Thursday, December 30, 2010

May you be safe

"Even though I often give in to the
many fears and warnings of my world,
I still believe deeply that our few years
on this earth are part of a much larger event
that stretches out far beyond
the boundaries of our birth and death.
I think of it as a mission in time,
a mission that is very exhilarating
and even exciting, mostly because
the One who sent me on the mission
is waiting for me to come home
and tell the story of what I have learned."

~ Henri Nouwen

Wishing safe travels to my friends who travel by road, air, sea, sled, and rail this weekend.

Image of NC Wyeth's "In a Strange Land" by Marxchivist

Monday, December 27, 2010

It takes a village to raise a mushing team

Who's head is bigger? EarthDoctorSon or Ginsberg?
The pup is almost 1 year old.

Shortly after the new year begins, Ginsberg will be a yearling. As if to take advantage of his last days of puppyhood, he has been so so sweet of late, plopping himself down next to me on the couch, and resting his big ole head on my lap.

He still greets me at the front door with his paw on the handle (in hopes he can open the door), his ears pulled close to his head, his head thrown back, jaws wide open as if he is shouting with joy. It's so silly, I can't help but laugh, and it's very hard to correct his bad habit of jumping up on me and trying to lead me around with his mouth engulfing my hand. But I digress.

The 44th Street Accidental MicroKennel is coming along quite nicely, thanks to some extraordinary professional help.

Allow me introduce you to members of  the Team :

1. Ace Team Handler
Winterfun begins! L-R: Me, Ace Handler Naomi, Ginsberg, Cora
I've officially designated my friend, Naomi, "Ace Handler" for the 4th Street Accidental Micro Kennel. She's been helping me train Ginsberg since he arrived. And it's no big deal to her. She's a horse wrangler, too, so large mammals don't intimidate her a bit. She also adores cats, but I can live with that. Recently she remarked that Ginsberg's head is the size that he was when I brought him home as a 7-week-old puppy. Who knew? That's my Ace Handler romping with Ginsberg, Cora, and me right after our first big snowfall last month.

2. The Team Surgeon

Happy Knees + TopFlight Knee Surgeon
I have completely healed from my second knee surgery. I'm astounded by the experience of being pain free. Pain is so insidious, isn't it? I realize now that I've had pain for years, and that it most certainly took a toll on my spirit and energy. I am incredibly grateful to TopFlight Knee Surgeon, who is a team physician for multiple professional teams in the Twin Cities, and is just as kind as they come. He willingly posed for a picture of me. Someday I'll have to sign a piece of mushing paraphernalia for him to hang in his offices, along with the authographed jerseys of big-time basketball, football, and hockey teams. Did I mention I'm the best musher he treats (and the only one he treats)?

And how cool is this? I recently discovered that PBS DragonFlyTV featured him in a fun video for kids about Real Scientists. I couldn't find a way to embed it, but I hope you'll have a look! It'll give you a sense of what a great guy he is.

Check this out!

3. The Team Doctor
Smarts + Kindness + Access = Complete AWESOMENESS
(Image by Travis Anderson for MSP Magazine)
One of the best things I ever did for my health was visit this mother tiger of a doctor for the first time (oh my goodness can it possibly be?) about 17 years ago. She was recommended to me by another very fine physician with whom I was working at publishing house. She is Brilliant. BRILLIANT, I tell you. I have worked with hundreds of doctors over the years and I have never ever known a more astute diagnostician. (Watch out Gregory House! She's way better than you, a whole lot nicer, and usually right the first time around!) What's more, she makes me laugh so hard, I feel better just for having spent a minute or two in her company. Which is kind of silly to say, because we rarely get through a visit in a minute or two. Why? Because we're laughing so much. I was so spent after the Year of the Sledgehammer, she highly encouraged me to take a little time off and I did and I'm much better for having done so. She is the first and only doctor who has kept better track of stressors in my life than I do. Oh, and did I mention how much we laugh when I see her. Check out the awesome book she made sure the Team had. I am also the best musher in her practice (and the only one in her practice). 

