What’s IMPORTANT!

You know the nursery rhythm about the old woman who lived in a shoe…. She had so many kids she didn’t know what to do? Well if that nursery rhythm was modern-day it would be about poor interstate 75. I’m sure like the rest of the South East, North East, South West, or United States, everyone is either comforted by the constant talk about Hurricane Irma or they are sick and tired of hearing about it.

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For us here, we had a very personal involvement in it. Since I was born and raised in the sunshine state, and we as a family have many we love and care about there we waited like many residents, along with locals here who also had loved ones in harm’s way. We opened our home up to those who felt they needed to get out of harms way, and the joke was depending on how many came, all porches, stalls, and floor space was going to be accounted for. As we all watched the destruction tear through islands we as a family have spent a lot of time on, made memories while visiting, and left tiny pieces of our hearts on. We couldn’t help but be nervous for our hometown, our people. What an event like this does is show many people true colors, we see many thinking of others, and unfortunately we also see those who capitalize on the vulnerability of others. Our hometown of Tarpon Springs was spared for the most part, even though many lost trees, had some flooding, or have been without power, for the most part they were spared. Our friends in the islands, and the Keys were not.

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As family and friends came to the mountains to escape the storm, bringing the essentials, their pets, saying goodbye to their homes their solitude for what could have been the last time, reflection happens. What are your top 10, what are your top 5, if you were told to leave get to safety, what are the true priorities. All those who fled with their pets, BRAVO, to all those who accepted the displaced evacuated pets BRAVO to you too! It is often said what I love most about my home is who I share it with. As many who are left with nothing but those special people in their lives, they can rebuild.

So what can we take away from this, here on the farm, I always try to look for an application or a lesson. We were all created with an innate resiliency, both animals and humans, one where for the most part we can bounce back, or react, or readjust. Dogs, that are not used to other dogs, during times of high stress can somehow get along in a dwelling with other animals. A cat that hates the car, can often times be aloof or sometimes grumpy, can ride for 12+ in a car, only to arrive at a farm with dogs, cats, and a slew of other creatures and handle it, even when being introduced to dogs. Children can handle not sleeping in their beds or even their rooms, they willing share it with someone they feel needs the space more for the time being. A house of 4, during times of need can function as a house of 9 or 10. Stress, emotions, lack of sleep, differences of opinions, discomfort, all are normal during times of high tension, but when it’s all said and done, knowing in any way you can assist those who need help in one way or another, you are willing and insist on helping.

As the death toll numbers continue to grow, as people continue to suffer in one way or another, remember it isn’t what we say, or sometimes what we even do but it’s how we make others feel that they will remember when these life stress triggers zap! Everyone is fighting their own fight, sometimes the fights are big sometimes they are small, but love covers a multitude.

Now here’s the distraction, I know if many of you are like me, sometimes we need one, a good chuckle or feel good story. In this case I will provide you all with a visual. A couple of weeks ago, our vet came to do an ultra sound on our little chocolate mini donkey Shawnee. Shawnee took one look at the ultrasound and with a look of you are going to stick that where, she took off running, her little legs moving as fast as can be. We thought it would be a good idea to use a lead rope to secure her from running again, as I looped it around her neck, she took off, with me attached wearing flip-flops and slalom skiing right out of the barn right towards the gate where she planned her great escape. I was not about to give up, but the faster she ran, and the further and further I was pulled and whipped, the harder I laughed, thinking this is why one does not wear flip flops in the barn, this is also why one does not use a lead rope without a halter and this is also why my life is always interesting. So with everything that everyone is dealing with right now in this moment, remember a good laugh and a long sleep are the two best cures for anything.

Pick me up!

My son turned 14 this week. 14 it doesn’t seem possible. It’s mind-boggling to me to think about how an event can happen that you anticipate, plan out, look forward to, and over think…. and than unfold, march on, lead to more events, more memories, more anticipation…. the next thing you know you are sitting somewhere years later in disbelief that the time, the years have flown by.

Becoming a parent was one of lives great blessings. But everything it requires and brings is sure not for the faint of heart. When Dylan first started to walk, I mean run he went full force into every corner, or blunt object that was available to hit within head shot, he walked around with a knot on his head for probably the first 6 months after starting to walk. Hard knocks. And as a new mom, I quickly discovered if I reacted to every bump, fall or scrape he would react to every bump, fall or scrape. We even took it a bit farther, when Dylan would walk and trip and kind of fall we would clap, sounds weird I know, but it was like the support he needed to know okay you tripped or you kind of fell down, but you got this! Come on buddy up you go!

