Do as I say…not as I do

If there was one thing I remember hearing my father say over and over as I was growing up it had to be, “do as I say, not as I do.” Oh there were other sayings, plenty of them, but no matter what the moment of insanity we were enduring, that was the phrase he liked to use best. Furniture flew, words cut deep, and fear ran high year after year as he struggled to find the best version of himself. He was born just as the stock market crashed and the Great Depression landed upon our great nation. He grew up in a time of uncertainty in a family that was torn apart by loss and uncertainty. My grandfather had come to this country from Canada to start over, make a new life for himself. He left a young love behind and lost another almost as soon as he settled in New England. My father searched for this lost love for all of his life. I can only guess that he found a certain amount of peace in anger, distrust, and fear. He lashed out when he felt most vulnerable and he tore down those around him that reminded him of what he knew he wasn’t.  He fought his entire life, punching and kicking back at the very things that could have loved him most. He bared his pain with those who knew him best and saved his charm, wit, and uncanny ability to connect with strangers and people down the street. He was abused by life, swallowed up by a world too cold and jaded to pull him into its arms, and left to find his own way back to a place of peace and love. He just never seemed to find his way  and ultimately made the one choice that most find unforgiveable.  I believe that in choosing to take his own life he was choosing to end his own pain and may have also believed it would do the same for me, my siblings, and my mom. As I sat at his memorial service the phrase, “do as I say, and not as I do” rang loud and clear and filled my senses with regret, sorrow, and despair for not having found a way to love him enough, maybe even love him at all.

pc: Anna Houghton

pc: Anna Houghton

I never cared much for animals growing up. I was never sure of how best to approach them or to let them know that I was safe, a friend to them.  I wanted to love them, I wanted to be able to run to them and smother them with unconditional love, I just didn’t know how. My first pet was a cat, its name was Sylvestor. It was black and white and very independent. It would curl up on my neck or my stomach when I laid on the couch and purr. It seemed foreign to me. He trusted me and I suppose loved me. I began to feel the peace and certainty that comes from having an animal. I began to feel a constant energy in my life amidst a whirlwind of loud noise and insecurity. As a teenager I quickly became lost in my own senses and lack of self worth. I withdrew from my family and friends and spent way too much time entirely in my own head, trying to reason out my own existence and a way out of a world I didn’t much like living in. On the outside, I portrayed a girl who was bright and eager to please, especially at school. I was doing as I was told and not what I witnessed in my every day life.

I was a lost puppy and continued to be for most of my adult life. I scampered about life doing tricks for recognition and tidbits of affection and was eager to please teachers, bosses, friends, and family. My worth was the attention I gained when eagerly sought and the emptiness when I was alone without an audience. I yearned for something different, something more substantial, I just had no idea of what that might be. I tenaciously followed rules and upheld social expectations, I mapped out my entire life before I turned twenty assuring myself constantly that everything would be okay. From the outside looking in it mostly was. I worked my way through college, married my high school sweetheart, and had a very sweet baby boy exactly nine months after I said, “I do.”  And then just when I thought I had it all figured out, I answered the phone one afternoon and my life was turned upside down in an instant.

A sheriff had found my father’s body in his house in Houlton, Maine. He had shot himself in the head. I held the phone tight and did not stir. A lack of emotion filled the silence and left me unsure of what to say or do next. Everything I had ever been running from simply dissipated in that moment and I was left standing with no place to go. Twenty years have passed and I still feel the same way. I wish that I felt differently, that I had a pain that won’t go away, but I don’t. I simply have a space that I have held in reserve with hope that one day it may be filled with something from my dad that I could wrap my arms around and treasure like all children wish they could do. My space is left standing knowing that it will remain empty without reconciliation or a simple rewrite of “I’m sorry, please forgive me.” So with the knowledge that somethings in life just can’t be  changed I have remembered perhaps the greatest lesson my father ever taught me, “to do as he said, and not as he did.”

My father told me to always look people in their eyes as you shook their hand with a firm grasp. My father told me to always look up at the sky to see the birds in the trees and which way the leaves were blowing in the wind to see if a storm might be coming. My father told me that I should always say please, thank you, and you’re welcome and always to offer your share to others who have less. My father told me that if I didn’t have anything nice to say than I shouldn’t say anything at all. My father told me to hold the door for people when I am out in public no matter if they are men or women or younger or older. My father told me to always listen to people when they spoke to me and to wait my turn in line and never to cut no matter how badly I wanted something. He told me to never use curse words or strike out at someone in anger or fear. My father told me to never sit idle when others beside me are working or struggling in their accomplishments. My father told me that we all deserve kindness and respect regardless of the color of our skin or the church of our religion. He told me to never touch his personal belongings or those of anyone else’s and my father told me to never be the first one to walk away from a chore…..these are the rules that I have tried to live my life by, during my greatest successes and darkest failures. These are his words that I remember and use to push out the moments I so desperately want to forget. These are the words that make me grateful that he was my father.

