Saturday, December 16, 2017

All Because

As I open the laptop to write today, a beautiful red cardinal sits perched on the hemlock out front.  Hello, Mom. 

While I am always grateful for these little feathered reminders of you, I wish you were here today in person to tell me what turned your eye from the practical jokester Jerry to his best friend, Roger.  I wish you were here to tell me about the dance you two went to in the snowstorm where you were crowned queen.  I wish you were here to tell me about his proposal on New Year's Eve, one you must have seen coming and yet one that surely made your heart leap just the same. 

I wish you were here to tell me what it was like to start your life together so far from your homes, where you didn't know a soul, in the middle of a war, making plans for a life with so much uncertain around you.  I wish you were here to tell me what went through your mind, when despite being a teacher, your husband still got drafted and the least of your worries was whether he'd get his job back, or moving everything to North Carolina and then to Louisiana.  I wish you could tell me what it was like for you, living with your parents with a baby, waiting out basic training knowing the next step was Viet Nam.  I wish you could tell me the relief you felt when he was chosen instead, for an office position stateside, and eventually when he was able to leave the Army behind ahead of schedule and resume your life with two young children.

I wish you were here, Mom, to talk about what was hard in marriage and what made you laugh out loud.  What memories would you have from the early years that would still be with you now, as treasured as gold?  What hard times have turned themselves into blessed experiences that forever strengthened your bond with each other?

I wish you were here, Mom, to know the babies you held, the children you read to, the teenagers you counseled have turned into parents themselves.  I wish you could know your amazing grandchildren!  I wish you could see Jacob's curls - straight from you!  I wish you could hear Emily giggle or see Robby's dimples, or the golden hair on Adalene or the mischievous grin on Little Garrett - they are all like you in so many ways.  Every one of your grandchildren has a heart of gold, an amazing sense of humor and a caring spirit for others that all come from a grandmother they never met. 

I wish I could take you to my classroom.  I wish you could be there for Fairy Tale Friday, or the day we hatch chickens.  I wish you were here to remind me some days of all the reasons you always believed I'd be a writer, to help me overcome the fear.  I wish you were here to remind me sometimes that God is good (all the time) or that prayer matters, or even that this is just the beginning.  I wish you were here to tell me what to do when my child breaks my heart, or when I miss him more than I can stand.  I wish you were here so I could apologize for ever breaking yours, or for not knowing how to handle my emerging adult life with the ending of your yours.

I wish you were here to meet James.  Oh how you would love this man.  Not just because he loves Dallas, or old county music, or even because for his big soft heart.  You'd love him for how he loves your daughter; for how he makes me laugh and how he comforts me when I cries.  You'd love him for his shameless sense of humor, his deep-rooted love for farming and the way he indulges your daughter with my crazy plans.

While I might wish every day that you were here, I will forever be grateful for all the days you were.  I will forever give thanks that you spent my whole life being the best mom I could ever wish for or dream of.  I might wish for more conversations, more time to know you, more years together, but I am so very grateful for all that you and Dad gave to us kids, even when it seemed like you had very little at all.  We were and are a family that loves each other deeply, has faith in all that is good and we are a family who still laughs far more often than we cry.  We are a family who still believes in the power of family, who still believe that God is good (all the time) and who truly understand how precious and short life really is.

We are a family.  All because two people fell in love (thankfully) too young to know how hard the road would get.  We are a family, a very blessed, very successful, very loving family all because fifty years ago today, those two people who fell in such amazing love together got married.

I wish you were here today, Mom.  I wish we were having a huge family dinner, I wish we were raising a glass and I was wiping away these tears as I led a toast.  I'm sure I would have agonized over finding the perfect gift for the occasion, even though I know that having your whole family around would have been the only gift you ever wanted.

Happy Fiftieth Anniversary, Mom (and Dad).  I love you both so very much and I will forever work to make my marriage, my life, my legacy as amazing as the ones you forged together.  All because you people fell in love.


Sunday, November 05, 2017

I can vividly remember a conversation I had with The Mister, even though it was nearly seven years ago when it happened.  I remember talking about his new house and the renovations he had in mind for it.  I remember talking about baseball, first dates and how I never let a guy buy me drinks.  I remember it so clearly because I was so focused on this man, his words, his body language.  Despite a crowded room, noisy televisions and conversations all around us, he had my complete and undivided attention that night and many, many days and nights since. 

I do not remember well all the things he said, however, when he proposed.  I know we talked about his family while we walked through the park that night, but beyond that I don't recall much of anything.  It wasn't that he didn't have my attention that night, it was that my attention and energy was on trying to make him feel less nervous, to make the stroll seem more ordinary, to make him feel less vulnerable, to make the moment feel less life-changing than it was.  I don't like people to feel uncomfortable and that night, my energy was focused solely on getting to the other side of the proposal, getting to the part where The Mister was his fun, lovable self instead of the nervous, vulnerable man before me.  My concern for him was so great, in fact, that I even said, "No!" when he started to get down on one knee, as it was more than my heart could bear to have this man, this amazing, strong man kneeling before me.  No isn't what you're supposed to say, however when a man is kneeling in front of you with a gorgeous ring, but my heart was in the right place, I swear.

