A Doctor and a Farmer’s Husband: The Bright Lights of a Country Bathroom

Piglet

By: Stephen Jackson

Note: This blog is written from the perspective of the off-farm worker here at Machaven.  My wife is the actual farmer.  This blog is intended to give a little insight from my point of view into what goes on and some of the hard lessons we’ve learned.  Through it all, though, we’ve been grateful to be here.  

I casually tossed my keys on the kitchen island and called out to a seemingly empty house. I had just arrived home from work.  So, I headed to the master bedroom to get changed out of my workday scrubs. Panda, our brindle farm dog, wined and sniffed the bottom of the bathroom door, tail wagging in happy anticipation of getting inside. I became aware of a chorus of cheep-cheeps coming from the bathroom.  I joined Panda at the door.  Already pretty sure of what I’d find, I opened the door to no less than 100 chicks in a playpen.  Thankfully, it was a big bathroom.  The garish, red brooding lights hung high enough from the floor to give them the right amount of warmth.  The girls gleefully sat around on the bathroom floor, each holding a fluffy, disgruntled chick.  My wife and daughters are suckers for cute animals and I’m a sucker for my wife and daughters.  So, I ambled in, plucked up a chick from the pen, and joined the girls on the floor with my own complaining chick.

If this domestic scene was a surprise for me that day, finding animals in our bathroom became much more the norm.  We’ve since housed a goat, a piglet, lambs, and even Turkey chicks.

Probably my favorite animals on the farm are graduates of the bathroom/brooder/sick bay.  We have some wonderful friends in the farming community and one of them had called my wife to ask if she might be able to provide some TLC to a pair of lambs that didn’t seem to be thriving.  Enthusiastically, my wife took up the task.  At that same time, we had a newborn goat kid whose mom had shunned her and wasn’t giving her access to milk.  The runty kid wasn’t ready for regular goat food and wasn’t likely to survive without intervention.  So, my wife bathroomed the kid.  The unlikely trio, two lambs and one goat, unfortunately became a duo after one of the lambs didn’t survive, even with my wife’s intensive care.  This left the kid, Katie, and the lamb, Baby Blue, a fast friendship that exists today.  My wife and older daughter bottle fed them until they could live outside with the goats.  During their time in the bathroom they could be found in the arms of my wife or older daughter attacking a milk bottle or joyfully bouncing around on our bed to the delightful laughter of our daughters.  Since being with the goats, Katie and Blue have remained a steadfast pair.  Whenever I clear the fence perimeter of the goat pasture, I always smile when I look over my shoulder to see Katie and Blue following along behind me, clearly still attached to me from our time together.  I can understand what it must’ve felt like to be Mary being followed around by her little lamb and goat.  Maybe she raised the lamb in the bathroom, too.  From the comfort of my front porch I can discern the burp-like bleat of Baby Blue.  The only other animals in the enclosure two large potbellies, more than once I have thought that Blue must think he is a goat, too.

Not all the bathroom patients have success stories.  I remember sitting on my younger daughter’s step stool looking down at my wife while she sat on the floor, teary-eyed, leaning against the bathtub, holding a piglet, who was quite sick with scours, trying to get him to eat or drink anything.  I remember the juxtaposition of feeling sad for the piglet and my wife while involuntarily smiling inwardly at the size six diapers the piglet was wearing.

While growing up, I would occasionally visit my Grandparents who were farmers.  My grandfather was one of the Greatest Generation and his values were a little different.  He would cull the herd of the sick animals, as it would’ve been a waste of precious resources to do otherwise.  I don’t fault him his values and doing what he believed to be right by his farm.  We didn’t grow up on a farm at all. So, we have a different value system and, thankfully, a few more resources. Watching Katie with her own two kids now, while probably leaving Blue a little confused as to his role in this new social structure, has been gratifying to me and, without doubt, to my wife.  I understand that animals might not think like humans. Still, I can’t help believing she would never neglect one of her own.

