Newman | Chicken humour

Stanstead QC | 11 Feb 2012

Chickens are interesting little creatures. Who’d have thunk it? If you live long enough in the city with no exposure to farm life, you can be forgiven if you begin believing that chickens are egg-laying automatons. And then one day you find yourself walking out to the chicken coop in your backyard, insulated red plaid L.L. Bean shirt providing a much-needed layer of protection against the early morning chill. Yes, I am the caretaker of three hens named Minnie, Shania and Becel.

Shania is an Easter-Egger. She’s part Araucana and so when she lays eggs they are a delicate shade of blue. It’s quite amazing to behold when one of Shania’s eggs graces the palm of your hand. Tastes the same as other fresh-laid eggs.* Just looks entirely and extraordinarily different. Shania’s plumage looks a bit like she’s wearing an extravagant costume with golden feathers on her neck. She’s not the friendliest of the crew. Actually, Shania is downright ornery when given the opportunity to express herself with beak or feet. Picking her up is always an interesting exercise in faked assertiveness – because, really, I’d just as soon get the heck out of there.

I don’t pick the chickens up on a regular basis however sometimes it’s a necessity. This summer they had a mite infestation in their nesting box and the only way to off the little buggers was to provide them with a pesticide powder dust bath. And that involved me donning a mask and gloves, pouring some of the powder into a plastic garbage bag, and then picking up a chicken and wrapping her in the bag – with her head sticking out. A good shake and the pesticide powder was well applied to her feathers. I managed to emerge from the process with only a few scratches and a new-found respect for just how quickly and powerfully a hen can bring her beak and feet together to inflict pain on one’s hand.

Minnie is a little Silkie hen. Silkies are known for their fluffy plumage. Minnie is an almost always elegant little chicken. Except, of course, when she’s enjoying the benefits of a dirt bath. Chickens dig their own outdoor spa-bowls in the ground and then use the loose dirt and dust to clean their feathers of any unwelcome bugs. When Minnie emerges from her dirt bath she’s a surreal mix of earth tones, bright white plumage, and her super-chicken blue earlobes. No, really, Minnie has blue earlobes. She’s a super chicken. And a supermom.

Minnie is the surrogate mom of Becel.

Becel is a hen raised from an egg by Minnie. Minnie went broody and we provided her with three fertilized eggs from our friends Jacques & Brigitte’s chicken coop. Minnie was absolutely dedicated to those eggs. She sat on them day and night for nearly a month – climbing off her eggs only long enough to eat, drink and poop. All of which she accomplished in a short break every day. Only one of the eggs hatched and Becel (the colour of margarine)  was born. She climbed under Minnie and slept beneath her Mom’s tummy until she eventually graduated to sleeping beneath one of her wings. Becel grew quickly and soon dwarfed her mom but she was always seeking comfort and protection by trying to tuck in under Minnie’s wings. That’s Becel on the far right in the picture below taken in their winter quarters – the newly renovated and insulated shed/chicken coop.

This piece is titled ‘Chicken humour’ because of a peculiar incident which occurred earlier this week as I worked inside the coop to spruce it up, rake through the shavings, shovel out the poop, refill their water tank (heated), and change their heat lamp for a new bulb. Normally the ladies are quite content to explore the shed while I work in the coop. I’ll leave the outside door open and they stand on the sill contemplating the snow and the ice outside but for whatever reason are not tempted to hop down and explore the frozen landscape. This time however the hens took turns climbing onto the toes of my huge Sorel boots and riding them around the coop while I worked. So I got my chores done amid a raucous display of cackling, clucking and wing flapping. It was very silly. Right out of a Monty Python skit. Walk this way, I said to myself as I flapped my arms like wings and wandered about with a chicken on each boot top. They didn’t leave any poop as a deposit so I’m guessing it was all just a bit of chicken humour among friends. I feel honoured.

Life in the country.. with chickens.

