Baby Steps…and Baby Invasions

So, before I fell super sick, we were working on about 2463 projects, all of which are in various degrees of planning or completion. Although most of the daily “stuff the Mama does” has gone undone in my absence, we have been making some progress on some other things.
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The tractor is once again operational. We’ve upgraded the starter and alternator to a 12 Volt system, and as a result had to put in a new ignition switch as well. Figured if we were going to replace it, we might as well prevent the problem from occurring again. Once my honey got all that done, the first of the produce beds got disced, so we are one step closer to planting!

If the weather would only cooperate a little more, it would be lovely. We had a series of unexpected crazy weather days last week. As in, literally 68 degrees one day and wet slushy snow the very next morning. We lost some plant starts, not enough to make me cry, but enough that it was a loss. One of our favorite local farms, Bennett Orchards, got hit far harder than we did. After a six hour stint of temps in the 20’s, despite smudge pots and helicopters, they lost their ENTIRE 2016 peach crop. We pick and buy bushels of peaches and blueberries from them each year for canning, I’ll miss them a lot this year. Thankfully, so far it looks as if the blueberries came through the freeze.
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And our Flemish Giant Rabbit doe appears to have some surprises in store for us as well. She has taken up fur pulling and nesting, and trying to rip my fingers from my hands when I feed, water and clean in her hutch, so it seems she may have already been bred and kits may be imminent. She’s not typically nasty, the rabbit growling and snarling are kind of scary.

The off-the-farm work boss called us last week to remove a large swing set from one of their rental properties, due to concerns about its age, insurance, and the potential for injury to some vacationer’s child. Since the components of the swing set were pretty well thrashed, we decided to save the frame to build a new chicken coop / tractor. I’m hoping to get a jump on that project this weekend, we’ll see how I feel.
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Ryan’s personal 7-egg incubator that he waited so patiently for has epically failed to hatch anything at all. It will likely be trashed after one more attempt with just a couple of eggs to insure that it’s incubator error and not ours. That was a disappointment, but he took it in stride. Having new babies hatching in the big one softened the blow. The season’s next large incubator hatch is due Sunday.

We’ve been peddling a few chicks from home, it’s been nice to have clients and visitors to the farm again. With me being sick, that extra few dollars here and there has sure been a help, too. Our first two hatching egg sales on Ebay have been completed (with a third preparing to sell in just a few moments)  and Ry’s birds now hopefully have offspring growing in Massachusetts and Oakland, California at a school!

We have some new breeds of chickens / chicks. Some Silkies, Lavender Aracaunas, and Blue Laced Red Wyandotte bantams have arrived! The first four of our Black Copper Marans chicks are doing quite well, too!

In our most exciting and happy news, one of my grown children’s families will be coming on the 7th of next month for an extended stay. The babies are invading! They’ve been toying with the idea of a permanent move up this way for quite some time, and recent events in the neighborhood they live in gave them a few more reasons. Dad’s already secured comparable work locally, and my girl and I are making plans for some much needed support for her, and possibly school. I’m excited to have a partner for the shop, and it looks like her artistic and crafty talents may get a pretty serious workout this year. Additionally, the extra hands around here will be a blessed relief, and I think we will make much more progress than I planned on for this year! Now, to figure out where to put six more bodies in this camp!

Hope everyone is enjoying the change of seasons, hope things are going well for all!

 

 

Zealotry and Zen

I find zealotry in all its forms completely distasteful. There is no faster way to completely dissuade me from a point of view than to try and ram it down my throat. This is on my mind this morning because I’m having a bit of a dilemma.  I respect a person having courage of conviction, and I pride myself on being a somewhat informed and educated person. I welcome new learning experiences of all sorts, and dissenting viewpoints. However, at the end of the day, it’s my right to decide whether I agree or disagree, and once I’ve done that, continued argument isn’t likely to do anything but push me farther from your school of thought.

Having said that, it’s important to qualify that we’re not “churchy” people…but we are “faith” people.  I had so much church foisted on me by two warring factions as a child, I vowed solemnly not to do that to my own children.  I have a wonderful relationship with the God of my own understanding. He may or may not be similar to yours, and frankly, I don’t care. I talk to him, he answers me in his own time and way, and my attendance in a house of worship of any denomination isn’t a requirement for that relationship. And that is all I have to say about that. Because I believe it should be a personal matter, and advertising your affiliation with or status within any religion, house of religion, or organization doesn’t make you any better at being a decent human than anyone else, myself included.  SO back to my dilemma.

