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Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Surfacing

Finally surfacing from my IRS-induced coma of the past week...


Recipts, Depreciation Tables, Profit/Loss margins, Mileage, Maintenance, Sales of Livestock, natural born, purchased, Vet Expenses, Exemptions.....  ARGHHH!!!!

It's enough to drive a sane woman insane.  After all, we only run a small farm, not an Empire!  Why does it have to be so complicated?


I fear I am alarming the mama's!  And I admit that life on the farm has not been pleasant these past 9 days.  This Goat Herder has been cranky, irritable and down-right uncivil to be around.   I am not a desk person, nor an accountant person.  I am more like an outside, wind in my face, dig in the dirt kind of person.   Paperwork, schmakerwork... My little pink eraser is worn down to a nub and I've gone through 2 calculators.  Ok, well, one kind of got stepped on, but hey, I didn't particularly like the calculation anyway...

So, I was ripe for an attitude adjustment.  I can see that now.

I had flipped the radio on today, thinking maybe a little music might soothe the beast I was becoming.  But between sets, someone gave a quick thought for the day.  Don't even remember what show or who was speaking.  As I was totaling the profit/loss column AGAIN, the voice started penetrating my red haze, and this is what I heard:

What Kind of Person are You?

Huh? 

There are basically three kinds of people.

I'm listening...

There are Accusers, Excusers and Choosers.

Pretty simple when spelled out.  The Accusers are always accusing someone or something else for their troubles.  The Excusers are always excusing their miserable mood or actions because of someone or something else.  But The Choosers, they choose to be accountable for their actions and choose to live with joy, confidence and grace, despite the someones or something elses.

It immediately reminded me of something mom had said in the middle of her pancreatic cancer journey.  A neighbor's father had passed away suddenly and the family was having a wake at the house.  Mom did not want to go, but felt somewhat obligated because they were neighbors, and Linda had been so good to bring meals by for mom.  She was feeling tired and queasy from the latest round of chemo.  We all told her it would be alright if she didn't go, surely the family would understand in the light of her circumstances.  Mom, paused and mulled it over, then got up, got dressed and headed over to pay her respects.  She said, and this is what sticks in my mind, she said, "I could play the cancer card, but it wouldn't be right.  That's just excusing bad behavior."  Mom was never an Excuser.  She was definitely a Chooser.

And so today, I have had my attitude tweaked.  I have played the Accuser (rotten IRS) and the Excuser (I'm being rotten because the IRS is making me rotten) enough already.  Time to Choose Accountability and Live Life with Joy, Confidence and Grace.  I have needed more Grace in my life this past week and it's about time I Choose to Act in it...

I want to Live my life as a Chooser.  Care to join me?

Whatever it is we face, we have a choice.  Sometimes it is the petty, the inconsequentional that pushes our buttons.  Sometimes it is the monumental Life Crushers that flattens us.  Pancreatic Cancer would be one of the Big Ones.  We still have a choice.  Does that mean we won't have bad days, overwhelming grief, sadness and tears?  Of course not.  I think, for me, it means that we choose not to blame, accuse or excuse on the basis of the trauma.  I know that mom's example has been a light for our path.  She acted with such dignity through-out her journey, despite the heaviness of her cancer diagnosis.  Our time together wasn't mired down in negative ranting, or petulant rages.  She Chose to Live as Positively as Possible, making the most of the moments she had, rather than giving them over to be lost in anger or bitterness.  The smiles, the hugs, the long talks, the laughter, these are the things we remember most from the past year.

That, I think, is Grace, and Joy and Confidence personified. 

And to honor the intentional decision to Choose Accountability for my actions, I have chosen to hire a CPA, who gladly took my motley farm files and will undoubtably have an incredible amount of fun rendering our income tax bill for this year.  The relief is immense, and the joy increasing as I head for the garden to wallow in dirt and blooms...



Choosing Grace this Day!   Jane

Friday, March 16, 2012

Love Alone



"In the evening of life,
we will be judged on
love alone..."

