Sunday, November 3, 2019

RIP NANOOK Born: February 3, 2008 Died: October 31, 2019

“Live by the sword; die by the sword”

Nikki and I acquired Nanook, a beautiful black and white, 6-month old, female Siberian Husky from Prairie North Kennel in Bismarck, North Dakota on August 8, 2008. I called my then husband, Dan and broke the news to him assuring him that she was a “demure” husky. He took it with good humor and liked to poke me with that phrase every time she was less than demure.

Before we even got home there was trouble. We were driving my big old Buick LeSabre up to Turtle Mountain Reservation to visit Joe, a friend of Nikki’s. We made the mistake of leaving Nanook in the vehicle unattended while we all traipsed through the property looking for some escaped horses. When we got back to the car, Nanook had ripped the headliner just about all the way out. I had driven that car, which belonged to Rainey, back from Atlanta with her two cats and yorkie which I fostered for several months for her. I needed a car, so the Buick became mine. It used to be a pretty nice car! The car eventually became the property of Nikki’s brother Josh, who had the headliner replaced for about $200.

This episode foreshadowed the years to follow.

Nanook seemed to be more coyote than dog even though she was a registered Siberian Husky. She simply marched to her own drummer. She wouldn’t let anyone even touch her except me for the longest time—maybe a year or so. She acted terrified of men, and men in hats. She got along fairly well with the other dogs as long as they left her alone. She didn’t try to dominate anyone, but she didn’t tolerate being dominated either.

She didn't really make any close connections with the other dogs. Mack, a yellow lab we acquired from Dan’s dad, just about tore off her lip. They seemed to get along alright, but if one of the dogs tried to boss Nanook around, she would get snarly. The vet sewed her up and she was as good as new. 

She just wouldn’t mind. Even me, except when she wanted to. And she loved and trusted me. I may have threatened to kill her a few times, but I also pulled her through some pretty awful illnesses at great financial, emotional, and mental expense

Maddie, our German Shepherd and Nanook got along OK and played. I don't remember them ever getting into it with each other.

From left back to right: Mita, Greta, Angle, Tanka, Nanook. Greta and Nanook got along OK. Greta was the pack leader, and ruled with a velvet hammer. It seems to me that they pretty much ignored each other. I think as long as Greta was the boss, Nanook was protected by staying in her shadow. Greta died October 10th, 2016. We had to put her down. She was suffering cancer and congestive heart failure. She was almost 15.

Hunka who was also acquired by Nikki in North Dakota was killed by a car on November 10th, 2012. All the dogs escaped their kennels and were thereafter collected--except Hunka. As I was searching the foggy ditches with a flashlight, a man in a truck stopped. Hunka was dead in the bed of the truck.  We were all devastated. I don't remember much for about a week due to sedation. 

Nanook jumped into the pen where I had my first lambs and eviscerated one of them, but it didn’t die right away. I heard Nanook’s yip of triumph and the lamb bleating and just knew. My fury was making my hands shake, but I somehow managed to get the gun out of the safe, load it, and put the poor lamb out of its misery. I was tempted to shoot Nanook too, but instead tried to turn it all into a learning opportunity. For us all. Double the security. No, triple the security. I put the fear of God into all the dogs with the lamb carcass but didn’t touch them except to put them on a leash. The sound of the whip did the rest. And my fury.

Nanook graduated to killing chickens. Again, my fault really. The damn things wouldn’t stay in their own pen and eventually one would venture into the dog pen where Nanook made a quick but full meal. She downed feathers, guts, feet, beak, EVERYTHING. I tried to save a couple, but they ended up dying. Another learning opportunity: triple the security on the chickens.

Then there were the cats. A couple of strays met their end with Nanook, as well as one of my own cats. I don't know how I continued to feel love for her. It was her nature to be a predator, so I just forgave her. I resorted to keeping her on a leash when in the house, and devised safe zones to keep the dogs and cats separated when going in and out of the house. 

Nanook was an excellent mouser as well. She also ate gophers and rabbits. God knows what else she ate. She quickly acquired the nickname “Killer.”

None of those meals seemed to bother her digestive system in the least. It wasn’t until she ate a package of chicken jerky treats made in China that things started to go downhill. Nanook came down with a nasty case of pancreatitis and required weeks of intensive care. We were amazed she pulled through. I pretty much kept an eye on her 24/7. Kept her in the house, and administered subcutaneous fluids, and even slept with her. Finally, she started to eat just a little again.

Eventually, she warmed up to some people. She liked kids, Lea’s daughter Sierra, and Dan. She was always a bit wary of Nikki but warmed up in the last few years. She never liked people to approach her. She would take a side-ways approach sometimes and even let them touch her briefly. She did let Sierra brush her.

Somewhere along the line, after I fostered and adopted Angel, an Australian Cattle Dog from a rescue organization, relationships between the dogs started to deteriorate. Once Greta got too old to be the pack leader, Mita took over. But Mita was and is an insecure dominant. I scolded Angel for her incessant barking while I was in the horse paddock doing chores, and Mita would become my enforcer. It sounded like she was killing Angel although she never did do her any harm, but that may be because Nikki laid the law down in no uncertain terms.

However, her insecure and now whetted aggression was turned to Nanook. Nanook was always bucking the system. Going left when she should go right, digging out of the pen. And as mentioned, killing anything that moved and was smaller than she was. She got scolded a lot by me. One day Mita and Angel decided that it was Nanook’s turn to die. Their decision wasn’t really all that sudden. I had started keeping Nanook separate from them because I could see the little displays of aggression and had to break up a couple of scuffles. One day, Dan accidentally let Nanook out with them, and hell broke loose. But it broke out as soon as I appeared on the scene. I was the trigger. Dan and I managed to break it up, but it was a traumatic experience for everyone.

My scolding was setting the stage for Mita feeling that something must be done with Nanook. Angel was more than happy to assist. Being a blue heeler, she had a lot of energy to offer. I’m sure they considered me a weak leader. And I was. I didn’t figure it all out for the longest time. As I worked through some difficult times with my personal and family relationships, I became depleted, insecure, and irritable. Hence the scolding.

After that foggy November night when Hunka was killed, we put a perimeter fence put up and a couple of sturdy gates. Nevertheless, I couldn’t just let the dogs roam unattended. I caught Nanook digging under the perimeter fence again even with me out there and resorted to putting a long check rope on her so I could catch her. There was lots of space for them to run and I played fetch and frisbee with them to drain their energy. We haven’t been able to do that here at Tarawood yet. However, Nanook never got the hang of fetch or chasing inanimate objects.

For the past couple of years, Nanook has been on desmopressin, a hormone replacement for the antidiuretic hormone with a diagnosis of diabetes insipidus. So twice daily she had to get pills to keep her alive. She wasn’t thriving. Despite eating more and more, she was getting thinner and thinner. Living north of Effie, just beyond "The Edge of the Wilderness" after Dan's and my divorce, things became very tough. I didn’t have adequate facilities and all the dogs were going nuts without exercise.

This summer Nikki did most of the work on a nice pole structure next to the shed which houses two kennels and opens to two runs. The dogs have some room to play and potty, but not like they used to. Winlock was set up perfectly. There was a large open play area with a 6 foot chain link fence above with two feet buried underground so Nanook couldn’t dig out. Did I mention what a digger she was? 

