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They say stress will kill you

I started this post over three months ago, and have been tinkering with it ever since, trying to find a single theme or focus and a way to wrap it up tidily. Instead it just keeps getting bigger and bigger. So I think it’s just going to be another multi-part post. Because I’ve got a blog and I’ve got something to say. Let’s get started.

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The promise of spring on a chilly midwinter day. Don’t worry, I’m on my way, she whispers. 

They say stress will kill you, given enough time and enough stress. I’ve always considered myself to be a low anxiety, low key type of person, not easily ruffled, and nowhere near the stereotypical Type A personality one associates with chronic stress. And all of that is still mostly true, but I’m finding the stress is there, and yeah, it’s not the healthiest condition. I’ve been feeling lately like I’m turning into my mother, who was also a low key person, but as she aged, became someone whose anxiety could derail her. It was upsetting to hear during a phone conversation (she lived across the country from me), and not be able to help, or to see (during a visit) and become frustrated at her immediate redlining of anxiety and/or anger over seemingly minor things. Now I wonder if that these kinds of things aren’t totally under one’s control, and the aging process is a right bitch you have to get a handle on and ride to the end. But wait…

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Several days of frost build up during a recent cold snap.

So I’ve been having a few epiphanies about stress and its role in my life. Until the past year, hell, until the past few months, I would have told you that I have little to no stress, am not the stressy sort, and other than a frustration or two during my day (say, a particularly crappy commute), I have no lasting stressors in my life and am not an anxious or tension-filled person. I am learning, via several avenues recently—epiphanies and research both—that I’ve been wrong for a long time. Maybe my whole life. Yes, I’m good at stuffing things, and keeping a calm demeanor. I am okay at letting some things roll off my back (or like to think I am). But still waters run deep, as they say. For many years (most of my life?) I’ve felt this could be my motto. I tend to run calm, stuffing stuffing stuffing, with the occasional acid-tongued blurt or outburst (which I regret nearly every time), until suddenly I don’t. Not healthy on any level.

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I spy with my little eye.  Best destressor ever.  I adore this dog . {just throw it}

The constant undercurrent of anxiety has been detrimental to my health, as I found out last year. And a December visit to the pulmonologist and my breathing tests are all running at the same less than stellar numbers as they were a year ago, some even a little worse. The test is stressful for me, so I wonder if that alone affects how well I do, but the visits to the doctor are stressful as well. After the last visit, where we discussed my test results and the recommendations for treatment, I realized that this doctor has zero interest in my well being. It was obvious before—I’ve joked that she only sees me as a pair of lungs, and not even very interesting lungs—but for some reason you keep on expecting something. Or hoping for something. As she told me about the gnarly drugs used to treat sarcoidosis, and my options therein, I broke down a little. I bowed my head to collect myself, and when I rose it to speak, voice quavering a bit, the doctor’s face was a blank wall. There wasn’t an ounce of compassion or caring there, just a clinical detachment and, as a result of this blank wall, the gift of my Aha moment – if your doctor doesn’t care about you, then stop going to see him or her. (Note: I didn’t expect anything special over my being upset, just an acknowledgement that it was affecting me.)

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Zombie sheep, waiting for me to feed them one evening after work. Will my eyes glow like this if I go on the sarcoidosis drug?

I took the 15 page printout she gave me about the medications she discussed home with me to read over. I’ve tried to read it all objectively, since I am not really interested in going on a chemotherapy drug (though at much lower doses than for cancer patients) that requires regular blood testing to make sure my liver isn’t being damaged by it, nor having every vaccine known given or boosted (because my immune system will be shut down by the drug). And because I’m not feeling at all confident in this doctor’s interest in my health (and will not continue with her regardless) and can’t imagine being on such a hardcore treatment under her supervision, I’ve kind of gone off the rails. Just so it’s clear, I believe the doctor’s knowledge, experience, and treatment protocol are solid, but I just can’t continue with a doctor who has repeatedly shown me she doesn’t care about me. Sorry. I know I sound like a big baby, but there are statistics to back up my feelings (more on this later). There really isn’t any gentle treatment for sarcoidosis, and most treatments involve steroids or chemotherapy drugs or anti-malarial drugs. And running in the background is the “ it often goes away by itself” noted on nearly every website search I’ve done (and indeed, was told this by my doctor early in the diagnosis process). What to do, what to do.

