Sunday morning stroll through the woods

I decided to do a Sunday morning hike (primarily motivated by the fact my treadmill is on the fritz — again, and it was so gorgeously fall-lovely outside, I wanted to be a part of it). I thought I would amuse myself with a little photo-journal of the hike, with snippets of my own reflections as I progressed. And, if it’s an enticement to draw some of my BFFs I haven’t seen in ages to come stay with me for a week, all the better!

I started out by the rail road bed. My first musing as I’m walking is how Gerald O’Hara I’m getting, “Do you mean to tell me, Katie Scarlett O’Hara, that Tara, that land doesn’t mean anything to you? Why, land is the only thing in the world worth workin’ for, worth fightin’ for, worth dyin’ for, because it’s the only thing that lasts.” I really dig having property. It’s a lot of work, but when we leave it to the kids, hopefully one out of the six will appreciate it. 🙂


This is actually part of the old M-K-T rail line that runs across the southern boundaries of our property. This is where the meth heads used to come and burn the plastic off the copper wiring before we put up the gate, and gave a copy of the key to the landowner on the south side of the rail road bed. Now the meth heads just come and ask to “arrowhead hunt” which my husband generally agrees to because, in many ways, he’s nicer than I am. Or, possibly not as aware that they’re in fact drug abusers — something which I can pick up on in about 30 seconds.

IMG_1131      IMG_1142   IMG_1143

This is the “road” up the hill where husband likes to cut brush. He really, really enjoys cutting brush. Like, it’s a hobby for him. If he’s got some chump to follow and “paint the stumps” (put something on the stumps that kills them for good, so they don’t regrow) then he’s in hog heaven. He also likes to brush hog, hence my many, beautiful walking paths (center picture). Then, I just loved this shot of some redneck’s “hunting chair.” I think this has been there 2-3 years.


Oh look! Two paths diverged into a wood . . . you can surely guess which path I took.


This looks like a passel of Sunday afternoon family fun. Haul up the wood splitter, and we’ll be good to go.

IMG_1149    IMG_1150   IMG_1152

This is my *most* favorite hiking path to take on our property. He’s got about 12 different paths brushhogged off of this one. I can never remember what he calls it, though. “The old logging road?” That might be it. I also love playing the game of looking for the No Trespassing signs, which are ancient ones he’s wired up in some capacity, generally as a marker. No one but family is back in the middle of this area. Still, you can always say, “Follow the old logging road up past the old barn foundation (which is rotted away, but the cement is still there), and you’ll see the white no trespassing sign. Beyond that is the white sleeper stand, and then you’ll go left  . . . . “


This is the white sleeper stand (deer stand), but it’s somewhat creepy because critters crawl in there, and the only people who might actually want something this secure to hunt in (as versus a small seat with a small railing 30 foot up in the air, for the *real* hunters) are also likely scared of encountering a family of possums, in a small, urine-smelling stand at 5:30 in the morning, in the dark. Or namely, me.

IMG_1160     IMG_1161     IMG_1162

Who could fail to appreciate walking in such beauty on a quiet, crisp morning? Not this gal. I was half-tempted to pick up some of the acorns I kept coming across, because I was thinking like a 4-year old (or rather, thinking how delighted Miles might be if I showed up with a handful of acorns for him, since I left him wailing at home with sisters because I wouldn’t let him come along). However, I didn’t have pockets in my exercise pants (what’s up with that, anyway?) and the only other spot would awkwardly be my bra. This was my sweet hiking companion, Lady the Beagle. She was with me about half the time, but the other half she was off baying magnificently to let me know she found a trail of a rabbit. She’s sweet. She’s no Trixie, but she’s got a good heart, and the pup is on lockdown since he’s been killing chickens.

IMG_1164        IMG_1165

The creek crossing was dry, but it was a doosy to get down the hill to that point. Very good for my thighs, I’m sure. My fat thighs. They need to see more hill action. Then, another lovely brushhogged path husband made for me.


