Monday, November 11, 2013

On Ehlers-Danlos and Me (part 2)

Thank you all for the warm reception of my first post on EDS! Please, make sure to comment on the blog as well as in the awesome private messages you send. Here is the promised part two.

I was out of the country a few weeks ago. It was the first time I had traveled out of the country in seven years, and things were a lot different back then. I had only dealt with strange swelling, tendonitis and some internal issues. things had changed. I've sub-located a handful of major joints and, recently, started popping minor ones. With the fresh-out-of-a-plastic-cast left hand, the lymphedema and auto-immune issues to boot, this was going to be hard. We travel throughout the USA all the time, but another country was another story. Trying to be prepared for various situations and only being allowed a solitary bag means careful planning. While others were talking about the extra outfits they were bringing, over a third of my bag was medical supplies and clothing options were limited. I didn't mind, as this was a great opportunity to prove I was able to move farther beyond the boundaries my doctors had set. Not a single one had been told of the trip! But then it happened, on the third day, despite my best attempts to hide the increasing swelling from the humidity, despite thinking I was doing so well at keeping up with the others, despite the pride at not using the cane...someone said something that cut deep. I was accused of letting "my disability stop me from being a world traveler" like they were. I wasn't even given the chance to respond about how, when we travel, we mainly tent camp instead of staying in hotels. By the time the trip was done, I was needing the cane, the ankle brace, and most of what I had packed. My attitude was not the best due to the pain either. However, I made it!

I had planned a totally different blog than this one, but I can't seem to write out that version. It was too basic. So, I'm going to build on the last one and hopefully help people out there to understand a bit more. Just as we had known for quite some time that things were "not right." We also knew that movement in general was something to be watched. As I've gotten older, like most EDS patients, simple actions have to be thought over. My hip dislocated while picking a band-aid off the floor. Ten days and six sub-locations of my right shoulder started with installing a faceplate on an outlet.

My morning starts with checking for pressure points or pinches from the night, due to fragile skin, and then putting on compression garments for the lymphedema. Anyone who has dealt with this disorder knows it is like fitting a size 10 into a size 0. I've popped a knuckle out of joint while doing so. It also was to blame, in partial, for the sub-location that led to the plastic cast (which caused four pressure marks, one that broke the skin.) From there it is breakfast, which is made solely of anti-inflammatory foods, or ones that are not known to cause inflammation. Since pain management is a joke if you don't want to be sedated or put on heavy narcotics, every meal is thought out to make sure I'm giving my body what it needs to battle.

If it is at any point in the growing season, our crops will need some kind of attention. I have lost count of how many times twenty minutes of gardening has caused twenty hours of pain. However, if I am very careful, an hour of work can be done with lesser consequences (notice I said "lesser.") Processing those foods should be out of the question, as hours standing to do so are painful. Standing for more than a handful of minutes is generally painful - due to the lack of arches, supports that work only when my body feels like letting them, and the numerous back issues. I will never give up growing my own foods though!

 Then, there is my contract job for Bridgeway Homeschool Academy. They are very accommodating, as it takes me a bit longer to do things, because I'm using adaptive equipment like speech to text software and the adaptive mouse. Finger taping, wrist supports, special seat cushions and such are also used. Frequent stretch breaks are needed, and I have to do daily physical therapy either at the house or with a proper therapist. It all depends on what is currently messed up. Even therapy isn't safe though, as I tore up my ankle in water therapy! Errands used to be done solo, but now I have one of the teenagers I mentor help me out. He pushes the cart and lifts heavy stuff up and makes sure I am staying calm. When I start to really wear out, he firmly lets me know that it is time to quit for the day. It would be almost impossible to do many of the errands otherwise. He is a God-send!

Making dinner sometimes requires help, as prep work can be too much when something is flared up. I make meals in large batches, so leftovers can be used on bad days. Keeping up with the house is a constant battle, because I'll move wrong, or pick up something too heavy, or push beyond what common sense (what is that?) tells me I should. Sometimes, it is just that the pain is so bad that little can be accomplished. The evenings can be used for crafting projects if the pain isn't intense. Otherwise, I use the adaptive equipment to hang out with friends online, or I rest elsewhere. I hate it, believe me, with all my heart I hate it.

The day ends like it begins. Off goes the day compression garments and a check for marks happens. I get them fairly frequently. Night wear in form of light compression sportswear or compression bandaging is put on. Lots of pillows and a spouse who understands if I need to prop up on the couch ends the day.

