Wednesday, July 22, 2009

An Abundance of Gratitude Tonight

Tonight my gratitude is for:
  • finally getting a parenting thing right! Made a decision that was "iffy" but was counting on the age-old wisdom that I have heard hundreds of times, and that my own parents used on me. It went against what I really wanted to do, but I was counting on it being the right thing in the end, and it was. Seldom do I EVER feel I get parenting right, so tonight, yay me!
  • a 20 year old son whose philosophy of money drives me crazy ("easy come, easy go" - don't worry about saving for tomorrow if there is something you want today - grrrr) but who, when he knows we're in a bind, financially, willingly offers to loan us one of his summer paychecks to get us through and doesn't even blink when turning over 500.00. What a good heart he has.
  • a clean house (relatively speaking!)
  • someone offering, or rather begging, to keep Bramble puppy for the week we are gone next week, which means I don't have to take my baby puppy to the kennel with the big dogs. I don't worry about them for a week up there, but I didn't want my puppy to be without lots of love and attention and people to play with for a whole week. I felt like she would feel totally abandoned, and it was making me not want to go on vacation. Now, I feel SO much better.
  • Looking forward to a week at the beach with my hubby and 8 teenagers - (2) 14, (1) 15, (1) 16, (2) 18, and 2 (20) year olds. OK, so technically the 20 year olds are no longer teenagers, but close enough. I think this actually might be one of our best vacations ever, because besides my own 4 kids, I REALLY like the other 4 who are going.
  • The forecast for tonight as I am on my way up to bed: thunderstorms! As sick as I am of rain this summer, I love a good thunderstorm when I'm in bed. I love the way the thunder rolls in across the hills, slowly and in the distance at first, but then, gradually, comes closer and closer until it is right on top of you, then gradually rolls away into the distance again. Of course, it will mean a bunch of cowering dogs all trying to get as close to my side of the bed as possible, but, still, I'm looking forward to it. Good night!!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Today was Day 2 of a three day literacy class that I am taking this summer, along with about 50 other teachers from around the area. It is a combination of the Writer's Workshop class I took last summer, and Ellin Keene's Mosaic of Thought for reading. As part of the class, teachers are expected to write on topics of our own choice, teaching us to model the same for our students. Part of the reason I signed up for the class is because I was hoping they would have us write. You'd think, since I like to write so much, that I could just stay home and write for a couple hours every day. But as much as I love writing, it isn't that easy. What I have discovered in the last few years that actually came as a shock to me is that writing is hard work, no matter how much I enjoy it. It takes a lot of self-discipline to force yourself to do it, instead of the laundry, or the dishes, or gardening or any number of other things that always call to me, needing to be done. Sadly, self discipline is one of the things most lacking in my life, in too many areas of my life. Yesterday, though, I knew I wanted to write either about my chickens, about the new puppy in my life, or about my dad, and his aging issues. I chose the chickens, and began a draft about them. There wasn't time to finish, and, lacking that certain bit of ...ahem, self discipline, I didn't finish it when I got home, either, although I WANTED to. Knowing we would have some sustained time to write again today, it would seem logical to have worked on it, and maybe finished it. But as soon as I got up today, and all the way to Olean, all I kept thinking was, Alaska, Alaska, Alaska. There was something about the feel of the air this morning, the fog rolling in off the hills, the colors - their certain early morning greens and browns, that sang the siren song of the land of the midnight sun to me. And even more distinctly, the music was not just of Alaska in general, but of a specific place and time and event. Last summer when I went to Kotzebue, I was lucky enough to spend some time out on the Noatak River, and was along on a sort of spontaneous caribou hunt. For who knows what reason, I was totally and completely back on the top of the tundra all day today, watching while Vic cut up the two caribou he shot, and helping to pack out the meat back across the tundra and back to the boat. I have never in my life before those moments, and not again since, felt so lucky to be where I was. And the best part of having been there then is that I get to go back again, in my mind, any time I want. I feel, today, as restless as the herds of caribou must feel when it nears time to begin moving. I feel like this is the time I should BE there. I have made several trips to Alaska now, only one of them in the winter, the rest have all been summertime, June, July and August. I love Alaska in the wintertime, truly I do. I don't mind the cold, I love the snow, and the total and complete highlight of my life is dogsledding. I could happily live in Alaska year round, I really think. If I had dogs. Or had access to someone else's dogs that I could scoop poop for, feed, love up, and take for an occasional short sled trip. No Iditarod dreams for me, not really. But as much as I love the winter there, it is summer there that my heart really craves. I have been there in the summer. I love summer in Alaska. I love the never ending daylight, the ravens and eagles spinning and soaring, the taste of fresh caught salmon cooked over a beach fire, the way the light dances off the mountains in the distance and on the river underneathe you. The silence. The wide, vast silence of sky and tundra and so few people. Today, this morning, I wrote about the caribou hunt, and I was there again, really there. I was there when I woke up this morning, I was there in the words I tried to craft about it in class today, and I am still there tonight. I love Alaska. It has seeped into my soul, and has laid claim to me. I belong there. I'm not sure it is something I can fight, or that I even want to. I think I'd much rather spend my time figuring out how best to return for longer and longer periods of my life so that I just don't have to miss it so much. I'm guessing that once there, New York really isn't going to lay too heavily on my mind. New York is just not a place to be missed. Alaska, on the other hand, well, I miss it every second of every day that I am not lucky enough to be there. And? Most of all? It's Fireweed time. Me? I LOVE fireweed with every fiber of my being. Favorite. Flower. Ever. Amen!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

