Saturday, September 17, 2011

The House Smells of Vegetables!

Slowing down, still slowing down..........I'm cooking today instead of cleaning garlic, braiding garlic, making up garlic gift boxes, getting a head start on writing our weekly garlic newsletter, or planning ahead about how to organize and actually use ~30 volunteer dietetic students from Michigan State University on Oct 8th who are driving down to help us with garlic planting (thank you!!). is worth the trip outside to do something quickly in the barn in order to come back into the house and smell everything we are in the process of cooking. :-)

I can still vividly remember the startled look on a young woman's face a few years ago when I asked her (she was the young owner of a small organic apple orchard near Yakima, WA) which was her favorite apple variety to make applesauce. With little tears in her eyes and keeping one eye on her young children playing in view at her small understated fruit stand along side the road, she simply told me she no longer knew because she had no time to make applesauce anymore............I remember responding with tears of my own. I wanted to stay to help her. Instead we helped her finish getting her apples out of her truck and onto the tables at her stand and then filled the back seat of our rental car with bushels of several varieties of her organic apples to take back to our son in Seattle, telling him to always make the trip over the mountain range to buy directly from her and to give away what he would not be able to eat to his neighbors and his students.

I listened and integrated her sadness at that moment in response to my question, vowing two things: 1) that would not happen to me (eating and cooking were both simply too important!) and 2) I would always do whatever I could to help young farmers 'make it'. Flash forward to the past two summers after starting our farm in the spring of 2009. I am now completely in synch with her feelings, as we quickly become overwhelmed with the thousands of details involved to successfully grow and sell organic produce on a large commercial scale. Cooking and eating well started to slide to the bottom of our priorities, without even realizing it that first summer..........

A year ago, our first summer to sell our garlic at farmers' markets, we found we were asking our customers how they intended to use our garlic. Quite often we heard ourselves asking 'what time is dinner?', and after a while we began to realize our question was only a 'half-joke', as again we found ourselves too overwhelmed to actually take much time to cook, enjoy cooking, and enjoy eating. This summer we vowed to 'eat better' - seriously! And for the most part we have done much better. It has helped that we began trading our garlic for other great food from our very young new farmer friends.

Thus, I feel I am accomplishing my two vows in one 'slick move'.  However, I still have to 'slow down' from all we need to do for our own crop to make sure our beautiful and delicious bounty grown by our friends gets cooked, eaten, and/or preserved and does not end up in our compost pile, which I would consider a 'crime'. (we have no time to integrate chickens or other animals into our life yet, which would readily convert any 'left-overs' and/or limp vegetables into more food for us).

So today, here is what we are doing, even though it has finally become a beautiful day outside. Dick is making and canning a year's supply of Zesty Tomato Sauce (VERY zesty - a little overload on the hot peppers! - we are debating the name for this sauce - 'Dyer's Double-Dare' anyone?), I am making roasted carrot hummus to take to a potluck with our farmer friends tomorrow, roasting and then freezing red peppers (recipes readily available on the web), making ratatouille in the crock-pot that I will freeze in 2-serving containers for winter enjoyment, putting together a very large pot of broccoli/kale soup to freeze in quarts so we have some quick lunches over the next several months as we wind up selling our garlic and get started with planting, and then I am going to launch into making pickled garlic cloves with the left-over peeled garlic cloves from the garlic tasting last Saturday night. I have not done that before, so I will post the recipe later if it is a great one!

Can you imagine what our home smells like??!! :-) We did 48 pints of salsa two weeks ago (yes, we eat a lot of salsa) and will be doing applesauce, too, at a later date. I will always tip my hat to thank and honor that young woman growing both her beautiful organic apples and her beautiful organic family outside of of Yakima, WA, hoping that today finds her life a little less frazzled and she has found time to make applesauce again. If I lived there, I would still be buying her apples by the bushel, helping her to keep her hope and dream alive for her organic orchard in other ways, too. She represents her community's and our country's best hope for our collective future of both peace and good food for all.

"Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row"

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

PS - In addition to the great smells of our home, I forgot to add the best part of today, that again, while cooking I am listening to the last 3 radio shows of Thistle & Shamrock from my laptop while also open to a recipe in the kitchen, over and over again. I have all that music memorized now. Actually I immediately recognize many of the tunes (even the same artists and recordings) that have been played on this show during the past 25+ years that I have been a faithful listener. I love the dance tunes - roll back the rugs! :-)

"Chapter 3" – Wham Bam!

Every day is full, full, full, and daylight hours are noticeably lessening, which means that there is just as much to do but fewer hours to do it all. Wait, wait!! I'm supposed to be 'slowing down', remember, Diana? Yes, I do remember, in fact that is why I love cleaning the garlic to sell at our three local farmers' markets, in the barn, by myself, without the radio on, just the sounds of the farm and what is nearby. Today was quiet, but I did hear the sandhill cranes bugle while flying over, geese honking as they are practicing flying together, horses whinny from a neighboring farm, a dog barking (I don't hear that very often), plus nuthatches and blue jays telling me in no uncertain terms that I am LATE, way over due in fact with filling the bird feeders!  Tomorrow will be an all-day cooking and preserving extravaganza so I want to get started on and even hopefully finish Chapter 3/Wham Bam! tonight, which will be more 'clinical' than 'philosophical'. Hopefully, I can thoughtfully pull it together without agonizing over all the details. :-)

Full disclosure here. My sole intent for sharing these details of my experience is simple. I hope to help someone else avoid what happened to me. 

To briefly recap Chapter 1 and Chapter 2 , this summer (our first living full-time on the farm) found me loving living here and farming full-time, but thinking, thinking, thinking about everything that needed to be done, and running, running, running trying to do it all. Somewhere in there I first stopped sleeping through the night (which is highly irregular for me) and then I even began having mild night sweats.

While at my primary care physician's office for a check-up, which I have every 6 months 'rain or shine'  because I have so many post-cancer long-term medical concerns (some little, some big) that are generically called 'late effects' from cancer therapies, she asked if I had been having any 'night sweats'. Well, gosh, I don't ever remember her asking me that before, ever! Even though I had thought my night sweats were odd but so mild that I might be able to 'get away' with not mentioning them at this appointment (NO, no, no - big mistake!! - don't hold back, don't do that, ever! - YES, always mention any new symptom that is out of the ordinary for you!). After a thorough Q&A session, she and I together decided to 'watch and wait' since these night sweats were mild (i.e., not soaking my pajamas or sheets), of recent onset (only about 2 weeks, not months and months) and except for the other new development of difficulty sleeping through the night, I was actually feeling well. I left her office with a clear charge that I should call her if anything changed.

Wham-bam!! Change did not take long at all to happen. :-(

That night after first falling asleep and then waking up an hour or so later, wide awake with my mind racing as I have recently become accustomed to happening, I got up to walk through the house. Before I took 10 steps (I was still in our bedroom), for some reason I rubbed one of my arms, hmm maybe I do that all the time anyhow, never noticing anything out of the ordinary. However, this time, I about shot through the ceiling with pain in my upper right arm. When I came back down and cleared my senses, I rubbed my arm again, yes, it was screaming in pain when I touched it, and this time I could feel a lump, a rather large lump actually, perhaps the size of a small egg.

Wow, where did that come from all of a sudden and what could that possibly be???? Somehow I got back to sleep, after all, the morning would bring a very busy day. My husband and I had to finish cleaning more garlic for our last farmers' market of the week that afternoon. I had to help get our stand set up at the market (leaving my husband to staff the table by himself) before I left to go pick up our daughter-in-law at the airport and then help her get ready for a weekend retreat with some friends before making dinner after we all got back home to the farm. Whew!

My wildest hope was that this odd pain and lump would just disappear over the day - I know that was optimistic, but I was WAY too busy to pay much attention to it anyhow. However, I became aware that I was 'fading' all day long, even if I could somehow compensate in a way that my arm did not hurt and maybe, maybe, maybe, hopefully I didn't have a fever.