My eight year old is a Cub Scout. He enjoys it, it’s a positive thing in his life, we enjoy the family based activities. As long as that continues to be the case, we’ll continue to be a part of the Scouts program.

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This week, Ryan is the “Star Student” in his classroom. This affords the classroom monarch a few privileges, one of which is to share something with his class that he enjoys. A toy, book, photographs, etc. With zero direction from either us or the Scouts, Ryan went to his teacher and asked if he could wear his scout uniform instead of his school uniform today, and share about some of the cool things he’s done in Scouts. She’s consented.

So I’m currently finishing up laundering said uniform, but I’m doing so with more than a few misgivings. You see, enrollment in Scouts programs is down. A lot. Some because of unfortunate events in the news in past years, but a good portion of it can be attributed to the fact that the Scouts aren’t allowed in most schools anymore. While there used to be a Scouts signup table at every school open house, winter carnival, etc…they’re now conspicuously absent.

You see, the Scouts, even though it’s a non-denominational organization, has some God going on. God’s in the book, the Scout Oath, and “Scout Sunday” involves attending your sponsoring or local church one Sunday per calendar year. (Completely optional)  It’s not a church program, it’s a community program. Boys and their families are welcome to take part in the program with any or no religious affiliation.

So, of course…there’s someone, somewhere, everywhere… who has decided to make noise about that.  One parental meltdown is all it takes for Scouting to be unwelcome at a school. One parent who feels that the mere mention or presence of a program that even makes mention of God is an effort to “indoctrinate” their child, separation of church and state, blah, blah, blah.

It’s absurdly funny to me that the most adamant of these objectors are most often the people who are so gung-ho about tolerance for and about protecting everyone’s right to their own feelings and beliefs. They tend to be more intolerant than anyone I’ve ever seen. The right to one’s own feelings and beliefs only applies for them when it doesn’t conflict with their own agenda. Am I the only one who sees this as complete hypocrisy?

I take serious issue with that. One of the most beautiful principles this country was founded on was Freedom. Freedom to think, speak, believe, worship, not worship, vote, object or abstain AS WE PLEASE in all matters. Blessed autonomy. So why do we now suddenly expect schools, workplaces, public places to police and insulate us completely from the beliefs or ideas of others? What happened to the right to and common sense to just be secure enough in your own convictions to respectfully tolerate those of others? To just BE, and let everyone else BE…

This is how I’ve tried to raise my kids. To know that…Not everyone is like you. And that’s ok. It’s their right to be different just as much as it’s yours. It’s for you to decide what you believe in and how you want to carry yourself as a person. 10710712_953048228055375_7582096015899745441_n.jpg

So, I’m sending my kid to school today in his Scouts uniform. With the dread that I’ll get a phone call later. That my little boy will be confused and hurt and not understand what is possibly threatening or objectionable about a program that he has fun in, that teaches him to be a good person, a responsible citizen, and a good steward of the environment. That he will come home feeling there’s something bad or wrong about being a Scout. That my son’s teacher will be called away from her class for a stern talking to, and that I’ll get a phone call citing the School dress code and uniform policy and have to take my child a proper plain polo shirt. I’m steeling myself for that, because I’m not quite sure how gracefully I’ll handle it. Tact and vocal filtering really aren’t my strong suit. Especially where my wee ones are involved.

I miss America. I don’t know when we became a land so hyper focused on insulating everyone else’s little baby feelings that we became afraid to have our own. There’s something that feels inherently wrong with that. I really miss America.

 

 

 

 

 

Angels Working Overtime

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The angels are certainly getting a workout this week on behalf of my family. Two days ago there were wannabe thugs shooting it out on the front yard of one of my grown children and today… This is my seventeen year old son’s Chrysler Sebring Convertible, or what’s left of it.

Just a few very short hours ago, he was on his way from Pennsylvania, where he’s currently living with his Dad and working, down here to the shore for the next 5 days. About 30 miles from my house, this happened.

