Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Out of Office

re·treat

rəˈtrēt/
noun
  1. 1
    an act of moving back or withdrawing.



I had to step away for a minute.

Not for too long, not too far away, but I just felt the need to step away. 
So I put up a vague out-of-office message about having no access to phone or email and left for three days. 
People probably assumed I was on jury duty or deathly ill. 
It was neither. 

I recently traveled to Ohio's Hocking Hills for a small women's retreat where we shared encouragement, ideas (has anyone thought to keep a running list of items in your freezer, then mark things off as you use them in meals - - in an effort to use what you have? Me either.), struggles we face daily (
work/home/faith balance, organization, endless to-do lists, prioritizing, this list is longer than it should be....), and things holding us back (self-doubt, anyone?). 

I won't bore you with the details, but I did want to share with you a few high-level ideas I drove home thinking about, that I thought worth sharing:


There is no perfect time, so quit waiting for it. 


There is, however, the time where you actually make a change and think to yourself: I wish I'd done it (whatever that is), sooner. 


Don't live your life in fear, live your life in faith. Because faith trumps fear, every time. 


Children are the product of a marriage. How you live now reflects wholly in them. 

Your marriage should never be a product of your children. 
Let that one sink in!
One day the kids will leave and it will just be the two of you, again. Are you doing the things now to be ready for that day?

No Service is not a bad thing. We were warned prior to the retreat that our cabin didn't have  cell service. I assumed this meant it had poor cell service. I was wrong, and it was amazing
It was big time refreshing to focus on the people around me and the intent before us, rather than the newsfeed of the world. In fact, I missed Hurricane Harvey hitting the great state of Texas. What an awakening when I returned to a place with constant connectivity. 


Nature = Nurture
Prior to attending this retreat I read about the things we'd need to be prepared for: kayaking and hiking. 
"LISTEN MA'AAAAM! 
I hike on the farm daily and the only boat I trust is the kind that holds gravy...," I thought to myself when reading the packing instructions. 
Then, I packed my favorite barn clothes and a really fancy pair of hiking boots I purchased for our first trip to Alaska. 

Kayaking and hiking were so, so needed. 
Kayaking and hiking forced me 1) out of any familiar activity 2) to disconnect further, with no service and no sense in bringing a phone into the elements 3) to get winded.
I thought a 30-pound kiddo and carrying buckets was work. 
Our 4-mile kayaking adventure lasted 9 miles. 
Now that's work. 
And confusion. 
And darn good conversation. 
And none of us able to pick up our overnight bags the next afternoon. 


I want to share something with you about kayaking. 
We thought we were traveling for four miles, but miscommunication took us five more. At every bend of the river that flowed through scenic Ohio I looked for a sign that we were getting close to the prize. 
The end. 
Dry socks. 
Rested arms. 
A freakin' snack. 

But it never came. 

I would fix my eyes on a landmark far into the distance, then shed an invisible tear when we passed it with no sign of the end. 

That turned out to be a good (great) thing. 
I laid back in my kayak and thanked God for a few days away. 
Off the farm 
Disconnected. 
I laid back in my kayak and thanked God for a group of women who made me think,"I thought I was the only one...." several times throughout the retreat. 


If you ever get the opportunity to disconnect and spend a few days away from your routine to focus on the things that matter, I truly encourage you to do so. 

I understand that we live in a culture that glorifies busy. Which is quite sad. 

We'll also be those people in twenty years who have to answer this question:
Twenty years ago I was
...traveling
...exploring
...doing things my way
...living my dream
...learning my dream
...making it work
...never satisfied

OR

...working a lot and using my thumbs mostly to see what other people my age were doing, with my head tucked down missing the world around me. 



re·treat

rəˈtrēt/
noun
  1. 1
    an act of moving back or withdrawing.


    Is it time you stepped away
    for a minute?








Wednesday, August 23, 2017

18 U.S.C. 1702 - Obstruction of correspondence

"Tell your husband to keep coming up with things for you to write about," the man in front of me in line at our tiny hometown Dollar General said, as he grabbed his receipt and headed for the door. 

"Oh, it's not a problem," I told him. "I thought Cody was to be in northern California for five days, but today I got a snapchat of a sign that read, Welcome to Reno! I'm not sure what state he's in, but I know it's a different time zone."

The man laughed as he put the receipt in his pocket and headed for his truck. He probably thought I was joking. 

When I got to my car I searched for Reno on the map; it's not far from northern California. I've been there twice, you'd think I'd know this. The guy likely thought I was wacky and strung out on mashed peas and barn fly spray. Stranger things have happened.

