Wednesday, November 11, 2015


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Some days are easier than others.

Let me rephrase that. Some parts of each day are easier than others.

Mornings are usually the best for me which is strange because I am not a morning person - I love seeing the sun rise but I don't wake up in a good mood normally. Lately however, I wake up ready to take on the day. I enjoy the quiet I have with the dogs after the mad rush of letting them out, feeding them, waking the birds up, starting the fire, and making coffee.

My head feels clearer before it's filled with a days worth of thoughts and emotions, and work. It's easier to be strong. Easier to feel like I have everything under control.

And essentially everything is under control - considering how much control do we really ever have over life anyway? I think of people living life in all kinds of situations and realize control over our lives is basically an illusion. I talked to a woman yesterday who told me she understood where I was coming from. That she was a single mother of three kids and she got that life happens and we need to move forward in whatever way possible and that there are always options, no matter what. We just need to push forward to find them.

That's something Kevin would have said. That there are always options. In everything. You just need to ask. To be honest. You never know who or what life will put in your way.

And I've always, always felt that way too... it's the exact way I felt when I met Kevin. I know it's still true, but I"m not open. It's amazing how quickly you feel your old walls coming right back up when you feel vulnerable. No matter how long they have been down.

There are times during the day when my mind is not my friend. It's my friend when I"m writing, or making phone calls, working on business. But at other times it's my worst enemy. And during those times - it has to be silenced.

One of the only ways for me to silence my mind is to walk. But this morning I was tired and I didn't feel great. My health has improved dramatically pain wise on my medications. I am 3 weeks away from being off of prednisone (steroid) for the first time in 7 months. But I still cannot eat without pain. And by eat, I mean anything. Obviously I have to eat, so I try my safest foods but one small mess up and I pay with a lot of pain, fatigue.

But I got up, got dressed, and walked anyway. And it was the first good decision I made of the day. It was calm outside, beautiful. Every single morning for the past couple of weeks has been beautiful. I can't remember such a string of such beautiful weather. I've always loved November for her frosty mornings and we've been experiencing them but they are short lived since it is so warm outside.

This morning there was a sparkling layer of frost covering everything while the dogs and I were out.

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The ticks are horrific still, and by horrific I mean, like the worst horror movie you've ever seen.

But I sat in one of my favorite places, watched a couple of deer walk by. Watched the sun come up over the pond.

Then as we were walking through the forest, the sun started to heat up the frost covering the trees and plants, and I watched the frost turn into thousands of tiny of raindrops hanging off the branches and brush.

Like... magic.

Then as I stood there in the complete silence, listening to my own breath, reminding myself this is what really matters in life, this is it...

All those tiny raindrops started raining down off of the trees, and it rained in the forest all around me... tiny drops in the morning sunlight. All you could hear were those drops of water hitting the ground, and the sun was momentarily blinding.

I held my breath for a few seconds as I just listened.

For a time, I was somewhere else.

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This forest has always taken me places that only exist in fairy tales. In some ways I've been living in one. That is not to say such horrible, difficult, things have not happened and been happening. But its a lot easier to get through each one of those things when you live in an enchanted forest.

In one of Kevin's last Facebook posts he posted some pictures he took while we went for a short walk together, one of the few we got to enjoy recently since I was just getting better. And in his post he said:

I love to see her out there again in the forest where she is happiest. 

He knew me best and it is where I am happiest. And it will help me survive this.

But I miss him in ways I"ll never miss anyone else in my entire life. And every day, every single day that realization takes my breath away. It hits me like a ton of bricks. I cannot get him back, I cannot change it. I can miss him every single day for the rest of my life and I will. But it will never change.

And every day I remind myself, keep breathing. Keep moving.

I had a love story. It was dysfunctional - like all love. But it was good, it was honest, it was... consuming.

And now it's all... me. And a whole lot of time to spend with myself getting through this.

I have been doing a lot of writing, and a lot of reading when I'm strong enough to do so... I wrote this on May 8th of 2005 and thought it was fitting for this morning.

"I know I am going to learn a lot from this place and it's spirits. I can feel it's energy now, when I am still and quiet and mindful. I am learning a little about what is really important to me in this life. I have been learning and this is one of the most important lessons I know I'll ever learn. And this is just the beginning. Just the start. I feel alive here. Like a butterfly waiting to wake up and fly. My spirit is content and happy.

Don't ever forget this moment - this magic is yours to keep forever, just don't ever let it go or give it away no matter who tries to take it away from you. You've found it for once and for all. You now really understand. You've found your magic.  I know that when I leave this place, I will take it with me wherever I go. I said I know this place was going to change me., and it already has."

Grief is like living in a terrible version of ground hog day. I know this but it's been a long time since I've had such fresh grief and I have never had this grief. Loosing a spouse is...breath taking. Your whole life, every single tiny thing is changed and affected. You cannot escape it. I look around my house and everything either comforts me or bothers me.

The wood stove he just put in and lit for the very first time the night he died. He was happy. He was really happy that evening, and I"m so grateful for that.

And I need the stove to keep warm - and it is a great stove. Really great. But it irritates me.

Then my eye catches the cowboy hats we bought the dogs, the same day. He bought them because he knew it would make me laugh. I see them lying on my art table and it... hurts.

The giant pack of batteries he bought me for my book light again that same day he died. Two dozen  tiny little batteries so I wouldn't run out and could read all night if I wanted to.

