Hallmark Moment with my Brother

When we think of Valentine’s Day and Hallmark moments we generally think of our spouse or partner, maybe if you have them you think of tender times with your kids or grandkids.   It isn’t usually your brother who conjures that tender moment, yet one of mine did when he sent me a Valentine.   It wasn’t just any old greeting card he picked up but one with a sentiment that pulled at my heart strings that he clearly picked out for me. .    It struck me as so true of our relationship, adult siblings.   It was a Hallmark moment and found a tender spot in my heart and made me a wee bit emotional.   I have written before how lucky I am to have the wonderful guys that they are as brothers,  and they continue to show in lots of little unexpected ways.

IMAG0467If you are a brother or a sister, take some time to call your sibling, drop them an email, comment on their blog or Facebook page, and maybe even send them something via snail mail.   I promise it will brighten their day in ways you can’t imagine.

What Next?

It is the question that I am constantly asked now that I have given my notice and I only have five days left with my employer of nearly seven years.    The honest answer is I am not sure.   I have some irons in the fire but want to make sure I make a good choice for my next job.  I have worked since my first summer job babysitting when I was just 14.    I have been a professional and had a career since I graduated in the mid 70’s.  I am driven and always find myself attracted to jobs that like an employee who is all in,  all the time.  It can be extremely rewarding to have that kind of a job, but it is  also extremely taxing personally and professionally.  For this reason the other day while driving to a meeting I debated the merit of taking the summer off and doing some temp work or possibly looking into  a summer seasonal job.  I have also considered a driving trip, taking the Lincoln Highway and exploring along the way back to the Midwest to see family.   I played with the idea of a genealogy trip to visit all the places I need to go to in person to fill in some missing holes in my family history.   I am at a sort of loose ends because for the first time I am not moving directly from one job to another. I  I am taking a chance, way outside my comfort zone.   I am looking not just where I would normally look, and not just at the jobs I would normally look at, but all the possibilities that there are out there.   Who knows what I will find, but I am taking that chance.

Big Sister and Little Brother Moment Captured in a Snapshot

When I look at this snapshot of my brother and me it makes me smile.   I am not sure what was going on in this photo I was too young to remember when this photo was taken.   I think my life was full of big sister-little brother moments so this was likely one of many and nothing so special about this particular moment it has stuck in my mind for over 50 years.

Diana and Steve

What in the heck was this snowsuit all about?   It looks like our mother thought my brother was going to be outside for hours instead of the few minutes that she took to photograph this moment.

I was likely two and my brother six months or so old.   I was holding him tight with my little mittened hands and watching over his shoulder to make sure the world was right for for my baby brother, whom my mother had entrusted me with.   It was the beginning of a lifetime relationship of caring about my brothers.   Though much of our lives my brothers and I have lived half a continent or more apart they are still my brothers who I love and care about as much today as when this photo was taken with the middle brother.  I don’t think about my brothers most days, I am busy wrapped up in my life I hate to admit.   But then I come across a photo like this and am reminded that I have some pretty awesome brothers.

P.S. To my other brothers who are not in this photo, you rock too.   I love you all, but this was the snapshot I found today, so it was the one I used to remind me of what a great bunch of guys I get to call brother.

She had the best smile and a natural twinkle to her eyes.

Yesterday my Aunt Arnie lost her courageous battle with cancer.   My heart breaks for my cousins and their families who lost their mother, grandmother and great-grandmother who they loved so much.   It makes me a little sad to know that I can not be there when they hold her service, but geography, work, and economics make that impossible.   That is one of the unfortunate realities of being a grown up and living so far away.

My Aunt had been a widow for many years and lived in the house she raised her family in.   No return visit to the Midwest was not complete with out stopping by her house.  We would visit around the kitchen table catching up with her.. It was always wonderful to spend time at her house hearing how things were going and sharing with her what was happening on my end of the world.

