We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Alan, demyelination, days with no nausea

Lughnasa                                                            Waning Summer Moon

Alan

Alan

Alan came over for work on the religious school lesson plans. Kate made her oven pancakes (always delicious) and Alan told us stories about early Jewish Denver. West Colfax (think Lake Street) between Federal and Sheridan was an orthodox Jewish community when he grew up. He said on Friday afternoons with folks scurrying from the deli to the bakery to the kosher butcher it looked like, well I can’t recall exactly, but any typical European Jewish community.

His dad was going to be a University professor before the Holocaust. Instead he came here and ended up in the dry cleaning business. In those day Alan’s friends and neighbors were either children of Holocaust survivors or survivors themselves. That old neighborhood, like north Minneapolis, has completely changed. The first synagogue in Denver is now an art museum on the Auraria campus of the University of Colorado. The Jewish community concentrated itself in south Denver, more to the east.

We worked for a couple of hours, putting specific lesson plans on the calendar, deciding which days to do the Moving Traditions curriculum, which days for middah, which days for Jewish holidays, which days for our own lesson plans. I’m experiencing some anxiety about this since we start next Wednesday with the first family session of the Moving Traditions curriculum. This approach to the student preparing for their Bar or Bat Mitzvah will, apparently, be controversial because it doesn’t focus on the ritual of the morning service, but on the students’ social, emotional, and developmental needs. Alan, Jamie, and Tara will deal with that. Not me.

20180408_182236Kate’s had several days in a row with no nausea. Yeah! That means she feels better and can get some things done. In doing so, however, the extent of her loss of stamina, weight loss and Sjogren’s Syndrome, has become apparent. She still needs to rest frequently. If she can modulate the nausea, either through careful eating or an eventual diagnosis or using medical marijuana, the next step is to get some weight gain, some stamina improvement. If possible. Or, we may have to adjust to a new normal.

I’ve been absorbed in lesson planning, training for the school year, climbing my steep learning curve about matters Jewish and matters middle school. That’s my way. Dive into something new, leave most other things behind until I’ve gotten where I feel like I need to be. Not there yet, though I imagine after a few class sessions, I will be. Sort of a head down, blinkers on time. My writing has dwindled and so have submissions.

Over the last couple of weeks, while I work out, I’ve been watching a Teaching Company course on the aging brain. I recommend it. Highly. It’s helped me understand why this approach, head down blinkers on, is developmentally appropriate for me. For example, the aging brain, on average, loses some processing speed, executive functions, and crispness of episodic memory (memory tied to a person or place and seen from a first person perspective.) over each decade, beginning in the twenties.

Myelin Sheath – a layer of fatty cells covering the axon, helps speed neural impulses.

Myelin Sheath – a layer of fatty cells covering the axon, helps speed neural impulses.

The underlying issue seems to be gradual demyelination of the axons which constitute the white matter in our brain. With myelin sheathing over their length axons can carry information very fast, without it somewhere around 2 meters per second, or human walking speed. As our processing speed declines, so do brain functions like the executive management of brain activity by the prefrontal cortex. It’s this one, the decline in executive function, that requires the head down, blinkers on approach to new activity or to tasks we need to complete. As we age, we no longer handle distractions as well, getting pulled away from this to focus on the shiny that.

I like knowing this because it helps me understand my daily third phase life better. The thinking process itself is not impaired, just the speed and our ability to stay with a task. It helped explain a very uncomfortable moment for me at the Genesee Ropes Course on Sunday. Jamie and I were with the 6th and 7th graders. Adrienne, a ropes course employee had just explained the rules of a warmup game. One of the rules was that we had we could not throw a soft toy to someone who’d already gotten one on that round.

geneseeI got the stuffed unicorn on the third or fourth toss. When I tossed it to Alex, Adrienne asked, “Did he break a rule?” All the kids and Jamie nodded. Yes, he had. Why? Alex had already gotten the unicorn. Oh, shit. This was the first interaction between me and these kids as a group and I looked like a doofus. I didn’t remember the rule at all. There were plenty of things to distract me. The continental divide in the distance. A wind blowing through the trees. Trying to concentrate on learning kid’s names. General anxiety about not knowing the kids at all. Whatever it was, my executive function let me go, Oh, fish on bicycle, instead of hearing, no throwing to someone who’s already received it.

It still looks the same to the outsider. I missed the rule, and as a result, screwed up in its execution. But now I understand that this is not a sign of dementia or other deep seating problem, but rather a normal, though irritating, side effect of demyelination.

