How Then Shall We Live (Completed)
Posted 01 June 2008 - 09:03 PM
“Mom!” I was just finishing hanging the last of the clothes on the line when my oldest son called me waving the cell phone in his hand. “It’s Dad!”
I acknowledged with a wave of my hand and started toward him as he sprinted toward me. He handed the phone off to me and took off running at break neck speed toward and around the pond with our Border Collie in hot pursuit. Jedediah loved to run and really loved being chased, Patches was more than willing to accommodate. I stared for a moment, thinking how wonderful it would be to have that energy.
“Tessie?” Hank’s voice reminded me that I had the phone to my ear, even though I had forgotten to say hello. Hank rarely called, not being much of a phone talker. I knew he must have something to say that I needed to hear. I closed my eyes momentarily to give him my undivided attention. It was hard to do that with 7 children under foot.
“Hi, Babe!” I responded cheerfully and a little breathlessly from the exercise of hanging king sized sheets on the lines to dry. I adjusted the straw hat on my head and looked to see where I had sat my bottle of water. I spied it near one of the lawn chairs under the shady Bradford pear tree. I glanced up to make sure my two youngest children were still in the play yard and saw them trying to out swing each other. I smiled, I liked being a little Momma Hen, it made me happy.
“Tessie! Did you hear me?” Guiltily I turned my attention back to Hank’s words.
“Sorry, I got distracted, but I’m listening now.” The tone of Hank’s voice had piqued my curiosity.
“They’re talking about some big changes here at work. Due to the economy and the gas shortage they are talking about reducing hours significantly, maybe to two or three days a week.”
“And the pay?” Having Hank home more would be a blessing, but having less check would be a strain.
“The pay would be adjusted accordingly.” I could hear the strain he was feeling as he spoke. “It looks like our department is going to alternate between the team members. It will work out to two days one week and three the next.” Hank paused to let this sink in before he continued. “That will mean half of our income disappearing, half of it Tessie.”
I pushed back the straw hat and wiped my brow free of the sweat beads that had nothing to do with the warm Spring Day we were enjoying. Tears stung my eyes even though I willed them not to. I tried to gather my wits and my words, determined not to panic.
“Tessie, are you still there?” I knew he was waiting for me to assure him, to say something.
“I’m here. I was just thinking about what you said, trying to process what this is going to mean for our family.” My voice sounded normal, not revealing the jittery feeling in the pit of my stomach.
“There’s some other news too, you’re going to want to hear.”
I raised my eyebrows and widened my eyes, not sure if I wanted to hear any more “news” right now or not.
“What’s that?” I asked hesitantly.
“Well, two things really. As we have suspected might happen, they are going to start rationing gas. It’s going into effect tonight at midnight. No more gasoline will be sold without vouchers after that time.”
“You’ve got to be kidding! People don’t even have any vouchers, how can they do that? That’s the craziest thing I’ve ever heard. You have to have a voucher to buy gas but, oh we haven’t given you any vouchers.”
Now, I was standing and pacing and letting my frustration take full reign.
“The experts said that they had to do it this way to keep people from hoarding. They said if they had given several days or a week’s notice people would have rushed out and overbought making the shortage worse.” Hank paused before dropping the next bombshell. “I told you there were two things. Wait until you hear this. The news channels are focusing on how this new voucher system will effect the retailers. Tessie, there’s fixing to be a serious food shortage. And what they are able to bring in, will be priced so high that it will be unattainable to most people.”
I flopped down in the chair again, suddenly subdued. I silently whispered a prayer. This was going to devastate our society, this was serious and would not be easily fixed. Rarely was I speechless, but this was one of those rare moments. I honestly did not know what to say.
“I know this is a lot to take in at once. I’m sorry that I couldn’t be there to talk about it in person. But, I wanted you to know right away. And, Tessie, we need to think about what to do. I can make any stops or run any errands that you want me to on the way home. This being Friday, we’ll try not to leave the house again and conserve our gas until Monday. That’s when they said they’ll announce how to pick up the vouchers for the gasoline rationing.”
“Friday, that’s right, I was just telling the kids that it was Friday the 13th.” I absentmindedly began to fan myself with the straw hat, almost in a daze. My youngest daughter was tapping me on the shoulder and I looked up to see her outstretched hand full of flowering weeds. I smiled and put my finger to my lips to let her know I needed her to be quiet. I mouthed thank you and she skipped merrily on her way. Little Emily had changed so much since she had first joined our family almost a year ago. It was hard to believe she was the same child, her whole demeanor was different.
When she and her sister that was just one year older had arrived, they were bold, angry, resentful and hurt. But of course we had seen that before. We had been fostering for over a decade. With the finalization of their adoption, our days of fostering were concluded. Seven children, five of them boys, were enough, more than enough for any mommy and daddy!
Seven children, seven children to feed and raise and take care of. Seven children that had been gifts from God and placed in our hands and lives. Seven children to raise in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. It was a big responsibility, an enormous responsibility. Suddenly, my mommy instincts were aroused, I sat up straight and quickly gathered myself and my thoughts.
“Okay, here’s the plan…” For at least ten minutes I rattled off suggestions and gave lists to Hank. He took notes, made comments and added his own ideas to my own. I felt better, we had a plan….and I always was happier with a plan. I always said to fail to plan was to plan to fail. I had no intention of failing.
After hanging up with Hank I called Jedediah and my other big boy, Stephen, who was less than a year younger, over to me. At 13 and almost 13, they were an enormous help to me, in the best of times. Now, it what was about to be the worst of times, they would surely be worth more than their weight in gold. Jedediah stopped his raucous racing and running with Patches and slid to a quick stop by my side. Stephen called from his favorite spot by the pond, fishing rod in hand, “Coming Mom.”
“Some big changes are happening boys, and we’re going to need to take care of some things. I’m going to need your help. Can I count on you?” The question was redundant of course, I knew full well how loyal they were, how devoted to the family, to our family that had been forged in love. But, still, it warmed my heart to see them each pull themselves up to their full height, raise their chins to the challenge and say so.
“You can count on us!” Their sincerity was evident. Jedediah knew what it meant to be without a family, having floated in the foster care system for 8 years before discovering us, his forever family. Stephen had never known anything except us, straight from the hospital. They were growing into such fine young men.
“We’ll have a family meeting when Dad gets home, but right now here’s what we need to do.” They both listened carefully as I outlined what needed to be accomplished. The phone I was still holding in my hand began to chirrup and interrupted our discourse. It was Hank again.
“Slight change of plans,” he explained, “They’re letting us all leave early, as they figured we’d all go anyway. They know we want our chance to top off tanks and fill containers before the rationing begins.”
I nodded as I listened. The boys stood silently, seeming to understand this was more news and important for me to hear. Hank went on to explain that he would call me at the top of every hour to check in, but not to worry, he hoped to be home before dark. I hoped he would be able to accomplish all the things we had agreed he would try to do. Getting off mid day was a big benefit, I whispered a prayer of thanksgiving.
Jedediah, Stephen and I divided the remaining children into teams. Jedediah was teamed up with 9 yr old Daniel, Stephen had the little boys. Samuel was 5 and little James had just turned 4. They wouldn’t be much help, but just knowing they were safe with Stephen while he tackled his tasks, would mean a whole lot. The girls were to be in my charge. They still didn’t take kindly to the boys trying to “boss them”. A sibling squabble was the last thing that I needed right now.
Jedediah and Daniel went to the van and checked the tub that sat in the very back with emergency supplies. Jedediah knew where the list was inside of it and he was to do an inventory to make sure everything was still there. Although I didn’t plan to leave out right away, when the van was taken out, I wanted to make sure all was in order for when they did. It was always in there but, sometimes it was raided by curious little hands looking for a piece of hard candy or a quick band aid.
Stephen took the two little ones in the garage. He gave them brooms to keep them busy and then began to inventory the gasoline containers. We’d been trying to keep them full, but naturally they had been used some also. He also was to write down the number of bottles of Stabil we had. Finally he was to check on the kerosene supply. When Hank finally arrived, he would have all the information he needed about our gas supplies. Of course this should have already been done, it was on that infinite “need to do list”.
When Jedediah and Daniel had completed the updating of the Emergency Tub they came to find me. The girls and I were in the pantry checking our supplies, getting ready to provide Hank with a list of anything I might want from the grocery store. Not only were supplies going to be limited soon, but we wanted to make as much use of the gasoline that the trip into town would require. Next I would be taking a careful inventory of my medicine cabinet, both prescribed and over the counter. I usually had things in pretty good order when it came to first aid, but still, I wanted to check for sure.
“Mom, we need to add a couple of things to the emergency kit.” Jedediah reported. “Someone got into the wipes and didn’t seal them back, now they’re dried up and I couldn’t see any of the granola bars you usually keep in there either.”
I nodded appreciatively. “I’m glad you noticed, I took the others out to replace with fresher ones and forgot. You know where the wipes are, get those and I’ll get the granola bars along with some other food items. You and dad may be gone a long time or get delayed, so I want to pack a sort of picnic meal.”
About that time Stephen arrived, little ones in tow. “Hey Mom, I did what you asked and everything is organized and ready for dad to check out. These little stinkers and I also did a count on the animal grains. While Dad is out he may want to go ahead and get some of that.”
Samuel held up a piece of paper to illustrate his findings. He had drawn a picture of a rabbit. “We need rabbit food he announced proudly.” I stooped down and gave him a big hug. “My little artist! What a smart boy, thank you very much for the report!”
Posted 02 June 2008 - 10:31 AM
Hank arrived home around his normal time, even though he had left hours early. He had managed to accomplish all the things on his list, plus had also stopped by the feed store after I had called and told him about the rabbit food. While there he went ahead and bought up extra for all of the animals. It cost a bit, but that would be one thing accomplished and would last a good while if properly used.
He had been to the bank, this was a pretty big decision for us to make. Before he left work he had transferred the money from our emergency savings account into the checking account. He then withdrew some of it in cash to bring home and store safely in our fireproof lock box. He had also stopped by the pharmacy and picked up some prescriptions and a few extra items I wanted to get for my first aid kit. His most important stop was to buy and then fill up as many gas containers as he could. Before heading to the gas station he stopped and bought half a dozen gas cans at the local “everything” mart.
Apparently the mass of the population were concentrating on filling up vehicles and not thinking about gas containers at this point. He had waited about half an hour for his turn at the pumps. The attendant at the station said that they had been instructed to limiting purchases to vehicles only, but when Hank told him he was buying for the family van also the guy relented. Hank hoped it wouldn’t cause the guy any problems and expressed his thanks with a firm handshake.
That had only left the grocery store. He had stocked up on all the things I had suggested plus more that caught his eye. We didn’t want to have to go out until we found out about how the gasoline vouchers would be distributed, and there was no way to know what kind of restrictions would be in place for food by that time. So, we were fine on milk and butter and other perishables, for now at least.
With everything he had accomplished we felt a bit better, thinking we had done what we could for the moment. Later we would sit down and have a serious talk about budget matters. But for now, we decided to grill some hot dogs, watch a family movie and try to de-stress. I could feel a major headache coming on.
About half way through the movie I slipped upstairs to my computer and checked the most recent news. It was everywhere, there was no other news, only the planned gas rationing to be in effect at midnight. There were on scene reports of people in line for miles, tempers were flaring and there was anticipated near riots when the pumps would close as ordered. I called Hank up to read the reports and whispered a prayer of thanksgiving that we were not in the mess out there.
“I’m sorry that you’re losing pay Hank, but in these times, I’ve got to admit, I’m going to be so glad to have you here more.” Hank squeezed my shoulders and turned me to face him.
“I’m truly worried Tessie. I just don’t see how we can make it. We were barely able to set aside savings before, how can we do this?” The worried look in his eyes pained my heart, I didn’t want him to be overburdened with concern.
“Hank, as soon as the children are in bed, let’s sit down, pray and have a hard look at just exactly where we stand financially. I know it won’t be pleasant, but we’ll rest better after knowing just what’s what, don’t you think?” He nodded his agreement and we headed back downstairs hand in hand to join our children, to relish this carefree time together. Such times may indeed become a rare commodity in the near future.
Once the children were in bed we sat down with pen and paper, a calculator and our Bible. We read the Proverbs for the day. Proverbs 13:16 “Wise people think before they act…”.
“Well, that pretty much sums it up.” Hank remarked solemnly. “We surely do need to think before we act. No random purchasing, no unplanned spending.”
I agreed wholeheartedly. After a prayer for guidance and wisdom, we delved in to assess the situation. We had not put a lot of money in savings, with seven kids, that really wasn’t an option. But we did have just enough for three house payments and three truck payments. We had actually worked hard to do that much. With Hank’s salary being cut in half we decided to apply half of it towards the house, the truck and utilities while living on the other half. It wasn’t going to be a breeze, but we could make it work. We couldn’t go on forever like that, but we could make it to the end of the year, hopefully. By that time, maybe things would be back to normal.
Now, that I was looking at the figure I had to work with, I sat quietly trying to think how I could make it stretch amply. Well, for one thing we could eat more beans. A year ago I had started working dried beans into our menu more regularly. At first the kids had protested it a bit, but then they began to accept it and I became more creative with the dishes I fixed from them. I’d now increase them to twice a week and possibly three times a week after a few months. Biscuits and bread and dumplings and rice, those were good ways to fill up growing youngsters. Thankfully the garden was going pretty well but now I was wishing it was much bigger.
“Hank, I know it’s later than we would usually plant, but don’t you think we could expand the garden a bit? Maybe some more tomatoes and watermelons?”
“I don’t see the harm in trying. It sure would be great help if we could get it to work. There’s another thing, Tessie. I know you’re not going to like to hear this as they are more your pets than anything. But, we need to consider using the chickens as a meat source.” He watched me as I responded.
“Hank, I’m not going to let my children starve over a pet chicken, but they do produce eggs you know?” I went on. “How about this? You know that place up the road, about a mile or so? Why don’t you check with him and see if he’ll part with a few and you can butcher them. In the mean time, I’ll get a hen started setting and we’ll hatch a few of our eggs to raise for meat. Naturally I would want to butcher the nameless chickens first.” Hank listened attentively.
