We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Geez.

Written By: Charles - Mar• 06•19

Imbolc                                                                       Recovery Moon

Tom, Durango, Co. pre-beard

Tom, Durango, Co. pre-beard

I’m kicking the Valentine Moon off the header at 1% waning. Just want it off my page. No more Valentine Moons. Bad February. Bad. I hope, with Recovery, to initiate a month in which both Kate and I head towards healthy. I’m already well on the road and Kate looks like she’s taking the first tentative steps.

Here’s some irony. Good buddy Tom Crane wrote me a note. Guess what it said. “I have pneumonia, too.” WTF! Paul Strickland, who was on the Zoom call on Sunday as well, had the plague. As his doctor called it. I mentioned that earlier. I had the plague plus pneumonia. That’s 3 of the 5 guys, all over 70, who had or have serious respiratory illnesses. Again, I say, no more Valentine Moon. Bad February. Bad.

Kate and I are off to a pulmonologist today. Haven’t seen one of those yet. She may get a full pulmonary function workup because part of the visit is to assess her fitness for surgery to place the j-tube. It’s also to follow-up on x-ray findings of possible interstitial lung disease. Afterward we plan to go to Maria’s Empanadas and pick up a dozen of Kate’s favorite midnight snack.

The solar snow shovel has melted most of the snow from the “monster” storm we had over the weekend.

Got out the Instant Pot and made chuck roast last night. Tasty. Also, got all of the spices and herbs out of the cabinet. They’re currently all over the kitchen counter. I’m going to rearrange them in hopes of being able to find easily what I need. Where’s Maria Kondo? I might need her. Do I love the second can of cumin? Does it bring me joy?

 

 

Straight WM/WF Seeking Ostara

Written By: Charles - Mar• 05•19

Imbolc                                                                      Valentine Moon

Roman goddess Flora

Roman goddess Flora

As Minnesota struggles with a long, harsh winter, we’re only 15 days from the spring equinox. Here in the Rockies we have snow, cold but not bitter temps, and no signs that spring is two weeks away. March and April are the big snow months here, so we’ll see the egg laying rabbit much later, May probably. Though we will also have very warm weather mixed in with the snows.

The Great Wheel may be lined up with our house, at least I hope so. Kate’s looking and sounding better each day. She’s doing her ot and pt, smiling and laughing. By spring (meteorological spring) it’s possible she’ll have her j-tube in, too. Weight gains in the offing. With the exception of some stamina that I won’t regain until I start working out again and a slight cough, I’m back to normal.

Over the month of February the cliche it’s always darkest before the dawn kept popping into my head. Boy, I’d think each time, dawn must be pretty damned close. Nope. Well, maybe March will see Aurora and the rejuvenating power of spring reinforce each other here on Shadow Mountain. In fact, I just noticed that Ostara, an occasionally used Wiccan name for the Spring Equinox, is the German goddess of both dawn and spring.

ostara2When we can surf the oncoming power of seasonal change, laying our bodies on the waves and riding them all the way into calm water amazing things can happen. Imagine being in the tube of the curl, the always radical, vital current of the growing season pushing toward the frozen ground, warming it, crashing into it as Phaeton whips his sunny chariot against the dark of the fallow season’s long night.

I’m usually reticent to see winter go. Just one more week of cold and snow, please. And, I do want more moisture here. Always. But this year I’m excited to see springtime in the Rockies, hoping that our life on Shadow Mountain will be a joyous part of it.

 

 

Stress is good

Written By: Charles - Mar• 04•19

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Better

Written By: Charles - Mar• 03•19

Imbolc                                                                                Valentine Moon

Kate and Jackie

Kate and Jackie

Glad to see the Valentine Moon fade away. It presided over a difficult month.

The snow storm that wasn’t. Instead of 6-12, we got maybe 2. But it is -2 for temp. Before the storm that failed Kate and I watched the fog rolling in, covering the lodgepoles and the aspens. A bit of snow here and there, but mostly the fog coming down Black Mountain.