For starters…and these are not just parental blinders… This kid doesn’t use his phone while driving. If you’re a parent blowing it up (or even a friend), you will be notified, quite petulantly, that he has had to pull over to call you back and find out just what your deal is and why it could not wait 15 minutes. He is also a seventeen year old seatbelt Nazi. Whether he is in the front or back seats, it’s on him. If you’re a passenger in his car, you put yours on or accept that walking is not crowded.  If you’re driving him somewhere…he’s a parrot in the passenger seat who only knows one phrase “Put your seatbelt on.”

What he does, however, is keep somewhat odd hours. As any 17, almost 18 year old is prone to do. Especially one with a full time job. I spoke to him before he left PA this morning. I asked him to update me with his trip progress and he answered that he was gassed up and traditionally does not stop for anything, I could probably not expect to hear from him until he got here. “Mom, you know I will not call or text when I am driving.”

When the phone rang at 12:44 pm, I didn’t think for a second something was wrong. I picked up the phone and was prepared for Mom-gloating that he actually had to stop to pee, or stretch, or something.

Mom: “Well, hellllllooooo, child of mine. How’s your trip going?”

Kid: “Holy sh$t, Mom, I flipped my F-ing car.”

This is not what any parent wants to hear in well…ever. My rational mind, which would tell me that if he’s speaking in coherent sentences and calling me on the phone, then he must be fundamentally intact…it goes on vacation. There are immediate visions of my baby boy hanging upside down by a seatbelt in a vehicle that’s mangled. Is he trapped? Is there fuel? Is it going to blow up?

Mom: “Are YOU ok?”

Kid: “Yeah, Mom, I’m fine. The car, Oh my God, Mom, the car”

Mom: F*#k the car, Justin! ARE YOU OK?”

It all runs together at this point. There are passers by talking in the background, the police and EMT’s haven’t even arrived yet, but I don’t know this yet. The questions come rapid fire now.

Mom: “Has someone called 911… Are you out of the car? Are you whole? Are you hurt? Bleeding? Where in the hell are you?”

Kid: “Yeah, they’re on their way…where am I ? Uh…I don’t know…I mean, I’m not sure. Hey! Ma’am…where am I?”

Random lady: “Hebron, kid…you’re in Hebron. Holy crap, maybe you should sit down.”

Male voice: “Son, I need you to sit down. Were you driving that…” ….CLICK.

Call back, no answer. Again. Again. Again.

It’s all kind of a blur after that. I called T, thankfully, he was right around the corner. I rang the phone. What came out of my face was something very staccato and rude.

“I don’t care where you are, or what you’re doing, it stops right now, I need you here, there’s been an accident. Justin. Hebron. Flipped car….”

He cuts me off “I’ll be right there.”

There was a call from Justin somewhere between home and Hebron…they had taken him to the ER in Salisbury, nearby.

The rest of this afternoon has been a kind of blur of people and faces and calls and prayers. The rushed him to the hospital in an ambulance. We were there inside thirty minutes. It’s a forty minute drive.  We found out the flashers cut themselves off repeatedly at certain speeds. EMT’s were apparently making him laugh on the scene with comments like…

“So that is your car?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Were you in it when this happened?”

I had to call his father. His sister. I didn’t call his older brother, because I knew he’d be racing there with no driver’s license and two babies in a van. The neighbors. Please get his little brother off the bus.

We got to the hospital and I completely bypassed the state trooper in the hall for my kid on the gurney. I kissed his face and then, only half jokingly, started feeling for broken bones and missing parts. Why is my child on a gurney in the hall?

The ensuing conversation with the state trooper, the hospital paperwork, everything all runs together. The trooper,  a very nice fellow, was incredulous that my child had walked away, seemingly without a scratch. One small abrasion on his knuckles from crawling his way out of the upside down wreckage. That’s it. Not even a mark from the seat belt.

The car, apparently drifted off the roadway at 55 mph, where the cruise control was set, and straddled a construction barricade. Traveling up the incline of that barricade launched it into the air, rotating sideways about 10-12 feet above the ground for somewhere between one to two hundred feet. The underside of the car struck a tree, slowing it down, and it came to rest on the nose and hood, completely upside down. Miraculously and inexplicably NOT on the soft convertible top, which would have crushed and killed one of my babies instantly. Not a single airbag deployed. Not one. My second born son released himself from the seatbelt and extricated himself before anyone ever had time to stop and run over.