This one is interesting — evidently on an iPhone you can take pictures with your volume button. Since I didn’t know that, and kept trying to adjust the volume up or down on my morning hike playlist, I got home to about 150 extra pictures. Interesting, yes? Rather looks like a hippy-lover’s acid trip. And, I would assume the majority of my reading audience has not dropped acid, so you can just trust me on this. Just say no to drugs.

IMG_1166                         IMG_1167

Then, a dilemma. Here are the soybeans, and here is the pasture (with cows and ragweed galore). I decided to take the path along the edge of the soybean field. Much longer way home, but walking through rag weed on a September morning didn’t sound that appealing.

IMG_1182   IMG_1183     IMG_1184

This is one of husband’s favorite deer tree stands. He calls it the “Sycamore Stand.” Three guesses why! I was so tickled when the soybean field ended, and I saw the fence row home (mind you, it was still about 3/4 mile from home). Unfortunately, I’d forgotten that the soybean field ended at the bottom of a monster hill. This next picture is me stopping to admire the fencing handwork of my husband — truly the best fence builder I know. It had nothing at all to do with gasping for breath and screaming calves.

IMG_1189                       IMG_1158

Oh look! Home, sweet home! And one happy, sweaty Mama. Got in 3.15 miles all told, and a nice Sunday morning.

Coming Out

I saw something yesterday on facebook that had me rolling with laughter. It was this picture:


I have been pretty candid with my close friends, when we discuss life issues, and I am pretty sure I’ve recently lost someone I perceived as a good friend because of my more “liberal” ideological position. I put “liberal” in quotation marks because I am actually a moderate, by most considerations of the continuum. I’m a liberal next to many of my good friends in the church, and I’m a conservative next to my LIBERAL (notice all caps — she’d appreciate that) girlfriend Jadi. Inasmuch as we can’t evaluate social class outside of relativity, I think we cannot evaluate ideology outside of relativity. But then again, that might just be my Marxism showing.

All that aside, I think it’s time to officially come out. Yes . . . yes, I am an Ally. What does that mean, really? It means I support gay rights. I support equality for *everyone* (people of color, people who practice a different faith than I, people of a different sexual orientation than I, people who are subjugated for whatever reason). As a straight white Christian woman living in very rural Missouri, this isn’t a conversation I have with many. My pre-Missouri friends know my position, and know it well (I’ve certainly dragged my daughters to rallies in grad school). Now I think they, too, would be considered Allies. Will that happen with Miles and Ruth? Lord, I hope so.

I probably lost a lot of people with that single plea, but I mean it! “Lord, I hope so!” I want to raise my children in a realm of loving acceptance. Yes, I am a Christian. I dig the Word. I talk daily to my Savior. I am comfortable with my walk in faith. Yes, I understand there’s much in the Old Testament that speaks out against homosexuality. However, God’s grace and Jesus changed all of that – Mosaic Law does not need to hold us captive any longer (thankfully, because some of the responses were pretty harsh). There are two things we need to be mindful of – Loving the Lord our God with all our heart, soul and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself. That’s huge to me. That stands out more than anything else in the Bible (to me). For any scripture someone can show me an anti-homosexual castigation, I can show you one of Jesus’ love and acceptance. Unfortunately, there’s this “hush-hush” perspective that anyone who *really* is a Christian can’t support gay rights. That’s so judgmental. Judgement is not my place.

My place is to offer love. It’s not to judge someone who’s gay. It’s not to judge someone who is cohabitating. It’s not to judge someone who is on their 4th marriage. I’ve heard a lot from other Christians about the need to hold people accountable for their behaviors, but I think that gets taken out of context. It was specifically addressing other Christians within the church – it wasn’t talking about us having a role being the policing moderators of sexuality in the world at large. Does that mean we don’t have a responsibility to keep pornography off the television where children can see it? No, that’s silly. We still need to be responsible for raising our children as children. So many people lump homosexuality in with pornography, or pedophilia, or bestiality, etc. That’s sheer ignorance. Please educate yourself. Opening up gay rights (in particular, marital rights) isn’t going to open the door for people to marry their dogs, marry children, or marry their toasters.