In both cases, I was listening to the love of my life.  He had my heart and soul's attention but in very different ways.  I dare say I was a better listener the night he proposed despite not being able to recall any of his rehearsed romantic lines. 

The Mister and I have both noticed, more and more as the years go by, how much we enjoy just sitting with family or friends, talking and listening.  Our frustrations with social events seem to always be about how it was hard to hear, or difficult to talk with everyone or even how children are dismissed from conversations when we'd love to see them included.  I've also noticed and The Mister has endured many many after school conversations about how bad my students are at listening.  They are completely unaware that they are interrupting a conversation and they are eager to talk but have no interest in what the other person has to say.  It's actually a skill I try to teach, explicitly, in my classroom.  A few years ago, I had a student in my classroom with special needs that moved part way through the year.  On his last day with my class, we sat in a circle and each student chose to share a compliment about this student as a little send-off.  A fellow student said, "He is a great listener.  He even looks at you when you are talking!"  It was completely and utterly true.  But it saddened me that it was so rare that it stood out so much from this one amazing student.

Just a few years ago when I was working on my Master's degree, I was shadowing my principal when I asked her how she dealt with difficult parents, a key component to that position.  She said, "Most of the time, I just listen.  People just want to be heard.  Once they are heard, their anger often subsides and we can work together on a solution, but from the start, I just let them talk and I show them that they have my full attention and concern."  I wondered then as I continue to wonder now, could listening be the solution to most of the problems we face? 

Maybe that's a pretty large jump to make, but it bears consideration.  There's nothing unique in this idea, certainly.  I have books dedicated to the topic that I use with my students .A simple Google or Amazon search would reveal thousands more, I'm sure.  If, at my next social gathering  I asked f people think that listening is a lost art, I'm sure most would emphatically agree.  But we continue to move in a direction that puts being understood above understanding.  Social media is about putting out into the world all the things I want to express.  Not only do we engage in fewer face-to-face conversations anymore (even phone calls were a back and forth proposition but how often now do we text instead of talk?) we now routinely engage in one-sided dialogues about life.  What we express is the point, not what people express back.  Facebook doesn't have a button that says, "I found your point interesting and I'd really like to discuss it further."  Even as I type, I'm aware that I'm writing a blog post, a very one-sided expression of ideas that starts and stops with the ideas from my mind alone. 

It seems more and more we are caught up in all the things we are trying to accomplish. It has stopped being about connecting and started being all about what have we done.  Just wait until next month when the Christmas cards roll around.  Isn't ever letter a list of accomplishments?  It's not hard for me to recognize that connecting with people is just part of my personality.  Given a genie in a bottle, I'd wish for the opportunity to talk with my mom again, or my grandma.  There's so much about them that I don't know, that I want to understand as an adult, so much I didn't think to ask before.  Even as I write "talk with my mom", the truth is, I'd really just like to sit and listen.  For as along as I possibly could.  I was so busy talking when she was here, but never listening.

It's worth considering as well, that not everyone cares what other people have to say.  The narcissists of the world are not small in number, I fear.  Is this trait taught? Is it taught unintentionally?  Is it necessary?  I could as easily, perhaps make an argument that focusing on ourselves and our needs is important, too.  While that might help us solve our own problems and satisfy our own needs, will it solve the world's? 

A couple months ago, I was out with a friend for lunch.  We talk often, but rarely do we talk deeply about topics outside of our shared profession.  Even on this occasion, her comments were superficial at best about other things going on, but I could tell more was on her mind than she was saying.  I kept my response on the surface as well, saying only, "It sounds to me like..." but in that one sentence, something unlocked.  She knew I had heard what she was really saying and she felt safe enough to start talking about the bigger issue.  Later, she wrote me a note and even bought us a small gift in appreciation.  Feigned as gratitude for looking after their animals while they were gone, she later confided it was for listening and giving her a voice for her concerns.  The problem found a solution shortly after our conversation and her entire demeanor changed.  She had been heard.  And that was all she needed.

The Mister continues to be my favorite listener.  Whether I ramble for an hour (or two) about school, nudge in my not-so-subtle ways about an idea I have, or whether I say nothing at all, he knows what I mean.  He gets me.  He hears not only the words, but the lack thereof sometimes.  He hears not only my tone but my pain, or my joy that I'm trying to disguise.  Maybe that's why I married that man who spoke about sports and home remodeling from the bar stool next to mine.  Maybe it's because when I said that night that my idea of a perfect first date was a minor league baseball game and he said, "So I have to wait until Spring to ask?" I knew, right then and there, in a crowded bar on a Saturday night, that this man had heard everything I was saying.  Right from my heart to his.  I wonder, I worry, I pray that I am half the listener he is.

