Monday, September 08, 2008

Oh, my crazy baby

Try to hold on tight
Joan Osborne -- "Crazy Baby"

Our almost 200 year old home survived the storm on Saturday just fine, with just a few limbs down and several bushels of walnuts to pick up before we can mow. The house is as right as rain, as it has been for almost 200 years. A house built to withstand the ravages of time and weather.

I can't say as much for our mental health.

On a good day the Short People are what most people politely call "busy" or "energetic"; code words for "high energy" or even "pain in the ass". They do not, I repeat, do NOT like to be at home or have to entertain themselves for long periods. My girls like to be On The Move at all times. They wake up each morning, rub the sleep from their eyes and inquire "What are we going to do today?" and woe to the parent who answers "nothing".

As an aside, this makes living on the Eastern Shore very difficult during every season but summer, and all of those activities are OUTSIDE.

So being confined to the house without the ability to play outside, combined with the very real threat that the power might go out, was more than the Short People could bear. I had, as part of our Hurricane Preparation Kit, socked away some crafts and activities but we ripped through those faster than Hannah. We even painted a birdhouse, which they completely covered in paint in 2.8 seconds and then asked for the next activity. We also had a dance party, courtesy of A & N Electric, who managed to keep us in power (thank you!) the whole day. Can you say Cupid Shuffle? What can I say, the Short People apparently like a line dance.

We also enjoyed quite a bit of dress up, as you can see. Yes, that is a tiara Tracy is wearing in the first photo. Later India modeled her very creative "Ariel" look, replete with a red scarf for hair and a mermaid's tail hanging out of her p.j.s. I know, the p.j.s are both Valentine's and Christmas; what can I say, at least they match...sort of.

In short, we weathered the storm but ended up with a nice case of cabin fever. Hurricane season isn't over yet...time to go restock the arts and crafts.

And maybe a bottle of wine or two?

Friday, September 05, 2008

I built this ship - it is my making
And furthermore my self control
I can't rely on anymore
I know why - I know why
Crazy on a ship of fools
Crazy on a ship of fools
Turn this boat around - back to my loving ground

Robert Plant -- "Ship of Fools"

Or perhaps I should I have started right off with "Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip...".

We decided to celebrate Labor Day with a group of our friends on Cedar Island, another of the Barrier Islands that line Virginia's Eastern Shore. Six families (13 children ranging from 12 to 2) were to meet at around 10:00 Monday to spend the day and cook lunch on the beach. We planned to push off around 3:00 so we could all return home for a leisurely evening of prepping for the first day of school on Tuesday.

Out of the six families, three of us have boats. This poses no problem; we can easily fit an extra 3-4 people in each boat. of our boat-owning families experienced a boat casualty the day before so we were down to two. Okay, no worries, we regrouped and just ran an extra shuttle trip back and forth. Within an hour we had all 25 people safely relaxing on the beach. The children were playing and swimming, the adults were exploring ( one found THIS above... we are assuming it's a whale bone) and enjoying Mary's Famous Margaritas. It was FUN.

The most enjoyable part of the trip was what the kids dubbed the "Hubba Hubba Highway". The HHH consisted of entering the water in front of our boat (braver children jumped off the side of the boat), then letting the current,which runs parallel to the Island in this spot, carry them past three boats to a designated exit spot. Even some of us adults rode the HHH. It reminded me very much of childhood tubing trips in the mountains...floating down a lazily moving current.
So relaxing.

Finally it was time for some of us to head back. Our friend John (see "Worries to the Sea" part I) ferried one family and just DID NOT RETURN. None of the guys were worried (their theory was that John was on a beer run) but after excessive nagging the wives finally convinced Tracy to go in search of John. And boy did he find him.
John was sitting on the dock, literally covered from head to foot in black marsh mud. He found John's boat a good 300 yards away, stuck in the marsh. Apparently John's steering had gone out, causing the boat to go kamakaze and catapult John into the water. This is a very, very dangerous thing. The Shore is full of stories about people who have been thrown from their boat and either hit their heads and been knocked unconscious or been sucked into the propeller and cut to ribbons. John managed to surface and push the boat away from him and into the marsh, where the engine revved at full throttle, threatening to blow. John made his way through knee deep muck, cutting his feet on oyster shells, to cut off the engine before it exploded, and then walk through this mud back to the dock. So we are down to 5 families, 11 children, and one boat.

