Thursday, October 30, 2014

a hurdle overcome

Two Scrabble games in today and Blake and I are one to one.  It's one of the joys of homeschooling that you can have your child home to play board games with on a weekday.  As we played, the chickens took up residence on the back step, peering in the sliding glass door, spectators of Scrabble maybe?

I'm going to miss my boy when he heads off to the high school next year.  We've already reached the end of the first quarter!  Austin is also just finishing his first quarter at the school.  And that leads me to a story I wanted to relate.

Last spring we began the steps to transfer Austin into the high school.  The 9th grade counselor assisted us in choosing his classes for 10th grade and a course of action toward graduation.  Unfortunately, she told us, the school would not be able to accept the 9th grade credits he had earned through our homeschool.  We did not work under a charter school and we were not a state accredited entity therefore our credits would not be recognized.  I almost cried in her office as I explained to her how hard we had both worked his 9th grade year to just have it all be for nothing.

His options to make up these credits would be a) staying after school every day and redoing the classes, b) summer school (at $75 per credit), c) an online school that allows you to work through courses at your own pace ($150 - $200 per class).

Over the summer I rolled those options over in my head.  But I didn't give up hope that we could change the tide.  School started up again, Austin now enrolled in the high school full time.  There was a time of adjustment, some acclimating that happened.  But still, there was that dread knowing that he somehow was going to need to make up those classes to graduate.  Or we had the option for him to not graduate and instead earn his GED.  Or I could combine his homeschool transcript with the high school's transcript and issue him a homeschool diploma.  Believe me, I entertained every idea.

Austin took the California Achievement test online, here at home.    Before he took it, I explained to him that we needed to get some idea of what level he was on, something concrete to show the school, if we even wanted a fighting chance.  Those scores ended up being arrows in our quiver.

I created a very professional looking transcript of Austin's 9th grade year.  Armed with the transcript and the scores from the CAT, my husband and I met with the 10th grade counselor.  She was doubtful.  She gave us our other options (summer school, online school, etc...) and told us she'd give the transcript and CAT scores to the principal who would, ultimately, be making the decision.

During this whole time I was very transparent with Austin.  I expressed my concerns and made him aware of all of our options.  He gave his input and I listened.  I've learned that with a teenager, you have to listen not only to what they say, but also to what they don't say.  I encouraged him to have faith that this would work out in our favor.

I gave the counselor a week and a half before I contacted her by email.  My email was very heartfelt and professional, just checking in on the status of the credits, etc...

A few days later she responded.  "I'm very happy to tell you that the principal has decided to accept the English credit!"  She explained that his test scores had a large part in this decision.  She went on to explain that they still needed a little more information on the rest of the classes before making a decision and could I please supply them with such and such.

I was elated!  To know that, in the face of this hurdle, we had achieved this little victory.  It was encouraging to know that the public school system, with all it's flaws and naysayers, had done us this justice and was willing to continue working with us.

Now, with the ball in my court again, I had to sit down and organize the information they needed.  The CAT test had supplied them with Austin's scores in a portion of the subjects but they needed to see results from History, Science, and Art.  I kept great records last year so I had everything they needed available.  Like I had with the transcript, I formulated a concise and detailed record.  I included a break down of each class, quarter grades, test scores, and semester grades.  All beautiful and complete, I emailed it off.

That very afternoon the counselor emailed me again.  The principal had approved the credits!  He is in line with all of his requirements and set to graduate as planned.  Hallelujah!!

The one credit that they were not able to transfer over was for the Bible Survey class Austin had completed in 9th grade.  Because the school itself does not offer a class like that they weren't able to use the credit.  Really, I'm ok with it.  I'm thankful for the amount that they were willing to work with us after being told it just wasn't going to be possible, or at least highly unlikely.

Now we set our faces forward once again.  As the parent of a public schooled student I shift my responsibilities slightly.  I check his grades weekly on our school's family access site.  I can view missed assignments, test scores, assignment scores, etc...  Every day I ask him about his classes, ask about homework, ask what they are talking about in class, ask about who he sits by, ask about the teacher, ask about what's happening at school, ask how lunch was, ask if he met anyone new, ask if he's sleeping well.  And it annoys him sometimes but I feel like it's so important.  There are days where I tread gently and don't push very hard and there are other days that he's willing to open and up and bare what's inside.  It's a fine line.  And I never want to sever that cord of trust that binds us.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, this being a parent stuff is not for the fainthearted!

