Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Thoughtfulness


Yesterday a card arrived from California.  With ten days to go until Flash arrives back home, it was a delight just to see his handwriting on the card and to know that he thought of his mom's birthday all on his own.  Today, an Amazon box arrived.  While I am certain the gifts themselves will delight me, just the cards on the boxes make me adore this child.  A long-standing tradition between us, he has written hints on each one.  "tricky but useful", "might help with the organization of certain things,, and "might be an already solved problem."  His grandma Jenny would be so proud of his tag-writing skills.  

The Mister felt badly about his gift after I opened the Amazon box, but frankly, the man didn't stand a chance.  I basically told him what to get for me (a new camera lens that Jacob owned but was taking to California and college with him) and then begged him to let me have it early when I wanted to take some pictures in the yard the other night.  Poor man.  He puts up with my craziness so well.



Gratefully Silent

As an elementary teacher, I work with all women.  On a daily basis, I hear all the complaints of mothers young and old.  I hear wives muttering about husbands, women gossiping about friends and mothers sharing frustrations about their children - young and old.  I am a listener in these conversations.  I am a focused, attentive pair of ears attached to a worried heart that wonders, "Will I be complaining soon?  Will my "newlywed years" end soon?  Will my soon to be twenty-something child cause me motherly angst in the coming months or years?  Will I have complaints to offer in future conversations?"  I wonder, and sometimes I worry, but most of the time, I remain silent and grateful.

I love my husband.  I deeply love my husband.  And while I am not nearly naive enough to think he is flawless, I also recognize that my love isn't in spite of his flaws, but perhaps because of.  Sure, I get frustrated on occasion, but I know that every day, correct that, perhaps every hour, that man forgives me for my flaws.  He doesn't bring them up.  He doesn't hold them against me.  He doesn't remind me of all the areas big and small where I need improvement.  He just loves me.  Deeply.  Every day.

And my child?  I can't really say "child" anymore.  I know, technically, he's always my "child", but he's a man.  A beautiful, man.  He is thoughtful, respectful, considerate and responsible.  He is making sound choices and shows gratitude on a regular basis for the blessings that surround him.  I absolutely adore the man he is becoming.  And he adores his mother (or he is great at pretending that he does!)

I have this beautiful home, this sweet dog, amazing friends who come for lunch, or for advice, for drinks on the deck or to talk for hours.  I have a good job where I am surrounded by kids who love to hug and giggle.  I have shelves of books and a piano in the family room.  I have money in the bank and two working cars in the garage.  We have a church to go to on Sunday mornings, good jobs to go to during the week, a local farmer's market to visit each Saturday and a house in the woods to come home to each night.

I am, above all else, so very grateful.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Speaking of Gardens...

The Mister and I have been talking about the designs for the new garden area.  We are very close to having that area of the yard cleared out and we have lined up a tiller to get the ground ready for a few plants before the season is over (I want to get the strawberry plants we brought from the other house in the ground so they can root up before winter, not to mention the importance of getting rhubarb and asparagus going as soon as humanly possible!)

We have stood out in the dirt and pointed at things and we have laid in bed trying to explain our thoughts on what should go where and how we can add the chicken coop next spring and where exactly the gate will go but in order to get some concrete numbers about lengths of fencing and number of posts, we decided we should draw out the garden design.

So we did:


As you can tell from the drawing, we have a lot of work to do.

(The scariest part of this is that it makes perfect sense to The Mister and me!  We actually clarified a lot of things through this drawing!)

P.S.  Be grateful our school has a full-time art teacher and I'm not responsible for teaching the kids how to draw!

It's the Small Things


 I decided I needed labels for my herbs in my new herb garden.  I have a knack for forgetting what things are sometimes and I thought these would not only serve the practical function of keeping me from looking like an idiot when someone asked me what a particular plant was and would add a bit of decorative flair to the corner garden.  

Of course, an idea like "herb markers" MUST be google'd and then a billion images come up and I have more options than I ever dreamed of!  

The good news was that once I settled on a design I loved, I knew exactly who could help me make them into a reality...my Second Mom!!  She does amazing things with a wood burner!  Her beautiful lettering and creative skills were perfect for my rustic labels!  The Mister cut the boards and I, well, I tied the twine!!  
I think they turned out VERY nicely!

Basil is not an herb that I would ever forget as it's one of my faves, but the label looks adorable!

