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Recovery Night

Judy Waiting For Her Trip to the Operating Room

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

It has been a hellaciously long and tiring day, following a long day of preparation.

On the positive side Judy’s knee replacement surgery was very successful and recovery wise she is well ahead of where she was weeks after the first surgery. The hospital physical therapist was really impressed.

This is mostly a testimony of how hard she worked in physical therapy after the home healthcare physical therapist pushed her so hard that she tore one of her quadriceps, setting back her recovery by over a month. Of course back then she walked into the hospital on crutches, she couldn’t walk without them. It has been months since she used them last and now is using the stair rider only when she has to carry heavy loads upstairs.

My Regal Pierre Puppy

Now I am home sipping a glass of wine and hanging out with our puppies. In the morning I’ll go back over the floors and master bath so that when she comes home it is to as sterile environment as I can make it. The puppies won’t be happy because for the next week or so I will be living with them downstairs at night to make sure she doesn’t get any infections. Since the puppies love to cuddle us at night they will not be happy that they only get daddy, especially Minnie, who is Judy’s shadow. Pierre and Izzy would just as soon hang with me but when we go to bed Izzy likes to sleep on the pillow behind Judy’s head. Pierre, the cool puppy just likes his space on the cedar chest at the foot of our bed. Even so, I’ll be on the couch and they will be positioned around me like last night. During the day we’ll put a flat sheet on top of our duvets so they can hang out with us under close supervision.

Minnie making a Bed on a Quilt Judy had folded and put on Our Linen Shelves

As for the rest of the day I was tired. After Judy left the preparation stage and went to the OR I went and got breakfast with lots and lots of coffee prior to going to the memorial service for our friend Mitch Vickers, before dashing back to the hospital to wait for her to go to her room. In that time I did a bit more work on the pamphlet that I am preparing to go along with my sermon at Norfolk’s Temple Israel on the last Sabbath of Passover and the beginning of Holocaust memorial week.

One of Izzy’s nicknames is Miss Kiss

So anyway, I am pooped. I’ll probably watch a movie and some episodes of The West Wing of Cheers before I let the pups out one more time and lay my head down on the couch. If you wonder why I do this, it is because Minnie will keep me awake barking all night if she is cut off from us. To help her, at the suggestion of Judy I have put one of Judy’s nightgowns for Minnie to snuggle on.

Thank you for your kind words, thoughts and prayers. We really do appreciate them.

So until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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A Day of Preparation

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Today has been as busy and tiring day as I have tried to get ready for Judy’s Second knee replacement surgery early. The effort was hindered and pushed back when my right knee gave out I fell down my porch last Thursday. It led to Judy doing a lot more of the work than she was expecting. Today I came home after work and did all I could before I pooped out to continue to get the house ready for when Judy returns from the hospital, most likely Sunday.

We have to be at the hospital at 6:30 AM and while she is probably either finishing surgery or in recovery I will be attending the funeral of our friend Mitch Vickers who died in his sleep last week. Then it will be back to the hospital for much of the rest of the day before I head home, let to puppies out and get back to work. I anticipate that I will complete what I can on Saturday with the expectation that she will be home Sunday. My knees hurt, my hip hurts, and my ankles hurt, but I got some work done. Eventually, I did some work on some materials I am writing for a sermon I will be delivering on the last day of Passover at a local synagogue where a friend is the Rabbi. The title is Lest We Forget: Walk, Remember and Bear Witness: Bearing Witness to the Holocaust when All who lived it Have Passed Away.

It will become my next book draft and deal with how history, memory, and walking those sacred places where the heinous crimes of the Nazis which beggar the imagination, the Holocaust was executed by Hitler’s SS, the army, the police, civilian Party and government offices, aided by the corporations that profited from the war and use of slave labor.

Eventually you will see portions of it here, although much has already been written due to my visits to those hallowed sites, and illustrated with my own photos and pictures from the era.

