A Really ‘Good’ Good Friday!

Friday, March 30 2018 will definitely be a date I remember and will do so with both joy and not just a modicum of pride.  I had scheduled an A1c test at the clinic; it was about time as I’ve been getting them every three months since my initial diagnosis of late onset Type 2 diabetes back on May 24, 2017.  At that time I tested a ‘14’ for my A1c and a real time blood glucose test showed 375 mg/dL.  To say I was devastated would be the mother of all understatements!  However, after a couple of days of a ‘pity party’ followed by a few days of denial I finally faced this fact, started researching the condition and began making preparations to really change my lifestyle.  It began an honest odyssey during which I learned so much while experiencing the frustrations, joys and confusion almost any diabetic knows only too well.  But the fear of insulin dependence drove my efforts; in hindsight it was amazing what fear can do when properly channeled!

By the next A1c in late August I saw a 6.0 and was ecstatic; across the next seven months I saw a 5.8 and, most recently, a 5.7.  I was pleased no end with these results as was my wonderful doctor (Dr. Joan).  As an aside I’ve always been distrustful of physicians in general and especially those espousing ‘western medicine’.  I believed far too many were in the practice only for the money and were willing pawns of ‘Big Pharma’.  I also believed most followed the ‘disease de jour’ concept and, if allowed to run enough tests, would always find a malady that had to be addressed.  Dr. Joan is none of these!  She is a warm, knowledgeable, caring and understanding physician who honestly listens to what I share with her.  I’ve never spent less time than 15 minutes in conversation with her at any of my appointments!  This is so refreshing after experiencing the ‘assembly line’ practice of so many doctors.

I expected Friday’s appointment to just be a blood draw and A1c test but it had been maybe four months since I’d seen a provider and I was encouraged to schedule such an appointment.  As luck would have it Dr. Joan had an opening just a half hour after my appointment for the A1c so I signed up.  During the exam I was weighed, had my feet examined, had my BP/pulse measured and answered a number of health questions.  When I saw Dr. Joan she was very pleased with the results.  She told me I had ‘healed myself’ regarding the late onset Type 2 diabetes and could now stop my daily blood glucose testing and just monitor as I saw fit.  I can also decrease my A1c testing to just twice a year.  The icing on this cake is the fact I have now halved my daily dose of Metformin HCl and, if my next A1c is 6 or lower, I can cease taking the medication all together! My BP measured 122/82 mm Hg which was very good given I had been seeing 160/115 mm Hg readings a year earlier when I was first diagnosed with severe hypertension.  While the medications I take helped the fact I exercise daily in the form of counting my steps and I’d worked hard to lose weight were probably the main drivers behind this decrease in my BP.  I’d shown a loss of another ten pounds across that four month period which meant by the clinic scales I had dropped almost sixty pound in the preceding year.  As Dr. Joan told me most patients my age only lose such large amounts of weight via bariatric surgery, so shedding so many pounds was remarkable in and of itself.

She was very interested in just what I was doing to have turned around my health situation so dramatically in a year’s time.  She knew about my 12,000+ daily steps but I filled her in regarding my low carb lifestyle – I eat between 95 grams and 60 grams of carbs a day and almost all are my ‘good’ carbs – and we talked about my learnings.  I shared I’d discovered I could indulge myself once a week with some ice cream with chocolate sauce without negatively impacting my blood glucose or my slow but steady weight loss.  I reiterated my ‘bad’ carbs were anything containing either starch or fructose.  The latter means my selection of fresh fruit is very limited but I do love the strawberries, blueberries and raspberries I can consume.  Sadly, any breads, rolls, crackers, potatoes, corn and similar are just plain ‘off the menu’.  But I’ve found a wonderful pasta substitute in ‘Miracle Noodles’.  Although a bit pricey they are an amazingly delicious pasta substitute and the firm also markets a variety of rice using the same component (shirataki noodles) with the same almost no calorie or carb content.