At times during the day these same things wouldn't bother me at all. I wouldn't notice, wouldn't think about it. But at other times in the cycle, there they are, jumping out at me, taking my full attention for all the wrong reasons. It's ridiculous really. But you cannot control it.

I remind myself every time, this cycle is terrible. But it is natural. It feels like a trap and it is, but it will ease. Someday. Maybe. Just hold on. No matter what, just hold on.

And then as I stood looking out the front window towards the pond, a set of eyes locked with mine.

Since before I was here Kevin fed the deer in the winter. For 10 1/2 years I have done so too. If you've read my blog, you know of our deer, of Torn Ear, Deer Norman... last year we had the least amount of deer ever, as our deer population here has taken a huge hit from over hunting (in the area) and the harsh winters, coyotes.

I wasn't going to feed this year. We have no deer, feed costs money, everything has changed.

She starred at me in the yard. She had no reason to be there but she had been every morning for the last week and now this evening.

I knew the doe. I knew why she was here. This is her home.

I walked away from the window and tried to ignore her. But she was still there, I knew.

I was in my pajamas and I put on my rubber boots. It was almost dark, raining outside. I walked down stairs, out the basement door and got a small scoop of feed.

I walked by the tractor. Kevin's tractor. I've looked at it a million times in my life. A million times in the past several weeks. It's a piece of machinery. That's it. A tool. I tell myself. A tool.

When we got married, I made him promise during the ceremony that he would take care of my animals, always. And he made me promise that I would take care of his tractor. always.

The damned tractor.

As I came around the tractor and into the yard, the doe was still there. She stood there, starring at me. Keeping her safe distance but close. She knows me. It's hunting season and yet this doe walks right up to me. Some people have always told me that deer get used to all people, not certain people and thus will get tamed, or become easy targets.

I know that's not been true here. When for 10 years we had the same bucks returning year after year, despite being hunted, when Torn Ear our big trophy buck, would stand up out of the marsh when I spoke to him because of my voice. Not just a female voice. But my voice. How they wouldn't come out of the forest if a stranger was here... They are not stupid. They are not all the same. Kevin, my retired hunter taught me a lot about deer, tracking, living with them.

But they have taught me much as well.

After putting out the feed, I walked away. When I got back to the house, to the tractor, I turned back to look at her, the pond.... the yard. My home.

I pride myself on being strong. And I know that allowing yourself to feel emotions does not make a person weak. It's necessary. But I resist it anyway.

This doe here in the yard, the drizzly November rain. Here is life taking place as it always has. Like nothing has changed, and yet everything has.

I cried for so many reasons as I leaned against that tractor in my pajama's in the rain. So very many reasons.

But I knew this. I will get through this winter. I will take care of this farm during it. The deer.

And I will try my best to take care of that patched together blue tractor that has kept our lane open in the winter, that has tilled our garden, cut our hay, moved manure, hauled in logs, and, buried so very many of my animals over the years.

That tractor that was a symbol of some of the happiest times in Kevin's life. He was proud of it, of the work he did with it. I can see him both smiling at me on his way out the lane on it, and cussing at it when he was trying to change an implement on it and it was fighting him. I can see him asking me to ride on his lap up to the barn on it and laughing.

I cannot wrap my head around how I got here. To this place in time. But I have, and I am here. And that's what counts.

I'm still here.

Sunday, November 8, 2015


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It's amazing what an illusion time is. I read a scientific article once that said time seems to speed up as we get older because of experiences. When we are young, time seems to go slower, and as we get older, most of us realize time goes very quickly. The article said when we are young and constantly having "new" experiences, time seems to go slower, but as we get older and have less new things to experience, time speeds up. 

I don't think so. 

Time goes quicker when you are happy and content. That's a fact. Sure, when you are busy in life with work, relationships, etc, time does go fast and you never seem to have enough of it because you have so many things to fill your day... but nothing speeds up time like happiness. 

Even recovering from surgery after surgery, and being sick these past few years, time has went quickly, and it surprised me. 

Now time means nothing to me. It goes slowly even though my days are full. And it feels like a lifetime has passed in the past month, a whole lifetime. It seems like I have already lived an entire lifetime, and like I must be 80 years old. I look at my life and it feels like I have already lived so much, it's confusing to me. This being left alone, this "carrying on" that happens... It's a strange feeling I cannot put into words. 

You know it is what it is. And you accept it. But it's like you are watching yourself from a distance.

I have always, always, found much beauty in life, even through pain, be it emotional or physical. And in nature, you do not have to look very far. I've spoken much about the healing powers of nature, and it has never failed me, nor is it failing me now. We are having really amazing November weather, it's warm, almost every morning has been beautiful.,. and I've been awake everyday to see the sunrise. Sleep has not been my friend, although it's slowly coming back to me, I'm still awake at 5 AM every day. Kevin and I were not early birds, ever. But things have changed. I sleep earlier, I rise earlier. I drink my coffee in bed with the dogs, usually I try to walk in the mornings since I'm trying to build my physical strength back and morning is my favorite time of day to walk, it's so quiet. The day still holds so much potential. It's good to start any day with a little clarity, and therapy, offered by nature. 

Of course, my animals have not failed me either. I have a million reasons to be strong, and I will be, there is no question.

But that doesn't mean it's any easier. 

Thankfully our minds and bodies have coping mechanisms to help us deal with grief... at least when they are working. They help protect us from it consuming us. I lost my family young and I see now the difference between an adult mind and a child's mind, coping with grief. Some times they can be very similar but some times you realize there are big differences. The pain is no less or no different, but survival is more important, and you realize you must focus on that. 

