Friday, May 28, 2010

The Brambleberry Puppy Waits For Me

She waits for me, when I am gone. The minute I go out the door, about twelve feet to the left of this living room window, she runs to her chair, hops up, and watches me go. Whether I am gone 10 minutes to feed the chickens, or an hour, she is there, in the chair, waiting for me to come back in. I know she doesn't spendall  her timewaiting in that chair, but there is great comfort in knowing she loves me enough to watch me go, and enough to hop up and watch me come back in. And whether I'm gone 5 minutes, or 5 hours, the "welcome back!!!" greeting I get from her, and the other three silly mutts, is the most enthusiastic, loud, sloppy-kisses greeting on earth. You would think I was the Queen, come to town. It is, in fact, one reason I need dogs. They love me so unconditionally, and are not afraid to show it.  Maybe I was grouchy to my students at school. Maybe I was short with my children. Maybe I snapped at my husband, or talked about a coworker behind her back. Maybe I am worried, or sad, or preoccupied. Whatever I have done, or however bad I have been, my dogs don't care. Honestly, they just love me. They hate to see me leave, miss me when I'm gone, and are thrilled to the tips of their furry tails when I come home. What's NOT to love about being loved that much and that unconditionally? Why wouldn't EVERYONE have a dog? Do some people really not need that kind of love? Do some people have enough love, so much love, that they don't need more? Not me!  I have lots, but there's always room for dog love. We, here at my house, are a mutual admiration society - I love them, and they love me. Unconditionally. We're good here.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

When Too Late isn't Really

When does one truly become an adult?  I remember when I was growing up, my biggest fear, always, (once I got over the fear of being kidnapped from my bedroom in the middle of the night - but that's another story)was that my parents would die before I was ready, before I was old enough, to deal with it. I remember thinking, at whatever age I was, "well, I'm not old enough NOW to deal with it, but probably when I'm about 20, 25, 30, whatever age seemed "adult" to me then, I'll be old enough to "deal with it."  My mom passed away five years ago when I was 42, and I didn't feel old enough at that age to be without a mom. Now, I suspect my father will pass away before I have turned 48, and I don't feel adult enough to cope with that well, either.  Which, oddly enough, isn't really what's on my mind tonight. What's on my mind is that I am 47, and still can't bring myself to do some of the things that I SHOULD be able to do as a 47 year old adult. I still feel like "I'm not old enough to do that yet" for some things. Tonight, I'm wondering when I will be old enough to do the adult things that I should, without having to be pushed to do them by someone else more mature than I, or without feeling like an awkward teen inside as I'm doing them. OR - does everyone feel that way, but you just DO them anyway, and THAT'S what really counts??

Two days ago I learned that a friend's husband had suffered a massive stroke, and was in the hospital in Jamestown,in a deep coma, not expected to live.  She was keeping vigil at his side. I felt like I should go visit her, sit with her awhile in the hospital.  I was hoping we could give her a little break, or bring her some flowers, or a chocolate bar and Diet Pepsi, or take a walk outside, or, just sit, and be.  She and I become friends many years ago when I was lucky enough to work at Ten Broeck Academy. Lucky, too, because along with Sue, I also met my best best friend, Steph, there. And she and I and Sue and another great guy, Steve, all shared this little two room trailer attached to the back of the school, and oh are there stories and stories to come out of all those years we shared that trailer. I could write a book. Eventually, we all went different ways. Steph went to a school closer to her home, so she didn't have to drive 90 miles each way; I took a job here in the town I live in so I didn't have to drive 30 miles each way to TBA, and when Sue's husband neared retirement, they sold their house in Franklinville and moved to a little house right on the water on Chautauqua Lake, and Sue switched to teaching in a school over there. (Steve, who deserves his own story some day, passed away probably about ten years ago from brain cancer, and I still miss him every single day.)  We have not worked together, the three of us, for at least ten years now, but have remained close. I'm not sure how to explain the bond, but it's tight. Funny, too, because Sue is ten years older than me, and I am five years older than Steph, but it never really mattered. We just all connected. And have stayed connected, despite distance.  Anyway, Steph and I decided yesterday we should drive over to Jamestown today after school to see Sue. It wasn't the best day for Steph, and I even suggested we could wait until tomorrow. She decided that we should go today, that waiting probably wasn't a good idea, since Sam's time was very clearly limited.

I sent a facebook message to Sue's son to make sure it would be appropriate to come over to see her. Not being yet a true adult, I'm never quite sure what the protocol is for these situations.  Just because my heart told me I should go be with her, what if it was the wrong thing to do? If your husband is dying, do you want a friend sitting with you, or should that be only private family time? Sigh. I just never know. But, Cory said to please come over - that it was fine - that Steph and I were practically like family to him and Sue anyway. Not necessarily true, but it was enough to reassure me that yes, following my heart's instinct this time was ok. Steph checked with Cory again today about 2 o'clock, because my worst fear was that we would be too late. And if we were too late, then we really probably didn't want to go. But you can't exactly say, "Hey, we'll be over about 5, but if your dad passes away before that, be sure to let us know, and then we won't bother you by coming over."  There just wasn't anything good about this situation at all, and plenty of things that could turn out to be - DID, in fact, turn out to be, plenty awkward.