So now that I’ve set the scene, I can finish the sad story.

About a week ago Nikki adopted a new 6-month old female border collie puppy, Cola (Lakota for "friend") that looks a lot like Hunka. However, she hasn’t been able to keep it just yet due to her and Lea moving from their apartment to Nikki’s new house. So, I have Cola. And none of the dogs seem too keen on her. She has a lot of puppy energy but isn’t really a puppy and she needs spaying. Mita especially is not impressed, and so neither is Angel. The tension has been a bit high here lately. Their schedules are disrupted, and mom’s attention has been occupied with a new brat.

Halloween evening around 4pm I decided to go outside and rearrange the dogs so that I could bring Cola out for some exercise in one of the runs. I soon realized that I had left a gate open and all the dogs were intermingling. At that point, Nanook wasn’t being attacked. It was my appearance that did it. Almost immediately hell broke loose. 

I tried in vain to organize the dogs into their respective areas, but Mita and Angel had Nanook down. Tanka and Buddy took to their kennels when I yelled at them, but Kiki was timidly getting into the fray. I had to grab her and get her in with Buddy.

After that I just remember Nanook’s screams of terror and pain as Angel buried her teeth in her throat and shoot her with all her might. Mita was biting at Nanook’s groin and legs and I was screaming, crying, and trying to beat them off with the poop fork.

I’ve lost memory of how I managed to get Mita and Angel off her and on their side of the fence again. I barely remember going into the house because I’d wet my pants and needed to call the vet. I don’t know exactly the order of events either. I do remember seeing Nanook trying to get up and walk and then falling down, lying on her side and eliminating her bowels. She was still breathing and not bleeding too bad, but I knew that she was going to die. I squatted there petting her dirty, wet, and bloody fur, apologizing, crying, and then she put her paw on my hand like she always did. She knew I was there. I hope she knew I tried.

I don’t know when I called Byron Sugden, the local vet and his wife Ann. But they were home and came right over. Luckily, they live only about 3 miles from me. They brought a shot to put her down which we all agreed needed to be done.

I don’t exactly know how I functioned after that. I know we put Nanook in a sled in the shed and pulled a large plastic bag over her. I don’t even know when I called Nikki. I remember going between complete calm and blubbering.

Then I realized my left leg was bleeding. I did not escape without a bite after all. I drove myself to the Bigfork hospital emergency room and they stitched me up. It wasn’t too bad, only two stitches and a huge hematoma. Can’t wait to see the bill.

I really don’t remember much. I know I took a shower, and I must have taken all the dogs out and put them back again a couple times, but I can’t remember it. Nikki arrived at the house around 11pm with rice krispie bars and brandy. The next day, Nikki and I buried Nanook on a high spot near the crab apple tree. Pet Cemetery has now been established.

Angel had blood on her after the attack and was limping but wasn’t showing signs of great injury, but Byron said she might need an antibiotics. I looked her over carefully and she has no injuries. She’s not even limping now.

Mita also seems to be just fine. Well…not really. Mita’s teeth chatter now and then which Nikki likened to someone’s hands shaking. Mita and Angel are both acting subdued and odd. I’m trying to act normal and I’m using my reassuring sweet voice but I think deep down they both know I’m on the verge of putting them down too.

Lately, Angel has been taking her aggression out on Tanka as well. His poor face has new lacerations every time Angel’s energy level escalates to a fever pitch which only takes the UPS truck coming up the driveway to trigger. And that escalates Kiki. It's a vicious cycle. 

The barking is driving me nuts. I've been scolding too much again.

I can never trust Mita or Angel ever. If they hurt Tanka, I will either beat them to death with a club or calmly go get a gun and shoot them both.

I don’t have the energy or physical capability to break up dog fights. Even if I did, one person cannot break up a multiple dog dog-fight. I am coping with a torn meniscus and sacroiliac injuries and can barely get up and down the stairs—which I must do all day long. I am just now feeling human again after resuming HRT. Since my accident with Buddy at the end of last March and my fall down the wood stairs outside a few day later, I just haven’t been feeling that great. Old bodies cannot take insult to injury like young bodies can.

I’m turning 64 on November 24th and am feeling my age. I am simply not having a great time with all these dogs. I just don’t have it in me to be a badass. I just don’t have it in me to be the tough leader they need.

Nikki is now talking about finding Cola a new home. Lea is getting apprehensive about Cola’s imminent presence in their new house and the extra work that will fall on her. Nikki cannot do this alone. Nikki and I have now lost two of our dogs tragically. I pray we don’t make it three. 

It was clear that Nanook never gave one compassionate thought to all the creatures she killed. Nevertheless, I loved her dearly and I know she loved and trusted me. What a strange world. I’ve had about all I can take of it right now.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Where's BIGFOOT???

Where’s Bigfoot? It’s sort of like finding Waldo or Wanda: everywhere and nowhere.

On Saturday, November 9th, 2019 from 4pm-6pm the SquatchHers will be at the Junction Bar in Togo, Minnesota to hold another of our signature Squatch Chats. This should be an interesting evening as Saturdays the Juntion has a prime rib special starting at 5pm. It’s also the opening of firearms deer hunting and typically the place is packed with hungry and thirsty hunters.

We’ve been to the Neighborhood Tavern in Effie, Deer Lake Charlies East of Effie already, as well as The Big Winnie in Bena. I believe Hayslips Corner in Talmoon is on the radar as well. The turnout is always amazing. We are happy, the proprietors are happy, and the people who have an outlet for their sometimes disturbing Sasquatch secrets find themselves relieved, supported and happier too.

During these “Chats” we share some of our photos and other findings with the community and encourage others to share as well. Typically, the “formal” informal presentation fits between a 2-hour window with several folks stepping up and talking about their personal experiences and stories of Bigfoot or Sasquatch. There is still a stigma attached to the claim of a Bigfoot sighting so some people prefer to approach us afterwards to share their stories. Some folks are quite open and enthusiastic about the whole subject, which we love! Whether shy, just curious, or eager to share a story, we always make new connections, friends, and have a lot of fun!

Since I moved to the Effie area almost a year ago, we’ve encountered many folks who either have had direct experiences with a Bigfoot, or know of someone who has. It’s been surprising to me that sighting are so common. We’ve heard of sightings everywhere from the Grand Rapids area to the Canadian border and beyond. Several of the sightings have been right in the area in which I live!

On the other hand, I’m not surprised either. The terrain is rugged, swampy, full of gullies and bogs. The weather is bitterly cold in the winter, and unbelievably hot and wet in the summer It’s unfit to farm except for maybe patches of hay. The principal industry here is logging, mining, and tourism. Between the cockleburs, thistles, and stinging nettle, not to mention the mosquitos, flies, and ticks, one wonders why anyone would want to live or vacation here. The small towns are depressed, and populations are declining leaving a lot of gray-hairs to duke it out with the elements of nature. But it’s also strikingly beautiful and wild here. It’s a perfect environment for wildlife. There are deer, moose, elk, wolves, coyotes, skunks, bears, fox, beavers, just to name a few, along with loons, hoards of hummingbirds, bald eagles and other raptors and lots of crows and ravens. Just south of Effie are myriad lakes and their resorts luring people up to the Northwoods for R&R, fishing, and hunting. I imagine it’s probably a great place to be a Bigfoot.

