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When I Am Old

Last week, Husband and I went to visit our neighbor on her 77th birthday. We took her a dozen fresh eggs from our chickens and a frozen rabbit. She and her husband enjoy talking, and they are really funny, so we sat in their living room and chatted for a while.

Mr. and Mrs. Neighbor have one daughter and two grandchildren, plus Mrs. Neighbor has several siblings who have children and grandchildren, and her family seems very close, both emotionally and geographically. Mrs. Neighbor talks about her nieces and nephews a lot, and she has a table full of their pictures. In the half hour or so that Husband and I sat there with them, the phone rang three times; her family members were calling to wish her a happy birthday. Mr. Neighbor told us, “That phone has been ringing all day. Started at 7:30 this morning.”

Mrs. Neighbor assured us that her family calls him on his birthday, too. Most of his family isn’t around anymore, but her family has adopted him, he says, and they seemed so happy to have all these people in their lives. They call, they visit, they go out to dinner with Mr. and Mrs. Neighbor.

And it made me wonder, when I am old, will anyone come to visit me? Husband and I have 19 nieces and nephews, but we haven’t been as involved in their lives as perhaps we could be. His are nearby, but mine are not, and even for the ones who live locally, it’s hard to get to every birthday party or soccer game or cross country meet or dance recital or play. And the ones who live an hour or more away, we see only a few times a year at the most. I know I’m not the perfect aunt. I get overwhelmed easily when there are a lot of people or there is a lot of noise. I have my own huge list of things to do, and sometimes the activities of the nieces and nephews must become lower priorities.

Do they know they are important to us? Do they know that when they are sick, I wish I could be there to bring chicken soup and cold washcloths, even though I know I’m not the one they want? Do they know about the days and years I’ve spent trying to live vicariously through their mothers? Do they know I wish I could be a confidante and friend? Do they know I have always wanted to be the favorite aunt, but grieve that I haven’t been able to be there with them as much as I’d like?

And in ten or twenty or thirty years, will they remember? Will they care?

When I am old, will anyone call me on my birthday?

First Things First

Last week, Husband went to get a building permit so he can begin work on the new house. I thought this seemed premature because we aren’t really financially ready yet and because I thought building permits expired after a certain period of time, but Husband said as long as you keep working on the construction, the building permit is good.

So he went to get the building permit. And the building commissioner liked the house plan and said it didn’t seem too difficult for Husband to do on his own (we won’t be hiring a contractor or builder), and that we don’t have to hire a licensed plumber or electrician. He said he doesn’t care who does the work, as long as it’s up to code; he’ll inspect it when it’s done.

The other thing the building commissioner said was that before he issued a building permit, Husband should talk to the septic people to figure out where our septic tank is. We figured it was probably in the front yard somewhere, but we had no idea where. They always tell you to look for the lines where the grass is greener, but we’ve been looking for a year and haven’t seen anything like that. And the clean-out had to have been buried because we couldn’t find that either. The commissioner said if we got the building permit and started work but didn’t have the septic stuff figured out, the county would probably issue a stop work order and that sounded like a big mess.

So then Husband called the septic people. They came and looked and couldn’t find anything, so they had to remove the toilet and stick a camera down the pipe. Crazy. And it turns out, the tank isn’t in the front yard at all. It’s in the back, apparently between two maple trees.

Which, of course, means it’s all full of roots. And it needs to be pumped out. And it’s only good for about another five years.

I guess that gives us a rough deadline for getting the new house built!

So, the septic people will come out and clean out the tank sometime next week. Then we need to get a septic permit so that we can get a new septic system installed for the new house. The septic people (I’m sure they have a more official name) said to install all the plumbing and the pipe to the new house first, and put in the actual tank last. That’s because all the heavy equipment will compact the soil, and you don’t want to compact the soil on top of the septic tank. If you put the tank in last, that won’t happen.

So, we thought we’d get a building permit last week, but it turned out we had to do three other things first.

When all that’s done, we’ll get a building permit.

Then things will feel all official-like!


The last weekend of October I went with my mother-in-law to a writing conference at Anderson University.  I had told her over the summer that I was finally ready to invest in my writing again.  She registered me for the Indiana Faith and Writing Conference for my birthday.

I attended with trepidation.  I’d never been to a writing conference before.  What would it be like?

