Monday, December 29, 2014

Christmas traditions and thanks

Most of our traditions involve our church family, such as the hanging of the greens on Friday night before the beginning of Advent. Every Sunday of Advent we enjoy an hour of fellowship before church complete with yummy, homemade goodies. This year Advent snuck up on us because of the late Thanksgiving, while checking the signup sheet for volunteers, I saw there was no one for November 30. So I decided that was a sign from God that I should do it. Usually two sign up for duty but it looked like I was flying solo.

So Saturday morning I rose bright and early, early being open to interpretation by those who know me, and set out to create some special goodies for the next morning. By nightfall I was exhausted, sticky, floury, the kitchen looked like a chocolate bomb went off, I had dirtied every spatula I owned, the dishwasher was on overtime, I hugged and kissed my dishwasher, and I was sick to death of cooking and baking.

Sunday morning Bruce was pressed into service helping haul the bounty to the church, make coffee and spiced apple cider and he took this photo of me looking quite refreshed at the table.

I made my new favorite danish rolls by Sally's Baking Addiction, really you have to try these, right now, shoo! The red tin is full of my homemade turtles made with homemade caramel, honestly, you would spurn the mass produced one after eating one of these. The left tray are chocolate dipped chocolate cookies with sprinkles and the center tray are homemade Snickers bars. I'd made these once, last year, it took all day and they were good but not worth the time. Enter Pinterest, a new recipe by Roxanna's Home Baking, 30 Minute Snickers! "Eureka!!", I thought, "I can do that!!" 

She lied!

 I don't know anyone who could make these in 30 minutes, they were still good but not worth the mess. Next time I want a Snickers, I'll just go buy one.

After that I got to sit back and enjoy the rest of the Advent fellowship Sundays, everyone who participates takes pleasure in providing treats that have not already served. I heard one parishioner bemoan the fact that SHE had planned to serve the chocolate crackle cookies that were presently on a plate. Dang it!

Another Christmas tradition that we always participate in is the annual caroling party, last year I learned the lesson in why it matters and was looking forward to this year. But it was not to be, the flu closed the two nursing homes to visitors so we found ourselves at home on Sunday evening. We got a call from a friend that the Oakdale church, just a few miles away, was having their Christmas concert and Bruce's cousin, Mark, son Zach and his wife, Lisa were all participating. It was wonderful, the men's quartet sang 'Oh Holy Night' that brought tears to my eyes and a tiny little boy stole the show while onstage with his family. The evening ended with food and drink in their fellowship hall and we were greeted warmly by everyone. But that is the game, you try to steal people away from another church!

Christmas Eve day was always spent at the Wilcox's with as many cousins and family that show up. This year, alas, Bruce went alone, I was laid out on the couch, a victim of a combination of chemo effects and the flu. The cats kept me company and I had a back log of Christmas shows on the DVR to watch. Bruce also went alone to church services, I missed not being there to sing Silent Night to candlelight. 

Our Christmas Day was also very quiet, I was still sacked out on the couch in pj's, enjoying my new Samsung tablet. Now even if I can't get to the library, I have thousands of books at my fingertips. I had a lot of time to think of all the thanks we have this Christmas season. By far we are most thankful for the continuing recovery of Bruce's cousin and fishing partner, Dennis, who suffered a heart attack in December. It was a real shock since Dennis and Bruce are the same age. This picture was taken a couple of years ago in MN with his lovely wife, Debbie. Bruce is already looking forward to being back in MN with Dennis, fishing rods and the boat.

The fish are very afraid!

I have been very thankful for all the loving support Bruce and I have both received from family and friends throughout my illness and treatment. Elizabeth showed up at our door on Tuesday with a bulging bag of goodies that she spent hours creating in her kitchen. I didn't realize how much stuff was in there until I was finally able to eat again this weekend. I have no idea what most of it is called but I highly suspect they have Swedish origins and the little powered sugar things are to die for, they melt in my mouth!