Was this written for sympathy, absolutely not. As stated before, it is so more people out there might know what someone with a chronic disorder like Ehlers-Danlos goes through. I am very blessed to still be able to garden and do light things around the house and I know it.
#ehlersdanlos, #ehlers-danlos, #lymphedema, #travelingwithehlers-danlos, #dailylifewithehlers-danlos,

Sunday, October 20, 2013

On Ehlers-Danlos and Me (part 1)

This post has been a long time in my entire life. I've been thinking it over for several weeks - while in a custom made upper hand and finger brace. Now seems as good of a time as any. I have Ehlers-Danlos Type 3. There, I said it. The journey to getting that diagnosis was a long and painful one, but we now know "what is wrong with Holly." That is the focus for Part 1 of this post. Part 2 will be on the day to day life of living with EDS.

First, what is Ehlers? Wikipedia has the most concise definition: EDS is caused by a defect in the synthesis of collagen, specifically mutations in the COL5A and COL3A genes. The collagen in connective tissue helps tissues resist deformation. Collagen is an important contributor to the physical strength of skin, joints, muscles, ligaments, blood vessels and visceral organs; abnormal collagen renders these structures more elastic. Depending on the individual, the severity of the mutation can vary from mild to life-threatening.

Type 3: Affects 1 in 10,000 to 15,000 and is caused by an autosomal dominant or autosomal recessive mechanism. Mutations in either of two separate genes may lead to this variant. Joint hypermobility is the hallmark of this type, with less severe skin manifestations. Joint instability and chronic musculoskeletal pain are particularly prominent in this type. Patients with the Hypermobility Type experience frequent joint dislocations and subluxations (partial/incomplete dislocations), with or without trauma. As a result, pain is a common, severe, and a lifelong symptom of this type. Additionally, osteoarthritis is common, and many get it earlier in life than expected.[4]

Like a typical EDS type 3 patient, my childhood only showed mild warning signs. I scarred easily. My ankles were weak and prone to tweaking when I ran, but rarely to the point of a complete sprain. There was an incident where my left elbow had been popped by my brother and took many weeks to heal. It kept sub-locating and the ever-patient school nurse kept giving me ice and calling my parents. However, they didn't realize what was really going on and the joint stabilized in the two months it took for them to see I really had an issue going on. A bad case of tendonitis in my right hand was next, and it essentially killed off my senior year hopes of a career in music. I barely could make it through the final recitals. Raynauds disease, IBS and a few other things started manifesting itself when I was a teenager, but one really understood. I don't blame them. I was an active child physically and mentally, so youth and activity held things together...enough.

It wasn't until I was in my 20's that the condition started to rear its head a bit more. My arches collapsed, starting a trend of pain in my back until inserts were made. The pain only diminished about half. My hands started having increased pain, even with something as simple as holding a pen to grade stacks of papers. It was when my right hand suddenly swelled up and stayed swollen that the endless line of doctors started. Misdiagnosis after misdiagnosis happened. Doctors kept shoving me into boxes that didn't fit, and I wasn't going to stand for it. I'd take a break, wait for something new to go wrong, and try again. It was during this time that I found Dr. Hannah Phillips aka "my angel doctor." She was facinated by what was going on and became very determined to find out what it was. We started with the label "mixed connective tissue disorder of unknown origin" and started from there. It was hard to pick apart symptoms at first. I have a mild auto-immune condition going on as well. Then the first big event happened....I dislocated my hip. We found a hemangioma next to my spine while investigating that dislocation and my increasing back pain. Degenerating disks and slipped vertebrae were found too. Using family records on top of my own (many of the scattered ones she tracked down herself!) she narrowed it down enough to send me to a connective tissue specialist. The terms Marfans syndrome and Ehlers-Danlos were learned in the coming months. After more tests, I didn't fit the Marfans profile or the more severe EDS varities. So, the specialist did a skin biopsy. More accurately, he -tried- to do a biopsy. My skin and connective tissue were so fragile that the site collapsed, three times. He finally got enough to send the samples off to a lab in California. On my way out, he said "If this isn't Ehlers, I am going to be very surprised."

