Defining Moments

Recently I was invited to attend a military retirement ceremony. As normally happens there was a lot of pomp and the ceremony. What impressed me more than the ceremony was the retiree’s speech. He had been a fighter jet pilot, and he talked about the flights that meant the most to him, the ones that defined his career. I won’t bore you with all the details, but he talked about super high flights, super low ones as well as some others that were in between. The last one he focused on was one of his first solo flights, and how at that moment even being so young, that moment changed his life forever, and some times how he wished he could have that moment back. Not so he could change it but so that he could relive it and savor the moment more.

The point of his talk was about valuing those moments. Stepping out of that moment (looking back) and looking at the time around those moments and realizing what they meant to you, to your family, and to the world around you. How they shaped your life, how they changed you.

I started to think about maybe the top 5 (because he picked 5) times, the top 5 moments in my career to date that have shaped who I am. First, I realized that my career is boring. So I expanded on the idea to include the rest of my life.

I thought it might be a fun experiment to try to write those ideas down, talk about what they meant to me and then share them with the world. Then I thought it might be interesting to invite some other people to do the same thing.

Defining Moments

When I set out to write this post, I had some pretty specific ideas about what I wanted to write, but when I actually sat down to write, I found that they didn’t really meet with what I think I wanted to this series to be about. I mean I could talk about the day I got married, or the day I first become a father. Without a doubt, those were huge moments in my life. They shaped who I am. Both of those have completely changed who I am. Becoming a father, taught me that I love being a father, and getting married has taught me and will continue to teach me what it means to really love, and thank you for that my dear.

While these events were important, there are a few events that have changed me in other ways. The first of those was the day I got off the plane from JFK airport and walked into Frankfurt International Airport. What followed was almost 7 years of cultural shock. I spent from just before my ninth birthday until after my 16th birthday living in Germany. We traveled every chance we got. I learned to ski, I speak some German to this day, and I have respect for the culture of Europe that I don’t think I would have gotten had a not lived there.

The next event that defined who I am was only about 6 weeks later. When we moved to Germany there was no housing available right away. And we were stuck in a hotel. We didn’t speak the language, we didn’t really know our way around, and even though we had a great sponsor who showed us around, it was pretty easy to get depressed pretty fast. That was what was happening to my mother who was stuck in the hotel all day while my father went to work and my brother and I went to school. It was spilling over, so one day my father said pack some bags we are going on a trip. While there was some moaning and groaning, we all piled in our newly acquired car and headed south to Garmish. We spent the weekend in the General Paton hotel. My brother and I got our first experience of ordering fish by picking it out of the tank.
Understand that it rained and sleeted all the way down, as it had almost every day since we had arrived in Germany. We had seen nothing except the same grey skies that we had seen in Frankfurt. And even though we had a nice room and a good meal, I think even my father was beginning to question driving the 6 hours to just spend time in an even more cramped hotel room. That first night about midnight, my dad got up to get a drink of water on his way back to bed he took a moment to peek out the curtains. The next thing we knew the curtains were opened wide and all of us were awake. “You have got to see this,” he said.
The sky had cleared up, the moon was out and right out our window were the Alps bright as daylight in the moon light. It was that moment that I think turned our minds around, and we all decided that we wanted to be there. The beauty of what we were seeing was to this day indescribable. It also started my life long fascination with living in and around the mountains. So to my poor wife who probably had no idea why was so excited that whole drive out to Colorado just before we got married on seeing the mountains for the first time, it is my dad’s fault.

I met my wife the year before we left Germany, and I have always maintained that I knew she was the the one for me the day I first noticed her walking into our classroom. The fact that I didn’t notice her until the ned of the day and that she was in most of the rest of my classes that day, well we will just gloss over that part. While I still maintain that is the case, I was young and stubborn (read stupid.) It was not until I was sitting on a mountainside in France, that I realized it was not the girl I was dating that I missed, and that I was my wife-to-be that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.

The birth of each of our kids has been something special. Our first son was taken away from us and put in the NICU only 24 hours after he was born, my wife had an emergency C-section and we were 200 miles from home with no money and no way of getting back. I remember holding him and thinking what the heck have we gotten ourselves into. And each kid after that had their own surprises. Our first daughter, and 5th child was born while I was away at school, I remember getting the call about 5:30 am that my wife was going to the hospital, and then failing the quiz that day, and the rushed trip home that weekend. The three children that we planned to have at home and because of one complication or another ended up in the hospital anyway, and then our current youngest being born at home when I ran out of the room to get a towel and the look on my wife’s face when I came back and she was holding that precious little one. My children have change my life in ways I can’t even begin to describe.

