Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Back to Homeschool Basics

We rarely do anything {normal}, so why would school be any different?  We homeschool (strange!) and we work at it year-round which makes us even stranger.  Just ask the neighbor kids who are preparing to go back to school after an enjoyable summer break of swimming, camp and lazy days.  They are mortified when my kids can't play because they have homework.

There is something that we do like everyone else: back-to-school shopping.  Every August, we hit the sales with the rest of America and stock up on paper, pencils, and pens.  This is just one component of our kickoff celebration for the new year.

Cleaning & purging - In July, we spend a week cleaning and purging anything from the last school year that will not be used this year.  This is broken up into small daily tasks, such as cleaning out crates and cabinets (explained later), assembling last year's work into a spiral-bound book, assessing what we have that can be used in the coming year, and making a list of what is needed.  The kids can add reasonable things they want to the list, such as a certain type of pencil or thin markers instead of colored pencils. 

Shopping - I make two copies of the wish list, one for my mom and one for myself.  My mom generally gets the kids a few things and I get what's left on the list.  As the stores put things out, I get one or two things from the list each time I go shopping.  When the ads come out, I do some price matching and finish out my list.  Everything goes into the school closet for now.

Organizing - Mid-August, we set aside a week for organizing our new year (see note below).  Again, this is broken into tasks which are completed throughout the week.  Each kid has a crate for their everyday stuff - a tool box, binder, folder, books, etc.  They each also have a cabinet in the school room for things that are used less frequently or that don't fit into their crate.  This is when they get a bag filled with their personal supplies such as pencils, pens, glue, scissors, etc.  Everything from this bag is marked with their names before being put away.  Some of the supplies are left in the closet to be given out in January. 

The First Week of School - The next week is the first week of school.  I sit down with each kid to set goals.  We take those goals to Dad and the three of us sign a contract stating that we will all work together to accomplish those goals and how we will do it.  That contract is laminated and placed in a visible place as a reminder to us all throughout the year.  This is mostly a fun week, with assignments such as decorating notebooks and movies (I know, not normal.)  On Friday, we do some sort of field trip.  In the past, we have visited the zoo, gone to the local water park, and had a picnic at the park. 

We have found this routine to be just what we need to get our minds focused on the year ahead.  What helps your family get into the new year?

*Our school year starts in July, but it is a scaled-down version until our kickoff party in August.  Because of our need for a constant routine, we have "school" every week and simply scale back during the holiday seasons and vacations.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Negotiating Life

If you want life to go as smooth as possible the first skill you should master is the skill of negotiation. If you stop and think about it every thing you do, every interaction is a negotiation. You can set the tone and direction of each interaction as long as you keep in mind that you are always in negotiation. When you talk with your spouse about what color to paint the house, he may say “Whatever color you want dear.” And that may not seem like a negotiation but it is. Next month he may approach you and say “I picked out a new front door that I am going to install.” You may not like the door and ask him why he did not consult you first and he will say well I let you pick out the color so I picked out the door. Never assume that because it was simple and you got what you wanted that you are not in a negotiation.
Parents negotiate with their kids over chores, homework, friends and activities. Teachers negotiate with students. Employees negotiate with employers, husbands and wives negotiate, as do doctors and patients, buyers and sellers, friends and every other relationship you can think of. Have you noticed that some people seem to have an easier path in life? Most of the time, whether they know it or not they have learned the skill of negotiation.
Rule one, everybody wants to win. Never make an ultimatums, always leave some wiggle room. Rule two, even if it is personal issue, don’t make the negotiation personal. People close you off and stop listening to you when you make it personal. Rule three, be a good listener. Even acknowledge what the other person said to you by repeating part of it in your reply. Rule four, the most important part of negotiation is to get as much as you want without giving up your objective.  Find a way to pin point what is crucial to the person you are negotiating with and give them as much of it as you can in exchange for receiving  what you need. Rule five, control the tone on the negotiation. Do not let it get off topic, loud or emotional. If it does, take a step back and take a different approach.