By the time I got to bed, I just fell into bed in my clothes, too tired to put on my pajamas and also too tired to find the thermometer. No this pain did not go away today - sigh.......not that I really expected it to do so. Yes, my arm still hurt like crazy when I touched that odd lump. However, this time when I woke up in the middle of the night I had a 'flash' of what could be happening and knew there would be no more wishful thinking, no more delay no matter how busy the following day was already scheduled to be. The 'distress signal' would go up at 8 AM when my doctor's office began taking calls, even before my daughter-in-law would have left with her friends.

In a nutshell, women who have had breast cancer surgery that has removed many lymph nodes from the armpit (called a full lymph node dissection) on the same side of the body as the cancer was found in the breast are at very high risk of developing both lymphedema and infections in that arm. My first breast surgeon sat me down in 1984 to warn me about the dangers of these infections, grabbing my left hand and telling me that he could "win the cancer war and still lose me in a side skirmish to an infection."

He proceeded to tell me with tears in his eyes that such an occurrence happened to someone he knew who had insisted on pruning her roses after her breast cancer surgery and lymph node dissection without using good protective gloves, was poked by a thorn, developed an infection in her hand that quickly spread up her arm then into her bloodstream because she did not have a full functioning lymphatic system in that arm to help fight and contain it, and then she quickly died, pure and simple. (Wham-bam, I added that thought myself just now.)

Those words and those tears made a strong and lasting impression on me. I remember every detail of that conversation like it was yesterday. I have been fortunate to never have any hint of lymphedema develop in either arm after each breast cancer surgery, even with all the air traveling I have done over the past 15+ years. In addition, I have been meticulous about reducing risk for an infection by trying diligently to not injure my hands or arms since then. I try to always remember to wear good garden gloves when working outside and also in the barn, making the trek into the house to wash any hint of an abrasion or cut thoroughly. I wear long-sleeve shirts to avoid scratches and insect bites even on most of those hot hot summer days, and I also often use awful bug spray to reduce the risk of insect and spider bites when working in the fields.

I am meticulous in the kitchen with knives and other sharp utensils and only rarely use that mandoline for grating hard cheese, which I swear has a scheming mind of its own and tries to scrape my fingers! I bought myself a better rolling suitcase that was not so hard on my arms to pull, and I really really do try to remember to not be 'helpful' by lifting heavy objects (including my roller bag into the overhead bin on the airplane). Hmmmm, maybe I am not remembering enough here, as I can now hear several conversations in my memory with our garlic helper this past July about just how heavy those tubs of garlic were as they were carried from the field back to the barn ("yes, yes, I can help you, I can do this", says Diana).

I was on the phone at exactly 8 AM and my doctor had personally called me back by 8:04. I was in her office by 9:30, in the light of her office it was obvious my arm was red and swollen with the large lump no longer clearly visible, and I had a fever. She told me that I very likely had an infection within the skin of my arm called cellulitis, often caused by an insect or spider bite (we were now into that horrific mosquito outbreak that happened in SE Michigan this past summer), and that it was far enough advanced and I was at such high risk for the infection quickly developing further that I needed to head to the emergency room for intravenous antibiotics as soon as possible. She said I could go home to get my husband, but I was to tell him that he was not to let me get frustrated and walk out like I did last March (long story that I probably didn't blog about!), with a 'look' that said 'I mean it'.

Yikes! I worked so many years in the intensive care units that I knew all about the 'worse case scenarios' of systemic infections, plus I had the warning from my first surgeon burned into my DNA so I fully understood what my doctor was saying, what she was not saying, and what I would be doing for the next day, at least.

