Sunday, March 23, 2014

# 506 - Paying Attention to the Beauty

My long-time readers already know that my 7-year-old niece, Shaye, has a very special place in my heart. My sister was in the middle of her first pregnancy when our mother passed away from breast cancer. Shaye was a precious gift to all of us. That little baby helped us heal from the loss of our mother at only 57 years of age.

My mom is in the wheelchair...this was about four months before
she died. At my sister's wedding.

Life bring us suffering, but we must create our own missions and goals in life, which should include savoring the best things around us, the FREE things. We must treasure and appreciate the parts of life that are bigger than our problems for that is where we find our hope to be restored.

In the year of Shaye's birth, I experienced a year of massive of losing my mom, the next of gaining a special niece, my oldest left for college and soon house was destroyed by Hurricane Ike as my youngest daughter began her Senior Year in high-school and that was followed with a serious medical situation due to a broken neck that would need a double-spine surgery to somewhat repair the damage and then my youngest daughter was in a bad car accident that gave her a serious head injury and a broken back...more of a spinal crush/breakage. So, when someone who has been through a lot tells you to savor the best in life, then it might be good advice because those kind of people have truly learned to embrace tactics to overcome insurmountable difficulties.

Life's challenges can sometimes try to beat you over the head.

My Sissy with her daughter, Shaye, about two years old here.

But, the healing moments in my life have been more powerful than the destructive moments. Even now, those healing moments keep coming. This time of year is a bit difficult because the anniversary of my mom's passing is on March 31st. This is the time of year when I often can't help reflecting on memories that I wish to have lived without, but they are a part of me.

However, my Spring Break visit with Shaye came just in time for us to share joy with one another...and for me to remember the beauty my mother shared with all of us. My mom loved her family more than she loved herself, and I try to pass on a little bit of that kind of powerful love to Shaye.

Shaye getting to be in the barn with the chickens. She LOVES
having chickens in her life and being able to tell her friends about them.

Shaye spent four days of her Spring Break with us in the country. We treasure our time with Shaye. But, another bonus to our regular visits with Shaye has been that she gets a front-seat during our major transition from city life to country life.

In fact, over the past couple of months, her second-grade class has been studying different kinds of lifestyles with environments...comparing city life with suburban life and rural life. She told me that she was very happy to be able to tell the class that she has family who lives in the rural country and has a private road as long has her city street lined with houses. She told them about helping out with the chickens, being able to go on hikes through the woods and that she can really see the stars at night without all the city lights blocking their view.

Shaye is blessed to experience both country life and city life. She is already learning how to appreciate and SAVOR beauty in nature and to value the small "free" things because they really aren't so small.

Most often, the things with a "big" price-tag are the most worthless items in our life. They are great distractions, but we cannot let our value system become screwed up. Today's kids need to be taught these lessons.

And as much as I complain about dirt and mud...I must say that I also love it. I just don't like our vehicles being stuck in it or having it tracked inside our residence, but it sure is fun to play in.

And I am so happy that my Sissy does her best to encourage time with her Aunt, with me. I did the same with my daughters to be close to my sister...we sisters share our love for our children; we make a conscious effort to do the right thing for Shaye, to give her a strong support system, especially since she does not have a maternal grandmother.

Sometimes, when I get sad thinking of how Shaye never met her grandma, I remember the moments when the room would be silent, mom would be lying in her bed, very sick, but she'd lay a hand on Robin's pregnant belly as tears rolled down all of our cheeks. So, in a sense, she did meet Shaye...our mom felt her grandbaby growing strong; she shared a room with her unborn grandchild, and I know the most important connections possible were made during those unforgettable touches.

That baby lay comfortably curled and protected in my sissy's belly as we mourned one of the greatest losses we would personally know...the loss of our mother. So now, I want to jump for joy when I see Shaye growing up and displaying so many traits that my mother had.

I love seeing Shaye in the photo below, she is trying to sweetly coax a chick her direction as I try to contain the joy threatening to burst out of me while listening to Shaye's precious voice, "Come here baby, come to me..." she says to the chick.