Remember you have to be willing to discuss things; explain what you want and the reason why you want it. Be logical in your approach that includes your timing. Know your purpose, you mind and heart. Know your limits. Just as important you have to also know the boundaries of the person you are negotiating with. If you are asking your boss for time off, don’t ask on a day when you know they are swamped with work. If the answer is, I will think about it, don’t push because they can shut the door on your attempt.  Always understand who you are dealing with and have a clear attainable goal. Don’t go to your best friend and ask them to help you move the weekend of their wedding. Be thoughtful and considerate, it goes a long way. Instead tell your friend how excited you are that they are getting married that weekend. Clearly, no matter how good of a friend they are, they are not going to miss their wedding to help you move. Ask someone else to help you and avoid losing a friend over an unattainable goal.

When I was in Law School I took a class on negotiating. One of the books we had to read was “Win-Win, the art of Negotiating”.  The main points were to always know your bottom line, always find out what the other party wants, pick your timing and never make it personal. Those key points will help you no matter who you are dealing with. But it is imperative that you don’t take advantage of relationships. Don’t twist someone’s arm just because you can. That is not negotiating that is strong arming. Don’t use guilt to get you what you want. It may work in the short term but in the long run it will end up harming the relationship. 

If you use these tactics you will find that you avoid disagreements and get more of what you are after.  Try and negotiate with your credit card company. Point out to them that you always make your payments on time and have never missed a payment. Ask them to take that in consideration and to reduce your interest rate. In retune you can offer to continue to use their card. Go to your best friend that is planning a baby shower the same day and time as your anniversary party. Explain that instead of having your mutual friends pick which event to attend, that while neither of you want to change the date, maybe you can stager the times. That would be a win-win for both of you as each of you would also be able to attend the other’s party as well.

Ask your husband if he would be willing to help you paint the house and in return you will be willing to help him with one of his pet projects, like organizing the garage. Ask your boss for a raise and in exchange list some additional responsibilities you are willing to take on. Ask your kids to help you clean the house and let them know if everything gets done then you will take them on that picnic at the park they have been asking for.  Figure out what the person you are negotiation with really wants and if possible, offer it to them. Both of you will walk away happy.                      

Monday, July 22, 2013

How I Met My Husband

I was watching a television show the other day and two women in their twenties were talking about love. One of the women was married and the other had been dating a man for a few years. The single woman was talking about getting married and asked the married woman how she knew her husband was “the one”. In typical movie dialogue, the married woman answered, “You just know it.” I don’t know why that answer bothered me so much. Maybe because I thought it was a cop out answer. So I started to think about it a while.

I thought back to when I met my husband and how I knew he was “the one.” First, I would say that if I needed to ask someone else about the man I was dating, marriage would not be part of the discussion.  If you can’t answer that question on your own, then I would say either he is not the one or you do not know him well enough to be thinking about marriage. Putting that aside and taking marriage off the table I thought about when I met my husband. Ours was a very unusual relationship. I lived in California and came out to Missouri to visit a friend. I was not looking for love. In all fairness, he was not looking for a relationship either.

So we met and right away I noticed things about him that I was very attracted to. He was thoughtful, honest to a fault, considerate, hardworking and kind. Our first date was not really met to be a date. Every August there is a big meteor shower. Because of the clear skies and the rural area the night sky is bright and clear, perfect for star gazing. We were both in our 30’s and I was surprised that he had never watched a meteor shower. We lowered the tailgate of the truck, he placed a thermos of coffee between us and he sat on one end while I sat on the other end of the tailgate. When I saw the first shooting star I told him to make a wish and he asked me why. I could not believe he never heard of wishing on a falling star. We sat like that looking at the sky for hours and talked about everything and anything.

When I returned home to California, there were a dozen red roses delivered to my door from him. He called to see if I got the roses and asked if he could call me again. I said sure. He called every night thereafter. Each night we would talk on the phone for hours. He invited me to visit again in November for Thanksgiving weekend. Again a complete gentleman, I stayed about 4 days and enjoyed every minute I was with him. I knew I was falling in love with him, but had no idea what he was feeling. I returned to California and we continued our nightly phone conversations. We both enjoy sports and a lot of our conversations were about life and sports. In our conversations we would kind of talk about what life would look like if we were to get married.

