Health and Wellness

The Value in Being Validated

I am no stranger to doctor appointments or hospital visits. My favorite primary care physician once told me that my medical records were so interesting that he took them to bed with him as reading material. I laughed and told him that interesting wasn’t the word I’d use to describe them. I’m thirty five years old but before my twenty fifth birthday I had already had several close calls with death. I’ve seen more specialists in the past seventeen years than most people see in a lifetime. Yet if you had asked what the hardest part about being sick has been for me… I would have told you that it was going through the motions unheard.

I would spend weeks or months counting down the days until my next big doctor appointment. I would carefully make a list of talking points, plan out what I was going to wear, and even decide what kind of makeup to use… all because my life depended on it. Within the few minutes of meeting a new doctor and going over my case with them I could tell whether or not they were going to write me off. If I looked too pretty I was labeled as having psychological issues instead of physical ones. If I wasn’t put together enough, I was (in their mind) a possible drug seeker. If I looked too young… I was a healthy woman physically but a hypochondriac, or a woman who had severe anxiety problems and a nervous stomach.

If the doctor chose within those first five minutes to write me off, then the process of finding someone else and having to wait for an appointment time would start all over again. It would pull me back into the cycle of trying (and failing) to manage symptoms on my own over and over again. I would pin all of my hopes on receiving a diagnosis or finding a doctor who would take a moment to hear me out. Someone that could possibly provide me with the knowledge and power to change my life for the better. Yet when those hopes were dashed… I wanted to claw my way under the silver and white comforter on my bed and stay there.

To say that my quality of life was significantly diminished would have been an understatement. At one point I weighed sixty four pounds… total. I knew if I didn’t fix it, I was going to die. While trying to figure out why I couldn’t hold food down, my doctors discovered by accident that I had a kidney disease. From vomiting, to severe weight loss (then later rapid weight gain), to random fevers, OBGYN trouble, unusual swelling in my limbs, heart and blood pressure issues, to kidney trouble, vertigo, unconsciousness and beyond. Every day of my life was a challenge (and still is).

I can count the doctors I credit for giving me hope again on one hand. Not a diagnosis. Just the ability to have hope that someone was willing to fight for me. When compared with the money spent seeing hundreds of doctors throughout my life… it’s a tragedy. All they had to do to be counted was to take the time to listen. I had more respect for the OBGYN who tried to think outside the box than I did for the OBGYN who brushed off my suffering and told me to only come back and see her when I had my yearly physical exams.

Upon being sent to a cardiologist recently, I sat in the waiting room with one foot out the exit. Having experienced things like severe high blood pressure, unconsciousness, heart palpitations, forgetfulness, feeling jittery, and my hands shaking uncontrollably… my husband pushed me to be seen by a specialist. My husband was afraid that I would have a stroke, but I was afraid that it would end up being another useless endeavor.

This time will be just like all the others” I told myself as I tapped my foot impatiently. I was so sure of it.

I felt that it would be a total waste of time and that our money was better spent elsewhere. Another long battle to find the right doctor to figure out how best to fix me (with medication) or to help me learn to live with my new symptoms. When I was finally ushered into an exam room, I started answering questions being fired at me by the nurse. Ten or fifteen minutes went by after she had left, a short elderly gentlemen entered. He announced that he was my doctor but I only felt relieved because I couldn’t wait to get the whole thing over with. He started off by asking me if I still had fevers. I’d been struggling with them again for several days.

How did he know about that?” I wondered thoughtfully.

He went into great detail about reading my medical history all the way through my time spent at Mayo Clinic many years ago. I began to feel impressed, most physicians wouldn’t take the time to get that far. He went over my kidney disease, my stomach illness, and even read the report that had my autoimmune specialist puzzled. I discussed being a wife and a mother while trying to find balance with my health. I talked about having a small farm, and struggling to accomplish daily tasks. I revisited times when I had left a shopping cart full of groceries sitting inside a store so I could return home quickly in order to rest. I didn’t have to say anything he didn’t already know, but he listened anyway.

When we got done discussing my case, he looked me in the eyes, touched my hand and said “I can’t fix everything, but I think I can help you.”

My eyes overflowed with emotion, fat drops stormed down my cheeks. I sobbed and asked him if I could hug him before wrapping my arms around his shoulders. After we discussed testing, treatments, and follow-up appointments, he bowed his head and prayed with me. Before I left he said I seemed like a kind woman who just wanted her life back. His words planted seeds of hope not because he knew what was wrong with me, but because he spent time listening. He made me feel safe and he validated my concerns. I walked out of his office feeling like I didn’t have to carry my burden alone anymore. Someone was on my team.

You don’t have to be a doctor to validate someone. You just have to be the kind of friend who listens. It takes such little effort on our part to change someone’s life by letting them know that they are being heard. To remind them that they have someone on their team. We get so wrapped up in our own lives that we forget to nurture others. Just the other day I caught myself making this grave mistake while I was talking to my mom and I had to correct myself. The true value in being validated is that burdens become lighter when they’re shared. If you really want to see someone bloom… take the time to listen and plant seeds of validation.

Roses from my garden
Some of my favorite garden blooms
Helping others bloom will add to the joy in your life
farm life

Bad Luck

Life is sometimes a steady stream of unfortunate events with occasional silver linings. I once had a “friend” tell me that I was the only person she had ever meet that had such rotten luck. My “friend” went on to say that perhaps the universe was attempting to right a wrong that I somehow brought upon myself. I disagree.. I believe that hardships are given to people who will use them to bring about the most good. Be it growing as a person, having the opportunity to help someone else, or impacting someone else’s day in a kind of butterfly effect. I think God gives us more than we can handle so that we will lean on Him and on one another. That doesn’t mean I manage hardships well.

Last week I sat in my car soaking up the sunshine that I hadn’t seen in days. I was hanging out in the Aldi parking lot while eating macaroni and cheese by using two fingers to scoop it from the bowl into my mouth. The fast food chain had forgotten to give me a fork so I ate like an animal because I didn’t get the chance to eat anything throughout my highly stressful day. The ease of my morning consisted of opening my eyes but it went in a downward spiral from there.