And lo, the path appeared. I happened upon a book whose title has been on a stickynote sitting on my nightstand for months (close to a year?). Something else I was reading at some point brought this title to my attention and it sounded interesting so I wrote it down. Finally, while doing some cleaning I saw it again, sticking out from under my alarm clock, and sat down on the bed and ordered up an ebook version from the library. Within the first 10 pages I realized I found something special, and maybe even the key to getting on track with real healing, not just treating to abate symptoms.

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Pretty much.

And this book led to another book. And then another couple of books came across my radar, and another, and suddenly I’m awash in research, none of it about sarcoidosis specifically, but about healing in general and healing myself in particular. And when I say healing myself, I’m not just talking about the sarc. I’m going down the rabbit hole to figure this stuff out once and for all. Because I can’t spend the rest of my life in a slow decline, feeling bad about myself, becoming smaller instead of better, and worst of all, never becoming who I’m meant to become. Never doing what I’m meant to do as I stay “safe” and afraid. This shit is real, and I’m diving in. Hang on! Because: IMG_20160103_183753

 

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Woman cannot live on chicken and watermelon alone {or can she?}

Breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  I'm not kidding.

Breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I’m not even kidding.

I’ve been calling it my roast chicken fetish, and I’ve roasted and eaten a LOT of birds in the past six weeks. For a while there, over the winter, I wasn’t eating much of anything because nothing sounded good.  Lack of appetite was just one of the grab bag of auxiliary symptoms I had, the primary one being not being able to breathe.  The weight loss was okay; I’ve worked harder to lose less, but sometimes I’d get hungry and would go to the grocery only to come home with things (comfort food) that didn’t taste nearly as good as they sounded. Root beer floats worked for a bit, but after a while I was down to cereal and milk, and even then didn’t finish the bowl (unheard of for me). If one of my animals went off their food to the same degree I’d be in a minor panic but for myself it was just “huh.”

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Hanging out on a sunny spring day with my best guy.

About a week before my bronchoscopy I was at the grocery and got some roast chicken at the deli counter. It was actually pretty good and satisfying. The day of my bronchoscopy I had some lemonade and watermelon at Whole Foods.  That was good too. The day after my bronchoscopy I was in pretty rough shape, with deep, um, productive coughing, with said production laced with fresh blood (normal after the biopsy procedure, but still disconcerting). I sounded like a 3-pack-a-day smoker, and felt like I’d been pummeled, weak and tired. There was nothing to eat in the house – I’d stopped buying food because most of it would go bad – and I was hungry. Lemonade and watermelon sounded good. So did protein and fat. I got dressed and made myself presentable (barely), and went to the nearby grocery for a rotisserie chicken. And some watermelon. And some lemonade.

Yum.

Yum.

That was six weeks ago and I’ve eaten a LOT of chicken in the meantime. Instead of buying the hot, rotisserie birds at the grocery, I started roasting my own. I fill the cavity with chopped garlic cloves and a couple teaspoons of Celtic sea salt, rub the skin with butter or olive oil, sprinkle another couple teaspoons of salt, plus some thyme and paprika, and pop it into a hot oven (400 degrees) for an hour or so.  When it comes out I’m salivating and barely able to wait for it to cool. I’ve found that wings are my favorite part. They have just the right combo of skin/fat/meat. Because the skin and the fat? Well, the embarrassing truth of it is that’s the part I think I crave the most. I’ve learned that the skin is best when hot and crispy from the oven, so I eat most of it then. It’s kind of gross when I think about it too much. Prior to this, I don’t think I’d purchased chicken in a year or more, other than a breast or two (bone-in) to make soup stock. But now? I’ve eaten a good sized flock, with no end in sight. We’re getting the first watermelons up out of Mexico now, so they’re a little easier to find (I was buying the plastic packs of cut up watermelon and trying to rationalize the price by the fact that I wasn’t eating much else). And copious numbers of Cuties have been eaten (and I’m not a citrus person in general). I’m sad that it’s the end of Cutie season. Gallons of lemonade have been guzzled; I buy Santa Cruz organic lemon juice, add a little water and a squirt or two of stevia and bam!  {this sounded so good now I just made a glass of it}

Today's prescription: a day of PTO/work from home, where this was the view from the office.  Hashtag healing.

