Wednesday, May 31, 2006
Nobody appreciated this cat until she had kittens, except for my granddaughter Natalie, whose cat she was, originally: The rest of us considered her "not too bright", and a total pest, always underfoot, tripping somebody up.
But since she had kittens, I've developed a grudging admiration for her. I don't know how she and Fudge, the other mother cat, decided which of them would be the one to let me know when they're out of food, but obviously Snowbelle is the designated gofer.
Not only is she a good little shopper, but she intends to protect all the kittens in the barn, even if it kills her. I made the mistake of taking Sadie, on leash, into the barn with me twice. Both mother cats came running at poor Sadie, hissing and growling. There'll be no dogs in THEIR barn!
The granddaughters started summer school yesterday: If they make it the whole month without missing a day, they'll get $100 on a gift card at the end.
Going to summer school keeps them occupied and lets them be in the air conditioning, and it gives me and Cliff our days to ourselves, between 8 AM and 3:30 PM... just like during the regular school year. Oh, and my daughter doesn't have to pay me as much babysitting money.
Speaking of which, I've had some strange reactions from folks when I mention that I charge my daughter and her husband for babysitting their kids: some people seem to think it's horrible that I'd expect flesh-and-blood to pay me for watching my own grandchildren. Well folks, it keeps me from being resentful about their being here, and allows me to buy snacks and treats for them without breaking our budget. Also, I've had a couple of conversations like this:
ME: "My daughter pays me to babysit."
OTHER PERSON: "Yeah, but does she really pay you?"
Obviously these people don't know me very well, because if Rachel forgets to write me a check over the weekend, I remind her that she hasn't paid me... and she apologizes, and forks over the dough. If they're having a rough week financially, their credit is good with me; they can pay me the next week, and have never failed to do so.
After Cliff's next visit with the cardiac doctor, we might go to Branson for a weekend. And sometime in July, when the girls go to stay with their other grandma, we're talking about visiting Glacier National Park in Montana. We'll see how things go.
To see our weight-loss progress, click HERE.
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
In the beginning, we didn't have air conditioning because we were simply too darned poor; we had good credit, but our income was already stretched to the limit. We'd bought a 20-acre place in the country, and found ourselves outside most of the time anyhow... milking cows, gardening, and so forth.
When we bought this place, that was still true: we were outdoor people. Besides, summer is over before you know it. As years went by, it became a matter of pride. I could nearly always get a reaction from people by saying, "We don't have air conditioning." It was especially fun to say this on a 100+ degree day.
"What? You don't have AIR??? How do you STAND it?"
"Wimps," I'd say to myself.
Two years ago, Cliff's brother loaned us an old, small window unit for our bedroom. We learned to love it, and when, last spring, we dragged it out of storage only to find it wasn't working any more, we bought a new unit at Sam's Club; we were hooked. But only for sleeping, mind you; nobody was going to accuse US of being wimps.
OK, at this point, I'll give up and admit it: I'd love to have air conditioning. It probably wouldn't even be too expensive to cool these three downstairs rooms where we spend all our time. And obviously, if we could afford payments on a laptop and a plasma TV, we could have managed central air. Why didn't we get it?
Because I don't want to live the rest of my life in this old house. I'd love to have a new mobile home, a single-wide would be fine; in fact, Cliff and I were talking about getting one, before his unexpected heart surgery. This house needs so much work, starting with a new basement and foundation, that it would be cheaper to build a new house; but we do NOT have the time and money for that.
I know all the disadvantages of a mobile home, having lived in two of them. But the idea of living in a new house of any kind really appeals to me. Yes, I know they depreciate; but it isn't an investment, it's a place for me and Cliff to live cheaply and comfortably. I called Planning and Zoning and asked some questions. We'd have to tear this house down within a reasonable amount of time after another home was placed here... but I'd want to do that anyhow.
Probably, though, we'll end up in this old house until we can't handle 43 acres any more, then sell out and move to town. I suppose eventually I'll look reality in the face, we'll have central air installed, and life will go on.
Meanwhile, that's why we don't have AC.
Monday, May 29, 2006
My desktop computer, which Dell shipped to me on January 17, 2003, suits me just fine. As long as it will keep putt-putting along, I'm keeping it. Yesterday, it developed a little "miss" in its engine.
It was a strange little problem that had occurred once, months ago: It would start to boot up, then stall out. The first time, it simply decided to start working again, and I thought no more about it. This time, it didn't want to start working for me. So I sent it to the home of my local teenaged computer nerd, one of my grandson, Arick's, friends. I expect to have it back soon, because if Lee can't do anything with it, I'll take it someplace else. We have no air conditioning in our house, so with the heat (it's been over 90 the last two days) and the dust that flies in the windows from cars passing on our gravel road, this is not a good computer environment.
So, how am I making this entry?
I've wanted a laptop for quite a while, but really couldn't justify it. Cliff has wanted a Global Positioning device, and couldn't justify it.
I found out that, for $79 (after rebate) I could buy a Global Positioning program for a laptop computer.
As if that weren't enough to make us both happy campers, we also bought a plasma TV at Sam's Club today while we were out. Thanks to those of you who recommended Sam's Club as a good place to buy a television.
Life is good.
Sunday, May 28, 2006
Mom wanted me to get on here and let you know that her computer is failing. Seriously. I stopped by and heard TAPS playing softly in the distance. If I know my mother, this situation will be remedied shortly.
A moment of silence, please.
When Cliff and I returned from our morning walk, a message had been left on our answering machine; it was Arick, saying he and my horse are fine, and they rode all day yesterday. In 24 hours or so, I'll see Blue again! (Oh yeah, and my grandson too.)
I've been surfing, looking for all sorts of heart bypass information, and also reading the booklets given to Cliff by the hospital and doctors. Everything I've read says he can get back to fully normal life in 12 weeks, not the five or six months we were told by physicians. Perhaps they give a longer time in case things aren't healing properly, so it won't be a disappointment if they have to keep you home that long.
We won't get our hopes too high, but hey... maybe Cliff will be on that motorcycle this summer after all! He'll see the cardiology group a week from Tuesday.
Saturday, May 27, 2006
Adam, who lives less than two miles from us, pastures his horse, Tude, on our farm; Jessica, his girl friend, is trying out a mare she might buy; if she buys the mare, they'll keep her here, too.
