Friday, April 3, 2015

Chapter 11

When Tom and I move out to our little farm we will meet new people. Down-home country folks, I hope, old-fashioned souls like the ones I described here.

The waiting gets harder every day.

Yet there's someone else I hope to meet. She's a woman who's day-dreamed about living on a farm since she was 14, many, many suburbs ago. She's taken myriad countryside drives all while trying not to covet every farmhouse set back from the road, and instead, rolled down her window in hope of tasting what a country morning must smell and feel like to those blessed country dwellers. 

And now for certain I will actually meet that woman. When she comes bounding out of her car in the driveway in front of her barn I will rejoice with her that finally--all these 35 years later--the dreams of her countryside drives all came true. She'll live a new way, only 20 minutes away from her old life. 

She'll have room to create and grow and run around. There will be no end of work to do--and she hopes she'll find the art, beauty and freedom of farm life. Just when she'd imagined her days would continue their mediocrity and slow pace, she'll be challenged to learn and relearn so much.

She's delighted by the surprise of it all, amazed by the Giver of it and His compassion for her. And that at age 49, one can start over.


  Ah motherhood. At age 19 I thought I was one with-it, spiffy, got-it-all-together young woman. At age 20 I had a baby and that was the last time I had those thoughts.

Few things in Life are more humbling than having a child. Few things in Life are harder, more challenging and more gut-shaking than allowing that child to become a real-live, on-her-own adult.

And few things in this Life are more worth-it, more incredible, more soul-changing than raising a child of your own.

And for all of you who know exactly what I'm trying to say, I wish each of you a very happy Mother's Day.


So on Tuesday I finally watched (thank-you, Netflix) four episodes from the final season of Road to Avonlea. I'd missed that 7th season when it began back in the 1990's.

When the first season of Road to Avonlea began, Tom, Naomi and I lived in the middle of the Nevada desert, and well, I've told you myriad times already what that was like. Let's just say the middle of the desert is sooo not my cup of tea or anywhere near my idea of paradise.

But Avonlea--oh my! Each week that was my paradise. I'd sit before the screen, close, to absorb the gorgeous Canadian fields, pastures and forests as well as the Victorian homes, orchards and the ocean. And I can't even explain the absolute yearning which would throb within my head and heart for all of it. Week after week while I lived out in the center of the windy, sand-tossed, soda-flatted, dreary desert I'd long for such a lush, green place.


But this past Tuesday I watched an episode of Road to Avonlea and saw various characters stroll across a pasture with an autumnal-laced forest in the background and I gasped. They might just as well have been walking along Tom's and my future piece of property. The green pasture, the tall woods--I thought, "Oh my goodness. We will have a piece of Avonlea right in our own backyard!"

Never, back there in the 90's, in the desert, could I have dreamed that nearly 20 years later I'd have my own bit of Avonlea.

Why write this? To encourage those of you who also have dreams and yearnings. Those, too, can come to pass if only you are willing to wait and dream and work and hope a little longer. And to never stop believing for Someday.


Tom and I asked each other a couple weeks ago just why it's taken us so long to take a step like this. After all, this is something both of us have wanted, this is a dream both of us have carried so very deep within our hearts, yet perhaps so deep we couldn't even quite grasp it. 

But soon, we both decided not to go all confused/question-riddled/crazy about it. No, we agreed to just accept the timing of it as God's perfect timing, to realize the dream would have come too soon--for whatever unknown reasons. 

I want this farm to be called Healing Acres.

Why? Because we'd love to provide a getaway place for anyone in need of spiritual, mental or emotional healing. And really? I believe that's just about each of us. This world is so quickly changing and daily we're bombarded with things gone wrong, its tragedies. Our neighborhoods change, often not for the good, and people aren't always careful of their words, thus speaking more harshly to us than they intend. We're each being squeezed financially and the temptation to latch onto all sorts of stresses is always there. And more.

So what Tom and I hope to share is this God-given gift of four peaceful acres with anyone who needs a place to slow down, to sit with God awhile so they can remember what matters. And what does not--and Who matters most of all.


And then there are wonderful days like this one.

Tom and I were due, at noon, to meet our real estate lady for a final inspection out at our new old house. I woke him up this morning and said, "Hey! How about if we get out to the house early, way before Cher does, so we can walk through the places in the barn which we haven't even seen yet. And we can walk out a ways on the property, too."