By the first week of December he said, “If we are going to get married I better get out to California, meet your family and ask you dad”. I never questioned whether things were moving too fast, if we really knew each other well enough.  I knew I had never met anyone like him before and there was an ease about him. Besides enjoying each other’s company, we also shared common values. I knew I was in love with him and not just the idea of being in love. I found myself thinking of him constantly, rerunning our conversations over in my mind several times a day and waiting for the phone to ring every night so we could talk again. He was due to arrive in California the week before Christmas and I was nervous that my family would think this was moving too fast. As it turned out, they saw the same things in him that I saw. They loved him from the minute they met him. Next thing I knew we had plans to marry on New Year’s Eve. Almost 5 months from the day we had met.

Fast forward 20 years and every day I still see that same farm boy I met so long ago. He has never tried to be anything other than who he is. Neither of us were looking for love, love found us. I believe that because we were not looking for someone to complete our lives, we were able to be ourselves. Every relationship is different and while I would say that marring someone 5 months after you have met them is not the advice I would give to someone, the most important advice I would give someone is to make sure you are getting married for the right reasons. Don’t marry because you are lonely, because all your friends are married or because you are unhappy with your life. Marriage will not solve any of those issues. Have a good sense of the person you are going to marry. See how they handle disappointment, anger and hard times. Make sure you don’t see their potential and think you are going to somehow change them. If there are any red flags do not think that marriage will take care of them. If you do not love them as they are then love yourself enough to walk way.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Walking a Tightrope

While at a homeschool conference, we visited a booth filled with toys and activities aimed at boys.  One of the things that caught my husband's eye was a tightrope, not just because of the points he would score with the kids if he put it up, but also because he already had everything he needed to build it laying in our garage.  Fast forward a couple of months and I found myself walking across a tightrope in our front yard last night.  I have to say that it was pretty cool, especially because the tightrope is within the allowed list for our currently-restricted daredevil. 
It has been fun to watch the kids figure how to get across the tightrope and also the stunts they've already dreamed up.  The kids help each other by holding the hand of the person crossing or sitting on the tightrope to hold it still.  They have also used rakes as poles to steady themselves as they cross.  As for stunts, one kid will create an obstacle for the other to cross over or shake the tightrope for the other person.  I'm expecting many hours of enjoyment from this recycled equipment.
While watching my kids play on their tightrope, I realized that I too am walking a tightrope.  Just like we built a tightrope for the kids last night, I have built several tightropes for myself.  Some of my tightropes will be in my life a long time and some are temporary.  Regardless of which tightrope I'm crossing at any given moment, I have people and tools to help me get across and I have obstacles (sometimes people) that will make the journey difficult.  There are a few keys I have learned about getting across the tightrope successfully:
  • Learn which people are there to help and which are there to simply get in the way. Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 1 John 4:1 
  • Know how to use each tool in the way that is most beneficial.  Don't be afraid to put aside tools that aren't helping. But test everything; hold fast what is good. 1 Thessalonians 5:21
  • Sometimes it's best to run and other times crawling will get you there faster. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9
  • When you fall, get back up. But they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31
  • Enjoy the journey. May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. Romans 15:13

Monday, July 15, 2013

Life on the Farm

Living on a working farm is a 24/7 job.  Most people only know about farm life from what they see in the movies and on TV. They show some of the hard work in the hot sun, but they always tie up the loose ends and show the family sitting down to dinner, sharing great holidays together or sitting out on the porch swing in the evening sipping ice tea. I am not saying that those moments do not happen, but they are far and few between.

Life on the farm is often romanticized, but the truth is that it is a lot of hard work, long hours with little profit and no employment benefits. I see my husband get up very early in the morning, make his own coffee and breakfast then leave for the day. Before he leaves he always has his day planned out in his head, what he needs to do and what he would like to do. However, it is a very rare day that he is able to follow his plans. The “farm” always has plans of its own. This time of the year is very busy trying to get the last of our crops planted, cutting raking, baling and hauling hay as well at harvesting our winter wheat. The focus of his day is getting all the above done.

