Category Archives: Life Balance

October Already?

Ugh. It’s been almost one full month since I’ve sat down to post. I can’t believe it. I was on such a roll. And please don’t think I haven’t thought about posting. I have several ideas in the works, but that seems to be where they are stuck. In the works. Nevermind. This post isn’t about how guilty I feel for not have written sooner, but rather an update of all that’s going on here.

To say the least it’s been a busy fall. TK and I have been out an about – we traveled down to the Big E in West Springfield and watched an impressive Jersey Show. I miss showing and hope to get back on track with a little help next year. We had a great time though, and TK got to go on his first ride!

Mom, TK and cousin LEO on the carousel!

The farmers’ markets finished up fairly well. They tell me there are three seasons to farmers’ markets up here. Starting with Memorial Day to the 4th of July; the second goes to Labor Day; and the third goes until Columbus Day, of course depending upon the weather. Foot traffic is much slower in the first and third season than the middle, which makes sense. The middle is the peak season for tourists. It starts to cool down quickly up here as we had our first frost on the 18th of September. So crazy.

Our set up at one of the markets.

We had another new calf at the end of the summer. I’ve decided to call her “Jersey” even though she is a Holstein, obviously. She is small for a holstein, out of a first calf heifer (first-time mom), so we say she is a Holstein in a Jersey package.

Here is Jersey, with my 13-pound rat terrier dog and 8-year-old cousin LEO for reference.

The garden finished up well. We had tons of green beans, yellow beans, zucchini, summer squash, buttercup squash, pumpkins and sunflowers! If you recall, I was clueless about gardening and not only had to read the back of every seed packet while planting, but also planted every seed in every seed packet. Yup. Zucchini from seven high producing plants – we had zucchini coming everywhere we turned! It was pretty crazy. Unfortunately I wasn’t quite prepared for that level of production so much of it went to compost though we did try to eat and give away as much as we could. Next year I’ll be more ready!

My little squash picker!

And finally, maybe our biggest surprise of the summer, something that slowed me down a little (or really a lot at times!), we’ll be adding a new little one to our family sometime in March. We are very excited for it. To be honest, I was a little intimidated at first – TK and Baby L will be 19 months apart. I kept thinking (and still do sometimes), how will we take care of two little ones? My DF, who really is my rock, is not worried about it and knows that we will figure it out. When I do find myself thinking too much and getting a little anxious, the baby’s due date pops into my head. It’s 3-16, which is one of the most popular verses in the bible. 

No, I don’t do the Tebow but I do feel an immediate calm come over me in one deep breath.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

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Might as Well Plant a Garden

From Sunday, July 1 -I finally got some things planted in what could vaguely be recognized as a garden. After two years of big plans discussed in the Spring- lots of talking, purchasing seeds and serious consideration of where exactly we would put it, we planted a garden. Or really, I planted a garden with consultation from my DF (I’m not sure he will own up to the connection with the fairly pitiful sight I have created).

To say that I have a slight glimmer of an idea for what needs to be done when it comes to gardening might be an overstatement; but I can read so I’m hoping the directions on the back of the seed packages are for real. My DF has a bit more of a clue, though he says he’s no expert. Since he is tied up making cow food for the most part these days, I’m on my own to do the dirty work for the people food.

Randomly one night after chores a few weeks ago, my DF harrowed out the spot we picked out. DF’s uncle dragged the big tiller behind the tractor around it two separate times between the initial ripping up of the grass and today. Still, about a week has passed since the last pass so a little grass popped up. Nothing a little raking couldn’t fix up for today, though I do believe grass will be my new nemesis this summer. We’re using weed cloth between the rows so hopefully that will help.

See. Pretty pathetic but I do plan to take the push-rototiller to the space between the rows in the back this week!

