Sunday, July 20, 2014

Fun with Chickens

The chicken coop, back in May

                                                                  The chicken coop now
A sign on the door that says "Welcome to the Coop" that my eldest gave me for Mothers' Day, and another round tin sign above the window that says "Lay or Bust.
This guy below is the one rooster who managed to avoid being caught when I gathered up the other 5 roos and sent them to a farm in the country where they will probably be dinner. I'm now glad he didn't go, too, as I have decided I really like him. He's pretty quiet and unassuming for a rooster, but takes good care of his girls.

 Copper Marans girl... they lay dark brown eggs, and are very gentle and sweet. They should all start laying any day now... can't wait!

"The one in the forefront is the one who always escapes the run, somehow, but then waits for me to pick her up and put her back in the coop at night. She's a snuggler, nestling down in my arms and letting me hold her and hug her and sing to her before tucking her back in the coop.

THIS is my current coop work-in-progress... the small driveway coop.

Unfortunately, my younger son decided to replace the transmission and engine in his truck, in the driveway, right now, next to where I am trying to wrestle this coop into shape for the Swedish Flower Hens that need to move in there.

It's not pretty at the moment, but it WILL be. I will be finished with that one shortly, and will post another picture. These silly SFH's really NEED to get out of this tub. My porch smells, and they are NOT HAPPY with the lack of room.  I don't blame them a bit.
 No idea how many hens or roos yet, but still just thrilled to pieces that we were able to get these to hatch, and that they are so healthy. 10 out of 12 fertile eggs hatched, and 9 out of 10 lived and are super healthy. You can start to see their unusual spotting coming through. I have some beautiful colors in the bunch, and I'm just so darn excited to finally own some of these birds. When I first discovered them at Greenfire Farms, in Florida, a few years ago, they were SO rare in the US that a breeding pair was $250.00. OUCH. Out of my price league. I happened to look this spring, and a single day old is now down to $20.00, making a breeding pair now only $40.00.  But then, a dozen eggs was $50.00, and I ended up with 9, so I'm beyond pleased.
Can't wait to watch these babies grow! 

Monday, June 30, 2014

"I'll Buy You a Cone..."


     The simple post would be, "I love ice cream. Blue Moon is my favorite flavor."  But, that's not true, and I can never just say anything simply, can I. Well, it's true that I DO love ice cream. Blue Moon is not my favorite kind, however. But it does bring back a lot of memories, which is why I found myself eating a medium sized cone of it the other night on the way home from a trip to Olean to celebrate our 27th anniversary.  (We actually went to Tractor Supply first, so I could get chick feed and dog food and chicken wire to fix my coop, then to Home Depot to order a new floor, and then to Walmart for flowers for the log in front of my chicken coop. Finally, we went and ate dinner at a Mexican restaurant that didn't even serve margaritas!  And that's how you celebrate 27 years of marriage, our style...) 
     So, the ice cream cone.  My dad, who passed away more than 5 years ago, never missed an opportunity in his travels to say to me, as a kid, to my mother when there were no kids left at home, and to me as an adult, "I'll buy you a cone..."  I used to just think that was the BEST. THING. EVER. about my dad when I was little, and it wasn't until MANY years later I realized that he wasn't just being generous and thoughtful to me, or to my mom. It was code for "I love ice cream and never miss an occasion to stop and get myself a cone, but if I offer to buy YOU one, maybe you won't think about how much I love ice cream myself!"  Well, it worked for many years! (I also tried to be that kind of parent to my kids when they were growing up - I wanted them to remember that mom never said no to an ice cream cone - just because...)
     When I was growing up, much like now, still, the place we went most often to eat or shop was Olean, about 30 miles from home. On the back road (now the back road - then, the only road) between Hinsdale and Olean, there was/is still Crosby's Dairy  -one of my dad's favorite places to get us a cone. And, for whatever reason, they always carried Blue Moon ice cream, which was my favorite kind to get in a cone when I was a kid. It's the only kind I ever got when I was growing up, if they had it. Blue Moon is not really all that exciting a flavor - it is truly only orange-pineapple ice cream with little pieces of pineapple in it. And apparently, lots of blue food dye. But I'm sure the name itself is what appealed most to me back then -  and, still a little bit now, truth be told. Much like the name Moose Tracks. I happen to think that's a really cool name for an ice cream flavor. Much more exciting than "chocolate peanut butter" or the like. I guess, given that I love words and their connotations so much, and did even while growing up, it isn't really any surprise that I'm a sucker for a cool name.. even for an ice cream.
     I went that way a couple of weeks ago, and thought about stopping at Crosby's to see if they still had Blue Moon and to get a cone if they did,  because I was thinking strongly of my dad that day. But, I'm also continuing to try to eat as "clean" as I can, and most of the time, that means dairy and sugar free. So I talked myself out of it. It's a little too easy for me to succumb to ice cream, if I don't work hard to avoid it. But after eating Mexican the other night, which is not very "clean eating," I figured, "hey, if you're already off the wagon for tonight, AND it's your anniversary, this is as good an opportunity to get an ice cream cone, if ever there was one, and then get back to healthy eating tomorrow..."  so, stuffed full of enchiladas and refried beans and guacamole and sour cream as I was, I turned to my hubby and said, "Go home the back road through Hinsdale."  He raised his eyebrows questioningly at me, and I said, "I'll buy you a cone..."
     And what do you know? They still carry Blue Moon ice cream, after all these years. We both got one. They were good. 

