Notes from a barn

Performance Quarter Horses

This is a blue roan. Never say you’re going grey, you’re just opting for roan.

Hmm, so….Enjoying a little dawn time in the barn with my pal Romeo, a roan gelding of 16 hands in the next stall, and two very friendly barn/house cats, Pumpkin (an orange tabby) and Pye (a piebald cat). I honestly didn’t think I’d make this far a couple days ago.

My Friday post, which should have gone up Friday at 9:40 am, got accidentally scheduled to post at 9:40 pm because 9:15 am is when my mother called, in a panic, because Gran’s blood pressure was 202/111 with a pulse of 55 and she didn’t know what to do, I just hit schedule and ran.

Talk about thrown in at the deep end. Poor Mutti. And at that, I went from chill mode to thrill mode in a split second. I called my Gran’s doctor’s office and set up a telemed appointment for 10 with another doctor who works Friday’s at the same practice. Then I got more details from my mother before the appointment. Then we did a 3 way meeting.

It went well. The doctor wanted Gran to take clonidine. She said if Gran’s pressure didn’t come down, she’d have to go to the ER. The ER, in a time of coronavirus. Um, no. After the doctor hung up to phone the prescription in, I talked my mother through everything she needed to do before going to the pharmacy and everything she needed to get.

By the time I hung up, my father was already in his suv with the engine warming up. I jumped in the back seat and off we went. I felt wiped out, and maybe a little hungover, so I understandably took a nap, hoping to be “fresh” and ready to hit the ground in caregiver mode when we arrived at Gran’s.

Dappled green leaves stock photo. Image of leaves, green - 168594638

The dappled leaves of a sycamore.

Hours later, I woke up to a soft breeze, the sound of birds, and the sight of green rustling leaves and dapples of sun. It seemed calm and oddly wrong. It was 3:32 pm. The car was parked. I sat up to find I’d been abandoned and the car was again in the drive of my parents’ house.  I wasn’t sure if that was a good or a bad sign.

Turned out, Gran’s BP had come down below 180/110 by the time my mother got backand the ER was off the table. She called my father with the news, and Da had turned around. He said Mutti was feeling much better, less panicked, more in control of the situation. She was doing laundry, load 8 of 10, to zen out. But Gran was having other problems and I should call.

I called. We went over sign and symptom, medication, O2 levels, everything, again. Gran said she felt cold, but Mutti said she felt really feverish, but the thermometer said Gran’s temp was normal. The BP was under stroke level but Gran’s pulse was low, too low to be able to give her more of her another dose of her regular BP med in the evening as the doctor had said to do.


Pedialyte Electrolyte Powder, Strawberry Lemonade, Packets | Milk ...

It’s a sad truth that I carry this stuff everywhere I go. I’m addicted.

I told Mutti to just try to keep up the pedialyte and ensure, take her vitals every hour or so and record them, along with any symptoms or signs, in case we had to tell the doctor, and continue bed rest till the morning. I asked her to call me early Saturday morning. Honestly, it was hard to sleep that night. Even hundreds of miles away….still caring.

The next morning, at 7, (ugh, but I did say early) we went through everything that had happened since the last call. Telemed is tough. Gran’s doctors are wonderful. They listen, they’re knowledgeable, they try really hard, but boots on the ground are always better. Sometimes, you gotta trust your own knowledge of a person and go off script. This was such a time.

After spending all night thinking about Gran’s case, and factoring in the new data, and reviewing all the symptoms, I told my mother it seemed like an infection. Maybe sinus, UTI. It was a reasonable explanation for high blood pressure, low heart rate, and fever. And for why BP meds were failing to do their job. Normally they work well. This time, not so much.

Ace Ventura Costume - Little Shop of Horrors Costumery - Costume ...

I’ll be calling an audible now.

Because of Gran’s many surgeries, her ortho surgeon makes her take antibiotics before she sees the dentist. I knew she had a bunch of antibiotics around. So, I called an audible. By that evening, my mother, with much effort, had Gran dressed, (semi) up in a recliner chair and fairly alert and coherent. Her blood pressure was okay again, her pulse had come back up and normalized, and her O2 levels were good.

By Sunday morning, Gran was improved. Her BP was a bit high, but with her pulse up as well, a half a blood pressure pill took care of everything. Even O2 levels were good –without the oxygen concentration. Best of all, she was well enough to complain. I’d call that crisis…. maybe averted? She 90. Who can say.

For the time being, I could however, as my Da likes to say “Go in peace.” So I went. There were no calls on the drive to Washington. I took that as a good sign. Speaking candidly though, I’m not sure my mother will be able to hack it 100 days with Gran, by herself. I did say she could reach out to my friend with the cat, offer to pay her to come do laundry in the garage, it wasn’t a big risk but it would be a big help.

