My life has a superb cast but I can't figure out the plot.
~ Ashleigh Brilliant

Monday, February 28, 2011

A little travelin' music


Okay, well, not for real - just pretend. But I've been really wanting neeeeeding one lately. When lo, my friend Molly (who was bitten by the same travel bug as I), shared a fun post yesterday featuring a map of all the states she and her husband Mike have traveled through and/or visited together. She shared a link to the map so we could build our own. It's fun and quick, and you can click on any of my maps below to create one for yourself. (If you do, I hope you'll share it, because I love to see and hear about other people's travels!)

I've mentioned before that my mother always claimed I was a gypsy child, swapped with her own baby at birth, because of my love of travel and exploring (and of bright colors and shiny, sparkly things). :-) So of course I had to make my own travelin' map!

I decided to start with a map of the states I've lived in for at least a month. I thought I should also include Maryland, which I've never lived in but was born in! (And since my mother had to be reminded as she was leaving the hospital that she'd had a baby she needed to take home to Virginia with her [true story] - I almost wound up living in Maryland!) :-)

And here's one of my favorite traveling songs that I love to play while driving down the highway, belting it out with the awesome Patty G at the top of my lungs, for I am without shame (when I'm alone in my car, anyway!) :-)

Useless Desires from the Patty Griffin CD Impossible Dream

And here's my map of states I've driven through and/or spent time in. I cheated on Georgia a bit (and perhaps Washington State as well), since as far as I can remember the only time I've spent in either state was in the Atlanta and Seattle airports on layovers. But it was a six-freaking-hour layover in Atlanta (on our way to England), so I'm counting it because I bloody well earned it! And it was an interesting layover in Seattle, coming on the heels of their 6.8 magnitude "Nisqually" earthquake that happened ten years ago today and damaged the air traffic control tower and closed the airport on the day I was supposed to fly there on my way home from San Francisco. (Not that I minded spending that extra day in SF!)

Not having made it to Alaska and Hawaii yet I can understand, but I have no idea how I've managed to miss South Carolina so far! I'd love to visit Charleston some day. I have visited almost all of these states during and since my teens so I remember them well, but Oregon I only know I visited because I've seen the evidence, on old family Kodachrome slides, of a wee me at Crater Lake. So just in case a visit to a state doesn't officially count if you don't remember it, BW and I have a 2-week road trip to Oregon planned at the end of May. I'll go to any lengths to keep my map accurate! ;-)

There's a Canada map too (wish they had a global one!), and here are the provinces I remember visiting ~ I can't recall if I've been to British Columbia so I didn't mark it, but I do know it's on my Wish List!

And speaking of Canada, here's another traveling song I love (and another that's fun to sing along with) by a trio who sounds like they could be from Louisiana or Appalachia but who are, in fact, from British Columbia...

The Littlest Birds from the Be Good Tanyas CD Blue Horse

So until I can steal a few minutes to do my next blog post, Happy Trails!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Josie's Tale & Townie Deer

Thank you to everyone for your well-wishes for Josie, who had her second bladder surgery on Tuesday. She did great and was very happy to come home yesterday, bringing a chow-hound appetite with her (she normally is a rather dainty, bird-like eater but she's been putting away the groceries like an NFL lineman since she got home!)

Here she is earlier today, enjoying some lovin's from BW in front of the cozy fire...

Josie has suffered chronic urinary tract infections for several years, and last October an ultrasound showed a mass in her bladder. Figuring that's what was allowing bacteria to congregate and cause her infections, our vet (Jen) removed the mass - a benign fibroid - and had Josie complete a final course of antibiotics, and we all thought that would be the end of those wretched infections. But first Josie experienced an allergic reaction to the dissolving sutures, and then her next follow-up U/A showed a new bladder infection!