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Clean Like You're Dying

     I am nearly done with school now, just one more day. The kids finished yesterday at 11, so for the rest of the afternoon, I hauled stuff out of the old-fashioned "cloak-room" attached to my classroom. It's my storage closet, and it has become a gigantic mess over the course of the year. I have to turn in so many weird forms and papers now, at the end of the year, I'm terrified of throwing out papers during the year that I might need in June. So, I hauled everything out into the middle of my classroom floor. Yesterday the pile looked pretty daunting, but the closet looked great!  That's as far as I got by about 4 yesterday, when I went home.
     Today I had all day to work in my room, and I filled two HUGE janitorial industrial sized garbage containers on wheels with papers and junk. I am now down to a smallish pile of papers that I need to file into labeled file folders tomorrow. That will take me about an hour. Then, I have to file another bunch of papers into a binder to turn in to prove that I taught the new Common Core modules this year. That will maybe take another hour. And, just because I always underestimate the time it takes me to do anything, let's just say I think I have a good shot at being done and out the door by 3:00 tomorrow, which is the earliest official time anyone can leave.
   If so, that will be a new record for me. There have been so many years that I have had to come back in on Friday, the day when almost NO ONE is still there, to finish. Or, I've piled the rest into boxes to sort when school begins again, something which doesn't ever really happen. I end up just throwing out the whole box after a year or two of kicking it around.
     But the reason I have gotten it done so quickly, and have thrown out so much,  is because I have a weird attitude this year. I describe it as cleaning as though I might die over the summer. I have this really strong feeling that I do not want someone else to have to come into my classroom and sort through all my piddly or personal stuff, or to realize that during the year I am an unorganized hoarder of papers. I also still need to hoe out the book cupboards in my room, but those don't show, and right now I can't get at them because I'm still currently sharing my room with another teacher. I will be able to do those in August, and I will likely fill another huge waste can.  Cleaning out and throwing things away is good. Really, once all my binders and such have been turned in, there's no real reason to keep things anymore. But it's more than that. It's a purging that is bordering upon psycho. And, it is affecting my summer plans for home, too.
     Since I'm not going to Alaska this summer and am planning to spend most of my summer right here in this house, I have decided it is time to clean and throw out here the same way. I do not want to die and leave all my junk for someone else to have to clean up. I feel like I "have the summer" to get my act together, to get the house pared down to just the basic necessities. I feel like I NEED to do this, I need to have this sense of organization in my life, both at work and at home, and then, once it's done, I feel like I WON"T die. But I feel like if I don't do it, I might. Weird, I know. I think it might be caused by the realization that I have had several friends recently diagnosed with cancer, and have lost several friends way too young to cancer recently, and by the sudden death of a woman just a couple years older than me in a freak accident recently. She went out for a walk after dinner, and never once thought she wouldn't be home to do the dishes that night, I'm sure. What if that happened to me? Who would want to have to sort through all my stuff here? What would they do with my box of spelling stories from 5th grade, or my notebooks full of (bad) song lyrics for guitar, and angsty teen age poetry?  What would they do with the bag full of tshirts in my closet that I was saving to maybe someday make a quilt from?  Better that I take care of these things as much as I can than to just continue to accumulate and add to it.  If I live another 40 years, at least my spelling stories will not be a part of what they need to decide on. Maybe I should write my own obituary while I'm at it?
I don't know. I just know I'm in a cleaning kind of mood, and if nothing else, Lord willing it is nothing else, I'm at least going to have a clean, uncluttered classroom to work in next year, and a super clean and organized house to come home to at day's end. As end goals, that's not bad!

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Book Recommendation

Just finished this book this morning, after starting it about a week ago. I've had to fit my reading of the 400 page book in and around "real life" still - work, correcting papers, cooking dinner, etc. It's not summer vacation yet, when I can consume a whole book in a day. It's been a week of doing the bare minimum so that I could read as much as possible. It's pretty much all I've done when I wasn't working. It's a book I could NOT put down, a book I gave up needed hours of sleep to keep reading "just one more chapter," and a book I got up early to read in the morning for an hour before work. It is THAT GOOD. And, it surprises me that I found it to be so good. It's the non-fiction account of one man who was a POW in a Japanese camp during WWII, not something that would immediately grab my attention as a definite interest-keeper. I'm so glad I gave it go. It was truly one of the best books I've read in years. It will stay with me and haunt me and encourage me for years to come. I read hundreds of books a year, and seldom do I bother to give one another thought, when I finish. I put it down and immediately go on to the next. This book is different. I want EVERYONE to read it. It's THAT GOOD!!!!  If you've already read it, or choose to do so at some future point before the movie comes out at Christmas, let me know what you think,  I already know I will not be going to the movie. I don't like movies much anyway, and I know I would not be able to take the level of physical violence that will be shown between human beings. But as a book..... truly, truly a good, good book.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014


     Have you ever just wanted to sit down and have a good cry? A really long, deep and tearing cry? Yeah, me either. Not really. I'm not much of a crier.
     For someone who is normally an extreme optimist, and also very introspective, though, it is frustrating to be feeling as sad and anxious as I have the past two days, without being able to pinpoint why. I DO want to cry. I just feel like collapsing into a little heap and crying my heart out. But, I have no idea why. And I'm anxious. I'm worried and fretting, but have no idea over what.
     I keep thinking, "maybe it's the end of the school year stress" or "maybe it's that I am back at school and routine after an awesome trip to Maine last weekend" or "maybe I'm just tired"  and then, finally, I've come to "maybe it's everything combined...all of the above." But, it doesn't really seem likely. Like I said, I'm a bit of an optimist, forever aware of my blessings and full of gratitude and happiness at the good, good life I live. So, to be feeling THIS sad and THIS anxious over who knows what is just not like me.  It's an odd feeling, to be feeling this way AND not to know why. I don't like it much.
     I'm not worried - it's not like some deep, awful depression or anything. The fact that for the past four days camping in Maine I could not have been any happier is reassurance that there is really nothing too deeply wrong. Perhaps it IS just having to come back to reality. Perhaps it IS that my house is totally all torn up awaiting carpeting and flooring and that I don't function well mentally when there is a mess around me. Perhaps after next week, when I have had my end of the year evaluation on my stupid binder at school I will feel much less stressed and will realize that that really IS what is weighing me down at the moment, even though I don't think so.
     In the meantime, I think I'll go to bed early again tonight. Whatever it is that is making me want to bawl like a baby can't be hurt any by some extra sleep. And, as my mom always said, tomorrow's a new day. Maybe I'll feel better tomorrow.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