They decided to spend the holiday weekend camping out at Blue-Gray park with their horses. My grandson, Arick, (Adam is his second cousin) thought it sounded like fun, and asked if he could take my horse, Blue, and go with them. My first thought was this: No way will I turn the horse of my dreams loose with a twenty-year-old boy who knows nothing about horses.
Then I remembered why I bought this particular horse. I wanted a horse that other people could enjoy with me... children, grandchildren, neighbors.
And Blue can always use more exercise and conditioning than he gets from me, by myself.
Adam and Jessica know horses, so I asked them to look out for my baby (that would be the horse, not my grandson).
I think everyone will be better off for the events of this weekend. I just hope I live through it.
Friday, May 26, 2006
Night before last, I tossed and turned; I was awake several times, and when I was sleeping, it was a light sleep. Part of the problem was a loud-mouthed bird outside my window.
Now, all the birds I've ever known of, from chickens to robins, started their singing about an hour before daylight, sang all day long, and shut their pesky little beaks at sunset. This critter was LOUD, although if I hadn't been trying to sleep, it would have been a pleasant sound.
When I got up yesterday morning, as soon as the computer was on, I googled a few phrases unsuccessfully. Then I went to ask.com and typed in "bird sings at night".
This led me to a message board of some sort where a person had posed this question: "One night in June, at about 1:30 a.m., I was awakened by the loud singing
of several robins. To my amazement, the robins were shortly joined by many
other species of birds that normally sing during the day. The birds never
stopped singing, and it was so loud that I never slept that night. Is this
normal, and if so, why did it occur? "
Here's the answer that person received:
"Many species of birds use their songs to attract perspective mates. The
instinctual drive to this end sometimes overrides the usual night/day
agenda. Early June, the time you observed this, is the onset of mating
season for several birds.
Typically, in order to get a jump on the competition, a bird will sing from
the crack of dawn well into twilight. But if the moon is shining or there
is a nearby street lamp, some birds (in particular, the Mockingbird) will
sing all night long. Mockers also use their songs to mark territory."
Ah. We have a dusk-to-dawn light in the yard that could qualify as a "street lamp". I guess on that particular night, it inspired a mockingbird; we have plenty of them around.
On another subject, I guess I'll quit griping about all the walking I did in the heat yesterday. I'm two pounds lighter this morning. It just goes to show, every cloud has a silver lining. I won't complain about the sunburn on my shoulders.
Thursday, May 25, 2006
Cliff and I went for our usual half-hour, 1 and 1/2 mile walk at the park, at 7 A.M. Had I known how this day was going to go, I'd have skipped it.
He's wanted to get the electric fence back around our upper hay field for a few days... we already got the one around the alfalfa, he and I. He was wishing for some help from a neighbor boy or two, but since school is out and they have friends to hang around with, they've pretty much disappeared, unless they want to air up a tire or something. When they do show up, it's the heat of the day already, and we've finished any projects. Like Cliff says, "I don't pay them anything; it I were them, I'd choose to go have fun with my friends, too."
"I can drive posts," I told him. "I used to do it all the time when I was raising bobby calves and relocating their hutches and pens myself."
Reluctantly he decided to let me try it; first we went to check on the cows, but neither had had a calf yet.
So, once back from our walk, after a little rest and a shot of orange juice, off we went. I'll admit it takes me awhile to drive a T-post into the ground in a drought, but I was getting it done. However, he decided he could get the job done faster with Brett, our daughter's boy, helping. So he went after him. I have to admit I was glad to turn the hammer and post-driver over to him.
Back at the house, I made hamburger and beans for the three kids and salads for me and Cliff. While I was doing that, Cliff came in with bad news.
"We turned the electric fence on and turned the horses out; the colt ran full-blast into the electric fence, broke it, and then all the other horses followed."
Now folks, even when Cliff is not recovering from major surgery, if horses need to be dealt with, I'm the one who does it. Cliff has the idea that horses should submit like little robots... or else have a shotgun used on them. So I set my salad back and went to get the horses in.
Blue and Jessica's new horse (Sassy up to now, but I think her name is going to be changed) were no problem. I walked up to each of them with a halter and led them back, one at a time.
Tude is always hard to catch, and now that he's adopted Snickers and her baby, it's worse. Snickers can't be depended on to let you catch her, either, when she's out in the big pasture; her baby, of course, wasn't a concern: where mom goes, baby goes. They were at the far end of a three-acre hay field. Halter in hand, hope in my heart, I headed out.
When I approached them, all three ran at a full gallop back toward the barn, where there was an open gate they could have gone through... but they did not. They whirled and returned to the far end of the field once more, once I had plodded all the way back. I tried approaching with the halter again, and we got a rerun of the first experience.
I did, then, what I should have done in the first place. I got a bucket and put a little sweet feed in it.
Now, Snickers is too smart to fall for that old trick, but Tude isn't the brightest candle on the cake, and he bit. He put his head in the bucket and allowed me to put the halter on him. I led him back to the lot and put him with Blue and Sassy. Then I took the feed bucket and headed for Snickers and her colt.
Now that she realized she had no adult company, Snickers decided to let me catch her, putting her head in the bucket. She's the brightest horse on this farm, and I'll guarantee you she knew I was going to halter her. She wanted to be with the other horses, but had too much pride to surrender. So she acted hungry and kept her pride. Good. All five horses are caught, and Cliff and Brett repair the electric fence and turn it on.
I put the halter on Snickers, open the gate, and start leading her out, figuring the others will follow. On the way back to the point where they'll graze, there's a sort of alleyway with electric fence on both sides, wide enough to drive a tractor through.
This is when we found out Jessica's new horse has never made acquaintancewith an electric fence before. She reached out her nose, got a mild shock and jumped back. Good. But when we got to the area with electric fence on both sides, she more or less panicked, not knowing where to go (straight ahead would have been a good choice, but that isn't what she did). She put her chest firmly against the wire, and feeling the shock big time, ran into it hard, instead of away... breaking the electric fence once again. And of course, the other horses all followed her, kicking up their heels with delight. At this point, if I were a cussing woman, the air would have turned blue. It was 90 degrees, I'd been walking after horses for over an hour, and I was pretty disgusted.
