As I was packing a few days ago at our other house, I found a note pad, and took a few minutes to journal some of what I was feeling as I packed:

March 23, 2017

We’re moving. Again. And this time, for the first time in my life, I am moving without my mother – without her help, opinion, presence. She will never set human foot into our new home. I don’t think she would have liked it much, anyway. It’s old and too small for her tastes. Mom craved elegance and light. She would have loved the huge live oak trees in the yard, but not the shadows they perpetually cast over the house – inside and out. But she would have put on a bright smile, told me the house was great, and organized my pantry for me.

This move is particularly difficult for me, also, because we are leaving behind the last house my mother ever lived in. The last place she left her physical imprint. I know I will hang the family photos differently, and there are many of her old original watercolor paintings I will not hang at all.

We’ve donated dozens of her books on Catholicism to our parish library. We just don’t have room for them all. I’ve packed up most of the pictures and nic-nacs she had in her bedroom. Alex has agreed to take her bedroom furniture. Kendall and Alicia already have a lot of her kitchen stuff. Abby has claimed the lion’s share of her clothes. The rest are going to Goodwill or consignment.

Mom’s old coffee pot. . . so many memories. .

But today . . . this afternoon . . . I am alone here, packing up her old kitchen stuff that didn’t sell in last weekend’s  yard sale so that Gaylon can take it all to Goodwill. And the wind is blowing outside like crazy. I hate the wind! Growing up in Southeastern New Mexico, on the edge of the Great Plains (the Llano Estacado) gave me a deep loathing for wind. It blows there so often, and so hard! And today it reminds me that this was the time of year that Mom would take me to Lubbock during Spring Break. Granny would go, too. We’d go to the Great Plains Mall and buy clothes for Spring and Summer. We always ate at a restaurant called Brittany’s – with little red telephones at each table where you could call in your order. (I understand they’ve closed down now.) I loved those little red phones! When we were done at the mall we would always stop at a huge toy store called “Kiddie City” and I would get to choose a special toy. (I was horribly disappointed when I learned to read and discovered that this magical place was not actually called “Kitty” City! LOL)

Those trips were always so much fun, but the wind always blew like crazy. I remember it would often blow so hard that the sky would turn brown and we would have trouble seeing the road. It wasn’t unusual for mom to have to turn on her headlights!

So the wind blowing today makes my task particularly nostalgic, as I hold in my hands old mixing bowls, Tupperware, coffee cups and pots, even carving knives, that bring memories of my childhood flooding back to me. Flashes of my mother baking her famous apple pie or chocolate chip cookies. Memories of her in our kitchen just doing everyday “Mom stuff”. It’s hard for me to stay focused on my work – I should be done by now, but my mother’s ghost won’t let me finish. Not yet. I have to pause, to bask in the warm memories of my mother’s love as I was growing up. Even when these tangible mementos of those sweet childhood moments are long gone, her love will remain.

Yes, of everything my mother left behind for me, the greatest of her gifts was love.

“And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.”
1 Corinthians 13:13

 

Today has been a very bad day. But it started 48 hours ago, when our 11 year old, half deaf and half blind Pekingese bit one of Abby’s friends. Abby’s friend bent down to give Bonnie a kiss, while she was asleep. When she felt someone near her head, it startled her, and she nipped at the girl. With the very few teeth our little dog has left, she managed to puncture her admirer twice, under her lip. As face wounds tend to do, it bled a lot. We were all really horrified that Bonnie would do such a thing, but glad that it hadn’t been worse. We bandaged the girl up, and she went home. Her mom, who had been the victim of a nasty dog bite as a very small child, was pretty freaked out, and took her daughter to the ER for stitches. However, they reassured her (and she reassured me, via text) that her daughter was fine, and didn’t need stitches. I was happy to hear all was well, and thought the crisis had ended. It had only just begun.