Kate’s feeling better. She smiles more, jokes. Her food intake was low and not nutritious before the tpn. It seems like we may be going in the right direction. At last.

Got the freezer defrosted. We have an insulated garage. As I restored the items to the freezer out of the Option Care styrofoam containers, I took inventory. Good stuff in the freezer still, even though we lost several items to freezer burn. Chili. Gravy. Challah. Sauces.

Very domestic day. Defrost freezer. Change Kate’s nutrition bag. Cook supper: hamburgers, tator tots, and kale cooked with bacon in the instapot. A load of laundry. Empty and reload the dishwasher. Home stuff. Satisfying.

Saw a meme on facebook. A deranged, autocratic psychopath showed up in Singapore. Kim Jong Un was there, too. Korea is personal. Not only is it SeoAh’s home, the two of them could return to Osan at some point.

 

 

 

What To Do?

Written By: Charles - Mar• 02•19

Imbolc                                                                                             Valentine Moon

relaxMy birthday month passed in a blur of illness and caregiving. February, my seventy-scond February, got underway two days after a difficult day, a full day. I felt exhausted around noon and had several more places to go. Like moving through jello, thick jello on the way home.

The next two weeks was a symptom buffet. Somebody was spinning a large wheel and where it stopped? That was the new insult. Hit me like a freight train. My memory of those days is absent, therapeutically so, I think. Pneumonia came after that. And after pneumonia, recovery from three weeks of misery. Mostly back to normal now, just a bit of stamina to regain.

However. A month, a whole month, even if it’s a short one, mostly erased. No painting. No writing. No visits to CBE. No exercise. Having to rethink life. Again. Home now, no more regular CBE obligations. Being available for Kate’s needs is top of my list. Doesn’t consume all of my time, not even close, so I’m beginning to itch, to want some fruitful self-directed activity.

A new novel? That one I’ve been mentioning? More painting? Reading about art, astrology. Judaism. I need a focus, an outlet for my own work. Nothing sticks right now. Guess I’ll just mosey along like I have been, see what comes. Maybe I’ll try some free writing a la Natalie Goldberg. Painting equivalent.

No big deal here, trying to get myself reoriented, start the engine. Sputtering. Too much choke.

Waiting on the Storm

Written By: Charles - Mar• 02•19

Imbolc                                                                   Valentine Moon

ice dams

Snow storm headed our way. March and April are big snow months in the Rockies. Looking forward to watching the snow fall and temperatures drop. Black Mountain will be white again for a while. Shadow Mountain, too. Flakes already spitting as I went out to get the paper.

We’ve settled into a routine of sorts. Sometime during the day I swap out Kate’s tpn bag. She assists by drawing up the vitamins. I make small meals or heat up left overs. We both eat when we’re hungry rather than at meal times except for breakfast. Being hooked up to the oxygen concentrator all day, her nutrition bag, too, makes Kate restricted in her movements. A major reason I bowed out at CBE. Responding to anything out of the ordinary is  difficult for her right now. Lot of reading. Some television. Talking.

Placing the feeding tube awaits the pulmonologist’s assessment of Kate’s lungs. If she gives us a go, then the feeding tube could go in as soon as a week. That will change the routine. The J-tube, as it’s called because it goes into the jejunum, will not have the sterile procedures of the tpn and is gravity fed, so no pump. How things will look then we’ll have to see.

defrostOur Kenmore frostless freezer forgot its prime directive. I had to take everything out yesterday. Fortunately, I had all those styrofoam coolers the folks at Option Care have been sending with vitamins and nutrition bags. Checked it on the way up here this morning, the freezer’s in the garage. Almost all the ice build up is gone. Gonna get out the lysol and wipe the whole thing down, restore what wasn’t freezer burned and turn it back on. Having a freezer in Minnesota in the winter always made me think of salesmen and Eskimos.

