Monday, April 30, 2007

The Best of Both

Technically, my children are city kids. They were born in a large town and raised there until six years ago. There were malls and shops; everything super-sized and within minutes of our front door. They grew up with the sound of cars upon asphalt, lawn mowers on every corner, and neighborhood chatter across fence lines.

FFA - Future Farmers of America - was as foreign to them as the man in the moon. Classes in the city weren't geared towards entomology or creeds, swine and cattle. And when we moved to this rural community, it was the last thing they planned to be involved in. Though I had lived on a farm as a child and saw its benefits, I didn't push it.

When my daughter entered high school, she signed up for her first class in agriculture. I was shocked, to say the least, but encouraged that she would step out of her comfort zone and enter a new box with different sizes and shapes than what she was used to. She found that she did well on her tests and became enchanted with her Vo-Ag instructor and his clever ways of drawing what was outside, in. Two years later, her younger brother followed her footsteps. He'd watched as she raised, showed then sold two sheep last summer and decided he too, would put his feet into country soil.

He has excelled as well, winning the creed speaking contest in the freshman Greenhand division and scoring high on his tests. He is on the fence whether or not to have livestock in the future, but his mind has been opened and his city life-style, altered.

Though we now live in the country where trucks and tractors travel upon gravel and neighbors are few and far between, the world has suddenly become larger with new things to see, learn and do. Because they've experienced two different worlds, their lives are enriched. And as they've learned the importance of diversity, their choices are many.

The roads are now open. How fortunate they know the directions for each.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

New Life

Last evening while on his way home from work, my husband noticed that one of our neighbor's cows was ready to give birth. She was just a quarter of a mile down the road in the dusk-filled meadow, so we hopped in the pick-up to watch a new life come into the world.

She was lying by the fence row, but
wandered out farther into the pasture when she saw us approach. We watched for awhile as she meandered about. She seemed peaceful and in control, so much so that we wondered if she'd already had her calf.

Then suddenly she laid down and we knew her time had come. Within minutes she was back on her feet with her new baby lying in the soft spring grass. It seemed fast and effortless, and though a commonplace occurrence on a farm, still a miracle of life.

The natural maternal instincts of animals always amazes me. They know just what to do for their babies to survive and thrive. They are protective yet strong and from the beginning, teach their young how to get along in the world.

Within minutes she was encouraging the calf to his feet, knowing that he couldn't simply lie in the pasture where he'd be prey to bobcats and coyotes. He slipped and stumbled more than once in getting his footing, and I was tempted to climb the fence and help them both.

But finally he was standing; four shaky legs unfolded from his gestational sleep, holding him up in the new world of breezes and sunlight and sounds.

Babies are sweet, no matter what form they take and it was a treat to observe this new life out in the pasture. Soon I'll see him prancing around the tall grasses, sniffing the air and making friends with the little calves that came before him.

Life in the country at its best.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Farming Faith

It's raining again. The clouds are rallying with their spring-storm war cry to test our patience. The creeks are rising and little rivers trickle through the fields as I watch the relentless patter against the window.

It's been a tough spring. Though we are not farmers, our neighbors and friends are, and we've watched as the April freeze damaged their wheat and the torrential rains flooded roads and fields.

Our pastor spoke at church about the faith of a farmer. He said that it is one of the only occupations where your livelihood depends completely on nature's mercy. And it's true. The farmer sows his seeds believing they will grow into a crop that will be the source to feed his family. He has faith that there will be enough - but not too much - rain and sun. He trusts that the tractors and combines will make it through the planting and harvesting, and that the gas prices will fall and the crop prices rise to meet his needs. And whether the season is a success or failure, he rises each morning with new hope to do it all over again with the faith that only a farmer has.

When you shop for your groceries this week, stop and pray for the farmer. They request the least accolades, but in their quiet work, deserve it most.

Monday, April 23, 2007


Pink satin and billowy chiffon....roses and ribbons, photographs and smiles, dancing and dinner. There is 'much ado' about prom in a little town, when sons and daughters shed jeans and T's and turn into ladies and gentleman for an evening.

