Monday, September 29, 2008

L'Shana Tovah!

Apples and honey symbolize the sweetness we hope ushers in the upcoming year...

Happy Rosh Hashanah/Yom Teruah, from our home to yours!!!

It's the Jewish New Year, and time for celebrating, honoring, contemplating, reflecting, accounting for our actions and attitudes, petitioning, and making right any procrastinated amends.

Usually, we'd have a round challah, to symbolize the cycling of the months beginning again...

The shofar here has been sounded, as are ones all around the world, for joy in our King, sorrow for wrongdoing, and as a wake up call to examine our lives, purposes, and actions with clarity.

We had a wonderful dinner with family tonight, which marked entry into this time that will ultimately culminate at Yom Kippur.

This video made us smile :)

Each year we learn a bit better how we want to preserve and observe these important appointed times. Each year we miss out on a few things and add something meaningful...we learn and we look forward to each holiday a little more as the months progress.

Ah, and now for a rest...another great part of this time together! Another year has passed, another has begun :)

We are so grateful to the Almighty for ALL His blessings and patience towards us this year, and pray for His continued mercies and guidance in the days to come.

Little Conversations on the Prairie

Sunday, September 28, 2008

We Can't Afford the Supermarket

And we can't afford to buy organic AT the supermarket. I wanted to buy a normal head of the supermarket.

It rang up at $8.50.

I'm sorry, I'm not paying $8.50 for ANY head of cabbage.

Buying local is not something that's easy here, and with the drive, paying more for long-distance "local" is not in our budget. That's what happened to the pet milk purchases, too...too much gas needed, prices too high.

Now they're too high in the store, too, and we're needing to change from questionable food to REAL food pronto. Learning that anything vegetable or animal out there now could be (and IS) genetically modified, ALL foods with only a few exceptions are permeated with pesticides and herbicides, and anything in a can or package usually has multiple preservatives all up in there ....all those things have tipped the scale for us. No longer do I live where a neighbor can gladly pawn off her excess zucchini or tomatoes (to my glee) on me. I don't have neighbors with dairy goats or cows. I have nothing seasonal growing in my backyard buckets, and have nothing stockpiled, except a modest collection of staples and dry goods.

We even have to buy water...even the water we cook with. For me, the girl from Tennessee, this seems like a budgetary travesty. Buy cooking water???

Simply stated, we can't afford to eat from the store anymore. I can remember when buying chicken thighs, or a whole chicken NOT cut up were the cheapest cuts of meat. Even these I can't afford. Even ground chuck I can't afford.

It literally would be cheaper to raise our own animals...even if not for any other reason than the cost alone. It would actually be cheaper for me to buy a live chicken and slaughter it than it would be to buy the cheapest chicken from the store. The times, they are a-changin'.

We're putting our heads together about what we need to grow to survive, from the bottom up. We will be identifying our own preferences and what our bodies need the most as far as nourishment and disease prevention, and those things will be planned for first.

First will be the staples that would see us through no matter what...what we could survive on even if we had nothing else.

Next will be the nutrition-dense secondary veggies and grains...all the seasonal crops that we could eat fresh and put away for the longer term. The basics to round out the staples.

Alongside these things will be the herbs for flavor, nutrition, and medicinals.

Lastly, the fruits, experimental crops, the veggies and fruits and various plants whose variety that would extend the basics into many different sorts of meals.

Does anyone have lists like this, starting from the Can't-Do-Withouts on up? If so, I'd be really interested in what's worked for you and your family, specifically which crops and plants you most rely on.

The old Victory garden concept has morphed into survival gardens for the long-term far beyond anything that's happening as a result of sending our boys overseas. Now we need because of battles in "progress" -- what's happening in test tubes and bio-tech labs, in China, and in the oil industry. Our "progress" is like the snake that tried to swallow its own tail.

We've just been "progressed" right out of being able to buy a week's worth of groceries at my own grocery store.

It's time to sow for our future, and take it into our own hands. There is now an urgency. Not a panic, but definately an urgency.

Doing Not Thinking Challenge Update

Interestingly, this is my FIRST DNTC update since our world went a bit upside down quite a few weeks ago. Whew, what a ride!

The goals have languished, but they're not dead yet.