*PS. Once you’ve eaten a farm-fresh egg there’s no going back to the egg-like objects in those cartons in the supermarket. Wow. The taste is amazing and your scrambled eggs, eggs over easy, sunny-sides-up, hard-boiled, chopped egg sandwiches, omelettes, quiches, and french toast will never be the same. I’ll let you know when we’ve got a few more hens in ‘the house’ and we’re ready to sell some of our eggs down at the end of our drive.

Priorities

I am stubborn. My wife warned me not to try and change that lightbulb on my own. She told me I ought to ask our neighbour from across the street to lend me a hand. I waited for her to go over to one of her friends for tea and muffins and then I decided to give it a go.

“I have fallen and I cannot get up,” I said in slow and determined fashion to the emergency operator who answered the call I placed to 911. I remembered that series of television ads and winced at the realization I had just used the same line to call for help.

“No, I am not having any difficulty breathing. Yes, I hit my head but no, I did not lose consciousness. No, my neck doesn’t hurt. No, no chest pain to speak of. Yes, I do have some terrible pain in my hips. I am 81-years-old. No, I do not take any prescription medications of any kind. No, I am unable to get up on my own. The pain in my hips is quite intense and it gets worse when I try to move.

“Yes, I understand there might be a lengthy delay before the ambulance gets here. I know it’s very cold outside and I understand you must be very busy. I would not have called if I could get up on my own. I fear I have injured my hip otherwise I would not be calling for help.

“Pardon me for asking but I thought we had first responders in our town who might be able to help me before the ambulance crew is available. Oh, I see. They only respond to higher priority calls. Well, I do understand. I will do my best to stay comfortable until the ambulance crew arrives. Yes, I will certainly call you back if anything changes or I feel worse in any way.”

The light of the afternoon faded into the early darkness of a winter evening and the ceramic tile floor quickly lost any of the heat it had retained. I struck up a conversation with the cat but the cat lost interest and walked away. I watched the time on the microwave clock move slowly minute by minute. I fought the urge to pee.

I concentrated on looking at the photographs of our children and grandchildren we had proudly hung on the livingroom wall. I couldn’t remember the phone number at my wife’s friend’s house. I wanted to cry.

I couldn’t believe that I was all alone, had called for help, and no one was on their way yet. I wondered what level of priority my call for help was for that first responder team.

Were they only concerned about life and death? Were they so busy they could not even spare a moment to check on a resident of the community who had confirmed he was in a spot of trouble?

Had they no idea how important it was to provide a physical presence for someone in a time of extraordinary need?

And so, I lay alone on the kitchen floor with a badly bruised hip for more than forty minutes before the ambulance crew and my anxious and bewildered wife arrived simultaneously.
___

Right. The preceding was just me, Hal Newman, trying to imagine what it would be like to be all alone and waiting for emergency medical assistance after having been classified as a priority Two or Three call on a day chockfull of priority One calls.

Calls of every priority should be responded to and not only by an ambulance crew.

Actually, I believe it would be rather interesting to have a first response team specially trained to respond to calls of a lower priority to determine whether or not those patients actually need to be attended to by the much scarcer ambulance-based paramedics.

There should never be a monopoly on saving lives or helping people in an extraordinarily difficult moment of their lives.

The clock begins ticking when someone calls for help. The primary consideration should be who can get there quickest to render aid – not which response organization has a ‘claim’ to the territory.

It’s not about what uniform the responder is wearing. Every EMS organization should take an enormous leap of faith forward, work with all of the stakeholders and establish a model that ensures everyone in the community gets the EMS they deserve.

Be well. Practice big medicine.

Back on my path

“Each of us has a special contribution to make to the human world. Each of us is born with the package of assets, deficits, problems and blessings needed for that work. Each of us struggles to understand what our task is and how the package with which we have been born suits us to our work.” – Rabbi Nachum Braverman

It took me a long time before I realized EMS represented my calling and not just my job. I did everything I could to rebel against that realization. I abandoned my early work as a paramedic to attend a small Disciples of Christ College (Bethany) in West Virginia. It was as far as I could get from my home environment without actually leaving the planet. I left the mainly Jewish neighbourhood I had grown up in to live in a town where I was one of eight Jews. Which brings us to this little bit of free verse.