After clearing that one up BW and I started Josie on Cranimal organic cranberry supplement, which really helped balance her pH (always too alkaline before) and have been giving her the rainforest herb Chanca Piedra, which works wonders for kidney stones and also helps fight urinary tract infections and promote urinary tract health. We thought surely this time she'd pass her U/A with flying colors (she never has obvious symptoms!), but no - last week her second post-surgery follow-up U/A showed she had yet another infection and an ultrasound showed another bladder polyp. And so, more antibiotics and Tuesday's bladder surgery.

Jen's first discovery was that there was no polyp after all. She thinks what looked like a mass on the ultrasound was probably sludgy infected urine pooled in that area of the bladder (yuk!) Her second discovery was that unlike last time she operated, when she said Josie's bladder was "red, inflamed and angry," this time it was, "pink, healthy and happy." Her urine was bacteria-free (the week of antibiotics would account for that), and everything was functioning normally. All she found that was unusual were little blister-like bumps on much of Josie's bladder wall, which she'd never seen on a bladder before but has seen on eyes with chronic irritation. With all the infections she's had, Josie's bladder has definitely suffered chronic irritation! Jen biopsied some of it (we'll get the results next week) and removed the rest by curetting the bladder wall. Then she flushed her bladder with antibiotics-laced saline solution and sewed up both bladder and belly using un-dyed sutures (the dye being what usually causes allergic reactions) and stainless steel staples for her skin incision. I took a photo of Josie's Frankenstein tummy staples, but BW deemed it "too gross" for my blog. :-)

As you can see from this photo taken just a day or two after we adopted her from the local shelter on Sep 30, 2005, bladder infections and surgeries are the least of the traumas and afflictions poor Josie has suffered in her life...

Josie & Willow, just became sisters and playing already.
Josie looks so different without her beautiful, plush fur!

Josie had been found along with her daughter about 20-25 miles from Sheridan near the Montana border and brought to the shelter by a good samaritan. Both dogs were filthy, undernourished, covered in ticks and burrs... and pregnant! Worst of all, Josie had been shot in her hind leg at some point and never given medical attention, so that her leg had healed twisted and short with atrophied leg muscles. Cleaned up (Josie's fur was so bad it had to be shaved off), fed, wormed and vaccinated, Josie and her daughter gave birth to their puppies, were spayed, and everyone was adopted out except Josie who was considered special needs. Our then-vet Lou (who since moved away) was consulted about Josie's leg. He took her to a specialist in Billings, MT who agreed with Lou that amputation was not necessary. It didn't seem to cause her pain and though she carries it off the ground when she trots and runs, she uses it a lot when she walks and pivots, and at times to help stabilize herself when standing.

The shelter eventually found a home for Josie with an older couple. But Josie was a nervous piddler then (who can blame her?), and when she got nervous and piddled on their floor the first night they yelled at her and put her outside. So she skeedaddled! She was found by someone and brought again to the shelter, whose staff was wondering if they'd ever be able to find her a good home. It was about then that Dr. Lou told us about her. We'd just lost our last two elderly dogs, Tater and Pris, three weeks apart (Tater at age 15½ of lupus and renal failure and Pris at 18 or 19 of extreme old age). We hadn't actually planned on adopting another dog, having adopted Willow in 2002 and having suffered the loss of our five old dogs within a four-year period. But when we heard about Josie's plight, I went to meet her. Then I brought BW and Willow to meet her. Then we filled out all the forms and did interviews, while Lou and his vet tech - who was on the shelter staff, knew our dogs and had been to our house - vouched for us. After everyone declared their approval (most importantly Josie), we adopted her. And right out of the gate, poor Josie had yet another thing to deal with...

