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When all else fails, blame Mom. At least that’s the way it seems sometimes. Middle son, who could truly sleep his entire life away, gets up at 10:30 angry at me that he wasn’t woken up at 8 to go snowboarding with his friends. First, how did I become the family alarm clock? Second, his snow clothes which he threw up on yesterday are still wet, since no one took them out of the washer to hang dry. Third, we had plans for a nice family day but offered (before we remembered about the wet clothes) to drop him off there despite it being my fault which still wasn’t an acceptable response. Jeez…..

This, being the first morning in I cannot remember how long, that we decided to sleep in (a relative term in our house) and let the kids do the same. This gives total credence to my claim that if I didn’t get up in the morning (or dropped dead in my sleep and couldn’t wake up in the morning) that no one would move in the house.

Well, seems the day is off to a wonderful start….

So far, it’s been a Saturday. We were up early since Tim had guitar lessons and I was bringing kids home from a sleepover/to the mountain to go snowboarding. As it turns out it was snowing like mad and Tim’s guitar teacher called to cancel his lesson. I had to take oldest son to the mountain anyway and we left. Then I had to unload the Suburban and make a couple trips back and forth to cart the Odyssey team’s props down to the elementary school so they can have a marathon practice today – one week to state finals. On the way back up Route 140 for the second load a deer jumped over the guardrail and directly into the passenger side of my truck. With little to no warning, I slammed on the brakes and swerved, causing the feet of snow and ice on the top of the truck to come cascading down onto the windshield and hood, effectively blinding us on a curve. No damage to the truck, no damage to the deer (it continued to run off although we definitely heard a “thud”). Tyler was on his way to snowboarding with his friend. The plan was friend’s dad would drop them off and I would pick them up this afternoon along with TJ and whoever else happened to need a ride back to Wallingford. We got word that those plans were scrapped however when middle son decided to throw up inside friend’s dad’s truck and himself and the dad evidently. So they were headed back, just as husband and I were about to head out to Manchester to the bookstore for a few hours of “couple” time. I don’t know what one does to apologize to a friend’s parent for your child vomiting in their truck and on them, so I am totally open to suggestions – but I am guessing that it’s going to take more than a simple “I’m sorry” which we already offered, along with the offer to clean his truck seat. This guy, btw, is a sweetheart since he evidently left Tom with the words “we’re going tomorrow if Tyler needs a ride” – wow, not every parent offers to take your child somewhere within minutes of him puking on himself, you and your truck.

So, that was my morning and it’s only noon. Wonder how the rest of the day is going to play out.  Guesses anyone?

Drumroll……………..Today marks the day that the blog hits surpass 20,000.  The site counter rolled past 20,000 hits or visits during the day today. Thanks! I would have never guessed that something I started a few years ago to chronicle our moving to Vermont and as a “therapeutic” outlet would have acquired such a following.  Were it not for the blog, there are some of you that I wouldn’t have befriended and that just would have been a shame.

It is snowing like it means it outside once again. There was a little respite last night but it started snowing again around 7 a.m. this morning and has been coming down ever since. We can hear the winds starting to come on, we are forecast for 55-65 mph winds – that should be loads of fun since the trees are weighted down with the heavy wet snow that fell over the past two days. There are already a lot of branches down here and there and our road, well let’s just say that I passed a car trying to come up the hill on my way down to the bus stop and then it had evidently backed all the way down the hill when I was driving back up, giving it what I thought was a second try. A neighbor I passed on the way advised me that it was at least the third time. Not much any of us can do to push her up the hill, but certainly happy to give her a ride. This is what I try to explain to my almost driving son – fancy cars are not meant for the winter up here. The little sports car she had was great, just not meant to drive through about 6 inches of snow and slush going uphill nonetheless.

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Winter – jam packed into one storm. Two feet of snow and still snowing (forecast to continue through Saturday night), snowball fights, the mother of all snowballs, roof jumping, power outage, warm fire, snow day. What more can anyone ask for? Now this, this is winter in Vermont. Welcome back!

Here are some pictures from outside today. Notice me and my first day with the new snowshoes. Graceful aren’t I?

