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You: So, you finally got a job?

Me: Yeah, I did.

You: That’s great.  What is it?

Me: Its a nurse practitioner position, and the focus is primarily on hormone replacement.

You: Oh.

Me: Yeah, its kind of alternative.

You: Do you like it?

Me: Yes, so far I do.  The people I’m working with are nice, and I really like talking with the patients.

You: Well, congratulations.  Its been a long time coming.

Me: Yes ma’am/sir, it has.

 

Gregg: How was your first day at work?

Me: It was good.

Gregg:  Oh good.  Why was it good?

Me: Blah, blah, blah, explanation.

 

Gregg: How was work today?

Me: It was okay.

Gregg:  Okay.  Just okay?  Why just okay?

Me: Well, I guess it was fine.  So-and-so got on my nerves and this other thing was kind of annoying.

Gregg:  Fine.  Oh.  Okay.

 

Gregg: How was your day?

Me: It was fine.

Gregg:  Fine.  Why was it fine?

Me: Blah, blah, blah, explanation.

 

P.S. He doesn’t like for my work day to be just okay.

P.P.S.  I got a job!

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I went over to Virginia Beach the other day for yet another job interview.  (I’m setting some kind of record, I’m sure.)  And afterward, with no money to spend yet.  I stopped by to the Virginia Beach library.  I’ve admired it from afar.  Its a silver building that’s built out of wavy metal, like the ocean.  Its amazing.  It has more than just one small shelf of DVDs.  It has at least two stories, maybe three.  It has new releases readily available and not on hold.  And no one knows me there.  The librarians on the Eastern Shore are starting to know me.  They’re starting to say things to me like, “Don’t treat this place like your living room.”  Ugh.

The best thing about the VA Beach library is that there’s a small coffee shop near the front entrance, and yesterday, I was blessed with a little bit of culture as I sat and ate my lunch.  Three women were drinking coffee together and talking.  They were talking in a language other than English.  I was so excited.  Listening to them breathed a little bit of energy into me.

Riding the bus in San Francisco, you can be surrounded by 15 different cultures, languages, ethnicities of people.  After awhile you don’t even notice it.  Its normal.  Even in Knoxville, not nearly as diverse, different kinds ofd people are walking around town.  One of the men that interviewed me (and there have been many!) told me that there were five different types of people that live on the Eastern Shore (not to stereotype or anything): retirees, artists, farmers (I guess that’s us), migrant workers, and water-men (I think that’s what he called them and not fishermen).  I’m not sure if he’s right about the categories or not, but that you can even attempt to categorize all of the people that live on the Shore is significant.  In San Francisco, the list would be never-ending, but it might start like….hipsters, professionals/businessmen, street kids, hippies, yogis, homosexuals, wealthy young families, artists, burners (I think that’s what the Burning Man folks are called) Filipinos, Latinos, Russians….and then every other nationality in existence.  Oh, and don’t forget, small town girls trying to make it in a big city.  That’s what we were.

Now I feel more like a big city girl trying to make it in a small town.

Max had his ACL repair surgery last week.  It just about broke the bank, but not completely.  He’s been perma-whining ever since we picked him up from the vet.  Pitiful.  I worry about him.  I worry about him going up and down the stairs.  (I don’t want him to put too much pressure on his good leg and tear another ACL.  My vet told me that that can happen.)  I worry about his incision getting infected.  (He seems to be licking around the incision, but not too much on the incision itself.)  And then there’s the whining, I worry about that.  Is he hurting?  Is he just sad that he can’t go outside and chase the chickens?  Does he just not like the look of his newly shaved leg?  Probably yes to all.

I’m wondering, am I displacing my “I want to be a mom”-ness onto him?  Is that where all this worry comes from?  Maternal instinct or something?  Will I feel this soft towards him once we do have kids?  Gregg tells me that I have to keep loving’ on Max and Roo once we have a family.  He also tells me not to worry about Max.  Not possible.

On Easter afternoon Gregg and I took a walk on the beach.  “What are your dreams?” he asked.  Yes!  I love that question.  The answers that were coming up for me were different than what I expected.  Sure, I still want to travel and visit exotic places.  But that wasn’t the first dream that came to mind.  Calm.  Happiness & Joy.  Simplicity.  I don’t remember how I put it exactly when he asked me, but these are my dreams now.  Instead of what I want to do, more like how I want us to live.  Very different from how I used to dream.

