Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Little House's Family Vacation, Complete With "Drive-By Shootings"

A lovely drive through Vermont & New Hampshire on our way to Portsmouth.
Our summer vacation has now come and gone.  We had hoped to get over to Portsmouth late summer or fall and when our calendar seemed to be filling up with no option of "getting away" and my husband invited me to take a ride over to this same area for business purposes, it seemed to be the perfect opportunity to turn it into a mini vacation. My husband agreed.

We called our girls and they didn't have to do much to clear out a couple of days.  It seemed that we had asked at the right time. Their significant others each were into new jobs and it wasn't the time for them to "cut loose", and my oldest daughter's boyfriend's children were all back in school. We were pleased to gather at least our own girls and have a family reunion.

I used to say that the best example of an oxymoron is a family vacation.  It is literally no vacation when you pack up children to get away, as there isn't any getting away from anything when you take the kids with you. Not only would we pack their clothes, and ours, but travel games, music tapes and then all the meals and snacks. We found it easier to travel with a camper and then a small motor home, quite literally taking our home with us! It was a comfortable mode of traveling as we could stop and rest as we needed to and the journey itself was entertaining. Travel monies were gas, campground and activity fees as opposed to the cost of motels, and restaurants, besides which we knew what our accommodations included, and for the most part they were very comfortable!

Not all of our drive is so scenic!
When we  moved to the country and started taking trips to cities, getting a motel room seemed to be a better option. Driving a motor home in a city was just too hard besides! Though  I never drove, I did bite many a nail to the quick, just watching my husband maneuver the cumbersome motor home in city traffic. It is now sold and those days are history.

This "get-away" would be simple and fast, and I was delighted that my husband was able to find a room for only $12 along with his remaining travel points left from days when his old job demanded overseas travel. I had always been the penny-pinching director of our trips and it was nice that he had taken on that role, though we agreed that with just the few of us we could afford to eat out on this trip and forego the hassle of packing a cooler with sandwich makings. How luxurious!!

Being adults, we each packed our own bag, taking only a change or two of clothes, and the kids added what they thought necessary for the beach: chairs, towels, and umbrellas and we then gathered to load it all into one car before departing. But some things never change! My oldest daughter packed games and crocheting, like we were going for a week. I, on the other hand, moving into my senior years, packed a small sampling of our medicine closet, and got myself a new mini purse to downsize, what was needed when shopping, but I too had a travel bag with my essentials: camera, medicines, wet wipes for senior spills instead of toddler messes, a book, journal and seemed like light packing to me, but I seemed to forget that we were all traveling with bigger bodies and in a compact car! It didn't take long to realize that we were like sardines in a tin, without any room for the mustard sauce! I did throw in a couple bags of popcorn and a thermos full of hot tea for myself that I could refill at the motel, along with my thermos tea cup.

I had even brought along my new CD of Pavarotti, The 50 Greatest Tracks. It was only twenty-five years ago that we had all watched him on PBS and loved him. How fun that we could leave behind the We Sing tapes, though what to my wondering ears should  I hear as we pulled out the drive-way, but my daughter blaring Stevie Wonder! "Don't worry," she said, I have brought some great music for our trip!!" I now remembered, that when they were kids, they had headphones with their music and we had ours!! My face must have shown its disdain for she was quick to add Pavarotti to the mix, but it was clear that I was the first to have to adjust my expectations for this trip!! I had forgotten, that the last trip we took with our now alien adult girls, they had their car and we had ours!!

Sitting in the back seat, one of my legs started cramping, and I reached for my medications.  Likely not a good time to cut back on my anti-inflammatory meds! . My daughter was driving and my husband was in the front passenger seat, all comfortable to take in the scenery. I could tell that all were in full vacation mode! I was having second thoughts and we hadn't even left town! With a little Pavarotti music and extra medication, I soon settled back and was content, drifting into a light nap.

I woke about forty minutes later as I heard my daughter telling my husband to get ready to see her favorite old mansion that had been turned into a Senior Care Facility. She explained that they had planted the entire lawn in gardens and knew that we would want to take a picture. My travel bag with my camera was now in the trunk, as there had been no room for it next to me in the back seat "Don't worry" my husband said, "I will get a good drive-by shot". It was deja-vu!! My husband, who loved to drive, never wanted to stop for pictures.  "No need." he would say, "when I can get a great drive-by shot", a photography skill that he developed himself!
The nursing home that transformed their lawns into scenic gardens!!

Is this nice for the senior residents or what?
Being wheeled through these gardens must make an day a joy!
Our family photo albums are filled with such shots...blurred scenery, complete with a clear image of the mirror on the side of the car!! Now at least he has a camera with a quick setting, to still the picture so they aren't so much like a modern painting of smeared color with no clear definition! I dream of developing my photography skills, but our vacations are not the time for such practice with my camera all carefully packed and charged, packed in the trunk...and there would be no stops. We were on our way to Portsmouth and clearly couldn't wait to get to the beach!

Hungry and ready for lunch, but with no one else wanting to stop, I reached for the bag of popcorn and was glad to have it. A snack would have to do, and I dreamed of our great fresh seafood dinner we would have that night!
New Hampshire beach front property...and no this is not where we stayed!