A Whole Lot of Chicken Love... and lots of chicken poop as well

I am not likely going to be making my summer trip to AK this year, and because, deep down, that makes me a little (ok, a LOT) sad, I've been trying to throw myself into other projects and ideas for summer to keep me from falling apart that I can't go "home" this summer. 
Several things I've decided to do revolve around my chickens. I guess, if you can't take care of dogs, a kennel full of dogs, the next best thing is a coop full of chickens? 
So last weekend, I cleaned out the small barn coop where I had moved them to when they outgrew the giant plastic tub brooders in my basement.
They had all been in the barn coop for probably about a month, and were now large enough that they need more room, AND, my younger son's apartment is upstairs, over the barn, and he was complaining violently about the smell. ("Mom, I can't even bring GIRLS up there because it stinks so bad."  And THIS is a reason for me to move my chickens? Really? You thought that would be incentive for me?  Ha ha ha ha ha..... son, you don't know much about moms yet, do you?) 

 So, last weekend, I cleaned out this coop.

I also had to thoroughly clean out the bigger, outdoor coop, since the last time I kept chickens in it, a year or two ago, I never cleaned it out the final time. Eww. Note to self: ALWAYS clean a chicken coop IMMEDIATELY after finishing with it.   So, Saturday I cleaned and scrubbed, and then Sunday, I whitewashed the inside, and laid down a piece of linoleum, as it will be tons easier to clean with a linoleum floor, rather than wood. I knew that when we first built the coop, but didn't bother to do it then, and have wished all along I had. So, this time, I took the time to do it right. I also covered the nesting boxes, because I read that if you keep them covered until they start laying, they won't use them for sleeping and pooping, and they will stay much cleaner. Hope so.

This is currently the outside of the coop and run. I have a TON of ideas for sprucing this up and making an awesome looking chicken coop. It's been "functional" for a few years, but now I want to make it outstanding. By the end of the summer, it will be. I'm excited to do the work on it to get it to the place I envision.  Just wait!

I also am going to be starting a new venture this summer with chickens that I'm pretty excited about. Just finishing the details on getting that going, so, even though I will not get to spend my days with my sled dog babies in Alaska this summer, I WILL, at least, have lots of chicken love. Not anywhere near as good, but, life is what you make it. So, I will do my best to make it a good summer, and more importantly, a super productive summer, both inside and outside the house, regardless. Looking forward to summer, and the work, so that's the important thing.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Wordless Wednesday


I love this time of year, when these are the things that start showing up in my inbox at work. If we are already planning for NEXT year, then clearly, THIS year must be almost done? Yes? Yes!  49 days until June 24th, which is not officially my last day, but it IS the last day for kids, which really is all that counts. After all, school without kids is not work at all!


Teachers PRE_K _2, Teachers 3_6

 Last Library Book Exchange Days will be June 10 -12 for this year.

 Faculty Meeting Agenda

·      United Way – Presentation
·      Resource presentation – Ms. C &; Mr. C
·      35 week progress reports due May 16th at 8 am
·      Last day of scheduled classes 7-12 June 16th.
·      Main Office copier
·      Field trips; paperwork
·      Dates for events for the calendar for 2014-15 School Year
·      Questions/concerns/issues




school supplies for 14-15 school year
Tuesday, May 06, 2014 03:59PM
Teachers Group and Admin
Please update this school supply list for next year so we can put it in the school newsletter.
I would like it back by May 16th.

(See attached file: school supplies.docx)

Monday, May 5, 2014

The Cat Returns (and the Chickens, too)


     Karma shines.  Though I'm a bit mad. But  I'll get over the mad part and go with the good part.  The vet bill for Katie-cat's teeth was estimated by my vet (a year and a half ago when I first took her in to check on the oral surgery) to range between $600-$1,000.  That cost is what prohibited me from having it done for too long. So, finally when I couldn't take the guilt anymore, and I take her in, they end up pulling all her teeth, and the bill? Only $423.00.  OK, so I'm ecstatic that it wasn't anywhere near as costly as they predicted. However, had I known it was only going to be around that amount, or "under $500.00"), I WOULD have done it much sooner, and she would not have had to suffer for this long.  But, I'm not going to dwell on that. I can't change what is, and the important thing is, I DID do the right thing, finally, and was rewarded for that by not having to mortgage the house.  She is doing REALLY well.  I kept her contained in our bathroom for a little bit, but less than 12 hours after having every single tooth in her head removed (or, rather, the few that were actually left, since many had already rotted and fallen out - why DID that happen, anyway?), she was up, wobbling around, asking for food and purring up a storm when I patted her head. She ate, despite the pain, a half a can of canned, nasty smelling wet cat food, and would have eaten more, had the vet not cautioned me about introducing canned food too quickly to her and causing gastrointestinal problems. She ate the other half the next morning. She got 4 intravenous shots,  through Saturday night, and then, somehow, she's supposed to be free of pain from that point on. (I wonder what cat they asked that of, to determine that 48 hours is all they are in pain?) I am now looking forward, strongly, to the sweet, sweet cat I know she is, and has been all along, and to being able to return her affection without gagging at the scent of her. I think Karma, if certainly not the sun, is shining strongly today.

