Thursday, April 26, 2007

He ain't heavy.... he's my brother

Spring Flowers photograph Copyrighted: Rachelle Black

First of all, let me apologize to my friend Gattina- I promise I am working on a post that will tell you in great detail the difference between a llama and an alpaca! But, sometimes the muse bites and if you don't listen and write furiously she will desert you to find a more willing ear, so.

This is about a wonderful human being. A sweet soul who came here to Earth to make my time on this planet a bit better. My little brother Jamey. I am 42 now, and he is going to be 37 so we are undeniably getting on towards middle age and he is about a foot taller than me- but to me he will always be my baby brother.

In 1970 my mother was pregnant. After 6 miscarriages, the doctor had told her to stop trying until they could figure out what was wrong and put her on birth control..... oops- didn't work.

I was just 5 years old at the time and all I knew was that I was going to have a baby. As my mother grew in girth, the question was raised that she might be carrying twins. Perfect! I said, one for mommy and one for me!! We have quite a gap between my older sister and me- 14 years to be exact. I was only 8 years old when my sister married, and all I remember is crying at her wedding, running after her in my little flower girl dress with the tiny green and yellow daisies, sure I would never see my big sister again. So I was delighted at the chance to have a baby brother or sister who would be mine- to keep. I assured my mother that this one wasn't going to get married... ever.

One day with me in tow, my mother went to the doctor- she was three weeks overdue, and humongous, seriously- she looked like she was carrying triplets, all of them weighing about 9 lbs.
After doing a checkup, the doctor exclaimed: "The baby's in the birth canal, get to the hospital, NOW!" After getting me to a friend's house and contacting my dad, she did.

The doctor broke her water and nothing happened, so they induced labor. 8 hours later, the doctor does an exam, baby is not in birth canal anymore, and after cussing, the doctor tells my mother there is another bag of water! After the rupture of this sac, mom goes into hard labor, but she isn't dilating past 3 centimeters.... Hours later the doctor is pacing and muttering about losing the mother AND the baby. (can you say: C-Section?!? Anyone??!!) At 3:00 am he finally rips and tears his way in, and removes my little brother with forceps. Thus Thomas James Morrison the second was born. All 9 lb 12 oz of him.
Then, another little one was removed- never fully formed, but having a full term water sack and placenta.

Jamey came home to me all in one piece, and beautiful. After making sure he had 10 fingers and toes, I took him and raised him.........
Okay, maybe my mom helped a little.

When Jamey got to the age of one year, it was apparent something was different about him. He loved the vacuum and would lay his head on it while it was running. He loved spinning things, anything that spun by itself, and whatever he could make spin. He was a delightful little boy, sweet of face and loving. But what was troubling was that he didn't show any inclination to talk.

As he got to the age of two, he would have temper tantrums, not unusual for that age, but Jamey would bang his head on the ground- carpet, wood floors- cement, didn't matter, and he would hurt himself doing it. He was obsessive about his food- it had to be separated into compartments, and none of the differing food items could touch one another. He ate on a yellow enamel plated camp plate for every meal for about 12 years.

He would take a Bermuda grass stem (you know the seed heads that look like propellers?) and sit by himself for hours spinning it. He would rock back and forth and hum, but still wasn't talking. By the age of four he was running my mother in circles, couldn't focus on any activity for more than a few minutes, and still wasn't talking. He isolated himself to his room or out in the backyard.

After several doctors tests and exams, they said he was Autistic, Aphasic, Hyper Active and Hyper Kenetic. Their recommendation? Institutionalize him. He would never live a "normal" life, and it would be too great a strain on our family to keep him at home. Now, this was 1974 and not much was known about Autism. There wasn't special education then, and the knowledge that getting a child like this into a structured environment at a very young age, where they could receive things like personal IEP's and specialized behavior programs wasn't even in the vocabulary of the medical profession yet. But my mother slapped the doctor and said I'm taking him home... okay, she didn't slap him, but she took him home. She researched and found everything she could find about his diagnosis' and miraculously found a place that specialized in developmental disabilities. Providence Speah and Hearing center- in the city of Orange. This wonderful school became a pioneer in the field of special education, and set the blueprint for many programs to follow.

In a few short months Jamey started talking, and hasn't stopped ever since. My mother studied everything she could find about Autism and followed all the current recommendations- she painted his room the right colors, avoided certain food colors and followed the reward/consequences behavior programs to a tee. Jamey learned how to control his outbursts, and redirect his focus.

Eventually Jamey was mainstreamed onto a regular education campus, while still in special education, or as they called it then Learning Handicapped, or 'LH' classes. Always emotionally much more immature than his peers, Jamey suffered tremendous humiliation and derision from his so called 'friends' growing up. His heart was broken ever so many times as he tried again and again to fit in and was tormented time and again by the same individuals who claimed to be his buddies. He perservered and by the time he reached high school age he was in regular education classes, and graduated only one year behind his class. He made lifelong friends among those like him, with mild to moderate disabilities both mental and physical. He became a leader among them, organized regular UNO tournaments and river trips with my father on his boat, and after graduation, became the organizer for their reunions. When his best friend died after a long struggle with kidney failure and years of dialysis, Jamey kept the group together, and they made it through the veil of grief without implosion. Jamey was given Ritalin as a young child, and it helped him to remain focused and function. When he was a teenager he made the decision to stop taking them on his own, and when he was ready.