But, perhaps the words that have meant the most to me for all of my life were those that he seemed to repeat over and over again….you’re not allowed to say I can’t. I was never allowed to say I couldn’t do a homework assignment or figure out how something worked or that I was too tired to finish a chore or a task. I was never allowed to say I couldn’t do something without repercussion. It seems ironic now coming from a man who just couldn’t hold on one more day to a life that seemed an endless disappointment and levy of pain and sorrow. It seems ironic now that the man who made me feel most vulnerable and fearful in life was without a doubt the same man who gave me the gumption and tenacity to keep pushing forward in life when I only wanted to give up. If I had never been taught to “do as I say and not as I do” I may not have had the courage and fortitude to persevere during times of uncertainty and fear in my life and even worse I may have settled into places of unhappiness and discord.

But I didn’t, even when I wanted to. During the times in my life when I felt knocked down and dragged through the mud, I did what I was told and pulled myself up and changed courses, took a new direction in life hoping it would lead me to a better place of understanding and one in which I could find a way to loving myself. You know, forty four years later and I believe with all my heart that I am almost there. I have found a place in which I am peaceful and loving and on most days am a better version of myself. In an ironic twist I am surrounded not only by a loving family but also by a loving farm of animals that have each come to us by way of serendipity. I am living a life I once dreamed might be possible if I only pleased enough people. I could have saved myself a lot of aggravation if I had only realized sooner that living in joy comes from loving oneself, and knowing that we are all connected and never alone in our thoughts, actions, desires, and wishes for a better version of our selves. I find my most peaceful moments in life with our animals on our farm. What I once struggled so painfully to feel with animals comes so quick and natural now. I am loved unconditionally and I am able to love unconditionally… and if there was one thing that I could say to my children that they would hear me say it would be, “don’t do what I say or even what I do, but find your own loving path to being the best version of yourself so that you may allow yourself to be….whatever that may be….”

 



  • What’s for breakfast? – A New Farm

     

    Ancient OatsBreakfast was one of the hardest meals for me to wrap my brain around no longer being able to eat sugar, dairy, or gluten. Endless searches down the cereal aisle in multiple markets came up empty. Omelets were no longer an option, the gooey cheese I used to love to singe as it oozed out of my omelet onto the skillet seemed only a distant memory. In the beginning I soft boiled eggs and mashed them up on gluten free toast with no butter. I quickly fell in love with grapefruit forcing myself to forget that I used to sprinkle sugar on top of it once I had halved it. No more maple syrup (for now) or powdered sugar on homemade waffles or pancakes and bagels weren’t even an option. Slowly friends would recommend gluten free products, I no longer craved the sweet syrupy flavor of sugar, and I began to fall in love with fresh fruit and coconut milk. My latest and greatest find is Ancient Grains. A hot cereal that when heated up with coconut milk and topped with fresh raspberries is both filling and delicious. It is gluten, dairy, and sugar free. It’s perfect with a sprinkle of cinnamon on top.

    Why such an extreme way of eating? If anyone had suggested that I would be eating this way even a couple of years ago I would have shrugged them off and laughed at the notion. I’m imagining most of you would now, until one day you found out what sugar, gluten, and dairy can and have done to our diet and those who over consume it on a daily basis. This just happens to be my story and why I can no longer choose to keep them in my diet.

    The knowledge that you have to change your entire way of thinking in an instant seemed overwhelming and daunting. If it was just me, I’m not sure that I would have attacked the idea that I could and would do it with such ferocity. As I sat and continued to listen, my body grew heavier and my mind tired from its endless questioning of why I wasn’t feeling like I knew that I should for the last six years. It hadn’t been a constant in my life. The symptoms would rear their head two or three times a year and then subside within a few months. If they became too much to ignore, I would make an appointment or go to the walk in clinic thinking I had a cold I couldn’t shake or even the flu. My bloodwork always came back the same, incredibly anemic. My blood cell count was low and my cells were misshaped. Inevitably I would be asked to do more blood work and go back on iron supplements. Just two years ago the symptoms became so extreme after having appendicitis I was ordered to have a colonoscopy with the thought that it might be cancer. Still everything came back normal. They had tested for celiac, lyme, and everything I had ever heard of. I felt as though I was creating my symptoms in my mind, somehow manifesting them at the most inopportune times in my life.