“I think that’s a workable plan. I’ll check with that place, I never met the man, but I know he has several chicken houses. Our hens are good layers and those eggs are sure going to come in handy in the days to come."
Posted 03 June 2008 - 08:48 AM
The next morning started like any other morning. Coffee, a morning walk that included some earnest prayer time, waking the boys to attend to the animals, letting Hank sleep a little late, starting breakfast – I opted for a big pan of biscuits and a moderate pan of our fresh eggs. It was nothing for me to cook a couple of dozen for a weekend breakfast, but I decided to be a bit conservative. For the nine of us, just a dozen eggs this time. Now that I was putting my mind to it I could see many ways that we were frivolous in our eating habits. I also planned to limit the milk to one cup each this morning and could imagine the reaction from one of my boys already who could easily down 3 glasses at a sit down breakfast.
To be fair to the children, I suggested to Hank the night before that we have a family meeting. We could bring them into the plan so that they might more readily accept the cut backs without complaint. We could tell them enough to get their attention without scaring them to death.
So, immediately after breakfast, we had a family meeting. This was no strange thing to the kids, we did this on a regular basis. When all was said and done, no one seemed distressed at all. As a matter of fact, they were all smiles. To them, having Daddy at home more was worth more than any of the new limits we might have. I was encouraged by their resilience and it seemed Hank’s steps were a little more confidant and light as well.
Hank took Jedediah and Stephen and they hiked to the neighbor that had chickens, hoping to catch him at home. They did, and he was glad to see them. He said that he was going to be running short on his feeds and his workers weren’t able to come in until the gas matter got settled. He offered Hank and the boys a job right on the spot! It was the first miracle of many that we would see as our old way of life began to pass away and make room for this new way of doing things.
The arrangement was made that Hank and the boys would walk over every evening and help the man with chores. Hank chose the evening because of the days he would be driving into work. For payment, they would get chickens and eggs. This worked well for everyone. Hank and the boys had the manpower he needed, he had the chickens and eggs we needed. The man and his wife would do the egg collecting in the mornings and leave most of the manual work for when his new help would arrive.
While there, they went ahead and helped with some things that needed doing. The man’s name was Avery Wilson. Mr. Wilson and his wife lived there alone and had raised chickens for over three decades. What had started as a backyard flock had developed into a profitable business. As Hank and he talked and got to know each other a bit better, Mr. Wilson decided to assist with the butchering of 14 hens in advance payment for the next two weeks. This was Hank’s agreed pay scale for about an hour of choring per day. The boys would earn a dozen eggs each day that they worked.
So, it became the norm for my men to leave every evening after supper, walk just a little over a mile up the road and give a helping hand to a neighbor for chickens and eggs. That first night, they butchered and returned with the hens ready to cook or freeze. For transporting, they took the little ones wagon. The boys were thrilled with their first real jobs, even if it did pay in eggs, instead of money.
I was astounded that the man was willing to “pay” in advance. But Hank explained that this also saved feed, those chickens wouldn’t have to be fed, he had said with a twinkle in his eye. I grinned and agreed.
We didn’t know how long this arrangement would last. Mr. Wilson had hundreds of chickens. But his workers could return, or transportation for taking the chickens and eggs to market could be made. When Mrs. Wilson heard of my quest to hatch some eggs, she kindly gave me a head start. She had several clutches ready to set and while they relied on incubators for most of that, she actually loaned me a hen that had gone broody. I was tickled and now, the younger ones were in on the “chicken project”.
The rest of the weekend went by quickly. Hank and the boys worked converting the little wagon to something we could train our two goats to pull. This was something that I had wanted to do for some time and we had already been looking into. The two little wethers were at just the right age to train, and now with the gas situation, the idea had even more merit.
News continued to be broadcast concerning the new gasoline voucher system and the response of the American people. On Monday morning the distribution would begin. Locations were designated and listed on the government site that handled them. Ours was not convenient. Although we lived only 4 miles from the Town Hall of the little township we resided in, our zip code assigned us to the another small city about 20 miles away.
According to the web page, you could fill out a request for transfer after your first collection. In the mean time, there was nothing for it, we had to go to Monroeville. Hank, who was a positive thinker, reminded me that there were some advantages to going that direction for this first trip. There was a big Co-op there were we could find a harness for the goats and a number of other items we wanted to get.
For one thing, he wanted to get that galvanized well bucket we had talked about. That way we could pull up the submersible pump if we needed to and still access the water. He also wanted to get some extra straw, chicken waterers, worming medications and pest control for the animals.
Posted 03 June 2008 - 09:11 PM
Bright and early Monday morning Hank left in the pickup with Jedediah. Stephen hated being left behind but was understanding. Hank had told him that I might need a big boy while they were gone, as it could be a long trip. He also promised that the next time would be his turn to go along. I thanked Stephen for being the man of the house while his daddy was gone and he appeared a little more encouraged.
And in truth I did need him. The morning passed along normally. I put the girls to work hanging clothes out on the line to dry and then later folding them to be put away. Samuel and James were happily playing in mud with their shovels and buckets until I stripped them down and chunked them in the tub where they played until they were shriveled up like raisins. Stephen and Daniel took care of all of the animals, changing water, dishing out grains, and even cleaned out the goat stable and the chicken coop. I was sure to reward their hard, hot work with a sports drink that they liked.
Off and on throughout the morning Hank called and checked in with us. They had made it up to the voucher collection desk around noon. He said so many people were angry and disgruntled. The county deputies were patrolling the campus of the county seat hoping their presence would discourage any troublemakers.
Vouchers safely in hand, Hank and Jedediah began to run the other errands as they worked their way home. The County Co-op had everything we needed, but the prices were higher, significantly so. When Hank questioned the owner he was told it was going to get worse as the cost of shipping was going to skyrocket. This caused Hank to slow down and buy things he may have waited on. He got the last galvanized well bucket they had in stock. He bought huge bags of dog food to replace the name brand dog foods we normally bought. He stocked up on barbed wire and mineral licks for the goats and rabbits. As he shopped for the pieces he needed to create the goat wagon he came across a garden wagon that had been put on clearance due to some minor imperfections. Deciding it was just what we needed, he invested in the wagon and loaded it up with the supplies he had bought after he secured it in the bed of the pick up truck.
His best deal of the day was with some starter plants that had been reduced as they were outgrowing their starter cups and the season for planting was coming to an end. He got a flat of tomatoes, some more seed potatoes, several varieties of peppers as well as garlic and onions. He was able to find more watermelons, and several squash and pumpkin plants. Finally, he found the purple hull peas that I had asked for. Our garden was definitely expanding, and that was a good thing.
I was so glad I had packed a cooler for them and loaded it with plenty for the day, they had all they needed. As a mom, we just want our family to have all that they need. The thoughts of that not being the case, well, we just don’t want that to be the case. I had always thought that I was prepared for a crisis, something devastating and sudden. But, this was a different sort of disaster, one that creeps up on you like a snake that is hidden under the leaves undetected until you step on it and it strikes.
I had prepared another list for Hank and the grocery store. Knowing prices were going to continue to rise, we decided it was better to buy now than to put the money back for later. We had to eat, that was not debatable. In the afternoon I had the best surprise that lifted my spirits tremendously. Some weeks back I had ordered a unique water purification/filter system and it had been on back order. It was delivered and I was ecstatic! Being a bottled water junkie, I had ordered this to try to break the habit of the cases per month I bought. Now that I wouldn’t be buying such luxuries, this was an absolute God Send!
In the afternoon I called my family members who lived in another state 500 miles away and checked on them and their progress. Thankfully my entire family was prep minded with wells and land and ponds, etc. I hated being so far from them, but that’s how it had been my entire married life. I was so glad to be able to talk to them daily and hoped that never changed. Little did I know how many changes would take place in the months to come.
Hank and Jedediah got back just in time to make it to Mr. Wilson’s. They said they’d eat later and along with Stephen left to fulfill their commitment.
They weren’t gone too long, many hands make light the work and within two hours, even with the walk, they were back and eating big servings of beans and rice. Finally they were able to show us all the treasures they had gathered at the co-op.
I was pleasantly surprised to see the collection of gardening tools that Hank had purchased. He said we wouldn’t want to be without some extra basic manual tools when we hoped to grow more of our food to feed the family. I agreed and pointed out how well the peach trees were doing, along with the strawberries. Our figs and plums weren’t producing yet, I wished they had been started earlier, but there was nothing to do about what we didn’t do two springs ago, and there was plenty to do about today.
Hank took the kids down to the basement recreation room while I did search after search on the internet concerning the training of goats and the how to’s of harnesses, etc. This would be my pet project, I was going to enjoy it. Our little wethers were named Oreo and Peanut Butter. We had bottle fed them for several weeks and they very much considered me their mommy. I was pleased with all the information that I discovered and felt well equipped to begin my training the next morning.
This being Hank’s two day work week, he would have to go into the office in the morning. The traffic was normally atrocious, but he wasn’t really sure what to expect with the new gas situation. Before bedtime he got an email from a office mate who wanted to work out a car pool arrangement. Thankfully, they happened to have been put on the same schedule. They considered meeting at the local grocery store, but then thought better as they realized how much of a temptation it would be to steal gas from a parked car under these circumstances. So instead they decided to pick each other up. They would simply alternate days. Tomorrow Hank would drive. It would be a slight detour for each of them, but in the end would save gas.
As we prepared for bed and began reviewing and discussing the events that were unfolding, Hank dropped another possible bomb. He said that there had been lots of talking going on at the Distribution Center. He said there was this one man who was ranting about how electricity would be the next resource to be rationed. The man was presenting his case and making some valid points until the patrolling deputies came by and interrupted.
Rationed electricity? I pondered the thought of this for a while and then asked a question. “Hank, have you heard any one saying how long they think this rationing of the gasoline will continue?”
“The truth is Tessie, I don’t see any end in sight. As a matter of fact, I expect things to get worse, before they get better.
Posted 05 June 2008 - 09:56 AM
Hank left for work, heading first to pick up his coworker. I sipped my coffee and had my morning Devotions. The Proverbs for the day was chapter 17. Verse 22 said “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength. I meditated on these wise words and prayed for the ability to apply it to my life. It would be so easy to get “down”, to be depressed, feeling overwhelmed with all that was happening. It was then that I answered a question that insisted on being answered.
As the world around me transformed and life as we knew it mutated into an unfamiliar entity, as we made huge adjustments in our routines, priorities and life styles, we had a decision to make that would effect all other aspects of our existence. “How Then Shall We Live?”
I turned to Ezekiel 33 and read verse 10. The people were burdened down by the weight of their sins and wrong decisions, they were feeling the full weight of their lifestyle and choices. Finally, in despair they cried out to God, “How shall we then live?” He gave them answers, and as I read I had my answers. We would turn from a lifestyle of waste and cling to Lord. How then shall we live? By the sweat of our brow that comes from hard work, by the bending of our knees and the bowing of our heads in prayer, We would live by faith. And as the verses that followed declared, as we restored and returned and renewed, we would live and not die. I held my Bible close to my heart and claimed this promise as my own.
Feeling strengthened and refreshed, I planned out the day before me. As the keeper of my home, I had a big job ahead. Hank would do all that he could to provide and produce. I would need to do all that I could to use wisely what was presented to me, whether it was chickens, half a pay check or the herbs growing wild on our property.
Mentally placing herb searching, gathering and identifying on my list of things to do, I resisted temptation to slip back in the bed. The children were miraculously all still asleep and another few minutes laying snuggled under the covers sounded lovely. But, there were things to do, and there was no time like the present. I decided to slip out and do the animal chores while letting the boys sleep a little later this morning. After playing with the baby chicks a while, hand feeding a little corn to the hens and checking water for them all, I turned to my goats.
“Good Morning fellas! We’re going to have a little adventure this morning!” Oreo and Peanut Butter eyed me doefully. Peanut Butter stepped up to give my thumb a suckle in way of greeting. Although they had been weaned a good month ago, they still associated me with the bottle of warm milk I had nursed them with morning and night.
I reached and scratched between his little nubs of horns. “Are you volunteering to be first?” I held up the harness and explained to them the plan. Unsurprisingly, they made no response but did attempt a nibble of exploration after nuzzling the leather. “Oh no, we’ll have none of that.” I chastised and grabbed hold of the collar around Oreo’s neck, who was standing closer at that moment.
In anticipation of getting a goat cart I had been walking them with one of the dogs leashes and trying to prepare them for such restraints. It had worked out pretty well. The challenge was keeping them in front of you, encouraging them to take the lead, but with you doing the directing. This of course was quite the opposite of walking a dog on a leash. So, it had been a big adjustment for the three of us.
This morning, my goal was to simply place the harness on them and let them adjust to the feeling of this new equipment. This proved quite a challenge although I had studied the illustrations carefully. Seeing and doing are often two different things. Oreo and Peanut Butter resisted at first, throwing their heads and even occasionally giving a little kick of frustration. I knew how they were feeling, I was getting quite frustrated myself. Finally, with a sigh of relief and a feeling of accomplishment I looked for a chair to plop in. Too late, the back door opened and “What’s for breakfast Mom?” rang out.
Stephen galloped across the short space and said in his best hillbilly imitation, “Howdeee Ma! How about getting out some fiddles?”
I chuckled. “Fiddles? Are we having a square dance?”
“No, you know mom, that’s what the cowboys call food.” He explained in all seriousness.
I couldn’t help but to laugh, “It’s not fiddles, you goof, it’s vittles!” We both laughed at his mistake and arm in arm returned to make music out of cereal and milk. A cheerful heart was just the dose of good medicine I needed. The drudgery of going through the morning chores was lifted as I announced we would be having a square dance afterwards as a P.E. class.
Hank checked in at lunch and reported that they were making even more changes at his office. To consolidate used energy, they were merging cubicle space and shutting off sections of the building. Hank would be sharing his space with one of his office mates that was on the opposite schedule. When Hank wasn’t there, she would be. He wasn’t thrilled at the prospect of sharing his personal space, but was keeping things in perspective. At this point, half a job was better than no job at all.
He said that it was hard to concentrate on his duties as his mind kept wandering to all the things he needed to do at our little homestead. He planned to work in the garden early in the morning, expanding it as we planned and getting those plants in the ground. Later, in the heat of the day he wanted to work in the cool of the garage organizing and hopefully getting started on the conversion of the garden wagon into the a goat wagon. An alternative means of transportation and hauling was looking better and better.