That clap, that little cheer we put into practice is really a valuable lesson that can be applied to any stage of life, any task, heartache, trip up or fall we make. We can overcome it. We can sit and wallow because we tripped or we can listen to the little cheerleaders in our lives and get back up.

It’s important to have those people in your life, the people who encourage, the people who help you grow, the people who get you back up. They aren’t usually the flashy cheerleaders, the ones looking to be showcased they are usually more of a pit crew. You know what I’m talking about a group of people who when we drive in they are their waiting to fix a flat, adjust some pressure or fill us up so we can get out there and get back in the race.

So what does this have to do with the farm? Well I needed a pit crew after our week, last week. Losing our little baby donkey, tripped us up for a little bit. And what a pit crew we had, the love, support and kindness that was expressed was overwhelming. Life is full of bumps and bruises, when we are down, sad, defeated, and that crew, those cheerleaders show up what an amazing relief it is to know people do care.

What I have also seen is animals also have a crew, when Christina was down, depressed and sad after losing her baby, her little donkey bestie, Shawnee was exactly the support she needed the next morning when they were reunited, Shawnee simply approached Christina and gave her a little donkey hug. Never forget to cheer on, build up and encourage those on your team, it can make more of a difference than you may ever know.

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Love to laugh…

One of my favorite movies as a child, and still even now is Mary Poppins, I can still sing the words to almost every song, and I always appreciated how Mary had a real way of making even the menial sometimes miserable chores seem fun and enjoyable. I also loved how she was stern when she needed to be yet she was respected and admired for it. One of my favorite scenes in the movie is when they laughed so hard when visiting  a friend that they ended up having tea on the ceiling. Who can watch that scene and not relate to all of the different laughs people can use, and it really shows how infectious laughter is.

Mary Poppins Laugh

Some people refer to laughter as medicine. Others say it’s contagious, however you refer to this outburst of joy, no one can deny how it is often necessary, sometimes spontaneous and really is chicken soup for the soul. I have found in life that when times are dark, when things get hard, the first thing that is usually missing is some type of joy, some kind of laughter. Laughing at stupidity, laughing at a joke, laughing at yourself, laughing alone, with family, or friends, is a blessing.

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My family is laughers, we sometimes laugh loud, hardy, boisterous laughs that scare or catch others off guard, we have been known to get a case of the giggles at times when we shouldn’t and later when we think about it start all over again with tears running down our face.

Here on the farm we are surrounded by comedians, which perform stand up comedy routines, daily. Some are funny looking, some are funny acting, and some purposely do things to get a reaction from you. We are living many of the viral videos I see posted on social media, the videos of funny goats, crazy chickens, floppy clumsy puppies, or people who attempt something only to suffer great fails. Goats really do run and bounce off any and everything around them, puppies really do fall over their own feet, and people really do get drug in flip-flops attempting to hold still pregnant donkeys (okay maybe that video hasn’t gone viral yet). The term funny farm isn’t really a stretch.

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I find myself in the barn, the pasture, the goat pasture, the coop smiling, not because the task is always enjoyable but because the creatures here at Firefly Acres are always ready to perform, ready to take something menial, or miserable and make it fun. The animals are Mary; they know with every job that must be done there is an element of fun. This is life isn’t for sissies, or for the faint of heart… it isn’t something where everyone can take the day off, or one person can handle it all. But when we don’t sweat the small stuff, when we work together as a team, when we find the humor, the chores become less of a chore, and the time we spend doing these chores go by faster. This is something that young or old can surely benefit from, laughter is an instant vacation, it can transport you to a place that on the outside appears normal, dismal, or nothing special, into a moment that is enjoyable, memorable, and treasured.

When my grandmother was in her final fight for her life, we were sitting around my parent’s house just existing together really. This particular evening she was up sitting in the living room with us, from an outsider looking in, this would be what many would define in the moment as an uneventful, maybe even a bad night. The details of what transpired I do not recall, other than my French Bull Dog comedian brother Harley got very excited about something and with that excitement came drool, and some how that drool found it’s way into my son Dylan’s mouth. What transpired after that was a sprint to the restroom with the dull sound of dry heaving in the background, we though couldn’t hear those sounds because we were laughing so hard, so loud, and with such gut wrenching force that Gigi almost fell off of the couch. We all needed that moment (Dylan will say he definitely did not need that moment) but that memory, her laugh, the look on her face, the uncontrollable tears that resulted are etched into my brain, and the brain of all those that were there on that night. I truly believe what is written there is a time to weep and a time to laugh.