    As I sat listening to the results of my colonoscopy, bits and pieces of me came together and decided that I wasn’t imagining my low blood levels and all the symptoms that seemed to come with them. I looked up across the front of the Doctor’s desk and asked him if being anemic was a disease or a symptom. He smiled at me and said “you know I have med students who can’t correctly grasp that anemia is a symptom.” It was in that moment that I knew there was a reason that I was feeling the way I was, something was causing it. For me, in that office, I finally felt validation. I just wasn’t any closer to finding out what was causing the anemia and my host of daunting symptoms.

    Being sugar, gluten, and dairy free hasn’t just impacted me, it has the people around me thinking about their relationship with sugar. I’ve been holding myself back, trying hard not to make my journey everyone’s journey. The FDA just recently came out with the new recommended daily intake of sugar is 10-12 grams a day. It seems doable and realistic until you start to read labels and wake up to the choices you are making each and every day. The other night my husband shared that my step daughter had ordered a rootbeer at dinner. She picked up the can and began reading the nutritional label. “Dad did you know that this rootbeer has 50 grams of sugar?” Sophie is eleven and just by living with my journey and watching as my life transforms in a physical, mental, and emotional way she has already began to wonder what role sugar is playing in her life. Take a minute today and read a few labels. I used to love putting Sigis yogurt in the kid’s lunch or any kind of yogurt. Go ahead and take a look…remember the FDA recommends 10-12 grams a day.



  • 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.

     



  • Too Delicious to Turn Down – A New Family

    Too Delicious - Two IngredientsSchool is quickly approaching and with it’s eminent arrival comes my nesting instinct to prepare meals and create homemade desserts for my family. In between inserting edits and cleaning the house, I’ve been browsing Pinterest to find somewhat healthier recipes to avoid buying processed goodies and snacks. This morning I found a Mexican rice and bean burrito bowl with shredded chicken and a Two ingredient brownie recipe. What? Could that even be possible? The Mexican dish is simmering in the crock pot on one of our hottest Summer days in Maine and as I type, Libby is piercing the brownie concoction in the oven with a fork to see if it is done.

    I can tell you, that the smell coming from the oven is delectable and is making me a half believer before I even try tasting the brownies once they are finished baking. This is what they are supposed to look like when they are done.

    Too Delicious to Turn Down

    Too Delicious to Turn Down

    We had to cut the recipe in half because when we went to the pantry, the jar of the main ingredient was almost empty. So while Libs and I pace the kitchen and I try to quench my ADD with writing another blog post, I thought I could offer you up the ingredients and directions and give you the opportunity to add one of the easiest desserts to your repertoire that I’ve ever encountered.

    The two ingredients are as follows;

    1 cup Nutella & 4 large eggs

    Crack the eggs into a mixing bowl and beat them for a VERY long time, 8 – 10 minutes, until they are very lite in color and have expanded. Slowly add your Nutella as you continue to mix. If it is cold and hard you may want to microwave it for 10 – 20 seconds first to make it easier to combine.  Grease a 8 x 8 pan and dust with flour. Pour your mixture into the pan and bake for 25 minutes or until a fork pulls out of the center completely clean.

    We just took our pan from the oven and it is sitting, cooling away while we wait to garnish it with powdered sugar and fresh raspberries. We haven’t tasted it cooked, but Libby had no problem cleaning off the beaters and licking the bowl. It was incredibly quick and easy, Libby completed the entire project with only minor supervision. I’m thinking this will be a great help when I’m sticking to my gluten free diet and getting it done.brownie pie Let us know how it goes for you if you decide to try them as well. We would love to see your comments below.

     



  • A New Love – A New Farm

    A stolen kiss from Prancer

    A stolen kiss from Prancer

    It’s been weeks since Noel and Prancer (Sherlock) were brought to our farm. It’s always a bittersweet moment when people come to drop off their beloved animals for various reasons. We tried to keep our excitement from bubbling over as we are well aware of the heart break and torment the individual is experiencing as they drop off their loves and say goodbye for perhaps the last time. We had intended to keep the new goats separate from our four goats by a gate so that they could get to know each other slowly, and when they felt comfortable we would let them all be together. Within minutes of getting them into their stall and watching them investigate the pasture and move toward the gate to rub noses with our goats we decided to take the metal divider down so they could mingle.

