Sunday, August 25, 2013

Feels Like Home

I remember the day vividly.

When we moved here seven years ago, we were advised to not worry about not getting connected from the start. We were told once our kids got into school, we'd find our "niche" in the community.

Just give it time.

Don't worry.

You'll feel a part of the community.

However, I didn't believe "them," as I was a town kid, and in order to feel a part of a community, one needed to live in that community. Like, live IN the TOWN, where there are sidewalks, and friends, and places to ride a bike, and...gasp...neighbors.

That was seven years ago, and until this weekend, I still believed that until I had an address that didn't take up three lines on an envelope, I would never, ever feel like I belonged in my community. Because, where is it, anyway?  (I've alluded to this before.) My jealousy of town-livers was raging hard as back-to-school approached. Most of my friends are in a neighboring town, one where my kids don't go to school. As they talked about their kids' teachers, who their kids played with, I wondered who in the world I'd have those conversations with. I had lived here for seven years, and I still went to Open House at school, feeling like a new parent.

Where do I belong? Who do I know? Why don't I have a neighbor to drink coffee with, without having to make dust on my crummy country road...which is another post for another day.

Anyway, back to this weekend. For the second weekend in a row, our tiny town of Yates City (not Farmington, which, although tiny in comparison to any urban area, is the bigger town...but that's confusing) had another community event. The Harvest Home Festival was the weekend prior, and, in the grand tradition of festivals around here, was complete with a baby contest, 5K run, pork chop lunch, kiddie and adult tractor pull, and enough carnival rides to make you want to lose your pork chop lunch.

It was a glorious weekend, weather-wise (even though we could use a rain, but that is another post...perhaps I need to post more?), so we had a great time. We ran the 5K, we ate our pork chops, the kids pulled tractors, and the adults worked the food tent.

All the while, we were making connections.

Amidst the distribution of hot dogs and cooking chops, Joe and I were among the people.

Our people.

We were asking questions about 4-H and getting to know those who might not be close enough to share a property line with, but have kids who ride the same bus, pass the same sites on the way to work, and our in our community. It just looks different from what I'm accustomed to.

Then came this weekend.

On Saturday, our little fire department, along with the neighboring community's fire department, put on a really great fire safety day for the kids. And, while it was orchestrated perfectly, and included events that could quite possibly have made my son's year (what two year old doesn't want to squirt a fire hose or honk the fire truck's horn, all the while wearing a new fire hat, waiting for the LifeFlight Helicopter to land?), we were out, and about, amongst our community members. Many were the same as last weekend, but some were new friends: teachers of our kids, country neighbors, and town friends.

I came home and took a deep breath.

I'm not discounting my dear, dear friends in the neighboring town. Amy, Kathleen, Rachel, Katie (to name a few)...all you peeps are invaluable to me, but at a a football game, I'll always be wearing purple and gold, and sitting on the other side. Knowing that I finally belong in a community, finally know teachers, finally will have some idea of who to sit by if I ever get to sit down at a softball game is life changing.

I know I'll still have moments when I feel like an outsider, and I'll always have those junior high-esque doubts at whether or not I'll really ever fit in, but at least for now, I am starting to feel like this place is home. We have some roots. Our kids have friends, we have friends, and that day, seven years ago, when I was at my loneliest, that person was right.

Give it time.

Time is valuable when making connections, and I'm thankful to have finally made them, even if it was while wearing a pair of plastic gloves and doling out pork chops, or squirting the fire hose.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Customer Service

Oh it's been one of those weeks.

I will spare you the details, and instead share with you lovely country memories.

Like propane tanks and crop dusters.

You know it's been a rough week when propane tanks and crop dusters make you happy.

So, we have this ugly propane tank in our east yard, and we also have lovely, big windows that face the east, and thus, face the propane tank. It was getting kind of scuzzy, but because it's always been there, it's become white noise...well, actually rust and white noise...but we've ignored it. My loving, but oh-so-somewhat-pushy mother (love you, Mom), kept mentioning we could landscape around it. Thanks Mom...I'll do that in between cleaning the bathrooms, wiping runny noses, 18 loads of laundry, delivering a zillion calendars for work, and then I'll plant some bushes.

After that, you'll find me in the corner, weeping.

Anyway, it was bad, but surprisingly, I have developed a high tolerance for rusty propane tanks. They look "shabby chic," right?


However, I noticed the lovely folks at Central Butane were parked in my yard the other day.

