Higher and Deeper

The wind howls and rocks the van.  We feel like we’re in a space ship, hurtling through a hostile zone:

“The wind blew and spit icicles in their faces…” –Carl Sandburg

Periodically in the night we were awakened by crashes as layers of ice and snow slid off the sides of the van and smashed on the punky snow below.

Poor Atina was frantic to go out at first light, but we couldn’t risk it due to extreme high winds.  And since every window is covered either by Reflectix or by handy insulating layers of snow and ice, the only way to check the situation would be to open the main hatch and risk having the door blown shut on some body part–not worth the risk.  So I told Atina to cross her legs till the wind took a break!

When things settled down to where I was pretty sure we would not be impaled with flying tree branches, Atina watched anxiously as I slowly and deliberately donned layer after layer of mountaineering gear: double layer of silk underwear, water and windproof pants, microfleece vest, mask, thick wool socks, high altitude ski parka, ski gloves, and I sure wish I had a pair of goggles but I don’t.  I’ll have to hope that the anti-fog stuff I sprayed on my glasses actually works.

My parka hails from my ski bum days in the ’90s.  One of the benefits of my recent shocking weight loss is that it fits me again, over multiple layers of other warm things. Yay!

The hood of this parka snugs up into a visored helmet, thanks to a system of drawcords that don’t even get in the way like some annoying others I’ve had.  It’s designed for extreme conditions.  I love my good old EMS parka!  (Eastern Mountain Sports, not Emergency Medical System)

When I get finished with the ski togs system, not a square inch of exposed skin will remain, with the exception of what gets around my glasses.

Blizzard footwear: a pair of knee high fleece lined rain boots.  Love ’em.

Hiking sticks, because I fall over easily.

Had to kick the main hatch, also known as side door, open, as it had, as expected, frozen shut during the night.  A dangerous shower of icicles and chunks of solid frozen junk clattered off the roof.  I shut the door again to let the debris pass before trying to exit.  Atina bored holes in me with desperate eyes.

When it seemed safe, I opened the door and stepped out into a howling wasteland of grey.  Atina jumped out and made a yellow spot.

Very, very unfortunately, the sky has made layers of snow, sleet, freezing rain, and back to the beginning.  So instead of having nice drifts of light, fluffy white powder, we’ve got….crud.  It’s all frozen together.  Tomorrow it will be rock-hard.  The night time temperatures will be in the teens, with daytime temps above freezing.  That means a melt/freeze cycle that will just create a foot or so of nasty grey ice that would take a jackhammer to bust through.

My nice RV park people plowed out my driveway yesterday, but today you can’t even tell they did it.  I sure hope they’ll help me get out of here after this storm passes.

I wish I’d taken a shower before the storm hit.  I was so busy making preparations that I didn’t get to it.  Oh well, I thought, I’ll walk over on Saturday and get a nice hot one.

Well.  Snow is one thing, but I hadn’t counted on this wind.  I ain’t going out there unless absolutely necessary.  I’ll stay dirty till tomorrow.

 

Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere Too Soon

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We is snowed in!

Well…I had to break my blogging policy of only one post per day for this one.

Accuweather says it’s going to start snowing again in a few minutes, so we ran outside so Atina could pee and I could wrestle with the back door to get another bag of her food out.

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Atina makes sure there are no boogey-people lurking around

One good thing is, we don’t have to step down to get out of the van.  On the other hand, If we get the additional 8 inches that’s predicted, we won’t be able to get the side door open at all!

That’d be almost as bad as the time we got bogged down in cow manure out in New Mexico.  Fortunately there was some handy cut brush lying around, and I shoved that under the wheels and got out of there.

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Ol' Jenny is hibernating

One good thing, all that snow and ice makes good insulation.

Hello, Winter!

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This is the view from inside my cozy camper.  It’s kind of like being in an igloo.  The layers of ice and snow help insulate and retain the heat inside, which is a good thing, because my propane tank only holds 8 gallons and it’s gotta last till next week, or till I can get out of here, whichever comes first.

Thankfully we still have electricity in the campground, which means I can run my electric heater and save the propane for when the ice takes the power out.  I’m pretty sure it’s going to be “when,” not “if.”  The governor of NC is pretty sure, too, because s/he (I don’t keep up on politics) has invited 500 Floridian power company workers to join ours.  I like that.  Hope Florida has enough left, because they had tornadoes again last night in the Panhandle.

Atina the awesome Malinois had a blast romping in the snow this morning.  Glad I got her out before it started sleeting.  I took a blast of sleet in the face (the only part of me that was exposed–mask, next time I emerge).  The Doggess stretched out and ran like a deer through the snow-blanketed field.

