That was the question Shirley asked Snoot when they got home from the hospital over thirty-nine years ago with their newborn baby.
She set that bundle of baby down on the couch, looked at Snoot and asked him, “Now what do we do?”
It seemed so odd having another human in their lives. Having been married a little over two years they had gotten used to just the two of them. To make it all the more confusing, this human could not do anything! Just lie there and make funny little noises. How was she supposed to manage that?
Shirley recalls that huge moment well in her life so long ago. She says Snoot held her closely while she cried a bit, she wiped her tears, picked up that bundle of baby, and life began in earnest for that little family. That little family that grew to become five wonderful children altogether over the next ten years.
The subsequent children were far easier for Shirley. She was in her groove. Life was truly in full swing for her busy family, and she was with it every step of the way. The house was full and very busy. “Is this house ever quiet?” someone once asked Shirley. It made her laugh. “Yes! At 2 a.m. in the morning it is nice and quiet!”, she would reply.
“Are all these yours?”
“Don’t you know what causes this?”
“You do not have TV?? No wonder you have so many!”
Shirley grew used to the unsolicited remarks she would get from folks. It did not matter to her. It was her’s and Snoot’s family, not theirs. Her momma used to tell her to not mind what folks say. “Opinions are like noses, everybody has one,” she would say.
Once a lady from another country told Shirley she was a “blessed woman to have five children.” Shirley smiled and thanked her.
Days turned into weeks, weeks into months, months into years, and years into decades. This past August Shirley and Snoot gave hugs and good-byes to their just married daughter. Their last child, all grown up and now married to a fine young man.
Coming into their empty, quiet house recently, Shirley looked at Snoot. “We have come full circle. It is just you and me—
Now what do we do?”
Snoot held his teary-eyed Shirley a bit and said,”We will spend time together and have fun.”
She has the best laugh. Shirley (her MIL–mother-in-law) spends untold hours thinking of ways to make Hazel laugh. She likes to hear it that much.
She not only has a great laugh, she has a great accent. You see, dear reader, she was not born here in America. She and her family were from a far away place. Her daddy slipped she and the rest of his precious family out of their country in the dead of night for the religious freedoms this great country had to offer. Hazel was knee-high to a grasshopper when they arrived here. She was a tender young teenager. She could not speak one word of English.
Shirley says Hazel is also brave. Brave in many ways. For one, she has a never-give-up spirit. Shirley and Snoot are as proud as peacocks of their second DIL. She married Ot (Shirley’s second boy) ten years ago. Hazel, her two capable brothers, her momma, daddy and friends did all the work for her wedding. Flowers, food, decorations, music, make-up, lights, candles and hair. Snoot helped too. He peeled 20 pounds of potatoes for mashed potatoes! Way to go Snoot. It was a beautiful wedding. One interesting thing Shirley noticed that she had never seen before was that most of the guests Hazel invited wore outfits that matched the colors she had picked out for her wedding. The colors were dark green and orange. It was a beautiful sight. Hazels momma looked gorgeous.
When Hazel was new here to this country, she decided she wanted to work at the local bridal shop in the town where she and her family lived. Remember, she could speak no English. She only knew how to say, “I want a job.” Well, that was all she said to the owner of that lovely shop over and over and over again. That woman could not take anymore of that pretty, annoying, persistent teenager week after long week. Hazel was hired. And that was the grand beginning for her. She learned English in no time flat. It did not take that owner long to realize the quality of gal she had in Hazel. She flourished working at that pretty shop.
She also has a great sense of humor. One funny thing she and Shirley have fun talking about it when she and Ot (Shirley’s boy) started taking a shine to one another. Hazel was still right young. Too young for Shirley’s liking to be sure. This caused a bit of upset between the three of them. And to Shirley’s great delight, Hazel left. Ot was too young too. Shirley believes mothers have an insight into the maturation of their boys. Ot was not there yet, and goodness gracious neither was that ‘little girl!’ Then a surprising thing happened. Two years later, when Hazel was twenty years old, she came back! It was then Shirley says Ot and Hazel were meant for each other. God’s design. Hazel has a lot of fun telling Shirley how much she did not like her in the beginning. She laughs a lot harder about it than Shirley does. Bless her heart.