But, the weather, livestock and equipment usually forces him to change course. It seems if he plans to plant crops or cut hay, it rains or it is to dry and he can’t get in the fields. If the weather is great so he can get in the fields, the tractors or combine brakes down and he has to spend two or three days working on the equipment. Then there are those days that the weather is great and all the equipment is running well but the livestock is out and he has to stop everything to chase cows or pigs back in their pastures and fix fence. To try to keep things on track he often works until midnight or later and is lucky to get a few hours of sleep before he has to start it all over again the next day.

Most of the time in lieu of lunch he grabs some fruit off of a nearby tree or will pick a few ears of corn out of the field. Dinner is usually after 9 pm but often closer to mid-night. Plans to get together with family or friends are regularly canceled or interrupted because of the workload or livestock.  If it is 110 or -10 the work has to get done. Every season has its set of chores. In the spring the fields need to be worked and readied for planting corn, bulls need to be moved out of the pastures  away from the cows, livestock has to be vaccinated and planting has to begin. Summer is the time to finish planting, mow hay, harvest winter wheat, plant beans, and put the bulls back in with the cows. Fall is harvest time for corn and beans, plant winter wheat and weaning calves. The winter is calving season, haying the livestock, breaking ice so the livestock can drink, mending fences and getting equipment ready for the spring.

Farmers take a lot of pride in their work, are self-motivated, hardworking and always have time to lend a helping hand. It is sad to say that looking to the future there is no “next” generation of farmers ready to set up and run the small family owned farms. It is hard to convince them to become a farmer when they have grown up watching their families work long hours, earning  just enough money to keep the farm operating, with no health benefit, no paid vacations, holidays or sick time. There are no retirement or pension plans. It is exhilarating when there is enough money to buy a ten year old car to replace the 25 year old car you have been driving. It is easy to see why the next generation has no interest in farming. They watch as their friends work 9-5 jobs, where they are ensured a paycheck every Friday. They have the money to buy new vehicles, have weekends off, holidays with their families and vacations with their friends. They get to spend their days working in heated offices in the winter and air condition in the summer.

With big companies moving in and taking over and small businesses unable to compete, I truly believe that family owned farms will cease to exist in the next 25 years. Like so many other small businesses such as blacksmiths, shoe makers, Mom & Pop diners, independent gas stations, shade tree mechanics, family owned grocery stores, doctors that make house calls, quilt makers, seamstress, the milkman, handyman, clock and watch repair, lamplighters, icemen, typesetters, telegraph operators, newspaper boys, and newspapers for that fact family farms are part of the past. Newer, faster and bigger business are moving in and taking over. The world is always changing, sometimes for the better. At this rate in my lifetime, I believe that most the food that we buy will be imported from other countries and family farms will cease to exist.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

We Now Interrupt This Season...

If you've been reading this blog for more than five minutes, you know that I am crazy busy (but slowly calming down).  The calendar that I use includes pages where you can see the whole month on one page and then each week gets a two-page spread.  I use the month page for all of my appointments, meetings, and activities and I use the other pages for notes.  Recently, I have started carrying another item in my purse: correction tape.  A week never goes by that I don't have to change something on my calendar.  This week, it's a big something. 

One of our girls recently suffered from a seizure.  Thankfully, this seems like it may be a once-in-her-lifetime event, but it has still turned her life upside down for a season.  After trips to several doctors, everything seems to check out just fine.   All we are waiting on is an EEG which is scheduled for the end of the month.  This will give us a more accurate assessment of the likelihood of another seizure.

When we booked the appointment, the lady promised me that she would call in case there was a cancellation sooner.  Yesterday we were very blessed when the hospital called and offered us an appointment tomorrow because someone else cancelled.  We were doubly blessed because I was able to whip out the correction tape, edit my schedule for tomorrow and say yes immediately.

There are things in life that can't be changed, no matter how important the new thing may be.  Many of us can't just take a day off of work or cancel our R.S.V.P. to Aunt Mildred's 90th birthday party without dire consequences.  There are other times when we simply don't want to deal with adjusting our plans.  We become hard and unbendable simply because we don't want to be flexible. 