 

As if to throw one more obstacle in our way, my jeep decided not to start yesterday afternoon, stranding us at the grocery store for an extra hour or so. But that didn’t stop me. I got Swiss chard, beets, nasturtium, cucumber, zucchini, summer squash, buttercup squash, sunflowers and pumpkins in the ground. And boy, doI feel it now. I never knew how physical gardening is! Oh, and I even gave myself my very own “tramp stamp” with the help of the sun today. Slouchy shorts + short shirt = a band of OUCH!

So what was different today or really, this weekend? What put me over the edge to go for it after weeks, rather years of procrastinating? I think I had been holding back because I feel like I don’t have any idea what I’m doing. I really don’t. After I said that one night last week, my DF replied that we should just do it. We should just do the garden and learn as we go and from our mistakes. A light bulb went off. Yes! Of course! That’s it! How else will we learn? And already in these two short days I have figured out a few ways to do things better.

So, I’m excited. And now I just really really hope something pops up!

I’m a little proud of this tomato. You should have seen how almost dead these plants were before we planted them in a little of our own cow-post!

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Happiness Is

From June 15th! – I wrote this on my phone but haven’t taken the time to get the slick WordPress iphone app, so it’s been waiting in my notes for me to add here. Been a little crazy here lately. Hopefully I’ll get to tell you all about it!

Riding across the hay field today I witnessed happiness:

Two dogs bounding, leaping and racing through the open field, weaving in and out of the rows of mowed grass, stopping only to wrestle for a few minutes or to sniff at a hole or a root or some other debris, only to be off again in the blink of an eye.

My DF driving the tractor with the chopper attached to the wagon, totally focused on the job at hand. Making feed makes him happy. I have a feeling he had a grin on his face in that tractor cab, especially as he caught glimpses of his son observing the whole production.

My son on my lap as I drove the gator following the tractor/chopper/wagon so he could watch what was going on. Talk about discovery! Every once in awhile I could hear his little squeal over the noise of the gator, equipment and wind.

I looked all around me and though ‘what beautiful countryside; how lucky am I?’ I felt as if I could maybe even breathe it all in if only I could take a breath deep enough. And suddenly, my worries that had built up that morning were gone- poof- disappeared into the fresh, newly-mowed-grass air.

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Mother’s Day Top Five

Happy Mother’s Day!

I started this post several times today. I wanted to reflect over the past year about becoming a mother, our beautiful son TK, the changes that have come our way and how we have adapted. I felt like what I was writing just kept getting too cheesy, so I canned it but here I am now! I decided to keep it short and simple so maybe I could actually finish it.

Here are five things I’ve come up with on my first Mother’s Day.

1. Time is a-flyin’. He’s been out almost longer than he was in now. He’s doing new things every two days it seems. This week he pulled himself up to stand. He started clapping. He also figured out how to say the “buh” sound. My DF and I are just amazed at how fast it’s all happening.

2. I love being a mom and I feel so lucky that I get to be TK’s mom.

3. There’s a lot of advice out there – a whole industry of it when it comes to giving birth and raising babies. The best piece I got was to keep an open mind. This came up when talking about developing a “birth plan” which I think was so important because you just can’t predict exactly how that’s going to go. And you can’t predict how a lot of other things will go – like sleeping through the night or breastfeeding or naps or childcare. Rolling with the punches is a helpful skill to have when you’re a new mom.

4. My priorities have changed for sure. TK is now the first thing I think of – from the time I wake up to when I put him down at night. I do usually take time for myself to unwind after he goes to bed – writing, reading, staring blankly at some t.v. show that makes you dumber for watching it if you’re not careful. But for many decisions, he is the first consideration for us and rightfully so.

5. Some things are okay to let go. Like yardwork and a cleared-off kitchen table. Or getting your eyebrows plucked (trying to do them myself lately… ouch!). Some things are not okay to let go. Like finding the best childcare option. Or taking the time to watch TK grab a handful of grass for the first time and let it fall through his fingers. Or Daddy’s kisses goodnight. Some things don’t quite seem to matter as much while others matter a whole lot more than they ever did.