3. The Team Trainer
I've been sugar-sober since July. I just woke up one day and realized that refined sugar made me a little crazy. No, a LOT crazy. As in addict-kind-of-crazy. So I decided to withdraw from it cold turkey. Can't say it was easy, and sucrose/fructose/whatever-ose seems to be in EVERYTHING!  But it's been well worth the effort. Rather than look at going sugar-sober as some kind of deprivation, I opted to take a "wow, what's out there to eat that I've never tried before" perspective. I've not been a big fruit fan. But I must say I've discovered some pretty fabulous fruit that makes me work at eating it (dehydrated mango strips = lots of chewing; pomegranate = lots of peeling; ruby red grapefruit = even more peeling) and thus prolongs snack-time (more like snack dining than snack scarfing) and makes it much more satisfying.

Uber-Awesome Trainer Alex Stocco
I also purchased 6 sessions with a personal trainer, who I carefully screened (whilst huffing and puffing my way on an eliptical machine at the 24-hour Snap Fitness gym just a few blocks away) for several weeks. See, I tried personal training once at a big gym, and I could barely walk for the next 3 days, while the trainer marched off to an hour-long spinning class, then jogged over to teach bodypump for an 90 minutes. I didn't want another crazy exercise addict putting me through any paces that would set me back from my goal of building the strength and endurance I need for safely mushing. So I set the bar quite high.

Watching Uber-Awesome Trainer Alex work with a couple every Thursday morning (discreetly, out of the corner of my eye) let me scope out the suitability of a match. I was quite impressed with his enthusiasm, attention to his clients, and professionalism. So I sat down with him one morning, told him my limitations and my goals, and he started tailoring a plan for me on the spot. I've been hopping (yes, hopping) out of bed on Tuesday mornings as 5:40 am to meet Alex at 6 am. Come 7 am, I wobble my way back home, but by the next day, I'm just fine, and I am making honest-to-goodness progress. After sledding on Christmas day, I had zero-zippo-zilch-nada soreness or pain. And I credit Alex with helping me get sturdy enough to engage in my beloved winter sport.

4. The Team Transport: SubaRuby Rae
I've been without a car for going on 5 years, and my last car burned waste vegetable oil or biodiesel. But I decided I didn't much care for the politics around biodiesel, so I opted out of car ownership for a spell. I did use Mr. B's on weekends when I really need to run errands that could take hours by bus. Mostly it' was fine, surprisingly fine, actually. But I've yet to figure out how to board a bus with two Huskys (who are most definitely not your traditional "helper dogs") and a rather long sled to travel to a suitable trail for a morning run AND return home in time for Mr. B. to have the car by 6:30 am.

So I made a BIG decision. I let go being car-less and of owning a truck, and I purchased my own car. She's actually a "rescue" -- a 2000 Subaru Forester that was languishing in a salvage yard. She'd been in an accident and needed some body work (who doesn't?) but the price was most definitely right--and she has seat warmers!!! I was able to bring her home without acquiring debt! May I introduce to you: Miss SubaRuby Rae:

Miss SubaRuby Rae, who was christened last month with SNOW!
5. The Long-suffering Team Husband
Ginsberg and Mr. B get acquainted
Dear Mr B. He has put up with many of my crazy notions over 30 years, but I think he'd agree none has taken hold of his "bride" quite like mushing has. (Ok, maybe beading comes close). He's a mighty fine handler, too. And he has been the voice of reason when I've expressed certain intentions related to mushing by, for example, giving me the stink eye and saying: "Are you out of your MIND?"

But this week, when I broke out the the sled, he joined me, running ahead to encourage the pups, and at one point asked: "When do I get a chance to drive?" After about 20 minutes, when I suggested it was my turn again, he complained: "So soon?" I knew at that point,I had him--hook, line, and sinker!