The oregano, spearmint and rosemary all got labels, too.  My Second Mom was kind enough to make plenty of other herb labels for when I get my garden up and running in full force!  

Monday, July 13, 2015

Lesson Learned

The Mister was working with Big John on the garden area.  They had many stumps to pull out and a few things to burn in the Big Hole In the Ground.  I was around back of the house fighting a beast of a weed in a flower bed.  I heard The Mister yelling - I caught "Eliza!  Come quick!!"  There was more to what he said, but I was already running through the gravel worried that Big John had tipped over or the yard was on fire or The Mister was having a heart attack...

Reaching the front of the house, Big John and The Mister were parked mid-way down the drive way.  The Mister is still yelling, "Eliza!!!  Come here!!!"  but now I hear the rest of the sentence..."and bring your camera!!"

There was a snake, apparently, which The Mister loathes, but since he was up on Big John, he was able to admire from the safety of the yellow tractor seat.

I did not go fetch my camera.  I stood for a moment in the drive thinking, "Are you kidding me?!?!"  But then I returned to the back of the house to let the adrenaline and my emotions regain a normal tempo.  The Mister found me there and offered his sincerest apology.  I don't think he will scare his wife like that again.

But he would like me to get a picture of the snake.

A Riddle

When The Mister has his hatchet, Flash has the dog and his pocket knife, Flash's girl has a bowl in hand and I have my camera...what are we doing?  Going on our evening walk!!  The Mister likes to chop down vines and branches that grow over our walking paths.  The Girl likes to pick black raspberries (we all eat more than we put in the bowl); Flash handles the dog (a task that requires extreme alertness as there are rabbits to be chased!) and I try to snap a few photos.

Other Updates

I forgot to take "before" pictures, but this corner bed had annuals in it (that were not doing well.  I think she did exactly what we did and just planted something that would look good for the sale of the house, but not for the heat of the summer).  I decided this was the perfect place for my herb garden!!  So far I have oregano and rosemary but the woman at the farmer's market promised more varieties of sprouts next Saturday!  I am so excited!

This back area was filled with a very tenacious weed.  It looked like it MIGHT be an intended shrub or plant so I consulted the landscape design drawings the owners left us (and consulted Google) but decided it was all just a weed.  It took a LOT of digging and pulling to get it all out, but it's gone (for now).  I didn't put a lot of thought into this bed, just put in some of the perennials we brought from the old house.  With this area being fenced in, the perennials are safe from the deer (but might get peed on by the dog).  

Eli approved.  That's all that mattered.

The Garden Area (Thus Far)

We knew about where we wanted the garden.  Near the turn around in the driveway would be perfect.  A hose had already been strung to the site, and it would be nearby in the winter so we could keep an eye on the chickens.  Oh, did I mention I want chickens?  :)

This is what the area looked like when we moved in.  There were two small fenced areas where the previous owners had trees sprouting.  There was a compost pile and a heap of branches for burning.  Other than that, WEEDS!

Coming down the drive way, you wouldn't even know there was anything in there.

The prior owners had made a faux garden gate with vines.  I admire the effort, but the vines had taken over everything.  Including trees.  

On the first day, I located a weeping cherry tree!  It was adorable! 

The second day The Mister got out Big John (the tractor) and we employed my nephew to help haul things away (everything is more fun to a 14 year old boy when you let him drive the tractor!)  We found some beautiful mature trees once we got the ground cover cleared out.  We took out the one fenced area (and all the strange tree sprouts) and started to see sunshine!

We had no particular area in mind to clear, other than to see what was in the space worth saving and how could we help the are be more useful while preserving the beauty.  

 The third day The Mister and his tractor worked alone.  They pulled out the stumps from all the small trees we had pulled out previously.  While not much appeared to have changed, the ground became more usable!!  (Oh, and The Mister sure had fun!)
The most significant change came on our most recent day of working on the garden area.  (The whole area will NOT be a garden.  Some will be grass, some will be landscaped, but the area looks so much better cleared out!)  We cleared a large area behind and beside the weeping cherry. 

Now we are REALLY getting some sunshine in!!

We left a beautiful tall oak tree along with a couple fruit trees (cherry?  We aren't sure).  There were vines taking over many of the trees, but we got most out (I'm saving the dead vines to maybe make an arbor).  