Not too long after that they were married. It was a beautiful wedding. We already said that. It was at Ot’s granny’s farm. Hard to believe that was over ten terrific years ago. Time sure has a way of going by, don’t it?
One of the most interesting, and special things about Hazel is her love of this country, America. It has been said, “You don’t know what you got ’till its gone.” You see, dear reader, Hazel and her family never had it. But what exactly is “It?” Freedom. Freedom of religion, freedom to pursue one’s own interests, freedom to live where one wants, build as one wants, work where one wants, and speak as one wants, marry whom one wants, to name a few. Space. Have you, dear reader, ever thought about space? Your personal space? To move about as you please, visit wherever you please, stay as long as you please? Do these things ever come into your mind?
Shirley and Snoot like to be reminded of how good they, and their family have it here in America. They know that sometimes it is easy to forget all the gifts and blessings of this free country. That is why everyone in theworld wants to come here, they remind themselves. Hazel always reminds them. She remembers what it was like to not have these precious freedoms.
Another feather in her cap is this; she is a Naturalized Citizen of these wonderful United States of America. She worked very hard to study and pass the test. She is a fine example to all of us that have desired to be a legal American. It is a gift and honor. Not to be taken lightly. Just ask Hazel how much effort it took on her part to earn this citizenship. Her entire family is proud like crazy of her.
She speaks beautiful English now. Though she still has a lovely accent in her pronunciations of some words. And to Shirley’s great delight she can get a big ‘ole laugh out of her for some of the weird ways the American language goes. Why wouldn’t it after all? America is a beautiful land of many peoples and cultures. This has been her timeless beauty since her beginning. It is something every American, regardless of when they earned their citizenship, should be proud of. We have all worked hard for it. To be an American is an honor and gift. Whether we just earned our citizenship, or have been here for generations matters little. What truly matters is that we have a clear understanding of the gift and responsibility of being an American. We stand for our country. We defend our country. We love our country. After all, no matter when we came—it is our country.
Shirley just knows this is one reason why Hazel is so happy. Because she remembers. She knows. It has made her strong, resilient, fun. Best of all, it has made
Snoot, Wanda’s father-in-law, does not give it a second thought. He thinks he is the easiest person in the world to get along with. Is there a greater father-in-law than he? Not in Snoot’s mind.
Now Shirley, Wanda’s mother-in-law ain’t quite so confident. She’s been know to say that being a MIL (mother-in-law for short) can be like walking on thin ice sometimes—-really thin ice.
Before being too hard on Shirley, dear reader, know that she don’t mean too much bad about it, per se. What she is trying to get at is that the ‘letting go’ thing mothers have to do when their sons marry can be trying at times. Really though, it is more like a ‘keep your mouth shut’ sort of thing. This is an ongoing practice for Shirley. She has often said, “I can’t get that gate shut on my mouth fast enough!”
Makes sense if you would think about it a bit. After-all, Shirley has been a momma telling her boys stuff longer than she has been a MIL. Now she has to learn to be quiet so her daughter-in-laws (DIL) can tell their husbands what to do. It is all a little amusing in Shirley’s mind. Woman have always told men what to do since the beginning of time. So now she can sit back and enjoy the change in power. Though sometimes, she admits, it is hard to let go.
The biggest worry for Shirley is the hope that her DIL’s would like her. All the MIL jokes used to be funny to her before she became one. Odd how things change isn’t it? It is wise not tell any around her, she tends to get a bit testy.
Shirley’s own MIL just recently passed away. It was a fine 42-year-long relationship. They did not do too much together, but the general feeling was friendly and easy. There were times she got a bit too pushy with Shirley and said more than she probably should have. But the sum is more important than the parts, and Shirley knew her own day was coming to walk in those slippery shoes.
And now, she is in those shoes. Man! These roles in life can sure get the best of her. So many of them: daughter, sister, friend, co-worker, wife, teacher, neighbor, aunt, grandmother, and now mother-in-law. If Shirley only had Snoot’s opinion of herself. “Well”, she reasons to herself, “There are no Father-in-law jokes to fret him”. “Are women just more difficult to get along with then men?” Shirley wonders. She recalls the comment a fellow once made about not understanding women and how we spat and such at one another. He said, “When my brothers and I got mad at each other, we’d beat each other up, then we’d be friends again”. Hmmm.
