Farm life, Life

Farm Lesson #5: Life Lessons from Chickens

chickens, backyard chickens, raising chickens

When we moved to the farm, my first goal was to get chickens. And let me tell you, I didn’t wait long. The first full weekend after moving to the farm (yes, after 8 days) we marched off to the feed store and picked up our girls and necessary supplies. Seven baby chicks, all laying hens, came home with us, deeming our plot of land a true farm.

Truth is, I had no idea how to raise chickens, so I employed my “fake it, til I make it” approach and with the help of Google and a Backyard Chicken Facebook group, I marched on like a boss. Six months later, we are getting eggs every day and the girls are loving their free range days on the farm. We have curbed the puppy’s tendency to chase chickens and have settled into a happy rhythm. I knew I wanted chickens, but I wasn’t prepared for how much I love having chickens.

Chickens are funny – endlessly entertaining to me. They run to me everytime I come outside, they follow me around like a little pack of fans and they just want to be close. They are loyal and forgiving. Relational and stick together. They are hard working and explorers. They get scared, fuss and flap for a second and then move on without memory. They can be counted on. Seems we have a lot to learn from a chicken.

backyard chickens

I am so blessed to have a band of girls on our farm. ❤❤❤ If you are ever feeling low, come visit, the girls will be happy to cheer you up.

Life

Maybe I’m the problem with the church?

Bob Goff, Everybody Always

Our world feels like a mess. Media, social media and news feeds are full of negativity, hatred, disasters, political attacks, violations, biting and hateful sarcasm, angry reactions, of argument after argument. There are so many arguments.

There are also a lot of good things, cries for help, positive support, expressions of compassion, fundraising for others, prayers offered, cute goat photos ❤. There is so much good going on…and I like to believe I am part of that.

I am compassionate by nature. Pretty nice most of the time. I am the first to say I hope, wish, want and will ______. Yes, God, that’s good…oh amen, we should feed the hungry, minister to the broken hearted, take care of the orphans. But you meant, sweet, clean little Martha from church, right? What about when it’s the homeless guy, or drug addict, or down and out, or the jerk behind us, the person we don’t like the smell of? Or when your elderly relative needs a ride, their bathroom cleaned or makes up excuses to see someone because they are lonely?

But here’s the thing, often I do go clean the bathroom (and oh by the way, I’m a germ phobe), but grumble about it and then say, “no, it’s not a hassle,” when they pick up on my spirit or see me washing my hands for the 10th time, making them feel ashamed. Just a guess, but that probably isn’t what God meant. I know people who hate christians, the church and maybe God himself because so many of us (like how I included you all?) have lived agreeing with, but not really doing God’s work. Oh I’ll be the first to say I don’t like inauthenticity, even hold my pastors and church leaders to task over this (inside voice of course), but somehow I have a kinder scale for myself. I mean, they should love everyone, right? That is their job. But, guess what? It’s my job too and people see right through that kind of hypocrisy. I’m why they hate christians and the church, like it or not. I just threw up in my mouth (TUIMM).

I can send a check, share a fundraiser or post, make a heartfelt comment, give away stuff I didn’t want anyway, throw a 10 second prayer at it, even serve or say I wish something was different and allow self-righteous pride to make me feel good about it. Ha! I have even had the thought, God my part is to support those who do that work. And lucky for me, I have a daughter who is a missionary, so it’s real easy to agree. So glad, I’m not part of the problem. TUIMM again.

Whether my doing something about it is taking time to listen to someone, research and vote, care or become part of a solution for the very thing I am complaining about, I have so much good to give. I can share, give, support, connect, fund, serve, help or march. I can be available, not get easily offended, believe and love others, demonstrate love through service, create, build, honor and respect. I can be a force of true goodness and grace, acceptance and of practical love when needing a coat or food or the bathroom cleaned.

I know there is so much need in our world, neighborhood and in our families. I have to believe if we truly begin to DO what God has said and not just smugly agree from our pew or armchair, oh what a beautiful world this can be. I am so grateful for grace that forgives our shame and sin and helps us become who we are supposed to be.

Have grace dear ones. Be grace. Let’s DO this work…let’s change the world!

Farm life, Life

Confession of a lazy farmer

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Late spring and early summer, I was so excited to plant a sunflower row – part of a romantic vision of happy flowers on the farm. This lovely picture is not.my.flowers.

Truth is, I did plant more than 200 sunflowers (and I threw in Shasta daisy and hollyhock seed from my previous garden) across the 300 feet of front fence line of my farm. Two grew. Two….and they only got about 10 inches high, so, there’s that.