We got there at 5.  The hospital had no one by Sam's last name registered.  I told her a room number. No one. I called information. Nada. We were totally perplexed.  Only hospital IN Jamestown, right room number, no one. Steph facebook messaged Cory again from her phone: "We are here - where can we find you?"  Cory's response?  "At home. Dad passed away at 3:15"    We were too late. My worst fear. I most definitely did NOT want to go to the house. This poor woman's husband had just passed away less than two hours before- that is a time for family, for grieving, for weeping. NOT a time for friends to drop by.  Steph convinced me that since they already knew we were there, we HAD to.  AWKWARD. All my NON-adult instincts were kicking and screaming, "noooooooooo - I CAN"T do this" at the same time that I was. We stopped, talked to some relatives who had just gotten there, left a note for Sue, and fled. Just in time, I felt like. What I most felt like doing was throwing up, but instead we decided to go have a drink and get something to eat since we had driven the two hours anyway, and since even Steph and I seldom get to spend any time together.  We had just sat down and been given menus in Red Lobster when Sue called my cell phone.  She had parked at a neighbor's, just as we were driving away, and BEGGED us to come back. She pleaded, said, "Please come back - I need you."  I could not fathom that, that someone would want friends there at that time, but she sounded so sincere, so very very sad, how could we not? So, awkwardly again, we left the table, left our menus, explained that we would be back and left Red Lobster. Going back was worse. But being there was the best, most adult-like thing I've done in ages.  We went out to the end of the dock, hugged, rocked, talked, cried, laughed, cried some more, promised to come and hang out this summer and teach Sue how to back up her lawn mower - something she is worried that she doesn't know how to do - and were there. We were too late to sit with her and offer her any comfort, or peace, at the hospital while Sam was clinging to life, but I guess it wasn't really too late after all. And even though Stephanie, who is five years younger than me, had to force me to do the grown up things I did not want to do, and would not have done if I had not been forced, I did them. They felt wrong, and awkward, and uncomfortable, and I wanted to throw up, and I did cry, but I did them all, and they felt right when we were done. Does that count? Does that mean I AM an adult because I did all the things I SHOULD, even though I didn't want to? Will I EVER be the one who just does them on my own, without being made to, because I know they are the right thing to do? I guess THAT'S when I might feel like I am truly a grown up, when I can do them because I know they are the right thing to do, even though I don't want to. Until then, I guess I will have to settle for at least being able to do them because someone ELSE knows they are the right thing to do, and makes me. I guess it could be worse - I could NOT do them, even then. Many people don't, and I know that.

We went back to Red Lobster, and I had not only some fruity rum drink with a pineapple piece in it, but a Long Island Iced Tea, which was irresponsible and un-adult-like of me, since it has 4 or 5 shots of alcohol in it, and I had a two hour drive home. Funny thing is, I should have been under the table, but didn't even catch the slightest buzz from it.  Steph determined that the amount of stress we were under cancelled out even the powers of alcohol. I figured maybe it was God saying, "OK, you were too late, but made the best of it and did the right things anyway, so I'll cut you some slack tonight. You can drink these drinks, and I will allow you to still drive safely home anyway, even though you should not be able to. But don't push your luck..."

I won't. I promise.
But I'm still left wondering, at what age will I truly become an adult?  Is it possible to be 80 years old, and still not feel "grown up - ENOUGH" for some things? Wouldn't that be weird. Because here I am, at 47, thinking, "Well, I'm not very mature YET, but wait til I"m 80. By then, I will be."  Won't that be funny if I'm not.

Monday, May 24, 2010

THIS is the Stuff My Nightmares are Made on...

We are such stuff

As dreams are made on; and our little life

Is rounded with a sleep. - Shakespeare

I'm not sure what stuff it is dreams are made on, but I sure can tell you what my nightmares are likely to consist of tonight:

For who knows what reason, we are being INVADED by Gypsy moth caterpillars this year. They are literally all ove the place, by the hundreds. And they are GROSS.
Also called Eastern Tent Caterpillars, because they make tents in trees and destroy the trees. The only way to treat them that I know of is to burn their nests.