Tracy got John into his boat and then realized that OUR boat was not running properly. Now we are down to NO BOAT, lots of tired and cranky people (and that's just the parents) who want to go home and get ready for the first day of school tomorrow, and no way to get there. Thank goodness for cell phones; Tracy called us to tell us what was happening and we found rides with other boaters. Another lovely thing about the Eastern Shore...folks are amazingly friendly and accomodating.

Once we had recovered from our boating (mis)adventures, it was off to school for the Short People. India's first day of first grade was on Tuesday, and she ran to the car at pickup time yelling "First grade is AWESOME!!!". Let's hope they work on her vocabulary a bit, but we're thrilled that she is so happy. Kate's first day of pre-K was Thursday, and she was a little "nuwvus" but seemed to enjoy herself.

Each Short Person selected their own "first day" outfits but were not allowed to accessorize. We are experiencing an accessory ban here, mostly because they broke 5 bracelets in 4 days last week. Evidently some of this happened because they were playing "pets" and using stretchy beaded bracelets as "collars". They would tie a scarf "leash" to the "collar" and pull each other along, calling each other names like "Clarabelle" and "Fluffy". Yes, school couldn't come back around soon enough around here...we clearly ran out of fun things to do and were really reaching down into the depths of our imaginations. This leash and collar design looked waaaayy too S & M and also resulted in a multitude of brightly colored and very tiny beads scattered everywhere; the vaccum and I are still finding them. The accessory ban is for the best; if I let them they would arrive at school looking like Evana Trump.

Now we are battening down the hatches for the big storm. School was on a two hour delay this morning thanks to the weather; sometimes fog rolls in from across the bay before a big storm and this is what our yard looked like at 7:00. Time to go fill up the tub, pull out the batteries and charge the cell phones. Wish us luck!

Sunday, August 31, 2008


Hello old friend,

Its really good to see you once again.

Eric Clapton -- "Hello Old Friend"

Do people you've only known for 5 years count as old friends?

Perhaps it's just that the Arthurs feel like old friends, comfortable and easy. Always fun. As the old saying goes, they are who we would call if we needed bailing out of prison. Not that I think that's going to happen Mom and Dad(who don't want to think about such things) and Arthurs (who don't want to make that drive to Virginia), but if it were to happen, we know they would answer that call. Collect, even.

Now that they live half a country away we don't see the Arthurs as often as we would like, but Janice and I talk almost weekly and Pat still tries to make it to North Carolina for the annual Merlefest dude convention along with John from the previous post "Worries to the Sea I". Still, we miss them terribly, so when we had the chance to spend a week with them on Ocracoke, one of our favorite places, we were extatic.
Our house was AMAZING, as you can see from the beautiful photo of the back of the house taken from our boat and our fantastic view. We were able to dock our boat in the canal in the backyard; every day was spent on the beach and the fellas fished from the back patio every night. They caught around 10 species that included, besides the usual suspects, some sharks, some rays, some very nasty looking eels that even the crabs wouldn't touch, and a turtle.

The Short People and the Arthur boys are much more self-sufficient than when we did this two years ago, so we could relax without feeling that a child was on the verge of drowning at any moment. What a relief! We also needn't worry about a dealing with a fall down the stairs, a two year old with a dizzy spell, or someone coating their face and hair with vaseline when we weren't looking (yep, they all really happened on our first go 'round...I'm sure there were more calamities but time and the Margaritas have blocked them out).
Some things don't change. Of course, just like two years ago, Kate had us up at the Crack (Crap) Of Dawn every morning. That child has some kind of internal clock that I would like to reset but just can't. Maybe in 2010 she'll sleep until 7:30?

The highlight of our trip was taking the boat to a large sandbar near "Teach's Hole", the pirate Blackbeard's hangout where he guzzled rum and did whatever else pirates do - including burying treasure, or so the legend goes. Wouldn't you know it, but the kids found these mysterious "Xs" in the sand and when they dug, voila! Doubloons! And one for each child. What a coincidence. Someone alert the papers! Psssst...Pat was the one with the brilliant idea. I'd steal it if I were you.

The water on this bar was as clear as if we had landed in the tropics, and we saw skates, anemones, tons of huge hermit crabs, and great shells. The waves were so gentle; perfect for young children, and the sandbar was nearly empty. Heaven! Here is where I could have spent every day. I might still be there if they hadn't dragged me away. I cannot describe the unmarred beauty and clarity of this spot. The sandbars change every year, particularly after hurricanes, so who knows if I will ever see this sandbar again, but it lives on in my memory as the best day of our trip.

