Last spring we had high hopes that Samson and Delilah would, well, to put it the Dixie Chicks way, "do a little mattress dancing". By fall, we called the vet thinking she must surely be pregnant as we hadn't seen any signs of her being in heat all summer. The vet, however, delivered the bad news. No calf was on its way. He did assure us that Delilah was in great health and he found no reason for concern. He gave her a vitamin shot, told us to "keep doing what you're doing" and that was that.
This week we had the vet back out. We still had no signs of her being in heat and we knew there was a shot he could give that would help jump start the process. Anticipating a fall birth, we thought this was a great time to try to get that ball rolling.
Samson wasn't too thrilled about being moved to the other pasture ahead of the vet's arrival. Sure, an extra bowl of grain is always welcome but then he seemed anxious to be back with Delilah. For her part, Delilah really didn't seem to care about being in the pen as long as there was grain to be had. The Mister has to adjust his system every time the vet comes as her horns get longer and make the confining mechanism a little more complicated. He always gets it worked out, however, and Delilah was all set and ready for the vet. And boy, do they know the vet. The moment he pulls up, she stands stock still. She watches him like the proverbial hawk. After the last visit, however, I learned that she hates shots far worse than the "check-up" even when the "check-up" puts the vet shoulder deep in her, well, you get the idea.
In any case, the vet wanted to check her out before giving her the shot and we welcomed the chance to ensure nothing was wrong again. James was just re-entering the pasture from checking on Samson when the vet calmly declared, "she's pregnant". WHAT?!?!? I turned and looked at James to make sure he heard it, too. "I'd say five or six months along," the vet confirmed. Apparently when he reached in, he was able to put his hand right on the calf's head.
At this point, I might have screamed. I might have shouted at an unreasonably excited level. I might have jumped up and down and repeatedly said, "Good girl, Delilah!! Way to go!!" A calf?!? Due in May?!? Could this be more perfect?!? The vet, who resembles Barney Fife, walked back to his truck as though a crazy woman jumping around a pasture was an every day experience for him. We threw about a hundred questions at him rapid-fire, "What do we do now?" (Nothing.) "Do we need to separate Samson when the time gets close?" (Not unless he seems to be a problem with the calf.) "How will we know when it's time?" (It will be udderly obvious. Okay, the vet didn't say that exactly, but it's my version of the story.)
We wrote the vet a check. Somehow $33.50 just doesn't seem nearly enough in my book for being shoulder-deep in a cow's arse, but it's his business, I'm not going to tell him how to run it.
I then continued to run around, jumping up and down shouting to Samson, "You did it!! Good job, Samson!!" and to Delilah, "I'm so proud of you, girl!! Way to go!! A BABY!!" Even The Mister thought I was a little over the top. We released Samson back into the regular pasture with Delilah and he went a running and bucking to see her. Maybe he was excited about the news as well, maybe it was just that she had another bit of grain from The Mister and he wanted some of that golden goodness, but either way he seemed glad to be together again. For me, I may have continued saying, "A calf!! Can you believe it?!" well into the evening, giggling all the while.
Somehow the calf to me just represents pure joy. We love Samson and Delilah to smithereens, but this calf came about on our farm, and will be ours from Day One. There are few things in this world cuter than a highland calf and we're going to have one within just a few months. Running around like a crazy woman and shouting was the least I could do with all the excitement I felt.
When we were originally talking with farmers about getting highlands of our own, several people reminded us of the importance of having more than one. "One is lonely. Two is a pair. Three makes a herd," several people told us. Samson and Delilah are creating their own little herd. Out in our beautiful pasture. I could not be more thrilled, nor feel more blessed. These magnificent beasts bring us such joy it is beyond measure (and well worth the cost of hay).
Way to go, Samson and Delilah! This is bound to be such an amazing experience for all of us.
Let me start by saying there is no creature in this world that could ever replace Eli. We both still tear up at any reminder of our beloved dog. An empty jar of peanut butter. Being outside working in the yard. Sometimes just walking in the door. Even Charlotte lying in a certain place on the carpet.