Tom thought that a good idea so we drove out there beneath the most gorgeous sunny blue skies and pulled into the gravel driveway of this soon-to-be-ours house and hardly before Tom shut off the engine I'd leaped outside of the car. I ran to the huge garden and looked it (and its weeds) over. I gazed to my left and told Tom (who'd finally caught up), to look! And there was a second 'orchard' which we'd not even seen before. Our own grape vineyard!

We examined the barn almost board by board, including the chicken coop which we never did see before and a room off of it which will be a perfect place to lock-up Tom's tools. We spied a bird nest in the rafters complete with baby birds and discovered lots of wood pieces which we'll be able to burn when we get a woodstove.

Walking around our pretty green property, we noted lots of trees and tall grasses which need to be mowed. Beyond a grove of small trees I pictured a future picnic place,perhaps with a barbeque pit and one of those little white half-circle bridges. 

Tom (the extreme nature lover) kept pointing out all the birds in the trees, but I was like, "Yeah, yeah birds. I know. We can see those anywhere. But can you believe we have our own forest back here?" The sense of discovery, the delight of all outdoors, well, we both felt like children again.

Then we discovered that the house was unlocked and though Tom was all nervous about our actually going inside, I burst right in, laughed at his nervousness and breezed through all the sunny rooms and talked to myself, too, as I checked details I'd forgotten to check before.

Eventually, I talked Tom into the house ("What is anyone gonna do? Sue us for walking into this empty, unlocked house which is more ours at this moment than the previous owners?"). So I checked out all the rooms again, with Tom this time, then we went and picked up hamburgers down the street at the little everything-in-one-place corner market. We brought back the burgers and sat in the car before the barn (not having any insect repellent to ward off insects) and dreamed aloud and planned some more.

Oh, we have two-hundred plans for Healing Acres. And on Friday afternoon we will begin the materialization of those plans. 
I simply cannot wait.


We have the keys! And we are loopy excited out of our minds.

But oh. my. goodness. All those papers we had to sign! 

At one point, one of the real estate lawyers You must use them in NY), used some big, long words with the jist that Tom and I might have to wait until Monday to take possession of the house. Immediately I thought, "Oh! Just try to keep us from getting the keys today! 

But it all worked out, for us, anyway, and we have the keys and we drove through the countryside to our old farmhouse, rejoicing. And this weekend we'll camp out inside the house and clean and lay shelf paper (I found two rolls of wallpaper upstairs--how fun!-- which I'll use), unpack groceries and work out in the yard where the grass is nearly knee-high.

My blog posts will most likely be few for a couple weeks due to the zaniness. Please check back, though, for I'd hate to lose any of you at this incredible time. 

Your kind, encouraging words have made this whole experience more special.


So it was time to begin painting our old farmhouse. Before making the long trek out there, I stopped at Sherwin Williams here in town with my blue paint chip in my hot little hand, the one I'd taped beside the huge bay windows to watch the effect of the light upon it all day.

I'd decided to buy a low-toxic paint this time, first time ever in the thirty years I've been painting our rooms. I asked the salesman if they carried one of the new low-toxic paints and he reached for a can on the shelf, giving me me a neat little spiel about how it was low in this and that, plus, it was 25 percent off price-wise. Nice. I was out of there in less than five minutes.

But on Saturday, I first stopped at our local Value Home Center to see if they, also, had a low-toxic paint, but perhaps for a bit cheaper. A rather elderly salesman asked if he could help me, so I asked if they carried a low-toxic paint.

Immediately, I was sorry I asked.

He rolled his eyes and told me all paints are safe. Well, except for oil paints. With virtually all paints, the smell disappears within 24 hours. ("That's not the point," I thought to myself. "I want to inhale the least amount of toxins each time I dip my brush into the bucket and stand nose-to-wall.")

He went on to say that oh, yes, (a certain company) carries paint which they say is safer (he smirked), but he'd heard they were all junk. "You're practically going back to the days of milk paint and that stuff was poor," he laughed.

I thought, "Most likely, this guy thinks 'going green' is a big fat joke and anyone who eats organic is a deluded moron."

After just nodding and smiling and stepping away, I tried matching a different paint chip to one of theirs, but couldn't and this salesman guy practically breathed upon my hair. He spoke as though I'd never painted a wall in my life. I felt about 20 years old--and not in a good way.

Oh brother. As soon as he walked away, so did I. Right out the door.