We also enjoyed the bounty of the ocean and I'm sorry that I don't have a photo to show off our fabulous feast. Or perhaps it's good you can't see what gluttons we were! We ate smoked bluefish, beer batter fried fresh catch (Pat's specialty), steamed blue crabs and clams, corn on the get the idea. It was better than I could possibly describe and all caught by us except for the clams (Pat found 2 so we had to cheat and buy some...we'll get lessons in clamming before our next trip).

The kids picked up playing as if they had just seen each other last week. It was amazing to see them together again; Joe and Gus were really the Short People's first friends. In fact the Short People liked each other SO much that Janice overheard Kate approach Joe and inquire "Joe, India wants to know if you like her". In typical guy fashion he had no clue what she was asking so he looked at her as if she were insane and replied "Uh, Yeah?". Kate then clarified (and here is where my concerns begin) "No, I mean, do you like , LIKE HER like her?"


I don't know what to be most disturbed about in that exchange...a) there were way too many uses of the word "like", b) that India and Kate understand a little more about boy/girl relationships than I think is proper for a 4 and 6 year old, or c) that India is using Kate as an emissary to do her dirty work. Sounds a little mafioso to me; next thing you know she'll have Kate bumping off her playground rivals. At least Joe had the good sense to be clueless like an almost 7 year old should be.
Boy/girl issues aside, clearly this was a fabulous vacation. And even if I couldn't find all the energy that I wanted, even if I was the first grown-up in bed every night, even if I didn't feel perfect every moment, the moments were wonderful. Thanks, Arthurs. We miss you!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Blue is the color of night

When the red sun

Disappears from the sky

Raven feathers shiny and black

A touch of blue glistening down her back

Lucinda Williams -- "Blue"

The code word is BLUE in the Key and Tyner families. I am going to have a NEPHEW! Since our poor father was henpecked by 5 aunts and a sister then went on to have 2 daughters and 2 granddaughters ( god, even most of our pets were female), I think he is going to be terribly relieved to have some testosterone in the mix.
We won't speak about the Short People's reaction to this news; let's just say that they are wearing tiny black arm bands and draping the mirrors. "Boys are yucky", they say. We're encouraging this sentiment in the (lost) hope that they will continue to feel that way until they are at least in college.

Please stop over at the Sunday Night Buttermilk Waltz and say congrats. Please also suggest a middle name for this poor baby; so far all they have is James ____________ Tyner. I am voting for Irwin or Rowen (or maybe Elvis...Clare is due near his birthday), Kate is hoping for Max, India likes William and Tracy is rooting for Alexander. But come on, people, let's get creative! Be funky! Alopecia, Chris Robinson, Shaft...everything is on the table at this point. If we don't help Derek and Clare the child may officially be crowned James Blank Tyner.

SO happy for you both ( even the Short People), and can't wait to meet little what's his name!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

She was a big boned gal

From Southern Alberta

You just couldn't call her small

K. D. Lang -- "Big Boned Gal"

It is official...I have a diagnosis. I have acromegaly.

What the heck is that, you say? That's what we said, too, when the doctor first started used the term.

Remember Andre the Giant? Robert Wadlow from Ripley's World's Tallest Man? They had acromegaly. This difference is that they developed the disease when they were children, which caused their haywire hormones to tell their bodies to grow without ceasing.

In adults, folks with acromegaly don't get taller, they just get BIGGER. Fat and puffy, bigger hands and feet (here's why you haven't seen in photos of me in quite a while). The copious amounts of steriods I have taken in the last 2 years haven't helped, either, nor has my inability to exercise. Acromegaly also causes enlargement of some facial features, ribcage, other places. And not only is your exterior growing but your organs can continue to enlarge as well, putting great strain on you heart and other organs. There are a myriad other unpleasant symptoms too. In me, it seems to be causing all of the sinus swelling, fatigue and immune system problems that have mystified my ENT and every other doctor I have seen for the last 15 years.

Acromegaly is rare, effecting about 1 in 25,000. It can sometimes be fatal if gone unchecked, and there are some scary things I am more at risk for now. I may have to have pituitary surgery, or may just have to take a very expensive injection every month for the rest of my life. We don't know yet.