 Normally, I'm not a particularly squeamish kinda girl, but these are really freaking me out this year. They hang down on their nearly invisible strings from tree branches, and you don't see them until you've run into them. Or you don't even see one then, but someone tells you you have one crawling up your back.  I have never liked them, because when you squish them, green goop spurts out of them, and it's icky. 
I just ran back up to school to make a photocopy of something for my son that he needed, and they are all over the doors to get into school. I am not exaggerating when I say I bet there were 500 of them on the two double doors I went in. Worst of all is that they either fall to the ground, or congregate there, right along the bottom door edge, like they are TRYING to get into the building. I feel like they are conspiring, to do what evil I'm not really sure, and will turn into big green people eating monsters from some other planet, or something like that, if they actually get INTO school.  Today, the custodians had to take shop vacs out to the playground and vacuum them off the swings, slides, and other playground equipment before the kids could have recess out there. I think they must have dumped the shop vacs in the parking lot, because that was simply swimming with them just now.
My co-workers husband hosed their house down to get rid of them on the vinyl siding the other night. They came back. He did it a second time. They came back. The third time he picked them off by hand (ewwww) and threw them in the fire and burned them up.
I just scraped several off my front door and threw them to the chickens. You know they have to be REALLY nasty when even the chickens won't touch them. So then I stomped them, and twisted my foot around good to get rid of all the green goo.
I already know I'm gonna have nightmares tonight of twisty, squirmy, spiky, gross, nasty caterpillars coming to get me. Maybe I should just stay awake all night. Or something. "Cause I'm sure I won't be "rounded with sleep" as nicely as Shakespeare puts it. At least not while these caterpillars are trying to take over the world. Or at least my little corner of it. ICKKK.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Can I Please, Please, Please Just Have a Clean House???

I saw this book title when I was wandering through a bookstore one night not too long ago, waiting to pick my daughter up from a concert in the city.  I meant to come home and look it up on Amazon to see if it was something I wanted to buy, but forgot about it. Until this morning. As I made my way through the maze that constitutes my "living area" at the moment to let the dogs out and make my coffee, and suveyed the herculean task that lay before me this morning, the title popped back into my head. The timing could not have been more appropriate.
I am not a housekeeper. At least, not a very good one. There are, more often than not, dishes in my sink, dog hair on my carpet needing to be vacuumed, laudry baskets overflowing with clothes waiting to be folded. It is bad enough that my house really makes me embarrassed and I would die if anyone just "stopped by."  In addition, my carpets need to be steam cleaned because I have not been able to convince Bramble that peeing outside, CONSISTENTLY, is much nicer than peeing on my carpet, so my house even smells bad. With 4 children, 4 dogs, too many cats to mention, a bunch of chickens (not IN my house - well, only as peeps in the brooder in the bathroom), a full time 8-4 job that requires several hours of evening work as well, and a dad to be visited in the nursing home at least every other day, AND a husband who is out for his job more evenings than he is in, it leaves very little time to be the kind of housekeeper I dream of being. So many people say "it's ok - your house is LIVED in; not a show house," or "your kids are more important than how your house looks," or other well-meaning words meant to take the burden of a clean house off my shoulders. It doesn't help. The problem is in my head. I can't LIVE this way. Well, I do, but I'm miserable. I WANT a perfectly clean, picked up, neat, tidy house. It matters to me. It makes so much difference in my mood and my feelings. A messy, cluttered, dirty house depresses me.  If my house is cluttered, my mind is cluttered, too. Part of the reason our house IS so cluttered, besides the kids and the dogs, is that both my husband and I have a lot of hobbies. And his hobbies take him away from home many weekends when we could be working on the house or the yard together (Civil War Re-enacting) and my hobbies just simply ADD clutter. There are three bags of various chicken feeds in my front hall.  The sewing machine is set up on the end of the dining room table. I have a tub full of craft stuff to work on for next year's Christmas presents also in the dining room.  Both of us have books, books, books all OVER the place. And newspapers that don't get picked up when they should. And magazines that, once read, pile up because he does not like to part with A-N-Y-T-H-I-N-G.  For years, I have been living with this delusion that I will SOMEDAY be able to get my house exactly picked up enough to my satisfaction so that I can start LIVING in it, instead of always CLEANING it. So far, that hasn't happened, and thankfully, it isn't really bad enough to need a Hoarder's Intervention yet. However, the mess does prevent me from actually working on my hobbies, because mentally, I can't sit down to sew if the kitchen sink is full of dishes. And I can't enjoy a movie with my kids if there is laundry to be folded. I just CAN"T do what I want to do until my house is not such a disaster. And it always is, so I am always, always, always stressed.
It has been better this year, and a little easier to keep up with, because two of my 4 kids have been away at college. And yes, I know that with kids MY kids ages, THEY should be doing a lot of the work around here. Unfortunately, that is also a part of parenting that I suck at - forcing my kids to be responsible. For too long I "let them be kids" and picked up after them, to the point now where when I ask one of them to vacuum, take out the trash, or empty the dishwasher, they whine and moan and complain so much that I end up either doing it myself because I can't stand the stress of the arguing, or I have to nag twenty times before one simple chore gets done. I hate that about myself, that I didn't teach them responsibility when they were little - it sure would make my life easier now. I haven't given up. I don't think it's ever too late. I have come up with a few "Rules for Summer" - things like, Pick up after yourself, Keep the kitchen clean (my REALLY big bugaboo area - if the kitchen is at least clean, I feel like there is hope for the rest of the house...), DON"T BACKTALK (seriously, can you belive that with kids 21, 19, 17, and almost 15 I have to have a rule stated that says "Don't backtalk"?  For heaven's sake, you would think my kids were still in gradeschool!), help out around the house when asked ("without being asked" would be my dream - but yeah, THAT"S never going to happen...)
At any rate, my son who just returned from college a week ago has brought home more "STUFF" than any 21 year old should own. Good GRIEF, I don't know how it all fit in a dorm room and common area. It SURE doesn't fit in my house. THOSE would be the majority of the piles I was winding my way through on my way to make coffee today. THOSE would be the piles, along with my stuff he has displaced, that made me think again of that book title. I am thinking of challenging him, and definitely myself, to THROW OUT 50 THINGS. I can do it. Easily. My whole goal in life is to reduce the amount of "stuff" in my life and to just live simply. That's really all I want. To have my dogs, my chickens, a cat (not 6), my crocheting, my sewing, my books, a house with no clutter, no mess, and to live simply. What a challenge. It's one I still feel up to; it just gets frustrating to feel that it constantly remains a challenge.
And, how frustrating that I look forward to my summer vacation from teaching, not to do all the things I enjoy, but to be able to be home daily so that the dishes get done, daily, so that the laundry gets folded, daily, so that my house does not constantly look like squatters occupy the rooms here. I WANT my summer vacation to be full of leisurely hours of coffee on my front porch while I read, watch the chickens dig for worms, and maybe sew some new pot holders. I WANT my bedroom, especially, to be a quiet, cool haven at the end of the day, without boxes of the kids outgrown clothes, my husband's no-longer-used Boy Scout Leader clothes sitting in a pile, my daughter's bedframe leaned up against my wall, and everyone's extra blankets tossed on the cedar chest under the window. Maybe THAT would be the place to concentrate on "throwing out 50 things." Times 10. Is it ok if I count a HUGE pile of old, already read, Civil War Times magazines as 1 thing? 
If you can't imagine having 50 things that you could throw out, count yourself blessed. You are already living my dream, the simple(r) life!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Chickens, Chickens, EVERYWHERE