Josie takes a another lickin' and keeps on tickin'

Until a suitable home could be found, Josie had been living with the shelter's administrator who raises German Shepherds. (A sad irony not lost on us and not the only sad irony at that shelter, which raises money to help some species of animals by selling the barbecued flesh of other species of animals and selling raffles for hunting rifles and hunts on local ranches to kill yet other species of animals. And this sort of deep disconnect and resulting hypocrisy is not at all unique to this particular shelter, unfortunately). Anyway, one of the Shepherds had recently had puppies, and had taken a dislike to Josie who pretty much preferred to keep quietly to herself (I can relate!) But one day Josie apparently did something that set off the Shepherd and the dog fight was on. Since she was half the size of the Shepherd Josie fared the worst, getting a huge gash over her right eye. She still had a bald patch and stitches when I met her and her wound was still visible when we brought her home. We didn't know how that incident would affect Josie's behavior toward Willow. Though a little standoffish toward Willow at first, Josie was quickly won over by Willow's innumerable charms. They were playing within 15 minutes and have been best buddies ever since. :-)

Josie, just a few weeks after joining our family,
fell sound asleep cuddling "Tiger Baby," Willow's favorite toy.

Uh-oh, I've been busted! LOL

Her gunshot wound, feral existence, being separated from her puppies, cast out by her new people, and mangled by a German Shepherd should have been more than enough trauma for one dog, but the Fates weren't done being cruel yet. In June 2009, Josie tested positive for heartworm.

Ever since moving to Wyoming from Texas, where we always had to give heartworm preventative to our dogs, I'd asked every vet we had whether we needed to do that here. And every vet told us without hesitation that we didn't since there was no heartworm in this area (and we have almost never seen mosquitos at our house and don't travel anywhere with Josie). They didn't heartworm their own dogs, rarely tested for it, and didn't stock heartworm medication. Sounded good to us - we don't take meds unless absolutely necessary and feel the same about our furkids. Besides, heartworm medicine is expensive. (We've since learned it's very cheap, relative to heartworm treatment!) That spring of '09, as I did every year during our critters' annual checkups, I asked again. And this time I was told I might want to consider it since there had been 12 confirmed cases of heartworm in the county so far. So I dutifully had all three dogs tested (on BW and my wedding anniversary, no less), thinking it was just a routine square-filler so I could start them on the preventative, and was loading Josie up to head home when the vet ran outside to tell me Josie had tested positive. I don't know which of us was more aghast! It was our vet's first positive heartworm test on a local dog (a visiting dog with symptoms had tested positive a year or two before) in his 42 years of vet practice here. And Josie had no symptoms of heartworm infection. So they decided the test kit must have been faulty and tested her again for free. Positive again. And so another ordeal began.

It started with a ton of research on both ours and our vets' parts (this was one of the most helpful web sites we found), then a course of antibiotics to weaken the heartworms followed by three terribly painful shots deep into the back muscles requiring hospital stays and several days of pain medication and recovery time. The treatment also required six months of confinement. No walks, no play, no jumping up and down - Josie could only go outside on a leash to go potty and had to be kept in very small confined areas in the yard and in our front hallway. I think that was the toughest part for all of us. And the cost of the treatment was over $1300. Josie was lucky that her infection appeared to be either very mild or caught very early, she was young and otherwise healthy, and asymptomatic. Most dogs don't survive heartworm infection and some don't survive the treatment. We don't know how or when Josie was infected - maybe she became infected before we adopted her, maybe she just got unlucky on a trip to town one day. They think that the Katrina dogs brought to shelters in neighboring counties brought heartworm to our area, but who knows. Josie was the 13th local case in our county that year and by last June there had been 34 cases. We now give the preventative year-round, despite our winters and still relatively low heartworm incidence here. Regardless of where you live, if you have a dog (or cat!) please get them tested for heartworm and be diligent about giving them the heartworm preventative! You don't want to have to go through this, and you sure don't want to have to put your furbaby through it.

Josie patiently endures Willow's constant desire to play ~
sure beats enduring gunshots, heartworms or bladder surgery!

