Monday, April 18, 2016

A Much Needed Retreat

The timing could not have been better from a mental point of view; my sweet little Djuna had only just passed away and I was still very sad. From a financial point of view, however, it was not so good. It was another $300.00 added to my credit card bill after all. But, it was so nice to retreat from the world for a while and leave all my troubles at home.

Bryan drove me out to Wasilla Thursday night after work. I had packed everything up the day before so I was ready to go almost as soon as I got home from work. It was hard leaving my Thing, however – she is not taking Djuna’s death very well at all. Bryan offered to stay at my house to keep her company while I was gone, so I felt better about that.

Once we got to the Pioneer Ridge Bed & Breakfast, Bryan helped me haul everything in and get set up in my room and at my table. He got the grand tour of the place since he’d never been there – and then headed on back home, leaving me to my crafting overdose.

There were only 5 people there that early, and thankfully my friend Tammy was one of those people. She and I sat across from each other so we could chat while doing our craft work; she does actual scrapbooking while I make my cards. Friday afternoon saw most everybody else arriving, bringing the total attendance up to around 12 people (give or take a few who came and went).

My typical day at a scrapbooking retreat is: I get up at 6 and make my first cup of tea and then sit down at my table and start crafting. Eventually everybody else wanders in and joins me, but since they typically don’t go to bed until the wee hours of the morning, it’s usually a bit later. Lunch is typically served around noon, which I eat at my table. We all continue to do our crafting while gossiping about whatever comes to mind and listing to music. Dinner is served around 6:00 or so, which I eat at my table while others actually gather at a communal dinner table away from their projects. Eventually, around 10:00, I head on back to my room to go to bed, only to repeat the process the next day. Once in a while somebody suggests a walk outside to stretch our legs, but for the most part I spend my time making cards. And I love it!

This time, my total card count came to 42. I came home with only 32 however, since I actually sold 10 of them there at the retreat. 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

My Little June Bug

We took her to the vet on Saturday: a new one she hadn’t seen yet. Dr. Coyne is so VERY nice: she spent a good hour talking to us about all the options available, and was sincerely caring and concerned for Djuna’s health. She was also taken by how sweet Djuna is, and made several comments to that effect.

Here is a quote off the website for The Pet Stop:
Dr. Kathryn Coyne received her veterinary degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She practiced in New York for a year before moving to Alaska. Her special interests include emergency medicine, pain management, endocrine and infectious diseases, and working with pet owners to manage behavioral issues that affect quality of life and the human-animal bond.

Basically, Djuna’s potassium levels are alarmingly low. Dr. Coyne recommended adding it to her IV bag to replenish what her kidneys are losing.

Also of great concern is her heart. Apparently a cat’s normal heart rate is around 200 beats per minute – Djuna’s was about 60 beats per minute! Dr. Coyne did say that the low levels of potassium were most likely the cause and the added amounts in her IV bag should help bring that back up.

Djuna’s lack of appetite is to the critical point: she simply does not want to eat anymore. The doctor gave me some anti-nausea meds in case that was the issue, and I’m continuing with the vitamin B12 shots. Sedating her and inserting a feeding tube was briefly discussed: just long enough for me to say “No”.

And, last but certainly not least, my little June Bug is severely dehydrated:  she’s no longer eating so is no longer getting that extra boost of liquids that I have been putting into her food. This means that her IV treatments have been increased to every day rather than just twice a week. I have to admit, this is taking a toll on both of us. Djuna hates it and I hate having to make her do it.

That all took place on Saturday; it’s Tuesday now, and she still has not eaten but maybe a bite or two. I have her set up on my bed with an electric blanket and wooly babies blanket over the top of her. She is happiest when she’s with me and still wants to be held if I’m at home. Bryan is a fair second choice, but if she sees me, she starts crying until I hold her.

I’m sorry I have no good news – it’s only a matter of time now, I think.


Thursday, April 07, 2016

Summer Hiking Schedule

I got inspired last weekend: not only was the weather just absolutely gorgeous (don’t look now, but I do believe that summer might actually BE HERE!) but we got to attend a talk up at the Eagle River Nature Center on Sunday on Hiking in Alaska! 

The speaker was Susan Beeman Sommer, a freelance writer and editor for the Alaska Magazine.

She has a blog documenting her hikes: True North Alaska

She has her own website, as well: Alaska Writer

She showed pictures from a few of her favorite hikes that she’s been on these past few years. She talked about how to plan for the hike, what gear to bring, and even how to determine when you should just turn around and go home. From the sounds of it, she goes on a lot of hikes and is a pretty hard core hiker. Kind of like what I would LIKE to be, but sadly am not.