We continued with our new routines of goat training, car pooling, garden expanding, economizing, and working for chickens and eggs. Amazingly, we were adjusting just fine. They waited until the Monday after Independence Day to make the next announcement. Three weeks to the day after the first gas vouchers were distributed, the began to ration electricity.
If the spoiled society that we lived in has become disgruntled over limiting their mobility and having a squeeze on their pocket books from food prices gone astronomical, they were surely to blow a gasket at this next interruption of their lives. Now, it was truly hot and in the South, July and August were practically unbearable. I dreaded the thought of no a/c, no window fans, and especially no CPAP machine to sleep with at night.
I couldn’t help it, I just sat down and had a good cry. It didn’t change a thing, but it did make me feel better. I was feeling like a pressure pot about to explode. I could just imagine that little jiggly thing and the sound of the steam building when I watched my grandma canning as a child. So, that good cry let me vent a bit of built up steam.
Then I blew my nose, wiped my eyes and went out to the garage to marvel at the baby chicks that had hatched over the weekend. I cautioned myself, no names, no coddling, these were chicken dinners. Finally I couldn’t resist it and chose one, only one of the 8 to call my own. She was pure white and such a cutie. I called her Pearl, more formally Minnie Pearl after the famous Country Western celebrity. After all, I rationalized to Hank, we need to keep our egg production up!
Posted 06 June 2008 - 12:35 PM
Electronically they were able to monitor each residence and place of business. I never did quite understand their method to the madness. I know there were special exceptions for some places. For instance, hospitals, nursing homes, etc were much less effected, if at all. But, the normal family residence like ours was allotted a certain amount. They had some formula for calculating it. With our large family, we ended up being able to run electricity about 12 hours a day if those hours included sleeping time.
In other words, the less power you used, the longer you could use it. Turn on an a/c or a clothes dryer and you could watch your ration burn away pretty quickly. With the long days of summer, we had a good bit of daylight still into the evening hours. That helped a lot. We learned to adjust our routine accordingly. When it began to get dark, we started preparing for bed. Being careful not to draw unnecessarily from our power supply, we slept in the coolest room in the house, the under ground basement.
Even before the electric rationing had begun, we had turned the area into sleeping quarters. A couple of sets of bunk beds, two toddler beds plus the sectional sofa and recliner gave us all a cozy, cool spot. I was able to sleep with my CPAP, which was a blessing. Although it ran all night for a good 8 hours, it did not make a huge dent in our allowance. We also ran the freezer and fridge during the night when the heat wasn’t so overbearing. I would turn the TV on as a special treat for the kids for an hour, but not every day. I would check my email about twice a week. We would be sure to charge cell phones and batteries as needed.
During the hottest part of the day we would go to the basement for a siesta time. I would sit in the darkness and sing my babies, from the youngest to the oldest, to sleep. Adjusting to real darkness was a bit of a challenge for the youngest three. After rest time we would head to the pool. We opted to use part of our electricity to keep the pump running on a limited basis. It was such a source of exercise, heat relief and stress relief.
Financially, I became more frugal than I ever thought I could be. We built a solar oven! We baked biscuits and bread in it. I hated not using my bread machine at first, but soon it was just another memory of days gone by. This helped keep the heat out of the house, which was blistering from the Sultry Southern Summer we were facing. The boys enjoyed the challenges of learning to make do with what you had. Hank became my hero, all over again. I always lavished the praise on all of them for their ingenuity when tackling projects. Soon, they were working on improving the solar oven.
My water purification system, which was gravity driven, was a tremendous asset. The water was delicious! And helped us limit the lemonade, tea and soft drinks that were considered special treats now. Hank and I began to slim down through simple portion control. It seemed so simple that I wondered why we hadn’t done it years ago. We all began to drink our tea unsweetened, which was a huge change. I switched to black coffee, not being willing to spend our limited income on flavored coffee creamer.
Milk was an issue. Never having followed the good advice to get a milk goat, we relied on the stores for our supply. This was not a good idea, to say the least. By July 4th, a gallon sold for $7 and was expected to continue to rise. It was a matter of prayer daily, asking the Lord to lead us to a Nanny that could be milked and provide our children with the milk they needed.
Of course, I had put some dried milk aside in my prep supplies and we used that sparingly. I had neglected to buy a supply of canned milk and often regretted that fact. Before the world went “awry”, I just considered getting another goat to be another responsibility. Now, I had an attitude adjustment.
Although Mr. Wilson’s regular workers had returned, they only came every other day, due to the limits of fuel, and so Hank and the boys continued to supplement our food supply, but less often. During one of their evenings there Mrs. Wilson came out with a message for me. She had gotten word from a relative of theirs that they were willing to sell a Nubian Doe that was producing. They had a small herd and with the price of grain and the difficulty of getting their milk to their previous customers, they decided to down size. We were thrilled! Once again, a miracle just when we needed it most. God came through for us.
Hank decided it was worth a bit of our precious gasoline to detour on his way home the next day to go and get her. Mr. Wilson asked Hank to deliver some personal items to the family, also named Wilson, which of course Hank agreed to. While there, Mr. Randy Wilson, who insisted on being called Randy, struck up a bargain with Hank. When Hank returned home, I had a bit of a surprise in store for me. Not only did we have a beautiful Nubian Doe, named Molly, but a big burly buck by the name of Sandman. I thought Stinky would have been a better name.
Hank explained that Randy pointed out that later Molly would need to be bred in order to keep her producing milk. Sandman would be able to forage out in part of the wooded acreage and could join Oreo and Peanut Butter in their weed eating responsibilities. We would of course have to supplement with grain, but it would still be a great benefit to have him, in the long run.
Randy had also given Hank plenty of information and as a bonus sent one insulated milk bucket. The next day, we all worked on preparing shelter, securing fencing and learning to milk Molly. One thing I was learning, when there was less “going” there was a lot more unity in the family. I saw my children becoming who I had always hoped they would be. They were more considerate, more helpful, more mature and less self-centered. I guess this is what they call a blessing in disguise.
Posted 07 June 2008 - 08:52 AM
July crept along. I counted my blessings every morning during my devotion time. We were okay. But my heart was burdened with those who weren’t. When we tuned in to the news, whether by internet, tv or radio, it was never good. People, in general, did not understand how to make adjustments. Mostly, they just knew how to complain and blame. As is often the case, it was the children who paid the highest price. Before long, record numbers of children were being taken into custody. It was a sad situation indeed.
Naturally following were increased arrest rates and crowded detention facilities. With the inability to run a/c I could only imagine the heat within them. Slowly they began to make changes, changes for the good. A system of retribution was formed. No longer did a prisoner sit behind bars, unless they were considered extremely high risk. Farms were created and physical work was the payment for crime. They worked to produce food to feed themselves just like we had to do. The reports were astounding, they were seeing that giving these people a sense of responsibility was working. It reminded me of the “you don’t work, you don’t eat” saying.
The state actually turned to churches and began to use some of them as residential facilities for the increased number of children. I was relieved to see that during this crisis time the children were being given priority status. I never would have thought that it would result in a rebirth of state run orphanages, but I was seeing it before my eyes.
Naturally the funding required for these projects was astronomical. This is when some huge changes were put into place. To begin with, across the nation, political payrolls were sliced! Employees went part time and were paid accordingly. But elected officials had a mandatory 63 % reduction in pay. The President himself came up with the plan and then the Governor of each state followed suit. I was impressed, and so was the nation.
July held another big decision for us. What were we going to do about Church? We loved our fellowship, a mega church about 25 miles away. We had always felt that the drive was worth it. The music, the minister, the programs were all terrific. Now, we just could not afford to go on a regular basis, if at all. Finally, we started home church weekly and then met corporately at a local congregation that was meeting once a month for a service that included lunch on the grounds. They met early, to beat the heat, broke for an early lunch and fellowship and then concluded with singing and praise. We still made it home by noon.
I was having great success with my goat training. After about a week of leading them around on the harnesses, I introduced them to the wagon. Daniel, my 8 yr old, who was the animal lover, became my trusty assistant and for a while, the wagon puller. We must have made a strange picture. I was walking the goats, Daniel was pulling the wagon. Eventually we hooked them up and they took to it really well. As a treat on July 4th, we had goat rides. It was a lot of fun, but the best thing about the goat cart was the amount of cargo they could load back and forth. I could only imagine how strong they would be as they continued to grow.
Molly was a jewel and her milk was delicious. The baby chicks grew like wildfire and I was true to my word, not naming them, not interacting with them. Except for Pearl of course, she was mine to coddle and coo over. She was very tame already and I was looking forward to her egg laying days. When Mrs. Wilson heard about her she asked Hank to bring Pearl with him one day. She identified her as an Americana, an Easter Egg layer. I was thrilled, and couldn’t wait to see the pale blue and green eggs.
We began to look for creative ways to increase our income. Hank became quite the entrepreneur. At work, he mentioned fresh produce to some fellow workers and he began to take orders. Grocery store prices were so awful that people were eager to buy the excess squash and tomatoes. Mentioning this to Mr. Wilson, they struck a new partnership. Mr. Wilson began to send eggs with Hank to sell on his behalf. The customers had to agree to return the cartons once emptied and Hank kept a percentage of the profits.
After a couple of weeks, Mr. Wilson had convinced Hank to run a regular delivery route that included no detours on his way to work. Local convenience stores bought every thing he had to offer, every time he stopped. At my suggestion, Hank posted on the internet that he was able to make deliveries on his route to work for a fee. He soon was very busy with local pickups that cost us very little.
The carpooling had not worked out, several times the work mate wasn’t able to do his share of the driving. He wasn’t being as careful with his allotment of gasoline. So, this really worked out best. Hank announced that all his delivery monies were going to be set aside to buy a handgun for personal protection. This was a big of a shocker to me, although we had a shotgun and a .22 pistol for hunting and target shooting, we had never really talked much about defensive weapons.
Hank said that he had spent a lot of time in prayer and with the state of things it needed to be done. Actually, he admitted, it should have been done long ago. He said the Pawn Shops were flooded with guns and many other things that people had hocked out of pure despair and he hoped to get a really good deal.
I knew he was right but had already come up with my own plan for that money, a green house. As hot as it was now, I knew cold weather would come in a few months. We relied so heavily on our fresh produce, I wanted to extend our growing season as long as possible. After I mentioned it to Hank, he agreed it was a worthy venture. But, it would take second place to the handgun. I agreed.
Posted 08 June 2008 - 08:14 AM
There had to be another word, a stronger word, to properly describe the heat of August. It was debilitating, to say the least. As had happened the last two months, more announcements were forthcoming. Post Offices were cutting back to three days a week. For the first time in my lifetime and long before, the mail would not be delivered daily. So, even government employees who had considered themselves above the employment cut backs, stood amazed as they suddenly found themselves “partially” employed.
The garbage/refuse companies had altered their schedules. You paid the same amount as before but only had pick ups biweekly. We debated about the cost, but decided to continue with our payments. We developed a regular routine of burning certain items and monitoring carefully what actually went into the garbage can that would be set by the road. Every other Tuesday we loaded the can into the goat wagon and walked the length of our driveway, 2/10’s of a mile and trekked back to the house sweating profusely even though we purposefully waited until late in the evening.
The high temperatures felt like a heavy, suffocating, soggy blanket. It seemed a new form of energy shortage was in effect, one that the power company had no control over. We were waking at the crack of dawn and doing everything that we could early, trying to avoid the worst of the sun. The animals sought out the shadiest of spots and were much less active. More than once I thanked the Lord for the catfish pond that provided an alternate water source for the animals that they could access at any time.
Although July had been rather dry, August delivered many days of rain. This never afforded much relief, instead it seemed to cause the ground to steam. At least it watered the fruit trees and the garden, for that I was grateful. We had never acquired a rain barrel, I chastised myself often for this oversight. It was on our wish list and prayer list too. Ordering such things off the internet was no longer a choice for us. The shipping charges were more than we could afford, higher than the items themselves.
Two notable things happened in our corner of the world in August. Both of them involved the Wilsons, the neighbors we had never met before that fateful day on Friday the 13th of June just two months ago. First, the Wilson’s had grown so fond of Jedediah and Jesse that they commented to Hank that they’d like to take them off our hands. The comment was made “tongue in cheek” but it lead to a number of discussions, phone calls and a miraculous event. The Wilsons decided to adopt a child of their own.
They were especially impressed by Jedediah whom they knew had only joined our family five years ago. They said they were going to look for an older child now that they saw what the results could be. The state had begun to streamline the adoption process to encourage people who were so inclined. The number of children in custody had continued to increase. We were thrilled beyond measure. We joined them in their excited expectancy.
Secondly, I sent a note to Mrs. Wilson with Hank one day asking her to consider giving me some hands on instruction for canning. Due to my internet friends influence I had actually bought a nice canner and some canning supplies for just in case. I had talked with my mom and grandmother, observed them in the past, read the instructions given in books and on web pages. But still, I felt having an experienced canner to oversee me initially would be a great comfort.
So, it was arranged that my two girls and I would come early one morning with our supplies, via goat cart. She was a wonderful teacher and very patient with my countless questions. Hank had arranged for us to can his chickens that he had coming. Mr. Wilson graciously butchered them before we arrived so that we could start the process right away. I regretted heating up Mrs. Wilsons kitchen and when we were all done, I noticed a couple of loads of laundry out on her clothes line and sent the girls to retrieve them and save Mrs. Wilson that labor at least. She took me for a tour of her herb garden and I was so impressed. She said this was a new interest of hers. Her cousin Mildred was the true herbalist and she had been learning a lot from her. I told her I was trying to acquire this knowledge as well and she sent me home with a small plant of Feverfew and I promised to send Chamomile with Hank the next day.
We returned with our bounty by midmorning and proudly displayed it to the family. I felt so proud, so enabled. I was discovering that the more I learned to do myself, the less I struggled emotionally. In a way…this shortage of power…was …empowering!