Pray for Judy, Mitch’s wife Barbara, and wish me well. By the way the puppies won’t be happy, because for a while they will be banned from sleeping with us. But such is life. By the way, Pierre says hello.

Until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Dog Days: Pierre has Emergency Stomach Surgery

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I didn’t post anything last night because we had a bit of a crisis with our little Papillon boy, Pierre.

He had an upset stomach and threw up earlier in the week but still acted pretty normal so we weren’t concerned. He continued and also had diarrhea and started being a bit lethargic so Judy took him to the vet. Then there wasn’t too much cause for alarm, although some liver enzymes were elevated. There were a number of possible causes for the elevated levels, but none were obvious, so he was sent home with medication scheduled for a follow up visit the next day.

He didn’t improve and was in obvious pain so x-rays were taken and they revealed that he had a lot of gas in his stomach. So that night we watched him closely and took him back in Friday morning. This time his discomfort was more pronounced, more x-rays were done and he was taken in for emergency exploratory surgery in case he had ingested any foreign objects or toxins. None were found, but he had a very angry ulcer in his stomach. The veterinarians took care of the bleeding, cleaned out his stomach, took a biopsy of the ulcer, and sent him home with us and a lot of medications.

When we discussed the situation with the vet, who has taken care of our dogs since we moved here in 2003 we came up with the probable cause of what happened. We think that he ingested or inhaled portions of a very large, dried out, purple mushroom that was in a pile of branches that were knocked off our tree in our backyard. It would account for the high liver enzymes and the ulcer which came on so quickly. We went home with the vet’s wife’s cell number in case we had any emergencies during the night.

The good news is that he did well and is recovering very well. We are having to keep him from jumping on the furniture and wanting to do his own thing. At the same time we have had to deal with a less than five pound dog who is not happy about having medications pushed on him. That being said it is funny to have such a little boy growl every time he knows he is getting medication.

and who still didn’t want eat this morning after we took him back to the vet to get his IV catheter out and a post surgery check. That being said, he has been more cooperative with his medications, especially since we put the pills in cream cheese, and he loves cheese. He is also eating now that we mixed cheese his recovery food and convinced him that it was safe by having Izzy eat a bit of it in front of him. If Izzy eats it, it must be good.

A funny thing happened when we brought him home this morning. We set up a pen for him with a Ed, his food and water, and a pee pad. He wasn’t happy at all with the restrictions. He sulked by the gate of the pen looking like a prisoner on strike, so we decided to keep him on our laps and only plan on putting him in the pen when we can’t watch him or both have to be out of the house.

I didn’t sleep well last night because I was hyper vigilant and worried about him. But today he he has spent most of the day on my or Judy’s lap. This afternoon I fell asleep on the recliner with him sleeping on me. Izzy occasionally checks on him, nuzzling him and kissing him. She is very sensitive and I think that she isn’t happy that her play buddy and security force partner is not feeling well.

So anyway, he seems to be doing well, so send your positive thoughts and prayers his way.

Until tomorrow,

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Friends, Papillons, World Cup, and the Padre’s Pizza

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

It has been a nice day with our friends in the DC area and our Papillon dogs. It was very relaxing, I got to sleep late, enjoy a nice home cooked breakfast with our friends. After that I retreated to the basement where I watched two World Cup games, Mexico vs. South Korea, and Germany vs. Sweden with Pierre and Izzy beside me on the couch.

Since I have been a fan of the German Mannschaft since mid-1980s when I first took an interest in the soccer with Bayern Munich and the National Team I have become a more and more serious follower of international soccer. I have to say that I really get into well played games especially when my teams are playing and when games are close and my team is on the verge of either advancing to another round or being eliminated things can become very tense, not that the world will end or anything like that, but sometimes it feels like it.

It was like that today when Germany, the reigning champions had to come back to avoid being eliminated in the group stage for the first time since before WWII. In fact they have reached the semifinals the past four World Cups. Tony Kroos the German National who plays for Real Madrid scores the winning goal in the 95th minute, which not only kept Germany alive but set them up well to advance if they defeat South Korea and Mexico with wins or ties against Sweden. Needless to say I will be cheering for Mexico as hard as will be Germany on Wednesday morning.