Bruce and I were thankful to be a recipient of our friend and church organist, Bernice's, special holiday pickles. The fact that she still takes the effort to make the pickles, wrap them in colored tissue paper and package in gift bags at the age of 92 is amazing! It shows her love of everyone who is fortunate enough to receive this gift. Bruce did have to help out when she couldn't get her jars of pimentos open. Yeah for Bruce!

We didn't think there was going to be a Sunday School Christmas program this year because of lack of children. But Jen Huff refused to break tradition, wrote a program and did a great job with the little ones she could round up. Thank you, Jen!

Wednesday, two ham dinners, cooked with love by Minnie and delivered by Dave, or as we affectionately call him, 'Bonger'. That certainly took care of Christmas dinner and just in time as Bruce was running out of leftovers in the fridge.

And I'm thankful for the effort of my two pullets, Blue and Lucky, one of them has started laying a little brown egg!

I read on Pinterest how to tell which of your hens are actively laying but I would not subject either of my ladies to it.

I know how much I look forward to my annual physical.

I hope you all were able to enjoy your own Christmas traditions and have plenty to be thankful for.

Merry Christmas and Happy and Healthy New Year!!!

Friday, December 26, 2014

Shades of chemo past coming back to haunt me

I wanted to write about Christmas, about going out to a concert and friends and family, about all the things we have to be thankful for this most holy season. Instead I'm laid out on the couch, trying to eat and work up enough energy to get dressed. But I know this too will pass and I'll be back, with more adventures from the farm.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Chemo #5 under my belt, onward and upward

How time flies when you are having a good time, suddenly Monday was here and we were on our way to Storm Lake in the rain for chemo. This time I went bearing gifts, I made homemade turtles and had a container for the admittance desk, the lab and a large one for the oncology nurses. I wanted to show my appreciation for all the kindness' that have been shown me while I'm there. 

My stomach still churns as we get closer and my first stop is always the bathroom, I don't think I'll ever take it in stride and always thankful for Bruce's strong presence. He's like Janet, he can sit in that chair for hours and be just fine. I'd be squirming and fidgeting, running to the waiting room for snacks, then to the bathroom for relief, he is my rock now that Janet is in sunny Texas.

I finally broke down and got a Samsung tablet, I'd envied Janet's tablet that she would pull out of her purse and start reading. I always took a book along and a couple of times I took my laptop to watch a movie but then couldn't get it to work and it was pretty big to haul around. It just came on Friday so I played with it, trying to figure out how to use it and had a hard time downloading a book to read while I was at the clinic. Things finally clicked into place and EUREKA! I got a book off the Wilbor system our library uses, I fully charged the tablet and was ready to go! 

Always the first stop after registration is the lab for blood and then to the waiting room for a nurse evaluation which never takes long. Then they whisk you back to the exam room for the doctor visit and it was Dr. Wender today. The nurse had me put on a gown for a physical exam and after I had it on, I suddenly needed to visit the bathroom again, groan! I think it's just like the mother who bundles her toddler in a snowsuit, boots, hat and mittens to go play in the snow then the kid announces they have to go potty!

I decided to just tough it out and hope he wasn't too long and didn't poke me very hard in the stomach area or we'd both be in for a surprise. Dr. Wender finally came in, wearing a burgundy shirt with a red Christmas tie decorated with Santa's. Our friend, Alex, and I have talked about how he dresses, he wears some of the most mis-matched clothes! Bruce complimented him on his Christmas tie and he said he saw a large selection at Penney's but wasn't going to pay full price, instead he went back after Christmas and bought them at half price. He and Bruce bonded over that!

We finally had to get down to business, he had Dr. Rao's notes from the last time, he talked again about a maintenance pill. I told him that I preferred to go with Dr. Rao's recommendations, to do the entire treatment so, hopefully, I wouldn't be back in two years starting over. Dr. Wender kind of chuckled and said he could take that a little personal but I know that was his attempt at humor. He did say if I was back in two years, I would probably be on a completely different medicine as things change in the world of treatments. He also said even if I go the 12 treatments he couldn't guarantee I still won't be back in 2 years. I told him that I know there are no guarantee's, I just want to do the best I can right now to try and rid my body of the Crips so they won't dare come back.  He then told me I was 'exceptional', because I could not tolerate the full dose of chemo, he doesn't see many people who react as I did. I wondered if I should get a gold star. We did tell him that this is the problem with seeing more than one doctor, everyone has their own ideas and Dr. Wender agreed so we parted on good terms.