But that is also Kevin. He's spent the past 10 1/2 years trying to teach me a lot of things - and he did. More than I realized. Plenty of things he taught me I know he taught me. Like.

How to clean the chimney.

Tap trees, make maple syrup, use the winch, log, drive the tractor, run the generator, use hand and power tools, read a map, a compass... I can name a 1,000 things.

But plenty of things sunk in that I never realized, and all of those things are helping me now. 

But it's funny how you quickly miss the things that annoyed you the most - and not the things you expect.

He argued politics every. single. morning. I love a good debate. Even a good spat. We did it all the time. And not many people can hold a good debate - especially about politics, without loosing it. And some times he did. Or I did. But not often. Plus, we could handle each others tempers well. As of late we'd been disagreeing a bit more on some topics and had some great debates. I used to think every morning, "oh man, I haven't even had my coffee yet and I need to start debating..." and now, I'm debating politics with the dogs. Problem is, they don't answer, and they also pretty much agree with every thing I say. 

I also miss his tolerance level with me. Alone now, it doesn't matter. But he really did allow me to be myself. This is novel to me because of the age difference between us - we come from different times and while I was constantly surprising him in some ways, he was open to more of my beliefs and ideas than I would have thought. I'm grateful for that. It's so rare, and having got to experience it, I'll always know what it was like to have a partner who accepted me as me. Who tolerated my dogs, lambs in the living room in his recliner, and made me yule logs. 

I have really, really, been blessed in this life. I've dealt with a lot of big, bad, things, like most of us. A lot of it in a short time, and this is not what I want to be writing about, life after. I want to be writing a different post altogether. I want to be continuing the story I have been writing for years.

But no matter how long and difficult this road to healing will be - and it's a long road that requires tiny little steps all day, every day with a 1,000 stumbles... I remain grateful for all I've had. The experiences, the love. There was plenty of tough stuff, but it doesn't matter now. It really probably never did. 

The morning frost coating the ground, like thousands of tiny little shards of glass. So beautiful, and so delicate... A doe drinking out of the pond in the mist. The beaver swimming across the still water. Life is a cycle. We are all just part of it. All of us... and these things, equally as beautiful and important as the other. You realize how lucky you are to be breathing in the crisp air, to be able to see such beautiful things in front of you with clear and open eyes.

And you remember to just keep breathing.

If Kevin were here, he'd tell me to keep writing. He'd tell me the story isn't finished. Even if this chapter is going to be really tough to get through.

It's not "the end."

And I'd nod. And I'd know he's right.

Often he was. More than I'd like to admit. 

Sunday, October 11, 2015


I've titled this post, Woodswoman, because the book, written by one of my favorite authors, Anne LaBastille, is sitting open beside me on my bed and has been for many days. I know in my heart Kevin will help guide me but I have had so much chaos and so much pain it's hard to feel it right now and it's also almost impossible to focus. But I was guided to pull out that book.

I've read all of her books, she's inspired me in a lot of ways, like a lot of strong women have, but it's lying open beside me because along with A Sand County Almanac, it's the first book, or item, Kevin ever gave me. He gave it to me because he saw my pioneer spirit and my heart, and we shared the same dreams. Even though the story is a womans, it inspired him after his divorce, after his health difficulties, and career change because of them. It was a difficult time in his life, before he ended up at this farm, with new dreams, new goals. He thought he had nothing left and he told me it was one of the books that reminded him to have courage and to also, follow your heart and dreams.

I expressed to Kevin when we first met, even though our courtship was an odd one because of our age difference that I truly believed following your heart was the MOST important thing in life. And I still know that. If I had not followed my heart and and had listened to society or other people I would have not taken a big chance moving to this remote farm with a man 3 decades older than me. I would have never experienced the unconditional love and partnership we shared.

I honestly cannot thank everyone enough for the out pouring of support and love and while I am surprised at the same time I am not because I know there are many very beautiful and honest people in the world. Your simple messages of support and prayer have had me in tears.

This last entire week has been brutal for a multitude of reasons, the main and first being loosing my husband completely unexpectedly. I thought we had got him to the hospital in time as did all of the Doctors originally working on him, and it was all such a shock I'm still not even sure what has happened to me most moments of the day. That night my sister took me to emergency because my eyes had swollen shut from crying, but we were concerned since I have an inflammatory disease it might have been part of it. The Dr that first saw Kevin before we went to the Kingston cardiac unit was there and she broke down and cried with me, she said this was not supposed to happen.

I can barely think about it because I have little time to grieve right now and realizing that he is actually gone from me, physically, is at this time too much for me to process. I loved that man and we spent every moment of every day for the last 10 1/2 years together. This farm was our life, it was me, him, the animals, and our work and dreams here, that was all that mattered. We had started to wonder about a lot of things with me continuing to be sick but we were on the right path to healing we believed and were starting to hope and dream for our future again. 

I am not the type of person to ask for help, I have always been very independent before and even with Kevin, except that with Kevin we have been a team. I also know I am a very strong, probably a whole lot stronger than I believe but right now it's hard to know or be that woman. But she has not abandoned me. 

But the reality is it's almost winter. This is the FIRST winter we have no fire wood prepared, none. Kevin had been waiting for help to come but also for the cooler weather when it's better and easier to work in the bush. And on top of that he has spent the past few weeks trying to fix our mule (ATV) which needed major work. He's had it torn apart and he's been working on it for weeks but was working on it even the day before he passed and was making progress. But it's not been usable and it's our main logging vehicle next to the tractor for both the winch and carrying firewood. 