After the game I went back upstairs, relaxed and socialized and then made The Padre’s Pizza.

What most people don’t know about me is that I worked some of my way through college and seminary working in pizza parlors. While I was on my first active duty tour in the Army I began to experiment with my own pizza dough and sauce recipes and over the years I have become quite well known to my close friends for it. It’s a lot of work because I take the time to craft each pizza, and despite the work I find it very relaxing and good for stress relief. I should do it more often at home.

I love doing it. I love making the dough to perfection, seeing it rise, and turning it into a pizza dough. I love cutting the vegetables so that they not only look good but cook perfectly. I love crafting the sauce with my own blend of spices. Then I love building the pizza so that when it cooks that it looks as spectacular as it tastes. There really is an art to it you don’t see every day.

Tonight I made large two 16″ New York style pizzas topped with mozzarella, provolone, Romano, and Parmesan cheeses, pepperoni, Italian sausage, fresh mushrooms, Roma tomatoes, and garlic, peperocini peppers, and Kalamata olives. I also whipped up a pizza crust which became garlic bread.

Sometimes people ask me why I don’t try to start a pizza parlor, but truthfully I do is truly artisan and trying to mass produce it would take away the fun and turn a stress relief activity into a chore. Likewise I will not answer the question of “when does a pizza become a pizza?” (An obscure Seinfeld reference.)

Now like last night everyone has gone to bed but me and Piere. I’m finishing this up so it will Post after midnight and I will go back to reading the book Seduced By Hitler: the Choices of a Nation and the Ethics of Survival. It was published in 2000 and while I have had it in my library for at least 10 years I never read it until this week. I’m about 40% through it and I will give a synopsis when done.

So anyway, until tomorrow.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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Lazy Saturdays and Puppy Love

                  Left to right: Minnie, Izzy, and Pierre giving me my Saturday morning wake up call 

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

I love Saturday mornings. They are the time that I take the time to relax and do nothing except sleep late, enjoy my Minnie, Izzy, and Pierre, not to mention Molly who we lost in 2015. Since I returned from Iraq our dogs have been a source of comfort and joy, they do more for me than almost anything in the world. There is nothing better for dealing with PTSD than puppy love. This morning each of them took individual and group time with me as I lay in bed, and when I got up to drink my coffee and read all of my online news subscriptions at least one was snuggled next to me. I also love watching them play, which is yet another source of joy. 


Saturday’s are also the time when Judy and I catch up on little things. I like to browse the grocery store, and take care of simple chores, nothing big because that would entail real work. When I finish my cup of coffee and get a shower I’ll do the grocery store and run a few other errands before coming home.  Today Judy is making earrings for a silent auction at the Gordon Biersch Christmas in July tapping which will be used to offset medical costs for the mother of one of our servers. She is waiting for a double lung transplant. One thing I do like about Biersch, it is a family affair. For us it is our version of Cheers – place where everybody knows our name. When Judy went through her cancer surgery two years ago it was the people from Biersch, managers, chefs, servers, bartenders, and friends who rallied to help. Church friends simply said they pray, but none bothered to even visit during her hospitalization or prolonged recovery. 


So now it is time to get ready to run those errands and hit the grocery store. Izzy will have to have her snuggle time interrupted, and she is not happy about it, but such is life.

Until tomorrow,

Peace

Padre Steve+ 

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Papillion Therapy


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Dean Koontz wrote: “Petting, scratching, and cuddling a dog could be as soothing to the mind and heart as a deep meditation and almost as good for the soul as prayer.”

I do believe that Mr. Koonz is correct. We don’t have kids, not that we didn’t try, but we have always had dogs. Our first two dogs were Dachshunds, Frieda, a Wire Hair that we got in Germany, and Greta a smooth hair that we got in Texas. They were both great dogs and we still have a soft spot for Wiener Dogs. 