     On the chicken front, two more chickens were returned to their coop last night, after being found wandering aimlessly in our front yard. So, with one confirmed dead, one injured and still laying in the dog cage in my kitchen, and three returned to their coop, I think I am now able to account for all of them. Or 99% of them. It's hard to count when they all move around so much. Both my little Egyptian Fayoumi roos had escaped and both were returned. That, too, makes me very happy. Scrappy little things that think they are physically much bigger than they actually are. They are a joy to watch with the many, many hens they have to boss around. Or think they boss around.They have finally started their silly little attempt at crowing, too. One of the things I like best about them, that breed, is that the males usually start crowing early, as early as 5 or 6 weeks. Mine appear to be a bit delayed, my little Special Ed roosters, as they are now going on 10 or 11 weeks, but it is still much earlier than a full-sized rooster would crow. It sounds a little rusty, like a rooster with a sore throat, or one trying to squawk into a large tin can. But, to me, music to my ears. I don't know that the neighbors will agree, but, they can't complain too much. They get all the free eggs they can eat, once the girls start laying!

Abai guarding "Winky," the (temporary) house (now porch) chicken

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Of Dogs and Cats and Chickens

Abai, the Golden, age 12

It's been "one of those" weeks.   Not bad, just, well, filled. Not bad, just not GOOD. Just, a week. I'm ready to be done with it, now, thank you very much. Monday was a vet appointment for my Old Ladies, all three. What possessed me to make an appointment for the entire geriatric crew at the same time, I'm not sure. Our vet is 20 minutes away, I cannot possibly be home from work until 3:20 if I FLY out of my classroom and beat the busses out of the parking lot, and my vet appointment was at 3:40, the latest I could get if I was bringing all three. Well, holy crow, it takes me 20 minutes just to get them moving after they've been laying around all day, stiff, aging joints and all. As I was managing to get the three who needed to go with me in the car, the other two took off out the front door like a shot out of a cannon... you could almost hear them, in their best Mel Gibson voice, barking out "FREEEE-DOM" as they took off across the street and cut through the neighborhood back yards. And my first thought was "Crap - now what do I do? I can't drive out of town and leave two loose dogs out running, but I can't cancel a vet appointment ten minutes before I'm supposed to be there."  SOMEONE loved me that day. Both black and whites came tear-assing BACK into the yard, up the front walk and into the house again like that had been their plan all along.  Just a quick two minute run and then home again. Yep, that's all we wanted.... honest.......
Anvik, Alaskan Husky, age 9
So we manage to make it there, only 5 minutes late, to find that they were behind. HUGELY behind. We waited. And waited, AND WAITED. Oddly, I didn't even really mind, because, unlike waiting in a doctor's office, at least here I had my dogs to keep me company. They are much better company than most people most of the time, and definitely preferred company to people all of the time, so it wasn't a big deal. Both Abai and Anney were fine - just updated shots, heartworm check, etc. It's my old lumpy girl, Willow, who is at least 13, but could be older, as she was a rescue off the city streets a few hours north of me, who's the worry. She has very little hip function anymore, can't climb stairs, gets her feet knocked out from under her if one of the younger ones runs too close, or over top of her when she is trying to go in or out. She's in a lot of pain, breathes too heavily too much of the time, has gone stone deaf and has cataracts besides. So, with all that confirmed, updated shots for her, Rimadyl for pain ($26.00 for 14 tablets, 2 tablets per day... ouch) and Dasaquin for a joint supplement (75.00 a bottle for 60 tablets, at two per day... double ouch) (and her breathing difficulty is called "old dog lungs," btw, which was new for me) - two solid hours later, we came home. $474.87 lighter in the checkbook.
Willow, curled up on her orthopedic mat in front of the heater, with her best cat friend Tequila
I guess I could have stomached that a bit better if it weren't for the fact that on Friday, next week, the two black and whites go for their turn, which will likely be a good $250.00.Sigh.
      AND, today, the stray cat we took in a few years back (because the scummy neighbors who adopted her as a kitten moved a year later and left her behind) went to have oral surgery. Yes. ALL her teeth have now been removed due to rotting - no idea why. Bad genes, apparently.  I have put it off for two years because I could not make myself pay the thousand dollars it was quoted as likely going to cost me. After two years, though, I could no longer stand to watch her shake herself in pain when a piece of dry food got caught between her teeth, and she didn't even have the ability to eat soft food without pain. She would just lick the gravy and could not seem to eat the mush part and was losing weight, and her breath stunk so badly you couldn't stand to have her near you. Unfortunately, she is the lovey-est cat who simply LIVES to be near you and to love you, and the guilt was killing me. Everyone I know tells me how absolutely ridiculous it is to pay a thousand dollars for a cat's teeth. A cat I didn't even really want, or love. And while I agree, it IS ridiculous, I also wonder, really, what are my choices. I could not ask the vet to put her down. There is nothing health-wise wrong with her. I could not bring myself to ask anyone to shoot her, although that was the most often recommended advice of people. Finally, I just decided to suck it up, use my savings and try to make it up somehow by cutting from some other areas until I get it put back. Yes, it's dumb and I hate that I had to do it. I wish I were somehow a little harder inside. But, I'm not. And maybe there will be some karma someday for having done it. Maybe Katie cat will save my life someday. Or something.
     So, the week isn't full enough of animal care - and the accompanying financial pain! - but last night, I find I've lost a couple of chickens to, likely, Miss Anvik the noted chicken killer (not her fault they ended up in her back yard) but that Bramble, my Border Collie, managed to save one and herd her to me at the back door. That story, or what I think is the story, is actually pretty funny, but I'll save that for another post. For now, I have a crippled chicken living in my kitchen. I hope it's temporary. And no, I'm NOT taking this one to the vet, no matter what. I love my chickens, probably far more than Katie-cat, but I am NOT spending vet money to make her well. She can live in a cage and be a, well, a,   I don't know, a front porch chicken, or something, the rest of her life, if she has to. Not a house chicken (though she does seem to be pretty happy laying on a lap...) and I am NOT spending money to make her uncrippled if she doesn't manage to do that on her own. She will just have to get over it. That's all there is to it!  Go ahead, call me heartless, I just don't care.
Poor thing - unlike the dogs and cats, she has no name......
Perhaps I could make some money off this bird to put towards my current "animal sanctuary" - she seems to be absorbing much from the EMT textbook... the first Chicken EMT???

