A Sweet Story

When I went to feed the chickens two days ago, I found my favorite hen, Red, a mix of Rhode Island Red and who knows what else, paralyzed. She was lopsided, totally unable to move, her legs stretched behind her.

She’s dying, I thought. When birds are paralyzed, something is drastically wrong and they are dying.  I cried. This was the chicken who came to me hungry and thirsty so I put her in the coop with the others and she thanked me by laying beautiful brown eggs.  If it is possible to love a chicken, I loved this hen.

What should I do? Hasten the process of her dying, put her out of her misery? But I couldn’t do that. Could not see myself or anyone else chopping off her head. Instead, I put some straw in a wide, blue plastic bin and set her in it. She wobbled so I propped her up with a handful of straw and there she sat. I put the bin in shade on the back porch and went inside.

Two of my grandchildren are visiting for Grandma camp. “Grandma, what is that by your eye?”

Red and her banty rooster friend, Jack Benny

“It’s a tear. The red chicken is dying,” I said. “She can’t move. I’m sad.” Then I went to the stove and with back to my family, made pancakes.

Jimmy, 11, said the blessing. “And Heavenly Father, bless the little red hen that she will get well.”  Oh, I thought, how can I tell him when the chicken dies?

An hour later I went to check on Red. I picked her up. She didn’t cluck. She didn’t struggle. But two of her long toes curled and clutched at air. “Hmmm,” I told her. “I must have missed this when I put you in the bucket.”

Another hour passed and I went outside to check on her. This time she clucked when I approached and she was sitting straight, like a nesting chicken. I tried to stand her up. Her legs went down instead of out behind her, but she wobbled so I settled her back into the straw.

I had an errand so I was gone for a couple of hours. When I came back, the bucket was empty and there was one brown egg in the clay pot where she laid her eggs. She was out of the coop scratching for bugs with the other chickens.

Chicken coop. We plant the sunflowers on Mothers’ Day for shade.

What happened? Jimmy’s prayers? A little boy’s faith? So simple.

I wonder if Red was stung by a scorpion. We have a lot of them where I live. It’s possible and could explain what happened.

I had my own prayers to say. “Thank you for saving Red and for answering Jimmy’s prayer.”

What happened to this chicken was a large part of my day. It reminds me of a poem by Willian Carlos Williams, The Red Wheelbarrow.

so much depends
upon

a red wheel
barrow

glazed with rain
water

beside the white
chickens

A red wheelbarrow, rain water, white chickens—a picturesque scene of common, ordinary things, that in a way, become a portrait of a person’s soul, of things that matter to him, to her.

Our small miracle happened two mornings ago. Yesterday, I ran outside and sure enough, there was Red, waiting for her breakfast. I picked a few extra cherry tomatoes for her and a couple of leaves of chard. “Hello, chickie, chickies . . .”

Reflections on a news blurb from June 21, 2018

After reading this morning’s news blurbs, I am more convinced than ever that reportage has become exercises in creative writing, loosely (often VERY loosely) based on reality, hysterical, generalized and in-your-face hyperbole.

This morning’s gem?

Kids being separated from their families is an uber emotional issue.

But really, now.  Last thing I read was of widespread use of psychotropics in these kids.  Maybe the issue merits closer study. How many kisd? What shape were they in when they arrived? After what some of these children have been through, particularly the ones abandoned to coyotes and the brutality of the trip to our border, they will need more than psychotropic drugs to reclaim any sense of rationality. These  drugs are often a stopgap. How to get through the raging storm. How to simmer down enough to be reached with kindness, reasonableness and safety.

Children are the tip of the iceberg , the most visible and the most vulnerable. Our current policy is a nightmare conclusion of ill-thought out, politically motivated and short-sighted legislation and a brash president who decided with executive order he could circumvent constitutional law.

The ball has, appropriately been tossed to Congress to fix. The Executive branch of government is tasked with enforcing existing law. However much liberals cry foul, it is obvious they want anything but what the current administration is doing, as seen by their outcry regarding Trump’s executive order of yesterday, and a rapid morph produced by a blatant, transparent and belligerent linked-arms obstruction and to do so with as much noise as possible. They want to obstruct more than fix.