Last night with my husband, we reflected on all the things that made her special.   There were so many things I remember about her, but the thing that I will always remember most of all is her smile.   I can’t remember a time when she did not have that smile that wrapped you with warmth.   To go with her smile she had a special kind of eyes that twinkled and went perfectly with her smile.   I am not sure what it was about her eyes but they truly did twinkle with little crinkles around her eyes that some joined up to go perfectly with her smile.

Somewhere in heaven today, Aunt Arnie sits with those who have gone before us, looking down on us as each of us figure out how life will go on differently now that she is gone.   She is enveloped in love with those she is reunited with, and smiling down on us with love, because she knows we will be ok and some day she will see us all again.

The Time is Right

I recently gave notice to my employer of nearly seven years that I was leaving the organization.    It was not a decision I entered into lightly or without nights of loss sleep.   The analytical side of my brain was calculating and recalculating the impacts on my life, personally, professionally and financially.   There were tons of pros and cons to my  decision that rolled over and over in my mind with no clear winner. For the first time I was leaving a job without a clear plan of what I was going to do next.   The only sure thing was that  I needed to close one door before I could move to the next phase of life.      Both RangerSir and I knew it was the right time and the right thing to do for me and for us.   We knew this was the time for me to stop procrastinating and see what could happen if I tried a few of those “what ifs”  and  explored some of those tucked away dreams.

I spent the last week in Great Falls, Montana working my last conference for the organization.   It was a great to be able to see my board of directors and many of the members of the organization one last time.   It was a full of questions from folks about what will you do next?  The honest answer was I don’t know yet.    It felt sort of lame when I said it out loud.   It was another moment of second guessing a carefully weighed decision.

I got home yesterday.   I was catching up  on all that had happened while I had been gone; reading the newspapers,stopping into my favorite local craft store for creative supplies and catching up with some of the women who I teach card classes to.   In just six days, two friends had lost their wives and another had lost a son-in-law who was only 43.   A beloved local doctor continues his fight against an aggressive cancer, and my dear aunt was once again hospitalized l fighting the same disease.   A friend who has been struggling with symptoms and was seeking a diagnosis finally got one, ALS.  It was a reminder that time can be short or long we don’t know.  When it is within our reach we should risk it and seek what is possible and not assume that there will  be plenty of time. Circumstances don’t always allow us to take the risk, but when the stars align and it is possible to do so.   Don’t let yourself be caught up in regrets, what if’s or die wondering. Time and health are both finite.   We have no idea how long with have of each, but the supply is not limitless, don’t waste it.  For me the time is right to take the risk and see what is possible.

Mail Order=Now Vs. Feed Store =Wait

This is a dilemma I have almost every year when I think about baby chicks for the upcoming year.   It used to be that ordering mail order was the only way to go, because I wanted one of eight or ten different fairly unusual breeds.   Now after years of trial and error, experience has been a teacher that has taught me well.  I am much more likely to do the feed store run when they have most of what I want.  I still want cute and usual, but have discovered that the practical side of me has become the side that I listen to now.

Important things to me:

  • Combs ~ I have learned that I really prefer to take birds with cushion or pea  combs through the winter.   Montana winters are just too harsh on the little points on the single combs.

    My chickens don't let the snow of winter stop them from foraging.

    My chickens don’t let the snow of winter stop them from foraging.  Here is a Brahma hen with a pea comb.  There is a Buckeye in the back with a single comb.

  • Size ~ All my layers ultimately end up in the soup pot, so a scrawny chicken is just a lot of trouble for very little meat in the end. So super layers with almost no body are not the kind of breed you will find in my  coop.
  • Forage Qualities ~ My chickens are not only allowed, but they are encouraged to free range and supplement their diet with bugs, slugs, greens and seeds they find naturally out around my house.   For this reason I like breeds that have enough of the natural instinct in them to get out do the job well.   It is not fool proof because sometimes a breed with a history of being a good forager will not do so well one year.   Not sure why that happens, but it does.
  • Egg Laying ~ I became a backyard chicken wrangler for the eggs, so I always want something that lays well.
  • No Plain white ~  It makes them too easy of a target for predators and besides I am not giving up completely on cute.
  • Nix to meanness ~ Any chicken who turns out to be mean makes an early trip to freezer camp.   Period.

