Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Beauty Above and Below

Saturday evening at twilight we gathered in the field, anticipating the full lunar eclipse.
Adam built a fire in the fire pit. We ate smores. He and Julia sat there for hours, nibbled by insects, enjoying an event he's been longing to see all his life.

Don't get your hopes up. My phone camera was not up to the task of capturing any decent pictures of the eclipsing moon. It was fascinating to see, especially the first half of the partial eclipse when the moon was clearly not any shape it is normally supposed to be.

Beside my front porch are a few rose bushes, including one yellow. It's still blooming.

And some truly impressive rose hips! Years ago in Statesville I tried making rose hip tea from the hips of my Rugosa rose bushes. (I still miss them so much!) You can read about that disappointing adventure here.

Monday, September 28, 2015


Now the farmers have cut the tall corn
in their  far-stretching fields,
And again I can see the distant forest,
the sky-high trees.
How can a stalk of corn
block a pine grove from my sight?
It's both silly and terrifying.
What else am I missing
for a dead stalk of corn
that will be gone tomorrow?

Bayboro, NC
Sept. 27, 2015

Sunday, September 27, 2015

My Dream Job

After that last post I wrote about how I handle (or don't handle) work stress, a friend asked me honestly about it. Could I identify exactly what stresses me about my various jobs? I ruminated on that one. Here's what I decided stresses me:
1. Working with lots of people
2. Having to service or help or work for lots of people
3. The pressure of having my job performance on display at all
4. Being responsible for other people
5. Being in conflict with others, correcting or assessing them
6. Being in charge of groups of people
7. Too much talking, interaction, or responding to questions or requests
8. Being confined to one area

Basically, at work I will thrive if I'm allowed to be the introvert I am. But I've always had jobs that surround me with people. Even the office jobs I've had (college student development office, and a Christian education office in a church) surrounded me with people.

My dream job would:
1. Give me a handful of other people around me, but we would be on the same level of employment/responsibility. We would not be each others' subordinates or bosses.
2. Allow me to do lots of organization of lots of stuff
3. Ideally, would put me in charge of a large inventory of beautiful things: books, art, documents, old objects, I don't care. I find objects to be utterly non-stressing. It doesn't disturb me at all to handle lots of money or valuable things.
4. Not make me work utterly alone; I need to have some people nearby. Otherwise I get lonely, depressed and creeped out at being alone.
5. I'd love working at a library or a museum, or even managing inventory or documents for a business or office. Managing a bookstore would be a dream, as long as there weren't too many customers - haha :)

Does this give my readers any ideas about what I should pursue? My training is all in teaching and music, and both of those fields seem to cause me stress. (Ugh. Poor choices maybe?) Time for an abrupt career change-of-directions?

Saturday, September 26, 2015

That Old North Wind

When the north wind blows strong in Oriental for several days straight, you can get this:
When I arrived at the farmers' market this morning, I found a wet street. The parking lot where we set up (on the right in the photo) was still above water, but customers would be challenged to reach us.
Well, some customers. As you see above, people were happy to wade barefoot through deep water to get down Hodges Street.
They were mostly trying to get to The Bean. I'm sure you're scratching your pate and wondering, "Really? For a coffee shop?" The Bean is a local icon. Its faithful customers are lovingly called Beaniacs. Remember that Oriental is mostly populated by tenacious, intrepid sailors and retired Yankees. Neither group will allow a bit of wind tide to keep them from their morning routines!
In fact, these people came in their boat, tied up to a dock that's nearly submerged, hopped out of the boat, then waded in nearly-knee-deep water across Hodges Street, and arrived at The Bean so they could tell their adventurous tale of bravery to other crazy people.
This truck driver stopped, got out, chatted with us about the safety of driving through, and then attempted it. But teenaged car drivers plowed through in their low-slung sedans without flinching.
We needed a "No Wake" sign in our little parking lot.
Julia waded to The Bean at least three times in the morning. She's devoted.
The customers came. Sales weren't too bad! I think they came to stare at the flood waters, and while they were there they spent money as an aside. Julia noted that Orientalites will stay inside and not emerge for days, after a two-inch snow. But flooded streets are nothing to them. They've survived hurricanes overhead. What's a little north wind tide?