I would have sent my kids to time-out for this kind of behavior. And to think we actually pay these people’s salaries!

Liberal immigration and border strategies have led, are leading and will lead to more chaos in our country.   Rants, tantrums, invectives, tears—yes a real watery tear now and then, and nasty tweets do not substitute for integrity,  diligence, negotiation, statesmanship, compromise and ultimately, improved border security and immigration policies that are sensible, compassionate, and create order rather than the chaotic, unfair, and dangerous situation we now have.

Who am I? I am a 69 year old woman who lives in a border state. My father farmed and used Mexican farmhands because they were inventive, hardworking and knew how to get the job done.  Some had visas. They had ways to cross the border. Sometimes they were sent home. They were good people. When my dad died, they put on their best jeans and work shirts and came to his funeral. They called him Uncle.

One the other hand,  twenty years ago I took  classes at a Junior College with some Hispanic young women who had the worst attitude about learning, about speaking and writing English and about whites, I’ve ever seen. They were rude, entitled and nasty.  I’m not sure why they were there and noted that they dropped out before the semester was over. I’ve asked myself innumerable times, dropped out to do what?

Immigration is complicated.  And over the years, stupidity and political motives have made it more so.

Oh, grow up, people! Earn your pay, you grunts.  You know who you are.

The Songbird

 

 

Last month I spent a week in Utah taking care of grandchildren. Being with Emily and Jimmy was great, but what I’m writing about was even better. Every morning, including the one when I woke up to a silent blanket of snow that made me feel as if I was in a Christmas card, a solitary songbird, greeted the day from a roof top at the end of the street.

His song was heart-breakingly beautiful. It was flute-like, sung so clear and sweet into the morning I had to go outside and find him. He was alone, and I wondered if he was the first of his flock to arrive in Saratoga Springs where the trees are as new as the subdivisions, so that they are small, and hardly sturdy places for nests. Was he looking for a mate? Had he been blown off course? What kind was he? Why was he there, this one, solitary bird, singing into the morning with such gladness I wanted to cry. Why?

In the face of such music, I thought of contrasts, of the cacophony of our culture and country and was so sad I cried. We, culturally speaking, seem to be on a steep descent away from dignity, honesty, charity, and moving toward judgment, condemnation, anger, and a frightening willingness to let the end justify the means, however repulsive and demeaning they are.  The human voice is becoming harsh and deceitful.

Yet there was this bird and his beautiful, lonely song. I am convinced he came from a better world, a messenger sent to brighten this one.

Good Finds

March 14th, and I finally feel as if I am over a tough 2017 and a truly bumpy holiday. The road ahead isn’t without its obstacles, but today at least, is a fine spring day and I have found some treasures.  It is these small things, ordinary things, that often surprise us and bring joy into our lives.  Finding these good things, I want to share them, hoping they will bring joy, or entertainment, or something really good to eat into your life.

The first is my outrageous garden. In September, I planted four tomato plants, told them to grow and make a few tomatoes. The two cherry tomato vines took the mission to heart and grew monster canes that have encroached on the driveway and roses and have produced hundreds of delicious, plump and sweet cherry tomatoes. The two patio vines have likewise made tomatoes until they are so heavy they are drooping over the cages.

Amazing

Imagine, tomatoes in November, December, in January and February and now in March.  There is something special about homegrown tomatoes. Ask Dwight who has had three months of tomato sandwiches. How to do it? Lots of good compost, plenty of water, a sunny location  with a south exposure, and our unusually warm winter.

Have no fear. This is FUN.

The second is a fun and creative art book, No Excuses Art Journaling: Making Time for Creativity, by Gina Rossi Armfield. Using a year’s worth of monthly calendars, she uses multi-media including collage, painting, stamping, writing poetry, making watercolor vignettes, and other things to make every day a creative day. I can’t remember when I’ve had so much fun with a project. Along the way, I’ve discovered Washi tapes.  Another good find.

