You Reap What You Sow

Boy howdy. What a crazy few weeks I have been having! First, there is a LOT of good news to be excited about. Andrew and I have scored a sweet partnership with an organic farmer up in the lovely little town of Snohomish, WA, which is about 30 miles northeast of Seattle with beautiful views of the Cascades. The farmer, Eric, is a wonderful man who has agreed to take us in as interns/ farmers/ laborers / brainstormers / marketers/ whatever-needs-to-be-done-ers.

Chinook Farms is a small side business to Eric’s main endeavor, a sawmill that has been in his family for three generations. His previous farm managers left, and despite our lack of experience he was impressed with our zeal and has agreed to take us on and plan this season around our abilities and interests. We are also going to be building some kind of shelter (a yurt or a tiny house) on the farm property. This is all extremely exciting for me! I am already getting emails from him about upcoming “Grower Round Table” meetings, and different marketing ideas and plans. Andrew has already put in two days of work prepping the farm by tilling and planting seeds in the greenhouse. I cannot wait to learn everything I possibly can about farming while putting my current skills to work marketing and selling healthy food! I am also really proud of Andrew and myself for being able to realize one of our biggest goals. Watch out world!

Naturally, since this is life and nothing ever goes exactly according to plan, my amazing piece of good news has been regrettably tempered by a slew of setbacks here in Tucson. The day after being released from a rehab center (after healing from a successful pacemaker surgery) my grandmother was rushed back to the ER with insanely high blood pressure.  She spent a couple days being monitored, and the doctors readjusted her medications before sending her back to her apartment.

We celebrated this small victory by taking her to get her hair trimmed, curled, and set at her favorite salon. We enjoyed a nice lunch at the assisted living facility, and I went home to relax. A few hours later I got a phone call: “Meesh, you won’t believe this. I fell out of bed and they are taking me back to the ER.” Two ambulance rides in four days. My poor grandmother should really stop getting her hair done. Last time she went to the salon she also wound up going to the ER later that day for an extremely high fever!

Fortunately this time she only stayed a few hours in the hospital. Her X-rays and CT scans were negative (she had also bonked her head on the side table when she fell). The bad news is that she did hurt her back and is in a lot of pain. She has trouble getting out of bed or walking by herself, which is making life very uncomfortable for her.

In the meantime, I took my “special,” neurologically impaired cat to the vet to get her caught up on vaccines before our road trip up to Washington. I thought it would be a good idea in case I needed to kennel her along the way. Big mistake! She wound up having a reaction to the vaccine, and her leg is incredibly swollen and tender. I thought it was broken so I rushed her back to the vet. I lost my marbles in the office right there in front of the vet and technician, and started bawling. They were nice enough to do an x-ray and exam without charging me and sent me home with some medicine for the cat. I joked that they should have also given me a prescription for a therapist! My figures are crossed that my silly cat recovers quickly and can handle the long drive to Washington.

In two short days I will be on the road. I have anxiety about leaving my grandmother in a situation that is less than ideal. I had hoped that in coming to Tucson I would help her transition to a fairly independent, happy life in her new apartment. Setback after setback has me thinking this might be the “new norm” for her. I have to keep reminding myself that she is 89 years old! She has the memory, clarity, and wit of someone much younger, but I suppose after a certain age your body has its own ideas of what it needs.

The emotional and physical toll of rushing between hospitals, doctors appointments, doling out medications, cutting through red tape at various medical facilities, and coordinating care has me bushed. Add a dash of cat-induced panic and I am ready to keel over in Andrew’s lap and sleep for several days. I will be leaving Tucson early Saturday morning to meet him at the San Diego airport for his arrival, and I can’t wait to squeeze him, hand him the truck keys, and let him take care of me for the next few days. Everyone needs to be carried now and again…and I’m ready for my turn!

