06 November 2014

On a jet plane

There are two places i love to fly: Ethiopia and Fresno. One place was home to me for most of my childhood and the other place is a home away from home. 

At this moment I'm sitting in the airport of the mile-high city about to board another puddle jumper. I'm headed home. That place where winters are warmer, pan dulce is plentiful, Swedish horses decorate the town, and friends and family let me overwhelm their lives for a few days. 

As i think back on my day so far, I'm drawn to a bigger story that brought me here. If you're familiar with my blog, you know i have a love and passion for the people of southern Ethiopia. You might also know that along with the Althoff family, Wer have a goal to raise $10k for a school in southern Ethiopia. With that goal comes some personal sacrifice on my part. I'm not patting myself on the back. Rather, i want to be transparent with you. You see, as i ask you to partner with us and donate towards this school project, i want you to know that I'm committed to giving too. In so doing, our budget doesn't allow for mini vacations to California or anywhere else. 

So how am i sitting between flights you might ask? 

Some months ago a friend asked me about the last time i was home and if i planned to return any time soon. Because of my desire to go to Ethiopia in February and the school project, i had no plans for California. A few weeks later that same kind friend handed me a few Benjamins and told me to go home and have fun. 

So here i am in the mile high city. Thankful for the opportunity to go home and the many people who are making it all possible. To my sweet hubs who's on call this weekend, has a friend visiting from Kosova, and is managing our three babes, you are amazing. And handsome. To those picking me up, letting me sleep in their home, drive their cars, etc, thank you. 

This last week has been crazy. Long hours working in other offices, trying to deer hunt, and not keeping up at home. I tracked a deer for over two hours this morning only to lose the blood trail and never find the deer. I lost another arrow but the coyotes will be happy. I got home in time to wash my hunting clothes, get looking like a lady again, and leave the house in a mess...

If you see me while in California, be sure to ask me how you can partner with the Ethiopia school in small our big ways. 

31 March 2014

Farm Life

In the past several weeks, my love for  agriculture, my innate connection to the land, and my appreciation for how this system was designed to co-exist continues to deepen.

Spring is well on it's way, and plenty behind, in my book.  I remember last year towards the end of February putting compost in the garden and being harassed by a guy we know for getting out there too early - before the last frost.  Little did he know that digging in the garden is a love of mine.  As it's been warming up, I've been watching the two-feet deep pile of snow slowly wither away.  Again, I find myself daily looking at the garden, eager to dig my hands into the cool moist earth that will soon enough be growing something - hopefully more edible things than weeds!

Last week, a friend at the office told me about a book he'd been reading and how it made him think of me.  I asked him to borrow the book.  I couldn't believe the similarities.  Greg was spot on in his comparison.  Even when I read a chapter that I didn't think fit me, I stoppped long enough to realize that I am just like Lily and don't want to kill an animal.  I finished the book in four days.  Which you can totally tell by the way my house is in disarray.

Reading was done after the kids go to bed and I had forgotten how much I love to read a book.  I just can't get into reading them on my phone.  I like the old fashioned book.  Saturday morning when the kids started stirring, I put my book down. After a quick breakfast, we headed outside.

Our farm consists of little activity with livestock and crops but lots of dreams.  The pasture that was once inhabited by a horse and goat and will soon be home to cattle, was actually our  baseball field.  I figured it was the best area to bask in the sunshine while we chased two soccerballs and got distracted by the pond in the bottom of the pasture.  While the kids played in what is actually a puddle, yet they call it a pond, I walked down through the tall weeds to see if our drainage area was ponding water as it occassionally does.  Walking through tall dead grasses while the earth squished underneath my feet was just about as perfect as the kids' pond they found.  Our acreage is my own little slice of a farm that will be home to egg-laying chickens in addition to the dogs and cats that have long roamed the lawn.  The small patch of lawn which became home of the dog's "land mines" this winter isn't worth mowing and should get turned into a native prairie flower planting when the soil awakes from it's slumber. The trees, the fire pit, the hammock, oh how I look forward to those things.  We love this warming trend and look forward to summer.