I would love to feign shock and alarm, but truth is, although we did some hard work, I didn’t adequately prepare the soil for flowers. I got it dug up enough (by hand mind you) to get seeds in, but figured they would take off from there. Nope lazy farmer. It doesn’t work that way.

So my lesson? There is no shortcut or easy way. If I want a beautiful crop or garden or (fill in the blank)….I have to do the preparation and hard work …for months. Ok, so, there’s next year and mark my words….I will have adorable sunflowers to wave hello at anyone who passes by!

Life, Marketing/PR

Unemployment sucks. A guide to helping folks through it.

unemployment sucks

Three months ago, my job ended. I feel ashamed and embarrassed. I loved the company, the CEO, my team, the work I was doing and completely thought I would retire there. So when I “wasn’t the right fit,” I was shocked, disappointed, and bummed! I mean, I have furniture and rugs in my farm house purchased with award money for doing such great work just a few weeks earlier…I don’t get it.

But let me tell you, unemployment sucks. I’m not good at it either. For instance, to collect unemployment, you have to put in three applications a week, so I do eight and get told I’m spamming the system. Apparently, my over achieving personality makes me get rejected automatically for putting in too many (smh). So, I focus in and really work on 3 special jobs. I literally spend like 4 to 6 hours on each – researching, rewriting my resume with all the key terms that match (you know to get into the automated systems), writing and rewriting pithy cover letters and completing the online application only to get an automated email reply stating they can’t wait to review it, but will only contact if you’re the answer to their dreams. Then crickets.

I try remote, freelancing, job classes from back in the beginning of my career. The only consistent job that keeps coming up is Lyft drivers needed in our area. Oh hey girl, hey…need a ride? Now, don’t get offended, it’s a great, flexible job, but let’s just say I don’t think there are enough hours in the day for me to make the salary I need.

So in all honesty, here’s the truth of where I am at in this unemployment journey and my advice to those not in the journey. Here’s how you can support…or not, you decide. Disclaimer: mom, hubby, close friends and church friends, just work with me here. I’m half jesting and half venting, put down your lecture and rocks. I’ll be ok, promise.

1. Talking about “it”. There are two camps of people, seekers and avoiders. The seeker wants an update, every.single.time….even when there isn’t an update. I love my mom, but do you freaking think I’d not tell you if something came up after nearly four months of this special form of purgatory? Of course there is no update! But thank you for asking (insert sweet smile here). The avoider never asks. Pretends it’s not a thing and if they don’t make eye contact or never sit still, the awkward “it” won’t come up. I’m out of work, not dying or dumb. But thank you for your consideration to my heart.

2. Praying about “it”. I believe in God, I know He has a purpose and plan for me, I am praying and reading every day and most days I am trusting that the right thing will come along. I have sweet, sweet friends and family who are praying for me too and I am so grateful. But, I wouldn’t be honest if I pretended like that was all there was. Sometimes I am not dealing well with it. I’m worried, I’m mad, I feel frustrated and feel a little like I’m stuck in this weird version of Ground Hog Day, except I don’t have a job and I’m not waking up in a hotel. Nope, it’s me and goats, and the dogs, and the chickens in this same day over and over again. Get up, pray, read, look at job boards, look at email, check for requests for interviews, contemplate a lottery ticket. This process is hard and I don’t do “nothing” well. It’s hard, just let it be hard sometimes. It’s ok, I won’t stay there.

3. There, There-ing “it”. I have had an amazing career to date and unbelievable opportunities, teams and companies. I have awesome friends from jobs of the past whom I love dearly. I’m so blessed. But, I have also lost myself and nearly my health in a job, adopted my identity based on what I did at work, lost that identity and had to find a new one and that is jolting. I have done it really wrong and done it really, really right and I usually land on my feet, but it doesn’t come with no sweat off my brow. I know I have talent and mad skills in a variety of scope. Not in a “she’s so fancy, look at me” kind of way, but a confident, I know my stuff. I’m honest and deliver great work, on time and on budget. That’s good, that’s marketable. But I’m shaken. Let me be real for a moment. Don’t there, there me and quiet me so you don’t feel uncomfortable with the truth of where I am. Sometimes I don’t feel like all that and Lord knows the hiring process is not one that builds self-esteem. But, I’m using this time to pause, to learn from my mistakes, to ensure my identity comes from God and NOT my work (look at me go!), to study and stay on top of the market and trends, to volunteer, help my mom, support others and do a few projects. This time is a gift, I know. I know I will wish I had it back when I’m working, but for now, I need to be able to be honest without a “yah, but”. Please, just let me be real.