To try to shorten this up a bit, the upshot was that I spent 24 hours in the emergency room as my infection did not respond to the first 4 doses of Plan A of IV antibiotic and was clearly spreading. On to Plan B, which is a stronger antibiotic. Intermittent with all of this were multiple ultrasounds of that painful lump in my arm to try to assess just what that lump was (a blood clot?, abscess?, swollen lymph node?, tumor?). If that second antibiotic did not work, then it would on to Plan C, which was the least desirable because there would be no oral form of that antibiotic to ultimately switch over to.

As soon as it was apparent that we were on to Plan B, antibiotic #2, I was promptly admitted to the hospital versus continuing with the ER protocol for cellulitis. Thankfully, with the second dose of the second antibiotic, the redness began to recede (my arm was marked at regular intervals with magic markers, using various colors and patterns and initials to follow the course of the infection) and most interestingly, I slept off and on that second night without any night sweats. At the end of the 3rd day, I was able to be sent home on the oral equivalent of this antibiotic (clindamycin) with the infection clearly receding.

It is still unclear what the trigger was for this infection. There was no obvious sign of injury or insect bite. Several doctors said the two weeks of night sweats that I had prior to this infection becoming clinically evident would not be typical of cellulitis, that this type of infection usually manifests very quickly. (However, the graduate student currently living with us for a few months recently said, with fondness :-), that 'everything in this house is atypical!'). Since these night sweats have not recurred at all since the resolution of my infection, in spite of several medical opinions to the contrary, I will believe there was a connection, that my body was slowly fighting an infection secondary to some unperceived injury and ultimately was overwhelmed without a fully present and functioning lymphatic system.

My message(s) here? The lesson(s) that I hope will be helpful to others right now?

1) If you have had lymph nodes removed (and this can be done with other cancer surgeries, too, in addition to breast cancer), know that you are vulnerable and at high risk of developing lymphedema and infections that can quickly spread to become serious and even deadly.

2) Know the precautions you should adopt into your lifestyle (even burn into your own DNA) to prevent lymphedema. If you already have lymphedema, find help to best treat it and control the symptoms. Know that any sign of an infection in an affected limb could be serious and call your doctor promptly.

3) Be vigilant! I told several people treating me while in the ER and hospital that in spite of what my admitting card said, my middle name was actually was 'Vigilant'. I was paying attention to myself and to them, and I would ask questions, add more information, and even correct them if I thought that was appropriate to optimize my care while shooting for the best possible outcome here.

4) If you are a newly diagnosed breast cancer patient, read, read, read about options for surgery including lymph node surgery (single node sampling versus the full lymph node dissection techniques). Be very cautious about opting for full lymph node dissection since a recent large study has showed no survival advantage with this invasive technique that clearly has multiple known side effects that can compromise both health and quality of life (I wrote about this previously on my blog).

5) This is so obvious that I almost did not think to mention it. If you do not have a primary care doctor, or do not have one that you trust as a 'partner' for your medical care, please find one as soon as possible. My doctor called the ER ahead of my arrival, told them everything they needed to know to be ready to swing into immediate action, told them all precautions needed for me, and basically had them ready for me. Besides her telling me that I 'could not leave the ER', all of her meticulous attention to medical detail plus caring about keeping me a 'survivor' may have saved my life.

I have already had one farmer friend tell me she now knows she needs to be paying more attention to the lymphedema in her arm that has resulted from her breast cancer surgery (yes, yes, yes! to all of you reading who are cancer survivors out there in the blogosphere with lymph nodes removed, no matter what type of cancer surgery you have had).

I have had one of the smartest dietitians (RD) I know tell me she had no idea about the risks involved from breast cancer surgery in which the lymph nodes are removed.  (To all RDs - are those of you out there also in the blogo-sphere paying attention? Are you telling your breast cancer survivors to use extra caution when using knives or other sharp implements in the kitchen? Are you reminding them to use extra care not to burn themselves when cooking or washing dishes or handling hot dishes, pots, or pans?)

Well, it would be glib to sign off with a simple 'all's well that ends well'.