Each one of these moments has changed my life. They have defined who I am in ways that even before I started writing this I didn’t realize.

Later this week Scott Roche will take a stab at telling us about his defining moments.

Want to join in the fun? please use the contact form below to let me know.
Thanks,
Jeff

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The Ambush

Originally posted on Aug 11 2008

The Ambush Audio Download and enjoy!

Prompt
With wet grass on his/her feet he/she moved forward as quietly as possible.

The Ambush

I was watching her from the comfort of my deck chair, the coffee in my mug warming my hands. She was so sure of herself even though she was bound to fail just like she had done the last twenty times she had tried this. It was still fun to watch. Her bare feet were covered in the freshly mowed, wet grass and this time she was moving closer as quietly has she could, giggles escaping every few seconds.
She was two feet away. If she could just keep quiet and keep moving in slowly, she might actually have a chance of success this time. But then I would have to get up and interfere. I was just setting my coffee down when it happened.
“Chickie, Chickie, Chickie!” she screamed as she bolted forward. The chickens were never in any real danger. She was bright and pretty fast for a two year old, but her arms out run did not stand a chance against a terrified chickens sprint. They all scattered while she screamed with delight as she chased two or three of them around the yard.
I sat back and grabbed my coffee from the table. Now it was my turn to giggle. She loved this game, and it was certainly not doing any harm.
She slowed down again, now a little out of breath and started slowly moving in on a group of them. Even though they were a little more wary at the moment, they still found what ever they were catching on the ground more interesting. She was still a good distance away but moving in slowly when I saw it. A brown hen was coming up from behind her. I set my coffee down and prepared to move. The chickens had all been very good with the kids, but this one had a look about it that said it was about to become soup.
It came up behind her moving only a little faster than she was. She was already starting to giggle as she approached the small group of chickens that she planned to ambush. But I was more interested in the hen about to ambush her.
Her body tensed to squeal her battle cry and run at them again, but she never made it. The hen attacked from the rear, pecking at an interesting flower it saw on her dress. It only pecked once before realizing its mistake and quickly turning to run the other way.
The little girl whirled around, hands on hips and stomped her foot. “Bad chickie!” I nearly feel over laughing.

Happiness and Trepidation

baby[1] a Few days ago my wife and I made kind of an announcement, and I am just getting around to writing about it. We always love sharing the news about our little babies, but this announcement came with a fair amount of fear and trepidation.





First, let’s start with the happy part. HEY everyone we are having a baby! We are so very excited about it. We wanted to shout it from the roof tops. So there we were yesterday shouting it from the highest roof top we know (Facebook.) We showed the picture to the kids. As a small aside, it is wonderful to see how many of them saw the ultrasound and not only knew what that meant, but also could pick out the baby. They were all very excited. The only concern we got from the kids was from our oldest. He asked, “does this mean I am going to have to learn to drive an even bigger van?”

I love babies. Not just my own but other people’s as well. If we are at a function were people have kids, you are likely going to find me holding one. I love100_4923 being dad. Some days my head feels like it is going to explode if I get one more question about why, why, why, or a child who does not want to do their school work, but at the end of the day I know that despite the headache, despite the piles of laundry that I still need to fold and have the children dump back into their hamper because they don’t want to put them away, this is why I am here. I love being a dad. I love being with the kids, wrestling, playing, building train tracks, drinking imaginary tea and eating imaginary cookies. I love teaching them new things and practicing the old, and over all just watching them become the people, that I know they will be.

100_4958So why, with all this joy, do I also have trepidation and sometimes even abject fear? Let’s start with the simple answer, it is a new life a new and precious, and fragile life, and I am not as sure of myself as I once was about these things. Despite all our medical knowledge and all the prayers, there is danger involved here, both for the new baby and mom. But let’s not focus on the big things.