It was all a replay of the first time, except that I took feed with me the first time I went after Tude rather than just try and walk up to him. I easily got Blue and Sassy back in, then got the others back with the feed bucket.
Next I went to check on the cows, where nothing was happening that I could tell. I finally got to my wilted salad, but wasn't able to finish it all. Heat does something to a person's stomach.
The granddaughters wanted to go to the library, and all I could think was, "Air conditioning". (Our house isn't air conditioned.) So we did that. And then, back at home, I went to check on the cows and couldn't find them.
Beam me up, Scotty.
I'm staying pretty busy these days. The two granddaughters are here all day, this week; they start summer school next Tuesday. And I try to lend a hand to Cliff when he needs me.
Five weeks ago today, Cliff was in surgery. He's been unable to wear overalls because they hurt his chest, rubbing where his breastbone was sawed open. Today he tried a larger pair of overalls and found out he can wear them; he's overjoyed! He now has a proper place to carry his pliers as he putters around the place. His chest does still hurt him (the incision and healing bone, not his heart), and he's far from being back to his pre-surgery self. But he's come a long way, and I'm thankful.
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
I found this meme on Chris' journal and decided to do it.
I AM: weak and faulty
I SAID: "People are more important than things"
I WANT: my husband healthy
I WISH: for war to end
I HATE: my faults
I MISS: Uncle Leo and grandma
I FEAR: losing my husband
I HEAR: birds chirping in the mornings, and smile
I WONDER: if the world is worth saving
I REGRET: not singing as much as I should have
I AM NOT: a leader
I DANCE: only for God
I SING: but not often enough
I AM NOT ALWAYS: what people expect me to be
I MADE: a way to take life one day at a time
I WRITE: in rhyme when I can
I CONFUSE: almost everyone
I NEED: somebody to know I'm here
I SHOULD: be a better Christian
I START: and then don't finish
I FINISH: very few things
I BELIEVE: that God loves me and that I will eventually live with Him
I KNOW: I ought to do better
I CAN: write poems, sing songs
I CAN'T: change anyone other than myself
I SEE: that life is short
I BLOG: so someone will know I'm alive
I READ: biographies
I AM AROUSED BY: being treated with gentleness and kindness
IT PISSES ME OFF: that life can be so unjust
I FIND: my only peace in Jesus
I LIKE: Jersey cows, gaited horses, and mongrel dogs
I LOVE: my husband,my children, my grandchildren, and God
That's me and Cliff with our granddaughter, Amber, who graduated tonight. That isn't a zit below her lower lip, it's a piercing. I liked the one on her eyebrow better, but we all have to do what makes us happy. Amber is the one who introduced me to Green Day and Simple Plan, and accompanied me to Van's Warped Tour for two years straight.
If it looks like I'm sporting a shiner on my right eye, I am. Don't ask. But don't you think it matches the bruise on my right arm nicely?
Monday, May 22, 2006
I fully intended to mop today; in a couple of places, my shoes literally stick to the kitchen floor (ewwww, I know). But Cliff wanted to do some cleaning up in the hay fields, and he needed an extra pair of hands. Seeing none of the neighborhood boys anywhere, I volunteered. We moved electric fence back so Cliff could mow with his little John Deere and the brush hog. We put electric fence back that had been pulled out of the way for mowing hay. I removed some random piles of hay that would have smothered out portions of the field and killed alfalfa plants. By the time all that was done, it was lunchtime; I was tired and didn't want to cook, so we each had a salad.
I spent a little time inside, washing dishes and writing a poem. Going to the shop to check on Cliff, I saw him with grease gun in hand, obviously having problems getting his baler greased.
"Need some help?"
"Yeah, come here and take this grease gun, and pump it when I tell you."
Do you have any idea how many grease zerks there are on a hay-baler? Oh, and that's a new word I learned today: zerk. All my life I thought those things were called grease certs; Cliff said most people pronounce it "zert". Of course I had to google it, only to find out he was right. From Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 10th
edition - "zerk n. [Oscar U. Zerk Am. (Austrian born) inventor] (1926): a grease
So no, I haven't mopped. Maybe tomorrow?
Oh, here's the silly poem I wrote today:
Sunday, May 21, 2006
I wasn't well acquainted with a lot of the people at the reunion today, but I sure saw some cute kids. I wish I had thought to take pictures of the five-month-old baby boy I carried around for awhile and threatened to steal. But I was busy enjoying the moment.
Cliff's brother, Phil, was having a family reunion at his house today; mostly his wife's relatives, but his kids and grandchildren were going to be there, and it's always nice to see them all grown up. We decided to go to Church with him. Because the church is in a farming town, there are lots of tractor dealers there. Cliff cannot pass a tractor dealer without driving all around and out back to see what sort of old equipment and junkers are there. He keeps up a running dialogue with himself as he goes, muttering things like, "That's just like the one ole so-and-so had," or, "That looks a lot like my disk-mower," or, "That's a nice-looking old John Deere, but the hydraulics were no good in that series."
But you have to know, I am so happy to have Cliff that much back to normal, doing the things he's always done, I'll drive through every tractor dealer's place in the county with him, if I must.
Friday, May 19, 2006
So yes, I should have taken pictures of Arick and Cliff baling the orchard grass in big bales all by themselives; they did it alone, Cliff driving and Arick hopping on and off and doing the "grunt" work. I was such a nervous wreck, knowing Cliff was out there in the sun, first on the little John Deere, then on Big Ugly (the David Brown)... figuring I'd have to call an ambulance any minute, and just praying.
I can't say enough good things about Arick, our oldest grandson. If he thought Cliff was doing too much, he'd come to me and say, "Grandma, he won't listen to me; you come out and watch. He'll do what you tell him."
That wasn't true all the time, but it helped. And Cliff survived a full day of being on tractors (at least eight hours) after the doctors telling him NOT to drive a tractor for five months; it's been only 30 days since his surgery.
The neighborhood boys showed up in time to help with the small alfalfa bales, and later, so did our son-in-law, and Cliff's sister and her husband on their Harley. The hay is out of the field, and only one wagon-load needs to be put in the barn tomorrow.
Cliff is happy, and life is good.
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
Here's the plan for getting our hay up... time will tell if things work out according to plan: Cliff's brother, Phil, is going to put his disc-mower on a trailor and bring it over. He'll hook it up to Cliff's tractor and mow the hay.