I love these moments.

And I can see that the beauty in life can be overwhelming. We need it, but some people refuse to recognize it because they need to stay in their place of unhappiness. However, we need to appreciate the beauty that life provides because it can help blanket the ugliness that is always lurking. If we don't stop to look for the beauty or we don't appreciate it...then, it will pass us up or be wasted upon us.

Shaye's first trip to a Feed Store; here she gets to see the chicks.

Don't waste the beauty in nature that is everywhere...soak it in and no matter what has happened in your life or in someone else's life, you need to not feel guilty about savoring moments of joy that nature provides as a FREE GIFT! To waste those gifts would be wrong. A choice to ignore the best and to focus on the worst is not much of a choice, so enjoy the little things, the big things and all in between!

I refuse to let life make me bitter. When all the family and friends are gone and Sgt. Dave is bogged down with work to keep him busy, I might be alone, but I am NEVER lonely. I LOVE to LOVE all that nature has to offer...from the crunch of the leaves under my feet to the bloom of a wild-flower, I love it all. Well, I don't much like the huge bumble bee that chases me in a territorial rage, but I do appreciate the view as I run the other direction. Get it?

Beauty exists; joy is ready to be experienced; love is everywhere...make it yours and help to spread it around, someone else might need to be reminded to appreciate the good in life!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

# 505 - Country Difficulties with Bad Weather

Recently, our youngest daughter, Stefanie, and her boyfriend, Brice, came our place for several days. We had a great time, in spite of the constant foul weather that keeps the acreage from drying out.

Worst part about this middle transition zone from city life to the country has been the mixture of consistently bad weather with the country roads running through our acreage that present serious problems with vehicles getting stuck.

Here is Brice getting his own truck unstuck after he helped Sgt. Dave get the Dodge out of a very soft, terrible mud hole that was leading the truck toward a ditch.

It was a mess.

I've also been forced to drive through mud holes, but I have been fortunate enough to not get stuck. Interestingly, I made some stuck-in-the-mud observations. First, I acknowledged the quickest route is not necessarily the best route. I observed that good choices may be bypassed simply because of stuck-in-the-mud routines. And finally, getting stuck in the mud reminded me that life doesn't always go our way, but it is our personal challenge to do the best with what we are given and to be gracious to others, even during our worst moments.

It also made me very happy to see that my daughter is dating someone who maturely and respectfully dealt with his beautiful prized truck being stuck in the mud, the back-end precariously stuck between two oak trees as the wheels sank deeper into unstable muck. Brice kept a cool head and displayed the kind of strength that I grew up with...Brice is the kind of person who becomes more intensely focused on solving a BIG problem, and he accepts help with graciousness...that's not always easy, especially if an ego gets in the way.

Regardless, I have been reminded to be THANKFUL that I came from a family who values pulling together during hard times. I know that I was blessed to grow up in a strong, supportive family. That family still sticks to the same values...we will always be there for each other and be respectful to each other.

During Stefie and Brice's visit, even though there were farm-life disasters, we had many more farm-life awesome moments. We four had a great time on our hike. Yes, that is Brice behind us with a machete. He is so funny! On our hikes, we went into a few ravines and I would get stuck into a deep section with a steep incline that Brice would try to help me out of...but it seems I always choose what appeared to be the worst way out. And believe me, that's not new for me. Sometimes, the hardest way for others is the easiest way for me. HaHaHa. But, true!

Me and Stefie with Brice lurking in the background.

Stefie and I enjoyed our time together.

Suddenly, Stefie became concerned about being too exposed, so she improvised to create sly cover.

Sgt. Dave stayed ready to handle any wild critters that might cross our path.

The dogs enjoyed playing ball with Stefie and they loved having their doggie friends, Belle and Thor, come visit.

And it is funny to hear Stefie and Brice tell us that we live on land that makes for an AWESOME dog park.