So as you can see, bladder infections and surgeries are just the latest in poor Josie's afflicted, traumatized life! But you'd never know it. She's patient and sweet and uncomplaining. Even our vet clinic's staff talk about how despite all they've had to do to her, she never holds it against them. She walks in and loads right up in the kennel, and endures the latest indignity and discomfort with grace. They love her to pieces, spoil her rotten, and always hate to see her go. But the feelings's not totally mutual, because when it's time to come home Josie nearly dislocates my shoulder trying to get out their door and into the car! :-)

After I picked BW up at the dentist and we all headed for home, we were driving through a busy residential neighborhood near the dentist, an elementary school, a church, the hospital and various doctor's offices when I looked to my left and saw this sweet scene...

See the muleys? I was so glad I'd brought my camera along!

A pair of mule deer enjoying a siesta in someone's front yard.

We used to see mule deer at our place every once in a while, but haven't for years. It's always fun to see them, almost always on the outskirts of town, but I don't recall ever seeing any relaxing in someone's front yard in a busy neighborhood before. :-) You can see from their big ears why they're called Mule Deer (or "Muleys!") So cute! But still no match for Punky, beauty queen of the White Tails! :-)

Monday, February 21, 2011

More crazy weather = more yummy soup

Ack, really? It's been a week since my last post? Dang.

We've been experiencing "two seasons in two days" craziness again, this time going from sunny and upper 50's for much of last week through Friday, to awakening Saturday to a winter storm warning, snow and temps near minus 20º again, which lasted all weekend. It's not the snow and cold I mind so much, it's the volatile weather swings. They hurt my head.

It was -10ºF when I took these photos of Punky and friends on the patio yesterday. They seem to take this roller coaster weather in stride, of course, but it's fun to pretend they're sharing my barometric burn-out...

Punky says, "Pppffffffttt! to this snow and cold!"

Baby PJ says, "Aaaauuuggghhhh! Lemme in!
I'm freezing my little fawn fanny out here!"

Wish I could, PJ! You could share our warm fire and some of our nice, hot soup! :-) Because when the weather's this frightful we turn to Nava Atlas for comfort...

The last time we had bone-chilling weather like this, at the end of January, you may recall that we'd made her delicious Tomato, Lentil and Barley Soup from this cookbook. And on my post about it I shared a link to another of Nava's recipes that we were planning to try next, Four-Grain Tomato Soup, which she'd adapted from a recipe of the same name in this cookbook and posted on her web site. And make it we did, though we made the version from the cookbook. If you want to try this soup (and I highly recommend it), you can choose from both versions as well because Nava generously gave me permission to share the cookbook version. (It will probably entice you into buying the cookbook, which I also highly recommend!)

Of the two delicious tomato-based, grain and veggie-filled soups we've made so far (both of which we both loved), the Tomato, Lentil & Barley is my favorite and this one is BW's. Packed with healthy goodies, they're both gorgeous...

Four-Grain Tomato Soup
And its aroma while it simmered was gorgeous too! YUM. But don't take my word for it... here's Nava's recipe. (Click on the title for her online version). My notes are in parenthetic italics...

Four-Grain Tomato Soup
"A sublime medley of whole grains and vegetables in a tomato base"

from Vegan Soups and Hearty Stews for All Seasons by Nava Atlas, © 2009, shared with the author's kind permission