In all likelihood, you know someone who is gay. You can either be frowning upon their “lifestyle choice” or loving them as they are. I have a lot of close, gay friends, and I love them. It saddens me to see that they can’t marry, or make medical decisions for their partner, or adopt children together (in many states). I think most of them don’t even care if you accept them (it would be nice, but not pivotal). What’s imperative is that gay couples be afforded the same rights within our society as straight couples.

I don’t have a problem being friends with people who feel differently than me – I’m just not going to keep my positions to myself simply to avoid discomfiting you. I’m not going to force my opinions on you – you’re entitled to hold your own, as am I. I’m not going to argue with you about whether its right or wrong, or what God says, or whether our country is going to hell in a handbasket (which, I would argue it likely is, but certainly that’s not related to gay rights). I’m not going to worry if you feel alienated, or want to unfriend me on facebook, or ignore my emails (I’m quick to take a hint). Frankly, I think we need to be discomfited. We need to create some social change. Yes, I am an Ally.

The Bad Rap of “Controlling” Behaviors

I was reading through the Bible for my study, and it referenced the Wife of Noble Character (a/k/a the Proverbs Woman, from Proverbs 31:10-31). In this, the wife of noble character is hard working, manages her household staff efficiently, toils through the night when necessary, provides good food and a clean home for her family, is experienced with trade and brings in wealth for her household, serves the poor, takes good care of her appearance, and brings her husband respect.

I freely confess I am a *long* way from being a Proverbs woman, but by the same token, I absolutely hold her up as an ideal, and an attainable ideal, at that. I think in 30-40 years I might have mastered these things if I continue to seek God in the daily choices that I make.

Unfortunately, though, I’m often considered as “controlling,” which I admit, raises my hackles a bit. There’s just such a negative connotation with being a “controlling woman” (in particular, it’s negative when associated with women, as men are encouraged to be controlling since it’s ‘manly’ and all that other sexist gendered stuff).

When I’ve been told I am “controlling” it’s often in the context of my interactions with my children (such as not letting my daughters wear make-up until they’re 14), or with my husband (although I have no specifics on that, but he’s mentioned his family perceives me as such). I’m trying to work through my feelings on this. On the one hand, I want people to think well of me – not in the people pleasing or codependent way, but just have an overall good regard. I don’t lose sleep when people don’t like me, and I don’t go out of my way to curry their favor (it is what it is). Still, when I hear I’ve been considered “controlling” I get defensive, because I think that the choices I make about what I control or do not control are sensible ones.

Here’s my position of defense:

I think not letting kids drink sugary drinks is good – we are one of the fattest countries in the world, and soda/sweet tea/slushies contribute to that. I think that managing our food could be considered controlling by many in our culture, but I have to juggle the costs of providing healthy options with how they’re taken in. If the kids each eat 4 peaches a day and I won’t be able to afford to get more for another 2 weeks, how practical is that? Plus, diarrhea is seldom a good thing. I think teaching kids about healthy options to eat, instead of junk, encourages healthy eating habits when they are adults. Why is this something that warrants justification? Why would I want them, at 40, to be working to lose an extra 100 lbs to be fit (ahem, ahem)?

I think not letting young girls wear make-up or dress provocatively before they have the maturity to handle that is good – we are a hypersexualized culture, and I don’t want them to be immersed in it.

I think that cleaning my house every week (or my beloved ‘deep clean’) is good – who wants to eat in an environment, such as on a farm, where there could be unseen poop somewhere? Or have a toddler crawl around on a filthy floor? Or can tomatoes with flies all over the place?

I think that removing myself from a situation where I’m in verbal conflict with someone *before* I speak rashly (emotional or verbal control) is good – I don’t want to regret my words, and I learned from an early age that unchecked emotional responses can be hurtful. I work hard at maintaining emotional control (without stuffing, of course, because stuffing is not ideal). But, I like to be a happy girl, and processing through my emotions before speaking has had positive results for me.