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When our friends and family come to the farm, we laugh, we enjoy one another’s company, we watch the comedians perform, we laugh at some who visits phobias, and we laugh till it hurts or until we can’t hold our bladders anymore. We create memories from time spent together. We take a break even if it’s just for a moment to laugh through our noses, because we love to laugh, loud and long and clear.

Chandler Meets Kramer

Déjà vu…. How do you define it? It’s a French term that basically means something you have already seen or something you’ve already lived through. Or how about the feeling where you meet someone brand new, but you feel like you have known him or her for years. This past week we experienced a little bit of both, as we returned to Winchester, Kentucky.

The day had finally arrived and with the tough week I had experienced I was reluctant to make the trip especially in pain, but I figured that sitting in a car in a reclining position wouldn’t set me back too far in my recovery. This time I wouldn’t be driving; Jody was coming along, as well as Dylan, Kayton and Chandler. (Phoebe’s condition isn’t  conducive to long traveling anymore) As you can imagine, the car is full of excitement for some and what in the world is happening for one.

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Then begins the déjà vu as we crossed the state line into TN, the rain began. Three hours later as we crossed the KY state line the rain continued and continued and continued. As we pulled into Flanagan Springs, there was no sign of the rain diminishing. We pulled through the gate and up the drive and the rain kept falling. Now after such a long ride in the car even with a couple stops, if you are 1-year-old Setter, you have had just about enough of well setting. So out Chandler came, to be greeted by Chandler Doppelganger’s. One’s that weren’t quite as large as he is but were just as friendly, and suddenly this semi confident boy became a big ole baby. We were reunited with Susan who took us around the corner to find our sweet little man, and we all felt it again love at first sight.

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We decided the weather was not going to rain on our parade, so we walked up to see Flag Kramer’s dad, along with the other puppies, the wild rumpus began. In the rain down the drive to the lower field Chandler the puppy pied piper led the crew.

 

One puppy in particular became completely enthralled with Chandler, that puppy knew exactly who his big brother was. It made me have flash backs to the day Dylan first laid eyes on Kayton and he asked us, “Is that mine?”

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At this point we were all soaked, the puppies were wet and muddy, Chandler was wet and muddy, but we didn’t let it stop us, in fact nobody seemed to really care. Not long after going down to the lower field the sun came out from behind a BIG BLACK CLOUD. And then the real fun began for Chandler and all the puppies. They ran, they chased, they handed out dozens of puppy kisses, they did everything puppies want to do, and need to do, and Chandler all 85 lbs of him did it too. Chandler was reunited with his dad Brandon, who 1 year ago looked like a giant compared to Chandler only now stood shorter and leaner next to his son.

Any apprehension about these two boys I had, born exactly one year apart (Memorial Day 2016 and Memorial Day 2017) had vanished. They immediately bonded. Before we made the long trek home, these dirty dogs needed baths, and to say some goodbyes to Susan, the puppies, and the new friends we had met (the new owners of another litter mate Copper). As we loaded Chandler and Kramer in the car, it hit me again the déjà vu only this time as I was looking at the paper work. It wasn’t just the Flanagan Springs name across the top or the fact we were pulling down the very same drive with another precious family member, it was the date July 28, 2017, and thanks to good ole Facebook and the “on this day” feature I was quickly reminded that one year ago on the exact same day, I was pulling down this very same drive with Chandler, life can be ironic sometimes.

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7-28-17 Picking up Kramer

The drive home was LONG, and by LONG I mean LONG. The rain started again, and came down, sideways and at times almost appeared to even fall upward. The traffic was awful, Google Maps kept redirecting us around numerous accidents and road hazards, a 4.5 hour drive started to look more like 6 hours, and just as we had spoken to Susan and Copper’s new parents about the questions started.  When we stopped for gas, stopped for potty and stopped for food, people come out of the woodwork with questions and comments. What kind of dog is that? Where did you get them? They are so soft. They are so cute. Is it a mix? Is it a long-haired Dalmatian (always my personal favorite)? So we become walking talking spokespeople for a breed that we think is AMAZINGLY special. The two new “friends” Chandler and Kramer did perfect on the ride home, even with all the delays, the children they were just like any siblings on road trips, only it wasn’t the normal “Dylan is touching me, Kayton is being annoying” no this time it was “Dylan is hogging Kramer” or “Kayton keeps messing with the puppy trying to take him from me!” Awww how cute they are fighting over the puppy… Jody and I smiled, and thought wouldn’t it just be wonderful if we heard them fighting over feeding and taking the puppy outside (yes I know but parents can dream).