When the hay is ready to bale, which won't likely be until the weekend (it has to cure, and we're having fairly cool temperatures) Phil will hook a tractor to our big round baler and see if it's working properly. If it is, it'll be an easy matter; the hay could even be left in the field for a day or two if necessary; and no lifting is involved in moving it.
If the big baler doesn't work, that means we'll put up both fields of hay as small square bales. That means we'll be using every available man and boy around who is willing, and capable of lifting, to load the hay onto wagons from the field, haul it to the barn, and unload it from the wagon and stack it.
We're hoping and praying for the best.
Tuesday, May 16, 2006
Jessica is teaching her friend, Kylene, to ride; she rode Tude a couple of days ago, her first horseback ride ever. Adam and Jessica are horse-shopping, trying to find one for Jessica so they can ride together. So we may soon be getting another horse in the pasture.
I made appointments for me and Cliff at Connie's Beauty Shoppe this morning. But I got so interested in watching Kylene riding my horse, I forgot all about it. Cliff hollered from the shop, "When is our appointment?"
"Oh no! 4 o'clock.... what time is it?"
"It's five after four."
I do hate to be late, almost more than anything. We jumped in the car and got to Connie's 10 minutes late. Bless her heart, she's so fast that she had us both done in 25 minutes, so her next appointment only had to wait an extra five minutes. Whew.
Cliff recently contacted a local farmer who agreed to cut and bale our hay... about three acres of a grass-clover mix, and a field almost that big of alfalfa. The trouble is, that farmer, like all the others around here, is scrambling to get his soybeans planted, so we are at the bottom of his list of priorities.
Normally, of course, Cliff would do all this himself. But he's not supposed to get on a tractor now, let alone think about tossing 80-pound hay bales around. We've had lots of people volunteer to help, and Cliff would let them, if his equipment was dependable. But he just bought the big round baler last year and barely got it working; it still isn't right, and he just can't picture somebody else having to figure out its problems. Nobody can make junk equipment work the way Cliff can.
He also purchased a different kind of mower last winter, a very well-used mower indeed. You might even say worn out. However, he thought he had it working. Let's face it, you can't check how a mower is working without hay to mow.
He put one of the neighbor kids on it and pointed him toward a weedy section of pasture, just to see if the thing would work. It did... for about fifty feet. Then it broke.
Cliff had almost decided to accept the help that had been offered: His brother, Phil, was going to come tomorrow and mow the hay. When the time came to rake and bale it, everybody would pitch in and get the job done.
Now all we can do is hope and pray that the farmer who said he'd do it for $15 a bale shows up soon; the hay loses quality if it isn't mowed at the proper time, and the alfalfa is already blooming. And I'm praying that it doesn't rain at the wrong time, and ruin the hay. And that Cliff doesn't get too stressed out and depressed about all this.
All you praying folks, please remember this situation when you think about us.
God's will be done.
I will say that, after what I've seen Cliff go through in the past four weeks, one hay crop is not really all that important in the grand scheme of things.
Your Monday Photo Shoot: Put your camera on the ground to shoot a picture of something you don't usually see from the bottom up. Call it the "worm's-eye view" of the world, if worms had eyes, which they mostly don't. Grab the camera, get out and under something, and shoot from the ground up for a whole new perspective on everyday life. Then post your picture in your blog or Journal and go back to John Scalzi's blog to leave a link. This entry could be fun.
I'm sure nobody is surprised that I chose my horse, Blue, as a subject for this assignment.
Well now, wasn't that fun?
Arick came over Sunday evening and finished up the trim on the addition. Then yesterday evening he and Travis, one of the helpful twin boys from next door, hauled off a bunch of junk, scrap lumber, and other things that were creating the sort of clutter Cliff hates.
It sure is nice to have such helpful people around!
Monday, May 15, 2006
Cliff's only going to therapy for a month, just to be safe. We want to make sure he doesn't over-do it with exercise here at home. There are classes for us to attend teaching us how to get rid of salt and cholesterol in our diets, how to read labels, and so forth. The nurse said they'll hook him up and monitor his heart while he exercises, at some point.
Since Cliff has already worked up to walking a mile and a half a day on the local track, what he did today was child's play.
I had a lovely Mother's Day, by the way. Cliff and I went to Church with his sister and her husband, then they surprised us by serving a heart-healthy dinner at their house. Arick came out and put the finishing touches on the shop add-on that everyone worked so hard on Saturday.
Cliff is a happy camper! Now if we can just get his hay mowed, baled and put up without incident, things will be perfect.
Saturday, May 13, 2006
Friday, May 12, 2006
See the roll of fat at the top of Blue's neck? When my last horse foundered, the vet told me that is the first indication that you had better get a horse on dry lot. Blue does have a big, crested neck by nature, but not THAT big.
And there must be some reason the girth of his saddle is getting almost too short.
The picture yesterday was deceiving. I think this one, which I just took, tells the tale; the poor boy looks like a draft horse.
It will help matters when I get in the routine of riding at least three times a week again, but he is such a chow hound (like everybody else around here) that he still needs to be kept on a diet.
When it comes to a television set, it doesn't take much to make me and Cliff happy. Our living room is small, so a really large TV wouldn't work even if we wanted one; and we've never had a problem watching analog television; we grew up with it, after all. We are not connoisseurs. Personally, I don't watch enough television for it to matter.
We bought our current, cheap set at Walmart. It's starting to fail us: no remote will work with it now, so we watch it by way of the VCR so we can still switch channels from our chairs with the VCR remote; if we turn it off with the captions running (Cliff uses captions because he's hard of hearing) it sometimes won't come back on.
We're going to have to make a decision soon on what type TV to buy.
Everybody knows the old cheap analog televisions will eventually be a thing of the past, and for years I've thought we'd be forced into buying one of the expensive HD sets the next go-around. Not so: it seems that people with cable or satellite will still be able to view programs on the old sets... it's only those who use an antenna who will be out of luck when the big change takes place (supposedly at the end of this year); here's a quote: "Many analog television owners won’t need a converter: 85 percent of Americans now get all their television from cable or satellite providers, so for the most part the change-over won’t affect them." I found that information HERE.