It’s tough being far away from the rest of my family, especially on days like today when I know they were all together. But I know I’ll see them again soon. I’m happy to be here, to be raising a family in a beautiful spot on a farm, where cows chewing their cud will be as natural to my son as the grass is green.

Hopefully, that wasn’t too cheesy.

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The Sun Will Come Out Again

There has been a cloud over the Northeast Kingdom all week. Literally it has been cloudy all week. It’s as if Mother Nature knows about the tragic, senseless loss of one of its daughters. The whole community seems to be in shock, glued to the TV for the next piece of news.

I didn’t know Melissa Jenkins very well. I met her once last summer at the County 4-H Dairy Show that I judged here in town. I remember she was very nice and her boy was very cute – he still is. I also recall noting the family resemblance between her and her brother who I do happen to know.

My heart sank when I first saw the “Missing” Facebook post on Monday morning. I was getting ready to head home after visiting my folks in Massachusetts. It was hard to think of anything else that whole trip back. For some reason, I felt some sort of connection with where she was in life – she was my age, a mom, in the ag community, a basketball coach; heck she even had blonde hair.

What kind of a world do we live in where such a horrific, senseless act can happen to a young, successful mother and teacher? What kind of a place have we brought TK into and what will it be like when he grows up?

My heart goes out to Melissa’s friends and family, and those who knew her best. I think back to my friend that was killed in a car accident who was also young, vibrant and full of life. You don’t get over a tragedy like this. That’s what the pastor said at his funeral. I don’t remember very many other specifics, but he also said that you can get through it. And that it’s okay to be sad. I held onto those words even when I felt I was impossibly stuck in wretchedness. You don’t get over it but you can get through it.

People have different ways of grieving and dealing with loss. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross first discussed the stages of grief in her book On Death and Dying. Not having read the book, I thought that you go through each stage succinctly and consecutively. This is not the case. You can go from one to the other and back again. You can be in two at once. You may not experience all of them. Each person has their own individual reaction to what has happened. The stages are: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. I know I quickly went to the Anger stage when details of Melissa’s final hours were released.

I’m no expert on dealing with loss. At one point I thought maybe I was or would be having gone through my own personal tragedy as well as growing up around it as my dad is a minister. All I can do is share my experience if it helps and listen if someone needs to be heard. Being the extroverted person that I am, it helped me to share my story over and over again though at times I felt like “Debbie Downer” and that people didn’t want to hear it. But they all did. Even though it was hard to be so vulnerable, their sympathy and support helped me to get through it.

It’s true. We brought TK into a world where tragedies occur every single day. Bad things happen to good people. You can’t make sense of half the stuff that happens. But there are good people here, the best kind. Melissa was one of them and she leaves her legacy with her family, friends and the lives she touched; especially her little boy. And there are others too. Many of them were wearing pink today and honoring her at a memorial or just going about their daily routine and showing support for Melissa’s family and friends.

Surprisingly, or maybe not so much, the sun did come out finally today.

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We’ll Be Experiencing Some Emotional Turbulence Ahead

Do you ever have those days when they feel so long that at the end of them, you feel like a pile of blah and collapse into your bed, asleep before you hit the pillow? I’m sure you do. I think we all do. I had them b.c. (before child), and I have them now. The difference now though is typically the last thought I have before sleep claims my consciousness is something like this, “Please please pleeeeeeeease sleep through the night. Or if not through the night, maybe a good 6 hour stretch? Or 5? Even 4. 4 would work.”

We got there last night – about 5 1/2 hours before a cryout but TK was able to settle himself back to sleep and I didn’t have to get out of bed. For that, I am grateful.

Somehow I feel much more refreshed and refocused this morning. Yesterday was filled with emotional turbulence. For sure, it was a bit of a bumpy ride but without the warning from the captain (which would have been helpful). But as with all turbulence, once you’re through it, things feel much calmer and you’re more at ease. You can put the puke bag away. You may even be able to nap a little.