Since our first batch of chicks I’m glad that we now have a proper outdoor brooding shed for them.  It keeps them out of my bathroom. I don’t mind sharing the bathroom. Still, it is a little unsettling to have my wife say, “Honey, whatever you do don’t leave the bathroom door open, there are baby turkeys in the jacuzzi,” or “Hon, please be sure to turn on the fan when you’re showering tomorrow morning. I don’t want to steam the lamb.” Even still, I know that some sick animal will find its way back to the bathroom/brooder/sick bay.  For us, the animals are like family and bring us joy, even the ones destined to become a meal get all the royal treatment.

A Doctor and a Farmer’s Husband: A Walk Around the Farm

Indiana

By: Stephen Jackson

Note: This blog is written from the perspective of the off-farm worker here at Machaven.  My wife is the actual farmer.  This blog is intended to give a little insight from my point of view into what goes on and some of the hard lessons we’ve learned.  Through it all, though, we’ve been grateful to be here.  

“Do you think he’s stuck, Daddy?”  I stared again at the business end of a nanny goat giving birth to her second kid in a row.  I was beginning to wonder if my daughter might be on to something.  An obstetrician, I guess I was the de facto expert on all things birth.  The fact is my older daughter had seen a dozen more goats giving birth than I had.  This one was my first.  The parturient was lying on her flank, her sky-side, back leg held up like she was getting ready to hike a football or in the latter stages of a pull-my-finger joke.  What appeared to be the fore-hooves and tip of the nose coming out of the birth canal was all I could make out.  The nanny seemed to stare at me, bleating plaintively.  I couldn’t tell whether she wanted help or was just showing off.  At this point, she probably didn’t even know I was there.  My wife and kids and I were all seated in our fold-up chairs in a meadow in a peaceful corner of the goats’ pasture.  The nanny had picked a lovely, shady spot to kid, well away from the other goats.  Situated in an arc about 20 feet from the laboring goat, I felt like we were a little intrusive.  In response to my daughter, I fell back on my favorite obstetrical maxim, “let’s just let nature take its course. Her body knows what it’s doing.”  In large part this was true.  I had watched well over a thousand women labor and have a baby, sometimes more than one at a time.  It was rare that this far along in the process any intervention, other than encouragement, was needed.   The kid was born in short order.  The nanny licked her baby dry and stimulated him to move with the same process.  The newly born kid was up on his feet and nursing within minutes.  I was duly impressed with the new family’s biological imperative to get moving.

After putting away our chairs, my older daughter and I decided to go for a walk around the farm.  After leaving the pasture and crossing our back yard we entered the large, wooded area of the farm.  Trees of many varieties provided a multi-layered canopy from the sun looming hot overhead. Dappled sunlight highlighted the forest floor where fallen leaves and other detritus littered the narrow, worn path.  The slight decline in the contour of the ground was leading us to the stream running across our land.

In the woods I try to tune in to all my senses to get the full experience.  Each time I try this I stumble upon something new.  The unseen combination of the smell of rotting, wet leaves and newly bloomed flowers filled the air.  Life and death circulating in harmony through my olfactory senses, the slight crunching underfoot filling the auditory.  I looked over to my daughter to see what she was getting from the easy, downslope part of our hike.  She seemed lost in thought.  I asked her if she could hear the approaching creek and how far she thought it might be.  Ever-teaching, I was hoping to engage her senses as I was attempting to engage my own.   She said she couldn’t really hear the creek.  Perhaps, it would be better for me to let her hike through the woods be her own experience and not mine.

While trying to extract my foot, boot still attached, from the muddy creek bottom I had less-than-gracefully slipped into, I watched my daughter effortlessly descend the creek bank, hop across the rocks, and nimbly climb the bank on the other side.  I guess she had taken the helpful parts of my lesson on how to cross the creek and avoided the what not-to-do parts I had unintentionally demonstrated.  Thankfully, she didn’t laugh at my risible predicament and we continued uphill with some of my dignity apparently still intact.

