Who Knew? A New Family

When you are in the throws of parenting, especially during the younger years, you rarely have enough time to stop and wonder about your child’s future. Not saying that you don’t create dreams for them, one day they will grow up and play for the major leagues or become a successful entrepreneur, I feel like most of us have done it. It’s the wondering, imagining that seems to get lost in the chaos, the time spent actually opening yourself up to the idea that your child may have dreams, passions, and ambitions that you have never even imagined for them. Last weekend I decided to make some of my incredible unhealthy doughnuts for everyone. The farm had started to grow chilly, we had built a fire in the woodstove, and for some unexpected reason everyone was home at the same time.

I carefully moved the gourds from in front to the cabinet doors that Libby had  decorated the kitchen with and reached up above the stove to grab my Joy of Cooking book that I had received as a wedding gift when I was married for the first time in my early twenties. This book has been with me for more than twenty years and I smiled to myself realizing I had only ever cooked a handful of recipes from it. I stepped down from the stool and opened the cover. Staring up at me from inside my faithful companion was a little lost treasure from long ago. unnamedI paused as my heart and mind raced each other back more than fifteen years to the moment I had first received this gift. My pulse began to quicken as I couldn’t pull the specific memory from my bank but was calmed by the knowledge that it was there and safe for always.

I lifted the tag and smelled it, but my little boy had long moved on and now it only smelled of paper and old Scotch tape.  I placed it gently back in its place where I had found it and thumbed through the pages till I found the doughnut recipe.

My little boy who I once believed was destined to grow up to be a major league baseball player or a concert pianist is living a life I never dreamed for him, yet it seems to fit him perfectly. He has found his way out to Colorado in the mountains of Steamboat Springs where he goes to school, fly fishes in the cold rocky rivers, and creates films about high liners who traverse a inch wide line across ravines more than 300 feet up in the air. Who knew and who could have ever imagined let alone dream that my little boy’s passion would be to become an outdoor adventure film maker. It’s made me realize that for his two sisters still living at home that I have a job to do. I have a responsibility to make sure they have what they need to feel secure, confident, and open to the passion that lays within each of them. My job is not to shape, mold, and build them into the perfect version of my dream for them because most likely it would only end up being a few sizes to small. Life is funny that way. Most of us know that we can barely control it when it comes to living our own, I wonder how we ever believe that we can control it and manipulate it for our children.

For now as my son is building his own life thousands of miles away, I will take comfort in the knowledge that because his passion is what it is I have a front row seat to sit back, watch, and enjoy his journey. I hope you enjoy it as well.

Click here to discover his latest film.

  • Don’t Fence Me In

    When we first purchased our farm, the barn was empty and our only animal was Meg, our Jack Russell Terrier. She was a fierce puppy who loved to bark and run. She also loved to cuddle and sleep curled up in a ball next to me at night under the covers. Meg appeared in our lives just after my separation from the girl’s father. We used  to call her our little angel sent from above. Shortly after we moved into the farm, the door was left open and she escaped and ran up to our busy road. Kyle and Anna chased her back and forth in a neighbor’s yard across the street and sadly saw her when she was hit by a car as she tried to return home.  Meg wanted to be free. She had often escaped from the house and ran like the wind across the yard until we were able to catch her. Losing her was harder for me to deal with the loss of my marriage. I never had to say goodbye to a pet I loved so much and grief struck me, all of us hard.

    Time passed and our new farm sat empty, void of animals. Anna put up a wall and declared, “no more animals”. Her sensitive nature left her feeling raw for months and the idea of risking the loss of another pet seemed unsurmountable. My heart ached. Kyle asked if we should get any animals for the barn and I said that I thought we should wait for them to come to us.  We didn’t have to wait long, within a few months we brought home a stray cat from our florist. Jack became the patriarch of the farm and we believed him to be an old soul. Next came Comet and Jingle, two Nigerian dwarf goats from our friend who owns a fabulous farm camp in Eliot. Our barn had begun to wake up and it felt wonderful. Since then we inherited two lion head rabbits, four baby chicks, and four additional goats. Rudolph, Dasher, Prancer, and Noel have joined Comet and Jingle in the pastures and formed our first herd of goats. Finally after some convincing, Ruby our lab came home with Kyle two years ago the week before Christmas.

    unnamedWe named our farm SeaStar Farm, the five points of the star representing our five children of our blended family. It has also been referred to as our “Funny Farm” which is fine with me, I never like to take myself too seriously. This week has reminded me that we shouldn’t anyways. The goats have escaped five times, the fence has broken down and they found a hole in the wire on the far side of the pasture next to our neighbors. Four of the goats have taken advantage of the new portal and left for “greener grass” and the apples that have fallen from our tree. Comet, being the biggest, is not able to squeeze through the hole and is left behind to graze on  his own.  After wrangling them all back in through the barn and tying up the hole, Libby decided that it would be easier to just take a couple of them for a walk at a time.

