Monday, October 7, 2019

Rosaries for Rain

It's raining today. Blessed, glorious rain.  We've been praying for rain here since the end of August, getting only an eight-hundredths of an inch in the past 40 days.  That's not even enough to dampen the ground beneath the trees.

It'd be so easy for me to be oblivious to the lack of rain if I didn't have a garden.  Day after day, week after week, I could celebrate picture-perfect, sunshiny days. There'd be no inconvenience of muddy floors created by little boys who trample in and out without noticing the dirt on their shoes. All my sheets and towels would have that fresh air, clean scent after hanging outside instead of in our musty basement. And everyday, my mood would be lifted by another day of sun to brighten things up and put a more optimistic spin on life.  I can see how people could easily begin to hate rainy days. But when you grow things, and you depend upon both the rain and the sun to keep it all going, you learn that the blessing of sunshine can soon become too much of a good thing.

I planted our fall garden on the last day of August, and every other day since, we've been hand-watering it.  It's been all hands on deck each time, as we hauled seven gallons each time to the chickens, rabbits, broccoli, kale and herbs.  Ten days ago, when I looked at the forecast and saw yet another week ahead with not a drop of rain in it combined with record-breaking high temperatures, I wanted to throw down the watering cans and jugs and just say to heck with it all.  Such is my relationship with gardening and relying on God's providence.  Life would just be so much easier if I only had to rely upon myself and the farmers in Mexico.

But of course, I didn't give up because I don't know how to quit, both a virtue and a vice in my personality.  We watered, and we prayed, and we watered some more.  In particular, I asked our Blessed Mother to please tell Jesus we need some rain, and praying the rosary became my weekly Catholic version of a rain dance.

Three days ago, the forecast showed a blip of rain coming, beginning yesterday and continuing into today.  I felt like a little kid two days away from Christmas morning.  But yesterday came and went and we got not a drop.  I began to consider hauling water to the garden, in part out of spite because it was Sunday, and I was a little miffed that God had not done his part as the meteorologist had promised.  But I hesitated, and decided to keep holy the Lord's day anyway, and gave God a few more hours.

This morning, before sunrise, I was awoken by the whispering of the dogwood leaves as they soaked up the rainwater peculating through their wrinkled husks.  By mid-day, the earth was back to life, with migrating thrushes playing in the puddles and the once wilted plants again standing up and looking towards the sky.  With windows open, the breeze brought inside the smell of a re-hydrating forest, and the aroma reminded me of shuck beans cooking on my grandma's stove.  Not a drop of this rain will go wasted as the land drinks it all up. In six hours, God gave my broccoli plants more water than I was able to give them in six weeks and once again, he made all things new.  I did my part, small as it was, and he did his part, in spades.  Just as he always does.

Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary, pray for us.  And thanks for the rain.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

7 Quick Takes - Update & Growing Up

Hello, friends.  Well, so much for my attempt at getting a post up once a month this year.  Where the heck did August go???  Anyhow, I guess that's some indication of how my summer has been.  I blame it on the garden.  And kids.  But oh, how I've missed writing and now, I'm just trying to keep this blog alive until a hard freeze kills back the garden and I no longer have to keep up with all the demands of summer.  In the meantime, here's an update to cover the past 8 weeks.

First, the garden.  I realize I write a lot about gardening. I guess I need to get out more.  Outside of blogging, gardening is my therapy, but unlike blogging, the return in investment is much greater (which I suppose is why most bloggers have stopped blogging).  By mid July, the corn was ready for picking (this is the corn that took me 3 attempts to get planted, you may recall.  Totally worth all the effort.  Almost.), blackberries were ripe, and the first of many buckets of tomatoes was ready to be picked.  Let the freezing and canning begin!  This summer, I put up more food than I think I ever have before, mostly because we eat healthier now (i.e., no preservatives) and even more, because I have two boys who can now out-eat their dad. For skinny little runts, it's amazing how much food that they can pack away.  Lord help me in five more years!