    It was another twist of fate which brought Comet and Noel back together again. We discovered that they are actually brother and sister and without knowing that when we agreed to take her and Prancer we couldn’t be happier with our decision. Days before they arrived, Libby and I spent hours in the barn emptying the second stall of debris leftover from moving into the farm. After Libby worked by my side for the day without complaining I asked Kyle if it would be okay to let her choose the new goats’ names. He answered,”of course.”  Noel kept her name as Libby reasoned it fit in nicely with Jingle’s name and Sherlock quickly became, Prancer, so he would fit in with the other reindeer names. So now our goats resemble a herd and when we call them by name it goes a little like this, “Jingle, Noel, Comet, Rudolph, Dasher, and Prancer.” Our intent was never to fill an entire sleigh with deer but it seems we are headed that way.

    I caught the image above of Libby stealing a kiss from Prancer this morning as we finished opening up and  cleaning the barn. Neither of them were posing, Libby had forgotten to take off her horseback riding helmet as she changed water and filled the chicken feed. Prancer has quickly become the greeter of the bunch and is often the first one out of the barn when we pull into the driveway or sticking his head through the slot of the stall door when we enter the barn. He seems to have connected with us as quick as Noel has reacquainted herself with her brother, Comet. There’s a love in our barn that’s hard to describe, even imagine if you’ve never taken care of animals. It’s quiet and simple and fills the space with a feeling of warmth and joy.  Soon after I stole this moment from the two, the barn door opened and my mom came in.  She reminded us that she had grown up on a farm and was excited to jump back in and help out with the animals. I rested on the large shop broom and said that some of my favorite moments at home are found in our barn with the animals.

    We’ve found a new love in Prancer and Noel, our newest additions to the farm. It’s a sweet love that makes our home even brighter. Libby came out from the stall and shared with my Mom that we have three new baby swallows in the nest in the first goat stall. We leaned over the door and saw their little beaks appear from the top of the nest, chirping for their mother and their food. I never had animals growing up. I didn’t get my first cat until I was in eighth grade, and my first dog until after my second divorce. But somehow the animals keep finding me, finding us and filling our home and farm with more love than I could have ever imagined.

     



  • Sweet Smell of Bovine – A New Farm

    The sweet smell of bovine brought me back to White River Junction, the dirt highway my family’s car would fly over to reach my grandmother’s camp in Vermont.bovine The blue skies dappled with white wisps of clouds transcended time and I found myself thinking as I had then, simply with wonder. Ruby’s tail wagged back and forth as we walked along Witchtrot Road discovering new sights and scents. Slack appeared in her leash as we became farther away from our farm. As we came around a corner, we happened upon the three cows that everyone knows. I stood and stared into one of the cow’s eyes, daring it to say something to me, anything. Cars and trucks zoomed past us and I pulled Ruby in closer to me to protect her from any unwanted accidents. The cow looked away, bored and uninterested in either myself or my dog.

    In a blink of an eye, I was back in my own age, anchored by thoughts, worries, and lists of life’s little things that needed to be accomplished for our home, children, work, animals, and unfinished writing projects. I looked down at Ruby and felt proud that she was becoming a “good dog”. Our early morning and evening walks had transformed her into a more calm, obedient, and desired type of dog. Knowing it had little or nothing to do with Ruby’s temperament and more with our unified and focused attention making sure we exercised and played with her each day, made me giggle to myself.

    The old stone walls and fields loomed over us as we continued on our way. Cars and trucks continued to pass. An old friend waved as I happened to look up and catch her eye. I had met her when my son was little, the center of my life, and now years later it seems as if that was only last week. So much of the life that used to be me has since faded, become a distant memory. I could never have imagined that my life would be what it is today, in the moments from when our boys played ball together. Ruby trotted along by my side, her head slightly beyond my feet. It was almost as if she knew where I wanted to take her. The dirt road appeared around the bend at the top of the hill and we turned left onto it. The sides of the road closed in and ruts for each tire grew deeper as the tall green grass sprouted in between them.  Lilly pads and ferns emerged and the air seemed lighter. Ruby’s step quickened and I skipped along to keep up with her excitement. I undid her leash and threw a stick into the pond. It was deeper than I imagined and she made her way out to her belly then stopped. She looked back at me and asked for permission. She wanted to know if it was okay.

    Kyle texted me and I shared that I was going to let Ruby swim for a bit.

