Along for the ride:

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Le Pere Jordan

It's been a "Journey" since I've felt I had the freedom of time, or the mental bandwidth to write anything. The fact that two years have passed since our last trip to France, that ended in a Medical Evacuation back to the US, is hard to fathom.
I now feel slightly guilty saying that there are some positive aspects to our life, in view of everyone else's  struggles.
My husband will always be "The Artistic One".
When friends ask him what he's up to, he  speaks about painting and possible upcoming art shows. His easel, paints and a fresh canvas are still where they were in our family room/Art Studio, although I have moved things over a bit to facilitate the passage of TAO with his walker frame.
He no longer paints or reads. He sleeps a lot and then sits and watches TV from the kitchen table. When it's not too hot we sit on the covered patio and watch the wind move the tree tops and the dogs run the fence to bark at delivery drivers and people walking by.
As I sit with him, I share videos, from my Facebook feed, of silly cats, redneck creative transportation solutions and familiar regions of France.
The image above is a stained glass window he designed and had made for our French house. The character "Old Mr Jordan" gave TAO hell seventy-plus years ago when he let the cows wander into the wrong field. He also sat in the barn with him in winter and carved wooden clogs, while telling stories about the village. I've heard more stories about him than of TAO's father.
TAO had sketched this image, which we still have,in pencil, long ago. You can see the rolling hills in the distance. The fence line takes your eye where the Artist intended.
When discussing subject matter for this tall bathroom window, I thought this image would honor a World that meant so much to TAO and be relevant to the surroundings.

The house is under offer. It's unlikely we'll ever go there again.
TAO's eldest daughter has been fantastic, shouldering the responsibilities of finding and making arrangements with an Agent, a Notaire and even going to the Department of Construction Permits to have them give the final signature on a project that was completed a decade ago.
She's had all of our paintings moved safely into storage for us. I told her to let her siblings choose any that they might like for themselves and to give away any furniture and household stuff that the potential new owners didn't want.
The one thing I wanted to remove and keep was this window. Unfortunately, the craftsman that came to try to extract it found it was installed in a way that can't be undone.
We now have a small chip of blue glass as a souvenir and these beautiful photos, taken by she who would be my Step-Daughter, if she were younger and I were older.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

No Dogs in the House, he said....

Misty was one of two collies flown in from Seoul, South Korea a handful of months ago.
She was skinny and shy, having been one of only nine survivers after a breeder abandoned her business and all of her dogs. Misty had to be placed on a feeding tube as she was too weak to eat. The overseas rescue group cared for her and another collie until they were well enough to fly to San Francisco. I went to help with receiving and transfering the dogs upon arrival.

Two kind women agreed to add the dogs to their flight arrangements and trusted us to be there to meet them on arrival. Language barriers bridged by smiles and gratitude and we took the dogs to a quiet corner of the parking garage to free them from their crates, give them water and let them stretch their legs.

I have my new Heart-Dog.
She brought tears to my eyes and a lump to my throat. Skinny, smelly, not used to making eye contact with humans but look at her smile and sunny demeanor, after all she’d been through.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Husbandly Crimes and Misdemeanors

I declined to cook a Thanksgiving Turkey and invited no one to celebrate this year. "The Holiday" is not integral to our existence, having not grown up in the U.S. and I've done my share of gatherings for solitary neighbors and foreign flotsam and jetsam over the decades.
This year, self preservation instincts kicked in. I'm working 6 days a week and nurturing my husband along the path to recovery with much attention and daily home cooked repasts. We're very lucky that our Lovely Daughter has moved back home and that she works from home so husband is not alone very often. He's no longer at deaths door, from the multiple life threatening issues that filled our days, nights and thoughts from late May until a few weeks ago.
Now the rub...
Since his retirement (otherwise known as the cessation of participation in our joint business, with nary a warning or a plan) I have been advocating for some management and triage of the hordes of papers that fill one bedroom. Mostly in file cabinets, classified in obscure and long forgotten ways, it was an impossible task for him to locate his passport (I have it now) but photos and prices of antique furniture in a French store which closed ten years ago, after the demise of the owner are floating atop the pile on the desk. That eight foot wide obligation was the beginning of good intentions to diminish the hoard. Unfortunately, he cannot make a decision to dump a whole, ancient and obviously useless file. Every page must be viewed and most set aside as possibly useful in the future. The pile had been left untouched for over a year, as it's dauntingly immense obligation stopped him at the door.
I asked for a couple of hours to be spent together on Thanksgiving afternoon. One of few days of personal time for me. I asked nicely. I was willing to do the work. He just had to sit there and review final decisions.
We found some validly interesting and important stuff; Certificate of U.S. Citizenship: Old Press Articles and photos of his artwork and our Stone Carving accomplishments. I ditched the dead antique dealer file, as well as the incorporation papers of a small import export business we had for a year or two in the early nineties. I filled the office waste basket and cleared the desk top. I removed the "Door over file cabinets" desk top to hinder future spread and was so very thrilled with our accomplishment. Can anyone foresee my glaring mistake?
When I came home at lunchtime yesterday, "Someone" was as mad as a wet hen, demanding to know why I'd discarded so much of his precious archive and ordering me to return his desk-top. Never mind that there's another desk in that room and yet another in his Art Studio, which is what normal folks would use as a living room.
If only I had emptied that waste basket! He'd brought it into the kitchen and taken over that table.
Words were exchanged, my optimism and happiness left the building. I seriously considered the option of setting a fire in our house but decided the insurance would not cover that.