6. The Team Sleds in the Cities
As best I can tell most of the better mushing trails are at least a 30-mile drive from my sweet little village nestled in the southwest corner of Minneapolis. But there are 3 awesome lakes and a creek that totally freeze over during the winter, all of which are in walking distance. Around each lake are separate bike and walking trails. So it hit me! I needed what's called a kick sled, which is like a chair on skis only way cooler. I did TONS of research to find one that would meet my needs and found (via Google images) the perfect little kicksled in Manitoba, Canada. It's only 10 pounds! Sometime, I'll share the story of trying to get a Canadian-made sled across the border in this day of heightened border security and reluctant shippers. But for now, I'll just say that Rob and Tammy at Prairie Dog Supply have practically moved mountains to get this pretty little kick sled 400 miles south to me. Having been roughed up a bit during shipment, my sweet kick sled arrived in need of repair. And the necessary part is on its way. Once we give it a test drive, I'll post some pictures.

7. The Team's Name
Last but not least, The Team comes by its name honestly. We're small -- and we seem to be prone to an accident here and there. Like this one, which was actually hilarious. Only Cora, who was not in lead, maintained her eyes locked on the direction I wanted to go. Charlotte (in lead) and Ginsberg, took a "gee" all of their own accord. No one got hurt, and since Mr. B was the only one watching, no egos were wounded either (Ahem, we have lots of work to do -- and glorious snow in which to do it!)
And I suspect (at least I hope) we'll be laughing all the way, ho, ho, ho.

My most sincere gratitude to all who have made possible
our little Team at the 44th Street Accidental MicroKennel!

A special shout-out to two special Team Cheerleaders

Shannon and Ginsberg
Amanda and Tempo
Shannon Miller of Diamond Dogs Racing Kennel in Ohiomy friend and a terrific musher of Diamond Dogs Racing Kennel who made my dream come true by allowing me to adopt Ginsberg.

And Amanda Stanoszek of Hoof and Howl Farm, whose gentle and wise words got me through the hardest parts of puppyhood (ie, housebreaking) and who adopted Ginsberg's sister, Tempo, who has turned out to be a powerful little sled dog.

And as Shannon likes to say when she signs off from her blog posts:
Mush Love!

Saturday, December 25, 2010


On my sled -- at long last!!!
Cora (l) and Ginsberg (r) in harness; Charlotte running alongside, on leash

 Mr. B's first ride EVER!

And lo and behold, Ms. Charlotte joins in -- as LEAD dog!!!

'. . . and on earth peace to all people'

Winter Child
by David Whyte

Myself at my door
like Blake
at home in his
my own heart opened
by the news
and my face
turned upward
and innocent
toward them.

All the stars
like a great crowd
of creation singing

above the blessed house.

Hyvää Joulua
Merry Christmas
Feliz Navidad

Image by Visit Finland

Saturday, December 18, 2010

And then 'turn the mirror' . . .


we need to look
to those we love and admire
in order to realize what
we value about life.

We can take time to note
what we like about others,
and then turn the mirror
to reflect the light
of those same words
and feelings toward

It can be quite revelation to see ourselves in this nourishing light.

When we can put the energy
that we've been devoting
to a phantom sense of achievement
into the truly satisfying aspects of our lives,
we can restore the balance
between our inner and outer worlds

and experience true joyful peace."

From Dec 6 Daily Om
Image by Samantha Steele (flickr)

*A very special thank you to Uncle KT who sent nourishing light my way Friday.*

Monday, December 13, 2010

A giant 'sand' box


We're digging our way out of a big snow dump. Yesterday, we had near white-out conditions. 

But today . . . well . . . it was heavenly!

And it occurred to me that part of why I adore winter and snow
is that the world turns into one big "sand" box and asks:
 "Can Kathleen come out and play?"

It's always best if I answer,
"Why yes!"

Luminaria lit by the sunlight, spotted on my walk this morning
Sunbathing, Minnesota style
Charlotte's first trip back to the dog park since she broke her leg during The Great Escape.

The pack  breaks trail up a hill: Cora (through muscle), Gins (by leaps and bounds), Charlotte (via pure scrappiness and heart)

Taking the hill in live action!