I’m not a scrapbooker, but I think the prompts in No Excuses will ultimately lead to something introspective and significant. Already, I see bits of myself emerging. And that is the key word for March, Emerge—to leave behind that which is old and confining, to come forth new, changed and improved, freshly reborn, and better. Art is self-revelatory. There is in each of us a creative spirit. Finding ways to express that can be challenging. I love discovering something like this that provides assignments and structure.

Slow Cooker Chili

The last is a recipe. Usually, I am not a fan of chili, but I found a recipe in Paleo Slow Cooker Soups and Stews by Amelia Simons, an Amazon best selling author, that is delicious.  With four pounds of hamburger, it makes a crockpot full. The good news is it freezes well. The coconut oil used for sautéing the vegetables gives them a sweet flavor.

Hearty Chili

2 Tbsp coconut oil

8 stalks celery sliced

6 cloves of garlic, minced

2 large onions, diced

4 pounds ground beef

2 Tbsp cumin

2 Tbsp chili powder

4 tsp thyme

24 oz favorite salsa

2 (14.5 0z) cans diced tomatoes

3 (7 oz) cans green chiles

2 Tbsp sea salt

 

  1. Turn slow cooker on HIGH so it heats up while you prepare your ingredients
  2. On the stovetop, use a large skillet to melt coconut oil
  3. Saute celery, garlic and onions until tender
  4. Transfer to slow cooker
  5. Add ground beef so skillet and brown. Drain.
  6. Put browned beef into slow cooker.
  7. Pour in the remaining ingredients and stir gently.

Turn the slow cooker to Low and cook for 6 hours.

A GEM

 

Convinced you can find anything on Amazon, I searched for a book about frozen shoulders and found a gem. It is a strange subject to feel excitement about, but indeed I do.  From Heal Your Frozen Shoulder: an At-Home Rehab Program to End Pain and Regain Range of Motion, the common symptoms of frozen shoulder are

Pain in all directions

Reduced range of motion

Shoulder pain when lying on it

Shoulder stiffness

I have them all, a gimpy left shoulder for which my orthopedic physician says, “Call me when it hurts so bad you want it cut off.”  Grim.  In other words, the MRI showed enough arthritis to merit a replacement. The problem is that shoulders aren’t like knees and hips for which function is readily restored. As another physician said, shoulder replacements are dicey.

But this blog is actually a book review and not a ploy for sympathy—although as I write I am wearing an uncomfortable shoulder apparatus that is supposed to restore good posture and help with the pain. And it does, as long as I can stand wearing it.

Heal Your Frozen Shoulder  by Karl Knopf is a gem because 1) it is clearly written; 2) it has excellent photographs and drawings of exercises and anatomy;  and 3) it is smartly organized into three phases according to restoration of function and diminishment of pain. Knof has worked in the fitness industry for over 40 years and is a believer in restorative exercises.

Some of his tips are about changing the mechanics of your day to day life to protect your shoulder. Others are about activities to avoid – such as don’t work for more than 15 – 20 minutes without a rest for your shoulder and don’t perform prolonged overhead work.

Currently, I’m having acupuncture treatments that have helped loosen up tight muscles and have reduced the pain. Now, I am working on range of motion. Eventually, if the progression continues, I will move to phase 3 in the book which includes strengthening exercises and return to full function.

This is not a speedy process. While injury may be a contributor, a lifetime of misuse also contributes to a frozen shoulder.  It may take a couple of years to return to somewhat normal function.  Hopefully, us bloggers, writers and computer users will thoughtfully protect the wear-out joints: fingers, shoulders, neck, elbows.  For those of us with shoulder problems, this book is a gem.

 

Check your sources, Rene!

I posted something political on Facebook the other day, and almost immediately heard from one of my friends on the other side of the aisle that I need to check my sources. The information I posted was apparently dated and in her mind, from an unreliable source.

Usually I am more cautious about what I post lest I be accused of playing that old game of Gossip, now tweaked for social media. What I posted  had to do with my response to the NFL, the flag, what it means to be a patriot and responsible citizen.