We also briefly touched on my depression which is now just a distasteful memory.  I’m still taking 50 mg of Sertraline (Zoloft) daily and will probably continue to do so for the foreseeable future.  Along with some counseling this combination appears to have vanquished the depression although mine has a history of coming and going in cycles.  Because of this I’m not about to proclaim I’m ‘cured’.  However, if taking the daily Sertraline prevents a re-occurrence, or even mitigates the intensity and duration if it does reappear, then it is well worth the cost.

Given all the aforementioned it isn’t difficult to see why I felt this past Good Friday was really a ‘GREAT’ Friday.  But more importantly, I discovered that I can take control of my physical situation and affect sweeping changes for the better.  I learned that diabetes is different for almost everyone and hence the only way to manage the condition is by putting in the required effort up front to do the research and then to meticulously monitor one’s dietary intake across months while doing daily blood glucose tests.  Sure, it is a long and often frustrating process but in doing so one will learn so much more about their body.  But perhaps most importantly I discovered I could ‘cure’ myself of a condition which affects millions of people and causes a myriad of negative side effects like increased chance of heart attacks, vision problems, foot issues and weight problems.  I had no idea I would get to this point; back in July or August of 2017 I figured I’d be testing my blood glucose level almost daily for the remainder of my life and always be concerned about my next A1c.

So if there’s anything I’d like a reader to take away from this piece it is simply this; “You are never too old to affect sweeping lifestyle changes!”  It is possible to incorporate such changes for the better and actually make them a part of one’s life.  Sure, I will never stop regulating my carb intake and I have to steer clear of those pesky starches and fructose containing foods but if one can view making such a commitment as a pledge to a healthier lifestyle it eventually becomes acceptable.  Of late I’ve told a few folks that getting that late onset Type 2 diabetes diagnosis in May of 2017 was probably one of the best things that ever happened to me; most cannot understand how I can make such an assertion.  It is simple to me; doing so forced me to seriously examine my lifestyle, face up to my situation and dedicate myself to making sweeping lifestyle changes which have allowed me to lose weight, shape up, eat healthier and feel so much better.  So who says ya can’t ‘teach and old dog new tricks?’…   

The Moose of March

The end of the winter of 2017-2018 has been full of surprises in terms of snowfall and as the spring begins to take hold yet another surprise has bloomed.  After seeing few moose during the fall and winter across the past two weeks this area is suddenly awash in the magnificent mammals!  Never have I seen so many moose in such a short period of time and their sudden appearance has made for some ‘interesting’ times.

One of the things I love about Alaska, in general, and this area in particular is the abundance of large mammals.  By far and away moose are the most common large mammals although we do see the infrequent grizzly, black bear, fox and wolverine.  Moose are common enough that I have developed some habits related to their presence such as ‘jiggling’ the front door knob before opening the door when it is dark outside to give forewarning to the large critters that we are coming out.  Even so, I’ve spooked a few moose whom were close to the front porch and decided to freeze rather than move off.  The kidz are fascinated by the moose and have largely learned to steer clear of these huge ungulates but will watch them intently.  Anana, my Alaskan malamute companion, has even tried very hard to encourage some moose to play.  Bless her heart, at times she’s given almost every canine body language signal for play but remains befuddled when the moose do not respond.  Sadly, she just doesn’t ‘cog’ to the fact moose have different body language…

Because of their presence I’ve been able to collect a lot of images of these superbly adapted mammals on the local roads and on my property.  I can only guess the reason for their sudden appearance is based upon the voluminous snow events of latter February into early March which had given this area a 60” (152.4 cm) snow pack.  With the ‘moose of March’ came a string of sunny days with high temps above freezing although overnight lows dropped into the low teens to single digits.  This dramatically decreased the snow pack and, in so doing, saturated the remaining snow.  With the cool overnight temps the snow will freeze and becoming difficult to walk through although not frozen solid enough to support the weight of a moose.  Because of the difficulty in navigating these conditions the moose, being the opportunists they are, have taken to the nicely plowed back roads to travel.  This, of course, makes them a lot more visible to we humans.

I’ve amassed a number of images from my recent encounters with these amazing animals; the following are but a few of said images:

Friendly Moose From Escape

I photographed the almost ‘friendly’ moose on East Birch Creek Road while returning from a post office run.