So, I am not nearly as apprehensive now about going shopping for a television. We might even find what we want at Walmart again.
Thursday, May 11, 2006
Growing up, I wanted a pony more than anything in the world. Unfortunately, we were poor, and except for one period of less than a year, we didn't live on a farm. So I pushed that desire back into the dark recesses of my mind.
Cliff and I had been married a little over a year when we got the chance to buy an old house on twenty acres, and it wasn't long before we heard of a horse for sale. One we could afford. Her name was Ginger, she was two years old and green broke (barely broke, in other words). We paid $75 for her, and $100 for the saddle that came with her.
We knew nothing about horses, so we bought books and asked friends' advice. I enjoyed many hours on Ginger, but she never was really reliable or trustworthy. She never bucked me off, though. She simply had a tendency to balk at silly things, and spook at the slightest movement.
We've had at least half-a-dozen other horses over the years. I've always promised Cliff, and myself, that if it got to the point where I wasn't riding a horse I owned, I'd sell it. The cost of their upkeep is too high to keep them as a pasture-ornament... plus, it isn't fair to the horse to be put to pasture and given no attention.
When I went to work six years ago, it wasn't long before I decided it was time to sell Pleasure Boy, the horse I had at the time. After walking on my job all day, I had little energy left for riding. When I sold him, I told Cliff, "With my knees like they are, and at my age, I'll probably never have another horse. I've lost the desire, I think."
And then I read the book "Seabiscuit". I can't explain why, but the deeper I got into the book, the more I wanted another horse.
One day I was chatting with a co-worker about her horses, and I told her, "If I could get just the right horse... a horse my whole family could enjoy... for the right price... I think I'd like to have another one."
"I'll bet I could find you that kind of horse," Jessica said.
That led me to Blue, the horse I now own. Some guy who worked with Jessica's husband had a couple of geldings he wanted to sell. Registered Foxtrotters, even. I've always preferred gaited horses. The price was $1,000.
I chose the smallest of the two geldings, and I was back in business.
There were a few problems early on, as Blue and I got acquainted; but he and I soon came to an agreement on how things should be. And once we got to that stage, anyone could ride him: My daughter, my neighbor kids, my grandchildren.
I've finally found a horse I don't intend to sell, even if I never ride him again. He's not only a pet. He's my friend.
So today Cliff and I watched the movie, "Seabiscuit", and I realized how small a thing it takes to change your life.
Thanks to a book I happened to read, I've derived countless hours of pleasure, riding horseback across my beloved Missouri countryside.
And my childhood dream came true.
That's my Blue, today.
There are things that, left undone, drive Cliff nuts: The yard that needs mowing, the brush in the pasture taking over, the hay being ready to cut when weather won't cooperate, the dry lot growing up in weeds, a huge wash in the driveway. This is where friends and neighbors save his sanity. Tyler and Travis, the fifteen-year-old home-schooled twins next door, do any lifting, tugging, mowing, or hauling-things-off that needs done. Any friend or relative who drops by can also be enlisted for help. Last weekend my son-in-law, Kevin, and my grandson Brett and his friend, moved a stretch of electric fence over, preparing for mowing of our alfalfa.
Cliff still isn't supposed to lift over five pounds. He can ride on the riding mower, but not the tractor. Why? Because he'd have to pull himself up onto the tractor, which could rip the wires that are holding his chest together right now. We are blessed with a couple of neighbor boys whose grandfather in the city practically let them cut their teeth on lawn mowers and garden tractors. When they met Cliff, he honed and improved the skills they already possessed. It would appear that God sent the boys into our lives for such a time as this. Oh, they benefit from the association: Any time they have a project that needs some welding, or a tire to be aired up... whenever they're doing something that is better done in a well-equipped shop... they have Cliff's equipment and tools to work with, as well as his guidance and advice. Other neighbor boys can be enlisted for help too, when needed.
On another subject: I took a long, long ride along the river bottom on Blue yesterday, and realized the terrible truth: My horse is too fat, to the point where he could founder if I don't do something about it. So he is now on dry lot, and will be turned out for only an hour or two, twice a day. I feel sorry for him, but it's for his own good. He certainly didn't act like he was out of shape, though. He had all kinds of energy for the 1 1/2 hours I rode him.
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
This is the impromptu drawing a doctor did for us after Cliff's heart catheterazition, on the back of a piece of paper that was lying near the bed. It shows a 20% blockage, a 40%, a 60%, a 70%, and two 90% ones. The doctor told us he wouldn't feel safe even letting Cliff drive home, with so many blockages.
And to think we woke up that morning planning on Cliff having a walk on a treadmill and being pronounced fit as a fiddle (after all, he was walking daily and doing pushups); then we'd eat out, and get home in time for him to go to work.
Here's the doctor who drew the picture, explaining all those problems to Cliff.
In researching coronary artery bypass surgery, I come across tidbits like this:
" Twenty to 30% of bypass patients will need a second procedure within 10 years."
"What are the long-term results after CABG surgery? 5-10% of vein grafts become blocked within the first 2 weeks after CABG surgery due to blood clotting. Blood clots form in the grafts usually because of small arteries beyond the insertion site of the graft causing sluggish blood run off. Another 10% of vein grafts close off between 2 weeks and 1 year after CABG surgery. Use of aspirin to thin the blood has been shown to reduce these later closings by 50%. Grafts become narrowed after the first 5 years as cells stick to the inner lining and multiply, causing formation of scar tissue (intimal fibrosis) and actual atherosclerosis. After 10 years, only 2/3 of vein grafts are open and 1/2 of these have at least moderate narrowings."
"Repeat CABG surgery is occasionally necessary and is done for the same indications as the first surgery. Repeat CABG surgical mortality is 5 to 10% and it is less effective at relieving angina than the initial operation."
I'm optimistic about Cliff's health. I've kicked salt out of my kitchen to such an extent that my blood pressure is lower than it's been in years. But when I see statistics like these, I realize I must cherish each day I spend with my husband. We never know what tomorrow will bring.
Isn't that right, Carlene and Sue and Lona?
Tuesday, May 9, 2006
If you didn't see the entries about the stupid flat tire, click here . (Don't get me started.)
The main problem that messed up our putting the patched tube into the tire was something called a "rim-lock". I don't understand why or how, but that's what Cliff told me.