The boys have to rake off the roof – pretty soon they’ll be able to stand on the roof to do it.

Photograph of acute MCA stroke.
Image via Wikipedia

There has been some encouraging news on our neighbor, he has been removed from the ventilator and appears to be able to breath on his own with the use of the traech. There was however some bad news in that another person that lives nearby and was friends with our friend Tom, suffered a stroke himself and was also airlifted to Dartmouth. Thoughts and prayers go out to both of them. Perhaps as they recuperate together, they might be roommates in the hospital.

With the sudden constant discussion of stroke and its repercussions going on around town due to our friend’s condition, I thought that it might be helpful to others to post some of the warning signs of a stroke and what to do if you suspect that someone around you is having a stroke. I remember reading this a while ago and while I had to look it up, parts of it did stick:

F.A.S.T. – an acronym to identify a potential stroke victim.

F- FACE – Ask the person to smile, if their smile is lopsided that may indicate stroke. Ask them to stick out their tongue. If they cannot do this or have difficulty doing this, again seek medical attention.

A-ARMS – Ask the person to raise both arms. Inability to move both sides of the body simultaneously may indicate stroke.

S-SPEECH – Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Often stroke victims cannot speak, their speech is slurred or they are unable to remember the words to repeat. These are all indications of a potential stroke.

T -TIME – Time is of the essence when someone is experiencing a stroke. Note the time that the symptoms started to appear and immediately call for medical assistance.

Strokes can happen to anyone, even children and can be related to other medical issues. Do not discount the possibility of stroke just because the person is not elderly or in poor medical condition.

A stroke affects the brain, usually one side. The left side of the brain controls the right side of the body as well as speech.  Persons who suffer left-side brain injury as a result of a stroke may have language or speech problems and tend to develop a slow, cautious behavior and may have difficulty following instructions without repetition. They can also develop memory problems and retention issues.

The right side of the brain controls the left side of the body and persons who suffer right sided strokes tend to experience spatial problems (such a distance or depth perception) as well as developing impulsive behaviors. Right sided brain stroke victims also tend to develop left-sided neglect and ignore or forget things and people on the left side of their body. They also may experience short term memory loss.

One of the very encouraging and interesting things that I came across in an article from CNN Health was the use of singing therapy to help stroke victims that have suffered aphasia or loss of speech. There has been a great deal of research indicating that the right side of the brain can compensate for the loss of speech from strokes or other brain injuries since language is based in the left side of the brain. There has been studies through the years that people with brain injuries can sing but cannot speak. Melodic Intonation Therapy developed by Dr. Gottfried Schlaug an associate professor of neurology at Beth Israel and Harvard believes that stroke victims can be talk to speak again through singing the same way that children are taught through the use of song. There is something about music and singing that overcomes the brain’s inability to produce speech.

It is amazing to me that people who lose their ability to speak through some brain injury such as a stroke, may indeed be able to communicate verbally through song. What wonderful news for so many people who suffer from aphasia. My grandfather had a stroke, several strokes as a matter of fact and I remember that he was extremely frustrated by his sudden inability to communicate even the most basic of responses verbally. Compounded with paralysis he was trapped. With this type of therapy which evidently can be taught to even non-professionals and caretakers, a whole new world may open up for those who have been robbed of their ability to speak. A beautiful, melodic world.

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Well, it finally seems that Mother Nature remembers that we exist up here. The snow began falling early this morning and although this is supposed to only be snow showers in advance of the storm, there is already more than one inch on the ground. It is snowing steadily. We are forecast to get between 6-12 inches. While not an all out blizzard like the Mid-Atlantic states have gotten, there is a winter storm warning issued and this is about as close to a snowstorm as we have had in a while.

The goats and I went for a walk this morning in the snow and all of us were quite happy.

We have had a winter with not that much snow. In fact, I don’t think that we have had anything that you could really call a storm. Nothing that even bears a resemblance to what our relatives in New Jersey and the rest of the mid Atlantic states have had. Too bad since the snow should be up here where it is appreciated. The words “Winter Storm Warning” or for that matter “Winter Storm Watch” have barely appeared on our weather forecasts this winter. Don’t get me wrong, we have snow, it snows a little here, a little there….but no snow storm. No dumping of snow.