Well, there’s raised bed gardening and square foot gardening (I think these are basically the same thing).  I’m experimenting with a different kind of gardening.  Potted plants on your porch gardening.  My gardening partner is busier than expected (two of her kids are getting married this summer), so the garden that was going to go in her backyard is on hold.  Our yard is as shady as ever, with the best sun showing up on our porch.  Also, I’ve heard horror stories of deer and rabbits eating all the garden’s produce, and I’m hoping that deer won’t come up to our house to nibble our goodies. Mildred, the gardening mentor, has two fences around her garden along with rattling plastic bags to scare off the predators.  So, the porch it is.   As of now, I’ve got a variety of herbs (sage, cilantro, parsley, chives, lavender) and some flowers.  I’m growing basil, tomatoes, cucumbers, and squash from seed.  Now, I know that its silly of me to think that squash will do well in a pot.  In my defense, at the time of planting my seedlings I thought some of the seedlings might actually go into the ground as opposed to pots.  I’m not sure what to do with the squash seedlings now.  Yesterday I kept asking Gregg if the pots that I have are big enough and if tomatoes, cukes, and bell peppers will do well in them.  Do you ever ask a question just to get an answer you are looking for?  Yes, the pots are big enough.  Yes, the veggies will do great in them.  I think I’ll have to get some bigger pots and then keep my fingers crossed that they’ll grow well in them.  When I see the teeny tiny seedlings, I forget that they are going to grow up and up and up, and I forget that there are root systems growing underneath the soil that need plenty of space to do their thing.

I was feeling down about my seedlings, since some of them were getting “leggy,” as Gregg says.  But, I’m happy to say that since they’ve been nestled onto the porch and out of the sunroom they have really started to take off.  I do have couple of concerns.  The wind really picks up on the back of our porch, so I get worried that they’ll get too windblown.  Also, I want the porch garden to look pretty, but, as of now, it doesn’t.  Its a mishmash of old pots that I found in our shed squeezed onto the sunny corner of our porch.  Its not Better Homes and Gardens or Southern Living.  Maybe they do look pretty in their own way.  I’m not sure what magazine would feature them, maybe something like Work with What You’ve Got.

But, I’m in luck.  A gardening guru is coming our way this weekend.  My father-in-law Phil spends his evenings and weekends tending to his flock of plants.  I’m hoping he’ll be able to give me some pointers.

 

Bucket List of a Farmer’s Wife.

Winter 2012:

Learn how to make bread.  check.

 

Finish knitting my sweater.  check.  worn exactly twice before it got too hot.

Spring 2012:

Create a garden.  a work in progress.

Summer 2012:

Tend the garden and eat from the garden.  see above.

Make a wearable item of clothing with the sewing machine.

Fall 2012

Make a quilt.

For the year:

Stick to a budget without going crazy.**

Volunteer.

Make friends.  slowly but surely.

Find a church.

Read an intimidating classic. slowly reading Jane Eyre, there’s just so many other books that I also want to read.

Feel comfortable and confident as a Nurse Practitioner.  not quite.

Run/walk/bike/do yoga consistently.  Not all of these, just be active consistently.

And I’m adding:

Join/start a Book Club.  This can go along with making friends.

**During Lent, Gregg and I saved all of our receipts.  We are working towards having and sticking to a budget.  This has been a topic of conversation for us ever since we were dating.  Reimagine, the forward-thinking community that we were a part of in California, considers budgeting a spiritual practice.  They even share their incomes and budgets with each other.  Talk about accountability.  When this topic first came up in San Francisco, I got defensive, and even said aloud that I didn’t have a budget.  Gregg asked me, “Well, do you want to have one?”  I didn’t at the time, but after trying a few different ways of budgeting over the years, I see the value in actually knowing where our money is going.

Since we have moved to the Eastern Shore, it seems like our cost of living has skyrocketed.  I already mentioned my Speed-bus gas tank.  Also, we were a part of a meal-share co-op in Knoxville.  We only bought and cooked dinner one night a week.  15 or so people, mostly from our church, came over with their tupperware and ate the meal we had prepared.  Every other night of the week, we went to someone’s house who had prepared a meal for us.  (We called it Food 4 All, and we even made the newspaper.)  All that to say, we are spending more at the grocery store.