Now it’s howling and spitting icicles, to paraphrase Carl Sandburg.  Miss Dog is lying on my foot, sulking.  She wants to go out.

That won’t happen until it decides to snow again, or even give us a precipitation break.  Till then, we stay cozy and warm in our igloo.

I have a lot to do this afternoon.  I can’t decide whether to proceed with my project of going through everything and finding stuff I don’t need, in order to lighten my load a bit; or to start a new project making covers for all the windows and skylights out of Reflectix, a marvelous material resembling bubble wrap covered with Mylar.  It repels both heat and cold, so it’s good for both summer and winter climate control.

It’s clear that I need to start a new blog dedicated to my Roadtrek travels.  If the power stays on, I hope to embark upon that project this weekend.  Themes, themes, themes.  I need to find a really good photography theme, because I need to start seriously marketing my photos in order to finance my travels.  I haven’t even posted my “real” photography on this site, because I want to mostly stay on topic.  Anybody got good photog theme ideas?

Spoke with The Boy couple days ago.  Sheesh.  He is not at all sorry that he threw his mother out at Thanksgiving.  At least I got a better sense of where he’s at, and why he did it.

He’s angry that I am a nomad by nature, that I don’t have a house with a front porch with a swing and the aroma of baking chocolate chip cookies wafting on the air. 

He wants me to have a place where he can come and visit me, and have a cozy bed to sleep in, and not have to camp on a deck and pee over a cliff and crap in an incinerating toilet.

I reminded him that this was only the case because I returned to the States to take care of his grandfather, and was living in his Grandpa’s studio. 

And before that I lived in Jerusalem, in a three story house, had a full-time acupuncture practice, was a leader in my community…HAD a community, fer krissake. 

And despite many invitations and offers to pay tickets he wouldn’t visit me there.

“No, I WOULDN’T,” he said emphatically. 

I didn’t need to ask why not.

He didn’t approve of me doing such a radical thing, moving so far away (as if he visits me that often anyway), putting myself in danger…God in heaven, what did I do to merit having a child who has judged me and disapproved of my life choices since he was a baby, and expressed his displeasure by refusing to participate, refusing to enjoy the various adventures that could have been so much fun if only he had made the leap and decided to be a mentsch instead of a lead weight to drag around?

(A mentsch, for those who aren’t familiar, is Yiddish for “man,” literally, but in common usage means “a regular guy,” “a good person”.)

Hell’s bells, one time I schlepped (dragged) him out to Antelope Island, which sits in the middle of the Great Salt Lake in Utah, with his horse and my horse and the Corgi.

I unloaded the horses from the trailer.

“Saddle up,” I sang out happily.  I was looking forward to the four-hour ride on the island trail, where a herd of American Bison roam, as well as marmots, jackrabbits, coyotes, hawks, eagles, and many other interesting things.

He was about eleven, and much larger than me.  He crossed his arms and scowled.

“Saddle up,” I instructed.  No response.

So I saddled his mare for him.  Mine was already stamping impatiently, ready to hit the trail.

“Mount up,” I sang, ignoring the fact that I had saddled up for him.

No response.

“Well, I’m damned if I’m going to miss my ride just because you’ve stubbed up.  If you refuse to come, you can damn well spend four hours in the trailer with the dog.  And don’t you dare go near the lake!”

I unsaddled his mare, got the dog dish and water bottles out of the cab of the truck, tied his mare to the trailer, mounted up, and had a very pleasant four hour ride around the island.

When I got back to the truck he was sitting in the shade with the dog inside the trailer.   The mare was munching at her hay bag.  Without a word, he climbed up into the cab while I loaded the horses.  When we got home (to the real house) he took himself to his room and was not seen till dinner.

That’s been my life since he was a baby.  There have been times when I really wanted to give him away.

He got somewhat better after wilderness therapy and therapeutic boarding school.  In fact, I really thought the values he learned there had stuck, but I guess they’ve worn off.

Well, now that he’s 30, there’s nothing I can do but live my life on my own terms.  As they say in New England, “If he don’t like it, he can lump it.”

If It Ain’t One Thing, It’s Another

That’s what I always say.

Yup.

I’ve been stranded at this rather dull RV park for over a week now.  Maybe longer, I don’t know.  The days here waft from one into another.  There are benefits: the Catawba River runs through my back yard, and even though the ground is still soggy from last week’s flood, Atina revels in having a place to run.

It’s a joy to watch her stretch out like a greyhound–she has the deep chest, sucked-in belly, and long legs that eat up the ground.  She never lets me out of her sight, though, and after a scary misadventure getting stuck in briars chasing a squirrel (she can’t resist a squirrel!), she always comes to my call.

Today she even got to play with a short pudgy mutt who didn’t mind getting tromped all over by a puppy three times his size.