My thanks to the emergency personnel and first responders. I think they’re an unappreciated breed, and I’m extremely thankful, not only for their handling of the situation today, but for the fact that they got to see a positive outcome. It could have been, and often is, very different.

They discharged him within the hour. I’m glad that in such a small town, I did not see that car on the rollback before I laid eyes on my child. I would have fainted dead away on the spot. When we were discharged, we had to go get his belongings from the tow yard out of the car. This is what we pulled up to.

As it turns out, the driver for the tow company happened to be just across the road having her lunch and witnessed the entire accident. The account of what happened came mostly from her, and what the officers were able to piece together. My son told us this afternoon he had stopped at a McDonald’s and gotten a sprite in the drive through just a half an hour before this happened. He had the notion to put the top down, but elected not to. Didn’t want to get out of the car and mess with it.

I don’t know what you believe…but there is no other earthly explanation to me than someone far bigger than all of us allowing a thin skin protecting 206 very fragile bones to crawl out of this alive and unharmed.

Stay on your kids about seatbelts. They’re ridiculously important. I’m thanking God tonight that my son is so vigilant about wearing his. This could have ended very differently than with my son currently sleeping off the adrenaline crash on my couch. He wasn’t under the influence of anything, and didn’t have a phone in his hand. He wasn’t fiddling with the radio, and no other vehicles were involved. One split second. That’s all it takes.

I’m hoping I’m done this week with my children having near death experiences. I don’t think I can bear another one.

Have a blessed night everyone. Go hug your kids.

 

 

Gunfight at the P-town Corral

You know, my kids make fun of me sometimes when I say the world’s gone nuts. Or that I’m going to buy a mountain, put a big fence around it, and take my entire family to live behind that fence.

I have one grown child whose family lives in the city. Not Chicago or NYC, but one of those areas that’s a wannabe metropolis. Seven of them. The entire area is referred to as “the Seven Cities”. My only daughter and her husband, and four of my granddaughters still live there. In the hood. And when I say it’s the hood, I mean I have personally sat on their porch on a summer evening and listened to popping noises and said “Who’s setting off fireworks?” Only it wasn’t fireworks, it was gunfire. Police sirens and ambulances round out the nightly symphony.

My son-in-law is a huge hulking fella. Rather imposing, so I worry a little less about their safety than my own Mother probably did about mine when I had to take my children and go try on city life and bought a home in East Baltimore. (Ok, I worry a lot less, because she went out and bought us all burial plots at that turn of events, God rest her soul.)

I don’t care how big you are, or how smart…and they’re pretty sharp, the pair of them (and fantastic parents)… you cannot stop a bullet. You can’t stop violence from touching your kids, and planting yourself in the middle of an urban area likely to be a war zone for a bunch of little turf hungry hood rats that fancy themselves “gangstas”  doesn’t do much for your odds or your sense of peace. Or your mother’s.

Last night, right at the edge of dark, my daughter was forced to run upstairs with the girls. There was shooting in their neighborhood. Close. Too close. The young men who were being shot at jumped over their backyard fence and the next door neighbor’s. My son in law spent the next hour helping the police department round up the bullet casings. In their own front yard. Bullet casings. Where my grandbabies run barefoot all summer. Where they are lucky they were not hanging out, as they often do, on such a beautiful evening.

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I wish my tendency for hyperbole was at work here. It’s not.

Bullets. Whizzing within literal inches of where six of the things most precious to me in this world lay their heads and eat dinner. Thankfully, no rounds hit the house. Or anything with a heartbeat, including the fence jumping young men, who, of course claimed they had no idea who was shooting at them. Or why…after the police rounded them up from behind my daughter’s home where they took cover.

The kids were already flirting with the notion a move up this way. Closer to family, not in the city. The hardest thing about being a parent of a grown child is remembering you’re not in charge anymore. On the phone with mine last night, it was all I could do not to demand they pack their stuff, this instant, and come the hell home. To hell with your family autonomy, do what I say and right freaking now, because I don’t want to bury any of you.  Get your collective rear ends back to where if you hear gunfire, it’s someone putting meat in the freezer, not someone’s child in a box. I want to put my foot down. This is enough. No job, no city paycheck is worth this.

But I can’t. They’re adults. I have to respect their decisions as a family, and right now that means living where they are.