Today’s prescription: a day of PTO/work from home, where this was the view from the office. Hashtag healing.

This all has been weird and wild and I figure just part of the healing process. I’m glad to be eating normally (well, not normally, but normal quantities) and while I hesitate to talk about my sarcoidosis from a woowoo standpoint – I don’t want to give it more power or “become” my diagnosis—I also know I have to acknowledge it and not tra-la-la it away. I’m all about magical thinking, but denial does no one any good. I know this whole sequence of events and diagnosis (and the more I read, the more I realize it didn’t just appear out of the blue; it required the exact sequence of events to occur) has to be addressed. This is something I have to look in the eye and understand before I can bid adieu. Scram. Get lost. You’re not welcome here. I’m feeling better physically than I was a mere two months ago (but not as good as I was feeling one month ago, dammit) and being able to walk and breathe at the same time has been an eye opener to how ill I was for a while there. Somehow as you go through it you just cope and don’t really examine it too much.

For now I’m still under the influence of prednisone, a steroid of course, that, while it’s helped me to achieve that walking and breathing thing that’s not to be taken lightly, kind of messes with me otherwise, and I’m not liking it much. Scatterbrained, irritable, and a general feeling of discontent. Other things like appetite changes and sleeping changes are less noticeable. I get really hungry when I get hungry, and I feel like I’m not sleeping as well – this one is hard to describe – but mostly doable. The feeling of overall frustration or dissatisfaction, tinged with a dollop of hopelessness is making for a sour stew, though, and I’m having a hard time getting beyond it. I can distract myself out of it, a good thing I guess, but the concentration needed to turn it around is in short supply. Concentration on anything is absent, it seems. A TV program, a book, a task, it’s hard to stay with anything for very long. I find this supremely frustrating, because I need to work on getting rid of the sarcoidosis once and for all, and not just rely on the palliative effects if the prednisone. So far the benefits have outweighed the side effects, though I don’t anticipate this will be for much longer. I need to heal, and find my bootstraps to do so.

The clean up crew after some heavy duty pruning with my pole pruner.

The clean up crew after some heavy duty pruning with my pole pruner.

I also know part of all of this discontent is the annual spring/summer thing I go through, where I see all the things that need to be done, or that I want to do, and wonder when I’m ever going to make the leap to what I really want to be doing. Right now giving my property a haircut is first and foremost. In the five years I’ve been here, the trees have continued to grow, and grow well. They would happily take over the property if left to their own devices. Take it back, I guess, since it’s obvious they once ruled supreme. Someone carved out some space for sky years ago, and left enough trees in place that the sky is once again receding under the canopy. It’s almost claustrophobic at this time of year, when the jungle-growth is rampant. I’ve been letting the sheep out regularly and they’ve managed to gobble up almost all of the normal undergrowth like a herd of wooly locusts. The grass around the house looks like a putting green and still the pasture languishes. I purchased a pole pruner – cordless, because I don’t do gas engines – which is basically a baby chainsaw on a stick. After taking a chainsaw introduction class a couple of years ago I realized very quickly I wouldn’t be buying a chainsaw (too dangerous for me). This is a way to have the tool but safer to use (it would be really hard to chop your hand or leg off by accident) and I’ve been having fun trimming and pruning. The only problem now being I really, really need a chipper.

Gratuitous cuteness: A cluster of baby orb weavers, newly hatched. So adorable!

Gratuitous cuteness: A cluster of baby orb weaver spiders (garden spiders), newly hatched. So adorable!