As we waited, the hip dislocated a second time, the back pain was daily, and the left hand became inflamed with tendonitis. Dr. Phillips did all she could to help me through that and the other "crash and burn" symptoms of someone with both an auto-immune condition and connective tissue disorder. By now she was practically begging me to quit teaching full time. A series of events took place around that time and she got her way. While I started substituting, she started trying to find out what happened to the test results...with no luck. A year and a couple more injuries later and I was finding it hard to even substitute teach. She was now getting onto another of her "hell or high water kicks" (being 8 months pregnant can do that!) and almost two years had gone by of us trying to track down these results. The specialist didn't want to repeat the test, but would if one final push couldn't locate it. Well, she found them, and not in California like they should have been. They were in a lab in Washington state and the results were that I had Ehlers and it wasn't the bad vascular type. They wrote down that it was likely type 3. The timing was perfect, as I had just sub-lux'd my shoulder 6 times in 10 days! Thus ends Part 1 of "Ehlers-Danlos and Me."

#ehlersdanlos #connectivetissue #misdiagnosis #ehlers-danlos #jointdislocations

Monday, August 19, 2013

On Where I Have Been

Was it really April that I last sat to write here? It isn't that I haven't popped in to snag a link or look at the dashboard to check on my other blogging friends...I just haven't sat right here. Why you might ask?I have been a bit of everywhere since then.

First and foremost, there has been my job. I LOVE working for Bridgeway Homeschool Academy, but there were lessons I needed to learn about working from home. Simple things like getting up and walking away at a certain time or understanding that not all of ones self-made checklist of "things to do" can be finished in a day. Providing great service to my families was going beyond the normal workday - by a long shot. Oh there were plenty of excuses. I use adaptive equipment, so that means some parts of my job take a bit longer than others. There are students who were more needy than others and really just wanted to call to chat. At times I spent more time being an ear to bend than I probably should have. When grading the never ending list of essays, I'm one to make commentary - even though most of my students never read it.

The need to learn when to focus on work and when to walk away started to become really apparent when Owen and I went to Indiana. I was so stressed going into the trip. He's not one for packing and preparing for our travels, so the burden lies mainly on me. It was the start of early re-enrollment season at Bridgeway and I was tied to the phone and computer with families wanting to take advantage of the tuition discount. There was much weeping and gnashing of teeth up until we left. The phone and netbook came with me and in near every break at our hotel, I was checking emails, grading essays or returning calls. Not much fun was had. Only when we were at the Indianapolis Zoo, and then in Ohio meeting one of my dearest online friends, was I relaxed enough to have a good time.

That trend kind of (okay really) continued all summer long. I was back in lymphedema bandaging therapy the moment we returned from that trip. Doing much of anything when a leg is in foam and four layers of stretchy bandaging is hard. I was gardening, doing all of the errands, setting up a "team" down at UVA Medical Center (primary care doctor demanded it), and working many more hours than I should. The novel took a back seat...both of them actually. Sleep kinda did the same. July hit and I was a mess. I was supposed to be resting more and doing more physical therapy and it just wasn't happening. The phone and netbook came with me to NJ too. I was visiting a friend and had to snag a wi-fi connection to send out things that really could have waited. It needed to stop...and it did.

Somewhere along the way, between the trip to Indiana and my solo run to New Jersey I decided it was time to learn, really learn, how to work from home. Those first weeks were a struggle. Learning to let some items go until the next day was hard. Saying "at this time I am logging from the work sites" and actually doing it is a work in progress. Moving my Google voice number to turn on later and off sooner so I was more aligned to my co-workers hours made me cringe. Not checking the email multiple times a night was another little lesson. Asking to cut back on my student load because my hands could not take it even with the adaptive equipment was a serious pride swallowing. You know what? My supervisor said she knew it was coming. She saw I was above my head and said it was just fine.

The novel is getting back on track. I might not make the deadlines I want, but there is hope. Midnight to Morning is getting some promotion time and made the move to its new printers (those wanting to purchase, hang on a couple of weeks as the price for the paperback is going down!) I've started exercising a little more, the garden isn't as neglected and I am the master of preserving foods. Really!

The ultimate test was the start of this month. Owen and I went to VA Beach to see our friend Alex. He's in the Navy and was starting his third re-enlistment with an instant big assignment. So, we spent a day with him and then one at a museum and yet another at the beach (despite spending the morning in Urgent Care.) We tent camped and guess what? No phone. The netbook came with me, but only so I could work on Sunrise to Shadows. It was wonderful. I came back refreshed and ready to keep working on this new system.

