Day 116 of 365

I didn’t know if I should title this blog “Gratefulness” or “Gratitude.” I decided to go with “gratefulness” because I feel like being grateful is a process, something I am working toward. When I am feeling grateful, I am a much happier human, so I try very hard, most of the time, to focus on my gratefulness. I can usually do this fairly well. I am grateful every single morning I wake up. I used to not feel that way. I dreaded my days too much. Some of my days still have some dread, but overall, I am happy for my life every morning.

Most of the time, when I take a picture, I am taking a picture of something I feel grateful for. I guess that’s kind of the point of photographs in a way, right? To preserve a moment you feel grateful for?

When I wake up, I do two things: First, I ask myself what has to be done that day and what time, in terms of appointments or meetings at work. My teaching work doesn’t require a lot of meetings, thank goodness, but I do have some every week. Plus, my son has a lot of music lessons most of the year, so I am always thinking about which lesson or orchestra rehearsal he needs to go to. He’s pretty serious. It seems that he wants to be a cellist in some way when he grows up. He said, one day, his dream is to be a principal in an orchestra. It surprised me that he had such a specific dream. So, for real, my husband and I are part-time drivers for our student cellist. There are soccer moms and hockey moms and dance moms–and there are cello moms.

But I digress. After I go through all the things I have to do that day, I just start focusing on the happy. And I have much to be happy for. Lately, I beat Ron to the morning chores because I’m getting up extra early because I am worried about my baby chickens. Ron says they will be fine. It’s true, they are all fine and really do pretty well integrating into the flock. So they are fine, but I still worry a bit.

When Ron comes out to start his part of the farm chores, I am so happy to see him. I don’t know if this will sound sappy or not, but, most of the time, I am so darn happy to see my husband’s face in the morning. He’s a good human and good life partner for me. I still get mad at him because we are both very stubborn in our own ways (I am generally very laid back, but if I think something is really right, I won’t budge without a lot of good evidence.) When I see his face, I tell him how glad I am to see him in the morning. I like being around him.

I am also thankful for the chickens and ducks. I love doing morning chores most of the time, especially in good weather. It’s lovely here in Maine right now. September in Maine is a dream to me. When I was a kid, I watched some movie set in New England in the Autumn, and I was like, “oh, I need to live where they have that season.” I am from Texas. There’s not a real Autumn in Texas. So I am generally very thankful to live in New England. I like most of the weather. I mean, yeah, in March, I’m not loving Maine But in September, I am most in love with Maine.

I am so thankful to see our dog, Boudica. She sleeps next to my side of the bed, so she’s right there when I wake up every single day. After losing Gus, I have tried to remember to be extra thankful I get to spend some of my life with our Great Pyrenees, Boudica. She’s still a bad roommate sometimes and wears me out barking about squirrels. We live in the Maine woods. There are so many squirrels, and Boudica wants them nowhere near us. I try to be patient though and remember she also keeps the bears away from the chickens and ducks, and I am very grateful for that.

And, of course, I am grateful to see my son in the morning. I have an adult daughter as well. I know how much you miss them when they leave, so I try to treasure every minute of time my son is still at home. I also know how important my teaching time is with my youngest now. I get to learn from my experiences with my first child and do better. There is a 12 year gap between them. The youngest was a very big surprise. We are older parents, my husband more than me, but still, when our son was in school before we started homeschooling him, I would look around at the other moms and think, “Oh my gosh! I am old.” I was in my 40s, and the other moms were in their 20s. Anyway, I am thankful to have time to teach him.

I still try to teach my older child, my daughter, but she’s stubborn, like me, and in the age range where she is not listening my teaching very much, I think. But I am hopeful she will come back around. She’s a sweet, kind, beautiful human, and I know she has to find her independence. I just wish I could teach her all the things I know now–to save her the pain. But I realize that, sometimes, humans have to learn lessons in their own ways, through the own experiences. And I am very thankful for her too, though I don’t see her every day. But when I run through my list of things to do each morning, if a visit with my daughter is on my list, I am especially thankful for that day.

So these are core things I am thankful for every morning. I make this point to remember to be grateful, and I have practiced it so much now that I am pretty good at it. I am a grateful human, and I am happier for it. Because it makes me happier (I tend to be too much of a worrier), I work toward gratefulness. That’s a process, right?