Oh my gosh, I think I have turned the corner.And it's not a safe neighborhood I've wandered into.  I think I need therapy. 4 of us ordered chickens together from Murray McMurray. There were something like 56 in the order all together. They showed up Monday morning at 8:30 am. I had to run to the Post Office before my first class of the day, bring them back to school, stick the box in the bathroom in our room, and hope the peeping didn't drive my co-workers insane before the end of the day. Of course, every. single. kid. who came into our room on Monday HAD to see them. I understand the allure - baby chicks are adorable. And we ordered a bunch of Bantams too, so some were EXTRA adorable, with their teeny tiny little feathered legs and feet. They weren't any bigger than a cotton ball. So cute. But, the end of the day rolled around and with it came my job of trying to sort out which chicks were which breed, so I could send them home with the right people. Do you have any idea how many breeds of chicks all look alike when they are babies? They might be really, really different as adults, but day old chicks? Sorry but the Buffs look an AWFUL lot like the Goldenwhatsohoosies. And black Silkies? Can't tell them apart from black Frizzles at this point. It's not a HUGE big deal, as we can always swap back later, but jeezlouise.
Oh, and apparently I was supposed to order 12 Rhode Island Reds, not 6. Yeah, I totally screwed up the entire order. So  - we have chickens, but who knows what kind. Not enough of some, and TOO. MANY. BANTAMS.
And though I've learned a lot this first year of chicken ownership, I have learned VERY quickly this week that I simply do not know enough about Bantams. Apparently they are not just small chickens. They have been dying at an alarming rate, and I don't know why, or what to do about it. The first two to go were a big surprise. My daughter even took the second one to school and got a pipette from the science teacher and skipped her first period English class to try to keep it going. Too little too late I guess. When I got home yesterday, a third one was dead, and another one was on it's way out, and died overnight, despite hours and hours of care last night. They all seemed healthy when we left for school this morning, so I thought that we were out of the woods. I came home to one more totally squashed, and another one face down but breathing. OK, so now we've separated the Bantams from the other chickens. Should that have been obvious to me right from the start, that you can't keep them both together in the same brooder?  I am just SO stressed out from holding dying chickens in my hand. I know there isn't a single parallel between a dying father and dying baby chicks, but I can't help but think "enough, already."  So, although the friend who has yet to pick up her chicks because we live a couple hours apart thought she was only getting a few Bantams, guess what? She's getting ALL of them!  If they die on HER watch, I won't feel bad. I just can't take any more dead babies here. The bigger chicks are all perfectly healthy and doing well. I guess I just don't know enough about Bantams. Not this year. Maybe not ever. Maybe I've met my match in chicken rearing.

Also on Monday, actually before I even made it to school and my PO chick delivery, another friend brought me back her Auracauna that turned out to be a rooster. She has zoning in her town, and we don't, so I knew that I would be getting back any roos. No big deal. I dropped him in the box in the back room where Houdini is living temporarily, the only Auracauna I have left out of my 4 that I TRIED to put in with the three other ladies last week (yeah, that worked out REAL well - the three big ladies terrified the littler ones, three of the four squeezed out of the coop and under the fence where my dog promptly ate them). I thought Houdini would be thrilled to have company, instead of her lonely cardboard box exile. It brings to mind how an incarcerated person  would feel getting to go back into general population, getting a cell mate, after being in isolation. Well, Houdini was NOT suitably appreciative of "Speedy" being dropped into her confinement. They did not warm to each other immediately, and I had to separate them for the day. I did, however, come home to find them snuggled up together ON THE RECYCLING BIN. That would be OUT OF THE BOX. WHERE I LEFT THEM AT 8 AM. Thus, Houdini. Perhaps Speedy should be renamed Copperfield, as in David? I swear to god I do not know how they are getting out of this box. Oh well, at least they are friends now.