I have a mile long drive way that I need to plow. I can do a lot of things on this farm myself, as I have worked side by side with Kevin for many years. But my health is not a helpful factor at this time AT ALL. I need to get through the winter. And aside from chores, I have my animals, OUR animals, who need me as usual and things are right now, a mess. I have many things to try and organize, process, and deal with, and all I want is first off, the man I love back. But secondly, to sit and allow myself to grieve. But I cannot right now, I have lives depending on me and this farm and while I cannot see the future I need to focus on the immident needs of the short term.

Jim is still here and still able to help. I'm not sure what I'd do without him, but the reality is, Jim is also a dependent/responsibility of mine. He is a friend, first, and he's been helping us a lot, but I also am responsible and need to care for him. 

My friend set up a GO FUND me page and the donations will go directly to me, to me, and my animal family, as we sort through the intense next months with very little, and the hardest months of the year, on top of the hardest time of my life. Death is always so devestating but I never imagined loosing a spouse - well I did actually but I imagined only the grief. I did not imagine or allow myself to think of all the other things that go with it because nothing else mattered to me, but in reality, the sole responsibility now falls to me to keep all of us a) warm b) fed c) safe, especially through the upcoming winter.

The only other thing I have felt guided to do in the past week, was write today. It's all Kevin ever wanted me to do, write the blog, write books. He loved it, he knew what it meant to me and he always encouraged it in me from the very early days of our friendship. I haven't been able to really write in a while and I can barely find words to my friends right now most of the time but after another sleepless night, I thought of writing and when I started, it poured out of me in a way I did not even expect right now. I hope this makes sense, I'm not spell checking, I'm not rereading to make sure I've used all proper English as I always do, I'm letting my heart guide me because it's never, NEVER, lead me astray and neither has Kevin.

I am so beyond grateful for every single moment I had with him, good and bad. We had a total partnership, and we knew at no time would either of us abandon the other. Through sickness, health, the easy times and hard, neither of us feared the other would give up. That's not something that most people ever get to experience in life. I had the best. I'm grateful, I'm fortunate. I don't have the words.

He opened my car door for me ALWAYS. he helped me put my coat on, he loaded groceries in the car because he wanted me to sit inside and be warm. These things are so stupid as they run through my mind but this was my man, he wanted nothing more than to make life safe, comforting. And with him, safety was never an issue. I always knew I was safe and he always told me, relax in it now because someday you will be on your own, and I know you'll be strong, but it won't be the same. He told me that so very many times. Rest in my arms, in the comfort that I am protecting you from the entire world because someday you will face it without me.

But I also know he prepared me in ways that I don't even know yet. I know our partnership has not come to an end, it has just changed from one form, into another.

I know these things, and I remind myself a thousand times.

But still all I want is him back in my arms. 

Saturday, October 10, 2015

My heart is shattered...

Blogging is at the moment the last thing on my mind, as are writing the words I am about to write, but I know a lot of our friends read this blog, and at some point I will need to admit it to everyone and myself.

I have lost Kevin. He left me, and his family, completely unexpectedly last week with little warning and in a traumatic way. To say my heart is broken is not to even scratch the surface of it. He was the love of my life and no one will ever love me like he did, no one will ever love me more or as completely. 

I don't know what happens now or how it happens since the fact I've even survived the past week is a wonder to me at the moment. 

Last Thursday we went to NY together for more tests for me for my continued serious health problems. We had many plans and dreams always but especially in the past few months we had been waiting for once I got stable again. We just kept waiting for me to get "better." that's all he wanted. That's all he worked for. 

I am unable to say anymore at this time but in time, I will write more. 

Thank you, from my heart for your friendship and support. 

Sunday, September 13, 2015


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Even Bulrush is shocked!

I'm sorry I haven't written in quite some time... I'm not going to lie, it's been pretty tough the past few months and although plenty of things have happened on the farm, including good things, it's been hard to be inspired to write and share when I am in bed 98% of the time. Most days I'm out of bed for maybe one or two hours. There have been weeks at a time I have been unable to even make it to the barn to see my animals, and for July and August I was unable to go outside most of the time because the dose of prednisone I was on causes severe pressure in my eyes (which I've mentioned I think in other posts) when I am in any light, even while wearing special glasses that you wear after you get your eyes dilated... So I've spent a lot of time in bed, in the dark, a lot of the time not able to tolerate the computer or even TV, and not even reading half the time. Can you say stir crazy? Of course my medications also make me pretty fatigued, so it's been tough to find any kind of "normalcy."

Since starting both immune suppressant medications and Humira, I haven't had a lot of improvement. I also am unable to decrease my prednisone dose without becoming very ill, so it's been a real struggle. It's still a little early to give up on the medications I am on and move on to even stronger ones, but I see my Doctor again in 2 weeks to discuss whether we wait it out some more, up the dose, or move on. I've been pretty lucky that so far on the heavy medications I've had to begin to take, my side effects are limited to extra fatigue, some weakness, some skin stuff, but no serious side effects (that I have noticed), which is excellent since I have been unable to take all the other medications without terrible side effects.

I have been counting my blessings though - any day I am up and able to do anything, bake a pie, go say hi to my animals, do a load of laundry, change the sheets on the bed, these are all big accomplishments. Most days I'm able to look at them as such, but I do have my days where the fear and desperation that I will never find any relief do take over, but they are short lived because I'm stronger than those thoughts, and I know I will persevere no matter how difficult this is or may become. I'll handle it. And I won't have my old normal back, it's just not going to happen at this point - but I will find a new one.