After our two stabs at fixing the flat, Cliff decided to join forces with Ryan's parents and get him on the road again. So Saturday they went to professionals and got a new tube put into the tire.
Ryan is on the road again. And again. And again.
In the previous entry, I quoted Natalie as saying, "because they'd yell at me."
Neither my daughter nor my son-in-law are the sort of people who yell at their children.
The girls are more likely to be yelled at here, at my house, than they are at home.
I figured I'd better straighten that out, lest someone get the wrong impression about my daughter and Kevin.
I awoke in the night and turned the TV on, muted, so as not to disturb Cliff. I must have dozed back off, because the next thing I remember is being awakened by my eight-year-old granddaughter, Natalie, standing at my bedside in her nightshirt. My first thought was that I had overslept past 6:30 A.M., and that my daughter had brought the girls as usual.
Then I looked at the clock beside my bed: 12:15 PM.
"What are you doing here? How did you get here?" I said. (Their house is two miles from here.)
"Barefooted?" I asked, incredulous, looking down at her feet.
"No. My shoes are in the hall."
"Why did you walk here?"
"I don't know."
"Why didn't you wake your parents?"
"Because they'd yell at me."
After trying to call my daughter's house, then her cell, and getting no response, Cliff decided we'd better take Natalie home. (Good thing he was told he could drive yesterday.)
Kevin, when he came to the door, was speechless.
So this morning when Rachel brought the girls, I asked if she'd found out any reason for Natalie's midnight walk.
"She said she had a bad dream, and we always just tell her to go back to bed. I don't think she realized how long it would take her to walk here, though."
How long, indeed. I walked to town to make a bank deposit a few days ago, and I was walking for speed and aerobic benefit. It took me thirty-five minutes one way. I'm sure Natalie would have been walking much slower, knowing her usual pace. Probably a forty-five minute walk for her. At midnight, on a lonely country byway. An eight-year-old. All alone.
Wow. That's scary.
Monday, May 8, 2006
Your Monday Photo Shoot: Grab Bag! Show off any picture you want, as long as it's really cool. That's right, you make the call -- all I want is to look at it and say "Whoa! What a neat picture."
OK folks, here it is: The sofa-mobile! The picture was taken a couple of hours ago.
The people who live in our rental place got themselves a new sofa, and put this one out to be hauled away. Then their son (the driver), along with some of his friends, decided to invent this unique mode of travel.
There's nothing like a group of boys to figure out how to have fun with junk.
If you want to join in on the Monday Photo Shoot, be sure and leave a link to your entry at John Scalzi's blog.
OK, remember the killer drug I was worrying about? The one with dozens of possible side effects?
I called Midwest Cardiology this morning and left a message for the nurse, telling her we weren't really comfortable with Cliff taking that drug, especially such a high dose (400 mg).
We just got a phone call: The nurse had discussed the situation with the doctor, and he reduced the dose by half. Cliff will now take one pill, rather than two. And if he's doing OK at his first visit with them in a month, they'll take it away entirely.
Folks, I was ready to do battle. I didn't think they'd take my interfering well at all.
This whole experience has shown me that not only are doctors human, but some of them are pretty darned nice, reasonable people.
I'm still in shock. They actually LISTENED to me!
We visited the surgeon's office today for a checkup.
Cliff can drive again! Not for long distances, but still. He was disappointed to learn that he still isn't allowed to lift over five pounds for another two or three months, but he'll have to deal with it. Since our riding lawn mower is an electric-start type (as opposed to pull-the-rope-to-start) he is allowed to mow. So he has a few things to keep him out of mischief, and I know he'll be happier if he can do something.
His heart and lungs checked out great, and no part of his heart is damaged, as I had thought earlier.
I mentioned the evil pills to the nurse (although it was the other doctors who prescribed them, not the surgeon) and she said since Cliff hadn't had arrhytmia before the surgery, that particular prescription is probably temporary. "1/3 of our patients have arrhytmia after open heart surgery," she said. "It's a temporary thing caused by their heart being stopped and handled and re-started."
I had a list of questions for them, and was quite satisfied with all the answers. The nurse seemed to think I was going overboard on keeping salt out of things, but we're getting along so well with our diet plan, I think I'll keep it up, although I might see that we have red meat a couple times a week instead of only once. Oh yes, she said it would be good if Cliff limited his caffeine intake.
I feel good!
As for the Pacerone, I called the other doctors' office this morning and left a message telling them of my concerns; I'm sure they'll return my call this evening or tomorrow morning.
$85,774. But with a contractual adjustment of $33,105, which brings it down to $52,119... 100% of which the insurance is expected to pay.
But Cliff spent his first night in a different hospital (these two Independence hospitals will soon be combined into one new facility). That hospital bill is $7,646.
Anesthesia costs are $4,670.
The heart surgeon's bill is $10,033, plus another $610 for painfully inserting a chest tube, which interupted his Sunday afternoon off.
The wonderful thing about it all is that our insurance handles most of these costs. The largest out-of-pocket amount for us so far is to the heart surgeon: $578. Since Cliff's great job benefits keep our income rolling in while he's off work, I believe we can handle that.
So I won't complain about the costs. Cliff and I went for many years with no insurance at all, and it amazes me that we managed to stay away from doctors and hospitals for the most part, during that time. We are thankful every day that he now has a job with great benefits, which includes health insurance.
Sunday, May 7, 2006
I had some pieces of our last ham in the freezer, so I made pinto beans with ham this morning. I didn't add any salt, but the ham gave it enough salty taste anyhow. Would you believe this was the first meat, other than chicken or fish, that Cliff's had since he came home from the hospital?
We called my daughter and told her we had plenty of beans, so her family was here for much of the day; her husband, Kevin, used Cliff's shop to work on one of their cars.
I went for a long overdue horseback ride, and Blue performed like a champ, overweight and underused though he is. When I got back, Arick posed on my horse for some pictures, and Natalie rode in the yard and drylot for awhile.
Cliff has been walking in the pasture at mid-morning every day, and Sadie and I have been going with him, letting him set the pace. Later on, the dog and I go for a fast walk by ourselves.
When I told Cliff I was going for my "powerwalk" this afternoon, he said he was going for walk too (he'd taken one earlier), but that he wasn't going to try and keep up with me. Then Natalie said she was going with her grandpa. It was a little nippy, but the walk warmed us up.