How about the questions. As you probably know, this is baby # 11 for us. That is a pretty big number. Big enough that people, even good Catholic families, tend 2013-12-31 18.45.52to give you side ways glances, and ask you questions like How did this happen? Sometimes I actually look forward to these questions now, because I feel like I am prepared for them, usually because it is an opportunity to practice my snarky responses. But some times the questions come from people you didn’t expect. Sometimes even the people you expect to be supportive really aren’t and that is some times hard to deal with.

Some of the questions aren’t like that though. Some of them are just questions, but they hurt none the less. No matter how carefully they are asked. For example, my wife’s doctor’s nurse, a wonderful woman who is very caring and supportive had some background questions to ask, and the conversation went like this.

“How many pregnancies have you had?”
*My wife counting on her fingers* “15.”
“How many living children?”
“9.”

See, a simple question asked with respect and dignity and yet, it hurts. It is not because it was wrong of her to ask or anything, just hard to think about those babies that we will never get to hold.

So yes, while I am very excited, I am fearful. I am uncertain about my own abilities. We debated for a while if we were going to tell any one other than our very closest friends and those people who needed to know. (The God parents for example.) I was all for sending out birth announcements as a way of letting most people know. But my wife did something that reminded me that this is a reason to be joyful. She started telling people. She started telling them and letting them know how happy we were. And we are, and I am. So welcome to the world my little one. We can’t wait to meet you.
– Love Dad

A Real Father is Snot Afraid

Originally Posted May 20 2008

0217141935-01Sorry for the delay folks, I originally thought the audio was missing for this one, but I was able to recover it, so here you go.

As the intro says, prompts from various places. I wrote this one a while ago after having a conversation with an expectant parent, who was asking advice about things they needed to buy for their new baby.


Download and listen to Audio for A Real Father is Snot Afraid.

A Real Father is Snot Not Afraid.

Jimmy was lying kicking and screaming on the floor while his father knelt over him, with the child under him to hold him down. He pinned the child’s arms to the floor with one hand and with the other produced a blue plastic item that looked like a small very short turkey baster, from his pocket. At the sight of it the child screamed louder, and now tears streamed down his cheeks. Arthor, after some difficulty got the end of the turkey baster into the child’s nose squeezed and released. Then with the same amount of trouble he repeated this with the other nostril.

When it was all over he kissed the child on the forehead and said, “Come on now, Jimmy was that really all that bad?” Jimmy wiggled his way away from his father, kicking to get out from under him and in the process kicked him in the knee, in a way that seemed to be more than a little intentional, then ran off still whimpering.

Arthur stood up rubbing his knee. “I don’t know how you do it John, you have 8 of those and I only have one. He is more than I can handle some times.”

“We pick our battles, Arthur” I said.

“Yeah, but how?” He said as he made his way to the sink. Before I could answer he started to clean the item that I like to call the brain sucker. He ran the water until is was steaming then stuck the open end into the stream and worked the action several times. When this was done he shut the water off and squeezed the bulb a number of times to expel and remaining water.

“I mean Mary and I are some times so tired at the end of the day we can barely make it up the stairs.” as he spoke he got a paper towel from under the sink and dried the brain sucker off. Then he pulled out an alcohol pad and cleaned all the exposed surfaces.

“I know how you feel. There are days when we have each fallen asleep on the sofa after the kids are in bed.” Done with the alcohol pad he tossed it in the trash and carried the brain sucker to the dish washer and put it in.

To the obviously surprised look on my face at this Arthur said, “You don’t want anything like that floating around with your dishes so we get it all cleaned out first.”

“Oh”

“So what do you guys do?” he said as he opened a drawer next to the sink. In the drawer were four more of the little torture devices.

My youngest daughter ran up to me at that point. “Daddy, Marvin has a googie.” The was code for he needed to blow his nose. Marvin trailed behind her in with his unsteady walk. I picked him up.

“Alice says you have a googie is that true.” Marvin giggled. I grab his nose with my thumb in index finger and the mucus came out on to my fingers. I let go of his nose and Marvin giggled again.

“Daddy silly.” Marvin said as I put him down again and he toddled off. Arthur was almost white.

“Fathers are snot afraid.” I said rinsing my fingers under the sink.

Creative Commons License
A Real Father is Snot Afraid by Jeffrey Hite is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at greathites.blogspot.com.

Fathers in the background – St. Joseph

st_joseph_the_carpente-242x300
Over the years I have given a lot of thought to fatherhood. I remember when I was in 7th grade, and I was reading Bill Cosby’s book Fatherhood. At the time my lab partner teased me about the book asking if I was going to be a father or something? Of course at that moment I said no. No, I don’t think I was looking at fatherhood way back then but it was a pretty funny book.