Why am I sharing this? Because if I was like I used to be, I'd have argued with him about trying to stay away from as many toxins as possible. That it's not just about the scent of wet paint, but a lot more. I'd have told him about my success with the lower-toxin paint I'd bought from Sherwin Williams--how, even on an incredibly humid day, it had covered quite well and also that I'd been painting rooms for 30 years and knew my way around a paint can. I'd have said, "Just humor me, all right? Grab a can off the shelf and tell me it's the safest one your store makes."

All spoken sweetly, of course, but I'd have told him.

But you know what that urge is called, don't you? It's an urge called Pride. Pride of having to defend oneself so the other guy doesn't think you're an idiot. Pride of having to make certain that the people around you know and understand your opinions because, hey, your opinions matter a whole bunch in the grand scheme of life and all people--if they are smart--should listen to your wise words.

But yesterday when I considered saying any of the myriad thoughts and opinions and clever retorts swirling around my brain, I just sighed, instead. Spouting off seemed way too tiring and no way I was gonna change this guy's mind, so why try? He'd probably have quipped, "If it hasn't killed me after all these years, then there must be nothing wrong with it."

Yep, I'm thinking God told me to just hush this time and I walked out to the car rejoicing that I'd kept my mouth shut. Because for me, that's big-time progress. 

And big-time freedom, as well.


We're back from a weekend of camping out at our new old house. From Saturday noon till Tuesday noon we tasted our new life and found it good. 

Ok, not perfect--hey! There are always glitches and annoying flaws which one only discovers after one actually lives inside a house. You know, things even weathered old inspectors miss (and the sellers certainly ain't gonna mention, such as the smallest bathtub on the Planet). But we'll fix all that stuff over the years (and hopefully deal with the mosquitoes, which our neighbors said were worse this year than they'd ever seen. Alas.

I played in the huge (weed-infested) garden, twice, in the rain. Dug around in two long rows with a shovel and rake we found at estate sales and a plastic serving spoon because I had no spade. I poked around in the compost pile and started raking out the chicken coop and mowed miles of lawn (it seemed) while my body thanked me for the exercise, reminding me how it feels to move fast, fluidly, and knowing that dry throat feeling which often I knew and felt in my 20's, but much less in my 40's, lazy old thing which I've been.

I breathed-in gallons of good, clean countryside air, feeling like I'd held my breath for 15 years in these gas-fumed, cigarette-wafting suburbs.

Inside the house I washed shelves, snipped and laid wallpaper over them and put away groceries, pans and dishes. And washed windows (dreadful ancient ones we'll replace). 

Naomi and Carl came over Sunday afternoon for the grand tour, both inside and out on the land, and we sat on wicker furniture in our bay-windowed dining room and had such a pleasant visit in this new old place.

And the dreadful pine floors! Some parts were stained, other parts painted brown and some parts, bare boards. But then the floor guys sanded them and made them look as they must have appeared--new, blonde--back in 1880. And you won't believe this, but one of the floor guys resembled Tom Cruise. Seriously. Tom and I giggled about that.

It sounds like we accomplished a lot, and yet there were whole hours I just sat and stared out at the land in deep silence. God kept hushing me, drawing me away from the work to just stare at all that green pasture land and trees of all sorts. He reminded me that what matters most is that I seek Him first--for when I do--everything else will get done--in due time, with a million less mistakes (always I make mistakes when I run ahead of Him).

So I stared in quietness and healed from a hundred tiny--mostly unnamed and unknown--hurts and scratches and slights. You know, what you are wounded by from just being alive. And I found that quiet place again, the one inside. The one which drew me to the countryside, the one which draws me to Him.


This place, this farm life, is taking me over.

A couple friends have driven out (to this faraway place) to view the land we've inhabited. I watch them on our yard tours and am shocked at the changes I see. Changes in them? No, those within myself.

Our friends arrive pristine from the city, yet in my farm clothes and muddy barn shoes I point to the bees in the center of the compost pile and my friends hop backward, with a squeal, even. I work around bees daily--we are acquainted. And until we moved here, almost no one would have seen me in "play clothes," especially ones in farm dirt. But I cannot stay clean here--I don't even try--and I step into the barnyard hay without thinking, but not so my friends. They hover at the barn's doorway.

It rains and they dash to their car for an umbrella. Me? I let rain drops dribble down my face and my hair is always wet. I just wait with a sigh for them to push the umbrella up before we continue.