Positivi•tea

It was still dark and I was exhausted from the night before so I decided against wearing a bra to drop Nikolai off at school. I had never done that before because I prefer to be fully dressed. It’s never fancy but a pair of leggings, gum boots, and a pull over sweatshirt will do and I NEVER leave home without my bra and a clean pair of panties. Until this moment.

“Nobody is going to notice!” I told myself. “I’m not even going to be getting out of my car or leaving the front seat.”

Down the bumpy dirt road we went when I suddenly heard “POP! Hissssss” and I cringed. It didn’t sound good. I remained hopeful until I hit blacktop when I heard “Thump, thump, thump”. I had a flat tire. The jack in my car needed to be replaced so I knew that I was going to have to call Triple A. The first and only time that I decided to leave the house without a bra left me waiting to introduce myself to total stranger with my boobs flapping in the icy winter breeze (so to speak). I felt humiliated.

Thankfully Izzy saved the day by getting Nikolai to school on time while I waited three hours for Triple A to arrive. When they finally showed, a rickety older gentleman with a balding head and white hair wobbled out of his big rig to lend me a hand.

“I’m not the best at fixing flat tires. I’m not as young as I use to be.” He stated after staring at me as if I was somehow going to be more qualified.

“I’m sorry! I’d fix it myself if I could but my jack is broken as it is and I’m not sure if I’d be able to get the lug nuts off. That’s why I called you.”

He grumbled under his breath about his aching knees and his back being in pain but he got to work. We checked to see if the tire would hold air but we could hear it whooshing through a hole in the sidewall. It had to be replaced. I grabbed the spare and rolled it over to him. When my car finally had four ties on again, he hopped up into his rig and went on his way.

The problem was that when I pulled out onto the highway to get to the tire shop… my steering wheel began to shake violently. At 30 miles per hour I felt my spare tire rattling underneath me. I pulled over onto the shoulder to have a look at all four tires. No more flats. I checked the lug nuts on my spare, Nice and tight. Yet my gut knew that if I didn’t get it fixed at the first tire shop I came to… I was going to be back down to three wheels again.

I had multiple places that I needed to be all at one time and yet there was only one of me. I had a short window to get Nikolai to school, to run farm errands, to grab food for school lunches, drop everything off at home, pick Nikolai back up, and make our way to the vet. Tallulah had a spay consult over an hour away and we would barely make it to the appointment as it stood. Not to mention I needed to troubleshoot why the generator wasn’t triggering the well pump to click over and I still had farm chores to finish. I wasn’t handling the stress well.

By the time I got to the repair shop my spare tire felt like it was going to bounce away. The good news was that I survived. I made it in one piece and it wasn’t going to cost me nearly as much as I had anticipated. The downside was peeing in the shop’s gross restroom, seeing a dirty pair of panties laying on the bathroom sink, not having time for this madness, and my life relying on the fate of one tire. The mechanic however, was thorough and efficient. He explained that I was right to worry because a round metal fitting that slipped onto the shaft for the wheel was left on when it should have been removed. It very easily could have left me driving down the road watching my tire pass me by.

I had jitters over seeing my death flash before my eyes on the highway but I shook it off. I only had an hour before I needed to pick up Nikolai from school. I hit up a fast food place where I spent twenty minuets of my one free hour waiting on my food. I ended up going inside to grab it. I relayed the frustration of my day to the clerk who kindly gave me her sympathy along with extra frosting on my blueberry biscuit. No fork for my mac and cheese though.

I ran to Starbucks to get a spare fork and ended up with a chai latte and a cake pop. I had relayed my crazy day leading up to needing a spare fork and the kind woman listened intently. She gasped over me almost not making it to the tire shop, laughed at my bra story, and then to my surprise she offered a free chocolate cake pop to make my day brighter. It worked! I left having forgotten about the fork entirely. I slipped into Aldi to pick up groceries and thats when I found myself using my fingers to eat lunch in the parking lot.

My delicious blue Chocolate cake pop

After Nikolai and I picked up Tallulah, I had to hit up the feed store on our way through the mountains to buy a leash. I was nearly late picking Niki up from school because I had to haul hay to Harlow, and was very late to Tulla’s vet appointment. I couldn’t find her leash anywhere! I called the vet to apologize but they managed to fit us in anyway.

Nikolai and I enjoyed the drive through snow capped mountains, drifting our way though patches of dense fog. There’s something peaceful about driving through clouds. It makes our big world feel tiny and our problems feel important when it obscures everything else around us. Talking to Nikolai about school and friendships made this moment the brightest part of my day. Made more spectacular by amazing wildlife as we watched hawks cliff dive into an ocean of color when the sky was kissed by the setting sun. I was finally starting to feel like myself again.

Incredible mountain sunset

The vet had quoted a price that seemed reasonable when I had spoken to them over the phone. When I took Tallulah to them in person, that’s what I had been expecting.

They said things like “This isn’t an exact price, it’s just an estimate.”

The price that they quoted me at was no more than three hundred dollars max. They did bloodwork, checked her vet records, and gave her a vaccine that they thought she was missing before setting up her surgery date. I planned on paying in advance so I went to check out. That’s when they handed me a bill that was closer to seven hundred dollars. I nearly choked and then canceled all future plans with them. I ended up walking away having paid over two hundred and thirty five dollars just for the exam, an inexpensive vaccine, and her pre-surgery blood work.

Breathtaking mountaintop scenery

I drove two hours to see them and I felt lied to. It’s one thing to be upfront about giving a ballpark number regarding cost. It’s quite another thing entirely to slap someone with a fat bill that wasn’t even close to the “ballpark figure”. Three hundred dollar max was nowhere near almost seven hundred dollars total. The woman at the front desk was rude, dismissive, and disrespectful.

