Defeathering Our Nest

Our Colorado son texted me a couple of months ago, asking if I knew where his lacrosse gear was, and could I send it with his friend who was coming out to ski next week?

Gladly.

Any attempt on their part to take their possessions out of this old farmhouse is welcome. Our attic is divided into 3 sections: One that has my seasonal decorations and extra entertaining supplies, the middle one with all the left over high school/college crap of 3 boys, and the largest section has remains of the life we have lived here for 32 years.

The first section is pristine and the most easily accessible, I use most of that stuff at some point during each year. The largest section is my work alone to do: I have saved every Lego, Playmobiles, stuffed animal, farm tractors and attachments, dinosaurs and all the rest that make up the life of young boys. These items were discarded through every developmental stage of growth. They were carefully and thoughtfully stored (or so I thought). There are also unused items that I decorated with during the years, our boys baby bed, high chairs, beach equipment, camping equipment, coolers, camp stoves.

We are not even campers.

Why didn’t I get rid of all that stuff when I was supposed to, you ask? I don’t really know that answer to that. Maybe thinking about future grandsons (cause heaven knows we never counted on a Harkins girl!)

I am not (by my own estimation) in any way a hoarder. All the attic crap is organized. My mom says that I have a fortune in Rubbermaid containers. She is probably right. When I get the largest attic section defeathered, my kids won’t have to buy storage boxes.

Ever.

I won’t even address what the hub has in the barn and spring house. You would think that our family motto is “Better save this, might come in handy.” We might have, once or twice, even purchased items that we already owned, sitting in orange Home Depot boxes up in the barn attic.

I won’t point fingers.

But I could. If I wasn’t such a sweet wifey.

Enter: my conviction to start the path to becoming a minimalist. I stumbled upon a blog from an Aussie young chick a couple of years ago, and she made some really astute points, about keeping stuff for the life you used to have, or one that you hope you’ll have in the future. And how that stuff is so cumbersome in the present. She was right!

With that as my charge-I started going through the 2 main floors of our house. Anything that didn’t bring me joy, or have a function (towels) went to Goodwill or our church thrift store. I started with my own closet and with the help of my sister, was ruthless in discarding little worn clothing, shoes and purses.

Ruthless. 3 garbage bags of ruthless.

I tried to do the same to the hub’s closet, but he was having none of that. Besides, as mistress to every other area in the house, I had plenty of other areas to get to- I’d deal with him later.

I went from room to room, culling items that were just collecting space. I had to make second and third passes through the rooms and closets, but finally after a couple of months, things were feeling lighter. More spacious.

While I was purging I was reminding myself that when I’m gone, it will be my sons and daughter in laws having to handle each possession I leave behind. That spurred me on. I need to make that job as easy for them as I can. I can just hear it now: “Why in the world did your mom keep this old thing?”

To offset some of that I have started a Rubbermaid box for my granddaughter. I’m putting in my grandmother’s quilts, my favorite dolls and special keepsakes just for her.

She’s 10 weeks old.

Send help.

Blessings,

Stephanie

Posted in Family, Farm, Midlife Maze | 2 Comments

Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes

Nothing remains quite the same. Jimmy Buffet was right. Life is full of changes.

Some are predictable: children moving away from home, getting married and the empty nest that ensues. Others, not so much.

We never saw this coming.

Two years ago, my hub’s company was presented with an opportunity for their commercial demolition business to expand into Florida.

Let me put it this way: You don’t say “no” to The Mouse.

Within a couple of months, he had an office in central Florida, and in less than two years, we have a house 20 minutes from Cinderella’s Castle, and he has work all over the state. We watched Frozen. Just the two of us-so that he could wrap his head around their first project at Epcot.

Big life changes that were not even on our radar.

Living between two states means almost weekly travel back and forth between our rural farm and the most popular travel destination in the world.

The whole world.