Jamey learned how to live, work, and abide by the social rules and regulations that structure 'normal' life. Struggling continuously with his emotional challenges, he was none the less able to maintain a long term job with a pizza joint run by a wonderful man who became like a father to Jamey. He also had a long term job at Magic Mountain in the food industry.

I could go on and on- about how difficult just living in the 'normal' world is to this day for him. About how depression is a problem, how he was married, and divorced, and all the other struggles he has had to live through- but I don't want to. What I want is to talk about how proud I am of him, and how far he has come.

So, I will tell you about Jamey in 2007. Jamey has lived in Las Vegas by himself for many years now, moving out of the family home when he was in his 20's. He was offered a management position with Papa John's Pizza place, but chose to remain as a driver- where he makes more money. He is maintaining a steady relationship with a wonderful woman who just finished getting her degree in Nuclear Medicine. Has worked as a tour guide in Vegas for a few different companies, and as a short and long haul trucker. He is the best driver I know, and is the owner of two cars, and owns a third with his girlfriend.

He still is the sweetest young man I have ever known. Kind and loving, affectionate, gentle, and generous. Loves the Three Stooges, can do a wicked Curly imitation, and will sit and watch Sesame Street with his big sister to this day. He loves scary movies, skulls and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. How despite the name of his website, he loves his Father in Heaven and can't fool anyone. Loved by his niece and nephew, treasured by his sister, adored by his mother and father.

Institutionalized.... just think about it. What a waste of a wonderful human being. Would he have turned out different if that stupid doctor had done a c-section? I don't know, but I know my life is richer for this outcome.

I love you baby brother! Visit Jamey here at:

Sunday, April 22, 2007

The rain goeth..... where ever it wanteth

The green, green grass.... of home..... wait! *gasp* can you see the alpacas????

Okay, I admit to being too lazy to come up with anything original...... wait, *backspace 78 times*

*sigh* I can't sit up long enough to type anything new and bloody brilliant yet, my belly button hurts..... you think I'm kidding right? Of course, but those of you who have never had belly button pain wouldn't understand anyway. Trust me, it is a fact of life right now strangely enough.

So, here is some prose from the year 2004 when it rained chickens, er, was it cats and dogs? for a week straight, and the Ark was almost built on our 'flat spot' near shark rock.

Seriously, everything we owned was soaked through, even our house. So, enjoy viewing my weed collection and reading some soggy sonnets.

Someone in the Midwest that rainy year asked us here in the West where the rain was. After I was able to surface, I put forth this in reply:

I have your answer: It goeth right here. It goeth all over the ranch, it goeth into our house, under our doors, through our roof, under our windows, and it taketh the ground away on our road in the form of mud slides.

It has been raining here for 4 days straight. It not goeth away anytime soon methinks. Tonight it turneth to snow, or so they say.

Our 'seasonal stream' currently goeth amuck and turneth into Raging Waters, we should charge admission.

The trees, they do atumble down the road with the boulders.

The mud, it doth wreak havoc and slide down the road making it impassible.

It goeth into the pacas ears, causing them to shake their heads all the time. It goeth under my collar and through my rain clothes.

It washeth away all of our berms, and floodeth our land.

Is it time to build an Ark? Who knoweth?
Not I,

Then, in desperation, I tried the old Indian Rain dance. When that brought forth hail, ( I knew I should have started with my right foot!!) I laid all the cards on the table.

Well, it seems the rain gods are in need of a sacrifice to allow them to go away peacefully and not return again until next winter.
I hereby offer up as a sacrifice, the following things:
My favorite alpaca sweater, it is all wet and cold anyway.
My Uggs, though they may be soggy and smelly, they are still Uggs, and therefore valuable.
All the pots and pans, Tupperware, stray buckets and sundry items we have been using to catch the rain that goeth in our house through our leaky roof.
The soft pine floorboards that have floored our house for 15 years, after all, you got them wet, it's the least I can do.
The weeds on all of my acreage........ they are of amazing height and abundance, this should count as extra credit.
My muck boots, yuck, nuff said.
My rain coat and pants, come on, they never worked right anyway, you managed to goeth under and over them every time.
My shearing date - sacrificed already thank you very much.
And last but not least, a wheelbarrow full of mucky, soaking wet, heavy weight alpaca poo....... for your garden of course! :)
Please accept these gifts given with all the fervor I can muster.
As a last request, I beg of you to take your brother hail with you when you go. I know he is just more wet in disguise.
Until next year!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Here was a last ditch effort to rattle the rain gods. A musical tribute, and not very well done either, but I was determined it would work!!

To the tune of Annie's "The Sun'll Come out Tomorrow"

The sun'll come out, whenever
Wouldn't bet a dollar that tomorrow....
There'll be sun.

