Riding the Shark into the New Normal

I can’t find a picture to post without possible copyright infringement issues, but if you do a search for “bear with machine gun riding a shark” it should tell you about this week.

A little over a week ago, I noticed that Oakley’s right eye was drifting off to the right for no good reason. Consulted Dr. Google; likely age related. OK…and then there was the discharge and showing of teeth when I tried to clean the corners of his eyes. Infection? Yes. Vet time. Make appointment with usual vet.

She, with the help of a couple of techs, examined his eyes. Not an infection, but something was amiss with the blood vessels in his right eye. Not sure what it was. Pretty sure not cancer. Referred to veterinary ophthalmologist.

Doctor V. looks like Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Her exam room sports purple walls and eye charts for dogs and cats (consisting of species appropriate words arranged as one would find on a chart intended for humans). As if that wasn’t cool enough, she assured Oakley that she didn’t have a thermometer or nail clippers. We both liked her immediately.

Ear rubs, pokes, peeks, prods.  Not an infection.

Then what?

Autoimmune. Inflammation in his right eye probably feels like a charley horse. The abnormal new vascular formation resembled a curtain dropping from the top of Oakley’s right eye. It’s how the immune system prepares to send T-cells to fight the perceived enemy.

(insert silent f-bomb)

OK, what do we do?

Eye drops to “slap the immune system in the face.” Do blood panel to see if the illness back in May was tick born–that might have triggered it. Showed me how to put the drops and ointment in his eyes.

Get him home. My efforts to instill the drops and ointment lead to snarls, snapping, and me on the floor in tears. Tried treats. Tried everything. No matter what, he went into defensive posturing.

Damn whoever mishandled Oakley between his biological mother’s side and the day I adopted him.

What to do? I don’t want him to go blind or be in pain.  However, I don’t want to be bitten or to lose his trust in me.

The medicines can be administered orally.  Yes, there is a researched and acknowledged risk of side effects. Yes, blood work for monitoring  may become part of our routine. I understand that.

I called Dr. V’s office. Oh, no–sorry that he’s not cooperating. No, don’t apologize. We understand. CBC and blood chemistry (due for that anyway). What’s the number for the pharmacy? Will call back with that.

So we leave in an hour for the blood draw, then go to day care.

Except for the blood draw, it’s a normal day. Isn’t it?

 

 

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Monday Musings: the Garden Variety Edition

Been a busy but not unpleasantly so time here in the soybean field. Visitors, walks, and work in the garden have kept me occupied the last couple of weeks.

The cherry tomatoes set blossoms this last week. We wait, not very patiently, for the tiny green bumps to transform into lush red spheres. No need to do much with them. The little balls of sunshine need no special prep. Maybe slice in half before you put them in your salad, but no need to do much else.

Green beans have unfurled themselves. They are ready for picking. Not as many as I’d hoped for, but it’s still early in the harvest. They can easily produce until first frost, usually mid-October around here. Simple is best. I love them stir fried with garlic. Or steamed with olive oil and lemon juice.

Lettuce and basil maintain their lovely leafiness, and will likely keep producing for a while. They look like parasol-balancing ladies at a garden party. Both have enhanced salads and pasta sauces with their presence. I should have enough basil to make and freeze pesto for winter. I use walnuts instead of pine nuts. Easier to find and less expensive.

The radishes bolted. I’ll pull them, then plant another round of seeds in another week or so when it cools off. Note to self: thin them out when they sprout. They had good flavor, but emerged from the soil in odd thin shapes due to crowding. The tiny sprouts enliven salads and sandwiches by their spicy presence. A few on your tuna goes a long way towards elevating it from the mundane.

Carrots are nowhere near ready. They push themselves to the surface when they are.   Root veggies, except for radishes. are usually the last ones to mature, so no surprise there.

Broccoli? This is the first year I tried to grow it. The foliage is impressive, but anything that looks like what I buy at the store hasn’t emerged yet. We wait.

On  a whim, I bought a pack of French mesclun seeds. I don’t know what I unleashed when I sowed them, but what came up looked neither French or mesclun. I’m cleaning that out as it emerges. Note to self: don’t buy seeds on supermarket end caps from growers you’ve never heard of, even if there are references to France of French anything.