Sassy PuppyThis morning I got a phone call from the Williamson County Animal Control, telling me that my dog must now be quarantined! For 10 days! It doesn’t matter to the powers-that-be in WILCO that my little dog is current on all her shots, or that it wasn’t really her fault, or that she is a ‘first offender’.  Or that, in the state of Texas, home quarantine is allowed under such circumstances. Nope. In Williamson County, they demand the worst possible penalty for any infraction, no matter how small.

Williamson County is known for being over the top about ‘law enforcement’. They pulled my younger son over, multiple times, for various offenses, such as a headlight that wasn’t “bright enough”. They handcuffed him and searched his car, only to find. . . . nothing. Repeatedly. Because he had long hair and a clunker of a car. He was sober and not holding. But they were determined to find a reason to arrest him! In their Nazi-like frenzy to “protect and to serve”, they gave him a very low opinion of law enforcement. In fact, they provided him many reasons to mistrust and dislike them. Apparently this crazed level of law extends to sweet little dogs, too.

So, just so everyone knows: if your dog happens to bite someone, for any reason, they are guilty. They will be quarantined, and it doesn’t matter what the particular circumstances happened to be. My dog was asleep on our couch in our living room. She hardly went out and attacked someone!! She was merely startled in her sleep and nipped at whatever/whoever had startled her. She actually loves the poor girl who was trying to kiss her! But now she will be registered as a “vicious animal” for the rest of her life. In fact, this could prevent us from ever being able to rent another home. I am not one to whine about anything, but seriously. This is so unfair!!!

I cannot express how angry I am about this stupid law! And how absolutely devastated I am that I have to take my innocent, loving little pet to a cold quarantine, where she will be alone, not understanding what she did wrong or why this is happening to her. And, just to be clear: I am not angry with Abby’s friend’s mom. She did what she thought was right, and had NO IDEA that any of this would happen. She was so distressed when she found out, that she called her state representative to see if he could do anything to change this, and she called me and offered to pay for Bonnie’s imprisonment. But apparently there’s nothing that can be done.

I know it sounds crazy, but please pray for my little dog. I’m honestly worried that this stress will be the end of her. She suffers from anxiety, and this may be more than she can bear. 😢

Today it has been one year since Mom took her last breath on this earth. So much has changed, and so much is the same. I still haven’t gone through all of her stuff, but I did finally manage to do her laundry about a month ago. I was sort of stunned to see it still sitting there in her closet. I figured she would appreciate me washing the clothes and putting them up, even though she’ll never wear them again.

Gaylon, Kendall, Abby and I went to the cemetery this afternoon. Kendall brought a dozen yellow roses, and we all just sort of stood there stupidly. I mean, what do you do? I honestly don’t know what to do at a grave site!  Do you tell them you’re there? Seems sort of silly, since they are not there! Do you say some sort of prayer? Do you have a moment of silence? I talk to Mom all the time, so it seems surreal that I’d have to go all the way out to the cemetery to talk to her. And yet, it seemed very necessary that we should go. Pay our respects. Somewhere, somehow, I think it mattered. Probably to us more than to her. It was cold and dreary, which also seemed fitting.

The last year has been a blur, and I don’t really remember a lot of it. At least not off the top of my head. If someone asks me about something in particular, I can usually recall it, but no guarantees. I’ve been really focusing on my midwifery studies, and that has been a Godsend. I think without my studies, I might not have gotten out of bed. But instead, I’ve attended 10 births and almost 100 prenatals! I’ve gone to three workshops. I am now certified in Neonatal Resuscitation and have started learning venipuncture! And, in experiencing birth again, I’ve realized that birth and death are both very much alike, in that they are both journeys that, once begun, must be completed. No matter how painful or terrifying, one must finish. There is not other way out but to go through it.

The holidays are over, and we’ve gone through our year of ‘firsts’ without Mom. Without Nana. We’ve all hung on to each other, and we are moving forward. We didn’t want to, but here we all are, a year later, still living and loving and laughing. It’s what she would have wanted for us. While the pain will never fully subside, I know it will never be as searing as it was at first. We’ve all learned to live again in a world without her.