Sunday, April 27, 2014

It's Time for Rehab Again :)

     Sugar rehab. Diet and lifestyle rehab. It begins tomorrow, again. I actually began a new way of eating back in November, for medical reasons, and did pretty well, despite the intrusions of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Eve. But January first, I got serious about it. I did thirty one days with NO SUGAR. No artificial sweeteners. No natural sugars, even, like Maple syrup or honey. Nothing except the natural sugar found in fruits.  
      In  addition, I got rid of all grains, all dairy products, all potatoes and rice, all fast foods, and processed foods. For 31 days I ate "clean." For 31 days, I ate nothing but fresh fruits, vegetables, meats/seafood, eggs, and nuts. And my body LOVED me for it. From its beginnings back in November, which was when I first gave up most of that, most of the time, until the end of January, I lost 20 pounds without exercising a lick. Just from changing my diet. And, it's a "diet" that isn't a diet - it's really a lifestyle change for me. One I can live with forever, because I LIKE the things I can eat, and  - except for sugar - do not really miss the things I can't. And, medically, it has helped, as much as I had hoped it would. But in it's purest form, it is strict. When I'm not intentionally rehabbing my body, I will eat dried fruits like raisins, cranberries, etc. and will use honey or maple syrup and dark, dark chocolate (more than 70% cacao) to create treats for myself, and oddly enough, once you get rid of the sugar, those things are plenty sweet enough, even though if I were to have eaten them back a year ago, they would not have tasted sweet to me then.
     But, lately, it seems I have been slipping more and more: "there's no meat already cooked, and the scalloped potatoes and ham look really good"..... "there are no veggies cooked, but that bag of salt and vinegar chips wouldn't hurt just once"..... "I haven't had ice cream in soooooo long......"  and before I know it, I'm eating like crap again, and I don't feel good, nor do I feel good about myself, and the weight loss is at a standstill. Amazing it is ONLY at a standstill, and not inching back up again. So far. But that wouldn't last, I'm sure.
     So... for awhile I kept telling myself come May 1, I would do another "Whole 30," the strict part of eating the way I now eat, for another 30 days. Finally, after my laziness this morning allowed me to use artificial sweetened flavored creamer in my coffee because I was just too lazy to mix up the coconut milk/coconut oil/egg/vanilla concoction I use, I decided I was not going to wait until Thursday. I'm starting tomorrow, Monday. A fresh week, a fresh start, jumping back on the wagon.
Coffee creamer was the last straw, because that was the absolute HARDEST thing for me to give up, out of EVERYTHING. I love my morning coffee with flavored creamer in it, and I could find absolutely NO substitute that was allowed that even came close. In January, I had to drink it black for 30 days - that's all that's allowed, and I swear, that was very nearly my breaking point, even before sugar. It made me SAD to drink my coffee black, because I LOVED my morning coffee before that, and I do not like black coffee. But, once that was done, I did try the coconut milk mix and, after a month of black, I decided that was ok. I didn't love it at first, but I came to, eventually. It's a creamer with no sugar that I can live with, and still happily enjoy my morning coffee again. But in allowing myself to slip back to flavored creamer this morning, I'm afraid if I don't get ahold of myself now, that will be my undoing, my "slippery slope," my "gateway drug."  I have read that sugar is, to the brain, every bit as addicting as meth. While it obviously does not begin to compare in effects to that horrible drug, I do believe the analogy. And it also makes me wonder why sugar is in so much of what we eat - I found it in nearly everything, once I started reading labels: mayonnaise, salad dressings, meats like bacon and lunch meats, chicken bouillon cubes, milk. It is unbelievable.
     But I have some new recipes to try, and like I said, I don't mind the things I can eat. I love vegetables, and fruits, and raw nuts. I don't like milk much to begin with, don't like cheese, do miss yogurt and ice cream, but.... oh well. I love my banana pancakes, and pumpkin pancakes, found sugar free bacon,  and have come to tolerate water as an ok drink. I love that I've lost 20 pounds, and look forward to trying to rid myself of another 20 between now and the end of June, even if it means I actually have to do some walking to move the next bunch. At least it is nicer weather to do that now than it would have been last fall. And, best of all, it HAS had the health benefits I had hoped (i.e. it lowered my cholesterol significantly without having to be on statin drugs, which I hated), so in the long run, I think kicking white sugar and white flour is well worth what I HOPE will be a healthier life. It's all a crap shoot, I know, but... I'm trying.

Monday, April 21, 2014

10 Random Bits of Happiness

1. Too many cardinals to count, lately. Everywhere. A nesting pair in my back yard even, somewhere. Their song is so nearly constant I ALMOST take it for granted.

2. A nesting pair of Blue Jays in the Forsythia bush right outside my kitchen window. I removed the screen from the inside of the window today while they were gone so that I will be able to take pictures of the eggs and eventual babies in the nest.

3. Meeting, nearly 21 months after his birth, my great-nephew Bowen for the first time. He's every bit as fun and adorable as I have imagined him to be, and I got to spend quite a bit of time with him.

4. Getting to see both my nieces that I have not seen in also at least that long. They have grown from beautiful little girls into beautiful and wonderful women.

5. Spending part of Easter Day with 3 of my four kids, lunch with eldest daughter, early dinner with youngest daughter, and just hang-around time with second son. Eldest son was working too much overtime this weekend to be seen, but will see him tonight for dinner, I imagine.

6. Finally got all 10 of my elderberry bushes that I ordered last fall planted in the ground. All survived the winter on my porch in their shipping box, and still look very healthy.