Maybe Anana Hasn't Learned Her Lesson

My Alaskan malamute companion (Anana) was a bit too close to this moose just outside my driveway; it let her know it was time to ‘back off!’

Driveway Moose 032318

I saw this moose from the SE bedroom on the second floor while doing my morning stepping. It napped in this spot for over three hours.

Driveway Moose WA 032318

Wide angle image of the same moose as seen from my second floor spare bedroom

EBD Moose CU

A close up of the moose on East Barge Drive almost at my driveway

Moose Traffic on East Birch

Almost a moose ‘traffic jam’ on East Birch Creek Road!

 

To TV or Not To TV..?

Living in semi-rural south central Alaska over the winters can get a bit tiresome especially when we see a lack of snow and cooler temps.  Those ‘on the grid’ often resort to television in one form or another to help pass the time although up here your choices are basically satellite transmissions or broadband based.  The mountainous terrain pretty much insures ‘over the air’ signals never reach this far north from the Anchorage bowl and the same is true regarding such broadcasts from Fairbanks.  Within a month of moving up here I tried to get DirecTV service but was told by one of the only sat TV installers covering this area – ‘Valley Satellite’ who apparently is no longer in business (no surprise!) – I wouldn’t be able to get the service because their birds (satellites) were too close to the horizon at these higher latitudes.  It made sense; with most of your customers in the lower 48 you would position your birds to best serve them.  I was then offered Dish Network and finally set up with a single dish picking up a bare minimum of standard definition (SD) sat broadcasts.  I futzed with this situation for more than a year and finally found a local service that installed two more dishes and gave me the full Dish package with high definition (HD) service on most channels.

I lived with this setup for another three plus years but was never happy with the lack of signal strength; almost any precipitation between here and roughly the Anchorage bowl would either degrade my HD service back to SD or block many channels all together.  This wasn’t unexpected as I had to shoot the HD bird at an angle of just 11.5° above the horizon.  Given I live within the boreal forest surrounded by trees between twenty and thirty five feet in height finding a location with line of sight to a point just 11.5° off the horizon was almost impossible.  If memory serves the ‘best’ angle for a Dish bird was 18° above the horizon which is still very low.  But I continued on with the service although seeing my bill increase almost every third month really irritated me especially given the lack of solid signal.  I’d been thinking about dropping the service entirely and trying broadband streaming – I hate that euphemism “cutting the cord” because the signal still uses cables to either get into your dwelling or to a Wi-Fi repeater/source – using a Roku and possibly some other provider options.  I already had a ‘Netflix’ subscription and was contemplating another service like ‘Sling TV’ or ‘Hulu Plus’.  When my bills increased by another $5/month to $119 (this was for Dish’s ‘Top 250’ package alone with a Joey and a Hopper) in early 2018 I decided I’d had enough.  While said package might offer 250 channels I watched maybe ten with any regularity and created my own list of perhaps 30 channels which I utilized.  So I cancelled my service on Friday, March 2nd.  Dish tried to get me to stay by offering me all kinds of savings – like a 40% discount on my current package good for a year – but I was resolute.  If they want to keep members why don’t they offer such discounts to ‘members in good standing’ before said members threaten to discontinue service?  Simple fact is money; they are fine with raping their subscriber base for as long as they can do so.  Even with such a discount at the end of a year the fees would return to their standard amount and given the intervening year’s duration they would probably be higher.

It was impressive how Dish can need days to get one’s new service up and running but can deactivate it when you discontinue service within five minutes!  So I began my journey away from television in general.  I had plans to get to know my Roku a lot better and add additional services but I found myself watching mainly ‘Netflix’ offerings and DVDs.  I assumed this would last for maybe a week and then I’d become dissatisfied with lack of channels and really dig into other options.  But, to my surprise, I remained perfectly content with just a few free Roku channels, my Netflix subscription and my DVDs!  I have become more familiar with the whole ‘Roku’ world and have started dabbling in the free channels a bit more but mainly I stay with just Netflix and my DVDs.  Now I grew up in the ‘TV generation’ beginning with just four broadcast channels (ABC, CBS, NBC and PBS) which then slowly expanded to include some ‘local’ UHF stations.  When I moved to Greenville, Illinois for a new job I found I had to try to pull signals from St. Louis which was seventy plus miles to the WSW; I could barely get a couple.  But right then – this was 1981 – cable TV was just being added in the neighborhood and I signed up.  I continued with cable until 1992 when I moved to an unincorporated western suburb of Chicago; the cable lines stopped within 100 feet of my place but there were no plans to extend them.  I could pick up local broadcast channels but after cable this was unacceptable.  So I signed up for the fledgling ‘RCA Sat TV’ which soon became ‘DirecTV’; from that point forward I always had sat TV.

