Puzzled

Winter                                                                         Waxing Moon

20190127_163835Snowing here. About an inch already. Then comes the cold. But not like the cold my friends in Minnesota are going to feel. For example, Tue -7 for a high, -27 for a low. Wed -15 for a high, -30 for a low. Also, winds in the 10 to 19 mph range. Wind chill will be brutal. Enduring the last of  any January will qualify you for Minnesota macho. Plan a trip there now to claim it for yourself.

We got started on the 1,000 piece jigsaw. Kate may have underestimated how long it will take to do all five. She said ten years. After yesterday? Maybe into our 90’s. New to me. Surprised how satisfied I was when a couple of pieces fit together. Kate’s pretty good at this. As you might expect.

Wondered yesterday about the origin of jigsaw puzzles. Kate thinks it was somebody who wanted something for the kids to do. So, I let wikipedia teach me.* Coulda been the Spilsbury kids, I guess.

20190127_174935The bulgogi was good. So was the dumpling soup. The porkbelly last night? Not so much. Got a little rushed since I fried the smelt at the same time. Shouldn’t have done both. The smelt, which I realize now were considerably smaller than the Lake Superior smelt, fried up fine, but I bunched them together too much. And, fried things don’t work so well as left overs. In the trash after my meal. SeoAh sent me her sauce for the porkbelly, which I used. It couldn’t rescue a too fatty, not enough taste dish. Not sure I’ll try that one again. Didn’t seem worth learning how to do well. Tonight straight up American fare. Macaroni and cheese? Hamburgers? Steak and potatoes? Something more in my wheelhouse.

no f-ng way

no f-ng way

The snow falls straight down, looks like a gentle, white rain. A flour sifter somewhere above us, gently shaken by the deity we know isn’t there.

I’ve started on a cleanup, straighten, reorganize project for the whole house, loft and garage. Working on one room a day, or more if needed. I’m no Marie Kondo. Just want to get things spruced up a bit. Read an NYT article on stocking the modern pantry. When I get to the kitchen, I’m going to follow its suggestions. Suppose this is a cabin fever moment.

*”Jigsaw puzzles were originally created by painting a picture on a flat, rectangular piece of wood, and then cutting that picture into small pieces with a jigsaw, hence the name. John Spilsbury, a London cartographer and engraver, is credited with commercializing jigsaw puzzles around 1760.[1] Jigsaw puzzles have since come to be made primarily of cardboard.” wiki

Sweet Cream Pancakes and more

Winter                                                                         Waxing Moon

20190126_091138When Mark and Tom were here, we tried to recapitulate our Durango trip breakfast at the Rustic Station. Turned out they only serve breakfast on weekends. Yesterday was my monthly run to the Happy Camper for cannabis. Thank you, Centennial State. Since it was Saturday, I decided to have breakfast at the Rustic Station, just down the hill, the really, really big hill from the Happy Camper. And, I did. These are why. Sweet cream pancakes. Not my usual fare, but they are amazing.

Kate had a not so good day yesterday. Nausea. When that happens, it effects her emotionally. Disappointment. Frustration. Reinforcing her down state. She got better as the day went on, but it had taken its toll. Not sure why.

We’ve started on the 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle. We have, too, a 2,000, a 3,000, a 4,000, and a 5,000 piece puzzle. Kate thinks it will take us ten years to complete them. Depends, I suppose, on how much effort we put in.

Rustic Station

Rustic Station

Back to my six day rhythm of workouts, three resistance, three cardio. Don’t always make the six, but that’s the benchmark. I hit it a lot once I’ve gotten back into it. Always makes me feel better. Three big motivators: increased health span, feel better in the moment, habit.

My Korean cooking chops are modest, but improving. Bulgogi on Friday, a dumpling soup last night. Tonight some pork and cabbage, potatoes. H-Mart also had one nostalgic food for me: smelt. I love fried smelt and when the smelt used to run in abundance on Lake Superior, out of the cold streams that flow down the Sawtooth Mountains, I used to make them a lot. Then the smelt diminished and I haven’t had them for a long time. Kate says I can have all them to myself. Just fine. A beaten egg, seasoned corn meal or bread crumbs, cooking oil. Lunch.

Kep, hunting

Kep, hunting

Gertie’s still sore, but she’s running around, wagging her tail.  She came up the stairs to the loft yesterday afternoon in spite of the wounds on her haunch. We’re cleaning her wounds with hibi-cleanse. Kate used it before her shoulder surgery.