Our hike uneventfully continued, and we approached the electrical wiring of the moveable hog fence.  Peppa charged at us from across the woods at a pace I wouldn’t have guessed a hog could muster. She weighed 650 pounds, if she weighed an ounce, and in that moment, I understood what it might be like to be charged by an unhappy rhinoceros.  The heavy thump of her feet striking the ground so forcefully, I was sure the ground would’ve been shaking.  To my great relief, she stopped short of the wire-fence, inspected us for a few moments, and when she was satisfied that we weren’t bringing her food she did an about-face and promptly plopped her considerable girth in a shallow mud pool.  Pigs are wonderful rejuvenators of the forest floor, if they’re kept moving regularly.  They love mud and scratching themselves on trees, which leaves the trees stained with what looks like a high-water mark after a flood.  My eyes traced back through the woods along the previous areas of their makeshift enclosure and I could follow the growth of the pigs by the height of the mud stain on the trees.  I noticed at this point that the current water mark was at roughly the level of my hips.

We hiked on and approached our one troublemaker on the farm.  Indiana, a virile and cantankerous sheep was being kept separate from his newborn lamb, Percy, and Percy’s mom, Ophelia, after he was caught bucking Percy in an un-paternalistic way.  I’d had a run-in with Indiana myself.

Several months back, I had ventured into his wooded enclosure to bring him food and, after pouring food in his bowl, I stood and admired his living space.  The area was approximately three acres of wooded tranquility that had its own permanent fence I had repaired from fallen trees more than once. While pondering this, I received a thudding jolt to my right glute that sent me stumbling.  I managed to keep my balance but not my cool.  I wheeled around to face Indiana who had reared back on his hind legs, lining up to buck me again.  I side-stepped just enough to force him to canter a bit to put me back in his crosshairs.  A little in disbelief and a whole lot in mad, I had to figure out how to stop him from bucking me whenever I, or especially my wife and kids, entered his domain.  I recognized this as a contest of alpha versus beta and I was determined to improve my place in the Greek alphabet after he had already scored a convincing blow. I considering head-butting him for just a second.  I decided I did not want to have to explain to my wife why she had found me lying unconscious in his enclosure when I didn’t turn up for dinner.  I looked around and decided on a smooth, flat rock that I figured weighed about eight pounds.  I hefted the rock and judged it to be just about right.  I held up the rock in defense of his next attack, holding it toward him between my hands.  He apparently deemed the rock a worthy part of my body upon which he could establish his prowess.  He set his sites on the rock I now held in my hands.  He reared back, leaned, and bucked. He hit the rock squarely and my arms faltered backward just a bit.  I didn’t want to hurt him, but I didn’t want to give ground.  I presented him the rock-target again and he again obliged.  This time I leaned in a little more and pushed my arms slowly toward his advancing cranial charge.  When he struck again, he shuddered backward, and I took a confident step toward him to symbolically and tactically press my advantage.  Thankfully, two times was enough for him. He slowly walked away and desisted his challenge.  I held my head high, though I wasn’t sure I should be proud of my victory.

I relayed this story to my daughter while we were petting Indiana from the safe side of his fence. We continued our hike on the driveway, now nearing the house.  My daughter was just in front of me relaying a story in the excited way children share events in their lives.  At this turn in the drive, I could see the pigs, the lambs, the sheep, the goats, the chickens, and the house that we’ve inhabited for the past four years.

Reflecting on our walk, it occurred to me that while land and nature are beautiful inherently, it is the memories; the sensory and historical, that are the roots that support and nourish us in our love for our land.  Not just with food and shelter, the land binds to us with interaction that makes us another part of the natural order of things.  My family, the animals, the trees, the rocks, the creek, the weather; we are all this farm. While admiring the beauty of some of these things around me now, I am flooded with the history we all share.  I watch my daughter skipping past the field where Percy, Ophelia, and the newly constructed “Hennabego,” a new, moveable chicken coop, are situated.  I set my senses to work to take all this in.  Finishing off our hike, my daughter skips up the sidewalk, through the side door, out of view, and in to this particularly special memory.

A Doctor and A Farmer’s Husband: The Chickens Scratch

ChickenScratch

By: Stephen Jackson

Note: This blog is written from the perspective of the off-farm worker here at Machaven.  My wife is the actual farmer.  This blog is intended to give a little insight from my point of view into what goes on and some of the hard lessons we’ve learned.  Through it all, though, we’ve been grateful to be here.  

