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I wonder when I’ll have to change the title of my blog: “This Circle of Quiet.”  I assumed that country living/rural life was quiet, and it is compared to living in the city.  But, we have 5 pets and a baby on the way.  Its already not very quiet at our house, and I suppose its only going to get louder.  The animals have been more of a handful lately.  Pooping inside, for example.  And, integrating our huge white, polar bear dog with our two medium-sized herding dogs has been an event.  There’s been lots of growling and snarling.  Max got body-slammed by Aspen at one point for getting in her face (I don’t know how else to explain these fights besides making them sound like 13 year old girls in the lunch room.  I went to a ghetto middle school, ok?).

But, I’ve been loving them.  Even when I’m cleaning up their poop (I never realized how amazing Resolve was!), I’m thankful for them.  I’ve been comparing them to kids a lot.  Like, “Okay, its time for everyone to go outside, so I can get some stuff done around the house,” and “I need to give ____ some attention because I haven’t in awhile.”

Aspen is starved for love and attention.  She’s still a working dog.  She’s protecting our sheep and our chickens.  But she won’t stay in the fenced-in area where the sheep are.  She also won’t leave our property (unless she sees us leave), so I think she’s still doing her job pretty well.  She reminds me so much of Max.  We got Max from a shelter and Aspen from a rescue group.  They both have separation anxiety (or some other psychological diagnosis that our human feelings have projected on them), so they need a lot of love.  Even our cats, that were found on the side of the road, are extra affectionate.  I don’t think I would love them all so much if they weren’t so loveable.  Roo, who was the pick of the litter, knows that she’s loved.  She thinks that she’s hot stuff, and she can be sweet and affectionate at times, but she’s also a snob.

As I’m writing, Aspen literally just threw up on the couch that we are cuddling on together.  Its like she knew what I was writing thinking about.  Okay, apologies to all the weak-stomached out there.  I’ll try to limit my bodily fluids talk in the future.

Last week, when E linked up to my post on emyselfandi, I got over 300 hits.  This is about 4 times what my traffic typically is.  So, for my first confession, that is the main reason why I’m linking up today.  That was such an ego boost for my little blog here!

I’m knitting a scarf for me.  I feel a little bit guilty about it, because I’m pregnant and so many of my friends are pregnant.  I should be knitting baby stuff, right?  I knit during my downtime at work.  My co-workers will ask me what I’m making, and I say “A scarf for me, BUT as soon as I finish it, I’m going to start knitting for Baby.”  This is true, but I’m always very quick to mention what I’m going to knit next to avoid any judgmental eyes (that would probably never come).

I miss Knoxville.  So does Gregg.  I idealized moving away, now I idealize moving back.  We like it here on the Eastern Shore (more and more-its rhyme time, apparently).  We love our house and our farm, and I love my job (once I drive the hour to get there).  But, we miss home and the people there.

Aspen

We got a new dog.  Her name is Aspen.  She is enormous.  More than 100 pounds of Great Pyranees?  Probably so.  This is a confession, because she makes 5 pets for us.  But!  She’s a working girl.  Gregg got her to keep predators away from…

Sheep

these three (hopefully) pregnant girls…

Chickens

as well as these mama hens.  I think she’s doing a good job because she spends all night barking.

Last confession, I don’t really like turkey that much.  Happy Thanksgiving!

A BFF came to see me this weekend.  What a treat!  Gregg made us pizza on Friday night.  Sam (her 16 month old) got to run around with the dogs, cats, and sheep.  Did I mention our (hopefully) pregnant sheep are finally living with us?  We also roamed around a town yard sale on Saturday.  That’s right, a whole town came out to sell their stuff in a yard sale.  We racked up.  I got a necklace, a pile of lace for crafting, some Christmas ornaments, and a leopard print coat for a six month old girl(I have a hunch okay). [Comment on animal print:  I never have worn animal print except for a snakeskin tube top I owned in high school.  Was that even me?  Not sure.  Animal print is just not my thing, but on a little girl?  Come on, that’s going to be adorable.  Gregg was not a fan.]  I didn’t pay more than $2 for anything (better than Goodwill!).  E, Jeff, and Sam got an array of classic boardgames.

