mulberryshoots

"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" ~ Mary Oliver

Tag: roses

onward and upward! . . .

katazomeI don’t think I really noticed how things had dissembled while both I and my husband have been so laid up for the past months and weeks. We put forth a lot of positive energy to travel up to Rockport for our granddaughter, A.’s high school graduation. It took about a week to finally unpack everything and to return some things with tags still on them that I decided not to wear. In fact, it was enlightening to me that during the “before” timeframe, thought I might want to wear more color and more prints. During that weekend, I felt more comfortable wearing my trusty LL Bean comfort trail khaki cropped pants and a dark blue linen v-neck tee-shirt. My new Birkenstock black leather sandals dressed up my outfit enough.

Since then, G. has been in almost constant pain with a dislocated bone in his hip area. Even though there were ultrasound treatments and a little adjustment to his vertebrae, he still has the dislocation and concomitant muscle and nerve pain radiating down his hip to his knee. We tried acupuncture yesterday and while it alleviated a little pain, it didn’t do the job. Today, he also had some ortho-massage for an hour and fifteen minutes which he felt might have improved things. At lunch, the color in his face was so much better–probably from the benefits of the massage to his circulatory system. Even so, any improvement was better than the stagnant situation he faced for the past couple of weeks.

In the meantime, we managed to try out and purchase an extra-firm mattress which is scheduled to arrive tomorrow morning. Today, I took on all sorts of straightening out tasks and coordinated having some handicap equipment carried downstairs by G.’s guys who were here to help with a piano move; getting the strings for the morning glories retied to bricks so that the watered seedlings would be trained where to travel as their growth bursts forth during the warm weather. I also rearranged the kitchen cupboard so that things we use more often are now more accessible and tucked extra glasses and cups in the tall cupboard.

rearranged cupboard today . . .

rearranged cupboard today . . .

On a roll, I sorted out the bookstand that holds current magazines (Bon Appetit) and books “Bringing Nature Home,” a gorgeous flower/decorating book and one of my favorite books to derive housecleaning inspiration from, “Japanese Country Living.”

Cleaned out the small basket of mish-mash papers, stamps and miscellany next to my telephone/answering machine; AND, I spent more than two hours on the phone this morning with Apple Support, escalating all the way up to a senior advisor who helped me delete all sorts of start-up programs to rid my laptop of those annoying spinning balls that slow things down.

She also advised me to keep my laptop on a flat wooden table (not a leather ottoman) in order to keep it from overheating as it has been doing. I’ve had two major (send laptop to Memphis, TN) repairs made to the machine during the winter and spring, and wanted to ensure that if there was a further problem with the fan and overheating, that I would make it under the warranty window. We’ll wait and see but the laptop is much quicker afterwards than before so my fingers are crossed.

I don’t know if it’s awfully tedious for you to read about these mundane activities and if so, my apologies. However, I’ve begun to feel, just today, that maybe we aren’t just going to keep descending into a vortex of helplessness and even, that maybe, things might get a little better, day by day. G.’s nephew came by this afternoon (he’s a senior in college) and we talked about some projects that he could help with this summer. Fetching a bunch of liquor store empty cartons, bringing them upstairs here so that I can fill them with books to be donated to our public library would be a good start. Then, we’ll figure out how to clean out the pantry and the closets where I have things that are too good to give away and also a pain in the neck to sell on eBay. I might try it though because if I am incentivized to at least take a thorough inventory, it might be the most common sense way to truly clean things out.bookshelves today

So, the morning glories are planted, staked and watered (it’s taken us this long just to get someone to turn on the water valve to the outside faucets!) the bathroom detritus has been cleared out and the sink/shelves sparkle; the laundry is done, brought up by C. and folded by me; the books/magazines have been de-cluttered from our living space; the big kitchen table made of curly maple is also cleared off with a vintage Katazome indigo runner on it (a tortoise and a phoenix gracing the pattern.) I brought the big cherry tray with pottery etc. into the bedroom as a way station until we feel like having it out again.

Supper is already made: I browned some onions and ground beef to make homemade sloppy joes for dinner, served on wheat toast and accompanied by some deviled eggs. We still have some yummy strawberry-rhubarb compote that we’ve been eating for dessert with some Haagen Daz ice cream. I don’t know why my spirits are so lifted after a day of what might be interpreted as drudgery house-keeping tasks, but it’s because it LOOKS wonderful in here now, or at least much better than it has in a long time. So onward and upward, as they say. Nothing stays the same, even when things seem abysmal . . . and that’s a good thing, as Martha Stewart might add.

everything's coming up roses! (or at least a few might be . . .)

everything’s coming up roses! (or at least a few might be . . .)

starters . . .

a group of morning glory seedlings

a group of morning glory seedlings


morning glory seedlings planted near the clematis

morning glory seedlings planted near the clematis


Spring has been optimal for growing this year: alternating sunny, dry breezy weather interspersed with showers and soaking rain, sometimes for a couple of days. I am often surprised why people object to rain when it is so important to the natural cycle of things. Our Sassafras trees have the most graceful leaves when they unfurl in May.
lush white and pink in the front triangle garden

lush white and pink in the front triangle garden


in front of the barn

in front of the barn


For at least a decade, we have had a planting ritual for “Heavenly Blue” morning glories right around Memorial Day. There’s a nursery in Framingham, about a half hour’s drive towards Boston that grows and sells morning glory seedlings that are about four inches high when I purchase them. The seedlings are not that easy to find and while I’ve tried growing them from a packet of seeds, they don’t seem to want to sprout for me. So I buy a flat of seedlings and place them in the shade under the rhododendron bush to keep cool until we have a chance to plant them. I cluster a four-pack together and plant them in the ground. Then G. measures out fresh twine from the decking above and anchors the string to a brick which nestles in the earth right next to the seedlings. As they grow, they wind themselves around the string and climb. This year, I planted clusters near the purple wisteria vine and the white wisteria vine in the front, thinking that by the time the morning glories bloom, the other flowers, roses and such would have gone by. One new place was near the clematis arbor (see photo above) where there is a wrought iron trellis that branches out in both directions under the stained glass window. I thought that they might take and clamber up the trellis to grace the house sometime in late Summer, early Fall.
"Before" planting wildflower seeds