Serves: 8 or more

• 2 tablespoons olive oil (for sautéing - we use water)
• 2 medium onions, quartered and thinly sliced
• 2 large celery stalks, finely diced
• 2 medium carrots, peeled and finely diced
• 2 medium potatoes, scrubbed and diced, or 2 large turnips, peeled and diced (we used organic red potatoes)
• One 28-ounce can salt-free pureed or crushed tomatoes (I couldn't find salt-free, so used the lowest-sodium crushed tomatoes available)
• ¼ cup raw brown rice, any variety (we used organic brown basmati*)
• ¼ cup raw wild rice
• ¼ cup raw millet or quinoa, rinsed (we used millet)
• ¼ cup raw pearl barley, rinsed (we use this)
• 2 bay leaves
• 2 teaspoons all-purpose seasoning blend such as Spike or Mrs. Dash (we used Mountain Rose Herbs organic All Purpose Seasoning)
• 6 cups water
• ¼ cup chopped fresh dill (we used one package, which was probably 2-2½ TBSP)
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste (we added 1 tsp of salt to the pot)
Heat the oil (or water) in a (non-stick) soup pot. Add the onion and sauté over medium-low heat for 5 to 8 minutes, until translucent.
Add all the remaining ingredients except the dill, salt and pepper. Bring to a rapid simmer, lower the heat, cover, and simmer gently for one hour, stirring every 15 minutes or so.
If the soup is too thick, adjust with additional water and return to a gentle simmer. Add the dill and season with salt and pepper. Simmer gently for 15 to 20 minutes longer, or until the grains and vegetables are tender. Discard the bay leaves.
If time allows, let the soup stand off the heat for an hour or two before serving, then heat through as needed. (We did this, though it was torture!) :-) This soup thickens quite a bit as it stands. Add water as needed and adjust the seasonings. (We like it thick, so we added no additional water at any point).

*Nava has a note with this recipe that says, "If you use brown basmati rice, the soup will be wonderfully aromatic as it is cooked and served."
Boy, I'll say! The brown basmati was wonderful in this.
Computer Clipart ImagesComputer Clipart ImagesComputer Clipart Images

In other news... BW is on vacation this week and we have an awful lot going on - projects (of course!), contractors (we hope!), lots of errands, plus a dental procedure for poor BW (ow!) and another bladder surgery for poor Josie (double ow!), who in spite of our every effort to find the cause and put an end to years of recurring UTIs has yet another bladder infection as well as another bladder mass. :-( Her surgery is tomorrow and she should be coming home on Wednesday. I'll try to post an update on her later this week. Meanwhile, once the contractors have finished (next week, rumor has it) I must reassemble and then spring clean my chaotic house. So count on my being a rotten blogger and worse emailer for a while - too many distractions! But believe me...

Monday, February 14, 2011

I ♡ U

IU, Willow and Tessa, looking so lovely in your fetching Valentine bandanas...

Does Willow have an expressive face, or what?

And I the fun additions my friend Jahara made to this photo after I sent it to her...

(And of course IU too, Josie, even though you refused to, in your words, "suffer the indignity" of wearing a pink heart-festooned bandana for a Valentine's Day photo!) ;-)

I also collecting pretty and unusual rocks on my hikes, and particularly enjoyed finding some while beach-combing in Maine last summer. I don't recall on which beach I found the blue-grey rock with its intriguing, embossed, copper-colored veins. But I distinctly remember finding the white quartz heart stone on our last day in Penobscot Bay. We'd just finished strolling along Lincolnville Beach and were just steps from leaving the sand when I saw it....

Our B&B hostess Janet, who also collects unusual stones (especially heart stones) and had inspired me with the copy of the fascinating book Beach Stones she kept in our room, was thrilled to see my found treasure. She told me it was Maine's farewell love letter to me. :-)

Janet had been so generous to us during our stay that we gave her this sweet little book (featuring photos by wonderful Beach Stones photographer Josie Iselin) as we were leaving...

When I pulled up the Amazon pages for the Beach and Heart Stones books so I could link to them, this beautiful book caught my eye...

The book is a moving love story of beautiful images, inspired by the hand-crafted hearts Page made for Madalene, the love of her life, and left on her doorstep every Monday morning. Madalene was diagnosed with ovarian cancer seven months after they met and died four months later at the age of 46. Page had promised Madalene that she would continue to make her hearts for her every Monday for the rest of her own life, as her way to continue to express her infinite love, maintain their connection, and show her she would never forget her. Visit Page's web site, Monday Hearts for Madalene, to read more about their story and of how these photos and the book came to be, and to see the 281 (and counting!) exquisite hearts Page has made and photographed so far.