"Same Shit, Different Day"..or "Dad Gets Old" - take your pick of a title

So what do you do with an 88 year old man who THINKS he is able to take care of himself, but who isn't, really? He has medical issues for which he has been prescribed medicine, but he is so unreliable about taking it that it isn't doing him much good. And he swears up and down that he DOES take it, but yet, the prescriptions were written last August, for 6 months, and he has not needed new ones yet, which means he is taking his medicine AT BEST about 50 % of the time. He has memory loss, which has come on slowly, not like my mother's alzheimers was, just old-age memory loss. And while I'm sorrier than I can say about it, and it makes me sad, and frustrated for him, at what point can he please JUST ACCEPT THAT IT IS SO. He does not feed himself properly. He eats shredded wheat for breakfast, sometimes a peanut butter sandwich for lunch, and then, I suspect he often does not eat dinner, but when he does, it is a frozen lean cuisine or similar frozen meal meant for dieters. He gets meals on wheels four days a week at lunchtime, but does not eat them. He claims he does, but he does not. There have been three delivered meals already this week, and there are three meals still in the refrigerator. It's the same with his medicine - when Dave and I used to fill his pill containers, you could come back a week later to fill them again, only to find much of it still full. And yet, yet, he would CLAIM that he most certainly DID take his medicine, just as he claims he DOES eat his meals. How can you refute the evidence??? HOW? He's depressed, and has been so since my mom died four years ago. He has been prescribed medicine for depression, but it doesn't help much IF YOU DON"T TAKE IT.
He doesn't bathe any more. He says he "sometimes forgets to" take a shower or "didn't feel like it today" when the truth of the matter is, he has probably not showered for months. My mom used to take what she called "sponge baths" by filling the sink with water, and using water and soap and a washcloth to clean herself occasionally. Even that would be better for my dad than just not bathing at all, but seriously, the man does not bathe. AT ALL. That is not healthy. That is a sign of not taking care of yourself. What about that doesn't he get? He wears dirty clothes, even though the cleaning lady who comes on Friday washes all his dirty clothes, he continues to wear the same outfit all week. On the night of C's graduation, I reminded him to put on clean clothes before he came down. Several times, I mentioned that. He wore dirty, stained clothes to her graduation. That made me SO sad. The doctor even told him today that he had a body odor, that his mind was not cooperating, that both his daughters, one of his sons,and his dr. all agreed that his mind was not remembering things the way it should, that he should no longer be living alone for his health's sake, that he should consider moving in with one of his childre. I had already told the doctor that I would LOVE to have my dad live with me. No, I don't think it would be easy, or that it would make me really, really happy. I don't think it would make him happy. But I do know I would be able to take care of him - wash his clothes, cook him decent meals, make sure he took his medicine correctly, bathed daily. And being able to do all those things for my dad would put my heart at ease. Instead, because he refuses to admit his weaknesses, because he is a stubborn, stubborn old man, I took him home, filled his pill containers full of pills he won't take, kissed him good night, told him I loved him, and prayed all the way home that he won't have a heart attack or a stroke that will rob him of ALL of his freedom and independence, or worse yet, kill him. My worst fear is that he will have a heart attack, and be laying on the kitchen floor, unable to get up, unable to get to the phone, and that we won't know for days. He is too stubborn to wear one of those 911 necklaces, too stubborn to stop driving, and too stubborn to accept the help he needs. I don't know what to do. Wait, I do know. I've been through this before, a million times it seems. There IS nothing I can do, except wait for the heart attack, the stroke, or the car accident, or the broken hip in the winter. There IS nothing he will LET me do, so all today became was "same shit, different day." Nothing new.
My aunt, who died at 104 with all her faculties intact, used to say "Old age is unlovely and not to be desired." She got that right.