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Considering Jobs

I asked Adam this question this morning: "Have I ever had a job that didn't stress me out?"
He laughed and said, "No."

Why is that? Am I a bad, stressy employee? One or two previous employers might say so. Working in the church office (much as I adored my bosses) was stressful in my early 20s. Teaching school (much as a loved literature and teaching) was stressful. I've been doing an after-school program for only a month now, and it is stressful.

I seem to be the common denominator. Is it me?

I've worked at some wonderful organizations, but it's true that when I talk to folks who've worked in Christian ministry for any amount of time, they privately agree with me that there is overwhelming stress in working there. So it's not just me.

A number of years ago I gave up working outside the home, convinced that was the problem; I wasn't cut out for working outside the home. Is that still the problem?

In my family, we've always semi-joked that we Robinsons don't work well for other people. My daddy seemed to handle it well (with effort) for decades. I don't think it was easy. He traveled for weeks at at time, fund-raising, and was "away from the office" and out on his own. He was allowed very much to manage his own schedule, his own work, as the years went along. This must've made it easier for him.

One brother is a self-employed farmer. His brief foray into teaching was quite stressful too. Another brother owns his own surveying business; he's his own boss. Another has said for years that he finds it difficult working for someone else and has been self-employed on-and-off. So .. is this a family trait?

I'd love to figure this out. The only "work" I've really enjoyed and found stress-free is knitting/crocheting/soap-making/lotion-making for the farmers' market. Am I doomed in the job market? Should I give up finding a job that I can enjoy? Should I resign myself to staying home, or is it possible to find a job you really can leave behind, when you come home? It's difficult to enjoy home right now, because I spend all my home-hours recovering from work, or rehashing in my brain the interpersonal troubles from there.

Have any of you had similar problems with working outside the home? Do you have wise advice on this topic? I'd love to know. I need to decide if it's a lost cause to work out there in the big world. Adam, by the way, says my greatest talent is writing, and I should be throwing myself into that, but I have absolutely no idea how to turn that talent into cash, and I'm no good at marketing myself.

I know this is a scattered post. Help me if you can :)

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Hello, Knitting, My Old Friend

When I took Julia to New Bern for her math class this morning, I decided to kill time with a visit to Michael's for a little Autumnal Attitude Pick-Me-Up. And that was very nice.
Then, sadly, I spotted their bin of clearance yarn for 70% off, and I was sucked into the vortex!
These are discontinued yarns. We'll see what I can make with them. In case you haven't noticed, I haven't knitted or crocheted anything for about two months. It's really horrible. Working every day is truly cutting other things out of my life, or making them much more difficult. Not to mention that now my legs ache all the time. I inherited my mother's bad veins, and walking on concrete floors all afternoon each day is making them hurt.
Pom-Pom -- I found a pair of glasses that remind me of you! Adorable, of course!
In case you haven't checked out the Red Robin Farm blog in a few days, go see how hard Adam is working:
Do you have seagulls in your area? They're everywhere here. I snapped this shot of them in the  Michael's parking lot. I suppose they slept here for the evening; they looked quite content and snoozy.
Up next: a low-down on that yarn. I've made two scarves and am starting a third, but I did buy myself some bizarre yarn!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Over on the Farm ...