Canvas Bed Roll Cowboy Roll Camping Bedroll (Red) | Emergency Packin'

It’s a bedroll, not a sleeping bag.

I took my own food, water, and camping bedroll from my parents’ house to Washington. I didn’t want to have to stop anywhere, for anything. Although I had my mask and gloves, and I did eventually have to stop for gas. It was late-ish when I pulled up to my friends’ barn. Still, my friends came out, with lawn chairs, and pie.

Barns are good places for socially distant socials. We sat and talked. It was nice to be with old friends and hear new stories from new places. I kind of see why long ago travelers were always mobbed when they reached a town. We must have sat there at least 2 or 3 hours. Till they began to worry about leaving their kiddos alone in the house, although you could easily see the house from the barn.

It’s a nice barn. Small as barns go, but it has a sink in the tackroom and there’s an outhouse not too far off. The hay bales made a nice rack once I threw my bedroll over them. I’ve slept indoors on much worse, in places with more mice. And I’ve had worse neighbors in the adjoining room, although Romeo was a little gassy and a loud pee-er (no prostate problems there).

Barn under the Stars Photograph by Bill Wakeley

Copyright, Bill Wakeley.

We said our fare thee wells that evening after the social as I planned to leave early to make it to the border by an hour or so after it opened. I didn’t want to get their too early and sit and big line of vehicles. And even after crossing, it was still going to be over an hour to reach my final destination, so….I wanted to pace my journey.

I’m still not sure they’ll let me cross. I’m like 90% sure. I say this because unlike the US, where people are freely moving between 50 states, and spreading virus, Canada took to locking down some provincial borders. People there are running into issues moving around within the country. And God help you if you plan to move across country. It’s like catch-22, especially for those of lower income. A friend sent me this sad story. Definitely praying for Kaden and his dog.

But I’m hopeful. Today starts a new month, and the summer season. I’m going to try to use my 100 days of summer well. Try to be good to myself. Enjoy a Summer of Love (even as I suspect it might become another long, hot summer).  Make it a summer of change, a summer of righteous commitment to doing the good that’s in front of me. A Look Back at the Summer of Love

Give peace, and social justice, a chance.

I didn’t talk about national events last week because personally so much has been going on. But also because much of what’s going on nationally has happened before, repeatedly. Trayvon Martin, 2012. Michael Brown, 2014, Eric Garner, 2014, Freddie Grey, 2015, Philando Castillo, 2016. Botham Jean, 2019, Aumaud Aubery, 2020, George Floyd, 2020. To name but a few.

Far too many American men are dead for no good reason. And if those men had just been white, they wouldn’t be dead at all. That’s the sad truth. People want to put brutal, in your face, racism in a box and not look at it. But, exactly like coronavirus, you have to look at a problem in order to be able to take steps to fix a problem.

The 'long, hot summer of 1967'

This was 1967. And 53 years later, just the fashions have changed.

In a weird way, our government coronavirus response is just like our government social justice response. And that shouldn’t be surprising. The same people, with the same mindsets, are in charge. They see the world a certain way and they like what they see. I feel like they’re channeling Louis XV “The monarchy is very old, but it will last my time.”

I’m going to now reference white evangelical Christians, because they are the ones that voted in the current administration and they 100% support this very old system of injustice. I’m a Christian, I’m allowed to make these observations.

The largest evangelical publication is called Our Daily Bread. It’s a free daily devotional. It’s very much designed to be an evangelical outreach. It’s got some good stuff, but it has a definite white evangelical conservative twist. If you know that, you can skip over the theo-politically tainted stuff.

On the other hand, sometimes you just can’t. The message for Sunday May 31, I kid you not, ended this way….

“But shouldn’t we hunger and thirst for righteousness?” you ask. Picture a small child trying to get a gift high on a shelf, his eyes glittering with desire. His father, sensing that desire, brings the gift down to him.

The work is God’s; the joy is ours. Easy does it. We shall get there some day.

This was written and printed months ago. But, kudos for divine timing. I can’t imagine a better example of “old white patriarchal evangelical” theology than this. And I mean no disrespect. But “righteousness” is not being viewed as a social good (what Jesus was talking about when he said to hunger an thirst for righteousness).

In this brand of theo-political thinking, righteousness is not seen as something to be actively fought for and sought after. It’s been reduced to a purely personal goal, that God will hand the faithful, someday, in time. Sorry, but that insular view goes against Jesus’s teaching.

Here’s reality. It’s a “pissed off at unrighteousness, aka social injustice” Jesus.