I take my friends to the back meadow and they become like whirling dervishes while they swat atmosquitoes (this following a dousing of DEET, even), missing half of my meadow narration, you know, my, "See what God hath wrought..." Mosquitoes are just a fact of my new life and I come away sad that my friends are distracted from the gasp-worthy beauty of all this.

My garden is one big exciting project--to me. The fire pit I'm digging is anticipatory delight. Our orchards are ever on my mind--how I worked in them today and the projected tasks I'll do tomorrow.

But my friends see this as a lot of work, work not done by them, so not as appreciated. They don't understand that this work is a delight and satisfying and the kind of labor with rewards like a good night's sleep, a little weight loss and deep satisfaction.

I'm shocking my friends, I realize this. They know only City Debra, not the country gal hidden all these years. When change comes suddenly, it usually brings confusion and only time and observation will restore understanding.

I'm becoming a farmgirl--and I saw it today with the last yard tour. Or more likely? The farmgirl in me finally has a place to work out the dreams from her soul. A playground for all the games she could only stand and watch wistfully for years, games she can throw her whole body and heart into now.


It took over a week, but I finally, tonight, finished pulling the weeds and grass from around the bases of our ten orchard trees and fertilizing them, mulching them and giving them a gallon of water, each. The ten grapevines will come next.

And today I raked another long row for my garden, added compost and it was the first day in a few that I didn't mow some part of our fields.

I wearily ease myself into the bathtub each night into cool water because of the heat and humidity and I notice more new little bruises upon my legs and arms, more mosquito bites and garden dirt falls from my neck (don't ask).

I haven't been able to watch the end of any tv show in weeks--always I fall asleep upon the couch.

And in the mornings I awaken feeling stiff and joyfully anxious to begin another day just like the one before and happy and grateful beyond words.


  So yesterday we said farewell to our apartment. Got our deposit back. Said nice things to our nice landlord and drove away.

Mostly I was ecstatic. We'd finished the cleaning! No more having that burden on my shoulders and no more carloads of all those things you never have ready for the movers to take,carloads of junk you must then unload and unpack into your new house.

But still. There was just something about those nearly six months we lived inside that tiny place. You've heard of the movie, The Enchanted Cottage? Well, it was like the 2008 version of that. Sorta. But only Tom and I understand that.

I loved that place. I loved my morning routine. Get up early, get Tom off to work, watch Style Network and drink my pretend coffee, straighten the house, then get dressed and made-up, grab my Mary Englebreit canvas bag and take off on foot for old-fashioned destinations. The deli down the block. The 1800's dining car made into a coffee shop. The convenience store for yogurt, peanuts and whatever little things we were out of. Or if in a mood to venture farther, I'd head uptown to the supermarket and plaza or perhaps Salvation Army or Burger King for coffee.

I did a whole lot of walking those six months, in all sorts of temperatures and weather. In my long black wool coat and gloves and hat or just my t-shirt and black slacks.

It's strange. I felt more of a sad twinge at leaving the apartment than I did our house of 15 years after we sold it. But most likely that's because I did have all those years at the house and a huge plethora of experiences and I was so very ready to leave it behind for new adventures ahead.

Yet I'd begun to notice something--I was running out of things to do inside that tiny place. Too often I twiddled my thumbs (as they say) and tried hard to think of something new to do.

There'll be none of that out at the farm!

So farewell, tiny apartment. You were a much-appreciated in between place and always when we remember you, we'll recall your true simplicity.


So yesterday after unpacking more boxes (will it never end?) I had an amazed thought. I'd not been away from the house since Monday and here it was Thursday. Not ages, just a long time for me. 

So I ran upstairs to get out of my 'play clothes' (as I call them here) and, because Tom was sleeping after having worked night shift, I had access to our car. I'd never even driven around town by myself since finding this house three months ago and I'd never visited Rite Aid, a Big Time place for our tiny community. In fact, here is a rather comprehensive list of our town's businesses, most of which are on Main Street:

Rite Aid
An old convenience store-type place with gas pumps, a tiny video rental 'closet' and hamburger stand with a few tiny tables.
True Value
Three restaurants, one summertime frosty shack
One bar
A pizza take-out , a deli
Three hair salons
An antique shop
teeny clothes shop
One bank
A funeral home
The post office
The library
An elementary/middle school combo

... and well, that's about it.