Just thinking about, tomorrow
Hoping, wishing, praying, that tomorrow
there be SUN!!!

Oh, today,
is gray,
and cloudy
But remember no rain, makes today, OKAY!!!!!

Tomorrow, tomorrow,
I hope that, tomorrow
The sun will come out to play!

(big finish, come on everyone join in)

Tomorrow, tomorrow,
I'll love ya, tomorrow
If only, the sun- - - will - - - - STAY!!!!

Respectfully submitted by the ASAMP Alpaca Society Against Mud Puddles: (okay so we're not that good at acronyms)
Founding members in good standing, although ankle deep.....
Eclipse, Luxor, Gil, Bilbo, and Sandpiper

This message will self destruct in 30 seconds.

And just for giggles, for all my fiber artist friends out there, when I first visited a weavers/spinners chat site.... let's just say my eyes were opened. Here was my first coherent post:

well, who knew.....
I must have my heddle too tight, I have a lot of tension, and have always been warped........
I am very bouncy, or is that loopy? And who knew I could adjust the tension???

Okay, okay, that is an inside joke for sure, but those of you faithful readers will understand that is a perfect description of me! HA!
Till next time!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Twas the night before Christmas..... reposted by request

and all through the house,
not a creature was stirring,
not even a mouse.....
well, maybe a mouse, and a dog or two.... and a few cats..... and a dozen alpacas...
Boy, what a racket!!!

Well, here it is 4 am my time and after telling the children they can't get up until at least 7 am, who is sitting here wide awake?? Mom of course! I am always too excited to sleep in Christmas day. I remember when my kids were little I would wake them up because I couldn't wait another minute!

Yesterday we made cookies and went caroling to some people who needed some Christmas cheer. My friend who is celebrating Christmas without her mom for the first time.
Our friend who by should have a baby in her arms this Christmas, but doesn't.....
People who need comfort and cheer this year. The peace that only the child who came can give, but I can give a hug, a shoulder, and some cookies.
I should be tired! I was tired last night! Then.....

I took the advice of my friend Plumpie Mousie, who reminded me that on Christmas Eve animals are given the gift of speech. So I went outside late last night to hear what they had to say.
It went something like this......

Hally- Boo: Boy, it sure is mild tonight, it's been so cold lately!

Osita: Yup, my arthritis sure kicks up when it gets cold like this, getting old really stinks doesn't it?

Hally: Old, what are you talking about? You're only 9 years old, you're a spring cria still.

Osita: Thanks Hally, but have you seen these white hairs lately? And Heathertoes sure is adding her fair share of them this year! That little girl is the bounciest cria I've ever had!

Hally: Yes, my little Rosie Cotton is quite the handful as well.

Angie the llama: Just be grateful you can have more crias! I only got to have one, but I love all of your's year after year like my own.

Osita: Angie, what would we do without you? You are the perfect Nanny Llama Momma!

Arwen: I can't wait for my new cria..... Hay!? What's that in the sky??

Fanny Bryce: It looks like a really bright light, wonder what it is?

Osita: Haven't you ever heard of the Christmas Star? It shines every year to remind alpacas of a special baby born a long time ago. He was quite the 2-legger so my momma told me....

Hally: Did he have an unlimited supply of alfalfa?? (interrupting with a gleam in her eye)

Osita: No, he brought something more precious than alfalfa....

Hally (interrupting again) Did he bring sweet feed and pellets??!!

Osita: (sigh) No Hally, I'm not sure what he brought exactly, but it makes our 2-leggers very happy this time of year remembering His gift. Whatever it was, it was sure something special, I'm sure of it.

Hally: Well, if you can't eat it, it can't be that special....

Osita: (with a knowing look) You'll understand when you get older.

(meanwhile the crias are off talking amongst themselves)

Heathertoes: So, who's the fat guy on the roof?

Rosie Cotton: Dunno, he sure has a cool ride though!

Little Boy: Wow!! What are those things pulling it??

Heathertoes: Those are reindeer (she says with a condescending air) my mom told me about them. She's the smartest momma ever!

Rosie: The fat guy must be important to have all those reindeer pulling him around all night, and did you see them fly in?? Cool beans!!!

Little Boy: Well, I could fly if I really wanted to. But, um, I don't want to right now....
Hay! What's he bringing us? Is that, is it alfalfa?!?!

Heathertoes: Yum Yum!

Santa: Hello there little ones, are you enjoying your Christmas Eve?

Little Boy: What's a Christmas?

Santa: Ho, ho, that's right! This is your first Christmas isn't it? Well, every year on this night, I will come and visit you and grant you one Christmas wish! So what'll it be young man?

Little Boy: Well, if I could sir, I would like my momma back, I sure do miss her....

Santa: Well my precious one, while I can't bring back your momma, I can grant you a look in my magic mirror so you can see her for a few minutes, would you like that?

Little Boy: Oh, yes sir!!

Santa holds his mirror up, and Little Boy sees his beautiful momma pronking and playing in the moonlight in a big green field with hundreds of other crias. She stops, looking out over all the babies, keeping a watchful eye on Little Llama Girl, and Fannie- they always seem to be off getting into trouble. In the distance, Little Boy can see a big, proud llama with a noble head gently herding some crias to the fold for the night.