We arrived at the motel mid-afternoon and that was the next great shock. Our room was in every way very nice except that there were two double beds! After sleeping in a king-sized bed for years, they looked more like twin beds to me!! My husband and I are not light-weights and haven't slept in a double bed for years! Our girls are full grown and not small in stature either! "Yes", my husband said, when I gasped, "This was all they had!!" I now understood that our twelve dollar bargain room was perhaps not the bargain that I had counted on. Perhaps we could spend a little more and get a second room I suggested, after my oldest daughter, who had brought games and crocheting had unpacked consuming the top of the only dresser!! My husband then announced that the motel was full, and they had no other rooms!!

The beach scenery...turns any drive into a vacation!
Next on the travel itinerary was to change into swim attire and head for the beach in time to catch the last rays of sunshine.  Still on the Marshall Protocol, sunbathing really isn't on my agenda, especially on a hot day when I would swelter protecting myself from the sun. No problem, I had an alternative plan! I could stretch my legs and perhaps catch a real nap in a quiet air-conditioned motel room, complete with room darkening shades? They could take in the last rays of sun while I consumed a whole bed to myself, especially now knowing that  the night ahead would be a challenge!

Our spirits soared with the gulls!

My oldest daughter picking sea shells.
I woke refreshed and freshened myself up for dinner and then waited.  I can always entertain myself reading while I wait...and wait was an understatement...I waited... and I Started to get hungry and then hungrier...I combed our bags for any last bits of everyone's remaining snacks and found none. I didn't even have a plastic key card to the room to allow me to go down to the lobby to the snack machines, though my husband had all our traveling money with him! Hunger is good, I tried to assure myself as it would leave more room for our lavish seafood dinner.
We weren't the only ones taking in the beach view!

My husband and girls finally returned and then had to get cleaned up, taking turns using one bathroom...My daughter split a mashed granola bar she had in her pocket, only to then tell me that they had all stopped for lunch while I slept!! Hours later we were at the restaurant, only to realize that we were none to early and had another 45 minute wait. It seemed all the seafood restaurants were filled to the gills!! Yes, seafood restaurants have gills!! I was beyond by the time we got our food! Any thoughts of limiting my intake was gone and no expense was spared! Our dinner was delicious and my youngest enjoyed finishing her usual dual lobster dinner, cleanly picking every morsel from their shells, and taking her desert to go as the restaurant closed. We were then off to see the beach by moonlight.

It was a full moon over the ocean and a lonely surfer was taking to the water! It was a perfect occasion for photographers and all of our cameras were back in the motel room! My husband and kids, ready to relax and sleep were eager to return. I was glad that I hadn't finished my book, though I was relaxed enough to nod off with the others and apparently was able to sleep more soundly than I thought leaving my oldest daughter to watch over her younger sister who smokes and had to step outside of the motel's lobby to do so, making her older sister's night an unrestful one!

The air-conditioner triggered on and off. Adjusting the temperature setting low, preferring cooler sleeping temperatures, our youngest had packed well bringing her own double fleece blanket that she wrapped herself in with what appeared to be a snowsuit underneath!! Both my husband and I woke in sync with the room heating up when the air-conditioner cycled off, only to have it trigger back after we were fully awake.

It was a long night and morning came with all four of us needing to use our one shower and toilet. Fortunately some slept in making for different bathroom shifts. The early risers brought back tea and hard boiled eggs for me and we all managed to be out by our checkout time, ready for another day's sight-seeing. My husband was already a bit frustrated with the hurry-up-and-wait-for-everyone-to-get-ready-to-leave-routine, and being the taxi-driver with no destinations of his own, he soon remembered too well the family vacations of yester-years. He fell into his role to please everyone by managing to get us to our destinations that were all different. Fortunately we had all agreed upon two common destinations and that they would be the first and last stops of our trip.

Crowded beaches...I prefer them private and enjoyed the bench and view!
Easy to sail away in your head while you take in the view!

Love watching the waves hit the rocky shoreline!

I think this would be a good sport to practice my balance!!
Being Saturday the public beaches were wall to wall beach towels and umbrellas, so we stopped along the roadway and pulling into a parking place, I looked at the wall of rocks I needed to climb to get a view of the ocean and stepped back into the car! Did I mention that I have weak ankles and have issues walking on level ground? Only a few miles down the road  we found another more suitable spot complete with a park bench and big boulders for our more adventuresome girls to spread out their towels and do a little sunbathing. It was a perfect day and a perfect spot. The sun was shining but there was a nice cool breeze. My husband could get some pictures of the ocean using his telephoto lens and it was fun to listen to my girls visiting and giggling as they sunbathed!
Preparing to do a little sun bathing on the rocks and listen to the waves!

Kite flying...another way to let your spirits fly!
Next, onto a seashell and rock store, a favorite for my girls and I was dropped off at the Portsmouth Quilt Shop, to be turned loose with my mini purse and charge card!! Then onto Dairy Queen before heading home! Another Little House family vacation, where everyone is happy to be back to their respective homes and beds, and at last get out of the cramped travel car!!