    The goats being incredibly social and loving just wanted to be closer to all of us. Libby wanted to oblige them. I asked her if she thought she could handle the goats, I needed to finish up a few chores inside. She replied that she had it under control. When she came into the kitchen later she was giggling. An “old” man had watched her walking the goats in the front yard and smiled and waved. She said she nodded to back to him because her hands were full. She took a bite of her cookie and shared, “he must have thought I was a weirdo walking the goats around the house.” I smiled and put my hands back in the dishwater and replied, “not a weirdo, I’m sure.”  Just like our animals and a lot like myself, Libby is a soul who doesn’t want to be fenced in. She prefers to do things her own way, create new ways of having fun about the farm and in life. She plays hard, laughs hard, and doesn’t want things to be done for her even if she hasn’t yet mastered getting them done. If the goats want to keep trying to get out of the pasture, she’d rather just take them for a walk. I love that about her.

  • A Love like Yours

    Sometime after you came up to bed from watching the World Series and before Ruby woke us up vomiting from the dozen raw cookies she stole from the kitchen island, I found myself lost in your world. Determined to get an early start on making my Christmas presents for everyone, I jumped onto your phone after you reluctantly handed it over to me. I promised a thousand times that I wouldn’t delete any unwanted photos of myself. Both girls had been kissed and tucked in before nine and as I lay underneath our blankets between our flannel sheets, I felt safe and warm. My thumb scrolled through thousand of images that you have captured over the past few years, so many of our farm, animals, and family. Your phone filled with love and desire to create a home filled with love and security, made me smile.

    I cringed as I came to photos of me. My hair was messed, my clothes made me look larger than I feel, wrinkles had appeared since I had last looked closely at my refection, and sometimes I just looked stressed. No matter how I felt I looked in the images that filled your lens, there I sat looking back at myself, in every state, emotion, and pose.  Sometimes I would pause and then other times I would swipe quickly by resisting the urge to delete the unwanted image of myself forever away from your loving eyes. I worked quickly saving images of the kids and us, instinctively knowing which ones would work best for my Christmas project. The soft light in the hall cast a warm glow as if it approved of my efforts and beckoned me to stay on track till I finished. I had sent nearly a hundred images to my phone when I happened upon this quote hidden between your thousands of photos.

    A hidden gift

    A hidden gift

    My heart stopped and my breathing paused as I realized that you are in love with me, not my reflection, my successes or my achievements. You are in love with all of me. I’ve never known a love like yours, tireless, steadfast, and gentle. A love that seems to embrace rather than push away and a love that builds up instead of tearing down. I wanted so badly to pull back the bed covers and rush downstairs to you but the thought of giving away any clues to my secret Santa mission kept me at bay. I sent this image to my phone and knew that I wanted to share its simple message and let people know that a love like this does exist, that in all my missteps and hasty decisions that I had fallen into a world that I only once dreamed existed.

    As I made my final choices of photos and organized them by each individual I scrolled quickly by the times you had caught me when I wasn’t looking. I wondered how often you go back into your photos and relive those moments, the ones where we grew closer together through laughter, uncertainty, and dedication to one another. The kids have grown so much since the few years we’ve been together. Aaron is a man living out his dreams in Colorado, Max and Anna have begun to find themselves in high school, and Sophie and Libby have lost their little girl looks. We have all grown and stretched in unexpected ways, and somehow through the rockiest of times your love has kept us together, woven together like a fine new piece of cloth ready to be worn and carried to all corners of the world.

    My eyes grew tired and my head heavy for want of sleep. I made a few quick changes with the images I had gathered and took one last sweep of your album. As my thumb quickly scrolled through our trip to New York City I found a picture that I had passed by earlier without notice.

    A stolen glimpse

    A stolen glimpse from New York City

    It was a grown up version of myself, unaware that you had stolen the moment. I was experiencing true joy from dining at an incredible restaurant with you and our closest friends. I felt fulfilled and satisfied not wanting the moment to end. As I studied myself from afar I realized that in being with you I have discovered true glimpses of the me I’ve always dreamt of becoming.