Little Boy's momma stops and looks directly in the mirror. Little Boy can feel her gaze on him, filled with love, just like when she was here with him. After a moment, she turns and walks away to round up some wayward little ones.

Little Boy cries: Santa! Why did she leave me? How come she can't come back?

Santa replies: Do you remember hearing the story about the Christmas Star? About the little 2-legger born this night who came to save the world? Well, he's all grown up now, and sometimes he needs help with his flock where he lives.
Your momma was called to help, because she is a very good momma. I know you miss her, but she is helping other little crias who have lost their mommas and even their daddys and 2-leggers too. I know it's hard, but I promise you will be with her again someday.

Little Boy: (looks down and thinks about it for a while) Well, I guess it would be pretty sad to lose everything... at least I have my other momma Osita, and my buddy Heathertoes. And my daddy is right over there! Oh, thank you Santa for helping me understand.
If my momma is that special, I am really glad she can help... but I still miss her.

Santa: Then for your gift, I will grant you the opportunity to see her every year when I come visit, how's that?

Little Boy: Cool beans! Thanks Santa!

(meanwhile off in the boys pen)

Eclipse: (scoffs) I could fly better than that Dasher, I tell you!

Sandpiper: Can you just see my long silky locks blowing in the wind? The chicks would SO dig that!

Mithrandir: I would be the coolest flying alpaca ever!

Earendil: I think I'm gonna practice some more (leaps away getting some substantial air)

Eclipse: Yeah, but Santa would like me best cuz I'm white and he could see me better, I could lead the sleigh!

little Pippin: Wow, do you think Santa would let us pull his sleigh someday?

Faramir: No way lame brain, it's a reindeer gig.

Mithril: I'm the biggest here (says proud llama boy) so I would get to be in the lead, but I'm happy right here on the ground thank you very much.

(a scuffle breaks out and neck wrestling ensues.... the girls all run over to cheer on their favorite)

Santa: Boys, boys!!! Remember, it's Christmas! Here, how about this, even though you can't pull my sleigh, for your one wish I can grant you this, the power to fly for one night!

(all the boys are suitably impressed!)

And alpacas lift off the ground and take to the air.

Eclipse: This is harder than it looks (waving his front legs in the air while he tries to stay upright)

Mithrandir: I've got it! (as he goes into an uncontrolled somersault)

Faramir: Ha-ha! You look so funny!! (his nose hitting the ground)

Gil and Luxor have flown over the mountain in search of adventure.

Sandpiper: (upside down) This is not dignified at all..... but I bet my lustrous locks still look great, even if they are hanging the wrong way!!

Mithril: (on the ground sniggering to Santa) They never learn do they?
Santa: Machos, will be Machos.... that will never change my dear boy.

Meanwhile my little Osita is making her wish.....
Osita: Dear Santa, this year I would like some carrots for Christmas morning.
And precious 2-legger who was born on this night? If it isn't too much trouble, could you bless those 2-leggers who take care of me that I love so much? Help them to know we all love them, and appreciate all they do for us. Oh, and send them some alfalfa from me, okay?

So there you have it, Christmas Eve on the ranch. So if you looked out your window last night and thought you saw something out of the corner of your eye, it was probably a flying alpaca!
May your Christmas be a very blessed one. May you feel the love of those around you, and pay it forward, double.
I believe in The One who gave all for me, and He did it for you too. The least we can do in return, is love one another.
Love to you all!
Above pictures: Earendil and Lady Galadriel trying out for the Reindeer Games in 2004 Christmas Eve. And Earendil with The Ghost of Alpacas Past. Seriously, this was such a strange thing, air was clear, no fog or clouds, digital camera. We decided the ones we had lost came out to pronk with them this night of nights. As the crias would say... cool beans :))

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

life & death on a farm- - reposted by request

This post, the 'Twas the Night Before Christmas' post, and 'The Sari Incident' post are all older blogs from last year. But my friend Carol asked me to post them again, so I will!

Since I am going to be super busy the next week or so preparing to go to Kentucky, these just might be the last you hear from me until after the 20th! If so- Love all of you!
Here they are, and here is a picture of "Little Boy" (now named
Quickbeam) and his friends. His 'momma' Heathertoes is the brown (who is actually gray under all that fleece) cria with him.
I hope you enjoy them!

Hello faithful readers,
Well, tonight I reflect on the many blessings, and heartaches that come with ranch ownership.

In 1995, when we lived in Downey, CA and had tiny house (800 square feet) and a postage stamp yard we dreamed of living someplace where our children would be safe, we could have loads of open space, and my secret dream of farm animal ownership. In 1999 our dream became a reality, and we moved to our 20 acre large spacious home with loads of room.

We discussed lots of options for animal ownership, I have always been a horse person, you know Barbies were only there to feed the horses! But after a serious back injury that I eventually had to have surgery from, it just wasn't feasible at that time. Too much risk for injury. Cows were out, as was anything we might have to kill to make a profit.