Restful? No! Relaxing? No!! But satisfying none-the-less that we all got a delicious seafood dinner, Dairy Queen, visited the ocean and our favorite shops, with a chance to visit and giggle and groan! We are again ready to be separated from each other for a while!... What do we have to show for our trip? We have my husband's drive-by-shootings, along with a few of his more relaxed ocean shots, a sun-burn or two, a few rocks and shells and quilting materials!! Mission accomplished!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

"To Life!!"

I have been reading a wonderful book, To Life by Harold Kushner.This is a book about being Jewish and although I am not, it has gotten me into thinking about, and appreciating my own faith and its roots as well as the many stories and spirits of my ancestors. Rabii Kushner talks about how empowering and enabling it is to embrace one's collective faith and family, culture and past. I am in process of  doing just that.

 My dad with his grandmother & grandfather, who fought in the Civil War.
It started some time ago when I discovered that my great grandfather had fought in the Civil War under General Custer and spent the best part of a year in various prison camps, including the Confederate Prisoner-of-War-Camp in Andersonville, Georgia, where so many died of disease, starvation and exposure. I can't help but think how courageous, tenacious, and tough my grandfather had to be to persevere and survive this war! His wife, my great grandmother was no wuss either. She had been a prize-winning trick bare-back rider in her earlier days!

Years ago I picked up a book about the Amish customs and sayings, and returned home to have a serious visit with my aging mother.  Within the pages of this book were not only, my mother's most frequently used quotes, but my mother's idiosyncrasies. It was as though I was reading a book all about her, and indeed I was.  Her family all came from the Pennsylvania Dutch culture of Lancaster County. I have since become friends with a woman who is somewhat younger than my mother whose family also came from this same region.  We laughed and compared notes about our customs: suppressed outward expression of emotions, blended with a strong independent spirit of living their faith with practical knowledge that "God helps those who help themselves" resonated with us both. My mother's grandparents worked hard to teach their children to be "industrious, frugal, honest, and pious" through their "own example of living right". These values taught to my mother by her mother, made her very practical, hard-working and strong! She took pride in doing whatever she did with much care and diligence, and saw to it that her children did the same!

My mother, dressed in black, with her six sisters and one brother.
My mother was raised on a farm in Nebraska during the infamous Dust Bowl Days and shared with her children story after story about her rural upbringing with her many siblings. Being from a poor family during these tough times when many went hungry, they learned to be creative and resourceful, and take pleasure in the simple things of life. Picnic suppers taken to their cow pastures was great fun for her and her sisters along with enjoying pink kitties that were born in the barn where the mother cat had given birth to them where the powdered red barn paint was stored. My mother also told about jumping out of a hay loft and breaking her nose, but her and her sister lying about it to her parents, lest they get into trouble for being where they weren't supposed to be. Another fun story was about my favorite aunt getting very excited to find that her grandmother was at her house early in the morning with a store bought cookie tin.  She was told to wake her sisters and get dressed and then come down for a surprise.  She was sad to learn that the surprise was another sister, instead of store-bought cookies! The tin was simply a safe and clean container to store what was needed for a home birth.
My grandmother's parents. "Education and good character all important"!

My mother was very close to her next older sister. There was only one year age difference between them and everyone had thought this sister was their mother's favorite as she got to go everywhere with their mother. They all were shocked to learn later that this was her mother's very intelligent way of keeping her sister from leading my mother and her other sisters into mischief, as she did without her mother's careful eye!
My mother (light colored jacket), her next older and two younger sisters.

All of these stories added to my own childhood adventures in Denver, Colorado, where our living was still quite rural. Collectively we joined water hoses together to stick in a prairie dog hole, hopeful of flushing one out and into a box placed over another hole. Their front and back doors were not so easy to figure out however! Catching crawdads and garter snakes was definitely easier.

My kids, living on a farm in Vermont with gardens, hay lofts, and kittens.
I think all these rural stories influenced me to embrace the opportunity of living on a rented farm in rural Vermont with our children. I remember sitting in our farm-sized tomato garden, weeding it and looking out over the rolling hills of this three hundred acre farm, with view of its apple orchard and nearby woodland and never feeling richer in my life. My kids re-lived my mother's upbringing on this farm, keeping secrets from me until we no longer lived there. Howling to attract the coyotes and climbing high into the hay loft would have been cause enough for me to return to Denver from where we came. They were living out my dreams of being raised on a farm just as my mother and her sisters!

My mother's mother, my grandmother, college educated.
My mother's mother kept journals recording the day to day activities of her life and I am privileged enough to have a computer copy of several of them. Her father "believed in the merits of an adequate education" even for his daughter, rare in her day and her diaries are well written historical logs of her life. I have been told they are valuable pieces of history that are deserving of publishing. They read like Little House on the Prairie and tell about raising her seven daughters and one son with her husband on their farm in Hickman, Nebraska.
A too serious message to my grandmother by her father in her autograph book!

My grandmother's three brothers, "universally respected, admired and loved".
This same grandmother had three brothers by the last name of Kiechel and following in their father's footsteps, all became active leaders in their Nebraska communities "inspiring others through their honest toil and practical economy, in keeping with the essential traits of character, earning them things that money cannot purchase: universal respect, admiration, and love" (wrote their father, Fred Kiechel about his values, not specifically of his sons). One was a farmer, another a state legislator and another a county judge.  I have heard it said that the judge went on to be a judge at the Nuremberg trials.