    I’m still the same person that I’ve always been, the essence of me will never falter or change. It’s the parts of me that long laid dormant waiting to be discovered and unwrapped like a beautiful gift on Christmas morning that you have somehow found and brought to the surface to bask in the light of each day. Your love, guidance, and endless patience has shown me that it is a choice we make each day, deciding which parts of ourselves we bring forward to face each and every moment. You always lead with joy, patience, and humor never doubting someone for the choices they make but supporting them with love and acceptance. What an incredible gift you give to each of us every single day, what an incredible album you have built for yourself filled with a home, family, and animals that you seem to honor above anything else. The photos you have captured from our experiences and celebrations are a true testament to the person you’ve become and continue to be. I feel so deeply loved and appreciated and simply thankful that some how in this great Universe of being and doing we happened to bump into one another on a platform that has only existed for such a short time. I can’t wait to steal away with your phone in the future and replay all of the incredible times we have yet to build together with our family and enjoyed. Your love is a love like no other and I find myself becoming a little more each and every day being wrapped in it.

  • Witch Time

    Sandy Hamel

    photo by Sandy Hamel

    Over the past five years, I’ve written a lot about self doubt and fear. It has seemed to plague me at times. My insecurities, my nemesis, developed as I was a young girl trying to figure this world out. Somehow through even the darkest of times there was always a sign to keep moving forward. Often it showed up in a passage in a book someone had leant me, a chance encounter while traveling, or a few words sung in a song. The sign, no matter how big or how small, instantly resonated with something deep inside of me that sparked the energy to move forward, dig myself out of the hole I had dug and to know it was okay to just be me.  I’ve learned that if there is something you are doing wrong in life, not getting something quite right, situations will keep presenting themselves to give you the opportunity to adjust yourself, be the better version of you. We often hear three is the magic number and for me it took that many tries to get marriage right. Yet somehow in becoming the adult I was always meant to be and doing and being what I’ve always wanted most isn’t coming so easy to me.

    When I was a little girl, I dreamed so many big dreams. Some of which I have long let go of knowing that they no longer fit. Still, one dream still clings to me at night when the house is still and quiet, fast asleep. It’s the dream that I feel the most excited about and connected to when I am happy and filled with energy; it’s the dream that scares me the most and makes me feel as I could never live up to its expectations when my esteem is at its lowest. Yet it is the dream that never stops sending me signs to keep moving forward in its direction. I often take up my dream’s reigns and ride hard, fast and furious, as I feel the wind of progress lift my hair and cool my cheeks. It’s exhilarating and fills me with such a sense of hope that everything in life has happened for a reason. Then inevitably something happens and I lose my stride, stumbling at first grasping to stay strong in my saddle, but the harder I fight to keep moving forward towards my dream the quicker I fall.

    photo by Sandy Hamel

    photo by Sandy Hamel

    When we became a new family and Kyle and I purchased SeaStar Farm on Witchtrot Road, it didn’t escape us that our house was a 1600’s reproduction home from Topsfield MA or that the previous owners had appreciated the mystique of Salem that our property gave off. They even left a black wooden cut out of a witch and cat in the barn which we display at Halloween.  We were intrigued by the connections of our farm to that of the 1600’s in Salem and even dug into the local folklore of George Burroughs, the man that was brought past our home on his way to be hung at the gallows in Salem.  I began to write about it in a historical fiction piece called Mount Misery and the excitement grew as we researched the very land our house is built on and it’s connections to the 1600’s with the Lord Family.  I felt as though I had found my stride as a writer, working on a number of projects at once. I found time to write in places I never imagined existed and seemed to be living my dream.

    Then as life does, I was thrown from horse for unexplained reasons and I lost all desire to write, work on projects, or even add to my blogs. My laptop lay hidden collecting dust and becoming stuck in its own right.  What once had been the first thing I thought of when I woke up or endlessly fed with ideas for new pieces when I was taking a shower had gone dormant, as if it never existed within me.  Little by little, the signs began to appear that I open my mind and my heart to sharing again. Putting my thoughts, emotions, and inspirations back in a place where they could be shared, sometimes read by people I don’t even know for reasons I will never understand. Then came the emails from a new friend, a photographer that I had recently met and begun to work with on a cover for a book that is still to be released. She sent me images and labeled them little bits of inspiration. I ignored them at first as self doubt sat large within me and I brushed them gently aside until they began to keep showing up in the strangest of places.

    Her little bits of inspiration seemed to be the bait on the hook that was reeling me in, away from the darkness and isolation of believing that I’m not good enough to be the writer I’ve always dreamed of being.  Then as I came closer to the surface, two childhood friends reached out to me via email, random thoughts that were unconnected. One was the idea of writing the story for an incredible woman near the town we grew up in and another was a simple article about local women and how they became published.  My childhood friends had a thought and acted on it, not knowing the profound affect it would have on me and wanting to start writing again, without expectations. Writing again just because it’s what I feel best doing, not writing for monetary gain or fortune.

    It’s a big world out there and we all have dreams, we all have that one thing that we wish we could be doing more of when we are not taking care of our home and families. It’s up to us to decide which time in our life we take care of ourselves and do the one thing that seems to fill us up the most.