But YAY for little victories and hurdles overcome!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

life living

There was a lot of life living around here this past week.  It was busy and full and that's just how it goes sometimes.  I prefer the quiet, lazy life but, I also understand that there is this great wonderful adventure that needs living and sometimes I just have to force myself to go out and live it.
Early in the week we took a second trip to the pumpkin patch.  The whole family sat at the table together and carved the pumpkins that now decorate our front step.  We don't normally carve pumpkins.  We have in the past.  And we have not.  And sometimes we have painted them.  This year was our best carvings ever.  We were really feeling it I guess.
We also had a new roof and gutters put on our house this week.  It was a loud, messy process.  The poor roofers had to work in the rain most days, but the finished product looks so nice!  I'll try to remember to get some before and after pictures up here.  I'm just so pleased with the transformation in the outside of our place.  As most homeowners can attest, it is a work in progress that is never really complete.
My husband's birthday was this week as well.  I made him this gorgeous carrot cake.  It's ok that I call my own cake gorgeous, right?  Well, I was mighty pleased with it.  AND, it was delicious.  It was fully devoured by the next day.

I took myself to our high school's choir concert on Thursday, it was a cheap solo date.  I sat in awe of the talented kids and their wonderful director.  Since I was alone there was no one to notice the tears that snuck down my face during their beautiful final song.  I brushed them away quickly but my heart was deeply moved.
My Austin shoots with his school's rifle team.  This is his second year on the team and it's something that he really digs.  Over the weekend we went to a competition in West Seattle.  It was neat to see the range and be a part of the atmosphere.  It's not the most exciting sport to watch because the targets are so far away that unless you have a scope or binoculars, you can't really see how well a shooter is shooting.  But to watch them prepare a shot, to be still in mind and body, is a pretty impressive sight to see.
This picture shows the range and a group of shooters preparing for their next position. 

Here is Austin, the second from the left, in prone position.  His call sign is "Ranger", it's the name his coach has dubbed him. 

The shooting range we were in is below the West Seattle Stadium.  This really meant nothing to me until we got there.  History and character reverberated from the stands.  I snuck away for a bit and captured a few pictures.

The wooden stands were built in 1936 and seat 800.

Beyond the track, the city of Seattle is visible.  The tall black building to the left is the Columbia Tower, it is the tallest building in the state of Washington standing at 943 feet with 76 stories above ground and 7 stories below ground.

Blake had a football game on Saturday in the middle of the strongest downpour we've had all year.  I missed the first half on account of being in Seattle but was able to join my husband in the stands a few minutes into the 3rd quarter.  The boys were clearly having a great time.  The rain fell, the field was slippery, the cheerleaders were soaked, most of the crowd gave up on their umbrellas because the wind was so strong.  During a moment between plays and while Blake was on the sidelines, he looked up in the stands.  His face lit up when he saw me there, as we both didn't think I'd be able to come.  It was a great moment for my mom heart.  All in one day I had been able to support both of my boys in the things that they love.  Good stuff.
Today in church we had a Bluegrass gospel duo, The Cooper Brothers.  These guys are great musicians. I was honored to get some one on one fiddling coaching by Jeffrey.   Jonathan even fixed our squeaky piano pedal and gave it a great tuning.  The whole thing just fires me up to get on with my violin, to seek out some techniques and challenge myself out of my comfort zone.  So, thanks to Jeffrey and Jonathan, for your inspiration.
Follow this link to hear the guys playing and singing Swing Low Sweet Chariot.  This was not recorded at our church but it gives a good feel for their bluegrass capabilities.
And have a great new week!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

my refuge

A birthday cake is in the oven.  It smells so good! 

It is my husband's birthday and as we inch closer and closer to 40 we discuss, in awe, how we could possibly be this old!  For the record, he is 37 today. 

How I love him and every year that he is alive.  I love how I get to see him grow in wisdom.  I cheer on his gray hairs so I don't feel so alone in my plethora.  I'm thankful he was born and that God created us for each other and orchestrated our lives to meet exactly 18 years ago.  And as we age, intertwined, each day becomes sweeter, each birthday more precious.

Happy birthday, Love!