I miss her more than I can ever express, and I know that will never change. But I no longer cry myself to sleep every night. As Abby said, I’m now able to talk more about her life than her death, to remember her living, not dying. That’s huge. So many people have tried to be helpful and tell me how to feel. I can tell within a few words whether or not they’ve ever lost someone really, really close to them. Whether or not they’ve lost their mother.  My friend, Rebecca, said that she, too, is a ‘motherless child’. Yes. I am an adult, I have my own (grown) children. Yet I am now a member of that special, secret club of motherless children. It is a bittersweet hazing, and while I don’t wish it on anyone, it’s apparently unavoidable. But there are so many precious people in that club, who have reached out to me, held me, supported me, and gently guided me through this first year. My debt to them is incalculable.

My husband and children have been beyond amazing, and without them I don’t know where I’d be. Gaylon has been so good to just hold me and love me and let me just BE. He was, without question, closer to my mother than to his own, and yet he’s stood strong for me. Kendall, Alex and Abby have all walked through this with me, while painfully journeying through their own grief. I have a very special place in my heart for my beautiful and tender daughter-in-law, Alicia, who manage to transcend her crippling pain and grief and be there not only for my son, but for my mother, and, for me. My extended family has also been there for me in so many tiny little ways that mean so much. My friends are amazing, still calling and texting me and checking on me. I pray that I will someday be as faithful and true as they are. And mom’s friends have been checking on me, too!

So, yes. Life does go on. A year ago, I couldn’t imagine it. And somehow, it seems more vivid, more colorful, more. . . real. Maybe that’s because I am so much more aware of how very fleeting it is. We had no idea that we were going to lose Mom so soon or so quickly. I have learned, a little bit more, to savor every moment. I want to make every word count, and to say it in love. I want to take risks and have adventures. Because, as trite as it sounds, it’s true: we really are never guaranteed tomorrow.

This year, I am officially the Matriarch of our small family. So, yeah, you might want to say a prayer for my husband and kids. Matriarchs are not supposed to still be operating (at least mentally) on a 20 year-old level. I’m having to navigate everyone’s food preferences, and make sure that there is plenty of gluten-free stuff for my hubby, and non-Thanksgiving type food for my daughter. I have to make the Pumpkin Cheesecake, lest the entire family mutiny. I have to do most of the cleaning up for myself, because Mom is no longer here, and Gaylon and Abby are working. And I have to figure out how to make the things my mother always made, like her amazing fruit salad. And NO! I do NOT want it with yogurt or kefir or almond milk! Ewwww!!!! We are going to at least do the fruit salad correctly, and use good, old-fashioned Hellman’s Mayonnaise! And if we all die from it, at least we’ll die happy!

But in reality, all I want to do is crawl back into a safe place in my past, that looks something like this: I wake up on Thanksgiving morning to the entire house filled with the smells of my mother and grandmother cooking turkey in the kitchen. I will pad out to greet everyone, and there will be pumpkin pie (made by Granny), apple pie, and pumpkin bread (made by my mom) covering up one counter. (My brother will bring his World-Famous-Or-At-Least-It-Should-Be Pecan Pie when he shows up later.) My grandmother will probably already be tipsy, although there will be no evidence of this, since her main source of alcohol was the vanilla! Or vodka, but that’s another story. . . Daddy and Granddad will be drinking coffee and discussing all sorts of things that I don’t care about or understand, but now that I will never again awake to the hum of their voices, would give anything to hear. In addition to the wonderful smell of turkey, the air will be filled with the scent of coffee, cigarette smoke from my grandmother and my dad, and with the steam from the potatoes my mother is boiling on the stove.