I wasn’t expecting to see her there.  Looking into each other’s eyes, I was aware she was seated in the driver’s seat of the Tahoe. I was standing outside the open driver’s side door.  She simply looked at me.  I said the first clever thing that came to mind, “Hi.” In reply, she inclined her head a little to the side.  Quickly, I regrouped and tried a second clever line.  “So, um, I guess you want to drive?”  Nothing.  I hadn’t heard her get in the truck.  I had left the driver’s side door open while I loaded a few things I was taking to work into the rear cargo area of the Tahoe. I had only been gone about 15 seconds.  I regarded her a little more closely and had to admit to myself that she was quite pretty.  In the way that I hurry, I left the door open and strolled casually around the front of the Tahoe to the passenger side door.  I gently opened the door and climbed in the seat.  As I brought my head up, I realized she had swiveled her head around to meet my gaze, her expression impossible to read.  I figured now was the time to make my move.  So, I slowly extended both hands to hold her.  At this she quickly flapped her way out of the Tahoe onto the ground and strutted away, the chicken not caring that she had made me a couple minutes late for work.

At Machaven farm, we have free-range chickens.  Prior to actual farming, whenever I heard the phrase “free-range chickens,” I always imagined a bunch of chickens out in a large, open pasture, clucking, picking, and scratching around, living an easy and care-free life.  I imagined them forming cliques, with a few sad chickens off to the side, not quite fitting in with the rest. The reality is a little different.  Our chickens do cluck around, pecking up insects and scratching up the ground.  I do see them forming cliques and hanging out in their own groups.  The big difference is that they stay a little closer to us and our house for protection.  Free-range to us means the chickens have no boundaries whatsoever.  We provide them with food and water and a place to roost, more of a suggestion than a rule.  They are literally everywhere. We find eggs all over the place.  We have Easter-egg style hunts every day to find the fresh eggs – under bushes, behind the seat of our farm truck, where the goats sleep.  We find an occasional egg in the middle of our gravel driveway, suggesting not much planning on the chicken’s part.

An occasional chicken will find her way into the Tahoe, if I’m not careful.  Inexperienced me would angrily chase her from the front of the Tahoe to the back, from one side to the other, me climbing over seats and saying non-Sunday words.  A cooler head makes extracting the confused chicken a little less cumbersome.

Chickens turn out to be quite resourceful.  Every animal eats chickens and predators abound, so I appreciate the wily way they find new and unexpected places to hide themselves and their eggs.

One day my wife and kids went to a nearby restaurant they frequented.  My wife inquired about the chicken who appeared to have taken up residence at the back of the restaurant.  A whole set-up, not previously there, had been put in place for her.  The friendly waitress told my wife about how the chicken had simply shown up one day.  They had named her Mother Maybelle and even started an Instagram page for her.  She sure looked like one of ours.  We began finding other chickens in various places all over the southern part of the county.  The places my wife would frequent.  One day I ambled past my wife’s car and heard the familiar scratching sound of a hen.  The sound was a little off in that it was the scratching of a chicken’s feet on plastic.  I began to investigate and found the cacophonous chicken tucked away in the underside of the car.  I discovered my wife’s car had a small hidey-hole in the undercarriage plastic of the vehicle.  A chicken and a few eggs were warmly nestled in this spot.  As the implications of this dawned on me, I now understood how Machaven Farm had unwittingly been sprinkling chickens throughout the county. I could only imagine the terror those poor chickens felt bumping up the driveway, then the acceleration of my wife’s electric vehicle eventually clocking 60 mph on the country roads around our farm, as the chicken weaved, turned, and bounced on the pot-holed back roads for which rural areas are famous.  The winds alone enough to ruffle every feather.  I could imagine the chicken, only too happy to extract herself from this precarious situation once the car stopped, pioneering a new residence in the closest place a chicken might find to make a new, safer home.  Now we check under the car every time we leave the house.