Farmer’s Lung and the power of good health {part 1 of 2}

Got home from work in time to see this the other day - days are growing longer! Weee!

Got home from work in time to see this the other day – days are growing longer! Weee!

I’ve always been a person blessed with good health. Other than the usual occasional cold or flu, or the rare intestinal disturbance (food poisoning), I’ve been relatively trouble-free for my whole life (aside from some chronic ear infection stuff as a toddler). I’m a both feet on the ground, steady as she goes type. I mainly go for hiking and walking, and plenty of work around the farmstead—lifting, pushing, carrying heavy objects, raking, digging, hoeing, and the infrequent wrestle with a recalcitrant sheep. I’ve had my share of bumps and bruises, muscle aches and strains, and then there’s the old ski injury that crops up (bad sprain of my right ankle in my mid-teens), and knee joints that gripe a bit. And all the stuff that comes with time and, perhaps, not enough regular activity and maintenance of muscles. Like a lot of people, I tend to be a weekend warrior type, especially during the winter when daylight hours are scarce and the weather is unwelcoming. And a few stiff muscles after a busy weekend is usually my only payment. I’ve always been thankful for my sturdy stock genetics, feeling lucky more than once at how tough and trouble free my body has been. No allergies, no gut issues or skin issues, just all around good health, for lo these many years. And of course, even as I’m thankful, I’ve also taken my good health for granted, not nurturing my body as I should. While I eat well (whole, real foods, mostly organic, low carb and not a lot of junk or sugar), I tend towards overeating and also sleep deprivation (by choice and probably my biggest abuse). I’ve not worked at keeping consciously toned as I travel my middle years and the rebound after a weekend of overuse isn’t as quick.

So I find myself with not one but two health issues right now that have been turning my crank for the past few months, and really realizing, like for real, just how good I’ve had it all these years. One is less concerning, especially as this other has reared its head, and while it seemed debilitating when I first noticed it back in September or so—a sharp pain in my left forearm when I rotated my hand/wrist to the inside (diagnosed as tennis elbow when I finally went to the doctor two months later)—it’s now finally healing as a perverse side effect of the other, more threatening issue.

Came to work one day and found this as I unloaded my backpack.  Farley's handiwork, and a reminder of where I'd rather be (at home tossing this endlessly for him).  He so sly.

Came to work one day and found this as I unloaded my backpack. Farley’s handiwork, and a reminder of where I’d rather be (at home tossing this endlessly for him). He so sly.

The doctor prescribed a special brace for my arm, a prescription of naproxen and a muscle relaxer, and a recommendation for PT. The naproxen made me dizzy and the brace and PT are helpful, but really, what my arm needs is rest. No feeding sheep, no hauling hay, no toting a 3-gallon chicken waterer up the hill to the coop, or a bucket of feed out there. No raking or yard work, no cleaning of the sheep pen. In short, no farm work, and of course this is impossible. Or so I thought.

In late November I had a few days off around Thanksgiving. I was home and enjoying time with the dogs, and each day would take one of them out for a long walk to the river and back. The river was in flood stage mode, so it was fun to go see each day’s development. On the second or third day, I walked part way there and ran into a brick wall of just zero stamina. I’d never felt this feeling before, so of course I kept going. I had Daisy with me, and she can pull pretty good, so once we got up the steepest hill it got a little easier. Still, it was a weird feeling, like all of a sudden I just couldn’t go another step. That evening I felt a little under the weather; maybe this was a touch of flu?  No congestion or coughing, no sore throat or any other typical flu symptoms, but the low/no energy was strange. I realized I wasn’t able to get a deep breath, and felt some heart palpitations, but attributed this to my thyroid condition (I get these symptoms frequently on the medication to treat hypothyroidism). Over the next few days and weeks I became more aware of symptoms: loss of stamina, inability to get my breath, chilled at night where I could not get warm, then, when I finally did warm up after huddling under a blanket for a couple of hours, it was like I’d stepped into a furnace, and I roasted for the next several hours. My skin would become ultra-sensitive during these cold/hot sessions, like when you have the flu and just the touch of your clothes is irritating. My appetite was down, and even when I was hungry, nothing sounded good to eat (VERY unusual for this chow hound) and I had intermittent, mild to not so mild, headaches . Finally, frustrated (and, honestly, a little scared), I went to the doctor with my grab bag of symptoms. It had been going on for three weeks by this point. I left the doctor’s office with another prescription—this time for an inhaler (bronchodilator). “So am I asthmatic now?” I asked, incredulous, and got the verbal equivalent of a shrug. WTF?

