embrace- January 24th

Embrace.

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That is what I want 2014 to be all about. I need to get past looking for perfection, for everything to happen at just the right moment, in just the right way. So, I’m going to actively work at embracing it all.

Truth is, with a change in life circumstances I can’t expect for things to always go the way I want. The nature of this disease of mine is the proverbial crap shoot (at least for now while we are still figuring it all out.) One morning I can wake up feeling like a million bucks and the next I can be zombie. So it is imperative that I change my mindset. I’m not someone who has ever been able to go with the flow, now, the current of life is getting even stronger and I am no longer capable of fighting against it.

Every week  month I would like to come here and jot down a little list (hey, have I ever told you how much I love lists? 😉 ) and work at the practice of embracing it all. If I check in here, with all of you, it will help to keep me on the path of moving forward and gaining perspective.

Great! So, now that you have agreed, here it goes…

::All of my people got sick this past week (as did the dog). Thankfully, it was staggered (except for the dog). It helped me realize how lucky I am and just how much Kevin does on a daily basis. None of this would ever work without a partner like him.

::Also, the dog never had an accident in the house and she has mastered ringing the bells by the door to let us know when she needs to go out. Major win! She is feeling much better now, by the way.

::While Kevin was sick I got some one-on-one alone time with each of the kids. It still amazes me how different the interaction can be when all of your attention can be focused on to just one of them. While there were moments that were exceptionally hard, I loved hanging out with them and doing nothing else. I think we will be scheduling more of that into our daily lives now, especially solo dates between all of us.

::This past week, as many of the farm animals moved on to their new homes, I realized I was feeling a little more relief each time I watched tail lights leave the barn driveway. Everyone who has picked up animals seems more than nice and totally invested in giving each of their new charges a good and comfortable existence.

::I found a local organic CSA about 10 minutes from us. They offer an excellent variety of fruit and veg (except for potatoes.) If we do decided to buy a share, or two, we will only have to plant a few things in one of our 4 garden plots- giving us an opportunity to compost the remaining three heavily and amend the soil, which will pay off in a few years when we can get back to the business of growing all our own.

::With all the tending to the sick, which forced all plans that would have taken us outside of the house to go on hold, I was able to finish another Fair Isle hat, this one for PJ.

::In our attempt to whittle down the livestock count we decided to cull 4 sheep and take them to our local butcher. It was a hard decision, one we did not take lightly and something we were not thrilled with having to hire out. However, I am grateful that soon we will have a freezer full of lamb, especially since our stock of beef and venison will be gone at the end of this week.

::Our week of convalescence also afforded me a lot of time to sit and think. I was forced to be still (with the exception of rocking one sick kid or the other) and work through all the things that have been swirling around my head for a weeks now. There is still more I need to sort out but, for now, I am riding the momentum and moving forward- as opposed to wallowing in the stagnation I had felt a couple of weeks ago.

And now, I leave you with this face. Happy Friday. Here’s to embracing it all next week!

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What did you embrace this week? Leave a comment and share, you just might inspire another lovely soul. 🙂

well that’s that…and a word

Hello everyone and Happy New Year to you all!! So, I had the intention to ride the lovely momentum that the Capturing December project had created for me here in this space. However, the fates had other plans. This post has sat in my draft box, in one form or another, since the day our last holiday guest left. I contemplated not ever hitting publish on this one but then I stopped and realized I had spent the entire last month of 2013 opening myself up, sharing authentically (whether the day, the shot, or myself was perfect or not) and accepting, no, embracing all the beautiful/ugly, ideal/imperfect, helpful/inconvenient everything. Picking a word of the year that speaks to you is something a lot of my blogworld friends participate in annually, my beautiful and talented girl Tracie is the one who introduced me to the practice. So, I’m hitting publish, speaking truth and choosing to EMBRACE it all, with a little help from you, I hope. 🙂

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With the first full week of the new year coming to an end, so did our holiday celebrations (with the exception of one, which had to be postponed until a later date.)

It was, all in all, a relatively calm holiday season.

We visited, we ate, drank, laughed and reminisced. We gave gifts we produced right here on the farm or, at least, with our own hands. We weathered two below zero forecasts and two snow storms. I completed a goal of recording a picture a day in December, while at the same time cultivating some beautiful friendships with some lovely ladies who joined in, kept me company and kindly provided encouragement throughout the process.

In the quiet pockets of time, between meals to prepare, waiting for visitors to arrive, caring for livestock and children, healing from one illness after another and contending with piles of snow, we brainstormed. We talked about what we wanted to plan on for the coming year, what we wanted to eliminate, what we had to do, what we no longer wanted to participate in and how to arrive at that oh so beautiful place we call balance.

With the hurricane of the holiday season dissipating reality is becoming quite evident in the light of the new year.