Oakley isn’t a big veggie eater. He sits outside with me, or finds grass to nibble. When I finish pulling and watering, I sit on the back step. He sits next to me. I rub his ears with my cleaner hand, and we watch the sun lengthen the rays across the fields together.

 

 

 

Garden Report for 7/24/17

Image courtesy Old Design Shop

Around the time of the sun transiting from Cancer into Leo as it did last weekend, the ancients and those who follow their religion celebrate Litha, the first harvest festival. The veggies and fruits have started coming in, some not quite at their peak, but definitely on their way there.

Oakley and I have added weeding and watering to our morning routine. He walks around the bed, giving it a good sniff, then finds a sunny patch where he lies down curled in a half-circle, tilting his nose to the sky. I pull weeds, give the plants a pep talk. Some mornings I do standing yoga poses; others I take my coffee outside and watch the veggies grow.

I’m pleased with the results to date, considering that the last garden I planted was seven years ago, the horrible summer after Orion crossed the Rainbow Bridge. I just dug holes and threw things in the ground between sobs while smearing mud and snot across my upper lip as I tried to dry my tears. We ended up with some herbs, a few tomatoes, and several zucchini worthy of concealed carry permits.

This year is going much better, but as with any other literal or figurative growth experience, there are lessons at hand. For example, next radish planting, thin them out after they sprout. Otherwise the radishes will be long skinny roots and not the intended globes of rosy, spicy goodness. Still work in salads and you don’t have to chop them, just trim off the leaves and the taproot. The greens work best as sprouts in sandwiches. The mature greens work best in tandem with less assertive colleagues like spinach. Otherwise, the flavor is overwhelmingly spicy.

Green beans have morphed from blossoms to actual beans. Not ready just yet, but after the storms of last week, heartening to see them. I like them steamed and drizzled with lemon juice and olive oil or butter. The fresher, the less fussing they need.

Cherry tomatoes…I don’t know what to say about them. Some blossoms had appeared last week. Then came several days of storms with the type of winds that make a person wonder when the siren will begin its wail. I didn’t see any blossoms today.  Time will tell if they the wind ripped them off the stems or if they just dropped their petals in preparation for becoming tomatoes. It’s been and will be hot enough for another round of blossoms to emerge.

Broccoli: I don’t know what’s going on with that. Lots of foliage, but no signs of buds just yet. It’s really pretty, though.

Carrots: their lovely fernlike tops have emerged, but no signs of their readiness. Like potatoes, they push themselves up to the surface. Likely next month.

Basil: oh, yeah…basil. In scrambled eggs. Pesto with walnuts is a possibility. And insalata caprese, made with fresh mozzarella, tomato, and basil. Drizzle with balsamic and your taste buds will bless you.

Lettuce: the plain lettuce is just fine. We’ve had a couple of salads. Delicious. But the mesclun mix? I have stared at it and cannot tell what came up. Another note to self: buy next year’s seeds at a garden supply house, not a supermarket end cap. I’ve checked whatever that is against the picture on the seed package and can’t tell what it is.

Maybe next year will be the year I’ll have enough produce to freeze for the winter, but for now, I’m having too much fun to care.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Otherwise”

It’s Monday. All day. For another 13+ hours.

The last week or so, Jane Kenyon’s poem “Otherwise” has been my mantra. So much could have been otherwise.

Things were pretty quiet around here since the last entry. Oakley made a lovely recovery from the mild case of Lyme disease. We go back to the (more experienced) vet (who’s seen Oakley since puppyhood) this week for a recheck. My money is on that diagnosis because of how quickly he responded to the doxycyclene.  Within a couple of hours after he took the first dose,  he perked up, took nourishment, and wanted walks. I feel like I can exhale now. That could have been a huge otherwise.

Saturday was interesting, to say the least. A loud storm discharged a huge clap of thunder that shook the house hard enough to make one of the smoke alarms wail in protest. Granted that it was the alarm that goes off if someone sneezes while walking beneath it, but it was still disconcerting. It could have been otherwise, such as a bolt of lightning striking the roof. Thankfully, it wasn’t.

Later, as Oakley and I returned from a hasty walk between storms, one of the turkey buzzards that live in the trees down the road flew directly in front of my car. I slammed on the brakes as did the driver behind me. The bird lived to clean up road kill for another day; my windshield and both bumpers remained intact. A win-win situation for all resulted. That could have been an otherwise as well, and an incredibly messy one at that.

