Sunday, November 29, 2015

Grief is very personal

When Ev and then Dad died last year, I learned a lot about grief.  It was a hard lesson to learn and every day I learn more about how personal a loss can be.  I've said before, that it made me realize that what we say to a person who has suffered a loss, should be carefully considered.  It felt hurtful to me when people would say "everything will be alright".  But expressing concern and sincere sympathy was helpful.  Sometimes the less said the better, and listening is good.

I remember what Dad said on the 2nd or 3rd day after Ev's stroke:   "I have faced that this has happened, I realize I can't do anything about it, and now I just need to get the right attitude about it."

I knew when he said it, I should remember it and as it turned out, this was very good advice as I faced the loss of my Dad.  I am thinking about what Dad said now as we face losing Gus at such a young age.  

For a long time, I struggled with what went wrong for Dad in the hospital, mulling over every detail that I could remember.  Finally, I saw this quote and it made me realize, that this can be true.

Grief demands an answer, sometimes there isn't one. 
His life couldn't be saved.  Period.

As I face life without Ev, Dad & now Gus, I know things will never be the same.  I am grateful for a close family who supports each other and helps each other as we each deal with the loss in our own way.  I am glad for lives well lived and for the end of pain & suffering.  But mostly, right now, I am sad.

Gus at his deer stand in The Barrens.
He loved to be in the woods.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Christmas Village

I have begun to think that a Christmas Village is just a grown up dollhouse.  
It's fun to pretend, even as an adult.
I set up my village on Thanksgiving Day, that's becoming my tradition and 
I enjoy seeing the little figurines and setting up the zoning of the village.

I decided to try a few photos of the little folks for my blog.  
The ultimate in playing 'just pretend'.
The beer wagon on it's way into town.  This part of the village is country and woods.

The ornament maker is busy while a little band plays Christmas tunes.

The Brewmaster is pouring from the Winterfest keg as his assistant checks colors & barmaid delivers steins of beer.

The grist mill in the background of beer lovers.

The Malthouse is old and looks like it is from another era, but the barley doesn't care.
I thought there was an open spot in the snow but it turns out it is just big enough for a cat to park her butt without knocking over the villagers.

Barley finds her spot behind the village, she can watch the bird feeders and watch the village.

Well, enough for Let's Pretend time, back to reality.
Thanks for taking a look.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving Day

It's the first snowy day of the winter in Rice Lake.

I filled all the bird feeders early so my feathered guests can enjoy their day.
The chickadees, finches, red breasted woodpecker, downy woodpeckers, pileated woodpecker 
and nuthatch have all dropped by to eat.
Black Capped Chickadee
Downy Woodpecker - male

Red breasted Woodpecker

I had planned to be home today to decorate,  watch football and cook dinner.   Angie included me in the invite to join the family at her house,  but I declined as I enjoy decorating on this day.  
As it worked out, I'm glad I'm not out on the roads.

It's been such a sad week, so adding a little joy to the house feels good.

So, my brewery Christmas village is back in operation and the tree is lit.

Florence's snowflakes have now joined her doilies on the window.

I'm cooking up turkey thighs,  yams,  potatoes,  dressing and cranberries and 
I'll feast later watching The Packers.
I couldn't wait. 
Thanksgiving dinner is in my belly. 

Happy Thanksgiving to all my readers.  I appreciate you stopping by.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Services for Gus

Funeral Arrangements for Ralph Alan Johansen

We will celebrate Gus's life on Saturday, December 5, 2015. 

Visitation: 11:00- 1:00 p.m.
Memorial Service: 1: 00 p.m.

Luck Lutheran Church
510 E Foster Ave 
Luck, WI

Cremation burial and a light lunch to follow.

Hunting in Colorado, 1970
Dad & Gus


Family gathered last night with Gus. They reminisced, hugged, prayed, and said their goodbyes. They started his comfort care in the evening. He talked to them off and on until about 1 a.m.. He then went to sleep, and died peacefully at 4:22 a.m. It went much faster then any expected.

We appreciate your love and support. We will post funeral arrangements later today.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Sunday Evening

Family and Friends,
The news about Gus today is not good.  There has been a significant and critical change since yesterday.  Lois and family are having to make the difficult decisions about comfort care, etc.
Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers as they travel this path with Gus.

Bird Break

I am home this weekend, watching football, doing some chores and getting organized to go see Gus for the day on Monday.
I have enjoyed seeing some of my buddies.
The red extending from his beak indicates that this is a male.

