Saturday, April 4, 2020

GOING BONKERS



I am beginning to suspect that I may be losing my mind. I’ve been hearing things. Things the dogs don’t seem to hear.

Last night while out with the dogs, I heard a whirring noise in the woods. It sounded mechanical. It sounded close. The dogs did not seem to be bothered by it. It was dark and I couldn't see anything past the dog run. I brought the first group of dogs inside and when I went back out for the second group, the whirring noise had moved along and sounded like it was a few hundred feet away, somewhere over my 10-acre field. That field is separated by a line of woods, so I couldn’t see anything.

This morning it was bright, sunny, and cold (12°F). I was out with the dogs and heard what sounded like something large walking through the woods nearby. Not rushing, but stepping carefully, slowly. Again, the dogs did not seem bothered at all by this. I was bothered by this however, as I couldn’t see anything, but could hear it moving around a bit. I brought all the dogs back inside. I was curious as to what was going on, but scared too, so I grabbed my gun before I went back out. Nothing. Silence.

This afternoon warmed up quite a bit. The air was calm, it was sunny and very peaceful. The dogs and I were all just standing quietly soaking up the sun and in the far distance I could hear a sound. Almost like a dog barking, almost like geese, and very far away. Again, the dogs seemed oblivious. This is something they would usually respond to with excited barking. I listened for quite some time wondering if I was having audio hallucinations.

The fact that these dogs were not reacting was worrisome. They go bonkers if a vehicle drives by. They go bonkers if they see a deer. They go bonkers if they see a crow in a tree. And sometimes they go bonkers for no apparent reason whatsoever that I can tell. But these really weird sounds? Nothing.

Folks, I am used to isolation. Sometimes I don’t see another person for a couple of weeks. But I always know that I can go out and have some human interaction if I want. I can go to yoga class; Women of the Woods get-togethers; The Edge Center; a bar; The Effie CafĂ©; The giftshop; the dump; Grand Rapids. I even squeaked in a trip to Minneapolis to see friends before the pandemic hit. Yes, I can still go grocery shopping, and to the dump, but everyone is furtively trying to avoid each other and hurrying about their business. It feels like I’m in the Twilight Zone. 

Most importantly, I have been able to reliably expect a visit from Nikki (and usually Maren is along too) for a few days each month. Not this month. Maybe not next month. Maybe not the month after that either.

I think I may be going a bit bonkers.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Craziness at Tarawood Acres


A lot has happened between my last post and now. The big story is the COVID-19 pandemic.

I’ve spent the past two weeks in utter agony. But not because of Covid-19.

The SquatchHers had one of our Squatch Chats at the Wilderness Bar in Bigfork on Saturday, March 7th. I wasn’t expecting to be able to be there due to my attendance as a delegate to the DFL Organizing Unit Conference in Deer River that day which was scheduled from 10-3. The Squatch Chat was scheduled from 2-4. Well, the conference ended early, and I was able to make it after all. It was great fun! We had lots of folks tell us their stories and we made a couple of connections with reporters for local newspapers. 

One of those reporters accompanied us the next day on a hike through a logging road not far from my house. It was a beautiful morning: the sun was shining; the temperature was warming and I felt pretty dog-gone good considering my physical ailments of late. So, I put on my waterproof boots and we set out. As time went on the “road” predictably became more slippery and muddy. My feet stayed dry, but the loose fit did not support my feel or legs well. I made the four-mile hike alright just feeling pretty tired at the end. The next morning, I woke up to severe stiffness and soreness. The next day was even worse. By Wednesday and Thursday, I was on the floor most of the time crying in agony. My groin was now added to the areas on my left side which were tormenting me.

Nikki arrived on the 9th and began destructing my bathroom as I was go-ferring back and forth to Bigfork to acquire items from the hardware store and pick up Charlie, my new extra pair of hands for hard labor. In between bouts of breathless pain, I cooked, hobbled up and down the basement stairs to tend to dogs, and played with Kola who had the run of the upstairs. Then I tried to sit with Maren, my daughter and be somewhat social.

By Thursday morning, it was clear SOMETHING had to be done. I went to the Bigfork Hospital and saw an urgent care doctor who thankfully gave me a small Rx for pain killers and received Battlefield acupuncture (via my ears) from the resident chiropractor. It seemed to help, and I was able to drive into Grand Rapids on Sunday to pick up some groceries and dog food in advance of the surging COVID-19 pandemic.