My memory is fuzzier than usual and I have trouble some times finding words, when I'm speaking or writing. Which is a good reason to push myself a little harder to write more often, to keep my mind active and working.

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Since it's starting to cool off a bit, and since I have been able to go outside a little bit more in the past week (yay!) we've all been taking advantage of it. I did manage to get myself driving our farm truck which is a stick shift - I kind of started to learn how to drive standard about 12 years ago. Our ATV is completely pulled apart right now as it needs several things fixed, including new brakes (which we are waiting on all the parts for so Kevin can do the job) and since I cannot walk very far safely, I decided to take the truck for a drive.

At first, I couldn't figure it out. I sat in the truck with the boys and started at it, and I tried to force myself to figure it out and it just wouldn't come to me. So I got out and walked back to the house frustrated. But by the time I got back to the house, I had worked out in my head the mechanics of it (the basic ones) and I decided I shouldn't give up so easily. So I walked back to the truck, got in and sat down (I left the dogs at home this time) and no word of a lie, the mouse that lives in the truck was sitting on the seat beside me. He didn't even run. I sat down, looked over, and he's looking at me, and I just shrugged.

So I walked myself through it in my head, started the truck, drove up to the house to pick up the boys, and all of us, including the mouse, went for a drive. Since then, the boys have been loving riding in the truck just as much as they do the atv.

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A few days ago the boys and I went out for a drive and walk with Kevin so I could harvest some Blue Cohosh root to dry. It's an amazing plant, and I've found a special area full of it on the property.

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We also as usual have lots of White Baneberry, or Dolls eyes, which will kill you quite quickly if you mess with it.

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We found a few Jack in the Pulpits out there too! This one area is very rich in unique wild plants. All of these plants tend to grow together in just the right conditions, of forest/marsh/sun/shade.

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One thing we did have abundantly this year was wild grapes, and I was able to harvest two batches to make jelly.

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It takes me a lot longer to do things and they all involve a lot of sitting down, but slow and steady wins the race!

The boys of course do their very best to help, even if it's just moral support.

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In August I was able to make peach butter, peach compote, plum jelly, pickled green beans, and also chili sauce. So I was able to do a little preserving this year.

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The animals have all been well, and are much happier now that the heat is less and also, the bugs.

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Spriggan and his mum, Aurora. If that's not love, I'm not sure what is.

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My little Emerald is growing like a weed!

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Jackson has been enjoying what green grass he still can.

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And Lavender has just been soaking in the sunshine.

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And I've been trying to fit in as much snuggle time as possible.

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Also if you are looking for some great Giant Puffball mushroom recipes (they are out now!) you can find some of mine in the Sept/Oct issue of Backwoods Home magazine! Norman thinks you should check it out. It's been raining here the past two days but I'm hoping to get out to look in my best spots for them as soon as I can. Yesterday I baked a pie and today I managed to get up to the barn for a little bit. It's hard to keep balance and not push things, I am not the kind of person who likes to do a little at a time, and it's against my nature, but without self control, I'll never be able to do anything so I'm trying to learn a new way of being... both mentally and physically.

Last week I messed up my self injection of Humira and for the first time in 8 injections I lost most of the medicine. The Doctor on call told me we couldn't risk a second shot but he said he gives himself injections and has had this happen and it's usually because you hit some fat. I bruised myself badly for the first time as well - and I felt it this week. Yesterday I had a successful injection and while I'm tired the day of the shot and the next day, I do feel the difference it makes at least on my pain levels especially in my joints. It's a very weird mix of feeling tired and energized at the same time! It's not hard to do as anyone who does self injections with auto injectors knows, but it's not great fun either. I'm happy if this is all I have to do though. Every week when I inject, Rollie gets very upset, and will not calm down though until after I take the used pen away. He shakes and cries when I inject myself and as soon as I'm done, he runs over to sniff the pen, my leg, and then he kisses me on the face and makes sure I'm OK. It upsets him terribly. I know full well the capacity to feel and display emotions animals have, but it doesn't stop me from being amazed at the depth of it sometimes. And also grateful for having these special beings in my life.

So onward and upward. I hope we have a good, long, eventful fall, and that I have many more pictures, and words, to share.

Like I said, part of my problem is, I've been waiting for things to get back to normal.

Then I've kind of been grieving that this will not happen.

Now I accept that it won't, and I'm no longer waiting for it. It's time to start feeling my way through this new life, and this new normal, and participating in it. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Chaos and Gratitude.

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Sometimes words come so easy, and sometimes finding the right ones is so very difficult. I know how I want to express myself but yet it still seems so difficult to do, and part of me doesn't want to. But Kevin tells me it's important to do so, and it's important to share. He reminds me that constantly. Right now I feel a little disconnected from myself, and that's been making it harder for me to write, and to properly express myself verbally, or through my writing. So I need to work on that.

The past couple of years have been difficult, and full of ups and downs health wise for me. It's been a long journey, as most of you know, but I have traveled very far. It's been challenging sure, and I've had a lot of pain, some big surgeries. But nothing compares to the past 4 months.

And certainly nothing compares to the past couple of weeks.

On July 4th, I almost died. It's difficult to think about it in that way, because while I don't fear death, I certainly am not ready to leave this life, and the people and animals in it whom I love. I've always been well aware that life and death walk hand in hand and that things can change at any given second. I learned that very early in my life as illness and death touched everyone I loved very early on. But I've never come that close to it myself, nor did I expect to right now.