1. Ok, the saving our loose change from pockets and car consoles toward a loan (they have loans for very, very small amounts to help the poorest of the poor purchase life-altering goods to make or sell, and repay...even amounts of just five dollars can be contributed, but equate to huge differences for the lifestyles of the motivated entrepreneurs, most of which are family businesses or cooperatives.) I haven't even BEEN to work since making the pledge for this challenge, so that's affected the totals...

Total change collected to date: $ 17.00 (I'm not counting pennies till the last week)

2. Weight loss...I'm in the I have more to lose, rather than less. Went to the doctor and had gained three pounds, probably during those weeks seated on my behind at hospice. I have some carbs to cut back, gaahhhh.

3. Doing what we can toward finding a permanent homestead, no discouragement wallowing allowed: Yes, stayed very consistent with this in the past few weeks, despite everything else. I'm very motivated (and so is Jack) to continue with this ASAP, as we are feeling the economic pressure of increased store prices and the limitations of where we are living. We made more phone calls, follow-ups with contacts, developed and followed leads as far as possible. As always, there is a lot of waiting in between each step. Goes with the territory, I suppose.

To see what great things are happening with the Doing Not Thinking Challenge, here's the page at TwoFrogHome where you can follow each person's progress :)

Friday, September 26, 2008

Still Catching Up

Thank you, Christina at CoffeeCoffeeCoffee for this award...I'm so sorry for the long delay in posting it here!

The rules of this award state 1. Save the image 2. Select several friends who are great buddies, and 3. tell why you appreciate them...

As my buddies here know, I don't always play by the I have so many friends here who I appreciate so very, very much. I don't have blog space enough to tell enough about all the things I have come to love about each of them, but hopefully over time I'll be better about stopping and expressing that.

Right now, I'll stop to tell you a little about why I appreciate Christina, who sent me this.

I've gotten to know Christina as an online blog friend much in the same way I know many of my other online friends...because we "met" each other as our comments intersected, our blogs reflected many of the same concerns, we began to see and appreciate each others' personalities and perspectives as well as our differences, despite the miles.

Christina brings a refreshing enthusiasm to the homestead blogging community, and really digs her heels into concerns such as the genetically modified food issue, Monsanto-related issues, and many more. More than that, she cultivates her own home and homestead in ways that make a difference right at home. She's quick to stop in with a sunny hello or line of encouragement, and has a fun sense of humor. She cares about her family, and shows it in so many ways. She is delighted in creation, from sunflowers to chicks that grow up to lay eggs like crazy.

And Christina loves coffee! She has entrepreneured her own business selling what she, coffee, and more coffee...all organic and enticing! In addition, she sells scented candles, and her blog store is worth checking out. Christina is the friend you'd LOVE to have a cup of coffee with daily, and the next best thing is stopping in at her blog, where in addition to seeing a window into her life and concerns, you get to know a really amazing woman.

Thank you, Christina, for being a great friend. Thank you for what you're teaching me about so many things, for your shared enthusiasm and idealism, and about stopping to smell the coffee!

(sorry I'm posting this so late!)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Algebra and the Art of Test Failure

I excelled in nearly every other subject, some because they came naturally and some because I applied some study skills.

But it's possible I have either an atrophied mathematics area of my gray matter, or I simply DON'T HAVE that lobe of my brain...I simply cannot do algebra (and you can imagine how much fun that makes geometry and chemistry, etc...)

What this has to do with homesteading, I don't know, except maybe I'm so very, very glad it doesn't take algebra to can vegetables, weed a garden, sell things at the farmers market, etc. (not that I'm even doing those things yet, but I at least feel confident I COULD if the opportunity arose...)

Today, my sister emailed me one of those Forwards that seem to make the rounds. My email box is where those Forwards usually go to die...I seldom if ever read them, much less respond to them. But today's was titled "How to Fail a Test With Dignity." I took the bait...

I've tried to cut and paste these from the email, but it didn't work. I did, however, find the same pics here and there on the web from others who've passed it around. These are mathematics-related questions, the sort that took me right back to those loooooooonnnnngggg classes where an otherwise bright student felt buried under a leaden weight of hopelessness, watched the mouth of the professor move, the pointer point, the dry erase marker mark the swirly lines and the cryptic letters and numbers on the transparent sheet on an overhead projector and then erase them with his/her thumb, have pop quizzes that may have as well been in Sanskrit or Swahili, and then asked the age-old classtime-wrapper-upper question only second before the dismissal bell rang "Now...any questions??"

