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.




Winter: The Condensed Version

Image courtesy of Old Design Shop

This picture pretty much sums it up. A series of storms that began last Thursday night and ended Sunday afternoon dropped some 18.5 inches on us, the vast majority of precipitation for the season.

Thursday morning, Oakley and I went shopping for his food, then I made the last minute run to the store for milk, eggs, and so on. We had bread. Hubby had just purchased a fresh bale of toilet paper. After running the gauntlet, I grabbed a pizza for lunch, and went home to batten down the hatches. Called the guy who does the driveway? Check. Supplies in place? Check? Reading material and dog treats? Check. Settle in and enjoy the storm.

The first flakes drifted across the window as we ate dinner. Peace, coziness, and gratitude descended.

Until the next morning when everything went off the rails, making me wonder momentarily when the walls and floors would emit flames and sulphur.

Hubby hadn’t been feeling well for a couple of days. We had chalked it up to one of the variations of the crud going around and treated it with standard home remedies of soup, tea, NSAIDS, and Vernor’s (you can take the kids out of Michigan, but you can’t take the Michigan out of the kids) ginger ale. His symptoms intensified to the point where he went to the local walk in clinic.

By himself.

Fine. I didn’t ask if I should go with him. He’s driven himself to the emergency room twice with gout in his right foot and once for stitches in his left knee after a mishap with a grinder while restoring a pickup truck. Should he ask me to accompany him, I’ll take it as a sign that he really needs an ambulance.

In this case, his solo journey was not a bad thing, even with my mumbles of “fine, be that way.” Just after he left to pick his way down the slippery sloppy road, Oakley frantically ran in circles around his crate and the dinette table. I snapped on the leash and lead him outside just before he had an attack of colitis. That was for the first time in over two months. That was when we started him on the Prednisone for his eyes. His digestive system calming down has been a bonus. We–the vets and I–had been weaning him off of it. I will spare the details, but will say that Stephen King could have used the incident in a novel. Luckily,  I had the herbs for calming his colon and the preferred antidiarrheal here at home.  Both were administered before I took my coat off. He paced around a little like he does when he’s crampy, gave himself a good shake, then joined me on the sofa with his tush pushed up against my hip before the snoring started.

Hubby had picked his way home again, pharmacy bag in his hand. Only two other patients were there. One was on the way out with a bandage enveloping one hand; the other was signing in as Hubby left. The doctor called in the prescription to the pharmacy across the street. His whole adventure had only taken an hour and a half, even with the abysmal roads and the obligatory moron going the usual speed limit of 55 and honking at Hubby for not doing same. He ate lunch, drank tea, then took his meds and went for an afternoon-long nap.

Little else could be done. The driveway guy came and went several times. Hubby rested. I tried some new recipes based on research on food choices to reduce blood pressure since his was high on Friday. Not bad, pretty tasty.

Finally, the roads cleared and we were all able to get out yesterday. Hubby went to school. I went to the local big city for a long overdue lunch with a friend before a self-care appointment.

Today starts the February thaw. No precipitation until this weekend, but that seems up in the air at this time.

We welcome the thaw. Even with a condensed winter, it is a welcome friend.


The Discontent Part of the Winter Gig




I have grown weary of the snow. We had to have the driveway plowed yesterday. Luckily the roads were in decent shape so I could get Oakley to day care, run errands, and so on.

Today began with about two fresh inches, enough to fill in foot- and paw prints in the back yard. We can still get out if need be. Tomorrow night starting at 6 PM we will be under a winter weather watch with another possible nine  inches en route.

All the basic needs are met, so we don’t have to worry too much. It’s just aggravating when I have to reschedule my whole life due to storms. One self care appointment; one long hoped-for lunch; one making myself available to run an errand for a friend who’s her husband’s primary caregiver. I don’t just mind it; I resent the hell out of it.

It wasn’t always this way. There’s a not so soft voice in my head that reminds me about my love for winter. She sounds like a college-aged me. Back then, even the four spent on the shore of Lake Superior were easier because I could walk almost everywhere.