But today we are blessed to have the three best dogs in the world, Minnie Scule, Izzy Bella, and Pierre. They are all Papillons, a small breed of Spaniels from France. The breed is ranked in the top ten most intelligent breeds and they are in my view scary smart. But they are also incredibly sweet, sensitive, playful, decidedly quirky and sometimes obnoxious, in a good way.


I love spending Saturday and Sunday morning with Judy and our babies. Sometimes we sleep late and then after they have gone out to do their business just lay in bed with them, and let them play or cuddle. It is one of the most therapeutic things in the world for both of us since we both suffer from PTSD and have struggled with depression. They are so therapeutic that I often stay off the internet and social media just to enjoy them. 


Our Papillon experience began with Molly, a half-Papillon and half-Dachshund mix that we got as a rescue in September of 2001. We lost her at age 14 in May of 2015, but she was an amazing dog. Exceptionally sensitive and sweet, Judy nicknamed her “Nurse Molly” because if we were physically sick or depressed she would be there doing whatever she could to comfort us. In 2011 Molly decided that she wanted to live with me when I was stationed in North Carolina as our home in Virginia with Judy couldn’t compete with chasing deer off my lawn or running on the beach. So a few months later we got Minnie.



Now Minnie was only two and a half pounds when we got her and she became Judy’s baby. Until she got too big she would sit on Judy’s shoulder like a Parrot. Minnie is funny. She’s very smart, and sweet, but very quirky. She talks like Scooby Doo and has something to say about everything. She’s now five years old, when I walk her in the neighborhood she likes to chase the ducks, geese, and rabbits occasionally diving into the water after a duck. She’s also my drinking buddy. She loves to steal my beer and is an incorrigible thief, but we love her. She can be aloof at times and acts like she’s the Queen of the manor. Minnie grew up a bit. We thought she would be about 7-8 pounds but she topped out at 12 pounds, sometimes a bit more. She has the light bone structure of a classic Papillon and is a Black and White with the black ticking that looks like freckles and a crooked blaze that makes her almost look like a dwarf Australian Shepherd.


A couple of months before we lost Molly we got Izzy. Izzy is fascinating. She like Molly is our nurse and once when we had a friend over and he was mourning the loss of his parents, she glued herself to him trying to make him feel better. In fact it is my plan to get her certified as a therapy dog. We got Izzy at the same age we got Minnie but she was already four pounds and built like a tank. The first time our vet met her he picked her up during the examination and said “My, she’s sturdy!” Sturdy is not a word commonly associated with the breed, but Izzy is just that. Slightly smaller in height and length than Minnie she outweighs Minnie by a pound or a pound and a half. She’s built like a tank, not an ounce of fat on her, just solid muscle and bone. When she jumps on you, especially if you’re not expecting it can take the wind out of you, it’s like being blindsided by a linebacker. Izzy is a very distinctive looking Tricolor who is also incredible agile and loves to dance doing pirouettes when she wants attention.



Izzy and Minnie have been together now a bit over two years and in February we ended up getting our little boy Pierre unexpectedly. Some friends found that his owner could not afford surgery for a luxating patella. They helped arrange for us to get him and he is a joy. He’s a year old and at 4.5 pounds is about as big as he is going to get. He’s incredibly sweet, has a bit of a grumpy side when he doesn’t want to do something, and like Minnie he is talkative, and like Izzy he is incredibly playful. Despite their size difference he and Izzy play constantly and when they wrestle they grapple like MMA fighters with Pierre fighting a bit out of his weight category, but he gives as good as he gets. Sometimes when we go to bed it is time for them to launch their evening Pappy War.


Our life is better for having our puppies, they are amazing therapy. So I guess when I get home from work I’ll get greeted by the three pups and when we get back from our time out with friends we’ll have our evening play and snuggle time with Minnie, Izzy, and Pierre.