Here is evidence I was not alone. (I have no idea where this email forward originated, so I give credit to whomever claims it) Yes, there are other hopelessly-algebraic-and-mathematically-crippled students out there, flailing around for answers to those ever-present tests the torturers/interragators math teachers dole out.

I'm having flashbacks...

Here's what kept me laughing this afternoon...

Oh, how this could have been me, trying to wrestle for an answer, any answer...

I sense an artistic soul anguished that the teacher can't existentially understand a simple English word here...

Shaken, or stirred?

I probably would have written "because he takes his bi-polar meds regularly"... (sorry)

Actually, which scenario here is more true to life?? lol

And my hands-down personal favorite... (not good for anyone to look at if you suffer from stress incontinence...)

I applaud all the algebraic zeros of the world, and your struggle to survive. I love your genius...I feel your pain.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Genetically Modified Food Fight

You'd think I could escape this issue in my daily life, but can I?

When I speak of genetically-modified foods, I am not speaking of the age-old practice of creating hybrids. Rather, I am speaking of the hacking of DNA and insertion of unrelated DNA by biotech scientists. The reasons behind the latter are vast, and all have to do with profit margins, despite any claims to the contrary.

That's just to clarify, in a nutshell.

Can we afford to ignore this issue, or be half-hearted about it? After all, our society is issue-weary, I believe. We've been inundated with the enormity of global crises, natural disasters, famines, grass-roots efforts struggling to survive, Davids of emergency causes dwarfed by the money and litigation of corporate and legislative Goliaths. We're often tired and discouraged as we sit in the shadow of mountains that seem to be immovable.

Well, that's a perception I think the Goliaths want to perpetuate. Often, it's the niggling little irritants, us, that are the squeaky wheel that brings attention to and some consistency to these very important milestone issues...we're in the midst of making history, not at the backside of something unchangeable.

The GMO/GE foods issue has invaded my daily life now, whether I like it or not. I just had a contraband (oh the poor diet) handful of Fritos. Did I eat GM corn, and if I did, where is the testing to show what the risks are? More protected than my rights to know are the rights of BigAg to market these without any truth in labeling standard that would allow ME to decide FOR MYSELF about consuming genetically altered products. Allowing the government to be my "parent" in this way is too Big Brother for me. No, in a free society, I get to decide for myself, and I get to demand transparency in access to knowing my food's ingredients.

I believe this movement perpetuates itself through misinformation, and by perpetuating societal assumptions. We are so quick to be influenced.

We watch very little TV, and are really ignorant of the latest shows...we get no TV reception here, and don't pay for any. When I was in hospice during the my late MIL's illness, I did watch TV for the first time in literally years. My interest in it soon flagged, so accustomed I have become to less noise. Most of the TV "noise" I noticed was in the form of advertisements, and I began to count the number of pharmaceutical ads and such...they predominated. Two such ads most recently featured were promoting High Fructose Corn syrup, and the ads mocked opposition to high fructose corn syrup as an additive in our foods. It was interesting what information the ad excluded, their sole pitch being that "HF corn syrup, in moderation, is no worse for you than sugar." I remember the actor in one of the ads responding to her friend's hesitancy in eating a food with HF corn syrup asking him what his objection to it was. His reply about his health concerns was incoherent, and her response to him was "What, (you object) because it's corn??" It made him seem like he's a dork who doesn't like his vegetables.

Well, in the comparison of high fructose corn syrup with cane sugar, these days neither can escape sobering GM realities. BOTH are mass-produced, mass-utilized as food sweeteners, and among the highest percentage crops altered genetically. And neither are labeled, so you never know if you're getting genetically modified crops in your foods, or not. Read any label and you'll soon find it's hard to find much of anything at the store without high fructose corn syrup or cane sugar as an ingredient.

What further mystifies me is how ignorant a lot of science-related professionals themselves are regarding this issue, and why they so strongly resist objecting to the potential and real health concerns. Whenever this happens, I think it points to nepotism or some unhealthy inter-dependence among healthcare industry and the pharmaceutical/bio-research industries and government monetary "national interests" protecting potential overseas trade. That's an entirely different subject...

