We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Figuring Things Out

Winter                                                                          Imbolc Moon

20180119_095931 Rigel. We took her to the VRCC, the Veterinary Referral Center in Englewood. This place is the equivalent of the University of Minnesota’s Vet Hospital for the Denver Metro Area. The Vet school here is in Colorado Springs, at an hour and half away too far for most folks to travel.

We had a consultation with Dr. Danielle Bayliss, an internist. She reviewed the blood work Rigel has had, all the notes from Sano Vet Clinic, asked about her ultra-sound and went over Rigel’s recent history of weight loss and neediness. Plus her insistent dining on Jewish texts.

Dr. Bayliss’s mind was a pleasure to watch work. She was compassionate, unhurried and thorough. She began by explaining that she thought we needed to redo Rigel’s blood work and do what she called biologic tests. Her reasoning was that the major presenting problem was weight loss. “That could point to some GI tract problems with nutrition absorption. We don’t want to do a liver biopsy (our Vet’s recommendation), then find out she’s still losing weight.”

Kep and Rigel

Kep and Rigel

The biologic test involves drawing blood, getting a baseline, then feeding her and two hours later, drawing blood again. I’m not sure exactly what it measures, but it tells Dr. Bayliss something important about the bowels. We’ll get some of the results today, the rest, the biologic tests, sometime next week.

Meanwhile, Dr. Bayliss prescribed a new dog food, one with rabbit as its primary protein, not the chicken in her Blue Diamond Senior diet. Prescribed in this instance means expensive, like $84 for a 25 pound bag. In addition, since she’s supposed to have only this diet, her treats will have to be canned dog food with the same ingredients. Another $82. Yowzer. She also received a prescription for metronidazole.

All this, however, gave both Kate and me at least a momentary reprieve from the liver cancer we thought they would find. It could be there’s still something dire going on, but it’s also possible she’s becoming unable to absorb chicken proteins and that the diet will be at least a partial fix.

Rigel

Rigel

We’re never ready to lose a dog and Rigel has been our healthiest dog ever. Which is saying something after seventeen dogs. She’s a sweetheart, except for digesting texts and flashcards on Hebrew and several patterns from Kate’s sewing room collection.

Since Vega died in April of 2016, she has come out from under Vega’s big personality to claim her own space. In particular she has found her voice and comments on many things, not always intelligibly to us, but usually so.

This summer she dug after and caught a vole. The shallow hole she dug was about three feet long, this is in spite of the amputation of one toe on her right front foot a year or so ago. Catching that vole, and eating it, reawakened her predator spirit and has found her since then spending a lot of time looking for critters under the shed, something she and her sister Vega did for hours in Andover. She’s retained that vigor, the eagerness, I suppose you could say zerizut. She runs out with her long, loping stride, tail up and ready for what she might find.

May she still.

Big Guys Do Cry

Winter                                                                  New Imbolc Moon

Being sick, even mildly sick as I’ve been for four or five days now, takes me into strange territory. Mortality flits across the mind. All the obituaries that include the phrase, “after a brief illness.” Labile. When I saw this video about Ronnie the Donkey, I cried. And, too, when I read about this special organization, Cayleb’s Senior Dog Rescue. Kate and I donated.

Donkey And His Mom Celebrate Their Emotional Journey    This donkey was so depressed after he lost his baby boy. But the woman who adopted him knew exactly what he was going through and figured out the sweetest way to make him feel at home. Today on Party Animals, Ronnie’s mom is throwing him a very emotional 5th rescue-versary party to celebrate their amazing journey 😍

Posted by Party Animals on Saturday, January 6, 2018

Got to wondering about being labile. Why is that part of illness?

I asked Kate. Less energy to maintain your defenses, she said, in essence.