There are real showers, and an expensive but clean laundry room, and a restaurant where they serve breakfast and lunch for cheap.

In fact, this morning while I was in the canteen filling up on lousy coffee, Atina found the new bag of laundry detergent, the kind that is little pouches of clear liquid, and decided to sample the wares.  Imagine my chagrin when I came in and found the bag ripped open, with an oozing pouch, and a guilty looking pooch on the bed.

I know a bit about detergent ingestions, and although I am trained not to panic, I did, a little, then read the label.  It said to wash out the person’s mouth with water.  Do not induce vomiting.

First I checked her mouth, in the vain hope that she had perhaps just sniffed the material and realized it’s not a treat.

But oh no, her lips and gums were slippery!  Thank goodness, she was not foaming at the mouth…But I had to wrestle her mouth open to check it (just try prying a Malinois’ mouth open, I dare you.  They’re not called “Malligators” for nothing!)  Her tongue felt unnaturally slippery, and there was a faint but present aroma of unscented soap.

So I wet a shop towel and went to work cleaning her lips, gums, teeth, and tongue.  Guess I won’t have to brush her teeth tonight.

Remembering the olden days when my ER was also the regional Poison Control Center (with a red phone, just like the White House), I counted up the pods and was relieved to find that all were accounted for, and that the one she had punctured was mostly full.  That was reassuring.

I did call the vet just to make sure, and he said the worst that could happen is diarrhea (oh boy!).

This is a great place to camp for a night or two, rest and refresh, fill up the water jugs and dump the holding tanks and be on one’s way West.

However.

It’s not the amenities that keep me here, but the repair shop.  Sadly, I’m becoming a regular.

First it was the mishap with the waste water tanks.  I went over a steep spot in a parking lot driveway and bumped the underside of my rig.  Interestingly, I was on my way to this very RV park to do my weekly chores (real shower, laundry, dump tanks, take on water) when this occurred.  I discovered the damage when I opened the “black tank (aka toilet waste)” valve to dump it, and instead of going down the sewer pipe, the nasty stuff poured out on the concrete pad, right under my rig!  Shit.

This was right before Christmas.  I begged and pleaded with the service manager to get my rig into the shop, just to look at it and see if it could be quickly mended, but they were working with a skeleton crew and could not do.

So I hung out till the following Wednesday, when they were at least able to look at it and decide that they could fix it, which they did and I am glad.

I went back up the mountain to my own property for a couple of days, because they were going to fix something else on Monday and I wanted a break from here.

So, on Sunday I started back down the mountain, because I had to have the van in the shop by 8 and I am not an early riser, so I planned to camp here the night before.

What is this “down the mountain”?

The locals call it “Cox’s Creek.”

It’s the most dangerous piece of mountain road in the Eastern United States, and according to one truckers’ guide to mountain passes, the most dangerous in the country.

Marry up continuous switchbacks with grades ranging from 7% to 12% and you’ve got a recipe for trouble.

Signs warn:

“The ONLY runaway truck ramp,” and

“ROAD WORSENS BEYOND TRUCK RAMP”

…balm to the soul.

I’ve been having some issues with the traction control thingie, or at least that’s what I thought it was.

Nope.

As soon as I pointed ol’ Jenny’s nose down the mountain, something went very wrong.

The front end of the van started bucking like a bronco.  I tried to slow down, but couldn’t!

I switched over to manual and put her in third, and the thing over-revved so I had to slow her down by tapping gently on the brakes until I came to THE ONLY RUNAWAY TRUCK RAMP, where I pulled off and got out to check for a flat tire, but there was none.

So I crept down the mountain at 15 miles per hour, with a veritable parking lot honking at me from behind, but there was nothing to do about it.

Got down to the relative flat, said a prayer, went to the repair shop in the morning, got my whatever it was (I forget now) fixed, and headed out the park gate to go back up the mountain to get something done before having to be back here on Friday (tomorrow) to get the furnace fixed.  Ho hum.

But as I took the gentle left curve out of the park, my brakes locked up completely and I came near to sliding clean off the road and over an embankment.  I caught the fear in the eyes of the driver in the oncoming lane.

So, rather than going up the mountain, from which I could no longer come down, I went to Wal-Mart to stock up, since it’s clear I’m not going anywhere for a while.

Having arrived safely at Wal-Mart, I thought it would be wise to check the fluids.  I grew up with grease on my hands, and even though these newfangled vehicles are now foreign territory to me, they still have oil and transmission and brake fluids, so I checked ’em.

Sonofabitch but the brake fluid was low.  Very low.  That made sense!

I consulted the manual to see what kind of brake fluid this beast takes, since I was at Wal-Mart and all.  But it said DON’T top it off if it’s low, because being low means there’s a leak somewhere, because it’s a closed system.