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I am not getting better…yet. My Hashimoto’s is actually progressing rather than remitting, as are my symptoms. The past few weeks are apparently going to take sometime to recover from, evident in the fact that today I didn’t drag myself from bed until late morning, spent most of the day under a blanket, on the couch, snuggling with either a puppy or child all while dirty dishes laid waiting to be washed, laundry baskets overflowed and decorations begged to be put away. I barely even touched my latest knit project (which is very unlike busy-minded me.) With each passing day it has been a little bit harder to get out of bed in the morning, my joints have increasingly ached, throbbed and swelled, my mind has become more sluggish and my mood has swung sadly low again. The worst part is the normal healthy me is trapped inside this wasted, sad excuse for a 31-year-old, watching it all plummet and feeling as though she can’t do anything to stop it.

I think I did a fairly good job of hiding it throughout the season. However, those of you who visited might not necessarily agree. I know while we ate very well at most meals, I did indulge in more sugar and refined flour than I would have any other time of the year. I also slept less and was on the go more, which probably hasn’t helped. Many changes are being instituted in the hopes of relieving symptoms, maybe, if I am lucky, reducing my antibodies, but they are going to have to be big changes that require a lot of support, often readjusting of everyday occurrences and instituting of new habits.

On top of all my health issues not only has my mother been suffering from health problems the last six months but now my father is also. None of it seems to be life threatening, thank goodness, but all of it is pervasive enough to put both of them out of commission. Not only are they unable to help around the homestead but they are both in need of help from Kevin and I for, not only everyday needs, but also in their non-farm business. My parents still do their best to help, in many different ways, but currently have neither the time nor the energy/ability to do what we had all initially intended. (It was, of course, always the plan for us to care for them as they grew old, which was the entire point of us all agreeing to cohousing, I just don’t think any of is expected that need to happen so soon, nor occur all at once.)

Circumstances have drastically changed since our move here two years ago. Not only am I less than helpful with our usual farm task, leaving most of that on Kevin’s shoulders, but our attention is now desperately needed in places that are, albeit just as, if not more important than our dreams of homesteading and self-sufficiency.

So the short of it all is, things are quickly being recalculated and rearranged in order for Kevin and I to have the time and energy to continue raising the kids in the way we had always intended and something has to give. That something seems to be the majority of our homesteading lifestyle.

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Sadly, I am selling almost all of my sheep herd and as of Saturday 10 will already be off to their new homes. I am just not physically capable of tending to a herd of 20, nor am I able to process as many fleeces come March. It also seems unfair for their care to fall mostly to Kevin, as it is his least favorite job here on the farm. (Most of our sheep are just that, sheep and with the exception of about 6 they tend to do the opposite of what we want them to.) So, we are aiming to sell most, butcher a few and, for now, keep only 4 ewes as pets/lawn mowers/fleece providers.

We are also selling or culling the majority of our laying hens. The plan is to put some meat in the freezer, decrease the amount of feed and care needed and keep only the best layers to meet our personal egg needs. Then we will add in maybe 3-6 new chicks to replace those layers next year. It will also mean a new, smaller coop, closer to the house which will facilitate in the kids and I easily taking over their care (no matter how I feel on any given day) and relieving Kevin of that chore, as well.

Thankfully, none of the cows ended up being bred this past summer (Yay, for the combination of being too busy and having a little bit of brain fog thrown in) so we do not have calving to worry about and the herd was already due to be decreased with the butchering of one steer in spring and the second in fall. We are also considering selling the three girls if things remain the same by late summer.

The ordering of two more pigs and a batch of meat birds has also been put off and we will be forced to outsource those meats to other local homesteaders and farms, along with our milk needs. That will leave us with our goat heard, which are fairly easy keepers, and our garden/orchard. The garden planning has not yet begun but I think I am going to have to force myself to keep it even smaller than last year and possibly supplement by buying a CSA share.

It is sad because we have all of this land and all the possibilities it holds and we are now back to living a not so self-sufficient life. I am beyond frustrated and swing from beating myself up for seemingly failing at our dream and curling up in bed wishing we had never tried. I have so many things I want to do, learn and become better at (as does Kevin and which I wish I was better at facilitating, or better yet, not interrupting!) but I can’t make my body or our current life situation mold to those needs and head in that direction.

I am also a little sad because I feel like this blog will no longer have a voice. There won’t be much homesteading occurring for at least awhile and that is really what the space was supposed to be all about. I do not yet know what the future holds for my writing here. Maybe a different blog? Maybe some time away while we regroup? I really don’t want to stop writing, photographing or sharing as it feels cathartic and I have met so many beautiful, wonderful friends through it, but this doesn’t feel like the right place to air all of that. Then again, maybe this is just another chapter in our story that needs to be told?

