Rainy January

This month has mostly seen us dealing with rain, rain, and even more rain.  The ground has had little chance to dry out and firm up and we are all just feeling that the world is rather bleak.  We’re still hoping for some snow this winter, but who knows what the next month or so will bring?  The few days that we had super cold temperatures the skies were also startlingly clear.

Our energy levels are down, there’s a few cases of the sniffles, and mostly we all just want to hibernate in our beds where it’s dry.

Every so often, though, we have been gifted with stunning sunsets and misty fields.

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You could almost grab your cup of tea and pretend you’re in Britain somewhere; wouldn’t that be lovely?

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Sadly, it’s too warm to break out the Aran sweaters for now.

Maybe next month?

On Children and Fashion

The other day after we finished school I decided to treat the kids to a trip to Trader Joes.  I had to make the trip anyway, and the kids seemed to be a bit stir crazy.  I also, apparently, wasn’t thinking too clearly about just how horrible it is to shop with my kids.

Either way, I told them all to get dressed appropriately for going out in the winter-like temperatures and off they scattered into their rooms.

Oona came back downstairs first, wearing a hodge-podge of colors and clothing: a maroon floral knit dress (short sleeved) over a pair of jeans, with 2 unmatched socks and a pink handknit sweater.  The crowning touch? Her bright turquoise glittered Toms shoes.

This outfit, coupled with her unwashed, pink hair was…..interesting.

Neve came down second in a white billowy sundress with spaghetti straps.

I sent her back to the drawing board, hearing her shout all the way that she has no sweaters (I assure you, as a mother, as a former upstate New Yorker, and as a knitter, that kid has all the warm clothes she could ever need).

Emily came down in black skinny jeans with one ripped knee, a button-down shirt, a way-too-big tan trench coat, high heel shoes and a green wig that covered her face.

I said no to the trench coat and the heels.  She swapped them for boots and a velvet coat and knit scarf.

Well……she tried, I guess.

Neve ended up with black leggings that she has worn every day for at least a month (I have to sneak them into the wash when she is asleep); I noted they were covered in lint and fur and probably sheep slobber.  On top she had a yellow tee shirt.  She managed to fins a pink sweater and threw on some black dress shoes.

Her hair was a tangled mess and it took my forever to brush it out.  Ten minutes later, it was snarled again.

This is what I took with me into public.

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Sorry for the crappy picture – I took it with my phone.

The thing about it is this: as much as  I worry about the judgmental stares from people (and yes, I do get them, especially with a 6 year old with pink hair), it’s not a battle that’s really worth fighting.

They need to express themselves, and as long as it’s not inappropriate, they don’t need me freaking out about it.  This was another reason we chose homeschool; at these young ages they are trying to figure out who they are as people, and I want their focus to be on their minds and hearts, not their looks.  If they are worried about being judged for how they look they are focusing on their outward selves before they have even figured out who they are on the inside.  And if my kids are worried, they sure aren’t showing it.

I’d call it my parenting win for the week.

Partings

Sunday night was the last book club for our dear friend Theresa.  Tomorrow she and her family are moving to New Jersey, where her husband will be taking on a new role as a professor.  While we wish them well in their new home and exciting new adventures to come, Theresa’s departure leaves a void not easily filled (and I doubt we’ll even try).

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Gabi made a lovely stack of  books cake with three of Theresa’s favorite books we’ve read (The Thirteenth Tale, The Shadow of the Wind, See You in A Hundred Years).

It was a bittersweet night; trying to get as much Theresa as we could before having to say goodbye, while remembering our favorite – and funniest – moments from our collective past.  We tried to find meaningful ways for her to “take us with her” in a sense – a margarita glass signed by all of us, a framed print of our group photos from the beach, and a book charm bracelet with some of our books.

It will be sad, moving forward, but we still have email and skype, and she will continue to join us at the beach every summer.

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I can tell you I am particularly proud to have known Theresa, as she joyously and fearlessly embraced my journey to become a shepherd and farmer, lending a hand wherever and whenever possible.  She came through and saved our backsides when it came time to process our meat chickens – without her help it would have been a lot worse, I assure you.  Not for nothing do we refer to each other as “soul sister”.  Her daughter Zoe and my Oona have been fast friends – making this bittersweet for Oona as well (or just bitter, if you ask her).

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Good luck, Theresa. You really are the sweetest of us.  We’ll miss  you dearly.

The Best Kind of Homecoming

Y’all.

I can’t even talk right now, I am just so.  Well.

This is what we did today.  With the help of Emily the Shearer Extraordinaire, we packed up our livestock (and dogs) and brought them home.

At long last.

I have spent so long waiting for this. Worrying. Fretting. Wondering.  My anxiety in bringing them home was great – it has been so long since there have been big animals here, and I was nervous over the getting them here portion.

Now they are home, and I feel like that part of me that has been missing is back, too.

There is still a lot of cleanup work left to be done, and it will take some time for everyone to adjust to their new space.  Our guard dog, Orzo, has his brother George along with him to help him adjust (also to help train George for our good friend Lisa, who is very large with baby right now).