4. Rushing “it”. I am NOT good with the middle space. I want to rush to the end point – skip the journey and all of it’s great epiphanies to the next step. You know, stay busy, distracted….don’t feel. But there is part of this process that is necessary, so necessary for me. Trust me, I am doing everything in my power to find the right next step for me, but to skip this process and time will skip part of the next success. The lessons I’m learning here will make me better next. And, the answer may not be the next great multi-level marketing solution to save the day that so many sweet and sincere folks have offered. I do buy from a couple of subscription companies, but I do not feel called to build a business with either. So, whether I end up driving for Lyft (hey girl) or running a marketing team again, I know that this process, whether I like it or not, has been essential to grow my faith, my character and my talent set for the next “it”. If I’m not gonna be in another job for a company, I’m gonna find a way to start the farm business I have been dreaming of for years. Insert a miracle here would be just fine with me!

So I jest a bit, but through my sass, please hear that I am so, so grateful to all of my tribe who supports me. Thank you, sincerely for your support through this time.

And seriously, if I have offended you, message me, I’ll see what I can do to restore, but unemployment is not an easy time frame….just hoping for a little grace in the process and that maybe you’ll just giggle with me.

Life, Parenting

About the 2nd, 29th and 200th day of school…8 tips to managing a school routine.

Adult kids
It’s not the first day of school photo.

I have always loved fall. The cooling weather, the leaves turning colors, new clothing and the fresh start that a new season and school year brings.

Since my kids are grown and there is no backpack photo to share, I am providing a little unsolicited life advice for parents on how to manage school routines with kids. Here are eight points to help you navigate the new school year.

  1. Celebrate each day. Beginning a new school year is a big deal and gets so much attention, as it should. But I also encourage you to celebrate every day. Talk to your children about what was amazing and what was difficult about each day. Help them learn to recognize the good, even in the midst of challenge. This habit will serve them their entire life.
  2. Don’t compare yourself. A friend of mine shared recently that she was a loser because she didn’t have the requisite photo of her children on the morning of the first day of school. Social media provides a snapshot of one micro-moment of others. Did you ever consider that none of those photos show the parent? Who knows, they may be haggard and cranky monster on the other end with a meme-worthy morning of pure chaos to capture that photo. Remember, you only get to see one side of the lens, so be gentle to yourself. Each of us is uniquely created and we love and nurture in our own way. It does not require a cute little chalkboard sign. But if you are that parent who stages a photo shoot each year – you are awesome and the photos are adorable. No shame – just be you – either way.
  3. Eat a meal together. I’m not kidding. There is a lot of research that suggests sitting as a family unit together for a meal, is so important to health – emotionally, mentally and physically. I didn’t do everything right by a long stretch, but one thing I can say I did, was make sure we ate dinner together most nights. Was it frozen pizza sometimes? Yes.  The content of the food itself was not the point, sitting together provided not only a structure to our lives, it was our opportunity to talk and just land in the same place together. Now don’t get all spun up about time. Sometimes we sat for just 15 minutes, but that time was ours and it was important as a parent to listen and keep tabs on our how our kids were doing. This time was also our chance to check in on any homework assignments or permission slips needed.
  4. Prepare the night before. Ok, stop the eye rolling. Before you clean up after dinner (and we still do this today), make up the lunches for tomorrow. Side benefit is that you only clean up the kitchen once. Then once that is complete, have the backpacks with homework, permission slips, instruments, gym clothes, etc. packed up and placed in the same spot every night. I never had the benefit of an Instagram worthy entry with cubbies and hooks, but we had one spot where everything went the night before. The mistake many parents make is doing this step for your children, which leads me to my next point.
  5. Involve the kids in the process. No where in the universe does it say the parent must do all the work. Nope. Not true. Nor should you. Even kindergarten students can help with some of the preparation for school and every student should be taught to take responsibility for their success. So, make them pack their backpack and put it near the door. Expect them to help pack lunch, get their permission slips signed and ensure they have everything they need for tomorrow. I can tell you how wrong I did this for so long, but once I shifted the balance of accountability, it changed me and my children for the better. Note for parents of high school students: this involves “waking up” for school too – especially when they are driving themselves. Don’t give them an excuse to blame you, they need to take responsibility and secretly, they like it. It did wonders when I began to expect them to get up on time to do the 10 minutes or 1 hour of primping they needed. This may be a big shift, but if they know what is expected, they can do it. (BTW: Ask me about the day the high school called to have me excuse my late child and I did not. Mean? Maybe. But, they were not late again.)
  6. Pick your battles. This one is tricky depending on your personality. But seriously, decide if a perfectly picked up room is the highest priority or not. This is especially true to older kids. We had only two rules – no food in the bedrooms and if it starts to smell, I will get involved. When I learned to just close the door and let them have their space, they began to self manage and got tired of the mess themselves. Parents, please don’t do all the pick up after your kids – it does not serve them well in life…trust me.
  7. Dealing with uniforms. Whether school uniforms or gym clothes, this point is important. When my kids were little and had a uniform, we couldn’t afford multiples of everything, which meant washing during the week. My kids knew which days I had to wash and when they got home, they put their uniforms in the basket so I could get them started right away. Remember, I worked full time, so this little habit served as a reminder to me too! Side note, if your uniform involves small items like a tie, keep that in their back pack to avoid the search in the a.m. Those are scars talking here….you’re welcome.
  8. Be flexible. We had a routine, which worked most of the time, but sometimes when life blew up, so did the routine. Be flexible and go with the flow. That might mean that you buy lunch that day or eat a granola bar in the car, or dress in the car….but adapting to life’s surprises is a critical life skill for all of you. If you are going to be late, what good is it to show up 3 minutes late and in a frazzle without the parts you need? Just own it. Take your time, get your selves in order and then deal with the 15 minutes or 20 minutes late…or, dare I say it?…a call out day to work through the situation. Life happens, give yourself a break and do what you must, but our ability to show our children flexibility is important. And spoiler alert: your grown kids will remember what choices you made and the priorities you placed on things, time, obligations.