Second, the kids.  We had two birthdays in the past month.  Our oldest turned nine and our youngest is now a 3 year old.  I have officially left the baby years behind now, and yes, I'm more than just a little heartbroken.  One of my goals was to have him potty trained by the age of 3, and we came in just under the wire after 3 months of potty training failures and setbacks.  Anyone who says you can potty train in a day, three days, or a week obviously knows more about parenting than I do!  This is my third time around, and I have yet to have one successfully trained in less than a few months.  But then again, God only gives me the stubborn and strong-willed kids!

3 years old now!

For the Feast of St. Dominic (his name day),
we took him out to eat waffles!

The newly minted nine year old is growing up too fast.  Nine is an odd age, such a mix of big kid and little kid.  I know that the days of cuddles in bed, holding mommy's hand on walks, and jumping in all the mud puddles is coming to an end soon.  But not too soon.  Today, he is anxiously awaiting for me to return home from the library (where I go to write) so that he can show me the cliff he found along the creek and take me on a "adventure I won't soon forget" hike, as he likes to put it.  He's full of stories, loves nothing more than a captive audience, reads every book in the house, and turns music up way too loud.  He's a lot like his daddy and a little bit like me but more than anything, a person unto himself.  He'll always be my free spirit, and I dread the day he flies the nest because he just can't wait to see the world.

9 years old now!

Celebrating his Baptismal anniversary on the
Solemnity of the Assumption of the Most Blessed Virgin Mary

My free spirit jumping into the pool.
He said he felt like a bird.

Meanwhile, the middle kid continues to keep us all on our toes.  I think that's just what they do, eh?  I like to say that God gives some people ten kids and he gives other people one kid that feels like ten.  Ha!  That would describe our Joah.  Not to ever be outdone by big brother, this summer, he made some pretty big gains, including conquering the water slide and diving board and swimming now like a champ.  He's also been a ton of help with the gardening, has started enjoying reading more, and of the two older boys, Joah plays with Dominic best.  I see a lot of similarities between Joah and Dominic, and I'm so glad they have each other, especially since they share the adoption bond.

Best little corn husker around!

Kindred spirits.

As for me, my last blog post was a bit of a lament as I struggled with my feelings of being a stay-at-home mother.  It's so easy to feel isolated as a SAHM, and although I have a great husband who encourages me to get out and do other things from time to time, the day-to-day responsibilities are hard for me to walk away from.  I carry a lot of mom-guilt when I leave everything in his hands because I know it is not easy.  Yet, on the other hand, I feel a restlessness building up in me when I am in full time mom-mode day after day, month after month.  I'm working on trying to find a balance, and really admire all the women out there who are successfully living multiple vocations.  All that being said, I did manage to get away for a couple of days last month and be a biologist again.  I and a few other biologists trapped a Rafinesque's big-eared bat cave, and we caught 28 of these cute little guys (and gals) in one night.  It was so much fun!  Aren't they just the neatest looking bats?  Definitely one of my favorites.

My, what big ears you have...

My alter ego.

So, I think that pretty much brings you up to speed.  All is well, or as well as one could hope.  Every day brings its struggles but every day,  I wake up and offer it all to Jesus.  The good, the bad, the ugly, there is some of all of that in each of my days.  It's a constant challenge for me to look for the good, repair the bad, and to not get lost in the ugly.  Each day is different, but the pattern does not change, and in some uncomfortable way, I think that's a blessing, because it's God's way of showing me mercy until I finally get it right.

Taken after Mass during which we celebrated Dominic's
Presentation to Jesus (a Hispanic Catholic tradition for 3 year olds)

Thank you, Kelly for the link-up, and don't forget, tomorrow is someone's birthday so be sure to wish her a Happy Birthday! She never forgets ours. ;o)

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Fifteen Minutes of Freedom

The thunder rumbled in the distance and the sky looked ominous as heavy, dark clouds rolled in from the west.  The early morning sun tried to push against the clouds, creating a purple haze that blanketed the trees.  I walked slowly, enjoying it all.  Unlike my son, who has an unhealthy phobia when it comes to storms, I have always found approaching thunderstorms to be invigorating and energizing, and on this early morning this past week, that was exactly what I needed.  