Though I’m tired by the afternoon, my energy level has begun to return to normal. We’ve still got a puzzle to solve, revealed by my illness. What do we do if I get sick again? Hard to imagine I’m gonna get something this dramatic again anytime soon, but it didn’t occur to us that I’d get sick at all. We’re noodling this one.

We also agreed yesterday that I can go out as long as I’m not more than a half hour away, have my phone with me, charged and on. That means I’ll be able to go to CBE events occasionally. This is a time of intensive healing for Kate, getting her nourishment levels back to normal, then working on weight gain. Don’t wanna screw that up in any way.

As to moving. We’re going to consult the pulmonologist who is the ultimate authority here on these matters. That’s this Thursday. Once we get her input we’ll be able to make more intelligent decisions.

We have impressive ice dams on our north facing roofs. Before the idea of a move came up I was going to have them removed and electric heat tape installed to prevent them in the future. Now each thing that involves putting more money in the house will require scrutiny. Still going to have the ice dams removed though. Not cheap.

Demon possessed

Demon possessed

Meanwhile the dogs are healthy. Rigel’s eating well. Her predatory instincts have remained strong. When I cleared the deck last week, a rabbit squirted out from under it and ran to the shed. No wonder she spends a lot time sniffing at the deck, clawing rocks out of the way (when things aren’t frozen). Kep’s blown his coat with the recent run of over 50 degree weather. Off to Petsmart this week for defurmination.

Then there’s Gertie. This bitch bit me in the thigh last week. Three holes in my leg, blood dripping down, and a monster bruise. She wanted to get to the gutter guy who was trying to give me an estimate on the heating tape. She has an anger problem when it comes to any visitors. She’ll bite without warning. That was the issue that caused Jon and Jen to decide to euthanize her. We took her to spare her life. Most of the time she’s a really sweet girl, all doggy leans and kisses, especially to me. She spends most of her time with me. But…

 

Some Improvement

Written By: Charles - Mar• 01•19

Imbolc                                                                        Valentine Moon

January

January

Sun rising on Black Mountain, shining through a gauze of light snow. The solar panels have a dusting, enough to impair their function. The setup is for 6-12 inches here, christening March, often a big snow month. The temperatures will drop over the next few days, not into Minnesota territory, but cold for Colorado. Welcome.

Kate’s got a more upbeat attitude. That’s so good to see. She offered to move to assisted living, so I could stay in the house. “That’s not the way marriage works.” Didn’t say it, but I meant, “Whither thou goest, so do I.” Love is a verb, to quote John Mayer.

The folks at Beth Evergreen continue to ask what they can do. This is a difficult question for us to answer. King Sooper delivers. That’s one regular need solved. I like to cook and Kate’s not eating much. Meals don’t make much sense. We have Sandy who comes to clean every two weeks. We’re good there. Most of the care for Kate is related to things she needs throughout the day and maintenance of the tpn process, not really something others can do. Ted plows us if we get more than 5 inches. In other words most of the day to day chores are either taken care of or too frequent to make them amenable to outside help.

A note to Tara (director of the religious school and a friend) suggested three things: 1. Visits from folks who bring lunch stuff along. We miss seeing and talking to our friends. 2. Help with defrosting freezer. Need a couple more coolers. Don’t know why the damned thing (a non-defrost freezer) chose now to seize up, but it did. 3. If we have to move, a general help Kate and Charlie pack day; then, a general help Kate and Charlie unpack day.

bearing the burden of the otherAt CBE we often hear that the essence of Judaism is bearing the burden of the other. These folks live it. They really want to help. With gladness, with chesed (loving-kindness). I contrast this with the much more abstract Christian version, Love thy neighbor as thyself. Judaism emphasizes practical measures. Doing mitzvahs, deeds of loving-kindness. Accepting responsibility. Honoring the self and the other. Taking up the right amount of space. At least in the instance of CBE these are not formulas; they are the reality of this small community.

middotThis could be a lonely, despairing time in our lives as health demands fluctuate, a possible move is in the mix, and we live away from commercial and medical facilities. It’s not though. Our Minnesota friends continue to show up. CBE loves us. We are not alone, nor in despair. We are part of caring communities and caring family. Jon and the grandkids are coming up this weekend. Joe and SeoAh have been here three times since April (Kate’s shoulder surgery) with SeoAh staying for weeks at a time.