The truth is that even with such dubious role models as Bill Cosby, Tim (the Tool Man) Taylor, Michael Keaton and Ray Barrone I was pretty sure that I did want to be a father even then, just not yet.


*** I think that I should stop for a moment here and say that I don’t think of myself as a great father. I don’t even think of myself as a particularly good father. This is not one of those, “Look how good a dad I am” posts. I am just a dad who is trying to figure things out as I go.

I think despite the questionable role models, or the lack of good role models on TV, I still wanted to be a father. I still wanted to have kids of my own. Why? Well I am not sure, but I did.

Over the last few months, St. Joseph has become my hero. He really should have been all along but what can I say, I am kind of slow learner. For me it all kind of started with the little youtube video that always shows up around Christmas. You know the one. (Yes, it is a little silly, but the video is a beautiful reminder of what they faced together and how it would translate in our world.)
The important part to me starts right about 1:13 when friends of Joseph start to question what is going on. We don’t all face the same things that St. Joesph did in bringing a child into the world. We don’t face God being the father of our children, but we all do face a fair amount of uncertainty. One of those uncertainties, will be the people that we count among our friends before we have children. Some of whom will question our choices, and some, as happens to Joseph at 1:54 when 23 people un-friend him, some of them will abandon us altogether. Looking back at it now I say, good let them go, I remember how that felt. And I am not saying it is going to be easy.

stjoesephThat is another lesson learned from St. Joseph, some times being a father really isn’t easy. A personal example of that, one day before our eldest son was born we were told there was something wrong. So we had to drive over the mountains to Denver, and then once he was born. Because of a health condition we couldn’t go home again. It was a trying time, but that is nothing compared to what the Holy family had to deal with. They had to leave home and to go to a crowded city, where there was no place for them. Once they get there, having their baby be born in a stable. Then in the middle of the night being told, by an Angel, that you have to leave now. Not to go home, but go even further away to Egypt. It was a good thing that Joseph was a carpenter and could find work just about anywhere.

That brings me to the reason I chose the title for this post. Most of the time, in today’s society if you see a father portrayed at all, he is portrayed as a bumbling idiot, who some how manages to make money so his family can survive. He is often in trouble, with either his wife and some times his kids, and normally is the laughing stock for all of us. Yes, these are sitcoms, but are there really any good father figures on TV anywhere else?

In this we could all take a lesson from St Joseph. It is a hard lesson to learn especially in today’s culture, Being a good father is not about being the center of attention. It is not about your friends, either the ones who have stuck with you, or the ones that have abandoned you. Even when St Joseph probably had something to say it was not recorded. And yet he was still an effective father.

While it is unclear when he died, it is generally accepted that St Joseph died before Jesus was very old. Despite that, he spent enough time with him, teaching him and being a father to him, that when he did die Jesus and Mary were able to survive on the skills learned from his father. And yet, we never really hear about that. We don’t have any records or youtube videos of the afternoons spent in the shop working. We don’t have any accounts of Joseph spending time with his son, teaching how to play ball, or fix the house up or use the tools. We have to assume that he was an effective teacher because Jesus was also known as a carpenter, and known to be good to his mother.

So Today I think about St. Joseph. He is the role model that I want to follow. I hope that I am managing to do a good job of it, but I am likely not anywhere near as effective as he was.

A Father’s Prayer for His Children

Saint Joseph, I come to you with my concerns for the welfare of my children. I recall your anxiety when, to your surprise and Mary’s, Jesus was not among your relatives and friends on your return from Jerusalem. I too worry about my children. Many dangers surround the youth of today. Sometimes, in my loving concern for them, I may seem to them to be difficult or even harsh. Help me to remove the barriers that may come between my children and myself. I love my children and desire good and wholesome things for them. Good Saint Joseph, watch over my children and inspire me to know how to speak and act in love. Saint Joseph, foster father of Jesus, pray for me. Amen.

Prayer to St. Joseph

Blessed Joseph, husband of Mary, be with us this day.
You protected and cherished the Virgin;
loving the Child Jesus as your Son,
you rescued Him from the danger of death.
Defend the Church, the household of God,
purchased by the blood of Christ.