E, Sam, P, and Chief

The best thing about this weekend was being known.  Even for just 24 hours, I had friend in my house who has known me since I was three years old.  (Wow.)  We knew each other as little kids in preschool, as Freshman year roommates, as newly married friends, and, now, as moms and moms-to-be.  So, so thankful.  These kind of friendships are rare.  My college friendships are rare, because they are lasting.  They have a future and a past.  I heard that the average friendship only lasts 6 years.

Meeting friends on the Eastern Shore, we’re starting right where we are, in the present, that is.  There’s no past.  Only a now and a future.  In a place where people already have long-standing friendships with handfuls of people, nobody really feels like they need a new friend.  They’re all lived here their whole lives, or so it seems.

This brings me to my  resolution.  I want to be welcoming to new people in the future.  This resolution is stemming from our experience here so far.  It seems like our friendships are two steps forward and one step back.

After getting settled in my community (in college, in San Francisco, in Knoxville), I have been pretty hesitant to reach out to new people.  Small talk is hard and exhausting.  But making people feel welcome is really important.

I prayed for a friend this weekend, after E left, and God began to answer me.  At Sunday school, the girls were really excited that I was pregnant.  Its fun to connect with people over an unborn baby.  Its like insta-connection.

We survived Hurricane Sandy pretty much without a hitch.  On Thursday, when they were describing the Perfect Storm headed our way, Gregg was ready to race off to TN (his mom offered us a place to stay) with me, two dogs, two cats, and a partridge in a pear tree.  “Really?” I was thinking.  “Is it going to be that bad?”  Well, the answer: yes and no.  I have lived on the coast before, but in San Francisco, everyone is much more worried about earthquakes than hurricanes. We weren’t sure quite how to handle this type of weather.  Leave?  Stay?  Board up the windows?  Gregg and I started to text and call friends that also live on the Shore. There was a wide variety of panic and non-panic.  One guy that’s lived on the Shore for a lifetime responded to Gregg’s text of  “Leaving or staying?” with a nonchalant “Staying.”

The wind was blowing so fast that I got out of a couple days of work.  I didn’t want to take my chances being blown off the bridge and into the bay.

We couldn’t have had a better storm experience to be honest: knitting, reading, cuddling with animals, and watching lots of tv and weather reporting.  We didn’t lose power.  No trees fell into the yard or onto our house.  And, it being a rental property, the stress of something happening to my house just wasn’t there.  So often, I love the lack of responsibility that comes with renting.

To show our hurricane inexperience/non expertise just a bit more…Last night after the storm had blown over Gregg says, “Maybe I should put down/put up (however you say it) the storm windows.”  Nice

Our dogs love our new house.  They love sniffing and rubbing themselves into whatever it is that they are sniffing. They love prancing around (and pooping) in the soy fields that surround our house.  (I’m banking on the fact that the soybean farmer doesn’t read my blog, because I don’t think he would appreciate the prancing.)

The dogs have been banished to the kitchen full-time.  We have carpet in the living room and bedroom, and they treat the carpet like the grass.  Digging up carpet and rubbing fur all over it is not ideal for our rental house.

Look how happy they are, though!

Max is having his 12 week(!) check-up with the vet to see how well he’s healed.  I hope it goes well–please, oh, please.  I hope we spent our money well with his surgery.  We just got to a point where we could not keep him down.  We were supposed to give him a much more stringent recovery schedule than we did.  You can’t keep a good dog down!

I’ve been loving Anne Lamott lately.  She lives just north of San Francisco, so she’s always walking around on the hills of Marin County.  That is a lovely, sacred place up there.  As Wimbo says, its smells like “sun-drenched eucalyptus.”  She is so irreverent (Anne, not Wimbo), talking about her hatred, literally, of the Republican party.  But its her honesty that makes her so easy to relate to and such a joy to read.  She talks about her love/hate relationship with her body.  She writes about trying to do well but failing most of the time.  She is self-deprecating in a way that makes you, as the reader, feel normal.  Grace is always the theme of her books.