Gert’s been bitten by many different dogs. Not sure what makes her so bitable. She can be annoying. As for yesterday, we both wondered whether her more feeble habitus, arthritic left leg, blind in one eye and decreasing vision in the other, might make her more vulnerable. Kep’s still the omega in our little pack and he may be looking to move up in the hierarchy. Hope not, because that would suggest more to come.

spsBrother Mark seems to be finding a home in Saudi Arabia, at least an ex-pat style home. It’s nuances are more clear to him, being up north in Arar the weather is more clement and there’s access to other Middle Eastern countries like Jordan, Syria, Iraq. As he said, “Not everybody gets a chance to live in a medieval kingdom.” True that.

Jon has a new show going up on Wednesday, the annual Aurora art teacher’s exhibition. He has several new pieces in it. I will attend, leaving a bit early from religious school. On Friday he, Ruthie and I will wander Santa Fe for the First Friday art crawl. Santa Fe north of Sixth has many galleries, museums, studios. Food trucks come down. It’s fun. I’ve only been once, but I really liked it.

 

 

 

Salmon Heads and Organic Miso

Winter                                                                                   Waxing Moon

20190125_101104Yesterday. A do this, then do that, then do that day. 1st up. Feed dogs, then write blog. 2nd. Make breakfast. 3rd. Blow snow. 4th. Workout. 5th. Drive to H-Mart in Westminster. 6th. Back home through rush hour traffic. (bad planning on my part) 7th. Phone call from Kate just as I turned on to Shadow Mountain Drive. Kep attacked Gertie. 8th. Get home, unload, check Gertie. One puncture, a couple of scrapes. 9th. Cook supper. Bulgogi. Clean up while Kate cleaned Gertie’s wounds. 9th. Watch the last of Unforgotten, a Masterpiece presentation. 10th. Finish Terminal list. 11th. Go to bed. Got a lot done. Good use of a day.

Busy days like this go by quickly. I prefer the quiet days. Time to reflect, read, paint. But things have to get done, too. Once in a while I like these days filled with purpose. Used to have them all the time during the growing season in Andover. Planting, weeding, amending soil, tending the bees, working in the orchard. I like the physical stuff blowing snow, carrying groceries, cooking, cleaning, working out.

This morning I’m back for my monthly run to the Happy Camper. THC. Indica for sleep, Sativa for Kate’s appetite. I might head down to the Rustic Station for breakfast. It was closed when Ode and Tom were here, apparently they only serve breakfast on weekends. After that, a quieter day.

20190125_144837H-Mart is a trip. As an experience and as a trip. You definitely enter Asia when you walk through the door. In the aisle entering the building were the giant and tasty Korean pears, bundles of 24 ramen packs. Then on into the produce section. Persimmons, Korean melons, huge papayas, durian, jack fruit, bitter melon, lots of mushrooms, bok choy, noodles. Next up was beef and other meats. A whole 20 foot display held beef hearts, tripe, liver. Sea food. Dead, frozen, live. Packages with whole salmon heads, for example. Sushi fish, some sashimi, beds of ice with prawns, shrimp, large dressed rainbow trout, golden pompano, China grown tilapia.

20190125_150107I was not the only round eye in there, but I was the only round eye male shopping alone. In this H-Mart, located in a relatively upscale suburb, Westminster, the clientele was mostly Chinese, Korean, and Japanese. In the much larger H-Mart located in more downscale Aurora, the mix is much more diverse with East Indians, Filipinos, more round eyes, Malay, Latino.

SeoAh’s cooking impressed both of us and I was after pantry items for making soups, stir fry, noodle dishes. The bulgogi, which both SeoAh and her husband recommended I buy premade, was supper last night. I threw in some Vietnamese rice noodles. Quick. Tasty. Today I plan to try one of her soups.

Here are a few more photographs of foods on offer.

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And, finally, a plea from the owners found in the men’s bathroom.

20190125_150017

 

I see Christmas

Winter                                                                        Waxing Moon

20190122_0721198-10 inches of new, fluffy snow Monday night and yesterday. Looking out our bedroom window at night I see Christmas. Flocked trees. The full moon shining on fresh powder. A significant chill in the air. 7 degrees.