Yesterday, we categorized [groceries, eating out, gas, other] and counted up our receipts.  So depressing.  But, then we set some goals for ourselves for next month.  We’re going to try to spend less on groceries and less on eating out.

Something that I realized during our receipt calculating is that  my tendency to want to win and be the best could be applied to budgeting.  I could say let’s try to spend as little money as possible.  I could do all of our grocery shopping at Wal-mart, never leave the house (to save on gas), and not contribute a bottle of wine or whatever when someone invites us over for dinner.  All of these things would save money.  But, that’s not the point.  Generousity completely gets thrown out the window with that approach.  Balance in everything, right?  Maybe the point is spending well instead of spending as little as possible.

And, I’m still trying to figure out how to buy food well.  Organic and natural versus cheaper.  Reimagine (I learned a lot from them.) hosts a workshop on Simplicity every year.  During this workshop, they talked about food.  They discussed the difference between cheap food and natural food, and said that even though its cheaper, there’s still a cost somewhere.  In other words, someone is paying for the cheaper food, it just may not be you at the check out.  That someone could be the worker in the field, the farmer, the grocery store employee.  Someone is getting paid less so that we can buy our food cheaper.  (Rant.)

Any budgeting advise is welcome.

Okay, marketing time.

I’m turning into a little bit of an iPhone geek.  There is one app that makes my life so much better.  (I can’t believe I’m doing this.)  This one app, called PageOnce is awesome.  You can put all of your bills/credit cards/loans/bank info into it, and it will show you all of your info on one little page.  How much total cash you have, how much debt, when your bills are due.  Its awesome.  (I already said that.)  I know that some people are dubious about putting all of your bank info into a system like that, but I think its safe and trustworthy.  That’s all I’m gonna say about it.

I was talking to a friend about Gregg’s chickens the other day.  I was telling her that its going to be difficult to go out of town this summer (or ever).  We’ll have to find someone to babysit the chickens while we’re gone.  Babysitting these chickens involves scheduling your day according to the sun.  At (or at least near) sunrise, the chickens need to be let out of their coop, fed, and watered.  At sundown, the chickens need to be fed and watered again, and they need to be rounded up back into their coop for safe-keeping during the night.  (It will also involve collecting eggs in about two to three months.  I can’t wait for this part!)  This rounding up business is not as easy as it sounds.  Gregg finally figured out that if he pours the chicken food directly into their coop, this is the best way to get them where they need to go.  Herding chickens.  I helped him herd once.  It wasn’t pretty.  Largely because we didn’t have any food to herd them with.  Also, the herding beam more like me chasing, and them running in the opposite direction of where I wanted them to go.  Also, Gregg and I both had ideas of how we should be herding, and I thought my idea was better than his and vice versa.  You know how those conversations go.  Now, when I go with him to take care of the chickens, I just sit back and knit or read.  Its better this way, and he’s such a good chicken-herder now, he doesn’t need help.

So, when I told my friend about the chickens, she laughed.  Not in a a cruel way at all, just in a oh-my-gosh-I-can’t-believe-you-have-so-many-chickens way.  She laughed because the idea of having chickens is funny to people.  Its not the norm.  The fact that my husband is a chicken farmer has become normal to me.  I forget that its out of the ordinary for your life and time to be affected by 200 birds.

Maybe I should put out a want-ad for this chicken-sitter.
Dream Want Ad

Something more like this:

Wanted: Chicken-sitter.

Must love eggs, birds, sunrises, sunsets.  Must be able to scare off foxes, dogs, hawks, and other birds of prey.  Must be immune to frustration that inevitably comes with chicken herding.

 

You know that cutie picture of the happy dog that I posted yesterday?  Well, he has been limping around for the past month or so.  We finally sprung for the vet since he wasn’t getting any better.  Turns out that that cutie dog Max has a torn ACL.  I know!  How can you be that happy when you are in pain?  Good question.  I was very impressed by the vet, by the way.  I’m so used to the hospital where the providers have to either take pictures (X-Ray, CT scan, PET scan, etc.) or at least draw blood to figure out what’s going on with the patient.  Not this vet.  She just put her hands on Max’s left leg and told me that his femur (thigh bone) was sliding over his knee and past his tibia (shin bone).  She said its sliding because there’s no ligament (the ACL) to hold it in place.  So, now what?  Surgery is the only way to fix Max’s knee.  Without surgery, it would continue to get worse, and eventually lead to arthritis.

