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I have been tagged by paperseedblog of http://paperseed.wordpress.com/ and asked to post 7 honest things about myself. It sounds easy,  but I’ve been putting it off. Until now.

I am a homebody. Crowds make me uncomfortable. I hate shopping malls and supersized “one-stop” groceries. Give me a little shop anyday. I dread parties. My home is warm and cozy. It has my husband, my animals, my books, my computer, my hi-def tv and all of my favorite foods. I love my house and being in my house.

 I hate small talk. I am not good at it. I feel awkward and tongue-tied. My mind drifts. When I was single I suggested movies for first dates to avoid conversation.

 With  friends and family or when talking about things I care about, I am a chatterbox. My poor husband sometimes has to wait to get in a word edgewise.

I like old things better than new. I have a passion for antiques. Only I want to use them instead of storing and preserving them. I read the old books, display the arrowheads, work with the kitchen tools and stir my cakes in antique bowls. These items have a history and I like adding to it.

blog-pictures-001.jpg I don’t love all of my animals the same. I secretly love Abby and Simba the most. I love Abby because she has become my dog. I love Simba because he smells so good and because he snuggles. Simba would rather be DH’s cat, but sometimes he bestows himself upon me and purrs and cuddles. I love smelling his fur and hearing his purr.

Sometimes, when DH asks me to go for walks I say no and make excuses. There is always something else I’d rather do. But, “if “I go, I am always glad I did. A walk through our woods is more relaxing than a tranquilizer.

“All the Critters” has a quiz (http://allthecritters.wordpress.com/2007/10/05/take-this-quiz-to-find-out-what-animal-you-are/) to find out what kind of “animal” you are.

I took the quiz.

I am a “pale giraffe” — an introvert. Imagine.

What kind of animal are you?

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My neighbor and friend, Freeda, working in her kitchen.

Monday through Friday, while their mother works, 89 year old Freeda babysits for her two year old, 4 year old and 6 year old great-grandchildren. She also gardens, keeps house and quilts. When I talked to her today she had made grape jelly and grape juice from her homegrown grapes.  She also told me about freezing her special cucumber and onion mix. 

When she is not busy with chores, Freeda says she loves to read.

Today, I got one of Freeda’s almost impossibe to get quilts. Freeda only accepts a few orders per year so her waiting list is years long. But, this was my lucky day. One of Freeda’s customers failed to pick up an order and Freeda thought I might be interested.

I was not a hard sell.


My new quilt is cream with a wedding ring pattern in shades of lavender with green accents.

While DH and I were admiring some of Freeda’s other quilts, she talked about growing up and living Amish. I was spellbound. I was also hoping Freeda would reveal her secret to being such a youthful almost 90 (in December) year old.

Freeda grew up in North Dakota during a time of dust storms and the depression. She was the fifth child from a family of eleven. Her nearest neighbors were a mile away.

“We raised most of our food,” says Freeda, “mother always had a big garden. We had small fruits like strawberries, currants, red and black raspberries, gooseberries and Juneberries. We had our chores to do.  We carried wood, coal and water.

“We had chickens to feed, eggs to gather and cows to milk. I started milking when I was ten.

“Mother set her own hens — sometimes 24 hens at one time. She also had turkeys, ducks and geese. The little peeps were my job when I was old enough to do it. I would feed them clabbered milk and hard boiled eggs with chick powder mixed in. In the winter, chickens, calves, cows, sheep, pigs, sheep, cats, dogs and horses were all in the same barn. When the doors were opened, the steam rolled out. Frost gathered on the inside of the walls so thick that we would write our names there while doing chores and it would stay there until spring.”


The barn was 100 feet long. In the summer cooking was done in the summer kitchen in front of the barn.

In 1936 Freeda married Eli and by 1959, they had eight children. Then they further expanded their family by taking in foster children needing a home. Over the next 25 years Freeda and Eli took in 46 children including those with handicaps and serious illnesses.

 “Several children came that were so undernourished,” says Freeda, ” one girl was hit on the head by her daddy and was blind and paralyzed because of it. She had surgery on her head and was able to see and walk again. She was soon adopted after that.

“It’s hard to give up children in foster care. They never left without tears and a prayer, knowing that God would take care of them wherever they are.

“After 25 years we quit foster care. Five years later they wanted us to start up again, but in the meantime, friends and neighbors had started bringing in their babies and I started daycare. I did not realize it would last until now, over 20 years later. I just thank God for my health so I can continue to have the children since it helps pass the time and the days are not so long.”