I went to the doctor yesterday, for a very basic visit. When I entered the office, I noticed they were promoting a high protein diet program for their overweight patients...the samples were on view in the waiting room, along with a lot of promising literature. The program incorporates high protein drinks/soups/etc along with basic healthy eating, minus a lot of carbs and fat. Being overweight myself, I waited to ask the doctor more about it. The nurse gave me literature on it to read while waiting for the doc, and I looked it over. They've had many patients who've lost weight on the program, so it seems to work. I've been down this road before, though, and I know there's no magic bullet. In the past, I've done dietary things I've lived to regret, one of the foremost being trusting the "experts" during the Fen-Phen days. Those "experts" approved me for the use of Phen-Fen even though I have a heart murmur. I temporarily had stunning results, but never truly knew what I was putting in my body (the testing had not been long-term) and was left with regrets late for being so hasty to compromise my health overall for the promise of instant results. That, and so many other guniea pig situations related to not only weight loss but also infertility treatments, etc in the past has made me a very cautious and slow-to-jump consumer presently. I consider my reluctance wisdom gained at a high price, not shortsightedness.

My doc visit went well....until...

the end, when the doc was wrapping things up. She was congenial, worked with me, helped me update things that needed updating. Then I asked the Forbidden Question...."what's in the protein supplements?"

She said I could pick up an ingredient list at the front desk. I asked if the primary protein in the supplements was soy, and she said yes.

I have a condition that soy aggravates due to its effect on estrogen, and I mentioned this to her. Her face began to contort. "Well, I think most of that is just a lot of hype," she said. "I think the point is to lose weight and a lot of people like to make more of the estrogen connection and soy than they should."

OK, that's not exactly giving me scientific reasons why, but then I made the major mistake, and asked,

"my additional concern is that soy is one of the highest percentage genetically-modified foods, and I'm cautious about wanting to consume things that are genetically-modified."

At this point, it was like I had kicked her. Her lightning reaction was to become downright sarcastic and almost hostile. She went from congenial to actually sneering! She stood up, looked at me like "YOU aren't the doctor, and YOU know nothing at all about your body," and said "Yes, soy is mostly GM these days. I guess you also have a problem with roses? Roses are genetically-modified. It's completely natural."

And she looked at me with disdain. I said, "I am meaning something different...I understand roses are hybrids and hybrids occur both naturally and through man-made means. But by GM I'm meaning products whose DNA were hacked into and unrelated DNA inserted into by means nature can never accomplish." She snorted and walked out of the room, and I heard her in the other room going off about it to one of the nurses.

Whew, helpful to hostile in mere seconds! It didn't upset me that she supports GM foods, though I would have reason to disagree -- it upset me that she believes DNA-bio-hacking is the same thing as cross pollinating a red rose with a white one, and produces plants as natural as roses. It also bothers me she is giving misinformation to a patient who is wanting to be cautious for health reasons, rather than the other way around...if I were in there asking about the viability of a product KNOWN to have some risks, she'd run an arsenal of tests, look at my health history and genetic predispositions, and make a cautious decision based on benefits vs risks, acknowledging that there ARE risks.

Whew :)

This issue is not going away.

And I'm still going to opt for REAL food vs. engineered anything. I'm tired of our being unwitting guinea pigs for others' gain. You can always find a statistic to back up anything. 50 years ago, doctors were promoting cigarettes as a healthy thing to smoke. I'm not about regulating people's choices of what they eat, or's a free country. I AM about giving them all the facts so they can make informed choices.

Here's some of the latest on the GM issue -- from the Organic Consumers site:

The Food and Drug Administration released a "draft guidance" document on September 18th that outlines the regulatory approval process for Genetically Engineered (GE) animals. To date, the process has not been transparent, and maintains that GE animals, like their plant counterparts, do not need to be labeled. Food derived from GE animals will not be labeled and represents a huge risk for human health and the environment.

Full article at

If we think this is an issue that's harmless, here's a reminder that there is a lot of money and lobbying behind this issue that is striving to silence the folks who openly question and ask for the facts:

Gently and consistently, we must insist on honesty in labeling and on protection of our rights to decide for ourselves, as citizens, whether we want GMOs. We can NOT hand this decision over to the government to decide for us, because if we do, they will.

And they'll continue to convince us that GM soy is as "natural" as growing a pink rose.