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So, how does one arrive at a place of acceptance when they feel like their body is abandoning them and their self is mostly unrecognizable both physically and mentally? Or when their dreams, at worst, fall apart around them, or, at best, get put on hold for an indefinite period of time?

They feel sad, they cry, they get angry and they ask why. Then they wake up and pull themselves out  of bed and start making an alternate plan. They sit across from their husband and talk about it, all day if necessary, until his outer dialogue becomes her inner dialogue because, heaven knows, the awful words she has been telling herself are not helping.

And then we make a plan, one that allows everyone to work on healing, keeps the kids from getting lost in what was becoming a manic shuffle and keeps an eye on that thread of a dream, until another day, when we can pick it back up and weave it into our lives again.

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January is Thyroid Awareness month. The butterfly is the symbol for thyroid awareness (as the gland is shaped as such.) My mother-in-law gave this ornament to S and left it nestled in our tree (yes it is still up) and I found it there earlier today. Approximately 1 in 1000 people suffer from Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, a disease that is, at least, 10 times more common in women than men. It is also a hereditary disease. Please go here to familiarize yourself with the signs and symptoms of the illness because chances are someone you know is suffering.

december 17th- {fluff}

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These girls were the fluffiest thing I could find. 😉

I’m a little late with this one friends. Things got a little wonky (I just love that word) with me the past two days and we have been concentrating on prescription adjustments (yes, again!), numerous talks with the doctor in order to set up an adjusted plan of attack and just generally trying to get me together as we head into the holidays.

Things just don’t seem to be working yet. My antibodies have continued to climb, despite removing the gluten from my diet and now the dose of thyroid medication I am on is no longer controlling my levels. My most recent blood draw, which was last week, showed that my levels were almost as bad as they were before starting any treatment and my antibodies have more than doubled.

So here we are back at square one! I have gone through all the emotions (in record time) the past couple of days and I have made it back to okay let’s regroup and figure out how to kick this thing in the ass! 

I did not make it outside yesterday to take my daily picture so, I am again cheating with this one. However, the sun was shinning brighter today than yesterday. It felt good to stand in the pasture, almost knee-deep in the snow, visiting with old friends and feeling the warmth of nearly the shortest day’s light on my face.

Tomorrows a new day, the sun will shine again, if only for a short time, and then this weekend we will celebrate the beginning of its return. I hope I begin to grow stronger as well, right along with it.

 

*Everyday this December I am striving to post a picture-a-day in the hopes of capturing the little moments that may seem ordinary at the time but, when strung together throughout this naturally hectic month, become the extraordinary ones that keep me ground until the new year. If you want to join me go here. I would love to share in your days as well. 

december 12th- {decoration}

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After days and days of PJ reminding me that we had not yet made this year’s gingerbread house I decided to clear this morning’s schedule and help them do it.

Around here, the (unintentional) theme of this year has been “letting go.” I have been reminding myself of this while we prepare for the holidays, not only to conserve the energy I do have on any given day, but to release all of the pressure and just let the kids do as much as they can to help prepare for the season.

This year we followed the kids lead with decorating the annual gingerbread house, placing only the icing and letting them do the rest.

My favorite part is the Tootsie Roll firewood pile.

They have now moved on to placing the ornaments on the tree. The bottom two feet look fantastic! 😉

It’s all just right!

*Everyday this December I am striving to post a picture-a-day in the hopes of capturing the little moments that may seem ordinary at the time but, when strung together throughout this naturally hectic month, become the extraordinary ones that keep me ground until the new year. If you want to join me go here. I would love to share in your days as well. 

taking a detour

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It’s funny how we never really know what’s going on in others’ lives. We are only privy to snippets of what being someone else is like. Especially in the world of Facebook, Twitter, blogs and all the other supposed connectedness that the interwebs grant us; we probably know next to nothing about the people we “visit” and “talked” to everyday.

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We can paint a perfect picture to send out into the world or create a soapbox to sound off on, all while safely positioned behind the screen that our dsl cable or our phone plan provides us. All of us have done it, created a pretty little picture of a pretty little life, just edit out the boring parts, take away the nasty bits, eliminate the hard decisions, gloss over the struggles and there- you now have a beautiful portrait to put on display.

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Just like when I take a photo and I actively do my best to crop out the chaos and the things I deem either ugly or unimportant, I have spent the last months presenting you with a portrait that only tells a fraction of our story. I was recently diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Disease, an autoimmune disease where my body is actively doing its best to kill my thyroid gland (which apparently controls almost every function in your body. Who knew?), mistakenly believing that it is something foreign and will cause my gland to slowly diminish in function, possibly stop all together, over my lifetime. This has caused a year-long bout with hypothyroidism, which I will spare you the, oh so lovely, details of (if you wish, you can read more about it here) and has resulted in my doctor asking me to remove gluten completely from my diet. Apparently, gluten has the same chemical makeup as the cells of your thyroid gland and when you eat that delicious piece of cake or slice of bread your immune systems goes into overdrive, not only attacking the gluten coming in but hitting your thyroid even harder. My diagnosis also means that I must be on some form of thyroid hormone replacement for the rest of my life, something that this chemical free, home-birthing, coconut oil swilling, refusing to clean with anything other than vinegar and my other homemade concoctions woman really struggled with accepting.