I drove home from daycare thinking about the man's comment and why I haven't sat down to write in three weeks. 

I'd like to file a claim:

18 U.S.C. 1702 - Obstruction of correspondence
As follows:

One day Caroline brought me a finger nail - that didn't belong to a human (so is that a claw??) from under the clothes line. I blacked out for three hours. 

One evening I spent my time researching ways to soften toddler stools. The next evening I picked pears, tomatoes and apples from our yard and garden. The next evening was spent researching poisonous insects and invisible funguses that might live on pears, tomatoes and apples from our yard and garden. 

One evening was spent opening and closing the door that shuts off our stairway to the second floor.  Each time I did it, I caught a strange whiff of something that made me uneasy. Thirty-seven swings into the investigation, I realized it smelled like the AXE body spray the guy that remodeled our upstairs (four years ago) wore during that time. It made me wonder if he insulated our upstairs with AXE rather than actual insulation...?

One morning - before 6:00 AM - was spent scrolling through 497 birthday greetings on Facebook. If you want to begin a week well, begin it this way. 

One evening was spent reading through the agenda for the ladies' retreat I'm about to embark upon. The following hour was spent googling and shopping for "what ladies wear to go kayaking".  Then paying $18 extra to have it here by Saturday. 

Four evenings/afternoons were spent baking peach pies for a cookout, a birthday party or an ill neighbor. I estimate I only consumed 3/4 lb. raw dough during this time. 

One evening was spent sending Cody photos of this frog trapped in our living room window while he sent me photos of this:




Doesn't seem fair, does it? 
I could touch my subject while sitting in our living room. 
And he couldn't. 

The obstruction of correspondence in the last three weeks has little (or nothing) to do with breaking into mailboxes or bribing a postal carrier. I guess if I had time to put in that kind of effort, I would have written every day for the last three weeks. Instead, my obstruction of correspondence has more to do with navigating a season of life where there is very little sitting down and composing my thoughts, but rather living day-by-day (or hour-by-hour?) off a to-do list that requires attention and action. And lots of oatmeal kisses

At what age do we quit feeling like we're operating in survival mode? 
I hope you responded with "33". 



Wednesday, August 2, 2017

936

When you realize how little time you get, 
you do more with the time you have. 


Beside a layer of dust, relics of our late (incredibly admirable) granddads and an ancient photo of our homestead, there is a jar of rocks sitting on a side table in our living room. 


Frankly, I don't pay much attention to the jar, until I hear Caroline moving it around and then I move quickly. A jar of that size and weight could surely hurt a girl so small. 

But when Caroline's activity forces me over to that area of our home,  the jar - and all that it represents - tends to hit me square on the chin. 

You guys. I need stitches.

The glass jar is filled with 936 rocks.


936 rocks represent the number of weekends you have with your child before they go to college. 
Our church gave us this jar and asked us to remove a stone each weekend, so that we can recognize the number of weekends we have left to teach and guide our daughter before she frequents a space where we aren't always around.

When you realize how little time you get, 
you do more with the time you have. 

I thank you for reading this blog right now.  Sincerely
You are supporting me in more ways than you know. 

But I want you to put down your phone, close your iPad or shut down your computer and look around you. 

(but not until you read this next part!!)

Time is so limited. 
Time is so, so, so, so, so limited. 
With those we love, and those we need, and those we miss in a way we didn't know we could. 

If we have 936 weekends with Caroline between birth and when she moves to college, and we received this jar less than two months before her first birthday, and I'm writing this more than a month later................I think we basically have 3 weeks left together as a family before I have to do her first college visit. 
But I'm not good at math, so that may be off a bit. 

The point is: time moves really quickly. 

And I know that days are long and you dread the Mondays and you crave the weekends but each minute of those long hours comprise your life and the time you have left with the really amazing people that make up your story. 

I haven't taken a single stone out of Caroline's jar. 
Honestly, I think it would give me anxiety to see the bottom of the barrel. 
I cry when the I see the bottom of the Rocky Road tub - add babies to this deal and I'm DONE. 
Instead, I skip blogs, I skip sleep and I use more dry shampoo than a 32-year-old mother should ---- it saves me time, darn it. 


But I don't miss first words and first touches and first bruises (we have a lot of those these days). 

Today I want you to put down your phone, close your iPad or shut down your computer and look around. 

Nothing on this screen is comparable to those around you. 

936. 

When you realize how little time you get, 
you do more with the time you have.


Quit lookin' at my rocks. 
Go love your own. 