                                ~ St. John of the Cross

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

All Out of Whack

This afternoon I walked into the house and was greeted by the loveliest little Christmas Cactus flower!


In the middle of March mind you!  I have been so preoccupied with life, grief, dad, grand-babes and chores that I had totally forgotten to look for the beautiful Christmas blooms this past December.  And really, this little plant has always been so faithful to flower during the holidays. 

Here she is in years past.  Laden with blooms, dripping sweetness and beauty...



So this year, she's 3 months late.  Go figure!  Perhaps our grieving spirits really knocked her for a loop this Christmas.  But in the midst of it all I never even noticed.  I consider it a blessing we're talking about a cactus here, because I don't think she got watered for weeks on end.  Really, my house plants were not high on the priority list during the tumult and sorrow of losing mom.

But, today she blooms.  There is Hope.  Even for the dry, parched, barren places of the soul. 

Beauty is there.  Sometimes small, sometimes late.  But struggling to be seen, to be felt, to be embraced.

And I know this little blossom was a gift to a tired heart this day...

It was a day spent with Dad, walking yet another first.  Celebrating their 52nd Wedding Anniversary.  Not at a fancy restaurant, nor a candlelit dinner at home.  This anniversary was commemorated with a small yellow rose bouquet and quiet, shared memories at her columbarium...



We should take stock in Kleenex at this point in our journey.  The grief is still heavy and ever present.  I am learning anew how difficult and uncharted this road can be.  We can laugh over shared memories and stories while lips are quivering and tears are falling.  It is the nature of the beast.

And yet, this moment of beauty in my day. 


Fiercely determined to bloom, delicate and lovely, despite an inner clock that is all out of whack!

Sometimes beauty comes late.  Still a gift, delighting the heart.  And know that it brings Hope.  Always right on time...

May Beauty flood your soul this day.  Perfect, Fierce and Lovely.

Resting in Grace, Jane

Saturday, March 10, 2012

When the Veil Thins

In the weeks and months since mom’s passing, I have held close those final moments like a gift.  Not as a joyous thing, but more a gift of infinite trust, rare and costly, the merest glimpse of an Eternal Beyond .  To be present as her soul prepared for this final journey was at once the most painful, humbling, heart-wrenching task I’ve ever been given, as well as the most sacred.
 

My heart stutters to find words that would adequately express the emotions of those last days.  But I am drawn over and over to the unexpected Moments of Holiness, these Grace Gifts that are forever etched on my mind. 

 

Perhaps God knew I would need a tangible “rope” to hold onto when the sorrow and grief threatened to swallow us up.  These memories of Mom’s last hours are the bridge to an assurance in God’s Blessed Grace.  For if I had not witnessed it myself I would never have believed…
 

We didn’t know that Death was stalking Mom the day she entered the hospital with pneumonia that Sunday in November.  Well, with a terminal diagnosis we’re always aware of the Death Stalker, but to be clear, this was a simple case of pneumonia, not the ugly metastatic claw of the pancreatic cancer.   The plan was clear.  A few nights of hospital pampering, some antibiotics and iv fluids, and we’re back home getting ready for the next round of chemo. 

 

As I have shared here, mom’s condition deteriorated so rapidly that within a week we were calling on hospice to walk us through those final hours.  Overwhelmed doesn’t begin to describe our mental and physical state.  While the doctors ordered more tests, more antibiotics and more scans, mom was locked in an internal battle as her body heaved and fought with Eternity, pleading for one final Gift. 

 

We just didn’t know… 

 

For the first few days in the hospital Mom valiantly worked up the fighting spirit.  She spoke easily and intelligently with the doctors, nurses and techs, as well as laughing and visiting with family and friends in brief spurts.  We knew she was in pain, and much was done to alleviate this, but she seemed to brush off concerns and bravely attempted physical therapy, despite the severity of her condition.  Morphine was increased steadily, but even so it became an insurmountable task to move from the bed to the chair, and by Wednesday, she was effectively bed-ridden.  She tired very easily and slept, dosed often.  In hindsight, I can see that her endurance had been sapped completely by the disease and treatment.  The moments she pushed herself to eat, to laugh, to smile were for our sake, always.  I see that now.