Having a child you know that there’s going to be an added layer of consideration when it comes to decision making – for both big and small things. Whether it’s about where to live or even whether to go through the car wash, as we were the other day. My reaction to my DF’s suggestion to give the jeep a bath: “I don’t know, I’m not sure TK’s ready for it.” Guess what – we went through it and he loved it! I thought he might be scared of the loud noises and whirring brushes but I think he found it rather fascinating, (the dogs on the other hand, were not as impressed.) 

I’m not sure anyone can prepare you for how tough some things can be as a parent even when the answer is simple. Don’t get me wrong, everything is fine here. But for the woman who thinks she can do it all, and I’m sure she can, sometimes it helps to admit that maybe she shouldn’t for the sake of quality of life. In the end, it may just be the best decision of all.

TK at the end of a recent trip. I included that warning sign in the picture as he likes to "read" it all the time!

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A Kindergarten Lesson and a Thank You

When I was in Kindergarten, my mom worked the 3pm-11pm shift four days a week. We had half-day kindergarten back then, so you went to school from 8 to 11:30 or 12 to 3:30 – something like that anyway. I remember for the most part when I did afternoon kindergarten that she was there in the morning for breakfast and then to put me on the bus. After that I didn’t see her again usually until the next day, though I know now that she came into our rooms at night to say her own goodnights.

One morning she had a friend stop by for a visit so they got talking. The next thing I know it’s time for me to get out of the house and to the end of the driveway for the bus. For some reason, I don’t remember my mom’s kiss goodbye that morning which left me devastated. I remember seeing her at the window – the usual spot – waving as I waited and then stepped onto the bus. I remember trying to hold back the tears, to not let the other kids see them, but when we pulled up the driveway to our little school I could not hold them back anymore.

Mrs. Casey, (in my estimation the best kindergarten teacher ever), saw me and immediately pulled me aside to see why I was so sad. I explained what happened and that I wouldn’t see mom until the next day. She totally understood and suggested that I draw and color her a picture to give her and let her know how I missed her. She told me that it might make me feel better and make mom feel good too to know that I was thinking of her.

Mrs. Casey was so right. I felt so much better. The tears were gone after that and mom did like the picture.

This is my way of thanking you for the kind comments and likes on my Facebook page. As I am transitioning to life in the North Country, the hardest part is being so far away from family and friends. I find I miss you all and think about it often. Writing posts on this blog and sharing some of my experiences of life up here is my way of letting you know you’re never far from my thoughts and it helps me to feel better. I hope you enjoy it too.

Now, when are you coming to visit?

A classic picture of the fam, with my mom right in front.

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Winter Walking in the Woods

The mild weather this winter has certainly been unexpected. Since moving to Vermont I have to admit, I’ve been a little disappointed in Mother Nature. Last year’s winter was certainly colder and we had a lot more snow, but I was still expecting more. I’m not sure why – maybe just because it’s Vermont and that much closer to the North Pole than Massachusetts.

Now that I’ve written it, watch, we’ll have snow through May. (There were snow piles left on the sides of the roads on the south side of the lake through the beginning of May last year.)

Regardless, being couped up inside the house all day and with baby weight to lose, my boy and I have taken advantage by going for walks each day for the past few. It feels so good to get the fresh air on your face!

Morning has broken over the field behind our house.

 
 

The view to the west of us.

Ready for the bright snow!

 

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He Slows Me Down and That’s a Good Thing

Today we had a jersey cow calve today rather unexpectedly, even though it’s her due date. There are certain tell-tale signs a  cow goes through that shows us that she’s getting closer and closer to giving birth. Sort of like women, though a cow doesn’ t wear clothes so it’s a lot more obvious.