Wow..................Yes, this was a 'wham-bam' experience and could have ended much differently. I guess The Universe got my attention with the ultimate message to 'slow down'. Hello! I hear you, I get it, I will listen, I will let this message burn into my DNA like my first surgeon's message to be vigilant about the care of my hands and arms. Cancer survivorship is 'tricky business', it is not 'back to normal', and it is definitely not clear-cut medicine. In fact, I think it would be fair to say that all cancer survivors likely fall outside the box into an 'atypical' category as both a patient and with life. :-)

I will also follow with Chapter 4, reflecting with my own lessons here, going back to being more philosophical. Again, it will take me a while to both pull my thoughts together and find the time to put 'pen to paper', using an old-fashioned term. I hope what I wrote today however is helpful to someone, even one person, right now.

"Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row" (and sometimes I need these words and lessons repeated!)

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Monday, September 12, 2011

HomeGrown, Well Done!

We did it, with very little lead time and lots of last-minute thinking, planning, planning, planning, my husband and I pulled together an informative and fun garlic-tasting at Ann Arbor's 4th Annual HomeGrown Festival this past Saturday night. True to form, just like being at our 3 local farmers' markets, neither Dick nor I sat down until the very end of the evening.

The event went from 6 until 11. We left home by 4:30, just barely had time to set up by 6 pm, only a few minutes before the 'we LOVE !! local food' crowd started arriving in droves.  Other vendors/non-profits (including Project Grow's tasting of 50+ heirloom tomatoes, which we have grown tomatoes for and staffed in past years) closed or left their booths around 9, but we kept going until close to 11 pm with people who just did not quit wanting to taste our garlic! Dick was sitting down by 10:30 (creaky old football knee injuries are to blame, not lack of energy!) but I had enough stamina and excitement to not sit down the entire time. :)

We are already planning our participation in next year's 5th Annual HomeGrown Festival, without the last minute worry and frenzy of the past 10-12 days! Just for fun, here is an article about the event, complete with photos. If you look carefully through the photos, you'll see our brand-spanking-new banner in the background of the photo of the woman in the 'ear of corn' costume along with my husband behind the garlic-tasting table. I don't know where I am at that moment, maybe handing out our garlic-tasting menus to the crowd mingling in the aisles, or helping out at our garlic sales table, or helping in the background supervise our wonderful volunteers who sliced garlic for the tastings and kept the cherry tomato 'chasers' stocked.

I have some photos that I will get downloaded and posted on our farm's Facebook page as soon as I have time to sort through them, edit, and label for you to enjoy. I'll post up a few here, too.

(Our new farm logo in full color - our banner uses part of this image in a simpler format with a yellow background, to complement our yellow tablecloth. Garlic, garlic scapes, red Russian kale, our raised beds filled with the 42 different garlic varieties we grew this year, and the sun coming up each morning to greet our future - you will also see the sun rising on the cover of my book) :-)

No worries - 'chapters 3 and 4' are still coming, but I need the time to sit down and think, both clearly and deeply without a 'must do now !! or yesterday !!' list of things to do.  I am getting there........ :-)

If I had the time, I think the image of our garlic fields on our logo qualifies for a posting on my most inactive blog Our desire to finally pursue an 'old' dream (in spite of the enormous number and depth of uncertainties and fears involved with 'life after cancer') and the perseverance to actually do it, represents a victory over cancer from both a physical and a spiritual perspective. I love looking at the image, I feel like I cannot take my eyes off of it!, and I have slept well the last two nights. :-)

"Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row"

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Shameless plug - our farm is finally on Facebook :)

It is only a beginning step, but I finally got our farm listed on Facebook. I am not exactly sure how to do links yet on Facebook (I need to learn a lot) but here is the link at the top of the page for our farm.!/pages/The-Dyer-Family-Organic-FarmDicks-Pretty-Good-Garlic/169973819746636

I don't know if you can actually click on that link and get to our page. If you cannot, and are so inclined to cruise Facebook, you can search for us using the term 'The Dyer Family Organic Farm/Dick's Pretty Good Garlic'.