So what kind of things have the SquatchHers actually found that could be construed as evidence?The most compelling evidence, I think, has been the footprints. Footprints are best discovered in the snow, so our favorite time to explore is in the winter. Yes, it’s often bitterly cold, but there are no flies, mosquitos, and few people. We typically like to explore in areas where there have been reports, so that has taken us to regions remote and surprisingly not so remote. Like I said, Bigfoot is everywhere and nowhere it seems! The startling thing about Bigfoot footprints besides the size of the print and length of stride, is the feature of appearing out of nowhere and disappearing into nowhere. We have followed prints that lead nowhere. They didn’t end at a body of water or at rough terrain; they just disappeared. Likewise, they also simply appear somewhere odd. Sometimes there’s a trail, but most often it’s one to two or very few footprints. Very odd. The implications of that are somewhat discomforting for some. Flesh and blood animals don’t just appear and disappear into thin air, now, do they?! Or do they?

Dare I mention the “I” word: interdimensional? It may sound crazy to some, but what else might explain this weird phenomenon? Theories range from Bigfoot being able to generate portals to escape capture; extraterrestrials dropping them off here and there and then beaming them up again to being a cryptid on the order of an ape to a humanoid that spit from our species millennia ago. Some say Bigfoot is benign, and others swear they are dangerous. Maybe they are both! (Like humans) I tend to lean toward the interdimensional because it’s the easiest way to explain why we cannot seem to find them.

It would also explain why no one (presumably) has presented any solid physical evidence, like a body or DNA. There are Bigfoot Hunters out there whose goal is to kill a Bigfoot and present the body to “the scientific community” so that it can be subsequently protected. I find the assumption that simply producing a dead body assures the animals’ protection to be ludicrous. There is ample evidence that humans often don’t protect animals just because they exist. Especially when there is money to be made. There is also the assertion that our government/military/covert operations does have physical evidence. But, I digress…

So, what is our goal? What do the SquatchHers hope to prove? Well, nothing. Our goal is not to prove to others that Bigfoot exists, but to prove to ourselves that it does. Most of us in the group are skeptical believers, and compelling though footprints, stick structures, stone lobbing, glowing eyes, loud vocalizations and others’ stories might be, we want to see for ourselves. Most of us in the group have been or are currently paranormal investigators as well, so are sensitive to the energy of the mysterious. We are compelled to learn more in an attempt to make the unknown more known. Inquiring minds want to know. Not just to simply believe.

I personally think that no one will find Bigfoot except by accident or if Bigfoot wants to be found. I think all the tree knocking and howling into the night does little more than announce our disingenuous presence (in terms of trying to sound like Bigfoot) to anything in the vicinity that can hear us. All that noise pretty much assures us a wildlife-free hike, and a Bigfoot-free mission. But we love the woods with all its natural and unnatural challenges, not the least of which are other humans.

So, carry on all you Bigfoot Hunters. Just keep those guns holstered. There’s more out in the woods besides Bigfoot: us SquatchHers. You can follow us on Facebook HERE.

Monday, September 9, 2019


As I sit here struggling with a possible meniscus injury to my left knee and searing debilitating sciatic pain down my left side I wonder how in Hell I'm going to get everything ready for winter here.

I'm on prednisone and muscle relaxers right now, have an appointment with PT on Wednesday, and should be hearing about an MRI to be scheduled soon. My right side has been compensating for the weakness on the left and so now that side is hurting too. Stairs really suck; and I have to traverse them many many times a day.

Despite all that, I'm am AMAZED at how much has been accomplished here over the past few months. With Nikki's blood sweat and tears, we (mostly Nikki) have continued to work on repairing and reinforcing the shed structure. The dog kennel is functional and almost done. The overhead electrical lines are scheduled to be buried this week or next depending on weather. The shed really looks like my very own She-Shed!

The basement is dry and organized and ready for re-plumbing and electrical work.

The yard is mostly cleared despite a little blow-down, and the remnants of the old barn have been revealed. This spot will be the repository of any and all dead wood and brush that needs burning this winter. It's of no use right now with unknown amounts of wire and trash half buried on the spot. My poor little lawn tractor took quite a beating and two of the tires had to be refitted with tubes due to run-ins with said barn detritus. Haven't taken it out for a spin yet since the tubes due to the terrible ergonomics which would not serve me presently. So what if the "grass" is approaching 8 inches tall?

The roof and siding on the house need a little repair before winter as well. To prevent further ice dam build-up and damage, I need to come up with a few hundred bucks for ice melt cables. I need to spray for cluster flies so that I'm not surrounded by that maddening buzz all winter again.

I now have a very tall aluminum ladder that will be propped against the house near the sewer vent to facilitate access if needs be. The hole in the chimney has been deconstructed setting a large brown bat free to find a new home.

I have touched every Goddamn screw and nail on the property and sorted until I'm in a stupor.

Four cords of wood have been delivered, but until I am more healed, it won't be stacked quite yet. It will hopefully be paid for by the end of the month.

The wood stairs that I fell down beginning of May which contributed to my current state of debilitation, have been straightened and adjusted. They now just need paint and grip tape.

The driveway was also graded to steer water away from the house and shed which is great, but it's also starting to wash out without the addition of additional pit run to round it out properly. Several hundred more bucks needed there as well!

I am now feeling like I really live here. I no longer have a PO box; I have a REAL mail box!

I have been to the Effie North Star Stampede Rodeo (my first rodeo). I've been to the Lost 40. I've been to Little American Falls. I've organized two Squatch Chats in the North Country, and am now looking at possible third! The people have been super interested and open about their experiences with Sasquatch.

I've had a great time meeting new people at Deer Lake Charlies; going to yoga in Marcell; doing some antiquing; attending events in Bovey at Annabella's and at The Edge Center for the Arts; along with the interesting activities of Women of the Woods group.

Alas, I am also getting to know the docs and staff at the Bigfork Valley Hospital due to this injury I'm dealing with. I'm grateful that there is a clinic and hospital so close to me that takes my insurance. They are all super nice and seem very competent.

I've seen a lot of one of my daughters, Maren, which has been wonderful (Thank you Nikki again!) and have even been visited by a couple of friends left behind Minneapolis. My ex-husband Dan has been up a few times as well, and it's really nice to know that we can still care for each other without being married.

The farthest south I've been is to Aitkin for Rainey's dad's funeral. Thanks Dan for dog sitting and making this possible! Hopefully I will be seeing more of Rainey soon too!

No overnighters or late nighters for this cowgirl. I have no desire to travel back to the city at all.  Even trips to Grand Rapids is something I try to minimize. I miss my horses a LOT, but am happy to see that they are being utilized. Although photos of Shawnee show that she needs more groceries. Always a concern that I have because she doesn't compete well for food.

We're talking about getting hens again next spring which will require building a coop of some sort and secure run. We'll see. It would be nice to have a pole barn to store the tractor and other farm related stuff and to attach a chicken coop to. Just need muscle and money. Both of which I'm personally short of right now.

