Optimism

Spring                                                                          Rushing Waters Moon

Kate at 16

Kate at 16

Took Kate out for errands yesterday. Doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it is. She went into the goldsmiths and got a new battery for her mercury dime-faced watch. I parked, came in and found her looking at wedding rings. Well, replacement wedding rings. After 29 years she has misplaced hers. Vega ate mine with the watch band I used to hold it long ago. It’s out there somewhere in the wilds of Andover. Kate walked into the goldsmiths, walked to the car. We went to Hopsin’s Dry Cleaner, the post office, and the Village Gourmet, looking for a bread box.

When we got back home, she was not ashen, not exhausted. Her stamina has improved. A lot. A testimony to weight gain, blood and iron infusions, and her commitment to ot/pt. Her face is fuller at 94 pounds. We’re both cautiously optimistic. Next up is the lung diagnosis and the j-tube placement. Some day.

I’m off to Bailey this morning for our month’s worth of thc. The Happy Camper. I’m going to take the opportunity to go to the Rustic Station for breakfast. Their sweet cream pancakes are wonderful. Tom and Mark and Paul, I’ll eat them with mindfulness of our trip to Durango.

20180615_101542It’s a blue sky, sun shiny Colorado day. We get a lot of them though in recent months we’ve also had our share of dark and gloomy. I like both. The sunny days lift my spirit; the gloomy ones inspire my creativity.

Got groceries delivered and the house cleaned yesterday. Having groceries picked and delivered relieves a major energy drainer. Well worth the extra 10-20 bucks. Sandy, our house cleaner, got energetic and washed some bedding, my electric blanket included. At first, I thought she had shorted it out like the first one that got washed, but no, it lives!

 

 

 

 

A Difference Maker for My Heart

Spring                                                                              Rushing Waters Moon

20190420_173752Back to mussar yesterday. First time in quite a while. It was a gift, as was the minyan for Debra Copes’ mother’s memorial the night before.

Odd though, in both instances. I find myself an insider and an outsider. There is no question that Beth Evergreen accepts both Kate and me. I’m of the community, not a Gentile pagan interloper. Yet when the prayers are said and the knee bending and bowing begins, I feel like an outsider. I don’t know the words, nor do I fully understand why we’re bending and bowing. I try to follow the person next to me, but I feel awkward and a bit inauthentic. Also, I don’t wear the kippah during services. Again, it doesn’t seem authentic for me since I’m not of the tribe.

When Alan Rubin and I went to lunch on Wednesday, for example, I ordered a reuben, a pannini. When Alan ordered a salad, I said, “Oh, on your diet, eh?” “Well, yes, but also we can’t eat bread during Passover.” Oh? Oops. Passover, it turns out, is 8 days and eating leavened anything during this time is out. Yet they trust me enough to teach in the religious school.

high holy daysBeing away for a while makes me more aware of these moments. Yet Debra wanted me at her mother’s minyan. She did a universal worship service which consists of lighting candles for Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, and a general candle for other witnesses to the divine. Rabbi Jamie said, at a meeting a couple of weeks ago, “This ex-Presbyterian understands Reconstruction better than anybody else around this table.” Around the table were key leaders of the synagogue.

Yesterday I offered what was for me a mussar interpretation of a table of virtues set out by Renee Brown, a favorite author of many in the congregation. Yes, to generosity. But, also, yes to retaining sufficient resources for yourself and your family. Yes, to freedom, but also yes to submission, to recognizing those times when serving others is more important. Yes, to accountability, but also yes to breaking the rules, to recognizing that not all instances of being held to account (even by ourselves) are equal or worthy.

20180316_191858The Jewish approach to death, too. Sitting shiva with someone after a death. Having those in mourning stand and be acknowledged during the mourner’s kaddish at every worship service. Celebrating each year the yahrzeit, the year anniversary of a loved ones death. Calling together a minyan as Debra did for honoring her mother. Those who knew it, repeated the mourner’s kaddish from memory. A vital and key part of maintaining community, acknowledging that the dead live on, not gone, just absent.