“If I die in Bethany who’ll say Kaddish over me.”

Kaddish is the Jewish prayer for the dead. Ten Jewish men must come together to pray. Bethany would have required religious mutual aid if any one of us had kicked the bucket.

The late great pastor Hiram Lester once sat me down on the porch of the Alpha Sigma Phi fraternity house and asked me what I needed to do after I graduated from Bethany. It was mid-summer and we were watching the sun turn crimson red as it dipped into the horizon. I paused and answered, “Well, sir, I’d like to be a journalist. Maybe write for a big-city newspaper one day.” Hiram looked at me. “I didn’t ask what you wanted to do. I asked what you needed to do. There’s a serious difference, you know.”

I graduated from Bethany College with a bacclaurate degree in Communications. That’s not to say I negated entirely my need to continue carrying an EMS banner of one sort or the other. The siren song of the Bethany Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department drew me down the hill to the firehouse. The folks of the BVFRD adopted me and taught me an appreciation for the art of caring. They invited me into their homes and made me a part of their lives and shared their backwoods comraderie. When I left Bethany I actually believed I was going to be a big-city journalist.

Before I lit out for parts unknown I stopped by to pay my respects to Hiram. He told me a story about hitchhiking home after the Second World War and catching a ride in a beat-up old pickup truck. The driver asked Hiram penetrating questions about his life and his love and what he intended to do now that the war was over. Hiram said he told the driver he wanted to be a farmer but that he needed to be a pastor. The driver stopped at a crossroads in the middle of nowhere and told Hiram he could do anything he wanted if he gave up on what he thought he needed to do. Hiram told me it was the Devil driving that pickup truck. He says he got out of that old pickup truck and walked out of those crossroads and went home.

Hiram told me I had enough passion at my core to have the courage to listen to the sound of my soul crying out and realize that what I needed to do was be a paramedic.

I have never looked back. An old preacher man from West Virginia taught me the most important lesson in life: be true to yourself—once you realize what you need to do–pursue it with all of your strength. Don’t stop for anything other than food and water.

And so here I am in the Town of Stanstead [Quebec] where the powers-that-are have refused to allow me to play an official role in the first responder program that isn’t, or the fire department that is, or the emergency preparedness plan that needs to be better. In this small town, there is a cost that comes with passion, principles and freedom of speech – and that cost is borne by the community when people with something important to contribute are continually pushed away.

I’ve come to the realization that sometimes you just need to be the unwanted camel outside that pisses into the tent and hopes to bring about needed change through awareness and advocacy.  Any good political strategist will tell you that it’s far better to invite the camel inside so he can relieve himself outside the tent.  However, it’s been eighteen months and I’m fairly certain no invitations to the tent, the ambulance house, or the fire station are forthcoming.

Thanks to the inspiration provided by old and relatively new friends, I’m back on my path… and listening carefully to the siren call of EMS.

Be well. Practice big medicine.
Hal

Newman: A minifesto for the Quebec pre-hospital care system v 2.0

Stanstead QC–Our out-of-hospital care system needs to be redesigned by people who are dedicated to the needs of the end-users [I despise the words ‘patient’ or ‘beneficiare’ because ‘patient’ implies you must wait before receiving care and ‘beneficiare’ implies that healthcare is a benefit – and not a basic right] and the people who actually deliver the emergency care.

We need to stop looking at prehospital care as a back-loaded system that starts when an imaginary stopwatch is triggered after someone recognizes an emergency has occurred and calls 911. The problem with this model is that the clock will continually be reset once the person in need has received treatment and has been delivered to the ER. No one is looking at ways to prevent the emergency in the first place.