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I had originally thought that finding a reason for feeling like I’d aged 50 years over the course of one would have been a huge relief but it has not been quite so black and white and having to remove one of my favorite things from my diet, seemingly over night, has done nothing but add insult to injury. I am Italian after all, so basically I have lost an entire food group here people! My doctor warned that this is not something that can be managed instantaneously and often requires tweaking, especially in the medication department, until continuous control of my hypo symptoms can occur. There could also be times where I will swing into hyperthyroidism and back again, another common occurrence with Hashimoto’s and something that obviously makes calculating the amount of hormones I need to take on a month to month basis even harder. I have had a few symptoms ease over the last month of treatment but honestly my bad days still seem to be more prevalent than the good, so much so, that sometimes I’ll have a fantastic morning then crash and burn by dinner time, other days it can be reversed.

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I have struggled with whether to share our newest obstacles here or to just keep it close. This was never meant to be a personal blog, however, it is written from my point-of-view and about our collective life. I do not want to spend my time, or yours, whining and complaining. What I do hope to accomplish from sharing this is possibly connecting with others who have dealt with similar situations, whether it be some type of thyroiditis (or any chronic illness for that matter), gluten-free living or both. Our first go at gluten-free bread, which called for potato starch, tasted like, well, potatoes…and not in a yummy way! And even though we rarely eat any convenience food, the quick, yet still organic meals that I did use when we were overworked, or just simply ran out of hours in the day, all seem to contain a gluten filled product as their main ingredient. It seems like we are starting from scratch and re-teaching ourselves something that we had just gotten the hang of.

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Truth is, I have times where the food restrictions alone get me down and cause me to wish that I could just go back to bed and sleep through the day. I also struggle with not being able to go, go , go the way I once did. Working in the garden now consists of a few minutes weeding and a few minutes sitting…greatly reducing my productivity. And if I push too hard through a given day, inevitably the following day will be a bad one; a full day out with Kevin and the kids on a Saturday means an entire Sunday lost, trying to recover. All of this causes me to feel like a frail 80-year-old woman, as opposed to, the capable 30-year-old that I should be…which tends to take a toll on my overall morale as well.

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This new path that we are forced to walk now will, unfortunately, be pervasive into every aspect of our homesteading life. Everything from the food we grow and cook, to time management and accomplishment of tasks will have to be reworked. There are some days where I am less than helpful and Kevin has to steer this ship all on his own. Needless to say, he’s been a little extra tired and made a few more trips to the chiropractor than usual, as of late. I am also, yet again, reminded of how much of a saint this man of mine is, the same guy who insisted on eliminating almost all gluten from his diet in order to support me! And while I do not wish to ever be defined by this I do need to learn how to live within the confines it creates, which is something I am bound to struggle with as I have always been a “doer”, often pushing through into the wee hours until a particular goal is reached.

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Even though, I am angry and sad that I have to deal (sometimes fight against) this new reality of mine, I am also grateful, both for the fact that, if controlled, it will likely never be life-threatening and for the lesson that it has already given me. Struggles are quiet little creatures that many carry with them, hidden from us all, tucked away in their pocket or shoved to the bottom of their bag. We have no idea what they could be feeling, what really triggered that seemingly exaggerated emotion to what we view as a benign situation. Someone could have every joint in their body aching and throbbing, regardless of just having got out of bed and after sleeping for 12 hours straight. They are also, probably, not out of shape (they may even exercise on a regular basis) and they are most likely not inherently lazy. They are doing the best they can, with the hand they were dealt on that particular day and are probably harder and more judgmental of themselves than you could ever dream of being.

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Here’s to giving everyone a little leeway, ourselves included.

Do you have an experience to share or any go-to gluten-free recipes that you swear by? 

*To the family members and non-internet friends who are reading: know that if this is the first you are hearing about all of this it is not because I was trying to hide it or didn’t want to share it with you before I broadcasted it over the internet. Recently, our time has been spent assimilating all of this new information and trying to adjust our lifestyle and thought process, well that, and trying to keep the homestead running while most days we end up being one worker short…which you wouldn’t think would be a big deal…but when you are already essentially two able bodies short of an actual farm crew, it really is. I also figured that this post was a way to have the conversation once, rather than 100 times. I welcome any questions or thoughts you all might have.

Love Always, -L