I was so angry that I sat in my car and cried. The day having had one disaster after the next left me feeling overwhelmed and bitter. I drove home sliding from one emotion and into the next. When we finally made it back, I laid in bed and looked for some clarity. Yes, I had a horrible day. I also had Izzy who was able to get Nikolai to school on time, a good mechanic who fixed my car, two strangers who listened to me complain about my day and then tried to rectify it, and a drive through the mountains with my son.

Makes it all worthwhile

It’s really hard to see the good things when you’re wading your way through the bad ones. It helps when you can take a step back to get some perspective. Yet sometimes you just need somebody who will listen to you. I think sometimes I overwhelm my friends when I’m trying to work through things like this. Thankfully in those moments I have an amazing husband, the listening ear of any number of fuzzy farm faces, and a journal with plenty of blank pages.

Not bad for a tough day!
Things could always be worse
Mountains capped with snow are my favorite
Animals

Winkin, Blinkin, Nod, & Night

We have hit the ugly phase of winter where the trees look pitifully dead. Any snow left on the ground has clods of dirt marring it’s purity, and the grass is so saturated with rain that walking turns into wading ankle deep in sludge. With fifty five days left until spring, I find myself cheerfully thumbing through seed catalogs to pour a little sunshine into this tediously gloomy waiting period. I dream up garden fencing ideas, farm life additions in every size, and carefully map out how my cut flowers might grow best for the most lovely bouquets.

Spring is the busiest time of the year for our little farm. Seedlings are started before the last frost hits. Pods of sprouts will line every spare surface in our little house. Large bags of mulch, compost, and rabbit manure is hauled from one area to another. Particularly warm and dry afternoons are allotted to re-staining porches and flower boxes so that that they may look breathtaking once they are overflowing with blooms again. We take care to plan out our vegetable gardens and landscape around them accordingly. The briars are dug up, unwanted trees are cut down, and any hardwood is cut into rounds and stacked to season until winter. Even our stalls and enclosures get a facelift with a fresh coat of paint just in time for new arrivals.

The highlight of spring’s blessings are the tiny poof balls that bathe in our farmhouse sink and follow at our heels during farm chores. Or the long ears and scrunchy noses that we can hold and plant kisses on while they rest in our hands. One year we had around thirty ducks on our little farm. I would sometimes have to take a walk up to my neighbors house in order to chase them all back home again. They thoroughly enjoyed riding down the creek to go exploring.

Some of their quacking sounded more like an old woman cackling, and I’m sure it made for a funny scene to bystanders. My wet red hair piled onto my head, a fuzzy pink bath robe tied at my waist, sporting gum boots and bare freckled knees. A cup of tea probably sloshing over my fingers, while chasing our ducks home who were laughing as I was scolding them. Occasionally my neighbor up the hill will drive by and wave at me while giggling to herself and shaking her head. I’m known as “the animal lady” by everyone in our neighborhood, but there are worse things to be called.

The chickens have already begun to hide their eggs in the funniest of places in order to start nesting. Just the other day when it was unusually warm, I discovered a pair of hazel eyes glaring at me from within Harlow’s round bale. I had reached my hand into the bale to pull hay and nearly jumped out of my skin when I discovered something fuzzy instead. Not a broody hen in sight but instead, our barn cat Tetley was diligently laying on a clutch of colorful eggs hidden within a pocket that Harlow had eaten out of his hay.

Nikolai couldn’t contain his hysteria and announced that Tet would forever be known to him as “Mama Tet”.

We haven’t had bunnies on our farm since last summer when “Jellybean” (Nikolai’s bunny) passed away. Violet our other bunny was so strongly bonded with Jellybean that when her friend passed, she passed shortly after. We truly believe that Violet died from a broken heart. Nikolai was a wreck over it. I had to tell him what happened after I picked him up from school one sunny afternoon. The hardest part about farm life is loss. Loss to predators, loss to ailments, and loss to senselessness. Sometimes animals die and we don’t have a clear cut reason to bring us closure. Nikolai’s arms wrapped around his knees, his voice shook, and the sobbing left him struggling for air.

Our very first bunny was named Fed-a-lot and we called her Lottie. She was deeply loved by all who knew and meet her. She was a Giant Flemish Rabbit who was the size of a small dog. She lived in our house and knew how to open her cage door to run around and play. She would thump her foot when she wanted cilantro and would race you to the refrigerator. She was something wonderful. When she passed we buried her on our farm with a bulb of purple star shaped florals that would bloom yearly and I promised Nikolai that someday we would own another Flemish Giant. Recently when I went to pick up feed at the local feed store, I inquired about bunnies for sale. Nikolai held his breath when I asked about Flemish Giants.

An image I took of our Lottie

“We don’t have any or keep any here… but I can order some for you from our breeder!” The clerk said enthusiastically.

That made Nikolai’s entire week. We spent the car ride home discussing rabbit names. We decided on getting two females and I racked my brain for something clever to call them whenever we got to pick them up. I typically keep a name bank in my head for times when I come across unusual names that we like and I save them up for animals that are exceptional. While leaning in to curvy mountain roads, I recalled a story my Grandmother told me. It was about her mother, four tiny kittens, and a nursery rhyme.

My Grandmother’s father was given a pregnant Siamese cat from a friend that didn’t want anymore cats. The mama cat (who was sweetly named “Siami”), gave birth to four beautiful squirmy kittens. My Great Grandmother (Jessie) had a knack for coming up with unique names for both animals and people. The incredible woman was born with one arm that wasn’t fully developed. With one usable hand she raised several children and was an avid animal lover like myself. Although she had a hard life… she never let anyone call her disabled or say she couldn’t do something. She could hold a wiggly kitten in the crook of her “bad arm” while changing a baby diaper with the other. She stumbled across a nursery rhyme about resting (see poem below) and decided to call the kittens “Winkin, Blinkin, Nod, and Night.” Nod and Night were given away to good friends while Winkin’ and Blinkin’ stayed in the family.

