Thursday, September 24, 2009

Beloved Liberty 2000-2009 -- posted by Sarah Grace

I just now received word from home that Liberty has died. I think the Lord knew it was best to take her while I was here at my grandmother's house, as had I been there, I would have had to see her in distress, all the while knowing that I could do nothing. I thank Him for allowing it to happen the way it did, as He knows how much I loved her.

She was my treasure.

This is a tribute I wrote about her on my private journal a couple of days ago:

My Liberty

Today has been very sad for me, and I just didn't feel like doing a video. We're on death watch for one of my goats, Liberty. We've known she's had a wasting disease (basically, cancer for goats) for a few month's now, so this isn't too much of a shock. Even so, that doesn't really ease the pain.

Liberty was one of the first two goats that began our small hobby farm many years ago. She was aptly named, as she was quite skittish and wild, and would never let anyone near her. In fact, we even have home movies of the boys trying to lasso her, just so Dad could clip her hooves. However, that all changed the day she gave birth to her first kid.

At the time, we were inexperienced farmers, and we didn't even realize Liberty was pregnant. So obviously, I couldn't believe it when I walked into the goat shed one day and saw her struggling, trying to give birth. I watched her for a few minutes to see if she would need my assistance, and it didn't take me long to realize that she would, as the muzzle of the kid was just barely poking out. It was going to be a big one.

I quickly ran inside, thoroughly washed my arms up to shoulders, grabbed some towels and a bottle of vegetable oil, and then ran back to the shed. By this time, Mom and a few of the boys were there watching Liberty, along with our Nubian goat, Pink, who spent the entire time moaning and stomping her feet out of distress for the sake of Liberty. She was Aunt Pittypat from Gone with the Wind, in goat form.

I knew I had to hurry, as the water bag had already broken, and the kid might suffocate. I proceeded to hike my sleeves up as far as they would go, and completely slather my arms in vegetable oil for lubrication. Then I knelt down, and gingerly reached in. I felt all around inside the womb to make sure there weren't multiples, and if the kid's legs were in the proper position for delivery. I then became aware of exactly how huge this kid was. There was no way she would be able to deliver it on her own.

By now, I'm up to my elbows in Liberty, and she's looking at me with pleading eyes to hurry up and relieve her from the pain. It was crunch time. I grabbed hold of the kid's two front feet, and waited for Liberty to start pushing. It's a very delicate situation, because if I pulled too hard or when she's not pushing, it could cause her to hemorrhage and die. I waited for my cue.

Finally, I could feel her muscles contracting, and she let out a soft moan. I began to pull, but the kid barely moved an inch. I waited for the next contraction, and pulled again. Still, little progress. This birth dance continued: push, pull, rest; push, pull, rest. After what seemed like ages, all we had to show for it were two little hooves and part of the head. I knew it was now or never, so I told Mom to grab the head while I held on to the feet. Then, after one final push and tug, the kid came sliding out of the birth canal, and onto the straw-covered floor. It was alive, and it was humongous. We named him Una Gran Sorpresa (A Big Surprise).

Ever since that day, Liberty has always responded to and trusted me over any other family member. If the boys are trying to load her into the trailer or take her somewhere she is unsure of, she won't budge until I take the halter and lead the way. Even when I'm out on my walks or working in the garden, she'll start bleating for me to come visit her, and won't quit until I do. We've been through a lot together, and, although this may sound strange, she has been my best friend.

I love Liberty more than any other animal I have ever owned. I thank God for blessing me with her, and will always hold close to my heart the time we had together. She will be greatly missed.

"Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened." -- Anatole France

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Update -- posted by Mandy

I wanted to give a quick update since I know a number of dear family friends check this blog for the latest with our family.

First of all, Happy Birthday to Spencer yesterday! I'm sorry I didn't get to lay a big smooch-a-rooni on you, but I'll make up for it once Will steps in for us here. You'll have to peel me and my muchos smoochos off of you! I love you, babe, and I'm so proud of you, and thanks for holding down the fort while we're spread out!

Secondly, for those of you who haven't heard yet, we got the report that Ma does NOT have lung cancer! Oh thank you, Lord! What a relief that she doesn't have to deal with that. Of course, she's still in hospice and she knows her time is near, but she is overjoyed that she doesn't have that dread.