Instead of the confines of the coop, the chickens mainly roost in trees.  Right around dusk the chickens awkwardly launch themselves onto the lowest branch of the tree outside our door, hopping up to higher and higher limbs to get to just the right roosting spot.  The wind chimes on the lowest branch can be heard clanging every time a chicken calls it a night.  There is even a group of 10-to-15 chickens who roost on the top step outside our back door, just off our living room.  The door is a simple a wood frame with panes of glass from top to bottom.  At night, ten-to-twenty pairs of eyes stare into the living room, some watching me, which is weird, others watching TV with us.

The ever-present clucking, cock-a-doodle-doo-ing, chicken poop, eggs, and the chickens themselves have me thinking that a farm is not truly a farm without chickens.  They are the one, ever-present reminder that we are not in a city neighborhood, that other creatures inhabit our land and depend on us, more even than we have grown to depend on them.  I would recommend some amount of chickens roaming freely around any farm.  They are a small part of nature, normally industrialized, that have scratched their way into our day in many ways. I wouldn’t have it any other way.  Even if they make me late for work sometimes.

A Doctor and a Farmer’s Husband, I Grab the Goat by the Horns

GoatHorns

By: Stephen Jackson

Driving down the rivulet riddled driveway coming home from work, the stress and worry of my day job are soaked up by the dense foliage of the plant life on my small farm in rural North Carolina.  I should be honest.  My day job is really my only job.  I live on a functioning farm and jokingly refer to myself as a farmer.  My wife does the actual farming.  I just like the moniker.

I know that I’m not unique among doctors.  In fact, my neighbor, though retired, spent years actively farming and practicing as a clinician. Though most people seem to associate doctors with country clubs and fancy cars, I like to drive my beat-up Tahoe and pass my free time among chickens, pigs, goats, sheep, and plenty of open space.

Both my wife and I grew up in small cities, with only occasional interactions with farms (my mom’s parents were farmers). In our nearly 19 years of marriage we have lived in a city environment.  In the years leading up to our buying a farm, the seed of doing so began to take root and grow.  It began, initially, as a way of raising our children in an environment of responsibility, nature, and a true understanding of how food arrives on the table, from pig to pork chop.  Since moving to the farm, it turns out my city-bred wife found her legs running around our farm, raising and caring for our animals and children.  A nurturer by nature, my wife relishes in the daily needs of our small farm.  Starting small, with something like 50 chickens, the know-how of keeping animals alive amidst the predators of these green acres coupled with our limited knowledge coming into this affair has been hard-won.  Just a few years later we have way more than 50 chickens (I’ve lost count), goats (four generations now), sheep, and pigs both pot-bellied and for-pork.  Add in some production of plants and herbs, and the ingredients are just about right for our family recipe.

One partner working off-farm with one on the farm is nothing new.  We are fortunate that we have been able to operate this way to get things started on our farm.  We could simply have lived amidst the growing bush on our land and I would have been content.  What we did not expect was the wonderful, open-armed community of farmers and local-farm friendly businesses that truly helped us get started.

If I’m being fair to myself, I do some farming.   Maybe farm hand is a more accurate moniker.  I help hunt for and gather eggs sometimes.  I lift things and transfer them from one place to another.  I have processed chickens, help band (i.e. castrate) a goat, and… you know what, let’s just move on.  Probably most importantly, I get to push the goats’ heads back through the fencing when they get stuck.

Occasionally, one of our goats, surrounded by lush plant-life food and store-bought goat vittles aplenty, decides that the plants on the other side of the cow-paneled fencing might taste better.  So, she will stick her head through the fence, nibble the other-side-of-the-fence forbidden fruit, and promptly attempt to draw her head and horns back through the fence.  At this point she realizes she is stuck and can’t quite figure out the Cracker Barrel puzzle of how to untangle her predicament.  Enter me.  Now, if you’ve never tried to ease a goat’s head through the opening in a fence panel, don’t worry.  You’re not missing out because it can’t be done.  There is no “ease.”  The goat does not understand my intentions are friendly and fights me with all the ferocity mother nature supplies.  Saying soothing words while firmly grabbing the horns and, against much resistance, gently guiding her head backward through the fence only earns me a disgruntled glare and a quick prancing away by the goat as if I’ve wronged her in some way.  Still, I pat myself on the back, the success of freeing her being its own reward.