My grandmother told me that Winkie was her cat and he would drape himself around her neck and stay that way for hours. He would climb trees and follow her on walks. Wait for her to get home and spend all day curled up in her lap. As I was racking my brain for bunny names… the story about my Great Grandma and four little kittens flashed into my mind. It was perfect fit. I ran it by Nikolai and he agreed. If we got another black bunny (or two) like Lottie we would name them “Nod and Night” and if not… we would call them “Winkin and Blinkin”.

Baby Lottie in an Easter basket
farm life

A Taste of Ass

I was sitting on my bed in the evening chatting with a photography friend who was asking for advice on image editing. Feeling like I was in my element and thriving over talking shop, I was enjoying every second of our conversation. The snow was finally coming down in fluffy cotton ball puffs and I decided to act like I hadn’t wasted my day waiting to be snowed in by the underwhelming “Snow Storm Izzy”. Feeling rather content, I stretched out under the blankets and wiggled my toes towards the edge of the bed to keep from overheating. I just so happened to gaze back out the nearby window. That was the exact moment when I saw him.

My night was officially ruined. Caspian our miniature donkey was standing on the wrong side of his pasture and was sneakily making his way towards ripping into a feed bag. My heart wanted to stay tuned into my conversation about all the things I had been missing about photography, and my body wanted to stay cozy warm by remaining exactly where I was. Yet my brain was silently screaming “NOOO! OH PLEASE GOD NO!” Instead I called for Nikolai to get ready for battle and hastily hung up with my friend.

“SHOES!!! YOU NEED BOOTS… HURRY HURRY HURRY… We are SO screwed! Don’t forget to find your jacket, it’s super cold. You know what? Just wear daddy’s! Oh mercy where’s my pants?! Pants… pants… LEGGINGS! Oh thank the Lord! Lead rope? Screw it I’ll just grab the dog leash and rig it!”

I don’t think we’ve ever ran so fast down the front steps before. Nikolai almost nipped our sidewalk with his teeth when he tripped on the walkway but I caught him in Rob’s oversized jacket and yanked him upright. It was a close call but Nikolai was unharmed and his daddy’s jacket kept him safe and warm.

“SHHHH!!! Go slow buddy. Seriously, if he knows we’re coming right at him it’s going to be a long night in hell for both of us.” Didn’t I mention before just how unsuccessful bribery is on donkeys? They see right through your every intention. Don’t even bother rattling that bucket of sweet feed. Your Ass will be in the wind after grabbing a mouthful and you’ll down some dollars in feed while watching him run away from you. I’m convinced that they can pick up on our subtle body language and it gives them the unique edge of having mind reading capabilities.

We tried to sneak by, to make him think that perhaps we were busy doing something else. Like… feeding the chickens. I even hid the dog leash behind my back. No rope catching abilities here man! He knew this game though and he was way better at playing it than me. His head popped up, his eyes widened, nostrils flared, and then… he was gone. He first headed down the dirt road (which leads out to the main road) and all I could do was pray. He may be roughly 350 pounds, but he’s 350 pounds of pure Asshole. Caspian once attacked my friend’s horse and nearly bit her mare’s ear off.

We CALMLY walked after him so as not to spook him. I could see him thinking about giving in. He walked towards us, and stopped halfway. For a moment I thought to myself “Maybe tonight wont be so bad after all!” Yet I quickly realized that I had sealed our fate. Caspian darted off towards Harlow’s stall and up the pathway into the woods that led up the mountain. This had the potential to be far worse than him running down the road. Harlow (our big paint horse) slipped his head over the stall door. His black forelock dappled with flecks of white snow danced over one eyelid. Pieces of hay dangled from his fat lips while his jaw chewed on it thoughtfully – the equivalent of someone eating popcorn to watch the show. He looked SO pretty in the evening light but I didn’t get the chance to enjoy it.

I could hear tiny hooves pounding though dead leaves. Tallulah, who had just joined us, looked like she had flames coming from her paws as she skid to make a tight turn. One second I could see them and the next I was searching the woods for hoof prints in the dusting of snow. I could barely track them because the snow on the ground was melting faster than it was falling from the sky. We hiked all the way up the mountain until we could see the roof of our house. I held Nikolai’s hand tightly in mine but we kept slipping down the steep embankment.

After a breathless hike, we finally found Caspian surrounded by trees near the drop off. The smell of sweet pine wafting around us. He looked like a mountain goat. Our chests were heaving, our lungs were choking on cold air, but Caspian just stood there. His hooves on the edge of the rocky cliff like the jackass from “The Lion King”.

I thought that if I came directly at him that he might decide to jump, but Caspian (being a donkey) was way too smart. He saw my fear and took a short cut by sliding on his rump like a sitting dog, ALL the way back to the very bottom. How he missed being nailed by trees I’ll never understand, but he cocked his head to look back up at me with a satisfying glare. He was unwilling to relinquish his freedom for the safety of his pasture. He dared me to take Nikolai and follow but the dare was without question, a threat.

I decided against risking a neck or leg injury that may leave us stranded on the mountain by taking the long way down. Meanwhile, Tallulah followed Caspian without hesitation while snarling at his heels. We FINALLY made it back to the house where my villain was snatching up a mouthful of vibrantly green grass. Ears pinned at Tallulah who was stalking him, he twisted his neck back around to get a better look at us. I blinked and I was back to chasing my Ass who was playing ring-a-round Harlow’s Stall with me. Down the pathway he ran once more, and right back up the mountain again. Nikolai’s legs and mine wanted to die.

He ran back down just briefly as we were starting the daunting hike to get back up the mountain to catch him. This time Nikolai and I had to slide on dead leaves to get out of his way. He ran right at us. Tallulah was committed to chasing him back home but Caspian found a way to outsmart her. He darted one direction before making a sharp turn and running right back at us for the second time. Literally hauling Ass all the way back up the mountain for the third (and what I hoped would be the last) time.