Sadly, hanging out at the Effie Cafe and the Neighborhood Tavern has not been practical. The cafe is super busy during tourist season, and the tavern's stools are so difficult for my body to handle that it's just too painful. Besides, when Nikki is here we are working like crazy and really have little or no time for such nonsense.

The fall colors are starting to show now. It's beautiful and getting more so. The weather is getting quite chilly at night and I'm making a fire in the stove most mornings now. I want to put off getting fuel oil as long as possible due to budgeting.

There are still what feels like a million must-do items on the list, but I need to take a breather and reconnoiter with myself. With Nikki trying to get into her own house (which needs a lot of work too), and Dan in his own house now as well, I know that winter will be bringing more of the same solitude I experienced last winter. I do feel that I'm in a much better position now to deal with it given the people I've met and the resources I'm now aware of.

Just gotta get this old body to straighten up and fly right!

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Rural Minnesota Matters

“Small towns matter” “Rural Minnesota Matters”

Those were the slogans repeated over and over at the 8th congressional district round table discussion with Rep. Stauber yesterday in Northome, Minnesota. He opened with that, and closed with that and repeated those slogans frequently during the hour and a half meeting. It took place in remote Northome, at 10:30am-noon. I attended that meeting.

The only reason I knew about this “town hall meeting” was because I joined the Northome Area Facebook group. I contacted the Itasca DFL to find out if anyone was going, and they didn’t even know about it. They announced the event at the central meeting that night but reported back to me that no one was interested in attending.  I had RSVP’d earlier with the requested list of topics that interested me: crisis at the border; climate change; gray wolf; copper mining.

I was prepared for this to be more of a social anthropology excursion for me as I knew that Stauber is Republican, a Trump supported, pro-mining, a Christian who is “pro-life” as well as a 25 year police force veteran. I wanted to see who else was in attendance and how militant the right wing in the north woods is.

I walked into what felt a lot like a Lutheran social (which I reluctantly admit immediately made me feel comfortable). I signed in at the door and put on a name tag and was offered cookies and coffee. There was a U-shaped configuration of white topped tables set up for the VIP panel members. Chairs for the rest of us were set up facing the VIPs. I’d say there were about 60 people there total. The group was completely homogeneous: all white; all older; mostly male. Of the 15-20 people sitting on the panel, only one was female. She came representing an electrical coop.
Stauber sat in the middle flanked by his assistant one side and Bob Zimmer, the mayor of Northome on the other.  Ted Lovdahl, the 8th district GOP chair (and I might add, once of my close neighbors) was next to Zimmer.

After much gushing about how wonderful Stauber is they opened the floor for questions and I raised my hand. To my surprise, I was the first person called on! I asked what Rep. Stauber was doing about the humanitarian crisis at the border. Here’s the recap:

Stauber has recently been to the border town of Yuma, AZ himself and had these observations: The agents are overwhelmed and don’t have enough resources but are compassionate and caring towards the migrants/refugees. Drug cartels are using migrants as unwilling mules to overwhelm and distract border agents so that they can slip drugs into the U.S. They drive on the other side of the Colorado River in jeeps and ATVs during the day to prevent crossing, only allowing the migrants to cross at night. They are using drones to scope spots to pass the drugs. He also said he was shown a package of fentanyl that could kill the entire population of the U.S. twice over. Rented children are being sent over with fake family members because they know they must be released within 48 hours. The children are flown back to Central America, and the adult disappears never to show up at their immigration hearing. And the child is used over and over. He also said that refugees from Central America cannot be returned to Mexico either which is a problem. Stauber was firm on the idea that if there was no demand in this country for drugs that there wouldn’t be this problem. He maintains that there must be “Prevention, Prosecution, and Treatment” for drug users here.

Stauber did not address many of the facts or conflicting observations made by others who have toured the detention centers. It was clear that this would not be an exchange or conversation. He ended on a very positive note by pointing out that Congress had just approved another $4 billion in funds for border security.

No one else brought up any of the other issues I was hoping to hear about.

There were a couple of people who railed against “socialism” and that the Republicans needed to educate the public on what it really is and how dangerous it is. They mentioned the Democratic debates and how FREE this and that was the hallmark of socialism, but nothing was free and that the money for health care and education would be coming out of our own pockets. 

I found it ironic that every other person speaking on behalf of area medical services, schools, or utility companies all asked about federal funding for their services. No one seemed aware that there is an obscene level of income, wealth and resource inequality in this country. It’s the elephant in the room which no one will address. I wanted to scream that there was plenty of resources but that we do not have control of how they are used. But I didn’t because I knew I’d be thrown out.

Then the topic of infrastructure was also brought up—with the expectation that federal funding was needed. I would have been amused if it weren’t so disturbing to witness this mental blind spot on a group scale (even if tempered with polite Minnesota niceness).

Stauber talked a bit about mining and how it is so important to northern Minnesota. Although he did emphasize the importance of safety and regulation compliance. He made it all sound so under control.

Some people in attendance were more concerned about the possible loss of fishing and hunting privileges if HR799 and S199 were passed. Apparently, these bills return 11,000 acres of federal land in the Chippewa National Forest back to the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe. No one seems to know or care that 90 millions Native Americans were eliminated by genocide so that our forefathers could leave us the legacy we now enjoy.

The principal of Northome school opened the subject of school funding for special education. Since Stauber has a special needs child he was all about making the federal government live up to its promise of funding special needs education.

He was also sympathetic to vets not getting needed health care because payments from the VA are not reaching the providers. He did not know why that was. But he was very sympathetic.

One irate man asked about why it was that he couldn’t get opioids for his back pain and felt he was being unfairly targeted. Stauber explained very tactfully that he was not being targeted, but that there was a blanket policy….and thanked him for sharing.

These are just some of the highlights of the meeting.

Overall, I was impressed with Stauber’s sincerity, intelligence, and ability to speak well. He deftly handled everyone with respect and made everyone feel heard. On the other hand, there was no opportunity to get very deep into any topic. I walked away feeling better than I expected but wondering if my question made any impact at all on him or anyone else. I fear not. He was pretty good at directing his responses to what is positive and minimizing the negative without dodging the subject.

I am disturbed with what is going on at the border and think that Stauber is being willingly deceived due to his background in law enforcement. He is passionately supportive of law enforcement and the military (at least active military).

My take on all this is that the residents of District 8 are basically good people despite their Republicanism, who have little to no interest in confronting unpleasant truths other than the ones that affect them at the moment. They are understandably wrapped up in the unique challenges of survival in the north woods and in small towns. As I’ve seen over and over in my life, intelligence does not lead to success; in fact, it often leads away from success. I’m not saying that the people up here are stupid; but rather, wittingly or unwittingly somewhat happily uninformed. And that makes them accepted into t he club in this neck of the woods.

My thoughts on the Democratic message: stop talking about FREE medical and FREE college. To most people up here, all they hear is that their taxes are going to go up. These issues need to be reframed big time. Perhaps as subsidized, or sliding scale, or affordable, or something. But not FREE. People up here work HARD, and struggle for every ounce of happiness and success they get. They are not cool with FREE.

Dems also need to stop talking about socialism. It’s a BAD WORD. Even though everyone is on the dole from the federal government in some way or another, no one sees that as “socialist”.

