Eularee Smith
Writer & Educator

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Snow in AugustWatchersRising SunThe Andromeda StrainThe ShiningThe Hunt for Red October

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Chickens are not just for eggs anymore

For those of you who still think eggs come from cartons in the grocery store, there is so much more to the lowly chicken than Eggs Benedict. I have raised chickens for over 30 years and everyday, I find them to be a source of comfort, joy and nonsense. 

I have 9 ladies in my backyard flock. Each of them distinctly different from the other and the term pecking order definitely applies. There are those who are higher in the order and rule the roost without the distraction of a crowing rooster. Then there are those who prefer to remain invisible, hoping only to get their fair share of the feed and are willing to wait their turn in the nesting box. The few at the bottom of the order are usually the youngest and find their strength in numbers, looking out for one another as they are shoved to the back of the line.

My coop remodel project this year has been waylaid, due to surgery and chemo, but I hired out the work to rebuild the 30 plus year old hen house and move the chickens to north side of the garden. The reason for the move was the development of a flood plain in the old location. Hip waders became necessary to feed them. I was raising chickens not pigs.

Friends tried to encourage me to let the chickens go. With all I had to deal with, this was one chore that seemed unnecessary. But when I arrived home from the hospital, there they were questioning where I had been with their bobbing heads and fluttering wings. They clucked and cooed when I came outside, huddling around me in solidarity. They followed me to the shed as I grabbed a small handful of feed to scatter for them. "She's home," they chirped in unison and there was a gaggle of twitter and cheep noises to welcome me.

The new coop was built to my needs and is much easier for the grandchildren to gather the eggs. The funny thing is, I don't like eggs. Oh, I bake with them, but I do not cook them. My ladies are not here for the eggs they produce, but for entertainment, comic relief, organic wisdom and down to earth companionship. A neighbor's chicken comes over every day to visit and and hops the fence to go home at night. There is another hen, who became a rooster after three years (that's another story). There is Sadie, a Rhode Island Red, who insists on jumping into my arms every morning, and Lucy, who feels it more appropriate to pull on my pant leg. 

For a few pennies of feed a day, I am thanked with eggs to give to family, mornings filled with chatter and busy talk, and stories to tell about Mother Nature's funniest creatures. What's in your carton?




The Long Chemo Mile

It is 6 am and since I am NOT a morning person, it again seems like a cruel joke that I should be asked to rise and shine, only to sit in a chemo chair for 5 hours. Surgery is almost in the rear view mirror despite the long snaking scar that runs down my belly. Recovery was long, according to my personal timetable. My son chastised me for having patience with everyone but myself. I realized I should have been praying for paitence, instead of recovery. 

Although I walk through the valley of the shadows, I truly am not afraid. It may be because I have walked this valley before 24 years ago and am convinced the path has been worn smooth by those who came after me and the advances of medicine since. Once again, it should be patience that I ask for because all I want is to have this next phase of treatment, also in my rear view mirror. I am ready. 

Cancer has no hold on me. I have a team of angels, family, and a legion of friends that have surrounded me. I have received a barrage of cards that I have taped to my wall that I remind myself of their committment to fight beside me. Spring has sprung through my house with flowers to brighten each day of my journey. Chemo care packages from those who live away have arrived in the last few days, filled with goodies to tempt my appetite, ease my tired body and books to feed my mind and fill my time in the chair. Yesterday, a Nutirbullet arrived at my door with a recipe for a high powered antioxidant juice. I will come home to a clean house and a hot meal. My children are escorting me to the valley, and friends will bring coffee and treats while I look out to the beautiful Oregon forests that are outside the chemo wing. 

My bag is packed with good books, Netflix ready to stream on my ipad and I have treated myself to a year of This baseball fanatic will be able to watch any and every game in the season, including Spring Training games. My goal is to be sitting in the stands next year in Arizona, with these rainy days ahead nothing but a memory. Not a bad one, but one filled with a team of people who love me and have reminded me that I have to live a VERY LONG life to repay all the kindness that I have been given. 

So bring it, Cancer. You have met your match and since so many of my team are under the age of 21, you will also be a word that is not longer a death sentence. My neice sent me a card that says it all.

FIGHTER, FIERCE, FANTASTIC   I've got a whole different "F" word for cancer!


Knock, Knock. Who's there? Cancer

I feel like a bad joke has been revisited upon me. Try as I might, I can't believe that after 24 years, Cancer thought it time to pay me a visit. 

Now Cancer and I go way back. I was 39, married with three children, the youngest was two years old. I was taking a shower when I found the lump and within an hour, I was in the doctor's office. By the end of the day, I had a biopsy and within a week, I had breast cancer. Two years, four surgeries including a mastectomy, chemo and radiation treatments later, I was riding white water on the McKenzie River in Oregon. I have been in remission for the past 24 years. Technically, like addicts are never cured, but in recovery, so cancer survivors are in perpetual remission.