And so forth.

But what luck!  The town I happen to be stuck in is home to the only Chevy dealership for miles around that has a lift that can handle a 4 ton van!  Yay!

So, after another weekend stuck in my RV park (which is not free), I get to haul ass over to the Chevy place on Monday.

I was really, really hoping to get the fuck rid of this van before shit like this started happening.  I can smell a lemon when I’m living in it.

My new “unit,” as RVs  are called, should be finished, um, next week.  I’m supposed to drive to northern Michigan to trade in this heap and pick up my freshly built one, with dual wheels and four wheel drive, yay!

However.

I am not at all sure that I want to make that trip, in the middle of the WINTER that I was not supposed to be here for, in The Lemon.

Tomorrow, while the furnace is being fixed, I am going to call the factory that made it (The Lemon) and explain all these things.  My aim is to have the new unit delivered to the local dealer, with a considerable upward adjustment of my trade-in allowance.  Or Else.  Something.

As for The Lemon, all I ask is that it gets fixed sufficiently to get me where I’m going next.

Wherever that is.

Another “Almost Was”

Used to be a phrase among my particular hippie circle: “That almost was an almost was.”

That is to say, it was a close call.

This line of storms that has caused all sorts of mayhem, from strings of tornados to floods to blizzards, has been washing over western North Carolina, where I am stuck at a campground waiting for a service appointment on Wednesday.

Yesterday I was studying the sky, watching a wall cloud slowly rotating and thinking, why, that could develop into a tornado if there was more wind shear.  I was glad it was going away from where I was, in case things progressed in a bad way.

So imagine my surprise when my mother called, just as I was leaving the vet’s office in Asheville.

As usual, no matter where I am when she calls, she screamed,
“WHERE ARE YOU???”

“I’m in Asheville, why?”

“Can’t you hear the radio???”  She always has the radio on.  Always.

I couldn’t hear the radio, but I could hear the unmistakable National Weather Service robot voice gravely announcing something or other.

“What’s happening, Mom?  Why is there a weather alert?”

“WHERE ARE YOU??”

“I’m in Asheville, why?”

“You stay there.  You just stay there.  Do you have a strong building you can take shelter in?”

Then I knew what the alert was: tornado.

“Is it a watch or a warning?”

“CAN’T YOU HEAR THE RADIO??”

“No, I can’t.  Tell me what it says.”

Finally she calmed down enough to repeat verbatim what the alert message said.  The tornadic radar signal showed significant rotation, moving north at 30 mph (!!!), with the campground where I’ve been staying directly in its path.  I thought of all those people in their campers, motor coaches, and especially a young family in a flimsy pop-up, all out in an open field.

“Is it on the ground?”

No, not yet.

“Well, I’ll just stay here in Asheville tonight.  One or another of the stores will let me stay in their parking lot.”

Mom was relieved.

I had to replenish my supply of canned nutrients, so I went to the nearest grocery store and stocked up.  The manager kindly gave me permission to park my camper overnight.

I got on my NOAA weather app, and sonofabitch, there it was, the characteristic  bright red “hook” signature of a developing tornado.  My weather warnings app gave the usual urgent instructions for taking shelter, getting as low as possible with as many walls between you and the outdoors as possible.

I thought ruefully of the photos of the aftermath of the F4 tornado that hit East Texas the day before yesterday.  No walls left to protect anyone.  Amazing that only…I think 12 or 14…people were killed, although there are still some missing.

This is the same storm front that spawned that string of 11 tornados, in December, for crying out loud.

I don’t care what people say the cause is…when it’s 70 degrees in December, and the weather has gone crazy, it’s global warming.

I’ve been studying tornados ever since I lived in the Mysterious Midwest and had run-ins with several.  One was huge and threw a good deal of Toledo, Ohio into Lake Erie.  One went over our heads after I convinced my then-husband to please stop watching it and jump in this handy ditch with our infant son. 

And one buzzed through my yard at night and snatched the kids’ trampoline.  It ended up in a soybean field several miles away.  I found that out when the farmer showed up with our crumpled trampoline in the back of his truck.

“This yours?”

“Yep.”

“Thought so.”

The kids dragged it out of his truck, took it apart and put it back together again.  It was fine.  They launched each other off of it until one of them broke his arm, then I took it apart and hauled it to the dump.

My son grew phobic about tornados.  In the spring, the sky was full of rotating cells.

His step-brother used to torment him:  Look!  A tornado!  There’s another one!

My son leaned over and threw up in the manure spreader.  For years after that, every time the sky looked threatening, he got sick.

When I heard there was a potential tornado heading for Marion, of course I wanted to jump in my van and go chase it…But it was getting dark, and there’s nothing more dangerous than a tornado in the dark.  Maybe a tsunami. 