We are really getting excited about this space.  It balances out the other side of the driveway much better (which is grass and landscaping) and gives us lots of room to put in a garden and a chicken coop!

Note: Somewhere in this great area is The Mister's cell phone.  Buried.  He may have used "ramming speed" on Big John to dislodge a stump.  He got the stump, but somewhere in the battle, lost his phone.  Sigh.  Sacrifices!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

I Wonder...



I teach my students to always wonder about things...to never stop questioning and to let one wondering lead to another.  Tonight on our walk I wondered about the tree that dropped vibrant leaves so early in the summer.  What tree did this leaf fall from and what will the leaves look like that fall in September?

I wondered how close this chipmunk would let me get before he scurried off...

...are these berries poisonous?  Is that why they are left alone on branches, uneaten by birds or deer?

This appears to be a cherry tree, but very different in color than the others.  Are some of our cherry trees sweet cherries and this one tart cherries?  (And if so, did I die and end up in Heaven?)

...I wondered if God was enjoying our walk alongside us tonight as The Mister and I had been talking about planting some grapevines when we got the garden area cleared...here were vines just waiting for us to notice!

We both wondered what sort of creature calls this little place home.  Almost too perfectly formed to think it was animal alone, and yet...

...I wonder how many "I love you's" (not "I love you nots") will be uttered during our years here together.

...I wondered how many black raspberries we had growing.  They are everywhere!  Flash's girlfriend, a farm girl through and through climbed through the thorny brambles to pick all the ripe ones she found (we were too busy eating the ones we found).

...I wonder what delicious thing I might make with this bounty!!

I wonder what will see tomorrow night....

Saturday, June 27, 2015

A Walk Around the Farm

The previous owners had mowed trails through the property (a tradition The Mister is eager to follow!) and each evening we enjoy a walk through the acres enjoying the sights and sounds of nature.  The Mister was thrilled to see me take along my camera the other night and I was thrilled to be back to taking pictures again!
 
 Frogs (and toads) abound on our property.  With a lily pad pond in front and a marsh out back we see (and hear) all shapes and sizes!

Jacob was particularly excited about this tiny little toad!


 We have black raspberries growing everywhere!  Someday I might make jelly, but for now, we just consider them to be dessert!

 The Mister very nearly held this bird.  He didn't seem scared of us in the least and just sat as though posing for the picture. 

 Even the weeds seem unique and beautiful in their own right!

 We have pear, apple and cherry trees.  

We will have to learn how to maintain fruit trees so we can enjoy their bounty!  While I am partial to the cherry trees, The Mister is excited about this pear tree!

 The color of the wildflowers is magnificent!

 All of God's creatures seem to be out on our walk...

 
And every single drop of rain seemed more beautiful. 

Oh how blessed we feel!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Someday

It happened yesterday.  I was standing at the counter, putting icing on a spice cake when The Mister said it.  "You're back."  Two simple words, but deep with significance.  I paused for a moment before I agreed with a confidence I save for few and rare things.  I am back.

While I'm not certain I would say that anyone has really missed me (except my husband, who was not only quick to note my return, but willing to celebrate it liberally) I can say without a doubt the I am most certainly glad to be back.  Glad to be here.  Glad to be on this side of it all.  Glad to feel like myself again.

In truth, I haven't "been" anywhere.  I've been here.  In fact, more often than before, I was in this exact position - sitting at a laptop trying to write something.  Only for the past two years, I've been doing it for graduate school.  In the course of 24 months, I took 51 credits toward a Master's Degree (and 2/3 of another) that, at least in the short run, took more out of me than the certificate gave back in return.  I've been responsible for writing more papers, more blog posts, more reflective responses, for reading more analysis of teaching methods, philosophies and practices and for summarizing my learning (real or imagined) than I even care to recall.  It was painful.  It was exhausting.  It was a hoop that required a lot of sacrifice just to jump through.

No one knows this better than The Mister.  He willingly took on additional responsibilities around the house to help ease my burden, and unwillingly was nominated to take over several more.  "cooking more often" became "cooking all the time" for him.  I may have tagged along on occasion to the grocery store, but other than making pasta every once in a blue moon, he single-handedly kept the house in order, the cupboards and bellies full and the lights on.  He bought me gummy bears as though they would ward off stress and bad grades.  He tinkered in the garage for all hours on Sundays just to "give me space" (more probably to steer clear of the cursing and crying).  And his heart broke for me when I had to drive the 40 minutes to school to use a computer because our dying computer - our SECOND dying computer- was having fits and a deadline was looming.  We tried to focus on that distant "someday" when grad school would be over, when we could spend our weekends traveling if we wanted to or doing nothing if we chose.  Someday.