The Publix and Target that are closest to our house is like the United Nations. Picture scores of foreigners trying to figure out traffic patterns, unfamiliar groceries and currency exchanges. Every language can be heard as I stroll through the aisles looking for Pawley’s Island Pimento Cheese and Blue Bell Butter Pecan ice cream. I don’t have the heart to tell the British lady who came to Target in her sheer cover up, over her string bikini to buy wine (at Target!) that she is woefully underdressed.

It’s only 64 degrees outside.

As opposed to the native Floridian’s who started wearing long sleeves and vests right after Labor Day when it was still 94 degrees. And they break out the Uggs if it gets close to 50.

Which brings me to: I AM IN THE SOUTH AGAIN!!! Thank you, Jesus. I still don’t know how all this happened so fast, but HE works in mysterious ways.

Hallelujah!

My southern accent is right at home here. No one asks where I am from “originally”. I can end all the sentences I want with a preposition. We have the sweetest neighbors, who look out for our house while we are gone. Without us even asking.

I could list scores of reasons this makes me soooo happy, (more blogs to follow on this account) but for now suffice to say, however we got here, I am deeply thankful.

I love to take long walks around our area, called Celebration. There are miles of wooden walkways through palm forests with a plethora of wildlife that we don’t see in Maryland.

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I’m learning how to be on the lookout for these guys, and to remember if I get chased by a gator to run zigzag . I don’t go pulling up weeds in the yard down here, even though it is one of my favorite spring/summer things to do on the farm. I take to heart the warnings on the evening news that with the heat coming earlier than normal the snakes are becoming more active.

Some of our lifelong friends are making the move (gradually) to our area and that makes it feel even more like home.

Well, our half home. We definitely live double lives, which has its own challenges. We still care for my hub’s elderly mom on the weekends and with the arrival of our dear granddaughter, we don’t want to be gone too long lest we miss her growing and changing.

So, we are learning to be flexible-which is a good thing as we navigate these middle years of change and uncertainty.

Especially when The Mouse calls.

Blessings,

Stephanie

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#maemae

It’s finally happened for me. After what seems like a lifetime of waiting and waiting I am FINALLY a grandmother!

The majority of my friends and one of my sisters are all grandmothers before me, and they all had the same thing to say to me in the months leading up to “the arrival”.

Just. You. Wait.

And they said it with such inflection in their tone, like they all shared a world that I knew nothing about. As if they were a part of a secret society that I was getting ready to enter, yet could not comprehend the life awaiting me.

Flash forward to nine months of waiting. Praying for this new member of our family. The anticipation of the reveal party when we learned we were having a girl, the planning of an enormous shower in the middle of winter on Inauguration weekend.

OK, back up a minute. Did you notice how casually I mentioned we were having a girl? A GIRL!!!!! After three amazing sons, who I adored with all my heart…God granted us a granddaughter. We were tremendously excited and slightly terrified. Even though I grew up in a family of all girls (as did my granddaughter’s mother), the Harkins family had not produced a girl baby in 66 years!

We commenced into the world of all things pink with careless abandon. And I happily remain there today.

The first few months of pregnancy dragged on forever (for me!), and then we hit the holidays and life got kind of crazy as it does for all women. The first of the year came, and the other grandmother and I threw a big, ole fun shower for 80 people, including my sisters and my parents who flew up from Atlanta. (But they had to fly into Philly because all the flights to BWI were full of Inauguration weekend/protest rally people.)

After the shower, I was out of town a couple of times, including a mission trip that left me only a few days before the baby’s due date, so I had a “talk to the belly” before I left, asking her to kindly stay put till I got home.

I woke up at 1am the morning I was to fly home. My DIL and the baby were on my mind and I had an overwhelming need to pray for them. So I did and fell back to sleep. At 3am the same thing happened. I was a little more concerned, because I have learned throughout my life that the prompting of the Holy Spirit to pray is not without reason.  Again, I prayed for the safe delivery of our precious one.

