Who am I?

This week has been a fascinating combination of shifting identities. Over the weekend? Daughter, daughter-in-law, and sheep mommy were at the forefront. Monday? Spending time with our oldest and youngest, while balancing sheep parenthood. Yesterday? Sheep and a talk to the Addison County Substance Use & Abuse Prevention Committee (website). Today? Started the day with hungry lambs — really, really hungry lambs. Then spoke to the Middlebury Rotary Club. What an amazing group they are, and they had the best questions! Then home, to gather furniture donations to give to one of our local support agencies, junk to go to the transfer station, and sheep time. Lots of sheep time. Now some writing time before chores and lamb feeding.

Yes, I have changed my clothes from barn to professional at least 100 times in the last few days. I have washed my hands at least 1000 times, and it is all worth it!




Grief, shared grief

Late last week, we had to say good-bye to our beloved Kahuna. No matter how hard we tried, how hard the vet tried, or how hard Ellsbury tried to help him, his injury was too severe for him to fight through it. Four rounds of “alpaca physical therapy” daily, meds to make him more comfortable, favorite foods, a warm barn, it just wasn’t enough to save him. When he stopped eating and drinking, we knew we had lost the battle to save him, which broke our hearts.

As the time came for him to transition to his next phase of existence, Ellsbury came and stood next to him, with us, as the vet did what needed to be done. He made the most beautiful soothing sounds, as if telling Kahuna it was okay to go.

After Kahuna passed, Ellsbury cried, actually cried. He made a keening sound over and over, and then sat with Kahuna’s body until we removed it. For the rest of the day, Ellsbury walked the fence line of the pen, calling out, as if begging his friend to come back. That night, he wouldn’t eat, wouldn’t go in the barn, just stood sadly by the fence.

He was grieving. He is grieving still. His buddy, his companion, his sparring partner is gone.

What it reminded me anew is that humans aren’t the only creatures that grieve. Ellsbury is grieving, we are grieving. And in that shared grief, we find comfort in being together.

For the last days, we have spent a lot of time with Ellsy, talking to him, keeping him company, bringing him treats. He’s eating again, sleeping in the barn, getting back to normal activities. Now that he has had time to grieve, we are looking for a companion or companions for him because he is a social animal, and needs friends.

Love it not just for humans, and I am so thankful that we get to see the amazing relationships of our creatures.

You Are Loved

you are loved

Yesterday, I was hurrying down the street, freezing, when out of the corner of my eye, I saw this mural. It was so beautiful, that I walked over to take a picture. Then, as I got closer, I realized that there were phone numbers on it, phone numbers for addiction recovery programs. This was a mural telling those struggling with addiction that they are loved, and giving information about getting help!

So I stood on the street, and started to cry. What a beautiful piece of art, and an even more beautiful message. Love, that those struggling with addiction are loved. Now if you have loved or love someone struggling with addiction, you know that. But this wall shouted it to the world. And I am so very thankful for that!

Brownies with a Side of Rage

Yesterday, we made brownies. Maybe we did it because we didn’t have cookie ingredients in the house. Maybe it was because they sounded good. Maybe it was because deep down, I was struggling with the emotional baggage of the book about surviving losing Sam being released in e-version.

I don’t know what prompted us to make the brownies. What I know is that they weren’t the best ever made. New type of mix, maybe? I don’t know the reason, but the edges were hard as rock.

I seem to struggle with baking brownies. Often the edges are like hockey pucks. Maybe that was why Sam always took the middle of the pan — no hard edges.

In the midst of thinking about the brownies, I learned that a former student had died of an overdose, and it hurt more than I can express. I am so very tired of hearing that funny, loving, giving young people are being taken from us. I am so tired of seeing the broken hearts of families and friends.

Yes, I cried. Writing this now, tears are running down my face. This student made me  laugh, even when I wanted to stay serious. She was loud, funny, and no matter what, always had a smile for me — even when I was having to be the disciplinarian. I ran into her last summer, and was so happy to see her, to get a hug, to see her always impressive fake nails and hear about her young daughter.

Then, after the tears, the anger came. When will we stop this epidemic? We need to stop pushing drug abuse and addiction to the side, we need to face the reality of the issue, and work as an entire global community to solve it.