And as if this wasn't enough for this week, last night I went out the front door to go to the spring concert at school, and I stopped to watch a strange - as in, NOT MINE - chicken/rooster? strutting across my lawn. (It was a beautiful one, and I wish I could positively identify the breed. Lakenvelder is about the closest I can come to it.) Anyway, it came strutting across my lawn, up into my driveway and walked right into my coop.   Since I headed to the coop to check it out, my three ladies came running and so I closed the door and left them in there together, because I figured someone would want this one back, and I didn't want to leave it out roaming where dogs might get it while we were gone. (yep, I'm a S-L-O-W learner sometimes, but I DO eventually get it!)  By the time I came home from the concert, all four of them had already gone to roost in the coop, so I left them there for the night. This morning, they weren't fighting, just keeping their distance from one another, and it turns out it, too, is a roo. But, by the end of the day, it was STILL here, so... is it mine? This is so random. I live in town. There are a few people who keep chickens, but no one close, and none who keep THIS kind of chicken that I know of. Where on earth did it come from? Do people just know I'm the crazy chicken lady (I told you I had turned that awful corner) and so they are now just dropping unwanted roosters off in my yard like people do excess cats on farms?

What will tomorrow bring? Is it ok that I sorta just feel like curling up in a corner and rocking myself a bit?  :)

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Animal , Vegetable, Miracle - Food for Thought

These aren't very clear photos, but it's a woodpecker on what was left of the corn in my garden last fall.
In a way, it is a snapshot not just of the bird and corn, but more of the way my life has changed in a certain area over the past two or three years - the way I think about food, and my own little footprint on earth.
I have no idea what started it, but my views of food, the type, and where it comes from, really have undergone a significant change for the better. I guess probably it comes from general education in the past few years that things like whole grain bread is better for you than white bread, homemade wheat bread is better than store wheat bread, fresh fruits and vegetables should make up a large part of your meals, etc. Most of that really isn't rocket science, and, thankfully, I really LOVE almost ALL fruits and vegetables and would choose to eat them over starches and other stuff most of the time anyway. A huge bowl of fresh steamed broccoli? Yum. Yellow and green summer squash, steamed with onions, lightly buttered and salted? Double yum. Favorite veggie of all time: brussel sprouts. I could and do eat a whole grocery store carton of them, when I buy them.And fruits? Not a one I don't like. I LOVE fruit, almost more than chocolate. Fresh nectarines, peaches, strawberries, berries of any kind, kiwi, oranges in the winter... I can never have too much.
But, those aren't really changes for me, since I have always liked wheat bread, fruits, and most vegetables. The changes are more in my attitude toward where my food comes from, especially meat. I'm not a HUGE meat eater, and could, actually, live happily on only seafood and fish as my protein sources if they were more readily available here, and IF I liked to cook more. I like chicken better than red meat, though occasionally nothing beats a pork chop cooked in cream of mushroom soup, or a small piece of steak with tons of mushrooms on top. But lately I care WHERE my meat - all of it - is coming from.  If I have to eat my chicken or beef or pork from the grocery store, knowing it came from big, crowded farms, processed in questionable meat packing plants, I'd rather eat another helping of a sunflower butter and homemade jam sandwich, thanks. So we have turned to buying our meat from local farmers, and from 4-H kids at the fair. That way, I know my "meat" was actually a very happy animal, before it became my dinner. I don't mind that it was killed for me to eat - I do actually believe that really, that IS the purpose of a cow, or a pig, or a chicken. I just want to know that it had a good life before it became Shake N Bake.
Thoughtful eating. I think that's really it.
And I grow what I can. I will never really be a fanatical gardener. I have too many other summer interests. So I dabble. I plant only what I like, and what I will use. I freeze the beans I grow, make sauce out of the tomatoes, onions and peppers I grow, pickles from the cukes. I grow enough summer squash and zuchini to keep me happy. I don't grow lettuce, because I don't LIKE lettuce much. I can't possibly grow enough peas to freeze, so I don't bother. I will buy a bag or two of fresh peas locally when they're ready, and support someone else. This year, I begged my husband to have his brother plow and til a spot at my motherinlaws house where I could plant and grow potatoes. Who knows what that's all about, but I have a burning desire to grow my own potatoes this summer. Thankfully, if I don't get enough, there is a student in my class whose summer job it is to sell potatoes that her grandfather plants. That's how she earns her school shopping money.  And another student is raising a sheep to take to the fair, so if i am lucky, I will buy that from her in July to put in my freezer.
Oh, and I got chickens last summer. I have decided that my mission is to not sell their eggs, but to give them away to my neighbors. I have lots of good neighbors who can always use a dozen eggs, and who do a dozen good things for me all the time. I can "repay" some of that by passing along fresh eggs, while having the pleasure of raising chickens. And the chicken manure is great, natural compost for my garden. And whatever I don't harvest or use from my garden, doesn't go to waste, because the chickens eat it!  I started a compost heap last year, to reduce our trash going to the landfill. My "design" didn't work so well, so that will have to be changed this summer. But at least I started.  And I have been researching vermicomposting as well, which can only be good for my garden. And bees. I would love bees. Not right now, but sometime. In the meantime, I can buy honey locally from a former principal at my school who raises bees. There is nothing quite like fresh honey. I can't go back to buying store-bought. There is just no comparison. And now that my younger son is old enough to hunt, he has filled the freezer the past two winters with venison. Now THERE is happy meat! 
So what does the picture of the woodpecker eating corn in my garden have to do with any of this stream-of-consciousness, random food rambling? Well, last summer I planted corn, even though my husband told me that it probably wasn't going to grow too well in our soil, and we really would need a much bigger plot for it. I most often can't be told things, and simply need to learn the hard way, through experience. He was right, but that's ok, because what few ears I DID get? The wood peckers ate. And I felt good about having provided them with food, in return for the pleasure of their company. It seemed a fair trade.
And the same girl who sells potatoes? Her grandfather also plants corn, and by September, I can always get as many bags as I need of it to throw in the freezer for free. Otherwise it will just go to waste. Maybe I should put a sign in MY garden directing the woodpeckers to their corn field. The pickings would be not quite so slim there!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Rice Pudding and Cooley Hats!