My viewing habits varied greatly based upon where I lived and the job I was working but I’d guess I averaged maybe three to four hours a day while ‘gainfully employed’ with this increasing to maybe six to eight hours a day after retirement.  I had all but given up on ‘broadcast channels’ in favor of the more specialized channels on sat TV like ‘Science Channel’, The History Channel’, The Military Channel, Nat Geo, The Discovery Channel and similar.  Over time these channels changed names and content and I’d drift from one to another and sometimes to ‘new’ channels like ‘The Smithsonian Channel’.  Given all this I always figured I’d need a steady source of sat TV or, if unavailable, its cable counterpart.  So imagine my current astonishment when I discovered I really don’t miss Dish sat TV at all!!  I sure do not miss the $119/month outlay for the lousy reception and highly questionable channel line-up!  But now it has been a bit more than two weeks without the service and I’ve discovered something else totally unexpected…

My overall demeanor is much more relaxed and my perspective on life in general has become so much more upbeat and positive.  I began to notice this with a few days of discontinuing the service and these effects have continued to grow and develop across the last week.  I’m just so much more centered and able to see so much of the ‘good’ in my everyday life.  I can only attribute this to the lack of exposure to the endless drumbeat of negativity and ‘over the top’ cacophony spewing forth from the TV.  I had largely given up on TV for news as every channel eschewed true journalism for their own agendas; I have a cadre of on-line websites I employ to stay informed.  But I would leave the tube tuned to Fox Business Channel in the early morning while doing my initial steps and on and off during the day I might catch some Headline News or similar.  Given this I’ve come to understand it wasn’t just the ‘news’ that was degrading my attitude and perspective but all the nonsense that makes up the vast wasteland of broadcast services.  Sadly, even ‘good’ channels like ‘The Smithsonian Channel’ and similar still have annoying commercials which can be minimized by the mute button but not completely dismissed.

TV Head

A merciful death..?

Across the past week I’ve come to surmise my slowly increasing negativity regarding life in general was being driven by the drivel on the tube; I just never realized its impact and influence upon me until it was gone!  Given what I now understand I suspect I will not branch out much regarding my video sources and will continue to decrease the amount of time I spend in front of the tube on any given day.  However, I cannot help but be reminded of a song by “Frank Zappa & The Mothers of Invention” written in 1973 named “I Am the Slime”; it was part of their groundbreaking album “Over-Nite Sensation”.  I believe Mr. Zappa fully understood the negative influence of broadcast TV way back then when he penned these lyrics:

I am gross and perverted
I’m obsessed n deranged
I have existed for years
But very little had changed
I am the tool of the government
And industry too
For I am destined to rule
And regulate you

I may be vile and pernicious
But you can’t look away
I make you think I’m delicious
With the stuff that I say
I am the best you can get
Have you guessed me yet?
I am the slime oozin’ out
From your TV set

You will obey me while I lead you
And eat the garbage that I feed you
Until the day that we don’t need you
Don’t got for help…no one will heed you
Your mind is totally controlled
It has been stuffed into my mold
And you will do as you are told
Until the rights to you are sold

That’s right, folks..
Don’t touch that dial

Well, I am the slime from your video
Oozin’ along on your livin’ room floor

I am the slime from your video
Can’t stop the slime, people, lookit me go”

No TV Today

The very best channel selection!!