7. It's been a week plus two weekends plus an extra day on each end of those weekends for spring break, and the weather the past two days here has been BEAUTIFUL. It is going to get crummy again tomorrow, as I head back to work. (yay!) (For crummy weather while at work, not for the 'heading back to work' part)

8.  Speaking of work, I'm in the homestretch now. We are officially in the last quarter, the last ten weeks out of 40, before summer vacation, and that usually is the quickest quarter of the year as well.

9.  I have read/finished two excellent books this week. Love having time to read.

10. We are FINALLY going to be replacing our ugly, beat up floor in the downstairs of our house, and I could not be more excited to finally begin some updating and work on our old, terrible house.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

"We are such stuff As dreams are made on..."

     This year has been my worst EVER year of teaching in the 25+ years I have been in the classroom. Common Core is SO discouraging, so boring, so wrong. I hate it, and the kids hate it, and it is just plain bad teaching. And NYS's high stakes testing is also wrong, and makes me sick, on behalf of my kids. We have  just finished my subject's portion of that last week, and it was bad. But worst of all, or maybe just most visible of all, is this year's group of students. Never have I had a group like them.  Never in my life have I had a group that has caused me more stress, literally Every. Single. Day. There is no relief from it. Every day is just as bad as the one before. Thankfully (?), it is not just me... this group has caused the same stress to the other grade-level teacher who shares them with me, and to their "specials" teachers as well. One of those other teachers, who only has to deal with them for 40 minutes 3x a week, as opposed to all day every day, looked at me last week and said, "What is WRONG with this group of kids?"  I wish I knew. More importantly, I wish I knew how to fix it, for their sake, and for mine. The stress is adding up, and I although I only have one more quarter of the year to go til summer vacation,  it's winning. (Plus, I will have this exact same group NEXT year too - oh yippee. Talk about not excited to return from summer vacation next September...)
     The signs are there. I've been ignoring them. I've tried very hard to convince myself that it really isn't all that bad, that I'm fine, that I'm just making a big deal out of nothing, and that I should just continue to try to shrug it off. And, in fact, that all may well be true. But my body has a way of getting my attention, no matter how much I try to pretend. I internalize stress to the nth degree.  Two weeks ago my neck and shoulders and back were SO knotted up and tight and painful, I thought about seeking treatment. I always carry stress in my neck and shoulder area anyway, but this was notably worse. Then, last week, there was a burning sensation all week right in the middle of my back, like a muscle spasm. This weekend, I'm back to the knotted and painful neck and shoulder muscles. Grrr. I'm honestly not even sure a good massage could work out all the tightness.
     Somewhere, a week or two ago, I had a disturbing dream along in there as well, about my classroom kids, where I actually saw my real students and used their real names. Normally, in my dreams, I can tell what I'm dreaming about, but the people aren't actually the real ones, or have different faces, or different names; the places are different, not necessarily real, or not real for the situation. I might dream I am in school, but the school isn't recognizable as MY school, it might actually look like a shopping mall or a church but somehow, in my dream, I know I'm in school. But last week, and then again last night, I had school dreams that were way too realistic. They were my students, in name and face and actions, and I was yelling at them for their behaviors. SCREAMING at them in frustration. I never do that in real life, though every single day I feel like it. In both dreams, I was soooooo frustrated, just screaming and yelling and trying to get them to do what they were supposed to, and they would not. I woke up more stressed than I was when I went to sleep.
     It's not really a surprise. I'm smart enough to know that what I don't deal with in my waking world, my subconscious will try desperately to work out in my dream world. Earlier, I discovered, that when I was very worried about money, I would often dream about floors with holes in them I had to step over, or step around, worried about falling through. I had so many unsafe floor dreams it was crazy - I can even remember at least ten different unsafe floors - in a barn, in a log cabin loft, in several different vacation rental homes, etc. Once I figured out what the issue was, and dealt with it, the dreams quit. Now, clearly, these school dreams are not so cryptic. Clearly I am frustrated in my daily life to the point of wanting to scream, but knowing that is an unacceptable method of dealing with students, I sublimate it. Apparently it isn't even enough for me to be so stressed my back and neck and shoulders are hunched up like a troll. I need to vent in my dreams as well.
      The real problem, besides hating the smell of Tiger Balm muscle rub, is that I'm beginning to take my SCHOOL stress out on other relationships in my life. Because I can't seem to deal with the kids, or Common Core, or State testing, in any way that alleviates the stress, I yell at other people for what I feel, in the moment, are legitimate issues, only to realize later when I've calmed down, that, normally, I would have just let THOSE things roll off my back. I understand it, but the other people in my life don't. I don't blame them. "Sorry, honey, I created WW3 in our home last night over "that" - it's not you, it's that I'm stressed at work."  Yeah, I wouldn't buy it from another adult either. While it might be true, it IS completely unacceptable adult behavior.
     So, where does that leave me? Besides sleepless and in pain and frustrated?  Looking for solutions. I can't retire for 4 more years, so that's not one. My bathtub drain doesn't hold water, so a hot bubble bath isn't in the cards. I'm not much of a drinker, so drowning my sorrows is out. I don't have much time after work so a lengthy wander through the fields and forests, although soothing-sounding, isn't realistic. (nor do I have fields and forests at my disposal, so there's that, too, I guess, as a downside).And I no longer eat sugar, so I can't even binge on chocolate or ice cream and justify it as a stress reliever! Binging on broccoli just doesn't have the same allure.  I don't know. I don't KNOW what the solution is, or solutions are. No matter what I've tried, all the same shit is just there waiting for me the next day, so any solution is only temporary. I've always been really good at just "adjusting my attitude," and I guess I thought I was still managing to do that, but apparently my back, and my dreams, say otherwise.