This was my dad a few weeks ago when he first ended up in the hospital with his second heart attack. He looks tired, and perplexed, but still pretty much like my dad.

Later that week, he reached for the cover to his lunch tray one day, put it over his head, and told me it was his Cooley hat. It was so random, and so out of the blue, as he hadn't really been talking much anyway, that I just burst out laughing. I also didn't realize that apparently a "cooley" hat is NOT very PC. I guess I am showing my ignorance by saying I thought coolie's were a TYPE of hat Asian's wore, or it was someone who worked in the rice fields? I don't know. I apologize for thinking it was funny - but I really didn't know. And although my father has NEVER been racist, or prone to demeaning ANYONE, I think either he, too, no longer realizes that perhaps it isn't a nice thing to call someone, or, more likely, at his age, he simply just doesn't care? But, funny, regardless, I thought!
 The past two or three weeks have not been good ones for my dad.  And, therefore, not particularly good for me, either, although I THOUGHT I was sort of rolling with it.  We had to place him in a nursing home, because he lacked the physical and mental stamina and ability to return to the Assisted Living facility where he had been for  about six weeks. I didn't think this was necessarily a bad thing, as I felt he would be getting a lot more attention and interaction with people, rather than just sitting in a room alone. Plus, selfishly, he is now only a few miles from me, and I can, and do, run down after school several days a week. My sister has had a REALLY hard time accepting it, which I completely understand. If there is anything that dealing with our aging parents has taught me, it is that we all have our own mental and emotional maps which have guided us from childhood to, and through, adulthood, and my map is not the same as my sister's, or either of my brother's, but they all take us to the same destination in the end. And all the main roads intersect at most of the important times, so although we may not be carpooling, we all get there eventually.
But it is no secret that my dad has gone downhill pretty rapidly in the past few weeks. He is at the point where most of his day is spent sleeping, and it no longer interferes with his ability to sleep through the night. He has had a terrible, terrible cough that developed on the Wednesday he was in the hospital, and so has now continued for nearly a month. Apparently it is not pneumonia, though they did finally put him on an antibiotic, in hopes that it is bronchitis and will help clear it up? I tend to think it may simply be a symptom of congestive heart failure, and that there is no cure for it.
Although his oxygen levels were good in the hospital, they are now down in the 80's while he is up, so they started him on oxygen.
He was having trouble swallowing in the hospital, and now, can not seem to swallow even soft foods. I guess it is common in the elderly to sort of "forget" how to swallow?
We had to make a decision this week - and we did. We are offering "pallitive" or "comfort" care. If he's hungry, they will feed him something he can eat, like cream of wheat, or pudding. If he isn't hungry, they won't force him to eat. If he's tired, they will let him sleep. If he's thirsty, they will offer him a drink.
They will keep him warm, and cared for, and I will continue to sit next to him after school for an hour or two most days without waking him up, so that he is loved right through to the end. And not just me - my siblings, with their own maps, will find and love him too, in their ways, and with their time.
I thought I was doing well with it, until it was spoken this week that he is, for all intents and purposes, dying. I guess I somehow expected him to just go on this way indefinitely, but I guess that is unrealistic. I think I accept this knowledge, but doing so, for real, has taken it's toll on me this week.
I am exhausted. I feel like I just want to sleep. All the time. It's all I can do to get through a day, and all I can think about is how soon can I go home and lay down and take a nap? Sleeeeeeeepy!
And  last night, I asked my husband to make me blueberry pancakes for dinner. It was a little bit odd, although occasionally I will make breakfast for dinner, but not usually when he is home. While working on those for me, he asked me why the rice was out.  I said, "to make rice pudding."  All of a sudden, the light went on for both of us: I was requesting, and making, comfort foods. Hmmm. Guess that means I am an emotional eater? I can't think of much that is MORE comforting than a warm bowl of rice pudding with milk on it.
I  only wish my dad could swallow some. 
I don't know what other comfort I can offer him.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

My OWN Doggies (who contribute their hair for my coffee!)