With SeoAh and Murdoch gone I’m back to cooking, cleaning. Spaghetti with meatballs on Monday, cod last night. Hmmm. Out of practice. Need to find my groove again. I will.

The house has lost some positive young energy with still mostly puppy Murdoch back in Georgia. Also with SeoAh. Her bright smile and upbeat nature was therapeutic. She came three times in this last year. After Kate’s shoulder surgery. After the long hospitalization. And, most recently on Christmas eve. Teaching us about family. Korean cooking, too. Gonna make my first solo visit to H-Mart this week. Tomorrow.

jigsaw puzzle

Sic Transit Mundi

Ordered three jigsaw puzzles: the Sistine Chapel ceiling (5,000 pieces), a world map (4,000 pieces), and a send-up of Italian painting, Sic Transit Mundi, (3,000 pieces). We need some alternative things to do. Kate doesn’t feel up to sewing, but doing jigsaw puzzles? Yeah. I’ve not done them much. In fact I can’t recall the last time I put a puzzle together. Looking forward to these.

Visit today to Dr. Rhee, the g.i. doc who finally diagnosed Kate’s cramping and nausea. We’re taking him kimchi from H-Mart, selected by SeoAh. The diagnosis was a major victory and he deserves our thanks.

Later in the day religious school at CBE. Today we celebrate Tu BiShvat, the birthday of the trees. Rabbi Jamie returns from his shabbaton, sabbatical, to lead a Tu BiShvat seder. This involves food from trees: nuts, fruits. Seder means order so the Passover seder is the order of service for Passover. Same with the Tu BiShvat seder.*

 

Tu B'Shevat Seder*”Tu B’Shvat is the New Year for the Trees. As in all other points in the Jewish calendar, Tu B’Shvat offers a unique opportunity for insight into living and personal growth. Throughout the centuries, Kabbalists have used the tree as a metaphor to understand God’s relationship to the spiritual and physical worlds. Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, in his 18th century classic The Way of God, teaches that the higher spiritual realms are roots that ultimately manifest their influence through branches and leaves in the lower realms.

In the 16th century, the Kabbalists of Tzfat compiled a Tu B’Shvat seder, somewhat similar to the seder for Passover. It involves enjoying the fruits of the tree, particularly those native to the Land of Israel, and discusses philosophical and Kabbalistic concepts associated with the day. Among other things, the seder is a great way to appreciate the bounty that we so often take for granted, and to develop a good and generous eye for the world around us.”  aish.com

The Left Behind

Winter                                                              Waxing Moon

A Basin. Ski maps are a Colorado art form

A Basin. Ski maps are a Colorado art form

Gabe came up and spent the night on Saturday. He was his usual self, watching TV, playing with the dogs, building some contraptions with a new construction toy he got. Ruth and Jon went to A-Basin, skied in great powder and got here around 5 pm. When they left for the day, it was the first time since Christmas eve that Kate and I, Gertie, Rigel, and Kepler were without guests.

Murdoch, SeoAh, and Murdoch’s daddy left at 10 am headed through Kansas and on into Missouri, then back south to central Georgia. We have products with the Korean language in our refrigerator, frozen rice cakes and dumplings, hoisin sauce, and our pantry has rice cakes, a specialty soy sauce, sesame seeds and sesame oil. She left her tea kettle and a vacuum, too. I think she’s going to be back. She’s an unusual guest; her presence is unobtrusive and helpful.

20190121_065343 (2)I finished the creation of the waters yesterday. Some gold flake to give continuity with the first one, not finished yet because I’m waiting on some Elmer’s glue for the gold leaf.

When Mark was here, I asked him a question that’s been on my mind. “How do you know when to stop?” He laughed and said that was every artist’s question. Too often, he said, we wish we could go back to an earlier version. Oils are a bit more forgiving in that regard than, say, watercolor, or, as Tom suggested, sculpture.

Awaiting Elmer

Awaiting Elmer

Mark then added, “The next problem is storage.” So true. I have all my paintings now resting on bookshelves, blocking access to certain volumes. Gotta get a different solution. In this case oils are less forgiving. Oils dry very slowly, like taking years to completely dry. That makes putting them against each other even in a vertical file impossible. Hmmm.

Gertie and Kep are happy to have the house all to themselves. No more long stints in the sewing room while Murdoch got his downstairs time.

Snow coming tonight and tomorrow. May it continue.