How many healthcare workers come to Quebec from other jurisdictions and are held in place while exams are written and scores are compiled? Why can’t we create an EMS/CLSC-linked organization that trains people to visit clients in their homes, verify that their environment is safe, check that their meds are up-to-date, check their vital signs, even run an ECG or draw bloods to be checked at a local hospital?

Wouldn’t it be economically and socially advantageous to have a first response team specifically trained to respond to calls of a lower priority to determine whether or not those clients actually need to be attended to by the much scarcer ambulance-based medics? We need to adopt the EMS Community Care Model right across Quebec – and especially in the outlying regions where healthcare human capital is more thinly spread. I’ll bet that could substantially reduce the number of times the words “aucune ambulance disponible” are transmitted to waiting first responders.

Firefighter first response programs are performing beyond expectations. They should encompass every part of this province. Firefighters who believe in the possibilities need to engaged as emissaries for this approach – they need to become part of a core of leaders who can mentor other firefighters. I’m tired of watching naysayers rise to the top of the leadership ladders. Fire dept first response should be funded appropriately and cities and towns should start realizing that this is an investment that assures tax payers of living long and fruitful lives – and continuing to contribute to Quebec society.

There should be automatic external defibrillators [AEDs] in every public building and many of the private ones. Police officers should be equipped with AEDs. CPR courses should be a requirement to graduate from elementary school.

We should have advanced life support [ALS] paramedics on every ambulance – and when we’re done with the ambulance crews we ought to start looking at ALS firefighter medics.

We need to pay the ambulance medics a living wage that recognizes the enormous contribution they make to our lives – and not treat them as some afterthought to the system. Without them the crippled system would have collapsed long ago. And we need to begin treating our paramedics like the community heroes they are and find ways to reward their service to the rest of us; i.e., tax credits, educational scholarships, family death benefits for line-of-duty deaths.

There should never be a monopoly on saving lives or helping people in an extraordinarily difficult moment of their lives. That damned clock begins ticking when someone calls for help. The primary consideration should be who can get there quickest to render aid – not which response organization has a ‘claim’ to the territory.

Every EMS organization should take an enormous leap of faith forward, work with all of the stakeholders and establish a model that ensures everyone in the community gets the emergency care they deserve.

My family deserves the best emergency medical system available. Doesn’t yours?

Suggestion: Talk to each of your elected representatives and ask them why they believe your family deserves anything less than the best possible prehospital care. Our prehospital care system is nothing if not equitable in delivering substandard services so it really doesn’t matter who you are when you or someone you love places a call to 911.

Newman: Failure to launch first responders sends a message

Stanstead QC–I believe that a strong Emergency Medical Service – including first responders – sends a strong message to all parts of a community. We care enough about each of you to ensure that there will be qualified care providers by your side as quickly as possible each and every time one of you calls 911 for assistance.

So what is a town saying when it continues to delay the launch of its medical first response service? We just can’t see past the paperwork to the potential benefits this program will bring to our community. We’re too busy fundraising for the new arena to realize there will be no one to respond lest a child gets hurt on the new ice surface. We’d like you to bring your business to our town but you need to know that if the ambulance is on a run you’re strictly on your own out there.

There are no good excuses for not having a first responder service in a rural town like Stanstead. Not a single one. We have one ambulance available at a time here. If it’s out on a call the next one might be coming from Magog or Coaticook – 20 minutes away if all is right with the world and a lot longer if it’s midwinter and there’s a storm blowing through the region.

Clearly, the Stanstead Ambulance Service recognizes the need for first response. The Ambulance service was the prime mover for the town’s public access defibrillation program which saw five automatic external defibrillators deployed in publicly-accessible buildings. The AEDs are a solid link in the chain of survival. First Responders are the next essential link in that chain.

The chain can only be as strong as its weakest link. And the potential for lifesaving is not maximized when there are enormous delays between accessing the EMS system and the arrival of ambulance medics.