I thought it was quite clever to adopt the “Small Towns Matter” and Rural Minnesota Matters” slogans which appeals to the ubiquitous and mostly unconscious racism.  The white, conservative males that hold power here may be big fish in a small pond, but they don’t see it that way. In fact, they see Minneapolis and Saint Paul as enemies trying to shove policy down their throats and them as righteous warriors protecting their families. They will be the least likely to be offending by Republican gerrymandering!

Stauber’s ingenious  remark to votes was every vote should carry equal weight—no more and no less. Which no one can disagree with right? Unfortunately, I’m absolutely sure that’s not what his audience heard. I'm pretty darn sure they heard that Northome should have just as much influence over laws as Minneapolis/Saint Paul. Their population of 200 compared to the Metro's almost 4 million….that doesn’t sound equal to me! Even if you take the population of the entire 8th district (which is under 700,000 including Duluth) you can still see that people in this vast district feel their vote is worth way more. 

Now, I actually do sympathize with this feeling. I live here. I’ve never wanted to live in the city. I’m here because of that. I am an outlaw from big city society. I don’t want people removed from my reality to have control over how I live my life. 

On the other hand, we are all in this together. What happens here affects those in the city and what happens in the city affects us up here.We must learn to come together and correctly identify what the real threat is. It’s not city vs. country. That’s one made-up diversion strategy along with the war on drugs and illegal immigration. 

The real threat is the almost incomprehensible imbalance of wealth, income, resources and power. The one half of 1% has most of us glazed over with confusion and distraction. I’m not sure how we’re going to get out of this one.

Evolve or die I guess. I'm working on evolving.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Northern Exposure

I’ve occasionally mused that my life since moving to Effie, Minnesota almost 8 months ago is eerily reminiscent to the award winning CBS TV series Northern Exposure which aired beginning in July 1990 and ran for six seasons. Awesome music aside, it was a show my family loved. The story-line is about the unlikely relationships formed in the imaginary and remote town of Cicely, Alaska.

There’s Dr. Joel Fleischman (Rob Morrow) the reluctant, neurotic, Jewish doctor from New York; Ed Chigliak (Darren E. Burrows) the mild mannered introspective, both backwoods and wannabe film producer half-Native American; Maggie O’Connell (Janine Turner) the spitfire bush pilot; Maurice Minnifield (Barry Corbin) retired astronaut, fighter pilot, and millionaire who basically owns the town; Holling Vincoeur (John Cullum) mayor of Cicely and the owner of the neighborhood pub The Brick; his much younger bride, Shelly Tambo (Cynthia Geary) who is completely devoted to Holling; Chris Stevens (John Corbett) the disk jockey of the local radio station and our philosophical commentator;  Ruth-Ann  Miller (Peg Phillips) the pragmatic and wise elderly owner of the general store; Marilyn Whirlwind (Elaine Miles) Joel’s dead-pan, take-no-prisoners Native American “nurse/receptionist”; Dr. Phil Capra (Paul Provenza) and his wife Michell Capra (Teri Polo) who replaced Dr. Joel in the final season. For more information, visit

Each of the characters are quirky, eccentric to the point of pathological, and could be viewed as archetypes. Each character is more than just a representative though; each is a complicated human being with surprising twists. One of my favorite characters is Maurice. He’s one I both love and hate. He is a curmudgeon, bigoted, privileged white male and everything right wing that makes my skin crawl. But he pulls out his generous and softer side on many an occasion. He is the one who brought a doctor to town because it had none. He brought Shelly to town for himself but had to give her up when she fell in love with Holling. He always ends up helping others.

The similarities sometimes precipitate a déjà vu. Between Bigfork and Effie and Marcell, we have about the same population as Cicely. The population of Effie has been dwindling for some time now. There are less than 130 residents. I live in what I think of as a glorified cabin. It's actually an old farmhouse. It's 800 square feet with a bedroom so tiny it only fits a full size bed and one small dresser. It's cozy, but it's mine, and I like it. I feel like I've joined the ranks of the tiny house movement (except for the fact that I have a full unfinished basement and and a walk up attic!)

I live less than 4 miles to the heartbeat of Effie: the café, owned by Kathy and husband Willie (recently deceased at age 84) for more than 25 years. Kathy still works the café along with Mary Powell (adopted daughter of Willie) and a few waitresses notably including Tina the Ukrainian immigrant who has been with the café for a very long time as well. The café is Northwoods quaint, homey, and a little run-down. Willie, Kathy and Mary were the first people in town to really welcome me when I first moved here. I’d go in to eat with Nikki (who is a trans-woman) and my main—if intermittent cohort in survival here; Dan my recent ex-husband; Rainey my ex-partner in a previous lesbian life and 30-plus-year BFF; my mentally disabled daughter Maren; and the gals from SquatchHers (women-led cryptid research team). The food is plentiful and predictable and agrees with my sensitive Norwegian digestive system.

Across the street is the Country Service Station/post office/convenience store/liquor store/bait store/feed store, owned by Willie’s son Jeff Powell (who also runs a tree service/ excavating service/plowing service). He has other interests as well along with other brothers who have businesses in Bigfork.

At one time, Effie actually had TWO grocery stores which are closed now. The last Lutheran church just recently lost its woman minister. The boarded up school building sits in asbestos purgatory.

Effie is at the end of the line of The Edge of the Wilderness: a stretch of communities that extend north from Grand Rapids along the designated “scenic highway” of Minnesota 38. Along this road are markings denoting locations of interest from logging history. Most often there is nowhere to stop to muse on these locations, so I’m not sure why they are there.

North of town before you turn to go to my place is the North Star Ranch owned by Cimarron Pitzen who runs the decades old Rodeo grounds of the North Star Stampede. It’s a really big deal here I guess, and I’m looking forward to the event the last weekend in July with both anticipation and trepidation.
The Neighborhood Tavern is just down the street on Highway 38 from the pot-holed town intersection. It’s closed on Mondays. Has a meat raffle on Friday nights, and hosted the SquatchHers for a community “Squatch Chat” in March. The owner Heidi Gustafson is a young woman who is struggling to make this bar lucrative. It serves the basics along with hamburgers and pizza. It also has a mechanical bull which I’ve never seen operate, and there are also laundry facilities available. Occasionally there will be live music too. It’s a comfortable place to be where everybody knows you name! Cheers!

About 15 miles east on Highway 1 is a seasonal beer and set-up bar called Deer Lake Charlie's or The Dome as locals refer to it.  It's owned and operated by Gail Blackmer and has been around for a long time. Although it's a ways out, it's still considered Effie.

East on Highway 1 is the Forever Green greenhouse run by Missy Francisco. It’s an awesome place and she seems to really know what she’s doing. She’s even expanding adding another greenhouse. Along with plants she sells eggs and keeps a bison.

In Bigfork, there is a hardware store that rarely has what I need, but I go in there and buy stuff because I like Mary’s cats who are always there and demanding attention and her retriever type dog Emma. There’s also a nice gift shop in the back which used to be part of the original church.

There is one veterinarian in the area: Byron Sugden. He and his wife open the place for walk-ins on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday from 9:30 -1 if they are not traveling somewhere. They would like to retire but cannot find anyone interested in buying the business. They are relative neighbors of mine, living only maybe 3.5 miles away.