As I read my Bible this morning I came across some verses that spoke loudly to me.  Verses about trusting in God as my refuge. 
Life flies by and I'm buzzing around, taking charge of the things that need to be done, and moving from task to task, and being so darn busy that I don't see the Lord right there to the side, in the shadows somewhat, open arms waiting for me to crawl in to His embrace. 
He is the safety in a world that can feel so bleak.  He is the shelter when I'm overwhelmed.  And He's there all the time and I ignore Him, or forget Him, or I get so wrapped up in just getting through the day that I don't allow Him to be that safe place for me to turn.
My soul, wait thou only upon God;
for my expectation is from him.
He only is my rock and my salvation:
he is my defence; I shall not be moved.
In God is my salvation and my glory:
the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God.
Trust in him at all times;
ye people, pour out your heart before him:
God is a refuge for us.
Psalm 62: 5-8

Now is the time to get yourself a nice cup of coffee or some hot tea and sit with me awhile.  I did some word study to dig deeper into these verses using my Bible and the Strong's concordance. 

Bold type is the original.  The definitions come from the concordance.  Italics is my own plugging of the definitions into the original just for some deeper understanding, not to make the original better because that can't be done.

My soul, wait thou only upon God.

Wait = stop and be still

only = surely, certainly, truly

My soul, stop and be still, surely upon God.

For my expectation is from Him.

Expectation = the thing that I long for

For the thing that I long for is from Him.

He only is my rock and my salvation: he is my defence.
only = surely, certainly, truly

Rock = strength, refuge

salvation = deliverance, aid

defence = a place of refuge

He truly is my strength and my deliverance: he is my place of refuge.

I shall not be moved.

Moved = slip, be off course, to fall in decay

I shall not be off course.

In God is my salvation and my glory: the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God.

salvation = liberty, safety

glory = honor, splendor

refuge = shelter

In God is my safety and my honor: the rock of my strength, and my shelter, is in God.