We moved here last June. During the summer there was talk about establishing a medical first response program in town. It didn’t happen. Last Christmas word went out the town was seriously considering launching a first response program. Applications were taken. The rumoured launch date for first response was May 1st.

I put in my paperwork before the program was even officially announced. I waited to hear if my application for the first response program would be accepted. Eventually I heard I could expect an interview with the new Fire Chief and the EMS Coordinator responsible for the project.

I’m still waiting.

So is rest of the community.

Failure to launch sends an equally powerful message.
Sadly, it’s the wrong one.

Be well. Practice big medicine.

Howard and the bean

Stanstead QC–I wonder if there might be a link between the relative anonymity of the producers of beef and the impending demise of the family beef cattle farm in Canada?

It’s not like anyone who consumes beef knows where the meat comes from, what the conditions are on the farm, whether or not the cattle are well taken care of, whether or not the barns and facilities are clean, who the neighbours are, what the land itself looks like, or what the values are of the individual farmer. It’s just not part of the current beef production equation.

According to a recent Stats Canada report, “Farms raising predominantly beef and “all other animals” had the lowest proportions of farms covering their expenses and also had relatively large numbers of farms in the lowest receipts class.”

Which brings me to Howard’s farm in nearby Hatley.

Hatley isn’t a village so much as it is an intersection of two roads and a collection of homes and farms. There is a fabulous Canada Day gathering here every 1st of July with thousands of visitors turning up from all over the Eastern Townships. Sophie and I watched the fireworks in Hatley this year in someone’s cornfield in a surreal drive-in-without-a-screen.

We met Howard’s daughter, Lindsey at the fireworks. She offered us a ride in her pickup back down to her folks’ farm – where we had parked the car. We walked and then Sophie and Lindsey got to talking about horses and we were invited back to visit with Lindsey and her horses and that’s how I got to talking with Howard.

Howard used to raise only beef cattle on his farm. There are still a good number of cows roaming the hills behind his barn however Howard has successfully shifted gears and revitalized his farm.

Howard is growing soybeans out there now.

It’s an interesting re-purposing of a longtime held view of what constitutes a family farm in Canada. Where he used to raise beef for the regional market, Howard now harvests soybeans for a buyer based in Japan. For the Japanese who have very limited available land mass, finding high-quality soybean growers overseas is a necessity.

There is no anonymity associated with growing soybeans for the Japanese market. Much of the relationship is based on trust and a deep understanding of the individual farm and the farmer who raises and harvests the crop. There are visits and photographs are taken. When Howard’s beans make their way all to Japan, the buyer knows exactly what the fields look like where they were planted.

Howard is a remarkably innovative and articulate thinker who ought to be sent out on an Ag Canada-sponsored tour to talk to other family farmers about looking well beyond the usual and customary to find ways to, literally, save the farm.

He walked me out to the fields where the soy plants were growing. Howard pulled one of them up and showed me the nodules in the root structure that create an increase in residual soil nitrogen as the plants breakdown after harvest. In other words, the soy plants help fertilize the land.

Howard discovered that his cows enjoyed munching on the weeds that were leftover after the soybeans were harvested. He also researched the nutritional requirements of beef cattle and began supplementing their hay with straw derived from the remnants of the soy plants.

And, because he’s so focused on creating meaningful change on his farm, Howard invested in the purchase of a relatively new combine fitted with a specially-designed hoover-vacuum-like head that sucks the beans right into the machine. He’s promised me a ride up there in the cockpit during the upcoming harvest. Emma said the combine looks like a house with a steering wheel and windshield attached. She’s really not that far off with that description.

Howard and the bean are expanding their grip on the farm fields in our area. He’s renting land on another family member’s farm and will be sending more soybeans to his buyers in Japan. I hope other farmers will pause in the process of drownproofing long enough to learn from Howard’s ongoing experiment with re-inventing his family’s farm. There’s so much to learn.

In the country, life happens.

Be well. Practice big medicine.

