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Monthly archives for September, 2018

Surgery

Fall                                                                                Harvest Moon

Quick note. Bleeding continues. Failed attempt last night to stop the bleeding with an embolization procedure. So. Surgery this morning, a bowel resection. I’m heading in right now. 6:30 a.m. Went in last night, got back about 11:00.

This is what Kate wants. She does not want a repeat of Thursday night/Friday morning with the blood loss. She’s had 5 units of blood as of last night, so they do have to stop the bleeding.

Progress!

Fall                                                                          Harvest Moon

So. A source of the bleed, diverticulitis. Probably multiple episodes over the years. Good news.

To come home she still has to get her hemoglobin up and may have a surgical procedure related to the diverticuli and maybe the gall bladder. Not home tonight or tomorrow night, if surgery, then longer yet. We both feel cautiously optimistic about resolving the nausea and very happy about locating the source of the bleed. We also know, thanks to the multiple scopings of her GI tract, that she has no cancer anywhere from mouth to, well, the other end.

I’m home, taking care of the dogs now. Unless she calls, I’ll go back in tomorrow. She’ll see the GI doc that did the colonoscopy and a GI surgeon. Finally, a bit of progress.

A beautiful, red flag day in the neighborhood. High temps, wind and low humidity. A perfect combination if you’re a forest fire.

 

Kate News

Fall                                                                                 Harvest Moon

1000Kate and Charlie in EdenYesterday was tough. Kate’s still losing blood. She spent most of the day yesterday, from about 6:30 am to 2:30, in the E.R. They’re short of beds and wanted to see which department was the best for her. No word yet on the cause of the bleeding. G.I. doc ordered a colonoscopy for this morning at 10 am. She’s not able to eat though she did have a clear liquid meal while I was there in the afternoon. Delicious, she said. And, apparently meant it.

She’s remained in reasonably good spirits since she’s in an environment that she understands with people and procedures she also understands. That relieves a lot of hospitalization’s stress. Which is not to say that she’s happy or comfortable. She’s not. She’s been in and out of procedures for the last six months, the most recent one only this last Monday. No results from it yet. Too much poking, scoping. Except. No definitive explanation for her weight loss, nausea, and now the blood loss.

We both hope that this hospitalization will put enough focus on her to finally discover what’s been making her life miserable.

Her sister B.J. and her significant other Shecky are, by happenstance, coming into town today. Schecky has family in Aurora. B.J. will probably come to the hospital today.

Since I woke up at 3 am yesterday worried about Kate, then took her into the e.r. at 6, drove home, took care of the dogs, rested but didn’t sleep, and went back in at 2:30, returning here around 7 pm, I’m exhausted. Did get a very good 9 hours of sleep last night.

This is a marathon and requires pacing and attention to self care. I’m following, for now, the internal policy of not worrying about what I can’t control and about things I don’t know. So far that’s working well. I’m able to stay focused on what needs to happen. May that continue.

Fall seems to have settled in, at least for the moment, but we’re still without precipitation. The fire danger remains high to very high. Stage 1 fire ban went back into effect yesterday.

E.R.

Fall                                                                                 Harvest Moon

20180928_070937

ER Sign

Took Kate into the E.R. this morning. Unexplained blood loss, enough to make her woozy. May have exceeded the speed limit occasionally. When she got there, a good team took care of her and her color brightened. Nobody seems especially worried. Something to deal with. She’ll be in the hospital at least one night. Getting a blood transfusion right now.

This is getting old, she said. Yeah. More than that even. My hope is that this will result in enough investigation to finally nail down what’s been causing her nausea. She’s very thin and has little stamina.

ER Signs

ER Signs

On the upside we did our mussar session on rachamim. It was a glorious blue Colorado day so we were in the sukkah. Lots of examples of compassion, a lot of tears. It was a heartfelt time together. Some us really needed it.

Kate and I had our usual Vienna beef sandwiches from the Chicago joint in downtown Evergreen. This is a Thursday after mussar dinner for us. Something she can eat; something I really like.

Back home now. Fed the dogs, will wait until I get word from Kate as to where she’ll be. When I find out more, I’ll post it here. Right now, we know very little.

 

I want to be: an Olympic gymnast, a music producer, winner of LeMans

Fall                                                                   Harvest Moon

The waning gibbous harvest moon hangs over Black Mountain this morning. A blue, blue sky contrasted by green and gold at the mountain’s peak. Night time temperatures have fallen below 40 so there’s a distinct chill in the air. Still little precipitation, signs pointing to high fire danger, very high on one nearby.

Stack of pallets in the back beckons before the snow begins to fly. Mike, who delivered them for us, threw in one he had lying around home. As I said before, Mike built our fence, a good one. He also carried my TV up to the loft. It was heavy and bulky. Strong guy. And a good one.