Thursday, July 13, 2017

Parenthood: Year One

We're now the proud parents of a one-year-old, and if the first year is indication of how the rest of them will go: 


Fasten your seat belts, folks, 
and keep all limbs inside the vehicle.
This ride is fast




Wow - year one went quickly. 

Mostly because this is how we spent the first twelve months:

Month One
Month one was mostly spent learning how to function on church lady meals (amazing), three-minute showers and way too much daytime television. It was spent trying to come to terms with the fact that I would likely never sleep again. Month one was mostly spent with Caroline and I crying a lot, Cody wondering what the heck happened to his bride and me washing baby clothes so big, I never thought she'd grow into them. Month one was spent wrapping her in a blue light blanket and praying for a good outcome. Month one was spent losing the same cup of coffee multiple times. It was spent counting my blessings until I fell asleep. Month one was my favorite month. 



Month Two
Month two was mostly spent wondering if Caroline was getting enough to eat. And googling stomach sizes of infants and researching ways to increase milk production and calling the pediatric center daily. Month two was spent tapping containers on the counter top to get just one more drop into the bottle. It was spent pulling the car over to the side of the road to get in the back seat to check if she was still breathing because she had miraculously quit crying. Month two was spent warming the same cup of coffee in the microwave three times before finishing it. It was spent counting my blessings until I fell asleep. Month two was my favorite month. 

Month Three
Month three was mostly spent and washing, folding and sorting the baby clothes (that I thought she'd never grow into) so they could be moved to storage because she had outgrown them. Month three was spent trying to get into a really solid routine so that month four wouldn't hurt so badly. It was spent crossing state lines in an airplane and learning how to travel with an infant - nearly perfectly. It was spent packing and unpacking suitcases and realizing you can never pack too many burp cloths. Month three was about getting out and going. Even though, on one trip to my Grandma's I pulled over at these locations to check her, as her neck appeared weird in the backseat mirror: 
  1. Abandoned Copper Kettle restaurant gravel lot (100 yards from our driveway)
  2. Economy fruit stand
  3. Closed down Williamsburg general store
  4. Stuckey's at Centerville Road and I-70
  5. Centerville Christian Church
  6. Abington Fire Station
  7. Aunt Debbie's driveway
  8. Empty parking lot in Boston
Then I drove way too fast, four more miles to Grandma's. The 40-minute trip took well over an hour. We both napped upon arrival, and Great-Grandma found us boring. Month three was my favorite month. 

Month Four
Month four was mostly spent crying on the way to work and exceeding the speed limit on the way back to the daycare after work. It was spent not working a minute past 5:00 and being the first person out of the parking lot. Month four was spent calling the daycare every day to ensure Caroline was ok and to see if she'd asked about me. And scrolling through photos and video on my phone every time I needed a break from my career. Which was once an hour. At least. Month four was about finding joy in the 5:00 AM hour, waking before the rest of the world and holding someone so small, so tight, in such darkness, realizing how precious those moments are. Month four was my favorite month. 

Month Five
Month five was mostly spent sitting at the top of the creaky farm house steps on Saturdays, waiting on a baby to fall and stay asleep. It was spent judging breathing patterns from twelve feet away and trying to see a little chest move up and down. Month six was spent trying to figure out how I was going to get back down the extremely squeaky stairs without undoing everything I just did. Month five was about learning to let go and let sleep. Everyone. Month five was spent trying to quietly hide from an emerging, energetic personality. Month five was my favorite month. 

Month Six 
Month six was mostly spent packing for a Christmas adventure to Kansas then wondering if we'd ever survive it. It was sorting through weeks of clothes, for a 5-day trip and cramming diapers into every available space inside a Ford F-250. Month six was about learning how to travel via stock trailer, not airplane, while working around a baby and a few cow/calf pairs. Month six brought a whole new joy to the holidays. Month six was spent humming the same two songs over and over to get the baby to sleep: Silent Night and the theme song from Cheers. Month six was my favorite month. 

Month Seven
Month seven was mostly spent in Carhartts and insulated boots. It was spent zipping and unzipping many layers, feeding and checking cows in the dark 6:00 PM hour and being thankful the diesel growl of a Kubota puts a baby to sleep. It was mostly spent wondering who in the he** engineered the blue ball waterers that constantly freeze and if there is a warrant out for their arrest. It was spent begging a baby to try bananas and green beans. Then wiping bananas and green beans off the dining rooms walls. Month seven was my favorite month. 