The whole family plunged into the pool as a welcome relief from sweaty skin and then collapsed into our basement refuge. You can sure pray a lot when it’s quiet and dark. My spiritual man was becoming quite buff, if I do say so myself. I was leaning more heavily on the arm of my Father, who was able to do all I asked…or even imagined.
After having discussed the idea with Mrs. Wilson in person and my mom by phone, I set up our turkey fryer contraption and proceeded to water bathe some tomatoes. It worked and I had some beautiful tomatoes to put in the pantry for winter. This canning was addictive. One big problem, my supplies were going quick. Mentally I determined to mention this to Hank. I needed more jars, more rings, more lids and even some ingredients to keep canning.
A big flea market had developed in the parking lot of one of the shopping areas that had gone out of business. Word of mouth had contributed to it’s popularity. So, every Friday that Hank was scheduled to work he stopped by and became a scavenger shopper. He was pretty good at it. People needed cash and they were selling the most unusual items. One man’s trash…another man’s treasure. So, Hank kept an updated list in his pocket. I wanted to go so bad, but it worked better for him to do it on the way to work and not use extra gas. We were always waiting anxiously to see what he had found when he returned.
Posted 09 June 2008 - 09:14 AM
September, oh September. The only good thing I could say was that it was the end of summer…but first we had to endure it. And that was a challenge. But, we did survive and in many ways thrive as we faced even more challenges and changes.
By Labor Day Hank had saved up enough from his delivery fees to buy a handgun. It was a .357mag, and he was able to get it used along with a good supply of ammunition and a holster. We decided to hold a family conference and then a class on gun safety. We had a gun safe, but Hank decided to keep the gun on him while he was home and in his locked vehicle while he was traveling back and forth to work. His work place would not allow weapons inside the building, naturally, and the parking area was as secure as it gets.
As far as the public goes, school was a huge area of concern. We were homeschoolers and not affected by the adjusted schedules. The public was shocked to hear that the school buses would only run three days a week, not start until the day after Labor Day, have a week off at Thanksgiving and two at Christmas. Indications were that if three days did not appear “doable” after the first of the year, they may go to two days a week. People were livid, how dare the government not provide education for their children. The government responded that they would gladly provide the education, it was the transportation they were struggling with.
On Labor Day we had a big family meeting and lots to discuss. We decided to have the meeting during our family “down” time, as we now called it. We went “down” to the basement and laid “down” for a rest, therefore, it was our down time. Hey, a little humor never hurt anyone, right?
“Okay everyone, let’s sit quietly and pay attention,” Hank called the meeting to order. “We have some announcements and some questions. Let’s start with prayer.” Hank prayed simply and earnestly. He then read from the book of James chapter 1.
“Dear brothers and sisters, whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy. For when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything. “
Hank added his thoughts. “You know kids, one thing I’m learning, is that we can rely on the wisdom and truth found in the scriptures no matter what we face. I hope you’ll always remember that.” He paused and looked into the eyes of each child tenderly.
“First I want to share some wonderful news with you. Mr. and Mrs. Wilson have been matched with a child for adoption. Or I should say children. They were introduced to a brother and sister at an adoption fair they attended. They spent the whole day getting to know each other and they are actually spending this weekend at the Wilson’s home. The girl is the oldest, she’s just turned 12 I believe.”
At this Jedediah and Jesse elbowed each other and grinned. I shook my head and smiled, some things never change. Hank continued, “Her name is Lacey and she sounds like a really sweet girl. The boy is 9 yrs old and his name is Luke.”
“Yay!!” shouted Daniel, our 9 yr old son shouted. “Now, I’ll have a boy my age to play with.” We all laughed, he regularly complained that he was the odd man out.
“When can we meet them?” Sarah asked, she was the oldest girl and a social butterfly. I wondered how much she had missed her Sunday School class and her Wednesday night group.
“Well,” I informed them, “we’ve invited them over this evening to cook out and swim.” With this announcement Samuel, our 5 yr old, jumped up and started the ‘victory dance’, everyone joined in enthusiastically.
Once they calmed down, Emily, who was the youngest girl at 7, had a question. “What are we cooking out? Please tell me it’s not chicken!” Again laughter erupted, we had indeed been eating a lot of chicken.
“Actually, Mr. Wilson is bringing smoked sausage and we’re providing the vegies. We’re going to grill the corn on the cob from the freezer, make shish-kabobs from the fresh bell peppers and splurge with boxed Macaroni and cheese!” Applause burst forth. “Not only that, Mrs. Wilson is bringing some dessert and we all know how good her cakes are.”
The mood was set and smiles seemed glued to the faces of us all. But, we had other business to talk about.
“Now, about school,” Hank spoke above the din. “Your mom has a great plan in place. I’m going to let her talk to you about it.”
I scooted to the edge of my seat, anxious to share my idea and get their reactions. “We’re going to try a different method of schooling this year. A while back I bought a Literature Based Unit Study called ‘Prepare and Pray’. It goes along with the book, ‘Swiss Family Robinson’. I think it’s going to really work out well.”
I went on to explain that we would learn survival skills that would remind them of boy scout types of projects. Everyone agreed that it sounded great.
“Okay, next item of businees,” Hank winked as he spoke in his most professional voice. “We are considering a family business, of sorts. You all know that on the Fridays that I work I have been stopping at the flea market. I talked to the people who organize it and they agreed to let us come and have a spot as a vendor.”
“What’s a vendor?” Daniel asked curiously.
“Well, it means we could sell things there like the other people. We would be running an outdoor store, in a manner of speaking.”
“Cool” commented Jedediah, who was always keenly interested in being in business for his self. “What are we going to sell?”
“That’s a good question, and one we need to discuss.” For a good twenty minutes we pondered and considered and talked. Finally we decided to take some fresh produce, some of the girls used clothing (no one to pass it down to) and even rabbit poo, bagged as fertilizer. Secretly, I was more excited to shop than sell. Of course the budget would see that I was very moderate in my purchases.
Our meeting adjourned and we were all encouraged. We had company to prepare for that evening, a new school term to start the next day and a spot at the flea market to prepare for this coming Friday. Our routine was being altered and we embraced it. It was hard to get the children to quiet down to rest, but weariness and dark won out in the end and we all dozed.
Our get together was a huge success. We enjoyed meeting and getting to know Lacey and Luke. They had come into the foster system after their grandmother, who had been raising them, had passed away. It was a sad time in their lives, but on the other hand, because they had been raised lovingly they were ready to love again. I just knew in my heart this was going to work out for them all. Mrs. Wilson confided to me that she could barely stand the anticipation of the up coming meeting later in the week. At that time the social worker would give a report of the children’s reaction to the visit and then the Wilsons would give their thoughts. If all went well they would set a date for an official adoption placement. Even though the legal parts would still need to be addressed in front of the judge at a set time, the placement would be considered binding and a final arrangement for the children’s permanency.
Both of my girls vied for a place at Lacey’s elbows. Little girls love to hang around big girls, that is just the way of things. And both of my big boys strutted like roosters, dignified roosters, but strutting nevertheless. The entire time swimming they had one contest after another. Who could hold their breath the longest? Who could swim to the other side the fastest? Who could turn the most underwater flips? On and on it went. And although Lacey was very discreet about it I would see her watching them with a shy interest. With two little chattering girls at your sides, it’s a bit challenging to watch the show even if it is being put on for you.
Daniel took immediate possession of Luke who did not object. They discovered lizards and bugs galore. They waded in the catfish pond and tried to catch the minnows by the bank. Hank had pulled out the horseshoes and we all enjoyed the ensuing tournament. Mr. Wilson offered a grand prize of a dollar bill for the winners. The heat was on!
As Mrs. Wilson and I sipped the herbal tea I had brewed she beamed at me. “Aren’t the children just great?” She followed them with her eyes.
I agreed and added, “Motherhood suits you ‘Mom Wilson’!” At this remark her eyes teared up and she had to reach for a hankie in her blouse pocket. “That’s so precious dear, thank you. I love the name, please use it from now on.” And from that day forward our neighbors became Mom and Pop Wilson. Later that week, the adoption placement was made official at the agency and later in the fall it would be finalized in the court room. God was good!
At least once a week, Daniel accompanied Hank and his big brothers to the Wilson’s where he and Luke played for the hour they were there. We invited the Wilson family to join our home church fellowship and they did so when they could. We were all becoming fast friends. Stephen was smitten in a bad way with Lacey, he could barely speak when she was around, apparently stunned into silence. It was sweet, but I wasn’t sure I was quite ready for this part of life’s adventure.
Posted 09 June 2008 - 10:05 PM
I must admit, I was unprepared for the chaos of the flea market. I had never seen anything like it. I had no doubt that we would be anything but bored this day. Hank guided us to our assigned spot and we set up the tables. We thought we had gotten there early, but some people had beaten us to it. I wondered if they had camped there the night before. Hank had warned me about the haggling. He said it was similar to the Mexican Street Markets and not to be intimidated. He encouraged me to price things high, because I would be expected to come down. I struggled with the concept a bit, but followed his advice and did so. He was right, I discovered quickly that the bantering was normal. Hmph, normal indeed, didn’t some one write a book once about the only normal being a setting on the clothes dryer?
Our ‘homemade’ fertilizer went fast. I was pleasantly surprised and knew that the funds were going towards the greenhouse I wanted. Some of the girls clothes sold quickly but finally one lady came and offered to barter. She needed the clothes for her children but she was short of cash. She encouraged me to come and look at her table and see if she had anything I needed. Hank nodded his encouragement and I walked over with her to the next aisle. Before leaving I made Hank promise that the younger children would stay in the bed of the pick up truck and not allowed to wander.
My offer to barter was apparently a very common method of exchange here at the Market, as it had been dubbed. She did have some things that caught my eyes, primarily canning supplies. I tried to act much less interested than I really was. Inside I did a little jig of joy, outside I was the picture of platitude. Finally, I mentioned the canning stuff and her eyes lit up.
“Hey, you know what, I’ve got more of that stuff at home.” She confided. “My old storage room is full of junk that use to belong to my grandma.”
Now I was truly struggling to maintain my composure. I lifted my eyebrows as if mildly interested. She went on to offer to bring the rest of it next week if I wanted. I wondered if someone else might buy them first.
After a chat I discovered her name was Mandy and she lived about two miles from the Market. Although it would be a detour, I suspected it would be worth it. I talked with Hank and he agreed that we would follow her home when the Market closed. Even though we were in both vehicles and it would use more gas, he didn’t want me going alone and I needed to see the things she had to offer.
She traded me even for the large stack of clothing, giving me a less than sturdy box full of jars and gadgets, there were even some unopened lids. She was happy, I was happy, it was a happy moment! Our fresh produce sold out and soon we were able to meander through the remaining stalls waiting for Mandy to prepare to leave. We saw lots of interesting things and bought a few. But I was determined to get that green house and Hank said I had a death grip on the folding money that had found its way into my fingers.
One item truly caught my fancy, a beautiful acoustic guitar. The man tending the table boasted of its superior quality and value. I assured him I had no doubt of either but seven children to feed did not leave money for such things. I tore myself away and enjoyed the rest of our tour watching the children’s reactions.
Jedediah was on cloud nine when he found a bargain on beekeeping equipment. He had been talking to me and Hank about trying his hand at it. After much haggling, the deal was made and my oldest son spent his own money and invested into what he hoped might become a profitable business…now he only needed the bees. But that would have to be solved another day.
Jesse was interested in some fishing rods and accessories that an older gentleman was offering. When the man heard of our catfish pond he was quick to reduce his prices with the promise of a mess of fresh catfish the next Friday. Jesse was all smiles as he gathered his bounty.
The younger children were drawn to the animal section, naturally. They pointed out the fluffy bunnies and even saw a potbellied pig. The pig was of no interest to me but Hank had other ideas about the rabbits. It seemed he was growing about as tired of chicken as Emily was. So, we added four does to our collection of animals. Our two bucks at home had been nothing but pets to Daniel, their quality of life was about to greatly improve. And our variety of meat was about to improve.
The trip to Mandy’s house was very profitable indeed, for us as well as for her. She opened the doors to the old storage building and stood aside allowing us to point out anything that we were interested in. Indeed, there was more of “that stuff”, just as she had promised. And I knew the canning supplies would be going home with me. Hank noticed some tools and building supplies. But in the far back corner, practically buried under boxes of who knew what, was the greatest find of the day.
I grasped Hank’s forearm and directed his gaze to my discovery. With Mandy’s permission he and the boys began to move the clutter and allowed me to more carefully examine the wood burning stove. I wanted it, I needed it, but could I afford it?
We finally stepped out of the shed and faced Mandy. She looked with hopeful anticipation at our faces.
“Anything catch your eye?” I looked into her sincere face and decided no game playing this time. Hank seemed to read my thoughts and spoke first.
“Mandy there are some really good things in there. Some things we’re interested in and a lot of things you could sell at the market.”
“Really?” She clapped her hands together with excitement.
“Here’s the thing, we’re on a tight budget too, like everyone else. We’ll tell you what we can pay and of course you have the option to accept or refuse.”
“Look, I am trying to get out of here. My kids went ahead with my parents last week and are waiting on me. I felt like I needed to try to sell what I could, but I’m ready to make a deal, a real deal if it gets me down the road.”
We looked at her and contemplated her words. She seemed to take our moment of silence as hesitation and blurted out.
“If it’s good stuff and could be sold at Market, why don’t you buy it from me and then you can sell it for a profit.” Her eyes now seemed to plead with us. We were a bit taken aback, we had not considered buying to resell.
Hank rubbed his chin thoughtfully as he often did when considering a decision that needed to be made. Finally he asked her if we could go back in the shed once more, she agreed. Our younger children were playing happily on the swing set that was still in the yard under the watchful eyes of our big boys.
Quietly we discussed and tried to inventory what all was in there. The heat was becoming unbearable as it neared the noon hour. Hank mopped his face off with the tail of his shirt and asked for my opinion. I suggested a quick prayer and then told him I had no idea about most of the stuff but really wanted the canning supplies and the wood burning stove. I deferred to his judgement concerning the rest.
“Mandy, I’d like to make an offer. I’ll be taking a risk with money my family is counting on, but I truly believe these things would sale and I’d make money on my money. On the other hand, you’re taking a risk too. You have no idea what’s in these sealed boxes and it would take a long while to sort through it all.”