Monday, July 16, 2018

When Cows Wore Shoes and Always Buy Travel Insurance!

The reason we ended up with a, largely unused, house in the countryside of France is that The Artistic One spent a couple of his youthful summers here, living on a farm, herding cows and doing other farm work in return for his keep. The old fashioned way of sending your kids to summer camp. Those were the happiest times of his life to the extent that, when winter came he refused to return to school in the city and spent the full four seasons there. Lozere is still the least populated region in France and there are no great fortunes in the land, as there are in wine or olive growing areas.
Cows were used to pull carts as only the wealthier farmers had oxen and almost none had horses. The photo above is of the community cow shooing shed.

Our house was a decrepit barn when we bought it. The roof was caving in and the lower level was inhabited by a dozen cows. We saved the original beams, installed running water and electricity and turned the original hay loft into a large living area and art studio.

Downstairs became the kitchen

 Due to a mixture of reasons of health, money and time, we hadn't visited our house in five years.The local lady previously tasked with keeping the place dusted occasionally had lapsed and we were warned to expect spider webs, dead flies and rat droppings. Luckily, another local woman took on the task. She was familiar with the place as her cows used to live there. When we first visited our barn, seventeen years ago, her then five year old son tried to chase us off.
We had a couple of relaxing days to appreciate the quiet surroundings before we were sucked into a new travel experience. 
Below is the view from TAO's hospital room window. Mende Cathedral in the town below.
 An understaffed and underfunded country hospital can be a scary place.
TAO went in with symptoms similar to kidney stones. It turned out to be retention of urine which is just as painful. He was first patient in the ER at 6am on a Sunday morning and was seen right away.
unfortunately, the catheter insertion was 'Traumatic" and the subsequent bleeding went on for three weeks. I was lucky to be able to access his medical records online from my phone to detail dosages of anticoagulants and date he had a pulmonary embolism etc. not to mention allergies to antibiotics.
My poor husband lost 30 lbs in three weeks. He was too weak to stand, his oxygen count was low and we were in a hospital where the Doctors went home on weekends. When the doctor ordered an ultrasound it took two days to happen and another twenty-four hours to be read.
The results from the culture taken on the first day were nowhere to be found. I walked up a flight of stairs to the floor where we'd been initially admitted, for lack of space elsewhere, and was able to learn that ER test results don't go into the computer. The piece of paper we needed was under another stack in the office.
When TAO had a red and itchy back from a reaction to antibiotics, I showed the nurses in the early morning. Antihistamines were provided at 8pm that evening, almost twelve hours later, as doctors were too busy to write prescriptions before that.
When we travel, I buy travel insurance. Our return tickets from San Francisco to France were only $400 each so $150 insurance for the two of us might have seemed disproportionate. It was the best investment ever.
We ended up having a Rescue Nurse sent out from Colorado, by the insurance company, to accompany us home. He landed in Marseilles and had a four hour drive to reach us in the middle of nowhere. He came to the hospital late afternoon to meet TAO and make arrangements for discharge at 4am the next morning. The limo drive up and down windy hill roads as the windshield wipers swept away the rain got us to the airport with time to spare. With a stop in London and a rushed connection, we were able to sleep some on the plane as we were booked in business class seats that reclined flat. Our nurse kept checking on TAO and had him on oxygen the whole trip home. another limo awaited us at San Jose airport and, at the end of thirty two hours of travel we went straight to Kaiser Hospital ER.
We love our HMO. Kaiser have saved TAO several times over the years. After a week in hospital TAO was transitioned to a Rehabilitation facility to get his strength back and work with Physical Therapists etc.
Unfortunately, the food there did not tempt the appetite of a sick Frenchman and he was still losing blood and weight. I brought him King Crab legs and set us up out on the sunny patio to make as much mess as he liked. The next day I had a watercress salad and Foie Gras that I'd brought back from the good part of our trip.
One day I broke him out between doctors' appointments and took him to an English Pub for steak and kidney pie. The tide turned.
TAO's been home for a couple of weeks and has visiting therapists and nurses. They've been great. He walks with a walker now to the end of the driveway and back with a short rest on a wall along the way.
The wheelchair we use for longer distances like the Sunday visit to the ocean. There's some surgery ahead. We have a consult next week but Our doctors collaborate and communicate and some even speak a little French.
The greatest loss is TAO's memory but it's my loss, not his. He always did live in the moment, not unlike a puppy. He leaves memories of pain at the threshold of each new day and doesn't worry about the future.
And, like a puppy, as long as meals appear regularly in front of him, all is well.