At 5am, my alarm went off to get up, and I checked my phone and there was a text from my hub, saying that our son and DIL were to the way to the hospital, her water broke. I quickly texted my DIL a bunch of emojis that looked like praying hands, clapping hands and party hats.

My phone rang immediately.

It was my son and DIL on the car speakerphone, as they were driving to the hospital. They were calm and in an almost festive mood yet I felt the urgency to get home ASAP.

Long story short: I made it home in time to be here for the BIG ARRIVAL. My DIL was a labor rock star and our girl is here, just like Mary Poppins: practically perfect in every way.

I am now a full member in the society of grandmothers. I look at this little miracle and my heart is full of instant love and thankfulness for her life. I am excited for all the potential in this little baby girl. I’m already planning big things for her and me. I have to keep most of it to myself, lest I overwhelm the rest of the family. But it’s there believe me. Pinned all over my Pinterest Grandkids board.

This week is Holy Week. Of course, this year, my little one is too young to do traditional Easter activities. But I look forward to the day we will dye Easter eggs, make a bunny cake and talk about Jesus and the cross and the empty tomb.

Cause that’s part of what grandma’s do.

My grandma name is MaeMae.

My granddaughter’s name is Karalin Grace.

We are going to be big friends. And we are gonna have big fun. Bigly.

 

Posted in Faith, Family, Midlife Maze | 11 Comments

Thanksgiving Mojo

It’s the weekend before Thanksgiving and I’m sitting down to take a deep breath before all the crazy starts. Crazy in a good way, of course. Right?

My beautiful fall candle is burning a festive fragrance and the afternoon shadows lengthen. The wind has picked up fiercely as I am quickly typing these words-even the weather is co-operating. Temps are going to be below freezing tonight. First fire of the season tomorrow?

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Just maybe.

All this is helping me get into my Thanksgiving mojo.

Mojo.

The loose definition of mojo is enthusiasm or motivation. Yes, that is exactly what I need to get through this coming week. I mean, coming weeks.

There are a lot of sick folks at my work right now (staff, not patients). I got my flu shot, been taking Vit C everyday for a month and Emergen-C for the past week. I have been washing my hand so frequently that when I got fingerprinted for travel last week my prints could not be seen digitally.

Not lying. (This is apparently not uncommon for nurses, so they told me.)

All to say…I. Can. Not. Get. Sick. Being sick this week would be a huge blow to the mojo.

In a mere 72 hours the airport runs will start as we collect our loved ones coming from Georgia and Colorado. The beds all have fresh linens, bathrooms are gleamingly clean and the pantry is stocked. There are hair appointments, endless errands and lots of last minute thinking to do.

Every year I do my best to be as prepared for this big, glorious day as humanly possible. The tables are already set for the 16 adults and 2 littles that we host on Thursday. The turkey is in the fridge and my two big shopping runs are finished. I will make a last, small list visit in the wee hours of Wednesday morning before I set to cooking. Family, and friends will travel to this old farmhouse from Baltimore and Pennsylvania to share our day.

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After we lift a prayer of gratitude for the day we will, like a million other families across our country, commence to eating the biggest meal of the year. Some will take more than they can eat, others will go back for seconds. All will be filled to the brim.

We will play games, and if the weather holds, go for a walk across the fields, down our country road and take pictures to mark the day. Food will be divided and sent home with each family to stretch the good eats for the weekend. Dishes will be washed, dried and put away and Finding Nemo will be watched.

With or without the littles.

The real mojo of Thanksgiving is, of course, being thankful to God for another year of His goodness. His faithfulness to love us and to be present in our lives, especially on the dark days is great motivation for our thankfulness. This year as my family gathers in Maryland, Georgia and Arizona-one of us is a long, long way from home, serving all of us. We added a new family member this year, our dear great nephew, Jackson, now 9 months old and in March -I will become MaMae for the first time.

That is some great Thanksgiving mojo.

