Thursday, December 2, 2021

Emperor's New Clothes

Routinely, I get chastised for spending all my money on my animals. I never buy new clothes; my running shoes are all purchased secondhand on Ebay.  Irritates my mother to no end that I don't have nice clothes.

Well, I splurged on Cyber Monday, I'd had my eye on this cute little outfit for weeks.  I found the box at my gate at 5 AM this morning.

Insulated overalls.   Not just any overalls, they're from Refrigewear, a company that specializes in Winter/refrigerated cooler (think Walmart distribution center) wear.  Tried and tested Winter work clothes rated to 0'F.

There Mother, are you happy now? I saved 40%, which means I have enough money left over to buy my new German shepherd a therapeutic bed. Mother? Mother?

Friday, November 26, 2021

Thinking Outside the Box

 Old Faithful, with over 200k miles, hauled hay with me a couple weeks ago.  Out of the blue, on my way to Columbus for another MRI, something in the fuel system went bonkers.  

Decisions, decisions.  Spend a fortune having this big mama towed 40 miles to my mechanic's house, or try to limp there myself. 

We limped on what my guess is a failing fuel sending unit.  You see a lot of the countryside when you drive 15 mph.  Two miles from destination, she stalled on a hill... a bad one with a blind curve... we were a sitting duck waiting for a Mack truck to come around the corner.  No shoulder to speak of, unless you call a ravine a safe place to pull over. No choice but to unlock the wheel and coast in neutral all the way back down the hill in reverse.  

I sat for a few minutes, at the base of the hill, and had a heart to heart with my  baby girl; she has a lot of hard work miles under her belt, maybe this is a sign that she's come to the end. I know how she feels, in the past three months, I've spent almost every one of my days off in doctor's offices.  The more they poke and prod, the more problems they find unrelated to what we were investigating in the first place. The veins in both my arms are blown from too many sticks and IVs.   Sometimes I want to quit, but I don't know. So, I gave Boss a good pep talk, she fired up and we tiptoed up the hill at 2 mph, she rallied up to 10 mph when we turned down the road to the mechanic's house.  Never give up, that's my girl!

The old green farm truck is also a beast, she looks like she's been beaten with a 2x4, but still she plugs along with over 300k miles.

She and I put in a lot of late nights around the farm.

The day after the F350 died, I took the F250 to an ultrasound appointment in Auburn, the day before Thanksgiving.  Upon trying to leave the clinic, she wouldn't start.  It sounded like the plunger in the starter wasn't engaging.  This is how I ruin all my good city clothes: I crawled under her, beat on the starter to dislodge the plunger and finally got her going again. Do I drive straight to the mechanic's house and then not have a vehicle for a week?  The mechanic checked on parts while I idled around in Auburn, neither one of my trucks could be ready before Wednesday.  Because of the Thanksgiving week, staff was off on holidays, friends were off with family, I needed to figure this out on my own. I called every car rental place in a 50 mile radius, all cars rented out.  Discouraged, I opted to drive to the mechanic's house and hope I didn't need to go anywhere for a week.  Then I passed a Uhaul dealership...

With much finesse, I managed to convince them to let me leave my F250 and rent a van.

Brand spanking new van! 200 miles on the odometer.  THERE IS ALWAYS A WAY!

Falling in love with this Ford Cargo van. Handles great and holds groceries well.  If I win the lottery, I'm dropping 40k on a new van, never mind a sports car, this thing is da bomb.

Even ferries with style a geriatric, massive, debilitated German Shepherd from the barn to the house.  But that's a story for another day.

Wednesday, November 3, 2021


 So much has been going on at the farm, yet, there isn't even time to smell the roses anymore (yes, they're blooming into November in Alabama).  One day, I'll catch up and tell you of my brief life as a beekeeper two years ago.

One day, I'll find a way to clone myself, so my clone can go to the barn at 6 AM, meet with the dump truck driver at 8 AM, coordinate orders until 9 AM, plan to finish an erosion area with the tractor later in the morning; and do my daily barn feeding chores at 8 PM... all on what is supposed to be my regularly scheduled day off.