There are other businesses in Bigfork too along with local utility offices. Another gift store, insurance, bank, a couple of eating establishments, a bar, and a terrible laundromat. Oh, and a gas station, a small grocery store, and just recently a Dollar General was opened! I am very happy to say there is also a clinic and hospital there with a chiropractor, massage therapist, and fitness center. Seven or so miles away is Scenic State Park.

The best part of Bigfork in my opinion is the Edge Center for the Arts. Patty Feld is the executive director and spearheaded its development 25+ years ago. It has a very nice art gallery, and a superb theater which hosts music, film, and theater performances. She and her husband Barry have lived here for decades as well and are my next-door neighbors (maybe a quarter mile away).

Marcell is a sprawled-out lengthwise town with a nice little restaurant which is open seasonally. There is one antique shop attached to the liquor store and another which is about to close this year. There is a nice landscaping business, a gas station, and a lumber/hardware store. There is a very nice Family Center which offers yoga classes, and a non-denomination community church next door. Just south of Marcell is an RV campsite, and next door is Richie's Inn and Restaurant which is now closed and for sale.

Most of the people around these parts rely on tourism or logging to make a living. There is little in the way of jobs that pay a living wage. The closest big towns are Grand Rapids, Bemidji, or Hibbing, which are all at least an hour or more away on a good day. No surprise that there are a lot of older people living here.

I understand why some people might want to add jobs here at any cost. The copper-nickel mining project near Ely is a big issue. It’s virtually guaranteed to irreparably damage a lot of wilderness and water in Minnesota, but people are desperate for jobs now! It saddens me to see people accept such devastating and permanent trade-off for temporary survival. They refuse to believe that they could be personally impacted.

Farming is tough here. I have heard of innovative farming techniques in being used in Finland, Minnesota though. The soil is full of clay and rocks. Some sand. Lots of swamps. It’s great for wildlife, but not for farming (except hay and then only one cutting), or industry—unless you are a massive entity mining for iron or copper.

The weather is harsh. I noted more than once almost 50 below zero this winter. The past couple days have hit 89 above with oppressive humidity. The deer flies and horse flies love it though, as well as the mosquitos and the ticks. The “grass” (read weeds) grows so fast, I cannot mow it fast enough when I get a dry day.

There are so many deer I risk a collision every time I get in the car to go somewhere. There are bears all around me as evidenced by trail cams, tracks, and personal sightings by my next door neighbors, the Felds. I suspect that I have not seen any here due to the presence of my dogs and the fact that I am super careful about garbage disposal and do not feed the birds.

Which brings me to how disposal of garbage is accomplished. Each week I drive my carefully sealed garbage to the Bigfork Transfer Station where there are dumpsters lined up for recyclables and trash. The trash has electric fencing to keep the bears out when the location is unattended. I usually pay $2-3 a pop which is punched out of coupons purchased at the Effie Country Service. There are winter hours and summer hours. Winter hours are pretty limited.

Summer is when the tourists and city people are here at their cabins. There is more going on so there has to be more in the way of services. 

But winter is pretty challenging if not downright desolate. It’s dark most of the time. It’s cold, as I mentioned. Survival is not something to take lightly. Hibernation is the modus operandi. That said, the bar scene at The Tavern is pretty hoppin' in the winter. There are snowmobilers almost every day, and really it's quite convenient for me to get there for some socializing.

But winter also awesome. It's quiet. There are no bugs. It's cozy inside. I’ve seen moose too! Not exactly walking down the street like on Northern Exposure, but less than 1 mile from my house!

The people here seem to be mostly conservative, right-wing Republicans who counter-intuitively are also usually pretty nice people--like Maurice on Northern Exposure. There are some left leaning liberals here too, and I have more than an inkling who some of them are. I'm not completely alone. I think one of my life lessons this time around is to learn that people who seem to hold deplorable viewpoints can also be very welcoming and open-minded. I still don't know what to make of that. I guess I need to take people one by one and not assume.

I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface of my new community. And yes, I feel like I am a part of this community already. I have been assured that I have the bragging rights of having moved here during the winter and not only survived but thrived. The fact that I don’t want to leave is testimony that seals the approval.

I’ve also been told that I’ve brought some spark to the community too! I’ve also been given the dubious distinction of being on the “outlaw side” of the community by virtue of my location and attitude.

Always the renegade, I guess!

Saturday, May 18, 2019

New Name and New Attitude

I’ve changed the name of my blog to TaraWood Acres. That’s because I’ve finally settled on a name for my home Up North: TaraWood. I had to add Acres onto the blog name because there’s already a Tarawood at blogspot, but I kinda like it. 

Originally, I’d latched onto Tara as my estate’s name for two reasons: 1) Tara is the name of Scarlet O’Hara’s home in Gone With The Wind, and 2) Tara is the name of a Tibetan Buddhist goddess/bodhisattva. This intrigued me as I’ve felt an affinity for the Buddhist philosophy from as long ago as my teen years when I attempted to become a vegetarian. I also joined a Nichiren Shoshu Buddhist group back in my 30s which lasted only for about a year due to my discomfort with the evangelical nature of the philosophy. I loved doing the chanting and miss it still. You can hear an example here:

So, what’s my new attitude? Humbleness

I thought I knew what I was getting into when I moved here. I sorta did…but the reality is that it has been much harder than I hoped it would be, but also less difficult than I feared it would be. I had no illusions that it wouldn’t be difficult in general; I just didn’t know what the specifics would be. I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

November: Got divorced with all the attending stressors and challenges; staged and sold old home, packed everything, searched for and found my current home (thanks to Kerstin who babysat so that I actually could do this); arranged to board dogs; closed on old home; moved into new home without really owning it yet due to last minute impediments of probate proceedings. I am soooo grateful to my ex-husband for all the help he provided me with various things including dog transportation; to Stephanie and Katie from SquatchHers for helping me transport my pack to their new home; to Nikki for preceding my arrival and putting up temporary kennels outside and setting up indoor crates; to Rainey for arriving days later to help me unpack and keep me company so I wasn’t alone on my birthday and Thanksgiving. I’m also grateful that the weather held out until I could get the hatches battened down, because I was soon going to be needing all the protection I could get!

December:  The snow arrived. Was snowed in a couple times. Plowing service began on December 1st. Nikki arrived with truck trouble, but Effie Country Service was able to handle it. I became aware of mice in the attic and walls, and also aware that peppermint deters them. Christmas was spent alone, which felt kinda sad. Heard a very strange HUM three times in one week but haven’t heard it since.

January:  Experienced the coldest weather I can ever remember starting out with minus 27°F on New Year’s Day. The blower motor in the furnace needed replacing on that same evening and cost a bundle to have it done. Hit 45°F below zero on the 31st.

Both Dan and Nikki drove up to help me in the first half of the month. Nikki and I fetched a cord of wood that I had previously purchased as insurance against a furnace failure. Thankfully, there has been no failure, and none of the wood was used. On the 22nd the sewer vent pipe on the roof froze in the middle of the night and the Bigfork Fire Department came to my rescue. I was subsequently assisted by the owner of the local café, Kathy who gave me the phone number of Jim, a handyman she hires on occasion. Jim was super nice and helped me to solve the freezing sewer pipe issue over the next few days.