I didn’t sleep much last night. I doubt they did either. Your children may grow up…but they never stop being your babies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Strutting Roosters and Ryans

My little manchild has gotten rather serious about his chickens. First of all, we woke up yesterday morning to this March Madness. There was cursing. Mine. In fairness to me, it was pre-coffee and I am not ever responsible for what comes out of my face before the coffee goes in it. 20160304_073551.jpg

Heavy, wet snow, coming down in great white clumps. It was a teacher inservice day at school anyway, so there was no closing or delay announcement to wait for. Most eight year old boys would immediately want to get out and play in it. Ryan stared out the window and declared “Naaah. I’m actually kind of tired of snow.” He asked me if his new incubator would come today, and I guessed probably not. We’re waiting on a small incubator I ordered for Ry at a ridiculous discount because it’s going to take forever to get here from the bowels of some overseas shipping system. I really don’t want to fire up and tend our huge cabinet style one for just a few eggs, so I ordered Ryan a personal one. It’s a little seven egg number so he can hatch his personal birds, and be solely responsible. (Without risking that he whacks 300 fertile eggs with an “I forgot” because he’s, well, an 8 year old boy.) But it’s shiny and new and digital and has a fancy schmancy automatic egg turner so he’s a little excited.

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Ryan at 3 or 4, checking “The Beast”…our homemade incubator.

So, since we didn’t have to post up in the front window and watch for the mail lady, we suited up and went off to the Southern States in the next town over. We have new birds from the auction, I was out of chicken meds and running low on feed.  Before we left, I sent Tony up to the attic in search of one of the ancient Little Giant styrofoam incubators we retired a couple of years ago, because patience and shipping through customs are not big with small boys. We set it up to test it and off we went.

Ry and I cruised the “chicken section” and lusted after all sorts of things that had my internal “No” recording working overtime, but I relented and sprung for a 14$ egg candler for him. Mostly because I don’t want my child goofing around with the current system of candling eggs here, which involves  drilling a hole in a metal soup can and using the highest wattage kazillion degree bare lightbulb as a redneck engineered projector.

We came home and trudged across the “frozen tundra” to medicate our quarantined auction chickens, feed, and check for eggs. Ryan has big dreams for this season’s egg and peep sales. He’s going to buy a go-kart with a Jeep body and headlights for his four wheeler and maybe a car, you see. 🙂20160304_080810.jpg

So yesterday was a banner day here. Tony left for work with goods from the farm. Certainly not the first time for that. I’ve seen him sell roosters out of the back of the old Subaru station wagon to the built-in ethnic market that comprises a good portion of his employer’s rental tenants.

But yesterday was new in that, for the first time, the “goods” in question were the first ever batch of eggs from Ryan’s personal birds. They were packed carefully and shipped off to a tenant who pre-ordered them.

T came home from work and presented Ryan with $3.50 and an order for two dozen more for Sunday.

 

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We may have created a monster.

 

Ryan and I spent most of the rest of the day indoors yesterday shopping online for hatching eggs. The go kart Jeep has been all but forgotten. He’s focused on his egg empire now.  I think I’m in trouble.

 

 

Take a kid fishing.

Take a kid fishing. Any kid, any age, (just ask the parents first, or it’s kidnapping) any time. Just do it. Nothing compares to the look on a child’s face when they just caught a fish for the first time. It’s joy and amazement and pride and awe all rolled into one big bowl of awesome.

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My Grandaughter Teagan

 

Over the years, I have seen my honey take countless wee ones fishing and make sure they catch at least one fish. I’ve seen him cast sidelong glances at lurking little ones watching furtively from a safe distance at one of the local parks.  I’ve watched him set poles, pick up a soda and sandwich, or a tangled mess of tackle just as a rod tip started to jiggle. And then it’s always the same.

“Hey! You there…young man (or young lady)…I need a hand. Grab that pole there! Quickly! I think there might be something on there. Help me out…I’m tied up with this here.”