Trust in him at all times; ye people, pour out your heart before him: God is a refuge for us. Selah.
I also noticed in these verses that the Bible gives us some facts about God and then what we are to do now, knowing those facts.  Don't you love how layered the Bible is?
I'll break this down into three parts.
1)  from Him
2)  in Him
3)  He is
~~~From Him....  verse 5 says my expectation is from him, expectation being that thing I long for, my hope.  This reminds me of faith: the evidence of things hoped for (Hebrews 11:1).  Verse 5 says that this expectation from him should cause me to wait thou only upon God, to be silent and still in anticipation.
~~~He is....   verses 6 and 7 state four things that God is.
  • my rock.  He is that ultimate strength in any storm.
  • my salvation.  He is deliverance from the power of sin.
  • my defense.  He is that place of safety, the fortress.
  • my refuge.  He is shelter and warmth.  He is home.
God is my rock, my salvation, my defense, my refuge and I shall not be moved.  With all of that protection offered, if I am willing to accept it, I won't be shaken by the storm.
~~~In Him....  Because of the things that God is, and because I am His child by way of salvation, verse 7 explains four things that I have IN God.
  • my salvation is IN God.  Salvation here referring to my safety and liberty.
  • my glory is IN God.  Wait a minute!  Shouldn't this be HIS glory?  A-ha, when we are the Lord's He gives us His glory.  Isn't that a beautiful idea?  Because I am His I have an honor and splendor that is not of myself, but of God.
  • the rock of my strength is IN God.  Can I maybe say that God is the foundation of my boldness?  He is the source of my power.
  • my refuge is IN God.  My shelter.  My safe place.  My home.
Now, because I have these things in God, verse 8 explains that I can trust in Him at all times.  If I understand fully that God holds my safety, bestows upon me some measure of His own glory, is the source of my very strength, and affords to me a refuge, then trusting Him with my every moment should be a natural outgrowth.
Maybe broken down into an outline with points and bullets makes this whole thing seem cold and clinical.  Thankfully the Lord is warmer than my formatting of points.
In the trenches of real life, He is that one immoveable, unshakeable reality that we can hold to.  In the day to day battles, He is the warm lights of home.  But better.
My trenches are at work, with co-workers that don't know my loving God and customers that try my graces.  My trenches are with raising teenagers in a world overcome with sin.  My battles are with my shortcomings and vulnerabilities.  And daily I'm affronted by noise and worry and fear.
But God.
He is my refuge.
My soul, wait thou only upon God;
for my expectation is from him.
He only is my rock and my salvation:
he is my defence; I shall not be moved.
In God is my salvation and my glory:
the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God.
Trust in him at all times;
ye people, pour out your heart before him:
God is a refuge for us.
Psalm 62:5-8

Sunday, October 19, 2014


We went to the zoo awhile back.  I took three pictures.  Three.
Then I forgot to post said pictures.  Even better.
So now, no matter how many days it's been since we went to the zoo (9), I am posting my three pictures now.
First up...the leaves were falling like confetti on New Year's Eve.  I stared up at them in awe and caught them in my hands because I love simple things.

Second picture... The Oscar Meyer Weinermobile.  Because, how can you not?

Last picture... a 15 year old in a turtle shell flashing signs and making the goofy face that has been passed down through generations (particularly from his Uncle Mike).
What I shouldn't mention is that I took this picture from my own turtle shell.  Because that's what I do.
Sometimes, around here, we have visitors at the back door.  If the door is open, they'll step inside cautiously.  If the door is closed they'll just stand there, looking in.  These girls love human interaction.
The last regular season football game was played yesterday.  Blake was fierce on the field.  For someone who knows very little about football, and for "just his mom", I am amazed with how much growth I've seen in him over this season.  We move on to play-offs now.  Then wrestling season.
Blake and I took a quick trip to the pumpkin patch, just us two.  They had a whole mess of angry turkeys there.  And peacocks!
We found a couple pumpkins to carve and some little white ones for decorations.  I've already decided to save seeds for my garden.  Who needs to buy pumpkins when you can grow them yourself?!  That's forward thinking right there.
Before we left, I built a pumpkin tower.  Not really.

Here are our masterpieces!!

I fed the gooey pumpkin guts to the chickens.  Saved a few seeds and roasted the rest.  A tip!  Boil the pumpkin seeds for about 10 minutes.  Drain and dry well before roasting as normal.  This gets the seeds very clean and helps get a good crunchy texture rather than chewy.
I was engrossed in this book this week:
by Markus Zusak
I came across a quote that pretty much sums up what I write about here on my blog.  There are a few that read and let me know how much they enjoy it, or how it was touching.  I am thankful for those kindnesses.  If it weren't for an outlet for these words I'd probably not be able to breathe.
The quote:
Ask her what she craved and she'd get a little frantic about things like books, the woods, music.  Plants and the seasons.  And freedom.
-Charles Frazier

Sunday, October 12, 2014

stacks of books

The year began with a hunger, a craving to devour book upon book.  I had such a strong desire to just read and not stop reading.  And read whatever came through my hands.  And let the words wash over and through me.