Best of all, she totally motivated me to create our schedule for the summer. I scaled back considerably this year, though. Last year I put way too many hikes on the calendar and ended up doing barely half of them. This year I’m being more realistic and have only 7 hikes planned – always allowing for more, should the mood strike us, of course.

So here’s the plan:
May 28-29: Caines Head Trail
April 11: Hilltop trail System
June 17-18: Spencer Whistle Stop
July 9-10: Byers Lake
July 31: South Fork Eagle River
August 7: Reed Lake up in Hatcher Pass
August 12-14: Blueberry Picking up at Denali

The more observant of you have no doubt noticed that several of these have multiple dates listed. We will be camping out on those hikes; either car camping or packing the tent in and finding a spot somewhere along the trail.

It’s going to be a great summer!

Monday, March 07, 2016

Writing a Blog

It’s actually a lot harder than I thought it would be.

Not that choosing a topic is all that difficult; life is full of stories if you know how to spot them. 

The hard part is starting the story. How in the world to you begin? Quite literally, what are the first words to be used? I struggle with that every time.

My strategy, for the most part, involves just diving in and typing whatever comes to mind. More often than not, I have to go back and edit what I’ve said.

I look for grammatical errors, typos, and duplicate words – that sort of thing. I don’t normally use a thesaurus, relying mainly on my own vocabulary – but once in a while I will check it to see if it comes up with a better word.

Eventually, I have something “good enough” for posting. Not by any means perfect, but good enough.

What are some of your tips for a good story? How do you deal with the opening statement? Do you have any advice for an aspiring writer?

Scary Stuff

I’ve made a few decisions lately that are more than a little bit scary.

The first one is that Bryan and I are going to live together. Now, I have not lived with another person (my brief disastrous stint with a roommate doesn’t really count) for well over 30 years, so this is no small decision – but I think it’s a good one. If anybody can put up with me, it would be him. It remains to be seen whether I can put up with him!

The second one is that he and I are going to build our own house! These plans are a lot more fun since it involves me getting to design our Dream House complete with a Craft Room for me and a Shop/Garage for him.

In order to make these two plans work, we’ve come up with The Plan.

Step One: He has to sell the house he’s currently in.
        This involves a lot of remodeling and fixing up, as it is not in very good shape right now. Tentatively I’m giving him until fall of this year, 2016.

Step Two: He will move in with me in my current house.
        The money that he has been putting in to his house payments will be put instead into a bank account to be used as a down payment on the Dream House. I will continue to make payments on my house as usual with no change for either of us on money going out. A year or so will give us a fairly hefty down payment for the new house.

Step Three: We then start looking for property.
        Okay, I admit it: we’re already looking at property. We want more than 5 acres of wooded property with a creek running though it, preferably out in the valley. We’ve found some really nice plots up Buffalo Mine Road and off of Fishhook, just to name a few.

Step Four: We start building our Dream House
        By this time, we’ll have the plans nailed down (Hahahaha!) and will have an idea as to how it will set on the property. We want it to be as “off the grid” as possible, with solar panels, in-floor heating, the whole works. I’m hoping to be in the house by the by mid 2018, assuming all goes well (which it never does).

Step Five: We figure out the job situation
        I would very much like to quit working entirely or at the very least get a part-time job in Palmer; if I rent out my house in Anchorage that would provide a monthly income for me. Bryan is hoping to be able to work from home as well, with perhaps a drive in to the office once or twice a week.

Step Six: He gets his woodshop up and running to build all the furnishings
        He said he’s always wanted a Wood Shop, so I’m taking him at his word. I’ve got a list (of course I do) of all the bookshelves, cabinetry, tables, dressers, shelving, and whatnot for him to build. We can save quite a bit of money off the price of the house this way, and he gets to make things for me!

So. That’s The Plan… as I said to begin with, it’s scary stuff!

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Yeah, He's a Keeper

I have two daily calendars (one is a Book a Day and the other is a Cat a Day) that I sometimes get a little bit behind on tearing off pages. This morning, I was catching up on this very important duty when I found the notes that Bryan left for me.

The first one was on the Book a Day page and said “Did you see the note in the cat calendar? No? You might want to take a look.”

When I went to the cat calendar, I found this note: “Happy Valentine’s Day! There just so happens to be a little something in the closet behind your chair in the library…”

Isn’t that the sweetest thing ever? 

He somehow manages to not only give me a Valentine’s Day gift when he’s half way around the world (literally, he’s in Australia right now) but he did it by getting into a closet that requires moving furniture into the middle of the room – all without me knowing about it in my own house.

The heart-shaped box was waiting for me in the closet, just like he said it would be. It’s big, too = about the size of an old-fashioned hat box. Inside are all sorts of goodies from my new favorite store, LUSH.

