Stories from my life in the country

Stories from my life in the country

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

A Comment on Neknomination: I Nominate You!

Like many of you, Facebook has become the hub of much of my social communication.  It's where I check my email, seek news on friends, gawk over a sweet new baby and look for inspiration from those who are willing to share it.  I'm always pleased to see a friend post something motivational, meaningful or news-worthy.  Lately my Facebook feed has been flooded with young adults, many of whom are my former students, participating in something called neknomination.

If you haven't heard of this phenomenon, the premise is simple.  Young people film themselves drinking mass amounts of alcohol, post a video of it and then challenge a friend to outdo them. Some of the situations are meant to be funny, extreme and even dangerous, not to mention the dangers related to binge-drinking, social pressure and bullying.

As I see the faces of these young people engaging in neknomination I am disgusted.  I watch a video of a young man and I wonder if he remembers the day I met him at school, an hour early, to prepare for a math test he was sure he would fail.  This was not my dream for him.  He is so much more.  I look at a young woman and I wonder if she recalls the drive to a basketball tournament on a snowy Saturday, followed by a long day in a gym.  Why would she degrade herself like this?  She is so much more.

My wonder turns to disappointment as I know my efforts in the growth of these young people was miniscule; only minor, as compared to the love and support their parents provide.  I have dreams for them, as do their parents and I can't help but be puzzled about how things went astray.  Why would they do this?  How can they think this is acceptable? 

As any teacher knows, kids make mistakes.  Young people screw up; that's what they do.  They try something, learn and move on, hopefully without lasting scars.  Posting a video on your Facebook page doesn't define who you are.  It doesn't write the script for your future.  One day it will be a spec of your history.  In the big scheme of things it's fairly minor.  I get all that.  All of this is true, of course, if you manage to avoid alcohol poisoning or other injuries from the dangerous stunts involved.

I also know that social media gives us a platform to spread the message we choose.  This blog is a prime example of that, as is your Facebook feed.  So why not use that for good?  Why not challenge those in your world to do something good?  Take a note from our Olympians and train towards perfection in something, then challenge your friends to do the same.  Strive to share a message that inspires others and encourage people to stand with you.  Find a way to do good and promote that shamelessly in the social media world.  Draw attention to acts of courage and deeds of kindness. 

That's the challenge and you are nominated.  Ignore posts that stray from this philosophy.  Don't comment on them or 'like' them.  Take support away from a dangerous and degrading phenomenon.  Share this and other messages like it. 

That's my challenge to you.  Do you think you can top this? I hope you'll try.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Dear Country Wives

Dear Country Wives,

I know you.  I know you've married a farmer.  I know he's probably a lot like my farmer husband: kind, patient, a little hard of hearing and occasionally wears shirts to town that you wish he wouldn't.  And I know that today you find yourself smack in the middle of the annual fall marathon we like to call harvest.


I see you.  I see you in the grocery store with your cart piled so high that the bread just fell off.  I see that your toddler is out of snacks and is crabby because it's almost lunch time. I see you in the post office, running in and out, saying a pleasant 'hello' and I know you've got to hurry on your way and we'll have a better visit in the fall.  I see you at our kids' activities.  I see that you are exhausted because your baby isn't sleeping and you're not sure how you'll make it through the next few weeks until this marathon is over.  I see you posting photos of your children going back to school, your meals in the field and gorgeous harvest sunsets.  I see that every day you are trying- despite the hard, busy, long days, you keep trying.



I hear you.  I hear your spirit as you talk about harvest and how many acres are left to go.  I hear you focus on the good, even though both you and I know that some days we just muddle through, knowing this time of year is temporary.  I hear you speak of the excitement your children feel when they get to ride in the truck with their dad or eat their slice of pie in the field on a cozy September night. 


I know you.  I know that you set the tone for your family.  I know that even though you are dog-tired you will keep on looking after all the people who make up your harvest family through these dusty fall days.  I know that the day will come for you when harvest gets easier, the baby sleeps through the night and the toddler is sweet and understanding, just as that day has come for me. 

I see you, I hear you and I know you and I am very proud to be one of you. 

Happy harvest to you dear country wives.



Friday, August 23, 2013

Country Girls

Long before I had children, when I was dreaming of what life in the country would be like, I thought it would be great to be a mother to boys.  Surely boys would love growing up on the farm.  I imagined work boots, skinned knees and caterpillar hunting.  I dreamed of how the country would be a great place to raise little boys. 