In the mean time, I have plenty of outside adventures for work.  I love being outside with a farmer who loves his land too.  Not all of them do by the way, so it's extra special to work with people who care.  This past week I worked with one of my favorite clients.  We get business done, usually argue about at least one thing telling each other what we think and both of us learn something in the process.  Today's discussion (we don't really argue) was whether he's a farmer or not.  I'm not going to re-hash the conversation that we had to day as we slogged through soft mud tromping all over the farm cause I think we were both right.  As we crossed one rivine and climbed up the hill to the edge of the woods, then sliding around as we stepped, moved across the farm to the pond and then on the grassy lane where we sank in the drifted piles of snow still hanging on, I learned something.  You don't have to be a "farmer" whether you use my definition or his, to live the farm life.  You can be a rural landowner living on an acreage and working in an agriculture environment where I choose to invest myself in everything I do for a person to live the farm life.  You can be the landowner who cares for the waterways, and ponds, run a large business that works on farms, but never plants an acre of crop either and still live the farm life.  

I love this rural area where I live.  Statistics say the towns are dying.  And they are to an extent but they're rich in history.  People in these communities still love their neighbors.  

Today alone I saw how people around here still how good old fashioned neighborly love for each other.  The farmer and I finished up in the field just before 1:00pm.  Having left my breakfast at home I was ready to eat.  Suggesting he grab a bite with me in town, I agrued with him about not buying my food.  Chivalrous, generous, or whatever it was, it was nice that he thought it only right to buy my food.  (However, he also learned that I can't take gifts at work and would prefer to pay for my own $5.00 burger and fries.  When it came time for violin lessons and I was double scheduled with a conference call, Bethany's violin teacher let her stay after practice at her house while we finished our call.  And then tonight, when Ryan got called to do a late night surgery on a dog's guts and needed an extra hand, his buddy was willing to take the time to assist.  

With the wind howling outside, and the house otherwise quiet as it gets, I thank God for where I am.  Who knew that this town kid turned country girl would love it so much where God got His fingers dirty as He planted me right here in the middle of farm life where the high heels have long been gone from my closet and replaced by yet another pair of cute boots.  Where watching my husband pull a calf with his strong arms and back is sexy.  Where chatting with a farmer friend about the calving season is a favorite conversation.  Where walking a farm, even if in the mud, makes my day.  Where I come home to children who want to run down the long lane and play oustide in the yard letting their bare feet touch the cool earth.  This is my home.  

26 March 2014

Grumpy Cat

Do you ever have those days when things don't go right and you're just flat out grumpy. I tend to have them more than I should. For me, the best medicine in those situations is to chat with my husband, or another trusted friend who will call me out on my grumpiness and remind me to look at the big picture. Today was one of those days. Only it was a bit reversed.

I called a friend and we chatted for a few minutes before her phone died. Stupid phone. When her phone immediately went to voice mail when I called back, I knew there were only two options: 1) her phone died or 2) I suck as a friend and she hung up on me. Some time later, I got a text message explaining her phone died. Well, now that she wasn't calling me a crappy friend, I took the opportunity to call her out on her grumpiness. Our text message exchange went something like this (and by "this", I mean I might take great liberty with her side of the conversation to protect her privacy):
friend: I'm grumpy and pissy. We have a lot going on and the kids are still sick even though they've been on meds...
me: Dear grumpy cat, my grandma used to always say "You can get glad in the same clothes you got mad in". I think this can be applied to being gumpy after having a craptastic day too. This, THIS, is the day The Lord has mad. Don't wait until tomorrow to rejoice and be glad in it.
me: {sent her a photo of the infamous grumpy cat}
me: PS I have grumpy craptastic days too so I'm definitely preaching to the choir.
friend: This is the day and I will rejoice that it's almost over.

There's always a bright side, right? Even if it's just the end of an otherwise craptastic day.

Today was a day of perspective for me. I woke up with this crazy discomfort/pain in my back that's been going on for 5 weeks. Add to that a sinus infection and over-sleeping cause I didn't feel good (and who knows why my alarm failed this morning) and I started my day off behind. In fact, I even missed the sunrise this morning. I love seeing the sunrise and being reminded of God's generous love that gives us each new day. Even with a delayed start, I got my kids to the bus stop EARLY this morning (which rarely happens and I have the bus' next 4 stops memorized because of this timing problem). I have so much to be grateful for.