Such is farm life, well-removed from the sanitized exam and operating rooms of medicine.  Stress?  Worry?  Sure.  Most jobs have them and my “day job” is no exception.  However, as I slowly bounce the Tahoe down the driveway toward the house, I look forward to the unpredictable, frustrating, and endearing life of farming.  Wait. There is a sheep in the driveway.  Gotta go!

You should ride two horses with one ass…so long as you have chosen the right horses.

Well, here it is again, another January 1st, another reminder to reflect on last year’s resolution, another chance to get it right.

Last year I made one simple resolution “Stop trying to ride two horses with one ass.”  What I meant was, stop trying to do so much.  I didn’t do it but I don’t consider it a failure.  I actually consider this a huge step forward.  As I tried to slow down, I realized that the less I have to do, that is meaningful to me, the more depressed and lost I feel.  I become negative and judgmental.  I’m not as good of a mother and wife, I don’t work as hard.  So, I’m revising last year’s resolution (I can do that if I want.) and adopting it this year as, “having harsh discernment.”

I’m old enough to know what really makes me happy and what doesn’t.  I’m going to be saying “no” a lot more this year.  In what is apparently selfish there is selflessness.  In saying “no” I make space for doing my best as a mother, being a good partner to my husband, a good daughter and sister, making something outside of my family, being a good friend to good friends, and contributing to my community which is what the distillation of my happiness looks like.  I think having harsh discernment will not resolve my issue of riding two horses with one ass but in finally naming those two horses, obligation and purpose I can happily move forward into 2020.

Giddy up folks!  Happy New Year!

I Heart Excel and Pigs

I have a deep and unabiding love for all things spreadsheet.  From my personal budget to how much my chickens ate last month and their expected consumption for next month, I put it into a spreadsheet.  So, when we needed to decide if raising Tamworth pigs, one of the oldest rare breeds, was something that would be profitable it seemed like the perfect excuse to make another spreadsheet.  It’s pretty generic.  So, I thought it might be helpful to others if they are trying to decide if raising pigs could be profitable for them.  Just plug your numbers into the highlighted cells and all the calculations are done for you. Here it is:

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1fb5IbvFGopWKcnuRs8xXoPEaFKz5NAgKXsSbC-YeEHM/edit?usp=sharing

 

 

 

 

What Life Really Looks Like

One of the reasons I started this blog is to share what took way too long for me to figure out that “It’s okay.”

The stylized, perfected families every single one of us sees on Facebook and Instagram, especially around the holidays, aren’t real. I know it but I still internalize it a bit with every posed, rosey cheeked, perfectly quaffed picture I see and a little part of me aspires to that fake ideal.

So, here’s my first in my weekly installment of “What Life Really Looks Like”. This is us UNEDITED. The most important part is that every single one of us is relaxed and happy in this space. Stephen is catching up on his work, I’m working on a plan for our spring planting, and the girls are happily creating art on giant pieces of paper in the floor. There’s marker on the hardwoods and dog fur, the table is a mess but that will easily be cleaned up later. My stomach isn’t twisted in knots worrying about it and IT’S OKAY.

On Feminism.

On Feminism.

I am grateful to have choices and as much freedom as this country can afford me.  I well up knowing the freedoms I have.  I am a female with a supportive husband and community.  My husband is not only financially supportive, he is supportive of the choices I make and most any decision I come to.   Just as importantly my family and community are there for me when I need them.    

That being said, I’d like to kick the person in the teeth that said you can have it all.  You can have it all but the thing they left out was you can’t have it all at the same time and without real support. 

You cannot be June Cleaver and Mary Barra simultaneously.  Which was the inference I understood when I began to internalize feminism.  The option to do it all is there but the things we need to do it all at the same time is not part of that gift.  Most women are born to nurture, even if we’re not, our culture assumes that the burden and joy of childrearing still lands squarely on us.  At the same time, we are gifted with the drive and ambition to make a difference in the world outside our families. 