And they were POWERWASHING my tank! It looked less rusty, somewhat cleaner, but I was so thrilled that someone showed up, unannounced, and worked in my yard for me...if only the deck painting fairies would now show up...

Anyway, because I have become so accustomed to this gross tank, I thought a wash was sufficient, but NO! The good people at Central Butane (please give them business) PAINTED my propane tank.

Without being asked.

Without being paid.

Without even coming to the door.

I love them.

Then, to make my country lovin' heart swell even bigger, because I have become the Grinch this week, our crop duster, who although flying nearly 100ish miles over our field, noticed that we had a kids' picnic table on our deck. It is bright, but seriously...this dude is flying, and flying fast, and although low, is still flying.

Joe knows him, so when he saw him out and about, he mentioned to Joe that even though he had waited to do our field near our house until an absolutely still day, and there was minimal drift, we might want to just wipe off that table, because, although it won't hurt us, we shouldn't probably eat off of it until it's wiped off.

That's thoughtfulness, folks.

I know there are some of you freaking out because we crop dust anyway. You are welcome to have your opinion, as we are, too, but know this: I'm not out there taking a big, deep breath of crop dust fungicide, nor am I going to lick my kids' picnic table after our friend applies via the air. However, I do know that we are safe and protected and cared for by loving, kind, and smart people.

These are the people who are helping out in the world of agriculture.

These are the people who are keeping tabs on the safety of your food and fuel.

And they are lovely.

That, my friends, is customer service.

Perhaps Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois or Wal-Mart should take a class from these lovely people.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Cultivating a Happy Marriage

Writing an anniversary post is tricky.

In fact, Joe just came in and said he guessed he needed to post the, and I quote, "obligatory anniversary post" on Facebook.


However, ten years of wedded bliss is a big deal, right?

Big enough for our "big girl" (Anna is 8) to take us out for lunch at the Yates City Deli, her treat.

Big enough to have a babysitter and a nice meal, right?


I think, however, tonight's celebration and our reflection on the day's events ten short (and sometimes seemingly long) years ago is more than just thinking about the events that took place that day.

That was just the wedding.

Today, I'm reflecting upon our marriage.

Sure, ten years ago, I spent a lot of time thinking about my dress, the flowers, the songs to be played, the food, the cake, and some silly idea that I would make all the seating cards and fold them to look like chairs. When was I ever crafty?

Evidently, there was a time.

That day was one to remember, not just because of the decorating decisions and the good food, but the weather was and still is a big topic of conversation when our wedding comes up.

Remember the hail?

Remember the wind?

Remember that it finally stopped and was really nice?

Now that I write those events in order, it is kind of indicative of a marriage, especially one like ours, that is centered around farming.

We've had hail, and we've had wind.

But in farming, we've also had drought.

We've had dust.

We've had snow and bitter cold during calving season.

We've had mud.

We've had too much rain.

But despite all these factors, we've reaped great harvests.

Isn't that what marriage is supposed to do, too? Reap a good harvest, despite the seemingly yucky and tricky times? We've lost and changed jobs, veering our career paths left and right, but we've cultivated and worked at keeping a good outlook and a happy life, so that's a bountiful harvest, right?

We've questioned whether we're doing the right thing, being out here, raising a family on a working farm when our industry is at the mercy of the weather, the markets, and the increasingly vocal, increasingly critical general public. However, when our kids introduce themselves proudly as "farm kids" or "country kids," I can't help but smile. This life is all they know, and Joe and I have cultivated that pride.

And, even though I sometimes long for those days, ten years ago, when we lived in town, on a cul-de-sac, in a house with--get this--a SWIMMING POOL. Must have been the same timeframe when I considered myself crafty...I'm digressing...I am not sure I could go back there, to that life. Out here, Joe and I have had to figure out how to do things differently. Our current life path is not necessarily the way we saw it ten years ago, but we're forging a new one, and that's exciting.

Farming is hard. Marriage is harder. However, we've worked hard at figuring out how to love each other despite the unpredictability of every single aspect of life out here. I know all marriages are work, but when your job is not just your job, and your life is consumed by things that are beyond your control, you can't help but cling to something that is steadfast.

And, thank goodness Joe is steadfast.

Farming has tested our faith, our patience, our lifestyle, and, subsequently, our marriage, but despite all that, we've reaped a great harvest since that first day on August 2, 2003.

Thanks for marrying me, Joe. Here's to many, many more years of good harvests.