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: https://youtu.be/rVr9BzGijPU

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!