It Could Have Been Worse: The Weekend Edition

When I was in grad school lo these many years ago, I studied rational emotive therapy, a way of talking yourself through your personal sticking points. One of the questions used to examine the thought process: how can this event be worse?

The case in point involved a gut-wrenching news story that involved a parachutist who had landed in an alligator-infested swamp. The parachute’s straps and bindings had tangled around him in a way that left him tied to a tree, unable to free his hands. Needless to say, the gators found him quite tasty. When the recovery team found him, they estimated that it had taken him three days to die. What could be worse?

Being eaten by alligators over four days.

It was kind of like that here in the soybean field this weekend. At least it was only two days.

Friday was OK. Oakley had a good time at day care, but was pretty sore. Did I mention that he had to start taking a prescription painkiller rather than aspirin because of interaction with the Pred?  I’d given him a full prescribed dose on Tuesday at bed time. When he woke up Wednesday, he ate breakfast, then laid on the floor and stared at the wall for an hour. I cut the dose in half Friday night. He managed to sit on the sofa with me while staring at the fireplace Saturday morning. I need to call the vets’ and see if I can cut the tabs in half.

Once he sobered up, we went for a ride. The roads were in great shape, and no other drivers were on the road. Left, right, straight through the midwinter starkness of grey skies, of still muddy fields reminiscent of Andrew Wyeth paintings.

Nothing like the open road to shake away the dust and cobwebs. My head cleared, I plotted a course that would take us a little further west than usual as a few flakes drifted from the sky. Then the flurry became a shower, and the shower turned into a wall of white.

I turned as quickly and safely drove home as fast as the laws of Illinois and physics allowed with the storm on my tail. I was caught in one storm this year and don’t fancy that happening again.

Hubby returned from school not long after Oakley and I shared a post-ride treat. The traffic on his route is notoriously awful on a good day. He’s wrapping up the course of antibiotics for his health issue. The only problem with them was that they impacted his mood. I’d been patient, I hope; but finally had to say something after another chanting of the traffic litany that he’d recapped every day for the last week or so.

We didn’t talk to each other much Saturday night.

And then, Sunday morning was my turn, she wrote sarcastically. Emotionally, I did myself no favors by looking at social media. One friend moving on with her life; two women in a circle I distanced myself from getting all kinds of help and support without having to ask (unlike when I had some problems and was met with platitudes about prayers and holding space).  I will spare you the details of the physical end. I fell into a cesspool of self-pity and questioning my worth to other people.  Luckily, Hubby and I were back in each others’ better graces. Joked about taking the good stuff I give Oakley when his guts act up.  I drank tea prepared by Hubby, slept, watched the Olympics.

Today is Monday. It’s better so far. Hubby left early for school, circumventing the worst of the traffic problems. Oakley cuddled with me. I didn’t give him the pain killer last night; he slept pretty well. The world is a kinder place for me today. Things are not back to normal in the digestive department but they will get there.

If there’s one lesson in the last couple of days, it’s that this, too, shall pass.

Forgive me for that.




Awakening in the Nuclear Era


Image from Today


Yesterday morning, I went to yoga. Afterwards, I stopped at Wal-Mart to grab a couple of pairs of new jeans, then went home and had a bowl of clam chowder for lunch. Afterwards, Oakley and I went shopping for his food for the week or so, then we took a ride on the back roads winding through the currently bare farmland under the crystal blue sky. We tried to walk, but there was just enough wind to make the elements uncomfortable. On the way home, Oakley and I made a stop at a drive through for coffee (me) and an ice water (for him).

A gloriously ordinary Saturday.

As we drove around, I bounced back and forth between WCPT (progressive talk) running the highlights of the past week and a couple of music stations. Once home, we tuned into “America’s Test Kitchen” as we usually do on Saturday. I didn’t hear about this false alarm until fairly late in the day.

My stomach lurched in a way it hadn’t since I was in high school and college. I came of age during the Reagan years with the whisper of the siren lurking in the back ground, wondering daily if today would be the day that the final war started. The better part of those years were spent wondering if I was going to live long enough to graduate and why bother with school work if in the end we were going to to be vaporized into oblivion.

At the time, an insidious group called Young Life, one aimed at “saving” teenagers (it’s Campus Crusade for Christ Junior) began infiltrating my high school with messages about the end of days and the Rapture and Aramgeddon.

Between their interpretations of a book I had little use for and living with an alcoholic WWII veteran parent long steeped in USA right or wrong, my anxiety ratcheted up to a level where I was frozen in real time. I stopped doing anything of real substance, mostly spent as much time in my room as I could dreaming of better days, if possible.

Somehow I still pulled off a high enough GPA to get accepted into college and enough financial aid to do so.

Maybe I was supposed to live.

I started planning; I started dreaming of a future for myself. Granted it was the one that young women in the 1980s were supposed to have, but it was a dream, anyway. I wanted a stable home, a family, and all the rest of the things that I was brainwashed into thinking would make me happy.

Things between the US and the then USSR sort of relaxed until my junior year in college.  Events included a passenger airliner shot down for crossing into USSR air space. That was followed by a lot of saber rattling between Washington and Moscow.

Maybe not.

I shut down again. Would I not live to get out of college? What was the point?

In desperation I ended up engaged to an Air Force NCO who ended up being a dumpster fire of a partner.* He didn’t help at all by going into details on what would happen if we did get nuked ; he subscribe to end of the world cult thinking; he played head and heart games on a daily basis including the ever popular “if you loved me you would______” (insert soul destroying action here) while I searched for jobs near the bases he was likely to be transferred to for his last posting.