Monday, July 13, 2009

"Kayaking" on Allen Lake

Can you see that dot, out in the middle of the water, right straight ahead? That is C and L, my 18 year old and her friend, "kayaking." This lake is about seven or eight miles from us - rough miles on bumpy, windy, curvy dirt and stone back roads. That's fine, if you really want to kayak, which I have done up here several times. It's not a very big lake, so it's an easy, enjoyable lazy kind of kayaking. But still, when I go, I DO kayak. At least once around the lake, sometimes more. I go in close to the shore on the far side, I go through the lilly pads, avoid some lilly pads, explore a little - maybe an hour or two at the most. But it's exercise, despite the easiness and enjoyability of it. So when C said they wanted to go kayaking, would I take them up, I said sure. She can't drive a standard, and the only thing both kayaks will fit in is one of the trucks, which is standard. So I threw in a book to read, drove them up, launched them,and then read for the half an hour that they SAT THERE. IN THAT SPOT. A LITTLE WAYS OUT IN THE LAKE. They never went any further than that. They paddled out there, and then SAT. For all 30 minutes. Then paddled back in. That was it. THAT'S KAYAKING? Silly girls. I guess it is if you are 18 and just lazing away a summer day. Or 30 minutes of one, anyways. Why strain yourself??

Eggs and Tractor Supply make for a good day!

Today was a good day. I went out to feed the chickens this morning, and gathered eggs since I had not checked for them yesterday. There were 4. But really, there were 3 normal eggs and one giant egg. I don't know if you can really tell from the pictures how much larger the one is than the normal ones, but it is HUGE. Seriously, it looks like a duck or a turkey egg. I have NO idea why I got one so large, but it was everyone in the house today who stopped to look at it in the kitchen commented! Maybe it was the grapes I fed them? Who knows, maybe grapes are really, really good for egg production! I also stopped at Tractor Supply today to get oyster shell grit for calcium for the two older, laying hens. I love that store. I bought two magazines - my guilty pleasure, since they cost about 5 bucks each, and I know I can't really afford that, but I love them. One was Hobby Farms Backyard, or something like that, and the other one was Mary Jane's Farm. They are both great reads. The other two I like to buy from there are Mother Earth News and Grit. Any day I can collect eggs and stop at Tractor Supply are good days!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Copied from an email I got today - a GREAT chuckle!

To be posted VERY LOW on the refrigerator door - pet nose height...

Dear Dogs and Cats:
The dishes with the paw prints are yours and contain your food. The other dishes are mine and contain my food. Please note, placing a paw print in the middle of my plate and food does not stake a claim for it becoming your food and dish, nor do I find that aesthetically pleasing in the slightest.

he stairway was not designed by NASCAR and is not a racetrack. Beating me to the bottom is not the object. Tripping me doesn't help because I fall faster than you can run.

I cannot buy anything bigger than a king sized bed. I am very sorry about this. Do not think I will continue sleeping on the couch to ensure your comfort. Dogs and cats can actually curl up in a ball when they sleep. It is not necessary to sleep perpendicular to each other stretched out to the fullest extent possible. I also know that sticking tails straight out and having tongues hanging out the other end to maximize space is nothing but sarcasm.

For the last time, there is no secret exit from the bathroom. If by some miracle I beat you there and manage to get the door shut, it is not necessary to claw, whine, meow, try to turn the knob or get your paw under the edge and try to pull the door open. I must exit through the same door I entered. Also, I have been using the bathroom for years --canine or feline attendance is not required.

The proper order is kiss me, then go smell the other dog or cat's butt. I cannot stress this enough!

And, to pacify you, my dear pets, I have posted the following message on our front door:

To All Non-Pet Owners Who Visit & Like to Complain About Our Pets:

1. They live here. You don't.
2. If you don't want their hair on your clothes, stay off the furniture. That's why they call it 'fur'niture.
3 . I like my pets a lot better than I like most people.
4. To you, they are an animal. To me, he/she is an adopted son/daughter who is short, hairy, walks on all fours and doesn't speak clearly.

