Photo Credit: Jonathan Roberts

Reflections on 2010

November 25 marks the day that my sweet nephew, Payton, began his journey on earth.  What none of us could have imagined on the day of his birth was that the unsurpassable joy we felt with his arrival would be met with unsurpassable pain and grief just four and a half years later.

Today, as I made my way around Point Defiance with Leif and Sochi, I reflected on Payton’s life.  It is difficult for me to reflect on his life with out also remembering the raw sadness that his early death brought to my family and all who loved him.  It is with great effort that I force my mind to focus not on the last memory I have of Payton’s broken body, hooked to machines in a hospital bed, but rather on the joyful squeals and laughter of our last day together before Josh and I moved to Cape Town.  My remembrance, in order to over power the heart breaking images of June 2010, must move beyond my mind and encompass my entire body.  I must remember the smell of early summer grass, the racing of my heart chasing Payton around my parents yard, the coolness of the evening air as we dove and rolled, wrestled and tickled.  It is only then, when I allow my whole self to remember that joyful night, that I am able to allow my jaw to relax, my shoulders drop and my heart soften.

Earlier this week I listened to a man (on the internet) who lost his wife in childbirth earlier this month.  Three days later, the baby also died.  He said something that resonated with me– God did not orchestrate this (or something along those lines).  He went on to say that he knows  this horrible loss must be used for good.  That God is somehow, in his grief, piecing together a beautiful melody–one note at a time.  This is different from the bullshit (pardon) that I heard from some after Payton died.  The “God has a plan” as if somehow a good God would be cool with a 4 year old boy falling from a window and smashing his head.  Screw that. That’s not the God that I believe in.  But what then? How could this happen?  Why did this happen?

July of 2010, a month after Payton’s accident,  also brought a life altering event for me.  Lost in the mountains of South Africa, in the winter with nothing but a few dates, jeans and long sleeve t-shirts, I was certain Josh and I were going to die under the rock we took shelter in when we could no longer see our feet in the darkness of the mountains.  The near freezing temperature settled in my bones.  I ached for my mom who had just lost her grandson, was watching her own son bare the unbearable and was now going to lose her daughter–and probably never find out where or how.  The pack of animals that surrounded us, growling in the dark, the poachers that for some reason left the crazy, shaking, pleading white girl and her male counter part (not shaking or pleading but acting very calm given the situation, by the way)…and yet for some reason, when the sun began to rise at 6 AM, 12 hours after is had disappeared completely, we were alive.  By 11 AM we had found our way out of the mountains and to our car.  Alive.  Unharmed save a few scratches on my ankles from running through the grass and sliding down into gullies.  Alive.

There is so much more to the African mountains story that leaves me questioning why I am alive.  I am alive and Payton is not.  It seems very unfair.  In the months following, I tried over and over to process these events.  I would sometimes hear growling in the night  and I often felt the need to knock myself out with sleeping medication so as not to lay be bed with heart ache for Payton.  One night, while reflecting on why, I had a vision.  It was a hand like form holding me over one of the cliffs that Josh and I had encountered in our mountain fiasco.  I was on my back, limp, head back and the hand was shaking me and shouting, in a firm but loving voice, “I’VE GOT THIS!”

My faith has changed a lot since 2010.   I no longer feel the urge to worship God in a church.  I feel much more alive when I worship him in the forest or my garden or nursing Leif.  I sometimes still feel anger with God and even question the goodness or realness of God in wake of Payton’s death.  But knowing that I don’t have to believe he planned Payton’s early death, but yet somehow has still “got this” crazy shit helps me to continue on with my days without living every moment in complete fear that it can all fall apart at any moment.  And it can.  In a blink, it can shatter.

God did not orchestrate Payton’s death.  He did not say, “I’m going to let this one die so his family can experience body crushing pain and some other families can have his organs.” No. That’s not the God I believe in.  The God I believe in felt every unbearable, breathless moment of our grief and matched every single tear. And then he began weaving good out of it– offering other families hope with Payton’s bravely donated organs…and in turn, giving our family hope that some good would come of our suffering.  I still send those families love and pray their bodies accepted with grace the gift from Payton.

Payton– I see the good that God is weaving, yet I still ask “WHY?” We miss you and would give anything to have you here with us.  You are loved and cherished and carried in our hearts always. Happy Birthday, my sweet nephew.