Month Eight
Month eight was mostly spent traveling for work and taking a round-faced, brown-eyed baby with me. It was learning that no one sleeps well in a hotel room and no one can get out of Evansville, Indiana fast enough. Month six was spent chipping ice out of water tanks and  putting mittens on a baby who must suck her thumb. Month eight was a real humdinger. It was spent trying to make our way through 3 (more) teeth, 2 (more) ear infections and many more wipe-downs of the dining room walls. Month eight had all of us nearly tearing down the walls to reach fresh air outside. Month eight was my favorite month. 

Month Nine
Month nine was mostly spent wondering how you get a baby to sit still long enough to get her hair in a rubber band and out of her eyes. I was spent it wondering if it's too early to spritz some tail adhesive in the mess and call it done. Month nine was spent wondering how someone so small can find every lady bug in the house, after we had to spend an entire weekend at home because I couldn't find my car keys. Month nine was mostly spent on the living room floor clapping and singing and giggling and wishing bedtime wasn't so early but thanking God that rest was minutes away. Month nine was my favorite month. 

Month Ten
Month ten was mostly spent removing batteries out of remote controls and putting covers over all reachable outlets; then realizing she has really good reach. Month ten was spent outside studying trees and blooms and rain drops and baby calves. Month ten was spent touching everything and washing our hands a lot. It was spent learning that baby teeth are the sharpest teeth in the history of the world and their jaws can move quite quickly. Month ten was spent logging many hours swinging in the tree and dancing in the kitchen. Month ten was spent waiting for the gagging noise, then peeling a piece of the Angus Journal out of the roof of her mouth, againMonth ten was my favorite month. 

Month Eleven
Month eleven was mostly spent taking imaginary bites of soggy graham crackers when the baby wanted to share. It was spent hugging and kissing her dolly and teddy bear when she thought you should and helping her climb onto her rocking horse every morning and every night. Month eleven was spent picking white seeds out of seedless watermelons and squeezing her into a swimsuit two nights a week. Month eleven was spent folding clothes in the 11:00 PM hour and wiping your tears with footie pajamas that have grippers on the feet because you realize how fast life goes when you're living for something new. It was spent doing a "cheek check" after dinner and again before bed because you realize babies and chipmunks are both hoarders. Month eleven was learning that there is something incredibly intriguing about me stepping foot inside the bathroom. Month eleven was my favorite month. 



Month Twelve
Month twelve was mostly spent on my hands and knees, wiping spilled milk up of the kitchen floor and whispering "spill-proof my ass" before coming back up to where the baby could hear me. It was spent looking in the refrigerator and finding things that can be cut into tiny pieces that will - even after mopping the floor - end up stuck to the bottom of my bare foot as I walk to the bathroom at 2:57 AM. It was spent learning to not be surprised when the baby brings me things - such as little pieces of steak, that is now beef jerky - that I haven't served for two weeks. Month twelve is about wondering where toddlers hide food and if the house might have an ant problem. Month twelve is what we just got through, where we learned moreso everyday that children don't need stuff or over stimulation. They need hugs and experiences. Month twelve was my favorite month. 



I offer sincere thanks to each of you 
who have encouraged me through motherhood over the last year. 
I've wanted to be a mother since I met my own, 
but it wasn't until I became one 
that I realized just what motherhood entails. 

And we haven't even approached 
potty training, 
long division or 
wedding dress shopping. 

Prayers appreciated. 

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Making the Ordinary Come Alive

I heard the following three lines - or something much like them - several times over the last two months:
Big party planned for Caroline's first birthday?
What's the theme of her party?
You probably have a Pinterest Board completely dedicated to her first birthday bash. (<- That person obviously didn't know me well.)

And then Cody began asking what our plans were. I was quite honest with him right out of the gate: I don't want a party, I just want to enjoy the day. 
He was all in.

Caroline spent her first birthday having bananas and milk, and a graham cracker or two. 
She checked cows with her dad and watered the garden with me.
We read books we'd not yet cracked opened from her baby shower more than a year ago.
Her cousins came over and she had help opening pretty wrapped presents. 





We swam (splashed) in the kiddie pool for just a bit before an inch of rain came over the farm. By the way - we've had 10 inches of rain in the last 12 days. 


Then the cousins left and we took a tour of the yard and barn lot in the wagon (better known as a utility cart) that we got Caroline (or, me. Think of all the buckets that bad boy can hold!) for her first birthday. 




After a solid nap, we headed to Bowman Superior Genetics to celebrate with one set of grandparents.

And Midge. 


Lots of crawling - it's faster than walking right now

 I made cupcakes for the occasion 
and made enough to send 6 home with 
Mom and Dad's help, James. 