The man who fell from a roof and landed in our driveway

Stanstead QC–Pietro said it sounded as if something had fallen from a truck driving too fast down Stage Road. Trucks often drive at breakneck speeds past the ‘Please be careful. This could be your child’ signs so it didn’t require an enormous stretch of the imagination to think that one of them had lost part of a load out in front of the house.

Pietro has always listened to the quiet intuitive voice within. He’s built a successful career paying careful attention to all that his senses can capture consciously or unconsciously. He said something drew him out to the road to investigate the source of the sound.

That’s when he heard the low moans coming from the bushes at the foot of the home across the street. He moved quickly and took in the jumble of ladder no longer defying the law of gravity, the homeowner, an ankle twisted at an impossible angle – and the blood.

Pietro called for Lili. A long professional history of being first on the scene of extraordinary human difficulties served him well. He sized things up and began providing first aid to his temporary neighbour.

Lili and Pietro were farmsitting while Ghyslain & Nathalie were away on a family vacation down South. Other than a brief end-of-the-driveway conversation earlier in that morning when I had paused during my daily FMOS cycling ride, Lili and Pietro hadn’t had much contact with the folks across the road.

Pietro and Lili and the dogs all instinctively knew the man who fell from the roof needed to go to the nearest ER as quickly as possible. He was confused and kept asking after his wife, who was about seven holes into a morning round of golf out at Dufferin Heights. Unfortunately, he was sufficiently disoriented to be unable to take in the seriousness of the situation and adamantly refused to have an ambulance called to his home.

Pietro and Lili convinced the man who fell from the roof that he needed to be seen by a healthcare professional and so they bundled him into the backseat of their well-weathered Volvo wagon and headed into town to have him seen at the local CLSC [community clinic].

Sometimes CLSCs can be real stopgaps and provide a critical link in the continuum of care between initial incident and treatment at a hospital ER. And occasionally they fail to step up and assume their place of special responsibility in the community. Sadly, the man who fell from the roof was turned away from the CLSC without even enjoying the benefit of being seen.

“He needs to be seen at an Emergency Room,” someone said. “You’ll have to drive him to Magog.” Magog is a half-hour drive up Highway 55. No mention of calling an ambulance to the CLSC. No other suggestions.

Pietro and Lili turned the Volvo back onto Dufferin Street and then onto Fairfax but instead of turning North onto Highway 55 they continued across the overpass and pulled into our driveway where they expected to find me, a retired paramedic.

I was at the Stanstead Ambulance station for the launch of the community-wide Automated External Defibrillator initiative.

Dianne and the girls were home. Di took one look at the man who fell from the roof’s ankle and decided, in unison with Pietro and Lili, to call 911. The emergency medical dispatcher who took the call was our friend and neighbour Dany, who instantly recognized the address. After the ambulance was en route for our driveway, Dany called another friend Bruno to check on me figuring for certain the caller had screwed up the age of the patient and that it was me who had fallen from the roof.

“No, it’s not Hal,” Bruno told Dany. “He’s standing here beside me.”

And then Bruno motioned me over and said, “No one is answering at your house and the ambulance just responded for a man who fell from a roof.” After hearing “your house” and “ambulance” I was already running toward the car. Bruno was yelling something in my direction however the windows were up and I was already in motion.

I arrived home to find Di and the kids in the drive. No sign of the ambulance, the paramedics, Lili and Pietro, or the man who fell from a roof. With their patient already aboard, the paramedics were en route to Magog. Later, another ambulance crew would transfer the man who fell from a roof to the University of Sherbrooke Medical Centre to undergo surgery on his foot and ankle.

I went back to the ambulance station where Bruno, a paramedic supervisor, said, “Didn’t you hear me? I was trying to tell you that everything was okay.” I laughed and told him I had forgotten the cardinal rule of being a paramedic – before responding to an emergency it’s always a good idea to pause and check your own pulse.