Sunday, March 30, 2014


to winter's last gasp. Friday was nice enough to go outside for recess and enjoy the warmth of the spring air. Today, we awoke to 5 or 6 inches of new, wet, heavy snow. The forecast for Tuesday this week is a high in the 60's. Mother Nature certainly is a fickle bitch.

I love winter. For the first few months. And in Alaska, especially. Here? In New York? When it is a day away from April? Yeah, I'm over it.

Friday, March 28, 2014


for weather warm enough to FINALLY go outdoors for recess. These kids need to get outside almost as much as I need them to get outside!  It was about 57 degrees today, after a M, T, W, Th this week  STILL in the 20's.  It has been a long, very, very, very cold winter, and today, it finally broke. We are due for snow again Saturday night. Of course. But at least today, we spent 25 minutes outside instead of cooped up in the gym like we've been since, oh, about October. Maybe November. Grey skies, but warmer air. I'll take it.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Looking for Cardinals

     On the way to "the big city" where I go a few times a year for real shopping, or to one of the bigger towns in between here and there, where I occasionally go for groceries or to meet my sister halfway, there is  a choice of roads to take. Most people I know take the main, well-paved highway. I seldom choose that. I almost always choose the back road, the "cardinal road."  It's a "paved" road most of the way, if you don't count the potholes big enough to lose your entire truck in this time of year, and a few stretches where either it isn't paved for some unknown reason, or the paving has worn away to dirt. But it's a road that has a lot of scrubby brush and taller bushes along the way, on both sides of the road. It's a perfect haven for cardinals, and so many times I've seen them dipping and bobbing across the road, as they do, from one pile of brush to another.  I don't always see them, but have often enough in the past that I now always take that road when I'm by myself to look for them.  I met my sister for dinner last night, and took the road both going there and coming home, looking for cardinals.
     I didn't see any, but I wasn't disappointed. I got a good look at  a huge turkey vulture feasting unabashedly on a deer carcass on the side of the road. On my way past him, he flew up and off a little ways. On my way home, he never moved, and just gave me the stink eye as I passed by. I got a good look at him. A beautifully ugly creature.
       I also lost count of the number of young deer that leapfrogged each other across the road in the waning light of day. Skittish beauties, all of them. The fields are brown, and silent, still with patches of snow here and there that will be gone by the end of this week. The sunset was truly a wonder, pale pink at first under the edge of leftover white puffed up clouds, then a riot of oranges and deep pinks, finally red and fiery, it sank, and left the sky watercolored and soft. It looked more like a summer sunset than a spring one, and belied the cold that the air still holds.
     I think looking for cardinals is a worthwhile pursuit, even when you don't see any. Going that road doesn't really take any longer than going the main road, but it is a conscious choice I had to make at that junction, to turn left and brave the potholes and perhaps see a bright flash of red, or to just continue on the paved road through towns, past houses aplenty, without much hope of seeing anything out of the ordinary. My frequent choice to pursue the cardinals makes me realize that it is similar to the way I've tried to live my life the past year or two - a metaphor in the making. 
     I try to find the good in every day, even when it most seems like it is not there. Work is overwhelmingly frustrating much of the time, there are always family issues of one sort or another, it seems, and there is never enough money or time to do what needs to be done. If it isn't one thing, it is ALWAYS another. But... that is where LOOKING for the good, searching for those "cardinals," has made the most difference in my life. I have found that so much of the time, for me, it is about attitude, and perspective and choosing to count my blessings, like that of seeing a brilliant flash of red streak across the road in front of me, instead of dwelling on the negative, or, even just "taking the main road" without thought. Live with intention? Seek out the bits of flash in your day, or your life. Who knows. Maybe all you'll see is a really ugly Turkey Vulture, feasting on a dead deer. Or maybe, you'll get lucky, and see a cardinal or two, or five or six, in a scarlet flash across the road. Seeing a cardinal, on an otherwise ordinary day, always makes the day become extraordinary, I think.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Chickens in the Dining Room

Doesn't everyone bring chickens up from the basement and let them hang out on their dining room table on a Sunday afternoon, just for amusement purposes? Really? They don't? Well, they should. Chickens are fun. And funny.
When most people say they have chicken in their lunch pails,
this is probably NOT what they mean?

Laurel and Hardy? Actually, Thelma and Louise, since they both better be females!

This one was SO mouthy. Holy cow, if there is any such thing as a
screaming chicken, this girl is it.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

