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Friday, July 29, 2016

Tanner's Trials

The dental surgery was successful, even more so than expected. Tanner didn't end up losing all of his teeth after all. The vet got in there, and while the bad spots were horrible, the good spots were pretty healthy. So she didn't have to take the whole kit and caboodle. We are thankful.
Happier days together
Even so, it was a big deal as the decay and amount of bone loss, root exposure, rotten teeth, etc. was horrible. Not to completely gross you out, but on Monday evening, Tanner vomited and there were pieces of his cheek that came out. In fact, on Monday Tanner was so listless that we thought we were going to lose him. It was a traumatic moment, filled with tears and heartache. Thankfully, my wonderful cousins who love him as their own, helped us to discern that his behavior was likely related to severe pain, which the vet confirmed. The vet assured us that while the post-op pain would be present, that would heal up well quickly with the medicine. She remained impressed with how well he healed after the last surgery so all of that gave us hope.
We picked him up at about 7.30 last night. Poor baby is so swollen. His head looks like a bull terrier, which is fine, if you are a bull terrier. For a labby, however, not so nice! The vet said we can try to ice it. Yeah, that's not going so well!
He was pretty doped up last night so pretty much resembled a drunk puppy! But we had a very quiet night. He seeped blood and saliva, which is normal, but no crying or panting. I woke up at 4.45 and checked on him. I was able to give him pain meds then so he fell right back to sleep. He has been up this morning now and headed straight outside to bask in the sunshine! It's really hot though so we brought him in. He did show a great interest in eating so gobbled up two jars of baby food along with some boiled chicken and rice.
Today will be a little rough. We plan on having a quiet day at home, just keeping an eye on him, giving him pain meds every 6 hours, and just trying to keep him as comfortable as possible.
We remain hopeful that this will improve his quality of life 100%. The biopsy revealed that all of these issues were brought on by the steroid use. It's such a shame that the eye issue emerged in England as it led to the skin issues and the mouth issues. Fortunately, the eye is so much better and you can hardly even see the bump anymore. We are hopeful that as he heals, he will get that crazy spring back in his step and that we'll have many more years together.
It's never easy to see your pet in pain and struggling. It's not easy watching them recover from a procedure. But we are definitely not ready to bid this one to doggy heaven. We love this crazy pup and are happy that he'll be with us for a bit longer. 
So overwhelmed with joy with our fantastic vet, Dr. Judith Yee, and her clinic. What a Godsend in every possible way.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

It's Tough Being the First

Doug and I recently watched the PBS special on Jackie Robinson. He was quite a man. His life's work is so much deeper than the well-known and incredibly important breakthrough he made in crossing the color line in Major League Baseball. Riddled throughout this documentary were comments regarding how Jackie needed to behave in a certain way in order to make his transition into the major leagues a success. He had to make certain concessions in order to help those already in power feel more comfortable with this big change.  He had to run faster, bat better, field without error in order to gain the respect of the old guard. Even so, he still put up with a lot of abuse and racism and had to bite his tongue whilst doing so.
I start here because I think sometimes people don't fully understand how hard it is to be the first person to do something in a field that has been traditionally dominated by white males. Those seeking to be the first to break the white male barrier have to put up with a fair amount of abuse, racism, and sexism whilst trying to break down the barriers that have kept their kind from advancing. They certainly are subject to much harsher critique than the establishment and there are times when I think people, especially those who have never ever even considered what it means to be the first, forget how much scrutiny people trying to break through these societal barriers come under.
Now lest you think that I believe the critiques about Hillary Clinton are strictly based on her being woman, let me diffuse that from the onset. Hillary has made some mistakes. She actually admitted on 60 Minutes Sunday night that the email stuff was a big mistake and that she's learned her lesson. Both Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell had the same. It doesn't make it right but it makes it common. Benghazi is the other place that people love to come after Hillary and I think it just needs to be stated that the Secretary of State does not act alone. There is no way that she is single handedly responsible for what unfolded there. But again, because she's running for President, she has become the lightening rod for that situation. What I do know is that in the countless ways in which these issues have been investigated, Clinton has not been found guilty of criminal activity. Time to move forward.