As I wrote a while back, adversity unveils gratitude. We are grateful for each other, our dogs, our house, our medical caregivers, CBE, family, Minnesota friends. Lots more, too. I don’t believe the canard that we’re never given more than we can handle, but I do believe that we can learn to handle what presents itself if we have support. And we do. Thanks to all of you.

Became Native to This Place

Written By: Charles - Feb• 28•19

Imbolc                                                                Valentine Moon

we're waiting to transition to a feeding tube placed in the jejunum

we’re waiting to transition to a feeding tube placed in the jejunum

UPS delivers vitamins and bags of nutrients for Kate. On Tuesday we got a box with a styrofoam container, two gel packs to keep things cool, bubble wrap filling the container, about 12x12x12. Two vials of vitamins. Next day, two more boxes, same size, syringes, nutrient bags, batteries (a fresh 9 volt goes into the pump every day), saline flushes, heparin locks, tubing for the pump that connects to Kate’s picc line.

The logistics of this tpn feeding are remarkable. Not only do they have to ship us the right amount of stuff, it has to get here on a timely basis. And, the nutrient bags have a mixture that is tuned according to Kate’s labs, which can change on a weekly basis. Somebody has to coordinate all that and make sure the counts are right, the nutrient’s up to date, and that it gets here so we can use it. But, you can’t send too much at once because the tpn might be stopped, or certain things, like the vitamins and nutrients might spoil.

tpn4It’s no wonder medical costs are high. All of these things are one use only: syringes, nutrients, saline flushes and heparin flushes (each in their own individual packing), batteries, tubing, alcohol wipes, even the packaging for the deliveries. The need for sterility drives most of this. Kate’s picc line ends near her heart in the superior venous cava, which means there is a direct link between the outside, non-sterile world and that vip organ. Even the tiniest mistake in sterile procedure could have disastrous, catastrophic results. No pressure, eh?

I’ve gotten more facile with the various steps required to change out Kate’s nutrient bags. She draws the vitamins out of their vials using syringes. She and Julie, the home health nurse, make that look easy, but my fingers don’t find it so. As Kate said, my dexterity is in my brain, not my fingers. The rest of it, I can do. I could figure that one out, too, but with Kate’s expertise, why?

20181230_064700Grieving now. Looking at things around the house with that critical, ok what do we need to do with this in order to sell the house eye. Driving up the mountain considering how many more times I’ll be able to see Black Mountain on my left as I climb Shadow Mountain to our home near its peak. Not anxious about it, just sad.

Place is very important to me. Andover taught me that. Even though we lived there twenty years I never made my peace with the suburban blandness. No there there, was the way I put it. Oh, yes, our property had a definite sense of place, but it was set in a context that numbed the mind. At least my mind. Here, the opposite is true. I love the mountains, the vistas, the curves in the road. The weather. The ever changing face of Black Mountain.

As the John Muir quote on my e-mails says, “You are not in the mountains, the mountains are in you.” It’s an aesthetic sensibility. Over my years at the MIA I learned how important aesthetics were to me. Always have been. Deep in my soul. Perhaps it’s even the root of my pagan leanings, the aesthetic link I feel between myself and the natural world.