Hi, friends. Have you noticed fewer posts here at the blog? It's because I'm posting so often over at the Red Robin Farm blog, which is loads of fun.
I'm making soap:
lavender oatmeal, lavender, lemongrass poppyseed
We've put in an early herb garden bed with herbs I already had in pots:
Adam is testing whether I like a diet of collard greens and sweet potatoes, for future reference. The sausage, which is not in the long-term plans, came from Piggly Wiggly:
Adam finished tilling a 1/4 acre wheat field. He'll plant a blend of four non-GMO, heirloom wheat types:
The puppies are having loads of fun outside for hours while Adam works:
Not every meal is meatless, but even a little steak is pretty rare (haha!) around here:
We continue to make little pieces of progress on the house too, like installing the kitchen overhead light, painting the living room, and getting our last inspection. I think we're finally settling in.
Be sure to click over, and subscribe or follow the farm blog. When I'm not over here, I'm probably over there.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Homemade Play-Dough

I feel like such an elementary teacher (which I've never been, except at home), but here's yet another typical teacher post about a good craft product. A teacher at work shared her recipe for homemade play-dough. I made it, and the kids love it. It turns out pale.
Here's the recipe:
The mixture, which I made in my stand mixer, is nearly a liquid, very gloopy. I recommend putting the food coloring in while it's liquid before you cook it.
I recommend cooking it in a skillet on the stove top on low heat. It thickens quickly; stir it faithfully.
My friend said to use icing color, and it worked well, but it's hard to find in lots of colors (at least at our WalMart).
We already had red at home. I bought green and brown as well.
Very nice texture.
The icing color is a sticky paste. The second time I made this play-dough, I used regular liquid food coloring in the plastic bottles, and it worked very well too. That gave me yellow and blue too.
I put the balls in ziplocs. The kids have been so happy to play with it. I gave them plastic knives and some other pressing tools. They loved making fake food. They even "cooked" for me :)

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Only One Hour

I'm writing this on  Wednesday. I glance over at the clock: 1:00. I have only one hour until I leave for work. Working each day, even if only 4 hours, makes the rest of my life feel hectic. But part of that is my fault. Part of it is perspective.

Monday was crazy: prayer time at church, errands, then work, get home after 6:00, gulp down some supper, then off to community chorus, and back home at 9:30. Not much time at home.

Tuesday was just as bad: Off to church before 9:00 for a community event/lunch there, dash home about 1:30, be at work around 2:00, home after 6:00, gulp down supper, back to church for weekly Bible study, home before 9:00. By then, I'm really missing home.

Today I took Julia to school in New Bern at 8:45, home for lunch. Now I have only one hour until I leave for work.

Or should I say instead, "I have a whole hour! Wow! What a luxury compared to some people!"

I don't want to slip into complaining. It's too easy to be disgruntled and discontent. And for what reason? Because I'm busy, productive, active, working? Because we have a busy church and I have busy children? Those are all things to be thankful for.

Now it's 1:09. I think perhaps I'm settling into a good routine at work; the kids and I are beginning to understand each other. I took massive amounts of my boys' old legos yesterday for them to play with, and the boys there were so excited, so focused, so quiet. Sometimes you find something that works.

Tonight I'll have an evening at home, at last. Adam is mowing and tilling the field this week and making satisfying progress. And ... he says he enjoys it! That's amazing to me -- hot, buggy outdoor work that's labor intensive. But he does. The first tilling of the field is always the hardest, turning up old sod, battling the grass. I'm thankful.

1:11. Forty-nine whole minutes to enjoy!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Choosing a Simple Life

I broach this subject carefully. It's a stretch to say that anybody in the U.S.A. really lives a simple life. We don't live in dirt-floor huts. We have more than one pair of shoes and two changes of clothes. So, I'll qualify -- we want to choose a simple life by U.S. standards.

By U.S. standards, having a house with one bathroom is simple living. Having one vehicle to drive is simple living. Doing without a dishwasher is simple living. (I realize this might sound ludicrous to some.) We want to use a clothesline, not a dryer. We want screen doors and fans, not central air. These are some choices we've made now.

But is it simple living to till a field? Grow your own food? Repair your own buildings? Mow with a scythe? None of those are easy; are they simple? Perhaps we must consider what we mean by the term "simple."