Third religious school class last night. Exhausting so far. Tara made table tents with the kid’s Hebrew names on them. Each child born into a Jewish home gets a Hebrew name at birth. Kate got one when she converted, Rachel. The kids sign in with their Hebrew name, too. All this to reinforce learning Hebrew, but it also gives a distinctive Jewish feel to the class right away. Religious school provides a place where these kids, usually in schools where there are few other Jews, can feel a bond with Jewish culture and each other.

Yesterday’s class was sweet. We asked them to bring in three objects that represented who they were and three that represented who they wanted to become. There was an atlas that represented a family’s adventuresome spirit, a Ferrari model removed from its box with a surgical glove covering a potentially sweaty hand, a picture of a Nike swoosh on an expensive athletic shoe, a ballet shoe, a homemade game constructed from cardboard boxes, a video game, Battlefront. Many more. That was who they are now.

A picture of an airplane wing told of a girl’s ambition to be an adventurer, to not lead a boring life filled with taxes and bills. A first place medal in a state gymnastics competition revealed an ambition to be an Olympic gymnast. A small scale model of the Eiffel Tower suggested a desire to learn all the human languages. And, with the same girl, a collage of Hollywood signaled her career ambition, “I’m going to be a music producer.” Very emphatic.

One boy took objects from a bag and said they were in 1,2,3 order. A logo for Le Mans, the 24 endurance race said, “I want to win Le Mans.” A second object was a small model fighter plane. “I want to fly fighters in the Israeli Air Force.” The third, a book on WW II, meant, “I want to be a historian of World War II.”

I guess, on reflection, that this was a pretty successful class. Even though it felt chaotic to me. I think I expect them to act like adults. My problem. Next up. Holiday calendars.

 

 

 

 

Palletable

Fall                                                                      Harvest Moon

A full day without nausea yesterday. A glimmer of what can yet be. Kate in Kate mode. Maybe a little slower, but still off to Trader Joe’s for figs, getting stuff done around the house. Good to see.

mind the gap

mind the gap

We have a problem. The space between the house and the garage. Fine during late spring, summer and fall. Not so fine when snow falls. The ground becomes icy and uneven making it problematic for Kate who has peripheral neuropathy in her feet. Various bids have just seemed too high for a deck extension.

Kate had an idea. Use wooden pallets to make a sort of floating, temporary extension. If it works, it’s cheap and we can remove it in when the snow stops, return it the next winter. Seems worth a shot. Lucky break. Beth Evergreen got new chairs for the sanctuary and a shed in which to store the overflow chairs. Result: six pallets that would be broken up for firewood.

I told Leah I’d get rid of them for her. Jon agreed to come up last weekend with his trailer (0ne we gave him a good while back). He got as far as El Rancho at the intersection of Hwy 74 and I-70. Something bad happened to his engine. As a result, I ended up taking him back to Aurora. Result: trouble for him, no pallets for us.

Try again. Texted Mike Vanhee, the guy who built our fence under some pressure. We needed it done between closing and winter. We closed on Samain and getting the post holes dug before the ground froze was the issue. He got it finished. Whew. He also said he could get the pallets. They come this morning. Next up. How to make it work. Stay tuned to this innovative home project channel.

Amarillo to S.A.

Amarillo to S.A.

Brother Mark’s visa has cleared. He’ll be leaving the friendly confines of Amarillo, Texas for the mostly empty Arab peninsula soon. English is a commodity still in demand around the world, giving employment and travel opportunities to thousands of expats like Mark and Mary.

Rigel. Sigh. Two expensive dog beds have gone under her tooth and claw. Internal matter never supposed to see day light spread all over the sewing room floor. Two! On to plan C or D. Probably back to blankets, using the gutted dog bed as a sort of frame. Dogs, eh?

Today in religious school the 6th and 7th graders present three objects that express who they are now. Next week: three that represent who they want to become. Also implementing some of Tara’s ideas on classroom management. Again, as so often for me at CBE, steep learning curve.

marty-robbins-a-white-sport-coat-and-a-pink-carnation-1957-78-sTomorrow Kate and I present a mussar session on compassion, rachamim, in the sukkah, weather permitting. We’re passing out pink carnations, according to the language of flowers a symbol of compassion, and having finger food made from some of the seven sacred species: figs, dates, pomegranates for example. We’re using the same material for a session with the Mussar Vaad Practice group on Oct. 4th. A twofer.

When that’s finished, I have to make sure the tech side of the Jewish Studies Sampler Sundays is sound. And, watch the two first lectures to develop discussion questions. That’s Oct. 7th.

Sukkot, 2018

Fall                                                               Harvest Moon

20180922_152340The sukkah went up last Thursday. Sukkot, a seven day harvest festival that began on the 23rd, Sunday, commemorates the temporary structures built during the exodus. The Tabernacle, a moveable temple with the ark of the covenant in its holy of holies, was the main religious structure during the long trek from Egypt to the promised land.