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Fuck Texas!

Take one 20 year old young woman, amputate her legs below the knee and put her on a Greyhound bus to California 48 hours after surgery. If that’s not outrageous enough, embellish that story with the fact that she was paralyzed below the waist and in the « care » of a State  of Texas nursing home since a car accident at the age of fifteen.
For those of you unfamiliar with the geography of the U.S, that's a bus trip that takes the better part of three days. ( Wearing only hospital scrubs and with no money for food.) can you tell I’m mad?
Celinda arrived in California about ten days ago and came to my attention in the back seat of her parents’ car, on the street in front of my business, in San Jose, Ca. They have been living in the car since they moved here from Texas after Hurricane Harvey took their home and business. The shelter they were previously in is foul and dangerous and they had taken to the car as a better option. They had no resources to provide wound care, catheters, or pain medication for their daughter.
Celinda already had infected bed sores from the negligent care she received at the nursing home, for the past five years. Infections spread to the bones at the amputation sites. After the second night in the car, her parents called emergency services and she was hospitalized, although the ambulance EMT did not want to touch a « dirty » homeless person and made the parents load Celinda onto the gurney themselves, she made it into the compassionate and competant care of a local hospital.
I will continue this story when I get back to my computer and can post photos and more details.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Lonely as a Cloud....

The work of friendship is meaningful. The condensed version of a lunch interlude with daffodils became a coffee in the car, on the way to the gardens. Chatting, laughing and darkly humorous commiserating, alternated with discussions on the architecture of naked trees and the optimism of tiny wisteria leaf sprouts beside magnolia blooms burnt brown-tipped by recent frost.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Cats by the dozen. What was I thinking?

Who knew? 36 cats in one back yard and twelve across the street. 
On a scorching hot day, a couple of months ago now, an undefined movement caught my eye as I walked past an old red Honda parked on a sloping cement driveway. They looked like loosely rolled up towels, one beige, one white. A second look revealed two new born kittens; blind and helpless. Mama cat was herself a kitten; barely into adolescence. She'd given birth under the car and her babies had rolled out onto the hot concrete. I had two dogs with me, one was obsessed by felines as prey so I took them home and returned with water and food for mama cat and replaced the babies in the shade beneath the vehicle. It was obviously not a definitive solution so, being me, I went and knocked on the front door.
My new found friend, Ernest, welcomed me with open arms. He and his adult, but not very useful, daughter had been eating lunch and having a "what the heck can we do?" conversation about the cat colony.
Ernest explained that his wife had been feeding two feral cats and he had continued after she died, two years ago. Cats did what cats do and he was spending almost all of his Social Security check to nourish the hoards three times a day. He had also been turning down invitations to family weddings and other gatherings, for want of someone to care for the cats.

I told them about the free county program called TNR, Trap, Neuter, Return which is designed to stop feral cats from reproducing, and all the fighting and injuries that are a byproduct. Kittens young enough to be socialized are adopted to new homes and adult feral cats are brought back to familiar territory to live out the rest of their lives.