Behind our property is almost 700 acres of wilderness. There’s a bear who lives up on the mountain on our little farm that we lovingly named “Winnie.” As angry as I was (and I was LIVID), I didn’t want to hear Caspian screaming from being eaten. I also didn’t want to leave him and have him find his way home half starved. So back up the mountain we went, and back down we came in a similar fashion… with Caspian ten steps ahead and an empty dog leash in hand.

We ALMOST had him cornered between my car and the rocky hill that leads up to the other mountain on the other side of our house. Unfortunately for me, Caspian’s goat skills kicked in. With the athletic ability of a cat… he leapt up the steep rocks faster than I could wrap a leash around his neck. TWO hours later Tallulah was standing in the paddock with me while Nikolai was guarding the exit. I was in mud up to my ankles on my gum boots but Tallulah and Nikolai helped me successfully lunge Caspian. If he wanted to run… we had to make him run harder.

The only way to get him to stop would be to make him think that it was his idea to do so. The only way to accomplish that was to wear him out. The tricky part is that donkey’s can cover a lot of ground (up to 25 miles a day) and can practically run forever. He would try to trick us by slowing down as if he was exhausted and ready to call it quits, but then surge forward like he had been ignited by a spark of electricity. If we stood too close when we were driving him forward, he would sneakily toss a kick in our direction- the donkey version of flicking us off.

So we ran, and we worked until poor Nikolai was vibrating with chills. I took off my sweater, helped him put it on, and then we worked some more. THREE hours from when I first spotted Caspian outside the window, we were still striving to capture him. Tallulah had mud clumps attached to her belly and her legs were trembling. She was tired but she was more stubborn than Caspian or myself put together. I could smell nothing but equine sweat and hear nothing other than my pounding heart and rising anger. My own legs wanted to give out from underneath me, my muscles spasmed, and I had rolled my ankle several times.

“I SWEAR that when this is all done, I’m officially selling you for dog food! DOG. FOOD! Do you hear me? I will personally, let Tallulah eat you like she eats steak! I have NEVER been so angry in my entire life Caspian.” I meant it… but I also lied. Caspian is an asshole… but he’s MY asshole. He has moments of being the most interesting animal on our little farm. He can even be a sweetheart! He has our farrier convinced that he’s a total love bug (he’s not). His good moments are short lived but his good side IS there. He’s our welcome committee, singing songs that sound more like someone is strangling him… but he belongs to us.

He FINALLY stopped and I slipped the leash into a loop around his neck. You would think that once we caught him the fun would be over. Oh-no. Caspian turned into a dead weight. He was an unflinching stump stuck in the mud and no amount of force would cause him to budge. I pushed. I pulled. I snapped the dog leash into the air behind him to get him moving by spooking him forward. Nope. If he was too tired to run, he would stay exactly where he stood. Thankfully Tallulah saw my struggle and decided to get a mouthful of Ass by nipping at his rump. It took a while but we finally made it to where I could swap him out with Harlow.

I tied the stall door closed with hay bale ties, and took my own tired ass into the house. Nikolai, Tallulah, and I needed to get warm fast. Nikolai was dry from using my sweater but Tallulah and I were covered in frozen goopy dirt clods. I even found mud that had sloshed down inside of my good bra, and streaked up my arms as if I had taken a bath in it. I turned on the shower, stripped, and had Tallulah join me. I gave her all the warm water first and then finished washing myself up with the icy water that was left. By the time I hobbled to bed, Nikolai and Tallulah were passed out already.

The next day I couldn’t put weight on my ankle. I called my Bestfriend Heather to see if she could help me rig Caspian’s pasture again to keep him from getting out. His pasture fencing use to look beautiful but since Caspian is so good at escaping, we had to line his fence with cut down and fallen trees. It’s not pretty but it gets the job done. Isabell helped with the farm chores in the morning and I avoided Caspian for the sake of holding a grudge. Besides that, I was in too much pain to walk out to the stall to see him. I know myself well enough to know that once he puts his nose over the stall door to greet me… I’ll forget all about how I had almost made up my mind to sell him for dog food.

In the words of Terri Clark- “I just wanna be mad for a while.” Having a farm full of animals is fun until you’re chasing your ass up a mountain, in the snow, up hill both ways and back again right? He can wait for me to forgive him sometime tomorrow.

Tallulah done in
He’s an Ass.
He’s cute though!
That time I had all my ducks in a row… almost never happens!
Parenting

Winter Storm Izzy

Isabell had picked up a discounted package of ground beef at our local IGA. She planned on using it to feed “Bambi” (her stunning and very large German Shephard who also happens to be Tallulah’s mom). The majority of people in my household (Rob excluded) are vegetarians, including my son Nikolai. Isabell spent a year working at a butchers shop in Arizona and helped process cows, and I currently raise meat for my husband to eat while helping him to clean and pluck as needed. Nikolai often gives a hand in culling chickens as well. None of us are uncomfortable working with meat or cooking it for others, we just don’t personally eat it.

As Isabell was wrapping up the ground beef to put it away, I reminded her not to forget to finish feeding it to Bambi so it wouldn’t go bad. She assured me that there was no way she was going to forget about feeding Bambi the rest. Nearly a month went by after Izzy had bought the meat for Bambi. Nikolai spent his winter break traveling with me to see Rob so we could spend the holidays together, and Izzy spent her time farm sitting for us, working at Starbucks, and recovering from Covid.

After the storms hit our little farm, all of Rob’s and my available time was spent on damage clean up, medicating Harlow, ER visits, and trying to fix our well. We ate out a lot, made a ton of trips to the hardware store, and slept when we were exhausted. Several times upon opening the refrigerator for a bottle of water, I caught a whiff of something putrid. I spent a good deal of time thinking that maybe a mouse died in our house while we were away. I even spent several hours after cleaning the kitchen trying to figure out where exactly the smell was coming from because it seemed to waft around. Upon further investigation, Rob discovered a half empty rancid container of ground beef. It was so awful that he nearly threw up.