I was trying to catch a photo of him taking flight.

2 males flew in at the same time, that is a lot of big bird!

Looks mean, eh?

Blue Jays are noisy and bossy, but I still love to see them, especially on a sunny day.

Life is good.

Saturday, November 21, 2015


After hunting this morning,  Ryan went to see Gus at the hospital.
Gus had dialysis today and he was very appreciative of Ryan taking time for him. Gus slept alot while Ryan was there, says he's feeling more comfortable to sleep better. Gus had some nausea, but that had been pretty routine for this hospital stay.

Rysn said Gus now had a blue matress with air flowing into it. It seemed much better for comfort.  This must be the special bed that was ordered yesterday.

Lora and Anders also went to see Gus today. 

Friday, November 20, 2015

Holding pattern

Gus was lucid today, talking about the deer hunt which begins tomorrow.  He is still miserable with swollen legs and his kidneys are still not functioning.
The best thing that happened today was the ordering of a bigger bed with an air mattress, this will be more comfortable.  Treatment for now is for comfort and continuing the anti fungal medications.

Ryan had told Gus that his plan was to spend opening morning at the hospital with his Dad, but Gus insisted that Ryan go hunt first.  As much as Gus loves having someone there with him, he loves the idea of the first morning of hunting too.  This is the first year since he was old enough to hunt that Gus has missed that first morning fun.  Gus is still very sick, and I'm not sure what it is going to take for him to feel better, but it made me smile to hear him make comment about The Hunt.

Wanda from my iPad

Thursday, November 19, 2015


Today I'm copying some text messages from Lois as my update, and an email from Aunt Johanne.  Gus has a good memory for sure.

Having some lower BP today, started some saline for more hydration... Feels crappy, but clear mind.  Dialysis is scheduled for 2:15 today.  Also infusing anti fungal med in the kidney tubes, to get it in the bladder....hoping that will work.

From Aunt Johanne
Thanks for keeping me posted on Gus. Saw his old teacher Goldie (Monsen) Sorensen this morning. I think she was his first grade teacher. She said to give him a greeting and tell him she is thinking about him.
She said she also had Joe Johansen . She was from Bone Lake. Her parents had a big farm and then by the lake they had cabins for rent.

Response from Lois:
I told him...he said Goldie Mohnson was his 2nd grade teacher,  Mrs. Prose was his 1st grade teacher.

I'm headed down to spend the day on Friday.   More then.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

From Lois, afternoon 11.18.2015

Well...this morning Gus's heart went into Atrial fibrillation for about 10 min.  Luckily, it went back into rhythm on its own.  That scared him....Urology wanted to do a medicated bladder rinse again, and PT and OT wanted to get started a bit....he said NO to all of that.  We are all going to have to do a lot of pep talking to get him to do some things that may be hard and unpleasant in order to get him well.  Drs said he could rest today.  Lois did get him to at least raise the head of bed when he is eating and drinking.  Nurse was afraid he could choke and aspirate into his lungs and get pneumonia.  Now he is sleeping....
Let's all get our cheerleading pompoms out.

Fall keeps on keeping on

Such crazy weather for Fall, here it is November 18th and a rose is about to bloom in the backyard.  I think we have had about 3 inches of rain in the past week, I could almost mow lawn again!

I'm not going to the hospital today, but I'll post any updates I get from Lois later on today.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015


Gus is much more lucid today.  He even called Angela Chivers to wish her a happy birthday.  He ate some liquids for lunch and visited with us.  The hospitalist talked to him and the plan is the same,  cure infection,  support kidneys with dialysis and start building some strength with nutrition and therapy.   He's on his way for a round of dialysis now at 3pm, so he'll be busy all afternoon.
We are starting to plan our visitation schedules so that someone is here daily but that we don't all run out of steam at the same time.

Monday, November 16, 2015


Moving Gus out of ICU to Stepdown care later this evening.   He had a little to drink,  juice &  protein drink.  He seems to be calmer since the dialysis.  Hoping he gets some rest tonight. 


