Sunday, July 28, 2013

Events, Belated

I got to attend a 'graduation' for Sage, who is moving from elementary to middle school next year.

So beautiful and grown-up-looking, she towered over most of her classmates. Luckily for her, the balance of height is evened out by spunk in her best friend Jessie...

Katie, the last one on the right, is also a cherished friend who loves art and small creatures in deep ways that only Sage can appreciate.

Nora requested a nature party for her 6th birthday, so I figured I could easily make it all rustic and trendy and take advantage of the abundance of online ideas. I think she was slightly disappointed, having pictured more trees and leaves and stuff, but it was much simpler to pull together a theme that was already in the popular consciousness.

I think our favorite treat to eat was the acorns (made with mini-Nutter Butters and Hershey kisses), though I was personally enraptured by the meringue mushrooms.

We stayed pretty simple with games, playing duck duck goose in the front yard, wrapping Nora in a birthday 'cocoon' of toilet paper from which she would then break free, and playing tag wearing woodland-creature headbands that I found on a nice printable site. We pulled out our Milo and Otis movie for a little stretch, as well.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Not Too Soon

K. can see the future.  When we were still in law school, she predicted that, once all my education was behind me and there was nothing but work ahead of me, my restless soul would start climbing the walls of its cage.  We laughed about this observation, but nobody said she was wrong.

Uncertainty I can handle.  When our job plans fell through just a few months before graduation, K. fretted for all of us, but I felt calm.  The decision of where to look for work was the result of much prayer and convincing inspiration, so I felt good about the destination even if I couldn't see the path.  Eventually, I lucked into a steady, unexciting job with good hours, good pay and good co-workers, and it seemed my earlier faith had been rewarded.

But the very steadiness of the job made K.'s prediction come true.  Grateful as I was to be able to eat breakfast and dinner with my family each day, the quiet, repetitious nature of the work began to make me feel dead inside--take the bus, draft transactional documents, bill nine hours of time, go home.  Based on what the more senior attorneys were doing, the future looked very much like a straight line, stretching into infinity.

With six figures of student loans and a thirty-year mortgage, I was locked into a job that was too adequate to leave, especially after the bottom fell out of the legal market.  Rationally, I understood that the despair of having a well-paying but unsatisfying job was the kind of first-world problem that not many would sympathize with, but that didn't make the despair any less real.  There were plenty of perfectly contented days, but then there would be long stretches of discouragement, depression and lethargy.  I began to worry that my inability to love my work would inevitably lead to a disastrous mistake.

Over a year ago, on Leap Day, I went into such a deep funk that I only managed to bill four hours before I decided to just give up and try again tomorrow.  Taking an early bus home, I did a lot of soul-searching and prayer, and finally arrived at this thought:  It's okay to leave this job.  Let me put that another way--I felt as if God himself was saying, "Don't worry, you've stuck with this job long enough.  You're free to go."  All the way home, my thoughts rushed and raced.  Back in my memory, my brain found this lyric from Throwing Muses and began to sing it, over and over: "It's not too soon he said/ It's not too soon at all/ You might as well be dead he said/ If you're afraid to fall."

My friend Steve put that song on the first mix-tape I ever got, but somehow in that moment the lyrics and my mood and the straight-ahead tempo of the song became a drumbeat in my head, pounding again and again that it was time to move on, and that was okay.  I came home singing and smiling, turned the song on full blast, and told K. what I was thinking.  She was on board.  A month later I told my bosses, and they were great.  Never mind that it's taken me until now to actually find the next job.  To me the big step was finally knowing, or maybe just admitting, that it was time to go.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Once Upon a Galaxy Far, Far Ago

I found Ian and Sage laughing helplessly at the kitchen table a few weeks ago. They had a composition notebook in front of them, and had undertaken to alternately contribute four words each to a saga. The story has a rocky start, as you can see them stuck in a four-word rut at cross-purposes with each other, but then it evolves in surprising ways. I can't help but think my kids are amazingly cool, spending their time on stuff like this epic collaboration. Enjoy.

"An army of Ianians planned an attack on the evil Sagacians. With their wimpy fruit weapons, the Sagacians couldn't fight! They upgraded to blasters! Their blasters all jammed. The Ianians were disorganized. However, they had nukes. The nukes destroyed them. They were reincarnated as very weak, stupid daisies. The Sagacians all died. Then, they lived again! The Ianians became dragons. The Sagacians became golems. They were water golems. They became stone golems. Both sides made peace.

But a new threat arrived from Minecraft: it was an army of zombie pigmen, which were planning to take over. They allied with evil creatures from Magic the Gathering. But the Ianians could resist fire, acid, and could work magic. The Sagacians could travel between dimensions. So together, they were an unstoppable force that eliminated each and every obstacle.

Suddenly, the seltzer water became stale, so according to a mystic porpoise, they must rise up in rebellion against the evil empire of fire-breathing chinchillas in flying armchairs. They must ally themselves with living beanbags, because the beanbags could spew armor and weapons. This would greatly improve their chances against the evil army of chinchillas. (Chinchillas can cancel magic.) 

Unfortunately, the chinchillas allied with rocks. This made the zombie pigmen and several ducks bound to them turn against the allied Sagacians and Ianians. They gained the ability to cancel magic too. The chinchillas cackled evilly. Then, a brilliant Ianian developed a new weapon! It destroyed the rocks! Now they could concentrate their efforts on the evil, cackling, maniacal chinchillas. With their armor and weapons supplied by the beanbags, the alliance defeated the chinchillas! Peace was established and they were heroes. The End."

[I split it into paragraphs and corrected one misspelling, but otherwise it's unedited. I only wish you could see the different handwritings in the original!]

Monday, July 1, 2013

Mother Earth

We all just spent a long, wonderful week in south-central Virginia, tapping into our outdoorsy side. We've always tossed around the joke that we'd like to chuck it all and just go farm; so we finally decided we'd regret it if we didn't check it out. The owners of this particular little farm are looking to take a break and were offering it for lease, equipment and house and all, and so we got in touch and took a trip down.

While we won't be making the plunge into full-time agriculture at the moment, we enjoyed ourselves more than we ever imagined. Family teamwork, fuzzy animals, the quacks and clucks of the poultry, feeling like you're on a treasure hunt while collecting eggs and digging potatoes -- these are some of our valued souvenirs. Not to mention a renewed appreciation for clean fingernails, and continuing gratitude to all the farmers who work so hard to feed us.

Shout-out to Michael, Kathryn, Eli, and Luca, the farm owners and our patient hosts.

S. has photo-narrated the adventure on facebook, so check out the pictures there:
Appalachia Star Farm