 

 

The Queen of Shadow Mountain, Spliffs, Spring Rolls

Lughnasa                                                                     Waning Summer Moon

20180828_185716Kate’s birthday present came yesterday. It has excellent lumbar and neck support, plus it inclines with the press of a small lever. She’s the queen of Shadow Mountain.

Went down the hill yesterday to the Native Roots dispensary. I wanted something Kate could use to quickly attack nausea, perhaps eliminate it. Research suggested Durban Poison, Northern Lights, Lemon Haze, or a strain like those.

Native Roots is a franchise operation, very slick and a little cold in their approach. Like all the dispensaries they check i.d. Here they made me take off my hat and glasses so the camera could get a shot of me. Inside I made a mistake when the budtender (silly, silly name) called me forward. I told her my wife had nausea and I wanted something that might help. “Never tell a budtender you’re buying for someone else. That’s illegal.” Oh, ok. “Well, I have nausea, then.” “OK. We’re good there.”

They didn’t have any of the particular strains I wanted, but she recommended a strain called Jilly Bean, one they grow themselves. I wanted a bong, but they “…don’t sell glass.” She offered me pre-rolled joints. Oh, the distance from the late sixties and its furtive culture, wrapping papers, sorting seeds and stems out on the kitchen table. These joints, spliffs, blunts have a spiral filter on the end to cool the smoke and neatly wrapped wrapped paper twisted off at the end. Very producty looking. And, not cheap. $7 each.

I bought two. She’ll try them when the nausea hits next time. If it works, we’ll get her a bong and some flower rather than pre-rolled joints. Can you believe I just wrote that sentence? This is truly the new millennium.

native roots

Kate wanted spring rolls for supper using some of the mushrooms she grew. (I know. This sounds like a back to the sixties day for us.) I sauteed the mushroom at noon. Kate got some shrimp out to defrost. After her throne arrived, I got busy. Cut up cucumber into matchstick sized pieces. Mix chopped nuts and carrots, shredded. Add fish sauce, juice of two limes and sugar. Mix. Heat water to boiling, pour over rice noodles. Mint leaves. Cilantro leaves. Lettuce leaves. Run the rice paper under the tap. Put on plate, assemble.

These were our first spring rolls, so they weren’t as elegant as, say, the Jilly Bean prerolls, but they tasted great. A successful beginning from the new Asian cookbook.

Alan is coming today and we’ll work on a calendar for our lesson plans. Classes start a week from today. Oh, my. Lots more to say about that, but not now.

 

Sublimation, Primordia and other fundamentals

Lughnasa                                                           Waning Summer Moon

The arid West has many surprises for a flatlander from the humid East. Add in elevation and the surprises multiply. I’ve mentioned the maximum boiling temperature of water which effects tea making and pasta cooking (takes longer). There is, too, the solar snow shovel, the decreased O2.Wet things dry quickly. Water is a constant issue.

sublimateGot a new one. I have a small refrigerator in the loft. I keep water for my workouts in it, an ice wrap for post-workout knee relief, and a tray of Rigel’s canned kangaroo treats. Last week I noticed I’d begun to get some frost buildup in the small freezer. Been a long time, but I remembered defrosting refrigerators. I took everything out, putting the water filtration filter to the side, the carbonated water, the ice pack, and Rigel’s treats. I got a bucket and put it underneath the freezer. Finally, I pulled the cord and left the door open.

I glanced at the bucket later in the day. No water. Well, it was cool. Checked again an hour or so later. No water. Not that cool. So, I opened the freezer to check. The gathered frost was almost gone. Oh. I’d forgotten about sublimation, too, but I was pretty sure that was what I was seeing. Sure enough, there was never any water in the bucket, the frost was gone and I restocked the refrigerator. How ’bout that?

strong and confident after the quilt documentation day

strong and confident after the quilt documentation day

lion's maneFriday, Saturday, Sunday. Kate did well all these days. A little nausea on Sunday, but not the real knock her back sort. It was good to see her up and about. I made her a birthday dinner: ribeye, little potatoes, and Lion’s Mane mushroom. This latter came from a present Jon gave her, essentially a sack filled with sawdust and mushroom spores. She’s been diligently misting it. Sure enough, out popped a white spongy growth, the hippy guy in the fungi perfecti video called them, interestingly, I thought, primordia.