Wherever you Are, My Love Will Find You

Nancy Tillman

And Someday if you’re lonely
or someday you’re sad

or you strike out at baseball

or think you’ve been bad

just lift up your face,

feel the wind in your hair.

That’s me, my sweet baby. My love is right there.

In the green of the grass…in the smell of the sea…

in the clouds floating by…in the top of a tree…

in the sound crickets make at the end of the day…

“You are loved. You are loved. You are loved.”  They all say.

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Leif caring for her-- I love how compassionate he is.

A Grieving Hen

This morning I came home after nannying to grab the stroller for a run.  As I ran into the back yard from the car, I saw our neighbors cat bolt (this happens almost daily).  I did a quick head count of hens.  1…2…3… 4…wait, 4?  1…2..3…4!  What the????  We only have three!  But over and over I counted 4.   Then I noticed one of them was unfamiliar.  Similar in coloring to our hens but much bigger and she was hunkered down in the A-frame.  She looked terrified.

Sweet Girl

Sweet Girl

As I headed out to run, I sent our friend Michael a text asking if he had added a new hen to the flock.  He told me the saddest story–earlier this week, 11 out of 12 of his friend’s chickens were killed by a raccoon. This girl survived and needed a home.  I was nearly in tears.  This poor chicken had just lost ALL of her sisters in a violent attack and now was in a strange new home.  I felt the urge to rush home and care for her.

After my run, I went home and spoke to her and tried to get a look at her.  There appeared to be some poop and possibly gut stuck in her feathers.  I worried that she was worse off than Michael had originally thought.  She was far back in the A-frame and not about to come out for me to check her.  I grabbed a pile of hay and made a comfy bed as far back as I could reach, locked up the doors and made sure she was safe before heading out on errands.

After lunch, I decided I really needed to find out what was going on with her and try to offer her some love. I put on some gloves and old jeans and opened up the A-frame.  Leaning in, I offered her some food from my hand, which I was happy she took.  Still, I couldn’t get her to ease out.  So, as awkward as I possibly could (thankfully I do not think any neighbors saw this strange manovour), I climbed into the A-frame with her.  I knelt on the bed of hay I had made earlier and slowly put my hands on her while reassuring her that I was safe and here to help and telling her I know she’s sad.

Just having some snuggle time with her in the warm (ish) house.

Just having some snuggle time with her in the warm (ish) house.

I could feel her body shaking from the inside out.  I examined the under area I was so worried about and decided it must just be poop.  I think this girl literally had the shit scared out of her.  It was matted into her feathers.  Slowly, I backed out of the A-frame, holding her.  I knelt in the hard holding her and speaking softly to her for a while.  She seemed to almost whimper and I could see in her sweet little beady chicken eyes that the last couple of days have been traumatizing for her.  I imagined the attack, the sounds and commotion.  I imagined her caregiver finding her scared out of her mind amongst her dead and mutilated sisters.  It brought me to tears.  I brought her into the kitchen and with a luck warm cloth, removed the poop from her feathers as best I could.  I placed some more hay in a cardboard box and brought her into the kitchen to rest on the table while I got ready to go tutor.  She sat quietly- not making a peep.

Mama!  There's a hen on our table!

Mama! There’s a hen on our table!

Leif caring for her-- I love how compassionate he is.

Leif caring for her– I love how compassionate he is.

I’m sure there are people out there that are thinking “OH MY GOSH!  It’s just a chicken!” And until recently, I did not think chickens were very intelligent or sociable creatures. However, since the girls came to stay with us, I have learned differently.  Our hens snuggle close at night and find comfort with each other.  They allow Leif to chase them, carry them around the yard in awkward positions, and enjoy to be pet.  Like other animals, they bond to their families–both human and non-human. They have the capacity to feel both physical and mental pain.  They will grieve when their friends die.  As I held this surviving hen, I could literally feel the fear, grief, and trauma pulsing through her.  In the moment I recognized what I was experiencing, I felt great shame for having participated in the consumption of so many of these creatures–many from factory farms that treated them unspeakably horribly before an unspeakable slaughter.