This is probably the same tissue paper 
I used when wrapping Mom's Christmas gift. 
I get it honest. 

Who loves who more?

This wasn't a gift, but it's sure fun to ride 
when we visit Grandpa and Grammie's. 

"You're going to blow out the fire stick 
before I have to eat that, right?"



She always lets us know when it's time to head home. 

We wrapped up the day checking cows again (this time with a graham cracker in hand) and one last wagon ride for the day. 



We didn't really think this part through. 

One day we'll splurge. 
And we'll go over the top. 
And we'll invite family and friends. 
And I will spend more than $4.17 on her party food (cupcakes and icing).
And I might even have a Pinterest board of ideas and must-dos. 
But I don't know when that will be. 
Perhaps her wedding?

For now, Cody and I are spending our time exploring life's ordinary with Caroline. 


No question that - for Caroline's first birthday -
we made the ordinary come alive. 



Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Side Ditch Surprise

If Mom hadn't called, I would have never noticed the side ditch surprise. 

Let me back up. 

On Monday night I took Caroline to her first ever Wayne County Grand National of the World. 
Which is also our county fair, but by the way some parents act, you'd think their kids were competing for some sort of international-full-ride-scholarship-title. 
I digress. 

Anyway, I picked up Caroline from daycare, stopped by mom and dad's to circle the wagons then we headed to the fairgrounds. We didn't make it through all the livestock barns, but we had a ball seeing many of the moving parts of a mid-America county fair. 

Then Mom offered to do something she would have never done for her own children: She offered to buy a pony ride for each of the grandkids that were there that evening. After dishing out half of her life savings to a gal who was wearing a Jim Beam apron and speaking Spanish to run-down ponies, Caroline, Oscar and Georgia (cousins) saddled up for three rides around the pen. 


Many thanks to my friend Heather for snapping these photos for me. 
Check out Heather's site!

Mom, why do you always get me in these situations?


This was Caroline's expression during the entire 4-minute ride

She held tight to the horn and rode that pony like a real prairie queen. Or a terrified 11-month-old. Either way - it was fun...until our time was over. WOWZA can this little girl throw a fit when you're peeling her off a pony. 

Cody is in Kansas hosting 45 Argentines this week so I was anxious to send him pictures of our little girl on a little pony.  He has also done some time in the saddle, you know. 


The next day...

Yesterday I went to the post office; on my way back to the office Mom called. 
I'll be quite honest: my favorite song was on the radio and I considered not answering, and calling her back when the song was over. 

I'm so glad I answered. 

We chatted all the way (7 minutes) back to the office, then I put my car in park in the co-op parking lot as we visited more. But then something got my attention. Something across the street. 

"Mom. Wait. You know that tanning salon across from the co-op?"
I asked, unaware if she answered or not. 
"I think there is a tiny saddle out front. Let me call you back."

I hung up on my mother. 

You guys. Don't ever hang up on your mother. 
Unless you spy a tiny saddle in the side ditch of the tanning salon that also sells used cars. 
Next to the muffler shop. 
Across the street from the gas station best known for syringes hidden in toboggans in the back lot. 

I got out of my car and crossed the busy street, anyway. 


I've always been a junkie for junk. 
I was actually on a date once when I asked the guy to pull his truck over so I could load two antique doors out of someone's trash pile and into the bed of his truck. 
We didn't have a second date. 
But I still have those damn doors. 
Anyone need doors?

Anyway....
So when I saw a little saddle laying in the grass along a busy road, I thought back to the previous night and the joy (I think? Her face didn't change until the dismount) Caroline had riding a pony. 

I texted Cody, unsure if he'd be able to answer me with his international guests. 

It was right about then that I remembered that Cody is Harry Shepler's great-grandson. He doesn't exactly take saddles lightly.
Also, we're first-time parents who think our daughter can take on the world: 




Twenty minutes later I left the tanning salon with no sun, but a saddle I spotted in the front yard, for a horse that we don't even own.





This story is a two-part lesson:

1. Always answer the phone when your mother calls. You never know what slowing down for a few minutes and visiting with her will do for you. 

2. Take time - even in a world glued to cell phones - to notice all that is going on around you. In the hustle and bustle of a busy day (and life), how often do we miss opportunities because we're not even aware of the things that surround us? I may not be talking about discounted toys or treasures; I may be talking about people. 

Caroline turns one in ten days. 

There is work 
- scrubbing - cleaning - oiling - polishing -
 to be done 

Stay tuned.