Saturday, December 31, 2011

Ending 2011 in a Good Place

As this year draws to a close, it's easy to see how far we've come.  This time last year we were homeless and a bit unsure about what the future had in store for us.  We had complete confidence that whatever came, it was going to be good.  Now it's easy to see the good.  Some of it was a little bit harder to trudge through.

We are now a farm family.  Several times we had friends and family visit us for the first time and express surprise at the fact that we are living on a real farm.  It's not just a house with a shed in back or a house with a big yard.  It is a farm.  We have chickens and a cow.  We are farmers.  I'm not sure I consider us real farmers yet.  We live in a community with real farmers.  We know what they look like.  We know how hard they work.  We aren't there yet but we hope to be, someday.

On the whole the farm has been more than we dreamed. We are a stronger family, physically and emotionally. We have learned about life and death, planting and harvesting, sowing and reaping.  I know more about chickens than I ever thought possible.   The kids have spent countless hours outside exploring the property.  We've learned that eating our own eggs and chickens taste better not just because we know where they came from but because we are the ones that put in the time and effort to get them on the table.  We have definitely become more responsible for ourselves and for others.   We are more connected with the world, right through the land all around us.

As we continue to grow and thrive, I pray that our first priority continues to be to glorify God.  I am so thankful that we are ending 2011 in such a good place.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Worth the Trip: Cambridge, OH

Since my in-laws visit in early November I have been trying to get to the Dickens Victorian Village in Cambridge, OH.  Yesterday, we finally made it there and I think it's safe to say that the experience was just another great part of our Christmas celebration.  I think it's also a unanimous decision that we'll include a trip to Cambridge in our Christmas traditions.

I'd originally thought that the Dickens Victorian Village was a live experience but on further investigation I realized that the display was made up of statues situated down Wheeling Avenue in Cambridge.  On some weekends before and after Christmas there were a variety of special activities scheduled.  Because of the weather we decided to visit Cambridge on a sunny day rather than waiting for the weekend.  We may have missed the Peddler Village but the beautiful weather made the sacrifice worthwhile.

We parked our car at one end of Wheeling Avenue and walked to see all 80 of the displays.  We were also able to spend some time in the shops in Cambridge.  A highlight of the trip was Ye Ole Curiosity Shoppe and Dickens Welcome Center.   Ye Ole Curiosity Shoppe had a variety of gift items for sale as well as an extensive variety of period clothing available for dress-up.  We all had a great time dressing in the period clothes and having our pictures taken. 

After we'd seen all the Dickens scenes we enjoyed dinner at a nearby restaurant then returned to downtown Cambridge to enjoy the light show at the Guernsey County Courthouse.  This event was nothing short of magical.  We got our hot cocoa and enjoyed the first part of the show on a park bench.  After the night became too chilly we moved to the car and watched the rest of the show from our van.  No one was anxious to go home.

On the way to Cambridge I'd given my family a speech which can be summarized as a "sometimes you just have to suck it up and do things with people that you might not necessarily be excited about because you love the people" speech.  It may be that the speech was still fresh in their minds and they were just humoring me but I prefer to believe that everyone enjoyed Cambridge as much as I did.  I've already added it to our activities for next Christmas.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Thanks Be to God for His Indescribable Gift!

This verse is found in 2 Cor 9:15.  It was the verse that our minister used for his meditation this morning.  It was a message that spoke to my heart.  H12 even complimented our minister and let him know how much she enjoyed the message.

We received many gifts today.  The gift of a good night's sleep. The gift of a warm, safe house. The gift of a leisurely morning.  The gift of hot coffee.  The gift of a hot shower.  The gift of cheerful, helpful, cooperative children.  The gift of time together.  The gift of a church to attend.  The gift of people with whom to fellowship.  The gift of good food. The gift of people we love and people who love us.  And then there were the gifts...Wii games, gift cards, clothes, stuffed animals, sports equipment, games, kitchen equipment, jewelry.

Our blessings are many but more than any of this my heart rejoices...

Thanks be to God for His Indescribable Gift!

Friday, December 23, 2011

End of an Era

The key to change... is to let go of fear.     -Rosanne Cash

Yesterday I quit my job.  It was a hard decision and one that I struggled with and put off finalizing for about two years.  Now the deed is done and I'm still not sure how I feel about it.

For the last nine years I worked as an independent consultant for a direct sales company specializing in easy to prepare gourmet food.  I built a team of 50+ consultants with about $250,000 in annual sales.  I enjoyed the products, the work, the interaction and the challenge...until I didn't. 