A journal was started chronicling my love affair with books.  Maybe you know that it's serious when you keep a book about books.  Regardless, I keep track of the titles of each of the books I finish.  I also record my personal thoughts upon completing a given book.  Sometimes I copy down lines or even full passages. 

In the open spaces at the very beginning of my journal, before the first entry page, I keep quotes about reading and books.  I've collected quotes from the likes of Thomas Jefferson who said, "I cannot live without books." to Dr. Suess who said, "Fill your house with stacks of books in all the crannies and all the nooks."

A few of the books I've read this year have been:

1531573 Grand Ambition by Lisa Michaels

1723549 Rare Encounters With Ordinary Birds by Lyanda Lynn Haupt

1975985 Living High by June Burn

11870085 The Fault In Our Stars by John Green

3636 The Giver by Lois Lowry

This year has also given me what could possibly be my favorite book.  This book continues to touch my heart and I find myself referencing it in thought and conversation often.

  The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

A quote I wrote in my journal:

"...she was the book thief without words.  Trust me though, the words were on their way, and when they arrived, Liesel would hold them in her hands like the clouds, and she would wring them out like the rain."

Lest I ever be without a good book, I also keep lists of books I want to read, titles I've come across that intrigue me.  Then, periodically, I put in requests with the library for 2-3 of the titles on my list.  Rarely do I read more than one book at a time but I've found that if I try three different books I'll probably make a real connection with only one of them.  If there is not a connection, a spark, I don't force myself to read a book.  Life is too short for lousy reading.

On my list right now:

  • I Am The Messenger, Markus Zusak
  • The Language Of Flowers: Symbols and Myths, Marina Heilmeyer
  • What Alice Forgot, Liane Moriarty
  • Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn
  • The Uncommon Reader, Alan Bennett
  • Brain On Fire, Susannah Cahalan

The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - which you had thought special and particular to you.  And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even, who is long dead, and it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.
-Alan Bennett

Saturday, October 11, 2014

rainy Saturday morning

Blake's team is playing a team from Canada this afternoon.  Maybe it will clear up by then or maybe everyone is going to get very wet!

Chickens don't care much for rain.  At first raindrop they scurried back to the safety of their coop.  When I went out to check on them and close up the coop door, they vocalized their disdain for this wet stuff.  Of course, I explained, I had nothing to do with it.

I am making my family beef stew in the crockpot and homemade bread today.  It'll be the perfect compliment to this gray, wet weather.  I love cooking and baking in the fall the very best, how it makes everything feel warm and cozy.

We had a great trip to the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle yesterday.  We rode the ferry off of the island and home again which makes every trip feel more adventurous.  At the zoo, every animal was so beautiful and majestic (except the warthogs which may just be the ugliest creatures EVER).  We even got to see the wolves AND the penguins being fed.  We've taken our boys to the zoo since they were so little, I think Austin was just 1 his first time.  It's still fun, maybe even better, with teenagers!

In other news: our first parent teacher conferences (where I'm not the parent AND the teacher).  We met all of Austin's teachers and had great conversation with each one.  It was reaffirmed in my mind how important it is for parents to be involved in their children's education.  Just because we've sent our son off to the public school system does not mean we wash our hands of all responsibility.  The responsibility is still there, just as large as it ever was, it has just taken on a different role. 

We also met with his counselor to discuss transcripts, credits, graduation requirements, etc...  We've encountered a few hurdles in this area due to homeschooling and maybe I will elaborate more at another time.  His counselor is young, in her first year, and I felt as if I was educating her more on this system than she was assisting us but, we'll see if we can make this work, form a team and a plan for the next couple of years.  We also dropped in on a Rifle Team practice and chatted with Coach a bit.  He is very optimistic of this year and is looking forward to having Austin along for Nationals in June, in Alabama.  Exciting business!

Till next time...

Sunday, October 5, 2014

bird by bird

Bird By Bird by Anne Lamott

As I read this book, subtitled "Some Instructions on Writing and Life", I took notes.  Pages and pages of notes.  Sometimes it felt as if the author was just putting my own thoughts into words, like she had seen into my soul and decided to write a book about it.  Now, I have to acknowledge here that I don't share all of the author's opinions on life.  I don't share her penchant for the use of some colorful language.  But, my goodness, some of the things she brought to light, really inspired me.

The fact that I keep a blog only serves as evidence that I like to write.  I don't know who all reads what I write here, if only one or two.  But even if not for those one or two, I would still write because, honestly, I don't really write FOR anyone.  I don't write so my words will be read, but to live.  It is an outlet, this stringing together of words, for my soul.

So, my notes on the I said, I took pages and pages of notes.  And I really wanted to share some of the things that inspired me.  Some of the these are direct quotes from the author (anything in quotations is hers unless otherwise cited).  Some of the words are my own ideas that came to life as I read.