I've been applying "Off" to my ankles, neck, waist and shoulders before I walk, but I'm still picking up at least one seed tick every day. They're so tiny I can't see them, and Cliff has to put on his glasses and get them with a tweezer. At least I've had no run-ins with deer ticks this year!
I've been waking up in the wee hours of the morning lately, and I can't go back to sleep.
Because I can't stop thinking about one particular drug the doctors have Cliff taking: Pacerone.
It should have raised a red flag when the pharmacist refused to fill the prescription the first evening, but we were so excited to get Cliff home, nobody thought much about it.
I usually research any drug prescribed to either of us, simply because I like to be informed. Never have I been as terrified by any single medicine as I am by this one.
Some of the side effects:
Amiodarone has numerous side effects. Most individuals administered amiodarone on a chronic basis will experience at least one side effect.
Due to the iodine content of the agent (37.3% by weight), abnormalities in thyroid function are common. Amiodarone is structurally similar to thyroxine (a thyroid hormone), which contributes to the effects of amiodarone on thyroid function. The incidence of hypothyroidism is about 6%, while the incidence of hyperthyroidism is about 2%. They are called Wolff-Chalkoff and Jodbasedow effect separately.
Measurement of free thyroxine (FT4) alone may be unreliable and thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) should therefore also be checked every 6 months .
Corneal micro-deposits are almost universally present (over 90%) in individuals taking amiodarone for at least 6 months. These deposits typically do not cause any symptoms. About 1 in 10 individuals may complain of a blueish halo.
Liver toxicity due to amiodarone is quite rare. A drug-induced hepatitis (inflammation of the liver) may occur and is sometimes reversible bylowering the dose.
Long-term administration of amiodarone is associated with a blue-grey discoloration of the skin. This is more commonly seen in individuals with lighter skin tones. The discoloration may revert upon cessation of the drug. However, the skin color may not return completely to normal.
Individuals taking amiodarone may become more sensitive to the harmful effects of UV-A light. Taking sunblock that also blocks UV-A rays appears to prevent this side effect.
The most serious reaction that is due to amiodarone is idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. The incidence of pulmonary fibrosis is not dose related. Some individuals were noted to develop pulmonary fibrosis after a week of treatment, while others did not develop it after years of continuous use. There are no known factors that increase the incidence of amiodarone-induced pulmonary fibrosis in a particular individual. Common practice is to avoid the agent if possible in individuals with decreased lung function.
The most specific test of pulmonary toxicity due to amiodarone is a dramatically decreased DLCO noted on pulmonary function testing.
The trouble is, you can't just withdraw the drug, or I'd have had Cliff stop taking the pills already. It isn't secreted in the urine, so it's in your body for months after you ingest it... something about a half-life.
Cliff will be seeing the surgeon tomorrow afternoon (Monday), but I don't think he's the one responsible for prescribing this medication... although I will be mentioning it. However, I'm calling the other heart specialist's office in the morning, and I intend to make my voice heard. Don't be surprised if some of you who live within a 100-mile radius hear me, too.
The drug was prescribed because Cliff had a couple spells of arrhythmia while he was in the hospital, by the way. There are plenty of other drugs that could have been used.
Friday, May 5, 2006
Cliff thought he had a way figured out to get that pesky inner tube out of Ryan's dirt bike tire and get it fixed, without doing any damage to his recuperating body. Oh, there was some grunt work involved, but I wasn't doing anything else, so that fell to me. We had lots of laughs, and were SO careful putting the tube back in, hoping not to puncture it like Ryan did last night.
Well, in spite of our efforts, it was like a re-run of yesterday.
But you know, Cliff was so happy while he was occupied with the project, it was worth doing anyhow.
1. Cliff seems to be recovering nicely from surgery.
2. He is a pleasure to have around... not grumpy or demanding.
3. Cliff receives full pay for the first three months he's off work, then 80% of pay for the next three months after that. He should be able to return to work in five months, so our finances should do just fine, Good Lord willing.
4. We seem to be out of the drought now, having had three inches of rain in the last week.
5. I'm getting the guitar-playing callouses back on the fingertips of my left hand.
6. Our alfalfa crop looks great!
7. Our insurance paid most of Cliff's hospital and doctor bills: So far it looks like maybe we'll have to pay $1,000 or so out of pocket, which isn't bad at all.
8. I don't drive, and right now Cliff isn't allowed to; but we have loved ones who see to it we get where we need to go.
9. I can watch CSI every night at 6 PM.
10. If Cliff's going to be off work for five or six months, we might manage to get in a nice vacation toward the end of summer.
One of our next-door neighbor boys, Ryan, got a new dirt bike two or three months back; just as he was getting really good at riding it, the thing got a flat tire. So for two weeks, it's been parked.
Ryan was in the shop visiting with Cliff and mentioned his bike being down. Cliff said, "Bring it over and we'll fix the flat; it doesn't take a rocket scientist."
When I saw what was going on, I got nervous. Cliff isn't supposed to lift over five pounds, and I couldn't see him being able to keep his hands off this project.
So, with me hovering nearby and occasionally shouting, "Don't you LIFT that!!!", he proceeded to give Ryan step-by-step instructions.
Things went well until it came time to put the repaired tube back in the tire. Somewhere in the process of doing that, the tube got pinched with the screwdriver Ryan was using. All that work for nothing.
At least it kept Cliff's mind busy for a couple of hours.
Thursday, May 4, 2006
Your Monday Photo Shoot: Snap some shots of the birds around you. Whether they're out your window or in your house as pets, let's see some pictures of your fine feathered friends. You can take new shots or use old ones -- but try not to use shot you've already used before. Also remember that although it's called the Monday Photo Shoot, you can put up pictures on Tuesday, Wednesday or even Thursday morning and still have them part of the roundup on Thursday afternoon.
OK John, here ya go... barely in time to be included, but you know, I'm playing nurse lately. I saw this turkey vulture soaring in the sky when I took my walk yesterday.
When Cliff first came out of surgery, the respiratory therapists stressed to him that he had to work with the incentive spirometer OFTEN. It was painful for him, but he intended to get out of the hospital as quickly as possible, and he worked hard at it.