I think what makes a small town prom special is that it is of the students' making. There are no reservations at fancy restaurants nor decorated galas at a local country club. Instead, the gymnasium is transformed with white lights and black c
urtains, fountains and bridges, lamp posts and greenery. Cafeteria tables are elegantly dressed in black linens with candles and center pieces and all the hurrah. The Junior class and their sponsors work hard to turn the usual sports arena into a classy, sophisticated setting where they share a meal cooked by parents and dance beneath a makeshift moon. I'm glad to see that this tradition is still alive and that kids can make it real with a little imagination, and yet still keep it all in perspective.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Wind Passing

When I was a little girl, my mother and I would sit across my bed upstairs in our farmhouse, reading these words from a book she bought me called, Little Bits of Wisdom. This verse and picture are from that very book, purchased in 1967 when I was six years old. I often think of those days and these words when the wind is howling around me, as it is today.

If Chicago is the 'windy city', then Kansas must surely be the 'windy state'. The d
ays filled with bluster and blow are more common than not here, and there are times when it can be wearing. Many times we can barely get out our south door as it pushes in a backwards tug-of-war, and the hedgerows are bent in a permanent northeasterly direction from its unrelenting force. It howls at us on wintry days, swirling snow in drifts at our doorstep, and races across our prairie in a fury of tantrums during spring thunderstorms.

Yet... looking skyward one can see clouds in syncopation as the wind choreographs their dance, and the tall grass, wheat and wildflowers dip and sway in rippling response. A sea of green flows across the prairie as far as the eye can see; at one time carrying covered wagons upon its rolling waves.

And when the driving rains stop, the wind blows its gusty breath across muddy roads, bringing a warmth that transforms it back into a passable lane, and new leaves rustle together in whispered chatter, anxious to share their words after a long winter of barren boughs.

The wind and I have a love/hate relationship. But when I think back on the days when I was a child sitting on the bed with my mother, I remember those words we once read together. ...and regardless of the situation, the memory makes me smile.

"Who has seen the wind? Neither you nor I. But when the trees bow down their heads, the wind is passing by."

The Thoughtful Blogger

Some days ago I was notified by two fellow bloggers that I had been included among their picks for the Thinking Blogger Award. I so appreciate this inclusion and take my turn in paying forward to five places I visit that also inspire me.

Though Bonnie has already been tagged (as she is one of those who tagged me), I cannot help but put her at the top of my list of thoughtful bloggers. Her posts at Macro Moments are always inspiring and uplifting, leaving me feeling refreshed and renewed. Her recent addition includes Photo Buffet which is a beautiful palette of her nature photography which I find breathtaking. She has become a personal friend as well, helping me when I have questions and encouraging me in my writing. When someone transcends the written word and enters our hearts, we know we have met someone special. Bonnie is such a person.

Melange is a place where I find a canvas of words and pictures that tell a story. Perusing through her posts is like seeing part of myself and things yet to be. I love her optimism and look on life and the touching photographs and words about her lovely daughter, Nyssa. I never know what I'm going to find when I open her blog, and am never disappointed. When I am feeling a little out of sorts, this is where I go to feel right again. (Though I was also tagged by this blogger, there is no way I couldn't include her in my own).

There are many poignant stories shared at Networkchic's blog. She is intelligent, loving, guarded, seeking. Living in Chicago with her beautiful family, she weaves her writing around past hurts and future hopes. She writes with such grace and depth and in a manner that I could never imitate as it is solely her own. Her words are honest and poetic and she always makes me think and be thankful for my blessings.She is a woman of great strength and conviction and though her life - past and present - seems very far from my own, I think that if we were ever to meet we would find a common thread that would bond us for life.

The Farmers Wife comes from rural Illinois where she posts photographs of the history of her community. I find her blog so fascinating because she has captured my own backyard and put it into a format that makes me see if from a different perspective. Looking at her pictures and reading her writing reminds me of my past as a child living on a farm and the wonders of rural life. Captured through her lens are remnants of a lifestyle that is slowly dwindling, and her words and photographs are golden threads, breathing it back to life.