I don’t want to write about the politics, the racial issues, or the fact that what I posted was, even to me, biased, and out of date. Rather, I want to write about what it means to “check my sources.” Thank you, my friend, for this opportunity to reflect on my relationship with Facebook, and on how I decide what to believe and how difficult it is to find accuracy, fairness and “just the facts, mam.”

Check your sources—Okay, my first source, then, is myself, and my response to what I read. I am the sum of my learning, education, experience, religious leanings, and upbringing. When I see, read,or hear, something, it automatically runs through a built-in credibility censor. Determining if I’m going to trust, believe or support something, is connected to my awareness of how it resonates with who I am and what my core beliefs are. Something overtly biased or distorted, or frankly, unbelievable, will not easily pass first muster. I have to pause to consider the source, the content and how it is presented as I think about continuing.

Then, there is the problem with words. From fifty years ago, I hear a Social Studies teacher talking about the fallacies of marketing. “Watch out for glittering generalities”, he said. There were other techniques to woo the consumer/viewer couched in hyperbole or association with the desirable, attractive and/or sexual. Outright spin (which is a misnomer for distortion, fictionalization or even frank lying) seems more a critter of the last ten or fifteen years.

The problem with spin, glittering generalities, etc.,  is that they are often emotion-laden, inciting, and exciting. They are also often transparent. Consider words. Words carry weight beyond their definition. I may define someone as large, burly, gigantic, grossly obese, immense, colossal or monstrous. Each of these words means large or big, but they are shaded and subtly influence someone reading or listening to them.

For example, consider David and Goliath. Were I on David’s side, I might call Goliath monstrous, grotesque, or hideous. On the other hand, were I on Goliath’s side, I might use words such as colossal, heroic, and strong. The words paint different, emotion-loaded images. A non-biased reportage would say that Goliath was somewhere between four and six cubits—six to nine feet, permitting you to make up your own mind about how you feel about him.

Facebook is probably the last place I go for accuracy, unbiased reporting and truth. Unfortunately, it, along with other social media entities, have assumed massive importance in our culture and serve as conveyers of information. There apparently are few effective filters or standards.

What I look for, then, is word usage—the most neutral words and a presentation of facts that includes both sides of a story or argument. And, if I am wanting commentary, I look for someone who in my mind, fairly represents both sides from which he draws his conclusions and observations. I listen to his words and his voice. Sometimes, it is hard to find this kind of honesty.

And finally, I look for what resonates with my basic beliefs which I think have served me well.

Often, our most trusted media sources have caved to bias, spin and innuendo. Our political leaders, likewise have locked arms on either side of the aisle, reminding me of a bitter enactment of that old childhood game Red Rover, Red Rover.  The goal is to break through the locked arms and bring an opponent back to your side. It just doesn’t happen anymore.

 

 

 

An Hour of Reflection about What Matters

 

Green Leaved Tall Trees Under Sunny Sky

 

Cold, overcast, rain—a gray morning. In a small corner in the cemetery, there were perhaps thirty of us brought together by loss clustered around a single headstone with the thought Sometimes life is a moment engraved into the granite.  The short memorial was hosted by a bereavement organization for families who had participated in a reproductive medicine clinic and lost a pregnancy prior to twenty weeks during the preceding year.

These were families who wanted a child.We huddled against the cold listening to poems, to sentiment, until finally, there was the reading of the names: Baby L _____, Twin babies R______, Baby S_____, so many names, one after the other, children conceived, loved and desired who would never lie in the circles of their mothers’ arms.

Someone read a poem by Wendy Roberts, You Mattered:

            You only shone for a moment before you were gone,

              A bright light in the darkness, a unique, special song.

              Just gone, not forgotten, you weren’t meant to be.

              But little treasure, O how much you mattered to me.            

But little treasure—I couldn’t detour my thoughts that went immediately to the innumerable pregnancies intentionally ended during the same year. How many? A million?

It was a bitter irony.