Eli’s first horse and buggy.

 In 1981, Freeda and Eli traveled to Germany, France, Switzerland, Holland, Belgium and Denmark. In 1987 they took a 6 week trip to Alaska. They went up to see the pipeline. While in Fairbanks, they saw an eskimo lady sweeping the sidewalks.

She said, “Are you what we call Amish?” She told Freeda and Eli that she had read about the Amish and that there were just a few left. Freeda told her there were Amish in almost every state in the United States.

Says Freeda, “She had the Shaker people in mind. There are just a few of them left.”

In 1990, when Eli was 80 years old, he and Freeda went to Paraguay, South America for two weeks for a wedding. In 1993, Eli had flu symptoms and a pain in his side.

Only it wasn’t the flu. Eli had had an abdominal aneurysm. Freeda and Eli had been married 57 years when he died. Together they had bought and paid for their farm. They had traveled around the world. They had raised 8 children and fostered 46. In addition, Freeda has 20 grandchildren and 24 greatgrandchildren.

“We had a good life,” says Freeda, “It was a busy one, I’m still busy and I have no regrets. The Lord has been good to me and for that I am grateful and truly at peace.”

Freeda’s Frozen Cucumber and Onion Mix

Slice your cucumbers and onions

Cover cucumbers and onions with 2 tablespoons of salt.

Let sit 2 hours.

Then drain the salt off.

Boil sugar and water to taste.

Put cucumbers and onions into freezer container and cover them with boiled sugar water.

Freeze.

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Kitty is trying to kill himself.

It’s a dangerous situation.

Kitty is so happy when he thinks his people are coming home he runs under the front wheels of every vehicle pulling into our drive. If you look for him, when it gets dark he’s hard to see.

We don’t know how to break Kitty of his new habit. Some of the visitors to our house are older and have enough trouble negotiating around our trees, shrubs or the barn to consider watching out for our little cat.

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Kitty’s about to throw himself beneath a jeep wheel. Notice the tire tracks where he’s walking.

This week our horses kicked holes in the barn. We don’t keep them locked inside stalls. They can go inside or out at will. They’ve got free access to a big round bale of hay. They have a fan inside the barn. They have bug zappers. They have a drinking fountain.

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The kicked out side of our barn.

I think the horses and Kitty are missing DH.

DH loves having a farm and spends his days as if he were a paid hand. He mows, works in the barn, trims trees, cleans up trails, fixes fences and as he does chores, the horse’s noses are right up his back or over his shoulder. When DH is outside their pasture, the horses watch his every move from the closest fence corner.

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The not very remorseful barn kickers beg for treats.

Kitty lived wild and feral in DH’s woods for an entire year before DH was able to get close to him. He still spends most days outside. Only instead of being the cat that walked and lived alone, Kitty now follows DH like a dog. He is up and down ladders, running ahead of DH on paths in the woods and springing out from behind weeds to grab DH’s legs.

Lately though, DH has had obligations that have prevented him from being as available outside for our animals.

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Simba’s found a sack and total bliss.

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Biggs enjoys her favorite chair.

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The newest member of our family, Scooter, the hummingbird, sips nectar and entices Biggs who is watching out the window.

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Buster and DH greet Mr. Miller, the repairman who will be fixing our barn. The children soon are petting our horses although Mr. Miller said their horse is a new one. According to Mr. Miller, the new horse isn’t very well trained and behaved badly on the drive to look over our barn.

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It’s that time of year and animal hair is everywhere. Abby watches me sweep.

It is shedding season and over the past week with my daughter visiting, every day was a reminder that I really need to check out the animal Dyson vacuum cleaner. Dog and cat hair were everywhere and clinging to our clothes everytime we left the house.

 Our pets are a lot of work and a responsibility. They aren’t cheap with vet visits, expensive and endless desires for Fancy Feast, hay, treats, toys and barn destroying. But, their joy, when we come home, is so overwhelming you cannot help but know it’s love in its  purest and most unselfish  form.

Simba may mostly be DH’s cat, but this week it was my face he snuggled up to every night. And in the mornings  DH made coffee and Abby came and nuzzled my arm so I’d wake up right before it was ready. Somehow, someway, those pets instinctively became nurturing and extra affectionate.

Are our pets worth the inconvenience and expense?