This cow didn’t show too many signs and we checked and thought maybe we had the wrong breeding date on her which would mean the wrong calving date. Apparently we were right all along, and a bouncing baby bull was born in the dry cow pen. No big deal, especially as it’s such a warm day – mama even had a little help cleaning him off!

I took my son TK up to check out the new calf and make sure everything was okay. TK is only five months old so he wasn’t really “into it” yet, but we went anyway. I saw that the calf was fine but would have rathered if he was in a different spot than where he was. Being a thoughtful cattle caregiver and of course the mom that I am now, it was all I could do to not jump in the pen to fix the situation to my liking. However, this requires squeezing through a tight space or climbing over the top and alas, TK was in my arms.

So the next best thing – I went to track down my dairy farmer. Found him, explained what was happening and how I really wanted to get in there but couldn’t and ended with a wisecrack, “this kid really slows me down.” And to that, my dear husband replied, “sometimes that’s a good thing” as he drove off in his tractor.

Hmpf. He’s right. Sometimes in the past I’d go and go and go, usually until I crashed sometime. As work gets busier this time of year and I get back into the “swing” of things, I’m going to try and remember that. Don’t get me wrong, I am excited to get involved again in volunteer activities like 4-H and farm bureau but I don’t want to let myself get consumed by it all. And I think with my dairy farmer and TK, I’ll have a little help in remembering.

As for TK, here’s a picture from his official 5-month birthday. People say this all the time, but it’s amazing how a baby changes everything.

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Top Five Regrets

I receive the “Pause Newsletter” in my email inbox usually every week. I enjoy it as someone, like many, who struggles with life balance. I force myself to take the 2-3 minutes to read it and usually I’m left feeling glad that I took that time to reflect ever so briefly on big-picture messages. It’s put out by Patricia Katz, who’s message resonated with me when I heard her speak at a conference.

This week, she shared the top five regrets of senior citizens reflecting on their lives as shared in a book by Bronnie Ware, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying. They are:

  1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
  2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.
  3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
  4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
  5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

Reading these now, as a 30-something, I have a lot of time to do something about making sure these are not my regrets when I get to the end of my days. At least I think I do, but in fact, I already have. Several years ago, I lost a very close friend of mine in a car accident. He was 31. In business, we talk a lot about “game changers” – what event or catalyst changes the course of the way a business operates or the way a market functions. Well, this event was my personal game changer.

After the accident, like a recovering addict, I had to learn how to take each day at a time. For a time I couldn’t even think about what to have for dinner, let alone my next career move. It was working through the pain of loss that I realized how grateful I am to have my life and those that fill it. Once I realized that there was no “getting over” my tragedy, that I had to accept what happened and learn how to live with the sadness, the world seemed like it was painted in a new color.

It seems a little strange reflecting on what happened now as my life is so much different than it was then. It’s really not though – I think my approach to life is what is different. At some point during the period where I really didn’t care what I ate, I read an article that an older person wrote to a graduate headed off to college. It was about certain truths in life and offered one as “Things fall apart. But you rebuild them again and appreciate them all the more for it.”

I felt like my life was falling apart – there was a huge void that once this person filled. When I figured out how to live with the void, it got smaller as I focused on doing things like the five regrets suggest. I make decisions that fit who I am. I choose things I’m passionate about – agriculture, family, helping others. I still work hard but it’s work that I like doing whether I’m at my computer, working with the cows, working with people or now, taking care of my son and our home. I don’t hesitate to share what I’m feeling or thinking, especially with family members! Keeping in touch with friends is a constant battle with all of life’s distractions for all of us, but I still try.

I’m happy. I have a life that I love. It’s not perfect for sure, but I am where I am because of choices that I have made. Sometimes my husband and I are still amazed – we look at each other and say, from the Talking Heads song and as the tagline of my blog reads, “Life, how did we get here?”

My wish for those closest to me and anyone reading this is that they too are happy and have a sense of peace and purpose; a life that they love too.

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