After tracking down man who fell from a roof’s wife, Lili and Pietro drove her to the hospital – and then got back to tending the house, the horse, the goat, the dogs and the cats.

Later that week, Dianne went over and she and Lili baked up a storm of muffins made with freshly picked blueberries.

In the country, life happens.

Leaving the lights on

Stanstead QC–On my flight from Washington-Dulles to Burlington, Vermont I was lucky enough to sit down next to Andrea. Actually, that’s not entirely true.

We were originally seated across the aisle from one another however then a mom with four kids came aboard and a child sat in the empty seat beside both Andrea and I. Kind of simultaneously we offered to switch places so the kids could sit together. So we ended up sitting next to one another.

With collaborative seating choreography as a prequel, I introduced myself and learned Andrea, her husband, and their two young children live near Montpelier. She was reading a book called ‘The Art of Racing in the Rain’ by Garth Stein and she carefully marked her page as she paused to make chat with me. Andrea, who had grown up on a sparsely populated island off the coast of Maine, had lived in Montpelier for two years while completing her doctoral studies. Her husband teaches law nearby and they had just returned from a year in China.

We talked about life in the country. Andrea’s daughter is about to start kindergarden this year. Andrea received a letter from the school saying they expected the children will be able to walk on their own to and from school within just a few weeks of the start of school. She smiled as she said something about the joys of country living and teaching the art of resiliency to children.

We each returned to our respective books until the plane began to descend over the mountains of Vermont. Andrea pointed out the thin asphalt ribbon of I-89 as it snaked its way northbound between Montpelier and Burlington.

We talked about life in the country and the importance of neighbors and community. Andrea told me that just after they returned from China, their neighbor-across-the-road lost her husband in a road crash. This hit them particularly hard. Although they weren’t particularly close before they left to China, Andrea and her husband had looked forward to cultivating a deepening relationship with their neighbors.

In the days since their neighbor’s death, Andrea and her husband wait until they see the lights are off in the widow’s home before turning off the lights in their place.. just so she won’t feel quite all so alone in her home. It’s not any arrangement they have made and they don’t even know if she notices. Just the same they ensure they leave the lights on late every night.

Out here in the country, life happens.

Blackberries, bear beds & cappuccino

I was on a call with longtime friend and colleague Mike Ramsey when Emma and Sophie – and their friend Hanna – burst into my office this morning to breathlessly announce they’d found a bear’s bed out in the far corner of our property, near a stand of wild blackberry plants.

“There’s a a pile of poop and some bearhair left in a spiderweb,” Sophie said. “There are even seeds in the scat and we think it’s fresh!”

They seemed genuinely disappointed when I told them that was probably not a good place to build a new fort.

Mike never gets upset by the frequent interruptions on my side of the conversation. I could hear him softly laughing as I broke the news to the girls that a bear wouldn’t want to share his favorite hideout with them.

He kicked-in with, “Especially during the height of blackberry season” and I repeated his words to the girls who all murmured assent as they scurried off for more adventures in the yard.

Moments later, Sabrina waved to me as she wandered by my office door. Oops.

Sabrina, our friend who lives a couple of minutes away, had sent me a note on Facebook earlier this morning saying she and the kids would be coming over so she could have a cappuccino and chat with Di. I had, of course, forgotten to pass on the message to Di.

Sabrina was trying to whisper-yell up the stairs to get Di’s attention without interrupting my phone call. “Di.. is the coffee on?”

I didn’t even bother to excuse myself with Mike this time and instead just leaned toward the door and said loudly enough for both Di and Sabrina to hear, “Di. I forgot to tell you that Sabrina was coming over for a cappuccino this morning.”

Much laughter from Di as she stood at the top of the stairs clad only in a post-shower towel.

Mike Ramsey, ever the Kentucky gentleman, mentioned it would be a good time for me to end the call to prepare a mug of serious coffee for Sabrina and an apology for Di for forgetting, yet again, to forward a reminder.

Life happens here.