Despite a relatively late night, Oakley and I woke up with the sun. That could have been a huge otherwise, but it wasn’t. The sky had cleared. We had slept well, even after watching “Dark Angel” on PBS last night. Joanne Froggat, best known here in the states as Anna on “Downton Abbey” portrayed Victorian-era serial killer Mary Ann Cotton with chilling accuracy. I wisely cleansed my mental palate with many cake making videos before closing my eyes for the night.  With the way I carry what I watch on TV into my dreams, that could have definitely been otherwise.

But it wasn’t.

We go about today, another ordinary Monday, and make notes of gratitude that it wasn’t otherwise.

 

A Day to Spend Nothing and Eat Veggies

And chill. Oakley and I had to make a run to the vet on Saturday. He picked up some kind of infection that caused the glands under his ears to swell. After a rather heated exchange with the (extremely young) new vet at our clinic, she conceded that we should try an antibiotic first; then if they don’t work, test for a couple of other possibilities; and then and only then will we test for the unspeakable (as in cancer but we will not go there).  By Sunday afternoon, the glands had started going down. He was back in his usual form, staring at me and patting the carpet until I took him to the park. Dinnertime brought on an extended version of the starving urchin lecture until his bowl was in his crate. We had a good sleep and woke up ready to face another Monday, including the obligatory chase around the coffee table when the time came to gear up to go to the park.

In the last few years, Mondays have been a call not to eat meat (#MeatlessMonday) and more recently, not to purchase anything (#SpendNothingMonday). The day of veg eating to begin the week started in World War II to make sure that the boys and girls at the front were getting well fed as well as making sure there was enough to go around here at home. Now it’s to relieve, even just for a few minutes, the burden placed on our dear planet by industrial meat production. Spending nothing started was brought to my attention a couple of months ago by a friend. Its objective: to make the participants aware of how much we spend on a daily basis and again, to relieve the burdens on the earth as well as our psyches caused by rampant consumerism.

It’s easy for me to participate in both since I’m home based. Out of sight; out of mind, aided by not being very fond of shopping either on-line or common reality to begin with.  I’ve slipped up a few times on the no spend thing by grabbing an iced coffee as a treat after a run to the park, but otherwise I don’t shop.  Especially not today. The vet visit put me off shelling out more shekels for the moment, thank you very much.

I usually don’t eat a lot of meat, so it’s not a big deal to me to go without it. Today I had yogurt with strawberries for breakfast . Lunch was a stir-fry of cabbage with carrots and red peppers to make it pretty, and an alt-meat called Quorn.  It’s made of egg whites and mushroom culture. With almost no discernible flavor of its own, it takes to seasonings well. I used half a package of the crumbles. I’ll use the other half in tacos or in shepherd’s pie tonight.

Tuesday will take care of itself. I may just extend this into Tuesday. As long as I have a jar of almond butter, a coffee pot, and the companionship of a good boy, I have all I need and more.

 

 

Back to the Mat

 

 

About three weeks ago, I weighed myself. I weighed my self and oh, holy crap, was that a number I hope never to see again. As soon as I finished cursing myself, my menopausal process, and all the sorrows that had unfolded between the last time I was at a healthy weight (Orion’s crossing; hormones or lack thereof; stress from Hubby’s mom’s passage; stress from Hubby working at home before he retired; genetics; colorful and interesting family issues) and that moment.

And then I started troubleshooting. What was different then:

  • I followed a low-glycemic diet (a/k/a smart carb, low GI, South Beach).
  • I was younger and had something that vaguely resembled a metabolism.
  • I was a lot more active. Oakley likes his walks and playing at day care, but he is not the hiker Orion was. It wasn’t uncommon for Orion to drag me around the four-mile trail system at the nearby state park, then be ready for another walk in the evening.
  • On top of that, I went to yoga and dance classes.
  • I tracked my food intake and weighed myself very week or so.

So back to low-GI eating and increasing activity. More importantly,  tracking it. I found a free app called FatSecret (godawful name for a very useful tool) through a friend whose dietitian recommended it. Not only can a user keep an eye on carbs, calories, and fat, but it sends an email every two weeks to remind you to weigh yourself. The low-GI plan is flexible enough that the journey to a healthy weight may have a few pit stops for cookies or ice cream here and there. Not many. But a few.  I lost seven pounds in the last couple of weeks. You will sleep better not knowing how much more I have to go, but at least the numbers are going in the right direction. This will be slow, but I will get there.