Monday, I went back to see my primary doctor, who put me on prednisone. I also saw the chiropractor again, and this time got needles implanted all over my back and backs of my knees. I have to say that the pain had been so intense, I could barely hold a conversation. I couldn’t sit or stand or lie down comfortably.

Later that day, my wonderful neighbor, Barry, came over and carried my three 50-pound bags of dog food downstairs for me. Sadly, his dog went missing on Friday the 13th and is still missing.

On Wednesday I went back to the chiropractor who did more acupuncture. In collaboration with my primary doc, they are trying to figure out what is wrong with me. The theory right now is a labral tear in my hip, along with a bulging disk, SI Joint misalignment, and meniscus tear—all on the left side.

Ever since my precious dog Buddy jerked me off my feet last April and sent me to the ER, I’ve been struggling with injuries. Plantar fasciitis in my right foot which I’ve suffered with for years is thought to be a factor in misaligning my SI joint on the left. I’ve had mild knee issues for years, but after an MRI (which wasn’t covered by insurance), I am also diagnosed with a torn meniscus in my left knee. Also exacerbated by falling.

Getting bit on the left calf during the pack attack on Nanook on Halloween did not help either. That injury prevented me from getting the surgery on my knee before the end of the year. Now it’s on hold indefinitely. Halloween used to be my favorite time of year. I’m not so sure now.

Topping that off, it looks like I have a subcutaneous and large varicose vein between the dog bite puncture sites (which still are not completely healed) and that also hurts. I need to go to a specialist in Grand Rapids for that. Not a high priority right now, let me tell you!

The first round of prednisone a few months ago had the lucky side effect of not only helping my SI joint, but also eliminating my plantar fasciitis! Oh, happy days! Until….the four mile hike to find Bigfoot injured my right foot again. This time along the outside edge of my foot. So, my left side is compensating AGAIN for the pain, and seems to be the catalyst for the new traumas.

I was supposed to go back to the chiropractor this past Thursday but decided to reschedule to Monday. Hopefully, the hospital be allowing him to practice and won’t close him down because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Or maybe that’s OK too. The prednisone really seems to be helping me a lot! I’m on my 7th day of 9-day dose and even have cut down significantly on the pain meds. I’m hoping today is a zero- pain med day.

I still have pain, but it’s mostly a background threat. Mobility is dutifully restricted lest I pay the consequences. But I’m ambulatory and still able to get the dogs in and out mostly OK. Sitting here now is starting to hurt a bit more than I’m able to tolerate, so I’m going to go take a bit of a break and walk around.

I should probably back up a bit.

Saturday, February 29th I took off to the city (Minneapolis) for a 3-night visit. This was the first time I’d been away from the house overnight since moving here in the middle of November of 2018! My ex-husband, Dan, drove up and took two days off work to babysit the dogs so I could do this. What a wonderful guy! I was feeling pretty darn good physically and made the 4+ hour trip in pretty good shape. I stayed with a friend the first night and she threw a small party for me. The second day was spent with my daughter Kristin and then dinner at Phil’s (my first ex-husband). He made me King Crab legs, so I was treated to another wonderful meal I didn’t have to cook. I stayed there overnight in the “guest” bedroom which was a virtual shrine to his deceased parents.  I slept in the bed that belonged to his dad. I wasn’t very comfy, but I managed. Monday, I spent the day with some other friends and went shopping and out to lunch with them.

I stayed overnight at Nikki’s on Monday night and again we went out for dinner at a local diner. During my visit I drove all over the place: in rush hour traffic on 35W, out west to St. Bonifacius and Chaska. It all came right back to me. Almost like I’d never left.

I returned home on Tuesday to find that Dan had fixed my refrigerator which had been dinging non-stop due to some electrical problem. All pets were fine, and all was well. We didn’t get to spend any time together because I was delayed picking up Maren for the return trip. All in all, I wasn’t in too bad of shape, and had a great time.I promised everyone I’d do it again before another 15 months go by—but now we might all be  in lockdown due to the pandemic. 

Nikki left on Friday the 13th after the destruction and reconstruction of my bathroom to at least functional. Going for a couple days without a bathroom for us all was quite an experience! Necessity is indeed the mother of invention! Trekking out on slippery snow and ice behind the shed with a bucket, bags, TP etc. to squat while in desperate pain wasn’t exactly a healing journey for me. By the time Nikki left with Maren, there was growing concern about the pandemic. Nikki stopped all along the way back to the city to give me reports of the chaos and empty grocery shelves depleted of all paper and sanitizing products.