Simcah

Winter                                                                              Waxing Moon

kate 1200Kate’s wanting to get out and not just visits to medical facilities. Her stamina has improved some, she’s eating more. She’s still in the 80-82 zone, but I’m looking forward to her cracking 83. Then up from there. She’s laughing and smiling, things I didn’t see often over the last three months. Enjoying these moments. Both of us.

My Jewish Studies January event is past. My solo act as teacher of the 6th and 7th graders was yesterday. Both of these, the Jewish Studies and the religious school class weighed on me. In both cases I had the full responsibility for them and that old bugger, what if things don’t go well and what can I do to take make sure that they do syndrome. Not a bad thing under normal circumstances, even ordinary, but in these two instances I felt exposed, reluctant. I suppose it was garden variety anxiety, but it clouded my days for a week plus.

Tara teaching Hebrew with my class

Tara teaching Hebrew with my class

When I went to H-Mart with SeoAh, I picked up ingredients for an Israeli salad. I had collected stories of loving-kindness, made a plan for using them. When I got to CBE, the vegetable dicer came out, a knife from the drawer and I got to slicing and dicing. Red pepper. Crunch. Whack. Roma tomatoes. Deseed, cut. Whack. Crunch. Persian cucumbers. Garlic. Parsley. Whack. Whack. Whack. A little olive oil, some lemon juice, a bit of mint. Toss. All the time I was talking to Leslie, a retired architect and city planner. She wanted to know how Kate was doing. The conversation veered to art. Leslie’s a docent at D.A.M., the Denver Art Museum. She offered to sponsor me when the next docent class comes up.

The kids began to come in. Isaac and his brother from the charter school up the hill. Sam from gymnastics. They trickled in, signing their names in Hebrew as an attendance check. Ryan, always on Ryan, came in with his mischievous smile. Robbie, tall Robbie. Charlie Mulvihill, whose bar mitzvah is on the 16th of February. Gwen. Liya. Jordan and Adam. Aaron. Gabe, who keeps bees with his dad, Dan.

Ryan, Tara, Liya

Ryan, Tara, Liya

The class went well. The kids were attentive during a discussion of loving-kindness. I read stories of kindness from within the Jewish tradition and asked them to match me story for story. Soon they were pulling out stories from movies, books, their personal lives. Several mentioned Hunger Games. Witness. Wonder. One girl bought her sister a toy her sister couldn’t afford. Another gave $20 he’d received for toys to a homeless man. Tara, the director of religious education, then came in and did a Hebrew class on chesed, loving-kindness, reinforcing what we’d experienced from stories.

At 5:30, we start at 4 and finish at 6, they’d been so responsive, I suggested we play games. These are 6th and 7th graders and they have a lot of energy. They come to religious school directly from school so they’ve also been behaving all day. Fortunately we have the whole carpeted social hall for our class. We played (yes, I got down on the floor, thank you work outs) duck, duck, goose. Statue. And zap, the rules of which I never understood. At 6 they weren’t ready to leave.

My point in recounting this is to say why I continue to do these things. They bring such joy, if I can manage my anxiety. Which I usually can. With a little help from Zoloft, years of analysis, and a generally positive disposition. It’s a balance, taking responsibility and living a retired life. It can, and does, get out of whack like it has for me recently. When other matters keep up a drumbeat of stress and vigilance, the teeter totter can suddenly take a dive.

A good class, for example, reminds me why I put myself out there. Sheer joy.

 

Let It Be

Winter                                                                        Waxing Moon

h-mart sashimiOver to the second H-Mart with SeoAh yesterday. This one is smaller than the one in Aurora, but is much better organized. It’s more like a US supermarket though with very different stock. The Aurora H-Mart is more like an Asian market. I love the produce, the array of seafood, and whole cold storage displays filled with things I can’t identify. As you might expect, there is also an amazing range of sushi, sashimi, (left) noodles, soy sauces, frozen dumplings, other prepared foods like soups and sauces. The beef is all Kobe beef, wagyu, but raised in the U.S.