With nutrition squared off, the next challenge was exercise. I started taking yoga again. I found a small studio near my home with small classes (three of us, usually). The instructor is about my age.  She understands how to move a body that survived the battles of daily life. Today, savasana (a/k/a corpse pose); tomorrow the headstands. Or maybe next week. We’ll do it when we do it. No hurry in the meantime.

Much of it felt good, right, and lead to better sleep. Some of it lead my body to express its displeasure about not moving consistently the last few years. The extra magnesium and Advil negotiate the truce between mind and back, hamstrings, and rear end.

In addition to the gentle but through workout, yoga helps to balance the endocrine system and to relieve stress while making you aware of your body’s wants and needs for movement as well as sustenance. Sometimes it’s as simple as a glass of water or changing to a more comfortable position.

And sometimes a person really does need a bit of chocolate. Not often, but sometimes you just do,

Lessons of the Leaves

Oakley and I completed our morning constitutional by 8:15. What breeze there was rustled the leaves, inviting them to dance. We went to the observation platform overlooking the green glass river, then retraced our steps to the car.

Today won’t be as bad as initially predicted temperature wise, but it will still be sticky for the next couple of days. It is equinox, autumn, the first day of fall, and we welcome it.

I shed no tears for this summer’s passage. In fact, if it had a rear end, I would send it off with the admonishment not to let the door hit it there as it left.

While it wasn’t all bad, it just wore on and on past its useful purpose. The two trips to Ren Faire went well, thankfully. The never-ending string of sticky days, mechanical and technological failures, loved ones facing health challenges, and Oakley’s colitis flare-ups just wore me to a nub. I had too many days of non functionality because of fatigue and the heat, but know I will perk up as autumn unfolds.

The leaves have started letting go, gracefully travel on the air currents to land on the earth, weaving tapestries to protect the ground and newly seeded life from the elements. I envy their grace and ease as I do my own letting go: cleaned out my social media lists; deleted some contacts from my phone, including the number of  a friend and teacher who passed almost two years ago; let go of some false hopes about close real life relationships and dreams.

As the release of the leaves from the trees makes way for the new ones next spring, I await the arrival of the new with curiosity and advance gratitude.

The Summer of Our Discontent

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image courtesy The Graphics Fairy

Yes, I know that the quote from “Richard III” is “winter” and not “summer.” However, the hellish humidity combined with a heat index of something like 103 is not making me happy. Throw in an air action alert, and we are neither amused or comfortable. It’s making us all downright crabby, in fact. Short, clear sentences with no room for misunderstanding are the order of the day.

Oakley and I slapped together a 30-minute walk. Emphasis on “slap” due to the mosquitos that plagued me. He tended to his social networking and business while I frantically waved and swatted. The good parts of the walk were its speed and efficiency and not whacking myself in the face with the cleanup bag. I am truly grateful for that.

When we finished, I dropped Oakley off at home, then ran to Walgreen’s to get antacid tablets for him and ice for me so I can indulge myself with a homemade iced coffee later this afternoon. I look forward to that. Not the same as from my favorite drive thru window, but worth it in the long run between calorie sparing (I use stevia here at home and can throw in a splash of vanilla extract to liven things up) and not contributing to the flow of plastic, even that which is destined to be recycled.

Later on we might make a run to one of the farm stores. This one allows dogs, and we will both benefit from a couple of laps around the store. For some reason, Oakley is infatuated with the automotive department. The scents of rubber and metal must have some kind of exotic appeal, the way that humans search out food not of their own ethnic background.

I’m doing my best to avoid news on TV. Part of me wants to monitor the weather, but the desire to avoid the deepening insanity surrounding the elections competes with it. I know that I can go on line, but the visuals and the walkthroughs by the weather people makes it more real, somehow.

Reading is always an option. I’m still working on Seafaring Women purchased during the opening Ren Faire weekend. I’m bouncing back and forth between that and Lake Woebegon Days. 