The two great 90’s comedy sitcoms aren’t just running as an old rerun on Nick at Night. New episodes are being created here on the farm, in fact in just two days lots has already been filmed along with plenty of blooper footage, first episode, “The one where Kramer discovers Sinatra” or “The one where Kramer’s noises scare Chandler” or “The one where Kramer meets the French Man”….

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So for all those wondering what a Friends-Seinfeld cross-over looks like, well it’s black and white, set in the country and kind of barks at you!

Welcome to the Farm Kramer!

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You’ve Got a Friend in ME!

I recently read an article on animal behavior when a member of their animal family is sick. It talked about when a domestic animal like a dog or cat gets ill the other animals in the family will often attempt to comfort the ill animal. We saw this first hand with Lexi when she was ill, the other dogs even the cats would go lay with her. When I have been ill or a member of the family has been ill, we often refer to the cats and dogs as our personal nurses, because they will stay right with us, almost like they know. Even in the wild dolphins will swim underneath an injured dolphin and push them to a surface to breathe.

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It’s an amazing blessing to have humans in your life that provide that support like the dolphin, or that loyalty like dogs and cats. This week I have experienced a little set back, and with everything that happens around here on a daily basis, with one person down it can make the running of things quite difficult. On Sunday evening I started feeling not quite right, something was off. Monday was to be a very busy day, and it was one of those days where you give yourself the pep talk, where you tell yourself you can’t be sick right now there is too much to do. Amongst everything that was happening I decided it would probably be in my best interest to pop into an urgent care in between appointments and errands that had to be done. I explained symptoms to them there, and they ran one small test checking for a kidney infection, said there was little to nothing else they could do for me in house and referred me out to either the ER or to a doctor. Well as the pain in my stomach and back increased, my husband was able to get me into a medical doctor, and after my visit with her she referred me to the hospital. After multiple tests, they discovered I had a cyst that had just ruptured and it had filled my pelvis with fluid and blood, hence the reason I was in the awful pain, and most likely the reason I was not feeling quite right and had been completely exhausted. I was given some meds, released and told to take it easy!

Well everyone has rallied, I have had multiple human and animal nurses for the past few days, I am not one that stays down well, or one that enjoys sitting, laying, sleeping during the day, or even watching television. But I have listened. The farm has continued on, from my bed I could hear the goats, lambs and donkeys all screaming at Jody and the children for dinner. My father spent all day picking up the kitchen, and motivating the children to clean “drill sergeant papa” was in the house, and cleaning their rooms to his standard was a tough task. My mother made a delicious casserole, which has been a family recipe for years (I have included the recipe below), one that was always a crowd pleaser and the epitome of comfort food.

Chicken and Broccoli Casserole

I had nurse or doctor Chandler and Phoebe at my service all day, in fact Chandler barely left my side.  Even my little dog brother Harley provided me comfort with his bull dog snuggles.

I also received multiple messages throughout the last couple of days that I have so greatly appreciated, from California, Connecticut, Florida, and right here in my hometown. Like everything else in life this too shall pass, but knowing that when you are down others are so willing to lift you up, is a special feeling!

From our family to yours thank you!

 

Here is our family recipe for the that comfort food “Chicken and Broccoli Casserole”

1 whole chicken deboned and cut into chunks (can use all chicken breasts too)
1 or 2 heads of broccoli or one large bag of broccoli
1 or 2 cans or boxes of cream of mushroom soup (we use organic), depends how much creamy goodness you are looking for.
1 cup of Mayonnaise
1 egg
½ cup of shredded cheese
Half of lemon juiced
Salt and Pepper to Taste
Couple dashes of curry

Cook the chicken either bake or if using breasts sauté in a pan.
Steam the broccoli

Set chicken and broccoli aside

Mix all other ingredients set aside some of the shredded cheese to top the casserole with.

Preheat oven to 375

Grease a 9×13 pan, layer the chicken and broccoli across the bottom of the pan, pour soup mixture over the chicken and broccoli, top with cheese.

Bake until cheese browns lightly and bubbles, usually 30-40 mins. It’s the perfect one dish meal, and is great with crescent rolls or biscuits.