Am I being overdramatic?  Maybe.  How many times do you find yourself in the grocery store, wanting nothing more to get in and out, when you spot the neighbor who always want to complain about something?  You rush to the next aisle, hoping to avoid her and her whining and justify it by reminding yourself how important it is to get home quickly.  I know I've done this a time or ten.

I learned something about finding (and sometimes making) time for others.  I generally underestimate the benefit for everyone involved and overestimate how much it will inconvenience me.  I am convicted of this most often when it involves my kids or senior adults.  I am often tempted to tell my kids that I don't have time to do something like read a book or listen to their story, but when I take that moment to spend with them, I'm usually glad I did.  The same is true for chatting with the neighbor, or calling someone whom I haven't seen for a while, or listening to a story I've heard a dozen times before.  The conversation isn't always what I would have chosen, but the investment in the person is always worthwhile.

The next time you think that you're too busy, take a moment to enjoy the interruption.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Electronic Advances During My Lifetime

My husband and I were listening to a radio station the other day and they asked, “What were the top three personal electronic created in your life time”. After giving it some thought I would have to say the personal computers, cell phones and digital cameras.

Personal computers have been a part of my life since the early 80’s. I bought my first home desk top computer back in 1982. It was a “Tandy” which was Radio Shacks brand name. The thing weighed a ton and costs a few thousand dollars. The only printers were dot-matrix.  They basically had no memory and everything had to be saved to a 5 ½ inch floppy disk. There was no ability to multitask. You put in a game disc and played that game. When you were done playing that game you put in your word processing disc, at the time “WordStar” was the most commonly used program. There were a few other very basic simple programs you could use like a budget calculator. But most all programs costs a lot of money so you only bought what you had to have.

I got my first modem around 1986. It was an external modem that hooked up to your computer then to your phone jack. It was a 300 baud dial up modem and the Internet consisted of a few bulletin boards you could call into and talk “chat” with other computer geeks. It took so long to boot the computer up that unless you had a specific task; it sat there like a big eye sore in the room. Getting on the Internet was always a gamble. Often the lines were busy and you could not log in. When you were able to log in it was a long drawn out process and long distances charges were applied to your phone bill.

I remember my first cell phone, I bought it around 1990. The thing is bigger than most handbags and weighed about 5 pounds. It had a case with a battery in it that was the size of a small car battery and two cords came out of it. One cord plugged into the car lighter and the other one was attached to a full size hand held phone with a dial pad. Reception was spotty at best. You could use it without plugging  it into the lighter, but the battery life was about 30 minutes. The only mobile electronic gadget that I owned that was bigger than my cell phone was my camcorder. The case was about the size of a carry-on luggage bag and weighed a ton. It also had a battery pack in the case (the battery was good for about 3 hours, if it was fully charged). You would prop this huge camera on your shoulder (like the ones they use to film movies) and a cord connected the camera to the battery. Good luck if you could hold that thing on your shoulder for 3 hours. It only took the full size VCR tapes, which you could run home and place in your VCR so that you could watch your amateur shaky movie on TV.

Fast forward 25 years, when I want to use the computer, I grab my laptop, open it and I am instantly online. I can have several programs at once and jump between them at will. It has more memory than I could ever fill, even if I downloaded every picture and song ever I wanted to keep.  And the Internet has the answer to just about any question you have.  You can find the most obscure things on it and even use it to “Skype” with people around the world. My cell phone fits in the palm if my hand and can be used for days without being recharged. And to call it a phone, by definition, does not even begin to describe all the ways it can be used. I love the games, calendar and alarm features. People use it as a GPS, to log onto the Internet and to send text messages. I also have a camcorder that takes still pictures or digital videos. It fits in the palm of my hand as well and runs off of 3 AA batteries. However, since my phone also acts as a voice recorder, camera and video camera, I very seldom have a real need for it. 