That however “may” change (I hate to type it for fear that the weather, being as fickle as it is to us New Englanders might change once again). Snow is predicted for every day this week starting tonight. Perhaps, just perhaps, the significant snow that they predict for Tuesday night into Wednesday and then again Thursday night into Friday might be a storm – or two of them if we are lucky.

Wouldn’t that be nice? Snow … in the winter… in Vermont. A novel concept.

We bought and renovated a little cabin not far from us with the intention of trying to rent it out when my in-laws weren’t using it. In the past month or so, we have had numerous inquiries and dealt with a decent sized group of people. I am sad to say that the majority of the people that we have dealt with are just plain rude. Is the fact that you don’t know who I am an excuse? Does that justify rude behavior that you wouldn’t tolerate yourself?

We have had people who tell us that they are interested and then never get back to us. We have had people tell us that they are sending us a deposit and then don’t and do not bother to tell us that they are no longer interested or found something else. But perhaps the best was yesterday. We had someone call to ask if the cabin was available for a last minute rental for the weekend. It was a man with a family who wanted to come last night. We explained that the cabin was available but since renters had just left, it needed to be cleaned. He called us back to tell us that he was definitely interested. We gave them the relevant information regarding directions and they anticipated being here about 7 p.m.

I ran around like a nut, cleaning and putting clean linens and towels out, trying to get it all ready before we headed off for Ash Wednesday services last night. 7 o’clock came, so did 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12. No phone call, no renters. Finally at 12:30 my husband went to bed, convinced that they were not coming.

Did they have a last minute emergency, or car trouble or simply change their plans? We don’t know since they never even had the courtesy of calling us. I wonder how they would like it if they expected someone and then waited for hours for them and they didn’t show up or call?

Is it just me or is that incredible rudeness? At 10:10 we called and left a voicemail, which wasn’t returned. As I sit here this morning, still there is no message, no email, nothing.

When we were inquiring just a few weeks ago for a vacation rental of our own for this summer, I responded to everyone that answered us, advising them “thanks but we already booked something” or “thanks but we are rather firm in our dates”. At least they got a reply and they knew where we stood. To do otherwise, at least the way that I was raised, was rude.

Maybe I expect too much from people. Maybe I think that just because I have manners and say “please and thank you” and give people the courtesy of replies, that I should receive them as well. That appears to just be a crazy thought I guess. That maybe I should treat people the way that I would like to be treated. That maybe, just maybe, a phone call or an email is not only appropriate but necessary when my plans change.

I am just flabbergasted by the extent of ignorance and rudeness that people display. I am calling this gentlemen who made us wait up for him last night without a phone call or an email to justify his absence and rudeness. I have no intention of being rude. I intend to ask him if everything is okay, if anyone is sick. I intend to drown him in sugar and kindness and hopefully in the process make him realize that we weren’t just a couple voices on the other end of the phone, that we were a family that also had a life and plans and maybe, just maybe a phone call would have been nice.  Perhaps next time, he will remember how he would feel and he will act differently. Maybe. One can always hope.

Image by Here’s Kate via Flickr

Today is the day that is renown for pigging out, for excesses. Today is called many different things, Fat Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday, Mardi Gras (which means “Fat Tuesday”). It is the day traditionally that all the flour and other fattening foods are used in the house to prepare for the forty days of Lent, which begins tomorrow. In some parts of the world, it is also called Pancake Day, since many cultures use up their flour to make pancakes that day.

Whether you choose to “pig out” and party on this day (many of us are working so I don’t know how much partying is going on for a Tuesday following a long weekend) or simply celebrate the day quietly or not at all, it seems a good day to make breakfast for dinner. Pancakes, easy, simple – my boys’ favorite dinner when Mom’s not home to cook.

Enjoy the day – Joyeux Mardi Gras!