Granny will worry that the turkey will be too done, and that the stuffing won’t work. She’ll fuss over how much it cost at Tootie’s, and whether or not she should have gotten the potatoes at another grocery store. Daddy will laugh at her, and tease her, and make her laugh, too. My grandfather will sit quietly, taking it all in. He was crippled, so he couldn’t do much around the kitchen, and wouldn’t want to, anyway, since he was born in the day when women did all the cooking. Except in my dad’s case, in which he was an amazing cook, and taught my mother how to cook after they married.

At some point, various relatives will show up. My brother will come, with his (now ex) wife and her bratty kids. She’ll bring sour cream potatoes that were absolutely divine. My Mom’s brother will probably come, too, with his wife and my two cousins. They will have already eaten at her mother’s house, but will make an obligatory stop at our place later in the afternoon, during a football game. Sometimes, my dad’s sister would come, too. Sometimes she brought people with her, sometimes not. My sister rarely joined us, but would call from Albuquerque and talk to Daddy, since we had different moms.

And ah, yes, the football game! After everyone has eaten their fill of the turkey, cornbread stuffing, giblet gravy, rolls, potatoes, corn casserole, fruit salad, cranberry sauce (plopped unceremoniously from the can onto a plate, which I always thought was hysterically funny), candied yams and green beans, we all migrate into the living room to watch football. My mother will scream and cuss and shake her fists at the television, never doubting that her antics would help propel her team to victory. I will probably fall asleep on the big floor pillow in front of the television. After the game, we will all wander back into the kitchen and eat more. There is, as of yet, no such thing as “Black Friday”. In a week or so, depending on when Thanksgiving falls, I will celebrate my birthday with my friend, Maureen, and we will watch “A Charlie Brown Christmas” at either her house or mine. And the whole world will feel completely safe and cozy, with no threat of ISIS or terrorism or economic meltdown.

All of that is, of course, an amalgam, a mixture of my memories of Thanksgiving with my family over the years. My brother and sister are still alive, as are my uncle and his family. Everyone else is gone now: my mom, my dad, my grandparents. And it feels very empty. My husband’s family usually doesn’t invite us to join them, now that his dad has passed. His mom just really isn’t up to it anymore. And even though we are back in Texas with most of the rest of the still-living family, it’s a long drive for any of us to get together, and now, of course, I’m on call for several births. Thanksgiving just ain’t what it used to be.

And yet, my little family still wants to get together and celebrate, and eat perennial favorites, like the corn casserole and the fruit salad. I am doing my best to fill in the gaping hole left by my mother, and yes, I’ve already sat down and cried my eyes out several times. I know I’m not done; this is our first year without her. But we will carry on, and we will enjoy each other and the food, and honor her memory, as well as the memory of all the others who no longer join us at our earthly table.

I grew up Catholic. It’s almost like being born Catholic. I mean, if you do it right, it’s more than a religion, it’s a way of life. Something that permeates every single thing that you do, every thought you have. (Not usually in that order, come to think of it!) Growing up in the post Vatican II chaos that was the 1970’s Catholic Church, I was lucky to actually have some pretty good catechism. I think I can thank two crusty old nuns, in particular, for that: Sr. Josepha and Sr. Mary Catherine. They were a little scary at times, but always fair, and they definitely had our best eternal interests in mind in every thing they did.

So I learned my prayers properly and in the old formats “. . . blessed art thou amongst women. . .” none of this “blessed are you among women” stuff! And I learned to say the actual sign of the cross, (“In the name OF the Father, and OF the Son, and OF the Holy Spirit”) not the “swatting of the flies” (“fathersonholyspirit”) as Sr. Josepha described the haphazard way 2nd graders are wont to perform this act if they’re not carefully monitored!