Then it was time to enter the big room, I was able to get a chair back in the corner that is more private but the downside was another chair was taken so Bruce didn't have a lot of room. He didn't complain. I pulled out my tablet and started looking for the book I'd downloaded while the nurses were doing their thing and I couldn't find it!!! AAUUGGHHHH!!! Soon a couple of the nurses were trying to help me, IV poles were beeping all over the room while they searched for my book! (I just made up the part about the IV's going off.) I finally went in the Wilbor program and downloaded another book, the first one will show sooner or later, possibly when I get better at operating it.

I felt pretty smug, tucked under a warm blanket with a pillow under my head, laid back in the leather recliner with my shoes off and Christmas socks on, reading a book on my tablet......until the Benedryl kicked in. Then I was snoring away, tucked under a warm blanket with a pillow under my head, laid back in the leather recliner with my shoes off and Christmas socks on with Bruce at my side watching a bowl game on the little TV. Thank heavens these E-books hold your last page.....providing I can even find that book again.....

I remember vaguely when they did blood pressure and temperature checks but I mainly just slept the afternoon away, that does not bode well for tonight. Especially because the last thing they give you are some steroids to pump you up. But Dr. Wender did give me a Christmas present, I don't have to start my round of shots until Dec. 26. I had a reaction to them the last time that laid me out on the couch for the rest of the day, so now I should be able to enjoy Christmas. As the nurse was unplugging my from the IV's she asked if I liked my port and I didn't have a good answer. It is a lot better than being stuck in the veins repeatedly and I was told that chemo is hard on veins. But it is an intruder, something foreign, stitched into my body that is a constant reminder of why it's there. I can't say I like it but I grudgingly accept it for the job it does for me.

But I've never affectionately named it.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

"I wonder what the poor cats are doing?"

It's cold outside, it's warm in side and Clyde made himself comfortable on the couch.

I wonder if I should get him an afghan?

"Yeah, and while you are at it, tell Santa to bring me my very own 'My Pillow', this one doesn't fit me that well."

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Pairing Up

Last Summer, when Larry Jr.'s little bride successfully hatched the six eggs she had secreted away in a cat carrier, I wondered how many would be roosters.

It's hard to have more than one rooster because they end up fighting, I already had three so was pushing the envelope. One is crippled so he isn't a threat to the others, Larry Jr. became the boss of Chet even though Chet is 3 times bigger than him, for now everything is fairly peaceful. But I knew that Larry Jr. wouldn't like any competition.

In previous hatches, it seems like the roosters always outnumbered the hens but I was lucky this time, I could see the two future roosters with the sprouting combs and wattles.

Roosters -2 - Hens -4

I knew my neighbors would take one rooster and when the time came to rehome him, I gave them two little hens to keep him pacified because he was going into a coop with 4 big hens.

So all fall I watched the Larry Jr's remaining son shepherd his mother and two sisters around the yard, keeping to themselves. Larry Jr was too busy running after the big hens,

Now I see that they are paring off in the chicken coop, Larry Jr is back with his little bride.

While Larry the third is choosing to perch up high with his two sisters every evening.

Yes, I know it seems kinky but in the animal world they don't care about such things, I just look the other way.

For now all is quiet in the coop but when Spring comes and a young rooster's thoughts turn to fancy, war may break out. If that happens, Larry the third and his two sisters will go live at my sister's coop.

Why can't we just all get along??"

Saturday, December 13, 2014

The little Deutz tractor goes to the hospital

Bruce loves his Deutz tractors, he has two, they both run a long time on a little fuel but when things go wrong, it can be tricky getting them back into running condition. The little Deutz has had an oil leak for some time that he has tried to fix but failed. It's not easy to find someone to work on them but Bruce found an implement dealer south of Fort Dodge who knows these tractors inside and out. We have had a break in the weather and he decided on Thursday to take it down, we picked up a 5th wheel trailer in Cherokee, then picked up his good buddy, Grassy, to ride shotgun on the way home.