Medicinals in the Garden Update

Remember these guys? They arrived in June and have been growing out back in Bucketville ever since. To see their progress, you can jump to my article today on the collaborative blog Women Not Dabbling In Normal, where you'll probably get lost in all the other wonderful posts you'll find from the women there, like I do....
By the way, if you do go there, check out the new Yahoo group, Friends Not Dabbling in Normal, on the sidebar of that site. There's a great group of people actively having the fun of getting to know each other and throwing out some great questions and tips related to homesteading. Enjoy!
(Jack just reminded me I sound like I'm advertising...that's not my style, but I'm just delighted to see this awesome community connecting in yet another important way, and it's such fun!)
(Merrily singing "This is My Blog, and I'll Type What I Want To.....) heehee

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Raw Milk Raw Deal in PA

This in recently, from Weston A. Price Foundation:

Unwarranted Raw Dairy RecallsPut Spotlight on Hostile Regulatory Procedures

Washington, DC--Sept 17, 2008-

A series of rush-to-judgment raw dairy recalls and actions against raw milk farmers around the country, has exposed inappropriate protocols used to assess the safety of raw milk and extreme bias on the part of investigators.

On September 12, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) rescinded Telford, Pennsylvania raw milk farmer Trent Hendrick's raw milk permit, based on a few recent cases of food poisoning. Without any test results showing that the Hendricks Farm milk was contaminated, the state issued a press release naming the farm and circulated warnings against the consumption of all raw milk.

Today all independent tests came back negative, not only for campylobacter but for all other pathogens as well. The state based their decision on reports of three families that were customers of the dairy, several members of which were afflicted with intestinal pain, cramping and diarrhea. According to Hendricks, two of the families were on vacation at the time and were exposed to other possible sources of pathogens, including questionable water sources. However, investigators for the Pennsylvania health department discounted other likely vectors of disease and neglected to determine whether non-raw milk drinkers had also contracted the illness.

Prior to this incident, The Hendricks farm has been lauded by the PDA as being an exceptional raw dairy producer, one who operated by permit and had a superlative safety record. The farm's raw milk cheeses have won several American Cheese Society awards.

Hendricks had requested that the PDA wait until test results were in before issuing the press release. The shut down of his operation and press release resulted in financial hardship and considerable negative publicity for the dairy."I have jumped through hoops in an attempt to meet or surpass the state requirements," said Hendricks. "Our farm has an excellent track record on test results, and we even go above and beyond by testing the milk weekly for pathogens. All of our good faith efforts and compliance didn't amount to a hill of beans. When we needed the benefit of the doubt from the state, it wasn't there. We take food safety very seriously. All we asked is that PDA have evidence before they convict us. Instead, they insisted on putting out a press release damning our product before test results were back--before they had any conclusive proof.""

Until recently, the PDA did not suspend permits or issue press releases until appropriate testing confirmed the presence of pathogens in culture tests, says Sally Fallon, president of the Weston A. Price Foundation, a nutrition education foundation that encourages the consumption of raw milk from pasture-fed cows. "In fact, they waited until they got two negative culture results, because pathogen testing is subject to error."

Also on September 12, the PDA carried out its third raid against Mark Nolt's farm. Nolt, a passive resister to the state permitting process, claims a constitutional right to sell the products of his farm without a permit. To date, the state has seized over $65,000 worth of product and equipment.

According to Nolt, the judge's order giving the PDA authority to seize and discard products from his farm was lifted on August 5, 2008 and the courts have denied the PDA a permanent injunction against the sale of raw milk. "The seizure and destruction of our farm products was an unlawful action by the state," says Nolt. PDA head of dairy safety William Chirdon has frequently stated that Nolt would be able to sell his raw milk without interference as long as he obtained a permit.

"Friday's actions demonstrate that PDA has no qualms about harassing raw milk farmers who have permits," said Taaron Meikle, president of the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund. (FTCLDF) "This is why more and more raw milk farmers are choosing to operate outside the permitting system. They consider the raw milk permit a 'permit to harass.'"

In light of these two incidents, Jonas Stoltzfus, farmer and President of the Pennsylvania Independent Consumers and Farmers Association (PICFA), called for the immediate ouster of William Chirdon. "The FDA's negative statements about raw dairy have resulted in an aggressive stance against raw dairy farmers by state agencies across the nation. Persecution of Pennsylvania raw milk farmers began under Bill Chirdon's regime. His actions of September 12 demonstrate his willingness to persecute and prosecute farmers on no evidence at all," said Stoltzfus.

"We are concerned about extreme PDA bias against raw milk," says Meikle, "It is inappropriate for the state to issue warnings against the consumption of all raw milk when raw milk has helped thousands of Pennsylvania consumers overcome health problems and has a long history of safety. Last year, three people died from contaminated pasteurized milk in Massachusetts and thousands have been sickened by fresh produce. Where are the warnings against consumption of pasteurized milk and raw produce?"