Castle Dinas Bran, Llangollen, North Wales

Castle Dinas Bran, Llangollen, North Wales

Which raises a second question. Why the defenses? Why would I need to place a barrier between my feelings and my expression of them, especially feelings of tenderness? Is it too difficult for my sanity to rock my inner world? Somehow I don’t think so. It seems more likely that big boys don’t cry. As our president might say, Sad. Why not recognize when the heart softens, when it takes in a moment of love and responds? Why not just go ahead and cry? Tear up.

Maybe one of the functions of illness is to remind us of our heart truth. When the body feels threatened, insulted, perhaps the mind takes the opportunity to reexamine our spot in this world. Perhaps it allows the cultural constructions, the moats and castle walls we put up, to crumble a bit, so we can know they exist. We do tend to forget about those fortifications, the ones built by stereotype, by social convention.

dinas bran. I visited these ruins in 1995.

dinas bran. I visited these ruins in 1995.

We northern Europeans seem to have well-built walls. Perhaps that’s why we can be gulled too easily by ideologues who have burnished their fear of the other, who take their fear and embarrassment as cues for violence rather than compassion. It is a danger we could altogether eliminate, if we let the right feelings in.

As for me, I’m going to try. The moat drained, the walls down. Good. Let them stay that way.

Very. Stable. Genius. Yeah.

Winter                                                                   Moon of the Long Nights

bone brothBone broth still gently boiling on the stove. Its been there since yesterday afternoon at 5 pm. First time I’ve made this. At 8 or so this morning I’m going to start a beef stew in the slow cooker.  Beer is one ingredient so Kate bought a six pack of Dos Equis. Sacrificing for the cause.

Our very stable genius has just cavalierly unmoored the lives of 200,000 Salvadorans. That’s a small city of immigrants. Lack of empathy is a hallmark of this administration, necessary for gutting the future with one trillion dollars plus in tax cuts, pretending that climate change is a liberal conspiracy, trying to dump transgender military personnel over supposed medical costs, and elevating pedophiles and other sexual predators.

trump3In the debate over his mental illness I’m agnostic, agreeing with those who say he’s obviously dysfunctional, yet unwilling to ascribe his character flaws to a particular diagnosis. It does a disservice to all people with mental illness when such a man, a man whose moral compass has been rendered useless by the powerful magnets of fame and money, is seen to act as he does because of possible narcissism or whatever else others find in his public persona. They may play a role, yes, but there are still underlying values toward which this particular man gravitates, values inculcated by a racist father and a distant mother, values embraced by a hollow man needing to fill a vast internal vacuum.

Nixon and Trump, cancers of the U.S. political system.

Sad about Rigel. A sort of dark blanket over our lives right now. There’s a bit of hope that we’ll find something other than cancer, but it seems slim. We want to know her prognosis, how best to care for her right now. She’s a sweet, sweet dog.

 

This. That.

Winter                                                                          Moon of the Long Nights

The elliptical is gone. Sold back to Colorado Fitness. Two guys came in a Pence rental truck, picked it up and carried it down the stairs. Heavy, man. Its footprint is still here, outlined in dust.

Kep and Rigel

Kep and Rigel

Rigel’s liver values have continued to deteriorate. We’re taking her to a specialty diagnostic center for a liver biopsy. Possible liver cancer. She’s 8 going on 9, old in our family for a dog of her size. Makes me want to spend as much time as possible with her now. She’s still alert and responsive, the same dog, really, except for the recent habit of chewing up shoes, paper, boxes, hats. Might be something else. We’ll find out.

We’ve taken a cash infusion from last year, paid off our credit cards, plumped up by lots of Jon and grandkid related expenses, and transferred some more money into our savings. Feels good to start the new year debt free. We’re going back to the usual pattern of paying off the credit cards on the month. We strayed from this last year. Just too much going on and we let our attention wander.

inner childI’m still wrestling with schedules, Hebrew, novels, not in a groove and I don’t like that. Except. I read for much of Sunday, The Fifth Season, a fantasy series, very good. While I did that, my sensibility about what I might be doing began to shift. Not sure how, but I have an internal compass that eventually swings back to my true North whenever I get lost. That’s happening right now, though I don’t know where its headed quite yet.

