. I don’t really have a Plan B for the herb garden, but I have my dirt-covered fingers crossed that at least one of these will join my happy sage and thyme sprouts.

Speaking of which, the sage is looking lovely and healthy if not a bit odd in shape. Since I rotated the pot last week, they have curved completely in the other direction to follow the sunlight. I’m curious to see how they will shape themselves as I continue to turn their pot once a week. Oh, and how lovely, their itty-bitty leaves smell! I am truly enjoying my herb garden, even if only a couple of the plants are growing.

Good day Mr. Sage, hello Mr. Thyme

I have been saying hello to Mr. Sage everyday this week. He has returned the kindness by sprouting a couple more stems! It now appears that both types of sage that I planted have managed to grow. I’m not sure have very different they will be taste-wise, but the last time I had a herb garden, sage was one of the plants I wished I had more of to experiment in my cooking. Well, I’ve certainly got my wish!

Thyme sproutSo many people in the world wish for more thyme or maybe they wish for more “time”. In either case, I am happy to report that the thyme pot is no longer void of greenness. There are bunch of itty-bitty sprouts that have popped up, unfortunately all in one clump. I say “unfortunately” because I’m not sure that it’s such a good thing. I was hoping to have two or three separate thyme plants in the pot, but all the seeds I dropped in one hole seemed to have emerged. For now, I just keep cheering them all on.

There’s been no activity in the rosemary, oregano, or catnip pots. I’m not too sure how long I should wait before I decide re-try those. The catnip feels like it was a bit of a long shot, but I would happily give it another try. I have noticed how much my little sage and thyme sprouts reach towards the window for the sunlight and I’m still trying to decide if they are in the best spot or not. Obviously they are getting sunshine, but they sure do seem to want more. I think I will rotate the pots around, which should help straighten the sprouts up a bit.

This little herb garden of mine

Towards the beginning of September I finally got the gumption to plant an indoor herb garden. I’ve been slowly (oh, so slowly) collecting the seeds and pots. The supplies weren’t the real hang up for finally planting the garden though. Since we moved into our house about a year and half ago, I’d been a bit stumped as to where I should put the herb garden. Sure we get plenty of light, Calgary after all is one of the sunniest cities in Canada. It was more that I had been greatly spoiled by our old apartment in B.C., which had wide windowsills that could happily accommodate potted plants. No such luck in our house though, and so each time I thought about getting out the bag of soil and seed packs, I had to face the “small” issue of where the pots would go once filled.

Sure I could put up a small side table near the front window, but would the cat get into too much mischief with it there, seeing as she has claimed that area as her window to the world? Surely the kitchen would be the most appropriate and convenient spot for the herb garden, but with only one north facing window with a sink below, how would it work in there? Perhaps the office or sewing room could play house to the garden? I nix the sewing room idea as soon as I’ve had it. There’s just too much stuff on the go in there already. The office is not too full, but that’s because we still haven’t finished painting and getting things more permanently set-up in there. It is starting to become the “stuff-it-in-there-for-the-time-being-room” and will surely become full soon. So the herb garden is more likely to become buried behind miscellaneous bits in there. — At this point I’ve made my house sound a mess, but it’s not really. We’ve just managed to ignore a couple of rooms since moving in, as one tends to do once you get caught up in the daily routine. — And so I was back to considering the big front window, with its eastern exposure and beams of morning sunshine.

Pot of thymeI finally wake up one September day and think, “Alight, today I’m planting that darn herb garden that I’ve been thinking about so much, and then let slide off the to-do list too often.” I drag out the soil, the pots, the seeds, and trowel, and that’s when I start to doubt myself. “I’ve never really planted anything from seed before (I know, it’s hard to believe). Do I really know what I’m doing, or should I be reading about planting from seed before I do this?” And so the questions start to flow, but then I think, honestly, what’s the worse thing that could happen? They don’t grow. Fine, then I’d just try again. See, simple. So I grab the trowel and loving scoop and scatter and water, until I’ve got my five things planted: sage (two different kinds actually), rosemary, oregano, thyme, and catnip (yes, must have something for miss kitty in there). Now the defining moment of where should these lovelies live? I grab a folding TV dinner-style table and set it up below the front window. “Below” being the key word here as the table is not nearly tall enough and the plants sit well below the windowsill. Hhmmph. Well. It will just have to do, I tell myself.