I know you are all so excited for school to have begun and I can remember those days. I do hope you will enjoy the second, 12th and 200th day of school as well. These ideas aren’t brand new or rocket science, but even choosing just one will help your school year hum a little bit better. Best wishes to you and your homes this school year. Hope it’s the best year yet!

 

 

Farm life, Life, Recipes

Cookies…because we love.❤

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White chocolate, cranberry oatmeal cookies

I like a good cookie, but my sweet husband…he loves, no, he needs cookies, and there is no one else I’d rather bake for than him. Today, since it was a slightly cooler day and I may have put a few fall decorations out, I’m feeling the delicious warm hug of this white chocolate, cranberry, oatmeal cookie….just enough cinnamon to give me all the fall feels.

This recipe is slightly adapted from cookies that used to be served at Shriners Hospital in Spokane where I worked for years supporting that great mission.

Recipe and directions:
Cream together until fluffy:
1 c. butter (room temperature)
3/4 c. brown sugar
3/4 c. white sugar
2 t. pure vanilla
Add two eggs and mix well.
Combine together in a bowl, then slowly add to the creamed mixture:
1-1/2 c. flour
2 t. cinnamon (you can cut this in half, but really? why would you?)
1 t. salt
1 t. baking soda
Stir in, just until combined:
2 c. oatmeal (old fashioned, not quick cook)
1 package white chocolate chips (2 cups)
2 c. dried cranberries (or raisins if you prefer)

Scoop dough onto parchment lined cooking sheets. Bake at 350 for 12-14 minutes, let cool slightly on pan before transferring to a cooling rack.

Enjoy!

Farm life, Life, Recipes

Meal Prep Hack – Onions + Veggies

red brown white and purple onions and garlic displayed

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Chopping veggies, particularly onions, is not my favorite cooking chore. I have tried every trick in the book to keep from crying and the closest thing I’ve found is working near an open flame (gas stove or a candle – per Martha Stewart) and it seems to help. But this post is about making it really count when you do need to cut or chop onions and veggies…and ultimately to save you time during the week.

For me, when I look at my meal plan for the week, I consider all the meals that need onions or veggies and chop them all at once. Not revelational, I get it, but my real hack is how to store it.  Since I rarely use an entire onion in a meal, I used to try to triple bag the remainder in zippered baggies, but inevitably my fridge would smell and everything in it tasted like onions.

Now, when I slice or chop onions, peppers and other veggies, I put them in a glass quart canning jar and tightly close the lid before putting them in the refrigerator. It doesn’t make the fridge or anything else in it smell or taste like onion and they stay fresh and crisp for about a week.  You can either have just one for onions to portion out or  you can prep a jar for each meal. Fajitas or tacos?  One with peppers and onions in it.  Chicken and Dumplings? One with mirepioux (carrots, celery and onion).  Stir fry veggies? Celery, carrots, peppers, onions….well, you get it. It makes meal prep so fast and the jars can go right into the dishwasher for clean up.

The added benefits of less plastic bag use and only needing to clean onion off the cutting boards once a week are a nice perk as well. Happy cooking!

I’d love to hear your tips or tricks for making meal prep easier.