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Archive for November, 2011

At long last, sleep

Yay! Bailey slept through the night last night. Well, to be honest, there was the 1 a.m. potty break, but that doesn’t count. And there was the 4:30 a.m. wake-up call, but that doesn’t count, either. It was all the hours in between that mattered.

To be honest, yesterday I had thought that it was nearing time to let her go. Sunday had been yet another night of being woken up at midnight, followed by 5- or 10-minute naps here and there until dawn broke. This has been happening all too often, and I think we all felt broken and defeated. Even my other dog Nanaline was suffering, what with Bailey stomping over her all night long.

In a last-ditch effort to ease Bailey’s angst, I took her in for acupuncture. I also told her that if the nights didn’t become easier for her over the next week, then I’d take that as a sign that she was ready to go, and I’d make that dreaded appointment.

I also scheduled a talk for this Thursday with an animal communicator. While I think I am pretty good at reading my dogs, this conversation might make me feel better about any decisions I’ll be having to make.

So what changed? Maybe it was the acupuncture relaxing her. Maybe it was giving her a different pain medication at night. Maybe it was her happiness that I was finally listening to her and would let her go.

Whatever it was, we all slept well. Nanaline found a safe space by the front door where she wouldn’t be trampled. Bailey curled up on her bed in the hallway. And I was able to burrow happily under my down comforter.

And what a difference a good night’s sleep made! Bailey looked happier this morning, and I know my mood was much improved.

So will this last? Who knows. But for this moment, I feel okay, and a little more fortified for what’s to come.

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One of the benefits of training for my Camino is allowing myself the time to visit the numerous parks and trails near my home.

In past years, I would have spent the Friday after Thanksgiving either working at a part-time job or putting up Christmas decorations while watching football (go LSU!). But this year, I opted to drive an hour west for a hike around Lake Brandt in Greensboro, NC.

A former Camino pilgrim suggested the hike, and what a recommendation!  Miles of hiking and mountain biking trails mostly meandering around the lake.    I’m not quite sure how many miles we hiked, since we got lost a few times.  Or, to say it more charitably, we chose to take alternate routes.

So in the spirit of Thanksgiving just past,  I continue to be grateful for all the public parks to which I have access.  And I am grateful for the gifts of this particular hike:

1. The sound of leaves crunch, crunch, crunching under my feet as I walked.

2.  The sun’s ever-changing reflection on the lake.

3.  The wind providing a gentle breeze just when I needed it.

4.  The forested pathways winding up and down gentle hills.

5. On Owl’s Roost Trail, the fallen trees providing artwork and a reminder that destruction is followed by renewal.

6.  Seeing families out enjoying the sunshine.  I especially enjoyed watching the kids riding their bikes or skateboards.  One industrious boy was using his dog’s strength to pull him along.

7. Meeting kind people along the way.

8.  Arriving back to the car just as the sun set.  Perfect timing!

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One of my main responsibilities at work is to order lunch for a committee that meets weekly throughout the academic year. So I’m always on the look-out for something just a little different that will also appeal to a wide variety of palates.

Combine that with my desire to find new ways to use the produce from my garden, and one might understand my excitement when seeing collard greens cole slaw on the Whole Foods catering menu.

Of course I ordered some for my committee, and I liked it so much that I went in search of a recipe.

I found several recipes online — it seems that using collard greens in a slaw is not a new idea. But I’m happy to have joined the party!

I basically followed the recipe in
Vegetarian Times, though I used coconut vinegar instead of rice vinegar, simply because that’s what I had on hand.

I also used 1/4 cup sugar instead of the recommended 1/3 cup. And I sprinkled sunflower seeds on top before eating. It was the perfect, light dish after a weekend of holiday eating.

I’m definitely going to make this slaw again, as it is so easy to throw together. Thankfully, I also have plenty of young, tender collards to use up. Now to find new recipes for my glut of mustard greens!

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GrannyB, bless her dearly departed heart, would often share a story about me.

Apparently, when I was a toddler visiting her house, I would waddle into the kitchen about 4 p.m., climb onto her step-stool, and boldly pronounce, “I’s ready!”

Problem was, dinner wasn’t! GrannyB would get so frustrated with my impatience!

I am feeling that same impatience today, but not about wanting my dinner. I’s ready for my Camino!

And if I wasn’t ready before, I am more than ready now, after hearing Lee Sandstead speak about his two Camino experiences.

Lee and his wife walked the Camino Frances and, for their honeymoon, the Camino Portugues. They are going back again next year for another Camino experience.

If you ever have the chance to hear Lee speak, I’d highly recommend going. He’s energetic, funny and passionate about his subjects. Even the people with me who have no intention of walking the Camino were entertained.

Some of the notable quotes from the talk:

Everything you do on the Camino is times 100.

You live a full lifetime each day.

The Camino restores your youth. There’s an adventure around every turn.

And something I never would have thought about:

You gotta have cannons on a good honeymoon.

So, after hearing Lee’s inspiring stories and viewing his beautiful photos, I’s ready! I wanna go now!

Okay, maybe not this exact moment, when the days are shorter and the temperatures dropping.

But I do have to wonder how I’ll make it another year and a half before going. The practical me reminds myself why we chose a date so far out into the future. The need to save money for the trip and having enough paid vacation time are tops on the list.

So, what to do with my impatience?

To begin with, I can choose to trust in divine timing. I’ve made my intention to walk the Camino, so now I can let the rest unfold as it will. If it works out that I can go sooner , then all the better!