Contemplating Depression…And Beyond

Once again I’ve emerged from the dark miasma of depression and am finding all those things I enjoyed in the past are once again sources of joy and stimulation.  I’m no stranger to this situation having ‘been there, done that’ more times than I care to remember.  But this time is different because I finally sought medical assistance for the condition and am continuing to take 50 mg. of Sertraline (Zoloft) on a daily basis.  The med is helping as did the counseling but I’m left wondering if I would’ve once again found my free  of the desperate darkness of emptiness without such assistance?  If the past is any indication then the answer is an unqualified ‘Yes’.  But this latest bout was stronger than most and it showed no signs of dissipating after ravaging my emotional well-being for more than a month.  Sure, I remember times when I struggled for a year or more but that was also before I recognized the depression for what it was…a chronic condition that was robbing me of my joy, my balance and my caring.  And while I ultimately am just pleased it is no longer a factor in my day to day existence I still wonder…

Of course part of my concern is based upon the fear it will eventually once more sweep into my life and drag me down into the dark depths of despair.  However, if I continue taking the Sertraline this most likely will not occur.  However, I really am not a ‘pill person’ and hence I have real issues with taking meds especially if I feel they are having minimal to no immediate benefit so I remain a bit conflicted.  I’m working on becoming more sanguine regarding taking the daily dose of Sertraline – my doctor tells me it is about the minimum dose prescribed nowadays – and am viewing it like I do insurance.  It is an investment in maintaining my well-being should the worst occur.  In this sense I view the daily med as I do insurance in general – a ‘necessary evil’.  I guess if I didn’t already take daily doses of HCTZ, Amlodipine and Losartan Potassium for the hypertension and Metformin for the late onset Type 2 diabetes swallowing my daily tablet of Sertraline wouldn’t be such a big deal..?

So I’m heading towards a place whereby I just need to remember how bad this last bout of depression had become and how much the Sertraline appeared to help in dispelling the condition.  As I look back at this latest event I remain confounded by how this condition functions.  How does an apparent biochemical imbalance have the ability to literally wipe away the joy and enthusiasm one holds for life and replace it with a complete lack of motivation and an overpowering numbness which makes even the most beloved activities empty and without value?  In contemplating this question I am struck by the awareness that if depression is ‘just’ a biochemical imbalance with such power over our thoughts and perceptions what does that say regarding the basis for our reality?  Is our very existence nothing but a complex series of biochemical and bio-electrical reactions?  Are the emotions which are so ‘human’ such as love, compassion, fear and loathing predicated only upon a proper balance of molecules, electricity, neurons and synapses?

In a way this description of human beings seems almost derogatory but there’s no denying the direction our race’s ‘voyages of discovery’ are heading regarding the biological sciences.  However, if one looks beyond just the mechanical/chemical reactions there’s something I find truly fascinating.  If all life exists based upon these same fundamental interactions then is not all life related?  Some may find the concept of a human being’s life force being identical to that of a microorganism to be insulting but I do believe this feeling is valid.  In this sense, all life is inter-related and, hence, all life is precious.  Think on this concept!  On an energy level all life is related and most likely interconnected as well.  This ‘connectedness’ is probably on a quantum level but being part of the very small doesn’t diminish its importance.  What a profound concept!!

We human beings have seemed driven to place ourselves at the apex of the ‘web of life’ on this planet and, in many respects, this is an accurate measurement.  But we should never have allowed this concept to morph into a feeling of being superior to all other life!  If we do, indeed, share such basic commonalities with all other life on this planet perhaps we should look deep within ourselves and begin to realize as a race with so many distinct cultures we honestly need to stop celebrating our differences and begin to embrace our commonalities.  There is nothing ‘wrong’ about being different or distinct unless we allow these perceptions to divide us or set us apart from other.  So perhaps we should begin to celebrate our uniqueness and our commonalities..?  While doing so, perhaps the time has come to enlarge our acceptance of all life around us and understand that the myriad of life forms is but the Universe’s way of celebrating life?  If we could all come to honestly embrace this fundamentally  amazing ‘sameness’ our lives would be so much richer and we might better understand the value of diversity.

Neuron

Is this the sum total of a human being..??