Meikle notes that tainted, heat-processed baby formula killed three infants and sickened over one thousand babies in China, during the week of the PDA actions against raw milk. Fallon notes that a recall of raw cream in California highlights similar inappropriate protocols in that state. The California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) recalled the raw cream when it tested positive for campylobacter after 12 days of highly specialized laboratory culturing. No illnesses from the raw cream were reported and CDFA admitted to a sample mix-up that sent the cream to the wrong lab. "Not only did the cream travel over 900 extra miles and sit for several days at the wrong laboratory before being sent to the correct laboratory, the source milk from which the cream was well under the mandated 10 coliform limit-- it was 6 coliforms, pathogen-free and campylobacter-free. CDFA officials consider this the gold standard for raw milk testing," said Fallon.

"We are waiting for Governor Schwarzenegger to sign SB201, the 2008 California Fresh Raw Milk bill, into law. This legislation will eliminate the 10-coliform limit, which is very difficult for raw milk dairies to pass on a consistent basis, and mandate frequent intensive testing for pathogens like campylobacter instead. Campylobacter is not a coliform and so it is missed by the coliform standards currently in force.

Raw milk defenders note that coliforms are mostly beneficial bacteria, which have pro-biotic effects. "The presence of good bacteria is one reason consumers want to drink raw milk," says Fallon. "The official attitude that the only good bacteria is a dead bacteria is a discredited paradigm based on 40-year-old science."

The Weston A. Price Foundation is a 501c3 nutrition education non-profit, dedicated to fostering a return to nutrient-dense foods and traditional farming methods. The Foundation promotes the consumption of raw milk and pasture-feeding of livestock. The Weston A. Price Foundation is based in Washington DC and has 400 chapters and 10,000 members worldwide.

Websites: and

The Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund provides legal defense for sustainable farms engaged in raw milk production and direct farm-to-consumer sales. Website:

The Pennsylvania Independent Consumers and Farmers Association is a group of Sustainable Farmers and the Consumers that support them. Their mission is to help defend the rights of farmers to provide humanely raised meats and farm fresh dairy products direct to consumers who value these foodstuffs without government interference.
Kimberly Hartke, WAPF Publicist (703) 860-2711 or (703) 675-5557,
Jonas Stoltzfus, Pennsylvania Independent Consumers and Farmers Association Home 717-536-3618, cell 717-275-3016
Maureen Diaz, Weston A. Price Chapter Leader, Pennsylvania 717-303-3832 cell 717-253-0529

Friends in Need, Friends Indeed

Before posting ANYTHING else here on the ol' blog, I've been backlogged with thank-yous pending. I simply haven't been able to stop in to each person's site to pen a personal note of gratitude, but I'm definately putting it here before any more time elapses!

THANK YOU to all who have dropped me notes, snail mail, comments here, and in so many ways been wonderful and supportive friends during the events of the past month. Here are some of the friends who left comments that went a long long way in keeping me afloat during days at the hospice. (If you stopped here and I have left your name out, it is unintentional...forgive me, please)

Gina, Angie, Paulette, Meadowlark, Nola, Brenda Kula, Kim, Stephanie, Maria, Nita, Steph, Phelan, Kathie, Carla, Meg, Carolyn, Tina F., Annie, Killi, Patrik, Christina, Laurie, SugarCreekStuff, Lisa, Wendy, Danni, Sengdroma, Robin, Mommymommyland, Lacy, Donna, Miriam, Granny Sue, Plantain patch, Monica...

And to anyone whose name I didn't see, but who kept us in thought and prayer...

Thank you for being such a great community that has proven to be a REAL community in my life, be it at whatever distance. Your care, humor, sensitivity, and encouragement truly were a lifeline not only for myself, but for my husband as well.


I am so honored to have you as friends! I am truly humbled :)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Easing Back Into the Swing...

I am overdue on thank yous and on updating my blogroll...can we say months of backlog??

The thank you post will be, my friends, have helped sustain my husband and myself during this time and we cannot adequately express our gratitude. But I will an upcoming post.

For now, we just experimented with a plant we'll be incorporating into our future, simply because it's easy, and delicious. You can read more about our first attempts with Malanga at the collaborative blog Women Not Dabbling In Normal. ( tastes great) :)

I'll be back soon :) Have to keep my keyboarding skills from getting rusty...