As the days continue to past and I wait expectantly for something to sprout forth, we experience the rainiest and darkest September in recorded history (that’s not an official statistic, but I can’t remember a September like this before). I start to worry about the success of those little seeds, but one random morning, as I sit crocheting on the couch (still recovering from surgery) a patch of sunshine peaks through the window. I sit and watch it move across the living room and see all the spots that it reaches, and watch as it sadly, misses my herb garden that is perched just in the shade of the window. I put my crochet hook down and scoot some things around in the living room (just a rocking chair and big potted plant, in case you’re worried that I’m lifting couches when I shouldn’t be). I take all the pots off the side table, re-position the table near the television, and place the pots back on. Viola! A sunny spot for the herb garden.

Sage sproutA couple weeks still pass before I see any activity in the pots, but I don’t give up hope. The sun comes out more and more towards the end of September and by the beginning of October, we are finally having a lovely “summer” (yes, our actual summer months were truly crappy). And then it happens. I come home from work and plunk myself down on the couch for a few quiet minutes, when I glance over at the herb garden. There, a speck of green is peeking out. I jump up and peer into the pot. Mr. Sage has decided to make an appearance! Thank you lovely sunshine for finally coaxing them out of their dirt home.

Perhaps Mr. Sage will be able to convince some of his companions to join him. Until then, I wait patiently knowing that at least I managed to grow one thing from seed and many, many weeks from now I will be using fresh sage in my cooking. Oh, how I have missed having an herb garden!

Nancy and I (part 3)

Felt starfishI had all sorts of grand plans of crafting that I wanted to do while I recovered, but I started out with reading. I had stocked up on some new paperbacks (working my way through some Charlaine Harris books) and also pulled the entire Harry Potter series out to re-read. Sipping ginger ale and cranberry juice while reclining with a book became my new routine. Eventually I gained a bit more mental and physical energy and eased myself back into crafting. I started out simple with just some hand sewing. I’d been working on these starfish decorations in between other random projects for a while. It was very relaxing just sorting button and thread colors.

I then moved onto a fairly simple crochet project (“simple” because I didn’t have the patience and energy to worry about counting stitches or working row patterns). My friend at work is expecting her first baby towards the end of October and I was really keen to make her a baby blanket. I already had a bunch of granny squares made-up and it turned out to be the perfect number for a baby-sized blanket. Prior to my surgery, I had the forethought to organize the layout of the squares and number each one, so that when it came to assembling them, it wouldn’t take much mental power. I sat watching an assortment of borrowed dvds (the likes of “The Lakehouse”, “Calendar Girls”, “In Good Company”, “Waking Ned Devine”, etc) and attached granny square to granny square and row to row until I had completed a sweet little autumn baby blanket. More details on this particular project to follow.

Crochet nappy pantsWhen I finally started to feel like I had the energy to try out a new crochet pattern, I turned to Tina Barrett’s Natural Crochet for Babies & Toddlers. It was love at first sight with this book! For a super avid crafter, I don’t buy a ton of craft books, not because I don’t want to. Seriously, I would go crazy ordering craft books till every shelf in our house was filled and then some, if I could. Being on a tight budget though, I’m often inclined to spend my crafty funds on supplies rather than inspiration. However, Tina Barrett’s crochet book was just too lovely to pass up. I borrowed it from the library originally just to flip through and when I realized I wanted to make every single pattern in the book, I ordered it. The first project I attempted from that book was the nappy pants. So very adorable! Although I wasn’t able to make them out of fancy natural soya or cotton called for in the pattern, since I had to make do with my stash, I think they turned out pretty cute.