I text Isabell to relay my frustrations and suddenly remembered that she was taking a proctored exam for school. The process involved giving a teacher screen sharing access to her cellphone and computer where she could receive text messages but was unable to respond back to them. Sometimes circumstances beyond our understanding will bestow us with a moment of parental clarity and divine… payback! I finally got the honor of relishing each delectable second of horror and humiliation when this rare opportunity was presented to me. It was too delicious to turn back.

I decided to send another text.
“I’m your emergency contact on your OBGYN forms. They called and left a message for you with me. They said you tested positive for gonorrhea & you’re pregnant. Congratulations on the pregnancy! They sent in a prescription for the gonorrhea, I’ll go pick it up for you later. The hardest part is probably going to be explaining who the babies father is but we’ll get through it, I promise.”

I read the messages out loud to Rob after hitting send. KNOWING her teacher was going to see it pop up across her phone, he was laughing so hard that he couldn’t breathe. Fortunately I was able to calm my own hysteria down long enough to remember that Rob also had a phone. What better way to sell the story than by using two different cell phones? He dug deep into his jacket pocket and even deeper into his soul to really bring it home for me.

“Hey Izzy this is Dad. I just heard from Lish that we are having a baby. Any guess for names? We should carry on our ancestors name of Delbert Stankenshitz.”
Written and sent. All we had to do now was wait for her to call. Less than ten minutes later my phone rang and Izzy’s name popped up.

“I was in the middle of a test! WHY were you blowing up my phone?”

“Did you read the messages?” I grinned

“Oh I read them! My teacher was screen sharing! I’m not allowed to respond or I’ll flunk the test! I can’t believe you did that.” The humiliation in her voice was way sweeter than the smell of rotting meat in my house.

“Remember that ground beef you bought Bambi? Well, my whole house smells like road kill because you didn’t remember to give her the rest of it.” Payback is too lovely to pass up pumpkin.

Isabell laughed “Well, that’s fair. I was sooo confused at first! It all makes sense now. Glad you had your fun!”

Later that same day my phone sent me a notification update on the weather. The winter storm that’s headed to North Georgia could possibly dump anywhere from 3-12 inches of snow. The weather lords and ladies finally came up with a name for it. “Winter Storm Izzy.” I almost choked on my tea. The headlines below that article read that weathermen expected it to impact millions of people across the United States. You know with 100% certainty that the winter storm slamming the south is going to be a messy disaster when it’s named after your daughter. Southerners had better prepare themselves.

I may or may not have written out that last paragraph verbatim onto Facebook while tagging her in the process. I also may or may not have added some beautiful hashtags like #wereallscrewed #evecuatenow as well as #buyallthemilkandbread. When I say “may not”… I mean that I absolutely did and I have no regrets over it. #MyHouseStillSmellsLikeRancidMeat #WeStillLoveHer #NOWwereEaven

Rob & I
Don’t worry! She still loves us 🤪 (Nikolai & Izzy)

Animals, Uncategorized

Tallulah… in boots!

I don’t know what it is about Tallulah wearing boots that brings out the absolute worst in people. I can’t say that she’s brought out the best in people when she wasn’t wearing boots but I can say with certainty that the boots make interactions with other people far worse than usual. It’s as if people see them and suddenly lose their manners.

Tallulah and I can’t go into a store and be left alone. If I go in for a single item, along the way we will get stopped at least two or three times. Can you imagine everyone at a grocery store stopping you to ask you what you’re doing there or trying to be friends with you? If the store is larger and more crowded that number vastly increases. These moments happen even more frequently when Tallulah is wearing her boots. Retrieving one item with her boots on can take us 20 or 30 minutes and we will get stopped by almost every single person who passes by. The conversations go something like this:

                “OH MY GOD!!! How did you get your dog to wear those CUTE boots?!”

                “My dog would NEVER let me do that.”

                “DID YOU SEE THE DOG WEARING BOOTS?!”

                “So umm… are you like a dog trainer or something? I could use your help with my dog.”

                “Why do you have a dog in here?”

                “Is this a Seeing Eye dog?!”

                “Why is your stupid dog wearing boots?”

“What’s wrong with you that you would need a service dog? You look fine.”

“My cousins uncles ex-wife’s sister had a service Dog. I know ALL about how to train them. I’m getting one for myself too.”

I’ve had grown men bark at Tallulah when we’re out and about, in an attempt to get her to react poorly. I’ve had people call me names for having her with me and that was without the boots. Adults have grabbed at her face and pulled her tail and have run up behind her to grab her. She’s half German Shephard and ½ Rough Coat Collie. Their behavior makes for some of the stupidest things I’ve ever seen adults do.

Still, worse yet are the more recent interactions I’ve had while Tallulah was wearing her boots. I needed to take Tallulah into Kroger with me so I could pick up some items. Rob, Nikolai, and I were staying in a hotel while Rob was working on a downed life-flight aircraft that needed his attention and mad skills. As I was driving I could tell that I wasn’t feeling right. My heart was flip-flopping in my chest but I decided to ignore it because I really needed to pick some things up and I knew that I was going to bring Tallulah in with me.

I pulled into a parking space and Rob pulled into a different parking space because we had taken two separate cars. He decided to take himself and our son to Great Clips for haircuts, this way he would look more professional and Nikolai would look cute for school when break was over. I grabbed my wallet, gave Tallulah her command to unload from the car, and off we went.

The second her feet hit the parking lot I had four people staring, pointing, and commenting. No big deal. I use moments like this to help train Tallulah to be at the top of her game. We walked into the store and an employee is squealing with delight at the sight of Tallulah. I don’t feel the best so I ignore it and make a path to the Dog food isle. We get less than one fourth of the way there when a little old man tries to stop me so he can pet Tallulah. Not a problem normally except that I felt off and I wanted to get in and get out. Tallulah ignores him as I taught her to do. I smile politely, Keep my eyes on where I’m going and decided to “Korea” the situation.