So, today, the whole nation is in a state of confusion and panic. The POTUS is a blundering asshole who has made things worse from the get-go, and we are facing stock market crashes, unemployment, social isolation, and lack of medical supplies as well as COVID-19 testing. The nation is woefully unprepared for this, and the outlook is grim. Yet, some people are quite cavalier about it. From where I sit it seems like it’s mostly Trumpsters, Republicans and young people out on Spring Break. It’s quite discouraging to know that Trump has shut down the very departments that could have made this all easier. It’s tough to know that he and others were aware a long time ago of the impending problem and LIED to the American people for profit and reelection reasons. Unfathomably, his minions stubbornly adore him. He and his cronies are ugly, deplorable human viruses upon the rest of us regular people.  We must figure out a way to eliminate these  micro and macro viruses. Either that, or we are doomed. Maybe that would be a good thing. As whole populations of people hide, and life as we know it grinds to a halt, the earth is starting to recover astonishingly fast from the decline in pollution!

I anticipate that this could get very ugly though. I have food and water and TP for a while, but not for months. I am soooo glad I have lots of wood for the firebox, and I don't have mortgage payments. I am grateful for Nikki’s help in assuring that all the critical functions of this house are working, especially the toilet. I’m grateful that I like to isolate socially for the most part anyway and so my life isn’t really much different than before COVID-19. I’m content with the dogs, my internet, and TV, and books—for now. Yes, I’ve gotten lonely too. But the more I live alone, the more I like it. I like company, but I also like being alone. And if it comes to having to deal with unwanted guests, well, I have that under control too. I moved from one guns 'n dogs community to another!

I do know that my body and emotional mind is having trouble coping with all the renovations being tackled here. It usually takes me a good week or so after Nikki leaves to clean up the mess and recover. There is sooo much more to be done too. I just hope between the medical bills and other expenses that I can afford to get some kind of fencing around the yard this spring so that these poor dogs can chase a ball and frisbee once more.

This enforced confinement has been tough on them. Angel and Tanka have picked up the habit of eating poop, so I have to be out with them every second and cannot turn my back while they are in their runs to monitor and clean up.

Mita and Angel were the agents of Nanook’s death on Halloween, which has diminished my trust and love for them both. Despite Buddy’s antics which propelled me further down this physical declination, I do love him. And he doesn’t eat poop! He also did not participate in the attack on Nanook. Kiki and he get along great and share a run. They play well together so they are getting some exercise. Of all the dogs, I feel closest to Kiki.


I can go down her throat to retrieve a piece of rawhide, which I cannot do with Buddy, and she melts in bliss when I pet her. She did not participate in the Nanook carnage either. All she wants is to be next to me. Tanka is a neurotic goof ball. He lives to fetch. So, I throw a rubber ball or tennis ball or toy inside almost every day now. It’s not much, but it’s something.

I’m down to one cat: Shilo. Maren noted that she never thought Shilo would be the last cat standing. Me either. But, Tootsie had to be put down December 16th. Thank God Rainey was here for a couple weeks and went with me to the vet. Poor Tootsie is now in a plastic bag in my downstairs freezer awaiting the ground to thaw so I can bury her. Baby, the stray that I let in and took care of went to live with Nikki but did NOT work out well. He ended up living outside and then disappeared. I’ve been DONE with cats for years, but they seem to find me wherever I am. I am determined to “just say NO!” next time--and I don’t doubt there will be a next time. There are too many damn cats in this country. They are an invasive species and kill untold millions of birds etc. It’s not that I don’t like them, I just don’t want them around anymore. I will keep Shilo until she’s ready to go, and I do love her despite her eating disorder (which drives me nuts). And she's much happier being an only kitty.


As much as I love and adore Kola, having her here from the October 23rd to December 13th put a significant strain on me. She needed a LOT of attention, potty training, and during that time I took her in for shots and spaying. My mental health was definitely deteriorating with the combination of stress, renovations, winter shoveling, ice dams, meniscus pain, visitors (Rainey was here for two weeks with her remaining dog Peppy) Nikki and Maren. The unrelenting pain and stress of this past winter have transitioned into a new challenge: how to get the outside work done that needs to be done as well as pay for it, while trying to deal with my physical problems, and now a global pandemic!