Today I remembered a church friend was headed to St. Louis for prostrate surgery. I also worked on some farm stuff with him so I gave him a quick call to see how the farm plan was progressing amidst the cancer stuff. His mind has been overwhelmed by the big C and his plan not moving forward. As a friend, I can walk along side them and help them through the process while he focuses on recovery. How cool is that!?!?!? People are struggling with life threatening illnesses and we're getting worked up over whether our daughter practiced her violin properly or whether our kids wear their "vest" to Awana, or because a child came home in different pants after having an accident at school. Really!?!?! Putting those things into perspective was easy for me today.

This is the day The Lord has made and even if it's in the 40's and bitterly windy outside, I will make a cup of hot tea, and enjoy the walk outside. No grumpy cat face here. There is so much to be grateful for.

If you're struggling to have perspective (which I might be right there with you tomorrow), take a few minutes to list out at least 5 things you are grateful for. If you carry bitterness in your heart to someone, go talk to them and/or pray for them. And remember, it is possible to get glad in the same clothes you got mad in.

11 March 2014

Enjoy Work

Today I attended the funeral of a co-worker's husband.  He was a well known community member and the church was packed.  There early so that our staff could sit together, Ihad 30 minutes to sit quietly and wait.  For those who know me well, know that I don't do either of those things well for 30 minutes.  I thought piddling on my phone might be disrespectful so Iread every inch of the program and obituary.

On the front cover was portions of a commonly known verse in bible about seasons.  Recognizing the verse, but not sure if it was a direct quote, I chose to look it up.  On my phone.  After all reading my bible should be perfectly acceptable at a funeral, even if it was on my phone.  I flipped through my bible ap to the book of Ecclesiastes and hoped I guessed the reference right.  Sadly, I don't have scripture and references memorized as well as I should but I was close enough this time.  

Eccliastes chapter 3 tells of seasons.  There is a tme for joy and a time for weeping.  A time for planting and a time for harvesting.  THat kind of thing.  My version, not a translation.  I read it and figured out that the front of the program showed a very loose translation of parts of the chapter but not a direct quote.  That was what I was trying to find out.  But I still had plenty of time before the funeral started so I kept reading.

Did you know that a man should rejoice in his work?

If only we all approached our "work" that way.  Towards the end of chapter three in verse 22, it says this statement: "So I saw that there is nothing better than that a man should rejoice in his work, for that is his lot." ESV.  This wasn't completely new to me.  Recently I'd been discussing it with the director of our local camp.  We were talking about teaching our children to be responsible. She must have ran into this verse recently too because she was talking about taking joy in doing work.  For us, that means our day-to-day jobs should be a way to rejoice.  I like my job but don't get me wrong when I say I do rejoice when the work day is over.  Maybe becuase I love being a mom and I know I'm headed home to do that "job".  Sometimes though I forget to rejoice doing my job of mom, of wife, of home-keeper.

We can all learn from this.  Even if you're not one who chooses to live life by the bible.  This is a wise thought anyway, right?!?!?  As I sit reading my phone, waiting for a funeral to began, I couldn't stop thinking about this life lesson.  My kids should take joy in their jobs - which include making their lunch for the next day, folding their laundry, and taking care of their bodies by showering and brushing teeth.  I should take joy in my jobs too.  No matter what hat I'm wearing.  Being joyful is one thing but it includes me NOT being grumpy, too tired, overwhelmed, etc.

I'm looking forward to putting this into practice.  I will fall short.  I often do.  But it's a continual growing process and I'm eager to see the growth and the fruit of my labor.

Lost in life.  Trying to rejoice,
Tamara B

10 December 2013

Holy Day, not holiday

How many ways can I begin this post before deleting it all?  How do I nicely say what I want to say?  How do I make sure to convey to you my thoughts without appearing like I'm passing judgement?


I love Christmas.  I love the biblical truth of a Savior coming to rescue us from sin.  I don't like how Christmas is so consumer driven.  How selfish shopping sneaks into the day when we're supposed to be giving thanks.  I don't like stores being open on Thanksgiving but that's not my rant.  I'm not a scrooge or a grinch, but I'm not so wildly focused on the biggest and best gifts either.  I actually love the winter season, the decorated tree in the house, Christmas music, cider, caroling, baking, and all that fun stuff.  I also really enjoy giving gifts.  Combining those two things, it's fair to assume that Christmas is my favorite time of year.  Is it though???  