I returned to Nebraska years ago to bury my parents and I received a grand tour of the region, by mom's cousin, and heard more stories, and visited ancestor's grave sites. What a privilege to be a branch of  this long extended Martin/Kiechel clan!

My dad's grandmother and mother, both French milliners.
My dad's mother's and grandmother's French Millinery shop.

My dad was never proud of pictures of himself donned in lace.  I love them!!  
When I was small, my dad had a special box of family treasures that he had had since he was a young boy. He was orphaned at the age eight or nine and was then taken to France by his maternal grandmother to live with her cousin's family, until he was later placed in a Masonic Home for Children in Fremont, Nebraska. Both my grandmother and great grandmother had  been French milliners with their own shop and when I was a young woman I took a trip to the Ozarks to visit a friend of my dad's mother. She gave me my Great Grandmother's silver thimble.  I proudly took it home to my dad and instead of adding it to the collection of small remembrances, he gave me the little bent wooden thimble case, reuniting the thimble with its case.  If I never inherited anything else, I couldn't have been happier!  I now have bed sheets that she had trimmed with my grandmother's handmade hairpin lace as well.

My great grandmother's thimble and case...a real treasure!
My dad's mother. Sadly she died when he was but a young boy.
My own mother was creative with a needle as well, going on to become a beautiful hand-quilter, having been taught by her mother as a small child. I am so proud to stand on the shoulders of these strong creative "stitchy" women and inheriti their fine legacy of sewing talents!

Dad's relations that he stayed with when his grandmother took him to France. 
My mother received a letter from the cousin that my dad had lived with in France shortly after my dad died, and asked if I wanted to write back to them. I considered it my privilege to do so.  My dad's cousin now lives in Brussels but has a daughter close to my age who lives in nearby Maine. We we have had two reunions since writing my letter to them.

Listening to the stories about my dad's grandmother who was so very close to her French relatives was heartwarming, especially as I hadn't had the chance to know my grandmother or great grandmother. His cousin's family narrowly escaped the bombing in Europe during World War II with a mattress tied to the roof of their car, and the last time they had seen my father was shortly after World War II. Dad's cousin and her husband still live in Brussels, but have an apartment in Paris and their family's ancestral modest cottage on the French Riviera that she and my dad enjoyed as children. They are well traveled and enjoy various musical and theatrical events, fitting my image of "cultured European relations". I mistakenly thought that learning the French language would come easy for me, and instead must content myself speaking only English! My dreams and thoughts of far away foreign places is not as easily extinguished, however. How rich I feel with ancestors as interesting as these!!

I cannot stop this reverie without talking about my musical ancestry. My mother and her two older sisters sang in a trio, that performed at funerals and other occasions in the small town in Nebraska where she and her sisters grew up. As I got to know my mother more in her later years, I learned that she sang with her father and aunt and uncle as well.  She had sisters that played the piano, and a brother that played the trumpet.  Her mother had played the piano and had met my grandfather when she accompanied him playing the violin.  He also fiddled.
My mother's father, who played the violin and he fiddled and sang as well.

My Aunt, Ruth Martin, who sang on her own radio program in California.
My mother broke up her sister trio when, instead of going to California with them, she married my father and later moved to Colorado. One of the trio "made it big" having her own radio program and singing in a well-known professional chorale group. Her daughter still has a collection of her records. Again, it seemed only natural, that I loved music, though sadly my piano lessons "never took" any more than my French, and I was limited to playing only the first line or two of most songs. It did however, earn me the right to keep the old upright piano of my childhood, the one that didn't stay in tune any more than my father, who "couldn't carry a tune in a bucket"!

My love of music did take me to a local folk concert hall weekly where I met my husband who plays guitar and sings. He also played the trumpet when he was young. I tried to play the guitar as well as the piano with equal lack of success, but finally contented myself learning to play the harmonica, when my car radio broke down.  Cars, showers and closets remain my only performance venues!!

 My daughter, with a music gene, played the flute all the way through school.
My children did better than me in playing musical instruments. My eldest started with piano and switched to flute playing in her school and local village band. She also knows all the words to Broadway musical songs and not infrequently breaks into song and dance spontaneously performing for me on her kitchen stage, in front of the doorway next to my desk. She makes me laugh! She has participated in all sorts of musical theatrical productions, but mostly as stage, costumes, and props designer.

My youngest daughter was quite the drummer, but never played in sync with the band?  My husband assures me that she has great rhythm! She does, however, seem to march to the tune of a different drummer, choosing to complete her high school curriculum early in order to take college classes while still in high school! She is an apple that doesn't fall far from the tree! My dad was always a non-conformist and proudly claimed that my siblings and I were the same, along with his many grandchildren! Both my father and his father were professional engineers. My dad was a very successful business man in the construction business as Denver quickly sprawled into the city that it is today. He claimed he could solve any personal problems on his slide ruler. He was proud to follow in his father's footsteps, as he was an engineer as well and had been one of the core of engineers who built the Panama Canal!
Dad with his mom and dad, an engineer who helped build the Panama Canal.