If a human tears his ACL, you get the surgery, no question.  But, for this dog, there’s no pet insurance, so we will be paying 100% of the cost for the surgeon, anesthesia, and even disposal of the hazardous materials that result from the surgery.

This brings me to my question.  How much is a dog’s quality of life worth?  We got Max from a shelter, and paid less than fifty bucks for him.  He’s a Border Collie mix.  Full bred dogs cost close to a thousand dollars, right?  So, if worth is measured by money, Max is worth fifty bucks.  And surgery costs more than $50.

But that’s not the only measure of worth, right?

Why is Max worth more than fifty bucks?  He’s a lover-dog, he’s funny (not intentionally), he’s happy, he’s a protector (at least tries to be).  How do you explain why you love your dog?  I can’t.  And I can’t explain why he’s valuable to us.

Before my dog-loving days (before I married Gregg), I didn’t understand why people dumped so much money into their pets.  Its just a dog, I thought.

I don’t know how to end this post without sounding incredibly cheesy.  We’re going to pay for the surgery.  We’re going to pay to fix Max’s knee.  We want him to live the best dog-life he can, because he’s worth a lot.

I have to confess that baby fever is creeping up on me.  But, I have to be thankful of the children I have, and the children yet to come.

Children I have.  I’m so proud.  They actually smiled into the phone-camera for me!

I wish I was always this happy.

Roo Roo

Children to come.

Seedlings?

Organic, free-range, grass-fed. We are becoming more familiar with these kinds of words stamped on our food packaging. We spend $1 to $5 more when we buy these types of vegetables, meats, and eggs, but those words make us feel better about our purchases. On the other hand, spending $1 to $5 less per item, makes us feel better at the check out, when our bill is lighter and our pocketbooks are heavier. For a long time these words have been just that to me, words. For the past couple of months, I’ve learned firsthand why the extra cost is attached to those words.

My husband is producing organic eggs from free-range chickens, and this natural/organic/slow food movement is Hard. Work. Its very romantic-sounding, but there’s not much that’s romantic about the process of actually moving food from the farm to the table. What does free-range mean? Right now, for Gregg, it means building chicken coops from salvaged wood and PVC piping and watching as one of the said coops falls over due to strong gusts of wind. It means setting up an electric fence and hoping the fence protects the chickens from foxes and dogs and birds of prey. It means buying or milling feed to supplement the grass that the chickens eat. During the day, the electric fence is turned off and the chicks freely move in and out of the contained area, scattering around a half acre eating more grass. Sometimes, we recently found out, neighborhood kids chase them with nets when they are outside of the fencing.

At selling time, the eggs will not have “organic” stamped on the side of the crate (he’s actually going to use recycled crates from eggs that our neighbors and friends (we do have a few!) have been saving for us), because he hasn’t been certified by the government. But they will be organic. Also, during their lifetime, the chickens all have beaks and walk around outside and eat grass. Its these conditions that will make their eggs cost more, but their eggs will also be worth more because of the nutrient-richness (made that word up) that results from their way of life. The eggs that are not free-range in the grocery store, and even some that are marked as such, come from chickens with beakless, crowded, indoor lives. Have you seen Food, Inc. or Fresh? Or read anything by Micheal Pollan? These movies and books will change your life. At least, if you can budget for the expense.

On the Eastern Shore, there are two chicken plants. I’ve seen tractor trailers drive down the highway stamped with the company names along with a picture of a sunny farm with a porch, a barn and a shining sun. Then I drive several miles up the road and see the plant with no farm or barn or porch in sight. There is however a stench and a cloud of vultures circling the plant. The plants sell chicken for their meat and not for their eggs, but egg-laying chicken plants, according to those documentaries, look similar to these meat-producing plants.

I was in the grocery store yesterday, and I was drawn toward the sack of onions that said “farm fresh.” The sack didn’t tell me where the onions were from or how they were grown or why they were only $1.30 for 3 pounds. But that “farm fresh,” like the pretty picture of the barn on the side of the truck, drew me in. I wish instead of “farm fresh” or “free-range,” there was a picture of the farmer that raised the chickens or onions or eggs. I’d like to see if he’s inside or outside and if the man in charge is wearing a suit or Carharrt overalls.