Today, I'm taking 30 minutes to give a blogging shout out to my Neurology Team at Emory Hospital in Atlanta.

 I've been struggling in school this semester.  Spending between 4-5 hours a night, 4 nights a week, sitting in class and commuting isn't conducive to maintaining my 3.85 GPA.  My constant headaches and nausea are about to make me go postal.  Well intentioned people have tried to convince me to take a year off from school.  I listen to them with my left ear (I'm almost deaf in that one).  These are the same voices that told me that pursuing my dream to move to America was pie in the sky 30 years ago.  No money, no support, "watch me" was my reply.  Same advice when I had my horse rescue: "stop working so hard", it's what I do, it's what I love.  It's my purpose.  A friend told me that going to graduate school at 50 was a waste of my time, besides, "it's a young man's game".  Hold my prune juice and watch this.  Ignore me, encourage me, but don't get in my way, I will run you over... as  motorists in Atlanta found out yesterday. 

Back to Nov 2nd.  I had an 8 AM appointment at Emory with a neuro-opthalmologist.  I was prepping dogs at 3 AM, leaving early to avoid traffic.  Hit it anyway.  Accidents all on I-85 had me hopscotching through Atlanta back streets for an extra hour.  Then, 30 minutes to find an underground parking to fit my tall and wide girl.

 Instead of being an hour early for my appointment, I slide up to reception like it's first base, sweaty, flustered and 30 minutes late.  With 4 hours of tests ahead of me, I wouldn't have blamed them if they'd turned me away. The office manager took pity on me.  I had called at 8:01 to tell her to look out the tower window, I was here, big flatbed circling around was me!  Don't cross me off the list.

So, here's the verdict:  I'm brain damaged.  I don't believe the good doctor was prepared for me to laugh, but he doesn't know that I have an ex-husband who could've told me that for free.  

The purpose of this visit was to understand how my brain tumor was causing my hearing loss and vision problems.  What the optic nerve specialist found instead is that the tumor isn't causing the pressure on the left eye nerve, it's altogether something else. Joy.  Another problem; actually 2 new problems.

Dr. Kedar asked if I'd ever had a concussion.  Well, I've taken some nasty spills off horses' backs, had some epic mountain biking wrecks, had my head smashed and jaw fractured with a 2x4 when I was repoing cars in my 20s, fractured my temporal bone back in 2015 by an accidentally self-inflicted blow with a steel rod (I'm gifted), and my ox Tommy broke my nose when he accidentally head butted me in 2018... Flynn said my left eye buried itself by my nose and it never quite went back to being even semi-straight. So, after consideration, my answer was a simple yes.  He found that the damage from multiple concussions is what is causing my headaches and quadruple vision in the left eye.  Not a double vision where the letter you're looking at has shadows of itself behind it, no I see 4 clear copies of something when looking dead at it.  You have no idea how giddy I am when I hit the keyhole with my first stab.  I sometimes take pictures of my homework to blow it up jumbo size so I can make out the numbers. 10,000 can easily look like 1 million to me.  Nothing can be done for it.Lifelong issue now. He did however show me how to reduce the pain and line up my vision so I can see a bit better.

I wish I were kidding.  I don't know how this is working, but bending and twisting my head down is almost instant relief.  I've always slept like Superman on my belly, 6 months ago, I started to force myself to sleep on my back for better posture.  This is why I've been spending sleepless night staring up at the ceiling with a throbbing headache.  Last night, I flopped over on my belly and crooned my neck to one side... slept solidly.  I don't intent to walk around like Quasimodo the rest of my life, but I'll accept 'permanent brain damage' over growing brain tumor any day.

The other double vision is caused by something funky going on with the cornea of my left eye.  My next Emory appointment is with the cornea specialist... I'll need a special parking pass if this starts to be a bi-weekly excursion.  

I left Emory almost in tears.  Tears of gratitude.  I've grown accustomed to not expecting miracle solutions, so having more facts and answers is good enough for me.  To celebrate, I hopped over to my favorite store: Whole Foods and did some damage to my credit card.  I feasted in my truck for half an hour, livened up by the prospect that even though I'll never be headache free again, I have some coping mechanisms now, corneal remediation in December, and potentially good nights of sleep ahead of me.