I mention these two issues because I don't want them to distract from my main point today...that for a woman to break through the gender barrier that has been US Presidency is no easy task.
Is that neckline too low? Is the hemline too high? Where do I put the microphone?
As a woman, Hillary has been judged far more harshly on things like tone of voice, her dress, her hair, and her relationship with her husband to name a few. People don't like the tone of her voice because it comes across as shrill. Could that not be because people are more used to lower tones that men's voices tend to have? As a woman in a profession that requires me to speak in public, I feel much frustration about this. We can't help the pitch or tone of voice that we are given. Of course, we can work on honing our speaking skills, but there's little I can do when people subconsciously feel more comfortable with the tones of a male voice. On dress...what a headache for women! Men have so many fewer choices than women when it comes to wardrobe. A suit is a suit is a suit. Men have to decide what color, what fabric, and which cut they want but at the end of the day it's a coat and trousers. They can add flare with a shirt color and tie but again, it's a pretty small set of expectations. As a woman pastor I have done more mental gymnastics about what to wear to work than you can imagine. A suit can either be too feminine or too masculine. Too old fashioned or too modern. Skirt length and neckline plunge are things I think about every time I get dressed to go into the pulpit or serve communion. I have been blasted for wearing trousers even when matched up well with a high quality suit. I have been blasted for skirt length even though a skirt that hits me slightly above the knee looks the most attractive. And then there's the stupid issue of where to clip a microphone when you are wearing something without a waist band. If Hillary were to dress in a black tailored suit all the time, I have little doubt that people would blast her for being too masculine. They make fun of her pant suits but why is her wardrobe even of concern? To be fair, I was equally frustrated that Ivanka Trump's dress was a headliner after she spoke at the RNC. A woman really doesn't stand a chance. Too sexy, you get blasted for not being professional. Too business-like you get blasted for being too masculine. It's really a tough world for the professional woman to navigate, all these issues about dress. On the issue of hair, it's utterly stupid that this is a thing but it points to the reality that people want to feel comfortable with the person they are looking at and truth be told, people are most comfortable looking at someone who looks like them. Again, men don't face the same style issues as women do when it comes to hair and make up.
I'm wearing trousers with this suit. Is that OK? Is my hair and make-up tasteful, attractive yet not too overdone as to cause discomfort?
On Hillary's relationship with her husband, she has been blasted for standing by her man and tolerating his infidelity. It's interesting to me that Trump's 3 marriages have nary been mentioned. Melania Trump has not come under fire for marrying a man whose track record with women is not so fantastic. So why the critique of Hillary for standing with Bill? She would be equally vilified had she left him. Would a divorced woman stand a chance at a Presidential nomination? I think not. If Hillary was caught in an affair, that would spell the end for her. Men who cheat, while perhaps seen as pigs, are more easily forgiven than women who cheat. Women who cheat are called whores and cast aside as used goods. The double standard here is sickening.
Yes my friends, it is tough being the first. I have not been the first to have to navigate an uncharted road. I am lucky enough to have had female predecessors in both of my full-time calls. In the interim, the associate was a female and now the church has called a woman. I am very thankful for this and yet, I have still come under enormous fire at times. Real things that have been said to me include:
I'm not very feminine in the way I run meetings or tackle issues. I've been told to tone down the rhetoric on fighting for the women's issue, to change the language I use from speaking about feminism and instead just using words like love and respect. I have been told to smile more often. (It's hard to smile when you are so angry about being discriminated against). Doug has been told to rein me in at times. These are things that make me crazy because Doug would never be told these things. People often want to think that gender or race make no difference, that they just want the best person for the job but in reality when someone breaks the race or gender barrier, one of the things that they are directly or subtly told to do is to behave in the way that the established majority does. So for women in leadership it means figuring out how to remain feminine enough to appeal to that desire, but lead like a man in order to appease those for whom maleness is the ultimate standard for leadership. Additionally, big men get a better pass than big women. Generally speaking, the public seems to need women to be fit in order to be a good leader. But I think this mainly points to what people feel comfortable looking at.