This time it is ovarian cancer and after being cut from stem to stern and large masses removed from my body, I am being told that 99% of the cancer is gone. It is Stage 3 and I am looking at 6 months of chemo beginning next week. It seems only fair to me that those of us who have survived once, should not have some kind of get out of jail free card. A hand stamp, a tattoo, even a special handshake should grant us immunity. Not that I consider this second go around unfair, though my children disagree. Everyone has their share of obstacles on life's journey. Why not me? I think I have a pretty good attitude. I have a great cheering squad. Joshua may have blown down the walls of Jericho, but between my mother and the league of family and friends, the Gates of Heaven better brace for the avalanche of prayers about to ascend.

Undoubtedly, I will post with hopefully some kind of healthy, wealthy or wise insight into the journey that lies ahead. If you have a story to share, I am all ears. I am told that the chemo is SO much better than 24 years ago and I will do just fine. It would be great to be pleasantly surprised. I never thought chemo was something that would be a pleasant surprise. But there it is - SURPRISE! 

Next time I hear a knock at the door, I will look through the peephole first.


Park At Your Own Risk

It never ceases to amaze me that people just do not read, or refuse to believe that what they read applies to them. As if they have immunity from the rules, people will do as they please and be shocked that they are then held accountable.

On Wednesday, January 21st, the Today show aired a segment about tow truck drivers targeting shoppers, snatching their cars within minutes of the owners leaving their vehicle. In one instance, the owner was parked in front of the sign that clearly stated No Parking. Do not walk away from your vehicle. Your car will be towed.

The owner was outraged when he came out to find the tow truck driver hitching up the vehicle. "If you had told me, I would have moved it," he said. The driver's reply, "that's not the job, sir; the job is to tow the vehicles that park illegally." 

An investigative team from the Today Show, went to the parking lot and also parked in front of the sign, went into a store that was not part of the legal parking area and when towed questioned the tow driver. His response, "People need to stop victimizing themselves. If you get towed, you need to learn how to accept it and you need to just read the signs properly."

Amen! This is clearly a situation that has no need for sympathy for a person who feels the rules are there for everybody else but them. I applaud the tow truck driver for making the owner accountable, as is he to his employer who hired him to do the job - tow the cars that are illegally parked. Enough said.

What words would you use to get people to understand that no parking means NO PARKING!



Airbnb - a good supplement income?

We would all like a little extra cash but at what price? I needed to do a few repairs to the house and after receiving several recommendations, including my daughter, about posting my house on Airbnb, I decided to give it a try. I was leaving for Florida with my mother for a couple of weeks and posted the house before I left, never thinking it would result in having to make immediate decisions before we landed.

I had three requests within a couple of hours of posting the house. Airbnb sends you the request and the potential rentor has a profile you can view prior to accepting. This was better than not knowing who was coming but, are they really going to tell you they are burglars or ax murders on their profile? What you see is a smiling face, usually with a dog or a family and a few particulars, where they live, some contact information. 

I took a leap of faith and while I was thousands of miles away on the east coast, someone was sleeping in my bed on the west coast. As it turned out, the first experience was not too bad. The second request said he never found the place and wanted his money back. Airbnb takes care of all of the money handling, which is a good thing. The money arrives in your bank account as the person walks through your door. 

The third request was a nice family from India, who politely told me that water beds were not good for sleeping. Since I have trouble sleeping on conventional mattresses, I have to disagree. The note they left told me how my things spoke to a life well lived. Hmmm, I think that may have been a way to say your house is cluttered, and somewhat lost in translation. 

After a few more visits, I decided this was not exactly the best way to stash a little extra cash for retirement. Once I factored in the cleaning, changing the sheets, hiring someone to come feed my animals and find a place to rest my weary head for the night (I started sleeping at the office), the few bucks and having stranger in my house was becoming less attractive. The holidays were quickly approaching, so I turned declined the next few requests and hunkered down for a long winters nap.

Then a request came in last week from a woman in Washington. She was from the area and often came back to her stomping grounds. This time it was to care for her brother and sister-in-law who were going through cancer treatment. She wanted to host them at my house and take care of them in royal style for the weekend. Since I am a cancer survivor of 23 years, I was immediately drawn to this request for making my home a refuge for this family.

Airbnb does a good job of handling the financial transactions. I have never had a problem with the money being in the bank on time. If you can choose who is coming and plan it around your schedule, it is a good way to pay the unexpected bills, or save for a vacation. There is some work involved, but you can negotiate the price to reflect your extra costs. My daughter added a cleaning fee and hired a cleaning service. Some of my friends only rent a room, which means they don't have to leave. Some offer a breakfast and others don't. There is enough flexibility that you can tailor the situation to meet your needs. The IRS does ask for the income to be reported on your taxes, so be aware. Airbnb sends you this information in January, so you don't need to keep track. Discuss any expenses required to rent your house with your tax consultant.

Is it worth a try? Yes, but go in eyes wide open, on your terms and know that there is no committment. Once I realized I didn't have to say yes to everybody, I felt much better about those I welcomed into my home.