Alpacas waltzed across our television screen one night, and we were fascinated. After visiting the ranch we saw on tv, we knew we had found the perfect business, no kill, great for small children, potential for profit... and those faces. My heart was hooked!

When we started out on our new adventure, we learned everything we could, we attended seminars, bought books, spent days at the ranch where we eventually bought our animals - and basically lived and breathed these guys for months before we made the move. Finding the perfect mentor ranch was very important, and we were so lucky to have found our friends John and Tina Malkus at Alpaca de la Pacifica. I still call them and ask for advice 7 years later. You guys are wonderful, what would I ever do without you?

Ranching in a new industry like alpacas is a learning process. Husbandry is continually evolving as we learn new and better ways to care for these guys. Since I am the one who runs the day to day of the ranch, I still go to educational events, and we host them here at our ranch. I am also on the development committee for the Alpaca Research Foundation- who secures funding for new studies in subjects that will help us keep up with new concerns and innovations in our industry. Continuing education is vital to our future. Our families were amazed at how much we learned so quickly, but to us it was just love of the animal that led to our quick study :)

The joys of alpaca ownership are many, the peace of just being in their presence is not easily explained, it is something that one needs to experience personally to understand. The smiles a new cria can bring are heartwarming, and the creation of a new creature that you 'designed' for lack of a better term, through your very own, ranch specific breeding program continually amaze. It just never gets old. The deep breath you take after a difficult delivery with a positive outcome, or the favorable response to treatment of a sick animal are differing types of joy as well. Heck, just walking outside when you are having a really crappy day and having your heart softened in ten minutes time just by being in the same general space as they are is worth everything.

I have held the head of a very old, very sick friend as the life left his tired eyes- then buried him. I have fought to save the life of a newborn cria who crashed after birth, and cried what seemed like endless tears when a life was taken suddenly and without warning. The decision to end a life because an animal is suffering is one that every animal owner will have to make at least once in their lives. When you are a ranch owner, your chances for having to make the hard choice multiply. It never gets any easier, ever. You say, it is livestock, and with livestock- you have dead stock, it is just a fact of life. But tell that to your heart....

Sometimes death is greeted with a sense of relief, suffering ended, peace at last. But sometimes, when death strikes without warning you are left standing there in the wind with your soul in tatters around you while your heart is ripped open just asking WHY??

We have always believed that God gave us stewardship over the creatures of this earth. To be a good steward is to have respect for them, care for them, and provide for their needs. So, this we do to the best of our abilities. The questions why, and what could have been done differently, and how does this change the way we do ____? those are all a part of this stewardship- difficult as they are.

When a life is involved the looking back and asking of those tough questions is what tears you up the most. In talking with hundreds of breeders across the country, this is what they say. Even though you know, the vet knows, everyone knows there was nothing else you could do... you still feel the pain of not doing enough. Surely I could have done something more.... if only we had done (fill in the blank)........

Some people say that it's only an animal. And sure, we have over 20 on our property give or take a few at any given time, but I know each and every one of them. Every one. Their personalities, likes and dislikes- and their health status at any given time, can be rattled off easily. Whether my own alpaca, or one who belongs to someone boarding here, or one who is just here for a short time for a breeding- they are all precious to me.

Tell me animals have no souls and I won't believe you. Too many owners and breeders have I spoken to about this very thing, we know better. We have watched mothers mourn their lost babes, they grieve, they cry and they ask us why with their big, expressive eyes and soulful cries. We have seen a new cria orphaned as momma was taken suddenly, and before her time. They ask you why, they cry for days, sometimes weeks every time they see you- "Are you bringing my momma back??" and fight as you tube or bottle feed to save their life, and eventually they learn to move on. Some mothers don't ever quite trust you again after seeing you take their dead cria away from them. It is enough to break your heart.

We have seen our share of life and death in our seven years in this business. My heart is not in one piece anymore. Whenever something terrible happens, I think I just can't take anymore.
Then, a new cria is born and I fall in love all over again with this life and my job. Or my home girl Osita will gently blow her cud breath in my face as she cushes right next to me while I'm sitting in her pen and says, "See, I told you it was worth it, I'm still here aren't I? This is what it's all about."

Maybe the day will come when my heart just won't be able to take anymore. But it is not this day.