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Tonight, I went out to check on her, to see if the other girls were treating her well.  I had hoped to see a snuggled pile of 4 hens, but instead I saw the usual three with a lone hen resting a foot away.  Well, at least they are not pecking her and I imagine it will take a bit of time for everyone to feel completely comfortable together and for her to mend.

Next week is Thanksgiving.  Much meat will be eaten.  Turkey’s, another very intelligent and sociable bird, will be eaten in great numbers around our country.  This is a bit of a plea to consider an alternative–a vegetarian Thanksgiving?  I know, it sounds unpatriotic… but I’ve been doing it for 6 years now–this will be my 4th vegan Thanksgiving…and guess what?  I don’t miss it one bit.  Not one!


Over coming obstacles, folks!  Our park lost two huge trees in last nights windpocolypse 2014.

2 mile at 2 months!

Today marks exactly two months since my hip surgery. I’ve been slowly adding in intervals of 30-60 seconds of running into my walks. Today, I am happy to report I hit the 2 miles of running mark!  I walk the mile to the park and then run /walk loops (just under a mile each)–pushing Leif and dragging Sochi–before walking home.  I’m feeling great!  My hip doesn’t feel ‘normal” but it doesn’t hurt and that’s exciting.  My surgeon told me it could be a full year before it feels 100%. I’ll take it!

starting to feel like a runner again! Finally!

starting to feel like a runner again! Finally!

I believe I owe my strong recovery to several factors:  First, an awesome surgeon.  I continue to hear from various sources–PT’s, patience, nurses– that Dr. Brukner is the best in the business.   Secondly, I have been doing my stretches and eating really healthy.  Fruits, veggies, curries, cinnamon. nuts, seeds, and beans abound.  I also believe that the acupuncture, prolotherapy, and cupping are doing great things for my body.  From promoting white blood cell production, improving circulation, and drawing fresh blood to the areas of me that need healing…I’m feeling a huge difference.  We tried a type form of prolotherapy last week that we had not yet tried.  My low back pain all put disappeared after 1 go at the therapy.  WHAT! Honestly, it is like nothing I’ve experienced before.  The cool part– its not just covering the symptoms–it is actually helping my body to heal itself.  That is rad.

Rain or shine--we've been getting out there!  Such a trooper, this one!

Rain or shine–we’ve been getting out there! Such a trooper, this one!

I’m so thankful this body is on the mend.


Gotta keep up with this little homesteader!

6 Week Follow Up

Tomorrow marks 6 weeks since surgery!  I had my follow up with the doc yesterday and all is looking good!  I am now officially cleared to begin using the elliptical, swimming (mostly pull with a tiny bit of flutter kick on the board), and then to start running on grass and football turf once I can comfortably master the elliptical.  I started cycling on the trainer with my doctors permission last week and I am up to 25 minutes with no pain! Hallelujah!  Sweating feels so right.

I am experiencing very little pain but some days my hip tends to flare up a little.  I’m trying to stay on top of it with Traumameel (arnica tablets and gel).  I’m also walking nearly every day for at least an hour with Sochi and Leif.  No pain with walking!  Hallelujah (again).

I’m continuing with acupuncture and loving it.  I’m down to once per week.  I know it is helping with the healing process.  It is also good for my mind.  Not only does acupuncture stimulate blood flow and return balance to my body, the hour I get to spend relaxing and talking to Dr. Krause each week is like a little retreat (what?  I get to lay down and be cared for for a whole hour???!–Awesome).

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Seriously, every time I do plant he goes for it.

Other great news–I’m finally menstruating again.  Seriously, the last cycle I had was May 28, 2012.    I thought I wouldn’t start until I completely weaned Leif but it appears cutting down on mama’s milk has done the trick and we are still able to enjoy a couple nursing sessions a day.  I love the closeness and I know he still needs the connection so I am thrilled that my body is beginning to get back on a cycle while keeping a little bit of my milk supply!  That’s fabulous news for our family.

Leif and I will also be taking care of a few other kids.  We’ve started a few mornings a week and will build up to more over the next couple of months.  I’m tutoring 1-2 evenings a week.  It appears that all is going great–healing, body returning to a cycle, and I’ve found some work I can do with Leif at my side!  We’ve also been hosting a second exchange student–Kazuto from Japan.  He is on a short exchange and will be heading home on November 1st.  He is great to have around.

Shopping for Japanese food! YUM!

Shopping for Japanese food! YUM!

