Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Mercury is retrograde

A former colleague of mine would often say Mercury was retrograde when things went pear shaped. Astrologers suggest making sure things are in order before these retrograde periods, as breakdowns are apt to occur.

Winter is coming soon, and this time of year, I usually check to make sure I have enough on hand to see me through the weather. It's easier, for instance, to get the coal and unload it now than it is when the snow drifts are 6 feet high, and realizing I needed at least one pallet if not two, I decided to borrow my neighbour's trailer and pick up some coal.

Neighbour Bob's trailer is rated for 2000 lbs (1 ton or tonne if you're across the Pond). A pallet of coal is 2400 lbs, so most times when I've done this, I unload a number of bags from the pallet and put them in the bed of the truck. One time I didn't and everything was all right, but I don't like to make a practice of overloading trailers.

He wasn't home when I went to borrow the trailer--everyone on the street's allowed to use it, but still, I do like to give word that i'm taking it for a little while. His next door neighbour saw me, waved, and glimpsed only for a moment as I hooked it onto my truck's hitch.

The hasp and lock were hard to open and close, so I sprayed them with some PB Blaster to loosen them. I noticed the trailer seemed a bit noisier than usual as I pulled it. Not a scary noise noisier, just that it rattled more.

I got to the hardware store, nearly 20 miles away, and after consulting with the loading man, he was able to get the pallet on the trailer. He looked a bit nervous, mentioned that the tires were nearly flat, and I thanked him for letting me know. Neighbour Bob is meticulous about maintenance, and i'd not given a thought to check the tire pressure. I probably tow the heaviest loads with his trailer. He usually tows brush or hedge clippings. I didn't see anything in the hardware store to help me get air in the tires, so I drove off, going slowly and decided i'd get air at the first gas station on the way home.

The first gas station was on the left side of the road, about 2 miles down. I noticed it seemed harder to pull the load than before, so getting air in those tires was clearly the right thing to do. The air pump was in front of the parking spaces, and I took up four of those spaces as I got out and then needed to check if the air hose would reach all right. It reached the left tire, but the right was iffy. As I made my way around to the right tire to check, I saw the tire had torn away, leaving the rim. Oh, my. No wonder why it pulled funny.

I hadn't a clue what to do. Neighbour Bob wasn't home, so I couldn't call him. There was no spare on the trailer. I wasn't sure where I could get a new tire, or even if the rim could still be used. I walked into the convenience store, and when the woman behind the counter asked if she could help me, I opened my mouth and "I don't know what to do" came out.

I related my story; she thought she should call her husband. I didn't see what help he could provide, but then my brain started working. I had Triple A, maybe they could help with this tire. I let her know, thanked her for listening, and dialled. The Triple A woman informed me that while Triple A could help with the car or truck I was driving, trailers weren't covered. She gave me the name of a local towing company and phone number. I dialled and the man who answered sounded as if he'd been napping. I knew he wouldn't be helpful, so I thanked him for his time and hung up. I called Neighbour Bob to see if he were home yet, if he had a spare, and to let him know what was happening. He answered the phone, no, he didn't have a spare, did he need me to have him come to where I was. I didn't see that solving anything so told him no.

The owner of the convenience store had come out, and helped me to take some of the load off the trailer and put into the bed of the truck. His barely teenaged son helped, too. He asked if there was a spare, mentioned a place where I might be able to get a tire, although I wasn't sure where that place was. I was thinking Plan B would be to load the truck as heavily as I could, take the first load of coal home, unload, pick up a tire for the trailer, and drive back. The owner went back inside to wait on people and another man showed up. He wanted to jack up the trailer and see about getting a tire.

I asked if he were the man I spoke to on the phone, although this man sounded a lot more awake. No, he hadn't spoken to me, his wife worked here and had called. And he made quick work of noting the tire size, extricating the jack, lifting up the trailer, and looking at the rim. He told me he'd run up to the tire place as he knew right where it was and upon his return, he'd take the rim and put the tire on at his house, since he had a tire changer there. I wondered if he were a mechanic, as he had on a dark green work shirt, typical of one a mechanic would wear.

I thanked him, and while waiting, I went in and ordered a sandwich. I felt bad for taking up four of the parking spaces, but it didn't make sense to move anything. The owner was nice about it, made small talk with me, and I thanked him for his kindness. I also asked him the name of the man who was helping me, and he gave me his name and phone number. He also said I was welcome to use the rest room if I needed it and I could wash my hands at the sink, and he motioned to the sink on his left. I did make use of both and thanked him once again.