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

In Memory

In Loving Memory

Eustacia Santana (married name withheld), "Blanca"
March 1913 - September 9, 2008

Beloved daughter, wife, mother

Devoted in her lifetime to excellence and professionalism in the field of nursing, specializing both in pediatrics and geriatrics

She prayed for miracles and worked to do her part to allow them to happen

We are grateful to the Almighty for the life she lived and the encouragement and example she provided.

Jack, Robbyn and family

Thank you for your friendship and prayers in this time of our loss

We love you

Saturday, September 6, 2008


Exactly half a day after writing that my mother-in-law, who is in hospice, had become unable to eat or drink, I settled in for the evening...a longggg her room. Up, down, up, down...she was restless and it was a long night for all, even though the nurses were there and I was on the pullout bed. My husband has also been spending nights there on an alternating basis..we trade off.

The next morning, I was up and straightening up the room when Hello! Mima sat up, wide-eyed, and began giving commands. This, from the woman who was entirely unresponsive and had had nothing to eat or drink for about 3 days. She indicated she wanted some hygiene and personal care NOW, grabbed my hand and said "you...Stay!" and tried to swing herself right out of the bed. Well, that was quite a party for the nurses, who were as surprised as I was. An hour later, Mima was all back together, clean and fresh in her bed, and ate two servings of ice cream. She did this for the next three days.

Now we're back to the not eating or drinking, but I think each descent is deeper...she's now on more morphine and CAN'T swallow. So it goes, and it's not fun for her. They're trying to keep her comfortable, which is more of a challenge. I'm very thankful for her medication...I can't imagine what it would be like for her without it.

I've read all the friend comments and taken them to heart...thank you again for all your prayers and great advice. My back DID go out, and I spent a horrible couple of hours lying on a hard tile floor, legs up on a chair, then bed rest as Jack stayed at the hospice. I've been doing stretches, as recommended by my good friends here, and I've got a lot more movement, and will continue doing them. When I'm fully back to the computer (soon??) I'll be requesting the specifics on that because I want to keep my back strong. But I'm now standing upright, and walking, which is a relief, yayyy!!!

It's time now to get back to the facility...thought I'd stop in here and steal a couple minutes. My response to an extended family member's sentiment "Mima just won't let go" is "Rock on, Mima!" She and God will have their last say, as they will, and it won't be to others' time frames. I'm glad. We should all be so blessed to keep dancing even after the musicians are played out. Death shouldn't have to be convenient.

I applaud that sort of stubbornness. Mima, you have my lasting admiration.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Inappropriate Laughter


Just more proof that I'll never, EVER qualify as being normal...

(Male readers, for your own comfort, just exit this post now)

Jack's still with his mom. She's lingering, but not for long, and of course it's a most serious time. We've already placed a few phone calls, and will make some more as the day progresses. I really needed to be with him right now. Let's see if I can get there.

I've been sleeping in pull-out beds and easy chairs in hospice. This hospice has comfortable facilities. The other one didn't. I've had a sore back ever since sleeping at the first one on a very hard surface.

I finally got to sleep in my own bed last night...bliss! And this morning, two things happened:

1. My lower back "went out"...or in the words of Emeril, "BAM!!" That's when I started laughing...

2. "Aunt Flo came to visit"... I have irregular "visits" and on months when I do have my periods, they're a doozy. I am now laughing harder. Can I EVEN make it to the bathroom???

We have a rolling office chair, and that's what I'm sitting in now. Only I can't get OUT of it, and I had to creep like a turtle through the house (laughing, I might add) to get to it. Now seated, I have to Fred Flintstone my way through the house barefoot (can't get my shoes on! lol) in the rolling office chair to get around.

Well, at least I already had a shower!

This has happened a couple times before in the past, and there's just nothing I can do about it besides taking anti-inflammatories and waiting it out in bed, (in between bathroom trips) and then do some slow walking to keep my back stretched out and limber. I can't stand all the way up just now...or bend...or much else. Oh glory... (and now I'm laughing some more!)

I must say my back has wacko timing this time.

The irony is not lost on me...I'm imagining people dropping by during this serious time (which could be happening, oh ANY minute now) and finding me creeping through the house inch by inch with my face gnarled up with concentration saying "oooo, oooo, oooo" with each step (in the rolling chair, of course!) wrapped in a loud-colored beach towel and not much else, trying to get back to my room.