When I told Alan about my new reality with the axumin scan and oncologists, he said, “You know you’ve got the whole congregation behind you?” He meant it. Wow. Makes me feel like crying. Because I’ve always chosen an outsiders role, I’ve rarely known complete acceptance in a group; but, I feel it at CBE like I felt it in the Woollies. Profound. A difference maker for my heart.

 

 

 

Sprinting Through

Spring                                                                         Rushing Waters Moon

Slept fine. Had this soothing scene as the evening faded into night.

Learned that the Progoff workshop is on. I need it even more now. The Colorado years have been tough in health and Jon related matters. I need to pull back and look at my life, learn from it, make some decisions about directions. The cancer reemergence makes gaining this sort of perspective critical.

As with most things medical beyond primary care, an axumin scan requires prior approval by insurance. That can take as much as a week. That could put it in the Progoff week. I probably won’t schedule it for that week unless my docs feel this is super urgent. I’m going to need as much psychic balance as I can muster over the next few months. Kate’s still sick, after all. And still needs my care.

Took Kate to her year follow up for her shoulder replacement. A bit of good news. The shoulder looked good in x-ray and she’s got good range of motion. Her left shoulder has begun to show symptoms. Fixing that one is down the list of medical matters needing attention for her.

We’re planning to get back to mussar this week. I need the community at Beth Evergreen and so does Kate.

Lots of diverse things running, no, sprinting through my mind. As you might expect. Is this the beginning of the end? How bad is the reemergence? Has the cancer spread? What kind of treatment will I need? What will it do to me? How will all of this effect my ability to care for Kate? How will Joe, Jon, Ruth, and Gabe take this news? What’s my prognosis? None of these are happy thoughts. Each carries its own frisson of emotion.

So much unknown right now. It’s impossible not to wonder about the future, but I’m making no big leaps. Information gathering. Decision making. That’s now. And I have Kate to help with that. A big advantage.

Making corned beef and cabbage for dinner tonight.

Over the weekend

Spring                                                                        Rushing Waters Moon

Juice, haggadah, seder plate, gefilte fish, Lucas

Juice, haggadah, seder plate, gefilte fish, haroset, Lucas

 

Coors Field

Coors Field

 

Birthday boy and family

Birthday boy and family

 

Swing, batter

Swing, batter

 

My Age

Spring                                                                          Rushing Waters Moon

20190421_130639Earth day. Gabe turns 11. At the baseball game I asked Gabe what would change when he turned 11. “My age,” he replied. He’s that kinda kid.

Four signs of spring in three days. Pesach. Easter. A baseball game. Earth day. April is grandchild birthday month for us. Ruth, a sophisticated 13, loves Domo, the Japanese restaurant. Gabe, 11, said, yes, I’d like that, to my baseball game idea. Gabe, Ruth, Jon, and I saw the Rockies, cellar dwellers, beat the division leading Phillies 4 to 1.

It was a day game, started at 1:10. Had to leave here, in the snow, at 11:45. It was 41 on Shadow Mountain, when I got into Denver it was 67 and rainy. Even with the weather delay the game didn’t run too long with the Rockies stopping the Phillies in the top of the ninth. It got cooler and windier as the game progressed. Gabe, true to his Norwegian DNA, wore shorts and a t-shirt. I had on a fleece, a flannel overshirt, a scarf, and a hat. Even though I could see the goose bumps on his arms and legs, he only asked for a coat a couple of times. Late in the game he even got ice cream in a small blue baseball hat. Geez.

The Aurora Olsons

The Aurora Olsons

When Joe was six, I started taking him to see the Minnesota Twins in the now deflated and unmissed Metrodome. We got partial season tickets, probably saw 20 games. It was, however, 1987 and those same Twins went on that season to win the World Series. Joe’s been a baseball fan ever since. Me, not so much. Fishing and baseball I did as a father with a son.

The game yesterday was fun, in spite of the chilly weather. The Rockies had lots of offense, twice leaving the bases loaded when an inning ended. Two three-hundred million dollar players, Arenado for the Rockies and Bryce Harper for the Phillies, were on the field. Arenado looked good, Harper not so much, but it’s a long season.

