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Saturday, June 18, 2016

Happy Father's Day


Father's Day is tomorrow and I never know what to get dad. Not just on Father's Day, but any holiday that implies something must be gifted: birthday, Christmas, etc.

What do you buy the guy that has everything? Two years ago for his birthday we set him up with a Beta fish. It was one of the girls' ideas. I think he liked it: he named it Brady, as in Tom Brady. (He's a Patriots fan and his birthday is near the SuperBowl)

Dad soon changed the fish's name to "Boring" because the fish did nothing. Mom was always checking if it was even still alive. Dad fed it and mom joked about it. The girls would change the water when we visited. Then Mom and Dad went on a trip and turned the heat down. Tom Boring died. I think the Patriots lost that year too.

Last December Dad had a stroke. Scared all of us kids into action. We can be a mighty force when we come together. We don't get all huggy and mushy and we'll tear each other down in a heartbeat, but if one of us gets hurt, we're as tight as Gorilla Glue. Sarah and Emily flew in to Connecticut and Tom,  Andy and I took turns visiting at the hospital. Dad recovered quickly and came home.

On the day Sarah flew back to Kansas, Dad had another stroke. This one had me being the "ambulance" and Sarah upon landing at the airport, simply boarded another flight back to Connecticut. This stroke was more severe and came with complications.

At one point he couldn't really speak but he was trying to ask me a question. He kept saying, "I don't know..." After he tried a few more times to make the sentence, I just said, "I don't know either Dad, but I know I love you." He responded by laughing a funny "hahaha" kind of laugh. Two thoughts went through my head at that moment. First was, "Typical Dad. He's still in there. Everything that makes him him, is still there." My second thought was, "I don't want him to think that my saying 'I love you' is a joke. Ever."

When Dad came back home, I moved into my parents house for a few weeks to help Mom get Dad, literally, back on his feet again. We spent a lot of time together just sitting in the living room; Dad doing his speech therapy or resting and me on my ipad. Occasionally one of us would be inspired to share something and then we'd settle back in to our comfortable silence. As much as I wish my Dad hadn't had the strokes, I am grateful for the time it gave us to be together in our own quiet way.

It is our relationship and it's a reserved one. Dad and I have never had big conversations. We just don't need them. I have great memories of doing stuff with my Dad. He taught me my first constellations in the night sky and took me out to watch meteor showers. We tried to see Halley's comet, we observed lunar eclipses, and he showed me how to make a pinhole camera for solar eclipses. I'll never forget the night he woke me up around 2 AM when I was about ten years old. We went out and observed a comet that's orbit was estimated to be about seven million years!

 Dad loves science and he taught me to love it too. He took us to the Boston Science Museum and the planetarium. For science fair, he taught me about electrical circuits and we made one that worked! The following year we made a more complicated circuit. It was my Dad who showed me that "learn by doing" is sometimes the best way. Talking about it doesn't always get it done.

Dad has nearly fully recovered from his strokes. A stranger would be hard pressed to think anything had ever happened. It's a gift I am not taking for granted. Not much has changed in our relationship. We are still not huge conversationalists. But now when I leave after a visit, I give my dad a hug and a kiss.

For Father's Day I think I'll get my Dad a bag of bird seed. He likes to watch the birds come to the feeder while he has lunch. And while I still don't know what to get the guy who has practically everything, I hope he knows how much I love him. Enough to not get him another fish...

Thursday, May 26, 2016

A New Direction!

Last year we decided to sell our herd of goats and take a break from that part of our farm to concentrate on our Maple syrup production. With all the crazy stuff that has happened in our family since last October, when the last goat left, we know the Lord was directing our path and we are happy that we chose to follow His leading!

In the last few weeks we have done a lot of talking with Abby and have decided to take a new direction, even further away from the animals. (We are still raising our own chickens for food and eggs, and may raise a veal calf this fall for our own use) Now we will be focusing on creating a place where other small hobby farmers can showcase and sell their products.

Farmer's markets are becoming the place to sell farm products, but for the really small farmer it can be difficult to secure a space or commit to twenty weeks of sales. The fees for fairs and shows can be higher than a very small farm or craftsman can absorb and the start up equipment for such shows (tent, table, chairs, signage, etc) make achieving a profit very difficult.

While I was convalescing and Sam had a couple of weeks off from work to take care of me, we (meaning Sam, Abby, Rachel, and Samantha) stripped out "phase one" of the barn. The cement floor was scrubbed, the walls and ceiling were washed down.



Wiring was run, sheet rock hung, and lights were installed.

Through the window is the new room (used to be the "baby barn") for the evaporator. We aren't sure when we will move it up from the old building because we still need to pour the cement floor for it. The window will allow even the smallest guests to view the syrup making process without getting so close to the wicked hot evaporator! 