I was walking to our mailbox to mail a card, a distance of about a thousand feet, and I relished every step.  It was the furthest from the house I’d been all week, and the furthest I’d go on that day. Because I knew that, I was determined to make the most of my fifteen minutes of freedom. 

As I walked, the wind picked up and I dodged green walnuts as they fell from the trees above me.  The song of the wood thrushes accelerated as they too, became excited by the approaching storm. Soon, the other birds followed the thrushes’ lead and joined in.  They’re all starting their second nests now, trying to squeeze in as much reproduction as possible during their four-month breeding season. In about six more weeks, shorter days and northerly winds will turn their minds towards migration. But for now, raising a family is their only focus.

I wasn’t supposed to be home this week.  Mid-July through mid-August was the time that I had expected to be abdicating my domestic duties and instead, having adventures in the forest.  My plan had been to be working under contract conducting bat surveys while my husband held down the fort.  With no meals to cook, laundry to wash, clingy and overly-emotional children to deal with, and most of all, no longer being sequestered in my home, this time working was going to be the closest thing to an escape that I’d have all year.  A time to be who I once was, and not who I am now.

But, alas, in late June, I was informed by my employer that the company did not get the contracts it’d been hoping for and so, there would be no work available for me this summer.  My heart sank at the thought of an entire summer spent doing the same things I do all year. I gave into self-pity, thinking back on the days when I'd had a job that I loved and all the freedom that came with it.  With a government vehicle at my disposal, once upon a time, I could take off and head anywhere into the forest that I wanted most days of the week, doing biological field surveys and monitoring, and enjoying the change of seasons and what they brought.  Amphibian and bird surveys in the spring, bat surveys in the summer, botanical surveys, cave surveys, controlled burning, stream work, wetland delineations, habitat improvement projects…I loved it all.  

But I loved my children more, and after 20 years in a job I loved, I walked away.  I walked away because I couldn’t stand the thought of doing a job I loved while other people cared for my kids…the kids that I’d prayed so fervently for and had waited so long for.  I couldn’t stand the thought of dropping them off with a sitter when they were running a fever just because I had a meeting that day that I couldn’t get out of. But most of all, I walked away because I could, because I knew that I had a choice, and I wanted to make the best choice for my family, even if it wasn't the easiest choice.  Having tried the working parent role for two years, I was beginning to realize that even though I had the best of intentions, my family was still getting the leftovers of my time and energy while my career got the best part of me.  Financially, I knew we'd have to tighten our belts, meaning we'd have to re-locate and make lifestyle changes and put a lot of trust in God's providence. But the hardest part was knowing I'd be losing a freedom that I'd come to love so much. It was not an easy choice but once it was made, the peace that came after was almost immediate.

That was seven years ago now, and with the exception of this past week, I rarely look back. But, when the offer came a year ago to go back to work during the summers, the carrot was more than I could resist, so I worked two weeks last summer and hoped for more this year. It felt good, and healthy for me mentally, to be back in my old line of work, and after a few days of it, I found that my home life was becoming less and less consuming in my thoughts. How easy, I realized, it would be to go back to work and forget that I am a mother for at least forty hours per week. 

Perhaps a little too easy.

I flipped the flag up on the mailbox and turned back towards my house.  The thunder vibrated the earth now, and the wood thrushes had stopped singing.  My skin began to tingle as I stepped through our grassy field, and I became wary of rogue lightning seeking the tallest object in the open space. As I crossed back into the treeline, I looked through the windows of my home and saw my family.  I saw my sick baby laying on the sofa as my older children and husband prepared to leave for day camp.  They’d be gone all morning and I’d be left behind with the baby, who’d been hit with a violent stomach bug three days before and had just turned the corner that night.  I prayed that today, he’d finally be able to keep food down and that the fever would break, and that perhaps, he’d let me get a little further from his side because I had green beans to can and a cake to make and laundry piling up.

I smelled the rain in the air and a few seconds later, felt the first drops on my forehead. I picked up my pace, my heart beating a little quicker, as the outflow of the storm blew my hair away from my face.  Refreshed and ready to face my day, I stepped up onto the front porch just as the sky came crashing down.