February: Both Dan and Nikki (and my daughter Maren) came up in the first half of the month to visit. On the 11th ice dams caused leaking inside the house. All month we got a lot of snow and very cold temps. I struggled to get the snow off the valleys on the roof where there were ice dams but had to hire help to get it done. Found out I owed the government several thousand dollars due to Trump’s tax “cut”. Probate was completed and I was finally officially the owner of the property. Competed in the Neighborhood Tavern’s chili cook-off and lost. The battery in my car died and it had to be towed to Effie for a new one. The snow was so deep that Jeff (who plows) had to bring in his AVS Skid Steer which has tracks, not wheels to move the snow.

March: The SquatchHers had a marvelous attendance at the Tavern on March 2nd for what we call a “Squatch Chat”. We do these in different places to learn of Bigfoot sightings so that we can get leads for  investigative purposes. Nikki brought Maren up to visit for a few days. Then Dan came up again for a couple days but came with car trouble. Neighbor Duane was able to fix the problem. Then Rainey came up for a whole week!! And what timing! The basement flooded from a clogged drain tile pipe and she vacuumed up gallons upon gallons of water and carried them all outside where I helped her dump them all on a slope away from the house. Just got the $255 bill for that goat rodeo! Materials were delivered from Marcell Lakeside Lumber for the roofing of the shed.

April: Right after Rainey left, Nikki and Maren arrived at the beginning of the month. Brother Josh arrived shortly after to help roof the shed. Unfortunately, Josh put a 2 inch staple through his knee cap and femur and had to go to the ER to get it out. I had to scramble to find helpers for Nikki but was lucky to have established relationships with community members who could help me. Nikki and Josh also put together a bigger play area for the cooped up pups. Nikki and Maren came up again from the 22nd to the 25th. As they were leaving in truck it became clear that something was terribly wrong. They had to leave the truck and take my car back. The truck was fixed on the 30th.

On the 28th, my beautiful shepherd mix Buddy facilitated a nasty fall for me which put me in the ER. I’m thankful that Jim was available and willing to bring me home in the middle of the night after my discharge. I’m immensely grateful to Nikki for arriving the very next day and taking charge of things.

May: Nikki took me for a follow-up appointment at the Bigfork clinic, and put up an alley to the puppy pens so I don’t have to use leashes and risk another spill. Nevertheless, a day or two after she left I had another terrible fall due to an invisible sheen of ice on the wooden stairs outside which added massive bruising to already traumatized muscles and bulging disks. I’m sure the mix of muscle relaxers, pain killers, and anti-inflammatories contributed to my lapse in good judgment as to my ability to navigate the stairs. I am grateful to the doctor who gave me an Rx for more meds than I thought necessary at the time.

Nikki brought Maren up again less than a week later, and Josh came up as well to grade the driveway, and cut down dead trees. I got my car back but was unable to drive it yet.

I missed an overnight visit with friends on the 11th even though Dan was here to babysit the dogs because I was still so sore from my falls and couldn’t drive.

I was finally able to drive and attend the WOW greenhouse tour however on Monday the 13th after abstaining from narcotic pain killers for a full day. It was uncomfortable, but it was a beautiful day and I really enjoyed it. 

Spring has suddenly sprung and everyone is more than ready to welcome it in. I’ve been steadily improving and getting outside to putz around a bit. However, I am missing an adventure with the SquatchHers this weekend due to no dog sitter. Even if I did have a sitter, I still wouldn’t feel up to lots of driving and walking. I have trouble sitting. My sleep is disturbed by pain, and I can really only go for a couple hours before needing to rest.

I’m looking forward to Nikki arriving early this coming week and starting the lean-to which will shelter the dog kennels. Slowly but surely and with lots of help this place is getting made safer and more user friendly.

I’ve been visited by neighbors and welcomed by the community. I’ve had the help I’ve needed when I’ve reached out. Yes, I’ve been lonely at times, but am so happy that Nikki, Dan, Maren, Josh, and Rainey have been there for me!

I still love the North Woods and can not imagine ever going back to the city.

 I’ll paraphrase Jim here: You really have to love it here to live here. It’s a hard life and you have to work for each moment of happiness.

When you live in a small community, and especially when it’s dispersed like Effie is, you need to be more careful about everything. You need to know your neighbors. You need to become friends if not just friendly. We all need each other.

I look forward to being able to provide some kind of help or assistance to my community in the future. Until then, I’m going to take a deep breath, continue to heal, and be grateful. 

I am learning to be humble.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Old age is not for sissies!

I stand at my breakfast counter typing this because I can’t sit down without agonizing pain.

Sunday night at about 9pm I was taking my shepherd mix Buddy out for his last potty call before bed. I had him on a retractable leash which gives him a little more leeway to travel a bit before find just the right spot. Unfortunately, he saw something across the yard and took off like a rocket barking ferociously. He got to the end of the line in about 2 seconds and despite my screeched NO! he kept going. For some unknown reason I held on to the grip while I splatted on the wet and muddy ground. It wasn’t a good landing. What came out of my mouth at that point should have assured the whole county that I was at least alive, though not well.

I already have an old injury to my spine in the lumbar region. A “bulging disk” I guess. I sustained that one long ago as a student at the University of Minnesota in my 30s sparring with a much larger, stronger, experienced, male Karate classmate. I attempted to deliver a controlled kick and we both heard something snap. I was down for the count with excruciating pain. I could barely walk for weeks and even used a cane to get around. I’ve been fighting a recent flare-up for weeks now, taking up the physical therapy exercises again and doing some yoga stretching.

I managed to hang onto the dog, but at my own peril. Between the swearing and crying and mud and rambunctious dog, I knew it was BAD. I’m not quite sure how I managed to get off the ground and get Buddy back down the stairs to his crate, but I did. Then I managed to get myself up the stairs and make calls: one to Nikki (of course) and then to a neighbor (Jim) and then to 911. How I managed to stop screaming long enough to talk I don’t know. When the ambulance came, they got me on a backboard and off we went to the ER in Bigfork. Getting me off my feet helped some, but the pain was incredibly intense. I’m not even quite sure I remember the sequence of events clearly as the pain was pretty distracting.

After a few x-rays they determined that nothing was broken. Since Jim was waiting in the lobby to drive me home, I was eventually allowed to leave. It wasn’t easy. The drugs and the pain made me wobbly. Walking was almost impossible, but I had to do it If I wanted to leave. All I could think about was my dogs locked in their crates in the basement who still needed to go out. I dragged myself up into his truck and off we went. I arrived home around 1:00am and actually did go up and down the stairs to potty the remaining pups. At least I imagine I did. I hope I did.

I fell into bed overwhelmed by pain and emotional and physical exhaustion.

The next day, Nikki arrived, somehow having arranged a couple days off. She took me to the clinic for a follow up and made sure I had enough meds to get me through for a while. The first muscle relaxer they gave me made me quite dizzy, even nauseous, and fright of frights, I woke up from a nap with extremely blurry vision. I thought I might be having another TIA (Transient Ischemic Attack) or a full-blown stroke. Being a nurse, Nikki was able to do a quick neurological assessment and ease both our minds. Upon further investigation, blurry vision is a side effect of muscle relaxers.  Nikki also insisted on putting up a temporary alley of fencing from the door to the fenced play area, so I wouldn’t have to keep anyone on a leash.