After finishing my first pair of nappy pants I started thinking about Christmas. I haven’t a clue why, but I just started thinking about what to make people for Christmas and that led to thinking about how last year I never got a chance to try making crochet snowflake ornaments for our tree. I mentioned this to my mom and on one of her post-surgery visits she brought all of her old snowflake patterns gathered from magazines from the 80s, white crochet thread and the smallest crochet hook I’d ever seen. Between all of her patterns and ones I tracked down online, I kept busy working up snowflakes. I actually got pretty frustrated trying to make them and I had a hard time reading the patterns, but before I decided that maybe snowflake making was too advanced for me, I tried a pattern posted on Attic 24. Although the Lucy’s pattern uses a DK weight yarn, and I used crochet thread, I loved the shape of the snowflake AND I was finally able to understand how these darn things worked up. So I simply added some more rounds and with my usual improvisation ended up with a nice little snowflake.

It was like a light bulb went on (or I guess in this case a glowing snowflake) and I eventually made these guys too.

Crochet snowflakeCrochet snowflakesCrochet snowflakes

From Christmas, my thoughts turned to Halloween. I know, that was sort of in the wrong order, but who can control one’s crafty thoughts? After my adventures in snowflake making, I started thinking about decorations for Halloween. What could I crochet for Halloween? I liked the idea of making something similar to the snowflakes, that I could starch and hang, but with a Halloween theme. I poked around briefly online, but didn’t find what I had in mind. So I figured I could make it up, after all I had just completed six snowflakes, how hard could it be? After some experimenting, it turned out to be a bit difficult, but not impossible and I managed to created these creepy little friends.

Crochet spidersCrochet spidersCrochet spider

Phew! Well, I managed to complete quite a bit during my weeks of recovery. Definitely didn’t waste the time off and all the lovely crafting kept my sanity!

Nancy and I (part 2)

Three months passed quickly with not much changed and we found ourselves back in the doctor’s office discussing the state of my fibroid. We arranged to have tests done on my husband to ensure that he wasn’t “shooting blanks” as so many like to folks say. I had a bunch of blood work done and another ultrasound. The ultra sound indicated that the fibroid had now grown to the size of a cantaloupe, which was about a two-inch increase. This started to worry me more. Waiting around for me to get pregnant was giving Nancy, the fibroid, time to grow and further complicate things. My symptoms had been getting worse. Heavy bleeding two weeks of the month is not fun. Missing work because of heavy bleeding and painfully crippling cramps is not fun. Having to pee every half hour to hour is just plain annoying. And being able to feel and see a strange lump on your lower abdomen, that you know is not a fetus, is very disconcerting.

This is when Plan B was formed. We would go ahead with surgery to remove the fibroid and hope and pray that all the worse-case scenarios of hysterectomy and infertility would be avoided. My surgical date was set for August, a mere four month wait. It had already been a year since it was first discovered, and at first the thought of waiting four months to have the surgery didn’t bother me much. We had a lot of family events to fit in during that time (my brother was getting married in Poland and we would be travelling there for it), but as the months went by and I was in increasing discomfort, I got anxious to get the whole thing over with. Two months before the surgery, I was actually starting to look pregnant. In fact, I was mistaken as such a couple of times on our trip to Europe. It was pretty devastating and frustrating to think that all I was growing in there was a big ugly tumor. The fact that I looked so much bigger, had me quite worried about how much it was actually growing. Oh, how I started to really hate Nancy.

By August 4th 2010, my surgical date, I was nervous and simply exhausted. Heavy bleeding, constant soreness, worrying, bloating, all of it, was taking its toll. Not to mention the extreme emotional rollercoaster that had been our lives since June. We had managed to fit in the marriage of my middle brother, the death of my father-in-law, the marriage of my husband’s niece, and the near death of my oldest brother. I was ready to check into the hospital and focus on myself for a time. I can’t say I wasn’t nervous, because I truly was. I’d never had to stay in the hospital as a patient and as they rolled me through the doors to surgery and away from my husband, I started to tear-up.

The procedure was very invasive. The size of the fibroid required an abdominal myomectomy, which is open surgery with a large incision and a long recovery period. I found out later that the surgery itself went quite a bit longer than anticipated because they were having difficulty removing the entire fibroid through the horizontal incision that was made. A vertical incision would have given the doctors more room, but would have been even more difficult to heal. In then end, the fibroid turned out to measure about 12x12x10 inches, close to double the size since the last ultrasound. It weighed just shy of 5 pounds! I had almost forgotten what my mostly flat tummy looked like!