That is where I've been. Now let's see where things go!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

On The View from Inside

It was Easter Sunday and we were sitting with his family at the church his father pastors. It was time for the homily and I sat in anticipation. Philip is an amazing speaker and what he says leaves me thinking for hours afterward. This was no different. He talked about when the women went to Jesus' tomb and the angel telling them "Why are you looking for the living among the dead?" He said it was like someone taking a look and going "nothing much happening there." He then mentioned Jesus' followers reaction to the women. They doubted and basically told them to stop making things up. The sermon went on about the perception of "nothing much happening" when Peter ran to the tomb. Why didn't he go inside? What would have happened if he had? I was pondering a lot and missed a few minutes when Philip challenged us. The challenge set of an electrical storm in my mind, which has sat with me for days. 

Are Christians in the tomb looking out? Why? What do we see from the inside looking out. The rest of the world is looking in. Are they saying "nothing much happening there" and walking away? Yes, too many Christians are in the tomb. Some are not even bothering to look out. Why? Because it feels safe inside those walls. Surrounded by stone and the moment death was overcome, we have the basis for our faith all close. The walls are our various interpretations of His word - barriers that blend the Old and New Testaments instead of making the distinction of when the miraculous moments of His birth and death occurred, and how His words and actions here on Earth should be the guide for how we live. Inside the tomb we don't have to accept what is outside. We can point fingers at it, quote interpretations at it, race out and grab a few people or give a few handouts so we feel better, and then huddle back inside where it feels safe. I know this because I used to be that way. I used to make sure I was surrounded by just believers and tried to shut the rest out. Part was because I had been a bit sheltered growing up and it scared me- mostly because I just did not want to know. I was perfectly fine with not looking for answers myself and just going with the flow inside the tomb. Even when bickering amongst ourselves breaks out, it still is more secure hugging the walls than leaving. However, God has a way of reaching in and taking us out...I was yanked with fingers stretched, scraping the sides, and trying to get back in (but that is for another time.)

The rest of the world? They aren't really looking in much. Perhaps a glance or a momentary pause, but they are not really looking. Why should they? It seems, as of late, that when we do step out it is more of an explosion. We race out yelling about an issue or quickly patching up an area affected by catastrophe, then run back inside. Those who look in either see nothing going on that would make them want to stay, or they see us bickering amongst ourselves and decide it looks nicer out in the open. Most won't even bother to look in. They are the ones scarred by what comes across as hatred coming from a group who had been taught to "Love your neighbor as yourself" and "Love one another as I have loved you." The ones who had been told over and over that they must believe a certain way or do certain things or whose questions are met with excuses or anger. People who have been told their sin is worse than others, even when His word clearly states that all sin is equal. Perhaps they are the starving bodies and souls in another part of the world, dying to be saved - but not enough of us are leaving the tomb. Those Christians on the outside, they see us becoming our own worst enemies. They try to reach in and show those in the tomb what this hurting world really needs. Sometimes they are successful and another leaves the shelter to live out in the open as a beacon for others. Some get so discouraged that they go back into the tomb.

So what is the solution? Other than ripping the roof off the tomb and tearing down a couple walls, I'm not sure. What I do know is we need to stop arguing, step outside our comfort zone, and start living in a way that shines Christ's love for everyone. We need to leave the place of the dead and live, really live, among the dying souls. It is not an easy place to be. We'll be challenged and stretched in ways you never imagined. I am. The fact that this post even exists is proof. You'll love those who you don't want to love. Forgive more than you thought possible. Remember to keep an open mind and being receptive to what others are trying to show you. I am learning so much by listening.  Learn to speak to those who don't believe the same way with tact and dignity instead of a sermon. There will be failures, probably a couple of epic ones. I've been there many times too, but it is amazing how far you will go and how much your faith will grow. Oh and don't forget prayer. If there is anything I've learned since Christ pulled me out of the tomb is to keep a steady flow of conversation going on with God. Not a scheduled session or repeating of the same words - a proper dialogue. That still small voice will lead you farther away from the tomb and shelter you in His arms as you walk amongst the living. 

*disclaimer* I am by no means an expert on anything that is above.  This was just from my heart and I had to write it here. If, as has happened in the recent past, you are offended and feel something needs to be said, that is fine. I wasn't offended by the social media comments after my grace post by a couple people who wrongly thought I was speaking about them. That isn't something I would do and if they took time to know me, they'd have realized.
#easter #tomb #LoveOneAnother #resurrection #compassion  

Saturday, March 23, 2013

On an Growing Obsession (Part 1)

A seed: One very tiny object with more potential than anyone can fathom. Hold one in your hand and think of the plant it could become. Will it be a giant oak tree? A savory herb? A plant that produces fruit for you to enjoy? Something so small can become something so big and amazing!