In addition, if you are also so inclined to press that 'Like' button on Facebook pages, you can do so and get short updates sent to your own Facebook page about what is happening on our farm.

I actually prefer blogging because there is no word limit (and I do appreciate those of you who are reading through my recent lengthy postings).  Facebook has a 500-word limit for entries, which you can tell is definitely not 'my style'. :-) I expect to continue blogging, but for the time being, posting short thoughts on Facebook seems to be easier for me to do.

Our farm website is not even close to being done, so don't look for that. It's a huge monumental step that we are now on Facebook. The website has to wait until after the garlic is planted this fall. Oh wait, maybe we'll unpack (finally) first! :-)

"Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row"
Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

"Chapter 2" Follow-up: 'The peace of wild things'

I knew I was forgetting something in my post yesterday but could not find it in the 'clutter' of my mind. However, there it was this morning, right on my desk where I usually keep my laptop. I should add that like avoiding the news, etc, etc, that I mentioned in my post yesterday, I have been finding it harder and harder to even go into my office.

I want to share a poem by Wendell Berry, a farmer-author-poet-activist from Kentucky. I know I wrote about him in an earlier blog post this year. Hmmm, I wonder if I even included this same poem in that blog (nope, just checked). Interestingly, I know I have read this poem before in one of his many collections but was surprised to find it again in one of my two books of food blessings. It does not clearly seem to fit into this book of mealtime graces (I will have to think about it from a different perspective), but it does show me that my feelings are not new or unique, that other people deeply feel this concurrent sense of grace and worry. Wendell Berry expresses it more beautifully and succinctly than I have (the gift of our poets).

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's 
lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the
great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief.
I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light.
For a time I rest in the grace of the world,
and am free.

~~ Wendell Berry

I know I have quoted from or written about the book A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold in past blog entries.  The opening lines in the foreword to this book are: 'There are some who can live without wild things, and some who cannot.' I am one who cannot. I am jumping ahead of myself here to 'Chapter 4' ('Back Again',still unwritten, coming after still unwritten Chapter 3 'Wham-Bam!'), but I can see I am in the best place for me, and I need to start taking my lessons for slowing down (Chapter 1) and finding peace (Chapter 2) from the wild things that are all around me.  

Still continuing............. :-)

"Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row"

Diana Dyer, MS, RD

Monday, September 5, 2011

"Chapter 2" - Diana's Thoughts/Blocks/Side-tracks

Thoughts from Diana Dyer sent up to the Universe at various times these past two months:

Short Version: "No time, no time!" Skip to the bottom.

Long Version: I love coming home, I love coming home to our new home! I am certain I have already blogged about how much I love living on our farm, now that we finally really moved here in late April. I have a favorite spot on our little gravel road, right after that 4th speed bump when I can see where our garlic has been planted this year. I can see the curve of our driveway, just start to see our house and a bit of our barn. It is my favorite view of the farm. :-) In fact it is the polar opposite view of one that I frequently enjoy posting at the top of this blog, in which I look out over our garlic field to the isolated and small gravel road that comes to our farm.  When coming home, I often slow or stop the car right there just to look and enjoy the happiness that fills me up, from my toes right out through my finger-tips and probably out through my hair (hmm, I wonder if that is what makes my hair so curly?) Just kidding, but it is a delicious feeling.

I feel so much happiness that my body often actually feels 'warm and fuzzy' inside, a common expression but odd to actually feel it, over and over, every day.

So why am I also feeling the exact opposite, a cold pit of sadness in my stomach, often at the same time? No time to figure this out, we have garlic, garlic, and more garlic to dig, bundle, label, haul upstairs, label, label, label, haul downstairs, clean, sort, take to market, braid, label, bag up, put into gift boxes, label, label, label, more braids needed right away, sweep the barn, sweep, sweep, sweep again and again, haul the trimmings to the field or the compost piles, figure out and conduct garlic tastings, etc, etc, etc.