Now, not so much. A walk to the corner grocery two miles from me is doable in theory, but in practice a really bad idea. The road provides an alternative to the major east-west US route that bisects the town proper.  Except for the T-junctions at the railroad tracks and the river, there are no stop signs between here and town. Some misinterpret that as a sign to leave traffic laws and common courtesy in the dust. Many of them see bike riders, horses, and walkers as targets for some perverse game of pedestrian bingo. Once I tried to walk to the farm stand around the corner from my house, but because of inconsiderate drivers, I bailed mid-trip. Almost getting flattened by someone going 75 miles per hour in a vehicle teetering on the edge between domestic and military use will do that to a person.

Even the pleasures of the hearth wear a bit thin on days like this. I really am in no mood to cook. I give thanks for the leftovers in the fridge. Oakley had day care yesterday. He spent the whole afternoon wrestling with his buddy Willy and chasing Sam, so he’s pretty tuckered out. Hubby is nursing the crud, but diligently studying anyway.

Me? I’m writing, obviously. This entry. Emails to both senators supporting their efforts to prevent 45’s latest nationalistic antics. Starting to think about the garden.

And dreaming of greener days ahead.




No, I’m Not Watching the SuperBowl.

It’s Superbowl Sunday. Or as we call it here, just plain old Sunday. It’s snowy and cold, but we have other ways to distract ourselves than to watch endless hours of TV concerning the history of the event and highlights of the last season. I might feel differently if the Bears or Lions (you may recall that I grew up in Michigan) took on an opponent in the big game, but not this year.

Hubby’s upstairs diligently working on his homework for tomorrow. Oakley and I have claimed our territories on opposite ends of the sofa. I’m listening to WFMT. I will likely plug in a DVD later on and end the day with “Victoria” and “Queen Elizabeth’s Spies.”

Once upon a time, I would have eschewed even those shows for the Super Bowl, any sporting event. Once upon a time, I, too, would have had no qualms about watching SuperBowl coverage from the minute my feet touched the floor in the morning until I put them back under the covers that night.  Once upon a time, I had to watch every sporting event on any network. I even seriously considered going into sports journalism.

Until I went to college and lived in the same housing complex as the men’s hockey team. Until I went to college and played women’s intramural ice hockey and realized that despite my best efforts to be a jock, I was not one.  And that with one exception, I didn’t really like any of my teammates.

The toxic brew of vain attempts to please my father (who wanted an athlete in the family–my sister wasn’t one, either; my brother had no interest in sports except for managing the high school football team) who felt that history, science fiction, and books were a total waste of time; to attract a high school boyfriend ( I was the girl boys developed friendships with in attempts to get my princess-like then best friend’s phone number) and realizing that many of the men and women in the sports circles used athletic prowess as an excuse for pretty bad behavior away from the playing field corroded the fragile metal of my external warrior self.

Once the holes appeared and the armor fell away my freshman year, I was back, sort of, to sci-fi, history, and discovering nature through walks in forests and along the beach at times when I would have been watching humans smash into each other. Much better for the spirit and psyche.

With detachment comes perspective. Since my breakup with sports in college and the subsequent years, I found the clannishness fostered by sports culture rather disturbing. There’s an old Latin expression that translates as “divide and conquer.” The scent of that has grown more intense in the last few years with the Department of Defense using taxpayer funding for “tributes” to the military   

Other issues include what amounts to early indoctrination of children into the cult of sports fandom and the impacts on social issues such as homelessness, human trafficking, and racial inequality.

It is not OK to support a faction of the entertainment industry that pays salaries that could support NFPs to people engaging in deliberate self-harm or harming others for amusement. Too many players such as Dave Duerson (suicide due to chronic depression caused by repeated concussions) and Alex Karras (concussion related dementia) paid dearly in their later years with concussion related issues.  Especially if coupled with the message that it may be the only way out of marginalization for minorities. It is not OK to pay for shiny celebrations of  military service without paying for treatment for returning members shattered in body and mind in combat. It is not OK to disrupt encampments of homeless people to polish the veneer of your city. It is not OK to pimp underage people to the rich and powerful attending the event.

It is OK to watch something fun played for the love of the game. Time was when college sports were played that way, but then ad revenue and funds from the NCAA became a source of income for too many colleges, distracting from academics.

With all these negatives, why have we allowed sports to take over our culture?

Some psychosocial theories postulate that humans get into sports in response to the hunter-gatherers residing in the deepest corners of our psyches. It’s a way of feeling part of a tribe, a clan.

Once upon an epoch, that mindset served the purpose of solidifying against another tribe competing for basic resources such as food.