Absolutely. We don’t miss or think about their cost in time or money.

But, we’d sure miss them.

More dog stories:

Two dogs and a cat go to the vet

My Big Fat Animals

“Bad Boy Buster” and Dog Whispering

More cat stories:

Two dogs and a cat go to the vet

The Cat Box

Cat Ladder

DH’s Cat Ladder Goes International

More Horse Stories:

Give me a kiss

Horses , Skipper Rears

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I would like to thank each and every person who commented on “Courage Defined”. Yes, I cried. But, I needed to. I cannot express how much of a comfort your words were.

A message from paperseedblog: Life is so fleeting, and its good to be reminded to feel blessed and savor every single moment; almost exactly quotes my father’s last words to my daughter.

Today, I reread a  poem my son wrote from Iraq a year ago.  In that poem I was surprised to also find my father’s message of appreciating every moment of life we are granted,  whatever our circumstances.

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My youngest child, the poet,  who also became a new father the week before my father died.

“Lady in Black”

I see her in every harvest crop
On every crumbling mountain top
In storming wind which rocks the trees
In eyes of men bowed upon knees.

With every second screaming by
With unsaid words long left to die
Who knows what face or purpose be
Behind she which sleeps eternally?

Some may court her to end their sorrow
For the rest she’ll wait beyond tomorrow
From there haunting your every dream
And the tangled web of thoughts you ream
For all men fear, and rightly so
This face one day we’ll come to know.

I know one day I’ll pass her gates
Which guard the path to God’s estates
Till then I’ll savor every breath
Before that date with Lady Death
.

Tuesday night my father died.

He had terminal cancer, congestive heart failure and failing kidneys. The last years of his life he slept in a recliner to breathe because fluid kept filling his lungs.

The daily newspaper and keeping up with goings on around town was my father’s pleasure. But, he developed a problem with his tear ducts. Not only did that prevent reading, but his cheeks were often chapped from being wet and wiped dry.

On good days my father was able to drink a couple of cans of Ensure. Other times he only finished half a can. Nothing else stayed down. With so little food, the weight drop and dehydration caused his arms to turn dark and purple, which itched. His arms became scratched and bruised. Because the cancer had spread to his bones, the pain was constant despite prescribed patches. The doctors kept upping the dosages. But care had to be used with medication because my father’s kidneys and heart were failing

Yet, almost to the end and on the last day of his life, my father was aware and communicating coherently.

I never knew a person who wanted to live or savored life more.

He refused to sign the “no code” papers.

“I want to be around a little longer,” he said, “the pain isn’t so bad.”

“What about prostate cancer vaccines?” my father asked the doctor who inquired if he had looked into hospice.

The doctor said it would be awhile before they were released and said he would discuss vaccines with my father then. Which to me was his way of telling my father he was going to be gone before that ever came about. It hurt to see my father’s lingering hopes so casually stomped out. I looked up the latest information online and was heartsick to find out that my father had already been alive long past the most optimistic results from the newest vaccines for his stage of cancer . I gave excuses to my father for not looking up and printing out for him the information he requested.

Last summer my father’s medication caused internal bleeding, a loss of 8 pints of blood, weeks in the hospital and a stay in a nursing home. Few would have survived the blood loss, even without cancer, congestive heart failure and poor kidney function. But, my father was motivated.

“I don’t want to die,” he said to my mother while they waited for the ambulance. “I don’t want to leave you.”

The doctors asked my father if he had a living will. He refused to answer. Despite his pain and limitations, he wouldn’t consider an end. Life still contained pleasures.

My father slept days so he could stay up late to listen to the RFD channel which featured old time country and western music in early morning hours. I remember how his eyes shined when he told my husband and I about a Statler Brothers’ special.

My mother’s Yorkshire terrier, Pixie, is something else. She doesn’t come when called most of the time. She digs into pockets and purses at every opportunity and refuses to give up her stolen treasures. She’s full of bounce and mischief. Yet, she was gentle and careful with my dad and often took naps with him on the recliner. I can’t believe I will never again see her cuddled up against his leg with my father absently stroking her.

More than anything else, and with every core of his being, my father loved my mother. He loved her voice, her moods, the way she loved animals. He loved the way she spent days and hours researching to get a piece of furniture in an exact color. Or repapering a kitchen wall because she’d decided she didn’t really like her first wallpaper choice. My father was as proud of her accomplishments as if they were his own.