“Walking In A Winter Wonderland…”

I’m seated in front of my system but staring out my second floor office window at the slow but steady snowfall; I’m reminded just how much I adore this area during the winter.  Granted, we hadn’t seen much in the way of the ‘typical’ winter across my first three years but the winter of 2016-2017 did produce some solid snow and cold and this year’s winter has finally come on strong.  We saw pretty seasonable temps across most of the winter but couldn’t buy precipitation across December, January and the first half of February.  That all changed during the last half of February as we received 36.5” of snow which is 31.7% of Talkeetna’s average annual snowfall.  And this latest snow event has produced 4.25” to this point (14:27) with light snow continuing to fall.  Our snow pack is 55.5” and looks to build a bit more before this latest event winds down this afternoon.

This winter has seen the birth of a new tradition; when I arise and see it is snowing I get ‘the kidz’ out first thing, prep their breakfasts, pull on my walking clothes, don my watch cap and headlamp, grab a walking staff and head out with the kidz to enjoy an early AM walk in the snow.  This generally takes place between 05:30 and 07:00 and my walks of late have been between 2.4 and 2.6 miles requiring fifty to fifty five minutes based on the accumulated snow.  I’ve walked in as much as 6.3” of snow – even though it was light and fluffy it was still a lot of work – and as little as 1.0” of new snow.  In so doing I’ve had a chance to enjoy the semi-rural south central Alaskan early mornings with my canine companions.  Even with the headlamp I still trust my dogs to scent out moose before I blunder into one.  With this said they are not infallible so I constantly sweep the beam from my headlamp back and forth along the roadside looking for the tell-tale glimmer of a set of eyes reflecting its light.  As it is winter the only large animal I’m likely to see is a moose so it isn’t necessary to actually see these large mammals; just the glowing eyes alerts me to the need to change our course to avoid the creature.

With all the snow of late the moose are being driven onto the plowed back roads as they are so much easier to walk although the road side berms of snow created by the plows makes it more difficult for moose on the roads to get back into the boreal forest to hide or to forage.  During our walks I regularly see their scat and hoof prints along with the ‘creases’ in the aforementioned snow berms created when these large mammals depart the road.  The kidz are fascinated by the scent the moose leave behind and frequently will attempt to follow the spoor into the boreal forest which is often hilarious as the berms are deep and the dogs will sink into them sometimes almost disappearing in the snow.  To this point I haven’t had to dig either out but I could see this happening at some point.

This morning’s walk was fun in that there was only 1.5” of new snow at 05:25 so the striding was easy.  As we walked I noticed I could tell which dog made which set of tracks.  My ‘little’ angel – Anana – is an eight and a half year old one hundred twelve pound Alaskan malamute struggling with advancing age and arthritis.  Qanuk (Ka-nuk) is an 88 pound six and a half year old male German Shepherd Dog who is still a puppy at heart and lives to run.  When I first exit the front door in my walking garb both dogs are excited and joyful; Qanuk will do his version of a ‘happy dance’ supplemented by sharp, excited barking.  Anana is much statelier but I can tell she is also happy and looking to go.  During our walks I’ve come to observe that Qanuk’s tracks are well defined and are composed of just his paw prints.  Anana’s tracks also show her paw prints but as she is older and lacking mobility her paws do not rise as high during her stride and hence leave ‘drag marks’ in the snow between her paw imprints.  It is also funny to note that once we’re a mile and a half to two miles into our walk I begin to see those same ‘drag marks’ in Qanuk’s strides.  This is an indication he is getting a bit more tired which is important as he needs lots of exercise.  If the snow is much above three inches in depth Anana will only do the first half to three quarters of a mile before returning to the house and collapsing just off the SE corner of the front porch.  By the time we return she is often mostly covered in snow but in her element.  Qanuk always makes the full walk with me and would gladly do more if I was game.

Without question I’m enjoying this wonderful winter weather as are my canine companions.  I relocated to this area because of its history of cold, snowy winters so it is great to finally see them materialize.  Our early AM walks in falling snow is something we all cherish; I just wish my little angel could accompany us the entire distance!  But as someone already seeing the limitations age places upon one’s body I can relate to Anana’s situation and I go out of my way to ‘baby’ her.  With my boy Qanuk, the sky’s the limit regarding vigorous exercise..!