“Before” planting wildflower seeds


Finally, there’s a very rocky, poor soil area in the front near the street where G. pulled up the weeds and crabgrass, brought some compost over from his mother’s house across the street and the guys put in a stone pathway, sprinkling a mixed assortment of Northeastern wildflower seeds throughout. Afterwards, it rained for about two days, sometimes a heavy downpour from Hurricane Andrea in the middle of the night. Then, the sun came out and for the last couple of days, it has been temperate, sunny and dry with a light breeze: perfect weather for sowing and growing!

All of this is just to belabor a little bit the plantings that we made last week.
What’s most fun is to see what comes up and how they flourish as the Summer and Fall gently roll by. Later, that is.

In the meantime, here are some photos of early roses and right-on-time peonies.

apricot roses by the barn

apricot roses by the barn


climbing roses

climbing roses

peonies along the driveway

peonies along the driveway

Note: to enlarge photos, click once; to magnify, click again.

stirring the pot. . .

cream of tomato soup

Although I sometimes think of myself as being quiet and solitary, (“a taoist hermit”), in my professional working life, I was anything but. Although I tried very hard each time I was the “newest kid on the block,” to keep my mouth shut and not challenge anybody, it was hard for me to do any of these things longer than for the first week or two. It’s actually amazing that I had a professional career at all, all things considered.

I was a late starter getting into the workforce because my first husband didn’t want me to work (“life is long”). When my kids were in high school, I talked my way into a project management job at one of the two premier biotechnology start-up companies in the U.S. at the time. In those days, cloning was an art, carried out by molecular biologists who were treated and paid like rock stars. Nowadays, there are machines that clone while people are on their coffee break. Before I was hired, I was asked to interview with the “Senior Scientists” of the start-up company. They were very nice and very distracted by this waste of their time. In other ways, they behaved like Knights of the Round Table, coming to work at 2 a.m. and leaving whenever, or vice-versa. They purposely didn’t want anyone with a Ph.D. in science to be a project manager, which is why they were interviewing me, a liberal arts history and music major. What they wanted, it seemed, was to hire a nice “nanny” to find their notes and to run meetings that they didn’t want to attend.

Long story short, I was hired and in two years was promoted over a young Harvard MBA to Director of Project Management. I hired and trained young MBAs from Wharton and other business schools because that’s what senior management said they wanted (even though I wasn’t one.) There were four divisions in the company at the time: pharmaceuticals, agriculture, diagnostics and biocatalysis. The project managers covered projects in all four groups; there were over 25 projects with global business partners in the pharmaceutical division alone. I also managed my own projects, the most important one being recombinant Erythropoietin (EPO). Simply put, it is a glycoprotein that stimulates production of erythrocytes (red blood cells).

I remember one company-wide meeting when the CEO said, “Our number one priority is EPO; our number two priority is EPO and our number three priority is EPO.” It was a crazy time. Once the VP of manufacturing and I flew to Frankfurt for an emergency meeting and met our business partners in the airport lounge after 8 hours in the air. We then turned around and flew back a day later without leaving the airport! When I boarded the American Airlines plane the crew recognized me from the flight two days earlier. It was right before Christmas and everyone was in a festive mood. The stewardess put me in First Class and served glasses of champagne on a tray with red roses. Then, I was offered (I’ll never forget this) an unopened jar of Sevruga cavier the size of a softball–just for me. There were perks that went with all the pressure and this one beat them all.

Back to the grind, I led a global development team with business partners who succeeded under great duress to obtain EPO regulatory approval in Germany and Japan. Amgen won the U.S. patent rights over the company I worked for and built its company from its early success with EPO. During the patent litigation phase, I travelled to New York for depositions and testified on behalf of my company’s claims. Today, you might recognize EPO under its marketed name,”Procrit.” Athletes are accused of using it to stimulate performance. To this day, it is still the single most successful product ever developed by recombinant technology, generating over a billion dollars of revenue a year.

Wow, you might say. . .how did you survive that? Well, I read huge textbooks about Molecular Biology and Protein Chemistry without understanding or at least retaining much of what I read. The first year, I walked around the garden and cried a lot on weekends. Understanding a research scientist’s mentality, having grown up with my father (“my father, myself”) gave me a leg up towards coaxing them to do what management needed them to do. It was a privilege to be on this ride in the early years of biotechnology. The work was exhilarating and very, very stressful. I virtually disappeared from my family. I told my first husband that from then on, he would have to go to all the school meetings for the kids and to carry on at home as though I had left the planet. Which is also how it felt sometimes.

Anyway, that’s how I started working. They thought they had hired someone they could ignore. I managed to stir the pot enough to get things done. It was a lot of fun working with such intelligent people for such a long time. After the bloom of biotech faded, it got a lot harder to raise money, it was a lot more stressful and a lot less fun. But I had a good run. I lucked out. I worked very hard. And I’m glad that a product like EPO made it across the finish line.