Sarah Grace and I have had a wonderful time here lately listening to stories from Momma's life. (I wish I had as good a memory as she does!) We've managed to document the who, what, and where on stacks of old photographs and she's had a blast reliving those days. By the way, we've heard an earful on the Red Foxes of 1947.

Momma is very limited in her breath to speak so she motions for a lot of her needs and saves her breath for a good story! She has amazing stamina considering her condition. Yesterday I started reading First Peter and I assumed she'd "peter" out by the first couple of chapters, but she nodded me on to the end. Needless to say, she managed to stay awake for all of Dancing with the Stars and I often catch her juking in place when a good dance tune is on, especially during certain commercials with old disco beats.

Our dear friend, Leanne, has delighted Momma with sursies of petits fours, and a headboard lamp, and lovely (expertly wrapped, lol) packages filled with pajamas for every day of the week. Ma especially loves an elegant set of black and white paisley ones. Leanne also searched the countryside for an egg crate mattress pad for Ma's bed to make her more comfortable, and it certainly did the trick! God bless you, Leanne.

Many thanks, precious friends, for all your prayers for our family through this difficult time for Momma and, of course, my family's bout with H1N1. It seemed like the worst of times while we were going through it, but the good Lord has tucked in the best of times as well.



Friday, September 18, 2009

Mr. and Mrs. Harpo Marx -- posted by Momma

On August 27, Accountemps released a survey revealing the most overused workplace cliches. I realized then and there that my husband is Cliche Boy (which makes me Mrs. Cliche Boy) so I set out to deliver him (us) from his (our) embarrassment. In case you haven't yet seen it...

From Accountemps:

Executives were asked, “What is the most annoying or overused phrase or buzzword in the workplace today?” Their responses included:

Leverage: As in, “We intend to leverage our investment in IT infrastructure across multiple business units to drive profits.”
Reach out: As in, “Remember to reach out to customers impacted by the change.”
It is what it is: As in, “The server is down today, and clients are irate. It is what it is.”
Viral: As in, “Our video has gone viral.”
Game changer: As in, “Transitioning from products to solutions was a game changer for our company.”
Disconnect: As in, “There is a disconnect between what the consumer wants and what the product provides.”
Value-add: As in, “We have to evaluate the value-add of this activity before we spend more on it.”
Circle back: As in, “I’m heading out of the office now, but I will circle back with you later.”
Socialize: As in, “We need to socialize this concept with our key stakeholders.”
Interface: As in, “My job requires me to interface with all levels of the organization.”
Cutting edge: As in, “Our cutting-edge technology gives us a competitive advantage.”

Accountemps conducted a similar survey in 2004. The following “Hall-of-Fame” buzzwords were cited in both surveys:

At the end of the day
Think outside the box
On the same page

Some phrases cited in the most recent survey suggest executives are suffering from recession fatigue, including:

Do more with less
Gloom and doom
Pay freeze

I dutifully scoured the Internet for more:

Your call may be recorded for training purposes
Going forward
Don’t get me started
Tell me about it
It’s not rocket science
As you do
Have a good one
Working families
Not ruling anything in or out
No magic bullet
Can I just say
The jury is still out on that one
No brainer
Having said that
At this point in time
When it comes to...
Calling to touch base
Push the envelope
Think outside the square
Let’s do lunch
Key learnings
Hit the ground running
Let’s unpack this
Take it offline
Redeployed people
Core Competency
Generation X
going forward
low-hanging fruit
can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs
"you can't make eggs out of an omelete" meaning that some situation was too far gone to start over
Throughout the Enterprise
Using "task" as a verb. E.g. "I am going to task you with this project.
touch base
I don't have the Bandwidth to take this on
feel/have/take "ownership"
out of pocket

That should be enough, as Cliche Boy (and Mrs. Cliche Boy) are too paranoid to write or say anything now.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

What a Lovely Day -- posted by Momma

This morning I woke up to a red sunrise. The sand traps on the 18th hole looked like pools of pink champagne, and our "pet" hummimgbirds were busy sipping from the two nectar feeders attached to the window behind the rose rocker from which Miss Sally usually makes her video entries. I noticed because I was surprised to see them up so early. Sarah should aim the camera so y'all can see them. One is a very small ruby-throated hummingbird, rather skittish, and the other is larger, and bold enough to drink from the lower feeder, defying his "you know, a cat could easily eat me at this altitude" instinct. Gutsy isn't as cute as Ruby, but I like his moxie.