 

 

No Cheffing Required

Spring                                                                         Rushing Waters Moon

Two favorite tools

Two favorite tools

Kate and I discussed ways to relieve my stress. One source of stress for me was the evening meal. Part of me, a very strong part, wants to be a chef every night. Something new, something remarkable. Understand the ingredients, bring out their best, try new techniques. Problem. That requires a lot of forethought. Buy the right ingredients. Have them to hand. Try to replicate things I barely understand. And, it results in duds. Failures. Sometimes. Unnecessary stress.

Kate’s solution? She’ll make a menu plan for a week and I’ll cook it. Oh. I can do that. That relieves me of the need to create and in this instance I’m happy to let it go. Last night I followed her suggestion: spaghetti and sauce, spinach. Straightforward. Tasty. And, no cheffing required. Doesn’t seem like it would be much, but I felt so much better when I saw that menu plan.

No word yet on the Progoff workshop. When I registered, there were only 4 of us and they require 7. Hope it happens. I need the clarity about this time that these workshops always give me. The Colorado years have been wonderful, filled with family as we wanted, saturated with mountains and wild life and blue sky, anchored by new friends and community at CBE. The Colorado years have been awful. Cancer. Sjogren’s. Knee and shoulder replacements. (which have helped us both) Kate’s bleed and the sequelae. Interstitial lung disease. Trips to the E.R. Hospital stays. Vega’s death.

alvarez-adventure-caving-spelunking-1So much here. The grit of my life over the past three and a half years. How has all this changed me? What direction does it suggest? How might I live into it with greater joy, greater passion, greater serenity? I also need a break from the every day. Not just because it’s been stressful as I said below, but because it’s been a long time between breaks. Tom and Mark’s visit was a nice respite, but too short.

The Progoff workshop is five days, morning and afternoon in a retreat center. I’ll be a commuter because of the dogs and Kate’s tpn, plus it’s cheaper. If it doesn’t happen, I’ll have to figure out some other way to get perspective and get a break.

Stressed

Spring                                                                        Rushing Waters Moon

20190205_072936Stressed. That’s me. Boiled over. Had to pick up Kate from Swedish yesterday. Drove in, 45 minutes, ready to leave. Do you have the oxygen? That’s Kate’s portable O2. No. Well, we can’t let her out of her legally without oxygen. She won’t die on the way home. Legal. Go find an O2 canister. OK. Over to Safeway, walking. No. Driving, after waiting several minutes for the valet to find our car. King Sooper. No. Hot. Fine. Going back to Conifer. Drove home, 45 minutes. Picked up O2. Talking myself down from being really angry. My fault. I forgot it. Why? I need a break. A respite. Too long at this now. 7 months. Two of those months sick myself. Now my psa kerfuffle. I’m distracted, feeling more responsibility than I can manage. Nobody’s fault. Life in our third phase lane right now.

The background noise from my psa has created a lot of static on my inner radio. Sometimes hard to hear myself think. Sometimes anxious. Sometimes concerned. Sometimes distracted by domestic matters. In between maybe and for sure right now. Tough place to live. Wish my years of this and that for inner peace was up to handling this, but right now they aren’t.

Big, wet system moving in for Easter. Good news for the fire season. The timing is a little difficult since I’m taking Ruth, Jon, and Gabe to a Rockies game on Sunday and it will be cool and wet. If the game happens. Gabe turns 11 on Monday.

Back to regular workouts. That’s helpful for the stress. My O2 sat % has improved markedly. My body responds well to exercise, gains strength fairly quickly. That’s good news at 72.

 

 

 

Caregiver Man

Spring                                                                                Rushing Waters Moon

Kate’s in Swedish yet again. On O2 up here her oxygen saturation went down to 87. Runs about 98% on O2 on Shadow Mountain. She was also short of breath. That continued down the hill, but her O2 saturation rebounded. She had a chest x-ray, a c.t., and received some prednisone and a bronchodilator. Did not fix the shortness of breath. Meanwhile, Alex from Colorado Pulmonary Intensivists called with the results of her attempt to hook up Edwin Smith and the cardio-thoracic surgeon for the j-tube, lung biopsy. But we weren’t home.