I have come to this acceptance.   It’s been a hard journey and quite frankly it’s made me sick, depressed and riddled with anxiety.  I worked very hard to create a successful business before my children came along.  I put all my drive and ambition into it and did quite well.  Since then, I have worked hard in becoming comfortable knowing that I add to this world by raising children who are kind, empathetic and loving.  I take the inherent drive and put it into our farm, where I can include my children’s homeschooling into lessons every day, while bringing in an income.  Although outside of the box, it’s working for me.

I am coming to understand that the real gift of feminism is that whatever a woman decides to do IT’S OKAY and you should feel comfortable in that.  If you decide that your efforts will go into a career, IT’S OKAY.  If you choose to do some combination of career and mothering and you feel healthy in that IT’S OKAY.  If you choose to stay home with your children, you should feel proud in that and when the inevitable question is asked “Do you work?”. You reply “Hell yes I work.  I work hard raising children who are kind and empathetic and who are more thoughtful than to ask that question”.  

Redefining Greatness.

Redefining Greatness

From the time I was very young I had the idea that I was destined to do something great.  I knew that everyone would know my name and see my face in magazines and on television.  I expected my accomplishments to be recognized and applauded by the masses.  I perceived greatness from where I was in the world and what I, myself, perceived was great. 

Perhaps it is experience or perhaps it comes from the reflection that comes with turning 40 but greatness isn’t coming so much from the external “atta’ girl” that I had expected.  I’ve begun to feel a greatness that comes from somewhere else and there is real and satisfying contentment in that.  I questioned if I have just given up on my original idea of what greatness is because I know it is an unattainable goal.  I don’t think that is what this is.  I’ve started to really let go of the concern I had about how people perceive me.  I feel like my moral compass is aimed in the right direction and that it is okay to move toward what my intuition tells me what is right. 

Now greatness comes from mothering a child that feels loved enough by me to fall fast asleep in my embrace.  It comes from the feeling of anonymously giving.  It comes from gaining the understanding of something that I had not understood before.

I know that this realization isn’t something that is prophetic and may be trite but it’s what I’m working thru today. 

On Contentment.

On Contentment.

My beloved grandmother passed away recently.  She was the matriarch of our family without the auspicious power that often goes with that title.  She earned the title through quiet kindness and love.  The one quality that I always knew but never heard verbalized until her funeral, which the pastor said so succinctly, was that she was “content.”  I never heard her complain or speak badly of anyone.  She embodied contentment.  Until her last few years, when her body began to fail her, she was constantly in motion in service of someone else.  My grandfather, whose every want she attended to. Every grandchild always had some homemade treat, each great grandchild had a “treasure chest” waiting for their excited arrival.  She was good thru and thru, and she was content.  Was it this contentment something she was born with; did she work on it?  It is something that I will have to work at.  I recognize the good things in my life.  My family, our love, the farm, but contentment is something I must work on.  Her kind of contentment is something that I will aspire to.  Does the judgement that I carry, which is one of the things that drives me to do the good things I do, cloud my contentment?

I sit here writing on the patio of my sweet little home that sits on our beautiful farm.  This should be a time for gratitude and absolute contentment. My two beautiful, healthy girls play in the yard as my supportive, kind husband sits beside me.  He is giving me the space I need to write as he knows it is catharsis for me.  He answers each of the girls million questions that begin with “Mommy…”.  I have gratitude but not contentment.  Every “Mommy” I hear stirs a grumble and reaction “what do they need now?” as I try to concentrate.  How do I reach contentment?  This will be my work.  To be content and not have these thoughts pop in my head and be content.  Have my reaction be “How can I help you?”, rather than “What do you want!?”.  Did grandma think these same things and never verbalized them?  I don’t think so.  Her contentment was so genuine that you could see it.  She wasn’t surrounded by material things, in fact, her life was very modest.  She didn’t have the attention that a high-powered career could give, she quietly served and loved and was content in it.