The Angel man returned. They had one tire that size left in the store, and it would take him a few minutes to get the rim off, go home, and put the tire on.

He returned within 15 minutes and put it back on the trailer for me. The owner was watching, told me not to forget to fill the other tire with air, and I nodded. I hadn't forgotten and while some may have thought him a bit patronizing, I know he meant it kindly.

Their generosity and kindness deeply touched me. I asked Angel Man how much I owed him. He looked away a moment, took a breath, and said, "Seventy-five dollars."

The way he said it led me to believe he thought it was a lot of money. There've been times in my life where having to fork over an unexpected $75 would have been a great financial hardship. Thankfully, it wasn't on that day. It was easily worth double that to me. He saved me a lot of hassle. I thanked him, told him it was worth more and I was going to include a tip, which I did as I wrote out the check. I had tried using the ATM in the store to get out cash, but it wouldn't work. I rarely take out cash with my card so i'm unsure if my PIN had changed when they sent me a new card or if it was just Mercury being retrograde.

On the way home, I was grateful for so many things. For the man at the hardware store noting that the tires were really low. For being able to get the trailer safely off the road. For people i'd never seen before willing to help me. The rim could be reused. I had enough financial resources to pay for everything. I found the convenience store had a great sandwich shop I didn't realize was there, and although I was wildly unprepared, everything worked out okay.

I got home without any complications, backed up the trailer the easiest I've ever done (it's usually quite amusing for onlookers to watch), unloaded the coal, and returned the trailer to Neighbour Bob's house. He was glad to see I was all right and wanted to reimburse me for my out-of-pocket tire expense. I told him he needn't do that, I've borrowed his trailer numerous times, and this happened on my watch. He insisted on repaying me, and as I looked into his eyes, I realized he was thinking of me as a daughter. My dad's been dead many years, and it's been a long time since I've seen that look. I told him the amount Angel Man told me.

Mercury may be retrograde, but kindness transcends that.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Phoebe update

Phoebe had her one-month follow-up vet visit today. I captured her quite easily as she had been napping, and noted on the 10-minute drive to the vet, she meowed very loudly, in a way I haven't heard for some time. So, clearly, she feels better.

She's better with her litter box usage (less peeing outside the box), the contents in the box look more normal, she's vomiting less (four times in the last two weeks, and "normal" cat vomit like hairballs and undigested food), and she's more active.

They took another blood draw to see what the numbers showed from last month and weighed her again. She's down 3 ounces (~90 g) which is a bit troubling, one out-of-range parameter went down although is still high, and the other rose at a faster rate than the vet expected.

I did ask some of the harder questions. What's the prognosis? Are we looking at one or two months?

The meds are obviously doing something favourable, as she's more active, her coat is shinier, she's vomiting less. The higher creatinine level indicates that she needs to eat the low-protein food more often. I'd been working it in once every three days, but once a day at least may really be needed.

And what if she doesn't like the low-protein food once a day? If she doesn't like something, she WON'T eat it, and she can't afford to lose more weight. What's the best course for me to take? Food she'll eat that's harder on her kidneys but will stave off weight loss or food she doesn't want to eat that's easier on her system but results in weight loss while she's turning up her nose? And she likes variety and is used to that. The vet mentioned there are different kinds. Yes. Two. She's used to getting about 12 different kinds and i purposely mix them up so they don't get bored eating the same thing.

There is no easy answer. We can try and see how things go. Similarly, there's no clear answer on prognosis. While this jump seems a lot in a month, it could be that it now stabilises for a bit, or things could go into a quick decline. Clearly, she's feeling better, so if she's logy all of a sudden, that'll be a better indication than anything.

I did say first and foremost, i want quality of life for her. As she loves the pocket pill treats, it's not hardship to give her meds, she and JoJo both love getting the fish oil everyday, so again, that's not a problem. But, i don't see her being willing to sit still while i give her a needle for subcutaneous fluids (something the vet said could be available) or how successful i'll be chasing her about the house to give her a phosphorus binder if her phosphorus levels go out of whack (currently they are okay).