Speaking of moxie, our mild-mannered Miss Sally can be a regular Pitbull. Yesterday, I went grocery shopping by myself for the first time in a long time. Usually Sarah Grace accompanies me, and she has become my Jiminy Cricket of supermarket savvy! Don't get me wrong, I'm not making fun of her as I truly appreciate her knowledge and wisdom. She has managed to get our grocery bill BELOW the USDA allowance for the THRIFTY food plan even though we eat mostly pricey whole foods! Do you understand the magnitude of this accomplishment? Hold on to your hat... we spend $150-$180 per week (depending upon whether we have a treat like seafood or steak that week) for a family of 10! And 8 of those 10 are boys! Of course, she makes most everything from scratch, as she is our Frau Fru-gal.

So, yesterday I went to Publix, which is very close to my mother's house, to pick up a couple of items. Sarah Grace wanted me to buy a little bit of chicken so she could make chicken salad for my mother. (One of Momma's favorite things to eat is Sarah's chicken salad.) I grabbed a package of chicken and noticed that it was $8.47 for a couple of albeit large split chicken breasts. However, I was well aware that Sarah knew a whole large roasting chicken from Food Lion would be $4.00. Do you know I was actually AFRAID to buy the convenient yet over-priced chicken? I was afraid of the disapproval I would get from my Sally. Unfortunately, the Food Lion was close enough that I couldn't justify the purchase in light of gas prices, so I got back in the car, drove to another sizzling hades-just-beneath-my-feet-and-I'm-having-trouble-breathing parking lot to buy twice as much chicken for half as much money, thanks to my daughter's tutelage. If she keeps this up, I've got a dang good chance at becoming an awesome homemaker!

The good news is our Gators beat the Trojans 56-6. The bad news is they took our Tebow out of the game early to give the back-up quarterback a chance to play. The passage on Tebow's eye black strips was Mark 8:36. Go ahead and read all of Mark 8 while you're there.

Don't miss this. I implore you to click every slide. -- posted by Mom

Friday, September 11, 2009

My Sultan of Smooth Soul -- posted by Mom

Yesterday, while the hospice nurse was here, I had to call my husband to find out if my power of attorney for Momma extended to medical power of attorney. Since my mother has her phone set on speaker so she can hear it, I courteously and immediately reminded him of such since the nurse was in the room listening. And what did he do? He proceeded to ooze every word he uttered in a deep-down, low, love-ya-baby-need-ya-baby-gotta-have-yo-fine-lovin'-baby, Barry White voice. At first, I didn't know if the nurse thought I was married to a 400lb. over-sexed black man, so I nervously did the haha-aren't-you-amusing chatter, but he would not relent! When I said goodbye, I think I heard him moan, "Mmmmm." It tickled my mother to bits and certainly took the edge off of why we were all there!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Long Time No Write -- posted by John

Sorry I haven't written in a while, but I had H1 N1 "swine flu." Practically my whole family got it. Everybody got it except my Mom and my brother Will who is at my grandmother's house taking care of her.

My brother George and I had it pretty bad but Dad and Webb had it the worst. Webb was in the hospital for about two weeks and most of that time he was in Pediatric Intensive Care. A kid here died of it while they were in the hospital.

Yesterday, I was in the bathroom and I saw two spiders mating outside the window. I'd heard on the Discovery Channel that the big spider is the female and the little spider is the male. I'd also heard that the male volunteers to be food for the babies. I was watching them mate when out of the blue the female quickly wrapped the male up in her silk and made a bundle out of him. It was shocking because they were peacefully mating when all of a sudden, BAM, she was spinning him up at lightspeed and then she just took him up. And it was over.

Today I saw two Praying Mantis's mating and, again, the male was the smaller one. James told me that after they mate the female bites the male's head off and yet he keeps trying to mate without a head! I sat there for a long time because I didn't want to miss seeing that but I had to leave for something and when I came back with James to show him, the male was GONE!

Mom placed an order for some more Dr. Rufus Fears lectures because we can't get enough of him! He is so smart and he is a great storyteller. I would love to know him in real life.