Surrounded by beauty--and love
Heaven, complete with "angels"
If you find your "sand" box this week, may you, too, decide to answer,
"Why, yes!"

Images by Mr. B

Saturday, December 4, 2010

'Bless you!'

"Claiming our
own blessedness
leads to a
deep desire
to bless others."

~ Henri Nouwen

Image by: priscilla_tonon

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The divine Mrs. Kimball

Mrs. Kimball

She was known to many as Mrs. Kimball.
I knew her as Mom.
My children called her Gramma. 

Today I woke up at 4:30 am, which is pretty darn close to the time Mrs. Kimball died 5 years ago to the date. So this morning I got up, got dressed, went to the gym, and listened to tango and flamenco music while I exercised. You see, I can't dance like she did.
Oh my, could she dance.

On one of her many many visits from Texas to see her Minnesota grandkids, my children (then 3, 6, and 8 years old) decided we should have a dance in our tiny living room the night she arrived. We selected a CD I had purchased in hopes of teaching myself the Lambada, and then the kids turned off the lights and insisted we place a candle on the floor. Round and round and round we danced, casting crazy shadows on the curtains (what must the nuns who lived next door have thought?! ) while Gramma dazzled us all with her latin moves.

So this one's for Mrs. Kimball, who, at 83 years of age and all of 85 pounds, still knew her children, their husbands, and her grandchildren, despite her "touch of Alzheimer's," and who still loved to dance.

. . . . .

                                   by Mary Oliver

                                  May I never not be frisky,
                                  May I never not be risque.

                                  May my ashes, when you have them, friend,
                                  and give them to the ocean,

                                 leap in the froth of the waves,
                                 still loving movement,

                                still ready, beyond all else,
                                to dance for the world.

Mrs. Kimball strolls East Beach in Galveston during the 1970s with her dear friend, Mr. Bateman.
And Galveston is where today she leaps "in the froth of the waves, still loving movement."

Friday, November 5, 2010

' . . . everything we touch"

"The more alert we become
to the blessings that flow
through everything we touch,
the more our own touch
will bring blessing."

~David Steindl-Rast
A Listening Heart

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

To sleep in peace . . .

"Have courage for the great sorrows of life
and patience for the small ones;
and when you have laboriously
accomplished your daily task,
go to sleep in peace.

God is awake."

~ Victor Hugo

Image by familymwr

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Friday, October 1, 2010

Follow the leader?

A very kind musher on Saturday told me that all Alaskan Huskies go wacky in the fall, when the weather turns cool and all their pent up energy, stifled by the heat of summer, comes zooming out. 

Gins 'splains the rules to the "kiddies." Mouthy little hooligans, aren't they?
Gins and his new best friend!
Guess that's why they call running at full tilt for an hour "the zoomies."

Gins is an Alaskan Husky, a "pure bred mutt."
His buddy is a Siberian Husky his same age.

Mr. B kindly took Ginsberg to the dog park this evening as I nursed my knee
(which I am happy to report had NO pain today)
and apparently my crazy pup scared up every game of chase he could.

Gins LOVED this chocolate lab!
Thank you chocolab for chasing Gins!
"Ah, the thrill of the chase!"
He would have nothing to do with "following" any canine.
It was all about getting other dogs to chase him.
Given that a certain comfort with being chased is a quality necessary in a lead dog,
I guess that could be a good thing. We'll just have to wait and see.
Bye, bye, zoomies
Whatever position Gins falls into on a team,
I'm pretty sure he'll be wildly happy as long as he's running.
As will I.
On the sled's runners, of course.
Remember my pretty sled?
She's the one in the front
Yeah, that one! Can't wait to take her out when the snow piles up!

Here's to wildly happy times,
and may we all have a chance to get the zoomies out!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The surprise of love

"There is no surprise more magical
than the surprise of being loved."

~ Charles Morgan

Sep 24 Word for the Day from

Saturday, September 25, 2010

One should never ask: 'What else could go wrong?' . . .

. . . Unless one is prepared to get the answer.

I certainly wasn't.