He did say her genetics may be programmed to say, "Once you hit 15, your kidneys will start to fail, and there's not much we can do about that." He did chuckle as she scratched on each door in the examination room, hoping someone would open up the door and let her out. She also meowed quite loudly when her door scratchings did not give her the desired outcome. I told the vet as noisome as that was, this was in a way music to my ears because she had this much energy to complain, just like before. She complained most of the way home, too, but within an hour of being back home, she looked quite pleased with herself and welcomed the head rubs i gave her.

I have a plan in place, which i know is subject to change. I shall endeavour to juggle what's best for her with what she wants and to let go when it's time.

Monday, September 14, 2015

lost and found

When last I mentioned Twig, my missing dinghy that was basely stolen, I mentioned that I got another dinghy to take her place. And, as sad as I was to do it, a stout lock to deter thieves looking for an easy-to-take-and-use-or-sell item.

I was slated to go on a week long sailing trip with friends: it's a trip I take most years, and Himself decided to stay behind, feed the cats, and work on a few house projects.

On Saturday evening, he mentioned wanting to walk the breakwater Sunday morning. Should he wake me, or let me sleep? It's been ages since I walked the breakwater, and I agreed that he should wake me. Himself is a naturally early riser; I am not.

So, he awoke me gently on Sunday morning, and seeing that he had already tended to the cats, we set off for an early morning walk. There weren't a lot of people walking the breakwater at that time, and the day was brilliantly sunny.

About a third of the way out, there's a small floating dock, and as I glanced at it, I thought of a photo I had seen recently on Facebook that the local historical society had posted, showing this dock or more likely its earlier relative from a photo circa 1910. Like the photo, the dock that morning was empty and waiting.

We got to the end of the breakwater, took a moment to enjoy the view, and started back. Himself and I were having easy conversations about everything and nothing, when he stopped suddenly.

"Look left," he said. I did and saw nothing on the water as I gazed straight out.

"Look at the end of my walking stick," he said, after he noticed my gaze staring straight out. Like an obedient dog, I started at the end of his stick. Looked the same to me as it always had. Then again, i'm not a morning person and didn't have a cup of tea before we had gone on this walk. Realizing he needed to be Captain Obvious he said, "No, look beyond my stick."

We were just past that little floating dock, and I looked over. There was Twig.  She was tied off along the cleat, and the only difference I could see since i'd seen her last was that three of the small fenders I had on her port side were off. The three on the beam of her starboard side were still there, as was the two on either side of the bow. There was a pair of shoes with socks stuffed in them on the dock. I also noticed a single oar in Twig. I blinked a few times, but she was not a mirage.

Himself had his cell phone, so I used it to call the police. I couldn't remember the non-emergency number so called the emergency one, explaining it wasn't an emergency, but I needed to notify the police. The dispatcher was very kind, took down the phone number and told me someone would call back.

Meantime there was a young man fishing on the other side of the breakwater opposite the floating dock. I noticed him looking over, but didn't think much about it. We had taken Himself's car, and he was telling me his car wasn't wide enough for Twig, I ought to go back, take his car home, and come back with the truck. I ought to have my cell phone with me, too, in case he needed to call. We usually call it good if only one of us has a cell phone between the two of us if we go somewhere, and I hadn't bothered checking for mine. The last I recalled, it was in my purse, which was at home.

On the ride home, which seemed to be fraught with slow drivers, I needed a tissue and reached into my pocket. My cell phone was in there. So, I called Himself to let him know I was nearly home.  He had heard back from the police. They said we had the right to re-appropriate our stolen property, and that I needed to bring some extra line.

Once home, I grabbed my purse so i'd have my driver's licence. I was thankful I hadn't gotten pulled over for anything silly. I also grabbed the oarlocks, my pfd (life preserver), and a set of oars so I could row her to shore. It was low tide, so we'd  have to drag her a bit and I wondered if the path from the shore to the start of the breakwater was wide enough. If so, it would be just barely.

I was still in a bit of shock, and I was hoping Himself didn't have any run-ins with the person who'd rowed it there. After I parked the truck and made my way towards the breakwater, I broke out in full run. The first honest-to-goodness run I've done in over 10 years since breaking my leg. It wasn't until I ran up to Himself on shore that I realised I had run without nerve pain, and I mean without even a twinge. Perhaps it was endorphins. At any rate, I was glad of it.

