New (to us)

Beltane and the Recovery Moon

4. Altitude. The height into the atmosphere, away from sea level (0 m) Temperature decreases 3F every 1000 ft (333 m) in elevation.

Air conditioning is important in our house. Kate and I both prefer cool weather to warm, cold weather a lot more than hot weather. Explains our maybe incomprehensible to some commitment to living on top of Shadow Mountain. 8,800 provides natural air conditioning.

When the a/c in the 2011 Rav4 began to sputter three years ago, I began a series of missions to get it fixed. Cost me basically zero. I’d take it in, they’d put die (oops. dye. what’s on my mind?) in it, charge it up and not give me a bill. They never found a leak. This year I decided, time to solve this. But. As I wrote below, we’d end up with a $3,200 or so bill and no assurance that it was fixed.

I’m more tolerant of heat than Kate though not by a lot. It was time to do something. Buying a car (like buying a house) gives me the heeby-jeebies, I don’t like the sense of manipulation. I don’t want to get a bad deal. Yet, we need transportation and shelter.

Kate came out to Colorado, worked with a real estate agent and found our home here on Black Mountain Drive. I would have dithered. I asked Kate to head up the car situation. She did. We have a new car.

2018 Rav4

Kate, “Medical school trained the dithers out of me.” How? “Code red.” Oh. A philosophy major and a theology degree trained me in the fine art of dithering, the paralysis of analysis. Good thing I’m married to Kate. In so many ways.

Part of the urgency was anticipation of 70 hour long trips to and from Lone Tree for visits to the Cyber Knife. All in late June, July, and early August. Heat. Don’t need exasperation from an a/c-less car to go with radiation and Lupron. Bad combo.

Not an easy decision in a financial sense since it draws down the corpus of our IRA, but the now to be known as the white car was no longer adequate. Also, Kate and I have been musing over these last medical months that we don’t need to have our money last into our 90’s since we probably won’t.

Getting Down To Business

Beltane and the Recovery Moon

my best friend for 35 dates. not found on Tinder.

At 6:30 am I sent Anova Cancer Care an email saying that, on rethinking my decision, I’d decided to do my radiation with them. When 8 am rolled around, I decided to call, too. I did. Things happened pretty fast.

A nurse called. How far was I from Lone Tree? About an hour, depending on traffic. 45 minutes minimum. Were there any vacations she needed to work around? No. When would you like to start? As soon as possible.

Well, our dosist (a medical physicist) leaves the country tomorrow for a month. Unless you can come in today, you’ll have to wait until July 1st. He has, I learned, family in China and returns for a month each summer. Let’s do it today.

I’ll call back.

ct scan

She did. I was on the treadmill this whole time. Slightly out of breath, I answered. Can you be here by 11:30? It was about 10:15. Sure. I left my sweats on. At 11:25, after having gone to the breast cancer Invision center by mistake, I found Patty.

Patty is a 30 something, attractive, well-dressed woman. Who called herself a girl. I’m one of the girls you’ll be working with during your treatments. I don’t get why that’s come back into vogue. But, not the point here.

She was kind, though, and direct. Character traits I’ve come to seek out in medical professionals. Did you have a good bowel movement this morning? Well. How about your bladder? Is it full? No clue. They put me in the ct and took a look.

You have a gas bubble in your rectum. I’m going to send you to the bathroom to get rid of that. Please don’t empty your bladder, it’s the perfect size right now. Patty says the sweetest things.

The scan, when it happened about twenty minutes later, took about a minute. I’d had to drink a gulp sized styrofoam cup of water to get my bladder back to perfect.

Over to Anova to sign the consent forms, discuss possible side effects of the radiation, recuperation. Turns out Dr. Gilroy had already told me most of the side effects though I didn’t register what he said as side effects. So he told me again. Recuperation, after the seven weeks, takes about a month usually, gradually feeling more and more normal. But, for me, I’ll have the Lupron working, too, complicating a return to normal.

I told Kate yesterday evening that I’m more concerned about the Lupron than the radiation. The radiation is precise, controlled, localized. The Lupron is systemic. It goes throughout the body, effecting many things not directly related to testosterone. Thus, the side effects. How and which of those side effects will manifest in me is unknown. So is the duration and intensity of them.

Oh, and today we’re going to pick out a new vehicle. Keeping the Rav4, but getting a Toyota with functional AC and better appointments. Kate’s in charge. The process of buying a new car is too much for me at the moment. A bit distracted.

J-Tube at Work

Beltane and the Recovery Moon

Kate’s still sleeping, taking in nutrients. The j-tube has some similarities to the tpn. It has a pump and a set of tubing to connect the pump to the j-tube port. No more bags though. No more syringes. No more batteries. No more heparin or saline flushes. No more pic line. The nutrient solution is called Jevity. I couldn’t figure it out, but Kate said, “Longevity.” Oh. I see.

