This Much I Believe

We have a storm creeping up from the southwest. It’s due to arrive late this afternoon. We ran out for a walk this morning. I already went shopping to make sure that we had the essentials such as biskies, tea, and chocolate.

I’m grateful I have that done. The impending predicted storm and preparations for tomorrow’s Super Bowl have joined forces in triggering an advanced case of guano-psychoisis.

The greater Chicago area, including the soybean field and points west, will get precipitation starting around 6pm-ish, emphasis on -ish. It will start as everyone’s favorite meteorological event, freezing rain, then switch to snow. We will be under a storm watch from 9 pm tonight (Saturday) until the same time tomorrow (Sunday). This mornings’ weather reports varied greatly in estimated totals ranging from 4″-8″ to up to an honest foot complicated by blowing and drifting.

This much I believe in spite of the currently blue sky with its deceptive thin overcast: that we will get snow. I believe that I will make sure my cell phone is charged should I have to bitch out notify Com Ed due to an outage. (For some perverse reason, we get power failures more frequently on sunny quiet weather days than days where the wind nearly took off the roof.)  I believe we may, or may not, have a significant amount when all is said and done. I believe Oakley and I will get out for another good walk before the predicted meteorological spaghetti his the fan.

I believe we’ll listen to Garrison Keillor; we’ll watch a good “International Mystery.”

And I believe that I’m going to have some chocolate.

Monday Mashup: Media Edition

No, we do not have cable, nor do we have a dish. We never will, either.

Despite our distance from Chicago proper, some 50 miles, the elevated antenna and converter box built into our DVD/BluRay player pulls in the signals from the four major networks, providing us with hours of amusement, or at least background noise. We have Netflix. We have DVDs. We have access to two PBS stations and their respective substations. Make that three under certain weather conditions.

That’s all I want or need. Except for the monthly Netflix bill, donations a couple of times a year to the PBS stations, and a few shekels to NPR and another public station, it’s free.

I don’t know if it’s a function of age, or taste, or growing consciousness, but the last few times I tried to watch network TV (“Big Bang Theory” reruns the one exception), disturbed me. The quality or lack of was bad enough, but I started wondering if there was some validity to the conspiracy theory that mass media is being used by the Rothchilds to keep the masses down. Do viewers really know what they’re watching?

Comedies routinely present verbal abuse as strength, continue with varying shades of sexism and racism, and involve verbally castrating men or portraying them as weak and inept. News flash: we will not settle the patriarchy score by female characters ripping male characters. The last couple of seasons of BBT have started the slide down this slope.

I can’t really comment on dramas because nothing has held my attention long enough in years.

Reality TV is a plague upon the soul of the planet. Back in medieval times, the nobles had a rather nasty form of entertainment called “dwarf parades.” Little people and other subjects who were differently abled would get trotted out at court occasions for the amusement of the lords and ladies. That people give a precious hour of their lives to shows like “19 Kids and Counting” or “Here Comes Honey BooBoo” or one of the countless court or “talk” shows glorifying intense shades of dysfunction proves that we haven’t grown very much as a species.

One notable exception: ABC’s “The Quest,” a replacement from last summer. Ten contestants were chosen to defend Everealm from a villain. The show focused on teamwork and ability, and eliminations were based on evaluating the participants’ strength and weaknesses, not on arguments that sounded like the spewing of sugared up eighth graders.

Ironically, a TV character said it best: Mr. Spock once informed a subordinate that “there are always alternatives.”

What will it take to get the world at large to see that and maybe start picking up books again?

Sometimes It’s Just That Simple

Sometimes it seems as if biohazards are the meaning of my life: Orion and his food allergies; Oakley and his acid reflux and intolerances. Running the County Home for Canines with Sensitive Tummies must be my dharma.  Did you know that licking can be a self-soothing method when a dog has intestinal cramping? Now you do.

It didn’t cross my mind. Oakley’s acid reflux issues have been under control, or so I thought. Just before Christmas, Oakley started licking himself in the middle of the night. Not just a gentlemanly lap or two in order to ensure cleanliness, but long, loud, repetitive schlurrrrrp, schlurrrp between two and five a.m.