Remember: Dogs and cats are better than kids because they:
1. Eat less
2. Don't ask for money all the time
3 Are easier to train
4. Normally come when called
5. Never ask to drive the car
6. Don't hang out with drug-using friends
7. Don't smoke or drink
8. Don't have to buy the latest fashions
9. Don't want to wear your clothes
10. Don't need a gazillion dollars for college, and...
11. If they get pregnant, you can sell their children.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Today I am NOT grateful for:
  • a heel that I raked painfully down a nail sticking out on our top step - throbbbbbbbing.
  • a vacuum cleaner that "isn't worth fixing" and would take at least a 60.00 new motor in the head, and that doesn't even begin to fix it, but it's all I had, and I can't afford a new vacuum and there is dog hair all over my house. My house needs to be vacuumed daily. What to do.
  • puppy pee and puppy poop all over the house - why does she refuse to poo outside???
  • having to take the Jeep in tomorrow for an estimate on the front end damage I did a couple of weeks ago - the deductible is $1,000.00 and I don't HAVE that. Not even close.
  • a son who is 20 and who is totally financially irresponsible, still
  • a daughter who is 18 and who is, I swear, bi-polar. Certainly miserable to be around at best much of the time.
  • a son who is 16 who can help everyone else in the world, and who LIVES at the local volunteer fire department, but can't mow the lawn, go to the dump for me, or complete any of the few other chores he is nagged to do here
  • a 14 year old daughter who has spent LOADS of my money on concert tickets this summer with the promise of doing 2 hours worth of laundry folding and other chores for me in return, who has yet to do much of ANYTHING.
  • the bee stings I have received trying to turn over my compost pile. They HURT. So my hand is throbbing from bee stings, and my heel is throbbing from the nail. Ouch.
BUT........... this is suppose to be an opportunity to think of things I am GRATEFUL for, so, however anemic that might be today, I DO have an obligation to attempt that. I am grateful for
  • a husband who took me along on his errands today as I was getting rather stir crazy at home
  • a husband who cooked italian sausage with peppers and onions for dinner for me tonight
  • an 20 year old son who is GREAT company, and who dared to drive through NYC today on his own to visit a friend on Long Island. I would not have been so brave at 20.
  • an 18 year old daughter who curled up in my lap to watch TV last night and who was silly and loud and made me laugh
  • a 16 year old who is in Cuba tonight playing "Fireman Games" with the department because it is the Countywide Fire Department weekend, and who attempted to rescue a dog this past weekend that a neighbor had left tied out with no food and water when he moved away
  • a 14 year old who is generally sunny and happy and cheerful and who will do ALMOST anything I ask with minimal fuss (except, apparently, folding laundry?)
  • looking forward to a week at the beach with all of these goofy kids AND their friends, 10 of us in all for a week
  • looking forward to getting to see a friend from far away for a day or two in August
  • a good book to read when I go crawl into bed in a few minutes!
There is ALWAYS much to be grateful for. It's easier to see the dark side sometimes, but that's why I know it is important to LOOK for the good. They're there!

Random summer musings:

There are bees living in my compost pile. They do not like it when I try to turn the pile over. They warned me the other day that they didn't like me messing with their pile. Today I thought maybe I would see if they were actually living there, or perhaps they had just been visiting the other day, and their warning sting on my hand had just been a mistake. Nope, no mistake. And they were not just resting their wings on the way to someplace else. They are squatters in my pile, and have claimed it for their own. Today they let me know that FOR SURE. (And they were also thinking, I"m quite sure, "lady, how dumb do you have to be to keep coming back for more of us? We TOLD you the other day, WE live here now - leave us alone.") OK, message understood today. And I was able to find the bee sting swabs today, so at least my leg, and my the middle finger on my right hand are not currently as bothered as is the area of my left hand between my thumb and first finger. It makes me not idealize the thoughts I've had of "beekeeping for honey" quite so much. It makes the thoughts of doing that a bit more realistic. I know most people say they don't get stung often, or at all, when doing it, but hmmmm - right now, bee stings seem a bit more painful than, say, the occasional peck on the hand or foot by my chickens, so... I think I'll just stick with chickens for awhile.

I don't fancy myself much of a cook, though I guess I CAN cook well enough. I just really, really, really don't LIKE to cook. Unless I hit upon something that everyone raves about. That happens rarely, but when it does, when they actually ASK me to cook something, it makes me feel good and makes me want to cook it for them. This summer it has been homemade pizza. I got a quick and easy dough recipe on line from another blogger, and love, love, love it - it doesn't have any yeast in it, so it doesn't need time to rise. AND, from Cold Antler Farm, I got the idea from Jenna to make pizza in a cast iron skillet. These two things combined have made for some awesome pizza dinners this summer. Simple, asked for, raved about, and delicious. THAT'S my kind of cooking! And I got ambitious last night and made a home made cherry pie, and bread from that "Bread in Five Minutes a Day" recipe. Which just points out even more that I am a baker, not a cook! But we ate well yesterday, from my hands. THAT feels good.