Himself managed to walk Twig along the edge of the breakwater to shore, so I didn't need the oars or pfd. Two men who saw us carrying her came down to the beach and offered to help us carry her. We were glad for the help, and in no time had her by the truck.

Himself relayed the story to them as he had to nearly everyone who had passed by on the breakwater while he was waiting for the police to call him back. Our dinghy had been stolen, and today, voilĂ , there she was. We waited for the police to call us back, and they said it was fine for us to take it.

On the way home, after we had strapped Twig in for the ride, Himself mentioned the young man fishing. How he seemed really uncomfortable and suspected that he was the one who stole it. I said that might be true, or he may have bought it from the thief, and was now wondering how he'd get back to wherever without a dinghy. Neither of us checked to see if he had the missing oar in his possession, and frankly, I didn't care. I just wanted my dinghy back. I didn't want any kind of showdown incidents or posturing. Himself said I was too generous with my thinking. Perhaps I am. I just didn't see the point of making a Big Scene. Finding that which was lost and taking it home was plenty for me.

Twig is currently safely stowed for the rest of the sailing season. The new-to-me replacement dinghy will finish out the sailing season, and I'll decide whether it be best to keep her as well or sell her. As each dinghy only seats two, it may be nice to have a second dinghy on hand for the times we sail with four people on Retrouvé. Certainly not the worst problem to have.

Twig does have some bright yellow paint that wasn't there before and few new scratches. Other than the missing fenders, everything else was I left it. I did notice a lobster boat near Retrouve sporting three small fenders that were exactly the kind of Twig, and on the side of the boat, I saw some bright yellow trap markers. Now, these small fenders are as common as grains of sand, but seeing them along with the bright yellow paint did make me look twice and feel funny.

Before I shoved off on my sailing trip the next day, I managed to talk to Tug and let him know my dinghy had been found and reclaimed. He immediately started reeling off names to the lobstermen with him after I mentioned the fisherman who seemed fishing for ?? bait maybe? Or mackerel? I also quietly told him about the three small fenders I noticed that seemed new and the same yellow paint, pointing over to the boat's mooring, the boat itself now gone out to work. I acknowledged that it could be coincidence and didn't wish to implicate anyone. But, it does give one pause for thought.

I thanked Tug once again for looking at the security tapes. He was looking at the mooring, and I could see his mind working. He thanked me for letting him know, told me if I needed a skiff I was welcome to use his any time. I thanked him yet again, said my new-to-me dinghy was still on the float around the corner and I hoped I never had to take him up on his generous offer.

I am still amazed. Happily so.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Home, a poem by Warshan Shire


no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border...
when you see the whole city running as well

your neighbours running faster than you
breath bloody in their throats
the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory
is holding a gun bigger than his body
you only leave home
when home won’t let you stay.

no one leaves home unless home chases you
fire under feet
hot blood in your belly
it’s not something you ever thought of doing
until the blade burnt threats into
your neck
and even then you carried the anthem under
your breath
only tearing up your passport in an airport toilets
sobbing as each mouthful of paper
made it clear that you wouldn’t be going back.

you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land
no one burns their palms
under trains
beneath carriages
no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck
feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled
means something more than journey.
no one crawls under fences
no one wants to be beaten

no one chooses refugee camps
or strip searches where your
body is left aching
or prison,
because prison is safer
than a city of fire
and one prison guard
in the night
is better than a truckload
of men who look like your father
no one could take it
no one could stomach it
no one skin would be tough enough

the go home blacks
dirty immigrants
asylum seekers
sucking our country dry
niggers with their hands out
they smell strange
messed up their country and now they want
to mess ours up
how do the words
the dirty looks
roll off your backs
maybe because the blow is softer
than a limb torn off

or the words are more tender
than fourteen men between
your legs

or the insults are easier
to swallow
than rubble
than bone
than your child body
in pieces.
i want to go home,
but home is the mouth of a shark
home is the barrel of the gun
and no one would leave home
unless home chased you to the shore
unless home told you
to quicken your legs
leave your clothes behind
crawl through the desert
wade through the oceans
be hunger
forget pride
your survival is more important

no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear
run away from me now
i dont know what i’ve become
but i know that anywhere
is safer than here

—Warshan Shire

The poet Warshan Shire was born in Kenya in 1988 and raised in London to Somali parents. She has read her work extensively as an internationally touring poet.