This is Willow. She was the first dog I saw (on line) that I fell in love with, and HAD to have. She was a rescue dog from a shelter three hours away from here. We had the perfect dog as our FIRST dog - Reilly. He was a Golden Retriever, and was just "THE" dog. After he passed away, in February, I lasted til April before I BEGGED to get another dog. My husband knew no one could ever live up to Reilly, so he didn't want anotehr dog. But I had been infected with "dog love" by that point, and could NOT live without a dog. I drove to Syracuse and "rescued" Willow - and came home with one of her pups, Bridget, as well. (Can you say SUCKER? Yep, you'll say it again in a minute, too!) Willow was skin and bones when we got her, and would have NOTHING to do with my husband, or any other male, for a very long time. She was terrified of everything,and skulked around, acting like we were going to beat her. She was obviously abused before she was abandoned. She has turned into the most loyal, loving, devoted dog ever. I can't take a step but what she's there. If I move from one room to another, she follows. She is ANNOYINGLY loving at times. But we love her for her lovingness. And she adores my husband and everyone else in her world these days. She is the ONLY dog out of the 4 that I have who does not need to be hooked up outside, and who will not run away even if the gate is left open. Are you kidding me, she must think to herself. WHY would I want to run away from HERE? This is Abai (Abigail Beatrice, actually, but I call her
Abai B (AB-B-B). She is the "replacement" dog for Bridget, who did not live long due to a very unfortunate accident several months after we got her. I felt TERRIBLE for Willow, because she was a very good mother dog, and I felt bad for my daughter, who had claimed Bridget as "her" dog, but who was gone out of state when she passed away. I felt like I had to quickly get a replacement for both Willow and my daughter's sake, and so, since my husband had loved our original Golden Retriever so much, I "replaced" Bridget with Abai. Unfortunately, there is simply NO comparison. Reilly was smart - Abai is dumb. REALLLLLLY dumb. Reilly was light blonde - Abai is dark red, like an Irish Setter. The only real similarity is that Goldens are, by nature, very gentle and sweet dogs, and Abai certainly is. She loves anyone, and everyone, and that would even include anyone who thought perhaps they should break into our house, or kidnap a child of mine. I have no doubt that Abai would welcome them, to the house or the child, and lick them to death, and then miss them when they were gone. I KNOW I should love her lots, but she's just SOO dumb. I don't NOT love her. She just is at the bottom of the dog hierarchy here.

This is Anvik, an Alaskan Husky, named after a town on the Iditarod Trail, called just Annie, for short. She hd a brother, Moose, and they came together. Moose deserves a post of his own another day.  I actually saw their pictures on line, from a high kill shelter in Kentucky, and decided I had to have Moose. He had the gorgeous husky face, and  typical blue husky eyes. He looked more like a husky, and was a BIG BOY. They were rescued by an animal rescue group in Buffalo, put into foster care, and when the lady brought Moose down to visit and check out my home, she also brought his sister Anvik, "just for the ride, and to get her out of the house for awhile."  Yeah, right. She knew a sucker when she saw one. She left here with NO dogs, and I suddenly went from two dogs, to four. As it turns out, I am SO glad I kept Annie.  She is a sweetheart of a dog. The only bad thing about Annie is, she's got so much husky blood in her, she runs away EVERY STINKING CHANCE SHE GETS. And she is literally "uncatchable."  Our back yard is fenced, but for the quickness she has in finding or making escape routes, it might as well not be. And now, she takes Bramble with her. Annie had gotten so that, without having Moose to run with her, she would return home fairly soon. Now that she takes Bramble, I have to immediately go looking for them, because I'm not sure Bramble would know how to return home, and truth be told, she's my favorite, and Annie is my second favorite, and I would be DEVASTATED if something happened to them, so as much as I HATE it, I get in the car, and begin trolling up and down the streets around town, trying to find them. I feel like a huge creeper, just driving slowly, slowly up and down the streets, and covering the same streets over and over, looking in people's yards, until I find them. But the sense of relief when they are safely home is worth every second of discomfort in looking for them.
And, obviously, this is Bramble, the long-awaited
Border Collie. She, too, will get a longer post of her own soon, since she just had her first birthday, and I really owe the breeder a letter and some pictures.
Clearly, from the looks of Annie curled up on the
couch, I am very strict with my dogs. All the things I said I would NEVER do  - dogs on the furniture, dogs licking out my ice cream bowl, feeding a scrap or two from the table, buying REALLY GOOD dog food. Yeah, they suffer here. Can you tell? (Did you catch the fact that Abai was laying on a pillow on the floor up there? Rough life, dog!)
cats come and lay down in front of Willow, usually within her front paws, so that she will "groom" them. She takes her teeth, and very gently, goes up and down their heads and backs, nibbling, grooming. The cats purr so loudly when she does this for them that you can hear them across the room.
While I was spending time in the hospital with my dad, I think it was the first time, back in January, I was missing the time I wasn't spending with my children and my dogs.  My oldest son, who was home on break at the time, sent this picture to my cell phone to show me that my babies were still having fun,and getting their exercise, even without me. He's a good boy!