Usually, she’s fairly light-hearted in her story-telling, even as she shares about God and her faith.  Every now and then, though, she has this heavy wisdom that smacks you in between the eyes.

Last night, I read the second to last chapter in Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith.  In it, she shares with the reader the advice she usually reserves for graduates when she is asked to give a commencement speech.  Its not your typical, Go get ’em tigers, message.  Instead of run in the rat race and shoot for your dreams and try your best to succeed, she says get to know yourself.  She says that, as a successful writer, she’s reached her dreams, but that hole inside of her has not been suddenly filled up now that she has arrived.  So, her advice is rest and pray and enjoy life.  Okay, so you have to pay your bills.  And, hopefully you can do that by working at a job that you love.  But, her point is that getting that dream job is not what’s going to make you happy.

Her message is very applicable to us.  Gregg sold his chickens.  I was disappointing and sad about it, but he felt relieved.  Day after day, he was watching their numbers decline due to the foxes and hawks and whatever else.  He says that he was over-eager.  He was so ready to get started working with animals, but he didn’t really have a plan.  Oops.  To his credit, he didn’t really know what the plan needed to be.  So, what now?  Quit?  Go home?  Pack up and move back to Knoxville?  We’ve thought about it, but no.  We’re sticking it out here.  He’s got more to learn, A LOT more to learn.  And, more and more, I think that learning is the point of all this.  Making money is not the point.  Hopefully that will come eventually, learning how to make money from farming.  But, now, and maybe for awhile.  The point is how to plan and care for animals and get something in return (eggs, wool, milk, meat, whatever).

So, we are (probably) moving, but not out of town.  We are going to move to a farmhouse on the Eastern Shore.  Ugh.  Moving again.  This makes house #4(!!) for us since we’ve been married.  I can’t wait to show some pictures of the house.  Its got wallpaper in the hallways which I kind of love, but then the carpet is just ridiculous.  It has swirlies on it.  And I think there’s hardwood under it!  Oh well.  The reason we are strongly considering the move has nothing to do with the wallpaper or carpet.  Gregg needs to live with his animals.  With the chickens, he had a fifteen minute drive every morning and evening, and then he wasn’t there with them during the day to protect them and all of that.  About an acre or two of land comes with the farmhouse.  On the land is a fence, a barn, a shed, a grain storage bin.  All the things a farmless farmer needs to become an actual farmer.  And all these things are already in place, ready for Gregg.

Living out here in the country has been like a retreat for Gregg and me.  Its been like a long but intense therapy session.  It started out H.A.R.D.  Gregg was frustrated with work, I was frustrated with non-work.  It was like we had just gotten married.  Every little thing seemed to cause friction between us.

And now, its bliss.

Just kidding.  Seriously though, we are doing so much better than we were when we were first moved here.  This is partly because Gregg’s less frustrated, and I’m working.  Its also because we’ve gotten to know each other better.  We’ve become a self-contained unit.  Some couples always function like this, relying only on each other, not reaching out too much when things go wrong or get hard.  For us, I don’t think this is our natural inclination.  We thrive with friends and community.  With girlfriends and guy friends and couple friends to do life with.  But now, we’re all we’ve got.  We’ve met people here and there, but for the most part its us.  And being just the two of us, has forced us to be just the two of us.  Redundant.

We’ve learned about each other.  I’ve learned that when Gregg isn’t complaining about his day, that means he’s had a good day.  I like to share the good and the bad.  He mostly shares the bad.  So, when he’s quiet, things are usually good.  What else?

I’m not sure what he’s learned about me, I’ll have to ask.

I guess I’ve learned some things about myself, too.  I like the quiet country life.  I love and need and want people and friends.  But slow-paced non-city living is good for the soul.  The soul can settle nicely in the country’s back pocket and rest for awhile.  I guess that’s what we’re doing.  Resting.  Being on an extended retreat.  Together.

