Saturday, June 25, 2016

I'm too soft for this...

When I was a child, my father's parents kept a fair amount of animals like chickens, ducks, geese, and am occasional goat. They grew a substantial amount of their food. My mother's parents never had animals but they had a very large garden and grew enough food to feed an army. They were and are the people chasing others down to give them vegetables. They liked growing their own food so much that they felt the need to grow more than they could possibly eat. While they didn't keep animals, my grandfather was an avid hunter and fisherman and our freezer was always full of game and fish. We lived in the city and my mother only did container gardening but we spent a lot of time in the garden working for my grandparents when we visited. I can't say that anyone in my extended family thought of themselves as mini-homesteaders. They just liked what they were doing. It wasn't political. It was about enjoying the process.

I am not a gardener. I like having the garden available to me when I want to make a salad or I have the hankering to grill zucchini but I am just as happy buying it from someone else. I just hate gardening. Like a lot. I don't like digging in the soil or starting seeds or weeding. I just don't enjoy it. I know there are a lot of people who do and I cannot figure out what they like about it so much but I am pretty glad they share their bounty with us. Homegrown is pretty darn good; especially tomatoes.

I am also not a pet person. I like the idea of pets more than the pets. Actually, I am not sure I like the idea of them. Well. Maybe cats. They are low maintenance. Except our cat. He is pretty darn needy the way he likes to crawl into bed with us all but since he kills mice, shrews, and spiders, I can deal. Well, and the dog keeps the bears and coyotes away, albeit with a few injuries. She can stay. I can deal with her, too.

The photo above is one I took from behind the farmhouse here and it looks down towards the edge of the woods. If you keep going in that direction, through the woods, you will run right into the edge of Lake Superior. There is a lot of space. If I stand in the hayloft and look out the window, there is only so far that I can see because the woods block my view.The farm covers, quite literally, all I can see and then some. I went from living by the train station and a quick ride into downtown to living on a farm with more land than I can see from the hayloft. I am pretty soft. Too soft for this.

But I think that's okay. I think we all start off soft, no matter what, and maybe we stay soft. We took a frightening gamble and Ben quite his big city job and we sold our large comfortable house with the kitchen we renovated to be my ideal (*sniff*) and we moved to the family homestead and we were two soft for it. In fact I was just telling Ben this very thing. But I think I misspoke. I think we used to be too soft for this. We aren't super hearty like our neighbors who have lived out here their whole lives for generations and generations but, we are still alive and so are most of the animals.

We have taught the children how to cope with loss by loving them through a bitter period of caring for a calf that was born with neurological issues. We fed him, and stroked his head, set him in our laps, and took turns with him. We invested everything we could and then watched him die anyway but how to still invest in the next one that comes along. That toughens you up.

Jack got ducks and cared for them every single day until we processed them and had them for Nativity. He compassionately cared for these animals, knowing that they were food, He proudly served roast duck and the risotto I made with the stock from the bones. That also toughens you up.

As a family have harvested apple and sold them by the hundred pound lots for canning, gotten up in the dark to trek out to the barn to milk cows, chased cows and lambs back in from the orchard and gardens when they have gotten lose and helped themselves, and we have even (twice in the last week) gone out and roped a cow so that we could tie them up and pull porcupine quills from their muzzles. The kids have shown produce at the fair. I have made more butter and varieties of cheese than I ever thought I would learn to make. We have found ourselves needing help and advice more times than I can count and, most importantly, found neighbors willing to dive in and help. We have given away homemade cheese, butter, bread, jellies, dried apples, home canned pie cherries, plum syrup, and other thing in a delicious barter arrangement with others.

I think we are still soft. We are still tired. We are still overwhelmed at times. The real measure is that we keep waking up and doing it. Maybe it isn't about how feel at the beginning, but what we have finished in the end. Maybe it is isn't about the process but about the end. That even when we don't enjoy the process, at the end we have not only accomplished something, achieved something, we overcome the greatest of stumbling blocks: ourselves.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Review of "When My Baba Died"...

We often don't know how to think about death let alone how to talk about it. Death is difficult subject for adults to grapple with and when we talk to children about it, we often do it badly. I have been incredible grateful for the funeral directors who have helped out family through death by just holding our hands and telling us what to do and where to stand. I think we often are so consumed that we forget what we should know so well and we need to rely on others.

Because the author of When My Baba Died (Marjorie Kunch) is both a mother and a mortician, she understands both sides of this grief. Despite having guided many, many families through the process of grieving and burying loved ones, she did not realize the need for something more lasting and more concrete until dealing with a death in her own family. This book was born out of her vocation as a certified funeral celebrant as much as it was out of her own grief. The picture book serves as a primary text explaining the entire process of an Orthodox Christian burial and the mourning and even discusses how any individual child might feel as they approach the services. Most of the elements of the services are shown using photographs that have been altered to resemble paintings and as such they lack detail. In this way, the larger details such as the liturgical items used in the services become more important than the smaller details, such as what each person in the photo actually looks like. It really is a practical, step by step process made very clear in an approachable way.

I think that reading this book would probably also be as helpful for parents as the children. It can serve to remind us of the deeper meanings behind what we are doing and not just going through the motions out of a stunned sense of taking orders. Sitting down and reading it with our children would remind us to draw out of ourselves and turn towards them. I know that when my father died two years ago, I had to struggle to do that. I really was grateful for a baby who needed me constantly so I didn't hide in my own grief. The primary text is approachable even to toddlers and could be read in pieces, a service at a time. The workbook is for older children who are comfortable with reading and spelling and more complex language skills such as word searches It perhaps might be more useful for some older children who might not want to talk to us directly but would rather privately reflect on these things. The workbook specifically reminds the child to talk to the priest and to parents to sort out their feelings and thoughts on these things.

I think this book and workbook are an excellent resource for Orthodox Christian parents and that you should buy them even if you think you have no immediate need of them. Death often comes as a surprise and being prepared to talk about might make the whole process easier. I know that while we had advance warning that my father was dying, my husband's father died suddenly and with no warning and we were completely unprepared for what it meant and what to do. I'm not being morbid here but rather, honest. I think we need to remember that death is a part of life, At some point you will need them and if you buy them, then you will already have them.

The book is available from many retailers; you can find the list on the Pascha Press site. The hardcover primary text retails for $25.99 and the softcover for $15.99. The workbook is softcover and retails for $10.99. Even if you don't think that you need them now, it would be a good idea to buy both the text and the workbook and put them away for the day that you do need them. Waiting for them to be delivered while you are reeling from a death would be excruciating. 

I received a hardcover text and a workbook for review purposes from the author with no obligation to review nor to receive a positive review. I do not charge for reviews and I was not and will not be otherwise compensated. My thoughts and opinions are honest and are my own and do not necessarily reflect those of the author and publisher. You can read all posts with reviews by clicking HERE.