This evening, there were deer galore again. A couple so close to the fence that I’m sure the dogs would have attempted to crash through it or jump it if they were that close. They pretty much ignored me as I stepped outside and took this photo. Lessons learned:  retractable leashes are DANGEROUS. I disposed of mine. Always go outside FIRST to scare away the deer before letting the dogs out. Always let go of the leash if this kind of thing ever happens again. My well-being is more important than the dog’s. I understand that on an intellectual level, but my first and only reaction was to hang on and prevent Buddy from disappearing into the night woods.

I can’t wait to get the bills: ambulance; hospital; MD; Rxs, and X-rays, clinic appointment, etc. I have insurance, but it’s UCare through MNSure. I have a $6,500 deductible. And I pay $374 a month for this. My subsidy is even more than what I pay!

Shit sure happens! So, I’m hobbling around trying to facilitate speedy healing when my cats decide to start fighting. For real fighting! I react by sticking my bad leg out to block the attacking cat and find that I’ve made a terrible mistake. The pulled muscles let me know in no uncertain terms that moving like that was NOT ok.

I’d been pretty proud of myself being so diligent about stretching and doing yoga. My flexibility, strength and balance were significantly improved. So this is a setback I do not appreciate. At my age, setbacks are a real issue.  I have to be extra careful and vigilant at all times. If I were younger I wouldn't be so preoccupied with the consequences of carelessness.  But even that does not ensure my safety because shit happens to everyone, not just me. And even with a pretty good community around me and pretty good services, it’s still not quite adequate. As we age, we become more fragile and more prone to minor mishaps turning into full blown nightmares.

But there is even MORE to the story! yesterday morning I experienced another insult to injury. I had uneventfully taken the dogs out the south side of the house, and it was not slippery. I opened the north door to take out the ash can, took one step down the stairs and FELL AGAIN! It was 28° and I didn’t see the invisible coating of ice on the stairs. So now I have a huge bruise on my hip same side as the pulled muscles.

And the saga continues: I woke up from a nap yesterday with blurry vision again! Since this had happened before I didn’t panic. It passed in about 15 minutes, but I decided to cut my muscle relaxer down to half. I was pretty owly yesterday afternoon trying to sit at my computer and coordinate the arrival of a skid steer for next week, gopher one, and duties that needed to be performed for a couple of organizations I belong to. I admit I questioned my own sanity.

It takes a certain kind of crazy to choose an uncertain, perhaps even treacherous path entering old age. As my mom always said: Old age is not for sissies!

Photo on the right is my mom getting pounced upon by Mita. She always preferred animals over people. Miss you Mom!

Monday, April 8, 2019

A rant on the medical mafia: my experience with HRT or lack thereof

So … when I was at my last check-up (last May) my female and much younger doctor reminded me that I should really wean off the HRT that I’ve been on since my hysterectomy 10 years ago. I wasn’t menopausal at the time of my hysterectomy, but somehow surgery kicked me right into it. I did not have a full hysterectomy either, which has puzzled me as to why this phenomenon affected me. But it did. And I was told after-the-fact that this is common.

Almost immediately I started to experience hot flashes and night sweats; sleep disturbance; brain fog; irritability; joint and muscle pain. All the fibromyalgia symptoms I had seemed to be exacerbated. I was prescribed estrogen without progesterone despite having retained my cervix. I later asked for progesterone to balance the estrogen and to help prevent cervical cancer. I seemed to have to explain over and over why I thought I needed estrogen PLUS progesterone. Finally, I prevailed.

My body seemed to settle down. No more hot flashes. No more sleeplessness. No more rages and irritability. Fibro-like symptoms also subsided. All seemed good except for the annual lecture from my doctor about the risks of HRT which included breast cancer and heart attack. I felt pretty darn good though, so I argued to stay on HRT. My doc told me that once I hit 65 no MD would be willing to prescribe HRT for me.

Here’s a fun little story: I was with my daughter one day at an appointment with a specialist for some hormone/endocrine related issues she was having, and her doctor was super amazed at my clear, youthful looking skin. He even pointed this out to the female nurse when she walked in making the comment that he’d like some of what I was taking because it seemed like it was the fountain of youth for me. Ironically, I had not mentioned, nor did I subsequently mention that it was the ESTROGEN!

Estrogen preserves the elasticity of skin and, also preserves bone density. Those two things alone are important factors in staying healthy as we age; in preserving good self-esteem in our youth obsessed culture; in continuing to be physically active and safe doing so. I’ve been pretty darn active my whole life. Not in the sense of being committed to visiting a gym (although I have done that), but in the sense of doing things that require me to move. I’ve had horses, sheep, cattle, hogs, chickens, dogs, cats, and even birds. Living on hobby farms has required that I get up and work my body daily. There’s been a lot of heavy lifting, and lots of work involved in animal care. Not to mention the gardening and upkeep on a very large yard.

Last August I was informed that my husband wanted a divorce. Fine. I started to worry that I might be without health care for a couple years until I was able to go on Medicare and started to examine which medications I might be able to do without. You got it: estrogen and progesterone. So, I began to wean myself off.

7 months later I am completely off HRT and have been since January. So that’s 3 full months.

And I am NOT happy.

I am again subject to hot flashes and night sweats, brain fog, irritability and rages, joint and muscle pain that is debilitating. I’ve aged on a fast track. I don’t feel good. I’m tired. I hurt. I’m profoundly resentful.

My whole life has been regulated by estrogen supplements for birth control, migraines, uterine fibroids and excessive bleeding.  Now I’m being told that it’s a life-time of cumulative exposure to estrogen that now threatens my health. The medical cartel is responsible for that one. And now that I really want and need estrogen, the medical mafia says I’m too old for it. Well, isn’t that just dandy? I guess it’s more important to (supposedly) keep me alive with a low quality of life than it is to allow me a high quality of live with a risk of (supposed premature) death.

They also said that butter and eggs were bad for you and that margarine was good for you.
The medical industrial complex also has 28% of people in the USA on statins. Never mind WHY our cholesterol is so high. Take a pill!

That same medical profit machine also has us inundated with infomercials on the newest drug they are pushing. Again, pay no attention to that man behind the curtain of cheeriness talking about side effects!

I also pay $400 per month for medical insurance through Minnesota (ACA) which supplements about the same amount so that I can have a deductible of over $6K.

Something is really wrong here. I’m not the only one who doesn’t trust our health care delivery system. No one that I’ve talked to has EVER said it was even an adequate system. It’s a for-profit system which ensures that our illnesses and conditions are CAPITALIZED UPON FOR PROFIT. We are delivering money to big insurance, pharma and medical business with our ailments and needs—many which I suspect are contrived and/or caused by the same system that is supposed to be healing us. I feel like a rat in a cage with millions just like me serving as experimental subjects, objects of entertainment and sources of easily extractable wealth.

Do you suppose the lack of estrogen has made me prone to conspiracy theories?

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t think we should throw the baby out with the bath water either. Medications can save lives. Vaccinations save lives. And they should all be available to everyone no matter your socio-economic status. I know someone right now who is rationing their insulin and I’m mad!

It’s an absolute abomination the way we are used and abused by big pharma and the medical mafia.

Go ahead. Make my day. Blame it on my hormones.