I think that working 50-60 hours a week might be considered a workaholic in society’s eyes, but at this stage in my life, it’s necessary to contribute to building up our farm (which my husband dreams of running full-time someday, someday soon, so he can be at home with us). Keeping a thumb on my work load might be controlling, but again, if it’s for the greater good, why is there harm? Why is ambition or a desire for professional success in a woman a bad thing?

I think that keeping a texting option off my kids’ phones until they’re older teens is a good thing (or for that matter, we don’t let them have cell phones until they’re ready to drive, and then just for security’s sake if there’s a breakdown). I read a lot about how texting and messaging is changing the culture of communication – I want children who can relate, personally, to others. I don’t want them staring down at their phones during dinner. I don’t want them playing games for 4 hours a day (and yes, I think gaming can be addictive).

Ironically, I think “the family” (or our closest social networks in propinquity) assumes that because I want to manage my household efficiently, of course I am controlling of my man. I use the word “ironically” because I know of no wife who is less controlling of her husband – my husband has full charge over his life, our children, and most elements of our marriage. I give my input, of course, but firmly state that I’m not the boss of him, nor do I desire to be his mother. 🙂 Throw in that his previous wife really was controlling, and I’m sure that influences perception.

Yes, I like to have my towels lined up in the bathroom, but I don’t punish anyone who doesn’t – I just straighten them for my own aesthetic sense of order. Likewise the canned goods in the kitchen pantry. I like to spreadsheet to-do lists. I’ve planned my own funeral. I keep six separate calendars of activities. OCD? Maybe. But not hurtful to anyone.

I would also add that there are so many things I vehemently *don’t* seek control of.

I don’t have a curfew for my older children.

I’m fine with the youngers playing in mud or sitting in the middle of the chicken pen in diapers.

I encourage cross-country travel (flying, or driving, so the older teens can build experiences).

I don’t freak out about bad grades (in that I don’t punish for them, although a short lecture on the consequences of bad grades in college may arise).

I don’t control how the kids spend their money they’ve worked for (except to take it from them for phone bills and car insurance).

I don’t regulate their clothing choices (unless it looks sleazy, but it seldom does) and I’ve even been known to purchase jeans with holes in them. I’ve accepted that mismatched socks are a fashion trend.

I don’t homeschool because I have a stringent need to regulate my children’s education or ideological positions –I do so because I want to encourage creative, free thinking, dislike structured tests as the medium of assessment, and resist the boundaries of the current public policies towards education.

I don’t call my husband repeatedly throughout the day to see where he’s at – I figure he’ll straggle in at supper time if he’s hungry. I don’t snoop through his things, read his texts or email, or open his mail. If I sincerely need him to do something to help me, I make sure to request it, and not command it.

I don’t micromanage the expenses (except when we’re broke, and that’s just to say, “we’re broke – we can’t afford it”).

I don’t interfere with others’ life choices – this is a big one, I think, because I see it a lot. How others choose to live their life is their business, so I don’t put my opinions out there on how they should be making this choice or that choice.

All I want to “control” is my little haven, and to conclude, I think that’s a good thing if it yields healthy, happy children, a fruitful marriage, and an efficient household.

The defense rests.

On Hand-Me-Downs

Each year in our local “not-quite-metropolis” there are huge consignment sales from the Mothers of Multiples group, where I go and rummage through an enormous warehouse to find my children’s (the youngers) clothing for the next 12-18 months. Generally items are about $.50-$1.00, and I can leave well equipped for both Miles and Ruth (including shoes, and a couple of well-worn toys) for less than $100.

The next sale is scheduled for this Saturday morning, so I do my pre-sales preparation, where I go out to the storage area and rummage through tubs of clothing to find out what we have in each child’s sizes, what I’ll need for the fall/winter/spring/summer to come, anticipate growth patterns, and make a checklist for each child’s needs. Generally I leave babies with Nathan as we get up at 5:00 a.m. to wait in line for the 7:00 a.m. warehouse opening, and take Addison and Rebecca along so we can divide and conquer. It’s a nice little tradition, and I can’t thank my girlfriend Dawn enough for introducing me to the sale.