Of course, if you've been reading along you know how this story ends.  We've been blessed with two girls and all the John Deere toys that come in pink.  And of course, as soon as I held those two little bundles in my arms any thought of country boys immediately faded away.  Instead we are raising country girls. 



Here are five signs that these girls are country through and through:

  1. My 20-month-old's vocabulary includes both "work boots" and "rubber boots."

2. Lentils picked fresh from the field are considered a tasty snack.

3. After 'helping' dad with a project that involved shovelling gravel they decided to begin a dirt moving project of their own.


4. Caterpillars beware... these girls are hunters.  Our most recent catches have been named "Woody Wood" and of course "Chad."

5. The other day, as we were driving down our road I was blasted with a stone on my windshield.  Immediately my three-year-old stated that we'd need to see Buck (the glass shop owner) and have the chip fixed.  I see two interesting points to this story: a) maybe I should slow down a little as this will be my second trip to Buck's in the past two weeks and b) It is wonderful to live in a small community where the man who fixes your windshield is known by name to your children because he takes the time to visit with them.



I guess my vision of work boots, skinned knees and caterpillar hunting was spot on.  As it turns out, the country is a fantastic place to raise little girls.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Gone Country

You may have noticed that I've been absent from my blog for the last month or so.  I suppose it's summer time and I've been busy with all of the duties that come with the fabulous life of a country wife.  I suppose I could come up with a pile of excuses for why my city girl in the country voice has suddenly become silent.  But the truth is that I just haven't had any clever or witty commentary to offer lately.

Instead of pondering my usual fish-out-of-water moments and how I might write about them, I've been thinking about why those moments seem to be happening to me less often.  And I've come to a startling conclusion.  After nine years in the country and seven years on the farm a radical shift has occurred in my life.  I've become one of them.  That's right.  I think I've gone country.

My goal in writing about life in the country has always been to point out the unique qualities of the people, the town and the culture.  In doing so I have tried to see the humour in the culture clash I've experienced.  I've also attempted to showcase the wonderful life that can be found away from the big city.

Why does everyone wave?  Why do your neighbours stop to offer you a ride when you are clearly running for exercise?   Was I the only one who thought it was unusual that my aerobics class took place in an old school classroom that is now a taxidermy museum?  Does anyone else think it's kind of strange to be five feet away from a snowy owl as you work up a sweat?  Why did that mechanic who showed up at my farm to fix a tractor scoff and roll his eyes at me when I told him I don't snowmobile?  Does anyone else laugh when they read the hometown section of the local newspaper?  Usually it reads something like: Susan's children Andrea and Mark came to visit her for three days.  They went to the museum for tea.  It was a lovely time.

So here's the conclusion.  I no longer see myself as an outsider.  I wave.  I stop to offer a neighbour a ride even if I'm sure she's jogging, just in case.  I miss the days when that old taxidermy museum was used for aerobics, snowy owl and all.  I see why the mechanic thought it was strange that I'm not gung ho about snowmobiling... it makes me unusual according to country standards.  And I like reading the hometown section of the newspaper.  I know Susan and I'm glad that her children came to visit.  Even better that they had tea at the museum. 



And I share pictures of the pies I've made for harvest.  Even picked the berries myself.

So there you have it.  This city girl has gone country.

Now where do I go from here?

More joy, more adventures and more stories from my life in the country.  Stay tuned.




Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Anniversaries

My farmer husband and I celebrated our anniversary yesterday.  Seven years, one farm and two little girls later, life is pretty good.


As I have learned the ropes of life in the country, my farmer husband has been nothing but patient with me.  For instance, upon my first trip to the farm, he overlooked the fact that I referred to a grain auger as a 'sucky thing.'  After we were married and I took over the job of cooking the meals during seeding and harvest he showed nothing but appreciation when I served the hungry workers in the field strawberry spinach salad topped with grilled chicken, along with fresh fruit for dessert.  Apparently I had missed the meat, potatoes and pie memo that comes standard to every new country bride. Even now, he will never tell me if I have fallen behind on the laundry during the long days of seeding and harvest.  I'll only know that he is out of jeans when he's forced to wear his too-short-because-he-should-have-tried-them-on-before-purchasing-but-didn't-black-jeans with his boots.  I know he doesn't say anything because he is kind and thoughtful and appreciates that I am busy too.


Just as my farmer husband has been patient with me, so too have my readers.  This summer also marks three years since I decided to explore the craft of writing with this little blog of mine.  Do you know that I have not received one negative comment in three years?  The feedback you give me is always encouraging and supportive and for that I am thankful.  As an audience, you are much more forgiving than some of the students I encountered in my classroom.