“Mister if you’ll take it all, right now, and I know I’m headed to my babies first thing in the morning…it’s yours for $300.” We stood speechless, I think my mouth actually hung open.
She looked uncomfortably at us, shifting her weight from one foot to the other. “$250?” she mumbled.
“Mandy, I’ll pay you $300 now in cash and send you a check by Christmas for an additional $100, if I’m successful.” Now I stopped staring at Mandy, who had no idea of the value of the “junk” in the shed and stared at my husband. He was one heck of a man and once again, he was my hero. So many people would have taken advantage of this woman’s situation, but not my Hank. I beamed with pride and smiled my approval.
Mandy was thrilled and in her excitement offered all the stuff that was still loaded from the Market as a bonus. Hank arranged with her to take her vehicle to our house to unload and then replaced the gas we would use and of course he did that generously. She agreed and we left towards home, leaving Hank’s truck there while she made the necessary calls to her family members with whom she would soon be reunited.
The younger children and I stayed home while Hank, Jedediah and Jesse returned her vehicle, gave her the agreed upon money, exchanged phone numbers and began to load. I kept the gatorade mixed and the cooler stocked for them to combat the heat. It took four loads and of course some gas. But, it was worth it, so worth it. Once again, God, once again, God.
I took the opportunity to call my mom and give her a report. She said that a similar type flea market had sprouted up in their nearest little town. My step-dad was seeing a demand for his skill of horse shoeing as people relied more on the use of their horses for transportation. Mom was doing hair on the side once again to supplement. My grandma was doing well, I missed them so much and wondered when I’d ever see them. I did not wallow in my sadness but purposeful reminded myself of the many ways that God continued to intervene on our behalf. Besides, I had to fix supper.
Posted 10 June 2008 - 09:30 PM
Finally October arrived and we began to have some relief from the heat wave we had faced. The fall colors began to paint themselves on the leaves of trees and it seemed I could just breathe better. Our fall harvest was plentiful and Hank was busy trying to construct the green house according to the plans we had seen on the internet. I had high hopes for it.
We continued to vend at the Market going on every other Friday, when Hank wasn’t scheduled to work and actually found it to be quite profitable with the addition of Mandy’s ‘junk’. As Hank had promised, she was sent the additional money when he had recovered his investment. I couldn’t wait for the wood burning stove to be installed, it was next on Hank’s list of projects. He stayed so busy, but so did we all.
Speaking of staying busy, I had no idea how busy our rabbits would be reproducing! Now that’s what you call a fast turnover. I declined participating in the harvest, it just wasn’t in me, as long as there was someone else to do it. So, now our main meats were catfish, chicken and rabbit. When hunting season started Hank intended to add venison to the menu. I continued to experiment with the bean recipes and found you can fix beans a whole lot of ways. We adjusted to having them several times a week with not many complaints. My mom shared this great recipe for White Chili that used northern or navy beans and chicken…delicious!
Mom Wilson’s cousin Mildred came for a visit in October and she was willing to help me with some wild plant identification, I was so thankful. So far, we had been able to get all our monthly prescriptions and there had been no major viruses, but that could change with flu and cold season coming. I didn’t want to live in fear and maybe it was just the thought of the unknown, but winter worried me. I was glad to discover any alternative sources of natural medicine. I was so amazed at the many uses for dandelions, considered a weed by most.
I was thankful that we relied on propane for heat and that we had been blessed with the wood burning stove. However, the price for propane was much higher than we had ever seen, plus they had to add a delivery surcharge because of the gas costs. Not only that, there was a waiting list. They would let you know when they would service your area. No more were the days of calling and setting up a time that was convenient to your schedule. So, we were scheduled for a fill up the very last day of October, the 31st, which was Halloween of course. We were praying for lots of good sales between now and then so that we could pay cash. So far, we had not resorted to credit cards and we wanted to keep it that way.
With our creative income methods, we now felt secure financially, not withstanding any unforeseen bumps, through the spring. At our request, we were now assigned to the city hall that was closer to our house for the voucher distribution. There was talk of a reduction, I hoped it wouldn’t come to that. We were very conservative but Hank still needed to get to work and we still needed to go to the Market on every other Friday. If we must, we could give up our once a month church fellowship, but I prayed that would not happen. It was so uplifting to assemble together and praise the Lord.
We were now regulars at the Market and were offered entire “lots” more than once. Sometimes we accepted, sometimes we didn’t. There never was another bargain like the day we bought the contents of Mandy’s storage shed. Nearly everything in there was either sold at Market or put into use by our family. The girls found great delight in playing with old gloves that were decorated with fancy stitching. There had been a hat box with several vintage hats and some costume jewelry that made playing dress up even better than before. I discovered some beautiful handkerchiefs that I planned to send my Grandma for Christmas. There was also a collection of aprons that the girls and I began to use quite often when in the kitchen.
The thing that broke my heart was the discovery of the grandmother’s family Bible. I wrote Mandy and told her that I had it and would keep it for her if she was ever in this area. I never heard back from her, but I still kept it safe, it just seemed the right thing to do. There was a collection of pewter pieces that sold well at Market. Mostly the customers were local people looking for practical, usable things. But, occasionally an antique dealer would show up. I guess some people still had more money than they knew what to do with, but not didn’t fall into that category
When Halloween day did arrive and our propane was delivered, he brought more than the fuel, he also had some news. As he had made the rounds in the area that day, prior to arriving at our house late in the afternoon, he had been told that there appeared to be a bit of burglary and trespassing happening. One family said that a bike had disappeared, another family said their kenneled dogs stirred up a ruckus two nights ago and they discovered foot prints at the end of their drive the next morning. One elderly couple said they were missing some lawn chairs that they kept on the porch. This kind of talk made me uneasy and I didn’t sleep soundly for several nights.
Mom Wilson promised that during the colder months we would have quilting bees and teach our daughters to stitch and produce quilts of their own. I was looking forward to that. My mother was such a talented seamstress and I never developed the skill myself. I was missing my family tremendously. With seven children you don’t travel often, but we did usually go up in the fall and do some hunting. But, this year, well it just wasn’t going to happen.
Posted 10 June 2008 - 09:32 PM
November arrived in all of her glory. Thanksgiving was coming, as well as several birthdays in our family. And of course that meant Christmas was right around the corner. We had already decided on a homemade Christmas. Every person was responsible for making gifts that they would give. I would help Daniel and James with theirs of course. I was actually looking forward to it. I had wanted to get back to the basics for a long time.
We were swamped with birthdays in November and December, lucky me! We adjusted our birthday celebrations to include a cake (truly a special treat now) and that person was king or queen for the day. They got VIP status instead of gifts. Hank and I gave them their age in cash, and that was it. This was a difficult change for me to swallow, I had always gone overboard when it came to gift giving. But, no more, not with winter looming ahead and uncertain times on it’s heels.
Our studies from the Swiss Family Robinson were going well. I supplemented with Bible and Math and Grammar, but the rest was covered. The kids had to build a raft, make a home made sundial and many other great projects. We often spent hours outside looking for a certain insect or plant to identify. School was very relaxed and we were all learning more than ever before.
One of our lessons had Jedediah and Stephen looking for some bamboo. I had never seen it growing on our property but we had seen it in the area and they hoped to locate some. When they returned to our outdoor classroom by the pond they were breathless and both trying to talk at the same time. At the farthest corner of the property line that lay about 100 feet behind the pond, the fencing had been cut.
“Mom, someone cut our fence!” Jedediah looked insulted. He crossed his arms in a huff.
“They’ve been catching our catfish!” Stephen added, he considered this a serious infraction of justice.
I sat frowning and rubbing away the chill bumps that had surfaced on my bare arms. No one lived on the adjoining property. I reached for the phone and dialed Hank. He said he’d check it as soon as he got home and to tell the boys to stay out of the area. He then suggested that we move inside ourselves. Never, not once, had I ever felt uneasy or scared on our little homestead. We were a good distance from the road, not even able to be seen by drivers. I had always considered seclusion a safety factor, now I wasn’t sure.
I caught myself stealing glances out the big plate glass windows in the dining room. I could see nearly the whole pond. Someone had been mighty bold to cut our fence and then fish? Surely not, I reasoned. Later, I listened as Hank questioned the boys more thoroughly. They said the fence was clipped and then put back in place so that you might not notice it at first glance. They said there was an obvious trail once they looked more closely.
Hank changed clothes, and followed the boys to their discovery. It was just as they said. Hank temporarily repaired the fence, made a call to the Sheriff’s Department to report the trespassing and then left with Stephen and Jedediah to Pop Wilson’s. It was their night to help with the chickens. While there, they shared the news that there may be an unsavory character around. Pop Wilson was thankful and said he’d be more security minded in the future.
The Deputy arrived just before Hank and the boys returned. This was a first for me, to call law enforcement and have them come knocking on your door. The man couldn’t have been nicer. He got all the pertinent information from me and by the time he was ready to see the fencing Hank was walking up the drive, so that worked out well.
Deputy Burton told Hank that they had received a number of calls in this area, repeating what we already knew about the bikes and lawn furniture. What we didn’t know is that apparently there had been a group of convicts to escape the next county over that hadn’t been apprehended. When Hank related this to me I felt sick. Our glorious fall school days in the great outdoors were curtailed. We stayed in while Hank was gone as much as we could. If the boys were out seeing about the animals I made them carry one of the two-way radios. Our borders were being violated, and I didn’t like it one bit. As a matter of fact, I was down right mad.
Every day Hank checked the fencing he had repaired and never saw another sign of entry. We began to hope that whoever it was, had been passing through and was far away from our little homestead. But still, we were cautious and watchful. Our eyes had been opened to how lax we had been.
Thanksgiving was celebrated with a wild Turkey that Pop Wilson had shot on his property. He was able to find two and shared one with us. Hank promised to do the same with any venison he was able to shoot. I made my grandma’s famous cornbread dressing, but without celery. There was none to be had in the store. I substituted a can of cream of celery soup that cost $2! I had cranberry in the prep pantry and used out of our limited supply of sugar to make pumpkin pies. We had English Pea Salad, using real mayonnaise for this special occasion. My cabbage patch had produced a big enough head for slaw and I seasoned it with my own herbs. Homemade yeast rolls were gobbled up as I used the butter I had set aside just for this day.
We had much to be thankful for, our home, our children, our health and even half a job. Mostly we were thankful to belong to a good and gracious Lord. Joy permeated the room. We found ourselves giggling for no good reason. Even Patches was worked up and kept barking so much that we put her outside on her lead for some peace and quiet.
Having prayed around the table, everyone taking a turn, we were just digging in to the dishes before us when a commotion broke out in the back yard. Patches was barking furiously and straining to break free. At first we all assumed a squirrel was taunting her. Quickly we realized this wasn’t the case. She was frantic and before we could open the back door to see what was happening her collar snap gave way to the pressure and she was off like lightening. We poured out on to the deck, both Stephen and Jedediah running after her. Hank was yelling to make them come back. I was doing my best to keep the younger five children from following suit.
The boys never heard Hank with the din of noise that erupted. Chickens were squawking, the goats bleating, kids screaming and in the distance Patches still barking like mad. Soon Jedediah out paced Stephen and was out of sight. Stephen was just at the far edge of the pond and still going when a noise rang out from the wooded area that still gives me nightmares. It was the distinctive, unmistakable sound of a gun shot.
Now Hank was running and I was shoving the children back into the house. Stephen had come to such a sudden halt that we saw him literally slide like a baseball player trying to make in to base. I urged the children into the basement with the solar lantern. I told them to go to the closet and wait. Their looks of fear and James cries for Mommy broke my heart. I was so thankful that I had trained my children to obey without question.
I turned and dove out of the back door running towards where I had last seen Stephen. Adrenaline was pumping through my veins and I ran faster than I thought I could have. I could no longer see Stephen but I could hear him. He was wailing and screaming over and over, “No! No!”. My heart pumped in my chest until I thought surely it would burst. And then a second shot rang out. I heard Hank yelling, “Run! Get out of here! Run!”.
I stopped for a moment to get my bearings, to try to determine the exact direction the voices were coming from. Before I could decide I was nearly bowled over by Hank and both boys coming out of the woods. Jedediah wore an expression of terror and Stephen’s face was bathed in tears. Hank was close behind them carrying Patches who appeared to be dead. Seeing me he shouted, “Run Tessie, Run! Get back to the house.” He turned to look over his shoulder. I fell in line behind my boys feeling panic begin to swell. Once we were near the back deck, Hank was yelling again.
“ Tessie, try to help Patches. Where are the others?” He shot out orders and questions without taking a breath. I assured him the children were safe in the basement. He disappeared into our bedroom and returned with his handgun. Hank instructed the boys to stay put and help Mom as he left at a run out the door.
I had turned my attention to a wounded, whimpering Patches. She looked at me with pleading eyes. “What happened?” I finally managed to whisper as I gently examined her trying to locate the source of injury.
“There’s a man with a gun and a pack of coyotes.” I stared with amazement. Surely I had heard wrong. Jedediah continued, “The man has a camp in the woods. The coyotes were there and he was closed up in his tent and Patches charged them. They turned on her.” Stephen swiped at more unbidden tears as he knelt beside his beloved pet as Jedediah reported.
Jedediah went on. “The man stepped out of the tent and shot the biggest of the coyotes. I guess it was the pack leader. That scattered them for a minute but not long. I saw the man come out and walk towards Patches. I thought she was dead, she wasn’t moving.”
“The man told me to get my dog and get home. Then he stood there with his gun and I thought he was going to follow me. Patches is heavy and I couldn’t move very fast. When Stephen saw me he ran to help and that’s when he started yelling, he thought that she was dead too.”
“I thought the man had shot her,” Stephen admitted.
“No, and then when Dad got there and saw the man with the gun, I think that’s what he thought too. Dad charged towards the man like in his old football days. When the man fell backwards the gun went off again, but just into the air.” Jedediah’s eyes were wide with the telling.
“ The whole time Dad was yelling at us to run, and I never saw the man get up again. I think Dad knocked him out cold. Dad doesn’t know that he was saving Patches.” He related this last information in horror to me.