The fit just wasn't right anymore.  It took me a really long time to admit that.  I wanted to make things work.  I wanted to be able to just float along, let the paychecks come in without doing more than the minimum requirement of the job.  Admittedly, I liked getting a paycheck each month for doing five hours or less of work.  I wanted to continue to enjoy the social interactions that conferences and training provided even if I didn't really intend to do anything about the training I received.   I wanted things to stay the same.

Unfortunately, I was raised to feel very uncomfortable when my values and my actions are out of line.  My job was causing havoc between my values and actions.  As I learned in my counseling classes in college, change usually is caused by pain.  The discomfort of my actions finally exceeded my tolerance and I made a change. 

There was a lot of fear involved in delaying my decision.  I feared what people would think of my choice.  I feared what conclusions people would come to about me and about the company.  I feared a loss of personal worth.  I feared a loss of influence. I feared disappointing others.  I feared regret.  So many fears kept me frozen in place, even though I knew it was no longer my place. 

Today, I feel a sense of relief and a freedom from fear.  I know that I made a good choice for myself.  I know that it's time to end this era and move onto I'm not sure what.  I really have no idea what comes next but I know that it's going to be good.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Winter Solstice 2011

In 1999, we started the tradition of holding a holiday party on the Winter Solstice.  It's a tradition we continued through four moves.  The people changed each year.  New friends and neighbors mix with long-time friends as we celebrate the longest night of the year. 

Early on some people question our intentions in celebrating such a night.  The concern was that we were celebrating something other than the Creator of the signs and seasons of this world.  No one wonders that anymore, they just come and have a great time.

Last night was no exception.  With our return to the mid-Ohio valley, new friends and old friends mingled like never before. We saw people that we haven't seen in years and introduced them to people that we've gotten to know over the last 11 months.  It was a fun night.

Normally, I don't mess with remembering my menu from year to year.  I love to try new things so I don't want to be tied up with "traditional" food.  This year, because of my own procrastination, I didn't get the cupcakes that I planned to order and had to go to plan B.  My plan B was making my own mini-cupcakes.  At Thanksgiving, my cousin Allison brought a beautiful plate of mini-cupcakes.  She'd used our grandmother's favorite cake recipe to make them and they were as delicious as they were beautiful.  Her success inspired me.

One of the flavors offered from the bakery which I planned to order was mocha peppermint.  A quick internet search turned up a delicious recipe for mocha peppermint cupcakes.  While the frosting didn't inspire me I knew my standard buttercream frosting could be made minty by substituting peppermint extract for the vanilla.  I decided to copy Allison and make cupcakes with my favorite chocolate cake recipe.  I rounded out the cupcake offerings by making a spice cupcake and topping it with cream cheese frosting.

The cupcakes were a big hit and made an impression on everyone.  They were also easy and fun to make.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Weekly Recap December 12-16, 2011

We've done it!  We really worked hard this week so that we could take the next too weeks off and now we are on vacation.  I  think we are all pleased and proud of what we've accomplished so far in our school year.

M7 finished The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading.  She loved the last lesson.  It totally delighted her to read such a lengthy and beloved word. 

S9 completed his 4th grade math book and well be moving on to Life of Fred when we start school next year.

H12 completed the second session of Analytical Grammar.  She nailed the last test and is extremely proud of her ability to deconstruct a sentence.  She's also relieved that grammar is over for the year except for reviews.

K15 has several more days of school left.  She'll be finishing her community service next week.  We are all hoping that it's a lesson learned and one that won't need to be repeated.

We are going to spend next week reading.  S9 and M7 are interested in learning about the origin of our Christmas traditions so we are going to read about some of those.  We are also going to read The Gift of the Magi and A Christmas Carol. 

I've also go a stack of books coming just for me.  For my book club our January selection is to read a biography.  This isn't something I'd willingly do so I'm hoping the one I've picked about Benjamin Franklin is a good one.  

In addition to my "required" reading I'm going to read as many of these as  I possibly can:  
Patron Saint of Liars

Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
How the Irish Saved Civilization
The Thirteenth Tale
The Art of Racing in the Rain
Bootlegger’s Daughter

Merry Christmas!

'Tis the Season

Remember my post yesterday about the chaos of Christmas and about how I try to let the things I don't enjoy go.  Well, right now I'm spending time, lots of time, creating a Christmas card.  The thing is that I love Christmas cards.  I love thinking about them.  I love taking the pictures that we'll use for them.  This year I've got some amazing pictures!  I love writing the Christmas letter and getting each envelope stuffed and addressed.  I love picking out the stamps and putting them in the mail.  Most of all I love receiving Christmas cards. 