To those who have gone on before us, we will never forget you.
To those you have left behind- we will never be the same again.
Your presence in our lives has left a permanent 'footprint' on our hearts.
We look forward with great joy to the day when we will be able to see you again.
This is for you.
Then, when my heart had healed a little bit- I posted this (I actually just snipped it from a longer post):
I think I can write about what was hurting my heart last week now. On Sunday September 24, I went outside to do a routine check and found one of our female alpacas dead. It was the mom of the little white cria I wrote about (his picture with his mouth open). So, of course I was totally freaked out, there was nothing wrong with her that we could see, no signs of a struggle- she had hay in her mouth (had been eating last time I looked) wasn't sick, nothing at all to indicate what happened. I tried to revive her, but couldn't.
Her little one was freaked out as well, and after resuscitation failed, we had to take her away from him and put her somewhere safe until we could get her to the state lab the following morning for a necropsy. A necropsy is an autopsy for animals. I couldn't believe it when I saw it, my mind just couldn't comprehend what I was seeing. I thought she was just laying in a weird position, that she was sleeping heavily, that I could easily bring her back.... All her herd mates came over to see what I was wailing about after I found her. I did wail, loud and long. I was so sad, and it seemed to help the rest of the herd to weep with me.
Not a lot of time to lose it though, there was this wee little one to take care of. He was only 2 weeks old, and didn't understand what had happened. He needed to be fed, and watched closely to make sure he didn't hurt himself trying to find his mom. Remember that post about loss I wrote? It was right after this happened. That was me standing in the wind with my soul in tatters asking why.... Remember how I wrote about how some crias will fight supplementation, because they want mom? That you have to literally force it, and then sometimes they just give up? Well, not this guy. It took him a few days to figure out mom wasn't coming back, and food was from now on coming from a bottle, but he DID get it thank God. He is now taking supplementation without a fight, and has maintained his weight, and even gained a little bit in the week since his momma died.
Poor little one, it just breaks my heart... how hard I will fight for him to keep alive and well! So after the necropsy, we look at the results to see what happened. What went wrong? How do we fix it? God forbid, if we did something wrong, how do we make sure it never happens again?
Well, nothing was wrong. Nothing was abnormal, nothing unusual, nothing.... So, sometimes things happen. The pathologist who did the necropsy said it's like that with people, sometimes they just die and there's nothing to say why they did. So, it is kind of a weird thing. On the one hand, no disease, no parasites, no toxins. No heart trouble, no stomach trouble, nothing. Other hand, what happened?? So, sad times. A stunningly beautiful alpaca dead long before her time. A little orphaned cria having to go through life alone.
This is the first time this has happened to us. We have lost new crias in the past- who have been premature, or sick. Lost our Bob the Llama when he got old and sick.... but never an adult, a momma, a healthy thriving alpaca. Sometimes when something happens like this, the rest of the herd shuns the little one. Especially when all the other females in the pen are moms with newer crias. Little ones who have lost their mommas miss out on that momma lovin they would normally get. They get depressed and lonely and just give up.
Enter my Osita. She has a 4 month old female cria, who is almost as big as her mom now (super Jersey Cow Osita!). Osita won't let the little guy nurse on her, but she has let him join her 'family'. She lets him rub up against her neck, and tolerates his rough housing. Her cria lets him play nurse on her, and isn't jealous of him. He sleeps squoze in between them both. He is able to get that much needed physical alpaca contact so vital to his wellbeing. Even for Osita this is unusual behavior. She doesn't tolerate other crias around her (on a regular basis anyway) at all.... usually. So, between the 2 leggers feeding him physically, and Osita feeding him emotionally- the little guy has a good chance. As time goes on all of our broken hearts will heal, although with a piece missing.
This was such a difficult time...............

Sunday, April 08, 2007

My weird, weird, weird, life

I just discovered something about myself.... okay, that's a lie, I didn't really just discover it, I've known it all along, and now I'm going to share it with you.

I am weird. I have a weird life. Let me 'splain...

For example. I like to play video games, I hate to have my face covered, I freak out at the sight of metal silverware. I can write a story that will make you weep, laugh, and cause you to want to leave me everything you own in your will, but if I talk with you in person I am capable of blithering like an idiot for hours without making a shred of sense. I hate crowds and I'm claustrophobic. When I walk outside my home, wherever I may be, I am certain there is a hidden camera somewhere just waiting to document me falling on my face. I love the ocean, but am deathly afraid drowning in it. I am terrified of heights, even on a stepstool.

I am currently going through a hair color crisis. Right now at this very moment, my hair is sort of a cross between pewter and platinum. And this from a salon. Last week it was white blonde, the month before it was brown. My hubby says this color of the week makes me look older.... he says he didn't say old, just older.... yeah uh-huh.

My bedroom could be declared a national disaster, and I need about 3 closets for all my clothes- which are currently piled in various corners of my room, but I can't stand a dirty kitchen.

My dog sleeps with me in my bed, and my husband sleeps in the spare room. (and not because of the hair color comment)

My kids are great kids, and yet they still manage to drive me to my knees every night.

I have a passion for gardening and animals, and am toxically allergic to both.

There are currently songs from everyone from Sarah McLachlan to Final Fantasy 10 on my Ipod.

My kid's friends all think I'm cool because I play the Ps 2 and am good at all their favorite games. My kids themselves think I am monumentally weird. Because I love Devo, and sing at the top of my lungs in the car. Because their friends think I'm cool. Because I forbid them to dye their hair. Because I embarrass them on a regular basis and on all kinds of different levels. And for oh so many other reasons.

I've been married for 12 years this year and I still feel like I live with my best friend. I love going to church, and wish I could have had more children- like about 4 more.

I like brussel sprouts and raw fish. I hate heavy metal and rap. I love my family, and enjoy nothing more than staying home with them. I am politically incorrect all the time, and I don't care. I will tell you how I feel about everything, whether you really wanted to hear the answer to "How are you?" or not.