This year, though – funds are tight. We’re doing the whole, “Live like no one else so you can live like no one else,” and while also saving up to replace our hobbling-along refrigerator (compressor is going out), funds are just tight. No way around it. My work load has been cut since colleges are reluctant to give part-time faculty a full load to avoid paying insurance (and please note, I am a fan of the health care plan, so I’m not bagging on Obama for this). I understand the dollars and cents of adjunct faculty issues. Nathan’s going to have to travel for work (out of state), and we always try to minimize our expenses to minimize his time away from home, the kids, and our bed. So, although getting clothing for 2 kids for a year + for $100 is a heckuva deal, I wasn’t looking forward to spending it, regardless.

Hence my trip to the storage tubs, where I finally opened the bags my brother has been faithfully shuffling my way from my beautiful niece, Ella Mae. As I sort through bag after bag after bag, I was ready to weep. I’m getting weepy just writing this. It was the MOTHERLOAD of hand-me-downs. Nathan quips Ruthie could wear a different outfit each day, but he’s a man, and somewhat exaggerates anything having to do with clothing or underestimates just how much a woman needs. Still, an incredible amount of clothing, and absolutely adorable clothing – what a blessing to have sweet Ella’s diva duds! Who would have thought my brother could pick out such cute clothing, additionally??!? So, lots of gratitude as I’ve rewashed and folded up the baskets I brought in. Mind you, all of this is just 2T, 24 months, and some smallish-looking 3T stuff, so all can be worn in the next year. There’s every range of weather needs (truly, all season). This stash below is *just* what I cleared out of storage — she still has a dresser full I have to sort through for what still fits, what’s out of season, and what we’ll hand-down ourselves.

P1060027      P1060028

As I’m folding, Nathan and I are in the kitchen talking about our own experiences with hand-me-downs growing up. I didn’t have a lot of hand-me-downs. My dad gave us a clothing allowance each year to buy back-to-school clothes, and when I finally got to high school and that was insufficient, I supplemented with money I earned from working. Back in the day, those $75.00 Guess jeans were the shiz-nit, and I just had to have them. Nathan has told me about either wearing Walmart clothes (which he hated to go pick out, because the kids at school teased him about it) or wearing hand-me-downs from Uncle Ken.  Neither of us were clothes-horses like our school mates, because neither of us could afford it. I tended to wear the same clothes over and over again (okay, *sheepish grin*, I STILL do). That’s just being tight, I guess.

In our house, kids get new clothes for Christmas and/or birthdays. Occasionally the Easter Bunny will bring a new top with baby chicks or bunnies on it. We shop Goodwill. We shop consignment sales. We hit the Salvation Army when we’re near one that doesn’t smell all smoker-mc-smokey. Aunt Jill gives us clothes she finds in cars when they’re repossessed (from her work), if they would fit the girls. We are *blessed* with teen girl hand-me-downs from my plethora of nieces, and from my 40 year old neighbor who is a marathoner and hip (and fit) enough to still dress like a teen. When those bags of hand-me-downs arrive, I may grumble a bit that the girls will take forever clearing out the old, and sorting through what fits (not to mention the “battles” over who gets to pick from the bag first, and who really wanted THAT skirt or THIS top), but goodness, we’re grateful. When I have clothing to “redistribute” I try to give to people I know and care for, and feel could use it (rather than hauling the bag to Goodwill, although that still happens from time to time).

In short, all sanctimonious righteousness aside (and if you’re leaning towards thinking that’s my tone, disregard that thought), WE LOVE HAND-ME-DOWNS. I think it teaches kids a lot about practicality, taking care of what you have, valuing things that are “new”, and that the friends who would judge you on the basis of your clothing are not really friends at all. Feeling the love this morning! Thanks, brother of mine!