Oh No…Now I’m the Girl Who Writes About Her Cat

A week passes incredibly quickly when you are living life on the road, experiencing new sights every day with the love of your life. A week passes agonizingly slow when you are sedentary, alone with your thoughts, bad television, and your cat. Obviously adjusting to life in Tucson is going to take some time. I am grateful that I get to see my grandmother every day, and help make her life better by keeping her company and running small errands for her. When Andrew and I visited her before we went to Mexico I was worried about her. She was tired and disoriented, symptoms of the infection she has been fighting for months. For many people aged 88 these symptoms are commonplace, but for my grandmother they are extremely unusual. As a child I always thought my grandmother was invincible, and though I am far less naïve these days, I am happy to report that she is back to normal and seems healthier than ever. In fact she looks downright out of place at the rehab center, where she is the only patient who does not rely on a wheelchair to move about.

Unfortunately the world of health insurance is so muddled that the only way my grandmother’s antibiotic treatment is covered is if she stays at the rehab center until she finishes her second six-week course of medication. So I do what I can to ease her boredom by visiting her in the early afternoons, and we often sit outside and chat with a nice woman from the Congo who is recuperating from a stroke. Thankfully I never tire of hearing about the past lives of others, whether it is about pre-war Holland, post-war Ecuador, or traditional birthing practices of the Congo. It’s also fortunate that the elderly seem more than eager to share their stories and reminisce about their youth, and I am a willing receptacle for their memories.

I am living alone at my grandmother’s house, and unfortunately she lives in a suburb north of Tucson that is not within walking distance of much. Driving in this city is INSANE.  The main roads are six lanes wide, and there are very few stop signs or protected left turns. Because of this I haven’t ventured too far away from the neighborhood, but luckily I found a Bikram Yoga studio nearby where I go for an almost daily 90-minute torture session in a hot, humid, stinky room. The actual exercises and positions utilized in this kind of “yoga” are not incredibly difficult, but the near 100-degree heat and extreme humidity make this a very sweaty, dizzying, and in the end, rewarding experience. It doesn’t fulfill me spiritually in the same way that other, more traditional styles of yoga do, but at least it gets my blood moving and keeps me from going stir crazy.

When I’m not busy with Bikram or locking my keys in my truck (thank you, AAA!), I am cooking for myself using Paleo-diet friendly ingredients. I first went on this diet at the beginning of the year, and I was amazed at the results I noticed within just one month. The diet stresses fresh vegetables, fruits, meats, eggs, nuts, and other items that are considered “natural” to the ancient human condition. I already don’t eat wheat or dairy, and “going Paleo” just means I also cut out other grains like rice, and corn, and avoid overly processed foods. It’s a really great way to keep healthy, and this combined with Bikram will help me “detox” from all the noshing that occurred during the last month of our road trip.

I have also been enjoying the company of my cat, Sake. I was very fortunate to find a wonderful foster mom for Sake while the rest of us hit the road, but now that I knew I would be more stationary I decided to take her with me to relieve some of my loneliness. I love this cat, but after all I have experienced with her I have to say I might never have another. I adopted her from a shelter about five years ago, and when I took her home she was already a year old and had birthed a litter of feral kittens. Since I have owned her, her health problems have ranged from severe skin allergies to major scent gland infections to chronic arthritis. When I brought her to Tucson and let her out of her carrier I noticed she walked like she was three sheets to the wind. She was always a little on the loopy side, but at this point she couldn’t walk in a straight line to save her life! I brought her to the vet, and it was determined that she may have “bilateral vestibular disease,” which I think is a fancy way of saying serious double ear-infections.  She is on a course of antibiotics, but there is a possibility she may never fully recover. She is a very happy, loving cat otherwise, and her quality of life is still quite good, despite the apparent heart murmur that she has also acquired. I think I should just stop taking her to the vet!

In my spare time I read, research potential careers, or as a last resort, watch television. The other day I decided on a whim to apply for a position as a Park Ranger for the National Park System…at Kenai Fjords, Alaska! I have no idea how competitive the position is, or whether or not I will even make it through the first cut. I have never even been to Alaska! Ironically that seemed as good a reason as any to apply, and since I am determined to avoid a traditional office job for the time being, I might as well venture out on a limb or two while I can! In the meantime you can find me in Tucson, white-knuckling the steering wheel, sweating profusely while attempting to balance on one foot, sunbathing in December, or making dinner plans with octogenarians. Jealous yet?