I remember back to the 80's and 90's when these three items were introduced to the public for personal use. I thought they were so advanced and made life much easier. I never dreamed they would advance so fast and become so much more useful, accessible, inexpensive, and part of just about everyone's daily life. I included pictures of what those first items looked like back in the day. Depending on your age, I am sure your answer to that question may be different than mine. But those are the three most helpful electronic advances during my lifetime. How would you answer that question?

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

What Does Your Schedule Say About You?

I recently learned that just because I can fit something inside the box on my calendar doesn't mean that I can squeeze it into my life.  This may sound silly to you, but I tried to live this way for way too long.  My solution will sound even sillier.  I've started writing bigger on my calendar.  Seriously.  On days that I have to go to the office, I write "work" really big so there's not much more space in the box.  I do the same for doctor's appointments, church and other things that need large chunks of my time.  This way, when I try to add something to that day, I have a visual reminder that it's not going to fit without making some adjustments.  As good as this feels for me, my husband and kids have also noticed that I'm not over scheduling myself (and them) like before.

I've also learned to live out my priorities throughout my day.  It dawned on me that our family spends a lot of time talking about what's important (God, family, serving others, etc.), but our schedule wasn't reflecting those priorities they way they should. This really hit home as I was teaching a lesson about fractions.  We did great in the morning by starting our day with family Bible study and sometimes even some worship music, but it quickly dropped off as we got busy with schoolwork, chores, and craziness that comes with a family of six.  As my day progressed, the pieces of time that was given to the things I say are important were smaller and smaller in comparison to the insignificant things.  For example, I spend about 20 minutes a day listening to worship music.  In comparison, I listen to the news while I'm at the bathroom sink n the morning and driving in the car.  When I'm at my craft table, I will generally put on a home improvement or D.I.Y. television show.  While there's nothing inherently wrong with any of the things I watch or listen to, they take up time that I could be using differently.  Our family has been working out this idea of making our schedules more accurately reflect our priorities.  Here are some of the ideas we came up with:

  • Work more efficiently.  Knowing that some things like work and school are necessary, we look for ways to complete those tasks in the best way possible, freeing up some time for other things. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.  Colossians 3:23
  • Multi-task.  Yes, I said it.  While we are doing chores, getting ready in the morning, driving, or whatever else comes up, we are usually praying or listening to my iPod (see more on that below).  Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18    
  • Download an audio Bible, classic literature, quality music, and anything else you want your family to hear onto your device.  We always have something to listen to (if we're not enjoying a good conversation) while doing chores, eating lunch or doing activities that don't require our undivided attention.   My husband uses an audio version of one of our textbooks to review the current lesson with the kids when they are riding with him.  Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8
  • Limit our {my} media time.  Rather than listening to a half hour news show, I get the highlights at my favorite news website.  I watch shows on Hulu, Netflix and online to avoid the commercials. We are here for only a moment, visitors and strangers in the land as our ancestors were before us. Our days on earth are like a passing shadow, gone so soon without a trace. I Chronicles 29:15
  • Keep a donations box handy.  We keep one in our garage and it helps us to be more efficient in our giving.  Every time it fills up, we take it to the thrift store instead of letting things collect around the house. In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ Acts 20:35
  • Have intentional conversations.  I don't wait for conversations to happen with my kids.  I want a strong relationship with them and I'm not going to wait for it to happen by chance.  I seek out opportunities for conversations and dive in with both feet, whether it's about something going on in his/her life, a lesson from church, or just building our bond. Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6
  • Always have a book with you.  This week the kids and I found ourselves sitting in the hospital parking lot while my husband visited a friend in I.C.U.  I overheard our middle daughter ask our son, "haven't you learned yet to always bring a book?  You never know where we'll end up."  It's so true!  I have read more books while sitting in waiting rooms, at sports practices, and in various parking lots than I could even begin to count.  I desire to do your will, my God; your law is within my heart. Psalm 40:8
  • Schedule time for the things that matter to you.  My calendar now includes things like taking the kids to the park and backyard BBQs.  I know myself and if I don't write it down, it won't happen in a way that will satisfy me.  Scheduling it gives me the freedom to focus on that activity for that time. So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God. Romans 14:12
  • Schedule time for all of the other stuff.  I have a feeling that God will not judge me based on my laundry pile, but it needs to be done anyway.  To help our family stay on top of all of the little stuff, we have a list of the things that need to be done daily, weekly and monthly.  Every day, we attack that list.  We don't have to wonder what needs to be done when and by whom, because the list has it all spelled out. But all things should be done decently and in order. I Corinthians 14:40

None of these ideas are earth-shattering, but they all push us towards being more aware of how our time reflects our priorities.  What do you do to stay on track?