Meanwhile we’re starved for snow and hoping some comes, a lot. We need it for moist forests with trees not dry like fatwood. Not much in the near term forecasts either. This is the arid West. And remains so.

A busy week ahead at Beth Evergreen. A presentation of stained glass art, the third kabbalah class, and another meeting of the MVP, mussar vaad practice group. Bagel table, too, on Saturday morning. More cooking.

Yippee!

Winter                                                                  Moon of the Long Nights

A blur day. Somehow messed up my sleep, felt sleepy in the am. Napped in my chair, then went down to the bed for a nap. No sleep there. Of course. Ruth and Gabe came while Jon went to A-basin to ski. Ruth’s better but her throat’s still sore. Spent most of the day more or less tired or sleepy. No word on Rigel’s x-ray and blood work yet.

Mother's Day, 2016

Mother’s Day, 2016

Jen had to leave Denver to collect the kids. It was her dinner night with them. She communicates with me, so I arranged it with her. She hasn’t driven to Conifer since Mother’s Day of 2016, just before the divorce storm broke over the Olson sky. She got to the driveway, turned her car around pointed toward Black Mountain Drive and waited on the kids to come out. I didn’t see her. Weird.

Finished off an excellent Netflix series, The Travelers, about visitors from centuries ahead of the 21st, as they call this century, trying to avoid a full on catastrophe in the distant future.

Nosedive

Nosedive

Also watched the third episode, Crocodile, in the 4th season of Black Mirror. This is a dystopian sci-fi anthology which has, some critics say, a marked Luddite tendency that doesn’t let up. That may be, but the show is prescient. For example, the first show of the 3rd season, Nosedive, has a near future culture where the ratings from social media determine life options. Look at the recent news about China’s social credit system which, though voluntary now, will become mandatory in 2020. It’s a broadening of the U.S. concept of the FICO score for financial credit to one that has immediate social implications for the individual, too.

The first show of this, the 4th season, U.S.S. Callister, critiques Trekkies and more significantly, gamer culture. Crocodile, which I just watched, is a cleverly constructed story that takes a while to show the implications of a “memory dredger” used to pull up memories as a tool for investigation. Spoiler alert: don’t buy a guinea pig. This material is entertaining, but in a very dark way, hence Black Mirror. Sort of my sweetspot.

I don’t know whether this is peak TV as some claim, suggesting that the money being pumped into new, innovative series and movies can’t be sustained over time, but it is definitely a golden moment for sci-fiction and fantasy. Battlestar Galactica. Lost Girl. The Travelers. The Magicians. All the various Marvel offerings. Black Mirror. Dr. Who continues, now with the first female Time Lord. True Blood. Game of Thrones. Handmaid’s Tale. Dark. All of these have high production values, are high concept and have excellent actors. As a very early fan of Marvel comics and a life long reader of science fiction, I can only say, yippee!

Yesterday

Winter                                                                              Moon of the Long Nights

Rigel

Rigel

The nearly full moon lit up the snow outside our bedroom last night. Soothing, gentle. This one presides over the longest nights of the year.

Two of our females had imaging work yesterday. Rigel got an x-ray, looking again for cancer since she has continued to lose weight in spite of therapy for chronic hepatitis. She’s eight, old for a dog of her size. Her condition, whatever it is, caused me to roll back through the death of many of our dogs just before sleep. Sad. Grief is the price we pay for love.

Kate had a makeup c.t. scan since the one she had last week was not done according to protocols for pulmonary embolisms. It required a contrast dye. Like the first, no contrast scan, this one showed nothing new, nothing menacing. Dr. Gidday now wants her to do a stress test, checking for possible heart issues. Don’t know when that will be.