So here I sit in the grocery store parking lot.  Atina’s head rests on my knee.  She snores, oblivious to the fierce wind and rain. 

The radar shows a nasty squall line, but nothing to get excited about.

But when it comes to weather, you never really know.

Sonovabitch

Went downstairs
Getta glassa cider
There I saw the bedbug
Foolin’ around with the spider
And then
Went down agin
Getta glassa gin
Sonovabitchin bedbug
Doin’ it agin

One of these days I’ll figure out how to put sound files (like, me singing, eek) on these posts.

Sonofabitch.  Two weeks ago, or maybe three, I don’t know, time is all mashed up these days–I had steroid injections in both shoulders.  Hurt like a sonofabitch, but what to do, my xrays look just like those mace things the barbarians used to swing on chains, in order to bash people’s heads in.  I mean, they have these bumps and stickers growing out of the ball part oft the joint, diving into my ligaments and muscles and cartilage and whatever else they could stick into.

My left shoulder felt real good after a couple of days.  Right one, not so much, but better, I’ll take better.

No pain meds, we don’t do pain meds anymore, don’tcha know.

Imagine my surprise when I woke up this morning to find that I couldn’t get out of bed the normal way. 

I sure started to, but the pain in my left shoulder gave me those black spots in my eyes and I had to lie back down and contemplate for a while.

After a suitable interval, and largely because my dog was standing by the door with her legs crossed, looking sad, I hove around and slid out of the sack, grabbing onto the towel rack (remember I live in a tiny RV where things are all squashed together) with my right hand YOW! 

Sonofabitch.  The right one too.

As if the cortisone wore off of both of them, synchronized, just like that.

I guess that is what happened.

So now what the fuck am I supposed to do?

This was my second set of injections.  So I did a little reading on the topic, and found that each injection can poke little holes in the shoulder cartilage, until eventually you need a joint replacement.

Uh, no.

But even worse, doing nothing will eventually lead to a joint replacement.

Mmmmm…..no, no likee.

Gotta find me a good acupuncturist.  I know one in Tucson.

Hell, I am a good acupuncturist, just real hard to hit those points on the upper back.

But sonofabitch, I’m stuck in Western North Carolina.

I had big plans to start heading West last week, but being a weather buff, I looked at the maps and said “nope.”

Good thing, because I would have headed right into that bad line of tornados and mayhem.

Driving around doing random errands, I scraped the bottom of my RV on a sharply angled driveway, and next place I camped I noticed nasty stuff pouring out the bottom of the rig.

Shit.

That’s what it was.

Somehow that minor scrape opened up a pipe joint (hey, that sounds good) in the sewage system.  All well and good, since I was parked at an RV repair joint..rollll another one…

But no.  It was a couple days before Christmas, and nobody was working.

I called RV repair joints all the way to Florida and the Midwest.  Same story.

But good news!  I got an appointment for this coming Wednesday!  Only eight days I will have been hanging around here.

But bad news, if they can’t fix it on the spot…it’s my home, you know…And if they take out stuff in the sewer system, that’s real bad, because I use it…a lot…between the fucking lithium that causes me to pee every five minutes to the Crohn’s that goes in cycles, but when it goes, it GOES…

Well, my full-timers rider on my RV insurance will pay for a rental car and a hotel room if my rig is out of service, but sonofabitch, I don’t even have a single one of my vast suitcase collection with me.

Why would I?  I live like a turtle.  All my stuff goes with me, wherever I go. 

Just another small conundrum.  The RV life is never dull.

In the meantime I’m stuck here in beautiful (not) Marion, North Carolina, where there isn’t even a Cracker Barrel.  That’s how small it is.

But it does have a rental car place, which got me all excited till I called them up, and the rental agent told me sadly that they don’t have any cars at the moment.

Oh, and there isn’t any lodging here, either, not even a Motel 6.

Oh well, something will turn up.

My mother, who lives 45 minutes from here in a place that makes Marion look like a booming metropolis, offered to come and get me.

Noooooooooooo!   I’ll sleep in the woods first.  Have done so before.

In the meantime, I’m back in bed, writing this on my phone with one finger and trying to keep from moving, so I don’t hurt my shoulders.

Atina the Malligator has her 70 pound self draped across my legs, warm and heavy, sweetly sleeping, but still scanning the environment with her ears: they are always on duty.

She is a sweet treasure, my Atina.  Living in close quarters, we grow more and more in sync with each other.  She doesn’t like to let me out of her sight, so I just tie her leash around my waist, and she is content to go where I go, do what I do.

I think that’s the way dogs and their people are meant to be.  Together all the time.