Upon leaving, I checked my GPS, I'd missed my chance to get out of Atlanta.  If I hadn't spent all that time at Whole Foods, I could've been South of where an accident just happened, blocking all lanes of I-85... or as my calculations showed, I could've been in it!!!  My team of guardian angels working overtime today. When I eventually passed the scene, it was gruesome: a crane was trying to pull a truck out of a ravine and two mangled cars were sitting on a trailer.  Parts of them.  Both had been flattened and one had been cleaved in half.  The other half still sat across the interstate with a sheet on it. Other wrecked cars were lined up on the side of the road.  

Guardian angels earned their stripes today for sure.  Up the road on I-85 in downtown Atlanta, traffic was at a snail pace around an underpass.  I saw it coming and slowed.  The car behind me slammed on his brakes just in time.  The guy behind him didn't make it.  I felt a jolt, then the chain reaction started.  It was like watching a horrible slow motion film in my rear view mirror and I couldn't bail left or right.  When the car ahead of me pulled up, I crept forward, so did the car behind me... not of his free will.  He was on my hitch.

We didn't figure all this out until he locked his brakes and I drove off with his bumper.  He waved me on to keep driving, I could still hear the slamming of cars happening behind us. So I did. I swung onto the HOV lane, half on the shoulder of the road, back into traffic, weaving, honking, I forced my way out of there.  I need a tank to drive in Atlanta.  Maybe a bus.

Haven't told you either that there's 8 dogs in my care, plus #8 is pregnant.  I think I do need a bus.

Sunday, October 3, 2021

Jamie Out On The Town Til 3 AM


Saturday started out with so much promise. We of Farm Team were knocking out work left and right.

I rolled in from work at 8:30 PM.  An hour later, I was rattling pans to make supper for myself and the horde of dogs.  I heard squaloring outside and Miss Pippins came back in whimpering and salivating. Her face started to swell almost immediately.

The snakes have been very active the past couple of weeks with Autumn in the air.  Cristian dispatched a cottonmouth that was making a beeline for his patio.

Cole was bitten on the leg by a venomous snake 5 years ago, then Angus on the nose, then it was Garrett in the mouth, also Axel on the leg, and then Micah on a foot.

The price to pay for living in Jurassic Park. 
Naturally, when Pippins started snorting and panicking because she was having a hard time breathing, I said a little thank you to Murphy's Law for sending me an emergency on a Saturday night after hours.  

The look an animal gives you when in distress.  It shatters my heart.  The more she whimpered and choked, the harder I pushed my 20 year old truck. I suspected a copperhead bite.  We made it to the vet school in record time.

Bless my big old girl, she has the soul of a lion.
Thankfully, I had the presence of mind to grab some homework because I was able to get quite a bit of homework done during my four hours in the Emergency waiting room.
We were released when they stabilized her and run a battery of tests.  Diagnosis:  bug bite.  Genius apparently tried to eat a venomous bug, hence why her mouth and throat were swelling.  
Gee, I wonder how much this bug bite will cost me.  
We return home around 3 AM.  The dogs and I finally got to have supper. 

Pippins wanted nothing but her couch.  I wanted nothing but my bed.  Fortunately, Adjanie and Cristian had Sunday morning horse feeding covered and I could actually sleep in. 
Not my kind of night on the town.

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Grad School

 I'm in !!!

All the hard work of the past two years has come to fruition. 25 years ago when I failed to get into to Vet School, I swore I'd be back.  I came back with a new plan and a vengeance.  Overall GPA of 3.88 (93% for you Canadians) ushered me into grad school without having to take the GMAT exam.  

But, grades aren't enough.  I was concerned that my age and my lack of experience might play against me.  I had taken a graduate level Accounting class at Auburn this Summer and it just about killed me.  Most of the students in the class were already CPAs with years of experience. I was completely out of my league, but this little tadpole fought hard and earned a solid B in Account Analytics.  