Of course, an honest-to-goodness supermarket would make it perfect, but how often do we get perfection? We're around nine miles from the nearest real supermarket, two of them, in different directions.

Driving along, I passed the library and thought, oh! How odd to not even have visited such a place yet. And as I pulled into the parking lot I realized I'd been unbalanced again. Too much concentration on unpacking boxes. Too much planning of my garden. Too much trying to decorate this house to completion in, like, seven days.

Of course, moving and going from city life to country life is a big deal. And moving is way, way up there on everybody's Top Stresses List. But still--forget the adventure of a new-to-me library? Moi? There was a lesson in that and I think I learned it. Slow down and in its correct time, all will get done. Enjoy it all, remember variety.

I loved talking with the librarian (who reminded me of Tom's mom) and had a refreshing hour wandering through the few shelves (compared to my last library), getting acquainted with the books, finding old friends like Elizabeth Enright and Eleanor Estes and new friends as well, three of which I carried home.

Then I drove back down to Rite Aid, browsed their shelves (and gasped a lot--ah, tiny town prices. I remember them well from having lived in teensy Chester, CA for 11 years).

I drove home and ate my little tub of strawberry yogurt upon our enclosed front porch and began a library book. Rather than return to the boxes, I breathed slower, deeper, and stared out our front windows to the evergreens and lawns across the street. 

The silence of country life--the fresh air, the wide openness. I recommend them.


Everything feels like play. 

I drag large pine branches (which Tom cut down) out to the woods beside our meadow and it feels like an adventure. I bring back sticks from out there to use as kindling, branches which have fallen from the young meadow trees, and I feel nine years old. (Out in the meadow I have gazed up into the sky and whispered "thank-you" one-hundred times.) I dig in my garden and it's like playing in the dirt. I set-up my work bench in the barn and feel giddy.

Playing. A working vacation. Life in the country. Always something to do--always a pleasant task to choose. And I hope we will always see the work to be done as a joy, for that will color our life here.

There are un-fun things, of course. Our windows are not fun. We knew they were bad, but not as dreadfully bad. They fall down and must be propped up with sticks and it's all I can do to lift the large ones.Oh well, already Tom has gotten two estimates for replacing them and three more estimates will be in by Monday.

Tom and I remind each other "inch by inch, anything's a cinch." We find ourselves cranky whenever we try to make this place completely ours in, like, two weeks. 

Making something your own takes a lifetime, really, and what matters most is that we enjoy the adventure.


Thanks for your many comments to my last post! I loved opening my computer after so long and finding you waiting for me.

Oh! Remember the dairy which delivers milk in glass bottles? Well, on Dairy Guy pulled into our neighbors' driveway and you should have seen me sprint across the street to speak to the driver in the old-fashioned red and white truck. He gave me a price list (very reasonable) and he'll deliver to us next Monday!


 Arghhh! Our bit of Shangri-la has taken a hit.

Sigh. Tom was driving home from work this morning along peaceful country roads, just counting his blessings, actually, when someone crossed over into his lane and hit him.

He's ok--and that's the main thing, yes! (We realize that.)

But still....ack.

"This is just a test... this is just a test..." we mutter to each other.

He called the sheriff who arrived quickly and said that accidents happen there all the time. Then he said, "There's no question what happened here." And the other guy told the sheriff, "Yeah, I screwed up."

He certainly did! He crossed wayyy over the double line, ran Tom off the road, didn't even see him and didn't even slow down.

It could have been worse. We know that. But oh my goodness--our dependable car which we've had for six trouble-free years. Poor ol' car, she's been so faithful and now this--

I felt sad standing there in the driveway, looking at Tom with this tired, worked-all-night eyes all teary. You know, men and their cars and how there's just something about that.

And now comes dealing with the insurance companies, which can often be worse than the accident, itself. (Sigh.... Even Pollyanna has a hard time staying positive when it comes to insurance companies.) Now there will be more calls, more paperwork on top of what we've already dealt with lately, even though this was not Tom's fault at all. And when we're trying to save up for windows, etc.

This is just a test..... this is just a test.....

We did not need this right now. But then, is there ever a good time for an accident? I'm thinking, not.


And here early this morning I listened to my favorite teacher who said what matters most is how we go through trials! I'm grateful I tuned her in today, because I needed to hear that, especially since the temptation is so strong to just sit here and sulk and mope and get nothing accomplished. But alas, that would mean a big, fat F on this test!


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