I was somehow nominated to get things started.
As I only had one trap of my own and this was a sizeable task, I emailed across the Nextdoor neighbors group and quickly had rounded up four more traps and made new connections at the same time. I've carefully taped everyone's names on their traps, to be sure I know which is which.
It was hard for Ernest to withhold food on the evenings before my cat trapping assignations. Hungry cats are more likely to overcome their fear and get caught. Ernest felt he was letting them down. he was also very upset that some kittens were caught, leaving distraught mama cats and some Mama cats were caught, leaving kittens behind. There were no small kittens left abandoned. There were some little gangs of mixed age litters, used to hanging out and playing together, as in the top photo cat-carrier shot. Unfortunately not all animals survive living free. One kitten was cold and lethargic when I picked him up in the long grass, even in California summer heat. He and one other didn't make it.
We live in unincorporated County lands and our territory is covered by an animal shelter 40 miles away, with a very few roving Field Officers to deal with all animal emergencies in a very large area. A trapped cat is considered an emergency and they come as fast as possible to collect them, then return them to same address after spay neuter surgery, or adopt out if young enough.
I set traps in the early morning and usually catch something within a couple of hours. Ernest keeps an eye out and lets me know how that's going. I move the covered traps to a shady spot on the side of the house and call it in to dispatch, after checking the ears to be sure I'm not wasting anyone's time. The Field Officers have been great, although twice they've called back to tell us they'd been redirected onto another emergency and couldn't come immediately. Once there was a herd of goats on the freeway and once a mountain lion in a back yard. On both those occasions I made the trek to deliver my catches.
The black and white youngster above was one of my early catches. After being neutered and returned, he is always first to set off one of my traps. I think he sees that as the price of admission to a sardine breakfast. I've had to release him a half dozen times. We're calling him Boomerang!
The shelter vets make a small clip at the tip of one ear, to show those that have been through the system. It can be hard to spot if a cat has a clipped ear when its in freaked out, whirling dervish mode in a trap. I always cover the traps to reduce trauma, but I have to look in to see what's in there. Black ears are the hardest.
This little black kitten is from across the street. I was aware that they had cat issues because there were always cats out front when I went by. In for a penny, in for a pound, I knocked on their door too. They were suspicious at first as neighbors had filed complaints about them. The lady wanted to capture the kittens herself, which she hadn't done to date, so I left my number and crossed my fingers.
I have found it very motivating to inform people that a female cat can get pregnant at 16 weeks. Their eyes get wide and I can see them doing the math in their heads.
Debbie did call me to collect one kitten. I had a friend that had offered to foster and socialize before it went up for adoption. I drove it to her house. Socialization was going well but the little guy was not gaining weight and had goopy eyes that didn't completely clear up with bathing. She took him to her vet and spent over $200 for eye drops and antibiotics. A couple of days later she called that he had thrown up twice. We were worried about dehydration and unable to fund more emergency vet visits, so I dropped everything to collect him and get him to the animal shelter. I checked on line to see his status and they had discovered an infestation of lice and had put a time limit on his being taken in by a rescue group, as they were submerged by kitten season.
Friend spent time on the phone begging local cat rescues to step in. One group had a volunteer headed for the shelter anyway but no room in the car for one more. By then it was 6pm on Sunday night. I said I'd go the next morning, get the kitten and deliver to rescue.
Monday morning, after 90 minutes hanging out at the shelter, kitten was nowhere to be found. 
They put calls into the people who had worked the evening before and promised to get back to me.
An email followed that kitten had indeed been picked up by that rescue. Friend called rescue to confirm and was told kitten was not in their system. Back to the shelter I went, to get answers. I can't even remember how they resolved it  but they did confirm that the kitten had gone to the volunteer from rescue, who had kept him to foster and he hadn't made it into anyone's computer system yet as the vet running the cat rescue was, herself in hospital. I did make one more call to the rescue group and all was confirmed. Whew!
I used the lice info as more motivation for Debbie to get her act together catching cats at her house. Her cats were not healthy. She was still full of excuses. A week or more later I got a call from Debbie's Dad. It's his house. She's living there, taking care of him. Angelo called to say he'd caught two kittens and what should he do now? He was as sick of waiting on Debbie as I was.

The somewhat pin-headed cat in these three pictures appeared in my yard ten days ago. There was also a young ginger cat hanging around. At first I though they must belong to new neighbors but it seemed strange that this cats big ear was visibly clipped. It must have been a feral. I spent some time puzzling about the new felines and my resident pair were upset, afraid to eat and constantly having face-offs with the new guys. The penny was slow in dropping, as I've caught too many cats to be able to recognize one from the other. However, the distinctive markings of he/she who shall now be called Winnie, clicked as a cat I'd captured the prior weekend.

The shelter had confused my info with that of Ernest and deposited these cats at my house, a problem I neither deserved nor needed and it could have been very bad for the cats. 5am last Saturday found me setting traps at my own house, trying to shoo away the cats I didn't want and hide from those I did. Winnie was captured after one false attempt of a closed trap that was empty of both cats and sardines.
I drove Winnie home and went back to bed for an hour, feeling very satisfied that I'd restored the Cat-Balance around me. Sunday morning double-take! Winnie was waiting to be fed outside my door. I questioned myself. Had I made a mistake in the semidarkness? Had I caught the right cat. I had a photo of Winnie in my garden to compare with the photo I took before I released her back to her home. They were from different sides and I went back and forth from one image to the other, doubting myself. I finally snapped a shot of her from the other side and matched up her markings.
Cats are known for finding their way home. I've never heard of a cat doing the opposite. I gave up. Now I have 4 outdoor cats. Territory issues are settling down. All that remains is to name the new orange cat. He's too shy for now to get a picture.