Wanda, Tanner, and their cute, little boys live close to Shirley and Snoot as previously mentioned. And this is what causes the angst. You see, Shirley wants to be a good MIL. So she must believe the lovely thank you notes Wanda sends to her about the fun they have had visiting and enjoying supper together. She has to believe it—
Because Wanda said so.
Shirley has also learned that being a good MIL takes time and practice. She knows the important role all three of her beautiful DIL’s play in forming a family unit. Dot is her very first lovely DIL, and Hazel is her second. These three, wonderful gals have worked together beautifully to create a greater family unit with everyone. It has taken time, effort, and sometimes tears, but it is beautiful.
Shirley would be remiss if she did not mention, Tina, the only daughter. That was an entirely new path too, i.e. being a sister-in-law. Tina was the only girl in the household. She had to learn to step aside also, and make room for these fine gals. “Tina,” Shirley would tell her, “it seems like life is a constant shift and wiggle, most especially when folks are involved.”
“For instance,” she continued, “if the dog was buggin’ you, you could just throw him outside for awhile. But we cannot do that with these new gals that have now become part of our family.” Tina is smart, she gets it, and she’s getting better and better.
Time is a good thing for folks. So is age. So is having children. So is taxes, thinks Shirley. After all what would Snoot have to complain about if it wasn’t for taxes? But the best thing of all is a growing family. Hard as it is to shift around to settle into another comfortable place. When the heart is in it, everyone knows. Love can be felt. Shirley always said one of the best things her good MIL taught her boy Snoot was to always think of the other person and their feelings. She did a good job of it too. Snoot has grown his own family up into an ever-larger loving group of folks.
Fact is all of these folks have worked to build their family unit. It is important to each and every one of them. When they all get together they have a fine time laughing, joking, cooking and eating together. They may not agree on everything, but they let those differences go. They focus on the fact they are family, and there is joy and pride in that. It has taken time to get to this place. Shirley thinks it was worth every bit of work, hardship and effort. She is quite sure everyone would agree with her, because she can see it, and hear it in their voices. She can also see it in their faces. They have each made it their job to build their family unit.
Shirley would say it has been worth the growing pains. She is sure everyone else would agree. She bets $10 (she is a betting sort of gal at times when she knows she will win), that her three, best-any-momma-would-ever-want DIL’s would surely say so too…
The steers have gone to a cool place. Any reader familiar with this blog knows what that means. It is the hardest day for this PFO. There is little hope this day will ever get easy. They have been processed and delivered to the buyers. Buyers who have an interest in the quality of food they eat. They know the farmer. They know the farm.
“Are they grass-fed only?” The most asked question heard from interested buyers. “No, they are not.”
Are they grass-fed only?
What many folks do not realize is that cattle have a natural fear of man. Unlike dogs, cats, and other household pets, cattle have to be taught to feel comfortable around humans. The way this works for us is with feed. As I heard a cattleman say once, “Feed keeps the cattle humble.”
Cattle have to learn to feel comfortable around humans.
What does that mean? Here it means getting close to the cattle. This is of utmost importance to this PFO. They are visually checked daily for injuries, pests, and vital signs. Is their breathing normal, eyes bright, coat healthy looking and coming on nicely for cold weather? Do they have a good appetite? Are they interested in their surroundings?
Feed allows us to get close to them.
When they are trained to come to the feed call and beating of the feed bucket, they are willing to hang around we humans. If these steers were totally grass fed, I suppose we would need re-training on how to properly care for them. Until our steers are comfortable with us, they spend all their time in the woods and graze at the farthest points in the pasture. They bolt away should we get too close.
After learning to come in when called for feeding time there is a peacefulness to the day here with all the animals. They will hang around with the horses and chickens and feel far more at ease. This is the goal for us. Is there a more bucolic scene than cattle resting in grass chewing their cud? Well, do not answer that. Suppose we are cattle folks at heart!
Training does not take too long. A couple weeks going out into the field to bring them in quickly gives way to them coming when they hear our voices calling.