Sound pretty terrible, I know, but despite all the frightening aspects of acromegaly I have to admit Tracy and I are so relieved. We were starting to lose hope; we've seen so many specialists and had so many false hopes dashed. To just have a name is a gift in itself, and the thought of a treatment that may alleviate some of my symptoms just sounds too good to be true. Does anyone remember the episode of the Cosby Show when Theo was diagnosed with dyslexia? His whole family celebrated because at last they had an explanation for his poor school performance and it was something he could receive help for. This is precisely how we feel, as odd as that may be. We have hope; something we have been in short supply of lately. And we have a plan, which both of us need.

When I was young my parents had a great book called "Grave Humor". It was filled with true, and hilarious, epitaphs. One of my favorites was "I TOLD you I was sick". We often joked it was the perfect motto for the headstone of a neighborhood hypochondriac. Now, eating my words, I feel like calling several physicians and others who have been both unsupportive and disbelieving and screaming that epitaph into their non-listening ears. Particularly those of us who are women have almost universally experienced being put down and ignored in the doctor's office, and I have sure had more than my share of that. It's nice to have confirmation for what my family and I knew all along...there really IS something wrong.

Another thought that plagues me is how lucky I am to have the resources and education to advocate for myself. The doctor who diagnosed me called me "politely pesky" and stated frankly that was the motivator which kept him on track in helping me. I reminded him that if I weren't "politely pesky" I would have given up years ago when one doctor in particular told me that whatever was wrong with me was in my head. I have had to be my own best advocate, with my very supportive husband by my side. I often wonder about all those people struggling daily with major health concerns because they do not have the ability to constantly push, call, write, and cajole until they receive help. Don't get me on my soapbox about the state of health care in our country...that's a whole other post.

As I type I am waiting to hear about an appointment at UVa with a pituitary specialist; please keep your fingers crossed that we won't have to wait months to get in. The waiting is what kills me...those of you who know me well that patience is not one of my virtues!

If you are interested in hearing more about this crazy disorder this is a great website: Overview.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


Sunset at the shoreline, we are laughing, breaking up,
Just like the waves
Are you feeling, feeling, feeling like I'm feeling
Like I'm floating, floating, up above that big blue ocean.
Sand beneath our feet, big blue sky above our heads,
No need to keep stressing from our everyday life on our minds
We have got to leave all that behind

I have worries to give to the sea...

The Avett Brothers -- " At the Beach"

Great minds think alike.

As Tracy and I spent Sunday evening on Metompkin Island with our friends John and Susan, watching the sun set, I was envisioning what a great post this would make. One of the most healing things for me is the ocean, and the above song perfectly expresses the happy lure of the sea. It has been a running theme song for our family this summer, even for the Short People who often request what they call "The Whistle Song" for it's infectious, you guessed it, whistling. Ironically, as we were leaving, John referenced "At the Beach" by quietly suggesting "okay, give your worries to the sea..." as we pushed off for home.
Metompkin Island is one of the series of Barrier Islands that line the seaside of the Eastern Shore. They are accessible only by boat, and are (besides our wonderful friends) hands down our favorite thing about living on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. Once you park yourself on one of these Islands you can easily be the only people there. While we could see several families at Cedar Island, the next island down, we were blissfully alone. During winter when cold, wet, fog-laden winds blow across the Shore from the Chesapeake Bay and there is nothing to do, we just close our eyes and wait for summer and THIS.

I sure did a lot of that waiting over the past winter. Once spring came and I could get back to the water I felt much better. I have been lucky enough to have 3 distinct experiences involving the sea that have all contributed to my rebound into the land of the living (and blogging) from that ugly place I spent most of the foul weather months. The other two will be covered in upcoming posts, but I just couldn't resist starting with this one since John apparently read my mind.