Maybe, just maybe that's as simple and yet as complicated as it gets.  We just need to listen.

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

The Push

Sleep and I don't get along.  I have, over the years, attributed my insomnia to many things.  Usually stress.  September and October tend to be my worst months, so it only makes sense to blame the pressures of  a new school year on my lack of quality sleep. The truth is, it isn't stress.  Or perhaps more honestly, it isn't only stress that keeps me awake at night.  It's words. 

I write in my head all the time.  I compose, recompose, edit, alter and rewrite emails I'll never send, conversations long since over, scenes I wish had come out differently.  I work each one through, creating the perfect comeback, retort, explanation or expression for my feelings, often taking hours of sleep away just to find satisfaction in what I should have said, might have written or could have expressed better.

Tonight is no different. 

Years ago, I felt God pushing me.  I was unsettled, searching and uncertain about my direction in life.  I was single, a parent, a homeowner, gainfully employed, but I was lost.  It took me nearly three years to finally make a major move - sold my house, uprooted my child and moved - to rediscover a calling I had been ignoring.  I found myself back in the classroom, teaching in a state I had never lived in.  God knew where I needed to be, I just had to be willing to follow.

I've been feeling it again.  I've been complaining and whining and stressing but it wasn't until a few recent conversations that I've finally been able to articulate what's really going on.  I feel a push.  I don't think a cross-country move, or the selling of my home, or uprooting my family is necessarily in order this time (you can breathe a sigh of relief now, Chief), but a change is coming.  All things considered, my own mother could have predicted this change and she's been gone quite a long time now.  I recently spoke with my dad about my frustrations with my career and my need to do something that brings passion back into my livelihood.  When he, in his calm, wise, paternally protecting manner suggest I do more writing, I wondered how he had enough restraint in him to not just say, "DUH, Amy.  WRITE."  Anyone who knows me knows I love to write.  Obviously, just looking at how long I've been blogging, writing isn't a new idea at all.  I might just be the last one to admit the truth of the direction God is pushing me.

Just this week, at school, we recognized our students of the month.  I teach second grade, so the "ceremony" was little more than a pizza lunch with parents, a short, redundant paragraph read by each teacher and a colorful, clip-art filled certificate for each recipient.  And yet, I couldn't leave it at that.  I saved my "speech" for last of all my colleagues, knowing they wouldn't be happy if I went first and they read their trite statements after, but I expounded on the need to celebrate more than just the child in front of us, but all the people who shaped, educated, raised and loved this child.  While I may have quoted Hilary and her over-used "it takes a village" concept, in a few short sentences, I painted a broader picture of the importance of working together to create life-long learners and genuinely true democratic citizens of our global world.  I'll admit, it was probably a bit too philosophical for my pizza-and-coloring-page audience, but it was my 30 second stage and I took advantage of it.  Several people commented later, each and every one saying something along the lines of, "you always write the perfect thing".  Writing isn't new to me.  Sometimes it isn't even hard.

And yet it is. But it feels like I'm turning a corner.  I've always loved to write, I've always kept a journal, a notebook, jotted stories, written speeches, notes on my phone, ideas for school...it's just who I am.  But just saying that makes me realize it's bigger than that, it's who I am.  On one such note, I have a quote that I picked up along the way by my favorite author, Barbara Kingsolver.  It says, "The very least you can do with your life is to figure out what you hope for.  And the most you can do is live inside that hope.  Not admire it from a distance, live right inside it, under its roof."  I need to stop saying I like to write and start believing I am an author.  Live inside it, Amy.

And that's where it gets scary.  When my dad suggested I write, the unspoken suggestion was that I write with perhaps more intention and frequency.  "Without concern to content" is a free pass to creativity, but living under the roof of my hope to truly be an author means I need to write with intention, purpose and craft.  Maybe not right away, but the kind of writing I've always dabbled in has allowed me to be as lazy, imperfect and uncompromising as I want to be.  To move into the next phase is to actually put appropriate effort, time and care into it.  I likened it to why my dad doesn't golf anymore - the time it takes to really be good at it, has to match the desire. 

But I suspect sometime in me has the desire to really be good at it.  Not just along the "I've impressed a group of elementary parents" good, but truly good.  Good like my name is on the cover of a children's book, or good like I've been asked to present at a conference good.  A new level of good.  But good takes work.  It takes time.  It take a vulnerability that scares the shit out of me.  It isn't hard for me to impress my own class of eight year olds with a story I wrote.  But can I impress adults? 
Could I ever impress a publisher?