So here's "to life"!! I see the genetic DNA  and family values live on through each of us and I am so proud of my family history and future. Strong faith, character, determination and talent are within my gene pool and my ancestors indeed make me stand a little taller! My father did warn us however, that when he asked his grandfather why the family name was changed from Campion to Campen, he was told "to never to look too close as there might be a pig thief among his relations".

She is one of  my relations! Possibly of royalty judging by her crown? LOL!!
My dad loved tracing our family tree and used to have great fun teasing my mother about her many cousins, claiming that she had "Call girls" in her family (spelled Kahl, though now I can't find them)! He laughed and created more names to add to her side of the family tree after finding "Friend Deahl" as one of her relations. My dad affectionately referred to him as "Friendly Deahl" and renamed his children to "I'va and Bad",....So, here I come to determine what is fact and what is fiction, as well as to put some names to some of the many unlabeled ancestral pictures. I won't be surprised that reality might be stranger than fiction! Eccentric and odd seem to be what I remember about some of my relatives, though fortunately, I didn't get any of those genes!!!

(Disclaimer: I have much more to learn about my ancestors and so if I didn't get all my facts straight, or you know who these unknown relatives are, please let me know!)
More relations? I am glad that this wasn't my mama!

 Mom thought he might be a relative from Hollywood...the nose is familiar! 

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Health Changes

Chronic Lyme Disease illustrated by Hannah McMillen
Days ago, I had the unexpected pleasure of talking with a friend's husband who was our local family doctor for years. When I returned to nursing, I was given the opportunity of working part time in his office and appreciated the support of his wife who was not only a wonderful supervisor and colleague, but became a good friend as well. Although by necessity, my care had to move to a different provider, I still have fond regards for this doctor and his wife. She was not in when I called, and my former doctor inquired as to how my family and I were doing. I had a nice chat with him.

Eleven years ago, I sought a second medical opinion and was diagnosed with Lyme Disease, as were my children.  My symptoms dated back to my early twenties and so by the time I was diagnosed, I had Chronic Late Stage Lyme Disease. My doctor knew that I wasn't feeling well and that I wanted to seek other opinions as to what else could be done and he supported me in seeking nutritional advice which led to more testing and the rest is history. Our lives quite literally went in different directions, as lives often do. I call his wife a couple of times a year to touch base with her, inquire as to how their family is doing and talk politics. I hadn't expected her husband to be at home, but a couple of years ago his practice changed and he is now employed by a local hospital to establish a satellite clinic in his area and his work days are shorter than when he was working for himself.

Talking to him, the years seem to melt away, and his inquiry about my present health, likely brought on more feedback than he expected. I filled him in briefly as to my present treatment, though I know that he shares the opinion of most in the medical profession regarding Chronic Lyme Disease and its treatment.They do not believe that symptoms indicate on-going infection and consequently don't feel that long term antibiotic treatment of the infection is warranted.  Instead they believe that in its chronic state palliate or symptom relief is all that can be done.

As I told him about my "alternative and controversial treatment" I carefully stuck to what he could relate to: the medical tests and facts. I told him that I had had an inflammatory style stroke almost four years ago that I  recovered from and related that I thought it was brought about after pulsating low dosages of a strong antibiotic, as when it's effect wore off, my recovery was swift and nearly 100% complete. I then told him that the most interesting part of this experience had to do with learning that my brain scans revealed several brain lesions, likely caused by lyme disease and that the symptoms of my stroke were only exaggerated forms of the same symptoms that I had had for years.

I also told him that I am presently readdressing the possibility of having Hemachromatosis, a blood disorder where there is too much iron in the blood (unrelated to Lyme Disease).  My father had had it and as it can be hereditary, my girls and I had been tested years ago, while I was seeing him. I thought the tests were conclusive but learned recently that they were not and that I should be tested yearly as with my family history I have a greater chance of developing it. I also related to him that I had been tested and treated for a co-infection that often accompanies Lyme Disease called Babesia which causes anemia, that could further complicate the assessment of Hemachromatosis and possibly mask this disorder. I take pride in using my nursing knowledge in my own care as well as the care of my family.  I have learned the hard way that a patient has to be their own health care advocate and ask questions, especially when symptoms persist, though sometimes this means seeking answers when none exist.
My new TV strengthen core muscles as I watch TV!
Both of us were aware of our different views of persistent Lyme Disease and best possible treatment options, and clearly we differ about the decisions regarding treatment. He made it very clear that eliminating Vitamin D on my present treatment was a concern to him. I assured him that I am looking forward to getting off of this unusual protocol ASAP, though I also let him know that I have experienced many positive changes from this treatment. Being able to get restful sleep as well as eliminating on-going pain and chronic cystitis (bladder inflammation) has been a huge plus, though my skin suffers from the lack of Vitamin D, but knock on wood, my bones have not.

I did tell him that I missed getting holistic care and that some of the new changes in the medical system are forcing me to continue the hunt for good doctors that are willing to treat my lyme disease, especially after the well-known family doctor that I had transferred my care to was forced to "dump" his Chronic Lyme patients, including me and my girls. We have been forced out of state to obtain ongoing medical care. Doctors' medical licenses are under threat in this state if they choose to treat Chronic Lyme Disease patients. I read not long ago that only five states have legislation that supports the open care of patients with Chronic Lyme Disease and even when legislation is passed to protect doctors' rights to treat such patients, often the hospitals that they work under will not support them treating us. I feel like a leper in a leper colony!