We talk a lot.  We’ve got no internet.  We do have a tv, which I have a love-hate relationship with.  We’re having a beach day tomorrow.  I’m reading the second book of Harry Potter.  I’m not sure why I resisted for so long.

When we told our pre-marriage/marriage counselor that we were moving, he said that a good friend of his recommends that every married couple move away.  Some place that’s new and foreign and just the two of them.

I miss my friends.  I miss my family.  I’ve gotten homesick out here.  That feeling has been lost on me ever since I stopped going to Girl Scout camp.  Home is definitely with Gregg.  But it’s also people that know and love you.  Me.

I know that we’re not in our forever house or our forever jobs.  Do those even exist any more?  Gregg says that the next place we move, he wants us to be there for twenty years.  Yes, says part of me.  Twenty years??!!, says another part.  At 28 years old, its really hard to imagine being somewhere for a little less than how old I am.  (Does that make sense?  I’m 28 and we’re going to move somewhere for 20 years.)  In my 28 years, I’ve lived in two houses in Roanoke.  Two in Knoxville.  Four in Clemson.  One in Australia.  Another in Nicaragua.  A bo-go-zillion in Europe.  Two in SF.  Two in Knoxville again.  One here.  16 homes in 28 years.  My pastor in Knoxville loves talking about place.  He talks about the importance of sticking it out and digging into one place.  You can imagine how guilty I felt when we told him that we were moving.  He’s on to something.  Its just hard for people our age in a not-so-good economy to get settled for the long haul when they don’t have kids and a mortgage.  And, let’s face it, we’re all commitment-phobes.

So, for now, we’re here.  Retreating.  Trying to make this our home.

What I love about living on the Eastern Shore are the same things that are difficult about living here.  I love the calm of my soul that comes from living on the Bay, in almost isolation.  We have neighbors, but we are at least a fifteen minute drive from the nearest store.  I love living without internet. I can squeeze a signal out of my phone every now and then, but when my Facebook app feed can’t refresh, I’m a bit relieved.  I love time.  It seems like our time has multiplied since moving out here.  Time for gardening and chores around the house, and then time to spare.

But…don’t let me paint the rosiest of pictures.  It gets boring in the middle of so much peace.  A good portion of our neighbors are retirees.  Do you grow into needing more peace and quiet?  Maybe its a generational thing.  We are not retirees, but I feel we are living like them.  I was watching tv the other the night, and I accidentally switched the channel to a Coldplay concert at Austin City Limits.  Hundreds of twentysomethings were shouting and fist-pumping, cheering on Coldplay.  I want that.  I already did that though.  That’s what almost three years in San Francisco was.  And, honestly, it felt like chasing.  Chasing what I’m not sure, but more of something.  More fun, more excitement, more life.  I think that some people have learned to live well in a city without the chasing.  But, I don’t think I ever learned how to do that. There’s just so much, you can never get enough.  So, I guess I don’t want to go back to that kind of living, but I do miss it more than I realize.  Maybe I just miss Chris Martin.  I.  Love.  Coldplay.  Remember “I feel God with water?”  Ditto for Coldplay.

I miss people my age, too.  I went to a thirtyone party over the weekend.  Mostly middle-aged women attended.  I got a super awesome lunch-tote by the way.  When Wimbo, Caroline, and I moved to San Francisco, we said that we wanted to love people that were different than us.  I’m sure that we did, but most of our friends were people our exact same age and background.  Here, on the Eastern Shore, loving and being friends with different kinds of people may be less of an option.  It may be mandatory if we want to have any sort of community here.

Maybe the things that are that are difficult about living here have less to do with the place and more to do with the amount of time that we have been here.

So, today, my mother of 8 friend and I are going to head over to the master gardener’s home for a learning lab.  I’m not sure if she is a master gardener, and I’m not sure if she knows how much we need to learn from her, but I’m looking forward to it just the same.  Mildred.  Confession: I think I might end up being a diet gardener, because I don’t like weeding (thanks mom & dad for making me weed for punishment when I was growing up (just kidding, there are worse punishments)), I’m not going to like being outside when its over say, 90 degrees, even that might be pushing it, and I don’t really like getting dirty.  That’s embarrassing.  I think I can learn to handle getting dirty, but I’m just not used to it.  When, as an adult, does anybody actually get dirty?