Despite all this, I love where I live. I love the woods; I love my home. I feel somewhat sad and lonely at times because I’ve lost my life partners—at least the dynamics of our relationships have changed. Dan and Nikki no longer live with me, and I think our relationships are actually better for that fact. Thankfully, I have not been abandoned by them. I’m becoming resigned to the fact that I’m turning 65 this year, and don’t have a lot of time left on this planet, even if I live to be quite old. I am dismayed at the possibility that I may not be physically up to living here for as long as I’d hoped. I worry about my dogs. I worry about my daughters. I worry about Nikki. I worry about Dan.  I know worry won’t solve anything but anticipating possible future scenarios must be considered. That's how I like to reframe worry. I want to be prepared to survive at least, if not thrive for the near future. I want to be able to leave some kind of legacy and hope for those I leave behind.

For now, It’s one day at a time here. And today is a very good day with a LOT less pain.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Looking Up


Well, I’m feeling less depressed than I was at last blog entry. The sun has been shining more, the weather has moderated, I found a couple of strong guys to do some shoveling for me, and have had the snow removed from the roof of the shed and lean-to, as well as had the caterpillar out to remove the major snow from around the house and shed. Hopefully, the melt will follow a path that doesn’t steer toward my buildings!

I now supervise my dogs closely when they go out. I never take my eyes off them and so far have managed to prevent my dogs from eating each others’ poop, which means I don’t wake up to Gawd-aweful messes in their crates any more. I have a plan to fence in more of my yard so that I can get them all out for serious play-time this spring.

Another reason for my improving outlook is the fact that I now have a water tight, functional bathtub and plans to install the remaining elements to complete the renovation: flooring, walls, and a heating/light/exhaust fan element in the ceiling. The actual execution of that renno will be painful and prolonged, but there is a PLAN!

I like plans. And that’s probably one reason why I like Elizabeth Warren. Making a decision on who to support for president is also a factor in helping to elevate my mental/emotional state. After careful consideration I feel pretty good about it. While I am in Sander’s philosophical camp, I don’t want this 78-year-old cult-like personality in the White House. Although Klobuchar is from Minnesota, she rubs me the wrong way on many issues. Bloomberg is just another billionaire trying to buy his way into the office. Buttigieg is smart, but wet behind the ears. Biden is also 78 and another wannabee Obie wan Kenobi who is showing signs of failing mental capacity. Warren is by default and by choice the only one who is smart enough, qualified enough, prepared enough, articulate enough, and practical enough to be our next president. But even if we are lucky enough to see a Democrat as the next president, it will be all for naught if we don't gain the Senate. Yes, it's clear the president's office has consolidated a LOT of power, and a benevolent dictator could help make people's lives better. But do we really want that? I'd prefer the restoration of the separation of powers. 

I also went to my precinct caucus last night. Doing something rather than fretting from the armchair is typically empowering and it was. Four local precincts were assigned one locale in which to meet, and sadly, only 2 of us from my precinct showed up, no one showed up for another, and the other two had 5 people between them. Nevertheless, I’d brought more than a dozen resolutions with me, most of which came to me through a friend involved with a progressive DFL group in Duluth. In addition, I wrote three of my own. The only one with any discussion was one asking for a moratorium on copper sulfide mining until there was evidence to support its safety. In the end, all were accepted. I’m now a delegate to my organizing unit convention.

One of the key arguments against the resolution regarding the mining moratorium was that career jobs are desperately needed up north. People here mostly work in the tourism industry, and those jobs are seasonal, part-time, and always low paying. Few can afford to live here because of the lack of decent jobs. When I asked if the trade off of maybe 90 jobs for a limited time was worth the likely potential of an environmental disaster, the answer was YES. I did get agreement that IF there was another jobs solution, then mining could be taken off the table. But since there are no other plans for job creation in northern Minnesota, people up here are opting for what seems to be at least, a chance.

So, I’ve been thinking about why there aren’t more decent paying jobs here. And why do people think that there is an abundance of well-paying jobs in the Twin Cities? It’s not just the Iron Range that is suffering. Our whole economy has become a service economy. I know many people working two and three jobs to make ends meet, PLUS the income or two of spouses, roommates, and other family. The city is not the end of the Yellow Brick Road. Most of us are seeing a decline in standard of living and finding it more difficult to enter the "middle class".

I do have a couple of ideas.

Everyone I meet says we need more people to come here. Why not recruit immigrants? They are famous for being entrepreneurs  and for their willingness to work hard. They have a naivete and attitude of gratitude that puts us softer, jaded, more risk-averse long-time residents to shame. They bring new life, new culture, and new perspectives with them that we could learn from and benefit from. When we all do better we all do better!

Everyone I talk to says we need more people to stay here. Why not offer incentives for businesses to reestablish or expand here? If local communities can’t afford to, then the state of Minnesota should help. There is no reason that I can see for everything to be consolidated in big cities. Let's get creative, innovative, inventive. 