I heard Catholic terms like “Fullness of Faith”, “Faithful Departed” and “Apostolic Succession” without ever really giving it much thought. I knew I was Catholic. Everyone I knew was also Catholic. It wasn’t until High School that anybody even challenged my Catholicism. I still remember that day. Keri (Carrie?) somebody-or-other asked me if I was saved. I had no clue what she was talking about, because “saved” is not a term we use. So I said “From what?” She thought I was being sarcastic, gasped, spun around in her desk and Never. Spoke. To me. Again. Years later, I had a Baptist boyfriend who had the same question for me, only he cared enough to explain it to me. Once I understood I assured him that I was, indeed, “saved”. And just for the record, ALL Catholics believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. The only difference is that we don’t ever go through the phase where we question this fact and then make a public ‘decision’ or announcement. We are taught from birth that Jesus is our Lord and Savior. We never question that. Just like we never question that the sky is blue. Anyway. . . my point here is that growing up Catholic meant I took a lot of things about my faith for granted, and never fully appreciated the depth and meaning in many of our beliefs and practices.

Like All Souls Day. For anyone who doesn’t know what this is, it is the day on which we commemorate and pray for everyone who has passed on before us. And this is where I realize that we Catholics are a bit different from our fellow Christians. We pray for the dead. Or at least, we should. And we believe that they can pray for us, as well. As a child, this practice didn’t really mean much to me. But now, as the half-century mark looms large in my near future, I find great comfort in these celebrations and traditions. I’ve mentioned before how comforting the familiarity of the Mass is to me when a loved one dies.

This year is the very first time in my life that it has become very real to me how important All Souls Day is. Because my own precious mother is now a member of “The Faithful Departed”. Yes, my grandparents and father all died before she did, but I was so much closer to my mother, and her death has touched me more deeply than anything in my life before. Maybe because there is something so sacred and perfect in the bond between mother and child. Maybe because she lived with us for almost 10 years before she died and was part of my daily life in a way that no other person was before at the time of their death. Maybe because I am really starting to fathom my own mortality. Whatever the reason, attending a special Mass today, dedicated to those who have been interred at Our Lady of the Rosary Cemetery where we laid my mother to rest just ten short months ago, hit me deep within my being.

I had planned to attend the Mass. I knew my daughter would go with me, and I hoped Gaylon would be able to take off of work and come, too. I didn’t think Kendall or Alicia would be able to come, and I was pretty sure Alex wouldn’t want to. He does not do death. I sort of saw attendance at the mass as an obligation of sorts, and didn’t really want to go, but at the same time, I didn’t want to miss it. And then, my precious friend, Becky, texted me early this morning to verify what time the mass was. She said she was rearranging her schedule so she could attend. I thought that was really sweet, but as the day wore on, and I pondered why on earth she would want to rearrange her schedule to attend something I had sort of seen as an obligation, it hit me: she understood the depth and meaning of this day better than I. And she wanted to be there to support me, because she knew this would be difficult for me. Unfortunately, I was applying mascara when this realization dawned, and after I managed to stop crying, I had to start over.

This. This is what being part of the Family of God is all about. I am so very grateful for the beautiful and comforting rites and traditions of the Catholic Faith. And for family and precious friends to share it with me. I am blessed beyond all imagining.

 

 

Herbal Remedies Back in September, I got a sore throat. And after a couple of days, I got that feeling that it was going to take me down for a couple of days. I could feel it moving into my chest, and I knew I was going to get Bronchitis. I know this feeling all too well, having had Bronchitis probably once a year or so since I was a little girl. Usually, it goes away on its own, and I’m ‘down’ for a few days. And, after a while, the cough finally subsides.

But not this time. I don’t know if it was because I had been under so much stress throughout the month of August, or if it was just that my entire system is sort of out of whack this year since Mom died, and I’m just not my usual strong self. Whatever it was, it kept hanging on. I got winded just going up the stairs, to the point that I sort of stopped going upstairs during the day until bedtime. I pretty much lost my voice. And the cough! I thought I was going to cough up a lung or something. It was worse than I can remember in a long, long time. Now, before any of you get started, I was diffusing essential oils in my little diffuser beside my bed every night, and wearing my diffuser necklace with oils on it every day. I smelled like a eucalyptus factory, but I didn’t care.