This was the most that I’ve processed in a while.  What’s good about living here?  What’s hard?  Why are the hard things hard?

You know that scene in the movie Speed when the bus’s gas tank starts leaking?  The camera films the gas gauge on the driver’s panel, and the lever is plummeting towards the E.  I think my car has a gas leak like the Speed bus.  The Eastern Shore is 10 miles across and 70 miles long, so everything is spread out.  It takes anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour to get anywhere.  I think I’m getting used to it, everything except the frequent gas fill-ups.

My commute to Chesapeake for my almost-job (still shadowing) is one hour.  In San Francisco, I could walk to work.  The hospital was just over a mile from our apartment.  In Knoxville, I think I drove about three miles to get to work.  I don’t even want to know how many miles it is from our house in the country into suburbia.  But, call me crazy, I’m not minding it so much.  Driving down the Eastern Shore and over the bridge is really quite peaceful, and as soon as I get over the bridge, the culture shock of civilization distracts me for at least fifteen minutes.  Gregg drove me to work yesterday, and when we got over the bridge, he kept saying things like: “Krispie Kreme.”  “Starbucks.”  “Waffle House.”  The only chain stores that we have on the Shore are Wal-Mart (of course), Ace Hardware, some fast-food restaurants, and then there are some old-school department stores from the ’50s.  Peebles and Roses.  Funny, huh?  (Have I wrote about this before?)  The other day on my commute, I listened to the entire hour of NPR’s Morning Edition.  Now I’m completely up to date on the presidential primary race as well as every other important news story.  (Please don’t quiz me.)  And, I have a book on tape set in London.  Its chick lit in which all of the characters speak in a British accent.  Love it.

I don’t know.  I’m writing about this because the commute was the thing that I was worried about when I was contemplating the possibility of working across the bridge, and, I’m happy to say, its turning out okay.

Going to an almost-job has already changed my experience of living here.  I still don’t like that drained feeling that comes after a day’s work, but I’ll take it, since it means that my brain was working hard all day along with my legs and feet and heart.  I’m looking forward to the independence of sitting down and talking with patients on my own.  I remember student teachers during their last semester of college saying, “I’m just ready for my own classroom.”  I’m ready, too.  I’ve had my hand held long enough.  I am very aware that I don’t know everything about women’s health, but I’m ready to share what I do know with patients and ask questions when I need don’t know the answers.

When I first started working as a nurse in the hospital I was so terrified of making a mistake or looking stupid at work.  I’m still scared of that, but it seems lighter than it did back then.  After working with a particular charge nurse in California, I’m surprised I didn’t run and get a retail job as fast as I could.  There’s an expression that nurses eat their young.  Well she not only ate me, but she chewed me up and spit me out so she could do it all again.  That’s gross, sorry.  Seriously though, she almost destroyed my confidence, and I still think about her sometimes.  She was demeaning, condescending, rude.  And I was her special project.  I’m not thankful for that experience, but I think it is helpful for me to look back and see that I don’t react to criticism in the same way any more.  I still don’t like being corrected, but it doesn’t destroy me like it did back then.  It doesn’t ruin my day any more.  Yesterday, the doctor I’m working with corrected me, and I’m happy to say that it hurt my feelings for a little bit, but then I got over it.  I think this is what growing up feels like.

P.S.  I had this post already to go when I turned on the radio and heard various radio hosts talking about The Hunger Games.  I feel like I have to mention it just because not only are people talking about the craze of the movie itself and about how millions(?) of fans are rushing out to see the premier, they’re also talking, at least on the radio, about how it represents the destructive times that we are in and the kind of world that we are leaving for our children.  Yikes.  I honestly hadn’t thought about the books or the movie(s) like that.  I enjoyed reading the books and was thinking about seeing the movie, but I hadn’t thought about what The Hunger Games mean for us here and now.  Food for thought.