Kindest wishes to all of you and yours for a Blessed Thanksgiving!

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I Like Hope

I like hope.

The real kind.

The kind that gives comfort during these uneasy times of politicians shouting crazy. The kind that helps me hang on when I see another bombing in a far away city, or one even closer to home. The kind that soothes my mama heart when some of my kids live too far from me and I ache for them.

I like hope. I need hope.

Spring arrives next week (on the calendar) and if there is one word that spring screams, it’s HOPE. The hope of new life peeking out of the dirt that I carefully put to bed in October when I started settling the farm down for a winter nap.

I walk around the house and am thrilled to see my old friends made it through the cold days of months past. I stupidly smile at them, “Well, there’s my sedum and astilbe-you’ll be standing tall in no time.” “There you are acronites, you are always on time!” “Hello, hostas-you are going to get thinned next month.” “Monkey grass! Can you just stop it, please?”

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Their return gives me comfort that there is something familiar in my world that I can depend on.

The routines of spring that might look like labor to some are rites of comfort to me. Armed with a gloves, rake and wheelbarrow I assess the damage to the yard.Huge divots dug into the sod as my hub pushed 32 inches of snow off the parking pad in front of the barn-I step them back into place. There is the winter accumulation of animal bones, dragged from our woods by the dog for an after meal treat. (I don’t want to touch the spine of the deer completely intact, but I am woman – hear me roar.) Bending over and over again for the big sticks and raking the small ones makes me feel hopeful for the months ahead as my farm is set to right.

There are new shrubs to be put out next month. Porches to be power washed after the pollen is gone. The porch columns, furniture and pasture fences need to be repainted this year. The list grows daily.

These spring rituals are more than rites of passage of the season, they are deposits of hope into my soul. I know what comes next-the burst of spring grass growth that needs weekly attention till the summer dry period. Strawberries, followed by squash and okra and finally corn and tomatoes will be filling my kitchen.

It all starts with the hope that spring brings.

Last week, I was back in Georgia for a few days. My sister, Kim and I were driving to meet our folks for lunch and we turned onto a road that was full of new spring growth. Tulip trees and red buds were lining the road and the most delicious scent came in through the windows of her car. I said, “I wonder what that smell is?” We looked at each other and at the same time said, “Spring!”

Nature is like that, isn’t it? We can count on creation to soothe, to call us back to the Creator-our most reliable source of hope.

“But I will hope continually and will praise you yet, more and more.” Psalm 71:14

“For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O Lord, from my youth.”   Psalm 71:5

“Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God.”      Psalm 146:5

“Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.”   Romans 12:12

“May the God of all hope fill you with all joy and peace believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.” Romans 15:13

That’s real hope.

Blessings,

Stephanie

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Labor Day

My first child was born 30 years ago on Labor Day weekend.

How appropriate.

Actually, there was very little actual labor involved because I quickly developed a condition called abruptio placenta, which means the placenta separated from the wall of the uterus causing massive hemorrhage and distress to our baby. Thankfully we were already at the hospital when this happened so it was a nifty emergency trip to the OR where I was put to sleep to receive a hurry up C-section.

This was back in the olden days before we could find out the sex of the baby prior to birth. We just had to wait it out and be surprised.

Boy, were we.

I woke in recovery to see my hub holding the most beautiful baby, with a head full of dark hair. I was instantly in love and obsessed with this new human-I could have cared less how he made his entrance into the world. He was here and he was mine!

Let me stop right here to encourage any pregnant gal who is facing a C-section….embrace this. It is a gift. It is the easiest way in the world to deliver a baby.

Hands down.

The recovery is, of course, more involved…but you are spared hours of pain and suffering and screaming. Good trade.

I was given the option of having a VBAC (vaginal birth after CSection) with my second child. I politely declined, whipped out my Daytimer and scheduled the birthday of #2 in an organized, civilized manner. It was 2 weeks before his due date. Delivering early is the dream of every pregnant woman over 36 weeks gestation. Can I get an amen?