These are the courses she got because they were on sale:

The Wisdom of History

Books That Have Made History: Books That Can Change Your Life

The History of Freedom

Laughing the Sun Up -- posted by Mom

Okay, so I've been up since 4 AM when I heard the Webbsite wimpering. He had somehow managed to get out of his bed and across the floor onto this blanket the boys roll out to sit on while playing PlayStation. Evidently he couldn't get back in the bed (his crawling is hindered from being so sick) so he just lay there fussing. It worked, as I woke up and fetched my husband to wrestle him back into his bunk.

Mr. Allen is often awakened to wrestle children back into their bunks. We have some sleepwalkers who roam around and sometimes they even seek unconventional places to urinate. Really. I think they get it from me. One famous Franklin Family story is about how, while a preteen, I was sleeping on the sofa in our den when I suddenly woke up, and very purposefully walked into the kitchen, opened the refrigerator door, pulled out the vegetable bin, dropped my bloomers and proceeded to relieve myself on our groceries. I then pulled up my britches, closed the vegetable bin and fridge (as if it were perfectly normal to do such a thing) and walked back to the sofa to resume my nap. I didn't make it as I was awakened by the laughter of my family. I remember being agitated with them for waking me, but I think it was more embarrassment because my sisters had friends visiting. My mother loves to tell that story.

My Mr. Allen has spent many a night stumbling around the house hunting a child to return to his bed or handing me a newborn to nurse so I wouldn't have to get out of bed for that 2 AM feeding. He'd patiently wait for the baby to be fed, and then return him to his crib. But you mustn't feel sorry for the old man as he is the most admired man I know. His colleagues introduce him proudly as the father of eight and they marvel at how he handles providing for this posse without me being a co-provider, and also how he manages being a hands-on father, even greatly contributing to homeschooling. It is a rare thing these days to find a man brave enough to take on that kind of responsibility, but I assure you my George Bailey declares he's the luckiest man in Bedford Falls!

I've spent this morning alone (where's Sarah Grace?) LMAO listening to Mr. Billy video entries. Since the volume is curiously low, Sarah, at my request, gave me a pair of earbuds so I could hear him better. With the earbuds and the house so quiet, I was able to hear all that I missed and I have L-O-L-ed with the rising sun. I think Mr. Billy's UK culture parallels US "yankee" culture (as opposed to our Southern culture) because he blurts out phrases like "get over it" and is sometimes abrupt by our standards. Even so, I've fallen in love with him a hundred times over and have thoroughly enjoyed the rascal.

Miss Sally has finally awakened so I guess it is time to get on with the preparation of breakfast. Yesterday, I was delighted to behold the sincere gratitude of the family when we made a blueberry pancake breakfast. Sarah didn't attempt it while I was gone, with being sick herself and it being a big job. We make whole wheat pancakes from freshly ground whole wheat pastry flour and you wouldn't believe how delicious they are! They aren't like heavy whole wheat pancakes; they're light and fluffy yet they are highly nutritious- loaded with enzymes. It's a slight bother, as I cook a pound of bacon while Sarah Grace grinds the wheat and makes the batter. Then it takes awhile to make all those pancakes on the griddle. It's not difficult, just time consuming. That's why we reserve pancake breakfasts for the weekend. We normally have french toast, or eggs and sausage, or Sarah's famous baked oatmeal. Her baked oatmeal is sooo delicious, and I'm not an oatmeal person. She's just really good at making healthful foods tasty. Mind you, we lived through some failed experiments, but not as many as you might imagine. I'm really proud of her. She even keeps us well stocked in things like homemade peanut butter and chocolate syrup to eliminate preservatives and unwanted ingredients. That's an extremely time-consuming chore to make even condiments from scratch! But she's happy to do it because she understands the science behind it all. I know this homemaker talk can bore the white right outta your eyes, but I think it's important to acknowledge the beauty of the much maligned and under-appreciated service to family.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Home -- posted by Sarah Grace

Mom and Webb came home Thursday afternoon, shortly after I posted my last entry.  It was wonderful seeing them again after so long, and many tears were shed by Mom as she hugged the children tightly together.  We celebrated with Chinese take-out and watched the first college football game of the season. 

Now that they're home and everyone is well, we've been working on getting back into the swing of daily life, but kind of taking it easy at the same time.  Mom and I will need to relieve Will over at my grandmother's house in a couple of days.  He's been there for three weeks straight, and he misses the family terribly.