The dogs and I took the Gator over to the farm to see how the loading went and found the guys striding purposefully to the shed to get the tractor. They didn't have time for cameras or dogs, they were on a mission.

But first you must get the balky tractor to start, a little diesel juice in the jug Grassy was carrying....

.....and a shot of ether in the air cleaner......

.....she started and off they go!

Up into the yard and onto the trailer....

....creeping forward until the tires are touching the front of the trailer.

"Keep her in the middle, Frenchy!"
Now the job of tying the tractor down so it stays put, it would be REALLY bad to have it fall off on the way down.

Heavy chains and come-a-long fastens the back.

Bruce had to search Leo's shop for another come-a-long and was successful.


Crank it hard!

A big hammer comes in handy to make a hook 'come to it's milk.' (I've really never understood that saying but I hear it a lot.)

The last step is the 'farmers friend', baling wire, to tie the handle to the chain to prevent it from coming loose.

Remember, it would be REALLY bad to have the tractor fall off.

And a little mugging for the camera!

The tractor is loaded, the guys are loaded.....

......they pull out of the driveway.....

....and head down the road.

The dogs and I follow them home.....

....where I change clothes and meet my good friend, Carla, at the Gasthaus for lunch.

When the cat is away, the mice will play!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Our crazy animals

Monday night, my gang of two, Becky and Kim, met at Remsen for Mexican Monday, I was craving Navarette's combination nachoes. Becky, who is newly retired, brought gifts for both of us, is that a new tradition?? Mine was a big rooster, when I got home I sat it down by the TV. Zoe, who was in a chair, got off to investigate and she wasn't sure she liked the look of him!

After creeping across the floor, I couldn't get to the camera in time, she stopped and looked him over real good.

Zoe sat on her haunches and sniffed the roosters face.

"I guess he can stay."

Clyde's introduction as a little less dramatic....

....a good sniffing and he was satisfied.

Since the demise of Bunny, they have focused on Mr. Bee, since Mollie had him, Murphy got her baby blanket out of the dog house.

A tussle ensued, Murphy tried to use the blanket as a distraction to wrest Mr. Bee from Mollie.  

She was not successful, Murphy had to be happy with her baby blanket.

Blue and Lucky watched the drama from their perch on the fence....

I wish they would concentrate on laying some eggs, it's getting pretty sparse in the refrigerator!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Wheeling and Dealing

Bruce limped through the last of bean harvest with a damaged, beyond help, bean head on the combine. He started looking for another one, he had his heart set on a #920 but the ones he found online were a bit pricey. There is an implement dealer near Fort Dodge that had one advertised so Bruce called him and found they were having a big implement auction December 3 and there were a lot of bean heads on it.

Bruce and his good buddy, Grassy, stopped at the lot on the way home from the IA/NE game to see what they had. It was a little difficult to see everything because it was dark by then and all he had was a small flashlight but they decided it was worth going to sale that started at 8:30 AM.

Bruce and I went to Tom's Repair to buy a trailer to haul the head back on, he wanted to be prepared. The morning of the sale, he left at 5 A.M., I was so happy Grassy went along so I didn't have to, I knew it would be a long day but didn't realize just how long. I tried to call him about 5:30 P.M. but the phone went right to voice mail so I figured he had the phone shut off.

The night wore on, I called again about 8:30 and heard, "Yeah?" Oh, not good! Yes, he did get a head but it wasn't the one he wanted and it was a very slow, 40 MPH drive home. Now I'm really glad I didn't go. Bruce rolled in about 10, very, very tired but with a story to tell.

He bid on a #216 but it went for more money than he was willing to part with so ended up a #220, a nice enough head but not exactly what he wanted.

Bruce had never used a head carrier before so when he and Grassy were trying to figure out how to strap it down, you don't want to be going down the road and have it bounce off. A guy came over to help them out and here he lives just about 12 miles from us, Bruce and Grassy both knew him. He was at the sale and bought a head and he had a #920 for sale! Bruce asked him how much he wanted for it and the price was right, he told him he would be very interested.