As he had talked I had located a number of bite wounds around Patches throat area and a deep gash in her right back leg. The bleeding was already coming to a stop and I was relieved. I had to let Hank know the man had not shot at Patches, that he was saving her. But were the coyotes still out there? My children needed me, Patches needed to be cleaned and bandaged. My mind whirled with options. I had just stood to go to the back door when I heard Hank’s voice again.
He and the mystery man were walking into the yard area. The man was holding up his hands and walking gingerly. Hank followed with his gun pointed towards the man’s back. “Don’t try anything buddy.” I heard Hank warn. Suddenly Jedediah was at the door and speaking to his dad.
“He didn’t do it Dad! It was the coyotes! He saved Patches from the coyotes!” I took hold of his shoulders to keep him from advancing any further. Hank looked at Jedediah with a frown as he absorbed his words.
“That may be son,” he said slowly. “But, that doesn’t explain who this man is and what he was doing in the woods.”
“You might have asked me.” The man spoke for the first time.
“Alright, well then I’m asking.” Hank eyed him suspiciously. This was a new side of my husband that I hadn’t seen before. I watched the scene unfolding before me like a well acted play on a stage.
“My name is Matthew Byrd. I’m camping on my own land.” This revelation seemed unlikely. Hank wasn’t buying into it.
“How do we know that you’re telling the truth? No ones ever lived on that property as long as we’ve lived here.” There was a stubborn set to Hank’s jaw as he made his point.
“That may well be the case,” the man conceded. “But someone’s living there now, and it’s me! That land’s been in my family since my grandpa bought it 50 years ago. I just never had need of it before. Now, I’d appreciate you pointing that gun somewhere else besides at me.”
I could see Hank wavering a bit but he made no move to lower the gun. As further evidence of the legitimacy of his claim, Matthew Byrd offered to show some identification if he could retrieve his wallet from his pants pocket. Hank nodded his consent but cautioned, “Move slowly.”
After examining the presented wallet, Hank seemed a bit more at ease. “I hope you can understand my need to be sure. My family’s safety is at risk.” He looked again at the drivers license and back at the man’s face. “Well, I guess you are who you say you are.”
The tension lifted a bit from both of the men’s faces. “I’m scouting the place out in a manner of speaking. I’ve got family members who are considering relocating to the land that our grandpa left us. We’ve never spent any time on it and I wanted to see if it was a good spot. So, I decided a camping trip would tell me what I needed to know.”
“If you’ll follow me back to my tent I’ll show you the survey map I brought with me to know the lay of the land.” Matthew offered. Hank agreed, I was now able to focus on my frightened children and wounded dog.
Posted 11 June 2008 - 04:36 PM
That was one Thanksgiving we’d never forget. Turns out, we found a dear friend that day. And true to his word, other family members eventually joined him there on the 140 acres that connected to our little parcel of 5 acres. Matthew had two brothers who were married and had children. They also had an elderly uncle that joined them. Uncle Solomon was wise and kind. He had a heart as big as Texas, which is where he had lived most of his life.
Community was taking on a whole new meaning to me. I had never really been interested in getting to know the folks around me, I was so busy with raising my family and considered my best friends to be my mom, my sister and my grandmother although they were many states away. Now, although I was still closely tied by the strings of the heart to my family, distance and circumstances kept us from being together. It was such a blessing to be able to have a support system in tact that was close in proximity.
The Byrd’s came and went on weekends as they built simple homes, rustic but spacious and comfortable. They had pooled resources and with the land at their disposal had made the decision to relocate to this area. Like us, family was important. Matthew’s oldest brother, Dave was a retired Veterinarian. We were thrilled to have such a person practically in our back yard. His wife Donna and he had two sons who were serving in the military. The youngest brother was Gabe and he and his wife, Lisa, had two small children. Brandon was 2yrs and Britney was 2mos. Gabe had left his job in the big city to see that his family was in a safe place. Apparently Uncle Solomon had financed much of the move for them all, but the men were hard workers and planned to have everything in place by Spring to be as self sufficient as a family could be.
Uncle Solomon loved to share his experiences, and when he heard Hank mention the greenhouse project he was able to point out several safe guards and short cuts. Daniel thought the man was about as smart as Moses, that’s what he actually told me one day. I guess he’d almost make you think of a Bible character with that silver hair and beard. Emily had her own ideas, she claimed Santa was our new neighbor in disguise!
As soon as possible, I arranged to have a Christmas Tea for Mom Wilson and her Lacey to meet Donna, Lisa and her little ones. Donna was eager to have her own chickens and we promised to share fertile eggs to get her started. Lisa was very interested in homeschooling and asked lots of questions although her little ones were still young. Her little Brandon thought my Samuel and James were the “stuff” and tried to imitate all of their play. My girls and Lacey couldn’t stop cooing over the baby Britney.
With Christmas on our heels, and cold weather making itself known, we found ourselves spending more and more time inside. We moved our sleeping quarters to the great room upstairs where Hank had installed the wood burning stove. We had of course closed the pool, and the catfish were beginning to hibernate into the mud. Hunting season was in full swing. The Byrds invited Hank, Jedediah and Stephen to hunt on their land and we were thankful to have such a convenient spot. Of course Pop Wilson had about 50 acres his self that he said that could be hunted also.
It was a good harvest of venison. Much of it was processed for the freezer, we canned a portion of it and also used a great deal of it to make jerky. The dehydrator had been used almost constantly for weeks as we worked to preserve any fruits that we picked. I was surprised the thing was still working, and was prepared for it to quit any time. I’d already discussed some alternate drying methods with Hank. Now that I was rarely driving the van, I was considering using the dashboard area that received a good concentration of sunlight.
Christmas was going to be so precious. The children were so gracious about receiving only hand made gifts. The girls had worked together to use fabric paint and personalize some plain white tshirts that belonged to the boys. Now they had sleep shirts with their names on them. Jedediah, who loved to invent had created spy type tools for each brother, binoculars from cardboard paper towel rolls cut in half and taped together. Stephen had made magnetized fishing poles out of sticks and magnet abc’s that had been on the refrigerator. Daniel made a variety of drums from saved cardboard oatmeal canisters. With my help, Samuel and James carved boats out of Ivory soap with butter knifes so every one had their own soap boat that would float.
I had managed to buy a few practical gifts. Everyone needed socks, the big boys and Hank needed hunting socks. I also bought long johns for everyone from a vendor who had a truck load of them, I didn’t ask where he got them. Although I avoided the local retail stores if at all possible, I found myself there one afternoon to buy a few stocking stuffers that I hadn’t managed to discover at the Market. I was taken aback. This store that was a place where I had gone on a weekly basis and spent an enormous amount of money with each trip did not even resemble the place I remembered. For one thing, they were only opened limited hours, and rumor had it, they’d be closing down after the holidays. Some people believed that they were just liquidating their inventory by making it available to Christmas shoppers.
I had hoped to buy each child new batteries for their flashlights, but changed my mind at the astronomical price. In a bin in the back I found some clearance lawn and garden stuff, you know like you’d see in the spring. There were sets of the solar garden lights and then I remembered one of my internet friends at my favorite prep site MrsSurvival had mentioned getting these to use in power outages. I grinned and thought, “Why not?” I almost giggled out loud to see the faces of the children when they pulled them out of their stockings. In that same bin I found some of those slow release watering concoctions. Once again, I remembered a friend at MrsSurvival talking about making neck coolers out of these. I wouldn’t pass them out for Christmas, but I could make them for when we faced the heat again.
I lucked up on some lotion, we needed that so badly. All of my children had very dry skin and we had used up my stock even being as conservative as we could. There would be lotion and chapstick in the stockings too. I also got half dozen jars of petroleum jelly which could be used for dry skin also. Way back at the back of a shelf I was thrilled to find two jars of dust covered Noxema. I didn’t even know they still made it, but it sure brought back memories and I knew it would feel great on my face. Skin care hadn’t been high on my list of preps. I added some more basic first aid items.
On the candy aisle I splurged and bought a few holiday goodies. I got a bag of peppermints to split between the stockings. Hank would be sure to smile at the box of chocolate covered cherries. We’d been married 25 years and I’d never missed a Christmas without giving him those sugary delectables.
A new pack of crayons was bought for each stocking, no coloring books, but I still had packs of copy paper that I planned to put into used binders for each child an art journal. We still had a good bit of popcorn and I planned to use some of my corn syrup to make popcorn balls. I stood at one point just observing the faces of the other shoppers. They looked so despondent, so discouraged, so beaten down. There were no piled buggies and long lines. There was no Christmas spirit. I was saddened to realize that people thought they had lost Christmas because they couldn’t buy and spend like they had done before. I wanted to shake them to their senses. I wanted sound the alarm! Wake up! Wake up people!
Instead, I drew in a deep breath and with every ounce of my strength began to sing…
“Hark the Herald Angels Sing, Glory to the New Born King
Peace on Earth and Mercy Mild, God and Sinner Reconciled!”
I paused for just a fraction of a moment and opened my eyes to peek around me. You could have heard a pin drop, every eye was on me! People were staring in wonder with blank expressionless faces. I almost lost my nerve when a elderly women and man not far behind me continued the carol in voices that belied their age but brought tears of happiness to my eyes.
One by one others joined in and a transformation occurred, faces were smiling, handshakes were being passed out, and I began to hear a Merry Christmas exchanged now and then. As soon as the song came to an end, a young man who appeared to be working as a stock boy or maybe the clean up crew, serenaded us all with a soulfoul rendition of O Come All You Faithful that sent chills up and down my spine. Here he was, with a broom in hand and a talent that would have blown any audience away.
After receiving my share of holiday hugs and pats on the back. I finally turned down the final aisle to complete my shopping. I walked with a spring in my step and found myself humming along with some children in the next aisle singing Jingle Bells, a little off key, but still making beautiful music.
Posted 11 June 2008 - 04:36 PM
Much to our surprise, Emily had been right about Uncle Solomon being Santa in disguise. Christmas morning we discovered a big box on the front porch. There was a heart felt note written in his Spencerian Script explaining that we had blessed him as he watched our unique family that had indeed been forged in love. He asked that we allow him the blessing of blessing us and please to not protest or feel that we must reciprocate. Hank and Stephen maneuvered the rather large box into the great room and we all stared at it with amazement.
Emily kept dancing around chanting, “I told you so! I told you so! He IS Santa Claus.” Until she became dizzy enough to sit down and be quiet.
I encouraged Hank to do the honors and open the oversized package. We were thrilled when it’s contents were revealed. It was a handcarved (by Uncle Solomon) nativity scene. The standing figures were about 3 feet tall and the baby Jesus about ½ the size of a real baby. The intricate details were awe inspiring. We all ooed and aahed for several moments while Hank carefully removed each piece and placed it on display for us all to see. In the bottom of the box there was another package and another surprise. There was a collection of whittling knives and tools and even wood blanks. There were projects for wee ones, children and adults. He had included safety gloves, thumb guards, straps of leather for blade sharpening, just everything! It was perfect, just absolutely wonderful!
As I read his note out loud to the family we were assured that he would be giving some hands on instruction in safety and lessons to develop our new hobby. We were all giddy with joy! And just when I thought there wasn’t any room for any more, the best was yet to come.
Hank asked everyone to sit quietly and he turned to me. Before he began speaking he asked Sarah to go get me a tissue as he felt sure I was going to need it. I laughed a little but began to tear up in advance anyway.
“Tessie, you may have noticed that there were no gifts under the tree for you.” I held up my hand in protest, determined to convince everyone that I had been given many gifts of love. He stopped me and continued. “You are the greatest wife and mother and we wish that times were different, that money was plentiful so that we could lavish gifts upon you. However, we had to choose only one thing, and we all worked together to accomplish it.”
He nodded to Daniel who puffed his chest out and disappeared into his room for just a moment before returning with an obvious shaped package. I gasped in disbelief, thinking it could not be. I gingerly opened the wrinkled paper that had been handled by many small hands to reveal the beautiful instrument I had seen many weeks ago, a Fender Acoustic Guitar.
Hank was right, I did need the tissues. And then, all seven children stood in front of me and began to sing in angelic voices.
“Silent Night , Holy Night ,
Shepherds Quake At the Sight
Round Yon Virgin, Mother and Child,
Holy Infant, so tender and Mild.
Sleep in Heavenly Peace
Sleep in Heavenly Peace”
I know it may seem a bit far fetched, but for just a moment I thought I saw a heavenly glow fall upon the wooden baby in the manger Uncle Solomon had carved. I blinked my tears away to see more clearly and saw no more of the luminous light. Perhaps I had absorbed it, for I truly felt as if my heart was encased in its warmth.
Merry Christmas, indeed.
I couldn’t help but think of the often quoted words from a well known classic book… “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”
Later we feasted on fresh venison roast that was accompanied by our own potatoes, carrots, cabbage and onions. I had made our favorite cake, Peanut Butter Fudge. I noticed how everyone nibbled and enjoyed the treat. When our tummies were almost as full as our hearts, we moved to the great room and snuggled together as Hank read from the Bible. The inspired words of God reminded us of the only Son of God who came as a baby, lived as a the only perfect man, gave Himself to die so that we could live.
Crayons were retrieved from stockings and everyone worked diligently on the first page of their “new” art journals. The youngest ones only drew pictures, which were precious of course, but the other children wrote out their thoughts and then added their drawings. As they brought them for my inspection I was so moved to see the common thought they each had, “this was the best Christmas ever.”
Finally I was able to make friends with my beautiful new guitar and Hank pulled out the checkers and the chess pieces. Friendly competitions ensued, popcorn balls were munched and peppermints enjoyed. Hank even shared his chocolate covered cherries!
Posted 12 June 2008 - 10:39 PM
January brought the first really cold weather, well, cold for the deep south I should say. Our wood burning heater was working just great and we stayed pretty snug. I was concerned about the animals as we usually had heat lamps for them during the colder months. Hank developed a spot in our enclosed double garage to shelter the animals a little better when the weather turned really bad. He said, “If Noah could fit all those animals on one boat, I can manage a few in this garage.” And he did. It was really quite ingenious. First he constructed a form of a lean to stable on the back wall. The goats were very content to huddle into it. Jedediah put up some good solid tree branches for the chickens to roost in, the rabbits were put into their own cage which had been moved inside.