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Ryan, my youngest

He always thinks he’s so sneaky about it. That I don’t notice that he’s just a big bowl of gruffness coated jello when it comes to kids and fishing. If there’s a dutifully watching parent or grandparent near who doesn’t make a move to take a photo,  he will do it himself.  He’ll patiently instruct the child on the best way to hold the fish so it looks the biggest, memorialize the moment and ask the adult for a number or email to send the photo to. Because that photo isn’t for him.  If it’s a monstrous pig of a fish, he’ll ask the adult if it’s ok to submit the child’s photo and name to the local tack shop’s site. More often than I can remember, it’s ended up there, and occasionally even in the paper. He’s never, ever in them…he’s the machine that hums away quietly in the background. Here’s a rare one of him with one of my own boys at 12. Meet Justin, and his first bass.

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What he doesn’t think I notice is the light in his own eyes. How he looks just like a big kid himself. How he chuckles quietly to himself later as he updates his Facebook status with his favorite words. “Another first fishy today! Take a kid fishing!”

I could quite literally take this man out on the priciest charter boat anywhere, drop him smack in the middle of a school of prize sportfish. He could battle and bail them all day long and I would never, ever, come close to seeing the light in his eyes when he watches a child pull their very first sunny out of a tiny pond.  In fact, he mated his way through his late teens on local charter boats. There isn’t a money fish alive that can draw him away from a kid with a bass on the line.  Here’s a photo off of our wall…apologies for the flashback, but it’s old and stuck to the glass inside the frame.

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I’ve lost count of the “first fishys”. I’ve lost count of the “Let’s stop here for just a second and see what’s shaking here at the spillway. I hear the perch might be running’s.” The poles come out of the truck, the bag of bloodworms or hidden jug of minnows appears seemingly from thin air, and I know we’re going to be late to whatever destination we were headed for. And I can’t even be mad. I love him all over again.

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Spring’s coming on. Take a kid fishing.

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Beauty is in the eye of the determined.

10485366_1187124057981123_2848459601193225218_nA photo I took over our pasture this fall.

Sometimes it’s easy for me to find beauty. Sometimes it seems overwhelmingly, ridiculously impossible. We’re surrounded daily by so much ugliness and evil and hatred and contention on a daily basis that it becomes the norm. Immersed in it. Drowning in a media borne sea of 50 foot waves of awfulness and despair, clinging to nothing but a photo or memory of a baby or a sunset for hope of survival.    Don’t believe me? Watch the newscast. Scroll through your local news station’s Facebook feed. Just for the sake of this exercise, grab a piece of scratch paper and a pen. Make two columns. One for positive, hopeful or uplifting, and one for “stuff that angers, horrifies, scares, nauseates, saddens, or in generally makes me feel like crap.” Go ahead, I’ll wait. Here’s mine. For the first 46 items on my local news station’s feed. (Discounting sports articles)20160227_191635 (1).jpg

 

43 to 3.  Really? See my conveniently labeled columns entitled “Crap” and “Yay!” (I’m a simple gal.) Forty flipping three craptastic articles featuring (in no particular order at all) murder, mayhem, car crashes, rape, ridiculousness,  bomb threats, fires, abuse, arson, assault, suicide, burglary, drug use, overdoses, death, destruction, natural disasters, embezzlement, and dissent. One puff piece about a local teacher of the year, one about the future of Punkin Chunkin that really could go either way (but my right column was lonely), and one about the upcoming local fishing season. I skipped over sports articles.

It even surprised me, actually. I’ve literally stopped watching the news for this very reason.  I’ve made jokes for years to my family that if I ever hit the lottery, I was going to buy a mountain, encircle it with an electrified razor wire topped ten foot fence and cloister my entire family there, and any other sane friends who would like to come along. A place to secede from the world’s ever growing insanity. It’s only half a joke. Like this right here.

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Or maybe a “tiny house” village. Like this one, only located on said imaginary mountain.

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But until then, I just have to boycott the network news media, (because it’s all bad, all the time) and continue my daily search for what’s good and lovely and uplifting in the world. I don’t think of it as willful ignorance, I think of it as sanity preservation.

I still have to send my remaining minor child off to school every day without lurking fear based imagining of an elementary school bathroom heroin overdose or a psycho school shooter.  And without using any sort of “happy pills” because I’m in recovery and my program and my sponsor both tell me that’s to be avoided.

So for now…these are my ” happy pills.” Here are some photos over the years that we’ve taken. These are some of our happiest moments. The most beautiful ones. Where the world is not a cesspool of crazy, and we’re consciously looking for and finding the beauty. Because beauty is in the eye of the determined, not the beholder. Some things are just ugly, and you can’t make them feel any different.