A sink and stove, with counter space and cupboards will be added to Phase one. This gives us space to finish and bottle the syrup all in the same area. Shelves will line the walls for products. We are looking to add items from local farmers, producers, and craftspeople, to be showcased and sold. We will be organizing more farm events similar to ones that have been so successful in the past and our new farm stand will give us space that is not weather dependent. 

It will take time for all these changes to happen and come together, but we think it will be a great new direction for us!


Monday, May 23, 2016

Learn By Doing Day 2016

Learn By Doing Day was so much fun! We had surprise attendees come all the way from Madison, CT and some of our animals were not cooperating with our planned schedule. So we did what 4-H teaches us to do: get flexible and go with the flow!
The weather was cooperative and we had a great day of learning how to show chickens, rabbits, dogs, and sheep, as well as a short workshop on 4-H record books. A huge THANK YOU to Mrs. Fields, Mrs. Atkins, Mrs. Button, and Mrs. Bennett! We couldn't have done it without you!
Chicken Showmanship


Rabbit Showmanship


Aloura shows Eamonn how to flip a rabbit for showmanship






Mrs. Fields taught dog showmanship

The awesome sheep!


DOOR PRIZES!




Sheep showmanship









Shelley met a sheep for the first time.

Even the clean-up was fun!


Thursday, May 12, 2016

Results

No cancer!

I don't think there are many phrases in the English language that can give as much relief as that one.
The doctor gave the news on the final pathology and added that they don't know what happened. It was there throughout the biopsy. The tumor was large. My uterus was equal to being at six months gestation. I had all the symptoms. There should have been cancer cells there.

But they weren't there. Since I believe that God exists, that he hears prayers, he delights in answering them in a way that brings us the maximum good according to his plans, I believe that God answered my prayers and those of many other people.

Either he removed the cancer, miraculously causing it to disappear, or, as the doctor believes, the cancer cells were only in the one section where they did the biopsy. Or God caused the biopsy results to show cancer so that my surgery would get moved to a bigger hospital with more equipment and better, more experienced doctors.

I am leaning towards the latter because if the surgery had been done locally it would have had a different outcome. My surgery was supposed to take two hours. It took just over four. The size of my uterus and tumor were larger than they had anticipated, requiring an additional, larger incision, on top of the five small ones.  There was difficulty in the removal due to the size. If I had had this operation as originally planned before the biopsy results, without the benefit of robotic surgery, I would have ended up with a very large incision and a much longer recovery.

I am recovering very well. I have barely any pain now unless I overdo things. (Resting has never been my thing!) I have two more weeks of taking things easy, and then I can get back to overdoing it again!

My God is good. I am praising him for answered prayers, for his timing, for his knowing what is best for me and my spiritual growth. All things work together for my good according to his will!


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

What to Say?

What to say. My last entry was in October and seems like an eternity ago.
So much has happened:

Nathalie moved home and has a job as a baker in a bakery.
Hannah moved out.
Rachel got a job as a cashier in the bakery.
My dad had 2 strokes and one TIA between December 7, 2015 and January 16, 2016.
And I am scheduled for surgery for Friday.

I use writing to help me sort and sift my thoughts. It helps me process information and put it in perspective. And so that last item on the list: One of those life changing moments that starts with a seemingly routine deal is what I am writing about. I am sure I'll write about the others soon.

I have been battling anemia for the last three years (probably longer, but only diagnosed three years ago). Despite mega-doses of iron and dietary changes, my Hgb levels could not come up to satisfactory levels. It was decided that I needed to see a gynecologist and resolve the root cause of the anemia; drugs and diet alone just weren't going to fix it.

One month ago, upon a physical examination, the doctor decided that I needed to have an ultrasound done on my uterus to see why everything was bigger than normal. The ultra sound revealed a fibroid tumor of approximately nine centimeters (about the size of a newborn baby's head) and a uterus that was four times normal size. (A tip for doctors: avoid using the word "impressive" when discussing anomalies!) So we decided I would have surgery to remove the tumor and my uterus within the week. A small biopsy was taken just be sure even though the doctor was confident there was nothing else going on.

Two days before the scheduled surgery, I received a phone call that the biopsy showed suspicious adenocarcinoma. (That's a heart stopping word right there) He was canceling my surgery and transferring my case to a larger hospital with a gynecological oncologist. A week later, the new doctor confirmed the diagnosis, but said he believed that there was just a 30% chance that it was full blown cancer. He wanted to get me in for surgery as soon as possible, and the surgery was going to be more extensive than previously planned.