There were five session times, with several options to choose from for each session, plus a a 15-minute one-on-one consultation with one of the conference speakers.  I had to miss the first session because my consultation was right in the middle of it, but that was okay.  I met with Alex Marestaing.  I picked him because the ideas I’ve had lately in my head have been stories for a middle grade audience, and Alex writes middle grade and young adult fiction.  I admit I was intimidated; I feel like I’m at the very beginning of this writing stuff, especially when it comes to fiction.  (I’ve always felt my strong suit was essays.  Not so much with stories.)  I told him I had a couple of short story ideas, but since there’s little market for middle grade short stories, I asked how to turn my ideas into a novel.  He suggested focusing on the characters.  He read a little of what I had during the consultation — even took it with him overnight! — and said my writing is good.  (Yay!)  He scribbled a few notes on the manuscript, and I got the idea to combine the characters I’d had in two different stories to make them into one person.

I ended up attending four sessions.  One was unimpressive, one was okay, and two were great.

Angela Jackson-Brown spoke about how to write characters who are nothing like you.  She stressed the importance of writing emotion.  You as a writer may not have experienced the same things your character has, but you’ve experienced the same emotions.  You may not have ever given birth, she said, but you’ve experienced pain, hope, love, fear, anticipation — all the things that go along with childbirth.  She emphasized the importance of making characters multi-dimensional.  If your character is evil, what’s good about him?  If your character is good, what’s evil about him?

Alex Marestaing spoke about how to succeed in the middle grade and young adult market.  (And he revealed that — thank goodness — the dystopia trend is fading.)  One thing that really stuck with me was that he said that kids so need hope in what they read.  They don’t believe in love because they’re living in a time of the highest divorce rates in history.  They don’t believe in politics because they see just a bunch of jibber jabber on late night talk shows.  They don’t believe in the future because adults are constantly talking about how bad the world is getting and how everything’s going downhill and how it’s probably the end times.  And they don’t believe in God because they see the media showing Christians as hypocritical and closed-minded.  Kids need to find hope somewhere.  Maybe it can be in what they read.

Maybe I can actually do that.

Both Alex Marestaing and Gloria Gaither, the Keynote speaker, spoke about kids’ music and what it tells us.  Two recently popular songs speak to how lost kids are.

Echosmith wrote, “I wish that I could be like the cool kids, ’cause all the cool kids, they seem to fit in.  I wish that I could be like the cool kids.”

Fun wrote, “Oh, Lord, I’m still not sure what I stand for.  What do I stand for?  What do I stand for?  Most nights, I don’t know.”

If this is what kids are really feeling — and I have no doubt that it is — they truly do need the hope that Jesus gives.

The most striking comments I heard from the speakers at the conference are here:

Put into words that which cannot be put into words.

Revise your idea of important.

Let your work be your testimony.

What comes to the surface are the things that are moving in the deepest currents in your life and in your heart.

Look beyond.  Look deep.

This isn’t about us.  It’s bigger than this.  Ideas matter.  You matter.  That’s why God gives us ideas.

Light up the dark!  Write to give hope.

And all of that is a preface to say this:  I’m working on a novel.  That is a sentence I never thought I would write.  But I’m doing it.  I’m taking a series of vignettes I started writing this summer and combining some of those ideas with a short story I wrote when I assigned my honors English students to write one of their own.  I’m working on developing the characters, embellishing the plot, and giving glimmers of hope in the story.

I’m doing it.  But if I don’t tell people I’m doing it, I’ll find it much too easy to put it aside, hide it in a drawer, and never pull it out again, telling myself it’s something I’ll do someday… until someday comes and I say, “I thought about doing that once.”

I know it will be a long process.  I’ve no idea when I’ll finish, but at least I’ve started.  And I’m telling you, so you can hold me accountable.

I’m writing a novel.

Form, Function, and Finances

Our mowers, our snowblower, and our tiller live under a tarp.  There is no room under roof to house them.  The big barn is consumed by Husband’s business, and the small barn contains the rabbits, the extra freezer, and our manual tools.

As Husband develops a plan to build our house, he has many tools in mind.  But when even the equipment we have must remain outdoors all winter, where are we to store additional items?

A barn!  A barn!  My kingdom for a barn!

Okay, I don’t have a kingdom.  And if I did, I doubt I’d give it up for a barn.


The rabbit barn floods in the spring, when the snow melts and the rains fall.  The plan then, is to build a larger barn on higher ground, and take down the rabbit barn.  (We wouldn’t mind keeping it, but building codes dictate a maximum of two outbuildings.)