Oakley has toys to quietly maul. I’ll freeze some pumpkin in a Kong for a special treat–the last time he had the soy-based ice cream for dogs it didn’t sit well with him. He doesn’t mind pumpkin at all, especially with a squirt of spray cheese thrown in just because.

Tonight will bring storms and some respite. If not, a Thai curry is in order and we’ll pretend we’re in Bangkok. We’ll live, but the quality of doing so must be maintained.

Strange Days, Indeed

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image courtesy The Graphics Fairy

In the smaller, personal word, I laid a bird to rest this morning. A thunk reverberated through the dinette and family room. He laid on the back step with glassy unfocused eyes staring at the sky. I think he might have been an immature cardinal based on the coloring, still mostly white but with bright orange-red feathers sprouting through.  With the help of a plastic bag, I transported the remains to the northeast corner of the property, then gently laid him on the ground. “May you rest and may you fly free,” I said. May it be so.

Now we wait the long wait for the vets’ office to return the second call. Oakley was a little restless last night. He finally found a cool spot near the fan and dozed off, or so I thought. By some act of grace, Hubby was up early. Oakley wasn’t snoring in front of the fan. Hubby went downstairs to find Oakley panting and pacing by the back door. Hubby woke me up so I could take him out. Out we were in the nick of time. It was bad enough that Oakley  is staying home from day care today. I called the vets’ for an antidiarrheal and an antibiotic used in extreme scenarios. The former is ready. Somehow, the request for the latter didn’t get filled.

Before that, Hubby had to wake me up at 1:30 this morning. Whatever I was dreaming about caused me to yell in my sleep. He gently woke me up. Usually, that’s the end of the story. But my brain took off on me. I never really went back to sleep. That was the second night in a row.

The not-so-personal world has ratcheted up the nuttiness to new levels

I struggle not to attach meaning to the deceased bird, the bad dreams, the upset tummy, or the incoming full moon. But after the last few days of news, I wonder. Tensions between law enforcement and minorities simmer as they did back in 1967-68 as I remember. We had Dallas, near St. Louis, St. Paul in the last week. The national conventions lie just ahead. Demonstrations will be held, I’m sure. May they be peaceful on all sides.

Another round of potentially severe storms hovers on the horizon for this afternoon. I took Oakley out about an hour ago. Hot sun plus mugginess plus a cool breeze indicates instability. We watch and wait.

Hopefully, the storms through the power of the water and the energy generated will provide a cleansing for the world. Or at least our little corner of it.

Showing Up on Monday

Dealing with the relative (now recovering nicely, thanks) and an assortment of other non-usual events made the last couple of weeks hiccupy in terms of writing and general sanity. Things are finally leveling out here in the soybean field, making the first full week of summer in the soybean field a more peaceful one.

A severe weather outbreak livened up last Wednesday. The two tornados that did damage were pretty small. No fatalities, thankfully. The rest either stayed airborne or went through open fields. Oakley and I sat watching the sound and light show in the sky and its coverage on TV. We didn’t even lose power.

The next couple of days brought chaos in the larger world. Unexpectedly, Britain voted to leave the EU. WNIU very rarely mentions news stories, so when one gets mentioned, listeners know it’s going to be a big one. Oakley knows that when Mom spits her coffee back into her cup it’s a big one. That triggered off days of losses in the stock market. Initially, I wanted to pull our investments, stuff everything into coffee cans, and bury them  in the back yard. It has to level out, and hopefully will in the next few days.

Today is mercifully quiet. Well, except for Oakley having a mild flare-up of colitis caused by the heat, most likely. He asked to go out at 2:30 this morning, then had a peaceful rest of the night. As we walked at the park this morning, he acted cramp-y (frantic pacing, hunching), and, well..I’ll spare the details. I called the vet, changed his herb for a few days. He’s napping peacefully on the floor in front of the fan.  We will have a better night tonight.

With a high of 90, this is a bit warm for my taste. I personally max out at 80 and begin to wilt at 85. Cooler foods are in order, such as salad and sandwiches and gazpacho. It’s due to be cooler tomorrow. I’ll cook the chicken legs then. Maybe oven-fried? Sounds good.

So begins the summer. Next on the agenda: we are eleven days from the Ren Faire opening. Oakley will be staying at Ms. Lanette’s for the night. We all need a bit of frolic, and we have those events to provide it for us.