Now, we don’t have insurance. We are self-employed, and in order to get insurance, it would cost us roughly $750.00/month with a $10,000.00/year deductible. Yeah. . . you read that right.  So, unless something is going to cost us OVER $19,000.00/year, it’s not anywhere near worth it for us to buy insurance. So, we don’t go to the doctor unless we’re on Death’s Doorstep. But I knew I wasn’t going to get better on my own, so I went to the doctor. My regular doctor was booked, so I went to see a different guy at the same office. He determined that I had an Upper Respiratory Infection caused from acute Bronchitis. Of course, I knew that, but still had to pay for him to figure it out. He prescribed antibiotics (Augmentin, for those of you who are interested in that sort of thing), some hydrocodone cough syrup and an albuterol inhaler. Office visit: $192.00. Meds: $118.00. For a grand total of $310.00! (Still $440.00 less than one month’s worth of insurance). The antibiotics made me sick as a dog every time I took them, but I took every last one of them. On time. And did not feel any better. At all.

I sent out a plea for prayer on Facebook, and got lots of prayers and advice. I was already doing most of it, (running the humidifier, diffusing essential oils, hot toddies, etc.) but a friend suggested I start applying the Essential Oils on my spine and feet as well as diffusing them. So I did. Immediately. And I started taking maximum amounts of Elderberry extract for my cough. (I’d given up on the hydrocodone syrup, since it wasn’t really helping, anyway!) My cousin’s wife sent me a bottle of “Thieves”, which Abby says smells like Christmas. (I do think it smells better than DoTerra’s OnGuard). I have been using it all, with very minimal results.

I called my doctor, and scheduled a time to see him. I was coughing as much as ever, and wheezing/rattling when I breathed. Which makes sleep nigh impossible! Anyway, my doctor told me that I had RAD: Restrictive Airway Disease, which is reversible, but miserable. He said he’d had it before, and he was very sympathetic. He prescribed prednisone and gave me some sample steroid inhalers. (Thank God for the free samples!!!) He also told me not to laugh, because it would make me cough more. (Have you guys MET my husband? That’s a tall order!!)

Now, my personal doctor knows that I don’t have insurance, and is totally in agreement with me about how awful Obamacare is, so he made sure that the office visit was as cheap as possible. $79.00. And the prednisone was pretty cheap, I honestly don’t remember the cost at the moment, but I think it’s one of those $10.00 drugs. For those of you keeping tabs, I’m still $340.00 under what a monthly insurance premium would be.

Anyway, I took all the prednisone as prescribed, and felt a bit better, and it definitely improved my willingness and ability to go up and down the stairs, but by that point my sinuses had managed to become clogged to the point of excruciating pain. Every time I coughed, my teeth hurt! Thankfully, I wasn’t coughing as much, but I was still coughing. I called the doctor’s office. Again. He called in more antibiotics. I don’t remember what they were, but it was a 10 day supply, and they didn’t make me quite as ill. By the time I finished taking them this past Sunday, I actually felt worse. 😟 I cannot hear anything but ringing in my right ear, and I cannot smell or taste ANYTHING. At all. I stuck a bottle of Eucalyptus essential oil UP MY NOSE and could NOT smell it. I tried ear oil. No good. I am not big on ear candles, since I’m not convinced they actually work, and they hurt my ears.

IMG_2349

My new Neti Pot

So, I called again. This time, they said I should come back in, which is what I figured they would say. The triage nurse recommended Mucinex DM. I had already been taking it for days. She asked about the humidifier, I told I’d been running it for over a month. Then she recommended a Neti pot. Honestly, if she’d told me to eat a couch cushion, I’d have run straight into the living room and chowed down! I’m seriously desperate. Desperate enough to send Abby out to buy a Neti pot, which I’ve now used a few times. It does seem to help, but I’m still not able to taste or smell anything, and my right ear is still ringing. But I can sort of pop my left ear from time to time. Then it slowly fills up. I’m going to keep using it to see if it eventually helps.