The thing I don't love is figuring out how to get the card made.  There are so many places to do photo cards.  Each one has its own templates and pricing. I've uploaded my pictures to at least three sites and still don't have a card that I'm excited about sending.  I especially don't love this process when it's almost midnight and my husband has been sleeping in the chair for more than two hours.  Also, the chair is adding to my lack of enthusiasm because it's providing a grating harmony to the chorus of snores.  Each time he inhales or exhales there's a weird squeak coming from the chair. 

I've been trying humming different Christmas carols to see if I can find one that fits the rhythm that I've been given.  So far, no success with that.  'Tis the season to be jolly! Fa la la la la la la la laaaaaa!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Christmas Chaos

Christmas chaos is a situation I fight hard not to experience. The key for me is to do the things I love and let the rest go.  I love to bake and entertain.  I love Christmas music and I love the opportunity to worship.  I try to spend as much time doing those things as I possibly can.

When I must do something that I don't love, I try to find a way to be thankful and joyful in the situation.  I don't love to shop but  I love those for whom I buy gifts.  I try find the joy in each line, shopping cart and choice because it is an act of loving sacrifice.  Prayer is required sometimes.  I do try to shop early and to know exactly what I want and where to get it.  I don't spend time window shopping or wandering and looking.  I also try to buy from small, local businesses.  They tend to have good service and I feel that my purchase is providing a direct benefit. 

For the most part, I love the holiday season.  Mine begins the week before Thanksgiving when we hold our annual shoebox packing party for Operation Christmas Child.  We continued with a Thanksgiving celebration that included family, family and more family.  Twenty people were at our table.  Sixteen of those stayed through the weekend.  It was a time for which I will be forever thankful.

Thanksgiving has been followed by tree trimming, Christmas music, cookie baking, Christmas pageant rehearsal, Christmas parties, a search for Mary's costume, cookie baking, church dinner, A Christmas Story, cookie decorating.  We have so many more holiday adventure ahead of us.  Another company Christmas party, our own Winter Solstice party, Christmas Adam, Christmas Eve, Christmas.  Most of the Christmas shopping is done.  I put in the last orders online today.  I've only got a few last things to pick up and then I can start wrapping. 

Some things are different this year but so many of our traditions and habits have stayed the same.  It's good to know that Christmas can happen anywhere and that chaos is not absolutely required.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Weekly Recap 11/28-12/2/11

This week flew by.  We had my parents here until Wednesday so we were only doing the basics while we enjoyed the last of our company.  The entire day Wednesday was take up with a trip to and from the airport.  Oh for the days when the airport was 20 minutes away.  Thursday and Friday we kicked it into high gear and got as much of our week done as we possibly could.

The plan is to work hard the next two weeks and then take two weeks off.  Everyone seems to like the plan and, at least at this time, is working to make it happen.  H12 is going to have the most work to get done in the next two weeks.  In fact, she's spending time this weekend working on outlines for history.  I suspect that being able to work in her room without the rush of our daily activities appeals to her.

K15 started volunteering at a local nursing home.  She has 48 hours of court ordered community service to complete before December 26.  In my opinion, that means the community service needs to be completed by December 22.  In a community the size of ours, finding 48 hours worth of work is a challenge.  She is helping clean and organize at our church.  She is working for our local township recording the names, dates and locations of graves in the township cemeteries.  We are hoping that the nursing home will allow her to round out the hours required.  She seems to enjoy the nursing home.  She has a favorite resident and talks about the people she's met there.  One man patted her butt.  She was surprised and found it funny that old men still think about pretty girls.  Between the cemeteries and the nursing home, we haven't seem much of her this week.

S9 began writing his first report this week.  He spent time the first day taking notes from sources concerning the Iroquois.  Using those note he wrote a rough draft.  Next week we'll work on correcting spelling, grammar and punctuation and making a final copy of his report.  He seems to be doing well on the project.  At one point, he said he didn't know what to write next.  He quickly remembered his page of notes and had no problem continuing with his report.

M7 continues to move through her work without difficulty.  She's within 30 lessons of finishing Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading.  We began a Singapore math program and she's found the lessons to be easy and fun.  We haven't had anything new yet but it's nice to know she's got a good grasp of the concepts so far.  Latin continues to be her favorite subject.  She did a wonderful job writing the Doxology in cursive and illustrating it.

Thanksgiving Recap

The meal was wonderful and the weekend flew by way too quickly.  If I wait to do a longer summary it may never get done so here are some things that I want to be sure I remember to help with planning the next holiday gathering.

My best moves for Thanksgiving:
Having meals planned for the entire weekend
Renting tables and chairs for Thanksgiving dinner
Making as much as possible ahead of time
Putting my sister in charge of the table decorations

Things to improve for next year:
Find a new gravy recipe
Figure out what is wrong with automatic meat thermometer
Get Mom and Dad to stay longer