And no matter how bad things were for him, mom was my dad’s main worry.

“Go see your mother,” he told me when I visited him in the nursing home. “She gets lonely.”

“Your mom is going to wear herself out coming back and forth to see me,” he said while he was in the hospital,” she doesn’t have to come tomorrow.”

During my father’s last good day, my daughter called him. They discussed stocks, one of dad’s favorite subjects. But, before they hung up, my father told my daughter to be happy, to do with her life what she wanted to do and not to waste a moment.

My son visited. He got a lecture on being careful with his money. Then before my son left the hospital room, my father asked him to stop. He told my son he loved him and said to stand there for awhile because he just wanted to look at him.

Soon afterwards my father was drowning from the fluid in his lungs and unable to breathe. He still would not discuss coding with hospital personnel. The doctor said that they could drain the lungs but there was a good chance they would fill again. I did not want my father to drown that way, scared, unable to breathe and knowing he was dying.

I see things differently than most people. My Living Will includes taking extraordinary measures.

Like my father, my happiness comes from life on this earth. I cannot imagine greater pleasures than seeing my husband’s special smile for me, hearing my child’s voice over the phone announcing a new baby on the way, hearing one of my daughter’s works has been published, burying my face in Simba’s cottony good smelling fur and kissing him all over or seeing Abby’s face light up when I say the words “walk “or “garden“. I want to stay here. Clouds and harps and song and light hold no attraction. I want to live.

My father took his last stand. He wanted his lungs drained. He was trying to do what he had been able to do so many times in the past. He was trying get better and go home. The operation was a success. His lungs were x-rayed and declared clear. I thought he‘d make it.

He always had.

Only my father’s voice became raspy. His face became ghostly and gray. He couldn’t talk. Trying drained him. He might be aware enough to see my husband and I and say, “How have you been?” Then he’d be gone. He slept most of the time. He’d smile to see family, but his eyes would roll back. He began breathing mainly through his mouth.

Tuesday the nurses called and said to come right away.

When we arrived at the hospital, my father didn’t seem to know us. My mother said she and my brother and I were with him now, that we loved him and that we would stay with him. She said he nodded.

The doctor ordered blood.

As the blood dripped into his arm, the change in my father was dramatic.

He rasped out a request for water. He was able to sip from a cup. He said something about home. Soon, we said, maybe tomorrow. My father’s heart rate began dropping. He started making the scrunching movements he makes when he needs to be raised in his chair to breathe better. He asked for air. He already was getting oxygen. We got a fan and blew it in his face and asked him if that was better. He nodded yes.

He said he hurt and tried to pull out his IV.” Hurt” he kept saying, and then he would beg for air.

I went out and talked to the nurse. She said because of my father’s heart and kidneys they could not give him pain medication because it would wipe him out. She said he had not had medicine for pain for two days. I asked if his lungs might be filling up again with fluid. She said they most likely were.

My father was drowning and hurting. I asked the nurse if he was going to die. She said he was, and that the best thing to do for him was to be with him and to hold his hands.

I started crying.

“He hurts. He‘s drowning and he knows it. He‘s scared.”

The nurse said she would talk to my mother and then talk to the doctor.

I went back to my father and watched my husband and brother try to make my dad more comfortable. He was squirming and trying to pick his shirt off. He pushed my hand away. He said something about my mom. Fortunately she soon came in.

“He wants you, mom.”

“I’m here. The kids are here,” my mother said. She put her hand over his.

“I love you. I‘m going to stay with you.”

Then, I saw the nurse. She had liquid medicine in a plastic cup and held a hypodermic. Softly she said the doctor had ordered morphine. I looked into her eyes and knew.

“Take your medicine so you’ll feel better,” my mom said.

“She’s giving you medicine so you can go home, Dad.” I said.

My dad relaxed. As dutifully as a little boy obeying his mother, my father pursed his lips. He sipped the drink. He then straightened his arm. The nurse injected morphine into the IV. My father’s face became soft. His breathing slowed. He quit gasping and picking at his shirt.

I watched the machine that had long ago started flashing red instead of green. My father’s heart rate dropped to twenty, then ten., My eyes began misting. I couldn’t look at my mom or brother. I looked across the room and saw my husband fold his hands in prayer.

My father was not a quitter. He raged and fought against the dark longer than I ever believed any human could have the strength. But, in the end he went gently.

For that I am grateful. I know his last thoughts were of home, my mother and all he loved most.