I have an appointment tomorrow at 1:00. I don’t know what to expect. Like I said, I’m still planning on using the Neti pot, and the oils, and the humidifiers, and the Mucinex. I’ve also started using the homeopathic remedy Kali Bichromium. We’ll see what happens at the doctor visit tomorrow.

In the midst of all of this, I am still working toward getting my midwifery license here in Texas. I’ve been working on Anatomy & Physiology, and have an end-of-module workshop coming up in about three weeks! It is almost impossible to focus on my assignments when I feel like my head is in some kind of a bubble, and I’m coughing like crazy! So I’m a little worried that I won’t remember everything I need to, and won’t pass the exam.

I have also had the good fortune to start an apprenticeship with Michele Fitzgerald, an amazing midwife here in Austin. I started working with her on the 6th of this month, and have already gotten to attend a birth with her. I am very worried that this respiratory stuff is going to be an issue, and I desperately want this apprenticeship to be successful. I already love working with her, and with her other apprentices. Her office has such a wonderful Austin vibe, and she is just so warm and real. I am determined to feel better!!!

So, having said all of that, if you read all the way to the end of this: Thank you! I need prayers. Please pray that I’ll be healed, and all of these things I’m doing will help. And, if you have any suggestions for me that I’ve not already tried, please let me know! Like I said, I’m pretty desperate, and very willing to try anything that might help! (And, fwiw, I quit smoking years ago!)

Well, my apprenticeship in Bryan was eventful, but has come to an end. I got to observe 5 lovely births, met lots of delightful folks, and learned a bit about birth centers. Now I just need to observe 5 more births before I can move on to “assisting under supervision”. I will have to do 20 of those! Then I will need to do 25 “Primary Midwife Under Supervision” births, along with mastering various skills. (Anyone wanna volunteer to let me practice venipuncture??) I am hoping to find an apprenticeship in the Austin/Round Rock area this time. It was really difficult being out of town so much.

But, now that I am back home, I am hoping to get back to work on some quilts and other projects that have been on the back burner for far too long. I still have plenty of studying to do, but I am confident I can still get quite a bit of sewing in, too. I’m also hoping that, since I won’t be eating out so often, that I can actually start and complete a Whole30. I feel so much better when I’m not eating junk food!!

Abby has decided to take a Gap Year from school. She is babysitting a LOT, and spends the rest of her time in the sewing room. She is happy, and I’m happy she’s home. Alexander finally got some roommates that he enjoys, and bought himself a new car. He is also happy. Kendall and Gaylon are working their fingers to the bones trying to keep our business moving in the right direction. They are amazing.

There’s not much more news to tell for now, but I thought I’d just sort of post a brief snippet to let everyone know I’m still alive.

 

Last month, I started an apprenticeship with a midwife in Bryan, Texas. I am there for clinicals two to three days a week. Typically, we are open Tuesdays and Wednesdays, but she often has to see clients on other days of the week, as well, just to fit everyone in right now. I am loving being there, and loving being a part of this sacred process again. The birth center has such a sweet spirit, too. Just being there is peaceful!

Because I’m there for at least two days a week, I’ve been staying with my cousin and his family for a couple of nights a week, instead of commuting from Austin each day. This has been a treat for me, because we’ve not gotten to see very much of him over the past several years, and I thoroughly enjoy his family! He has the sweetest wife and such talented and fun children, too. (Okay, I’m a little scared of one of his daughters after I saw the video of her taking down a small cow in a calf-roping competition, but I think I’ll be okay as long as I don’t put a bell around my neck and run out into a rodeo arena!)

There are, however, a few drawbacks. One is that I’m not at home, and I miss my family a lot, and I really miss my cats! And, because I’m not home, I’m not getting very much quilting or sewing done. The other problem is the spiders. My cousin lives out in the country, on a really lovely ranch. Complete with a barn, horses, and goats. And spiders. Did I mention the spiders? They’re EVERYWHERE. And they are ginormous!