She also has an appointment in late January with an orthopedic surgeon to discuss her painful shoulders, investigating possible shoulder replacements. She takes all this with a calm spirit, not bringing doom into the present, rather waiting for information. Her quick intelligence and vast medical knowledge could make it otherwise. An impressive woman, my Kate.

Ruth’s tonsillectomy seems to be loosening its grip. On day 6 or so the scabs fall off as healing progresses. This can be, and was for her, painful. Yesterday evening though she texted that she’s ready for empanadas. A great sign.

soupWe have a cookbook, Twelve Months of Monastery Soups, and I’ve been making soups out of it that Kate thinks sound good. She has a favorite, vermicelli soup, a vegetable soup with noodles. I made some for her last night.

I’ve decided to give Hebrew this month. I’ll work on it everyday and see if I can get myself back to a place where it’s at least enjoyable. Right now, it isn’t. If I can’t get there in a month, I’m gonna drop it. Banging my head against this particular wall isn’t worth it unless I enjoy it.

 

 

 

The Ancientrail of Family

Winter                                                        Moon of the Long Nights

Sushi Win last night

The last of the holiseason guests leave today. Joseph, SeoAh, and Murdoch load up the Subaru, including some very appreciated sports cards; one could be worth thousands! It has been so sweet to see these two and their puppy. Their second anniversary is only three and a half months away. Joe’s got a lot of travel with his Weapons Officer position, especially with the sword rattler-in-chief, so SeoAh and Murdoch get to spend a lot of time together at Robbins AFB.

We had the talk with Joe yesterday. No, not that talk, but the other one about estate plans, medical powers of attorney, money, disposal of cremains. Being in the military has made him very aware of such matters. As an officer, he’s required to understand them for the personnel he commands. He said, “I hope you live until I retire in ten years.” Me, too. But you never know.

typical of their relationship

typical of their relationship

This is another purpose of holidays, to bring families together and to allow opportunity for sorting out the business side of their affairs. These are often emotional and difficult issues, also, for the same reasons, often avoided. We’re lucky that we can have these conversations easily.

Kate got a call every patient appreciates. “Oh, that C.T. scan? They didn’t do the contrast dye so we have to do it over.” Great. On the upside it looks like the portable O2 concentrator battery has decided to come back on side. Tammy, from the O2 concentrator store tech support, had me recalibrate the battery. Recalibration involves running the battery down to zero, then charging it fully. “You should do this every quarter since the batteries are so expensive.”

goofy-droopy-glasses-bigAs with the whole United States (except for the 30% or so who still see Trump through those crazy glasses with the eyeballs that fall out on slinkys), I’m going to be very, very glad to put 2017 to bed. You know. The gradual rehab of the knee. Jon’s final eight months with us. The turmoil in his life and the kids. Kate’s gradual and painful introduction to Sjogren’s. Her shoulder. Trump. And, of course, Trump. The troubles in Korea, now of significance to us in a new way. It’s been a tough year, expensive and emotionally trying.

Rice Cake Soup. And more.

Winter                                                                     Moon of the Long Nights

rice cake soup ddeok-kookYesterday SeoAh taught me how to make rice cake soup. It’s delicious, a good breakfast soup. It has an unusual role in Korean culture. At the New Year, the spring festival, (same time as Chinese New Year), all Koreans eat, with their families, a bowl of rice cake soup. When they’re done, they’re all a year older. The entire nation becomes a year older on the same day, using the same ritual.

The new InongenG3, Kate’s portable O2 concentrator, has refused to charge beyond 16%. Called service and they suggested a hard reset. “Set the unit on the right and the battery on the left of the table. Set an egg timer for thirty minutes. At 30 minutes, plug the unit in for 30 minutes. After that, put the two back together and charge.” Just a bit condescending. Didn’t work the first time. Trying one more time, then this puppy is getting rehomed and  exchanged for a new one.