Life is good. Have a great day,

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Deaths, Funerals, Baseball, Tornadoes, and an Izzy Emergency


Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

Baseball great Leo Durocher once said, “You don’t save a pitcher for tomorrow. Tomorrow it might rain.” Those are words that can apply to almost anything in life as I was reminded of last week. Friday and Saturday were pretty hectic in my World and I have been moving fast and flying low.

My original plan, before my friend and coworker Mike passed away, was to continue moving things from my current office to my office at the base that I transfer to this month, and then meet a friend for the exhibition game between the Baltimore Orioles and the Norfolk Tides Friday afternoon. 


That of course changed. Friday morning began with a visit to the wife and son of Mike as the area was being inundated with torrential rain. As I said the other day I felt like I knew them just from what Mike had shared with me at work. To have to meet them for the first time in this situation was sobering. They are such nice people, as they told me of his last minutes alive I was reminded of what a good man he was and how much I will indeed miss him. Later in the day the funeral home called me and said that Mike’s widow asked if I would conduct his funeral. I am honored to be asked. 

I drove back to work after the visit as the rain continued without let up. When I got what I could do there done I drove back through the rain to meet my friend at the light rail station in order to go to the ballpark. When I got there the rain was still pouring down and I was really wondering if the game would be rained out. As I sat in my car waiting I looked at the local weather radar and saw that the worst was then passing through and that there was a break in the system. 

By the time we got to Harbor Park the weather was clearing, bit when I looked at the field there was standing water in the outfield and the warning track and foul corners looked like lakes. The ground crew was already working to dewater the field and remarkably they had the field in good shape and the game began just a few minutes after the scheduled first pitch. It turned out to be gorgeous baseball weath, as if the God of Baseball was smiling on us, and the game was good. We left it a bit early in the bottom of the 6th inning thinking that it was a 7 inning exhibition and as we left the ballpark the clouds were building up and the local EMS and news were broadcasting that the area was under tornado watch. 

Judy was planning to have a girl’s night out with a friend so I drove over Gordon Biersch and took my place at the bar. Shortly after I got there the National Weather Serice issued a tornado warning for Suffolk, which then was extended to Chesapeake and Virginia Beach. As I sat at the bar with my fellow Northern California friend Rick, the storm hit, the rain was crazy and mixed with a lot of hail. Judy ended up canceling her night out and it was good she did. The area she was going to had an EF-2 tornado touch down. When it was safe I went home, my personal weather station recorded almost 5″ of rain for the day. 

Things calmed down overnight and on Saturday morning we took our youngest Papillon, Pierre to get his bandages off his leg from his knee surgery as well as getting Izzy her first couple of her annual vaccinations. When we got home I went out and did our grocery shopping and looked for a present for a another friend’s birthday. By the time I got home and we had dinner I was just hoping to relax a bit before working on my taxes. About 9:00 PM Izzy came up to me snorting and coughing. I looked at her and saw that her face was swollen twice its normal size. I immediately scooped her up and was out the door on the way the the emergency veterinary hospital in under a minute; nothing like having worked in emergency rooms a good part of your career to understand that such hints are abnormal and potentially life threatening to motivate you to move fast. They took her back and it turned out to be an allergic reaction to her leptospirosis vaccine. She was given an injection of Benadryl and a steroid and came through everything fine, but it was scary. Izzy has been my therapy puppy since we got her. We have nicknamed her “Nurse Izzy” because of how sensitive she is to us and other people who are sick or depressed. She is a gem and I cannot imagine not having Nurse Izzy with me. For those who don’t have dogs this may sound strange, but she has been a lifesaver for us. 

It was almost 11:00 PM by the time I got home with Izzy. Upon arriving she ran into the house and started playing with Minnie and Pierre and doing what we and other Papillon parents call the “zoomies.” 

Sunday was a day for chilling out, breakfast with Judy and friends followed by some time with my friend who was having the birthday. This week will be busy, Mike’s funeral, my taxes, and a number of other things that got pushed back amid all the craziness last week. Even so, all things considered things could be worse, it could be raining. 

Have a great start to your week. Love those around you and hug a furry friend if you have one. 

Peace

Padre Steve+

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