The only part missing from this moment is Susan Gibbs, who is In Texas right now being her very busy self.  I could not have gotten through these last few years without her, and I certainly could not have made all of this happen without her help, advice, sense of humor, and well, animals!  She’s always helped me keep my head on straight and brought me back down to earth when I’ve been overwhelmed by worry.  I owe her a lot that I will never be able to pay back.

I am still nervous for everyone to be okay and settle in and I am sure I will be overly protective and OCD about them for a while.

But I am also insanely, ridiculously happy and fulfilled. 

Here’s to the start of something wonderful.

Quiet Morning Knitting

With school starting in a week there is an awful lot on my plate that needs attention.  Lesson plans have to be finished, the garden has to be readied for fall, chicken coops will soon need their seasonal clean – out, as will the freezer and pantry.  It’s time to finish up the summer sewing, harvest every last bit of basil to make pesto ravioli for the freezer, enjoy the pool one last time before the weather turns.

There’s also a culvert to be dug so we can easily cross the stream to bring hay and feed and water to the animals that soon will reside there.

There’s excitement all around as everyone senses the soon to come change in season.  Apple picking will come before we know it and the house will be full of the heady scents of cinnamon and ginger and cloves.

 

But for now I am enjoying those rare late – summer mornings when I am the only one awake.  I can enjoy my coffee and work on a sock while enjoying the view out of my new craft – room’s window.  That’s where the morning glories have started to bloom.  This year there are purple, white and fuschia flowers.  Every year they really take off right around this time, telling me it’s almost my birthday.  It’s almost our favorite time of the year.

One of Those Encounters

I think it is generally agreed that I have my share of bizarro encounters while out and about.  I have that kind of aura, I guess.  You know how it goes – if there’s an unhinged person in line at Starbucks, I’m 100% sure to be the one they unload on.  I’m especially a sucker for the high – functioning types.  I’m generally a few exchanges into small talk with a normal seeming stranger before the crazy rears its head and it’s too late for me to back out and pretend not to notice.

Like the time a few years back when some guy at the car wash asked if I liked driving my Saab and what kind of mileage it got? And he seemed nice, if a little immature.  Until he busted out a water hose and started spraying me down with it.

Then there’s the creepy drive – thru guy at our Dunkin Donuts that acts like I’m his long lost love – interest every time I pull around to pay for my iced vanilla latte.  “Oh I didn’t know it was YOOOUUUU.  So……girl…..how you been, eh???” Picture him leaning half out of the window and looking all bedroom – eyed and you get the idea.  I’m pretty sure he does this to all the ladies, but it’s still annoying when my kid’s screaming in the back seat and it’s raining into my car and I just want my damn latte and he thinks it’s time to bust a move.  Note to corporate DD: I’ve stopped going there because of this.

So today’s crazy encounter didn’t seem to be out of the ordinary. At first.

I had to run to Food Lion for some lunch items for the kids and I didn’t want to be out very long because Oona was melting down.

I got my basket of things and found an open register where a woman with a few vegetables was just paying.  I thought.

She was paying for something, but not the veg.  So when she finished (and I had all my items on the belt) the cashier looked at her and said “So….we’re just waiting on him then?” 

And the girl nodded her head and I thought great. But, it happens quite a lot that people will walk away like that and make the rest of us wait.  I learned a long time ago there’s no point in getting upset over it.  So I started playing with my phone.

And waiting. And waiting some more.  And then more.  I tweeted that I was waiting, but I didn’t look up from my phone.  The cashier was obviously in a state of annoyance and I didn’t want there to be a fuss so I pretended all was well.

Then he shows up.  I pick up my head as he’s saying “Sorry I just needed this” and for some reason I will never know, he gives me the most wicked, “I love that I kept you waiting” grin.  Not knowing what to do, I smiled back feebly and looked back at my phone while he paid.  Or, while his woman paid.  At which point, while the cashier is bagging everything and making change, the guy walks around behind me, grabs a few packs of gum, walks back around in front of me again and hands it to the cashier.

The cashier says “I’m sorry, did you want to add that to your order?”

And then.  And then he says “NO.  I want to make a new order with this”.  And gives me that smile again.

And that’s when my phone rang.  Neve wanted to know if I would be home soon.  “Well”, I said, “If I ever get out of here”. 

I didn’t make eye contact, but I said it clear enough to be sure they heard me.  And I looked straight at the woman as I said it.

Then they left.  And this is where it should have ended.  With me saying “What a bunch of inconsiderate assholes” and them saying “Wow what an impatient bitch”.

But this is me, and I live in crazy -  people land.

So after I paid and left the store and got to me car I noticed another car pull up behind me.  I was just opening my door to get in and I can see it’s them.  Pointing at me.  Obviously.  And the girl is laughing with that same wicked look on her face that her male counterpart had had earlier.

I GOT IN MY CAR AND SHUT THE DOOR.

They very, very slowly, they pulled next to me, then in front of me, then left.  I didn’t look at their car to get a tag # because I had the distinct impression they were trying to pull me into something I had no desire to be a part of.

I drove home a bit rattled.

What could I have done differently?   Would it have mattered if I had not answered my phone and said anything?  I promise you if I ever kept anyone waiting in line like that someone would have read me the riot act.