We need decent wages which starts with a decent minimum wage. I know small businesses will complain loudly about going bankrupt, but that is simply not the reality. They always say that, but it rarely happens.

We need universal health care. If people were assured of affordable health care no matter where they lived and worked, there would be more incentive to remain where they are instead of abandoning their local small town. Right now, you have to be destitute to get Medicaid and they come after your only asset permitted—your house--should you ever sell it.

There is a LOT wrong with the structure of power in this country. The corporate system is rigged to keep average workers down and send us farther down than we already are while confusing us with misleading rhetoric. As long as the disparity between the 1% and the rest of us is too difficult to even comprehend or too scary to contemplate, we will continue to wring our hands in despair, bang our heads against the wall and point to others in the same kind of boat in a desperate and futile attempt to make sense of it all.

I have some ideas here too, and I'm not alone.

We need campaign finance reform. Citizens United must be overturned. This single thing has facilitated the take-over of our government by high stakes rollers and billionaire crime bosses.

We need to stop fighting among ourselves for the crumbs the monopolies scatter for us.

We need to restore the separation of power in the branches of government.

No one is going to do this for us but US. Time to start acknowledging reality. Time to take matters into our own hands and be the change we want to see in the world.

We can take this opportunity that chaos presents, or we can roll over and give up.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

MELT DOWN


This is my second winter here just beyond the “Edge of The Wilderness”, that is, north of Effie Minnesota.  Life is becoming more difficult—not less. The price of survival is becoming misery. If I don’t find a way to make this house more automatic and take care of itself, I may have to reconsider my choices for the future.

There are ice dams on both the East and West sides of the house with water dripping in between the office and the living room just like last year, only worse; and now it’s coming in at the top of one of the windows ruining one of my new cellular blinds. SHIT. The East side is dripping down the inside of the wall and following a path to a waterfall down the cement blocks in the basement; also following a beam a few feet towards the center of the space. I have buckets all over the place, and holes in my ceiling upstairs to facilitate easy exit for the water.

I’ve diligently removed the snow from the roof to the best of my ability, having ordered TWO new roof rakes, but had to stop because the snow banks just got too high to reach over or climb up onto. So, the ice dams just grew. A few days ago I hired a caterpillar to get the snow on the East and West sides next to the house removed; just so I could bring down more snow from the roof and shovel all that too. It’s endless and exhausting cycle of shoveling snow, pulling snow off the roof, then shoveling all that; waiting for the plow to move the bulk away; snow blowing a path down the driveway and trying to get over the plow’s berm at the end of my driveway.  The mailbox is just peeking out, barely. That’s another monumental task I'm not feeling good about.


 I re-injure myself each time I got out to tackle the snow and ice. The torn meniscus in my knee combined with the SI joint and sciatic nerve pain make contemplating doing it all again a daunting thought.

I’m drained. I’m tired. I’m in pain. No matter what I do, it’s not enough. I have roof heat cables, but they couldn’t be installed in time. Other things took priority and pretty soon it was too late. And really, heat cables won’t solve the root of the problem which is crappy construction of the roof and gutters as well as a lack of insulation. But I can’t know the real extent of the problem without deconstructing a lot, and that just means $$$$ that I don’t have.

Between the pet problems (both cats and dogs, a believe me it hasn’t been pretty), my injuries, and the house challenges, I’ve about had it. Top all that off with a pervasive dread of the fascist future of our country and a growing realization that I’m pretty much surrounded by people perfectly fine with that leaves me depressed and demoralized; I feel isolated and powerless.

The only thing that keeps me going here is Nikki’s support and help. I’m getting clobbered by medical bills, electrical and plumbing bills, construction bills, insurance bills, student loan bills, and an overwhelming list of must-dos on this house which I cannot do.

I haven’t spent ONE NIGHT away from this place since I moved in November 16th 2018. Not one. Thankfully, my ex is coming up to babysit the pets in a few weeks so that I can get out of Dodge for a few days. And where am I going? To the city. Not my ideal vacation spot, but I do have friends there I haven’t seen in a very long time.

I vacillate between hope and despondency on a minute by minute basis.

I’m still trying to solve the problems here despite the depression. I think I need to hire a young man to do stuff so that I can enjoy my life a little. If I’m going to be miserable just trying to survive, what’s the point? I can't afford to hire someone to ease my load, but I also can't afford not to.

Update: HELP WANTED fliers put up in Effie and Bigfork today.