Monday, November 12, 2012

I need a new memory chip...

Okay, so it is pretty much a given that as we age, we lose brain cells.
Several things can speed up or increase the number of cells killed on any given day:
drugs and alcohol
head injuries
husbands -- said with tongue firmly planted in cheek--
And children between the ages of zero to about 90...... I am so totally doomed!!

Considering I have had some form of all of the above in my lifetime, it is no surprise that I am cracking up early.

The other day I went outside to check the pacas while waiting for my son to be ready to leave for school. I did this *knowing* I only had a few minutes before we had to leave. Just a quick check I thought.

I went into my girls pen and noticed that there was a bucket left in the pen. Took it to the garage (which is around the other side of the house) and went back out. Then I noticed they needed hay, fed them from the hay truck (which is back on the other side of the house). I played with the new cria, kissed all my girls, looked over the boys and thought about how it was time for me to get my hands on them and do a herd health day again, how time flies..... sigh
Then I thought, while I'm out here I should really rebreed Osita. Went into the house and actually was on the way to get a halter when I found my son standing there with his hands on his hips, tapping his foot and looking for all the world like an old Irish grandmother... "Where have you been?? I'm going to be late for school!"

Right I thought, school.

Then I got in my car and started driving him to school. I was thinking about how I needed to go to Bakersfield and pick up some of those rolls my mother requested for Thanksgiving dinner (that is unless I wanted to make some myself... hmmm) and before I knew it I was on the freeway headed towards Bako and away- like totally the opposite direction- from the school.

By the time we noticed of course, I was committed to the freeway unless I wanted to try and reverse all the way back up the on ramp dodging a line up of semi trucks that would put the 49'ers to shame for about 1/4 mile- no thanks.

So we had to drive the freeway until I got to the bottom of the Grapevine and the next off ramp which was about 2 miles further down, turn around, and drive 8 more miles to the high school.

Needless to say I had to be a little creative in my explanation as to why my son was late to school.

This is above and beyond the whole 'walk into the room and forget why you did' schpeel. Beyond also the 'why do I have my keys in my hand?' and the 'sure I can go to the movies with you today, I don't have anything else to do' (when you have that doctors appointment you have been waiting for three months for at that exact time).

Or, my personal favorite- the 'remind me so I don't forget that I have a conference meeting at 5:00' and your family dutifully reminds you 1/2 an hour before and you still decide that you need to go to the store, take a nap, clean the garage, fill in the blank.......... yup I have so been there done that one.

I'm telling you, my excuses are getting lamer and lamer, because who wants to admit - out loud at least- that they are losing the remaining marbles that are rattling around in their head?? Not I.
Hmmm... I wonder, is there anyone out there who is doing brain transplants? I'll be first in line when the time comes.
That is, if I remember.
er... what was my name again??

Monday, September 05, 2011

Break out the Flying Monkeys!!!!

So my blogging friends, have you missed me?! I have missed you~~ SO much!!
Many, many things have happened since last we conversed! I am going to start at the beginning, and it will take a few posts to get everyone up to speed :))

When last we talked, I was preparing for back surgery. In June of 2009 I took a fall, it was bad. I was walking up my deck stairs and I tripped! I was carrying a bag of goldfish in each hand, and I sprawled flat on my face! It was the second time I had tripped going UP a set of stairs. I couldn't figure it out, what kind of idiot falls UP the stairs?!

Well, as it turns out, that fall cemented the injury I had from the bad car accident in 2004. All total, I had seven ruptured discs from my neck to the base of my spine. I spent two weeks in an armchair recovering, and about a month after that I had to quit my job at the beloved Nursery I had been working at for a year.

I had been trying to manage the pain with Ibuprofen and muscle relaxers. I didn't want to take pain meds, but in September I finally broke down, went to a neurosurgeon and started pain medication, along with seeing a pain management specialist who gave me epidurals in my neck and back.

The pain management worked wonders in my neck and shoulders- where three discs are ruptured. It did absolutely nothing for my low back- where the remaining four discs were ruptured. I have Degenerative Disc Disease, arthritis in my back, and permanent nerve damage. It got so bad that I couldn't even walk without a cane, and couldn't walk more than about 20' before I had to sit down. I couldn't sleep, drive, sit, stand, walk..... it was really messing with my head, I became severely depressed, and I got to a place where I couldn't put it off any longer. It was time for low back surgery. The reason I was tripping was because of a condition known as 'neuropathy'. My left foot does not lift and set down right. It just flops around without any control causing me to trip! There was danger that if I just left it, it would become progressively worse.