Oh's the chubby homesteader reality show...

Gosh, better start creeping now. The bathroom's on the other side of the house.

.....(laughing!!!) ;-)

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Newer Update

I love you guys so much. Thank you to all the friends who continue to keep Jack's mom and our family in your thoughts and prayers. I just can't say thank you enough.

Some wonderful things have happened as far as timing. It was a frustrating process trying to get her transported down here to another hospice company jurisdiction, but it did happen. She was put in their facility nearby a few days ago, to be watched over the weekend to see if she'd stabilize enough to have her come home here. We've been there the whole time, tag-teaming with each other so someone's with her round the clock. Yesterday, I could have sat in the floor and wept with joy because the doctor told us that unless we really want to have her moved again, she is approved to stay there for the duration. This place is like no other place I've seen, though I've not seen many hospices. The room is quiet, surrounded by beauty and a private garden and porch with its own living room right there in a part of the room bumped out with a bay window. There are only 6 total rooms, 6 total patients at one time. The room is completely private and the rest of it's set up like a house nicer than anything we've lived in...ever. But it's family-friendly, which means there's an actual BED for us to sleep in right there in the same room with her (twin bed, that is) and a reclining armchair.

All that to say that we have a family conference about whether to move her or not, but since she has not stabilized, it has quickly been decided that we're better off staying there since it's only 20 minutes away...the other hospice was 1 1/2 hours away. Her complications quickly exceeded anything I'd be able to handle round-the-clock when the doctor said he'd recommend she stay there and not be moved, I wanted to just weep with relief.

I won't detail my MIL's physical changes, but I will say in the past 24 hours, there has been a turn to the final stretch. She has been unable to swallow (and hasn't wanted to) any fluids or food for 48 hours now...anything attempted along those lines makes her choke. The nurses there are exceptional and closely watch and monitor things without unnecessary interference. They handle a lot of tasks I'd never have been confident of doing well myself with Mima being so fragile. I've helped them as I can, and they've taught me a lot, but I'm so relieved to be able to be there with her without having to do it all.

That is SUCH a huge answer to prayer!! I have some trepidation when I'm there alone with her that I'll be the only person with her when she dies...and I've never been with anyone when they die. I've never had to think of questions such as how to tell a loved one their mom or grandmother or wife just died. And it's odd the insignificant details that crowd in at just this time, too...such as will I have enough time to run to the store and get a pair of stockings for the funeral, etc. So very very strange, to eat meals, when in the next room Jack's mom can't even take liquid medicine from a syringe, or to watch TV with the sound turned on the lowest setting, while inches away she labors for breath. Such incongruent contrasts.

I call in to her husband daily with a progress report. Yesterday, I asked him how he was holding up...he is frail and old and has been fairly stoic even in his visits, not really speaking with her at all, but just sitting there. His reply is one I'll not soon forget.

"I'm alone and desolate. And no, I don't anyone to come by here and check on me."

Sometimes, as I sit there listening to the sounds of my MIL breathing in her sleep, I look into the shadows of my own greatest fear...of losing my own spouse someday. I can barely think in that direction without a wall of panic welling up in me. How do people survive it? Then I pray for my husband...a lot.

I don't think these thoughts are especially dark or morbid, but I do think I've been shielded all my life from their being a part of my understanding as a whole. As such, I'm in uncharted territory. It's a territory I'm not so sure I'm glad to be charting.

Those are just my thoughts, but the reality is that this is someone else's life, and she's had a very long and good one.

All I have is gratefulness that my husband can right this moment, even as I type this, be there with his mom...God worked out all the details in just the right way, better than we could even have hoped. Had there been no other option than to have her transferred from the other hospice to our house (their policy only allowed for a one week stay), then this local hospice would not have been involved in the transfer and oversight of the situation. But they are, and it's the perfect situation, better than we could even offer right here.

The doctor today said "it" would be soon. I can't stand to see anyone not be able to swallow, eat, or drink. But she still wants to live, and I have a hard time understanding how she will be no more because of her body not co-operating with some basic functions anymore.

We are so much more than the sum of our body parts and functions.

Tired, grateful, sad, grateful, and needing a hot shower...
I'm all those things. I'll be back with an update in the next day or two.

Of all those things, most of all I'm grateful :)