Yes, it is the start of growing season again. If my mind is not on work or writing, it is on our garden. This year I find myself even more obsessed with making us self-sustainable for our food. I guess it is the thought of all homesteaders. Mixing soil, shoveling manure, finding ways to reuse packaging as containers to grow seedlings in, discovering innovative ways to make our house look nicer without breaking the bank or the planet - it all swirls around night and day. I've seen some concepts websites such as Backyard Diva and ones that people post on Facebook from places like Pintrest (which I still am not on) and have used a few of these idea. 

Why this obsession with growing food? It seems I was born with a green thumb. My mother had us out in the garden from the time we could follow basic directions. Some of my earliest memories are picking strawberries, asking about cucumbers, and those hot summer days we spent making seemingly endless containers of tomato sauce from scratch. I was just seven when she gave me my own small plot of the garden to grow whatever was the current whim. Flowers, gourds, herbs and more were raised by tiny hands over those years.

Then, there was Old Ben. He was our neighbor and was a farmer. The back acre of his property was lined with rows of veggies. Sometimes we helped him pick the harvest, and occasionally he would pay us for the work. As I got older though, my afternoons were spent sitting on his picnic table, all legs and questions, listening to him talk of the earth, days of old, and how to make food grow. Those were lessons never forgotten, just put aside until the right time.

Even when all I had was a small back deck or front porch, even in the wild weather of Colorado, I was trying to make things grow. Tomatoes, peppers, carrots and more popped out of containers and into the kitchen. The moment we rented a house with a pre-existing garden, I had the ground tilled and a variety planted. Now that we have our own home and land, six beautiful raised beds have been destined for yearly vegetable growth, and two smaller beds are exploding with strawberries. Even a couple of blueberry plants and fig trees are coming around.

In a day and age where people are so disconnected to what they eat, I feel it has become a mission to help others reconnect. It saddens me when students cannot tell me what is in their favorite foods or even where it really came from. Reports of what pesticides, refined sugars, and GMO foods are doing to our bodies are coming out weekly. With Owen having PKU and needing as much fresh food as possible - due to most of what is out there for his condition being processed beyond recognition - there was a need to make a big change. As my own health deteriorated due to Ehlers-Danlos and several secondary disorders, the desire to eliminate chemicals and additives from our diet became urgent. Just as urgent was figuring out a way to grow our own food without aggravating my condition. It has taken several years with a lot of success, and a few failures, to reach our goals. We are more connected to the land, know our food is being grown safely, and have been told by several specialists that I would be a lot worse off right now if those chemicals, additives and sugars were still part of my diet. Part 2 of this series will be about raising organically grown foods in containers or beds without breaking the bank or your back. 

#homesteading, #PKU, #gardening, #organicgardening, #ehlers-danlos,

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Too Small To Ignore Book Review (cross post)

In January I was asked to write a book review for Bridgeway Homeschool Academy. They were looking for someone who had experience with child advocacy and who knew of a good book about helping impoverished children. As a long time trained Advocate for Compassion International, I fit the first qualification. With my love of Wes Staffords books, the second was filled the moment I told my supervisor about it. Here is the review, which was sent to parents in a February newsletter.

Children are the smallest and most vulnerable of humanity. They have no control over their circumstances and have little knowledge about the world around them. In developing nations, their situation can be quite desperate. In developed worlds, they are often the most neglected among those who serve. They are our future and yet so little is being done for them! Too Small To Ignore is one of the most well written books about children on both sides of the poverty line. It is written in a way that will leave you hungry to help and shows you ways to do so.
The author, Wes Stafford, was born to missionary parents. Most of his early life was spent in the Ivory Coast, where he learned how to deal with death. Every year many of his playmates died, most from preventable causes. It had a strong impact on the small boy, yet he thrived in the environment. When it came time to start school, Wes and his sister were sent to a boarding school that was said to be much safer than living in the untamed mission frontier. This was not to be the case. Those who were sent to teach and protect them, did the exact opposite. Wes had to survive in a world just as harsh as the one where his parents lived. However, he learned to stand up for himself and the other children affected. He came out of the situation with a strong sense of responsibility for the “least of these.”
  Wes' vivid language and descriptions brings out the plight not only of extreme poverty but of children in the developed world too. His heart is on his sleeve as he describes how his past affected the future of millions of children.
Too Small To Ignore chronicles how Wes Staffords' determination to help the young led him to Compassion International. This child advocacy organization has blossomed under his intense desire. The idea of one small child influencing an entire community becomes reality daily through the actions of Compassion. Wes, with his big heart, tender smile and eyes prone to tears, has influenced churches, youth facilities, businesses and families around the globe. As the reader will learn, he is an advocate in the truest sense. In his words “Children are the next big thing!” In the pages you will see how very true this is and your life will never be the same, I promise.