Today is the day that the e-version of Of Grief, Garlic and Gratitude is released. It seems surreal to have it finally launch into the world beyond that of the group of people who follow this site, or are connected to me via social media.

As I have said before, I never planned to write a memoir. I certainly never planned to write one about grief. When Sam died, it thrust us into a world that we never wanted, never planned to experience. And so if writing about that process helps someone else, then I feel that I have brought some good out of such a horrible situation.

With the e-book launch, I again pause to think about what Sam taught me. He taught me to laugh at myself when I get too intense. He taught me that there is always more than one point of view. He taught me that every single human being is worthy of love and respect. He taught me that a good burger, friends, and warm brownies can lighten a heavy heart. He taught me to open my heart to those different from myself.

As this book launches, I hope that others will read it and realize that no matter how dark the day, there is always something to be grateful for, and that no matter what, love is truly what matters.

Love, love, love

The other day, I wrote about the love between our two alpacas, Ellsbury and Kahuna. Since then, we have been doing what I refer to as “alpaca physical therapy,” where at least three times a day, we go make sure that Kahuna gets up and walks around carefully to make sure his other muscles don’t get to stiff or start to weaken. We give him his medicine, we massage his sore leg, and the whole time, Ellsbury stands guard. Kahuna walks outside to check things out? Ellsbury goes along. Kahuna gets a shot of anti-inflammatory medicine? Ellsbury stands right next to us as we give it. And when Kahuna is walking around, and Ellsbury gets boxed into a corner by the human helpers, which would normally result in Ellsy giving a swift kick to the humans? He just hums at us and moves away, no kicking involved.

Love, it’s love, pure and simple.

Love — smelly, fuzzy love

Love comes in many forms, and is not limited to humans. Humans love our animal companions, and those companions love us. But what about the love between our furry friends?

This past week, our Kahuna hurt his foot.  It seemed to be improving, then he seemed to be struggling more, perhaps due to the brutal cold and deep snow. So last night, the vet came to pay a visit, and see how she could help him feel better.

Now Kahuna is a big, furry, skittish male alpaca. He likes to watch people, but doesn’t really want to get near them a whole lot. His buddy Ellsbury? He loves to watch his people, and will let “his” people get near him and cuddle with him. But strangers? Nope! Ellsbury is very, very shy and will try to stay away from anyone new.

So here is the vet in the barn with Kahuna, who at first didn’t want to get up. She poking and prodding him, giving him shots, taking his temperature, listening to his heart. And the whole time, shy Ellsbury was right there. Yes, he was clearly very nervous, but his love for his buddy — the buddy who tries to take his grain every day — that love was so strong that he would be right next to a strange human so he could keep humming to his friend. He even got so brave as to come up to the vet as she was massaging Kahuna’s leg, and touch his face to hers, as if asking her to help his buddy.

Then, in a beautiful moment, he walked back to Kahuna’s head, and bowed down to touch noses with him, as if reassuring him everything was okay.

Much later that night, I went down to the barn to check on them, and Ellsbury was cushing across the door to the barn, right near Kahuna, but also on guard so no one could come near his buddy without him knowing it and protecting him.

Love comes in many forms. Sometimes it is romantic love between humans, sometimes it is a terrified and shy alpaca going up to the vet to ask her to help his friend.

Winter in Vermont

It was a beautiful day in Vermont today.  Over night, we got 5-8 inches of new snow. Big flakes, fluffy, fluffy snow. When we got up this morning, it was a balmy 20 degrees.

Tomorrow and Friday are supposed to be bitterly cold, as the brutal weather continues its march across the country hits New England.

Such weather, both the beautiful snow and then the arriving cold, make me think about how lucky we are. We have a snug house, lots of dry firewood, a furnace that works well when we need to use it, safe vehicles with good tires, food and water. It reminds me that so many people don’t have that level of security, and have to struggle daily with their basic needs. This again reminds me that sometimes the little things that I find irritating, such as my snow boots dripping on the floor, are things that I instead should be grateful for — how lucky I am to have warm boots that fit me!

How can we all re-frame how we look at the irritations of life?