Kate said she’s tired of this, the visits to the E.R. Said I must be, too. No, I told her. You remember, I reminded her, how I developed my commuterman persona to cope with all the trips in to St. Paul with Joseph? Yes. Well, now I’m caregiver man. I do what’s needed. Getting mad in rush hour traffic accomplished nothing but upsetting me, as fussing over this or that as a caregiver doesn’t change our reality, what needs to get done.

That’s not to say I’m immune to the stress. It comes. May have knocked my immune system back enough to make me vulnerable to the flu, pneumonia, that bad cold. Hard to tell. I don’t, however, project into the future. Caregiver man works in the present, stays there as best he can. Tomorrow will take care of itself.

dogs ribsOn a lighter note. When I got my second PSA done, the phlebotomist had pictures of her dogs on the wall. I commented. We got to talking about dogs. She had one, a smallish German shepherd like bitch. She loves to hunt, often comes in with a tail and two hind legs sticking out of her mouth. I mentioned Rigel and the time she upchucked a clear eyed rabbits head on the carpet. Well, she said, I have another one. This same girl once brought me back a full rack of ribs. Dressed. I laughed. So did she. Dogs.

There’s not a car wash in Conifer. Too much water use for our arid, rocky land. We don’t go down the hill much so our Rav4 is often dirty. Got gas down the hill yesterday. They had a car wash. Ah ha. I took advantage. First time in a couple, three months. I’m sitting there as the car wash machine starts spurting water and soap from its car sized mechanical arms. Reading. A whooosh of water and I feel it. Just a little. So I make sure all the windows are up. They are. Whooosh. Some water leaks onto my head, then more. Damn. The moon roof. It was open! Next pass even more water as I fumbled with the controls. They work differently than the one I used all the time in the Celica. I got it closed, but not before I had water streaming down my face. Even I could see the humor. After I got the moon roof closed.

On the way home I got off 73 and headed up Shadow Mountain Drive to find, a traffic jam. ? Cars snaked far around the curves out of sight. What? Luckily this is the information age. I opened my phone. After stopping and putting the now clean Rav4 in park. Went to google, typed in Nextdoor Shadow Mountain. Sure enough. A guy had rolled a gray pickup further up the road. He was in handcuffs. That explained the traffic jam.

Many cars turned around, got out of line. Many of us didn’t. The reason? Mountain roads. In order to get to our house, less than 3 miles up Shadow Mountain Drive, I would have to get back on 73, drive a good distance toward Evergreen, find Blue Creek Road, drive across it to Brook River Drive, turn left and drive miles to get home. Much easier to wait. The jam cleared. I got home.

 

 

 

TGIF

Spring                                                                             Rushing Waters Moon

Health south denver cardiology

South Denver Cardiology

Took Kate yesterday to her electro phys (pronounced, fizz) appointment. This one monitors her pacemaker. Unremarkable in terms of her health, really, since it hardly ever fires, but if necessary it’s there. What was interesting to me is the building. It looks like Valhalla for cardiologists. After that final operation, after that final payment on the Maui condo, after that last beat of their own hearts, cardiologists might gather in this Viking long house and feast on Sæhrímnir, the ever dying, ever resurrecting beast that feeds the fallen doctors of the heart. If such a final destination is anywhere, here near the Rockies seems appropriate. May they upcode in peace.

Max Bruckner (1836-1918), The Walhalla, backdrop for the scenic design of The Ring of the Nibelungs by Richard Wagner (1813-1883). Bayreuth, Richard-...

Max Bruckner (1836-1918), The Walhalla, backdrop for the scenic design of The Ring of the Nibelungs by Richard Wagner (1813-1883). Bayreuth, Richard-…

Afterward we went to Tony’s Market. I like Tony’s because you can spend a hundred dollars and still only have one bag to carry to the car. We’ve kicked our frequent eating out down two notches and do it at home now. We buy things at Tony’s like a tenderloin roast. Expensive? Yes. Compared to tenderloins at a steak house? Not at all. Tonight with asparagus, home cooked bread, boiled potatoes.