Fast forward to today. Surgery is scheduled for Friday. (Apparently the medical definition for ASAP is not the same as mine!) I am supposed to plan on 2-3 days in the hospital and then two weeks of rest, with another two weeks of "light duty".

It's been a long month of learning how to wait. To quote Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride, "I hate waiting." I dislike unknowns. I am a planner. I like to know what is coming and have a plan for dealing with it. Having two or three plans waiting in the wings is even better. Having sub plans for each plan is optimum. With this event, I have been learning how to step in faith. As each step is revealed, I take it, and wait for the next one to be disclosed.

I am thankful that much of the decision making has been taken out of my hands. As much as I am a planner, I am not a decider. Pro and con lists plague me and I am always second guessing my choices. Thankfully every time it has looked like I needed to choose a preference, something would happen where all the other options were taken away.

And so, I am praying for the best outcome (no cancer, just some funky cells that grew a lot), but in my head I am prepared for the not so good. My take on it is that I would rather wake up Friday afternoon and be surprised that there is nothing to deal with, rather than be surprised that there is something to deal with. And either way, I'll take the next step in faith.



Monday, October 5, 2015

Bittersweet Moments

A bittersweet weekend as we closed a chapter in our lives. On Sunday we participated in our last goat show: The ADGA show at the Big E. It was pretty incredible to see how much our breeding program has contributed to goats in New England as we saw goats from our lines performing very well in the ring with a wide range of owners and herds. If/When Abby ever decides to pick up where she left off, I have no doubt she will be able to find several of her original bloodlines out there. 

Samantha finished her 4-H goat experience on Saturday on a high note as well. Her doe Cedars of Lebanon Dollymadison was Reserve Senior Oberhasli and her doe Owl-Ridge A Fionn's Ciara was high producing Oberhasli. Samantha placed well enough in fitting and showmanship classes, but it was very clear to us, her parents, that her heart is not in it and that we have made the right decision in selling the herd. 

Sam and I both truly enjoyed working with the youth this weekend and will still continue being involved in the 4-H goat program as 4-H leaders and committee members. The six kids from our club that attended the big E this weekend (both for goats and sheep) worked hard, performed well, had fun, and demonstrated all the good that 4-H has to teach about life, hard work, and achieving goals. 

We will miss being involved with the goat world, but the friendships we have made in the last 15 years are ones we treasure and certainly are based on more than just goats. Good, hard working people who will reach out and give you a hand up when you need it. Thank you for being an incredible blessing to our family!


Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Being Tough

There is a saying in the fire department: "If you think being a firefighter is tough, try being a firefighter's wife." Being a firefighter's wife can be the most fun, truly exciting, and best thing in the world. My husband is respected and celebrated. He is thought of as a "hero" by many. Who wouldn't want that for their best friend?

But then, there are days like last Thursday and every day since...

At 8:30 at night the phone rings and the caller ID is some unknown wireless caller with an exchange from the other end of the state. I answer it to hear sirens wailing and after a pause my husband's voice, "Just needed you to know I'm okay. I think we're all okay."

At that point I do believe my heart stopped. I know my breathing did. Rachel and Samantha say that I replied, "What happened?" Sam then proceeded to breathlessly tell me that his fire engine had been hit  broadside by another car; that they had somehow stayed upright, but they had crashed into trees. He told me that all four of the crew were going to the hospital to get checked out. Then he told me he loved me, and hung up.

For the next four hours I lay in bed, praying. I was finally able to speak with him again after midnight, when he told me that he was pretty bruised and his hip was really bothering him and that the engine driver broke several bones in his hand and will need surgery. After we talked a few more minutes, we said goodnight and I managed to sleep for a few hours. And when I woke up, I put on my toughness.

Being tough means I sit and hold his hand while the tears slip down his face as he thinks about the accident in 2007. The accident when his engine was hit by another firetruck and his captain was killed and two other crew members were so injured they never returned to the line. He pretends the tears aren't there and I pretend I don't see them.

Being tough means I tell him it's his decision about when he feels ready to return to work, when I really would just prefer he never go back.

Being tough means I let him tell me the pros and cons of transferring stations, again and again, and again, as he agonizes over what would be best for himself, his crew, and his family.

Being tough means I don't think about how many near misses he has had. How three times now, I have had phone calls like Thursday's.

And so now, nearly a week later, I am still hanging tough. Sam is healing. He can walk today much better than yesterday and the bruising on his hand is nearly faded away. The bruise on his arm is more yellow than purple now.

I know he will go back to work in a few days. Firefighting is in his blood. It's who he is. I will kiss him goodbye, tell him I love him and to "stay safe," like I always do. And I will pray. Pray that for the next 5-8 years before he retires, that God will continue to keep him safe and return him home after every shift.

Firefighters are tough; but their wives are stronger. And my God is mighty.
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