At the checkout I said to the cashier, “You have to be able to recognize a lot of different produce items. Do they train you?” “Yes, we have two weeks of training.” She smiled. They have parsley, garlic, onions, sure, but also rambutan, dragon fruit, jack fruit, many varieties of mushroom, persimmons, young coconut, bok choy. I’m going to get over there once a month since I’m beginning to understand how SeoAh cooks. It’s straightforward but requires ingredients you can’t find at King Sooper. (Krogers)

I enjoy the time with SeoAh. Her English has improved so much. We had Pho for lunch, one of her favorites.

relaxCousin Diane wrote a “why don’t you slow down some, just be for a while?” e-mail. Interesting. When I had no choice, during Kate’s first hospitalization, I did prune out many things, but that was necessity. Daily trips into Swedish or Brookdale, occasionally more than one, left me too exhausted to do much more. My friend Mark Odegard made a similar comment on Sunday during our Zoom session. “Your life is always complex, lots going on.” Also interesting because Mark’s got a lot going on, too, but he sees my life, perhaps as Diane did, as having more going on than is necessary.

Gonna chew on this one. No question that I keep many balls in the air: novels, painting, teaching, cooking, housework, grocery shopping, canine care, exercise, writing this blog. Why, you might ask? That’s the part I need to chew on. Partly it’s a sense of responsibility, not just to Kate and our marriage, our home, but also to that ground-in cultural norm of living up to your potential. Yes, even at 72. Still. Another part, and I picked this up from Elisa in our first session on my birth chart, may be numbing. One way to avoid the feelings involved in this crazy period, or, if not avoid, attenuate is to distract myself. Since I no longer drink, having a lot of things going on is, can be, a socially acceptable equivalent. I do have an addictive personality so numbing is native to my personality.

I would like a rest. Just not sure how to go about getting one. Maybe when Mark and Tom come out next week we can talk that through.

Tah for now. Gotta get back to work. Ha.

Crullers, Empanadas, Goddesses, and Mussar

Winter                                                                                Waxing Moon

20190104_104318_001Made a big circle yesterday. Drove into Denver on 6, a six lane version of 6th Street between hwy 470 and Santa Fe. Wanted to try LeMar’s Donuts since Kate needs weight and likes donuts. It’s right at the intersection 6th and Santa Fe. I like Bismarck’s and crullers, Kate prefers original glazed. The Bismarck at LaMars was about twice the size of the usual. It was quiet there, mid-morning, after the before work rush. This picture is the counter.

Maybe 6-8 blocks further on 6th is Broadway. Turned right and headed south toward Louisiana Street. Broadway is fascinating. After it passes under I-25, just north of Mississippi, you could call it the Green Mile thanks to the number of dispensaries between there and Englewood. There are also funky bars, used bookstores, antique shops, design studios. Meiningers, the art supply store I mentioned earlier and the Wizard’s Chest, a magic and costume shop fit right in. At Louisiana sits Maria’s Empanadas.

cookingKate wanted more mushroom empanadas, corn, and spinach. Lisa Gidday, our internist, had recommended the spinach. “Your new favorite food.” I got an Argentina which has steak, onions, and red peppers.

The woman behind the counter had a very thick accent, Argentinian, I assume. Even with hearing aids accents often defeat me and with the ambient noise, we had difficulty communicating. I hope, in these situations, that I don’t come off as insensitive because I keep asking, “What?” The bill was more than I expected, but after my discomfort with our interaction, I just paid.

I have the same frustration with Vanessa. She’s a member of our mussar group at CBE who has MAS, a neurological disease that makes it very difficult for her to speak or swallow. It is, for her and me, a perfect storm. She can’t speak very well and I can’t hear very well. Third phase life.

20190104_112922As I drove further on the Green Mile, I came across Goddess Isis books. I thought it was on Colorado. I’d always wanted to stop and this was my chance. I’d accomplished my errands and had some free time.

Goddess Isis books used to be Isis books, but the turmoil with Daesh, or Isis in Iraq and Syria, occasioned the name change. Isis has books on astrology, Celtic magic, love magic, shamanism, Hinduism, chakras, a wall full of different Tarot decks, multiple statues and figures ranging from dragons to Kali to cutesy fairies. There’s also a magical apothecary with jars not of herbs or granola, but ingredients for spells.

I picked up Indian Temple Incense, a coloring book of the Tarot deck (to implant those images in my mind), and a magazine called Witches and Pagans. Wanted to see what the broader community was thinking. When asked how I was doing  by the owner, an older woman in a flower print dress with a flowing outer cover, I replied, as I often do, “I think I’ll make it.” She laughed and said, “I know I will.”