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices–mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law–justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.”

We have to go slow? We’ll get there someday? Really? Did the Founders wait around for King George to give them freedom, justice, or self-rule? I don’t think so. White male Christians of 18th century America didn’t wait on God to deliver them from British rule. They saw the social system was unrighteous and rigged against them. When peaceful protests didn’t change it, they picked up arms and fought it. Were they wrong?

Washington crossing the Delaware River, on Christmas Day, to take the people’s fight to the power’s stronghold.

And what did Jesus actually say? He said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled”. It’s only the people who are actively hungry and thirsty for justice, that get satisfied. Why? Because, duh, they actively want it, they actively need it, and they actively go after it. They act, in faith. But they act, as individuals and as a society.

Ever been really hungry or really thirsty? Maybe stop eating and drinking the next few days. Hunger and thirst, those are real, basic needs. You will die if you go without food or water long enough. Just like societies die if they go without righteousness, ie, social and economic justice, long enough. You’re going to do whatever it takes to get what you need to survive, or die trying.

Black History Month — 2019: “Nah.” ~ Rosa Parks - Mark Ricks - Medium


Telling people who have endured centuries of injustice because of extra melanin in their skin: “Sorry, you little kids [citizens], you have to wait on your father [the government] to decide when you get your righteousness [justice/equality/rights]. It’s a gift [not a right, because you’re not white/male/christian/straight/etc]. He can withhold it as long as he likes, till he thinks you’re ready [which is never].” is just ludicrous.


Yet this is basically what’s happening. What’s been happening over and over again for decades. People’s just anger is devalued and ignored. Leaders hide behind bad theology and self-serving laws. It’s everything that’s wrong with white evangelical Christianity. It’s everything that’s wrong with American government.

Instead of dialogue, people get “Back of the bus. Wait your turn. Maybe if you stop protesting.” Then the national guard gets called in to put the people down with tear gas and bullets. There’s never dialogue, never justice, never change. So the next time the people in power visit death on their fellow citizens, anger that never went away boils up again.

We as a nation need to break the cycle. How do we do that? It’s not rocket science. The best thing I read all week was Sharon Salzberg‘s article about social activism (How to have the world – and the life – we want) in the July edition of Lion’s Roar (a Buddhist magazine). It really speaks to this moment. She said

Anger keeps us from being passive or complacent, and it gives us courage. It’s often the angriest person in the room who’s insisting everybody look at the problem while everyone else is determined to look the other way.

In other words, when you see angry people, stop and see them, stop and listen to them. Don’t hide in your mansion or make speeches from your podium. Get out there and face to face dialogue. Take a risk. The angry people did.

Sharon Salzberg - 1440 Multiversity.

Sharon Salzberg, wise woman.

She also said, and this is probably something I’ll frame and hang:

Underneath anger or feeling overwhelmed there is very often a sense of helplessness, and that’s a horribly uncomfortable thing to feel. But if we can face it and be with it, then we don’t do desperate acts to avoid it and we learn different relationship with it. It’s like “Okay, this feels really painful. But it’s not wrong. It’s just painful.

We develop compassion for ourselves and compassion for others, and then we realize, “Oh, if I take one small action, that will help ameliorate that feeling of helplessness.” It won’t dissolve this terrible system of suffering and oppression so many people experience, but it will bring back to life our sense of connection.”

When I see people take to the streets, I see people insisting we, as a society, stop and look at a real problem in our society. I see people taking the one small, very American, action they can to move from helplessness to hopefulness, they protest.

When we as a society refuse to look, refuse to listen, refuse to change to ensure every American is treated equally, we drive our fellow citizens desperate acts, to violence, to burning it all down because….maybe they’re convinced that’s the only way to get seen and heard.

If something is on fire, someone has to come put it out. If property is damaged or stolen (forget lives damaged or stolen), someone in authority sees it, and someone always shows up in person. But what if those in authority showed up early, to walk with the protesters and dialogue with them?

I recommend it, as a Christian.

I really don’t see a lot of showing up from the people in power. I don’t see mayors and governors walking in the streets, sans riot gear and sans national guard escorts, with the public. I don’t see peace summits happening on football fields, where you can social distance and talk with large groups.

Honestly, I see cowards with power. I see people hiding in their mansions and bunkers and press rooms. I don’t see them walking among the people to talk, risking catching coronavirus and dying because it’s that important to be out there, the way it’s that important to the citizens to be out there protesting.

Changing society takes sacrifice. If you love the people who voted for you, if you love your city or state, if you care for everyone’s well being, if you hope for peace and change, then it’s worth you getting out there and risking death for to save and to heal.

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