I am a poor speller.  I know this about myself.  I'm not so hot in the grammar department either.  Most teenagers wouldn't care, or feel the need to point it out, but there is a certain breed of student who make a sport of picking out the mistakes of their teachers.  They don't notice that their classmates all roll their eyes in unison as they give a little lesson on spelling to the adult standing at the front of the room.  These little smarty pants like to sit in the front, ask a billion questions to which I never knew the answer and pointed out my spelling errors the second they emerged from my white board marker.  They are smarter than their teachers, and they know it.  They will go far in this world, but they are not easy to teach.

Despite my shortcomings, I did try to find the humor in my errors, and sometimes it was impossible to keep a straight face.   Like the time I wrote asses instead of assess in my Psychology notes. Or possibly my most embarrassing blunder of all which happened as I was reading a grade 9 Health textbook aloud in my second year of teaching at the ripe old age of 23.  I replaced the word 'organism' with 'orgasm' not once, but twice. 

But you my friends are not like those students.  You have not pointed out errors, called me on my short-comings or challenged my self-granted wisdom.  You haven't brought attention to the fact that I regularly like to haphazardly split the infinitive, or that a preposition is one of my favourite words to end a sentence with.

So today I am celebrating anniversaries, one of marriage and one of writing.

Thank you for your patience.  Thank you for your kindness.  Thank you for not being asses.

That was not a typo.



Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Liar, Liar

I've noticed that I've been telling a whole bunch of lies to my kids lately.  Tiny fibs, little embellishments, and even bold faced falsities have become a staple of my parenting repertoire.  I figure these tactics are harmless... mostly. 

Like most people, I've learned this technique from my own parents.  My dad is still pleased that he was able to trick my siblings and I into going to bed at dark, 6 p.m. or so on Monday winter nights.  Once we were asleep he would watch Monday Night Football while my mom was at a weekly night class.  At 31, I'm only slightly resentful.

Here are five lies I've told in the past week.

1. "Stop crossing you eyes or your face will stay like that."  A classic I borrowed from my own childhood 

2. "If you don't learn to share with your sister you won't be allowed to go to playschool in the fall.  They don't let kids who don't share go to playschool.  Your teacher will send you right home."  Almost entirely untrue.

3. "We have to clean out your ears or potatoes will grow in them."  My big girl looked at me like I had truly lost it.  She's already too smart to believe this one.

4. "You can't have a bare bum in the Co-op.  You have to put a diaper on or the police will come to throw you in jail."  Maybe partially true, depending on your age.

5. "We can't walk between those two sheds.  One time, before you were born, I was walking through there and I saw a skunk.  It sprayed me and it was really stinky."  The truth?  One time, I saw a skunk between those two sheds.  I got our hired man and asked him to shoot it and haul it away.  I heard my big girl enthusiastically repeat this lie to my farmer husband while he was tucking her into bed that night. Naturally, I had some explaining to do.

Lady bugs like to live in jars filled with wheat and rocks...

Really, they do.

Do you lie to your kids?  Tell me in the comments.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Reality 101

A few weeks ago I wrote about being contacted by a casting director who told me that farming is the next big thing in reality TV.  She asked me to submit a casting video to her production company to see if my family and I would be the perfect characters for a new TV show they are developing.

I was flattered, for a couple of reasons.  First of all I thought is was pretty cool that this little writing hobby of mine could garner such attention.  Second, I liked the fact that someone would think my life is exciting enough to warrant TV cameras following me to the Co-op to buy my weekly haul of groceries or to the post office for my mom's coffee group. 

I talked it over with my farmer husband.  I asked my parents what they thought.  I ran the idea by my girlfriends.  They all confirmed what I already knew.  I don't want to be on reality TV.

Don't get me wrong.  I like reality TV.  In fact I really enjoy putting my kids to bed, breaking out my mother's day stash of chocolate and watching some shameless programming that surely decreases my IQ by the second.  But I don't want to be those people. And I know that what those shows depict is not reality.

The reality of life in the country is not a made for TV drama.  We are good to our neighbours.  We bring casseroles to our girlfriends when they have a new baby.  We volunteer to scrape paint off the old rink boards when we have a break in farm work.  We share.  We work.  We take pride in community.

I believe that this life I've chosen is great for many reasons.  It's a life focused on growth.  The growth of a crop, a family, a value system.  It's a simple life.  And sometimes the best things are simple.  So that's how I will keep it for my family and for myself.

My reality is fantastic, but it is certainly not a TV show.  


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