If I’m somewhere safe, without cars or people or other dogs, I let her off the leash.  She still sticks close, but the difference is, she carries a toy around with her and bugs the shit out of me to throw it for her.

Which I have no problem with, except my bum shoulders don’t allow for long throws; which means in two seconds she is back with the blasted toy, wanting me to throw it again.

Where is the ten year old kid when I need one?  They could throw the damn ball while I’m busy, then disappear till I need them again.

But I’m happy to see her all waggy and full of doggie joy, so I throw and curse, throw and curse, until I see she’s had enough.

Sonofabitchin bedbug
Doin’ it agin

A Coupla Bummers and A Miracle

Well, it was Thanksgiving in America, again.

A friend of mine calls it Shabbos Hodu.  (“Shabbos” is the Eastern European version of the Hebrew word “Shabbat,” or Sabbath).  “Hodu” is the Hebrew word for both “turkey (the bird)” and the imperative form of one of the many words for “to thank.”  Thus, “Shabbos Hodu!”

In Orthodox Judaism there is no “Thanksgiving Day,” because we formally give thanks to God at least six times a day, and sometimes more often.

The three daily prayers, which take up to an hour each, contain 19 paragraphs of blessing.  Each of these blessings opens and closes with a verse of thanks.  There is a separate blessing expressing thanks in general, and when there is a quorum of ten people, a special very beautiful paragraph is sung that describes the praises of the Angels.  There is a verse in every prayer beseeching the Creator to rebuild Jerusalem, our Holy City.

The other three “Thank you’s” are contained in the Blessing After Meals, said after any meal containing more than a certain amount of bread (the exact amount is part of Jewish Law), and a shorter version that is said after eating any non-bread product containing one of the five varieties of grain that grow in the Land of Israel: wheat, spelt, rye, oats, barley.  The long version takes me 45 minutes to say, because I say each word with concentration on its meaning.  I learned this from my teachers.

In these prayers also, the rebuilding of Jerusalem figures large.  Both sets of prayers were codified while the Hebrews were in exile in Babylon, after the Babylonian conquest had razed Jerusalem.

However, I no longer live in a Jewish community, let alone Israel; and to tell you the truth, I’m not really practicing Orthodox Judaism these days.

It was so wonderful living in our little country, being able to practice my religion in an unfettered way.  We could wear our special religious items–you know, the ones we are prohibited from bringing to the Temple Mount–right in the street, in the buses, anywhere, without people screaming epithets and other unpleasantries.

I once had a conversation with a black woman from New Orleans who had converted to Islam, married a Lebanese man, and moved with him to Saudi Arabia.  I met her in India.  She wanted to know why we Jews had to have our own country, when we could be Jewish anywhere in the world.

I was so taken aback by this question that I had to sit and think for a minute.  At last I got hold of my senses and asked her,

“Were you able to practice Islam in America?”

“Well, of course!”

“Then why did you move to Saudi Arabia?”

“Oh, because it’s an Islamic country!  Saudi Arabia enforces strict Shari’a Law, so it is the purest Islam…”

For a moment, understanding dawned in her eyes, but it faded just as quickly.  I developed something that needed my urgent attention, and left my friend wondering what went wrong.

Oh yes. I was talking about Thanksgiving in America.

Since I’m in America for the foreseeable future, I am doing some things American style, like Thanksgiving Day and gifts for Hannukah (our Festival of Lights, coming up next week).  In Israel, Hannukah is a time for celebrating miracles.  Gifts are not really a central theme.  It’s all about the light. ( More on that next week.)  The American practice of giving gifts on Hannukah seems to have arisen in order to keep Jewish children from being bummed out because of Christmas.

Since my son’s father is Christian, my son goes to him for Christmas.  For the past few years, my son and I have been “doing” Thanksgiving together.

While my father was alive, my son would come to my parents’ house and he and I would make a kosher turkey, and we would all get gorked on the usual T-day dishes.

Last year I was still in shock from my father’s death in early October, so my son and his then-girlfriend made a huge feast at his house.  People dropped by, roommates who had stayed in town for their own reasons cruised by and partook, we all smoked a lot of weed, and generally had a good time.  My mother was not invited, because she has made herself unwelcome by her delight in shaming me in front of my son.

This year my mother decided to fly to my cousins and have Thanksgiving with them.  I was not invited.  My cousins, who suck up to her for their own reasons, did not invite me either.  That being the case, I felt no pangs of guilt when I accepted my son’s invitation, party of one.

Then my mother decided to cancel her Thanksgiving plans, for her own reasons.  Since she knew my son had invited me (party of one), she got herself invited to one of her many friends, who has a big family, so my mom could feel really angry that her own family had not invited her.