C- sections.

The preferred birthing method of uber control freaks, like me. It fits us to a T. As a nurse, surgical pain made sense to me, I could handle that. Today- with 3 grown kids, I have often wondered if I could have done the pain thing and the he-he-he breathing thing and not killed everyone around me.

God only knows.

One of my sisters aspired to deliver completely natural-without any pain meds. She almost made it with child #1, but with an extended delivery, gave into an epidural and felt defeated. With baby # 2, she had the help of a friend who was a birth coach, and made it all the way. No drugs at all. Her first words after it was over: “That was the stupidest thing I have EVER done.”

Truer words were never spoken. When she went in for child # 3, she told them up front: Have my epidural ready when I hit 7. Every mother knows exactly what that means.

Also…another plus of C-sections: babies with beautiful round heads- no cone heads for you, sweet sister.

My best friend’s DIL delivered her second baby a few months ago. This gal is made for birthing because 2 pushes and …”Hello, there.” I think even a control freak like me might could do that.

Maybe.

I’ve been a little nostalgic as my eldest turned 30. His birth proved to be a life- changing event in more ways than I ever dreamed on that hot, late summer weekend.

And I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

This Labor Day had us working around the farm. We finally cleaned out the root cellar (which should have been done in the spring and we paid dearly that is wasn’t), and tossed all the summer container plants to make room for mums and pumpkins.

A true Labor Day weekend!

Hope yours was great!

Blessings,

Stephanie

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What Now (Part 2)

As promised, dear friends, here is part 2 of What Now. How can we move on and upward following one of life’s hardest transitions? I will share this with you: it is of vital importance that you learn to do this part of life well, because leaving them at the dorm is the dress rehearsal for the final “good-bye”-when they get married.

I won’t even go there today.

While I’m sure there are other suggestions, from far wiser folks than me, this is what helped us those first few weeks and months:

  1. Do not, and I repeat: DO NOT waller in your misery (as we say in the south.) For all non-southerners, “waller” means “roll around” or “stay around” the feelings of loss that are so acute and raw. Don’t pull out the baby books and grieve over how fast the years went.

There is a time and place for that kind of nostalgia and this IS.NOT.IT. Which leads into #2:

2. Try to get into a “normal” daily routine of some sort. Fight the urge to call in sick to work and lay around in your PJ’s. You are not  unwell, yet-but moping will get you there quick. Get up and start moving. Let your job help your remember that you are valuable outside your role as mom/dad. If you don’t work-get your walking shoes on and hit the trail basking in the new reality of “your time is YOUR time!”

3. Plan an adventure of some type. Who wouldn’t like a trip to Scotland? But if that’s just not realistic for you-plan a day trip close to home. My hub and I love to bike and there are many rails to trails in our area. Early weekend rides with a packed lunch helped us ease into this new time of our lives.

4. Reconnect with your friends, some who might be struggling too. Misery loves company? We love having bonfires at our house, so we invited a few friends to come have dinner and sit out inthe fall night. Good times…without having to wonder where the kids were. Great times!

5. Find a place to serve. Whether at your church, at a homeless shelter, helping kids with   homework, visiting people who are not able to be out and about…or a hundred different opportunities that you couldn’t do when you had your own kids at home-now is your time to help others. And in the process..you help yourself as well.

6. Let service start at home. Channel all of the energy you gave to your children in helping them with whatever they needed-into helping your spouse. Serving your partner can go a long way to starting to restore a relationship that may have been put on the back burner during child rearing. Taking out the trash, picking up cleaning, making sure there are socks in the drawer and a thousand other small, mundane acts of service are really acts of love. These small acts help shore up the foundation where marriage is the center of the home, not the children.

ABOVE ALL: Don’t listen to the lie that the best part of your life is over. This part of life is up to you make it be great-just like the part of life you just left.

You can do this!

Blessings,

Stephanie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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