Enjoying Christmas has become increasingly frustrating for me.  I have two problems with what I see at Christmas time.  Again, this is my opinion and I'm writing it to vent and maybe to encourage you to think through it for yourselves, not to criticize you and tell you how to live your life.  The first problem is that the commercialism of Christmas overshadows the reason we celebrate Christmas anyway.  Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Christ.  In the form of a baby, God put his rescue plan into action.  That baby was born of a virgin - a perfect, sinless, obedient child who grew to a man and ultimately became the sacrifice for our sins.  No one else could foot the bill.  Humanity had already fallen short and couldn't earn our way to heaven.  This baby Jesus filled the gap.  Of course, it didn't end with a baby.  Like I said, he grew to a man before he died for our sins. But death couldn't conquer our King and He rose on the third day, defeating death and ascending to heaven.  With that in mind, how could we not celebrate Christmas as the baby born.  The second problem I have is the overwhelming expectations and realities that come with gifts.  Think about all that goes into gifts.  Stores being open on Thanksgiving, families going into huge debt, people being ungreatful for their gifts, and piles of stuff that we don't know what to do with because we already have too much stuff!  I'm not even going to take the time to look up the statistics because we can see it in our own homes.  We know how much we spend on gifts.  It's crazy.  It's outrageous.  What's even worse is that those of us who call ourselves Christians fall into this consumer-driven trap.  We even justify it by coming up with creative ways to "give" to others by offloading our old toys.  Really!?!?!?  I've done this exact thing.  Maybe you have too.  We think we have such giving hearts that we decide to have our kids give away one of their old toys for every new toy they get.  Why do we do that?  Is it really because we have such generous hearts and want to donate to the less fortunate?  Or is it because we're so overwhelmed with stuff that we have to get rid of a few things?  Or because we feel better about ourselves for doing it.  Guys, I've been right there with you.  Not that long ago, we did this exact thing.  Sure, our kids learned a lesson of giving to those who are less fortunate.  But there are many ways we can teach this lesson.  

This past November I tried to walk through each day with an attitude of thankfulness.  Having been in developing nations on numerous occasions, it's not hard to realize how blessed we are.  Moving from November into December, I wanted to continue my thankful attitude.  Conscious of the blessings we have an the needs of others, I've thought of creative ways to give gifts.  For example, last year we gave a little home-made hand scrub, or tea mixture, etc to the educators in our children's lives.  It was a fun way to show appreciation for them and to give them a little something.  But it's a huge struggle for me because I love to give gifts, but I'm also convinced that we over-do Christmas.  Why do we have to buy big extravagant gifts?  Why do families think that going into debt to buy such things is wise?  I buy gifts but they tend to be things my family needs -  like socks and underwear, books, and pencils, etc.  After all, when the shepherds brought gifts to Jesus, they were gold, incense, and myrrh - three things that were used in the daily lives of people back then.  Really, I would love to have a big gift giving period.  It would be a radical change, but what if we focused on the birth of Jesus at Christmas and use birthdays, or some random day in August for a big gift giving party?  I want to remember to view Christmas as a Holy Day, not a consumer-driven holiday.

Believe me, it's not easy for me to talk about because I too enjoy receiving gifts.  For some years, I've only wanted practical gifts.  Until last year.  Last year I didn't want things for the house, I wanted something for ME.  Not something practical like my typical request of wool socks.  I wanted to feel spoiled.  I have an awesome husband who ended up getting me something fun for just me, something expensive, and definitely something I wouldn't have purchased for myself.  While it was a very generous gift that came loaded with aps, songs, my email set up on it, etc, I wasn't near as excited as I should be.  Partly because I don't like opening gifts in front of others but mostly because I felt so selfish.  I would much rather have time with family and friends, wool socks, strings for my guitar, etc.

What about you?  Are you willing to share your Christmas thoughts?

06 September 2013

A New Name????