While living in Korea in the “Ville,” salesmen would stop us every few feet to sell us something. We quickly learned that while it’s polite in the States to stop and make small talk with some vendors… you wouldn’t get very far in Korea if you chose to do that. You would open yourself up to a haggle over the pricing of an item that you never wanted in the first place. Since vendors line the streets in Korea you would never get to your original destination on time. After making eye contact, every attempt to continue walking would have them stepping in front of you to cut you off and stop you from leaving.

The only way to avoid a situation like that was to smile but keep your eyes focused on where you were going and ignore everything else. If they stepped in to cut you off, you push past them as if you never saw them in the first place. Most people (state side) think you’re too focused to have heard them correctly or that you’re in too much of a rush. It’s better to be rude than to never get where you need to go.

I squared my shoulders, smiled, kept my eyes forward, and disengaged with the man. I cued Tallulah to “Leave it” even though he was trying to pet her as we walked by. The Korea method did the trick and I used it again to get past a group of teenagers. There were a few other adults who also desperately tried to get my attention (and Tallulah’s) but we acted like we were on a mission and we were!

Someone yelled “Are you a dog trainer?!” from somewhere in the store in the store, but Tallulah and I just kept on walking.

We FINALLY gathered up all our items and I was determined to check out quickly. My hands were vibrating. Not from the stress of all the people trying to stop us… but because I didn’t feel well. I ignored my body so that way I could get Tallulah and Nikolai some food but I could tell that I was getting worse. I felt unsteady. Dizzy, and my chest had a horrible pressure that was painful. My hands were trembling harder by the minute. It was really important to get to the car to check my blood pressure and make the decision to possibly take my medicine.

We stood in line to checkout but behind me a small group gathered to get a better look at Tallulah. It was finally my turn to pay. One woman followed me to the self-checkout counter. I tossed my items down to scan them and focused on keeping my breath even. SO much frustrating chest pressure but there was no way I was leaving without my items this time. The woman moved so that she was standing so close behind me that she was breathing on the back of my neck.

                “Hi baby! What’s your name? You’re a cute puppy aren’t you? I love your boots. Come here! Let me pet you. Here sweet baby. You’re too cute in those boots for me not to pet you. Here girl! Come see me. You don’t need to lay there.”

I turned around to look at her and tossed her a disgusted expression. Tallulah scooted closer to me. She felt uneasy. Tallulah’s golden colored ears were constantly flicking in my direction. She looked up at me for reassurance which I rewarded with love and a treat.

“Leave it Tulla.” I cooed over the woman’s outstretched hand.

I was trying to put my card into the pay slot and type in my PIN number. The woman (with no groceries) frustratingly stood past my bubble of what was socially acceptable for strangers and just wouldn’t quit. She stood so close that she was almost touching the back of my head and was looking over my shoulder at the card reader while I was trying to enter my pin. Her eyes then darted back down at Tallulah when she saw that I caught her snooping. I punched in my pin, waited for it to accept my payment, and I gave Tallulah a TON of positive feedback with treats during the process.

“WAY TO GO GIRL!! You did SO well at ignoring the crazy lady! I’m SO proud of you” I said while turning to make direct eye contact with the crazy lady. I then gave Tallulah the cue for us to leave once our grocery bags were securely on my arm. We walked calmly to our SUV. Once we got to the vehicle I opened the back door up and gave Tallulah the cue to hop back in.

A man getting into the vehicle across from mine with his girlfriend in tow, looked over at Tallulah and I. He loudly announced to his partner “Did you see that woman with her stupid dog wearing shoes? I can’t believe she put shoes on a DOG! Some people are so dumb!”

I could have ignored it and walked away. I probably should have but I could feel the anger rising up to heat my throat. I laughed and firmly announced back “We’re right here! My dog is a service dog who’s a lot smarter than you are so I’d watch what you say.”

With that Tallulah was loaded up, tucked in, and buckled. I decided to wait an hour or so before checking my blood pressure because the guy made me angry and I didn’t think that the reading would be accurate. Once we were at our hotel and I had rested for a bit, I decided to check it. My hands were still jittery from not feeling well. My chest hurt, and my heart still felt jumpy. The numbers were 129/101 but I decided to wait a little longer to see if it would come down on its own. I finally caved and took some BP medicine after having woken up later that night to my heart pounding in my chest. My numbers were a lot higher and although it took a while to start working, the medicine helped.

A few days later in the hotel lobby, I was standing at the coffee counter making Nikolai and I a small cup of hot chocolate because I had been feeling a little queasy. We had just taken Tallulah out to use the bathroom and I needed something to sip. Tallulah was sitting quietly waiting for us to get our drinks when a woman behind us piped up and caught my attention.

“Is that dog wearing shoes?! WHY?!”

“Yep! She’s a service dog in training. There’s glass in the parking lot and in the grass where I tried to take her to use the bathroom. She’s wearing boots to protect her feet.” I said with a smile.

                “OH! That makes perfect sense. Plus it probably helps her outrun the drones.”

I stared at her with a blank expression on my face. She looked completely serious. The silence between us grew thick. Nikolai looked at Tallulah, then at the woman, and back at me. Tallulah’s eyes darted from me, to the woman, to Nikolai, and back onto me.

                “Ummm… what?” I said looking for clarification, even though I knew there probably wasn’t any.

                “Yeah! You know… the drones! They’re real. They probably chase her and her boots help her outrun them.”

I grabbed Nikolai’s arm, and wrapped Tallulah’s leash a little tighter around my fingers. I picked up my hot chocolate in the hand that was holding Tulla’s leash while ushering Nikolai to stick with me. I cued Tallulah in that we were making our way to the nearest exit.

                “Why are we leaving so fast mom?” Nikolai asked me

I stared at the woman on our way out and responded “We need to go so we can get very far away from the weird creepy lady.”

Nikolai hit the elevator button and I laughed it off as the doors closed us in and lifted us to safety. Nikolai giggled too. I felt like Tallulah thought the entire thing called for a nap. Instead of sitting in the lobby sipping on our drinks and watching the rain fall (like we had planned), we cozied up to watch some movies on cable TV instead. Tallulah slept on the cool foyer tile for a bit. I was feeling extremely thankful that the bizarre interactions at least gave me something interesting to write about this week.