There is no question in my mind that Hillary comes under greater scrutiny because she is a woman. People feel uncomfortable with her because she's shift from the norm. Obama faced much of the same because he is African American. And some have even said that part of Trump's appeal is because many in the US are tired of having to tolerate looking at a non-white male in the White House. What I do know for sure is that Hillary has to be far more skilled than any white man has to. Her resume clearly indicates that she is qualified to be President, which is far more than can be said for Donald Trump. 
Yes indeed. It is extremely hard to be the first to break a barrier. My point in writing these words is to help us think about our reactions, to look into our hearts and consider the harshness with which we may be judging Hillary Clinton because she is a woman and is navigating uncharted territory. Of course, it's ok to critique her candidacy but let's ensure that the focal points are being held to the same standard that white men have been judged by forever rather than an impossible standard that no one could meet.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Honesty: What Does It Mean?

I have so much I want to say about American politics and have struggled to figure out how to get it all out there. I have decided that I need to do it piecemeal, taking one small focus at a time because otherwise my head will explode. That, and I don't want a blogpost that takes 3 days to read.
What is obvious is that I am not for Trump and I do support Hillary Clinton as a good candidate, one who is capable and who I believe will be a decent president, rather than the lesser of two evils that many are popping off about. Of course, there are many issues associated with her that are unsavory for sure. I'm not thrilled that her record is tainted, that she is not overly likable, that she twists and turns when confronted with her own ability to be perfectly honest, but for the most part, I don't really see her as being all that different than other politicians. What really bugs me however about this truth conversation is that in Obama, from my view, we've had a president with a great deal of integrity. We've had a president who loves his family, practices a quiet Christian faith, is articulate, funny, and compassionate. He has not been caught up in a web of lies and untruths but instead has demonstrated all of the moral characteristics that most opponents of Hillary find lacking. And yet...many who decry Hillary's lack of honesty still hate Obama.
Additionally, Hillary's opponent is hardly a bastion of moral example. He is a liar of epic proportion and a narcissist to boot. He speaks in pithy soundbites that serve to fire up an audience but are riddled with untruths. His whole campaign, Make America Great Again, indicates that he actually thinks America is awful right now and yet, is that really the truth? I am not going to examine how many untruths were stated in Trump's acceptance speech as these facts are all over the internet. (click on internet for site reference.) My simple point is that in him, you are not getting candidate with integrity and honesty at his core.
Also, as regards George W. Bush...he invaded Iraq on the false premise that there were WMDs present, an assumption that was never revealed to have merit. Some thinK he should be the one locked up, along with Cheney and Rumsfeld for war crimes they've committed.
The point is this...if you don't like Hillary, that's your business. But stop saying you refuse to vote for her because she is so dishonest. Dishonesty in politics is no surprise, unfortunately. I don't like it but as mentioned, even with a president like Obama, who has to be rated one of the most truthful presidents in history, many still don't like him so in my mind, it just proves that honesty isn't that high of a virtue. The reason we like or dislike a candidate come to down to other things entirely.
So please, before you decide that you won't vote for Hillary because she's so dishonest, take a good hard look at what you will vote for and I'm quite sure honesty will not be present in any of the choices.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Tanner Will Be Toothless

So...the verdict on Tanner's health is in...lose the teeth or lose him. For the most part, it's an easy choice. We are not ready to part with this beautiful animal yet! We received an unexpected tax return from Sweden for 2015 and what else would we want to spend our money on more than Tanner?! The hot tub can wait. It's too hot for a hot tub right now anyway. And I've decided to try to get on $100,000 Pyramid again so what the heck. We're gonna let the vet pull 'em all.