I think I should re-name my blog... something like "It's been a long time" because I feel like that's how I start every post lately.  Here's a random, quick update in pictures:
Our friend, Ignacio, let me tag along on a quick flight around the area.  It was really neat to see our home, our nearby town, and all the cropland in the area.  Thanks to my honey for giving up his chance to fly so that I could fly.

The youngest members of our family headed back to school.  We now have a third, first, and kindgergartner in our family.  They are enjoying school!

Speaking of family, we added a 4-legged friend.  We adopted this special needs beauty and Ryan quickly took care of her.  Two weeks later, she's cone free and cute as could be.

Sometimes our days revolve around animals.  Especially for the veterinarian in our home.  We chose a night to focus on Scott but Ryan got called out to deliver 11 bassett hound puppies.  Ryan called in reinforcement to help stimulate the pups and get them breathing while he continued delivering pups via c-section.  It was a lot of fun.

Some say we live in the Hawkeye State.  When heading out for supper recently, we wanted there to be no doubt in your mind that we're a Cyclone family (when we're not sporting bulldog tshirts).  

07 August 2013

Kids in Training

We headed to Grammy's for a visit today.  Sitting on the back porch, Grammy mentioned that she was going to make a dessert but didn't have cream cheese.  Dessert.  That word is enough to turn my kids' heads.  Bethany volunteered to get cream cheese from Grammy and Judah was slobbering along with her.  Like any good mom, I suggested they go get it.  In town, several blocks from the grocery store, I suggested my 5 and 6 year old walk to the grocery store to buy cream cheese for their Grammy.

Would they really try it?

These two are a little more adventurous than their brother.  The jumped at the chance as they hopped off the porch and headed towards town.  Great Gram was watching for the little to get out of her line of sight.  It didn't take long.  Glad my children were on this little adventure, I couldn't let them head downtown solo.  Remember, I live in a small rural town so it's easy to navigate.  Irregardless, they weren't going solo.  While I desire to train my kids to do things for themselves, to be adventurous, and to make decisions, I don't trust their decision making skill for crossing multiple busy roads.

When I rounded the corner to the main road, they were on the run - little miss leading her barefoot brother along.  Like any good stalker, I stayed a good distance back.  On the next block, they looked back and saw me.  Allowing them to continue, they rushed down the road.  I intervened once.  We cross the main road often and they tend to freeze if a care is 1/4 down the road.  I didn't want them to be scared.  They continued along crossing two more roads with momma close behind them encouraging them to make the decision to cross.

Oh Lord, may this be a good and valuable lesson to them.

Eventually they made it into the grocery store.  I peaked in and they'd gone straight to the dairy products and were looking at the butter.  While an employee was re-stocking yogurt, and offerred to help them, I peaked my head in and gave the cashier a heads up: my two kids are going to buy something.  They're young.  Back outside I watched as they made it to the front register.
Without all the confidence in the world, my sweet girl bought cream cheese and put it on my charge account.  Yes, we're still small town awesome that way.  I popped my head in long enough for a picture and grabbed this shot of her signing her charge receipt.

Proud of their journey to the store and their recent purchase, we chatted for a bit outside.  I was proud of them.  Scared that my daughter knew how to charge on my account, but proud of them.  I couldn't help but walk back in and buy my little runners a juice.  Back out the door, I encouraged them to finish their little journey and head back to Grammy's.  Bethany requested that I carry the cream cheese.  Nope.  You bought it.  You carry it.  We headed  back to Grammy's with the two littles on foot.

They asked for confirmation about when to cross the street.  A little less nervous this time, I encouraged them to continue to make wise and safe decisions and not to keep looking back for me.  They managed just fine.  In fact, when they got to Grammy's, they were quite proud of their accomplishments.  I was proud of them too.

When I mentioned to Bethany that they moved quickly down the side walk when they left, she shared that she was afraid I would change my mind and say no and come get her.  Smart girl.  We sat on the back porch for another hour while the cream cheese softened and my proud little girl anticipated making a dessert with Grammy.

Father, they grow so quickly.  I know that you've entrusted them to us to raise.  I feel like we have so many failures with attitudes, impatience, selfishness, and lying.  It's hard being a parent who desires to raise kids that will bring you glory.  But nights like tonight, I thank you Father for this small victory where team work occurred, kind words were spoken, and two little kids learned how to accomplish a task all on their own.