We don’t need it today. We have more efficient delivery mechanisms for the procurement of food, shelter, clothing, and so on than chasing mastodons with spears as well as the means to deliver it to our fellows living in compromised circumstances.

We need to evolve to the next level where we can acknowledge our basic connections with one another and watch out, even in small ways, for our mutual well being.

If we can do that, we might create the greatest prize of all: a clean, green, peace-centered planet.












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.


Image courtesy of Old Design Shop

I like this little guy. Quite dapper with the bow tie and hat, plus the broom to sweep away the last vestiges of 2017.

We spent New Year’s weekend watching the “Downton Abbey” marathon on our local PBS station. Few other options for amusement  existed. We had a small storm on Friday that dropped enough snow to make the roads challenging. As in what usually is a 30-minute round trip to pick Oakley up from day care morphing into two hours. On its heels came a brutally cold Saturday. Sunday wasn’t bad. We left the Crawleys and their staff to their own devices as we went for a New Year’s lunch and a new to us bookstore. Hubby found several books on woodworking and reproducing antique furniture. I found several history related books. A good time was had by both.

Monday sent the temperatures back into the deep freeze. If someone saw the two inch snow cover glittering beneath last night’s full moon, they might have thought that the midwest isn’t that bad in winter. Unfortunately, it can be. There are two options: a grey slushy day with temperatures in the high 20s or low 30s, or a picture perfect day of blue skies and sparkling snow with air temps that will shatter your lungs when you inhale.

Despite the cold, the earth spins on. We move onward into 2018. I will refrain from making any statements about it not being worse that 2017 for fear that 2018 will ask it to hold its beverage before spinning out of control.

Will we ever get back on center, though? I am heartened by  the current wave of political activism. One of my personal resolutions was to get involved at least through making phone calls to express my support or displeasure to Senators Duckworth and Durbin. I also resolve to do what can to get the local Congressional rep, Randy Hultgren, out of office in November.  He has been unresponsive and his staffers have been even worse. I’ll put my energy into getting in one of the candidates running against him, thank you very much.

We all have our work cut out for us. Let us continue. Let us begin.



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.


Soup Weather



Image courtesy Old Design Shop


We had the first snow this past Sunday. Huge half-formed flakes escorted by grey rain fell from the sky the better part of the morning.

Most Sundays or Saturdays, Oakley and I walk with a friend, but the cold damp weather vetoed it. I did a short yoga practice and made a pot of refrigerator soup.

No need to immerse appliances in boiling water to make stock. There is no real recipe for it. If you want to be fancy, call it soupe bonne femme, the good wife’s soup. Go through your fridge. The half serving of peas, celery that’s gone limp, half an onion from a salad made a few days ago can go in the pot. You found a couple of carrots that have seen better days? Peel, trim, chop, and introduce them to their colleagues in the pot. Cabbage? Chop it finally and add that. Of course you can add potatoes, pasta, rice, whatever suits your fancy.

For stock, I used a generous tablespoon of bouillon paste and water to cover. I also poured in a can of crushed tomatoes. Salt. Pepper. Garlic, either fresh or powdered.  If you want to make it a whole meal, canned white beans or chickpeas will round it out as will leftover bits of roast meat or chicken if you need to use those up.

Simmer until everything is done. The longer, the better in order to blend the flavors. Serve with some good bread or crackers, perhaps some cheese, and enjoy at a table with an outside view. Accompany with gratitude for being inside and having a full belly, and follow up with fruit for dessert.

Garden Report: Final Edition for 2017

We had the first real frost yesterday morning. Even as Oakley made our bed time potty run the night before, the grass glistened and crunched. Well, it is November, and this is to be expected on the heels of protracted warm weather.

Yesterday, I pulled the last of the carrots and some greens. I don’t know what they were. I’d planted a packet of seeds labeled as French salad blend. Beyond being kind of tasty, their identity remains a mystery. The basil hung like flags on windless days. It had slowed down, so no great loss there. The remaining green tomatoes may go into a batch of salsa. I sampled one–the recent rains made them really watery and the lack of sun impeded their ripening. They were just being tomatoes and didn’t know that November is not a good time to set new blossoms.

Weather wise, we open today on a not too unpleasant note, but the wind from a system originating in Canada will be sweeping through this afternoon. The temps are expected to drop rapidly. We’ll be inside, and warm. And we will let the seasons keep turning.



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.