Moderate AM Snow 022218

Wonderful walking weather; my back porch as seen during a recent snow event

March Moose CU

This youngster wasn’t bothered by me and the kidz one whit!

Qanuk Busting A Berm

My boy Qanuk busting a berm!

Qanuk Sinking In Snow

Qanuk almost disappearing into a snow berm

Snowy Office View

The snowy vista outside my office window…

Anana Loving Her Weather

My ‘little’ angel – Anana – in her element. She loves the cold and snow of her breed’s home!

A Winter Postcard From Alaska

Anyone who has read even just a bit of this blog over the years knows I love winter’s cold and snow and, since moving to semi-rural south central Alaska in 2013, I’ve been very disappointed with the winter weather.  In general, the temps have been above to well above historical averages resulting in rain/freezing rain in January and February – according to long time locals something unheard of just five years back – and often we’ve seen a dearth of precipitation.  The winter of 2017-2018 was shaping up to be the driest winter since I moved up here; this was frustrating because we’ve seen plenty of cool temps.  But we just couldn’t seem to buy any precipitation, at least until this past Sunday (02/11) afternoon…

NWS correctly predicted the snow event and posted a ‘Winter Weather Advisory’ for this area calling for 6″ (15.24 cm) to 12″ (30.48 cm) with localized amounts to 16″ (40.64 cm) but these were expected well north of Talkeetna and in the Hatcher Pass area.  We saw significant snowfall from Sunday afternoon through Monday evening; when all was said and done I measured a total of 14.75″ (37.47 cm).  That was the largest amount of snow I’ve seen from a single snow event since I moved up here and it raised our snow pack from a well below average 25.5″ (64.77 cm) to a respectable 39.0″ (99.06 cm).  Kudos to NWS for a timely and accurate forecast!

To me, this area is at its most beautiful after a sizable snow fall as we generally do not see much wind with such events and hence the trees are shrouded in a thick coat of pristine white.  So I thought I’d share a few images from this most welcome winter snow event:

Ole Home From Sat Dishes

The S and W sides of my humble abode as seen from the the location of one of my sat dishes

South Boreal Forest

The boreal forest just to the south of my driveway with the bottom of my wind chimes just visible

This Is How Ya Plow Snow!

This is how ya clear snow! My neighbor (Roland) at work with is front end loader

Doggie Snow Depth Indicators

Doggie snow depth indicators; my male GSD (Qanuk) is 86 pounds and my female Alaskan Mal (Anana) is 112 pounds

Qanuk on Unplowed EBD

Qanuk deciding there’s too much snow to try romping down East Barge Drive

After the Storm

The day after the snow event…

 

Desperate to Defeat Depression

It has been almost two months since I last added something to my blog and that bothers me.  Of course, said ‘two months’ were spread across the ‘holidaze’ and it is always easy to get caught up in ancillary activities which usurp time from blogging.  However, this was not the case for me as I enjoyed a fairly low key and relaxed Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s.  No, for me my blogging has suffered, as have so many other activities, from the return of an old nemesis from my not so distant past – depression.  Given this occurred with the advent of winter here in the higher latitudes a number of folks suggested it might be SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) and while SAD might be a contributor I do not believe this is the case.  In the first place I love the winter in this area, it is my favorite season.  I live for the cold temperatures and snow events which have, sadly, been rather sparse again this winter.  The longer periods of darkness do not bother me in the least.  In fact, I struggle much more with the absence of a night sky and any real darkness from early May through late August than the deep darkness we see from mid-September through early March.  And, too, I continue to take my daily Vitamin D3 supplement to help ameliorate any SAD symptoms.  So, no, I do not see SAD as the root cause for my lack of interest in anything.