Our trip to Michigan went well mostly, our drive was long but Kevin handled moving the 5th wheel for the first time in a few years well, and I held up for the trip. We were able to both enjoy his family reunion and some time with his family, which was really nice. Saturday morning I knew it would be a bad day for me, I have them often and I either get through them or end up in the hospital, but generally through a lot of suffering, I've been getting through them. I'm used to high levels of pain and at first wasn't alarmed. I even told Kevin to leave me at the 5th wheel and to go on to the party that was to take place with family that afternoon without me. I felt terrible we couldn't go and honestly, I've suffered through a lot of these episodes leading up to my hospitalization in April and diagnosis with inflammatory bowel disease so I thought I could get through another rough day, and that really, that's all there was to be done.

But of course, he didn't, and wouldn't leave me alone. And actually quite quickly I realized the pain was not just bad, it was brutal. It was killing me.

Because I try to tough things out and because I've had bad experiences at hospitals, it takes a lot to make me go to the hospital, and I mean, a lot. When I give in, I'm either in horrible pain or afraid. I was both this time, thankfully. If I hadn't been, or if I had hesitated as usual, things could have turned out very differently.

Thankfully we were fairly close to the hospital in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan from our camp site, and Kevin drove through 3 or 4 red lights and broke every traffic law there was, but we got there quickly. And thankfully, the entire staff at that hospital was the best we've ever encountered anywhere. They acted fast, and aggressively, but they were all kind and considerate towards me at the exact same time, all of them. It was hard to believe everyone could be that good and that on their game but they were. They quickly got my pain down so they could figure out what was happening and quickly we learned I had a bowel obstruction caused by the severity of the inflammation caused by my Ulcerative Colitis. Before we left for this trip, I had still not been approved for new medications so I was only taking prednisone still and obviously, not enough. I was in a lot of pain and terribly distended and because of the weakening to my colon from the inflammation and ulcers, I was close to rupturing, so the Doctor immediately had a NG tube put in.

Nasogastric intubation is a medical process involving the insertion of a plastic tube (nasogastric tube or NG tube) through the nose, past the throat, and down into the stomachOrogastric intubation is a similar process involving the insertion of a plastic tube (orogastric tube) through the mouth, past the throat, and down into the stomach.

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It wasn't fun, and it was a big tube, but once in, I did have immediate relief from the pressure in my abdomen which felt like it was going to burst wide open. 

We were all relieved for a few moments until I got up to go to the bathroom. On my way back to my bed I remember saying out loud, "suddenly I don't feel so good." and after that, a lot of chaos took place as my blood pressure suddenly shot up to 180/180 and then over 200. My organs were about to shut down, and the Doctor thought I had stroked, or was having a serious reaction to one of the medications they gave me. We don't know what happened for sure. But I do know without the staff at that hospital and the way they responded to it, I wouldn't be writing this. 

The nurses stayed with me all night, giving me constant medications to try and get my blood pressure down (it took until the next afternoon to do so) and giving me prednisone and anti inflammatory medications through my IV port. They sat with me. My body and organs were having a hard time functioning normally so they constantly were managing that to keep things from getting worse. They responded immediately when I got sick, and they kept me out of pain. I was in and out of consciousness a lot but at one point, I remember the nurse opening the curtains for me so I could watch the fireworks, and she even drug my bed down so I could see them better. 

It was pretty surreal, being that sick, starring out the window at the fireworks going off in the sky. I was not afraid, I was too medicated to really understand or think, but I remember my eyes opening and closing, and seeing those fireworks, and locking that image in my mind. 

This was pretty hard on us, on me, but also on Kevin. I for one, never saw it coming. I know very well that I am sick, but I sure did not expect this.

Once I was released from the hospital we stayed in the Soo a few more days to make sure it was safe to leave in case I needed to go back to the hospital. We managed to get home late Wednesday night after a very long drive. 

On Friday, were able to pick up my Humira and I gave myself the loading dose of 4 shots.

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I have never given myself injections before, although of course I've given lots of needles to animals. But still, injecting yourself four times was a little daunting - especially when it's new... once you know what to expect it's a whole different story. The needles do not hurt at all, but the medicine does burn terribly which I didn't expect - although I had been told by a friends young son who has Crohns that Humira burns more than other medicines... thankfully I had forgotten that.

So I started my first injections of Humira, and also Imuran which is an Immune Suppressant, and I am still on prednisone and 4 other medications. It's a lot. But I'm hopeful the Humira and Imuran will help and that I'll be able to begin to taper my prednisone. I also hope all these medications are telling my immune system to cool it - and thus allowing the inflammation to cool it as well. I can only eat certain foods and I continue to be very careful to do all I can to not aggravate the situation. I have a long road ahead of me, but I'm grateful to still be here to walk it. 

The prednisone of course is hard on your body and it has given me a false sense of energy, that I'm better than I think. I am always reminded that's not true, but it sure makes you feel like you can do a lot when you really can't. I'm pretty hyper normally, but the prednisone gives you a false sense of it, so I've been trying to do a lot of things. And of course I am going a little crazy not being able to do anything but rest. But I have been trying to focus on projects I can do while resting, like knitting, or reading, painting, etc.

 The prednisone is also is making light so painful to my eyes I wear glasses you wear after having your eyes dialated and when I forget to, even when there is no sun or I'm in a darker room, the pain behind my eyes is so intense it feels like my eye balls will come out and there is no way to make it better other than to sit in the dark, or try to sleep. Anyone who's taken prednisone knows it can be and is a life saver but it's like making a deal with the devil. 

