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.


Thursday, September 23, 2021

Tennessee Mountains Calling Me

 We get our hay from high in the mountains in Northern Tennessee.  That's the southernmost limit of where cool season timothy grass can grow.  Here in the South, hay is typically bermudagrass.  In comparison to timothy, it's woody, lacks nutrition and is prone to cause colic.  If you're not familiar with colic in horses, it's not as simple as burping a horse and they're all better.  An average colic case can cost $5000, you're fortunate if your horse pulls through.  Two months after starting to work here, one of the Super Senior horses, Teejay, colicked and spent some quality (expensive) time at the vet school. 

It would take another year before I was given the manager's reins and one of my first moves was to focus on equine nutrition.  At the time, 3 of the senior horses lacked enough teeth to power through woody bermudagrass, two others had Cushing's disease and a fat pony was prone to laminitis.  The choice was clear: timothy.

When I had my rescue, I drove my flatbed trailer up into the Kentucky mountains a few times a year for hay. It was always super stressful trying to dodge rain with 250 precious bales of hay on an open trailer.  That hay farm has since been sold, so I called the Tennessee Farm bureau and asked which farmer's hay tested out at the highest quality the most consistently.  Mr. Jones' hay was #1.  So that's where we go.  Per bale, he's cheaper than the locally baled shredded bermudagrass cardboard, he's cheaper than his competitors, the catch is that he lives so far up narrow winding roads that a semi can't make it up to him to transport hay.  So, we rent Uhauls and get it ourselves.  

Pre-flight check.

Healthy snacks for the road.

Thursday, September 2, with only a two hour nap in me, the ship sailed before midnight.

One very dazed and confused Suki.  Luke was going to take care of the 5 others, but Special was getting to go on her first road trip.

As if I go anywhere without a dog.

The only way to go through Atlanta:  wee hours of the morning.

"Are we there yet?"

Usually we go as a team with a backup driver, or a night's rest to break up the 24 hour journey.  I was going solo.  No time to wait for backup:  Mr. Jones was down to his last 200 bales and I claimed them before another buyer from Chattanooga could get them on Saturday.  Even my UPS driver tried to persuade me to wait until Saturday so he could go with me.  Nope, hay won't be there.  

You can keep the beach, nothing more beautiful than the mountains.

Arrived at my destination exactly on time: 8 AM.

Thorn Hill, Tennessee, wedged in a valley bookended between mountains.

Mr. Jones is a gem.  The knowledge he has of the land can't be condensed in a manual, it comes from working the land for 50 years.  Whenever we connect, either by phone or in person, we dive into farming lore and only resurface a couple hours later.  I consider myself to be a decent tractor operator, but I wouldn't have the nerve to crawl around some these hills of his with a baler.  He spoke this time of how every side of the hills have different times of the day when grass is at its peak.  He explained that this one hillside peaks later than the rest and a few weeks back, he parked his tractor under a tree and waited an hour for the sun to hit it just right before cutting.  He is the zen master of hay.  

Taking my precious load down the one lane county road, hoping no one else coming up the mountain, cuz Izza gonna run them over.

Homemade pasta salad after hand stuffing 200 bales into the Uhaul.

My GPS rerouted me through Asheville, North Carolina because the southbound lane of the highway I should've been on was closed due to a big accident. A few hours longer, but better than sitting in traffic.  

 I wasn't keen on the steep roads and the runaway truck ramps, but I pursed my butt cheeks, used the truck's gears to try to keep myself below 70 mph.

The UPS driver called to tell me to avoid Atlanta.  Rush hour traffic had spawned numerous accidents.  Check.  Took a  two lane drive through previously uncharted territory in North Central Georgia.  Gorgeous historic towns made the slow journey a delight.  

Suki and I docked at 10 PM.  22 hours straight.  I join the ranks of Kyle and Jordan Dearman, the only other two to have completed solo, one day missions to get hay.  I'm now an honorary Dearman brother.  Kyle is an army Ranger. so when tired and wistfully looking at motels thinking if I could just rest for a few hours, I had channeled my inner 30 year old Army Ranger and powered through.

The next day, Cristian, Luke and his mom, Karin lent a hand to unload.

Team work.

Bless this beast for its labors.

Until we meet again next year...