He also started licking the sofa and the bed in his crate. Was he bored? I started giving him puzzles, walking him more.  An article about canine acid reflux came up in my newsfeed. That’s how I learned about the licking as a form of self soothing.  Changed up his acid reflux medication.

Schlurrrrrrrrrrp…….What the…blood work that included digestive function came back normal. But now (don’t read if you’re squeamish) he was passing a lot of mucus with his poops. (I told you not to read that, didn’t I?)

Before subjecting Oakley to any further testing, I set up a quick session with a nearby friend who’s a communication facilitator for a check-in. Not the acid reflux, but cramping. The herb used to balance it out had outlived its purpose, and now was causing cramping. I took him off it immediately.

Slurp, slurp, slurp…better, but you do not want to know what he was still passing. Poop test came back clean. What next?

Mentioned it to the owner of our healthy pet food store. She suggested taking him off the goat yogurt, cutting out the cheese, and no added fats or oil, even coconut or omega-3s.

The only sound between two and five the next morning was the low rumble of the train running about a mile from the house and the snoring of a peaceful pooch.

The Sunday Drive

The brief stint in the deep freeze concluded on Friday. Clouds still blanketed the earth, but about noon today, they finally unraveled to reveal a clear blue sky.

Today was Plan B Day. A involved lunch with a friend, but the intestinal variation of the flu had knocked her for a loop. Regrets extended, alternatives weighed.

I needed to get out of the house, though. I put Oakley in the car and headed for points west. Not that far, just far enough for some big sky and patchwork fields. Perhaps an hour, but a beneficial one it was. Even with the slight thread of guilt over using gas for no definitive purpose.

Cows? Pigs? Horses? All answered yes to the farm animal roll call. Hints of stubborn green poked through the tired beige snow clinging to shady roots and sides of north-facing buildings.

Oakley watched out the window. He’s a good car dog who quietly rides shotgun and refrains from comments about my driving. I like that in a passenger.

We stopped for a walk at the least sloppy forest preserve. He’s lying on my arm as I type, snoring the song of the contented canine.

Would that it were that easy for us all.

Inauguration Day Notes

First semi-poltical thought of the day: does anyone else think that the actor who plays Thomas on “Downton Abbey” looks like former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich? Or is it just me?

Two governors ago, I know. I still wonder when the feds will make a dedicated Illinois politicians’ wing at the Terre Haute prison.

Be those as they are….at roughly noon today, Bruce Rauner was sworn in as governor. I watched the ceremony, listened to his speech. I dearly and desperately want to like him, but I have too many doubts. As soon as someone says “job creation,” I get this little icy shiver running through my veins since it comes at the cost of social service programs and the environment.

There’s also a question of a pending lawsuit concerning some nursing homes that he owned. Now, granted that the residents usually don’t get out alive, but the suit alleges dangerously understaffing on a regular basis to save money, leading to deaths from neglect and abuse. He spoke of making sure that the net was in place, but that doesn’t synch up with the image of someone who allegedly rode off to one of his luxury vacation homes on the backs of the most vulnerable.

Yes, we desperately need jobs, and we need a small business friendly climate to provide them. There’s the proposed fracking in southern Illinois. I need to do more research, but it seems to me that jobs coming in at the cost of earthquakes and toxic waste is too high.

What we really need is someone who can make sure that taxes are going where they are supposed to go and not into the sinkhole between O’Hare and Lake Michigan. I hope Gov. Rauner can stand up to House Speaker Michael Madigan (D-Chicago area) and remind him that there’s a lot of state beyond the tollways ringing the Windy City.  Some years ago, Hubby was active in a group that tried to get property taxes in our county reduced. One eye opener: much of the revenue goes into the Chicago public school system.

The other: voter apathy. The group dwindled from a couple of dozen active participants to just Hubby and two of the leaders. Hubby, exhausted and burned out, finally walked away.

What else can be expected when only 20% of eligible voters in our county do so? It’s how many of the party holders who give conservatives a bad name ended up in office.