For some reason my son did not invite anyone else to dinner.  His own reasons, I guess.  It was a little weird having just he and I, especially since he was in one of his dark moods, brooding and irritable.  I really wish he would start taking lithium again, but he angrily rejects the diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder that, in his opinion, was foisted upon him as a teenager.

So that was Thursday.

I slept in my camper van, in the parking lot of his apartment complex.  One of his neighbors, who had clearly been watching out for me, accosted me as I headed out to go to bed, demanding to know if I was visiting someone in the complex.  Surely he had seen me exiting my son’s door…

My nerves were already frazzled from dinner with my glowering son, so I fired back,

“Why do you want to know?”

“Because I think you’re just camping here.”  Whoa, let’s just get some holiday spirit of giving on here, hey?

I wanted to say to him, “Listen, Mr. Nice Guy, even if I was ‘just camping here,’ there’s a whole fucking empty parking lot because everyone has gone elsewhere for the holiday.  And what are you angry at, anyway?”

But I didn’t say that, because there’s always the possibility that a poor unhappy fucker like that will call the police, and I was already tired and tense enough.  So instead I said,

“Well, I am camping here.  This (pointing to my camper) is my bedroom.  I’m visiting ____ in Apartment _____.  Would you like him to come out and speak with you?”

As it turns out, this unfortunate fellow has seen my son, who is a weight lifter and quite muscular and buff.  So the sorry sucker subsided, and allowed as how that would not be necessary.  I also subsided, went into my spaceship and slept fitfully, as people constantly came and went, car lights and porch lights flashing.  My PTSD surrounding cops blazed like a tiger in the night.

Friday.  I woke up feeling like shit.  Depression.  Again. Still.

Went in and stood under my son’s excellent shower for half an hour while he went to work for a while.

When he came back, I said, “Listen, I’m feeling really disorganized brain-wise.  Do you mind if I hang out till tomorrow?”

The minute the words left my mouth I saw the twitch in his face that said, Oh No, Not That!

“Um…listen, Mom, to be honest, um, I really need my space.”

My heart hit the pavement.  Then I noticed the spiffy outfit.

Date.

Yeah, I was glad he was able to tell me no, but on the other hand I wished he had seen fit to be honest and say something more like, “Oh wow, Mom, I really wish you could, but since I thought you were leaving today, I made plans.”  That would have sent me off with a smile and a lighter heart.

“Oh, that’s OK,” I chirped, suddenly feeling like I’d been handed the bum rush.*

He graciously allowed me to stay long enough to use his internet to find a campground.  I found one pretty close by, said my goodbyes, and lit a shuck out of there.**

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I called my mother today, just to see how she is doing, and I wish I had put money on the bet that I made with myself.  I would have won.  She barely spoke to me, and clearly had her victim act all planned out, in case I called.  I laughed.  Couldn’t help myself: it was all too predictable.

Now for the Miracle part.

My sweet Belgian Malinois, Atina, is most certainly an angel.

She sleeps in the right-hand third of my bed.  The left-hand third is reserved for all the computer-related shit that won’t fit anywhere else.

The only thing I had the energy to make for dinner was a cup of gluten-free microwave macaroni and cheese.  While I was mechanically going through the motions of making it, Atina was busy doing something in the bed.

She was pushing my duvet into a nest-like shape toward the pillow.  No, wait.  She was pushing it with her nose, straightening the edge up toward the pillow.  I thought, you cutie, you are making yourself a nest out of my duvet, and you know that’s my spot in the bed!  But I did not scold her.  My heart was brimming with love.  She pushed and pulled at my pillow, fluffing it and making it into a nice continuum with my duvet.  Aha, I thought, now I will see you plump yourself down in my spot!

But that’s not what she was about at all.

When she got my part of the bed all fixed up to her satisfaction, she plopped herself down–on her side of the bed!  She had made my bed up–for me!

I dropped what I was doing and hugged and kissed her for a long time.  By the way she reacted, she knew that I knew what she had done for me…she made a place for me to rest.  She did it with love and care.  As I write this, I am lying in the bed my dog prepared for me.  Her breathing is soft and even as she sleeps in her own third of the bed.

“Friends may come and friends may go, but your dog will always be glad to see you.”

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*”The bum rush”: A term dating from the Great Depression and possibly earlier, when many out-of-work men went “on the bum,” going from door to door begging for food, money, a place to sleep…if the man of the house took offense, the beggar would be chased off the place–“given the bum rush.”

**”To light a shuck” means “to leave in a hurry.”  It has its origin in the  Civil War, when dried corn shucks were used as fuses for light cannons and field artillery.  Once you “lit a shuck,” you had to run like hell because not only did the big guns recoil (and could run you over), but also sometimes the cannons would backfire, shooting cannon balls behind instead of in front of them.  The idiom is still in use in the Southern and Southwestern United States.  It is one of my favorites.