Our mussar groups sponsored a potluck last night. First time I’d been to CBE in a while since religious school shut down for the holidays. Lot of questions about Kate. “She’s improving, but had a setback the last couple of days.”

Still strange to me to be picked out as one of the mussar leaders, but I was, working with a small group to talk about the middot of responsibility. A quick example of how mussar works. When it came my turn to read, I had a long paragraph with a lot of Hebrew. I felt shy since the others all did much better than me at pronouncing it. And, I was leading.

Had a cruller after I came home. Unusual, but hey, it had been a long day.

 

 

Waxing

Winter                                                                      Waxing Moon

20181129_095226Thanks to all of you who participated in name that moon. All the ideas were good. I chose this one because it’s short and lunar and germane to Kate’s goals. Thanks, Scott.

Kate had a bad day yesterday. Nauseated when she got up and fatigued right away, unfortunately both continued throughout the day. It was not, however, eating related.Which was good news. She does feel better this morning.

She had an appointment with our internist, Lisa Gidday, at 9:15, so we drove once again to Littleton, probably our most frequent out of the house destination over the last three months barring Swedish Hospital. The progress with food-related nausea and cramping pleased Lisa, but the morning nausea concerned her. Surprisingly, given her reticence in the past, she suggested Kate try cannabis during the day for appetite nudging.

Marijuana dabbaThat meant that after the trip to Littleton we drove on past Conifer to Bailey, to the Happy Camper. I bought Kate two packs of Dabba chocolate mints. The strain this time is sativa, not indica. Indica produces a lassitude that is congenial with sleep; sativa has a more energetic profile. Better for parties and staying awake. We’ll see if that helps.

Cooking maria'sSeoAh cooks by feel, learned by watching her mother cook. I understand this method, mostly my own. I do occasionally follow recipes; so does she, but we both prefer tasting as we go. I’m trying to learn how she thinks about cooking by watching her. I’m beginning to get it. She has a lot in common with Italian cooking. Simple preparation. Fresh ingredients. A lot of pasta. And, of course, rice. I believe by the end of her stay I’ll be able to do a good novice’s job on some Korean dishes.

I drove a lot this week. And it’s worn me out. One more trip today, into Maria’s for empanadas. Also this Sunday is another Jewish Studies Sampler Sunday. My friend Deborah is going to do some breathing exercises during the session.

Gertie, Kepler, Rigel, and Murdoch all enjoy winter. Running through the snow, rolling in it. All in good health. Gertie spends most of her day with me in the loft. Rigel, who gets along well with Murdoch, spends most of her day on the couch. Kep, who attempted to chow down on Murdoch during his last trip here, is either in the sewing room or outside unless Murdoch is in his room. Complicated doggy logistics, but not at all unfamiliar to us.

 

2018

Winter                                                                         Stent Moon

January 2018

January 2018

Buddy Paul Strickland, living in Maine very close to New Brunswick and the Bay of Fundy, has a year theme: Bumping into Wonder. I haven’t discussed it with him so I’m not even sure what a year theme is and I don’t know why he chose random acts of amazement. (though it’s a wonderful idea)

But. I like the idea of a year theme. Our men’s group, The Woolly Mammoths, of whom Paul and I represent two-thirds of the diaspora from Minnesota/Wisconsin, often had year themes. Pilgrimage. Mothers. Fathers. Like that.

Numa's Janus Temple on a Neronian coin

Numa’s Janus Temple on a Neronian coin

Not sure I’m ready to declare a theme quite yet. Maybe later today. I am inviting Janus to take up residence with my psyche for today only. Today is the gate of my Numa shrine. It closes at midnight until February 14th when it will swing open again for a day. I’m putting on the backward looking face and the forward looking one, try to see the last year as it was and the next year as I hope it can be.

At the VRCC, Jan. 2018

At the VRCC, Jan. 2018

 

2018. September 28th was the date of Kate’s bleed and the events since then dominate my thinking about 2018. The misery of Kate’s illness the nausea, cramping, weight loss, and food aversion existed, and worsened, over the whole year.

She was not the only one in the family with intestinal issues. Rigel had begun losing weight in 2017 and we feared liver cancer. A visit of to the Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Hospital however found she had an allergy to chicken proteins. We shifted her to rabbit based food and she began to thrive. A year later she’s bounding around the yard like a puppy. At 9 years old. Very old for a large sight hound.