Monday, July 1, 2013

Living The Rural Life

I lived in the Los Angles, California area for most all of my life. Twenty years ago I met my husband and moved to Missouri where he was born and lived all his life. The farm has been in his family since before the Civil War. While I have visited farms and even vacationed at “Dude Ranches”, I could never have imagined all the work that goes into living on a farm. My first culture shock was living a rural life.

I remember I use to drive from L.A. to Las Vegas and would see those houses out in the middle of nowhere and wonder to myself, "how do they survive"? No neighbors, no stores or gas stations for miles. It had to be a scary and lonely existences. When I moved to the farm I found myself living in one of those places that I always wondered about. I soon found out it requires a lot of planning ahead. When the nearest store is 25 miles away, you make every trip count. I make sure that I have all my lists ready to go before I ever leave the house. I schedule doctor appointments, visits to the pharmacy, grocery shopping, getting gas and all the other odds and ends earns so that I do not find myself having to make an extra trip to town.

I am lucky that my husband has lived this life all his years so he is well versed in this life style and very self sufficient. Our house is all electric (some people out here have propane, but when we built the house my husband said that is just an extra bill so we went all electric). The only problem with that is we have live in tornado alley so we lose our electric power about once a month, sometimes for a few minutes sometimes for a few days. Knowing this, my husband put in a wood burning fireplace and hooked it up to the duct system. In the winter we can burn wood to keep warm. Even if it falls to 10 degrees outside, we can keep the house at around 65 degrees. We have a little propane camping stove that we can use to make coffee and some simple hot meals. We always have extra canned food and bottled water as well as extra 50 pound bags of dog food in case the roads are too bad to drive on.

In the summer it gets in the 90’s and 100’s with the heat index from 110 to 120 degrees. I can say I never thought I would ever look forward to a cold shower, but on those days there is nothing better. Since I have lived here I have done things I never dreamed I would do. I am my husband’s barber, I know one style, a buzz cut. Lucky for him that is the way he likes his hair. I have learned to groom the dogs, drive a tractor, run a riding lawn mower, build a fence and vaccinate the dogs and livestock.  Things I never gave a second thought about are now second nature to me.

 I use to go get my hair and nails done every month. I now do my own hair and nails. My wardrobe changed from suits, jewelry and matching handbags and shoes to blue jeans, boots and tee-shirts. As far as jewelry I have limited it to just my wedding rings. In the summer my wardrobe changes to cut off blue jeans and, tank tops and sandals. Handbags were replaces by pockets. My husband tells me if it can't fit in your pocket, you can make it through the day without it. To my surprise, he was right. I can make it just fine with my keys, phone and chap stick. 

When I compare my life in California to my life in Missouri, I think I like life in Missouri a lot better. It is far less cluttered and complicated. When I need to go to the Dept. of Motor vehicles I don’t have to have an appointment or wait in line for two hours. In fact most of the time I am the only one in the place and there is no waiting. Same thing at the post office and stores. The big difference is traffic. Often times I may be the only car on the road instead of always being stuck in a traffic jam. When I walk into a store, utility office, post office or just about anyplace else, they know me by name and I am treated as a friend rather than just another customer. 

While we do not have many neighbors, everyone knows each other for miles around and if I need anything I can pick up the phone and call any of them and they come running. But what I love the most is that I can walk out into my yard and during the day I can see bright blue skies for miles. At night I can look up at and see every star in the sky and hundreds of fireflies. I hear the crickets, frogs and birds, see wildlife run across the yard and hear the farmers on their tractors in the far distances.  It is very peaceful and quiet here in the country.  I still enjoy going to California to visit my family and friends. But I am always happy when it is time to return home to Missouri.