Blown Around

A strong wind storm is a live, untamed thing. An awesome event even when viewed from inside a sturdy, warm house. It is a force of nature not to be underestimated, reasoned with or conquered. All you can do is bundle up and hang on for the ride. The wind raged non-stop for four long days.

Dare to step out the door and it threatened to do more than snatch your breath away. Combined with sub-zero temps and power outages, this storm was dangerous.

Even inside our well-insulated home, it sounded for all the world like a speeding, out of control freight train had been diverted right past our living room.

Steady, sustained winds of 45-60 mph, with regular gusts of up to 100 mph rampaged across our region for four grueling days and nights before gradually sighing (in sheer exhaustion?) and slowing to nothing more than a lively breeze and finally pausing … perhaps to catch its breath?

During the worst of it, concerned for the safety of our 14 lb. dachshunds (as well as ourselves) in these high winds, we confined their potty walks to our front porch, where they already have a semi-sheltered corner, with a low-sided 3’x4’ wooden box bedded in wood chips for their frigid-weather doggy needs.

The “potty palace” even has a heat lamp securely attached overhead for those below zero (not counting wind-chill!) nights.

Under normal conditions, Baxter usually distains using the box, preferring to lift his leg on a snow berm in the yard unless there is deep, un-shoveled snow – or, it seems, in the case of really bad wind storms. 💨🌬💨

Sadly, even this accommodation wasn’t quite sufficient for poor 11-year-old Baxter. Already phobic about movement and loud noises after being trapped in the November 30, 2018 earthquake; the roaring of the wind, accompanied by the occasional sharp rattle of wind-borne tree debris against windows, and at one point a [well-secured] dog kennel breaking free and tumbling noisily across the deck – Baxter was a traumatized wreck.

Even with anxiety medication and wearing his Thunder Shirt, he quaked and whimpered throughout the four day mega wind storm, spending much of the time tightly burrowed between Jerry’s leg and the arm of the big recliner … under a blanket.

We resorted to periodically carrying him outside to the potty corner, fleece-coated and leashed up least he panic and blindly bolt into the darkness. Once set down on the wood chips, Baxter would pee right where he was standing, not bothering to sniff or even lift a leg. He’d remain in place, tense with apprehension, until we carried him back inside to the dubious (in his mind) safety of the house.

Rhonda, on the other hand, remained gloriously unconcerned as long as we, her human servants, maintained a warm fire in “her” wood stove.

Eventually, the wind event was dubbed The New Year’s Wind Storm, after the “New Year’s Day” wind storm and then “New Year’s Weekend” wind storm names were ruled out, both time-spans having passed with no abatement in the hurricane-force gale charging unchecked across much of Alaska.

When the wind finally died, the silence was eerie.

The first night after the storm passed, I slept fitfully, waking with a start to the tiniest sound in our otherwise strangely quiet house.

I wasn’t alone in my hyper-vigilance. Each time I stirred, I met Baxter’s eyes from where he was curled snugly between Jer and I, partially covered by a small blankie. Head up and watchful, he’d glance at me as if to say, “Did you hear that??”

It took us a couple of days to locate lost items, pick up and dispose of tree branches and other yard and driveway debris, check in with neighbors and generally take a deep breath of relief. Baxter and I finally slept through the night last night.

Today, as the sun begins to set … the wind is picking up once again. After only two days of respite, our area is under yet another high-wind advisory. Sigh. It’s not forecast to be anywheres near as bad as the last, but I don’t think Baxter is going to be mollified.

Christmas Eve Musings

I guess I’m as ready for Christmas as I’m going to be for this year. 🤷‍♀️

I’d like to preface this by saying I know how much I have to be grateful for, I know there are SO many people who have lost family, homes, health and more, and I thank God every night for the plenty (in so many ways) that I am blessed with.

Having said that, I’m compelled to share my own personal feelings surrounding this often emotional time of year. I try so darned hard to be cheerful, and often succeed in getting through Christmas without a melt-down.

This year it’s looking iffy.

I work each year at creating “Christmas spirit” in my life; it’s essential for my own mental health. Partly, my lack of seasonal cheer is because my family lives so very far away and I miss them.

Partly, it’s the simple fact that Jer has never particularly cared about Christmas and would happily let the holiday slide right on by if I didn’t insist on observing the date.

Jerry was 45 and single when we met and he’d been living alone in Alaska for over 20 years without family nearby. For him, until I came along, December 25th was a good opportunity to pick up overtime.

When we married in 1997, Jer was happy enough to follow my Christmas traditions, but he was mostly humoring his sweet, beloved wife. He would pick out a few special gifts (sometimes with the help of a “wish list”), filled my Christmas stocking with wonderfully unique and thoughtful trinkets (a long-lived family tradition in my family, no matter the age), and even tagged along to Christmas Eve services at church, where he discovered he enjoyed the singing of carols.