I hate phony people, like country music, and think the president of our country, regardless of his political affiliation, deserves our respect.

I believe in being ethical in my business dealings. Whoa......

Yup, I'm weird.

Wednesday I go in for surgery, so if something happens and I never see you all again, I just wanted to leave you to ponder the following:

If I am this weird with a uterus, will the hysterectomy make me more, or less weird?

Discuss this amongst yourselves and report.


Ps.... hubby works graveyard, that's why he sleeps in the spare room- for peace and quiet!

Monday, April 02, 2007

What dreams may come

In May it will be two years since my best friend died.
It used to be I would dream of her waving at me in passing, like she was letting me know she was still around, not to worry.
It has been quite a while since my last dream of her. I don't cry every day anymore, or when someone mentions her name, or when I think of her family left behind.

Sometimes grief will sneak up behind me and grab hold of my throat, choking me when I least expect it. Like a couple of weeks ago at church when a speaker started talking about how good she was. Then I break down and start to sob. It all comes back to me in a rush, oh yea, she is gone, she won't be coming back...... I do still miss her.

I haven't been sleeping well these last few nights. Having some health struggles of my own right now, I am on some new medication and it is interfering with my sleep patterns. As I have mentioned before, I dream in living color. Big, bold, save the world dreams where I have to be the hero or watch the entire human race go down in flames. Lately my dreams have been particularly heart wrenching.

I dreamed that it was, in fact, the end of the world. Everyone was running towards these bunkers and there was chaos and screaming. Fleeing from some nameless terror vaguely familiar and seen just around the edges, perhaps from the corner of your eye, we ran pell mell.

Upon arriving in one of the bunkers, I looked around me and realized how few we were in numbers. Bunched into furtive groups, some hiding in fear from the faceless enemy, some hiding their evil human nature away, biding their time to feed upon the few valiant left in the world. Some exhibited a newfound suspiciousness of one another, "Are you one of them?" their eyes asked. Or one who seeks to take advantage of these treacherous times? Sheltering their children from other's eyes.
I came to understand my family wasn't with me. I ran from bunker to bunker searching frantically. One such bunker housed Satan worshipping minions. Formerly afraid to boast of their religion, relegated to hiding and secrecy in the past, they openly revelled in this new world and blatantly flaunted their evil natures- posting large banners proclaiming their beliefs and their intent to take over the souls of those left behind to rebuild a decent, upstanding society.

I stated my intent to these robed and hooded faceless entities, to remain valiant, and bravely, with great fear in my heart, stood up to proclaim that good would indeed conquer evil in the end. I remember the fear....

Searching for hours, I found no trace of my family. I peered into one bunker and recognized a family I knew. They too were short members of their family. They stressed to me that they had not seen my daughter or son, and I left bereft.

In the next bunker I came to, I saw my daughter from behind. It was her! Her hair, the shape of her silhouette, backlit by sun streaming in the window. My heart rejoiced, at last! I ran to embrace her and the young woman turned to me.... it wasn't her. I crumpled to the floor in despair. I sobbed, and screamed, tearing at my hair for I simply knew I would never find her, or any of my other family members. I was alone.

I awoke with my eyes puffy, crying my heart out. I went back to sleep only to relive the last few moments of my dream, over and over again. Waking each time to find myself weeping and feeling that terrible ache in my heart that convinced me it was not a dream. Unable to fully awaken, unable to try and search further, to alter the ending of the dream, destined to return again and again to the same place and relive that awful realization over and over again- I despaired of ever feeling whole again.

Finally I was able to break the cycle and awaken fully. Rushing to my daughter's room I sat at her bedside forever stroking her face and reassuring myself that it was, in fact, only a dream. On to my son's room for the same routine.

As I write this, I weep again, so powerful was this dream.

What was it? A horrible premonition of some event to come? An underlying fear of loss that is buried in my subconscious and manifesting itself in my dreams? That's what the experts say happens anyway.... Everyone knows that a mother's most powerful fear is the loss of a child. But what purpose does a dream like this serve?

--sigh-- I wish I could just sleep, only sleep.

Last night I dreamed of my friend Jane. She was standing on the edge of, well..... something. I ran to her and hugged her tightly. Telling her how much I loved her, and how much I admired her. Knowing she was going to die, I expressed my desire to be able to do something, anything to help her. I couldn't tell her that she was going to die, so I was trying to find some way to just do something to help.

I don't know if I meant to prevent her death, or to help her prepare for it, or even if it was a simple wish to help her family afterwards deal with such a terrible loss. All I know is that she hugged me back, and that I knew I had let her know how much I loved her..... before she was gone. Maybe this dream was her way of telling me that she knew it all along.

Regrets, yup, I've got them. I learned a powerful lesson with the loss of my friend. Tell people you love them, admire them, treasure them every day, while you can.

For days after my dream about losing my family, I had to stop and hug my daughter. The feelings of hopelessness I felt coming back fully every time I saw her face.