Kate’s much better. Her stamina has improved enough that we went to CBE last night for the Grateful Dead shabbat. Rabbi Jamie loves to perform and the CBE house band is better than good. Steve Posner on lead guitar rips it out. The harmonica player is wonderful. Drummer and bass ditto. Cheri Rubin, my friend Alan Rubin’s wife, an accomplished musician, plays the piano. She made a living in New Orleans before turning to reinsurance. Four singers, two men and two women, provided voice backup.

music dead bearsThis particular Grateful Dead shabbat, they occur occasionally, honored Leah, who recently left her position as synagogue administrator. She’s a Dead-head who sells tie dyed shirts and other craft items at Grateful Dead tribute concerts. She had a small shrine to the Dead over her desk. What was remarkable about this evening was that Leah’s leaving the job was not completely voluntary.

In a small community this could have been cause for bitterness or dissension. Instead folks got up and told Leah how much they appreciated her. Rabbi Jamie altered the words to a Dead song, changing the name of the woman in the song to Leah. She came up and sang with the two women in the backup group. It was delightful, charming, and altogether unlikely (in my experience of leave takings in churches that weren’t voluntary.). And, Leah responded by saying that she looked forward to getting back into the congregation, volunteering. Pretty damn amazing.

Not all who wander are lost. Tolkien

Spring                                                                        Rushing Waters Moon

Mark in Saudi Arabia

Brother Mark in the sands of Araby

Brother Mark turned 60 yesterday. A landmark birthday. Sort of the transition from younger to older. The next decade is the 70’s while the previous one was the 50’s. He’s celebrated his birthday in many spots around the world, this time in Arar, Saudi Arabia. Mark’s finishing up the term at his school right now, then will head out for some travel. He’s a wanderer, a man addicted to movement. Mary and I are the same, with Mary’s level of addiction being greater than mine and Mark’s greater than Mary’s. Which we all inherited from our parents. Dad dreamed of travel. Mom did it. She made it to Algeria, Capri, and England during WW II. She was a WAC in the Signal Corps.

Today is Dad’s birthday. He would have been a hundred and six. In regard to yesterday’s post, he had prostate cancer at the same age I did, 69. He also had a prostatectomy, in a time when they were much more difficult to perform (too much blood obscured the surgeon’s view). He never had a recurrence.

Saw Alex, Dr. Gupta’s nurse practitioner yesterday. Kate does have some sort of interstitial lung disease, the kind to be determined by a lung biopsy. The current plan is to have the biopsy done at the same time as her j-tube placement. Alex is working on that right now. This is a big, a giant step forward. Where we’ve been trying to get since January. Alex said she thought Kate was fit for surgery.

Joe and SeoAhs apartment in Songtan, Korea

Joe and SeoAh’s apartment in Songtan, Korea

The wisdom of Ed Smith’s insistence on the tpn has become evident. Her weight is up and her consistent ot/pt has increased her muscle strength and her stamina. She’s in much better spirits, too. Happier. Laughing more. In certain instances now she sets aside the rollator and walks on her own. All of this means that her fitness for surgery has improved since the stent placement in January.

Still no appointment with Dr. Eigner, my urologist. But, soon.

My birthday present is attendance at another Ira Progoff Journal workshop. It’s this May, the 6th through the 10th. I’ve found these workshops, I’ve done three, most recently in 2014, useful. My first was in Wisconsin, in the early 1980’s. That’s when I developed my mantra: Spring rushing, white pine rooting. I’ve used it ever since. The second was in Georgia, outside Atlanta. Don’t recall the work I did there. The third was in Tucson. In that one I stirred things up, discovering a desire to move to Colorado, to be near the grandkids.

progoffThese workshops excel at locating yourself in your life at the moment. That is, what major factors are at play, which threads from your life will gain prominence, or might gain prominence. I want to look at our Colorado life, now three and a half years in, and in particular the knock on effects of our health issues, Congregation Beth Evergreen, living in the mountains, and our family.