Live inside it, Amy.

So, lying awake at midnight on a Tuesday night, I feel the lyrics of Anna Nalick running through my head, "Two a.m. and I'm still awake writing this song, if I get it all down on paper it's no longer inside of me, threatening the life it belongs to."  This push I feel, is a need to find my passion once again.  God has used multiple people in many different ways lately to say the same words - "Write, Amy".  And so I shall.  I have no idea what that writing will look like, be about or even the structure it might take on.  But I am going to write.

For five years, I participated in NaNoWriMo - National Novel Writing Month - in November.  The goal is to write 50,000 words in 30 days, something I accomplished all five times (I even have a poster).  I haven't done it in years, but this seemed like a good impetus.  Years ago, I wrote a novel - one half during one year's NaNoWriMo, and the other half during the next year.  I printed it out months later, with the idea that I would go back, edit it and make it actually worth reading.  I was eating dinner out alone while Jacob was at youth group at church, and a person saw me marking up pages in a binder and said, 'Is that a novel?  Did you write it?"  It was one of my favorite moments in all my life.  Being able to answer yes to both was somehow so gratifying, even though I knew then (and even more so now) that the novel was absolute crap.  It was a bucket-list accomplishment for me.  I never opened that binder again. 

It's time to add a new bucket-list item.  Get published.  Somewhere, somehow, some day, get my name in print. 

Bear with me over the next thirty days as I write with abandon.  No clear direction, no pre-defined topic or structure, but just writing.  Maybe somewhere along the way I will find a spark, or nugget of something that will turn into something more.  Maybe I will know the direction I am headed once I get moving on this journey (or maybe I'll just rule out a few directions!) All I know, is when I hear my dad say something to me that sounds so very much like the exact words my mom would have said ("She'll either be a teacher, a lawyer or an author!") I think it's time to sit up and pay attention.

Thanks, Dad (and Mom) for the nudge.  Having given me this talent some forty-odd years ago, it's completely within your rights to suggest I finally get off my duff and get around to putting it to use!  The Mister is just going to have to get used to my side of the bed being empty at times (probably an improvement from the tossing and turning he's grown accustomed to sleeping with me!) As Dad said, "What have you got to lose?"

Live inside it, Amy.  Live inside it.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Cows

Delilah

Samson

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Our Farm Logo



After far more ado than would seem necessary to get to this point, we finally have a logo for our farm!  I am super excited about this!!  Not only is it awesome to have something so "official", but it also all but guarantees that there must be a calf and chickens in my future!!

Thursday, October 05, 2017

I was telling the Mister about my day, specifically about how I was trying to explain to the kiddos how words with "wh-" used to be pronounced differently (and still are in England) when he says, "like whore?"

And this is how conversations about teaching second grade just come to a screeching halt in my house. 

Friday, September 01, 2017

Herons

Some of our favorite feathered friends have been spending the summer months on Someday Farm.
This beautiful blue heron liked to hang out on the dock.  He was very skittish, so I had to creep down the lane and tiptoe through the weeds in order to get a good look at him.

The green heron lives out back in the marsh.  

I saw him from my bathroom window, crept out the back door and down the deck stairs with my camera (all in my pj's!) to see what he was up to.  He sat and sat and sat and then swooped in for a bite to eat!  Not sure if he caught a frog or a little fish or what he has, but it was gone in a flash!

The Garden

We moved the asparagus patch to the fenced in garden.
 It took off right away!
We have another raised bed ready to plant more asparagus next year. 

Our bean plants produced like crazy this year!  
We have bags and bags in the freezer already!

The cucumbers were perhaps the most prolific, (second only, of course to cherry tomatoes).
We had HUGE long cucumbers, meant for a family much larger than ours,
as well as delicious little pickles!
  
Even the strawberry plants that we moved (and lets NEVER do that again!) are thriving!
They are blooming and getting a few berries even in August!

Of course, tomatoes.  WAY too many tomatoes!
I might have gotten a little carried away in planting this year!
We have canned stewed tomatoes, tomato sauce,frozen roasted cherry tomatoes and even some tomato paste and we still have oodles!
This weekend, we are going to try canning salsa!


This is a panoramic view of the garden (so we remember what not to do next year!)  
We will certainly cut back on tomato plants next year, and we will move the sweet potatoes to someplace where they won't interfere with other plants!  
The Mister has also added more raised beds for me to move my herb garden and to get some rhubarb growing.  While I love having my herbs right outside my door, they aren't getting enough sun to produce much.  I look forward to next year and all the herbs we might have!

All in all, this has been the best garden we have ever grown.  The Mister put in so much work fencing it in, tilling, framing beds and even helping me build better supports for the tomato plants in the middle of the season.  I am so very grateful for all his work in making my little dream of a garden come true!