Monday, May 10, 2010

You Know You're a Dog Lover When...

  • you think your dog is a good kisser
  • your dog has more clothes than you (not me - I do NOT dress up my dogs!)
  • you hang out with your dog instead of friends
  • you only go places your dog is welcome
  • you eat fast food and your dog eats gourmet food
  • you have more pictures of your dog than your family
  • you spend more on your dogs grooming than your own (only in terms of time, for me!)
  • your dog has more toys than your children
  • your dog makes your schedule
These are from a card my sister got for me. I have to add a couple of my own, the first one below that my children actually complain about!
  • when you post more blogs and face book updates about your dogs than your children!
  • when you spend more money on bones for your dog than on coffee for yourself
  • when you can't go to bed too early, because it's not the dog's bedtime yet
  • when you don't really want to go on vacation all that badly, because you can't stand the thought of leaving your dog in a kennel, or having someone incompetent take care of him
  • when you're more tired than someone with a baby, because the baby sleeps through the night, but your dog doesn't
I'm sure there are lots more - let me know if you think of any to add!!

Buddy the Burrito

Dogs are always on my mind.  I'm sure with a blog name like I have, that isn't really a surprise. Lately, I've been giving them a lot more thought, really contemplating them. The ones I have, myself, and all the other ones I love, or hate (no, not really - I don't think I COULD hate a dog, though I will confess publicly to really intensely NEVER wanting to own a poodle. Ick.) I feel a slew of contemplative dog posts coming on, so if you're not a fan, you might want to just skip this blog for awhile.  One who has been on my mind and in my heart a LOT lately is my neice's dog, Buddy. 
This is Buddy, below. When my sister was in NC with my niece and I was sitting in the hospital with my dad, and we were texting back and forth frequently, I asked her to send me a picture of Buddy. I love this dog. I love his story, and I love my neice for keeping him, when the easiest thing in the world would have been to return him, and no one would have blamed her. He was a stray, picked up and taken to a shelter, and in foster care briefly, I think, before Meghan adopted him. She had a Sheltie named Chips when she was growing up, and always wanted another. Buddy looks to me like a mixture of Sheltie and either Border Collie or Australian Shepherd.  Unfortunately, he's got some issues. Serious issues. 
He has the worst case of separation anxiety I have EVER heard of in a dog.
Crate him, and leave, and he will rip the crate, his nose, his teeth, everything, apart, until he's bloody, to get out of the crate and find his people. Leave him uncrated, and he shreds curtains, furniture, walls, etc to find his people. Hook him outside and he shreds the door, and his paws bloody, to come back in to find his people. The dog makes my diagnosed and treated Panic Disorder look like a mild case of the flu.He has Anxiety, with a CAPITAL A. Maybe that's why I feel so drawn to him. Sympathy? Empathy? I have no idea. At the same time that I love and adore him, I also know that I would not have been able to live with his "disabilities."  I don't believe, even with my intense "dog love" that I would have survived it. But God bless my niece - she has not given up on him, has not left a stone unturned in trying to help Buddy, and make all their lives more do-able. Together. Returning him, at this point, is not an option for her, and I'm grateful. Because I love Buddy so much, I know I'd HAVE to volunteer to take him, and I know I would be doubling my Paxil and feeding it to Buddy as well.

This was actually a picture she posted on her blog last week that has had me smiling ever since. I even printed it out and taped it to my desk so I can look at it and smile during the day. Her description that went with it:  "Buddy, seen here as a burrito. He is one hot mess of a dog, but he has most definitely found a permanent spot in our hearts"
And in my own, Buddy boy.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

In a Funk

  • flies
  • dull pencils
  • cooking dinner
  • a messy house
  • answering or talking on the phone
  • being 50 pounds overweight
  • the cost of gas
  • not having enough money
  • working at a job I don't love
  • parsnips, stewed tomatoes, beets, mushy "Thanksgiving" squash
  • milk (except soy)
  • running out of Diet Pepsi
  • social gatherings
  • things with too many "steps" to them for me to follow
  • crabby neighbors
  • living in town
  • car payments
  • driving a car I don't love
  • negative people
  • PMS
  • being too busy to think
  • nursing homes
  • getting old
  • ironing
  • putting clean laundry away
  • conflict of any type
  • having NOOOOOOO self discipline AT ALL
  • being wet
  • not being able to just say NO
  • being too easy on my kids and my dogs
  • being tired
  • having no motivation to do what would make me feel better
There. I should stop before I dig a hole I can't get out of. I would hate that too.