Based on this you are likely to find Wyandottes in my flock every year, sprinkled with some other near misses that manage to come close to matching my criteria that I keep going back to: Barred Rocks and Buff Orpingtons in spite of the single combs and Brahmas even if they don’t lay the best.   If I lived some place a with a little less severe of winters my choices would likely be something else, so remember if you are starting out it will be trial and error based on your situation.   Don’t be afraid to experiment a little.

Marriage is Hard Work

The other day when I was signing on to my Yahoo account I saw a headline: “Gwyneth Paltrow Wonders if She Should have Stayed Married.”   I admit I did not read the article but my immediate thought was what the heck were you thinking when you got divorced.   What was marriage to her?

Before I go any further I will tell you I have never been divorced so I am speaking from a point of view, of which I have no first-hand knowledge.   Second if you are in an abusive relationship get out, you can not fix it.   I have seen and experienced this by both female and male abusers.    They got that way without  you, aka before you, and they can only change themselves without you.   An abusive person must become whole alone, you can not be one of the tools to resolve it.   Lastly I don’t have a red phone, nor do I know anyone with a red phone line directly to God, so I am not anti-divorce there are times I am sure it is the better choice, nor am I against same-sex marriages, and lastly God has not whispered in my ear that what I am about to say is absolute truth.  I do believe a life with someone who makes you better and encourages you to be all you should be is invaluable.   I digressed there with my disclaimer.

Back to the subject of marriage is hard work.  For  so many reasons and with so many challenges many marriages fail.  Marriage is the only friendship where there is no time out and you can each step away and perk on the conflict or change.     Marriage is the only family relationship where there is not a stage when you leave and strike out on your own and start over.  In a marriage there is no physical time out, you live in the same place.    Hence in the good and the bad, in sickness and health you are stuck together, and it takes a special sort of relationship to thrive.   It takes a relationship where each of you get to drive for a while and the other is willing to let you lead on and have faith you will drive the relationship in a manner it will be sustained when you reach the destination.   A marriage is where you want the other person to aspire and reach toward their dreams knowing that if they do that they will be better in the marriage, even if the journey your marriage takes for that time is a little circuitous.  Your partner is there supporting, if not cheering, you on.  Being a spouse is being the person who is the strong one or the voice of reason when you don’t want to be, but knowing that this is your time to be so.  It is also knowing that if it were not true your  partner would know intuitively that it was there time to fill that role and do so.  A marriage is a relationship that makes you better and want to be better, not seeking for yourself.   A marriage is two people with the same fundamental core values, but who don’t always see the same way to achieve those.   You get how the other person’s life experiences make them look things in a way you can not imagine   You don’t see their point of view or method  as wrong, but an amazing difference that makes you a more respectful open person, not just of your partner but of humanity.    A marriage is ever-changing.  The partners know when the change is an endangerment to the relationship and fight back, but recognizing when it is just change and together you will  ride your way through this change as you have done before and will do so many more.    The relationship of a marriage is the only place you can truly let your guard down and be your most honest, vulnerable and raw self, knowing that your spouse is there for you only wanting what is best for you.  Not there to fix, exploit, use or change you but be with you unconditionally.      Marriage is hard because there is no rule book and what works for you, only works for you two because of you and your journey.   It is ever-changing.

I have been married for over 34 years and I find myself reflecting on so much right now as we are on the cusp of making decisions that will affect us as we move forward.   There is no easy answers, no sure things, no promises that what we choose will not make our life more difficult.    Yet I don’t worry that we will not come out on the other side of this together.   When we married all those years ago life was so different and our expectations don’t even come close to the life we live today, and yet I can not imagine having traveled this life with anyone else.   Were there hard times and difficult moments?   It is never all smiles, nor always easy, and at times we were unsure and sometimes we were fraught with great difficulty.  Yet I know that life with RangerSir my life has been richer and better because I traveled it with him, not someone else and not alone.  Marriage has not been easy, but it has made my life the best it could be.