Guardian of the Holy Family,
be with us in our trials.
May your prayers obtain for us
the strength to flee from error
and wrestle with the powers of corruption
so that in life we may grow in holiness
and in death rejoice in the crown of victory.
Amen.

Welcome to the New Year

To kick off the new year I completed a project that I had been meaning to do all last year. Technically I did get it done last year (well except that I still need to paint the thing) but I am pretty proud of. The room is newly painted and the new beds are in. As you can see the kids helped a lot.

The plans are from The Hand Made Dress. They are two bucks. Don’t do what I did and get both sets as they are the same and include everything you need for either design. Granted, I would have gladly paid a lot more for these plans.

I did make some minor changers; I use 2x6x8’s to build the bed frame instead of 2x8x8’s and I added four extra 2x3x8’s to the purchase list, so that I could build a railing on the top bunk.

So, here a few pictures our project. As you can see, everyone got to help. The beds, even while they were only partially put together, are very strong.

I had lots of help. Some slightly more helpful that other. Also this project gave son #4 a good chance use his new tool kit. It was really very useful.

The completed beds were very well appreciated.

I have one more set to build in the girls room. Their room does not need to be painted, so it should take less time to complete the whole job.

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The Spray Cheese Legacy

The Spray Cheese Legacy

A Short Story (and a prediction of the future for our children)

Can-of-Cheese[1]
Dedicated to my wife and Children

“So what is bothering you?” His wife asked.
“I don’t know this whole big production for dinner just seems off some how.”
“Geeze, not that again. We have been married for three years now, you need to get over that.”
“Yeah I know, but it is hard.”
“What would you have us do instead? No don’t answer that.”
“But Honey that is what we always did. I mean it was a tradition.”
“Your family was crazy. That is all I have to say. Everyone around the world has a big dinner on Christmas. That is just what you do.”
“That is not what we did.”
“I know, and it was weird.”
“Well I think this is weird. You are all stressed out and have spent all day cooking, why do you have to make it such a big production?”
“Because that is what NORMAL people do.”
“Then I don’t want to be normal,” he said as he snatched a cracker from the tray.
“Hey, that is for dinner.”
“Yeah I know.”
He slipped into the kitchen and found what he was looking for. Turning the can upside down he pushed the nozzle and a stream of cheese spurted on his cracker.
“You are not eating that spray cheese again are you? You are going to ruin your appetite.” She hollered from the dining room.
“Of course not dear,” he said around a mouth full of cracker. Then after a deep sigh of contentment, he muttered to himself “It is not Christmas without spray cheese.”

Where our Food Comes From

WARNING – This post contains some graphic content about livestock, if you are squeamish about that sort of thing please consider skipping this post. You have been warned.

If you look closely at this picture you will see that the thing I have around me is a baby sling.  There is a baby in there, but I am also using it to help me hold the apples I pick. I am such a good dad. Here baby, hold these apples that are bigger than your head. This weekend we took another step on the journey toward knowing where our food comes from. I know there are people out there, who have to know where every bite they put in their mouth comes from. To them I say, if that is what makes you happy, great, but that level of research would drive me crazy. I also know that there are people out there who have no clue about where anything they eat comes from. I know it is likely fake but there is that picture out on the “interweb” of the person saying, “hunters are cruel you should just get your meat from the store so no animals are hurt.” Like I said I am pretty sure that is fake but have seen somethings that are akin to that level of ignorance. We are hopefully somewhere in the middle.

Over the last few years we have tried to become more aware of where our food is coming from. From little things like joining a local CSA so we where know where 1147618_630976346935963_1482921706_o[1] our vegetables are grown, and going to the farms to pick our own fruit (that we can can / freeze and store for later use) to bigger things like getting together with several families to buy an organically raised grass fed cow. Along those lines we also have been raising our own chickens for eggs. We have toyed with the idea of raising “meat” birds but as of yet we have not done that.

Crew_working_DSC02345As I have talked about before, this year we also worked together with a group of families to have our own vegetable crop, working about two acres of land. This was a pretty eye opening and a great learning experience for us because, as much as we have tried to have vegetable gardens in the past, we have never really been able to make them work. Working with other people has really helped, at least for me. It has taught me all those things that we were missing before. Sure we still made some mistakes and I am sure we will continue to make some, but it was a great learning experience.