But in the meantime, I’ll be walking the streets and trails of my homestate. I’ll be meandering through state parks from mountain to sea, and taking in the bucolic views that North Carolina has to offer.

And I’ll be repeating another portion of Fra Giovanni’s Salutation to a Frend:

No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in today. Take heaven! No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in this present little instant. Take peace!

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I was lucky enough to be gifted with some local turnips recently and found the perfect recipe to use them in. The recipe is from Barbara Kafka’s “Vegetable Love,” but I found the exact same recipe on this website.

I did change up the recipe a bit by using my homemade vegetable stock to add more flavor. I also used less parsley since two cups just sounded like too much!

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Into the pot went the cut and peeled turnips, potatoes, and onions, along with the carrots, celery and garlic. Next went the veggie stock and some salt and pepper. Cooked til the veggies were tender, then blended the soup with my immersion blender.

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Delicious, light comfort food!

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Today’s walk was a double-header: one 6.5-mile walk by myself in the morning, followed by an 8-mile walk with S. in the afternoon. Both walks were on trails in the Duke Forest.

During the morning walk, I kept thinking about Fra Giovanni’s Salutation to a Friend:

Life is so generous a giver, but we, judging its gifts by the covering, cast them away as ugly or heavy or hard. Remove the covering and you will find beneath it a living splendor, woven of love, by wisdom, with power.

Imagine being able to see all of my life as a gift. And right from the get-go, even when things are at their ugliest, heaviest or hardest.

And while I was thinking about gifts, I acknowledged that I want to be open for unexpected good to come my way.

Thanks to the birds in the Duke Forest for being such a great example. They saw an empty box for brochures and made a home!

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Tuesday night, Coach K set the record for most wins by a coach in men’s college basketball. Yesterday, I was going to post some of my memories of being a fan during his tenure at Duke. However I was just too tired, thanks to my sweet dog Bailey, who hasn’t been sleeping at nights for the past 10 months. And when Bailey doesn’t sleep, no one sleeps.

You see, Bailey has canine cognitive disorder, otherwise known as dementia. The most serious side effect for her is the “sundowners” issue.  She gets very nervous and confused at night. She’s pacing and panting loudly.  And because she’s just as tall as my mattress, it’s easy for her to walk up to my bed and demand attention, either by hitting the mattress with her paw or by breathing heavily into my face.   And if you’ve never been awoken by the smell of dog breath heavily accented with fish oil, then you have been missing out on quite the experience!

Bailey’s normal modus operandi is to sleep while I’m at work, walk when I get home, eat dinner, then sleep some more.  About 3 a.m., her nervous alarm goes off and she’s up until after her morning walk and breakfast.  Then she sleeps for the rest of the day while I’m at work… and the cycle continues.

Getting up at 3 has been hard, but if I go to bed early enough (9 p.m.), I can sneak in enough sleep to make it through the day without too much harm.

But, for some unknown reason over the past week, Bailey’s clock was all off.  She started getting up at 1:30 a.m., 1 a.m., then 12 midnight.    Tuesday night, she woke up at 11:30 p.m. and was up for the duration.

That night, I had watched the record-setting Duke-Michigan State game, then took her for another short walk.  I also gave her some herbs for insomnia that were recommended by my acupuncturist.  Somehow the combination of those two things set her off.

She would settle for 20 minutes at the most, then be back up, pacing and panting and wanting me to fix whatever it was that was wrong.  We went out, we came back in; I lay on the floor holding her, she would wrestle away.   Nothing I did could soothe her.

So yesterday I just didn’t have the energy to reflect on Coach K’s accomplishments.  Instead I spent the day thinking about when it might be time to let Bailey go.   With my other dogs, it was quite obvious.  They were good about telling me.  But they also  had distinct physical things wrong with them, and their bodies just gave out.   Bailey’s body, though wracked with arthritis, is still going.  It’s her mind that’s causing the most problems.

I tell myself that when her nervous condition spills over to the daytime, then it will be time.  After all, what quality of life would she have if she were in a constant state of agitated confusion?   There is a flaw in this plan, however: five days a week, I’m at work.  So she could currently be suffering in the daytime more than I realize.

So last night, I had a reiki conversation with Bailey and asked her to let me know when she was ready to go.  Maybe she’ll go on her own, but I don’t want her to suffer. So if she needs help, I will certainly call one of her vets.

I also changed a few things: no more herbs for insomnia, no walks later at night.  And since Bailey seems to snooze away just fine in the living room, I decided to sleep on the couch.

I got to sleep about 10 p.m., and lo and behold, Bailey slept until about 3 a.m.  Yay!

Though I feel much more rested than I have all week, I still don’t have the energy to gather my thoughts about Duke basketball.  I will say this, though:

I was a casual fan since the 1980s, basically watching some games on TV and rooting for Duke come NCAA tournament time.  But, after my grandmother got sick in 1991, I became an avid fan.  I had to watch or listen to every game.  Life was changing, death was imminent, and basketball was my escape.   They had to win for things to be okay!  Luckily, during that time, Duke did win a lot.

Twenty years late, I’m finding that life is once again changing,  and death is imminent.  But Duke doesn’t have to win in order for things to be okay.  Of course it’s more fun when they do win, but a basketball team doesn’t have to rescue me from life’s hardships.

So I can say this:  Congratulations, Coach K, and thanks for the memories. Here’s to many more years of coaching!

And thanks, also, to Bailey for being such a great companion these past 10 years.   May you, Bailey, be at peace, may you be free of suffering. May you be filled with loving kindness, may you be at ease.  May you know the everlasting joy of your one true nature.   And may I be able to do right by you.

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