I reached behind the largest one and wrenched it free from the growth medium, took it upstairs and sliced it into steaks. Butter, salt, medium heat. A great complement to the ribeye. Supposed to taste like lobster (not chicken). Kate thought it did. Me, not so much. I liked it though. Kate’s always wanted to get into mushrooms, now we have, thanks to Jon.

Yesterday morning I read through the morning service in the Reconstructionist prayer book. Why? Because it’s the service that the b’nai mitzvah kids have to learn. It’s a powerful work of liturgy, much that is ancient, much that has been reconstructed. I’m going to be working with it a good deal over the next year, so becoming familiar with it seems like part of the job. I’ll write more about it when I get a better understanding, but suffice it to say right now that it sent me into a spiritual place I’ve not been in a while.

See what I did, dad!

See what I did, dad!

Rigel and the deck. Jon left five five-gallon orange plastic buckets, Home Depot with Do It written on the side. They have bricks in them, used bricks he picked up somewhere. I carried them to the deck and put them in front of the deepest tunnels our Rigel had dug in search of voles, or rabbits. Working so far. Not a pretty solution, but a good temporary fix.

Brother Mark is still in Amarillo. He says gringos and Latinos seem to get along well there. Mary has started her school year at the National University of Singapore. Joe and SeoAh are in Hawai’i. He’s working; she’s seeing Oahu for the first time.

Cool here this morning, 40 degrees.

Police Treating Blacks Awfully

Lughnasa                                                                Waning Summer Moon

Gabe and Jon

Gabe and Jon

Gabe opened up his large notebook yesterday and showed me a page empty except for a sort of title: Police treating blacks awfully. This is his project. Jon wanted me to help him with some research so we went up to the loft. I suggested to him that we put his title into google. We did that. He chose several articles ranging from an essay on prison brutality to a Gallup poll on how blacks perceive their treatment by the police.

To put a generational spin on it, he said, “We could just add these to Googledocs.” Oh. Well, ok. Do you know your Google account information? He got up and typed it in, commenting, as Ruth always does, that he doesn’t like my track ball mouse. We then added links to all the articles he chose to a blank Google doc that will show up wherever he has access to a computer. No library involved, at least so far. He will also interview black friends and adults. This is all interesting not least because this project isn’t due until May/June, 2019. Pretty long range thinking for a 10 year old.

Love

Love

Meanwhile corned beef simmered on the stove, awaiting the addition of potatoes, carrots, and cabbage. Sounded good to Kate and these days I try to cook whatever sounds good to her. I still can’t get it moist like Frank does. Gotta ask him his secret. Tasted ok. Today. Corned beef hash. A real favorite for my palate.

Kate had a consult with a gastroenterologist, a Korean/American, Dr. Rhee. He’s going to look at her gall bladder and do another upper GI endoscopy to look for a possible stricture below her stomach. She sounded hopeful, but weary. Easy to understand. This is like torture. Her nausea is episodic, but always looming.

She was tired last night and so was I. She asked me to clean up after the meal and I said,”No.” Felt bad immediately. I was tired, too, but I don’t have her inner fatigue. So, I cleaned up. This is tough stuff because it creates tension where tension only exacerbates.

I’m lucky to be in relationship with such an intelligent and confident woman. Have been. Am. Will be. I see that woman every day; she often doesn’t. Painful.

Muddy BuckThere’s a sort of sneaky self-satisfaction that comes from holding a business meeting on the boardwalk in Evergreen. Alan Rubin and I met at the Muddy Buck in the morning, sitting outside on its veranda, really a wide spot on the couple of blocks long board walk that I mentioned a few posts ago. On a Monday morning discussing the religious school class we start teaching on September 5th, we saw the usual flow of cars on Hwy 74, the main street of this tourist destination portion of Evergreen. This is a place people come to visit for an afternoon or a weekend or a week. And we live here.

 

 

Kate, mussar

Lughnasa                                                                        Monsoon Moon

My flaxen haired Nordic goddess

My flaxen haired Nordic goddess

Forward and backwards for Kate these days, but yesterday was a forward day. Her spirit was as good as it’s been for quite some time. She’s recovering a sense of her self as an agent, a confident person and it’s a delight.

We have a routine on Thursdays. Go to mussar, get a new character trait to practice or continue work on one. Yesterday we discussed the chesed of chesed, or the loving kindness of loving kindness. It’s an odd idea, but Rami Shapiro, author of the book we’re using right now, compared it to a brush stroke and a painting. An act of chesed gives shape to the whole picture of chesed, one only created over time, by brush stroke after brush stroke.