Sukkot is one of three pilgrimage festivals, Passover and Shavuot (Pentecost in Greek) being the others, festivals when Jews who could traveled to Jerusalem to participate in Temple sacrifices. Before the destruction of the second temple sukkahs where only erected in Jerusalem. After 70 a.c.e., when there was no longer a temple, many facets of Jewish religious life changed. This was the time period when rabbi’s took over the main religious leadership role previously held by the Temple priests. Synagogues became the regular gathering place and the sacrifices were replaced with prayers and holidays celebrated in new ways.

Sukkot_facebook_banner-1080x675When we lived on Edgcumbe in St. Paul, our neighbor, a Hasidic rebbe, always built a sukkah in his driveway. I wish now that we’d gotten to know him better. Joseph and some of his kids were friends.

There are lots of interesting aspects to Sukkot, among them the kabbalist lore of the Ushpizin, the visitors. On successive days Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joseph, and David are said to come to the sukkah. It resonates with me most as a harvest festival and there are many food related traditions which include eating meals in the sukkah.

Tomorrow our religious school class will meet in the sukkah for half an hour and on Thursday, when Kate and I present our mussar session on rachamim, compassion, we’ll do it in the sukkah.

 

Mostly Musical

Fall                                                                         Harvest Moon

Wow. Had a lot on my mind yesterday. Sorry about the length. More yet, too.

Alan, Jamie, Tara

Alan, Jamie, Tara

Anyhow. Met with Tara yesterday. Director of Education at Beth Evergreen. I said, Help. She gave me lots of ideas on classroom management, help. She’s delightful. Bright. Straightforward. Open. An example. How you arrange the classroom is very important. Oh yeah? Where the kids sit, what’s on the table when they come in. Having a separate table for attendance. A close by table for snacks. OK. Would never have occurred to me.

Later in the day Kate and I went to see Funny Girl. It was interesting, very, comparing the tech rehearsal we saw a week ago Wednesday with the full production. The show yesterday had none of the rough edges we saw then. Props ended up in their places. And there were a lot of prop changes. Lines were crisp and the dancing, singing were good, too. It went on about an hour too long for me, but I’m not a fan of musicals. The first act had energy, pop. The second act had some, but to my tired butt, not as much.

Stage ready for act II

Stage ready for act II

Musicals are the cotton candy of the theater world, at least most of them. Lots of sugar, easy to consume, then all that’s left is sticky fingers. I came out humming People Who Need People, so there’s that. I guess I’m more of a drama guy. Beckett. Friel. O’Neill. Wilson. Kushner. Still, it was a nice change up.

Also, it was community theater. Not the high production values of the Guthrie, for example, but pretty good. And the casting depends on a limited pool of volunteers though in spite of that the voices and acting abilities were even better than pretty good.

Fanny Brice

Fanny Brice

The director had some great ideas about staging, including opening and closing scenes that showed the cast playing to backstage on which was painted a theater. We were back stage ourselves, watching them perform. That meant the entire story took place between opening and closing of one of Fanny’s shows. A show between shows about show business. A bit of a fun house mirror effect.

One especially nice piece of staging was a solo by Fanny, leaning on the piano. Behind Fanny and the piano, in half light, a couple danced. It was a view (at least I saw it this way.) inside her mind as she sang. The effect was wonderful.

FannyBrice1c.jpg2We knew people in the cast, saw folks we knew in the lobby, and were greeted by the costumer as we left. He remembered us from our visit to the tech rehearsal. In other words this was also a moment of immersion in community, our community. That’s not the same as a visit to the Guthrie or to Broadway, but has lots of other, ancillary benefits.

Back home at 6:30 (it started at 3:00!) I made Kate a fatty meal for her gall bladder ultrasound today. Oh, boy, another procedure.

Finished the Netflix limited series Maniac last night. You have to have a quirky aesthetic to like it, but I did. It may bear watching a second time. Lots in it and a great cast: Jonah Hill, Emma Stone, Gabriel Byrne, Sally Field, for example.

Reconstruct, Reimagine

Fall                                                                                 Harvest Moon

Circling the question of faith, reimagining it, reconstructing it. A project that now seems life long. One that has the character of silly putty, picking up whatever I apply it to.

My initial and continuing fascination with the idea comes from a sense of restriction that I feel within the religions that I’ve encountered intimately; a sense of restriction that belies their first attraction, a totalizing claim of one sort or another: Ours is the one true God. Find release from all suffering. If only you practice wu wei. Find the universal within the particular. And, of course, the odd bunch, the U.U.’s, defined best by the joke: a religion named for two beliefs shared by none of its members.