All kidding aside however, this wonderful dental specialist could not have been a better person for us to encounter. She was thoughtful and thorough. She spent about 1.5 hours with us, explaining what was going on in Tanner's mouth and what our options were. We both loved the way she handled him and she was very optimistic about the outcome. She told us that Tanner is one tough pup so that made us feel great.
My favorite photo of us when he was a pup
So, without going into too much detail, his jaw bone structure has actually started to break down from the adverse reaction to the bacteria in his mouth. Basically, Tanner's immune system has been overachieving and instead of reacting in a normal way, it has gone berserk creating all kinds of problems. We could see that this happened with his eye, and then his skin, and now his mouth. Tanner's enthusiasm for everything finally backfired on him. He needs his system to calm down! Unfortunately, the bacteria generated by his teeth is causing all of the soft tissue that touches it to ulcerate. The only way to truly prevent this is to keep the teeth immaculately clean. Easy for an adult. Impossible for a dog. So if we do nothing but manage the symptoms, we are in for a lot of headaches, continuous dental treatments and lots of drugs for Tanner. He would also be in pain a lot.So this is not a viable option. After carefully explaining to us that domestic dogs really have no need for teeth, we decided that taking them all out and allowing the gums to heal, while fully getting rid of the infections in his cheeks is clearly the most humane treatment. Dogs can be returned to a very high quality of life once these infections are gone. He will begin to feel so much better once the sources of his infections are gone. 
Every vet we've seen is impressed by how healthy and sturdy this dog is. They all say that they believe he has a lot more life in him if we can get him back to full health. Being off the steroids that we were using for his eye has been an excellent protocol. His eye looks better than ever and the skin is mostly cleared up too. The fur is growing back where they shaved him and he actually looks mostly normal. He's lost quite a bit of weight and some muscle mass. He only weighs 78lbs (35 kilos) now but the vet said as he grows older the less weight is better. His face is still adorable and he's still such great company. That face...ever since he was a puppy, has just melted my heart! The vet was totally impressed with how he bounced back from the surgery last week. She couldn't believe how well he was doing and that he could actually eat hard doggy cookie treats. They are from Trader Joe's however so it's not that surprising!
For now, he still isn't drinking water but getting fluids through his food which consists of rice, boiled chicken, bullion, and baby food. He loves the baby food, which apparently is mostly water. He won't touch dog food, even the high quality canned stuff, so for now I'm cooking for him. But the vet has high hopes to get him returned to a dry kibble diet once fully healed.He is still motivated by a good treat and loves this doggy ice cream we've found for him here!
It's always hard to know what to do with an aging pet but in this case, it does seem rather localized. All of his years swimming in Sweden have left his joints in very good shape and we just love him to bits.
So the surgery is set for July 28. The first 3-4 days will be kind of rough but the vet is confident that he will show great improvement quickly after that.
Thank you for all of your concern. We really do love this guy so much. He's been through a lot with us...and we'd like to have a few more memories with him on this side of the pond.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Burying my Father-in-Law

The main purpose of our trip to MN was to be present for the interment of Doug's dad's ashes in the cemetery in Dawson, MN where Paul grew up. This is a special place because 5 generations of Fondells are buried here. Doug's great great grandparents, his great grandparents, his grandparents, his father and his sister have all been laid to rest here.
Doug's great-great-great Grandfather, the original immigrant.
The stone is written in Swedish
Doug's great-great-grandmother
Doug's great-grandfather. Immigrated as a young boy.
Edward is also Doug's middle name
Doug's great-grandmother
Doug's grandparents
Doug's dear oldest sister
What the new stone will look like once completed
It's kind of rare in this day and age to have such hallowed ground where one family's presence is so significant.