A date was set! The plan was that on December 2, 2009 I was going to go in and have an L2-L3, L3- L4 spinal fusion. After denying the surgery the first time, my insurance company said yes. They also said yes to a four day hospital stay (they only cover three normally). I was going to be in the hospital for four days, then home with a walker and back brace. No physical therapy needed, just a gradual recovery at home, and ditch the walker in a week, ditch the brace in about three months. No big deal. Of course, this is me we are talking about, and since our family seems to have a very close, personal relationship with our distant uncle Murphy, things were bound to get interesting.

December 2 came, to the hospital I went! Starting the IV was difficult, apparently I was dehydrated, who knew? Surgery was scheduled to last three to four hours, and then voila! Finite.
Except..... surgery went over eight hours..... I hear I have very thick muscles back there! They were worried because I wasn't coming out of the anesthesia very well. I spent that night in ICU and had to have four units of blood, since I lost so much. All I remember was the nurse coming in and shaking me, telling me to breathe. Guess I didn't want to!

The next day, they started two new IVs, and I waited to get feeling back in my legs. Day two after surgery, still no feeling..... day four, I am getting a little worried. My feet are swollen up to five times their normal size, I can't move my feet or toes, and they are starting to curl under. there is no feeling at all in my legs from my waist all the way down.

My wonderful husband, bless his heart, stayed in Bakersfield 60 miles away from home, for the first seven days. He slept in his truck, because he got snowed off of our mountain. He wasn't eating, or getting enough sleep, and yet he was the one holding my hand and telling my I needed to have faith- everything was going to be alright.

On day six, I am a wreck. Being paralyzed, I couldn't get to a bathroom, so I had a catheter in. I was on so many medications, I couldn't eat. Day six I am hallucinating every night (they gave me Ambien, Dilaudid, Percocet, steroids, two antibiotics, another pain medication called Norco.... I don't remember what else. My doctor, who has been thinking the few extra hours had caused all the swelling and in turn, that was causing the paralysis, is worried... so off for an MRI I go. In the ambulance, in agonizing pain (can't move to get in a comfortable position).

The MRI was the key. It showed a rare "Arachnoid Cyst" on my spinal cord, under the protective outer lining, or 'dura', squeezing off most of my spinal cord, and causing the paralysis. It probably had been there for a long time, it might, or might not have been responsible for some of the pain in my back and radial left limb pain. On the last MRI done before the fusion surgery, it isn't seen at all. With my surgery causing this extra swelling from the long duration, it had irritated this cyst and caused it to swell to about six times it's normal size, thereby making it visible on the MRI.

Seven days after my original surgery I had a second surgery to remove the cyst. With the original surgery, I had an incision about 7" that had been closed using Dermabond. Needing to use the last 4" to open up and continue down, in the end I had a 12" incision that was stapled from top to bottom closed.

On day 10, I was transferred to a physical rehabilitation hospital and my long journey to 'relearn' how to walk began. I will tell you all about it in the next blog installation, I promise! :))
And now dear readers, I leave you to get off my duff and walk around, because my back hurts!
Loves y'all!

Friday, July 02, 2010

Summer Sun Memories

This is not me, but my daughter, who has been busy building her own summer memories for 16 years now.

Summer comes in greens and yellows, tinged in twilight blues and vivid orange sunsets. Beach sand between our toes and in our swimsuits, and the smell of Coppertone and chlorine in our hair. Hitching a ride all the way to the beach, or taking the bus. Transistor radio turned to KMET or KROQ, loud and proud as we danced on the sand in and showed off our suntanned bodies for the lifeguards. Huntington and Seal when we were new teenagers, Newport and Sunset, Trestles and La Jolla when we were older and wiser. Concrete pavement radiating waves of oven hot shimmer as we walked, to the park, to the stables, to anywhere and everywhere we wanted to go.

Lemons and peroxide to lighten our hair, and the ever present Slip and Slide. We had to move it to my front yard after my friend across the street got grounded for ruining her mother's front lawn.