What a beautiful way to say I U.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Frozen in Time and Fuzzy Friday Friendships

Today's post is made possible by inspiration from some fellow bloggers!

First, this beautiful dripping icicle photo by my friend Sue inspired my own attempt to capture something similar when I noticed a row of icicles hanging from our eaves earlier this week. These were my two best attempts, and as usual I couldn't decide which one I liked best - icicle with or icicle without falling snow glop, so I'm posting them both :-) ...

Inspired also by my friend Daphne, who has caught Haiku Fever and shares her verses on her new blog, Daphne's Haiku, I decided that a dripping icicle provided a perfect subject for some haiku efforts of my own. You probably learned the interesting history, traditions and various forms of haiku in school, but if you want to refresh your memory here is one of many informative web sites on the subject, along with a delightfully simple definition of haiku I plucked from it...

A haiku is just a tiny poem, the size of your breath.
They are good for you.

~ J. Zimmerman, How to Write a Haiku

caught by icy spear
then captured in a photo -
drop drips forever

melting icicles -
crying in the bright sunshine
that's glimpsed in their tears


Fierce fang of winter -
erodes bite by sunny bite
to toothless gutters

In keeping with my last post's theme, I wanted to share some more wonderful examples of interspecies friendships. How appropriate to celebrate the love between friends as we head into Valentine's Day weekend!

On Wednesday morning as I was about to leave for town, I saw a gorgeous fox in our pasture. She was definitely playing in the deep, powdery snow - running, jumping, spinning, and stopping now and then to look back at the dogs and me to make sure we were watching with a suitable amount of appreciation before zooming off again on another frolic. :-) That was captivating enough, but as she left our pasture and moved off toward the big ravine where the dogs and I often hike, she was joined by a magpie who strafed her and landed just a few feet away. The fox moved toward her in a couple of leaps and the magpie took off and flew over her, landing behind her. The fox turned and bounded toward the magpie again, and the magpie again waited till the last second before flying over the fox and landing a few feet behind her. Again the fox spun around and leapt toward the magpie, again the magpie demonstrated air superiority. :-) This went on for a minute or two, it was clear they were playing, and it was beautiful to watch. Sometimes you get lucky and capture a great moment like that on film and sometimes you don't. I didn't. They were too far away and moving too fast - I knew my camera's zoom was not up to the task. As much as I love my point & shoot camera, I would have sold my soul just then for a "real" one with a big ol' zoom lens.

But here's a phenomenal animal photographer named Tanja Askani who lives in Germany and captures incredible photos of interspecies friendships. I found this video on Vegan Elder's blog this morning, along with three other very brief but hugely adorable videos of a sneezing bunny, a dreaming kitten, and a farting bunny. (Told you they were adorable!) I think you will consider visits to Tanja's web site (it's in German and English) and Vegan Elder's Friday Cuteness post, and of course this amazing video to be time very well spent! I highly recommend clicking on the YouTube link and watching this video there or on Vegan Elder's post, since you'll get a much larger view in either place, and do turn up your speakers because the music is beautiful...

Did you notice the crow bestowing a romantic gift upon the magpie? How perfect is that for Valentine's Day? :-)

Please remember to be a good and gentle friend to all our fellow animals, and enjoy a friendly Friday filled with warm fuzzies!


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  • THE HUMANE GARDENER ~ Nancy Lawson
  • THE WORLD WITHOUT US ~ Alan Weisman

There is still strong in our society the belief
that animals and the natural world have value
only insofar as they can be converted into revenue.
That nature is a commodity.
And that the American dream is one of unlimited consumption.
There are many of us, on the other hand,
who believe that animals and the natural world
have value by virtue of being alive.
That Nature is a community to which we belong
and to which we owe our lives.
And that the deeper American dream is one of unlimited compassion.

~John Robbins, "The Food Revolution"

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