I had entertained applying to University of Alabama's Master of Accountancy program and Mercer's also, but my eye was on the prize:  Auburn University.  My mentors at my current college, Columbus State University, tried to prepare me for a refusal since AU's MAcc Program is very competitive, thanks in part to their high ranking.  

I aimed at the tallest peak and bagged it.  I finish my undergraduate work at Columbus State University in December.  I can sit for my CPA exam in January, but the passing rate is under 70%, so I'd rather get more classes under my belt before attempting it.  The CPA exam is a 16 hour test broken into 4 exams.  It's expensive to take, and therefore even more expensive to fail.  I prefer to go in strong.

Besides this semester, I've decided to become a certified Project Manager.  As part of my IT Project Management class, we're redesigning a website for a local nonprofit .  The industry certification test is based on the PMBOK bible and I'll need all Christmas break to study for it.  I don't know what I'll do with it, but already it's proven useful at work here on the farm.

I've always used index cards to plan weekly work, but now that I'm using the Agile Approach of Scrum and Kanban, I'm the farm's official Scrummaster.  (Look it up, it's an actual job title...had to be a millenial who came up with that one and didn't think how it sounded like scrotum, maybe that's just me).  

Now, I can forecast weeks in advance and involve my stakeholders (coworkers among them) in the planning process.  

So, this odyssey to get an Accounting degree is almost to its end and another adventure is about to begin in 2022.  I'm trying a new tactic:  slow and easy.  I've not enjoyed the struggles of going to school fulltime during a pandemic, in the midst of a divorce and plagued with medical issues.  I have relished winning every battle, but this Warrior is tired.  Flynn used to say I was the General on the Front, and he was the Army on the Flanks.  Well, I'm ready to temporarily sit in the back seat for a while and enjoy the scenery out the window.  This little general is pretty busted up from meeting every obstacle headlong; from here on out, I'm going to become more of a tactician, less of a battering ram.  That's the plan anyway.

To that end, I've joined Adjanie's gym and hired a dietician to help me get back on track, and a trainer who has experience dealing with the side effects of strokes.  

Since February, I've been dealing with daily headaches and nausea, to the point that I was getting toradol shots in the arse so I could function.  When the headaches didn't relent, I was referred to a neurologist, who discovered a mass parked on my pituitary gland and evidence that I'd suffered mini strokes some time back in the Winter.  From there, I was sent to Emory's Neurosurgery Clinic.  The neurosurgeon and endocrinologist are in consensus that the strokes send a clot to the tumor and in effect damaged it. Is it dead? We don't know, not like you can pop the hood and check.  But, during its apoplexy, it shut off functions of the pituitary gland and hence brought me to my knees back in March.  Tests show that it's coming back online, but that I'll need lifelong monitoring and hormone replacement therapy to be normal (stop snickering, as normal as Jamie can ever be).  

Meanwhile, we wait.  The surgeon wanted to go in and remove it, but my insurance is balking.  They insist on getting a second series of MRIs in 6 months, which, coincidentally is after I graduate and lose the insurance I have through CSU.  Crafty bastards.

An Emory neuro-opthalmologist will meet with me next month to see if my damaged eyesight can't be tweaked to relearn how to process vision and help with the headaches. My hearing in my left ear is shot, but I believe there's hope.  I already feel like my brain as been trying to create new pathways to get around the roadblocks.  My new trainer is going to focus on improving my balance.

Whoever coined the term 50 is the new 40 needs to be shot.  I turn 50 October 6th and I feel 50, been feeling 50 for at least 3 years now. Stuff like this didn't happen when I was 40: 

  The dogs knocked me over while they were chasing a cat.  I tore the ligaments in my ankle, told you I had to work on my balance.  I slapped a brace on it and kept going about my business.    

                Lead, Follow, or get out of my way!

        Celebrate life in whatever manner you choose, don't squander it.

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Do You Look Like Your Dog Or Does He Look Like You?

 I once believed I was cast from the same mold as my pointers:  lean, fast and neurotic.  As the years grow, I feel more kinship to Peter the Elder.

The Grandpa of this joint, the umpire when dog play gets too rough, the nanny who licks all the pointers dry when we get back from runs, Peter may not be able to lope from one end of the farm to the other as he once did, but he can ride coach.