My post-op visit*, scheduled for 9:10 am today actually began much closer to 11 am. It seems that a members of a professional basketball team in town were seeing Dr. Top-Flight Knee Surgeon and staff for their preseason check-ups. And they were ahead of me. That, in and of itself, would make for an interesting day. Such a fascinating gallery of tattoos and swagger.

But there's more.

Eventually, my turn came around, and it appears I am making FANTASTIC progress -- despite the frightful amount of "cushioning" that's gone missing in this particular joint. The hope is that the surgery will help stave off the need for bionic knees for a while. But best of all, even when the time comes that I do need bionic knees, I can still keep mushing. Halleluja!

Still, it got me thinking.

Every injury I've had in the past 3 years can be traced back to one thing: my passion for dogs. And the question soon bubbled up to my consciousness: Am I crazy or WHAT? At which point I remembered when EarthDoctorSon was writing his college application essays. One particularly elegant piece of prose described his passion for soccer and why, despite 2 very serious concussions, a broken nose, surgery to repair a deviated septum, umpteen sprained ankles (which recently required a very delicate surgery), broken bones in his feet, and bruises -- to name a few -- he continued to play.

His explanation: joy and drive.

With him, I came to understand that when a person finds the sweet spot where body, mind, and soul converge, the person is simply so euphoric in that "zone," that it infuses every fiber of his or her being, taking over like a viral bodysnatcher. Such a person will find a way past any barrier to reach that zone again and again.

Hey! That's how I feel, too, I realized.  And while I'm not an elite athlete, never will be, I have experienced that zone through mushing, through the fluid beauty of flying across wintry landscapes, deeply connected through joy with my canine companions. Yes, I'm definitely crazy. Crazy in love. Crazy in love with a pup who is maddeningly driven by an instinct that defies efforts to confine him. Crazy in love with a sport, that like many many others, can lead to injuries, injuries I'm willing to sustain but equally committed to preparing to the best of my abilities not to sustain.
Exhibit 1

When I got home from a lonnnng morning at the orthopedic clinic, I could hear the distinct wailing of Ginsberg. No biggie I thought. He always wails when he hears us come home.

But the wails were not at all typical. Actually, they were whimpers.

While I was away, Ginsberg, the 8-month-old escape artist Alaskan Husky pup, had begun to disassemble his crate, one heavy-gauge wire at a time. The thing looked like a mini tornado had passed through. Wires hanging all akimbo, whole quadrants missing, even a chewed up carabiner tossed a few feet away from the mangled crate on the floor.

He had managed to wedge his arrowhead-shaped skull into one of the smaller rectangular holes he'd created. There was no backing him out either. I checked the tightness and it wasn't compressing on his throat, but still, I tried to calm him down so he wouldn't doing anything else so nutty.

Charlotte, with her hot pink hopalong cast, and Cora, with her ever-present look of "If you don't take care of this, I will," hovered around nervously. I left him for a sec to find my puny jewelry wire cutters. But they didn't even make a scratch. So I called our friend Brian -- the one who Mr. B let in last Monday and forgot to lock the door when he closed it, the unfortunate omission that led to the Great Escape -- because Brian possesses every tool known to man. He came over in a jiff with the Mack Truck of wire cutters, and within minutes, unstuck Ginsberg.

 Ginsberg, ever the resilient pup, blasted out, headed to the door, and clearly needed to do some business. But once back in, he was sniffing his mangled crate, sniffing Brian, and harrassing the girls, most definitely ready for the next adventure. Eerily, though, he watched with the attention of an apprentice as Brian attempted to reassemble the crate. I could swear Ginsberg was memorizing Steps 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 so that if he was put back in the crate, he'd reverse the order: Steps 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 BLAST OFF!!!

"Hmmmm . . the potted plant has possibilities."
It's times like these that I feel like
I'm living in an Indiana Jones film.

I e-mailed my friend Nancy about the day's events, and I think she captured the essence of my life these past 2 weeks in one sentence:

"You live a life of adventure without leaving the house!"