This year we also bought some sheep. We bought them specifically to use them for meat. There were never any illusions that they would be around for a long time or that they were pets. Our children took to naming the animals things like Lamb Chop and Leg of Lamb. I don’t know if that means we have rather demented children or that they were really aware of what was to come and this was there way of dealing with that.Photo 2013-01-03 15.35.25 Either way, that is what they did. We have had a lot of fun and a few frustrating times during the year learning how to raise these critters. Never let it be said that it was boring. We had to deal with the inevitable death of a couple of them, (there is a saying that I learned this year, if you have live stock you will also have some dead stock,) animals die and that is just the way things go.

sheeptransport

Knowing all of that I was still not really looking forward to the end of the year when we would need to slaughter them. Let me get it out of the way right now. Yes, we did do it. Yes, I was the one holding the knife for at least one of them. And YES, we did it as humanely and as quickly as we possibly could. DSC02308 I was very nervous about it. I had never really tried to do anything like this before. I had never really thought about all the logistical details of it. The hows and wheres and how much of it. But, When it came right down to it, I was able to do it.

I won’t go into all the details but I want to recount a little bit of it because it was pretty eye opening for me, and as stressed as I was about it, it really did work out ok.

WARNING – This post contains some graphic content about livestock, if you are squeamish about that sort of thing please consider skipping the rest of this post. You have been warned. Don’t worry there are no pictures beyond this point.

I knew all year this past weekend was coming. I knew that it needed to be done. I was aware that I would have to do it. I was ok with it all in theory. But when it came right down to actually making the cut that would kill the sheep, I was pretty darn nervous about it. So the week before I did a lot of reading. I watched some pretty graphic videos on youtube, and learned as much as I could about the whole process. I had a pretty good idea of what needed to happen before you killed the animal. I had a pretty good idea of what needed to happen after we killed the animal to get it ready to cut up and put it in the freezer. It was just the actual killing that I was really worried about. I stressed for almost two days straight about it. I worried about how I was going to be able to do it. I thought about all the different methods and tools. It should come as no surprise that I was very nervous the first time.

But let me back up just a little bit. The day we chose turned out to be bitterly cold. I think the actual temperature was 15 degrees F, with a wind chill somewhere near 2 degrees. There were several families coming to help, (all with nearly no experience, one family had done this one time before with help from a local hunter friend.) The older children and I got the barn and the garage cleaned up, and separated the ones who were going to be killed from those who were not, and started the game of waiting for everyone else to show up.

I am not afraid to admit that this was an anxiety laden time for me. And in the end I could not wait until everyone was there, and we started without them. If for no other reason than the rest of us were freezing waiting for them. I had my hand on the knife for the first one, and was able to get over my anxiety, with a few short prayers, both for the sheep and for myself.

When everyone did finally show up, we were just really getting started and were debating where and how to take the next step. That first one was like slaughter by committee. As much as I dreaded the killing part, I dreaded this part more. The families we worked with, are really great people. I like them a lot, but in an already stressful situation (and I know they were somewhat stressed as well) and with the very cold weather (did I mention it was snowing pretty hard as well) it just made things worse. I was very relieved when after we had worked through about 2/3rd’s of the steps with the first one, we felt confident and had a plan with how to deal with the other two, and it was decided as a group that we could work in parallel. That meant I could step away from the “committee” somewhat and work with a much smaller group getting the next two sheep ready.

All in all three sheep were killed and prepared for butchering. All of my older kids (except for the one off doing a scouting activity) were involved to the level that they were comfortable. Some just watched and some dove right in and helped, and all learned somethings. I was very proud of all of the kids, especially the ones who were a bit squeamish abut the whole thing, and stayed out there for it anyway. The two middle ones even got some hands on experience with working with very sharp knives. (And from that I only ended up with two very small cuts.)

In the end, I am glad that we did it, glad that we did it as a group, even glad that I was scared and was able to get over that. We still own two sheep that will likely be slaughter later in the year, (next month more than likely.) And some how we started out the day with four sheep at our house, killed three and now have four sheep and a goat. Someone will have to explain that math to me one day. But all in all it was a pretty successful day. I am pretty sure that we will continue to raise sheep next year. Like everything else we have learned some lessons (like not trying to do it on the coldest day of the year) and we will do some things differently next time, but it was a positive enough experience that I am willing to repeat it.