My old doctor queried as to whether or not networking with other lyme patients would help me to find other providers. My answer was quick and to the point: we are all having issues finding care! The few lyme specialists in surrounding states accept no insurance and are very pricey making care financially prohibitive for most of us. While I am not alone in my complaint, his response was most surprising..."Of course, insurance won't cover what isn't approved of".

We finished our conversation quickly but after I hung up, I realized how many feelings I still have about the medical community not accepting new research regarding Lyme, which has shown active lyme infection persists following antibiotic treatment and refute hard core scientific evidence that Chronic Lyme exists, causes brain and other serious neurological dysfunction, and too often goes without diagnosis until the disease has caused significant and perhaps permanent damage! Although I have no feeling of ill will towards this particular doctor, or the others that are "lyme-illiterate", I do continue to scratch my head that they have no apparent concern for the many patients that aren't identified and treated before it gets to this late stage.

How is it that the governing medical boards can ignore the dilemmas for patients who choose to continue to treat their disease like other seriously ill patients do? We need long term treatment and though it comes with risks, why is it acceptable that cancer patients be given the choice of high risk treatments and NOT lyme patients?  The limiting of our choices is appalling and getting worse all the time! Unless we are to settle for simple palliative care, which is too often the case due to the stringent guidelines the CDC (Center of Disease Control) who continues to maintain guidelines that are too strict for proper identification and treatment of this horrendous disease.

Not knowing I had this disease, I passed it to my girls in utero. As a consequence of this fact, I vowed years ago I would never give up seeking cutting edge affordable medical care and would willingly become a guinea pig for science. It is for the future of my daughters' health that I do so. I have exhausted the more traditional ways of treating Lyme and have tried a more experimental treatment with mixed results. I am once again receiving physical therapy to regain the strength lost during this treatment.
My home physical therapy program to get strong again!

I am participating in yet another experiment that is looking at the fact that many with chronic illness have severe chemical sensitivities as well as environmental sensitivities. Besides using dietary changes, mild to moderate exercise, and various forms of alternative medical treatment, many, like me, are exploring options of reducing our exposure to various radio frequency waves to further enhance our health. Crazy? Maybe, but I believe that most medical sciences were deemed so initially?
Crazy or not? A hat made of silver coated threads to shut out radio waves.

Some of the latest statistics are showing that as many as 300,000 are being stricken with this disease each year! It is mind blowing to me that many of them will go undiagnosed and develop late stage lyme within a very short period of time! Why is our country continuing to avoid addressing the treatment and research needs of this horrendous disease? It is especially puzzling when our government has admitted that they ran experiments on Plum Island years ago to develop biowarfare weapons that included enhancing tick born diseases that would render armies useless. It is likely not by chance that the outbreak of Lyme Disease in Lyme, Connecticut erupted during the same time that this weapon research was being conducted with animals in open pens only a short distance away!

Here at Little House, we continue to be open to all the efforts to address this disease and others like them and welcome your concerns and issues. You may leave your comments below or privately write to me at I would be happy to share any information I have regarding this disease (from ILADS) and what I know about the various treatments that people are using to improve their health. I offer no clinical advice, but rather share the plight of those of you who are continuing to seek help for this disease.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

A New Cook at Little House

A new cook is born with a hand-me-down Kitchen Aide and a few ingredients. 
My eldest daughter, is not only dedicating her life to her new family, she has resigned as our self-appointed cook.  This meant that my husband and I starve, or I consider moving back into my kitchen. I literally had become a guest and only showed up there for meals! As with the dusty piano tuning pegs featured in a picture in last week's blog, I needed to literally "dust off" some old cooking skills, too long unused and forgotten and learn some new ones in order to take back this less-than-favorite role of being the cook at Little House!

Having been on special diets most of my life, my shelves of recipe books have largely gone unused, except for browsing through them while drooling on their pages. I love to eat, but for many years, having to substitute ingredients makes cooking a serious mental activity. Substituting was only part of the challenge, eliminating ingredients like milk, wheat, eggs, sugar and vitamin D was yet another one. Label reading made even my simple three or four ingredient recipes a serious study, and it was just easier to find more suitable recipes!!  Somehow cheesecake just isn't the same without eggs and cheese!! I have, however managed through the years to make bread without milk and eggs, and cookies without flour as well as reduce the toxic, but delicious, sugar!

Baking always did come first!

Having inherited my daughter's Kitchen Aide for Christmas, I was already enjoying spurts of baking homemade gluten-free cookies. I progressed to making some of my family's favorite cookies to surprise them at Easter, and before long I was taking back my kitchen without my daughter to re-season my pots! I recollected how years ago, I used to put up various meals in the freezer on the weekends planning ahead for when I would come home from work too tired to cook. Now I like to take late afternoon naps, and figured I could revert back to some of my old ways of cooking and appear like Martha Stewart, having a delicious hot meal each evening while being well-rested and getting my stitching done too!