In a typically Jewish and mussar move intent is not key. It is better to perform an act of loving kindness for a base or less charitable reason than not to perform one at all. Why? Because in doing so, the one who performs the act will discover the personal reward that comes from acting on another’s behalf. That opens the way to look for opportunities for choosing chesed.

20180504_160826After mussar, we take the back way through Hiwan Hills and enter the commercial district of Evergreen, the part for tourists, from the east and drive up to the Vienna Beef shop. It’s on a board walk that extends maybe two blocks and has art galleries, coffee shops, clothing stores and Mountain Man fruits and nuts. I buy two Vienna Beef sandwiches, equivalent to the ones you can purchase in Chicago, and we have them for supper. Up till yesterday afternoon it was a bland, but tasty source of protein for Kate. There was something a bit spicier on either the bun or the the beef yesterday and it made her mouth hurt. We’ll try again, just to see.

 

 

The Week Ahead

Summer                                                                                Monsoon Moon

20180711_065526Finished entering the edits for Superior Wolf, 3.0. I have three plot points to resolve, none of them major. Next step is to craft a query letter, then submit it to an agent. I have a local, Denver-based agent that I think might be interested in my work, but she doesn’t open up for submissions again until July 28th. That’s why I pushed to get this revision done, so I’ll be ready.

Got out the garden tools yesterday and began splitting hosta. Kate wanted some in the front rock garden and she wanted the bed along the north facing side of the house filled in. Got about half way done, then the heat took over. Will finish this morning. If it dries out today (nice rain yesterday and last night), I’m going to mow the fines.

The recipe

The recipe

Back is slowly resolving. Not near as ouchy as it was two weeks ago, even a week ago. Keep moving. Get good sleep. The tramadol helps. One at night before bed.

We bought a quarter beef last year, still have a good deal of meat in the freezer.  Took a porterhouse out last night, pan seared, then broiled. Boiled potatoes. Watermelon gazpacho of my own design, including a whole pomegranate. I enjoy cooking except when the house is hot. Then, not so much.

Ruth is off on a 5 day back packing adventure at Camp Calwood this week. Both she and Jon head back to school in early August, Gabe not till later. Different schools and school districts.

Kate had a better week in regard to her nausea, but she still had a couple of bad days. Like yesterday. Tough to keep emotional equilibrium for her. She does an amazing job of it, difficult with regular insults.

A pondersoa pine at Beth Evergreen

A pondersoa pine at Beth Evergreen

Tomorrow I have a full day training on the B’nai Mitzvah program at a synagogue in Denver. It’s put on by Moving Traditions, a religious school support organization for Jewish education. Jews take their religious school seriously, so this is way beyond Bible School or Sunday School. It’s real school.

A week from tomorrow I leave for Minnesota. Groveland UU celebrates achieving Covenanting Community status with the UUA on Saturday. I’ve been asked to say something, along with three other speakings. Probably I’ll do something about covenant  from a reconstructionist perspective. Not sure yet.

 

 

Venn Merging

Beltane                                                                                  Woolly Mammoth Moon

Yesterday two worlds came into contact, even if only briefly. The first was Kate and mine’s current world, the world of the Rocky Mountains and Reconstructionist Judaism, Evergreen and Shadow Mountain. The other was our old world, the world of the Land of Lakes and the Woolly Mammoths, Andover and the Twin Cities.

First, Ode showed up at mussar. Then, Tom and Paul. The middot of the week is grace and reading Rami Shapiro’s book, The Art of Loving Kindness, carried us into a discussion about shabbat as a “counter-cultural rebellion” which encourages living one day a week as if work and worry are not the point of life. Has always made sense to me, BTW, long before Beth Evergreen, but I’ve never acted on it, never observed a sabbath day.

Anyhow the context of the conversation made me realize what a grace-full moment it was for me when Tom, Paul and Mark showed up here in Colorado. It was, in one sense, perhaps even the best sense, ordinary. I knew they would find the conversation fascinating, because it was a conversation we’d been having for over thirty years. How do you live? What about life is important? How can we move ourselves into a more meaningful, graceful, gratitude filled existence?

So that moment at the synagogue smooshed together two venn diagrams, Minnesota and Colorado. And it felt really good. They met Rabbi Jamie. Debra referred to the four of us as the quadruplets, older white haired white guys of similar size and habitus and life.