This morning Gus had new dialysis lines placed.  The original lines were not satisfactory for good blood flow.
Once he was settled back into ICU, dialysis was initiated and it seemed to go as planned, so far.
Todd Walters from Luck stopped and brought cards from Jens, Ruby, Stella and his son,  Zach.  He visited with Gus for a bit.  The cards were added to the display on the door with the posters made by Elliana and Milena
The Chaplain, a very kind man, stopped and shared a prayer.
Gus has moments of clarity and then moments of confusion making for interesting conversation.
He told me that this place did not have any machines to do dialysis so he had to buy one.  Always shopping.  :-)
The Critical Care MD came by.  He lined it out as
Job 1-dialysis;
Job 2-sleep with CPAP on at night to take stress off his heart and lungs;
Job 3-everything else like meds for infection,  etc.
His dialysis RN is very nice and patiently answers all my questions.  His nurse,  Jacquette, is a real nice and kind woman.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Gus is in the VA Hospital

I thought I would put the 'Gus news' here, with the newest info on top.

Cards and letters:
Ralph Johansen
Veteran's Hospital
One Veterans Drive
Minneapolis , MN 55417

I heard from Lois at the hospital that Gus is not as confused.  Lora is there with Lois and Glenn & Kathy were heading down as well.

When Lois talked to the nurse this morning she was told that Gus is less confused and seemed to be able to rest.  

ICU rules for only, 2 at a time, short visits.  No visits during shift change hours.

Lois talked to the nurse, not much change from this afternoon.  No dialysis until his IVs for the dialysis can be replaced as there was clotting with the ports placed yesterday.  Ryan and family spent the afternoon with Gus.

Late Afternoon
Lois talked to the ICU nurse...Gus is still stable.  But he has had alot of pain in his thighs from swelling.  They think he is dehydrated and the fluid he has is pooling in legs.  They have been giving  him IV hydration hoping it will balance out and move into his upper body.  The fluids are done at 8,  they will reevaluate then, and see if they can do dialysis tonight.  There is concern the line would collapse because of the dehydration.  He dies get relief from the pain with medication,  so we are glad for that.  Ryan and family spent several hours with Gus today.

Lois talked to ICU nurse this morning.  Gus continues to be stable.  Another round of dialysis is planned for today.  Lois and I staying home to rest and recharge.  Lois will call the nurse this afternoon for an update.  Ryan and Cam are planning to go today for a few minutes.  ICU is busy, and no visits during dialysis.


Just after midnight.
Gus tolerated the dialysis well.  He is stable and getting lots of good care.  Lois and I came home.  Lois talked to the nurse  after arriving home and was told Gus was sleeping. Time for us to do the same.

830pm. Lois was able to see Gus briefly. The dialysis is in progress.  The ICU crew is busy caring for him. We hope to hear more in 30 minutes or so.

No news here as of 7pm. We saw dialysis machine go by awhile ago.  No one has talked to us yet.

Gus has been moved to ICU to better support him.  He will get dialysis in his ICU room.  A few delays in getting procedures done today which can be frustrating.

Lois and I are here at the VA with Gus.  He's quite weak and really pretty miserable.  
He has signed the consent for kidney dialysis and that is planned for today, no exact schedule but we are hoping soon.   
I conveyed your greetings and he said to Thank you.

Things are better here today.  He's much more alert and the doctor wants to wait to do dialysis tomorrow. The plan is to put the ports in tomorrow morning so he's ready for dialysis by afternoon.

So,  we went from practically planning a funeral to joking and laughing.   Go figure.

He's still very sick but we feel more optimistic.  Today is going to be about letting the anti fungal medication work and letting him get some rest.

Angie & family,  Kyle,  & Ryan were there today along with Lois and I & Glenn.  Gus visited with all.   Many doctors coming and going of course.  He ate a bit and that seemed to go okay.

Those of us affected with the obsessive compulsive gene finished a jigsaw puzzle in the waiting room before heading home.

Cards and letters:
Ralph Johansen
Veteran's Hospital
One Veterans Drive
Minneapolis , MN 55417

Thanks for all the good vibrations!

Dear family and friends,

A quick update. As of tonight, Gus is in very serious but stable condition at the VA in the cities.  The fungal candida infection in his kidneys, bladder and ureters, along with his other medical history, has caused him to begin renal failure.  The doctors are unsure as to why his kidney function has diminished do quickly. The plan is to start dialysis tomorrow.  He has been moved into step down care and if required will go to ICU.  The doctor said that in terms of medical history complexity, Gus would score 10 out of 10, which makes trying to figure out what to do next very difficult.  He is on medication for the fungal infection, as well as his other many medicines.  He has no appetite.

 Lois and I & Ryan were there this afternoon, his condition is much worse than the day before.