What is not to love about garden produce?
Home-grown Napa Cabbage makes a great slaw!!
Learning from my daughter and her friends, I actually started making meals by adopting one of her friend's methods of meal planning. She uses her cookbook in a straight forward way by simply starting from the beginning and fixing each recipe.  She would have seasons dedicated to nothing but salads, soups, desserts etc.  I would simply start with casseroles! I figured an afternoon of putting up several casseroles divided into smaller ones for just my husband and I, would keep us stocked for a month or more. I always did like one-dish meals, and simply pulling one from the freezer and heating sounded easy enough. Instead of cookbooks, I got recipes right off line or on Pinterest by simply doing an internet search for gluten-free casserole recipes. No substituting or eliminating ingredients would be needed!

I tried making a gluten-free lasagna, but somehow the rice noodles simply turned to starch paste when frozen. I then tried a noodle free lasagna and simply boiled rice noodles to serve with these "sauce casseroles". Still better I found excellent gluten-free Tatertot casserole recipes and made all sorts of varieties: buffalo chicken, shepard's pie, chicken pot pie,  and let me miss an ingredient or two and I started creating recipes of my own!

While my husband is "easy" to cook for, he doesn't like to eat the same thing twice in a row and so I soon expanded my repertoire and came up with "in-between-casserole meals" of hot dogs and baked beans (right out of a can), hamburgers with, dare I say it, "Tatertots" and cottage cheese with sliced tomatoes on the side. Bagged salads were easy too! Pre-made frozen stuffed shells with spaghetti sauce right out of a jar followed and was another hit for  my husband while I ate instant one-serving-sized gluten-free mac and cheese. Desserts were easier yet, an old-fashioned "Milk-Nickel" ice cream bar on a stick or variations thereof.  This made us both "stick" to a normal sized serving (pun intended) It made me wonder if perhaps meals could be served on sticks? A new form of diet that we could "stick to"? OK, now I will give up the puns!! But perhaps a great and easy invention in the future, after all my sister has gone to only using paper-ware so she doesn't have to do any dishes.  The possibilities are so vast!
Variations on a desert theme...all individual serving sized on a stick! 

We aren't starving and my confidence is building!  Though I hate to admit it, my daughter and her friend's influence came shining through. With summer approaching I turned to grilling, or to be more accurate, I recruited my husband to do the grilling. I simply marinate the chicken by pouring a little Italian salad dressing on it while it defrosts in its freezer bag (frozen, pre-filleted and and ready to go). When slipped onto a grill for a few minutes on both sides, it is delicious!  So as to not appear totally lazy, I do my part of the meal by pouring out pre-cleaned and -cut fresh veggies along with a sliced onion on a cookie sheet, sprinkle them with olive oil and garlic salt and pop them in the oven to bake for about 20 minutes or so, giving them a stir, and voila another favorite addition to any meal! BBQ'd hamburgers can also done at the last minute. With cottage cheese, canned baked beans, and bagged salad on the side, or sliced fresh cucumbers and add any left overs and we have our own smorgasbord!

Variations of squash and cucumber dishes...all easy to prepare...Delicious, no?

Zuchinni and Yellow Squash Season came next. A relative told me about her favorite recipe: sliced squash with browned hamburger. sauteed onion, covered with spaghetti sauce and topped with mozzarella cheese. It is delicious! I also made a squash dish by adding spiced Mexican-style corn and sauteed onions served with a nice sharp Parmesan cheese sprinkled on top. Miraculously, some of my meals are actually looking like healthy eating??!!

My mother's labor intensive Martin Potato Salad.
There you have it, another big change at Little House!! I am turning back into a cook, and have gotten brave enough that I even attempted to make my mother's Martin Potato Salad. This is no ordinary potato salad but a yellow mustard sort complete with eggs. My mother and her sisters grew up on it! I would fix it more often but I am the one that is most faithful to sticking with it until it is gone and I only know how to make it in "big family-reunion-sized quantities! I was proud enough of my accomplishment that I took a picture of it! My daughter was quick to tell me that I needed to work on my photography skills. Little does she know that it IS a good picture! It really did turn out to be more of a mashed potato salad, but she missed the point. I actually took the time and effort to make this involved and labor intensive dish! What a cooking accomplishment for me, mushy or not!!

A squash, hamburger, onion, spagetti sauce and cheese, perfectly "blackened".

I am now thinking myself an accomplished cook that should produce a Quilter's Easy Meal Cookbook, though I think such cookbooks already exist? Perhaps, better yet, a Fix-it, Put-it-in-the-Oven-and-Take-a-Nap Recipe Book might be more suitable for me and my friends, though that one still needs some work on the temperature settings to avoid blackened dishes, though perhaps this will become my new specialty? Right now I am simply looking forward to Bread Season, and Cookie and Cake Season, though I think we have the Pickle and Canning Season before? Pickles and jam for dinner...really? When is the Eating Out Season I wonder?

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

My Boomerang Daughter is Boomeranging Out!