So it's fitting that he was the first to say it aloud, to recognize it and name it - that having his wife, stand in the kitchen and bake a cake was a rare event worth celebrating.

In the past two and a half years, we have gotten married, sold two homes, sent Flash off to college, completed graduate school and have now bought our dream home in the country.

Throughout this time of high stress, I've watched our amazing child go off to college as though he were headed over to his best friend's house to spend the night.  He took on the challenges of dorm life, class schedules and making decisions on his own with open and eager arms and has flourished in the collegiate environment.  He has seized opportunities and made calculated risks that have earned him a good-paying job and an exciting summer experience.  His gpa is better than solid, but balanced with reasonableness.  His friends continue to increase in number and in quality.  We are excited to be a part of his journey.  That day you cannot even fathom as a new mother - that day of your first, your only, your baby going off to college, that "someday" happened.  And Flash has made it so easy.  I cried only once, the night before he left.  And not because I was worried about him, or even worried about me, I cried because I wouldn't know everything that happened to him every day anymore.  He would have to tell me about his days, I wouldn't be there in the moment every time.  It turns out, that's okay, too.  Now we look forward to his times at home.  We wonder about what he will do "someday".  We are spectators on his journey now.  But they are comfortable seats.

Three years ago, The Mister spent his "barn money" on a diamond engagement ring.  I promised him then that "someday" he would get his barn.  When he sold his house in the woods to live in mine in town, I promised him that someday his tractor would have a use again and not to sell it.  We'd squeeze it in the garage for now, because someday he was going to want it. Our path has taken us where we dared not dream, to a place we still pinch ourselves to call our own.  For The Mister, he now spends his afternoons on the mower or the tractor or moving things from the barn to the garage or the old coop.  Instead of deciding if it's worth re-staining the deck, he is deciding which trees need to stay and what underbrush should be cleared to restore the pasture.  And he stops on his way up the drive way with a car load of groceries to check out a passing turtle.  Giddy doesn't even begin to describe him.

For me, I finally wrote my last grad paper.  I celebrated with family and friends and I put all the notebooks away in boxes.  I have moved into a home where the fridge not only came with an ice maker, but where every detail in the house is well thought out, beautifully designed and perfect for who we are.  In the past week I have adopted the slogan, "When it stops being fun, stop."  This has been used liberally to excuse myself from unpacking one.more.box or doing one.more.load.of.laundry.  Instead, with obvious work to do in every room, I stopped and read a book from the moment it arrived in the Amazon box to the wee hours of the morning just before The Mister went to work.  I have baked cookies, a cake and cooked dinner three nights in a row.  I wrote letters to several students and dug out boxes of Flash's old toys when some littles stopped by to visit.   Someday I will get it all unpacked.  But today, joy is worth doing.

Our move took us away from noisy neighbors, away from the 7-11's of life and into the woods.  Instead of owning trampolines and bounce houses, our neighbors have horses and riding mowers.  Instead of listening to the kid with the basketball walk down the street at 11:30, we hear bullfrogs, redwinged black birds and crickets.  Instead of watching TV we play cards every night, and walk around the property, eating black raspberries off the vines and wondering what kinds of tree this one is.

I am now seven miles from school.  Our first day at church I was hugged by two families of former (and probably future) students and one mom who is hoping I have her son this fall (I do).  The pastor's son is in my class this year and I had one of the elder's children this past year.  My sister lives in this town and so we know the people, the places and the area.  Flash said it well the other night when he noted that most people move and then have to settle into their new life, new neighborhood.  "For you guys, it's like this has always been your life and you just finally got to live here."

So, I'm back. But in a way, I'm just finally here.  Truly here.  Rooted here.  Focused once again on simple joys and blessings - spice cake that reminds me of Mom; turtles in the bog, deer eating crab apples in the front lawn.  I'll bake more cookies, unpack more boxes and hold my husband's hand as we walk through our acres tonight.  Life is good.  All the time.