The really big difference though is that the j-tube puts the nutrients into the digestive tract. This is safer, no more direct line to Kate’s heart for possible wee beasties, and also more sustainable over the long haul. With Sjogren’s dry mouth the j-tube might be permanent. Thanks, Dr. Ed.

April, 2018. Happy Camper

In other local technology news the Rav4 has reached an inflection point in our lives. The AC either has a leak under the dashboard or a faulty evaporator. $900 to remove the dashboard and diagnosis it. If, as they suspect, it’s the evaporator, another $1,900 for the part. With labor somewhere in the three thousand dollar range. It’s a 2011, eight years old next month. As a rough trade-in it’s worth about $5,800. Too much to spend.

So. A new, or newer, car. We’ll keep the Rav4 since it’s in good mechanical shape. With the exception of the AC obvi. Worth more to us than it is as a trade-in. I didn’t get the y-chromosome negotiating gene. I hate it. Buying a new/er car is, grrrr.

Meeting with a friend’s husband this morning in Evergreen at the Muddy Buck. He has prostate cancer, too. A mini-support group, I guess. Then, at 1 pm I’ll get diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment plan. All prostate cancer, all day.

Immoral and Barbaric

CBE and visitors

It’s been warm, even hot down the hill. When I went to the Avengers movie, it was 85 when I came out. Largest temperature swing I can recall. It was 66 when I got back to Shadow Mountain. Not a fan of the heat.

Kate went to the board meeting at CBE last night. She stayed for the whole time, three hours. Her stamina has improved a great deal and she’s using her rollator less and less.

Just put the all season tires in the truck. Headed to Stevinson’s this morning to replace the snow tires and get some dye in the air conditioning system. We’re gonna fix the air conditioning one way or the other this time.

Then, Anova Cancer Care at 12:30. Told Kate yesterday that I want definitive treatment rather than quick treatment. My anxiety level is low. Doesn’t mean I’m not feeling some stress. Of course I am. Just not projecting outcomes, results. So, Dr. Gilroy, here we come.

I did see this yesterday, Judge rips insurance company: “A federal judge blasted UnitedHealthcare last month for its “immoral and barbaric” denials of treatment for cancer patients. He made the comments in recusing himself from hearing a class-action lawsuit because of his own cancer battle — and in so doing thrust himself into a heated debate in the oncology world.” The issues are slightly different, but guess which insurance carrier I have?Immo

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.




Nightmare Number Three

Imbolc                                                                              Recovery Moon

Friend Tom Crane found this very, very strange Steven Vincent Benet poem, Nightmare Number Three. You can find the whole poem here.

Made me think of the Charlie Chaplin movie, Modern Times.

Modern Times“We had expected everything but revolt
And I kind of wonder myself when they started thinking–
But there’s no dice in that now.
I’ve heard fellow say
They must have planned it for years and maybe they did.
Looking back, you can find little incidents here and there,
Like the concrete-mixer in Jersey eating the wop
Or the roto press that printed “Fiddle-dee-dee!”
In a three-color process all over Senator Sloop,
Just as he was making a speech.  The thing about that
Was, how could it walk upstairs?  But it was upstairs,
Clicking and mumbling in the Senate Chamber.
They had to knock out the wall to take it away
And the wrecking-crew said it grinned.
It was only the best
Machines, of course, the superhuman machines,
The ones we’d built to be better than flesh and bone,
But the cars were in it, of course . . .”

Stress is good

Imbolc                                                                              Valentine Moon

Minnesota-Winter-Weather-Forecast 2019Zoomed yesterday with old friends Paul, Tom, Bill, Mark. Paul’s in Maine, the other three are still in the homeland, getting blasted by an old-fashioned grit your teeth, squeeze the steering wheel, freeze up the nasal passages Minnesota winter. Nostalgic, eh? Given my 40 year residence there I’m ashamed to say that I’m not sorry to have missed it. Minnesota macho no longer.

30 years + I’ve known these guys. There’s an ease to being with them, even in little squares (Hollywood Squares sort of) created by the magic of pixels and bytes. We know the back story, the good times and bad, the struggles and the victories. When we speak together, the subtext is often as loud as the spoken. When Roxann’s mother faces the transition from home to assisted living, we know about Tom’s mother and the long process finding her a safe place. When Bill says, how do you solve a problem like Regina, paraphrasing the Sound of Music, his history with the Jesuits and hers as a nun is unspoken. So is the difficult time span of her death from cancer now some years ago. Old friends, like old dogs, are the best.