I have to wonder, what purpose do dreams of the apocalyptic kind serve? To remind me to strengthen my faith for trials ahead? To serve as a reminder of the fragility of mortal life? I don't know.

Maybe it's just hormones.... ha-ha.

Till next time my friends.



Sunday, April 01, 2007

What's wrong with this picture? Or... Alpacas Gone Wild!!

What's wrong with this picture??
Absolutely nothing. This is my huacaya alpaca herdsire Pacifica's Eclipse. He is on the right side of the fence. The side that is inside the grazing perimeter fence.

Enter the Suri Houdinis. Faramir, on the left- and Sandpiper. Both suri alpacas, both devious and conniving. Always scheming out new and inventive ways of getting into trouble, these boys, although mild mannered in appearance, are in truth hooligans.

On Thursday last week I was in Fresno with my daughter for yet another round of tests for her. I came back Friday afternoon and went outside to see my pacas. It is spring here, and that means green grass for everyone to graze inside temporary fencing enclosures.

Our alpacas are kept on what is called 'dry lot' conditions. No grass inside their enclosures, and all food is therefore easily measured and increased or decreased as needed. So Spring is an exciting time of the year for the pacas. Fresh green grass and extra running space!

When I went outside that day Sandpiper came running up to me for attention.... but what's this? He was out! A quick head count found Faramir to be missing as well. He was found below the pens grazing in the 4" grass trying to hide behind an oak tree with a sheepish expression on his face, and showing no inclination for returning to his enclosure. All the other boys were present and accounted for, and Eclipse, ever the responsible one, was trying to tell me what had happened.

See, some alpacas are very content with their place in the world, they are happy with their hay, alfalfa and pellets. The occasional carrot and apple snack, some fresh greens and rare fruit are treasured. They are comfortable inside their safe, fenced areas, and love their life.

But there is always the "grass is always greener on the other side of the fence" crowd.... Enter Sandpiper and Faramir. The only two suris I own. Now I don't know if suris are inherently more devious in nature, or if I'm just the lucky owner, but those two are always in trouble. Well, that's not fair. Faramir is a sweetie, he could only be led astray by a master- that would be Sandpiper.

Now we did all of our fencing ourselves. Nine years ago we started, and over the years we have learned.... that The Blacks pretty much suck at fencing. But luckily Red Brand fencing makes a fence that is Black foolproof. In the last year or so we have replaced almost all of our exterior fencing with this brand, which is alpaca proof. With the exception of the back fenceline. It was still 5' welded wire with a hotline on the top.

Thus follows a recreation of actual events- because, of course, I wasn't here when it happened. Sandpiper, seeing the green grass, was unable to resist. He started by pushing his nose through the 2" gap and nibbling. Pretty soon he figured out that he could pop the horizontal lines if he pushed hard enough, and in no time at all he had his whole head through.

Here is Sandpiper. Is he smiling? You betcha. After he taught Faramir the secret, he quickly realized that all that fence pushing had created a unique situation. The bottom of the fenceline had lifted about 4". What followed must have been hilarious to watch, I wish I had been here.

Sandpiper and Faramir both crawled out under the fence.... I imagine their conversation went a bit like this:

Sandpiper: "Pssst.... Faramir!"

Faramir: "Yeah, What?"

Sandpiper: "I'm blowin this joint, wanna come?"

Faramir: "Uh, I don't know Sand, what will the 2-leggers say? Man, just look at this fence! We're gonna be in so much trouble already... and remember what happened the last time I listened to you? I ended up with a funky hair-do I had to live with all year until the next shearing. And then there was the time you told me what to say to that Hembra I liked, and she spit! Right in my face!! Remember that?"

Sandpiper: "That was cuz she was a huacaya dude. But I don't care, look at all that green grass out there! I'm gonna get out, and eat till I explode!"

Faramir: "Hey Sand, they let us out every day! I heard the nice one who gives us carrots say we could only go out for an hour a day so we don't get tummy aches... I don't think it's a good idea. I'm sure she'll be here real soon to let us out, why don't we just wait?"

Sandpiper: "What are you, a chicken? Why don't you go live up there with the hens, bwuck-gack (makes rude and annoying chicken sounds). Whatever dude, I'm outta here."

Faramir: "I'm NOT a chicken!! Just watch this!!" (he squirms under the fence)

Sandpiper: (grinning like a fool because now they can't say he broke the fence) Woo- hoo! Thatta boy, let's go!!"

And the rest is history. The tragic tale of how an innocent alpaca was boonswaggled into his first criminal act. Faramir came running back when I shook the pellet bucket, and kissed me until he was convinced he was forgiven. He and Sandpiper both had to have probiotics due to their upset tummies. But that didn't stop Sandpiper...

The next day as I was driving away from the house, my daughter and I looked out the car window to see Sandpiper standing at the fence... smirking at us. I knew what he was thinking.

"You may have fixed the fence, but I already have another plan. You won't know when, or where, or what it is, but believe me, it's gonna be good."

Faramir was in the bottom of the pen covering his head and humming.

The girls, enjoying their time on the grass. But's what's this? Is that rosie whispering to Heathertoes?? Uh oh......