For all the years I've known The Mister, we both talked of Someday.  Someday we'll have property.  Someday I'll write my last grad paper.  Someday we'll get a cow just for fun.  Someday we'll have a refrigerator that has an ice maker.  Someday we'll get new couches.  Someday we'll live where we can't see the neighbors.  Someday.

Welcome, guests.  To Someday Farm.  Where Joy isn't something we celebrate once a year, but every day, in every moment.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Don't Be a Cliche

It's difficult as a parent to not want to offer up a million pieces of last-ditch-effort advice as our kids go off to college, at least it was for me.  Here is a portion of the letter that I wrote to Jacob as he left for State today:

Okay, so here goes, my attempt to cram useful advice in one last time – are you ready?  Here goes.  Don’t be a cliché.  What do I mean by that?  I mean, a penny saved is not enough.  Save some dimes and quarters and a few bills, too.  Always be saving and working toward a goal.  Love is near-sighted.  Keep your loved ones close – not only physically, but emotionally.  Don’t build walls out of fear.  Silence is fool’s gold if it means you left heartfelt things unsaid.  Never pass up an opportunity to say, “I love you,” or “I’m sorry.”  You only live for a really long time so make decisions you’ll be proud of.  Money can’t buy anything that truly matters in this world.  The early bird might have gotten a big fat crunchy grasshopper if he had been more patient and not so impulsive.  Sometimes it pays to wait.  If at first you don’t succeed, get more people involved.  Success isn’t achieved in isolation.  Keep your friends close and buy your enemies a cup of coffee. We can learn a lot from people we disagree with.  Take the road not travelled by.  Forge a path that leads where you want it to go.  Don’t rock the boat unless you know everyone in it can swim.  Sometimes we need to stop playing it safe and just get wet.  Don’t judge a book (or people) unless you’ve read it and thought about it and considered its purpose.  If the shoe fits, it still might be ugly.  Find your own style.  The glass is rarely only half filled anyway.  Life is overflowing with blessings if you take time to look.  Stop to smell the roses and the fresh cut lawn, the ocean, the mountain air – be present in the moment and savor where you are. A picture is worth a thousand words, but that doesn’t mean they are complimentary ones (read that: be careful what you post on the internet!)  A bird in the hand should be released.  Don’t cage anything that is meant to be free.  And we are all meant to be free.  An apple a day gets old even to doctors.  Don’t get stuck in a rut – be adventurous!!  Absence makes you jobless.  Show up every day, even when you don’t feel like it.  Hell hath no fury like a grandmother who didn’t get a thank-you note.  Express your gratitude for all things to all people.  The grass is always greener when you pay a lot for fertilizer and lawn care, but it’s still just grass.  Spend your money on things that are truly worthwhile.  Make hay if you’re a farmer, make music if you play an instrument, make pasta if you’re a chef.  Figure out what your talents and passions are and do that for a living.  Don’t put off to tomorrow anything you can afford to do today.  You might never get the chance again.  If you love something, don’t let it go.  Fight for it – every day.  When the cat’s away, the dog will nap.  Take a break every now and then.  Rejuvenate!  A man is only as good as his effort.  People will forget what you said, but they won’t forget how you made them feel.  Diamonds should come from a girl’s best friend.  To be a great husband, you have to be a great friend.  The best things in life are different for everyone.   Don’t let others tell you what should be important to you.  When life hands you lemons – learn to juggle.  Do unexpected things just to make people smile.  Don’t count your chickens, or your awards, or your degrees or your belongings or money.  It doesn’t matter how much you have, it matters how much you do with what you have.  Failure is not only an option it’s an opportunity to learn.  Allow mistakes to shape and refine your choices and actions – they will bring you closer to success.  If something’s too good to be true, don’t be the one selling it. Insist on quality – in what you buy and what you make and do. A watched pot never overflows or scalds or curdles.  Focus your attention on the task at hand.  It’s always darkest in the woods at night without a flashlight.  Be prepared.  Laughter is the best medicine unless you broke a rib.  Be appropriate for the situation.  There’s no place like Rome.  Or Paris.  Or Japan, or Montana or Dubuque.  Travel every chance you get.  Finally, it isn’t about the destination, nor is it about the journey.  It’s about how you react to the puke in the backseat.  Life is what you make of it and how you react to the things that happen to you.  React with kindness, a generous spirit and a heart full of gratitude.