  • "Writing motivates you to look closely at life, at life as it lurches by and tramps around."

  • The writer becomes present in the every moment, living in awe of the beautiful messiness of life.  Writing deepens and widens and expands our sense of life.  It gifts to us the freedom to dance with the absurd.

  • "A writer is someone on whom nothing is lost." -Henry James

  • "One can find in writing a perfect focus for life.  It offers challenge and delight and agony and commitment."

  • The act of writing, as a journey, is the reward.

  • "You are lucky to be one of those people who wishes to build sand castles with words."

  • Keep notes of the wonderful things: the details, snippets, ideas, and images.

  • "Unbidden, seemingly out of nowhere, a thought or image arrives.  They're often so rich, these unbidden thoughts, and so clear, that they feel indelible."

  • Strive to dive below the surface where life is cold and confusing and hard to see.  Plunge through the holes wherein exist all sorts of possibility to glimpse the wonder.  Go through that locked door, see the bleak unspeakable stuff and turn it into words. 

  • Write without fear, save the fear of NOT writing.  Write directly.  Write straight.  Write vulnerable.

  • Care about the truth.  Write from that place of simplicity deep in your soul.  Write for an audience of one or two.  Or write for yourself.  Whatever keeps it honest.

And one last quote, although this was not from the book at all.  I came across this later but it has proven true to me time and again as I write, or as I read.

The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.”   -Alan Bennett

Friday, October 3, 2014

the time I went for a walk

I'm not sure why I decided to go for a walk, what the circumstances were that lead a nine year old girl to strike out on her own.  It wasn't abnormal by any means, I was pretty independent, slightly stubborn.  The youngest of four kids, I was desperate to make my own way.

Home, at that time, was an old, two-story white house.  Six bedrooms, two of which were not much bigger than closets.  One room was contained in just three pink walls with bed sheets hung to provide a fourth "wall".  That was mine.  My sister's was down the hall, around a corner.  I think I'd go bother her every night before bed.  Her room was always clean, always smelled good.  And she was always doing teenager things: painting her nails, reading magazines, experimenting with makeup.  Glamorous things that I didn't understand. 

The old house had one bathroom, a non-descript room with the normal trappings of a room of it's kind.  Near the big front window in the living room was a large bookshelf my dad built.  At least three full sets of encyclopedias lined the shelves.  They were big beautiful books with gold embossed lettering on the covers.  A couple of aquariums that my dad liked to keep various little types of fish in sat on top of the shelf.

His orange recliner, there in the corner.  The chair I'd hide behind when he came home from work.  It was the first place he'd go after a long day working on the Rucker's farm.  He'd sit there and take off his work boots and act surprised when I'd jump out from behind him, just like I did yesterday and yesterday's yesterday.  And I'd climb into his lap and feel his stomach expand when he breathed.  And it was safe.  And there was love.  And I knew he liked it too.

Just across the living room was my favorite place in this house.  A white cupboard in a corner.  It smelled of books and paper and words and clean.  And I would open it up and smell all of the smells and think it was the loveliest smell in the world then I'd quickly shut the door tight so the smell wouldn't escape.  I wanted it locked in, so it'd be there the next time I opened the door, like an old friend.

The front yard was bordered by a white fence, it made home look quaint and inviting although not many people would see it so far out, away from anything more than wheat fields and rolling hills.  I learned to ride a bike in front of that fence, back and forth on a blue two wheeler.  I was probably too old to just be learning how.  But I learned.  And now I do it quite fluently.

To the right of the house was a garage type building.  I kept a kitten in there, the only survivor of a litter.  Too small.  I bottle fed him.  But it was not enough.  One morning when I went to check on him he was frozen solid.  But not really frozen.  I just didn't know what rigor mortis was.

Beyond the garage building was a large garden plot.  Beyond that were fruit trees.  Apple, plum, a pear.  And even further on, amid brambles, was an old grape vine, but I didn't venture there often because there were always bees that discouraged my presence.

Behind the house was a cellar.  A real life cellar dug into the side of the hill.  The walls were stone.  The wooden door opened to reveal a packed dirt floor, shelves upon which sat new jars of canned things and old jars of mysterious content.  On the hottest of days one could venture into the cellar and escape the heat.  It was always cool and slightly moist in the cellar.  And it smelled of old fruit.

Off to the left of the old house was a grove of strong, tall walnut trees.  Under the trees was a grove of old cars.  They were there when we moved in, long abandoned and left to the weather.  But we four kids claimed them as our own.  I sat in my very own car and drove into the city, window down, radio turned up, hair flying wildly behind me.

One of the trees had a platform built in it.  Maybe the remnants of someone's tree house plans, abandoned like the cars.  My brother always dared me to jump off the platform.  It seemed to be a hundred feet high.  But I jumped.  Because I wanted him to know I was tough.

Beyond the walnut trees was the coop where the chickens were kept, along with the big red rooster that marched like an army general.  The chickens would have nothing to do with me but that rooster would drink water out of a blue milk cap as I held it in my hand.  For awhile we also had two intimidating geese out there.