Suddenly, the tensions relaxed again between Ron and Yuri. Sergeant Dumpster Fire dumped me after demanding that I marry him within 48 hours  or our love was going to die (thanks to the Mystery that it did). Eventually the job, the home, et al  fell into place of their own accord.

For a long time, the threat of nuclear war was a non-issue, but now with the Dotard in Chief playing “mine is bigger than yours” with the not-the-most-stable-meal-on-the-shelf Dear Leader coupled with a vice president who subscribes to the zombie death cult interpretation of Christianity and would love to have himself and his fellows raptured away before the bombs drop, it’s been thrust to the forefront.


My prayer is that the “football,” the briefcase with the codes, gets kept very far away from the Oval Office until we can get someone more stable and wise in there. My hope is that Congress gets overturned this fall–if we live that long.

In the meantime in addition to letting Senators Duckworth and Durbin know my thoughts while working to get Rep. Hultgren out of office, I will get involved with peace groups as best I can from here in the hinterlands.

As all this shakes out, I will do yoga, enjoy my new jeans, and walk Oakley.


*To my family and friends who read this: I lack the words to convey the regret that I feel for the pain and grief I caused you by letting myself get manipulated into this relationship. “I’m sorry” doesn’t begin to cover the regret and remorse. I don’t know if I can ever really forgive myself, either, for the part of my life wasted on this person or for the damage done to other relationships.

January Thaw


Image courtesy The Graphics Fairy

Despite the highs reaching a not unreasonable 28F, today is foggy, cold, damp. Perfect for tea, writing, and planning the garden for this spring. Wisdom in this area dictates waiting until Mothers’ day weekend to plant to avoid frost, so that means I still have about four months. I can start seedlings in April, though. Maybe a little earlier for the hardier greens.  Some root crops such as potatoes can go right into the ground as early as Good Friday, I’ve been told by farmers and more experienced gardeners. I’m not sure about that this year since it falls on March 30.  I stay in the dream state a little longer.

After a leaden-skied morning, yesterday turned out to be quite pleasant. The  early part of the morning featured ice on our road, but once on the main drag all was well. Oakley and I made the 45 minute trip to the eye vet. The good news is that the weird vascular growth in the right eye has stopped and his left eye is perfectly normal. The better news is that we are weaning him off the Prednisone. He may have to be on a maintenance dose (according to Dr. J, this would likely be a half tablet once or twice a week) for longterm purposes, but we will know more after the next visit.

Even better news came after the sky cleared in the afternoon. Hubby received a call from his case manager that the good people in Springfield approved his transfer to a training program specifically for CNC machine operators*. He’ll be done in six months attending classes there rather than two years at the local community college. He’s in his 60s and he doesn’t have two years to mess with taking classes that may not really help that much. The new adventure starts later this week.

My resurrected old adventure rebooted this week, too. My yoga teacher hosted a writing workshop at her studio this last bright but frigid Saturday. Small in size, but big in laughter and learning. I hadn’t taught a class in a few years.  Writing doesn’t have to be a big scary thing,  they learned. The participants worked on exercises that allowed them to leave with haikus to amaze their friends and families and with a tool kit to keep their practices going forward.

And in all honesty, as I drove home under the bright sky, I felt as if I moved forward, too.

*A CNC machine is a computer operated device that lets carpenters and metal workers cut materials to needed shapes and sizes with speed and accuracy.

The Second Day of Christmas

Image courtesy of The Graphics Fairy

We didn’t have a partridge in a pear tree. Nor turtle doves, unless you want to count their two mourning cousins who crashed into the back door while Hubby and I had lunch.

The last couple of weeks have been busy with a graduation (nephew launching into the great wide open); the family holiday gathering piggybacked on that to spare the Michigan relatives a second drive down in a week; a wonderful Yule party thrown by a couple of friends, one of whom is a culinary school grad; and yesterday came the season finale with dinner at another couple of friends’.

Today is the big deep sigh of letting go, of making space for the new year. It’s up to a whopping two above as I write, making it a good day to dream, to reflect. We’ll be back in double digits by Thursday, sort of, anyway. One of the almanacs predicted that we’d be cycling in and out of the deep freeze this winter. All OK as long as we don’t get the huge snows to go with it, or stay stuck there for protracted periods.

And that’s good. Several occasions warrant leaving the house whether I want to or not. We have a couple of vet visits coming up. The 10,000 mile annual check up and three year rabies shot needs to be scheduled with the regular vet before the 11th.  Oakley goes to Dr. V for a recheck of his eyes on the 8th. We’ll be discussing what longterm management of his uvulitis [sp?], the autoimmune condition triggering the abnormal growth of blood vessels in the eyeballs. In the handout that she gave me, Dr. V said that humans who have it described the pain of this process as severe cramping. I’m not thrilled about Oakley being on Prednisone long term, but if it’s a choice between side effects from a maintenance dose of it or a 100% chance of him going blind in a lot of pain, I think you know which risk I’ll take.

So far, Oakley has had minimal side effects from the Pred and the anti-rejection drug  taken with it. The former necessitates a couple more potty runs during the day and makes him hungrier and thirstier. The latter caused him to emit sulphuric gas clouds–no cramping or discomfort, just gas–the first couple of days. Since dogs have different standards for what constitutes a pleasing odor than humans, I’m sure he’s enjoying it. I swear I’ve seen him smile a couple of times after he’s cut one. His eyes are clearing up and he’s much more comfortable.

For now that’s what counts.

And even with the generosity of family and friends, there’s nothing else I could ask for.


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?



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.








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,