    Swim dog

    Swim dog

    I’ve gotten used to the attention he showers me with. I’m grateful for the way he holds my soul and nourishes it with such careful consideration. It seems to be his gift, to love and be loved. He has an innate ability to hold people in their highest places and treat them as they deserve to be. I’m lucky enough to be the one he loves and reaches out to when he is excited, happy, unsure, reflective, and in a state of wonder. Ruby splashed at a lily pad with her paw and made her way back to the road. I attached her leash and put my phone in my pocket. We made our way up the dirt road to Witchtrot and headed home. She moved at a much slower pace and we took our time walking through the sunshine and meandering views of stone walls, farms, and wildflowers. I found myself happy to be living and breathing today, happy to be with Ruby, and happy to have found the sweet smell of bovine.



  • Creepers – A New Family

    annamagic

    Anna by Kyle Weaver

    The embers floated up towards the night sky. They danced as the gentle breeze off the lake carried them past the pine boughs to the stars. The lake was quiet except for the loon taking flight. Its wings flapped tirelessly against the surface trying to raise its heavy body into the air. Shadows were cast at our feet and our faces lit by the flames of the fire. It had been a long time since we we were all together in the same place at the same moment. Our shoulders sank back into the Adirondack chairs as the kids pranced around the fire and stood on top of the worn, round stumps placed for footstools.

    I listened for discord and heavy sighs but I  heard only laughter and certainty. Doubts had followed me to camp. Worries of us all getting along and being able to share an entire week with each other without entanglements packed my mind. I had read somewhere that blended families take three to five years to get used to their new experience. We are nearing the beginning of our third. While we all basically get along and have found common ground, there are still corners that seem prickly and uneasy. I most often doubt my reaction to those spaces and feel heavy hearted when they seem messy and chaotic. I had unreal expectations that there would be perfect harmony from the beginning. The love we had found, or that had found us, would magically wrap itself around the seven of us and smooth out any wrinkles before they even appeared. Naivety and being an internal optimist sometimes paint an unrealistic picture, creating something that won’t ever exist.

    I need reminding that even in families that remain unbroken or blended there is discord. Obstacles, adversity, and challenges are a part of all of our relationships whether we are bound by blood, marriage, friendship, or happenstance. Libby had found her place on the largest stump behind the fire. She called it her stage. She belted out phrases from some of her favorite songs. Occasionally one of the other kids would join her or suggest a new duo. Marshmallows singed in the fire as Kyle and I readied graham crackers and chocolate bars. It was decided that no ghost stories would be told. I had forgotten most of the ones I learned from sleepovers in Spofford as a child. So instead, I suggested that we play truth or dare. Everyone agreed and as we took turns asking questions, I wondered what I wanted to know about Kyle. It became his turn and he asked me if I wanted a truth or dare. I blurted dare and waited to see what he would deliver. He directed me to walk up the hill and down the road to touch the side of the guest cottage. It was pitch black but no more than fifty feet away.  Without a word I rose from my chair and climbed the soft hill of pine needles. I could barely see and as the campfire became farther away the sounds from the night sky grew louder.

    I kept telling myself that I am an adult now. Childhood fears and spooks no longer have any power over me. As I made my way in the pitch black to the guest cottage my overactive imagination began to take hold. Creepers appeared behind the trees, waiting for me to trip over one of the many roots that crossed the dirt road. They stood silently out of sight, but not mind, my worst nightmares only wanting to do harm. I touched the smooth wood of the cottage and turned quickly back to the fire. The flames illuminated my destination and the quiet sounds of my family became louder with every step. I could see them, but they couldn’t see me. As if I was the creeper in waiting, watching from the dark, waiting to see if they noticed me. Chills covered my arms and I said enough. I pushed my childhood fears away and regained myself as I sat into my Adirondack chair.

    “We were worried about you love. I’m sorry I gave you such a mean dare.” I smiled and shook it off and told the kids it was nothing. There was nothing to be afraid of. Without out hesitation I asked Kyle if he wanted a truth or dare. He thought about it for a few seconds and then said, “truth”.

    “If there was one thing, and you can’t say nothing, that you could change about me, what would it be?” I had brought our family game to a new level. The four kids turned to Kyle and waited, wondering if he would be honest. They stared at him, mouths open, unable to imagine how he would handle this question diplomatically. I waited patiently, knowing that his truth whatever it may be would be filled with love. He looked up at me from across the fire and paused for a moment. My heart grew and filled with him. I smiled and reassured him that I wanted him to say it out loud.

    “If there was one thing that I could change about you Jen, it would be that you wouldn’t doubt yourself so much.”

    In the most kindest and gentlest way, Kyle had given me the gift of self reflection. Doubt has been my nemesis since I remember being me. He was kind enough to give it a name and speak it out loud. I was lucky enough to hear it from someone I love.