 

 

Back From The Dead, For Now Anyway

Atina lay on her bed painfully struggling to breathe for hours that felt like years.  I wrote the previous post during one of those years, and I thank every one of you who have sent me such sweet heartfelt thoughts.

Later in the afternoon she dragged herself up–still couldn’t get her hind end to cooperate–and between the two of us, we dragged her into my bed, and snuggled together.  Every once in a while she’d stretch her long neck around so she could clean up my face, and finally when she got some energy worked up, she tried to hold me down to wash me, as if I were her own puppy sniffling and snotting in the bed.

A couple more hours and she wanted to go out and pee, so we went out.  A naughty squirrel decided to tease her by getting way out on a tiny branch, and fell THUMP into the road!  It made such a cannon shot hitting the ground, I thought it must surely have killed itself, but it jumped right up and scampered up the next tree over.

I think this must be how you check for life signs in a Malinois.

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“C’mon, Mom, just let me climb that tree, O.K.?  Just this once, huh?”

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A Malinois isn’t dead until you can heave a squirrel at her and she doesn’t move.

But now she’s all worn out from her squirrel hunt, back in bed exhausted. 

If she’s still alive in the morning (no, I’m not joking here), I’ve decided to go ahead with the surgery.  The biopsy will give us the information we need to first of all know for sure what the problem is, and whether treatment can give her more quality of life (to spend cuddling with me, catching frisbees, and chasing naughty squirrels).

There’s a fair chance she won’t survive the surgery.  But her rapid decline over the last few weeks tells me that her quality of life is getting worse.  I love to snuggle with her, but she should be running me into the ground throwing frisbee, not the other way around. 

Wish us luck.

Losing My Buddy

Atina lies dying.  This morning she had a blast chasing her Kong.  Then she collapsed, exhausted from the effort of what was likely her last play session.

She spent the rest of the morning alternating between frenetic activity and exhausted collapse, with her head in my lap as I stroked her cool ears and told her it’s O.K., it’s O.K. to go.

Now she’s motionless on her bed.  Her breathing is irregular.  If she makes it till tomorrow I will be surprised.

Last night she got into bed with me–an unusual phenomenon–and we kissed and cuddled for hours, until I was exhausted and sent her to her own bed.  I woke at five.  She was sleeping in the driver’s seat of the van, same as always, same as Aress did when he was alive.

She jumped up when she saw that I was awake, same as always, and got in my way as I was trying to dress, just like she does every morning.  This morning I did not scold her, but snuggled her black head into my half-off pajamas.  I have known for a few days that it wouldn’t be long.

Yesterday I couldn’t believe, watching her fly after her frisbee, that her lab tests could possibly measure her life in days, maybe weeks, by miracles months.  Yes, her sides were heaving after just a few catches, but hey, she still had the want-to.

Today she’s been shitting her innards out.  The van smells vile.  I gave her a dose of Imodium, which has slowed things down enough so she can rest.  I’m cooking the rice with chicken broth, hopeful that she’ll rally; but to tell you the truth, I want her to die at home, not on the operating table surrounded by strangers.

Her surgery is scheduled for tomorrow.  If she’s still alive in the morning, I’ll cancel it.  They can look at her kidneys just as well at autopsy.

Yes, we will proceed with the autopsy.  I must stop the carnage in the place where I bought her.  I must save other dogs from being used as currency.  In that way, my beautiful girl will not have died in vain.

Enemies: Quote From Winston Churchill, And My Thoughts Upon It

You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood up for something, sometime in your life. –

-Winston Churchill

Good one for this time. Yes, I have enemies. I have people who think I’m stupid. In my experience, that usually means that they are either jealous, ignorant, mean, or just plain stupid themselves.

I’ve seen stupid people. Those are people who refuse to open their eyes to evidence that’s right before their faces, or who keep on doing the same ineffective or maladaptive thing over and over again, and getting more and more pissed off because it STILL isn’t working. Well then.

I have to be on the lookout for these behaviours in myself, more than ever, because the one thing we, or I, anyway, never want to cop to is that we might be acting stupid.

I say ACTING stupid because there is always a choice. Most people aren’t inherently stupid; it’s just easier to revert to deeply embedded ways of squaring off with people or situations that challenge the status quo.

Or, a person develops a persona, and that is the face he presents to the world, rather like a puppet or automaton. So instead of actually engaging with the world from a novel point of view each and every time, it’s easier and much more comfortable to let the persona, which is seamless and in fact homogeneous, handle the situation the way it normally would.

That way you don’t fall into the trap of independent thinking, ch’v’sh. (“Heaven forbid.”)