Daisy's handiwork.  Stole it off the coffee table, where I'd left it the night before.  You'd think she was a puppy or something.  Heart her!

Daisy’s handiwork. Stole it off the coffee table, where I’d left it the night before. You’d think she was a puppy or something. Heart her!

The inhaler didn’t help (and the icky, jittery side effects made it something I avoid anyway), and the symptoms continued. A week or so later I went back, even more frustrated. The mildest exertion would have me gasping like a landed trout, and feeding the sheep was like I’d run a marathon. All my chores slowed down to glacial speed, just so I could breathe. Even so, I’d often have to stop to catch my breath, trying to get enough air when it felt like only half my lungs were working and my windpipe burned like I’d just run a quarter mile in subfreezing temperatures. Actually, I need to change that last sentence to present tense, because little has changed. Going back to the doctor had little effect – chest x-rays, labwork, ultrasound, all is completely normal. A week’s worth of azithromycin did nothing. So then it was off to the pulmonary specialist. I went in for a breath test first, and nearly flunked, with the tester-gal threatening me with having to come back if I didn’t get a decent result by 4:30, and she was “booked solid next week.” Of course the passive aggressive attitude from her did little to improve my results (breathing into a little tube, sometimes with no oxygen available because they shut the valve off on purpose), but in the end (9 times through the test) it seemed we got enough results the doctor would be able to work with.

The actual visit with the pulmonologist was a bit of a bust from my perspective. A few questions where she didn’t seem to listen to my answers. “What else.” She prompted, and again “What else” as I struggled to remember the weird grab bag of symptoms that went with not being able to breathe for the past two months (none of which were typical with regard to lung health – no congestion, no mucous, no coughing, no sneezing, no runny nose or eyes – nothing). She kept asking me about any unusual rashes or swelling (ankles or legs or joint), trying to zero in on something, but I had nothing to give her there, there were none. Time for a CT scan.

The sheep, waiting out a rain squall.  You can see the seasonal stream in the background.  Lots of  sky water this year and the hillside is drenched.

The sheep, waiting out a rain squall under the cedars. You can see the seasonal stream in the background. Lots of sky water this year and the hillside is drenched.

Of course as this went on, I talked to a few friends and whined more than I’d like to say. The difficulty breathing progressed to levels that got a little scary at times (since I’m here by myself), with the basic chores reducing me to near-gasping, and even feeling out of breath while lying in bed at night. My friend Laurie, though many states away, has been my staunch support, researching like a fiend (she’s a stupendous researcher). My brother recommended a dehumidifier. I didn’t really get that (thinking, it’s not a typical upper respiratory infection) but took it into consideration. I searched symptoms over and over, with a focus on zoonotic disease. With the dogs, cats, sheep, chickens, and their various and sundry diseases, I’ve never felt threatened by something transferring from them to me since most diseases and parasites are pretty host specific. Well, that viewpoint has changed somewhat, though I’m still not worried that much. For a while though, everything I came up with made me wonder how I’d survived living with and caring for them as long as I have. But still, nothing fit the weird collection of symptoms I had. Every 5 -7 days I was laid low with it, barely able to function some weekends. One day while conversing with my friend Karen she repeated (as she had weeks ago, as my brother suggested, and as Laurie had mentioned early on as well), it really sounds like mold allergies (she has horses, so knows her moldy hay). When I hear the word allergies I think sneezing, coughing, runny nose and eyes, etc. Nothing like this has happened, so when these friends and family had mentioned mold allergies I kind of went “yeah, yeah…” But out of desperation and what the hell, I plugged in mold allergies into the search engine…and almost immediately came up with the “ding, ding, ding” of jackpot.  Huh?  And huh.  Because for mold allergies, we’re into a whole other ball game. And this is kinda serious stuff. Shit.