Joey Starr -my pony getting a shampoo and groom while tied out to my garage door handle. Braiding his mane and tail and being flocked by envious neighbor children. No one else could ride him after I took him out, he would throw them off and race through the streets of our small town all the way back to the stables. I wish I could have seen some of those drivers eyes widen as he came tearing across a street in front of them!

Summers on Mohave Lake, Owl's Cove, innertubes floating lazily down the river as we step sisters all kept one hand on the next innertube and so on all down the line, the other hand drinking a swiped beer from an onobservant dad. Telling stories about boys. Mish-mush (my stepsister Michelle) and Rush-mush (me) rowing the small pontoon rowboat in circles because we had no idea what we were doing, dad laughing and taping us on the old recorder we would watch later on the pulldown screen in my stepmother's house, just so he could laugh until the tears rolled again.

That last summer river trip with my brother before he killed himself. He and his young son, laughing and smiling for the ever present video camera.... never a hint of what would come that December day. The trip we took after, me and dad and Jeff's young son, trying to hold all of us together with scotch tape it seemed, and failing miserably.

When I was young, we used to get strange phone calls at our house. They were all from women, often breathless with anticipation and mostly came in the summer. They all asked "Is John at home?" my mother would say, "I'm sorry, you just missed him!" in her sultry summer voice. Her name was Pat Morrison, as was John's wife. John Wayne that is. And living where we did, women always thought they had the right number. With no caller ID back then, my mother endured many such calls, always tickled pink and mysterious in her delight.

We hitched everywhere, immortal in our youth, oblivious of the danger, or part of the adventure? The last time my friends and I hitched a ride to the beach we were frightened for weeks. We had actually planned how we would get out of the car if the strange guy who picked us up tried anything. He stopped at a 'friends' house and was acting very devious. I was in the back with one friend, and the other was in the front seat. Debby would distract him by grabbing the keys out of the ignition, Lola would grab the guy from behind and I would catch the keys Debby tossed me and open the door yelling for help as my friends got the guy in that place where men would cry for their mommies.

When I was 6 years old my daddy built me a playhouse in the back yard, complete with windows, dutch doors and belly up to the bar like partition. He got me a pink refrigerator, oven and washer dryer. Chairs and a table- all pink of course. My mom took pictures of me and my reaction as it all came together, me and my basset hound Tixie hugging and squealing in delight. My swing set and slide were in the sand area next to it. Tixie used to climb up the slide and sit under the shader up at the top barking and howling at the next door neighbors as they played in the pool. Hot summer days were stifling in the little house which later became the home of "The Silver Starrs"- future famous singing phenomenons Sheree and Rachelle.

At the other end of the swing set combo was my favorite place to run and hide- an old tire swing on a rope. I would twist that thing up so tight it wound back onto itself. Then I would climb in, one hand holding the bracing rail on the swing set, and close my eyes. Hair flying, leaning back in exhilaration I would spin until everything swirled before my eyes and I forgot anything bad. Getting off and staggering around the yard dizzy as a daisy, crash landing on the lawn I would lie there waiting for the world to stop it's merry-go-round and my tummy to stop trying to leave my body via my throat so I could do it all over again.

Black fuzzy caterpillars by the hundreds, take them home and watch them tranform into beautiful butterflies! My tiny turtles Pete and Repeat swimming with my fat goldfish named Hamburger. Tarzan, mom's water turtle living large in his own huge tank. At one time we had 4 aquariums full of different kinds of fish. Beautiful colors all schooled together over turquoise gravel.

Sure could use that tire swing now, but tis only a treasured memory now, fading as time and life march relentlessly on.............

Ah, Summer

Monday, May 24, 2010

Holy Hannah!!!!!!!!

I mean- Holy. Stinking. Hannah!!!!

I leave for just a little while, and my blog turns into Spamalot!!

Flying Monkeys, ATTACK!!!....................... well it was worth a try anyway.....

You know, you spammers really are silly. I mean don't they teach you how to spell? And when in this lifetime am I ever going to know how to read Korean? Or Japanese??


To all my loyal readers, I am truly sorry you were exposed to this, and to the new folks who left kind messages without any pornographic pictures or back links, I thank you.