 

That week in the hospital we put together a revolving rotation of family to stay with her.  She was never alone.  For this I will Always, Always be grateful.  I have two brothers.  Dean lives close, Steve about 5 hours away.  Between Dean, Dad, myself, my husband and daughter, we spent the days and nights, sometimes engaged in her care, sometimes just a solid presence while she slept.  Steve kept in touch by phone, text and email every day.
 

By Friday, we began to notice a weakness that was all pervasive.  She slept much, spoke little, and when she did it was more mumbling or nodding in response to our questions.  We knew our time was dwindling, but had no idea how soon the end would come. 

 

Steve had agonized being so far away throughout the week.  He wanted to be there, and wavered so many times back and forth whether to drop everything and come, or wait for our call.  Doctors and hospice had warned that she could linger for days in this weakened state, so we assured him we would call.  Mom had even told him earlier in the week that she just needed time to whoop this pneumonia and he could come visit when she was back home recuperating.

 

We really thought we would have time and then some…

 

Pancreatic cancer had other ideas… 

 

Friday evening I sent Dad home to get some much needed rest and took the evening rotation.  Mom was more restless this night, agitated and mumbling, mostly incoherent when she did rouse.  She would look at me but sort of through me, nod, as if assuring herself I was there, then slip back into a deep, but troubled sleep. 

 

Around 6 in the morning, the nurse came in to let me know that mom’s blood sugar level was low.  She wanted mom to sip on some orange juice to help get it back up.  We roused mom enough to wake her and as I was helping her take small sips of the juice, she opened her eyes wide, looked across the room and asked very clearly, 

 

“Who is Dad talking to?”
 

The nurse and I exchanged glances, somewhat startled at her clarity of voice, and I simply responded, 

 

“I don’t know.”  It didn’t even occur to me to argue with her and tell her Dad wasn’t there.
 

With a small sigh, she said, “Well, I hope it’s Steve.” 

 

Continuing to feel a little unhinged, I just said, “Okay, maybe it is.”

 

Then she looked straight at me, and said so clearly that I can hear her voice today,

 

“Steve’s not going to make it in time.” 

 

I could barely hold the juice glass in my senseless fingers.  Nor could I form a word on my tongue.

 

I looked to the nurse and she gave an imperceptible nod of her head.  I knew in that moment that we were facing the end.

 

Striving for a calm that I was far from feeling, I forced the words out, 

 

“Do you want Dad to call Steve?” 

 

She held my hand tightly, with more strength than she had a right to have, and said, “You better call him.” 

 

Assuring her I would, I grabbed the phone and immediately called my brother.  Through tears I told him what had just transpired.  He was on the road in minutes.

 

I gently rubbed mom’s shoulder and her eyes fluttered open again.  When I told her that Steve would be here soon, she smiled a little, looking relieved and just said Ok.  She then slipped back into a much more peaceful sleep, resting easily until Steve walked through the hospital doors 4 hours later. 

 

As he leaned over to kiss her cheek, she gently woke and in a pleased whisper said, “Oh, you’re here.” 

 

He hugged her frail body and told her he loved her.  She smiled and again, in the clearest voice, said, “I love you.”   And then looked around the room at all of us.

 

There was not a dry eye in the room.  Tears poured from our very souls as we realized this was what she had held on for. 

 

Her Circle of Love was complete.  All her children now ringed her bed and she appeared so very content. 

 

She passed away less than 24 hours later… 


The veil between heaven and earth wavered briefly, thinned to ethereal, as God beckoned her home.  My heart still beats hard to think of the strength it took her to stall His calling. 


But for Love.

 

She waited until my brother made it to her bedside, the last of her children to arrive, before giving in to the bone-deep weariness of her fight. 