We came home tonight but will go back early tomorrow and will be prepared to stay as long as needed. The nurses were concerned about us leaving tonight, but Lois needed her heart medicine and nothing we could do would change what may happen overnight.  A CAT scan was to be done yet tonight as one Dr. was wondering about an infection source yet unidentified.  Lois has not heard back on those results yet. He told us that kidneys are followers.  When the kidneys start shutting down it us usually because something else in the body is very haywire.

Gus is very weak and this afternoon could barely answer simple questions.  There is also some altered mental state.  He told the doctor that he could speak Ojibwa, which, of course, made us laugh.

We are hoping for the best, the doctors were quite grave in their assessment, but also said that improving kidney function would not be a surprise, but then neither would continued failure.

Gus thanked us for coming as we said our goodbyes and then seemed to be sleeping fairly comfortably when we left.

I'll let you know when I know more.

Gus has had many medical challenges over the last 5-6 years.  He has polycythemia, an abnormally increased concentration of hemoglobin in the blood. His medical team has struggled to keep him balanced, and prevent him from clotting or bleeding over the last few years.  Two years ago, he was diagnosed with bladder cancer.  He has been dealing with the many challenges that cancer brings ever since.  He has had many infections, and several hospitalizations over the last few years. Last week, he was hospitalized to treat a kidney infection, which proved to be more severe than others that he has had. They quickly discovered that  that his kidney function was declining. He has remained at the VA, in Minneapolis ever since. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Good Sewing

Another quilt retreat has come and gone.
Mary & Sharon & I sewed together again & shared a room at Oak Forest Center, near Luck.
It was a very productive weekend for all three of us.
Last time I was at the retreat, I had purchased a Wizard of Oz quilt kit and I made this my first project this year.  It was a lot of new technique for me to learn.  Step by step I worked through the instructions.  It was the perfect place to work on this quilt as there are so many helpers for solving problems and for support.
The panels for this quilt were cute, but not very straight.  

The yellow brick road was fun to sew.
We arrived on Friday forenoon, then sewed until about 1:30am on Friday night.
My quilt was well underway by the time my head hit the pillow.
I finished it Saturday morning.

When ever someone finishes a project, the group gathers to ooh & aah and take photos.

I used scraps to sew up a pillow case / sham to match this fun quilt.
Now I just need a backing and I can take it to the long arm quilter to have it finished.

Here is the layout of our sewing room at Oak Forest.
I'm sitting at my machine and here's the panoramic view.


Most of the sewers come every year, but I still only know a few names.
Name tags would be good for me.

Mary finished a cute puppy dog quilt, complete with tongues hanging out.

I just love all the different dog breeds you can see in this quilt.

Sharon sewed up a little baby quilt for a great nephew / great niece that is soon to be expected.
The animals in this quilt are just too cute.

A few other finished projects:
This giraffe was so cute.

I loved this quilt by Kathy.
All those pretty reds.

One sewer was working on charity quilts all weekend.

Darth Vadar in squares.
I can't wait to make something with this technique of squares, it reminds me of counted cross stitch.

A different medium, some wool and art.

Amy and her Mom always are there, this was a beautiful quilt.

Barbs applique centers quilt.

A tree skirt, almost too pretty to cut out the center.

Pretty presents quilt almost done.
We sewed until about 1:30am both nights.
Mary was up earliest both mornings, sewing started again at dawn.
Our sewing machines got a real work out.
Sharon finished a second quilt, this one had so many borders, and what a prize.

I finished up a quilt I started at a class this summer and then made a matching pillow case.
Another quilt ready for the long arm finish.
I set up a pillow case factory for the rest of the weekend.
Cutting the parts and pieces.
Finished John Deere pillow cases.  These are headed to Spring Valley soon.
A little time was spent learning how to make a small fabric bowl from one of the quilters.
These were quick and fun and I'm anxious to make some more.

Mary made some bottle bags, I'm sad I didn't get a photo of those, 
but I'm planning on making a few of those.

My last project was an applique idea I had using Dad's old blue jeans.
More to come, but the sample turned out fine.

As I was packing up and leaving Mary was working on a fun purse bag 
and Sharon was working on a travel / make up case.  
Such fun projects, next retreat I'm hoping to make some of those.
It was all good sewing this weekend and I'm looking forward to the Spring and Fall retreats in 2016.

I left about noon and made a stop at the cemetery in Luck to see Dad & Ev.
I was expecting to remove a dead plant, but as you can see, 
this geranium and greenery just keeps blooming and growing.
So, I left it.
Looks like there will be pretty flowers for Veteran's Day too.


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