Christmas was a fun, joyful day, even though it was just the two of us.

Sadly, after Jer’s TBI in 2009, Christmas changed. Easily overwhelmed by noisy crowds, and lacking the empathy that was so much a part of his personality prior to the accident, Jer found Christmas to be an uncomfortable chore that he participated in because I insisted.

And yes, for my own perhaps selfish reasons, I did insist. I lost so much after that blasted TBI – I just could not give up my family Christmas traditions. In hindsight, it might have proven easier if I had, but the thought is just too depressing.

Still, we both try in our own ways. Shopping in crowded stores continues to be a challenge, and Jer often forgets what he is shopping for, but he makes the attempt. I’ll usually pick out my own gift, or let him know where to find it (this year, I’m hoping there will be a gift certificate to the local yarn & fiber store in my stocking – I all but drew him a map).

I set up a few little scenarios throughout the house – just small “Christmas moments” here and there – like my Nativity on the bedroom dresser where I can look at it at night before I fall asleep.

The little 4’ spruce tree I cut from the edge of our winter woods, which I hauled upstairs to the deck, secured behind my bird feeders and decorated with sparkly lights, crystal icicles and tiny, suet-filled pine cones – is my Christmas tree.

During the day, I can watch the birds dart back and forth from my spinning wheel or chair, and at night, the tree glows outside our bedroom window.

Christmas stockings for Jer and I hang under a living room window, and one each for the pups and kitties decorate the TV table.

I’ve wrapped, mailed or hand-delivered a few presents (hand-delivering always gives me a boost)… and as usual, I feel bad about the gifts I didn’t send. I tend to go into denial a couple of months before Christmas and all gift making/shopping stops – until it’s almost too late.

At that point, I rush to send out what little I’ve managed to make or gather and promise myself I’ll do better next year.

But deep down inside, I know when Christmas rolls around again, it’ll still be only me and Jerry sitting here, watching TV. Without my persistent and sometimes desperate efforts to make Christmas day seem special, it would mostly passed un-noted.

So, here we are … Christmas Eve 2021.

I’m upstairs, watching a beautiful Christmas Eve church service on Facebook. The music is lovely … and the Christmas story as always inspiring. At least I don’t have to worry about driving on icy roads.

Jerry is downstairs, already asleep in his recliner, with some true-crime drama blaring on the TV. Maybe I’ll surprise him with hearing aids for his birthday next month …

As soon as “church” is over, I’ll tip-toe downstairs and fill Jerry’s and the fur-kids’ stockings.

It is what it is, and I’ll continue to attempt to push past the clutter in my mind and find my joy. I’m sure it’s in there somewhere.

I hope each and every one of you find YOUR joy on this blessed night.

Merry Christmas.

Summer Dreams on Winter Solstice

Dawn has yet to push the slightest blush of pink over the mountains to the east. I can’t quite see it, but I know one of my favorite days of the year is about to arrive. I’m writing this today in real time (more or less), as I eagerly await the dawn.

It’s barely 8:00 am, but coffee mug in hand, I have already begun my quiet, annual celebration. The thermometer proclaims a balmy 10F outside.

Today is WINTER SOLSTICE! ❄️

The snow stopped falling at some point during the night, giving way to stillness. I’m enjoying the pre-dawn vision of my little outdoor Christmas-decked bird-feeders in the total quiet of a landscape muffled by deep snow.

8:00 am, 12/21/2031

The chickadees and nuthatches won’t show up until dawn, where they’ll find a snowy welcome, but no worries. If you peer closely at what looks for all the world like a pair of little Alpine A-frame ski chalets, you’ll see the glow from my Christmas lights shining through small natural openings leading into each feeder. Plenty big enough for an intrepid nuthatch.

Once there’s enough light, it won’t take any time at all for my feathered bird-feeder denizens to have those tiny clearings carved out wing-span wide and will be busily helping themselves to their usual morning buffet.

Well, it seems Winter Solstice this year will not arrive with the anticipated pinks and pale yellows of a lovely winter sunrise to usher in this special day.

Instead, there has been a slow, steady lessening of darkness, with night fading away to give witness to a morning shrouded with fog – and still hovering at 10F.

The forecast is for partly sunny skies this afternoon, so maybe our meager five plus hours of daylight will brighten a bit more. Dawn officially occurred a few minutes ago at 10:17 am. Sunset will pull the curtain back down at 3:36 pm – the shortest day of the year – which doesn’t give me much time for partying!

Winter Solstice, for me, is all about countdowns. Until today, we have been slowly but steadily losing more minutes and seconds of daylight each day, with the sky getting darker earlier and earlier, and the nights correspondingly longer.

Today is the switchover! Beginning tomorrow, we begin the [still slow] process of gaining those seconds, moments and eventually hours of glorious daylight back again!

By Summer Solstice in June, my region of Alaska will be blessed with a full 22 hours of sunlight each day! Quite the dramatic difference!