Rabbi Jamie and Kate, Purim

Rabbi Jamie and Kate, Purim

In February Kate went on a quilting retreat at the Liar’s Lodge in Buena Vista. The drive out was a joy, all the way across South Park, the high plains, past the headwaters of the Arkansas river and into the Collegiate Range which rises to the west of Buena Vista. At Purim Kate got into the spirit of the day and dressed up in the coat of many colors she made for our youngest.

 

Kate’s shoulder surgery in March marked the end of a sleep wrecking, daily life function disrupting arthritic shoulder joint. We met Dr. Schneider, an orthopedic surgeon, and a helluva good guy. He would not be the only surgeon we met in 2018, but the work he did ended a source of constant pain for her. I was deep in my third kabbalah class, this one focused on Hebrew and its mystical qualities. Since I was already playing with sumi-e, I focused on creating Hebrew letters with Japanese brushes, pairing them with quotes focused on that letters deep meaning. I also got to use my chop bought in Beijing in 1999.

Kate at Domo

Kate at Domo

Both Ruth and Gabe are April babies. Ruth on the 4th and Gabe on Earth Day, the 22nd. Ruth loves Domo, the rural Japanese restaurant in Denver, so we took both of them there. SeoAh came out to help with Kate’s recovery, a gift she would give us twice more in the year. The Sjogren’s Foundation had its annual conference in Denver, so Kate went. Gabe was at Children’s Hospital for an operation occasioned by a port problem. April is also an annual art show by art teachers in the Aurora School District. Yam Hashoah, a holiday added to the Jewish liturgical calendar after the holocaust, fell in April. A wonderful ballet memorialized the day at CBE.

Rabbi Shapiro at Alan and Cheri Rubin's, talking about his book, Holy Rascals

Rabbi Shapiro at Alan and Cheri Rubin’s, talking about his book, Holy Rascals

More lumberjacking in May. There was still some fire mitigation to do and I wanted to clear a spot for an outdoor room. Kate recovered well from her shoulder surgery and was able to attend a CBE sponsored tour of the Dead Sea Scroll exhibit at the Denver Museum of Natural History and Science. May also found controversial Rabbi Rami Shapiro at CBE as a visiting scholar. An important, iconoclastic figure in the Reconstructionist movement (and, therefore, Judaism as a whole) Rami considers himself a Holy Rascal and has a book with that title, among many he’s written.

 

Leaving for Durango

Leaving for Durango

Visiting ancient pueblo dwellings at Mesa Verde with buddies Paul Strickland, Tom Crane, and Mark Odegard was the highlight of June. We stayed in Durango and Mark bought his first legal marijuana in a dispensary there. Our hotel was on the Animas River, recently of Gold King mine spill fame, was running blue and clear. In 2015 it was a sickly mustard color. I finished my fourth kabbalah class with a sumi-e enso drawing exercise for my project. Somewhere in this time period Alan Rubin asked me to co-teach the 6th and 7th grade B’nei Mitzvah class in CBE’s religious school.

ICE detention facility, Aurora

ICE detention facility, Aurora, July

Never written a lesson plan. Started in June, continuing in July. Alan and I started almost weekly meetings, our goal: plan a full year of classes. We did it, though we didn’t finish until late August, just before CBE’s religious school began. Some more lumberjacking, continuing the earlier work. After a powerful presentation on the detention and fragmentation of refugee families by ICE, Kate and I decided to join other Jews from the Denver/Boulder area in a protest outside a Geo detention facility in Aurora. The wonder of it (bumping into wonder, eh?) was rainbow which came to earth right over the detention facility.

Lake Minnetonka. Tom's boat

Lake Minnetonka. Tom’s boat

I’ve been back to Minnesota only twice since we moved. Once in May of 2015 for an annual Woolly Retreat near Ely and August, 2018. Groveland UU invited me back to speak at their 25th anniversary.  I took the opportunity to visit old haunts: everywhere I lived in Minnesota, except for the Peaceable Kingdom near Nevis, the Walker and the MIA, neighborhoods and restaurants in both St. Paul and Minneapolis. Also connected with Tom and Bill, plus other Woollies, and some docent friends at a small jazz club listening to Hoaxer, fronted by Grace Goggin’s son.