We are in full immune boosting mode in our house.  I’ve juicing, smoothie-ing, souping, and washing hands like mad.  Its fall, the rain has been heavy and the temps cooler.  Winter is not far away.  We are starting our vitamin D regimine this week (probably should have a few weeks ago) as no matter how much time we spend outside in the fall and winter, our PNW sun just can’t give us what we need.

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To new seasons!

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How about that moon…

unnamed-3Did you see it tonight? The full moon was out in all its splendor this evening.  Maybe you were one of the chosen that was able to see the “blood moon” dancing in the sky?  This past year, I have had a new fascination with the moon.  I remember my co-teachers commenting on how the moon affected our students behavior and thinking they were a little crazy way back when.  I didn’t think that these moon moods were compatible with what I believed about God. I thought they were mutually exclusive.  You could either believe in the moon or God. Okay, you could believe in the moon, but don’t even think about believing that it effected anything but the tides.  That would be blasphemy, right?

Wrong.  I have come to understand that you can believe in a Creator AND believe that said Creator uses his creation in ways that are not fully understood by humans.  The moon, its cycles and how it effects other parts of creation (including us) is a perfect example of this.  I won’t pretend to be some kind of moon expert, but I will say, that I I believe it has power–both scientifically provable and spiritual powers over all living beings.

Before realizing that tonight was the full moon, a total lunar eclipse no less, I noticed Sochi was behaving VERY strangely.  She seemed extremely anxious and almost ravenous.  Although she often tries (successfully) to steal food from Leif, tonight she was at it with some serious commitment.  She would not listen to me and it felt as though it was getting a little out of hand.  I decided I would try putting her in her crate while we ate to cool her off and allow us to eat without her jumping on the table.  I sat back down at the table and then heard Sochi screaming.  It was horrible. At first I thought she was anxious about me putting her in the crate but when I turned around I could see that part of the lock on crate was seriously lodged in her mouth.  Son and I both ran to her rescue and it took the both of us to dislodge her.  She has never done anything like this.  After dinner, we had an errand to run for Son and I thought it would be best to take Sochi in the car.  Instead of laying in the back like normal, she climbed over the seat and panted like a mad lady the entire time.

When we returned home, she seemed to calm down until I went upstairs to make the guest bed.  She started this huffy bark and her ears perked up as she stood in the hallway.  It left me uneasy.  The bed was left unmade as I just felt like she was calling me downstairs.  This is after Leif acted like a wild man until 10:30 PM.

The full moon usually gives me a since of peace.  I enjoy it.  I marvel in it.  I love when Leif points it out–its science and spiritualism all in one gorgeous glowing orb in the sky.  Its the same exact moon that our brothers and sisters across the globe gaze at.  Its the same moon that our ancestors studied. Its the same moon that will glow in the sky long after I’m gone. It brings me so much comfort to know this.

Tonight, I will spend much of the evening cuddled with Sochi on the couch–as I’m worried about her full moon behavior and the thought of putting her in the crate (who new sleeping quarters to reduce the amount of bodily fluids I have to clean up each morning).  How does the full moon effect you?


Chocolate Zucchini Protein Power Muffins

unnamed-1Yesterday we pulled out the last of our summer veggies.  The garden beds look bare but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t feeling a little relieved that the of processing massive zucchinis has finally come to an end.  I must have shredded 100 cups of zucchini this summer.  Much of which is frozen in 2 cup servings in the basement.  The rest was turned into bread/muffins and frozen or eaten or was prepared for dinner.  This past week, I decided to change my muffin recipe up a bit for some added spunk (and protein and goodness).  I had some leftover chocolate hemp protein in the fridge my friend had given me last spring as she wasn’t a huge fan.  However, it was dynamite in a muffin!

Chocolate Zucchini Power Muffins

Oil Free, low sugar, vegan

Ingredients:

  • 6 TBLS ground flaxseed
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1 cup coconut palm sugar
  • 1- 1 1/2 cup apple sauce (I used homemade with chunks)
  • 2 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 cup chocolate hemp protein
  • 1 TBLS baking soda
  • 1 TBLS baking powder
  • A few dashes of cinnamon and nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup vegan chocolate chips or chunks
  • 3 cups shredded zucchini

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 and prepare muffin tin (I have been using parchment paper muffin cups and I love them)
  • Wisk flaxseed and water and then stir in sugar and applesauce
  • In a separate bowl, mix all dry ingredeints
  • Combine dry and wet ingredients well and then stir in chocolate chips and zuchini
  • Spoon into muffin tin and bake for 30-35 minutes.
  • Store half the batch in the freezer for some yummy breakfast treats this winter!
  • Enjoy!

