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.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Getting Ready

We went shopping last weekend.  One more time in eighteen years that I have been ever so grateful to have a boy.  "Do you need hangers?"  He threw a pack in the cart.  "Do you think you might need more than a dozen?"  He threw another pack in the cart.  "Do you need a laundry bag?"  He grabbed the nearest one and put it in the cart.  The Mister pointed out that maybe Flash would rather have a bag than a plastic hamper that may or may not fit in his closet.  Flash put the plastic hamper back and we found a bag.  He threw it in the cart. 

And so the day went.  We bought clothes, shoes, dorm supplies, laundry supplies and lunch - with Flash and his new girlfriend (also off to State).  We made lists and we crossed things off and we added more and we grabbed things on the fly we hadn't even thought of.

Isn't that how it is, this parenting thing?  We prepare and we think and we parent with a certain integrity and set of morals but then we cross off what doesn't work and we add in new things that do make a difference and we add a whole lot of things on the fly. 

And we wonder, as we look at it all, packed up and ready to walk out the door, is it enough?  Is it all the right things?  Is this all unnecessary?  Is the balance between necessities and fun things in check?  Does he have what he needs to be successful or will he be scrounging to catch up when he's on his own? 

Sigh.

In a week, we will finish packing it all up, and we will drive him to his dorm and help him arrange and unpack (I suspect it will be much like shopping - toss this here, toss that there, call it good!) and we will leave him to fend for himself and to forge his life down his own path.

The Mister and I have big plans when he is gone.  Much-needed repairs and rennovations to the downstairs bathroom, reorganizing of the bedrooms, cleaning out cabinets and making the space our own again.  I'm doubled up on grad classes in September and the start of a new school year is always a busy time.  The Mister has a couple projects he's gearing up for and has been looking into maybe taking a cooking class to fuel his passion.

I wonder if I am ready!?  Do I have all the right things to handle life without the teenager?  Do I have enough of the necessities and enough of the fun things to keep a good balance?    Are we prepared for this next chapter in our life? 

Sigh. 

I suspect, just like Flash, we will be making up new lists of things to do and try, and crossing off things that don't work or we don't like along the way.  And there will probably be a whole lot of things we add on the fly.  Sometimes, those are the best kinds of things. 

Sunday, June 29, 2014

In Search of Majesty

We set off on our "Bucket List Vacation" with a cooler of snacks, cameras and a general sense of our route.  We had reservations in Maine, but our stops along the way were left to the spur of the moment.  And what moments we had!

 The Mister had been to Niagra Falls as a child, but neither Flash nor I had ever been, so we turned left and spent a little time soaking up the view.
 We drove across upstate NY, up through the adirondacks.
  It made us all miss Pennsylvania with all the hills and trees.  

We took a ferry across Lake Champlain. 

The view of New York behind us...
 

and the White Mountains of Vermont in front of us was stunning!

The Mister loved the view.
 There was beauty everywhere we looked.
 A beautiful New England town.

 
We stumbled upon one of the tallest observatories in the world. 
So, we had to go up, of course. 


And when we stopped again when we crossed over this waterfall. 

 When we arrived in Maine, The Mister tried out his moose call.
(It didn't work.)
 Sunrise from our balcony.
 Starting the day looking out across Frenchman's Bay in Bar Harbor, Maine can't be beat.
 The view from the top of Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park was breathtaking.
 We stopped to take it all in.
 The boys I love and the view I was longing for.
We loved watching the waves crash at Thunder Hole.
And everywhere we turned in Acadia, there were amazing things to see.
We saw puffins...

...and whales...
...including a mother and her calf! 
 We saw lots of lobster boats!

Which sure made two boys happy!!

 
 There were lighthouses everywhere...

 ...and an eager photographer ready for the next best shot!

 
We took a tour of Fenway Park...

 ...where we sat in some of the most famous seats in baseball...

And we wrapped up our New England vacation with a "slice of heaven" from Mystic Pizza!


I cannot say enough about our trip.  We set out to "see something majestic" and filled our hearts, souls and photo albums with more scenes that fit that description than we could have planned for!  We savored every moment of our family time, filling the time with laughter and joy at every turn (well, except maybe when we were all freezing on the whale watching boat!) 

Thanks to both of my boys for such an amazing time together!  
And thanks be to the One who made it all!!

Saturday, May 03, 2014

What do you call a dinner conversation that involved hearing about how your husband can identify which guy in a parking lot will have tools so he could crawl under his Jeep and fix the starter?  Or when Flash talks about some punk kid that goes to school with him flippantly calling Flash "buddy" at the tux shop, and your son's equally sarcastic response?  Or learning that your husband may have been on speaker phone instead of hold at Auto Zone when he said, "Man, I have to piss like a racehorse?" Or how Flash had to think of how to delicately remind The Mister about the button in the Jeep that he had just recently told us about when The Mister couldn't get it into neutral?  Or when the boys try to explain why The Mister smells a little perfume-y.  Or when the teenager starts singing along to Bonnie Tyler's "I Need a Hero"?  What do you call conversation over dinner where your husband and teenager have you laughing so hard you cry, recounting the events of their afternoon?  Well, at my house, we'd call it, "typical."

WWYD?

If you're stopped at a light and some guy in the lane next to you jumps out of his car and walks over to you and unexpectedly slams the hood of your car shut and then gets back into his car and drives off, do you try to catch up so you can thank him or do you laugh thinking about how odd the whole scene must seem to everyone else on the road, when you know that guy was actually your husband shutting your hood  after you had to jump start his Jeep?