Thanks to everyone that helped.

-Jeff

Remembering Isabel

isabel_with Mom and DadAs almost always happens in life, things did not turn out the way that we planned. As my wife pointed out, we make plans and God laughs.

I suppose I should back up and explain a little. For those of you who don’t know today is our daughter’s birthday. Unfortunately she was only with us for a short time, and most of that was spent trying to keep her alive. She was born And died the same day.
So we had made plans to go to Mass at our church, and then go to the Cemetery and spend some time there checking out the newly laid head stone and some time just wandering around looking at the rest of the cemetery. After that we would just spend a quite day at home with the family. (Seriously we should have known better than plan a quiet day at home.)

It started earlier this month when we learned there would be no daily Mass this week at our parish since the priest would be out of town. Not a problem we can find another Daily Mass to go to. Right! Well some how we kind of messed that up.

Then yesterday we discovered that we had a leak on the second floor of the house that was leaking into the kitchen. The water was turned off. Turns out it was a drain pipe to the sink In the master bathroom, but before we could discover and stop the leak, there was a lot of dry wall that needed to be removed. Translation there is a rather large hole in the ceiling of our kitchen right now.

I started to work on said hole this morning but things didn’t go as I had hoped and well, the work had to stop.

Off we headed to the Cemetery. Honestly this went very well. The headstone is beautiful

20131106-204807.jpg. It was great to see it.

We came home to find our sheep out of their pen. We got them back in their pen, but decided to move it since we were out there already. While we were doing so, I got tangled up in the fence and sprained my ankle.

After a while of normal maintenance we realized it was worse than normal, and required a trip to urgent care. Good news it is just a sprain and no other damage the bad new is that the trip got me a splint, and several days of “light duty.”

Back to the hole in the ceiling. Guess that won’t get fixed any time in the next few days. Something about climbing around on ladders in a splint seems like a bad idea.

It was not a bad day. I don’t want you to think that I am looking for sympathy here. Yes, we wish we could celebrate today differently, but we can’t. We are all learning to deal with that. And besides the trip to urgent care it was a pretty normal day around the house.

While we were gone to Urgent care the kids made a banana cream cake, a normal cake with banana pudding, sliced banana’s whipped cream, and crushed ‘nilla wafers over the top, and the older ones made dinner. It was good to come home to.

Our kids are happy. A little weird at times, but then they would not be our kids if they weren’t a little weird. And My wife and I are pretty happy, a little on the insane side but happy. And we are thankful. Thankful for the short time we got to spend with Isabel. Thankful for the folks who were so very helpful last year in our time of need, and the ones who have continued to be helpful since then. We are thankful for the children we have and get to hold and the ones who we only got to hold the one time.

So yes, we are saddened by this day. But I am taking it as a day to remember our little one, by spending time with the rest of her family and taking stock of everything we have.

I Herd That

DSC02308Recently I read a post by one of my friends and co-founders of Flying Island Press, Zachary Ricks called Going Straight. Before you read on, I am going to ask you to go read his post, most of what I am about to say is not going to make sense unless you do.

Ok you read it right?

No?

I’ll wait.

We’re good now right?

Before I get into this two deep let me say two things.

First, my farming experience has come as an adult. I don’t think it lessens it, but it does make it different. My experience is also on a much smaller scale, you might call it hobby farming, heck you might even call what I am doing just goofing around. Whatever you want to call it, it is different than what he has experienced.

Second, I am going to use some humor here. I am not in anyway meaning to lessen the message that Mr. Ricks is sending. He has a good message here and I am hopefully going to add to it and not take away from it. We are both using the farming metaphor to describe life, and well that just lends itself to some pretty humorous things. Not the least of which is the idea of two “old men” arguing about which kind of farming is a better metaphor for life.

Mr. Ricks starts with the premise that if you are going to get anywhere in life, if you want to reach your goals you need to look straight ahead and plow your rows straight by keeping your eyes on your goal. If you do then you will make nice straight lines. While I was reading this, I could not help but think about the very small amount of “creating rows” I have done. First, I will say that I have never done this with a tractor. All of our farming has been done by hand. The biggest power tiller that you can rent from your local supply store is the largest piece of equipment that I have used on our farm. That being said the tiller (and yes I know that is different than disking and that is different than plowing but hey I gotta start somewhere) I have used on the 3+ acres that we messed with this year, yanked me around until I was sore even after days of trying to pick the rocks out of the soil, and I never had anything that looked like a straight line. When we went back and use the furrower the story was much the same. Then we had a string guiding us and I was still all over the place. I guess it does not mean that we had a bad field, just that we had one that didn’t have straight lines as hard as we tried. So while I like the idea of keeping your eyes on the end of the field and getting straight to your goals, it is not something I really have any experience with.