A Walk Through Durham Township, Pennsylvania is all about photography. Though her only words are captions, Kathleen Connally's blog is stunning. There are times when I don't have time to read as much as I'd like but visiting Durham Township is like taking a much needed mental hiatus. Her pictures are spectacular and remind me of the human spirit behind it all. I see my neighbors and friends reflected in her blog and am humbled to be living among the salt of the Earth.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Around the corner

Sometimes it seems like the rain will never stop. Spring teases us with its yellow daffodils and brilliant tulips and whispers through the new leaves of roadside cottonwoods. The sun lies warmly on our shoulders and wraps us in a long awaited embrace.

And then the clouds gather and the bitter north winds dash our hopes as they drive a cold rain against our windowpanes. It feels like we will never be warm again nor see strands of wispy white against a summer blue sky.

But hope awaits around the corner.... and on the horizon. There is promise of brighter days of beauty, joy, song. The darkened clouds become sunlit then fade away as prismatic rays replace them, lighting our lives and scattering any ill moments to the wind.

There will always be darkness, but without it we would never fully appreciate the light that inevitably comes. When the clouds gather, tuck yourself beneath a cover of comfort and be patient. The new bloom awaits.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Out of Commission

I've been under the weather for the past few days. An unrelenting fever took up residence in my body last Thursday and has refused to give up its grip. In its hip pocket it brought intense headaches and weakness, and I've had little interest or energy for much since.

But, the good news is......the sun is shining in Kansas! After a cold and rainy week, the welcome glow of spring has finally arrived and this time, I think it's here to stay.

I'm planning on going to the doctor tomorrow and am hopeful he'll have the perfect fix for what ails me.

Here's to chicken soup, sunshine and 70 degrees!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Changes and the Familiar

During our recent spring break, my son and I decided it was time to go through his room and put away the remnants of the 9-year-old who moved into that space six years ago.

He has just turned 15 and the Beanie Babies and Pokemon posters are no longer the focus of his world. We tidied the walls, went through his closet and came out of his room with six sacks worth of boyhood: clothing that no longer fit, toys that had run their course and various 'somethings' that had become buried beneath the everyday.

Red, black and white now covers the walls and as time allows, a basketball goal and Chicago Bulls logo will be added for finishing touches. Material was bought for a new cover and bed skirt, and in a few weeks, the transition will be complete.

During the renovations, our little cat, Silver Bells, tucked herself into the bed where she felt at home among little stuffed bears and a Paper Mache mask. She promptly fell asleep as the room transformed around her and woke up to a new splash of color.

Though things are bound to change, I suspect that through this transition, my son won't get rid of his childhood completely. I still see signs of that little boy in subtle memories around his room and a few bears remain; his hugs forever imprinted into their soft, stuffed fur. Just as the kitty found a place that seemed familiar, he has found his place as a young man and is completely at home.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Easter Greetings

A New Life....
A New Beginning....

Happy Easter!

Friday, April 06, 2007

In the Face of Pain

My mother has always been a pillar of strength, both physically and emotionally. I have learned so much from her; how she handles situations with grace and style and always, in perspective.

Last Friday she attended my daughter's play, along with my dad and several other family members. She sat through the performance, only speaking praise for the cast and the sweetness of our girl. But through it all, I knew she was hurting.

She was diagnosed with a compression fracture in her back just days beforehand and I know she has been in a great deal of pain. As always, she put that aside to come and support her granddaughter. Actions truly speak louder than words and hers always say, "You're important. I'm proud of you. I'm so glad you're mine. I love you."

Tuesday I sat in a hospital waiting room with my father and sisters as my mother had back surgery. The pain must have been great or she never would have consented. As I spent time with her throughout that day, I once again saw her strength and her grace. Always a lady, always an optimist. I hope my actions told her clearly: "You're important. I'm proud of you. I'm so glad you're mine. I love you."

May I be half the woman.