There is a big story coming about me and my latest adventure, which includes the phrase "Rachelle learns to walk just like a big ol' 45 year old baby" among other exciting and life changing things.

Patience Grasshopper, all good things come to those who wait, and wait.... oh! Wait a minute, it won't be that long, I promise!

Love to all of you!


ps.... might take me a while to destroy, er, I mean delete all the spam. But Imma workin on it!

Friday, November 13, 2009

going... going.... gone

Hi all,
Just an update for ya. I will be gone for a while, on December 2 I will be having some major back surgery, fusing 6 vertebrae and so I will be recovering from that for a while. I do hope all is well, and apologise for not being able to keep up my blog!
I just can't sit here that long right now.

So, see you soon and everyone have a super wonderful Thanksgiving and Christmas! I will try to post my last year's holiday writings in a timely fashion, my daughter can do that for me.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Things that make me smile

I originally posted this in 2007... I feel the need to smile again.
All photographs copyrighted by: Rachelle Black
Today I thought I would share with you some things that make me smile. I hope you enjoy them, and, perhaps something will bring a smile to your face as well!
Pay it forward.

My husband- because after 14 years, he still can make me laugh out loud, and visa-versa

Where we live- could we be any luckier??

Sunsets- because they show us each and every day that God cherishes us enough to paint us a new picture every evening.

Rainbows- need I say more?

Funny faces - tee-hee "O solo mio...." :))

Flowers- to remind me that there is beauty all around, if we take the time to see it.

ALPACAS! Remind me that we are stewards over all creatures great and small

And last but certainly not least- Children.

To remind us that within the heart of a child, is the promise of tomorrow. And to remind us to live in the moment, love without fear, and laugh- loudly and as often as possible.

Till next time

Slainte~ Rachelle

Saturday, September 05, 2009

It's not easy, being green.....

What part of "I'm PREGNANT" don't you understand????

Here is my Jemma, gooey from spitting off her prospective date.

Spitting you say?? What??!! Yup, alpacas spit --gasp--

There are many types of spit- it's how they communicate. They can't talk using an actual language, so they communicate through body language and, well, spitting. Let's sort them into categories, shall we?

1) There's the "you don't want to go there" fake out spit, where the paca looks menacingly over their shoulder at the other paca (who is usually sniffing under their tail) and lays their ears back. Sometimes this is accompanied by a 'pre-chew' as well, where they chew their cud rapidly to warn of impending projectiles. Usually the annoying paca leaves, but sometimes they persist, whereupon the faker then unloads on the annoying pest.

2) The "this is my space/food/shade/cria (fill in the blank)" air warning spit. This spit doesn't carry any green material, but is only air and is just a warning. But it does come with impressive posturing!

3) The "I'm 11 months pregnant, don't even LOOK at me full-on, full of green- can last up to 10 minutes or until all parties involved walk around with droopy lip and green drool due to excessive 'spittiness'- attack. This is my personal favorite. I have witnessed this every year as my pregnant girls get imminently due and these are pretty funny to behold. I can guarantee you I do not exaggerate when I say it can all start with an innocent look in the preggos general direction. Since alpacas are obligate nasal breathers, the smell from all that green causes the droopy lip and open mouth like the female above.

4) Then there is the "I'm pregnant" spit. You don't even want to know, believe me...

See, alpacas can be bred all year round, they ovulate regularly- and can be 'induced' by the actual act of breeding them. So, we as breeders do what we call behavior testing.

It goes something like this:
Princess to Die For gets haltered up for a date with Prince Charming for the first time and they are introduced.
Princess runs around, flirting and playing hard to get, while Prince tries his darndest to 'convince' Princess he's The Man by chasing her and orgling (the sound males make during this act) and trying to jump on her.

Eventually Princess decides he is the man of her dreams (or she just gets tired of running) and she drops down for a love filled interlude that ideally lasts about 20-40 minutes. Sometimes there are multiple females lined up outside the love nest, and that makes it really easy for us 2 leggers to guess which females are not pregnant, little hussies. :))

7 days pass and we introduce Princess to Prince again. We either get a repeat performance, or Princess spins around the nanosecond Prince enters the arena and blasts him full on in the face with really green spit. Prince can either a) retreat with his dignity intact, or b) continue to pursue Princess in the hopes that eventually his charm and his lovely baritone orgling will win her over. Usually he fails miserably and goes back to the boy's pen covered in green slime where he is greeted like a conquring hero anyway because, well, they are boys.