Happy Eating!


Spiders and Mice

Garden spider hanging above our front door

Garden spider hanging above our front door

“There’s a mouse in the kitchen”, Josh proclaimed one evening last week.  I turned to see a tiny gray rodent scamper under my beloved oven.  I shrieked, curses and jumped up (on my good leg).  In a frenzy, I headed for the car, forgetting my crutches, to go purchase some mouse traps.  Upon returning,  I set the mouse traps in various places around the kitchen and went to bed with the creeps.

I pondered, while I was laying there jumping every time one of Leif’s limbs brushed me, why it is that a tiny little mouse in my kitchen freaks me out so much.  I went through the same self talk I’ve gone through many times before when I have discovered critters in my home (cockroaches in South Africa, spiders and rats in Asia/India, and of course mice in Tacoma)–“Many people live with critters in their home and are just fine…The likely hood of it biting you or Leif is very slim…It is more afraid of you that you are of it…and on and on.  I checked the traps several times a day for the next couple of days–empty each time.

On Friday, Leif, Sochi, and I headed to the beach house with my parents.  It was a very relaxing and rodent free weekend. We returned Sunday to find a dead mouse in one of the traps.  I yelped, “I’ve murdered a mouse!!!” I truly felt horrible.  I imagined the tiny little mouse sniffing out the delicious peanut butter I had placed on the trap and thinking it was in for a wonderful treat…and then SNAP!  Broken spine. I realize I set the trap and that a dead mouse was the outcome I was seeking with such a trap.  But I still felt wretched.  I do not want mice in my home–mainly because I do not want them to destroy our home, cause an electrical fire, or poop in our food.  I think I would never sleep again if I ever found one in our bed.  But I also do not feel okay with killing them.  Do I expect everyone to feel the same?  No.  But for me, it seems hypocritical (for myself) to pick and choose which animals I’m okay with killing.  Yes, it is true that mice can cause damage and present some health risks, but I want to give this catch and release thing a try before I go about breaking any more spines.

This is the same for spiders.  I admit, I have smashed some spiders in my day.  In India, Josh and I spent a good amount of time battling a spider that might as well have been a small child.  Just a couple weeks ago, I smashed a spider in our basement that looked particularly menacing and I was in a pretty dark mood–and yet I cried after because I knew that I had killed the spider mostly out of my own grumpy spirit.

It is the time of year in the Pacific Northwest that the weather begins to cool and small rodents and bugs come into the house seeking warmth.  Last week I found a rather large dead spider on the mat that is intended for Leif to sleep on next to our bed (notice I said ‘intended’ because he is usually doing acrobatics in his sleep on our bed).  This evening I removed two spiders from our kitchen floor and let another remain in its web above our kitchen window.  There are two large webs on our front porch with juicy garden spiders devouring a midnight snack as we speak.  Its October.  Its spider time.

My catch and release trap is set in the kitchen and I’m doing my best to let go of my fear of these little critters while still remaining vigilant about keeping our home rodent free.  I will take each mouse to the forest and let it live out its days there (if I even catch any).  I will continue to allow a few spiders to make their home in the corners of our house (they remind me of my kitchen spider, Charlotte in South Africa) and to catch and release their friends that I find crawling across my kitchen floor.

I’m not some super brave girl.  I just don’t feel comfortable with killing.  I remember walking through the Grand Canyon several years ago and being overwhelmed with the amount of life around me–frogs, crickets, beetles, spiders, deer, goats, fish, squirrels… and that was just what I could see or hear.  Our world is full of living things–big and small.  I get that there is a natural order of things–lions must kill to live and sometimes humans must too. But is it necessary for me to kill a spider that will do me no harm just because it was unfortunate enough to end up in my home?   What makes the life of a creature I consider “creepy” less valuable than mine? And where do we draw the line of what is appropriate or inappropriate to kill?  Its something I’m still working out.  How do you deal with critters in the home?