I will save you the details of my “fun” at the hospital. I stayed there for four days and was then able to go home. My hubby worked from home the first week, so that he could be on hand if I needed any help with food and such. I had already arranged with work to be off for the seven weeks that my doctor and surgeon had determined I would need to recover. It was slow going. Sleeping was incredibly difficult. It was weeks before I could even lay down flat without the support of every pillow in the house. I slept a lot. The first two weeks were literally just getting up to take pills, eat, shuffle a little loop around the house and then back to bed. Repeat several times a day. My constant companion was our cat Chloe. She loved the hours spent dozing in bed, but became frustrated when she found out that she couldn’t sleep on my tummy or crawl on me. I had to resort to keeping a pillow on my lower abdomen to keep her from causing a painful shock as I slept. Oh, but I wouldn’t have dared denied her companionship during the many weeks at home. There really isn’t too much photo-wise to share in regards to my journey with Nancy, the fibroid, so here is a photo of Miss Chloe instead.

Chloe in the sun

Nancy and I (part 1)

In April 2009, my doctor discovered that I had fibroid growing on my uterus. At the time, the ultrasound indicated that it was about the size of a grapefruit (oh, yes, doctors do seem to love equating growth sizes with types of fruit). I was definitely a bit shocked and nervous when I first found out. What the heck was a fibroid? Why was it growing on my uterus? And how would this impact my ability to have children? My head filled with questions, which my family physician didn’t seem too keen to answer her self. Instead she referred me to a specialist. In Alberta, that process sadly means that you wait about a month before finding out if you’ve gotten an appointment somewhere, and then wait another 6-12 months for the actual appointment. I was so severely disappointed by all of this. My family physician assured me that the fibroid, which is a type of tumor, is very, very, rarely cancerous and that was supposed to comfort me during my 6-12 month wait to see someone who could tell me what was going on and what my options were.

Of course, the worry about cancer still clung in the back of my brain, but what I was most concerned about was how this would affect my chances of having children. Would the fibroid continue to grow during the long wait to see a specialist? And if so, would that put my fertility at greater risk? My husband and I had finally reached the stage where we were excited to start trying for children. We’d spent the six months before my diagnosis moving back to Calgary to be closer to our families, getting good jobs, buying our first house, all in preparation for starting a family. Beyond all these things, we were both finally truly looking forward to having children and having them soon. It had never occurred to me that we might run into obstacles with that. Of all the things we’d struggled through, surely getting pregnant would be the least difficult. This strange fibroid discovery de-railed all my preconceived notions of easy or straightforward childbearing.

During the anxious wait to talk to a specialist, I hit-up Wikipedia for information and took out books from the public library about fibroids. I learned about all the various types, the symptoms, and treatments. I tried to educate myself as much as possible and kept a list of questions to ask the specialist when I finally had my appointment. Without getting into too much complex stuff, basically, a uterine fibroid is a type of tumor that grows from the tissue of the uterus. They are not sure why they start growing in the first place, but they do rely on the presence of estrogen and progesterone and often grow rapidly during high estrogen states (like pregnancy). They can be quite small or quite big. You might have just one at a time, or you may have several. They can be completely asymptomatic, causing no problems, or they can cause a whole assortment of problems (pain, heavy bleeding, extreme bloating, miscarriages, etc.). Through the course of all of this learning and trying to adjust, I decided that my fibroid needed a name and so for what ever reason (I can’t even recall) I began referring to it as Nancy. Nancy and I didn’t get along all that well, but I was stuck with her and she with me for the time-being.

Eventually, my appointment date arrived (sooner rather than later with persistent calling). Accompanied by my loving hubby, we sat and discussed the issues, the options, and the worse- and best-case scenarios. The main concern the specialist had was that the fibroid was a fairly large for someone my age (28 at the time) and also I hadn’t had children yet, which we did want to do. So we formed Plan A, which was to start trying for children. With luck, I’d get pregnant and we’d just have to monitor the fibroid throughout the pregnancy. However, if I didn’t become pregnant within a few months, we would start doing some testing to ensure that everything else health-wise was good with both my husband and myself.