I told Hank that I was so thankful that he was looking after the animals. He said that it was just for when the weather was unbearable and plus he had read about it in Proverbs. I looked at him with a questioning face and later he showed me the scripture. “Proverbs 12 :10 The godly are concerned for the welfare of their animals.” He said that when it really dropped below freezing and he felt it was necessary he would use some of our electricity to heat that portion of the garage and make it bearable.
The government had already had to lift some of the restrictions concerning electricity as so many people relied on electricity for heating. But, then there was the cost to consider. For some, they just barreled ahead to fill their present need with no thought of the future. But, for families like us, who were trying to be frugal and make wise choices, we avoided the enormous cost of easy access to the utilities.
Towards the end of January there began to be some reports of epidemics in larger cities of a particularly nasty flu virus. The most heavily populated areas seemed to be hit the worse. Apparently this new strain attacked the body both in the lungs and the intestines. It wasn’t long until they were keeping a toll of the number of deaths. The elderly and small children were hit the hardest, as these things usually go. With the nursing facilities and orphanages doing the best they could, it still didn’t keep them from taking the brunt of the damage. My heart grieved to think of a child so sick and no mother to hold them in their arms while they recovered or died.
As is always the case with our area of the country, we had some warm days mixed in with the colder days. I watched carefully for any signs of illness and studied more on my herbal remedies. We actually made it through the whole month without as much as a sneeze. Others were not so fortunate. We received the news that the pediatrician’s office was turning away patients, telling them to go to the emergency rooms, because of the flood of wintertime illnesses.
Our newest neighbors continued to come about every other weekend to work on their property in preparation for Spring when they planned to take up residence. Matthew came more often than the others. His small cabin was actually up and running. He had added a member to the family, his name was Bo (short for Bosephus) and he was a 6 month old Anatolian puppy. He was already huge and supposed to get much bigger. As Matthew and his family planned to have livestock, they had decided to invest in a Livestock Guardian Dog. As a matter of fact the breeder had another litter that would be ready by March and they would be getting at least one more of those.
Matthew laughed and told us we’d never have to worry about the fence being cut by the catfish pond again, that was for sure. We never had discovered who had done that, and had never seen any more sign of trespassing. But still, I was glad to think of Bo patrolling the boundaries that happened to connect to our land.
Some of our chicks started laying and Pearl produced the most lovely pale blue eggs! I was thrilled, they were such a novelty. I proudly presented them to Mom Wilson when she and the family came for a visit one Sunday afternoon. She had been correct in her identification of Pearl’s breed. We had started our quilting bees and the girls were getting quite adept at the stitching by hand. As the pieces were placed and then sewn together in to something beautiful I realized this is what God was doing in our lives, taking scraps and making something beautiful by stitching us together in love.
The hunting season had been productive and our freezer was full of meat. The greenhouse was a bit more challenging than I had expected, but it still made it possible to have some fresh vegies on the table. Molly was still producing a good supply of milk for us daily. Oreo and Peanut Butter had grown bigger and stronger. They were a great asset as working goats. Now that we had a wood burning heater to supply with fire wood, they worked nearly every day pulling their cart or even logs from the wooded areas.
Spending more time inside led to more opportunity for home schooling and book work, much to the children’s dismay. The public schools had continued with the three day plan, but Mom and Pop Wilson were reconsidering their decision to send their newly adopted children with the rumors of flu spreading rampantly. They were praying, not wanting to make a hasty decision or changes after the children seemed to be settled into their new life with them and adjusting so well.
I was amazed at how much of our studies could be done using nothing but the Holy Scriptures. We could read beautiful poetry, practice handwriting with copy work, have great History and Science lessons, not to speak of the important spiritual training. I was glad to see the children becoming more familiar with book locations and easily thumbing back and forth as we held Bible Drills like I had done in my childhood.
True to his word Uncle Solomon had given us some lessons in “whittlin’” and we enjoyed working together quietly in the evenings. I shouldn’t have been surprised to discover that he also knew a bit about guitars. He gave me some pointers and it wasn’t long before I could strum out the simple tunes. Dusk often found us singing together as a family. I wanted to teach my children some of the old and almost forgotten hymns. I was glad for the collection of hymnals I had gathered over the years. Stephen had pulled out my old harmonica and began to accompany me, he always was musically inclined. I regretted not having a real piano, we had the electric keyboards of course, but rarely used them as we avoided using electricity any more than necessary.
Soon, all the kids were able to sing along,
Amazing Grace How Sweet the Sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now I’m found
Was blind but now I see.
Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come
‘Tis Grace that taught my heart to fear
And Grace will lead me on
Posted 13 June 2008 - 05:21 PM
I think that February is rightfully the shortest month, it’s just downright miserable all around in my opinion. Who could stand it if it was the longest month? The kids were getting “cabin fever” and I was considering putting my head in the commode and flushing! Seven kids, seven bored kids, seven grumpy bored kids! There was constant bickering and even a few outright throw downs. I was about to contemplate opening a wrestling show every weekend and see if we could bring in some extra money that way. Maybe one of those locked cages? Hank vetoed it, oh well.
I was usually pretty resourceful with occupying my children. I think it was the close proximity. We weren’t heating the whole house, so we were all in each other’s space. Which is why I constantly heard one child telling another, “Get out of my face!” We finally resorted to listening to some Audio Books on CD. This did use electricity, but not too much. I counted the cost, which basically was going insane, and opted to use the electricity. We listened with rapt attention to the C.S. Lewis series that included “Chronicles of Narnia”.
I decided the thing to do was to divide and conquer. Except for when it was being used for meals, the area rug under the large dining room table became the “office” for our two littlest ones. They loved it! They went and hid under there and took legos or cars or army men…whatever…it was their own space. I tired to keep the kids busy in the cooking. Jedediah really liked to make bread, I called it his home economics class. Stephen became my teacher’s assistant and would hold short classes for the youngest fellows. The girls were my greatest challenge, they didn’t seem to know what to do with themselves. I did start them on cursive writing and they practiced a good bit. Daniel had taken an interest in checkers and then chess and was always begging someone to play. Good thing about having so many brothers and sisters, you’ve got a good chance that someone will play.
Two days before Valentines, we got word from Mom and Pop Wilson that Luke had taken ill. They said he was very contagious and suggested Hank and the boys not come for about a week. We prayed and waited to hear. There were more and more cases in our county now. Finally there was a decision to close the schools due to the epidemic. Mom Wilson nursed here little man back to health after 10 days of sickness. When Hank and the boys started back on the normal schedule at the Wilsons, they said he looked very weak as he waved from the window. All of our children had made get well cards for him and Daniel had sent his favorite GI Joe to his buddy.
Apparently the fatigue and stress had worn down Mom Wilson, for she was soon bed ridden with the same treacherous virus. I wanted so badly to go, but she forbid it. And, I knew it was for the best. I certainly didn’t want to infect my own children. Little Lacey turned nurse and determinedly tended her new mom. The children were beyond upset, having watched their grandmother die only the year before. Mom Wilson was made of sturdy stock and also recovered after 7 days of high fevers. We all knew that prayers had also made the difference.
The closing of the schools had been the right thing to do. By the end of February there was public service announcements cautioning people to use extreme caution in public places. They demonstrated the proper use of the surgical masks, or even bandanas if that was all you had. I finally broke into the stock of N95 masks that I had bought when there was concern of a possible Avian Flu outbreak. Hank wore them when he went out, and we stayed home, period. No more Market every other Friday, no more once a month Church, no where, not at all.
Thank the Lord for the whittling kits Uncle Solomon had bought us at Christmas, which helped to fill some hours. We also started doing the most basic of exercises, walking. Once a day, in the warmest part of the day, we all bundled up and walked around the pond, partly down our long driveway, back and forth and round and round. It helped expend some energy and keep us healthy. I wished I had stocked up on Vitamin C, but we drank many herbal teas and practiced good germ defense.
The Plague, as the disease was becoming known, hit hard and held on like a bulldog that had just bitten into a juicy steak. It just wouldn’t let go. Finally, many companies closed their doors and suggested their employees quarantine themselves at home. Hank’s company followed suit. I was glad to have him home, safe and not put at risk. I tried not to think of the financial aspect of it. They allowed for any sick time, personal days, vacation days, etc… But when all was said and done, Hank was among the unemployed and we were without income.
Standing at the window and looking out over the barren land, trees without leaves, and a gray sky, I began to feel the gray color seep into my being. My hope was started to drain. I tried to put on a good front for Hank and the children, but I doubt I was fooling anybody. I could feel this sense of impending doom settling around me and I resisted it as best I could.
Without a regular paycheck, even half a paycheck and without the Market sales…it seemed we were up a creek without a paddle. I found myself feeling lost, abandoned, and forsaken. My faith was being tested, and I fear I was failing miserably. Somewhere bitterness reared its ugly head and I had unbidden thoughts come to my mind. I found I was mad at God, just mad.
Why wasn’t He intervening, where was He? He had sent me these children, His children to raise? What were we going to do? Was He listening, did He care? Why had He let all of this happen?
I would have never voiced my doubts out loud, I would have been too ashamed. Deep down, I knew better. But I needed to be reminded.
Posted 14 June 2008 - 10:07 AM
What’s that old saying about March? In like a lion, out like a lamb? I think that’s how it goes. Well, that saying proved half right, the in like a lion part. I truly don’t recall it ever being so cold? Monotony began to set in. Spirit’s were down and we found ourselves doing what needed to be done, day after day. The animals had to be seen about, wood had to be collected, the family had to be fed, etc.
I tried hard to count my blessings, but I couldn’t seem to shake the oppressive feelings that were weighing me down. The first weekend in March we gathered together for Home Church. Hank shared some meaningful scriptures, we took prayer request and prayed together. I was about to pull out my guitar and strum a few tunes for the kids to sing when Stephen spoke up. As he spoke I saw weariness in my precious son’s eyes and I felt even more despondent than before. His words took me off guard.
“Mom, tell us again our adoption stories. Tell us how God brought us each here and how miracle after miracle happened. Remind us Mom!”
I stared at him motionless for a moment and everyone adjusted themselves in their seats to look towards me, waiting expectantly. I looked at Hank, and he nodded, encouraging me to tell our story. And so I sat the guitar aside and began, at the beginning.
“Well, you see, Mommy and Daddy had been married over 12 years and we still didn’t have any children. We had about given up hope, we thought that God had forgotten us, forsaken us. I was hurt and felt quite confused and betrayed by it all. We had two miscarriages, a failed private adoption, and lots of trips to the doctor’s office. I had a couple of surgeries, took special medicine to help us have a baby, and went through all kinds of tests. Nothing worked and I was so very sad. I thought that maybe God knew I wouldn’t be a good mommy and that was why.”
I didn’t have to tell anyone to sit still or stop squirming, I was telling our story, the story of how we all came together as one family forged in love. Little Emily climbed onto Hank’s lap, she was a Daddy’s girl. “Then what happened Mommy?” Daniel’s voice broke the silence.
“Well, then one day, I was sitting on our front porch swing of the rental house we were living in at that time. I was trying to encourage myself in the Lord. I opened my Bible to Isaiah and began to read. I usually found so much comfort in the scriptures, but the words I read upset me even more this time.” I reached for my Bible and flipped its pages to read them the offending verse.
“Isaiah 54:1 says, ‘"Sing, O childless woman! Break forth into loud and joyful song, O Jerusalem, even though you never gave birth to a child. For the woman who could bear no children now has more than all the other women," says the Lord.’”
“Why did it make you mad Mommy?” This time it was Sarah who voiced a question. She held her baby doll tight and her little eyes looked concerned.
“It made me mad because I thought it wasn’t true. I was a childless woman, I didn’t feel joyful about that. I couldn’t understand how a woman who could bear no children could have more than the other women.”
“Did you forget that God could do anything Mommy?” Little Samuel prompted me to go on.
“Yes baby, Mommy forgot. And I almost stopped reading but I didn’t, I didn’t stop and it was a good thing.” I looked back into the Word of God lying in my lap. “Verse 6&7 say this, For the LORD hath called thee as a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit, and a wife of youth, when thou wast refused, saith thy God. For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee.”
I looked into the eyes of my wonderful husband as I continued, he was feasting on the words, on the memories. I thought I saw a little spark of hope twinkling, striving to take hold and stake it’s claim. “Then, I wasn’t mad anymore. Then, I started to cry, really cry. I thought God had forgotten me, but now I knew He hadn’t. I didn’t know how He was going to do it, but I knew He was able and true to his Word.”
“Well, I kept reading and reading. And as I read, my faith was increased and before you knew it, I was full of hope again. I knew I had to trust my Father to work it all out. Finally I turned to Isaiah 49 and that settled it in my spirit, it was a done deal as far as I was concerned.”
“What did the scriptures say Mom?” Jedediah had leaned forward in anticipation. I flipped back a few pages and began to read portions of the precious scriptures from Isaiah 49.
The children you will have,
After you have lost the others,
Will say again in your ears,
'The place is too small for me;
Give me a place where I may dwell.'
Then you will say in your heart,
'Who has begotten these for me,
Since I have lost my children and am desolate,
They shall bring your sons in their arms,
And your daughters shall be carried on their shoulders;
Kings shall be your foster fathers,
And their queens your nursing mothers;
For they shall not be ashamed who wait for Me."
I closed my Bible and continued my testimony of God’s faithfulness in my life. “You see kids, I saw those scriptures fulfilled. I saw children being carried to me. Children that I had not born from my body but who were delivered to me in a different way. I, a barren woman, a woman who never had any children, had more than the other women, just like it said. And I rejoiced, just like it said.”
“How many all together Mom?” Stephen asked.
“Forty-five foster children.” I answered. “And now you seven are mine forever and ever.” We spent a long time hugging and snuggling and then I went on to tell them details about each of their adoptions. Their eyes lighted up with the retelling of proud moments and precious memories.
The very first opportunity that I had to be alone, I had a long talk with my Abba, my heavenly Daddy. I asked Him to forgive me for giving in to the discouragement and doubt. He of course wiped it all away, made it all better, and gave me that peace that passes all understanding and set my feet on higher ground. I was indeed developing some of those “Hinds Feet for High Places”. I was satisfied.