Amazingly, throughout this whole time, Mom never contracted swine flu.  But now, she's become a bit paranoid that she will, which would be terrible because of her needing to take care of my grandmother and relieve Will.  Occasionally, I'll hear her in the background saying under her breath, "Please Lord, don't let me get sick.  Please Lord, don't let me get sick.  Please Lord, don't let me get sick...."

Please Lord, don't let her get sick!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Room 7401 Bathed in Computer Light -- posted by Mom

Here I am watching Webber Dimplehocks go in and out of sleep. His Bob the Builder dvd seems to be glitching with the same ebb and flow as his sleep cycle, and the trickling water bottle on his oxygen has given the room a certain sleepy-do rhythm.

I've been sitting here with the Lord thinking about the number of times I've been face to face with the death of one of my children. The past eleven days have been a hard trial with me wondering how much more he would allow me to endure, but what difference does that make? There's no turning back, and where would I go anyway? No, when I went all the way with the Lord, I went all the way with him.

Before Webb pulled out of this one, I found myself climbing into Jesus again and it just makes me long to be off this planet and in his arms and lap and cubby hole all the time. Even my heart's great desire, to see my children well married, is losing its sparkle. That seems par for the course considering what Paul wrote in Philippians 1:21-25

21For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not. 23For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: 24Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you. 25And having this confidence, I know that I shall abide and continue with you all for your furtherance and joy of faith;

I remember when my best friend Mary used to talk about wanting to go already to be with the Lord and, at the time, I found it kind of morbid and maybe even clinically depressed sounding. It was hard to understand, especially considering she has children who haven't been converted yet. Not that sticking around to harp on them would make a difference. They've all heard the gospel, so what's left? When Jesus told the rich fella in Mark 10 to go sell all he had, give it to the poor, pick up his cross and come follow him, the rich guy walked away grieved because he had great possessions. You don't see Jesus chasing after him, even though it says Jesus beheld him and loved him. People will respond to the gospel or they won't. If there's one thing I've learned, we've all been given a free will and I am neither the convicter nor the convincer and God is not going to save someone just because I love them. Most won't be saved. Luke 15:24 Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.

This is the passage I've been pondering today. 2 Corinthians 2:14-17

14 But thank God! He has made us his captives and continues to lead us along in Christ’s triumphal procession. Now he uses us to spread the knowledge of Christ everywhere, like a sweet perfume. 15 Our lives are a Christ-like fragrance rising up to God. But this fragrance is perceived differently by those who are being saved and by those who are perishing. 16 To those who are perishing, we are a dreadful smell of death and doom. But to those who are being saved, we are a life-giving perfume. And who is adequate for such a task as this?
17 You see, we are not like the many hucksters who preach for personal profit. We preach the word of God with sincerity and with Christ’s authority, knowing that God is watching us.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Good Eats -- posted by Sarah Grace

There is a link from Drudge to a rather disturbing article about the poor nutrition in UK hospitals, and how prisoners are served better meals than the sick and elderly. Mom can certainly attest to the poor quality food that's being served in the hospital where Webb's been staying. I mean, the poor woman has had to eat it for over a week!

Once Webb got off the BiPAP and could eat, my mom was determined to find nutrient-dense foods to serve him. The only real food she has been able to find in the hospital is whole milk and bananas. That's it. Search over. Unfortunately, the hospital is only skilled in the preparation of non-foods.

For example, available for breakfast are: canned applesauce, canned fruit cocktail, liquid scrambled eggs, instant grits, and cereal. If you would like butter for your grits, you are given a small packet of canary yellow, vegetable spread. Snacks include pudding cups, chips, and soft drinks, and the only fruits and vegetables available are nutritionally-void canned goods. Okay, there are a few "fresh" vegetables available, but Mom says they are so cooked to death, that you don't even need teeth to eat them.

The good news is that the tide is beginning to change. More healthful choices are becoming available, but only if requested by the patients. Now that people are becoming more aware of the deleterious effects of non-foods (created by the likes of Con-Agra), healthier choices are being demanded, and a ripple effect has begun.

If the UK and Canadian health care delivery systems are to be instructive, it is crucial that our hospital systems not be taken over and operated by the government. Look at what the government has already accomplished through the VA system which it operates. Does anyone want to be treated there? Such centralization would not only eliminate incentives to provide better nutrition, but every aspect of health care would be the victim of the deadening hand of centralized bureaucratic control.