So, what am I planning to do on this most auspicious day? Well, there’s not much time, so I have to keep it simple.

I plan to take my spinning wheel to our local “Fiber and Ice” yarn shop for their Tuesday afternoon spinning circle. What could be more joyful than surrounding myself (properly distanced, of course) with like-minded friends and colorful yarn?!

AND … I plan to show off the yarn I just finished spinning yesterday. Yes! I am celebrating Winter Solstice by finishing my “Summer Dreams” yarn!

I completed plying the last skein of yarn yesterday afternoon, gave all six skeins a good soak in hot water to set the twist, and laid it on my drying racks by the wood stove overnight to dry.

I couldn’t be happier to face Winter Solstice with bouncy skeins of bright sunshine, warm blue summer skies and grass I can almost feel under my feet!

I know my color wheel. My biggest surprise was that the overall yarn, a blend of yellow, two different blues and white, didn’t turn out looking completely green. 😂

As it is, it kind of depends on the lighting in the room and the section of yarn. I’m totally thrilled to have successfully blended, spun and created a rendition of the image in my head. “Summer Dreams”, in worsted-weight yarn.

Happy Winter Solstice! 💛💙💚💛

Physical Therapy Woes

In spite of the title, I want to start by saying I love my physical therapy team. I hate to think where I’d be without them.

My doctor first recommended PT two years ago to help build core muscle strength and improve my posture, hoping to alleviate what was becoming chronic, rather severe back pain without resorting to surgery.

Example of a strong “core”. Baxter can hold this position all day!

I won’t say my back is pain-free, or even as strong as Baxter’s, but 12 weeks of PT helped to the extent that back pain is not currently a regular issue, and judicious use of Icy-Hot patches when it does flare up have been sufficient. Fingers crossed.

Considering my level of osteoarthritis and osteoporosis, it’s been important for me to continue with stretching exercises and walking to keep my back (and other parts) from once again becoming a debilitating issue. So far, so good, although my at-home exercise assistants are sort of hit or miss in their effectiveness.

Ronni, for example, is SUCH a big help with my floor stretches and simple “senior yoga” routines 😉. You can see how helpful she is, right?

The dachshunds work as a tag team when it comes to making sure I get sufficient exercise during the summer months – but I noticed a distinct lack of enthusiasm on both ends of the leash once winter set in. In cold weather, we ALL prefer snuggling with a warm blanket. 😉

But we were talking about physical therapy …

My walking regimen became seriously derailed last spring when a combo of planter fasciitis in both feet and painful arthritis in my right knee flared up to near biblical proportions (well, maybe not that bad …).

This didn’t stop me from participating in my favorite dog sports, but I’ll admit, it took some of the fun out of them and certainly slowed my roll.

After a six month battle, including excruciating cortisone shots and yes, more physical therapy (this time to strengthen my foot and ankle muscles/tendons/ligaments and improve my balance), my feet are finally relatively pain free.

The knee, however, is another story. X-rays don’t lie. It isn’t going to respond to anything short of surgery. 😢

Which is why my physical therapy team recently added exercises to help me build more strength in the leg muscles that will be needed during my upcoming recovery from knee replacement surgery. My left leg is going to be working extra hard for a while – we need to do what we can to make sure it’s up for the task.

So every day I find myself doing such things as marching up and down my hallway, knees high (relatively speaking), pausing with each step to balance on one foot before proceeding.

When I get tired of that, I can walk the same path while attempting back-kicks (envision trying to kick yourself in the butt with each stride forward), or pretend I’m on a narrow balance-beam as I suck in my gut, throw back my shoulders and walk heel to toe, pausing each step to rise on tippy-toes and balancing there. 🧚🏻

Sometimes I stand, enjoying the view out my bedroom window while balancing up on the balls of my feet to a count of 15, then slowly lowering to flat feet before repeating – over and over. Actually, I’ve gotten pretty good at this exercise, since it’s one I can also practice while working at my drum carder.

Of course, these exercises seem much easier at home, where I can get away with occasionally cheating – and where I don’t have 2 lb. weights strapped around my ankles. Groan!

As my December and January calendars fill with a myriad of pre and post-surgery tests, scans and other assorted appointments, I find myself becoming more anxious and wondering what I’ve gotten myself into.

Surgery is scheduled for January 17th. I’m counting on my trusted physical therapy team at Select PT in Wasilla to get me OUT of this mess in one fully functional piece – eventually. Hopefully in plenty of time for late spring nose work and barn hunt trials.

My spring and summer plans will hopefully keep me motivated to push through recovery and rehab. 🦮🚎🥏🧘🏼

In the meantime, I’m still trying to cultivate a calm and joyful Christmas spirit. Minimal decorations this year, but I set out our Christmas stockings, some shelf and window decor, my little blown-glass Christmas tree, and my old nativity scene.

Well, and the bird-feeder tree. It’s enough.

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