I can understand and make sense of this 'warm fuzzy' feeling, but where or what is this 'pit' stemming from? I have found that I can no longer stand listening to the news. There is so much that is wrong, painful, or sorry, even stupid everywhere. I haven't watched the 'nightly news' on TV for years now, haven't even glanced at CNN or MSNBC for months and months during our chaotic past 6 months, but earlier this summer I also needed to turn off the radio (including NPR). I have stopped even reading the New York Times (including my favorite columnists), I spontaneously bought a new CD of one my favorite fiddlers and listen and re-listen to that in my car now instead of listening to even my favorite NPR talk/interview hosts (I'm sorry, Terry Gross, I'm sorry, Diane Rehm, I have been your loyal fan for years, but right now I cannot even stand listening to either of you). What is going on???

Does this pit in my stomach ever disappear? Pay attention, Diana, pay attention. If I cannot figure out what is causing it, can I figure out what makes it disappear?

Did someone say The Universe is trying to 'get through' to me? I cannot decide if that idea seem preposterous, or if The Universe is already flooding me with these feelings of experiencing happiness and joy (my own and sharing that of others) and this 'pit' that seems related to the enormous and unending amount of sadness and suffering that I see in the world and share.

In any case, it seems that there is so much going on around me that if The Universe would need to get through to find me with something specific, I am not sure it could get through the clutter. Did I say clutter???? that word was just a figure of speech, but what an understatement - there is so much actual clutter in my life that I find I am averting my gaze everywhere nearly all the time. Time, time, time, no time to figure this out, no time to clean up clutter, there is only garlic, garlic, garlic and more garlic to take care of. All the clutter, all the 'to do' everywhere, gets assigned to the "we'll do this in November after the garlic is planted in October" list, which of course is so long that it is creating its own 'clutter'.

I'll repeat my own question, still unanswered. Is there anything that makes this pit in my stomach disappear, anything that completely over-rides this sense of unease, this sense of sadness, this 'heart-ache', even if I cannot really figure out what is causing it? Sigh.............

I do know that every time I think of Kaya, or someone asks where she is, it takes everything in me to hold myself together. I have finally realized that so much of what I do each day is still a continuation of my 'firsts' without her, even though she died in January (I wrote about this on my blog right after she died). She loved just following me around the farm. This summer, she is not here to make sure I am weeding up to her expectations (I love the meditative aspect of weeding alone - I also enjoy the companionship of weeding with a friend, but no weeding got done at all this year), or harvesting enthusiastically under her watchful gaze. She no longer sits at the bottom of the stairs in the barn, gazing wistfully up the stairs into the loft, wondering what is up there and what I do up there. (Her painful hips and back legs kept her from climbing the stairs for the past year of her life so she never saw the upstairs loft in the barn she loved.)

At the same time, even the things that bring me exquisite happiness actually often brings tears, like watching the birds at our bird feeders wondering who is new today, listening for our bluebirds, wondering "what's that?" if I see or hear something that does not immediately register as 'known', cooking for and eating with friends (we've eaten in our dining room twice now with very special friends each time), I think they are tears of happiness, but now I am not so sure.

However, I also am quite aware there is no time for real tears.  A friend died this summer. I have not yet had time to cry for him, such sadness with the loss of a wise man, dying much too young before he could save the world. Two friends are struggling with their own cancer diagnoses. I have not had time to help them. Another very close friend is struggling with her job, her life, and I have not had time to support her, even fully listen to her, to cry with her, just sigh together. I wish she and I still lived close enough that we could can tomatoes together. Another friend has been seriously ill, hospitalized for a month right here in town, and I have not had any time to even send her a card. Two friends have children struggling with cancer diagnoses. I cannot help. Another close friend is still deeply suffering the death of her child to cancer. I cannot help. Even my own extended family has its own sadness that I cannot help.