It was fun while it lasted. Now that the kids are gone, again, I am back to my normal routine here on the acreage and am enjoying the weather as it improves.

For a chick update, all twenty chicks have survived nicely...they are healthy and growing strong. I love the variety. It is such fun watching their antics.

I love country life. Every day is an adventure!


Thursday, March 6, 2014

# 504 - Last Laying Hen is Gone - Bad Humor Ensues

Well, we found a log home builder that we seem to like and that has floor-plans we prefer. This is one of the plans we are considering with seriousness.

It is not that big, just at 1,600 square feet, but it has options to make it a larger home. One thing is for sure, we want to have plenty of space for our grown daughters and their own families with our grand-children to enjoy during their extended visits. We will do all we can to make our home welcoming for our brood.

However, I am sad tonight because my last laying hen is gone, The mysterious predator has now killed all of my full-grown laying hens. I am one sad Farm gal. It looks like the past year of free-ranging freedom is over.

Sgt. Dave has finishing buying all the supplies needed for a new chicken coop and he will start work on it, as soon as the rain stops. The weather has been horrible. The one sunny day we get is when he is at work. Things have not been going very smooth.

The twenty chicks are finally all feathered, but still very young. However, within a week's time, they will need to be moved to larger accommodation. My husband will take care of that chore. In a few days, they will be transferred to a cordoned area of the barn for another three weeks of growing bigger and stronger.

And our puppy, Gracie, has a nose on her that can smell anything! She finds bits of my chickens that were killed and she comes running out of the forest with a chunk --- running toward me with it, as if she's retrieved something valuable and CAN'T WAIT to bring it to me! The latest was a wing section that had belonged to Beaker. Not fun. As she dropped it at my feet, my heart sunk to that same level. Gracie could see that I was not happy...she wants to please and it seemed to upset her that I was not happy with her present. I tried to say, "Good girl," but it wasn't easy with the lump in my throat.

Gracie is turning out to be a really good dog. I know she will also miss her little play buddy. Gracie and Survivor literally stuck together all day. I am sickened to know the attack upon this chicken occurred after we put the dogs up. If I had let them out, then the chicken would have had her guards.

Anyway, as the chicks have been in a limited space that is reinforced for their protection, I stopped by the feed store to buy two different chick feeding systems. One just needs you to pull out a mason jar from home and you are set; the chicks love their feed!

As the chickens grow older, we have found the easiest way to feed them is through the standard feed bucket but to put the water in one of those large dog auto-watering bowls. It holds a great deal of water and the chickens learned very quickly how to drink from this bowl which is super easy to refill and clean.

I try to focus on the chicks and knowing that this next flock will be living different from our first flock. Not as much freedom on a daily basis, but I hope to keep that predator away or catch the predator in action so that I can HANDLE it, permanently.

The parting of my last full grown laying hen that I had started calling "Survivor" was very sad for me. Yes, it's a chicken, but I've had these chickens for over three years...they were a part of our daily life. They gave us eggs that we found to be delicious. Having chickens provides entertainment. It's great for the kids in the family to come over and see real chickens, to see their habits and to learn how they have an internal clock for waking up at dawn and coming back to roost in the coop at dusk, on their own.

Liyla chowing down with my first flock of chickens that
have now been killed by a predator roaming our acreage.
My daughters, Heather and Stefie are in their twenties. Our family often employs a warped sense of humor to get us through rough times. Laughing is a proven coping method, even if it is often HIGHLY inappropriate. Throughout our lives together, we've often had to flat-out HIDE our inappropriate coping methods from others because they'd be horrified, but I am sharing this round with you.

Soon after I found my chicken to be gone, as predator meat...I sent Stefie a text message about it because Stefie KNOWS my chickens are important. She helped raise those chickens. She named them, in the hopes we would never consider them for the dinner table. So, I was not expecting her next text messages as she and Brice began sending me the photos below. Yes, this is the kind of comfort I get from my kiddos...

 And Stefie says, "I love you mom!"