We have four years in front of us. We can’t recall him, but emails and letters to let the elected know what’s on our minds are in order. For every phone call or letter, there are ten people who are in agreement, but can’t or won’t pick up or log on for whatever reason.

I’ll be in touch soon, Gov. Rauner.

The A** O’Clock Notes

It’s just after 6 as I write this. Oakley’s insomnia continues. Since just before Christmas, he’s been waking up between three and five, sometimes 2:30, and giving himself a bath. Adjustments to his tummy supplements haven’t helped, nor has a concerted effort to get him exercise and mental stimulation in the late afternoon and early evening.

This morning, however, he had diarrhea. He woke me up by sitting at the top of the stairs while patting the floor. He gets a clever boy stamp. The lack of exercise this week due to snow and daytime highs bobbing near zero as if treading water has taken a toll on us both. When he doesn’t get enough exercise, he’s prone to digestive upheaval despite my best efforts.

Even with a less than optimal start just before five, it is a better day. The cold has moderated. We were able to get out yesterday, finally, with tidy roads and minimal chances of frostbite. We’ll be a-walking today, a good long jaunt through the woods, and that will go a long way towards restoring order.

The January Exhale

We had about three, maybe four inches of snow last night. When I raised the blinds in the dining room window, the full moon over the pines in the front yard caught my eye. Just above the horizon, even to the west, the first variegated bands of lavender and pink wove themselves into the deep blue blanket of the sky.

I exhaled. Some of it was from the beauty before me. Some of it was with relief that two holidays and a wedding had passed, and being grateful for the return of the mundane.

The two holidays were good. Christmas day involved a potluck at a close friend’s. My family gathering followed that weekend. We are all getting older, and we know we don’t have the luxury of time to nurse the petty b.s. arguments that triggered off many years of resentment. We give smaller gifts; we make donations on one another’s behalf. And we get Chinese takeout. Much less stress.

New Year’s was pretty quiet. Oakley and I watched movies and did chicken a la crock-pot. And made soup. Lots of soup.

The last and highest note of the season was this past Saturday when our neighbors’ daughter married her high school sweetheart. In defiance of a grey day wrapped in a drizzle blanket, the bride and groom exchanged their vows in a church filled with harp music and white light. White roses, white twinkles on the Christmas tree in a discreet corner all pushed back the darkness.

As the pastor droned his sermon, all I could think was that it was great that the bride’s braces had been removed in time for the wedding. No, it had been several years ago when she started high school. My left index knuckle worked as an emergency pacifier, and then as a plug when the pastor referenced less than progressive theology concerning relationships.

Archaic notions aside, it was as lovely as lovely could be. The bride and groom are in Florida today. He goes back to school next week for his next semester towards his master’s. While they go about their transition into the reality of married life, the rest of us transition into the mundane glory of the every day.

When I looked out the window this morning, the moon hung over the pine trees in a clear dark sky, and sauntered towards the western horizon. Just another January morning.

Or is it?

A Wish for Peace

Last year was a season of loss for too many of my friends. There were days when I heard Walter Cronkite’s voice in my head reading off the names of the parents, the spouses, the pets who changed worlds in the last year as he had the casualties from Vietnam in his tenure as anchor on CBS evening news.

The number of passages rapidly grew mind-numbing. I grew very afraid of going on Facebook some days.

Things were somewhat stable here in my personal corner of the universe. Hubby, Oakley, and I have our basic needs in order. There’s a lot to be said for that. The company I write web content for called me back, a good thing.  I’ve started exploring some new adventures, so please stay tuned.

Still, I wanted to nail the door shut and board it up behind 2014 when it left last night. The loss, the amount of upheaval on the world stage, the fears about the US turning into a corporate theocracy, all that hit me in the sanity at various times.

Rest, find solace in “A Prairie Home Companion” and historical entertainment when people interacted with some civility and grace.

The season of rest has passed. There is work to do in the world on the personal and political levels, futile as it may feel some days. There are letters to write and votes to cast and boycotts to honor.

For my friends who endured losses last year, whether of a loved one, a dream, or a job, may your season in the valley pass quickly and may the road through it lead you to a place of peace.