That personal akedah (binding in Hebrew, as in the binding of Isaac), that moment when the new faith seems to have a uniquely powerful grasp on things, especially things unseen, has always, for me, been followed by finding a ram in the bush. The ram is the realization that, yes, there is truth and power, vision and nuance here-after all, I’ve climbed this Mt. Moriah with the wood for my own sacrifice bundled on my back-but it’s not what it claims. Rather what it is and what it claims points outside of its hermeneutical circle, affirming the presence of a sacred realm, a holy reality; but, then making the absurd claim that somehow it contains all, has it wrapped up in a series of truth claims that, if only you declare fealty, the curtain will pull back. Oz himself will be there.

So the sense of restriction is itself the clue. But, it’s a yellow caution light, not a red, stop, go no further signal. No human invention can or will encapsulate the universal, the cosmic. However, this eagerness, this passion to understand and embrace something beyond an individual life, beyond a community’s life, beyond a specific historical moment, validates the search. At least to me. It says to me as well that the search, the hunger to find a larger context for our mayfly moment, is not absurd, not futile, not pointless.

Back in my college days, when everything seemed up for grabs gender roles, political assumptions, establishment values, many of my friends turned to Eastern religions: Buddhism and Krishna worship, a bit of the Tao, anything that didn’t seem to have the taint of Judaeo-Christian civilization. I wanted to stick with religious traditions of the West, reasoning that the most accessible clues for a life of faith would come within the culture which shaped me. Even religions, it seemed to me then, were culture bound and the most likely chance for a spiritual break through would come without having to laboriously take on another culture’s religious clothing.

Today I’m more relaxed about that sensibility, having learned a good deal from Taoism, Hinduism (I’m a devotee of Shiva.) and from that strange brew, Chan Buddhism, a mix of Taoism and Buddhism that became Zen in Japan. I also gained a great deal from the other, peculiarly Western notion of existentialism. I’ve been immersed, whole life immersion, in three religious institutions: Christianity (Methodist, U.C.C., and Presbyterian), Unitarian-Universalism, and now Reconstructionist Judaism. I’ve also been immersed, whole life immersion, in existentialism, and to a lesser extent, perhaps not whole life, but a significant immersion in Taoism.

I suppose you could conclude that I’m feckless, unwilling to touch down, perhaps a lover shy of commitment. Might be true. From the inside it feels like I’ve been true to the pilgrim, the seeker within, a lover of questions, always suspicious of answers. That’s where reconstructing the very idea of faith comes from. Why does faith have to create a sense of restriction? Why does it have to push toward a holistic claim that is logically absurd?

I’ve come to believe recently that the notion of revelation is a key to this whole enterprise. What is revelation? How do we know it when we encounter it? Well, that I now believe, is exactly the deposit of wisdom all religions carry for us. No, I’m not suggesting all religions are essentially the same, that at their core is, say, love. Hardly. Religions are as particular and strange as any human creation can be.

What I am suggesting is that each religious tradition, including the prefers to not be called a religion of Buddhism, gives us clues to the nature of revelation, to the way the unseen, the sacred, the holy, the other manifests itself. The tendency, shown over and over again, to assume that the particular revelation is what’s important rather than the nature of revelation itself seems only natural to me. A mind shattering encounter with whatever lies beyond the day-to-day, the quotidian feels so powerful that this one, like Mohammed, or the gospel writer Mark or Matthew, the scribes of the Diamond Sutra, or the Rig Vedas, even the oft maligned Joseph Smith and his missing gold tablets, must have revealed it all.

No, that mind shattering encounter precisely proves that all has not been revealed. Why? Because Mohammed’s vision differs from Joseph Smith’s which in turn does not match Krishna escaping from the jail as an infant, or the conclusion that all that matters is following your chi. But. Something encounters these minds. Something so powerful that it can change the lives of millions, billions, effect history, turn nations into enemies, spill copious blood.

It’s the breakthrough of the universal into the particular, the moment when, for at least one person, the wizard’s curtain in the Emerald City is pulled back; but, what is beheld does not create cynicism, but joy, intimacy, knowing of a deep sort not available, apparently, to most of us.

So the key thing we learn from any religion is how to know such moments, how to find that small crack in our daily life that can be pried open to reveal wonders. This has gone on too long for today, but let me give you a for instance, then I’ll quit for now.

In the story of Abraham the brilliant Jewish commentator, Avivah Zornberg, suggests that a key source of such mind shattering moments comes in relationships. That is, our most common life experience, that of contact and interaction with other humans, can uncover glimpses of what is beyond. I’m going to leave this here because I want to eat breakfast, but more on this later.

 

 

Back of the Vehicle Semiotics: A Continuing Search

Fall                                                                            Harvest Moon

20180922_161341A Subaru yesterday with three bumper stickers: Be Kind. Hiker. And, “Not a Native, but I got here as fast as I could.” printed on the familiar green with white mountains bumper sticker that often announces so-called Native Coloradans.

 

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