I love the look of a barn with a gambrel roof.  It is what the rabbit barn has, and I find it a pleasing design.  It seems that’s what a barn ought to look like.  So, I said I wanted something like this:

image from

But Husband found that gambrel roof barns cost about 30 percent more than barns with regular roofs.  And the cost was a lot higher than I expected, having never built a barn before.  I considered lowering my expectations and getting a barn without the classic gambrel roof.  Something like this:

image from

But the more we thought about it, the more we realized that if we spent money on a barn, it would be just that much longer before we were able to make our house a reality.

Because this is too tiny to live in:

house modelAn agreement was made.  For now, we’ll get a temporary shelter for the equipment.  Something like this:

(Except without the car, of course.)

And for the new tools and for work space while husband labors on the house we’ll also get something like this:

It’s not as pretty, but it’s much more economical, and that will allow us to get started on the house sooner.

Someday, we’ll build a pretty barn.  But today, finances win.

Planning a Transformation


Y’all remember our gross pool?


With all the thistles in the summer?

Well, we hope to do something about that next spring and summer.  Our hope is to cover the pool with a deck or something.  We’re not sure we want to fill it in, because someday we may want to use it.  But right now, it’s all just an eyesore.

If we cover it, the area becomes usable space for chairs or tables.  We’d like to take down the fence and get rid of all the weeds.


We’ve got a chicken yard on one side of the poultry barn, and we’ll probably add another on the other side as we increase our flock.  So part of the north side of the fence may remain as part of the chicken fence.  But we’re hoping the rest will come down; it would really open up the sight-lines on the property.

Maybe someday we’ll have a pool.  But for now, we’d like to enjoy as much of our property as we can.

These days

These days, I hate running.  Or at least, I hate the idea of running.  The feet pounding on the pavement, the slow pace at which the scenery changes.  I used to love this.  And if I go out and just do it, it’s okay.  But it does not beckon my like it used to.

A shiny new birthday bike sits on the back porch, promising speed and wind in my hair.  Riding it provides things running cannot:  legs pumping, but providing a smooth experience; the click of gears shifting into place, my legs work a little harder, a little easier.  No longer am I bound to a mere three miles of scenery.  Now, my limits are doubled, tripled.  I can rid out of my neighborhood.  I can view distant vistas!

These days, the running shoes sit forlornly in the closet, but the bicycle gets a lot of use.

Autumn on the Little Farm

Well, howdy.

It’s been a while.

School started and swept me away from pretty much everything else. I’ve been busy, but I’ll let you know what’s been happening.

The chickens are getting big! We’re getting about three eggs a day, though at least one of those eggs is still very small – more like a quail egg than a chicken egg. But we’re just about to the point where supply is keeping up with demand. Now that the days are shorter, we need to get a light with a timer inside the chicken house so that the girls will keep laying through the winter. (If we’re feeding them, we expect them to keep feeding us!)


We currently have five rabbits: Bear, a buck who is getting old and may be just about past his usefulness; Brownie, a young buck whom we hope is virile; Licorice, an older doe who seems a bit lethargic lately, but who is still a good mother; and Fawn and Chocolate Chip, two young does whom we hope to breed as soon as they are old enough. Licorice is due late next week, and we’re hoping for a good litter of kits.

Our front yard, which I have taken to calling the meadow, never got mowed this year. (Last year, someone came and mowed it for the hay.) We’ve been lamenting how all that grass is just going to waste because we didn’t have a way to bale it. And then my amazing husband went to YouTube University and built his own baler! Now we can mow the meadow and bale it for use for the chickens and rabbits. It’s late in the season this year, but we’ve managed to get about half a dozen bales made. Next year, I’ll mow it earlier and we’ll bale a lot more. (In fact, we may be able to get two cuttings out of it if I plan it well.)


Husband is planning the house building project. He made a model of the house and he’s scouting out trees in the woods to fell and cut for timber. He’s looking at attending an advanced timber framing workshop in June (he attended the basic workshop this past June). The internet browser is crowded with tabs of various tools he wants.

house model

Autumn on the little farm is lovely. The woods is just beginning to turn orange and the dry leaves rustle in the wind. Days are warm, but nights are chilly and cozy under the blankets. I spent part of today collecting kindling from the yard so we’ll have plenty for our fires this winter.

I’ve put away the summer clothes and pulled out fall and winter gear. We’re keeping wood stacked close to the house, and in all ways getting ready for the cold weather. I hope we’ll be able to keep ourselves and our animals snug in the coming months.


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