I haven't spent much time in Dawson, but when I have been there, I feel the depth of connection that Doug's family shares with this special place. Fortunately, one of Doug's cousins bought his grandparents' house so family still finds a dwelling place on the farm even though the farmland itself has been sold to an active farmer. The granary has been recently painted. The house is much like it was as Doug was growing up. The church moved to a different place in town a few years ago, but I just loved the juxtaposition of the corn field next to the church bell. Classic country church. Dawson Covenant is a thriving church. A great example of how a small town church can really make an imprint on a community.
The burial was beautiful and unpretentious, just like Paul. In the moments of shared reflection the main themes about Paul focused on his gentle spirit, lack of guile, compassionate and generous heart, and desire to see others happy and contented. Paul was a good, good man. I was happy to be embraced by him as his daughter-in-law. I spoke of the vice like bear hugs that I always knew Paul would have for us. While his presence is missed, his failing health had created much hardship. We could all rejoice in a life well lived now without earthly pain.
Doug's remaining immediate family
Doug's mom is doing really well. She has adjusted well to being on her own and taken on new tasks with energy and interest. Of course, after 65 years of marital companionship, it's not always so easy to face each day alone, but her zest for life is inspiring. Her home is cleaner and more well organized than most and the garage is so clean now, you could have meals out there! She delights in this!
The service itself, led by Doug and his brother Greg, was a sweet reflection of a family whose life has been rooted in faith. Two hymns, some prayers and the burial rite rounded out the short service. We all had a chance to throw some dirt on the beautiful urn that my brother-in-law had created.
Surrounded by the stones of his beloved family, Paul's remains are now resting where he spent his childhood in a place he loved so much.
I'm really thankful that we were able to share in this special time. It reminds me of the history that all of our lives include and to see Doug's family history represented in such obvious ways through these gravestones is very moving.
Peace to the memory of Paul Fondell.
Siblings and spouses and mom
He was indeed a good, good man.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Hanging with the Bard

We spent a magical overnight in Stratford-Upon-Avon on the last night of our anniversary weekend back in May. Some close friends, whose anniversary happens to be the day after ours, decided to take a train up and join us in Stratford and then wind our way home together on Saturday in our rental car. The weather continued to be on our side and the beauty of Shakespeare's birthplace shown through.
Evidence of the Bard's presence is everywhere. The Royal Shakespeare Company performs his plays in the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and adjacent Swan Theatre on the banks of the River Avon. Unfortunately, there wasn't time to see a play. The complex looked impressive.
The river Avon is lovely and we enjoyed an evening cruise through the area. The town itself is a typical holiday town with cute shops, great pubs, adorable walking streets and a general atmosphere of merriment! Outside of Shakespeare's birthplace there are several opportunities to mimic the bard himself.
At the center of town sits a beautiful statue of Shakespeare surrounded by some of his most memorable characters. It is really a nice presentation of these literary characters. 
The boys found many places to sit and chat whilst the girls checked out the sights. We had a blast with these amazing friends who we will really miss being with on a regular basis. They have moved back to the US as well, to North Carolina, so hopefully we'll be able to cross paths now and again. 
Once back in London, I took one of my final afternoons to visit the Globe theater in London. Located near the original site of Shakespeare's playhouse on the Thames, rebuilt to reflect the style of the times, the tour was really great. I tried to get a groundling ticket, £5 tickets that allow you to stand in the pit for the duration of a Shakespeare play, but the popularity of A Midsummer's Night Dream meant that all tickets were sold out. Even so, it was great to see the theater and soak in the atmosphere. Our guide was hilarious, adding the appropriate amount of humor to historical facts of interest. 
Many phrases that dot our common vernacular have their origins in Shakespeare's plays as this display indicated. It really is amazing to ponder his prolific ability to write. I do enjoy Shakespeare quite a bit and of course, having studied him a bit certainly helps to broaden my understanding of his plays. A clear highlight of our year in London was getting to see Hamlet performed with Benedict Cumberbatch playing the lead. I am very glad that my final weeks in London included digging into Shakespeare a bit more.