When he was out of ICU, he still used the contraption diligently. One night nurse, Amee, laughed because she'd hear Cliff in the middle of the night using his spirometer. "Nobody ever uses those things unless there's someone standing over them, forcing them to do it," she said.
Obviously nobody else was as determined as Cliff was to get home!
He's still doing it three or four times a day. And as you can see by the pictures, the granddaughters consider it a new toy.
Don't you love the smiles?
Wednesday, May 3, 2006
I finally got below 160 while spending nights in the hospital with Cliff. Today I'm 157 and 1/2. Ten more pounds of loss would be perfect! I've lost 30 1/2 pounds total.
Now for Cliff. He went into the hospital weighing 237 pounds, which was a 40-pound loss since December. Yesterday morning he weighed 227! This morning I was a little concerned because he weighed 230, and we were told to report a gain of more than two pounds in 24 hours; however, I couldn't detect any edema in his ankles, and I knew the visiting nurse would be here. She pronounced his lungs clear, and no edema in evidence. Swollen ankles and labored breathing could be indications of congestive heart failure.
I had some cause for concern yesterday, too: Cliff was getting dizzy every time he got up from a sitting position. It didn't take me long to remember that this is a sign of low blood pressure; sure enough, we checked, and his blood pressure was 90 over 65. I called the heart doctor's office, and they told me to quit giving him one of the pills he was taking. His blood pressure is still pretty low today (110/65) but at least he isn't dizzy.
The home health nurse said Cliff looks great, his incisions are doing well, and she saw no reason to return unless we wanted her here again; we agreed.
Tuesday, May 2, 2006
Cliff was in the shop, and the granddaughters were hanging out with him; I assumed he was watching out for them. Then my son-in-law, Kevin, arrived, and discovered his youngest daughter was stuck in a tree in the front yard. Of course I had to take pictures.
The picture of Marvin's house being torn down is taken from the view I have here at my house. It'll be nice to have it gone.
Oh, on another subject: Remember the stitches in my leg? I had Cliff remove the stitches. He did a great job!
Yeah, I'm frustrated. And misunderstood.
Reading the comments on the last entry, people seem to think I am taking the blame for Cliff's heart trouble. Folks, I am not. It wasn't a lack of caring that caused me to ignore obvious heart symptoms, it was plain, old-fashioned ignorance.
When my friend Joanna gave me information that opened my eyes, I got Cliff to a doctor PDQ.
I wanted to pass along the favor that Joanna did for Cliff and me. I want people to be aware of the symptoms. If you choose to ignore the advice, and say to yourself, "I know people who did everything right and they died at age fifty," you go right ahead. I've done what I could.
I did not do the previous entry to have my ego stroked or to be poor-babied.
Actually, I take much of the credit for Cliff's life being saved: It was I who insisted we start walking in the pasture, where Cliff first had his chest pains, which in the long run got us to the doctor. I was the one who practically FORCED him to keep his doctor appointment. I am 100% responsible (ask him) for his losing 35 pounds before this happened, so he already had a head start on losing the weight that he needs rid of so as not to overwork his heart.
I may have put this in my journal before: Cliff's heart doctor, the one who diagnosed him, told him he is actually a heart doctor's dream patient, because he quit smoking, he is losing weight, and he walks every day. These are the things most heart patients refuse to do; Cliff can take credit for quitting the cigarettes, but he can thank me for the other two.
Feel better now?
and NO, I am NOT offended by the well-meaning comments.
When I think of what Cliff has gone through, these past two weeks, I realize that it could have been prevented.
He had borderline-high blood pressure in his thirties. By the time he was fifty, he was on blood pressure meds. Our doctor told him when he put him on these prescription drugs to cut the salt out of his diet. Cliff came home and told me this, but I more or less shrugged it off. So did he. Oh, we consumed less salt than many people do; we never use the salt-shaker at the table, for instance. But I didn't do the research to learn just how much salt there is in everyday, ordinary foods; ignorance is bliss.
It was the same with cholesterol. Surely it'll all work out, I thought. We don't eat that many eggs.
I have been known to accuse my dear husband of sticking his head in the sand when trouble comes, but it looks like I did a pretty good job of that myself. Could I have prevented this bypass surgery from which he's recovering? And the permanent damage to his heart caused by insufficient blood supply?
There's another thing: Four or five years ago, Cliff had several spells of severe chest pains. He went to emergency rooms three times, fairly certain he was dying. He was given an exercise stress test, and it showed no problems. I have no doubt catheterization would have shown heart problems at that time.
Anyway, I decided Cliff must be having anxiety attacks, since nobody was finding anything wrong. The spells subsided, and he agreed that my diagnosis must be correct.
A few months ago we started going for half-hour walks in our pasture. Every day, coming up one extreme hill, Cliff had to stop and get his breath. He mentioned that he had pain in his chest... "right here", he'd say, placing his hand in the center of his chest.
"Is it heartburn?" I asked him.
"I don't know; it feels like my heart."
Tums seemed to help. At first. Then they didn't.
Do you see why I feel very guilty? I had all these warning signs and made light of them. I'm also a little angry that the doctors four years ago didn't delve deeper and discover Cliff's problem.
I suppose, if my friend Joanna hadn't come to visit, I'd have kept walking Cliff up that hill until he had a full-blown heart attack. Joanna described what had happened to her brother-in-law when he was having similar heartburn episodes, and that's what got us to the doctor.
So all the learning and studying I'm doing concerning sodium and cholesterol is like locking the barn door after the horse got out.
I'm not one to berate myself for past mistakes, because no good comes from that; this entry is meant to help someone else. Perhaps some of you can learn from my mistakes.
Monday, May 1, 2006
I can't say I've accomplished a lot today, except for educating myself some more on sodium content of foods, and cooking meals. I follow Cliff around a lot, making sure he doesn't do anything he shouldn't.
Thanks to Travis and Tyler, we got the heifer calves loaded with no strain on Cliff; his brother, Phil, hitched up to the trailer and took them away.
While taking my regular walk this morning, I heard a deep, throaty growl in the woods near the path, the sort of growl you don't want to hear from a dog because it means business. Right after the growl I heard some baby yip-yip-yips... then another growl, then more yips. My guess is that a mother coyote saw me and Sadie, and was forcing her babies to safety against their will.