Then the party moved over to Shadow Mountain. My slow cooker Irish stew was, well, partly there. The lamb was tender, but the potatoes were not. Neither Kate nor I, though she is much more able at it than me, are big on hosting events at our house. Too busy at one point, now a bit less able. But these were friends who would forgive an underdone potato for the  conversation around the table. And the occasional poking of Rigel’s head under their arms.

Kate went to bed, then got up, came out and said, “You have the best friends.” Indeed, I do.

This morning at 8:30 we’ll take off in the giant SUV that Tom has rented. First stop, the Crow Hill Cafe, then The Happy Camper. Maybe the Sasquatch Outpost? Certainly Kenosha Pass, South Park, Fairplay. On down through South Park. Maybe we’ll look at the Rocky Mountain Land Library, maybe we’ll stop in Pagosa Springs for a soak in the hot springs. Not sure. Doesn’t matter.

We’re headed to Durango in the southwest corner of the state. The 416 fire, north of Durango, as of yesterday:

“While residents in two areas were allowed to return to their homes Thursday, the 416 Fire grew to 32,076 acres with no update on containment.

The fire, burning just 13 miles north of Durango, is still being worked by over 1,000 firefighters who are battling this thing from the air and the ground. Burn out efforts, that is, efforts to burn up the fire’s potential fuel, continued throughout the day.” 9News, Denver.

Here’s a link to a Durango Herald article on fire analysts, very interesting.

Livin’ Is Easy. Sort of.

Beltane                                                                        Sumi-e Moon

20180604_122702After sledging and searing the meat and softening the vegetables in the fat, I put a three or four pound hunk of chuck roast in the slow cooker along with potatoes, carrots, onions and celery. It cooked all day, coming out fork tender. An easy meal. Jon and the kids got stuck in traffic so they ate later.

Had a visitor, a young mule deer buck with velveted horns, a small knob on top of each one. He loved our front yard, carefully eating only dandelion blooms. Wish I could have gotten him in the back, he’d have loved the delicacies there. In this brave new world on Shadow Mountain, dandelions are a beautiful addition to the late spring, early summer yard. Mowing only to keep down the fuel. Gonna have a go at that today after I put fresh gas in the mower.

Ruth and I are going to practice sumi-e today. I want to mimic my presentation for Thursday night. Enso practice, then a keeper. I also want to learn the kanji for ichi-go ichi-e.

Summer temperatures have come to the mountains, but in the way of heat in this arid climate, it’s not unbearable. The new fans in the loft, bedroom and over the dining room table help.

 

Rising

Beltane                                                                               Sumi-e Moon

20161112_183554A beautiful day in the neighborhood yesterday. Blue sky. White clouds. Mountains covered with the many shades of green possible after a week of good rain. Maxwell Creek and Bear Creek headed to the Gulf with lots of energy. Lucky we live in the Rockies.

Kate had a good echocardiogram yesterday and a good visit with Tatiana, her cardiologist. It was a long day for her though and by the end she’d expended more than her daily allotment of K.U.’s, Kate energy units. She supervised the challah and it turned out tasty and beautiful. This is no minor feat at 8,800 feet since water doesn’t reach 212 degrees and all parts of the baking process, from flour selection to oven temperature and rising of the bread, change as a result. Ruth did it, but Kate made sure it worked.

On the long list of things to be grateful for these last two days have put a line under family and Shadow Mountain.

Little Girl, Big Girl

Beltane                                                                                    Sumi-e Moon

ruth-and-hair330This little person with the staticky blond hair made supper yesterday, a complicated one. Lamb shawarma, black tie challah and toffee. Kate added a wonderful salad in the Middle Eastern style. Gabe and Jon drove up from Denver, in horrendous rush hour traffic (redundant adjective, I know) for the meal. “Gabe had better like this since we spent all day making it,” she said. He did.

20180522_174843Monday and Tuesday were Ruth’s first two days out of school and we were lucky to have her spend them with us. She cooked, fed the dogs, came up to the loft, “Hi. How ya’ doin’?” I served as her sous chef on the shawarma and Kate did likewise on the challah, but she picked the recipes and guided the action. And the shawarma was good. The challah, too. This is called Black Tie Challah.

20180422_182930She is, though, twelve, still learning to process her emotions. Hard.

This morning she’s off to the YMCA camp in Estes Park, the town closest to Rocky Mountain National Park. She told me she’s switched her preferred college now from M.I.T. to the Rhode Island School of Art and Design. Only the preeminent art school in the U.S. She aims high.

As we were cooking together yesterday, she said, “I’m an artist. That sort of means I’m a perfectionist.”

 

 

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