And eggs. Chicken eggs from MY chickens. I never, ever tire of opening the back of the coop and finding an egg, or two, to bring in. It totally just warms my heart. I can't explain it, but a chicken egg, fresh from my coop and my chickens, is so important to me. Right now, because my own 4 little hens are new this year, I won't get eggs from them until maybe September or October? But a friend's dad gave me two of his big Auracana hens "on loan" for eggs, until my own start laying, and so from them I get a blue egg or two every day. I love it. It is totally making my summer, and so is sitting and watching the chickens. They each have their own personality, and I love them all. My life is becoming more my own each day, more what I want it to be. I guess I find it interesting to see how my life has changed, evolved, and how my dreams have changed so much, yet, deep inside, have really remained much the same. I couldn't have known when I was 14 or 15 that I would want to own chickens some day, or live in Alaska, but the dreams I did have back then were of the same genre - the one I remember most clearly was wanting to live in a cabin in the mountains of Colorado, being a writer there, and having a dog with me for company. I wanted to have a wood stove and cut my own wood, and grow food from a garden, and just live, be fully alive. Well, life has a way of happening - college, a job, a husband, children - before you know it, you are often set in a way of life that seems "normal," and happens to most people, but it doesn't mean that you are locked in it, or that some of your old dreams can't still be. Granted, I probably never will live in Colorado, or be a solitary writer, but I do have my dogs (and how thankful I am for them - more than I ever could have known back then when my life was far more full of people!) - and the things inside me that moved me back then are still at work in my life right now. They may manifest themselves a bit differently now, but that's ok. At least I know my heart, and my dreams, are still alive. Funny how a bowl of blue chicken eggs can be such a tangible reminder of that.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Fourth of July

Not much to post today. No one's fault but my own - I spent a totally unenergetic, unproductive day, I guess by choice. It didn't feel like choice - I just felt blah, and a bit lonely, and uninspired today, but that irritates me, because generally I really enjoy being alone. I had tons of things I could have done - sewing, crafting, folding 20 loads of clean laundry, dishes. I even got out two cans of cherries with the intention of making a cherry pie today, and thought about baking granola bars, and maybe even a loaf of bread, but every time I thought about doing something, I'd go lay down, read a chapter or two of a really bad book, and fall asleep for 30 minutes or so. Finally, I gave up and decided that sometimes maybe we just need a day to rest, and read, and NOT accomplish anything, without feeling guilty. That's the key - because I felt guilty and bad today for not having something to show at the end of the day. But, it's summer, and there's always tomorrow. My goals for tomorrow? Fold all the laundry, bake a loaf of bread with dinner, make a cherry AND a berry pie, bake some granola bars, and make Keenan do the dishes. Oh, and I should probably make an appearance up the street at Wayde's graduation party. So, off to bed to finish the lousy book, and perhaps tomorrow will be the very productive day today was not!
Things to be grateful for today:
  • a day with NO rain, and lots of sunshine, even if it was on the cool side
  • missing my children when they are gone more than they are home, and being glad to see them and talk to them when they DO come home
  • the luxury of napping
  • friends from far away
  • memories of last summer in Alaska
  • the times that Bramble pees outside, and the knowledge that SOMEDAY she, too, will be housebroken like the rest of the big dogs

Friday, July 3, 2009

And today, I'm grateful for:
  • Border Collies
  • waiting for books I've ordered to come in the mail
  • fresh spaghetti sauce filled with fresh tomatoes, peppers and mushrooms
  • hearing the rain outside my window when I'm sleepy
  • ice cream in a bowl
  • and...puppy kisses from a puppy mouth that smells like a skunk!!!

Welcome home, Bramble

So I have FINALLY gotten my act together. Well, ok, a part of my act. I now have taken the time to get a new camera cord, a new battery charger cord, AND I figured out how to upload a photo. So, my slowwwww bloggy start should now improve?
This gorgeous little baby's name is Brambleberry, or Bramble for short. She came from about 3 hours away, in Berkshire, NY, and is the answer to a 22 year old prayer. I have always wanted a Border Collie, but it has just never been the right time. Now, for lots of reasons, it is. And here she is. My heart has already welcomed her home.