Ode signed in from near Muir Woods, a cottage overlooking the Pacific. Two weeks of vacation. Tom’s headed for Hawaii and Mama’s Fish House later in the month. Bill spent five days in Florida. Paul had, and I think I had something very similar, a disease that his doctor called the plague. His doctor fingered the same culprits as Kate did for me: kids. Fomites, Kate says. Paul visited grandkids; I taught 6th and 7th graders.

post furmination

post furmination

Took the Kep in for furmination yesterday. Before our now below zero temps we had a run of 50 degree weather. (The reason Minnesota macho has faded from my body.) Blew his coat. When he blows his coat, he looks like a ragamuffin, small tufts of fur his body deems not necessary hanging all over, falling off, making Kate crazy. Off to Petsmart for a thorough wash, comb out, vacuuming. He looks pretty good now.

Ode talked about living a stress free life. I know what he means, no work deadlines, no income needs, no drama at home, much less home maintenance (condo), the chance to go where you want, when you want. Like California in the midst of a brutal Minnesota winter. The chance to work on art projects either set aside while working or not pursued. The chance to visit with old friends, go to the Robert Bly evening at Plymouth Church. In general a life peaceful, not troubled by the undercurrents of the workaday world. He calls this The New Senior Reality Game-plan. And good for him.

reslienceNot my goal. I thought about it. I see the allure. In some ways I wish I could want that, too, bow out of the ongoing stream of pressures, both domestic and personal. But I don’t want it. To be clear I’m not a stress junkie, nor an adrenaline junkie. I manage my anxiety much, much better than I ever have, not letting the day’s troubles spill over into what might happen next. I’ve tried and often succeed at acting without care for results. But stress per se still keeps me engaged.

I like the challenge of learning to teach middle schoolers, of integrating enough of the Jewish tradition to walk among my friends at CBE, of caring for Kate and the dogs. I like the challenge of coming up with a new novel, even though I’ve never sold one. I like the challenge of becoming a better painter, of finding my voice with oils.  I could give up home maintenance responsibilities, like when we have ice dams to deal with or a driveway to plow or electrical matters to resolve. The priority of the living ones in our nuclear family, Kate, the dogs, and myself vitiate that for now, however. I enjoy the challenge of learning about astrology, keeping up with science, especially NASA and genetics.

still me

still me

Stress itself is neutral. In fact, it can be a good thing, motivating us to stay in life, to learn, to engage, rather than become socially isolated. It can, of course, be too much. And recently I’ve had more, much more, than I want. I would appreciate it if some of this stress would fall away. Kate gains 20 pounds, gets her stamina back. I’m back to working out, a real stress reducer. I have a novel and a painting underway again. But for all the stress in my life to go? No, not for me.

I’m in this life fully until it’s over and for me that means stretching myself intellectually, emotionally, spiritually. Stress free is not for me.








Stocking Stuffers

Winter                                                                         Waxing Moon

Arrowhead Manor

Arrowhead Manor

Today and tomorrow. Friendship in the Rockies. Tom and Mark flew in yesterday, spent the night at Arrowhead Manor, a B&B off 285 near Meyer’s Ranch. Between 8:30 and 9:00 they’ll be here. I need this time with them. I’ve had my head down, pushing, pushing, pushing for quite a while now. SeoAh’s been so helpful, CBE folks, too, and Kate. Well, Kate’s had the hard time. Is having the hard time. Yes. All that. Even so, there’s been my side of it, too. Uncertainty. Stress. Caregiving. All ok, but a break from them for a couple of days? Needed, too.

The Happy Camper, our dispensary in Bailey, will be among our first stops. When I went in there a couple of weeks ago to pick up our monthly supply of THC, I asked for my usual edibles from Love’s Oven. “Don’t have any,” the budtender replied. “Oh?” “Yeah, some guy came in just before Christmas and bought all of them for stocking stuffers.” Oh. The times are not changing. They’ve changed.


The Rustic’s Door

After that we’ll visit the Rustic Bar a couple of miles from the Happy Camper, down a 7% grade called Crow Hill. This is where Paul, Mark, Tom, and I had our first breakfast on our Durango trip last year. Beyond the Rustic? TBD.

The Rav4 has new oil. It continues to function well. I sorta wish it didn’t because I don’t like it much, even though I picked it out in 2011 when our Tundra had STDS, sudden truck death syndrome. It has two main virtues. It’s paid for. And it’s sturdy. Will probably drive it another 125,000 miles.