Too Small to Ignore can be found on, and other online sites. 
#bridgewayacademy #wesStafford #TooSmalltoIgnore #CompassionInternational

Friday, March 8, 2013

On Blessings in the Dark

The day started off like any other. We heard a storm was coming and did the necessary preparations. Living rural and being homesteaders, the tasks change by season. Up until the night of the storm, most forecasts had us getting about 6 inches.

I woke up at 3am to take pictures with my new camera and we were at 8 inches. The sound of snow falling, the peace of a world suddenly asleep, it makes me smile and I stood outside for far too long. Then, the electric coming into our house became like a creature possessed: zapping, surging, fluttering out and coming back again. It was difficult to sleep in it, but I had some good thinking time. At 8:30 we had a foot of snow and it was still coming down. The heavy white had trees bending and it wasn't long before the telltale snap-crack was heard. Trees and branches gave in under the weight. I contacted work, crossing fingers and toes that the internet held out long enough for me to send a broadcast message to my students. I got as far as logging into Skype and telling my supervisor. All went black.

No problem! We live for natures challenges and hauled out our camping gear. After making sure things were in place and laughing about how the power would be back on in a flash, we curled back up in bed. It was then we discovered that the cell phone tower was out too. That was really bothersome Lunch came around and I cooked soup in a cast iron fondue pot over a sterno can and we talked. The tiels were getting chilled, so I layered them up in blankets and gave Erwin a handfeeding of warm formula. He is the cutest ball of feathers when he's eating like a fledgling. We rested some more, read, typed,and played outside with the dogs. Hobo loves snow and was bouncing and prancing all over the place! After some hot tea, we went outside to dig the car out. Learning early on the value of parking at the front of the property when one has a multiple acre driveway, we were dug out in no time.

Evening approached and the house was getting cold. Candles were set up and, as I was working on dinner, the thought came to me. Peace. I had been at peace just about all day. Where normally there would be panic at falling behind with work, being out of touch with the rest of the world...there was peace. The day had been full of blessings. Owen and I spent much needed time together. We worked on what had to be done and even had some fun moments. Not once did a snippish tone show or a emotion rolled up too high. My daily list of the little things that are good went on. We had blankets, candles, the right gear to handle the lack of power. There was food, hot packs, flashlights and things to do. This was so different than what most of the world experiences. Even those in town were lined up at the fast food places the moment power there was returned. They weren't prepared, and they have so much!

It is the end of day two of no power now. I drove Owen to his parents so he could help them out and I went to Starbucks to log-in at work. A co-worker had taken care of one crisis that arose and the others laughed with me at the hilarity of it all. After catching up on emails and being brave enough to put the essay grading on hold, I had lunch with Owens' family before heading back into town for a haircut, wash and dry. My hair needed all of the above so badly and it made the situation feel more under control. We returned to a cold house, two singing birds and two hyper dogs. After changing out the three hot packs and adding more towels to the stack already surrounding the birds. They are my only real worry in this situation. I need to rely on the One who knows when a sparrow falls to keep my feathered children safe. Owen tried to build a rocket stove, but alas, needed power for a tool and got stuck. We settled in for a bit of a rest before starting the evening meal. Dinner was the best yet, as He showed Me how to make “Grandma Morgan's Omelets.” Time around a camp stove has never been so good. The blessings keep coming, even in the dark.

#blessings #thankful #nopower #homestead

Friday, February 22, 2013

On a man and his words

Pa. That's what I've always known him as. He is the father of my best friend and one of the strongest people I know. He's a farmer, before that he was a farmer and a worker out at the nuclear plant, but always his heart was the land. I remember the first couple of times meeting him. He didn't say much, seems most of that breed of person doesn't. However, when he did speak everyone listened. Horses, crazy teenagers, even the hay itself would pause and obey.