I practice it throughout the day. I am thankful for cello lessons and practices. I am grateful for the delicious food from the garden. I am thankful, every day, for the eggs. I thank our hens for the eggs, every single day. I am grateful for delicious tomatoes from the fall harvest. I am grateful for jam put up for the winter. I am grateful if I have time to read something for fun that day. I read a lot for work, and I mostly enjoy it. Still, it’s so much better when I get to read whatever I want. For a time, I was a writing center director managing very large grants. I never had time to read when I was in that job. When I quit to homeschool my son, I made a point to get some reading time back, and I couldn’t believe how happy it made me to read something besides work materials.

In the last couple of weeks, however, I have been going through a tough spot. I’ve been very worried about a situation I could do little to control. I was so worried that I forgot some to be grateful and just focused on the negative. Thankfully, today, with the help of Ron (he’s pretty good at self examination too), I was able to get back around to feeling grateful.

And, tonight, as Ron and I made dinner together, I remembered to be grateful. And when our son loved the dinner, I was happy. And I get to go for a walk with a friend tomorrow and hear wonderful stories she tells. I love people who tell me stories, especially stories I really like. When Ron and I first started dating, I just made him tell me his stories over and over. He’s had a very interesting life, I think. And I finished Volume II of the annual, which feels amazing because I have been working on that every spare moment for months. So I have much to be grateful for–family, food, and the ability to grow and learn.

Sometimes, I fall down, but I keep trying. I have some privilege that I didn’t grow up with, and I try to remember that; overall, I am such a fortunate person through anyone’s lens. I try not to take that granted.

I believe in the act and process of gratefulness.

One Step at a Time

Day 10 of 365

Well, I made it to double digits in my efforts to write every single day for year. That seems like a good first milestone. My husband says that you have to do something for 30 days for it to become a habit. I hope that’s true, as I will have just 20 days to go to make writing here a habit.

I will have to be quick with my writing today. I have much work to do–many essays to grade. It’s been a busy week, and Thursdays tend to be long grading days for me. Things have also been extra stressful this week. I am teaching a writing class that ends this week, and some of my students are just in a panic. I have found that, since the pandemic, the normal “end-of-class anxiety” has increased ten fold. Everyone is stressed. Everyone.

It’s understandable. I just read an article today about problems with global food supplies that are certain to get worse. There’s a terrifying baby formula shortage. There are wildfires. Inflation is worrisome. At the grocery store today, I saw that a carton of a dozen organic eggs cost $8.49. It made me very thankful for our refrigerator full of organic eggs. But I understand the stress.

Today, one of my extremely-stressed students actually hung up on me while I was trying to help her over the phone. At first, I was grumpy about it, bemoaning the treatment of teachers. But then I remembered the stress of the world, and I decided to text my student a kind message of support. I told her I was going to type out what she needed to do so that she could read and process it again when she was less stressed. I told her to try not to stress, that the work always seems worse when it feels new and unknown–feels like it’s piling up. But I promised her she just needed to take things one step and a time.

And isn’t that the truth? Just one step at a time.

I believe I have learned this deeply, learned a kind of serenity that helps me with my anxiety from the state of the world, from homesteading. There have been times when I have felt overwhelmed by the work of a farm, like when our flock got sick with a respiratory illness a few years ago or when the garden is producing faster than I can process the food in the fall because I have to keep grading essays too. There was the duck with the broken leg that had to be healed. There was the summer when three ducks had bumble foot to treat. Three ducks! That’s a lot of duck-foot wrapping.

But I always get through it.

These experiences have given me some wisdom and patience, which is so important to someone with such a busy, worried mind. I dig into each new task knowing that, even though my work may feel daunting, most likely, I will be able get through it all. I often write about the magic of the farm and living more connectedly to nature, but as I thought about things today, I realized one of the most important life lessons I have learned from the farm is that I can handle more than I can think. I just have to start.

I don’t know what to do about global food shortages. But, today, I delivered the first farm shares to two families, and a third one starts next week. Maybe it’s okay to just take things one step at a time.


And just a quick Ruby update. She is doing fairly well, but I discovered when I candled her eggs that she has some poultry lice around her head. It feels like a miracle I saw them. I have terrible eyes. My poor Ruby! But I treated her with the good stuff, since I don’t have to worry about withholding her eggs anyway. She’s not going to be laying eggs for a long time. I also took her extra treats and scrambled her an egg this morning. Being broody is hard on a hen, and adding lice to the situation is not good. Still, I will give her a second treatment next week and will scramble an egg for her every day. Hopefully, this won’t be much of a setback for her.