Before bed, I picked up the guitar once again and we all sang in hushed tones. This verse of Amazing Grace held particular meaning that night.
Twas Grace that taught me how to fear
And Grace my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear?
The moment I first believed.
Posted 15 June 2008 - 09:54 AM
March did not go out as a lamb. Hank had not been called back to work, and I was beginning to wonder if he ever would be. Our food supply was okay, but the money was going fast. We had some decisions to make and they weren’t going to be easy. I knew I could make a call to my Mom, but that just didn’t seem right. That would take from their savings and would be just a Band-Aid, not solving anything long term.
We could pay one more house note and one more truck note plus the utilities. But, truthfully, we weren’t sure that we should. Without any prospects of income in the near future, should we spend our last available money? Hank and I prayed for direction, we waited for an answer.
Our sweet Molly, the nanny Nubian goat, was ready to deliver any day. We were all hoping it would be on a weekend when our new neighbor would be around. Matthew’s brother, David, had checked her out and gave us instructions about what to do. But still…well, this was uncharted territory.
The Wilson’s were all healthy again and fully recovered. Hank and the boys no longer walked over in the evenings, they went right after lunch in the warmest part of the days. Pop Wilson seemed to always have extra stuff that needed to be done. We suspected he was looking for ways to increase the work time and thus the pay. He also altered the wage method. While most of the time he still did the chicken and egg deal, other days he paid in other ways. Once he sent a sack of chicken feed. Another time he offered a bale of hay. Running low on animal grains, we were thankful for this and Hank accepted readily.
For once, we had all the time in the world to address all of those “need to do” things, but then on the other hand, no extra money. Hank and the boys became experts at making do and discovering new solutions. I worried about Hank, men measure themselves according to “what they do”. He was doing everything he could of course, but I hoped his self esteem wasn't being damaged too badly.
He was a good man, a man to be proud of. When we knew we were going to adopt the first time he had gone back for degrees in Information Technologies, considering the computer field to be a good investment. And, in fact it had been, until now, when the value of things had been distorted.
The last week in the month of March we had our first snow of the season. This is always a novelty for the South and the children were thrilled. We all enjoyed it for a few days and then, we’d had enough already. I was tired of the mess being tracked into the house. The animals were miserable with their limited time out and about. Hank was watching water lines to keep them from freezing. The day light hours seemed even shorter than it had been and even when it was daytime, there was a gray look to the world.
The news reports were awful. The homeless population had greatly increased due to the economic crisis. Crime was on the rise, theft being at the top of the list. In some cities the National Guard was activated to try and keep the peace. It seemed that as the world grew colder, so did the hearts of people. Compassion or acts of kindness were a rare thing.
People who had relied on charge cards for the first months of this crisis had reached credit limits. Suddenly, for the first time in their life they couldn’t live a life of “get it whether you can afford it or not”. And here it was, in the dead of winter, and it seemed the sand was falling through the hourglass of accountability. They were angry, resentful and looking for someone to blame for the mess they found themselves in.
All around American people were protesting and demanding that the government fix this and fix it fast. Press Conferences were held as the most persuasive of politicians tried to calm the fears and frustrations of the people. It wasn’t working, no body wanted to shoulder the blame and most were not willing to compromise the lifestyle they were use to. Sometimes I wondered, if this was all a dream, a bad dream. It wasn’t.
The President did enact the DUA Disaster Unemployment Assistance, declaring the Plague and resulting quarantines to be a National Disaster. This would extend our unemployment benefits, this was paying for our utilities, cellular phones, prescription medications. We considered cutting off the cellular service, but instead, as soon as our contracts were up, we changed our service plan to a “pay as you go” plan. With Hank seldom away from home, this cut down on our cost considerably. You only paid for the days you actually activated your phone.
I had started cutting back on some of my medications, without Hank knowing. I knew he would have a fit, if he did. I was using two Asthma puffers and just alternated having them filled. I felt confidant in my ability to monitor myself, it may have seemed foolish, but I felt it was necessary. We were holding on to the internet service too, although we had cut it back to the lowest speed and subsequently lowest cost. It was such a life line to the news and a veritable bottomless well of information.
I prayed and prayed and prayed some more. I found myself walking as I prayed. I found myself going to my sleeping children at night and laying my hands on their heads as I prayed. I found myself praying as I kneaded bread, chopped potatoes or whittled a piece of wood. I found myself praying as I strummed my guitar, sometimes putting my prayers to melody. I prayed and I believed and I waited.
Posted 16 June 2008 - 09:05 PM
We eagerly embraced the coming of April, which whispered sweet nothings into our ears, promising a spring on its way! Easter was in April that year and word was spread that there would be a Sunrise service at the little community church that had suspended its services during the winter weather and also to prevent spread of the Plague. We looked forward with anticipation to the gathering. There would be no inside service, no dinner on the grounds, simply a gathering to watch the Sun Rise and celebrate the Son of God Risen! I think the believers of the community were struggling with the isolation as well as the obvious economic struggles.
The first Monday in April, Hank got an email from his work with news about reopening their offices. They would be reopening, in two weeks, after Easter weekend. However, they were going to downsize. The email went into great detail about how the decisions would be made. They were offering severance packages for any employee that would voluntarily resign. The packages were generous, evidently trying to encourage as many as would, to take their offer. There was a deadline to make your decision. Everyone was to report to work the first day back and sign the appropriate paper work if accepting the package. Any offers were no longer valid after wards, even if you were laid off. We had a big decision to make.
The Byrd family began to get settled in one by one. It felt good to know that someone had our back. Matthew had indeed bought a companion for Bo, her name was Emma, and she was a beauty. Matthew hoped to breed them when they were full-grown. He said that although money would be scarce, he felt Livestock Guardian Dogs would be in demand as crime continued to rise. He would also have a few horses for transportation and farm work. He had already acquired farming tools that required no gasoline. He intended to offer services such as shoeing horses as well.
His brother Dave and Dave’s wife, Donna wanted to have backyard chickens and other poultry. Every parcel of their land was dedicated for a purpose and nothing left to chance. Dave said an economic collapse was on the horizon. They were so convinced, that they had sold the home they had lived in for 30 years to make these changes. They had sold it for far less than its value. There just wasn’t much of a market for houses when people were worried about their next meal or having gas to get to work, if they were lucky enough to have a job that is.
The third brother and his wife, Gabe and Lisa, were going to concentrate on sustainability gardening. There were some open fields to be planted with grains that would help feed the livestock and their family. They were also building a substantial green house. They hoped to be able to make a profit by selling locally and of course build up a good pantry and root cellar for the harder times that they expected to come.
I couldn’t help feeling a little envy now and then. Here we were with a house full of children and a huge house payment and lots of plans with no means to accomplish them. But, then I remembered my grandma warning me about envy and how it was a weed that strangles out your joy and happiness. I wanted no part of that, so I applied the weed killer (prayer and scripture) in generous amounts.
Easter arrived on a beautiful, mild day and we rejoiced! The Sun Rise service was lovely and very touching. The message the Pastor shared was brief but so encouraging. We left feeling focused and refreshed.
Our lunch that day was moderate but I tried to make it as special as possible. Our sugar was low so Hank had bought a bag when he had gone to collect the gasoline vouchers. So, I made sugar cookies and they were a big hit. We couldn’t do individual Easter Baskets, but we did have our set of Resurrection Eggs that we enjoyed. As another special sweet treat, we made Corn flake Candy. My mom and grandma had made it for years. It was simple, and I had the ingredients.
Late that evening, our Molly delivered twin baby goats. Two little does, I was thrilled. We named them Mindy and Mandy. We had arranged to use the goat replacement powdered milk, so that we could bottle-feed them and use Molly’s milk for ourselves. It was costly, but it was also an investment.
Dave and Donna had come right away when we sent for them and talked us through it step by step. It was an extremely tense and equally rewarding experience. Birth is such an amazing and miraculous thing. I was in awe.
The day after Easter, was the day Hank must report back to his place of employment and give his decision as to whether he would accept the severance package. After much prayer, we had decided to accept. Hank felt the risk of losing his job and the benefits of the severance package were too great. This decision however, would mean the loss of the unemployment benefits.
The package would give us 3 months full salary with benefits and a lump sum pay out. Hank said he intended to make every penny count. He said it was our second chance to prepare, and he intended to be wise. After this, there would only be the 401K left to fall back on.
The very next week, Jedediah was thrilled to receive his order of honeybees. He had carefully set up the equipment that he had found at the Market months before and prepared to be a BeeKeeper. The bees arrived in a can! We were all very interested in the process, but I wasn’t interested enough to be a part of the project. I could just taste the honey it would produce. The hive was placed at the far side of the fruit trees, so they could also help with pollination. I planned to give them their “personal space”.
Matthew brought his team and broke up the garden for us. We planned to plant much more this year than last. We were already starting the seedlings in the warmth of our home. Mom Wilson shared some of her seeds with me and with Lisa, and we did the same. Between us, we had a nice collection. I planned to grow more herbs this year as well. I wanted to dry some and make some infusions and teas as well.
Uncle Solomon asked to meet with me and Hank and Stephen one afternoon. He said that he wanted to open a business on the side that he thought would be well received. He intended to open up a GunSmith shop for gun repairs. He needed a young man he could count on to be his apprentice and Stephen was offered the job. Stephen was on top of the world. Uncle Solomon explained that the pay would not be much, because as an apprentice, learning the trade and developing the skill was biggest part of the pay. We all agreed that it would be a wonderful learning experience for Stephen.
I began to get a clear picture of the value of practical, marketable skills.
Posted 17 June 2008 - 12:14 PM
May had always been one of my favorite months, I was born that month and Mother’s day was in May. Hey! It’s just a great month!
This May was different. It had been over a year since I’d seen my mom and grandma. This was a great source of sadness for me. I hated the fact that families were always so separated from each other, these days, or so it seemed. Of course, we had a home here and our own family, a very large family in fact. I was a mommy, many times over, it was a good life.
I was establishing closer relationships with Donna, Lisa and Mom Wilson. Friends are wonderful, but I still missed my family. I missed the feeling of being a little girl again, when I saw myself reflected that way in Grandma’s eyes. When I would go for a visit, it was so healing and soothing. Grandma would fuss over me and any little ailment that I had. We would all have coffee together, along with my sister and Mom. We would do each other’s hair, shop, and share truths from the Bible. It was our version of a “Mutual Admiration Society”!
My mom was my hero, no matter how old I was, I wanted to grow up and be just like her. She had lots of ingenuity and had never failed at doing anything that she set her mind to. My sister, Rachael was my biggest fan and was constantly cheering me on in whatever new adventure I was undertaking. I missed them so much. I found myself day dreaming about how it would be to work side by side with them during these days of uncertainty. I never mentioned it to Hank, he had enough to worry about.
May was not without it’s miracles! Three days before Mother’s Day we received two calls that would impact our family significantly. One was from the Department of Human Resources, on the state level. They asked if they could come and meet with us the following day about an urgent matter. I was more than a little concerned. I sure was praying a lot lately.
The second was from Deputy Burton. He had investigated our signs of trespassing months ago. He also said he’d like to come by, but he was coming that very afternoon. He said he had a proposal for us to consider. Having someone in our home was unusual, downright rare. Now we were expecting two visitors. I got busy and arranged some projects to keep the children busy. I pulled out the play dough, a mother’s secret weapon, for the youngest children. The three oldest boys were told they could have the time to work on their secret clubhouse that they’d been assembling with pieces of scrap lumber.
When Deputy Burton arrived, he was not alone. The Chaplain for the Department was with him, he was an older man with kind eyes and round spectacles. He wore a dark suit and a clerical collar. He was introduced as Pat McGillivray and when he spoke it was with the slightest Irish lilt. He was associated with the Anglican Church. He had an easy manner and a quick smile. It was not difficult to slip into comfortable conversation with him. He had a soothing presence about him.
After a few moments, the two men stated their business. A map of our area was unfolded and boundaries marked with a yellow highlighter.
The deputy began to explain, “We are working towards a new initiative that has been developed by the Government. Each county has been given the task to section off certain areas within them that could benefit with the proposed program. We will need a specified person in each of these designated areas to be what is known as A.R.C., which stands for ‘Area Resource Coordinator’. And we’re asking you to fill that position Hank.”
“What would it involve?” Hank asked evenly.
Chaplain Pat spoke up. “The person who is the designated A.R.C. would have multiple responsibilities. That person would be an extension of the department.” He leaned forward as he spoke, his eyes bright with hope.
“For instance, you remember several months ago when I saw you last about the cut fence and I told you that I had already talked to several people in the area. There was an elderly couple who had some lawn furniture missing, a missing bike, etc. We are over run with responding to more urgent calls in the more heavily populated areas.” Deputy Burton rubbed his with his finger tips as if he hoped to clear the cobwebs.
“If you accept the position, you would handle such things and report to us any findings, as well as immediately contact us when you deemed the situation warranted our presence or participation.”
Once again the chaplain spoke, “It wouldn’t always be such calls. There are many elderly people in this area that have not fared well through the winter months and during the worse of the Plague. Some of them need to be monitored.” Chaplain Pat interjected.
“The first order of business would be to go and personally meet every family in your assigned area, introduce yourself, give them your contact information and assess any needs they may have.”
“You’ll have a list of available resources and then would be responsible for coordinating it.” Chaplain Pat settled back into the sofa and turned to the officer, giving him the floor.
“Hank, you’d receive some tools and stipends to help with this as well as a small salary. The county is authorized to provide you with mileage reimbursement, certain equipment, like a radio in your truck and first aid equipment. You would also be given training about how to handle various situations. We aren’t asking you to be a cop, we’re asking you to help your community.”
“Do you recall the Work Relief Effort that the Government mandated during the Great Depression? This A.R.C. program would be funded the same way.” I sat quietly listening, wishing I had paid a little more attention to the Great Depression era in History class.
The conversation lasted a long while. Eventually, as the children grew restless I excused myself and let the men work out more details and answer Hank’s questions. Personally, I thought it sounded intriguing and knew for a fact that they couldn’t have chosen a better man for the job. Later when Hank and I could talk further, he said he felt strongly about serving the community in this way. He would begin training the following Monday.
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