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The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind; the kind that blindside you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday ~ Mary Schmich

This saying has always stuck in my head. It seems that as much as we may concern ourselves with our futures, there may be other plans for us – plans over which we have no control. There was a great cloud of sadness that passed over the Hill this weekend. It was the thing referred to by Ms. Schmich, the type of thing that you don’t think could happen and it blindsides you.

Our neighbor and dear friend, Tom French, originally introduced to us as the “mayor” of Sugar Hill, had a stroke while having dinner Thursday evening. This man, (I cannot even begin to tell those of you that have never met him, and to those of you who have, I don’t need to say anything more) is one of the most caring, generous, kind people that I have had the pleasure of knowing in my lifetime. He is outgoing like I could only imagine. He is the type of person that meets you once, listens (I mean really listens) to you and remembers it all. Should he meet you again, years from now or next week, he will recount the details of your conversation and ask about the family, friends or situations that you discussed during that initial conversation. He remembers and he cares. He is a regular visitor to our home and my boys enjoy talking to him and hanging out with him up at the cabin in the woods. For many of the young and older children here, he is a grandfather figure. For some of us, he is a cross between father, grandfather and friend. He is a force, his enthusiasm is contagious, his generosity without limits. He gives freely of himself and always has a story to tell.

Throughout the weekend, our little corner of Vermont became a gigantic web of information. Our phone has been ringing off the hook, much like everyone else’s. Any piece of information or news that any of us received was hungrily passed from person to person. We all prayed and hoped and wished that he would be okay. We received some encouraging news through this “grapevine” of concerned friends and neighbors. He has suffered a massive stroke. He has sustained left sided brain damage and presently has right sided paralysis. He is intubated so his speech is presently unknown. We hope that the swelling of his brain might reduce and take with it some of the paralysis. No one is sure at this point and of course, the danger exists, as it does in any stroke, that he may have another. He does have range of motion in his left side and he has shown signs of recognition and comprehension, responding to his family and caretakers.

We have prayed long and hard. Tom and I have spent the better part of the weekend, sitting around and staring at each other, thinking about Tom. We have known him since we bought this house, actually even before that. Of all the things that anyone could think, this was definitely not it. It was the blindside that struck us all like a slap in the face. It is the type of thing that leaves one struggling with how something like that, something that could rip everything from this man that gave so much of himself to all of us, could happen to such a nice man. It is a scary thing, a reminder that none of us really have control over our fate and that in and of itself is humbling and frightening and saddening. Today, tomorrow, next week one of us might not be here or might not be the person we knew. It brought a profound sense of sadness over me. Sadness for him and his family – sadness for me reminiscent of the stroke suffered by my grandfather and the way that the man that I knew left us that day, never to return. Hopefully, this is not the fate of Tom. He is strong and he is surrounded by love and faith – lots of both.

His family has set up a website to keep everyone apprised of his medical condition and give us all a place to leave our thoughts, prayers and good wishes for his recovery. Perusing through it is simply astounding. Well wishes and prayers are literally coming from around the world. I don’t think there is anyone in our neighborhood that hasn’t left their mark on the site.

If prayers have the ability to heal, then there is no doubt in my mind that this man should be up dancing the jig and singing his heart out in short order. The outpouring of love is amazing. He has truly touched the hearts of everyone that he has ever met.

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Lindsey Vonn after winning the Downhill World ...
Image via Wikipedia

When you think about it, we all have folk remedies that we might use when we have a cold, a bug bite, a bee sting and the like. We all have heard of castor oil, witch hazel and mustard plasters. We continue to use them because we are convinced that they work. Whether that faith comes from the opinion of a much loved relative – such as a grandmother – or medical science, we do it because we have faith that it will help us.

Such is the case with Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn and cheese. According to an article in CNN Health, Vonn has been wrapping her injured shin in cheese. Austrian cheese to be exact, Topfen. According to Vonn her trainer began doing this and she believes that it helps.

The article explains that sometimes it is not the method utilized for these home remedies that work, but rather the faith that the person receiving the remedy places in the remedy itself. Basically, the power of positive thinking.

The internet is replete with various home remedies and reasons why they work. The most important reason why they seem to work is that the recipient believes that it will work. The power  of faith – even if it is faith in cheese.

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