Our steers get plenty of fresh air and all the grass they can eat.
It does not take them long to learn the sound of the feed bucket.
Our goal here at the farm with our hand-raised steers is to give them plenty of fresh air, a place to run, and all the green grass they can eat, along with a little feed to keep them near us for the best of the best care for them. Right now, as I write this, the steers are out lying in the wet, wet grass peacefully chewing their cud…
Feed allows us to give the steers the best of best care.
We Virginians that live here in the northern Shenandoah Valley should all be a little lighter in body weight this summer. The spring rains have yet to end in our part of the world. Looks like rain again today as well.
Looks like rain again today.
Our summer has been spent running between the raindrops, mowing and weeding the gardens between storms. And storms they have been! Torrential rains, thunder, magnificent lighting all across the skies. Flash floods, roads washed out, downed trees, broken fences from fallen limbs, and piles of cut grass have kept us occupied all summer. One would think a few pounds would surely be lost in the busyness of this yard work!
A few of we hardy gardeners have thrown in the towel on our gardens. Tomatoes are plentiful—just green, green. The crabgrass seems to be the main item happily taking over every space not even previously known to us, where does it come from? Though the field corn has faired well. There may be some fall planting, though no commitments as yet. Given the choice though, this wet weather seems better than drought. Sure wish we could give some to California.
We have had rain all summer.
We Shenandoah Valley folk take what we get as far as weather goes. Try to see the best in it, and smile at the start of another fine day, rain or not. There is always something worthy of our attention and good to do everyday.
There have been few summers that have stayed this wet with grass so lush and beautiful into August. Well, this too shall pass, as the old adage says. So, in the meantime, keep your mower blades sharp, fuel tanks full and good humor running full blast. Oh, and do not forget a good, tall glass of lemonade!
The field corn has faired well.
The old-timers say, “Make hay while the sun shines!” Well, guess what? The sun is shining right now. Time for this PFO to get out there with the weed eater!
As we old-timers say, “Make hay while the sun shines.”
Father Harry and I raised five children in an eighteen-hundred square foot home. Four of these busy little critters were boys and one sister, who is the youngest. Twenty plus years of busyness filled that simple, happy home. I was describing our ‘small’ house one day to a dear friend. She sweetly reprimanded me and said this paradigm shifting comment, “Don’t say ‘small’, say ‘intimate’ “.
What a different frame it put around my thoughts of our smaller-than-everyone else’s place. We had suddenly become a family that was no longer crowed together, but rather characterized by “close personal relations; warm friendship; warm, cozy.” How strong and wonderful words are!
This was the exact word I used when we packed the pick-up truck full of one grown son (our main driver), his sister-in-law, her three adorable children (with one still in a car seat), and this Primary Farm Operator. On the road for a 1,300+ mile trip out West to attend a family wedding. It was the first time for my sweet DIL and children to be away from their dad/husband, who could not get time off work. Uncle Gordon would have to do for the nine days.
Leaving their dad/husband was a bit rough, but we were all packed and ready to go. I have always believed everyone should make a road trip across our mighty country at least once. It is stunning, fun, and tiresome (I don’t know why Dorothy ever wanted to go back to Kansas!) Just the same, it is beautiful to drive through.
It took about 27-28 hours to drive from our farm here in Virginia to the Gordon’s, Longtime Ranch, in Green Mountain Falls, Colorado. We stopped for a quick nights rest on the west side of St. Louis. Snacks, fruit, sandwiches, books, i-pads, toys, blankets, pillows and of course a good atlas had all found a traveling space. The luggage carrier strapped in the truck bed was full.
The joy of traveling with little ones, and a momma that have not experienced a cross-country trip made it all the more fun. Crossing the Ohio, Mighty Mississippi, and Missouri Rivers were thrilling. Passing through towns that look so different in form and feature from our own filled us with wonder. How amazingly different our country is!
My twinster and her family went beyond the call to make us feel comfortable and welcomed. Even with the amount of work at their ranch for their daughter’s wedding, they had time for us. It was truly a blessing from start to finish.
Perhaps this little blog post will give you the notion that traveling with family can be done. It surely was well worth it!