The evening I ventured out on a walk was quiet, as I remember it.  I think part of the family was gone, to what, I'll never remember this many years past.  But, maybe, the quiet gave me a case of cabin fever.

Whatever the case, I set out to walking.  At the end of our driveway was a rickety wooden bridge crossing a creek.  We didn't have paved roads that far out, just gravel that was grated once or twice per year.  The gravel roads always had three tire lanes, the middle being shared by vehicles going either direction.

So I walked, along the driveway flanked by green alfalfa fields, across the rickety wooden bridge, past the big hay barn, and along the gravel road, rocks crunching beneath my every step.  The afternoon was tired and the shadows of the rolling hills grew with every step. 

As I walked I formulated a plan.  I didn't want to stop walking and I could certainly make it to our nearest neighbor's house before dark.  They lived on an old farm with a big red farmhouse and a big red barn.  If I just walked there, only about two miles, I'd simply knock on their door and ask them to give me a ride back home.  Presumptuous, now that I know better. 

With plan in hand, I walked with purpose, enjoying the first evening light, the smells of a day now done, the melody of frogs and crickets.  The world was a beautiful place and I had all of this to enjoy, on my own with no siblings to boss me around, no one that I had to share this bounteous beauty with.  I could look at it and keep it and know that it was all mine.

Just as light was giving way to dark I reached the big red farm.  Doubts began to crowd my mind.  A mentally handicapped adult lived here.  Possibly the son of the older couple.  My experience with handicapped people was little to none and the unknown scared me.  But it is getting really dark and I'm sure my parents are going to worry.  And I've come all this way, surely they will feel sorry for the poor young girl from down the road.  And wasn't she so brave to walk this far!

With all the bravery I could muster I knocked on the door, stood aside with my best orphan looking face, and waited for my plan to open the door.  It seemed an eternity that I waited so I knocked again.  Each passing, silent second grew the realization deep within my stomach that my neighbors were not home.  Nobody on the big red farm was going to give me a ride.

Panic replaced every good feeling I had had earlier.  As I turned to face my long trek home, the night grew wings and talons.  The shadows developed sharp edges.  And my feet ran,  gravel shifting under my steps causing me to stumble.  Fear kept good pace behind me, right on my heels, breathing hot breath down my collar.  And I ran.  Behind every large boulder on the hillside hunkered a predator of unknown description, waiting for the opportune time to pounce.  Pulse pounded in my ears.

I planned then, that if a car happened to come by that I would hide in the bushes off the road.  Nothing good ever came of a lone car on a deserted road and a young girl by herself.  A car never came by.  And I ran.

Finally, I reached the last stretch before our driveway.  The steep hillside to my left was black.  On my right, down past the shoulder of the road, was the creek, now just a sinewy, liquid shadow.  The big hay barn loomed before me, full of things I could not see.  My brothers told me the story of a man who had hung himself from the rafters in that barn.  They promised that if I looked carefully I could still see the rope he had used.  In this moment I was certain it was there, along with every other scary thing that could exist in the world, for all of time. 

To cross the rickety bridge and continue on home meant turning my back to the barn.  It took all of my courage to turn on my heel and walk.  As the fears of my imagination taunted me from the shadows of the barn, I placed one foot in the front of the other. 

Cross the bridge. 

Walk the dusty driveway.  

It is just there. Home.  

My pulse slows.  The sweat dries. 

The scent of sweet alfalfa caresses the evening.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

a chicken look-book

It was a beautiful morning to be outside with the chickens, one of those crisp beginnings, warming to perfect working temperature.  And that's what I did.  Work.
The garden has been harvested fully.  I dug out all the carrots, pulled all the remaining cucumbers off the vine, and picked the six spaghetti squash.  For the next couple of months I will throw all the chicken manure, coffee grounds, egg shells, and tea leaves in the garden for some fertile, rich soil come Spring.

While I worked around the yard, the girls had some freedom to roam.  I do appreciate their calmer maturity at this stage.
Here is Nuggets, neck deep in a plant....


Braveheart, a beautiful Golden Laced Wyandotte.  She is the only one that will challenge Charlie, the two of them facing off nose to beak.

The only faithful egg layer, Mintie.  She has beautiful jet black feathers on her tail and one on her back.  She is the best food finder.

One of two Easter-Eggers, Elsa.  She has the fluffiest cheeks and bum!

Three busy bottoms: Pearl, Mintie, and Nuggets.

My pretty girl, Pearl.  A Buff Orpington.  Big and glorious.

This big mushroom reminds me of a momma hen with her chicks.

It also brings to mind some scriptures...
Because thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice.
Psalm 63:7
 Keep me as the apple of the eye, hide me under the shadow of thy wings.
Psalm 17:8
Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me: for my soul trusteth in thee: yea, in the shadow of thy wings will I make my refuge, until these calamities be overpast.
Psalm 57:1
How excellent is thy lovingkindess, O God! Therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings.
Psalm 36:7