 

A Pearl Pendant

Written By: Charles - Feb• 27•19

Imbolc                                                                   Valentine Moon

The waning Valentine Moon hung over Black Mountain this morning, Jupiter dangling below like a pearl pendant. The beauty here, the distinct and unique sense of place, the simple knowledge of being in the Rockies makes this a special place, hard to leave. Conversations still underway, no decisions until we talk to the pulmonologist, Kelly Green. Even so, moving seems the most likely outcome.

611333-ancient-roman-wall-with-street-nameboardEvery day I’m getting a bit stronger, stamina improving. Probably back to a new workout in a few days. I’m feeling the need to get moving, but my trainer said to wait another week. As my buddy Mark Odegard pointed out a couple of years ago, our old bodies don’t snap back the way they used to. I went way down with this whole illness and my body will require time to climb back up again.

We saw Edwin Smith, the surgeon, yesterday. He’s methodical, taking care to make sure that this operation will actually benefit Kate and that she’ll come through it well. He talked about a feeding tube placed down her throat. Kate said no thanks. He wanted the tpn. It’s in and working. Now he wants Kate’s visit to a pulmonologist to happen before he’ll schedule surgery. Makes sense since she had the pneumothorax (collapsed lung) and some concerning findings on x-ray about her lungs.

The methodical approach has an element of foot dragging and ass-covering to it, I think, but I believe I overestimated that. I was in the middle of my no good, very bad horrible three weeks the last time we saw Smith and I formed an opinion colored by my own malaise. Now I believe he sees a tricky and mildly questionable (in his opinion) procedure he’s to perform on a 75 year old woman in fragile health. First, do no harm. Even though it drags the process out, I agree.

Due to Kate’s more intensive care needs at this point I’ve bowed out of all my CBE obligations. I’m not reliable since Kate’s situation seems to get more fluid over time. This is true now because of the build up to the feeding tube, then the feeding tube placement, and the aftercare.

Big

Written By: Charles - Feb• 26•19

Imbolc                                                                    Valentine Moon

20190218_073058Oh, my. Physical yesterday and a visit for Kate to see Lisa, too. We often go for each others appointments, especially with Lisa, our internist. I got a clean bill of health though I have to have labs drawn today. My follow-up chest x-ray was clear. Clear. No pneumonia, no disease process. Just clear. Wasn’t expecting that after the first one, but hey…

Kate’s situation continues to be problematic. From her most recent hospital visit Kate got a referral to a pulmonologist. While treating her for the pneumothorax, collapsed lung, the pulmonologist at Swedish saw signs of what might be interstitial lung disease. Could be another complication of Sjogren’s.

When Desiree wheeled the ekg machine out of the room, my heart’s fine, too, Lisa turned to us. “You’ve got to think about moving.” Oh. My. “I don’t want to. I like where we are. And the last move was awful.” “Health is number one, right?” Right.

As I wrote a few posts back, the thought has occurred to both of us. Kate’s suffering more from the altitude than I am. However. My O2 saturation hovers around 90 here, just barely enough to consider healthy. There’s a case to be made for my being helped by a move to lower ground, too.

January, 2015

January, 2015

Move. The word makes me clench. Spent a lot of last night in bed trying to figure out how to cope with this. Severe cognitive dissonance between my love for our home, for Shadow Mountain, for the Rockies, and my love for Kate and for my own health. In the end, no contest. We gotta move. Hate to say it. Feels like a failure of sorts, though I don’t know why.

Just how low do we need to go? Don’t know. That will be important. Several factors will converge to create a sweet spot for a new place: altitude (low enough for easier breathing for both of us), enough room for the dogs, quiet, and no more than approximately 30 minutes from Evergreen. I’d also like to see a single level and forced air heat. Not to mention that a new place has to fit our budget. Oh, joy, another mortgage process.

When? Not sure. Maybe in the next three months.

I will not pack anything this time around. I’m packed out from the last move. I’ll have to dramatically reduce my library, I’m sure. Maybe it’s time. A lot to consider, a lot to do. Just when we’re both at our tip top physical best, too. But Lisa’s right. Health is number one.