Class on yirah for religious school. Note to self. Always have a craft-like activity in addition to talk. I’ve figured out a way to get the kids quiet. They’re attentive and responsive. But, I aimed the class a mile or so over their heads. They’re concrete thinkers, as Alan reminds me, and I went into full adult, let us reason together mode. Not a flop, but not a success either. Teaching is hard to do well. Not hard to do poorly. I was in the middle yesterday.

20180828_185716Kate came to our MVP group after the religious school class. Marilyn Saltzman picked her up. She lasted a bit over an hour before she began to fade. She’s decided to challenge herself, get out more, see people, build her stamina. I’m so proud of her. It’s tough and in these early days it’s impossible to calibrate well, so she shows up and stays as long as she’s able. When people see her, they smile, come over, give her hugs. Important for healing. Slowly.

SeoAh will leave on Monday, taking her smile, her upbeat presence, and Murdoch back to Georgia. She’s been here since Christmas Eve, teaching us about family and about Korean cooking. Sorry to see her go, but she needs to get back to her Warner Robbins life.





Winter                                                                    Waxing Moon

Big excitement this morning. Into Stevinson Toyota for a Rav4 oil change. Last oil change came on the Monday of Kate’s no good, very bad, horrible weekend at the end of September. That oil has degraded over the whole twilight circus of events since then. This fresh oil comes as the news begins to look better. It will degrade as the Waxing Moon works and puts the unhappy last quarter of 2018 to rest. Looking for a better story in the first quarter of 2019.

Painted some yesterday. Both sumi-e and oil painting have put me back in a tactile world gardening occupied in Minnesota.

Here’s my latest, akeda. Akeda means binding in Hebrew and in Jewish tradition evokes the binding of Isaac by Abraham.



Yesterday morning I created a lesson plan for the religious school. Yirah. The akeda could be used as an example of yirah. How terrible, how frightening. Sacrifice the son whom Sarah bore in her 90’s. Isaac means, he laughed, to remember Abraham and Sarah’s response to the news that she would bear a child. Not only was Isaac the improbable son of Sarah’s old age, he was also the son who would fulfill the covenant God made with Abraham that his descendants would be as numerous as the “stars in the sky.” Killing him as a sacrifice would mean the end of Sarah’s miracle and the promise of God. Yet, he went ahead with the akeda.

A friend of mine in Minnesota, a Sierra club activist, was in an accident on January 14th. Her 18 year old son, Henry, a freshman at Bowdoin college, drove. She was in the passenger seat. A pickup truck drifted into their lane. The wreck killed Henry. Sarah survived with non-life threatening injuries. Since her brief announcement on facebook, “Devastating news. We lost Henry in a car accident. Only 18. So much potential,” I’ve been cycling through imagining the awful pain of losing a child.



Zoom. Zoom.

Samain                                                                       Thanksgiving Moon

offy 1/3 model,

offy 1/3 model,

Zoom. I remember balsa wood airplanes and matchbook cars. Both earned zoom, zoom, zoom. Later, listening to the Indy 500 on the radio, as I did for years the zoom, zoom, zoom of the Offenhauser engine that dominated that track, 27 wins, was background to the sportscaster’s calling of the race.

Now Zoom has moved on, gone into the cyberworld. No longer a sound it’s a brand, a type of online video conferencing (videophones! Dick Tracy!) that captures participants in tv-like rectangles filled with one actor, you. It also moves from screen to screen, following the conversation. It has the feel of an IRL gathering with the ability to span distance with ease. It’s a technology I’ve been eager to see for some time. Would loved to have had it when I chaired the North Star Sierra Club’s legislative committee. Statewide participation would have been easy.

While cranking up the Moving Tradition’s curriculum for Beth Evergreen, I zoomed with their staff and other teachers from synagogues across the U.S. When on the Durango trip last summer with Mark, Paul, and Tom, Paul suggested using it to get together when we returned to our respective homes in Maine, Minnesota, and the Front Range. And so we have.

zoom employeesYesterday Paul, Mark, Tom and I moved into cyberspace. Zoom. Zoom. It was 9 am here in the Rocky Mountain West, 10 in the Midwest, and 11 in the land of the first light. The conversation went deep, over 30 years together makes that easy. We had body language, tone of voice, facial expressions, and shared laughter.

Though. No hugs at the end, no elevation of the trunk as we used to do in our silly, but bonding, post-meeting ritual as Woolly Mammoths. No shared food. Not sure whether profound relationships could be started and nurtured without these, but in the instance of men who’ve known each other long and well, it’s a miracle. (If you were raised, as I was, in the time of the Offenhauser engine.)

“We’re all just walking each other home.” Ram Dass. The ancientrail of human companionship, of friendship now has another path, a virtual one without mountain passes, hostels, gatherings at the Nicollet Island Inn. Zoom. Zoom.