20171225_162548Kate had a battery of tests, some blood work and a CT scan. The CT scan showed nothing. Which is good since they were looking for a possible pulmonary embolism. She may have a stress test next. The question moves on to cardiac issues. It’s been a tough year for Kate physically, but she’s handled it with calm and resolve. Still more stuff to workout. That damned right shoulder, too.

Joe and SeoAh decided to stay today, leave tomorrow. Joe and I took down the boxes of his stuff that we moved here from Andover. He’s going to sort through them, making a throwaway pile, a keep here pile, and a move to Robbin’s pile. He’ll start by taking some of that last pile tomorrow. He has many, many baseball, basketball, football cards. There are Transformers, a train set, the Great Books, college text books, Christmas decorations, fun things he had on the ledge in his room back in Minnesota. All that between high school and after college stuff.

Auld Lang SyneWe watched the Murdoch detective series last night. The detective is Murdoch the Akita’s namesake. There is a great ease in family relationships of long standing. So much that does not have to be said. So much confidence in the future of those relationships. Holiseason moments abound in these experiences, giving us fuel and stability for the months ahead.

May your days-and nights-be merry and bright, may old acquaintance be recalled and a cup of kindness lifted to them all.

 

The Miraculous Ordinary

Winter                                                         Moon of the Long Nights

Joe and SeoAh's house, Robbins AFB

Joe and SeoAh’s house, Robbins AFB

Christmas is over. As is Hanukkah. Diwali. Posada. Advent. Thanksgiving. Samain. The Winter Solstice. Coming up: Kwanzaa, New Year’s, Epiphany, Feast of St. Agnes. Holiseason continues.

Much as I love Holiseason and all its wonders, the ordinary miracles and the miraculous ordinary of its lights and meals and time spent together with friends and family, I admit it can be hard, too. Some, many, are left out of the merriment due to poverty, ill health, prejudice. Others find the memories of Holiseason’s past unpleasant, even suffocating.

Visitors, while wonderful, can tax a home. Kate and I have discovered that holidays where she cooks and the grandkids are around strains her too much. The combination of being on her feet while managing expectations she feels from them has become difficult. Either I’ll cook or we’ll cater or go to a resort. Having the grandkids and Jon, Joe and SeoAh around is too important to lose.

1514288916927Joe and SeoAh are different because, as SeoAh says, “You are my parents, now, too.” She cleans with no prompting, cooks with us. Joe, inspired by her, does the same and helps out otherwise. Murdoch, see the post below, is a joy. Lots of puppy energy, friendly. And growing so fast.

Even so, any difficulties we find in the holidays only underscores their importance. They are special moments, often moments out of time, that connect us to the deepest yearnings of the human soul. What are we? What are we for? Who are we? Who are we for? Where are we going? Where have we been? How do the mysteries of life and the universe effect us and those we love?

Some might find the holidays have answers to these questions, and that’s all right, but I prefer to see them as prisms through which many possible answers refract, the lights of Holiseason seen from many, many perspectives.

winter solstice3What are we? Gods. Brothers. Sisters. Mothers. Fathers. Husbands. Wives. Grandparents. Sources of light and love. What are we for? For each other. For the planet. For our own growth.

Who are we? Fellow travelers, as Ram Dass says, walking each other home. Who are we for? Each person floating in their barque toward the sea of all souls. Each living entity on the planet, not least because they sustain us. The earth as a living goddess who loves and nourishes us.

Where are we going? To the heavens. To the soil. To the darkest of nights. To a Thanksgiving table always filled with food. To the depths of our own souls. Into a new year. Where have we been? Through the desert running from an evil king. In a fortress fighting off alien invaders who destroyed our temple. On the shores of a new world. In the dark, happy and content. In the dark, waiting for light and warmth. Most recently, 2017.

 

Where Did He Go?

Winter                                                                     Moon of the Long Nights

Joe took this just after I went downstairs to bed last night. Murdoch

1514288896887

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