What happens when a family has one bathroom? What happens when I and my husband don't have our own bathroom -- or more specifically, when I don't have my own bathroom (since we all know that husbands don't own a bathroom like wives do)? I can't camp out in the bathroom as I used to. We three women in this house really share the bathroom. We go in; we come out. We all put our make-up and hair stuff together. We share. A bathroom is a place to pamper oneself. A private bathroom is a true luxury for self-pampering. This is not a criticism of anybody who has a bathroom to herself (please do not take it so!), but I will state that sharing one bathroom with three other people means I don't pamper myself physically, don't groom, don't camp out, don't close the door and view that room as my private get-away. It changes how the family relates.

Hand-washing dishes also subtly changes family interactions. Not using central air, and managing with one vehicle (inconvenient as it is), and hanging clothes on the line -- all are slightly inconvenient. All require us to work with each other.

Some choices are made to save money. Some are made for health reasons. Some are made simply to encourage closer family living. We are quite new at much of this, and I'm not sure we've thoroughly fleshed out our philosophy. But I will say that I dislike consumption for consumption's sake, buying for buying's sake, materialism as if materialism were good. I believe at some point we humans have strayed from the good path of honest, simple living in family settings near the earth. I know I prefer a rural life; not everyone does. But how far removed should we let ourselves be from the sources of our own living? From soil and animals and plants and air and water? And the rampant increase in some diseases in the past 50 or 100 years -- is it connected to this distance we've created from our own food, consuming chemicals and calling it food?

It isn't simple to remove oneself from the U.S. "food grid," as it's called, but we hope to do it as much as possible. This is a primary goal of having Red Red Farm. Only the years ahead will tell if we succeed.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Spin Art

What happens when you mix paper plates, 15-year-old tempera paints, and a salad spinner?
Oh, and about ten kids ...? Well, the paint bottles were a bit worse for the wear when we finished.
And I don't think my salad spinner will ever be the same. It did wash up nicely, but it was mighty tired of spinning.
Here's some of the art the kids made. Glop lots of paint in the middle of the plate, put it in the spinner, and spin away ...

Some added sparkly craft sand to their plates. You can punch a hole in the edge, put a ribbon through, and hang them up too.
You can visit the website where I found this idea -- here.
This was a very fun, if messy, activity, but tempera paints clean up very well. They loved it.

Monday, September 7, 2015

The Return of Old Friends

I'm slowly unpacking boxes, some of which have been unopened for years. Each time we move (and we've moved now ... I think ... 18 times in 26 years) I sigh at the number of boxes of stuff. My little knick-knacks, family treasures, pictures, candles, vases, doilies, miniatures. The very things that weary our husbands and make them tote back-and-forth as we decide where to put everything.
Years ago, in about 2005, we visited THE Yankee Candle Store in Massachusetts, and I bought a plastic case of votive candles; you can mix-and-match the scents you like. I've made this assortment last a long time!
And I still have a few to go. Today I chose "cinnamon sandalwood" to burn, in celebration of moving into our new/old house and of its beginning to feel like home.
Three things must occur, I've found, before a maze of blank walls and floors can begin to feel like home to me: 1) rugs on the floor, 2) curtains on the windows, 3) pictures on the walls. I've accomplished much of the first two, and have barely started on the third. I need a house to feel like a home, and for some reason especially this time. I've felt a bit insecure lately about life, about where it's going and what's happening. I feel like I'm on a roller coaster, and I am not at the controls. (Not that I ever was, but maybe I had the illusion of it.)
Anywho, back to "old friends."
 A few dishes I haven't seen in a about four years. I love the pitcher and gravy boat. Right now they are atop the piano, but I'll be putting them to use.
 An antique typewriter that's been kicking around with us since we lived in Mississippi. I always mean to put it out where I can see it, but often forget. No more collecting dust in the garage!
On top of the piano are two very special items -- a pair of crystal candelabra.
 They have quite a story of travels, and I hope I get this right in the telling and am not repeating myself. They belonged to my grandmother. At some point she gave one to her best friend Fanella Jenkins. Later, my grandmother gave hers to my mother, so when I was growing up, there was only one. It sat on our piano at home and the crystals tinkled prettily when I played. As I graduated into Chopin and Rachmaninoff, they tinkled louder, but never broke.
Then when I married, Mrs. Jenkins sent me her candelabrum for a wedding gift, and I was so thrilled! Later my mother also gave me hers, so now I have them both. I'm quite careful with them. And for some reason I do not like to get them out if I know I'm in a house temporarily. Like many of my most precious items, they seem best suited to a real home, one we plan to sink our roots into.
These lace curtains have been packed away for a long time. I'm not sure but I think I haven't used them since Mississippi, where our ceilings were 14 feet tall and our windows were 10 feet tall. I could not find draperies that long in the stores, so I bought lace fabric by the yard and made my own, cutting them to length.
I found my autumn chargers! I love them; they put me into my autumn mood, which I love to be in :) It may seem silly to have chargers on the table for dinner when all my furniture isn't even in the house, nor the pictures on the walls, but I don't care.
I'm reuniting with old friends in the fall, and it is wonderful.
Stress, be banished!
Joy, welcome to our home!
How's that for a declaration?