Bottom line is, of course not.  They had something not right about them from the get – go.

I can tell you with absolute certainty it won’t be the last time something like this happens. I can only hope they all turn out hilariously so I can at least write about it.

 

 

 

 

 

The Kindness of Strangers

I’ve been meaning to post this for awhile now.  Something happened this summer that deserved a post all its own and at the right time.  I think this is it.

Many of you know that my husband Paul works away from home a lot.  As in, you never know if he’ll be in the same state from day to day.  For a good portion of this summer he’s been working in Mesa, Arizona.  What he does for work is not important to this story.  What is important is that Paul suffers from chronic back pain that’s bad enough for him to seek out treatment even while on the road.  So, while he was in Mesa, he found a chiropractor to treat his back pain and teach him some yoga moves to improve his mobility.

While he was checking out after a Saturday morning appointment, a distraught woman came in to the office asking to use the phone.  She was missing a shoe and crying, but otherwise looked average.  She tried to explain that her cell phone had died and she needed to call someone to come and get her, but astonishingly, she was refused.  Worse, she was asked to leave.

Paul followed her out the door.  He realized that there he was, several hours away from needing to report in to work, with a paid – for rental car and no reason in the world to not help this woman.

Thankfully she saw something in Paul that allowed her to trust him and she told him her story.

She was a divorced mother of young children who had been persuaded the previous evening by friends to leave her kids with her ex and go out on the town.  Despite her misgivings she went.  She ended up having too much to drink and a man she rebuffed outside a bar called the police and reported her for public drunkenness.

She was arrested and taken to jail to sober up.  Which she did, quickly.  By morning she was released, but had lost a shoe somewhere and her phone calls to friends went mostly unanswered.  Those who did answer were not willing or able to pick her up and bring her the 20 or 30 miles back home.  Having no option, she began walking, but her cell phone soon died and it was quickly becoming too hot to walk with just one shoe (remember this was in the middle of the summer in Mesa, which reached 120 many times this year).

All of the various stores and businesses she approached to ask for a phone call refused and asked her to leave.  By the time she met Paul she was crying and at her wit’s end.

Paul let her use his cell phone and then drove her halfway home; her ex – husband met her and brought her the rest of the way.

What astonished Paul, and later me as well, is how many people turned down this mother who desperately needed help when it would have cost them nothing. That could have been me.  That could have been any of my friends or family, and it’s mighty disheartening.

There’s only one explanation I can come up with for this uncharitable behavior on the part of so many. This woman was Hispanic.  Though well – dressed and articulate she was clearly not white in a town perilously close to the Mexican border, where immigration tensions run high.  Never mind that she’s not necessarily Mexican.  Or illegal.  She looked the part.

Now, I am not here to debate the immigration or border situation in the country right now.  I am not even going to offer you my opinion on the whole mess.  Because really, this is not about immigration or politics.  This is simple humanity.

Refusing to help one woman in need because she *might* be illegal will not encourage more illegals.  It will not send a message to anyone, except that you are unkind to your fellow man.  Or at least a certain “kind” of fellow man.  I understand the frustration and the very difficult situation at the border, I really do.  That is no excuse for bad behavior.  I am going to repeat this: politics are not an excuse for maltreatment, neglect or abuse, no matter your leanings.

My husband saw a woman, a mother, a fellow human in need. Period.

At one point or another in life, we are all human beings in need.  Let us hope that there is a kind stranger for US to turn to.

Another Solstice

It’s the summer solstice today.  The first official day of summer. The longest day of the year. The day after which all days will begin to shorten.

This is a day we enjoy celebrating.  There’s no commercial or familial obligations; most people barely acknowledge it.  It’s a day for us to celebrate something more basic – the change of seasons.  More specifically, today we celebrate the best parts of summer.

Traditionally, this is best done outside.  Swimming all day, or peach – picking like last year.  Eating all our meals outside, the last one under a growing canopy of night, the starts just beginning to twinkle and the fireflies and bats just beginning to show.  Later on, a campfire with marshmallows and games or stories.  Maybe even singing.

This year, the weather wasn’t that cooperative.

We tried swimming, but as today was the first day over 80 degrees in a week or two the pool water was decidedly too cold.  Besides that, various thunderstorms rattling through the area kept us inside as well. There won’t be any eating outside tonight (too muggy and buggy), no fireflies, no bats.  (Well, there might be, but between the clouds and mist, and whatnot, you know).

So we’ve tried out more of the quiet, unsung sweet parts of summer.

Making blueberry muffins (and eating them all before even one picture could be taken).

Quietly watching the approach of a summer storm (a non – threatening, no – tornado kind of storm) from the safety of the front porch.

Making a round of Butterbeer for the kids.

Reading (Emily is working on the 4th Harry Potter book, Neve the first.  I am reading the 3rd book of The Hunger Games trilogy.  Riveting!)

Napping (okay, that was just me).

And enjoying our favorite two summer foods for dinner: corn on the cob, and pesto.

We feel pretty good about this low- key solstice.  We’ll be back to our favorite summer activities soon enough.

Happy Solstice to you all!