But our hearts need another dog. We are animal people and this farm just isn't complete without one. I've had my heart set on a Bernedoodle for many many years, but they were financially out of reach. For a long while, the only breeder I could even find of these adorable dogs was in Canada. Not that I ruled that out as an option but having to get a passport just to get a puppy does seem a bit extreme. Recently, however, I have found more and more breeders of Bernedoodles and the idea started to become slightly more realistic.
Last year friends of ours who have bred Bernese for years decided to breed Bernedoodles. We were overjoyed until we heard the price tag. Still out of reasonable reach for us. But then I found a breeder, new to the scene who has the same quality of dog, but since she's just starting out, they aren't quite as costly. With encouragement from my dear friend we sent off a deposit to hold our place in line for the next litter. We also visited her when she had a litter last fall and got to see the pups and meet the parents.
We got the news today that the puppies have been born. We have yet to see pictures, but being second in line for picking rights, there is hope that we will get the color combination we were hoping for but we aren't yet certain if we will get a male or female (which just means I'm in a naming crisis!) While my heart will always ache for our amazing Eli (and I'm sure the challenges of training a puppy will make me miss how easy Eli always was), it's time for us to put another four paws in this house. Sometime around mid-March our pup will come home. We are excited beyond words!
I'll post pictures as soon as they are available!!
My tooth has been hurting off and on over the past week. I called the dentist to set up an appointment and then texted James to let him know I'd be going in at "tooth-hurty" today. He didn't appreciate the pun. But my appointment really is at 2:30. Can you beat that?
The last two holiday seasons have been different around here. We've always been accustomed to sharing Jacob with his dad's side of the family and most of our family lives quite a distance, so generally speaking, our holidays have always been pretty quiet and low-key. The last two seasons haven't been different in that regard, but they've taken on a new feel. While Jacob's girlfriend has been part of our celebrations for several years, it's only the last two years that she has stayed here for the entire time Jacob is here. I admit, I underestimated the effect that would have on our family dynamics. It's not that we don't like his girlfriend, don't get me wrong, but there's a different feel to our interactions and she brings a new set of expectations, habits and attitudes to a pre-existing family dynamic.
I spoke with my dad about it recently. It might be stereotypical to say he's the wise one in our family, but he is one of the most rational, reasonable, level-headed people I know. He reminded me that the "kids" as I call them, are "adulting". "They are learning how to be adults," he reminded me. The conversation has stuck with me for the past several days. I realized today that my dad, in all his wisdom, let me vent and discuss and never once did he remind me that I had to practice "adulting" way back then, too. (I dare say I am still "adulting" on a regular basis even now!) While he didn't say it, I'm sure my dad could come up with all kinds of examples of ways I disrupted our "pre-existing family dynamics" once I became a 20-something, especially after I was married and had Jacob.
I realize I probably owe my out-laws (former in-laws) a huge apology for upsetting their family dynamics when I dated and then married their son. I did not fit their mold and sarcasm was a cuss word in their house so I have no doubt whatsoever that I upset the proverbial apple cart often and sometimes perhaps with force. I certainly didn't mean to. I was "adulting" as my dad says, and it took me a long time to learn how to do that well (again, still not so good at it at times).
I also realized how much adjusting Jacob had to do when James came into our lives. While I welcomed him emphatically with open arms, I'm sure there were times when our family dynamics shifted and Jacob probably felt the shift more than we did.
I guess in all of this, what I am learning is that perhaps we are all "adulting" and learning to embrace the new ideas, experiences and expectations of someone new to our family is part of that process - and a good part. If it's any consolation, James' mother thinks I hung the moon, so perhaps I did learn a thing or two along the way about how to adjust to pre-existing family dynamics and not to rock the boat so much. In any case, as The Mister and I adjust our holiday expectations and learn all the nuances of being empty-nesters, I hope we continue to remind ourselves of how new we once were to the adult world and we help our kids navigate those waters with as few ripples as possible. After all, that's part of being an adult, right?
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.
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 if 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 every 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.
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?"