Dust mask after a week with the dusty hay; before I started wearing this (like for two months with this hay) all this was going right into my lungs.  It's insidious.  And, in some cases, essentially deadly.

Dust mask after a week with the dusty hay; before I started wearing this (like for two months with this hay) all this was going right into my lungs. It’s insidious. And, in some cases, essentially deadly.

I now have a dehumidifier.  And while I’ve been careful to wear a dust mask while feeding the sheep, I only started doing this two or three weeks after the initial onset of symptoms. Like anyone who feeds hay to livestock, I’ve broken open my share of moldy bales, often with a puff of weird smelling dust to the face; some where it’s just a small section, others where the bale turns out to be mostly compost. And the dusty hay!  The two tons of hay I had delivered in October was probably some of the dustiest hay I’d had in a while. Nearly every bale had at least one 5-gallon bucket of chaff and green powder to be swept off the floor. And there was some mold too. I fed the last of that batch by early January, but by then the damage was done.

Right now all signs point to hypersensitivity pneumonitis, and more specifically in my case, Farmer’s Lung. A pretty serious diagnosis, and one I’m still researching. My CT scan was done (Laurie is researching the results there – lots of $40 words on the radiologist’s report, and my god can this woman research! I am blessed!) and after reviewing the results with me the pulmonologist wants to…wait for it…do more testing!  Specifically, a broncoscopy with lavage (this actually sounds good) and biopsy of lung tissue and two lymph nodes (this does not). I’m loathe to have them start cutting on me, and since these tests will likely only rule out some of those $40-word potential diagnoses and not supply a diagnosis themselves, I asked if we could start conservatively with some blood tests to check for mold and bird allergies (in addition to a coop full of chickens I also have a couple of budgies in a large cage the house, with me and the 7 carnivores).  It helped that I was having the best day I’d had, symptom-wise, in probably a month or more on the day that I saw her. Not coincidentally, we were experiencing our third day of sunshine/no rain after what seemed like weeks of rain.

I’m so ready to be back to 100% health, and look forward to taking even better care of myself, to stay strong and healthy as I head towards the second half of my fifth decade. I’m still working on how I’ll do this (there is no cure for Farmer’s Lung, and no treatment other than removing the offending matter; and if you don’t, it’s curtains), but trust me, I will figure it out.

Next post: CT test results and allergy testing and the great, gaping maw of the U.S. medical system.  And let me just say, I now understand why Dr. House’s patients always arrived to his care half-dead.

This post's gratuitous cuteness photo: Because Pal doesn't play with toys or balls, and because he doesn't chew up household items, we just get to see him, not his handiwork.  My good little birddog.

This post’s gratuitous cuteness photo:
Because Pal doesn’t play with toys or balls, and because he doesn’t chew up household items, we just get to see him, not his handiwork. My good little birddog.

Building and fixing and musing on the puzzle of inequality, in 2 parts

New post

New post

So I began this post about two weeks ago, with an idea of what I wanted to say and within two paragraphs is was off the rails into a bit of a screed.  I followed the words as the keyboard was hot, realizing it wasn’t a piece I’d probably post on this blog but still enjoying the fire.  I saved the original and modified some of it for use here, because the core reason for writing it is still the same.  Off we go…

It’s always puzzled me how women could be considered second class citizens in most of the modern world.  Indeed, since the time of the cave man women have been #2 in most all societies.  Sure, we were also treated with respect, chivalry, even reverence if one happened to be a monarch, even as we were beaten and treated as possessions.  But how was it that we became #2?  I mean we, who can produce Another. Human. Being. are considered “less than” our male counterparts.  Not as smart, not as strong, not as worthy.  WTF?