Now, before you blow me off because you think I’m exaggerating (due to my unreasonable and uncontrollable terror of arachnids) let me set you straight. Gaylon held a snuff can up next to one of the barn spiders (aka: “writer spiders”, “banana spiders”, “zipper spiders”, etc.) and this thing’s legs extended past the can on both the top and the bottom! Naturally, they’re all over the barn, but there are also two or three of them in every bush, and hanging from every eave. They really, truly are EVERYWHERE. But they’re not the worst ones. Because they are orb weavers, they generally stay put. You know where they are, and as long as you don’t wander into their web, you’ll probably be okay. But. There are also wolf spiders and grass spiders. Roughly the size of tarantulas! (And I have no doubt there are tarantulas, too, but praise be to God! I’ve not seen any of those yet!)

The second week I came over here for clinicals, my cousin and his family had gone down to the Frio for a much-needed summer vacation. I had the house to myself. I was thinking, “Ah! This will be great! I’ll be all alone, and get so much studying done!” I volunteered to feed the goats (although I wasn’t feeling so confident after being informed that they were Show Goats and that everyone else’s goats had been getting sick and dying. . .) I went to the barn and fed the goats, and the cats. And one horse. I saw the barn spiders, but they were way up high, and didn’t seem interested in me, so I just headed back to the house asap, and figured that was it for the night.

But then the dog wanted out. So, I opened the garage door to let him out, and there, about 12 inches from my foot, was THE BIGGEST GRASS SPIDER I’VE EVER SEEN IN MY LIFE. It was the size of my hand! Right there on the dog bed! I broke out in a cold sweat, my mouth went dry, and I froze. I didn’t have anything to kill it with, and besides, I wasn’t sure anything shy of a flame thrower would even come close to being effective. I managed to get the dogs out of the garage, slammed the door shut, ran into the kitchen, and did what any other rational, grown woman would do. I had a panic attack! I could not figure out how to get the dog back into the house without opening that garage door again, and THAT was NOT going to happen. But the dog is really little and cute, and I really didn’t want him to become coyote bait. So, I called Abby, because I knew she’d be awake, and she talked me through it. I went to the front door and called for the dog, and he finally came in that way. Problem solved for the moment, as long as I didn’t have to go out again that night for a birth or anything like that.

But the damage was done. I couldn’t sleep all night long, and the next morning I felt pretty rough. But I knew I had to go feed the goats and get to the birth center. So, I managed to get a shower, forced myself to open the garage door and brave the possibility of that spider still being there. When I opened it, I didn’t see him. I knew he was there, somewhere, but I kept telling myself that if I couldn’t see him, he couldn’t get me. I know, I know. That’s ridiculous, but it worked. I got to the barn, where one of the horses introduced me to one of the biggest barn spiders I’ve ever seen in my life, had a minor panic attack (c’mon. . . this thing was eye level to me!) and managed to get out with my life and back into my car. But I was far from okay by this point. I’d had no sleep and no coffee, and hysteria was creeping in.

So, on the way into Bryan, I called Gaylon. I figured I’d just talk to him, and everything would be okay. But instead, when I heard his voice, I burst into tears and told him everything. (So much for my makeup. . .) My wonderful husband offered to come and be with me. He was there by that evening, and he found (and killed!) Shelob-of-the-Garage, and saved me from any further terrifying encounters. He even took over the feeding of the goats and horses (although I think I was okay with that part, actually. . .) That man deserves an award for Best. Husband. Ever!!! He is just so amazing, and I am so grateful for him. We’ve been married 28 years (almost 29) and honestly, it just keeps getting better!

I’m adapting to life on a ranch a little at a time, and now that my cousin and his family are home it’s much better. (They can let the dog in and out and brave the giant spiders!) Plus, it’s just nice to have them there. . . their house is very big and empty without all of them. 😀

I’ll probably spend more time here than at home this month, due to the fact that we have a lot of births coming up, but my family is super supportive and they can come over here and visit me anytime. So far, for the most part, this adventure is turning out very well!

 

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