There was a time in my life, not so many years ago, when I ran to my "other home." I had just moved back to the east coast after a abusive situation turned into me being forced to undo the "til death do us part." To say I was a mess was the understatement of the decade. My best friend said I could come and stay in the spare room, help out on the farm, and figure out who I was again. So, with the last scraping of my savings, I packed up my cockatiel (Erwin) and a bag and headed to a farm in NJ. She ran a pony ride and petting zoo business. It provided the funds for the twenty-seven rescue horses, goats, rescued fighting roosters and other critters running around the place.

For the entire summer I learned to be up with the sun, feeding and watering horses, trying to avoid the "attack goose" that hated me, and having a tiny goat as a shadow (her name was Sweet Pea and it was love at first sight.) Pa built a new fenced in enclosure for the goats, and I was able to help. The tractor broke and we made runs into town. I assisted with the pony rides in the blistering heat. My van was hit by a drunk driver and he put my weeping self right back into serious mode with just a few sharp words. He was right. We were okay and I was able to live there longer because of the insurance money. It worked out for the good.  There were tears, injuries, heat exhaustion, and a lot of laughter, discipline, and conversation. Some of that conversation was between Pa and me. He may be a man of few words, but what he did say was usually very wise and profound. I learned to think for myself as his words challenged me. His voice was always gruff, but -don't tell anyone- he really is a softy at heart. One day I had to drive to PA for a job interview. In my purse he had tucked two pieces of scripture he'd written out just for me. I still have them, secure inside our fire safe.

I left NJ in September of that year, my feet back on solid ground and a plan in place. It has been years, and so much good has happened since I found myself again. I love the person I am still becoming. At least once a year I still "go home" where I'm welcomed like a daughter and where the conversations still continue. I'm not strong enough to help out much anymore, because of the #Ehlers-Danlos and such, but one day I will pay the family back for all they did to help me.

Why this post? Pa is in a hospital right now, recovering from a stroke. He has use of his legs again, praises be. But the wise old man with the gruff voice is unable to speak. I told my best friend that won't last long, for he is way too stubborn to stay quiet. However, the thought of us perhaps not having those conversations again brings tears to my eyes. He probably will never know the influence he has on my life. Or maybe, one day that will be a dinner table chat that we have...

#recovery, #thankful, #Ehlers-Danlos, #stroke, #farmer

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

On Grace

It is a strange word, grace. To so many in this world it is a term that instantly makes one recall a famous hymn. To many it is a word they hear "Christians" use and instantly turn away. I don't blame them. With all the finger pointing and lack of following Christ's most basic command to 'Love one another as I have loved you.' it must be hard to look at those who claim to have this kind of faith and believe that God and his never-ending love is real. That same grace He has shown us, the ability to forgive and love time and time again, it seems impossible and made up.

 Grace has so many meanings though, not just the ones attached to faith. It is something everyone should be striving to have in their life.Websters dictionary has grace defined as "disposition to or an act or instance of kindness, courtesy, or clemency." That moment a family member erupts in a fit of materialistic rage and you turned away instead of saying something back...that was grace. The time you wanted so badly to respond to someone on social media in a scathing response to their misplaced comment and didn't...that was grace. When you let someone get in front of you in line at the store because they have just a single item and you have a cart-full....that is grace. Helping a friend who is in distress instead of catching up on reading or sleep...that is grace. It is a simple act and it is one that can move mountains all at the same time.

Sometimes it seems like there is so little grace going on, but it is there. Little moments where people consciously make a decision for the better. I've been looking for it and am starting to see those choices and their impact. Wouldn't it be great if all of us stepped back, thought over how a single response could make a difference and then made the better choice. It would be wonderful if instead of condemning, or turning away, or keeping to a narrow mind, we chose grace...kindness, courtesy, clemency. Just something I've been thinking about.

#grace, #blessings, #forgiveness

Monday, January 14, 2013

On Stepping Out...

It is time. Actually, it is beyond time. Time to stop lurking. Time to step out and start joining community. Time to put doubts and suspicions and past behind and look forward. This blog is about to make a BIG change. Gone are the days where it was just a longer version of what you saw on Facebook. Gone are the "just updates." My resolution was to start speaking what was in my heart and mind, to lead where before I lurked in the shadows. I'm sure there will be some stumbles and probably a few who don't agree with me. However, I have prayed and thought and sat up and cried out. It is time!