     Yesterday morning, Saturday, instead of sleeping in, waking with the sun, taking my quiet time with coffee like I like to do on a weekend, I got up to the alarm and rushed around like I do on a weekday morning, and left the house earlier than I have to for work. I was feeling very out of sorts, to not be able to follow my normal, desired, slower, weekend rhythms.  Out of sorts is actually kind of an understatement. I was really grumpy to have to give up an entire day of my down time to go sit at an Emergency Medical Services conference all day long. I had already spent my Friday night there, and now, another whole day, a Saturday. I need the continuing medical education hours in order to keep my EMT certification, so I really had no choice. Not this weekend. Not unless I decide to give up being an EMT altogether.
     That thought has crossed my mind a lot of times, for many different reasons. Monday night at dinner a friend of ours, who is retired, mentioned how busy we are all the time. It seemed like a sort of revelation. I don't know why. I guess because we just live our daily lives without a lot of time for sitting around thinking about living; we all just follow our normal routines, busy or not, without much thought. So I started wondering this week about the things I do that might  make me seem busier that some people, wondering if there are things I do that I could drop so I wasn't so busy and stressed feeling as often as I am.
      Being an EMT is one of those things. It doesn't require HUGE amounts of times, and I can sometimes pick and choose when to respond and when not to. But then, there are other times when it does take up large amounts of time, and requires me to do stupid things I'd really rather not have to do at all, like instead of filling out paperwork on ambulance calls, we are going to have to learn to do it all on computers. My brain rebels against that: "No, I don't WANT to learn how to do that. It will take too much time and effort. No, no, no."  And then there's the amount of time we spend responding to stupid calls for a toothache, a bumped shin, a twinge of back pain. Don't get me wrong. There are many completely legitimate calls you don't mind making. But there is a mentality that is all too prevalent that took me by surprise after becoming an EMT,  that the ambulance is simply a transport service for people who don't really need emergency services, but call anyway. It was very... enlightening. And discouraging. There are way too many of those calls. Those ARE a complete waste of time. And then, there are these conferences that I have to sit at a few weekends a year. I felt frustrated yesterday morning, thinking about this use of my time, wondering if the "waste" of a Saturday was really worth it in the overall scheme of my apparently too- busy life.
     Last night, after returning home, I was getting ready to call it a day and head up to bed. Let the dogs out, took my medicine, fed and watered the baby chickens in my basement. I had started turning out the lights when our ambulance tones went off:  Incoming 72 year old patient to our fire hall, cardiac arrest.  With no thought to the time of night, the hours the call would take, or what else might have needed doing, or the sleep that would be lost, I flew out the door and down the street to the fire hall. From first call to my response was probably two minutes. My 21 year old son, who is also an EMT, was already there, doing CPR, and continued CPR all the way to the hospital, a 30 minute trip. The other responders, far more experienced and knowledgeable than I, worked together like an orchestrated team. It was a tough call for me, multiple and unimportant reasons, but one which reminded me that my day at the conference had not been wasted at all,  and that, no matter how busy I am, I need to look for other things to let go of, not that. Apparently, becoming an EMT is more of a calling than I realized, or gave myself credit for while I was so busy grumbling over losing a Saturday.While I get thoroughly annoyed that a "difficulty breathing" call really means sometimes "I have a chest cold and should just go to a doctor, but I don't have a car and didn't bother to make a doctor visit during business hours and don't want to give up my two-pack a day habit so I will drag three of you out of bed at 2 am to take me to the hospital where they can administer an inhaler that I could have used at home," SOMETIMES a call like last night's is a wake up call to me that I really DO have a purpose at times and can be of some good to others. That's important to me. And it would be silly to let go of something that's important to me so that I can say I am "less busy."  I would like to have more time, be less busy, but maybe having a very full life and being "too busy" right now, at my age, is not necessarily a bad thing.
(And, I did learn how to give mouth-to-snout rescue breathing to a dog yesterday. 2 breaths per 30 compressions, 1/3 to 1/2 inch deep, under it's left front leg while laying on its side, unless it is a boxer or bulldog type of dog with a massive chest, in which case you can turn the dog over on its back... but don't forget to open its mouth and pull its tongue out first. Who says the day was wasted?!  Not I!)

Thursday, March 20, 2014

I Think I'm Growing Flowers...

"How do you experience creative flow (or not?) (work-in-progress)" -Lisa Sonora Beam  

"For me, creative flow feels more like a riptide than a gently flowing stream. Sudden, urgent. All might look calm on the surface, but the current is strong.
The last few weeks have been marked by an inward pull toward deep exploration. 
It looks like a lot of quiet, a hush, time alone. It looks like I'm doing nothing, really, as I share in these posts.
What I've learned to trust in are signs - an incubation of new work.  
Usually I begin by fighting against the current - it feels difficult to retreat inward sometimes. I already spend far too much time alone, especially in Mexico.
It's hard for me to feel very much like socializing or being very visible in the world when tilling the creative compost.
I'm curious how you experience creative flow - does it pull you inward in the same way?"

These words were at the beginning of a journal prompt last night that I occasionally get in my email. They resonate loudly within, because this is so similar to how I feel right now.  You can change the "place" from Mexico to Alaska - I just spent most of a week alone in Alaska again in February, happily feeding and caring for Kristin's dogs, and trying to do some writing (trying, wanting to, not accomplishing - there were DOGS, MANY dogs, there to play with ((28 I think this time))- who can write when there are so many dogs to feed and love?
But, creative 'need' in me screams, it doesn't whisper. "The current is strong." I can always tell when I have been uncreative too long - I start longing to look at colors and patterns and ideas. Once I start looking, I feel the need to create something. Sometimes I sew, sometimes I crochet or craft, sometimes I bake, sometimes I simply color inside lines - and often, I write, or try to. There are a lot of outlets for my creative currents, but finding the time, making the time, in a world where there are so many other UNcreative demands on my time, daily, - work, meals, laundry, dog and chicken care, sleep, husband, children, etc. etc. "it feels difficult to retreat inward."  Being a writer, wanting to be a writer, takes so much alone time, so much quiet, that some days it seems nearly impossible. I find myself thinking, "When I retire, I will..." what? Have more time? Write more often?  I can't fall into that trap. I will never "have more time" because who knows how much time ANY of us have? And, I like to be busy, so just retiring from teaching is not going to mean I have more time. I will fill it - with another job that hopefully requires nothing of me at home once each day is done, with volunteering, with travel, with all KINDS of things I look forward to doing in addition to writing. 
 I need to use the "now" and just MAKE the time.  Truth be told, I'm never very social or "visible in the world," outside of going to work, anyway. So, currently, I'm "tilling the creative compost." I'm most definitely "incubating" work.  I can't say when, or where, it will sprout, but stuff is germinating well. I have an idea of where I'm going, but can't see the whole map yet, only parts of it. It just feels good to HAVE a map, even if it is only one I have drawn for myself. I sometimes get frustrated that I FEEL creative, like a creative person, but yet I don't have much tangible work to show for that. But, it's ok. I like that I am, or feel, at least, creative. It makes me happy. I'm certainly never bored. I only have to look inward to see what's growing.  Happy Spring, as of the calendar, if not the outdoors, today, as well.