 

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ER, Sept. 28

September started with the Days of Awe at CBE. Kate and I helped set up and serve the Board’s luncheon during Rosh Hashanah and attended Kol Nidre, then Yom Kippur. It was also the start of the religious school and I had my first encounter with a class of bright Jewish tweens. Oh, boy. I felt exhausted after that class.

The big event though held off until nearly the end of the month. “I’m bleeding.” This at 5:30 a.m. Didn’t know it then, but this was the start of a month away from home for Kate, two weeks at Swedish Hospital and two weeks at Brookdale Rehab. The three days left in September found her in the E.R., then on the 8th (surgical) floor. She had several units of blood, a colonoscopy, a nuclear imaging study of the bleeding, an attempted embolization of the bleed site which failed, and finally a decision to cut out part of her large bowel as the likeliest source of the bleeding.

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Kate at home wrapped in the friendship quilt made by the Bailey Patchworkers

Institutionalization. That was October for Kate. Ten units of blood. Post-surgical disorientation. Deep pain. Nights in a hospital bed, days ruled by hemoglobin results, morphine, and a slow, often literally painfully slow, recovery. Gastric tube for feeding. Slowly back to solid foods. Then, not home, but off to Brookdale, a home, a very nice one, but one that would reveal the limits of even a well-appointed place. She had to learn to walk on her own again, though with the aid of a walker. She did get her diet back to sort of normal.

Installing the new pump

Installing the new pump

SeoAh came again, driven here by Joe with Murdoch. She stayed two weeks and made life much easier for both me and Kate. She cooked, cleaned, smiled, laughed. A joy to have around. One evening she came down and said, “Charlie. There is no water.” What? Sure enough. No water. Kate home now, but still in recovery. Perfect. Quick diagnostics the next day showed it was the pump for our well. And so we have a brand new stainless steel pump installed by the folks at Living Waters.

Near the end of October I went into Dazzle Jazz to hear Frannie and the Jets. Frannie is Alan Rubin’s daughter and this was, at 22, her swan song as a jazz singer. It was a touching evening.

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SeoAh on right. Birthday party at Brookdale. Oct.

SeoAh stayed into November. The bad news in November was that all the medical care Kate received after her bleed had done nothing for her nausea, cramping, and food aversion. She was miserable and weak from the weeks at Swedish and Brookdale. The nausea and cramping meant she couldn’t keep down enough calories to gain weight, even slipping back some.

Jon’s big news in November was an arrest and subsequent court appearances on a violation of a court order charge. I went with him both times, at the preliminary hearing and the hearing where he entered his guilty plea. Gabe had his fifth grade choral concert and because of the restraining order changes made in the last hearing, Jon couldn’t attend, so I went to represent him.

Kate and the machine

Kate and the machine

The good news in November came near the end of the month. After another round of visits to our internist and to Kate’s G.I. doc a last round of imaging studies was ordered, sort of a last gasp. She had two studies, an ultrasound sonography of the arteries feeding her bowels and a small bowel follow through study which checked its efficiency. And there it was at last! A diagnosis. The ultrasound picked up a stenosis, narrowing, in the superior mesenteric artery. A narrowing of this vessel can lead to nausea, cramping, food aversion, and weight loss.

Some frustration after the diagnosis. We saw an interventional radiologist who confirmed the stenosis and offered a procedure, a catheter placed stent in the effected artery. A couple of weeks passed and nothing happened. We decided to push. After a round of phone calls and e-mails, we got a date for the procedure in January.

Our Korean angel

Our Korean angel

Then, on December 19th Kate turned to me in bed and said, “I have news.” An hour later we were once again in the ER at Swedish. She’d had another bleed and determined not to let it to the point it had in September. This one stopped and there was no recurrence. She went again to the 8th floor, this time of observation. After two days of observation, the interventional radiologist decided to go ahead and place the stent while she was already in the hospital. Dr. Mulden positioned the stent without incident on the winter solstice, four years to the day after we moved here.

Going for calories

Going for calories

SeoAh and her husband came for the holidays as they had planned. She’ll be here for another two weeks, maybe three. Their support, and hers in particular, has made this whole unfortunate mess bearable for us. She deserves, and gets, our deepest gratitude.

The nausea and cramping after eating has stopped. The food aversion may take a while to reverse, but Kate’s eating better now. It took a long time for her to decline to her current weight and it will take a while to get it back. She’s visibly less stressed and happier, though still pretty tired.