Never leave a man behind. Pippins and I pull him around in the bicycle wagon.

A few months back while Peter was with his physiotherapist, she noted how his front leg lameness was getting worse.  Long story short:  we had a pinkie cancer scare. The vet school amputated his toe.

So, now when he goes to PT, he gets more therapeutic massages and shorter underwater treadmill activities.  I think he's OK with that.

Peter would've been long gone years ago if it hadn't been for the care he gets from his BFF/physiotherapist, Liz. It's all about living your best life.  I may not be the speed demon of 7 years ago, but considering how many times I've been sewn back together, I owe a debt of gratitude to the Hughston Orthopedic Hospital and my Drs. Stewart, Jacobson and McDonald for enabling me to live my life to the max.

When the recent surgery to repair my broken finger failed due to infection lysing the bones in my finger, I only had one choice:  be like The Peter.

Thanks to my ticker, I remain awake during most surgeries, general anesthesia is too risky.  You don't realize how busy an OR is until you're conscious for the procedures.  BTW, most surgeons don't appreciate their patients talking to them and asking questions.  Want to freak someone out who waltzes into the room?  Say good morning to them as the surgeon is busy chopping off your finger.  They don't expect a conversant patient.  Nerve block, bit of Lidocaine and I was out of there by 9:30 AM.

Protocol is that you can drive yourself to the hospital, but family or friend must pick you up, not even Uber (I tried).  So, I had driven my truck and trailer to town at 4:30 AM and I'd hidden them in the bottom of the hospital parking lot.  I can play by the rules.  Post-surgery, the nurse had me in a wheel chair at the curb and we heard Vannah before seeing her.  My Heavy Metal coach swooped in and peeled back out.  She drove me a few hundred yards, deposited me at my truck and sped back off to run farm errands.  I had farm errands of my own to run and I wasn't about to spend a day being unproductive in bed staring at my nub.  First task:  get coffee.  Do you know that Lidocaine gets in your brain? 

One of my jobs was to have the farm trailer evaluated, the coupler had gotten loose and I thought it might be unsafe.  Here's where I ended up.

I felt like I'd stepped back into El Salvador. The whole block building was like a fortress with an inner courtyard.  Everything painted in bright colors. As I was waiting for my turn, roosters chased me around the truck, then Chiahuahuas darted out to savage me.  Lidocaine once again probably responsible for having me think this was hilarious.

Also relished was the thought that I might qualify for a handicap placard now.  Don't amputees qualify???

Last errand of the day:  picking up our new mower.

Does it hurt?  Yeah! But, does it require 30 tablets of opiods and 2 weeks off???  I think not.

The prescription was never filled.  

I have too much living to do to lay around feeling sorry for myself.  And Vannah had too much grass to cut.  

I think they've bonded, she's put miles on the new Zero Turn in the 5 days we've had it..

The next day, Cristian's dad and I tackled the burn pile.  Me trying to manage the flame thrower with one hand and Ivan carting around buckets of diesel to light this soaked pile of limbs.  

I guess we worried Cristian too much, he took the flame thrower away from me. 

Ain't nobody going to stop me, nor Peter.  Life is to be seized, not squandered.

My pinkie won't bend anymore, which is an issue since the farm has already claimed the end of it, I'd rather not have the remainder ripped off.

Pinkie physiotherapy.  Just like Peter.  Except I get no hugs and kisses, just Elvira Mistress of the Dark twisting my freshly cut nub.

And laughter; surround yourself with creative, irreverent nut jobs.  My sister in Texas wanted the cut finger to make a birthday candle holder out of the bone, a dear friend wanted it to craft as an amulet, I wanted it because Halloween is around the corner and I already had a dozen practical jokes to play on coworkers and neighbors.  Unfortunately, the surgeon refused my request to put it in the baggie I had stashed in my hospital gown.  

The best one though is from my neighbor, Scrappy:

Bless his heart, I depend on our texting repartees to keep me sane.  Well, I think I'm sane, my dogs do too, they tell me that all the time.