Here's a big one I almost forgot, maybe because it is so big! I miss my boys, miss them both deeply. With both of them now married, I suppose this really represents a complete closing of one chapter of my life (one I never expected to be alive to experience) and the beginning of a new one, still unwritten.  I heard our young garlic helper tell me three times while we harvested the garlic together that transitions are hard. I am sure he was talking about his own life at this time, but maybe he also saw something about me that I didn't even see myself (no time, no time). The third time he said that, I heard him differently. I wonder if that is when I stopped sleeping (see below)? Don't misunderstand! My boys do not 'need' their mother (thank goodness), and we love our two daughter-in-laws to pieces, just to pieces! :-), and we all talk often and freely on those family cell phone plans, but...........I don't even really know how to close this sentence.

Garlic, garlic, garlic, we have been successful beyond our wildest imaginations and success just keeps coming........Dick likes to call the chaos this success has brought 'the problems of success'. I hope we can keep it as 'controlled chaos', but really I hope we can somehow, sometime soon dig out way out of this chaos. I've read that if you find yourself in a hole, at least stop digging! Hmmm, somehow I feel like I am still using two shovels!

Arghhh, I hate thinking about, even in my sub-conscious, these two upcoming professional obligations I have said 'yes' to. There is no time to adequately prepare (all RDs, at least the good ones, try to 'exceed expectations'). I know I am avoiding reading even what I have gathered together that sits on the floor by my bed. I will enjoy seeing friends at these conferences, but other than that, I will just have to accept that I will not be truly 'prepared' and 'my best' will not be at the level it has been in the past.

Sometime this summer, I stopped sleeping through the night, in fact I feel like I have stopped sleeping at all. I'm not exactly sure when this happened. I do know something very similar happened after finishing my first chemotherapy in 1985. I was so excited that I might have my life back that 1) I did not want to miss anything, not one little thing, by sleeping plus 2) I was planning, planning, planning the rest of my life. :-)

I know I am always planning, planning, planning when awake during the night, either what needs to be done with our garlic today, tomorrow, this season, or the 40 years of projects that my husband and I want to do on our farm now that we are finally here, at last, now that we finally have the other big projects of our two sons' weddings and selling our other home off of our platter (the proverbial plate was too small for all we have been doing non-stop these past 2 years). I cannot tell you how many times I am awake at night just sitting by my bedroom window listening with happiness to the night sounds, looking at the stars, deeply breathing in the outside air, watching the fireflies, and on and on and on. So all this feels 'very familiar'. Truly, it makes me smile. :-)

Yet something is also different when I am awake at night. I feel overwhelmed by feeling both the joy, hope, and happiness in me and the world concurrently with feeling the enormous and unending sadness and suffering in the world. Somehow I feel that The Universe is getting through to me fine, too well in fact, that it is flooding me (or I am tapping into - I am not sure which it is) in a way that I do not fully understand and in a way that I am afraid I cannot continue to juggle.

Am I experiencing 'survivor's guilt'? I know I have felt that in the past, but if so, it must have been in 'clubs or hearts', certainly not what I am feeling now, which in contrast, can only be called 'in spades'.

However, to add to or even compound my sense of unease, my lack of peace, and the complexity of our first full summer on the farm, I have started experiencing mild 'night sweats'. They are not a big deal, but they are new, and I notice subtle changes in my body. I am startled when (at my regular 6 month 'well-baby' check-up with my primary care doctor) my doctor asks if I am experiencing any night sweats (I don't remember her ever asking me that before). I was debating in my own mind whether to even bring up this new (and, repeating here, very mild) symptom, but she asked so I said yes. After a thorough discussion, since I was basically feeling well in spite of these mild night sweats, we decided to 'watch and wait' but I should call right away if anything changed.

That night something was not mild or subtle. But of course we had 500+ things to do the next day..............

To be continued with "Wham-bam!" (the next chapter is not written yet, so it will take another 7-10 days to carve out the time to write it out, so again, thank you to my readers for hanging in there with me and all the thoughtful and supportive comments you have already shared on 'Chapter 1'!)

"Cultivate your life - you are what you grow - inch by inch, row by row"

Diana Dyer, MS RD