So far I have not noticed any improvements on the Humira and Imuran but it's very early (days in) and it's not magic. It takes time. I am very glad however that so far, I've had no obvious side effects from them and they have not made me feel unwell at all, which is great. But it's one day at a time. Moment by moment. 

I do feel positive, committed, hopeful. I know I am going in the right direction although I have no idea how long it's going to take me to find balance again, I have to trust it will come when the time is right, and I'm trying to stay focused on the good, and there is much of it.

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The animals are all happy and well and enjoying their summer pasture, which makes my heart smile.

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We have had an abundance of clover and wild flowers this year...

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I've been trying to take short trips to visit with the animals, or just be outside for a bit. Of course they are the best therapy one can get. I read something on Facebook recently that said "The best medicine is a dog who thinks their love can heal you." And it's one of the truest things I've ever read.

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I've been trying to collect as much red clover as I can as well because it's time to harvest and dry it to use in teas and ointments later. It's good for everyone, animal and human. The goats only want to eat it if I pick it for them... that's spoiled.

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The bugs have been terrible, but today we are enjoying a cooler, breezy day, and that's helping keep the bugs down a lot, which everyone appreciates.

Kevin is busy getting the haying equipment ready as it's time to cut hay if the weather holds. Our fields are green but not very high this year, which seems to be the norm around these parts, so I'm not sure how good our harvest will be. Hopefully better than expected.

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The boys of course have not left my side, and are doing their very best to keep me resting.

I'm grateful to be taking small steps, and trying to allow my body time to catch up, rest, heal, and allow the medication to work. I really want to be haying, hiking in the forest, trimming goat hooves. Things have to wait, I know, and everyone is fine. I am hopeful that time will come, but I know I need to work extra hard to be kind to my body, it's very easy to take it for granted or just try to push it.

Such a weird time it is. My mind and body is full of chaos and gratitude. I feel very confident, very hopeful, but very confused. Such a mix of emotions, a mix of extremes. Balance I know will come again in time, and I look forward to it, and the comfort it brings. The consistency.

But there is much to be learned in chaos if you are willing to do so.

I read a great story recently about two trees, both damaged and cut by a raging river. One tree was nearly destroyed by the constant pounding of the river, and was nearly dead. The other tree, while damaged, had started to bend, and curve away from the river, it also was healing at the damaged parts, not dying.

Two trees, the same damage, the same situation, but two different responses.

I remind myself of this often. During times of chaos, or great challenges, we can grow, we can bend, we can adapt. Or we can be destroyed.

Sure many things come into play to help shape and decide how we as individuals handle challenges in our lives. But ultimately, at the very root, it's so very basic, and it is up to us to grow, or to give in.

Always choose growth. No matter how painful it might be.

You will heal. 

Sunday, June 28, 2015

June is almost gone?

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This afternoon I am resting after cleaning the 5th wheel this morning in preparation for a short trip this week to Michigan for Kevin's family reunion. And since I'm resting, I thought I'd take advantage of this time to update the blog.

We are looking forward to this trip, and decided to take the 5th wheel instead of the truck camper so we'll be more comfortable once we are there, especially if and when I'm not on my feet, and we also are going to bring the boys with us since it's hard to leave them and they haven't been camping in a long time. This will actually be Rollie's first time camping and he's 2 1/2! Both Norman and Douglas went all the way to Alaska before their 1st Birthday, so poor Rollie has a lot of catching up to do. 

So many things have happened in the past weeks, that I'm not quite sure where to start, but I'm going to try my best since it's been so long. 

I guess I'll start with my health update, since that has been the consuming thing in the past three months - well the past three years, but the past three months especially and why I haven't got back to blogging properly yet. Since being diagnosed with Inflammatory bowel disease in April in the hospital I've been through so many medications I've lost count. I've had terrible reactions to all of them, except for the steroids which I've been on to keep me out of the hospital, and alive, basically. But all attempts to get me onto another medication to help heal my gut have proved to cause terrible pain, side effects, and even eye pain and I haven't been able to see most of the time. Between the prednisone affecting my eyes regarding light and the other medications causing pain and blurryness in my eyes, it's been a battle. But those things are a lot easier to deal with than the actual physical pain, and other symptoms. Also my joints are causing me terrible pain and at times, it's been hard to walk. I've even had some fainting spells - thanks to general fatigue and I'm sure, medications. This is a new world, and I know things will get under control in the future, we (the Doctors and us) just need to get things under control and find balance again. 

I have found a great GI specialist in NY and so far I really like her, and she's been very good to me, so that is very positive and we've been trying to move forward, its just hard, and one of those things you have to work through. I'm not used to being this sick - with endometriosis I had plenty of pain, debilitating pain, but I was never sick as well, and certainly never had joint pain so bad I couldn't move sometimes. 

Currently we are waiting for approvals from Insurance for new medication. I will be starting an immune suppressant and a biologic drug, one oral, and one I will inject myself with, as our next attempt at getting things under control so I can hopefully start getting some relief and get into remission. But we are being held up by Insurance. I started the process of getting all my vaccinations up to date before I start these medications since I'll be wide open for infection and various diseases, and we are hoping Insurance will come through for us. But there are a lot of hoops to jump through as these are some of the most expensive medications there are as I've learned. My Doctor would like me to start Simponi, a newer medication with less injections and side effects generally. She also wants me to start this one because it works well with the other medication she has prescribed. But Insurance wants me to try Humira first. So we are waiting to find out what the end result will be.