Building

Building

One hopes this is changing, ever so slowly, but frankly, once humans learned that “it takes two to tango” (i.e., insemination to make a baby), it’s been a downward spiral for women, once revered for that baby-making magic, with the tides only turning—somewhat—in “first world” societies.  For eons, women, with VERY few exceptions, have not been equal in the views of religions, governments, and society in general.  This inequality is especially acute to those of us who farm, and who know, without hesitation, that it’s the female of the species—cow, ewe, hen, doe, sow, mare—that is the most valuable animal on the farm.  Sure, a bull or a buck or a stallion, a ram or rooster, may be the flashiest, or most sought after initially, but if you don’t have the cow or the ewe or the doe or the sow or the hen or the mare—hopefully of quality—you are dead in the water.  The female stock are what the farmer keeps, and what the farmer breeds for.  A bull calf, cockerel, buckling or a ram lamb? – an overwhelming majority are destined for the barbecue grill.  Oh, and my hive full of honeybees?  All females at this time of year, without exception.  The drones have one purpose and at summers end are no longer needed.  Oh.

Tire punctured by rock

Tire punctured by rock

So why does this all come up, here and now?  Because I, your not-so-humble FEMALE blog host, has been doing some building.  And fixing.  And having minor revelations—heck, major revelations—as I produce something I’ve needed, or fix something for a fraction of the cost it would take to replace it.  And with every one of these projects, I get it.  I get why men, lord bless them, are so, ahem, cocksure.  Why, in my society (North America) at least, they seem to be born with an inherent confidence that it’s taken me the better part of half a century to even consider for myself.

Fixing

Fixing

Going it solo for the past two decades (by choice, thank you), I’ve come around to the realization that not everything can be hired out.  Sometimes it’s a matter of finances and other times, most times, a matter of “can you really do this to the quality I expect for the price that I’m paying?”  I have to admit, I have been spoiled.  Growing up with three brothers, each with “man” talents of varying degrees (one a fantastic musician/photographer, one a naturalist/grower, one a builder/artist and musician) then being married (or at least partnered with) for over a decade to a builder/artistic pragmatist of uncommonly brilliant common sense, one sees that there are strengths (and, by design?, weaknesses) to how the male brain works.  And of course the same thing can be said of female brains.  Our strengths and weaknesses happen to complement those reptilian male brains (just quoting science here, guys, not making any judgments), though it seems to be less valued, and perhaps that’s also a product of reptilian thinking.  How we’ve let it get this far is beyond me.  If I’d had children of my own perhaps I would understand better and this would all be moot, for the accomplishment of birthing and raising a compassionate, considerate human being to a productive member of society is an experience not on my resume, having realized early on that motherhood wasn’t for me (nurturing, yes; just not humans).

Building and fixing both

Building and fixing both

But with every home or farm project I complete, I understand a little more that “man thing.”  Because it is a complete RUSH to build something from nothing, with only an idea in your head to start.  Or fix something that seemed unfixable without help (by a man, of course).  Sure, I’m probably late to the party—plenty of chicks have always been fixer upper types.  I haven’t been, and actually have little skill in the “crafts” department too, generally considered a woman’s realm (sewing or knitting or quilting or scrapbooking type stuff).  And while I’m sure plenty of men have self-doubt and are unsure of themselves at times, they also seem to have an innate boldness and sureness that seems to be lost in young women, with few exceptions, once they hit puberty.  Whether this is nature or nurture (societal/cultural) is beyond the scope of this post, though with the boldness and sassiness of little girls, one has to assume that in the majority it’s the latter.  A few more shop classes are in order, I think.  It’s what the boys are doing when they’re going over the rocks of puberty and I think there’s something to it.  Cause I’m telling ya, gals, with a little practice, this stuff is easy, and the satisfaction is enough to have you pumping your fists and running up the “Rocky Steps” of the Philadelphia Art Museum.  Gonna fly now!

Part two will follow shortly, to explain the projects pictured here, and why each one of them gave me more confidence than the next. In the meantime here’s some gratuitous cuteness.

Haystack Farley

Haystack Farley

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