John and Susan are wonderful friends. Susan and I like many of the same things, were raised with some similar quirks particular to the South that we laugh about, and she is one of those people that is just easy to be with. She also struggles with some mysterious health maladies so we can often "get" each other when no one else does. John is one of Tracy's Merlefest buddies, has the most infectious laugh and is just one of the all-round nicest guys I know. Their daughters Ellie and Anne (my Goddaughter) are stairsteps to the Short People...Ellie 7, India 6, Anne 5 and Kate 4. They are perhaps my girls' closest friends, and you can see them hosting a dance party in our living room here. They are a fearsome foursome, for certain, and Susan and I joke that we are sometimes glad they don't attend the same school or woe to all their teachers! And us parents, too, when they all reach the teenage years at the same time.
But on this night we were able to have a rare moment sans Short People and just enjoy each other's adult company. We picked up a bucket of Tammy's and Johnny's chicken (Oh, you have never tasted fried chicken like this...there are always lines of people waiting for an order), grabbed some adult beverages and just sat. The fellas did a little fishing and returned with a couple of entertaining fish tales for us ("John caught a croaker that was THIS big!" and "Tracy hooked into a shark or something and it just took his line...he really needed some off shore tackle to land it") and Susan and I shelled and, believe it or not, did crossword puzzles (yeah, we're geeks) until it was too dark to see.
Then we remembered that the dock is unlit, so we took a quick boat ride to watch the amazing sunset and beat it back. I tried to take some photos of John and Susan's house from the water but it was just too dark by that point...wish I could show you. It is incredible and their view is perhaps the best on the Shore. You can see the gorgeous sunset here; this is John and Susan's view every night. We made it to the dock just in time; any later and we wouldn't have been able to see a thing. The greenhead flies could see just fine, though, and found me quite delicious as I held the boat line waiting for Tracy to back up the trailer. Susan ran with the DEET to save me from being carried off by the meanest bugs you've ever that's what friends are for.

We all agreed that we should do this again (with kids this time... maybe...if we have to) before it gets too cold and dark too early. What a fantastic way to end a day. Thank you, ocean, and John and Susan, for your friendship. And for taking my worries.

Friday, August 08, 2008

There are some things I used to be

Won't you find the will just to remind me

Kathleen Edwards - "Good Things"

I vanished for a while.
Mea culpa.

I think I have put off rejoining the blogging world because it has just been too hard to describe why I left in the first place. The short answer: I've been ill. The longer, and more accurate answer is that even when I had the energy to write I just didn't have anything pleasant to say.

Shortly after my last post (the red and green theme should give you a clue as to how long it's been) I was bedridden for a couple of weeks. India came to me crying and confessed to being very scared. When I asked her what she was scared of (expecting "the dark" or "the weird creaking in the hall") she said in a very small voice "I am afraid you are going to die". When a five year old says this to you, her eyes full of tears, it changes you, for sure. I felt like such a failure as a wife, mother, family member and friend. I felt like a burden. Each day seemed insurmountable and interminable. Couldn't do anything without feeling bone tired, couldn't exercise; even things that I used to enjoy required so much energy that they just weren't worth the trouble. I have surely been what I refer to as "little 'd' depressed" (as opposed to "big 'D' depressed", which is when you meet the clinical diagnostic criteria and could benefit from some good meds and a nice talk or two with myself or a colleague); stuck in a rut of feeling bad, feeling sorry for myself and my family, and not seeing any light at the end of the tunnel.

Finally, however, I think we may at least have found a tunnel...I'm too scared to look for a light at the end because I don't want to get my hopes up too much. There is a possible diagnosis on the table, and I am waiting for lab results as I write. These tests will tell my endocrinologist where I need to go next, and we are hopeful that I will get back to the old me again. The chorus to the "Good Things" is also very fitting:

Don't get down
Good things come
when you stop waiting around
Good things come
when you stop looking
Don't get down
You've just got to stop looking

Since I last wrote some pretty great things have happened, even if I've been tired through a lot of them.

1. My sister got married.
2. My sister got pregnant (go visit at the Sunday Night Buttermilk Waltz and say congrats).
3. My brother- and sister- in law had a baby boy, Landon.
4. Kate turned 4 and India turned 6.
5. Tracy has picked up the guitar and is hanging out with a bluegrass band on the odd Thursday night.
6. We had to buy two cars in two months (ugh).
7. We went to the Bahamas with our college friends to celebrate all the fellas' 40th birthdays. It was great fun!
8. We traveled to Ocracoke Island with our good friends the Arthurs, who we hadn't seen in 2 years, and had a blast.
9. India danced in the spring ballet, had a starring role in her Kindergarten graduation, and lost her first two teeth.
10. Kate learned to write her name and a few other words, actually made it through her preschool performance without crying, and played some mean t-ball.

And so much more. In other words, life has gone on. And I will too. Blog and all.

** Please check out Kathleen Edwards if you like a female cross between Tom Petty and Neil Young. She's one of our new faves! She can be heard at