But we are moving forward, even if slowly. And I'm confident we are on the right track, it's just a matter of time, and healing. And patience of course.

I'm anxious to start the medications since they take time to work, but I also don't mind waiting until we are back from our trip if I have to because we are not sure if I'll have any reactions or side effects to them yet, so at least if I do it will be easier to manage at home. 

But this has slowed me down greatly as I've had some really great days and really horrifying days all mixed in together because of constantly starting/stopping medications, and the reactions I've had to them... it's been a bit of a roller coaster which reminds me to take every thing one day at a time and It sure has reminded me to be extra grateful for the good days, and the wonderful things in my life.

Kevin also has not been well, and he's sure had (has) his hands full with me. We've spent most of our days off the farm running to various Doctors appointments and tests for both of us, and the animals too. 

On the farm, it's been busy of course, it is spring after all! 

We had the last of our kids in late May - two adorable Pygmy kids!!! Will-O-Wisp and Thorin. Will-O-Wisp be joining my herd, I wanted a Pygmy doeling so badly this year and also a brown one and I got my wish thanks to Dahlia! Thorin is the nicest colored Pygmy buck ever, he is SO handsome. I'd love to let him join the herd as a buck, but he's related to everyone, so when he is weaned later in the summer he will be looking for a special new home.

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He has such a stunning face! and he's super sweet to boot.

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There is no better therapy than snuggle therapy!

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This kid is such a lover. Will-O-Wisp is very sweet but she is more stubborn and independent (like her mom) where Thorin is very laid back.

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Flavious, exhausted from keeping track of all the babies... 

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They have been growing like weeds! Even this picture is almost two weeks old! My goats finally just now stopped shedding - it's been so cool this June, and even today (almost July!) we darn near need the wood stove on to chase the chill away.

Spriggan, my other purebred Pygmy buckling from this spring (who I wrote about leash training in an older post) got neutered last week as he'll be staying. He's a sweetheart and he won me over. I really don't need another wether in the herd (since most of my herd is wethers now) but he's a doll and actually, Kevin didn't even fight me on this one :)

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He was pretty sleepy after his neuter! 
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Personally I like the surgical option best because I find it causes the least pain - and even healing is easier. Since I have a small herd I don't have to worry about infection/dirt and in a pinch if the bugs were bad, he could stay in the house. But we don't even have any flies yet because it's been so cool. He was dopey for the rest of the day from his sedation and pain meds but it didn't take long for him to get back on his feet and start eating. 

Moon Pie, our other buckling from this year had some health issues in the past month which we had to over come but I am feeling pretty confident at this point we have done that, he's doing very well right now and he's sweet as pie still. It's pretty likely he'll end up getting neutered as well.

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Buckwheat, my Saanen billy goat passed away which was difficult, but it was expected as he's been declining due to age for some time... I've watched him steadily slow down. It was actually quite peaceful and quick but it's still just as hard. I raised him from a baby, and he was the sweetest goat ever, even as a buck, he never once pushed me or even didn't listen, he was always a good boy. 

The sheep got sheared for the summer of course...

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Emerald continues to be the apple of my eye, she is as sweet as they come and she loves her walks with me and the dogs, and she still comes to the house regularly to visit. She wants to stay, even though she is getting REALLY big now! :) 

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Rollie had an allergic reaction a few weeks ago to shampoo - a hypoallergenic one too! He's had them in the past, but never this bad. His hives were terrible and his face swelled badly, and benadryl wasn't cutting it so we made an emergency trip to the Vet to get more meds, (different antihistamine and steroids) which thankfully, did the trick. We were beyond worried. His throat was open and he was breathing fine but for sure it was the worst reaction we've dealt with, and we've been here before, finding out the hard way years ago that both Douglas and Norman are allergic to bees, while in Alaska, 200 miles away from the nearest Vet.

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I also managed with Jim's help moving stuff, to get our sun room cleaned up a bit so we could use it. Since Kevin can no longer work with wood without having a serious allergic reaction himself, we haven't been able to finish the room because we can't find anyone who knows how to work with wood and finishing work to help us... so it's kind of just been a storage room/waiting to get finished. But now we'll at least be able to sit out there this summer/fall and enjoy it :)

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The boys love it.

Aside from that, every chance I get physically, I've been walking with the boys (and usually Emerald) which makes us all very happy and relaxed.

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I did manage to get some planting done on my deck garden, smaller scale than last year. Although I have all my usual dozens of herbs, I didn't manage 100 pepper plants, we have a couple dozen instead and some tomatoes, and a few veggies.

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Even Douglas enjoys the smell of the roses!

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My herbs are the most important thing for me to plant anyway, and I'm glad I was at least able to do some planting this spring.

When we return from our trip, hopefully I'll be able to start my new medications. We'll also be cutting hay if all goes well, and it will be time to start preparing for what is coming... fall and then winter! So our focus will turn to making sure we are as prepared as possible, and enjoying the last of the warmer good days... if it ever warms up again! :) We are grateful for the rain right now however, even if it is cool outside... our hay is up but not nearly where we'd expect it to be so we are hoping this extra rain really perks it up.

Tomorrow I just have to pack the 5th wheel and if all goes well we'll make the 12 hour drive to the Soo on Tuesday. We look forward to a little break away, and visiting family.

I apologize again for not writing often and I am hoping soon some kind of normalcy will return to me. I am really positive about these new medications - scary as they are, and so hopeful I will find some relief and start moving in the right direction towards healing. I can't wait! 
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