I got the following items: 

     Sex Bomb

     Tisty Toasty

Friday, February 12, 2016

Animals I have known

Animals I’ve had in my life:
Thing & Djuna = my current cats.
The Alien, Floyd, Mildred and Gracie = all cats.
Ssadi = a corn snake
Grendle = a leopard gecko
Shakespeare = a Chinese Box Turtle
Athos, Aramis, and Porthos = frogs
Chaeron = an iguana
A multitude of mice (all dinner for the snake)

While living with my family, we had:
Honey, a cat, plus Wookie, Winnifred, and 4 other kittens
Pookey, originally named Ebony = a cat
Patches = a feral cat we “tamed” who promptly had 5 kittens under my bed
Jacob, Albert, Buster, Mamma Dog, Little Dog, Sasquatch, Puppy, Rabbit, Sam, Ninianne, and various other dogs
William, George, and Martha = rats
Teddy = a hamster
Numerous fish
Katie and various other rabbits
Thomas, Winchester, Shoshone, Baby, and various other horses
Jiminy the burrow
About half a dozen pigs
The same number of cows
Dozens of chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys, peacocks, and guinea hens
Possibly six (if not more) goats
I seem to recall a few sheep in the mix, too

How many animals did you grow up with?

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Djuna: my little girl

My resolution to write at least one blog posting per week has not exactly been kept: I only got 3 written last month. That’s not bad, but I can do better. With that thought in mind, I figured it would be a good time to talk about my little girl, Djuna.

As most of you know, Djuna is a Devon Rex cat who is 13 years old. About 4 years ago, she was diagnosed with Kidney Failure, but then proceeded to surprise everybody (the vet included) by doing just fine, thank you very much. I even dared hope they were wrong and she was going to live forever.

Sadly I was being overly optimistic.

About two weeks ago, she got really sick again and had to spend four days in the hospital at Pet Emergency Treatment. Those people are so nice; they immediately fell in love with Djuna (as they should) and took such good care of her. I saw continued improvement each time I went to visit her, so that by the time I got to take her home again her blood work showed amazing progress!

When they do blood work on a cat (well, on anybody, actually) with the purpose of checking their kidney functions, they look for three things: the Blood Urine Nitrogen (BUN) levels, the Creatinine (CREA) levels, and the Phosphorous (PHOS) levels.

For a cat:
Normal BUN should be from 16 to 36
Normal CREA should be from .08 to .24
Normal PHOS should be from 3.1 to 7.5

When I originally took her to the hospital on the 16th:
Her BUN was at 211
Her CREA was 7.0
Her PHOS was at 19.5

When I brought her home on the 19th:
Her BUN had come down to 85
Her CREA was down to 4.8
For some reason they didn’t look at the PHOS

When I took her to the vet’s on the 29th:
Her BUN was at 61
Her CREA was at 4.1
Her PHOS was at 7.0

Unfortunately, the reality of the situation is that she will not last much longer. When pressed for a prediction, the vet said it was a matter of months, not years. I am helping to prolong her life by giving her a bi-weekly treatment of IV fluids with several other medications injected into the bag while she’s hooked up to it.

She hates her treatments, by the way, and so do I. I can’t do them without help, and Bryan has been wonderful in being there to hold her while I administer her treatments. Unfortunately Bryan is going away for a month, so I have had to scramble to find somebody else willing to help me; Lauren would gladly help out but does not handle needles well at all, so thankfully my neighbor across the way has agreed to help.

I will keep a close eye on her to insure “quality of life” is as good as it can be, and will not let her suffer unduly – but am very grateful that I get some more time with her as she is a sweetie pie.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Plastics: the Never Ending Story

I am inspired on this next posting by my friend Jan, who lives in London and just recently got back from an All-Girls Scientific Expedition on board the SV Sea Dragon which sailed across the South Atlantic Ocean from Senegal to Brazil via Ascension Island to study plastics in the ocean. I got to thinking about my own contributions to the plastic problem, and am trying to find ways to reduce my usage.

Take a look around you: what do you see? How can you change things around you so that there is less waste?

Here’s what I see:
I get up in the morning and go to brush my teeth – using a plastic toothbrush with paste out of a plastic tube.
I take a shower to wash my hair using shampoo and conditioner out of plastic bottles.
I brush my hair (or comb it) using a plastic brush & comb set.
Heck, even the shower curtain is plastic – as is the toilet seat, the outlet covers, and god knows what else.

Right there, I can eliminate plenty.

I am now using shampoo bars and toothy tabs from Lush, and am looking for a good wooden brush/comb set as well as toothbrushes made of bamboo. I hope to find a shower curtain that is durable yet NOT plastic. Sadly I can’t do a thing about the building materials in my bathroom, so will just have to make sure that my own house is built as “naturally” as possible.