The next morning Bruce had me take pictures of the head and put it on Craigslist.

We know someone is reading Craigslist, the next morning Bruce got a call from Foof, his brother in law down in Texas, "Hey, Bruce, someone at Meriden has a 220 bean head for sale!" So far he is the only one to call.

Bruce called the guy with the 920, went over and bought it, Grassy told him on the way home, "Frenchy, you are the luckiest person I know!" Here this head was so close but if they hadn't gone to that sale, they would never have known about it.

He also learned never to sit on the ground and try to make a phone call with two big dogs around.

"When you are here, you belong to us!"

So if you are in the market for a bean head, give us a call, we'll make a deal.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Four down, eight to go, yes, I counted my chickens before they hatched.

Today was day 4 for my chemo and I saw Dr. Rao. It was only the second time I'd seen her and the first since I had started the treatments. She was very surprised at the reaction I had from the first dose, she said she had 85 year old people taking the same thing I was and they never reacted that bad. Dr. Rao did think a lot of it was the fault of the Neulasta shot, I only took it once and opted for the 7 days of GCFS at Cherokee instead, I've not had any bad reactions with it.

She said they would continue with the 1/2 doses since I got along well, so instead of 6 treatments with the full, 2 day dosages, she wanted me to have 12 treatments. My heart sank and I told her what Dr. Wender had said. Dr. Rao said I could do that but in her opinion that was not the way to go, that was just keeping the lymphoma at bay, not working the best to cure it. She said I could go on the maintenance pills, they are expensive and some insurance companies balk, and they can have some bad side effects but there is a very good chance in two years I would be back starting from scratch and I don't want that.

That is the problem about being shuffled from doctor to doctor but if I had to choose who I trust the most, it's Dr. Rao. I've heard from a lot of people how much she is admired and respected and I guess I still hold the mouth sore comment against Dr. Wender. When Dr. Rao saw how disappointed I was to be facing treatments all winter, she again told me that this is a very curable form of cancer and she thinks this is the best way to go. She did tell me if I wanted a scan after 6 treatments, they would set one up but she would still want me to do the remaining 6 so I really can't see doing it. That's another trip to Sioux City, more expense, more time, I'd rather wait till the end.

Back in the waiting room, Bruce held my hand and said he knew how disappointed I was but he also felt this was the way to go. He said he wanted me around for a long time and we need to do whatever we have to, to achieve that, more tears flowed but these were tears of gratitude for such a loving husband, how was I so lucky?

It was a full house down there, I've never seen so many people in the big room. I was so close to getting a private bed, my favorite since I'm quite anti-social, I've never become one of 'them', but it was waiting to be cleaned and they wanted to get me started. I got to go to the little 3 chair room but soon the other two chairs filled and with all the trays and IV poles, Bruce hardly had room to sit. He had an errand to run so I encouraged him to leave after they got the IV going, as soon as I get the Benedryl, I'm gone and didn't wake up for a couple of hours when Bruce returned. 

The treatment went well, the nurse was able to bump the Rituxin up to a higher rate than I'd ever tolerated, I did wake up with a headache and tight chest but it wasn't bad. I requested a Dr. Pepper because sometimes a jolt of caffeine will knock out a headache, well that and an Aleve did the trick. Since it was pumped at a higher rate, we didn't have such a long day as we had thought and was home by 5:30. 

I've said before that even though I was dragged kicking and screaming into this, I've been humbled at the kind, compassionate care I have received, along with such kindness to Bruce and Janet as far as meals, drinks, anything for their comfort. This was Bruce and my first solo trip without Janet as she and Foof are on their way to Texas for the winter. Today we had the wonderful Mary Ann who guided me through the first treatment with another nurse in training. After the evaluation was complete, she said they had a couple of gifts, one was a homemade Christmas/get well card made by some kids in the school system for every patient, it was so touching and that made the tears flow. The other was a gift card to Fareway from funds that are raised every year from a 5K walk/run that is then used to help patients with any needs they have. So if I have to spend the next 7 months or so running to Storm Lake and Cherokee for appointments, we're lucky to have them. And if you can hug all your nurses at the end of the day, we are double lucky to have them.