Things all work the way they are supposed to, like hammers on piano strings.
I said that there were big changes at Little House and the biggest one of all is that our eldest daughter who boomeranged home several years ago is taking flight. She was our Peter Pan that wasn't in a rush to grow up and guess what?  She has a grown up boyfriend who is a widower and comes complete with a family.  Talk about growing up fast now!!  She is quickly moving into the role of step-mother to three children, ages 8, 10 and 18.

This didn't fit my idea of how love was to find her, and yet, over time we are all adjusting to the changes and my neighbor and I are now seeing that she seems the perfect fit for this family. She is a very smart young woman, and though I brag, I was never so shocked to find out just how smart she is, as she truly didn't get it from me! She has been more than a challenge to raise, usually being a step ahead of me, and now I see that "what goes around, comes around" and have to sit back and smile as I see God's justice in all of this!

These children definitely need a mother in their life and she is ready to meet that challenge, albeit, more on some days than others!  Our relationship has moved into woman-to-woman relating, and I am suddenly appreciated for the mother that I have been to her.  I don't think anything is more rewarding than to see your values being re-lived out right in front of your very eyes. And for how many years did I wonder if they had fallen on deaf ears? Not only is there an increased love and appreciation between my daughter and I, but she is bringing new hearts into our family!  How blessed we are!
The tuning pegs on our piano, like us needing to get tuned for our new roles.
I am so grateful to friends that have encouraged me through this growth process. They have assured me that no matter if "genetically linked or not", God usually surprises us with the very sorts of children/ grandchildren that will push us into areas that are beyond our comfort zone.  Isn't that the truth!!??

While I am sad to have missed their days as babies, I am under no illusion that those days would have been easier, as colic ran in our family, or was it congenitally acquired Lyme? My oldest cried straight for three months and our second for six! We weren't so sure, at first, that these children weren't exchanged in the hospital and likewise we weren't sure we were meant to be step grandparents to these children. They definitely had/have some issues due to their mother taking ill and dying when they were so young, but truly my daughter is becoming a great step mother. They have taken to her like ducks take to water! She captured their hearts and now they are capturing ours! We are ready to love them no matter what, and we notice that, miraculously, they seem to be as accepting of us.
Making music takes contact and practice, not unlike new relationships.
This has not come without other changes that will have to be reported on later but suffice it to say that our house is beginning to breathe a sigh of relief as my daughter is packing up all that she has packed in here the past several years.  Her art supply collection as well as her own material collection and books will soon occupy space elsewhere, freeing up a couple of rooms and many a shelf in other parts of the house!  We are looking forward to creating a little den to act as TV and game room to the eight and ten year old boys and we plan for it to double as a guest room and then we will have another spare bedroom besides and hope that some of our friends will come and visit us here in beautiful Vermont.
Yes, this room will soon breathe a sigh of relief...too much in too little space!

My daughter and I are very close and we are enjoying each other more now than before. I have never seen her so happy and it spills over.  We are still canning, and sewing and creating together! It is interesting to see that her changes are begetting more changes as well...if you don't believe it, stay tuned for my new blog! It is coming to you soon!! We are embracing changes in our lives and seem to both be on a  roll, for more are in the works!

I think I fell in love with these little boys when my daughter took them, my other daughter and myself to see the new Disney movie, Inside Out!  The characters were right there in front of us on the screen, as well as sitting next to us. How quick they were to see themselves and see how Sadness is needed for Joy and mix Fear, Anger and Disgust into it all and how quickly our minds can become derailed!...Aren't we each a mixture of them all?  I had to let go of some pre-conceived notions about my future grandchildren and they were, in turn, still grieving the loss of their mother and past.  We are all moving forward and opening our hearts to new relationships, loves and joys. We are now wrapping our arms around these dear children and blessings are flowing both ways!

Their eighteen year old sister is "a sweet princess" as well as a headstrong young woman.  What isn't to love about her when she invites you to her prom march and comes to your house to try on her new ball gown and get your approval? My daughter is up to the challenges ahead with this child as well. Graduating from college eleven years ago, made it such that my daughter was able to help her apply for scholarships and encourage her to keep on learning!  This has been a real joy for my daughter as well as her future step-daughter!
These Lego characters,not unlike my little alien step-grandchildren!

The boys decided it would not be a good idea to send their faces into cyberspace, learning all that they have about safety and the internet, and though their sister is likely more than willing, I decided that that I didn't want to encourage followers for all the wrong reasons.  Suffice it to say the boys and teenage daughter are smarter and better looking than average! I did tell them about my intentions to write a blog about how special it is that they have come into our lives and they seem to be quite excited about having another set of grandparents to dote on them...of course it has nothing to do with the fact that I am keeping well supplied with ice-cream and candy bars...just a cheap trick I have learned from some other grandmothers I know.

Grandmother love-bribes, how sweet they can be!!

When my kids were growing up we had a used book, called Kevin's Grandma, where Kevin would "one-up" the other kid's stories about their grandmothers.  Instead of baking cookies, Kevin's grandma would take him to karate classes  and then out for Chinese food on her motorcycle...Well, I won't go that far, but I did take the front off our old upright piano to show them the inside of it so they could see how the little hammers hit the strings.  I wonder if that will put me in the category of being like Kevin's Grandma? I hope so...
Can I become a "cool" like Kevin's Grandma?...I hope so!