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Back From the Dead

Hello, all. We've been through the ringer around here. It's been a rather long, grueling move, but we are living in the little house at Red RobinFarm, and one little step at a time, it's feeling a tiny bit like home. Today we have internet/wireless again at last, and I can catch you up on our lives.

A few people have stopped by to visit and they're always struck by how spacious the house feels, since it's only 1100 square feet. The ceilings are over 10 feet high, I've decided. It makes all the difference. I don't have anything hung on the walls yet, but most of the furniture is in the house and generally in its right spot. Adam is eager to paint walls soon.

Julia's schooling seems finally to have settled down too. She was thoroughly miserable taking both college algebra and chemistry -- too much work, and too hard. She could do it, but it was overwhelming. Finally we decided to drop the chemistry (and she'll take it next semester), and in order to get her schedule to work out, to drop the English comp class, adding it in October as something called a B-term --a condensed class that packs a full semester into a couple of months. The comp class was easy for her, so it'll be okay. And instead of the chemistry course she'll pick up a late-start American history course next week. Sounds complicated, but I think she will be content, and we've learned our lesson that she does have limits to how much work she can carry.

Anna is still waitressing and doing fine. The tourist season is tapering down and she may look elsewhere for more work. She's still hoping to go overseas, possible early next year. She's applied with the Peace Corps and is excited about hopefully going with them.

My job at HeartWorks is quite challenging and rewarding. I think it's growing on me. By the time 6:00 rolls around, I am exhausted, but I realize this is such an important ministry for these families, and that it offers the children benefits and advantages that they need and deserve. I heard an NPR report recently on low-income children (less than 25K/year) and how they actually have less surface area on their brains than children from high-income families (over 150K/year). There are exceptions, of course, and many children fall in the middle income level between those two. But low-income kids need enrichment and encouragement, the advantages that wealthier parents are able to give their kids. I hope we can offer a bit of that rich nurturing educational atmosphere each day. And the staff I work with are just great -- can't praise them enough for their dedication and hard work.

Adam's work has been quite challenging. One of our church families is struggling right now with the impending loss of a precious family member. Death is such a struggle for families. And we are losing a dearly-loved saint in this sweet lady. Moving has been quite exhausting. Basically, Adam carried everything we own on his own shoulders from one house to another. I helped carry some things, and we were loaned a truck (what a blessing!), but he really did it alone, and I'm so proud of his hard work, but it has been a struggle. He is worn down. He needs rest and refreshment, and more than anything else, encouragement. Today he took some time to rake the grass in the field that was cut and put it around his beehives. He enjoyed a little farm work. He lost a beehive in transit, and he was unable to drive the Jaguar to the farm and needed a tow, so there have been discouragements.

We're starting a new phase of life somehow. We didn't really plan it, but it feels that way. Adam has a farm to work in his spare time. I have a new job. Julia is starting college. It may take me a while to figure out what this new life is, precisely. I feel as if God has handed it to me, and I'm holding it, puzzling it out.