And that was only one room/one event in my life! How much more can I change for the better? How about in the kitchen?

I bought pouches made of nylon in three different sizes to be used instead of zip-loc baggies. They’re washable in either the washing machine or in the dish washer (or in my case, by hand) and they will last a lot longer than their plastic counterparts. As an added bonus, they come in cute fanciful patterns to liven up your day!

There are – of course – the reusable bags that fold up into tiny packages that are used at the grocery store instead of the plastic bags they hand out by the gazillion.  That one is basically a no-brainer, and there’s no reason AT ALL why everyone on the planet would choose not to use them.

What are your recommendations?

Monday, January 11, 2016

Ringing In The New Year

So, how did you all celebrate the New Year?

I had a fabulous weekend, myself. Bryan and I drove up north almost to Delta Junction and stayed at The Lodge at Black Rapids.  Oh my goodness – what a beautiful place that was! I highly recommend it.

The weather was somewhat less than desirable, however. In fact, the wind blew pretty much the entire time we were there. We had hoped to get out and do some hiking, but only managed a small foray down to the old lodge to see if we could see the in-resident ghost.

We did not see the ghost, but we did get to see the progress they are making on restoring it. One day soon, they hope to hold musical events there, perhaps open a small coffee shop and/or a touristy-type store. They work on it piece by piece as they get the funding, so it will be a slow progress – but they are at least making the attempt.

The lodge itself is a stunning piece of artwork. The logs were all hand cut by a group of high-schoolers who were attending a class on how to build a log cabin. They used wooden pegs instead of nails, even! And for the shingles, they managed to use pieces of slate rock, each one nailed on by two copper nails so they wouldn’t stain the rocks over time.

Our room was on the third floor, so we had a pretty good view of the mountains behind the lodge. Rather a tease, actually, since the wind was blowing so hard we couldn’t get out there. But it was a fine view, none the less. We had access to the common area so I was able to get out my crafting kit that I brought along: we sat and made cards for hours each day! And yes, Bryan made cards right along with me.

The meals were all quite good. Their “cook” is actually a family of three: husband, wife and son. They accommodated my dietary preferences with no problem at all, and were quite happy to do so. Meals were served family style, with all the guests eating together (each on our own table, though) so we all got to know each other fairly well.

For New Year’s Eve, they had planned on serving a five course meal and then heading out to a bonfire out back to shoot off some fireworks – but the weather put a stop to that. Instead we all sat and listened to the live music they had: Hurricane Dave sang songs and played his guitar for several hours. The following evening actually lightened up enough for us to shoot off the fireworks so at least we got to see them even if it was a day later.

All in all, it was a great weekend: one of the best New Year’s ever, I’d say.

Monday, January 04, 2016

Happy New Year 2016!

I’ve said it before, and I’ll no doubt be saying it again sometime in the near future – but I really am going to try to keep my blog going better than I have been. In fact, I’m making it one of my resolutions this year!

Last year’s resolutions were:
     1. Loose as much weight as possible
     2. Cook at least one new recipe each month
     3. Renew contact with lost friendships
     4. Write at least 4 letters a month

The whole weight loss thing wasn’t entirely successful – I don’t think I lost a pound. Mind you, I also did not gain a pound – so it wasn’t a complete failure. I will change things up a bit this time, however, and simply focus on increasing activity levels thereby sneaking in some weight loss without calling attention to it.

The cooking one was great – I loved it so much it’s now a part of my normal routine. I could cheat and make it another resolution again, but honestly it’s what I do anyway. It’s one of the (many) things that Bryan and I enjoy doing together.

Sadly, I completely dropped the ball on renewing lost friendships. I did get to have lunch/tea with Anne a few times, and emailed Corissa once or twice – but that was about it. Oh, and I actually drove out to Meadow Lakes to visit with Rikki, even. But what I really intended was get me back in touch with Lorna – and I chickened out. Part of me is afraid to find out what caused her to disappear out of my life, because I’m suspicious that she may have had an encounter with a certain old boyfriend of mine who had/has a habit of being more than a little bit promiscuous. So, instead of tracking her down and simply asking her, I took the low road and decided that if she really wanted to talk to me she would.

The final resolution from last year was a resounding success. I typically wrote well over four letters a month – sometimes more than 10 letters even! And again, it will continue on into this year simply by default of habit.

So, now that 2016 is eminent I have come up with the following resolutions to focus on:
     1. Increase my step count daily
     2. Create an actual budget - and stick to it
     3. Write at least four blog entries per month (one a week)
     4. Drink at least two glasses of water a day

The budget thing has a story behind it (don’t they all?) and I promise I will delve into that in a future posting. For now, suffice to say that I am planning on buying property and having my own house built within the next few years.

Anybody else making resolutions this year?