Tallulah… in boots!
Sleepy puppy
Uncategorized

There are Worse Things than Rainwater Showers

We should never have gotten out of bed today. After having spent all day yesterday in the hospital, trying to figure out why my blood pressure was overwhelmingly high, we truly expected today to go better. We stayed up late because we couldn’t sleep and with Izzy’s help covering farm chores in the morning, we felt comfortable sleeping in. Even though it was only Tuesday… we needed the mental and emotional break from my current health crisis. Which is how my husband and I deal with mental stress. We fight through it, rest, and then we regroup. So we relaxed and lazily slept until noon, after which I got up to tackle some house work. After every battle with my body, our little house goes from tidy to messy and as soon as I feel physically able to do so… I get to work to rectify it. That’s how the day compiled into what we call “a crap sandwich”.

We went from attempting to shower before picking up our son up from school, to sitting in the car line brainstorming strategies on how to troubleshoot the electricity going to our well-house. It’s never a good day on the farm without running water. The well went out last week and my amazing husband was sure he had the thing fixed. Thankfully a while back Rob installed a rain water collection system that could, in a pinch, be hooked up to our house, ran through the water heater for hot showers, and used for farm animals as well. He figured this out when we had no electricity to water the animals after a bad storm hit one year. Yet with my husband’s job as a Life-Flight aircraft mechanic things get tricky when he has to be gone for weeks at a time and we’re without water. There just wasn’t going to be enough time left in his week at home to fix the well before having to return to work this Thursday. That meant coming up with a plan to spend the next two weeks keeping our house rigged up to rainwater and me trying to keep everything skating until he makes it back. Strike one.

Strike two for the day was our son piling into the car and announcing that he said “yes” to a little girl at school who asked him to be her boyfriend. I personally wasn’t emotionally prepared for this type of conversation with my just-turned-7 year-old son. He sat and told us how he wasn’t sure how to handle it and rather than break her heart he agreed. There were some awkward silences and confused concern on my part as I wrestled with my feelings. I listened to my husband try to find the words to convey that the best policy for heartbreak is honesty. He also pushed that Niki was way too young for girlfriends anyway. If my brain hadn’t been silently screaming “NO!” during the conversation while simultaneously stressing over the well issue… I might have peed myself when Niki mentioned that he couldn’t even remember the little girl’s name. Rob on the other hand could barely contain himself. Laughter bubbled through his stern expression and the grin he flashed won me over momentarily. Strike Three came shortly after that when Nikolai announced that he lost his big winter jacket somewhere at school.

Strike four popped up when we arrived at our destination a good distance from home. We had been driving on red when we arrived and were suddenly overcome with horror upon realizing that we both forgot our wallets sitting on the kitchen counter. Thank goodness for laundry day! We scoured the car for loose change and scored a whopping $4.00. Due to current gas prices, neither one of us was sure if we were going to make it home but we had few options left. Beyond attempting to get there in our car, and walking… our only other option was panhandling our way there as a family. We found a gas station to hand over our nickels to, held hands, and prayed for the best.

My blood pressure felt awfully wonky and rightfully so… but we pulled into the driveway at home having arrived without having to beg for spare change. Hardly having a moment to breathe with relief, strike five blindsided us. Rob’s cell phone rang and he held it up to show me that it was the lender for the land we’ve been scrimping and saving for. The ability to own more land and expand our little farm without having to move was a potential blessing that we didn’t see coming. We discussed what we would do in the event that it fell through but we didn’t think that we’d actually have to face that option. We saved every penny they asked for. We got it done in two month flat and we still had money to spend on Nikolai’s birthday and Christmas.

I saw Rob’s face drop when he took the call. I knew we had been denied. Almost 5 years ago we lost our house in Tennessee because there was no job security. We bought the Tennessee house long before the housing market crashed and we owed more on it than we could reasonably sell it for yet we couldn’t live there any longer. After holding onto it for as long as we could, the bank took over. We were forced into filing for bankruptcy and foreclosure. It hit us hard. We took it personally but we pulled up our boot straps as a family, determined to never go through that again and wanting to own something that we could easily pay off. We saved up cash and bought our small nearly 5 acre farm. We got a loan for a little house to be pulled onto the property. We paid off our cars, the property, and began working our way towards paying off our little house. That’s when the opportunity to buy more land became available. It was more than what we dreamed possible but it seemed within our reach so we saved up like crazy. The bank denied our loan for not having been exactly 5 years post-bankruptcy. We were exactly one month short of our 5 year mark.   

We called to discuss the issue with the woman handling our bank loan. We talked to her about re-applying in a month or seeing if they would wave it since we were so close to their cut off mark and closing wouldn’t happen until after their cut-off date anyway. We were told we’d get a final answer within a day or so. She admitted that she had no idea it was so close to the 5 year mark and remembered her discussion with me about the foreclosure on our record possibly being close to the cut-off date. The situation isn’t over quite yet.

I’d be lying if I said we didn’t feel disappointed, frustrated, and discouraged in this moment. While Rob held my hand in the hospital yesterday this is all we looked forward to. This land was the early Christmas present that we were gifting to ourselves. The beginning of something bigger, it was going to be our pathway to being a working farm. To be able to sell beef and cut flowers as an actual business while supplying food for ourselves off the land. I pre-made a website in honor of rebranding to save the farm name from anyone else. I jumped ahead before I should have and told some of our friends when I was too overwhelmed with excitement. Rob asked me if that made me feel embarrassed and the truth is, it doesn’t. Trying something crazy and being told by God that now is not the right time doesn’t make me feel the least bit guilty.

There are worse things in life than having a bank account with savings in it, hot rainwater showers, bad health, or tough farm days. It doesn’t matter if we have to reevaluate and change course as long as we’re stuck getting through the mess together.