 

How can I not see this as a Gift of Grace?  The Strength of Love, the Ties of Family, these are the things that hold us together when the Grief would pull us apart.


When the Veil Thins… Mercy gives Himself

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

So Many Hats...

And Only One Head!

While cleaning out Mom and Dad's attic this past week, we unearthed some long, buried treasures!  Mom's old hats!  Many come from her mother's collection and have been boxed up and stored for years.



What fun to rummage through the box and remember.  Dad enjoyed it as much as I, the memories came fast and thick.... I remember when she wore this one... And she bought this one in England... Oh and this one was her mom's Sunday best...  On and on it went!  And of course I had to try them all on!!!







Oh my goodness, Enough Already!

We did have so much fun.  I could almost hear mom laughing.  She would have had a ball going through those old hats.  And that reminiscing with Dad, the touching of her spirit, the delight of holding something of hers close... That is the link to loving deep, carrying the memories forward.  It moves us through the grief to a place of sweetness.  She was a woman of uncommon beauty and contagious grace.  Her laughter bubbled over into our lives daily.  In these memories, a touch-stone memorial of felt, beads, feathers and lace, her joy continues to touch us...

I am thankful beyond words for an old box of hats!

P.S.  Still no skunk in the trap, but we did catch something else...


The Neighbor's Black Cat

I don't make this stuff up.  It really happens on our dysfunctional little farm  :)   Maybe tomorrow will be a better skunk trapping day.

P.P.S.  Our neighbor said he would "help" us "take care" of the skunk if we were lucky enough to catch it in our trap.  I am a little worried about what that means, but then I get a whiff of Pepe Le Pew and raise the battle flag.  The war is on...

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Fragrance...

What a busy week!  Beautiful Spring days have called us outdoors and we shed our winter coats with abandon.  Our moments have been filled with

Flower Gazing


Bird Watching


And of course, the requisite Spring Cleaning!  Up in the attic with Dad


Then down in the garage pondering what to do with all the boxes...


Giving up on the boxes to take a Spring Walk!


Planting some Knock-Out Roses.  Oh, they will be beautiful right here...


And then some more flower gazing...


Hello?!!


We interrupt your Spring Fantasies with a huge dose of reality...
Saturday Evening.  Front Porch.
Oh, yea, it was bad.  Real Bad...
Petie, our Papillon with attitude, surprised Pepe Le Pew on our evening walk.
Oh, so bad...
Mr. Pepe sprayed Petie, the porch, the house and all the bushes he ran past...
Really, Really BAD...

Petie had to endure the Bath of Shame


Then we set up the trap... And promptly caught the cat...
In hindsight, I am wondering just exactly what we thought we were going to do if we did happen to catch the skunk in our "oh-so-nice" live animal trap?!  Just thinking out loud...


On to Plan #2.  Trip to the Feed Store and $80.00 later we are armed for battle.


And again, the black cat.  Really?


The Fragrance of Spring isn't always all it's cracked up to be!

We have learned to our sorrow that Beauty has it's Peril...

Thankfully, a dear friend came to the rescue with an amazing Skunk-Off Recipe.  So simple, so effective.  We doused Petie with it, scrubbed down our porch and house siding, and even poured it over the  skunked bushes.  Odor has been neutralized times ten (except for the occasional whiff, and I think my nose is malfunctioning...)  So, here is my gift to you, the homemade Skunk-Off recipe.  No home should be without it!

Skunk-Off Recipe

1 quart 3% Hydrogen Peroxide
1/4 cup Baking Soda
1 tsp Liquid Soap

Mix together and saturate area that has been skunk sprayed.  Safe to use on animals, allow to soak through their fur for several minutes, then rinse thoroughly.  May need to reapply if scent is not completely neutralized.  Also helps to use as soon as possible after being skunked!

Petie has recovered.  And this morning we were off to explore the Garden Path.


May the fragrance surrounding you this day be totally skunk free!

My Love, Jane