Well one of the reasons that we make straight lines in our fields is that we want to be able to use equipment in helping us to continue the growing process. We want to have it help us spray the crops to keep the weeds down and of course water. If your lines aren’t straight, then when you run your equipment through you’re going to run over some of your crops.

What does this have to do with life? Simple. If you don’t keep your eyes on where you are going and keep your “lines straight” you are going to have a hard time later, some of the work that you did in the past will get lost, because you didn’t do it in the right order, or it was off track. You might even waste time redoing things because you didn’t understand enough to have done it right in the first place. You might find yourself at the end of the field, (the end of a project) only to realize that you plowed the wrong field. These are very real dangers, and very good reasons for keeping your eyes on your final goal.

Crew_working_DSC02345While I don’t have any experience plowing and making strait rows, one of the things that I do have some experience in, is herding animals and pulling weeds. For me, while the idea of keeping your eyes on your goal makes a lot of sense, I find myself having to make sure that not only am I headed in the right direction, but also that the animals that I am trying to herd are going there as well. That means taking my eyes off the end goal. That sometimes means running around side to side to keep the strays from wandering off. It means some turning my back on the goal so that I can run back and get a sheep that has decided to be stubborn. It is these side trips that can, from time to time, tell you if an animal is sick, tell you if you have missed a spot where they could graze, figure out which ones of them are the leaders (if you don’t know already,) and in general get a good look at your animals. Some times you even learn that you and a new sheep needed a bath.

These side trips in life, let you know what you are missing. You might find things that interest you, they might give you ideas about future projects, or help you to realize that you have a problem. While you always want to keep an eye on that end goal, you don’t want to be chasing “sheep” all day, some times it is good to move from side to side and look at things from a new angle. You might just find out something about yourself that you didn’t know before. But you to want to keep an eye on where you are going so that you don’t end up getting completely side tracked and not making it to your goal.

As for the weeds, well, while you are down on your hands and knees pulling weeds it is a good idea to know where in the field you are, but over all that can some times make things worse. If you have ever worked on a really large project, one that felt overwhelming, you likely know the virtue of just keeping your head down and moving forward, because if you look at the end goal too much you will get depressed because it seems too far away. Along with not letting your self get overwhelmed, there are things that need a level of detail that you can’t give them if you have only half your focus on them. If you are weeding along with your eyes on the end of the field, to make sure that you are in your row, then you might start pulling up the plants that you are there to weed around. Sure, it might mean that you accidentally change rows, or that you reach the end of the row before you realize it (won’t that be a pleasant surprise,) but it also means that you have given the little details the level of attention they need.

If you look closely to this picture you will see that the thing I have around me is a baby sling.  There is a baby in there, but I am also using it to help me hold the apples I pick. I am such a good dad. Here baby, hold these apples that are bigger than your head.I don’t think any one way is right. Mr. Ricks points out that not keeping straight means that it will take you longer to reach your goals. He is right. Some times it feels like it takes way too long to move the sheep from the barn to the pen only a hundred feet away, but as I said some times it gives you a new perspective. Then again some times it is just down right annoying. When you are trying to get ready for work and need to get the sheep moved, the chickens fed and the children all up and started on their day before you get yourself out the door.

Can life be described as one farming metaphor or another? Likely not. I guess what I am saying here is that you have to be flexible. Everything in your life is likely there for a reason. If that means you get to make nice straight rows, awesome. If that means that you spend a while running after sheep, or down on your hands and knees in the dirt, well that is part of life too. Keep open, keep flexible, and don’t get discouraged if your life is not always straight, you can do better next time.

Thank you to Zachary Ricks for the great post, and wonderful ideas. You can learn more about him and what he is up to at his site Mad Poet Files Trust me you want to keep an eye there, beyond being wise, he is also a wonderful story teller. His book Battle Hymn is awesome and I am eagerly awaiting the next one in the series.