As more and more information has come to light regarding depression and its symptoms, causes and prevalence I’ve come to recognize I’ve dealt with depression since I was in junior high school.  Not continually but rather in sporadic episodes which often lasted for months to even years.  In hindsight, I didn’t even know my lack of interest and seemingly anti-social behavior weren’t ‘normal’ for me until one late summer in south central Wisconsin when I was in my middle thirties.  I’d always suffered from hay fever and the late summer was one of my least favorite times as that’s when the ragweed pollinates and I was doomed to a totally stuffed up head, continually runny nose and sneezing fits until the first hard freeze.  But that late August I never felt the onset of these symptoms and marveled that I saw the first frost without experiencing any hay fever symptoms.  Within another few months I began to notice my overall mood was much brighter and I felt more alive and just ‘lighter’.  It took another few months for me to realize I had been living with depression for decades and suddenly the depression had lifted.  Given this happened at the same time my hay fever disappeared I’m betting my body went through some biochemical shift in my middle thirties and whatever caused my sudden lack of sensitivity to ragweed pollen also caused my depression to disappear.  Since that time depression has often returned – unlike the hay fever which has never again plagued me – but I recognized its beginning and began to learn methods to mitigate its effects.  Across my forties and fifties I was involved in a tug of war with depression; sometimes it would hit me for a week or two but I always won out in the end.

But then came the end of 2017.  In hindsight, I could feel its return in November of 2017 and I prepared to once again do battle.  And it did come on and I tried all my old tricks to minimize its effects and banish it once again.  But this time nothing has worked and, indeed, I’m experiencing what I believe to be serious depression.  Without question, this is as bad as any bouts I can recall and seems to be worse.  Twenty seventeen was a tough year for me with diagnoses of severe hypertension and late onset Type 2 diabetes; because of these conditions I’ve been taking a single med for the diabetes but three meds for the hypertension.  It is possible one or more of these drugs are ‘enhancing’ the effects of this recent re-occurrence of depression.  But said diagnoses also prompted me to begin a much healthier lifestyle; I currently do between 11,500 and 14,000 daily steps (around 5.0 to 6.3 miles) spread across my day to try to keep me in motion at least once an hour.  I do this exercise seven days a week and try to supplement it with some additional exercise like using my fluid resistance indoor bicycling rig.  The diabetes forced me to assume a ‘low carb lifestyle’ which has allowed me to manage the condition (I’m currently working on 78 consecutive days with a blood glucose level at or below 135 mg/dL) through diet and exercise.  In addition, I’ve dropped fifty pounds across the past year with another twenty to twenty five to go.  Both these positive shifts should help mitigate my depression.  But with this latest onset nothing seems able to dispel the dark helplessness that’s settled over my awareness.

Given all this I’ve elected to visit the local clinic and talk with the behavioral health specialist regarding this sudden and intense bout of depression.  Despite having dealt with depression for much of my life I’ve never seen a medical professional regarding the condition.  Early on, as in back in the sixties and early seventies, I knew nothing about the condition and assumed dealing with the ‘dark times’ and lack of interest in anything along with shunning socialization was just part of ‘being me’.  Later, I just soldiered on and began to learn some techniques which often helped like fasting and rigorous exercise.  During my later forties and fifties depression would ‘come and go’ but never felt bad enough nor lasted long enough to seek medical advice.  But this has all changed across the past couple of months.  I’ve never seriously considered suicide but of late there have been numerous times I have wished I’d just go to bed and not awaken.  But when I feel this way I quickly remember my canine companions; I made a commitment when I brought them into my pack and I will fulfill those commitments. 

Mostly I’m just tired of struggling with health issues and associated financial concerns.  But I’ve dealt with both in the past and never felt so overwhelmed or bereft of hope.  I’m so hoping western medicine can offer me a means to battle back against this seemingly impenetrable veil of empty darkness!  I really don’t want to take any more pills and I sure do not want a ‘treatment’ which brings new negatives into my existence via the dreaded ‘side effects’ but if I can get a prescription for something which allows me to rise above the daily feelings of isolation, desolation and frustration it could well be a God Send.  I know depression is often stronger and more prevalent in older folks and at sixty four and a half years of age I’m definitely getting up there so perhaps this is part of what’s driving the severity and resolute nature of this latest onslaught?  I just know I have to do something as for the first time in decades I feel utterly powerless to escape depression’s grip and it is slowly wearing me down at a time when I’m not feeling a surfeit of inner strength.