She's right. But I'd really like to take that adventure outdoors (in a truck), add some snow, hook up my exuberant Ginsberg, and bliss out together running along a beautiful forest trail. And by the looks of it, I am making fast enough progress to get to that point in as soon as 2 weeks.

But I guarantee you this. I will not ask: "What else could go wrong?"

And if you have any ideas on where to find a crate made of kryptonite (or titanium), I'm all ears!

*A very special shout out to my friend Terry who toted me to the clinic and waited around for hours.

Yours truly,

Kathleen Kimball-Baker
Manager, Disaster Recovery
The Accidental MicroKennel
Minneapolis, MN
Safe dog-sledding opportunities
available at your own risk®

Friday, September 24, 2010

Another day, another X-ray

Let's see. Where were we? Oh yes, Part 2 of I abandoned by husband for a dog.

I nearly forgot. A fair amount has transpired since I reported Part 1, and, truth be told, I have been loopy on pain meds until 2 days ago.

Here's the condensed version:

  • Ginsberg regains his exuberance less than 2 days after abdominal surgery, and I realize it is pointless trying to force pain meds down the throat of an 8-month-old Alaskan Husky who will eat ANYTHING but pain meds
  • Mr. B discovers he has 20/15 vision, post-cataract surgery
  • Ginsberg skins his nose trying to open the cabinet under the sink to reach the trash, after I have jury-rigged the handles closed with a rubber band and flat cheese grater (oops)
  • Kathleen watched her second knee surgery in real time -- supercool!
  • Ginsberg leads Cora and Charlotte on another Great Escape
  • Charlotte breaks a leg whilst participating in the Great Escape
  • Kathleen's chances of acquiring a truck for mushing adventures dwindle along with her meager savings
  • Charlotte replaces Kathleen as the "loopster"
  • Kathleen considers renaming her abode to "A Musherwannabe's Accidental MicroKennel" and seeking sponsorships for my pups and their vet bills
But perhaps, the events of the past 11 days are best told with video and photos. You be the judge!

Ginsberg, Loopster #1, doing his ever-loving best
to stay awake after returning home
from abdominal surgery

See the fringe on the pillow that has Ginsberg's rapt attention?
It's not there anymore.
It took a trip down Ginsberg's gullet and got
hung up on its way into his small intestine.
It now resides in a zip-lock bag--outside.

Ginsberg's "grated" nose

The new-fangled crate security system,
before we added 8 more carabiners

Ginsberg, Mr. B, and Charlotte chillin'
after Ginsberg and Mr. B have surgery on the same day

Kathleen chatting it up with topflight knee surgeon . . .
Thank goodness she wasn't worried or anything . . .

Loopster #2 on her way home from knee surgery.
She could finally wiggle her toes about an hour after surgery,
when the spinal finally wore off

The Great Escape
Mr. B accidentally leaves the front door open
and Ginsberg seizes the opportunity
to lead the pack on a big adventure.
Escapees blast off down the street,
then, amazingly return home at full speed
with Ginsberg in lead, Cora a half block behind,
and Charlotte bringing up the rear, heading straight for the front door
and limping for the next 3 days
[Image courtesty of GuildingEmber]

The vet X-rays Charlotte's leg today and discovers a
 spiral fracture on her left distal ulna bone, which 
he suspects, is the result of stepping into a 
pothole during the Great Escape.
He adorns her with a hot pink cast
that we must keep dry for 6 weeks.
(It's already wet.)
But you gotta hand it to her, she was very
close to Cora, who is twice her size and
did not come home with a broken leg.
This girl has heart!

Loopster #2, who happily takes her pain meds

This is Wally. 
I don't think he'll be coming home
 with me anytime soon.
But I have been wondering
a lot about quantum physics lately

Were you wondering about the photo at the top?
That would be EarthDoctorSon
(who may one day be renamed MushroomGeekSon, PhD)
 holding one of an assortment of fungi
that he'd like Mr. B and me to sample.
Stir-fried, perhaps.

Here's another:

And couple more:
Stay tuned!


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