Happy Friday.

Last week I emailed a friend of a friend that lives on the Eastern Shore.  I was so awkward.  “So….Um…if you want to and if you have time…could we…like…um…hang out?  I know you’re busy…but…if you want…maybe…you want to…uh…be…friends…?”  Obviously, I didn’t write that in an email, but that’s how I felt.  Like a stuttering sixteen year old boy asking a girl to go out with me.  She responded, by the way, and invited Gregg and I to attend church with her family.  Woo Hoo!  We’re in!  They want to be friends!

Making friends after college is quite the challenge.  There’s no sororities or clubs or weekly get togethers organized by someone older than you to force you into friendship.  So, after college I have ended up being desperate and brave.  I’m sure there are other reasons why friendship becomes harder as we get older.  More responsibilities and commitments.  Grown-up concerns like bills and budgets and marriage.  Do we become less brave as we get older as well?  I’m not sure.  I think that when I was younger, I used to be more friendly to strangers than I am now.  I’m not sure all of the whys, but it does seem to be more difficult.

I just thought of another reason!  Different life stages.  In college, everyone (mostly) is single.  Everyone is at the same place in life, talking about the same things, thinking about the same things.  End of story.  After college, people start to get married and have babies all at different paces.  I think this makes friendship more difficult.  I’m still not quite sure how to be friends with a mom with three kids, even if she is my age.  She probably doesn’t know how to be friends with me either.  We CAN be friends, but isn’t it easier to have friends with people in your same life stage?  I think this life stage difficulty is true for new friends, whereas with friends that have been around for awhile, the life stage doesn’t matter as much.  

Going to Sunday school at the Baptist Church. ...

Not the church we visited.

We were invited to a Baptist Church.  I never thought “Baptist Church” and “Gregg and I” would be used in the same sentence.  There was Sunday School for young adults and a Baptism (5 to be exact) and a Church Lunch.  Everyone was just as friendly as the members of the other church we visited.  There were a couple of differences though.  It was packed.  Maybe because of the baptisms, but there was hardly an empty seat in the house.  Also, there were “young adults.”  After Sunday School, we got to talking to a few of them, but then we got separated before we could exchange any contact info.  Please let me make a friend today, I was thinking.

From Sunday School, we moved on to the worship service where the baptisms were taking place.  During the Baptism, the floor of the altar opened up to reveal a tub of water under the stage.  The pastor and the baptisees were waist deep in the water with only their top half exposed.  We were in the back of the church and couldn’t see a thing.  I have to confess.  (Maybe I should save this for Wednesday.)  During the Baptism, I was getting kind of woe is me.  I was missing our Knoxville church and our Knoxville friends.  And, (getting very honest here), it seemed like every woman over the age of 25 had a baby or two or three.  Woe is me.  Gregg encouraged me to stand up and watch.  Guess what?  I got out of my woe is me thinking and listened to the stories of those getting baptized.  Amazing that thinking about other people can get me out of myself.

As church was ending, I stole a pencil from the pew ahead of us.  I was determined to get some digits from some “young adults”.  We were off to Church Lunch.  And we were off to making…friends!  For Gregg and I, there were  definitely some awkward moments when we found ourselves standing against the wall and looking around wondering what to do next.  But, we had some lovely get-to-know-you conversations during lunch.  We even got to talk to the pastor.  And, as lunch was ending, I was handed a piece of paper with two phone numbers and an email address.  I could just cry.  Not really.  I provided my contact information in return and left Church Lunch walking on air.  I even returned the unused stolen pencil to the Sanctuary.  I had used my friend’s pen to write down my contact info.

P.S. On the Eastern Shore, everyone is connected.  Everybody knows everybody.  For example, the woman that conducted one of my interviews used to babysit Gregg’s boss’s daughter.  Here’s another one.  Gregg’s boss’s wife is best friends with one of the greeters we met at church yesterday.  The greeter is the mother-in-law of the friend that invited us to church.  Do you like how I’m not naming any names?