When we get continued results that end up with the female spitting off the male for 45 days, we ultrasound to see little Junior/Juniorette floating peacefully in his/her amniotic fluid, and then we resort to spit testing every 30 days until about 6 months to make sure the pregnancy doesn't slip. Roughly 345 days later, it's stork time.

Some females I have are as reliable as clocks. They breed once or twice, and then they spit and I know they are pregnant. I don't even have to ultrasound or pull blood.

See the picture above? That was my Jemma, who now lives in Texas. As you can see, she is pregnant in this picture! She was very reliable. So is my Osita. Never has to be bred more than once, even with inexperienced herdsires, and tells me she is pregnant very clearly.
I have never had to ultrasound her in the 10 years I have owned her.

Others, like first time maidens, are not as reliable. They may spit, then drop and continue to spit. Or, run and not drop, but not spit either. Generally first timers get a US on our ranch. By the second time around, they are usually more reliable with spit testing.

The humorous part in all this is the human element. I mean, we take the girls to the boys or however we are doing it this time, and then we monitor the ritual closely.
Well, some of my girls take it closer than I would like. They know me, and trust me, therefore when they are pregnant, they run to me to save them from the big scary Macho chasing them. I am sure you can see where I am going with this... I usually get green myself. It is quite comical, I'm told, to see me ducking and running from said harassed female who in her great desire to flee the pen forgets to turn her head to aim the spit his way, causing me to dodge the great flying green as I go. For the record, while it is only green food that is partially digested, it stinks, stains, and causes me to run around with my mouth open drooling, trying not to breath in the fumes too.

To let you know, my alpacas do not spit on me intentionally for no reason. Occasionally I am involved in a food fight, or domestic dispute through merely being in the wrong place at the wrong time, but the only time I have ever been spit on intentionally was while weighing a female's brand new cria (What are you doing with my baby???!!!) or giving a shot in the butt, and let's be honest, wouldn't we all like to spit at our doctor when that happens to us??

On to my Arwen Undomiel. It is fall 2006, and she is spitting, and spitting... and isn't pregnant. Last real breeding was 9 months ago, and we thought she was pregnant, but no, the ultrasound in August says, not so much.

Now Arwen needs a guy who doesn't get discouraged easily. She doesn't like breeding, and will sometimes spit even as she is dropping for breeding. Enter Luxor- he is a "yes means no" kind of Macho.
In very early August (4 days before the ultrasound to be exact) during a cool spell we had tried her again. She dropped for a breeding! Trouble is, it only lasted 5 minutes... tops. Then she popped up like a Jack in the Box and was done.
Now Luxor is potent, and he has a nice, er, um, "set" but 5 minutes is really not going to cut it. The actual time it takes the male to reach the right spot is pretty long, both in distance and in actual time, not to mention the rest of the act required for pregnancy to result.

So, come October we are thinking, she has got to be open still, and we start trying again in the cooler weather. She is acting so pregnant, and we are unable to convince her she couldn't possibly get pregnant from a >5 minute breeding. So we look over her behavior all year long, and consider she might have a retained CL making her think she is pregnant when she's not, and talk to the vet about using a hormone to dislodge it, but we would never do this without another ultrasound to make sure there isn't really a cria in there. The most common reason for being unreceptive, is pregnancy! Hearing horror stories about breeders who use Estrumate, thinking their female is not really pregnant, and then the next day finding a dead cria in the pasture were not needed for us, we know better.
So here we go for yet another ultrasound.... and lo an behold, she is pregnant!

Ah, the joys of being a breeder. The ups, the downs, the spits and misses. The sting of being wrong....... who knew what we were really in for 10 years ago? Not I.

The moral of the story? When you breed alpacas, wear rain gear and protective face covering, or risk getting covered in green slime..... um, nope, that's not it.......

When in doubt, trust your female and get an ultrasound, or, two or three. LOL, and yes, nearly immaculate conception is entirely possible.
Oh, and Go Luxor!!

Tune in next week for the "How to Drive Your 2-legger Crazy with False Labor" chapter. I laughed, I cried.... it moved me, and it will you too!