Thursday, December 29, 2011

Holiday no man's land

Today is Thursday, December 29, 2011. Christmas is over, New Years is still a few days away and those bargain hunters have already hit the malls for the big boxing day sales. Some people are back to work either for the whole week or a day or two between more statutory days off. For the employee without benefits or who work in a 24/7 business they have traded days and altered schedules to get some family time. For me, it is Thursday which means baking day for tomorrow's farm market.

I look back on last years Christmas which was quiet, our first alone without any extended family and not really any friends to share the day with. We had no living room and very little in the way of furniture so we crammed the dining table, Christmas tree, chairs, gifts - what we had - all into the small dining room off the kitchen. It was cozy, we dressed it up, but it did fall a bit flat for us all. Yet at the same time, it was peaceful and we were together, warm, in our own home and we were beginning our own traditions.

This year was different. I made a commitment to my family that we WOULD have a living room this year. Yes, there would be a TV (maybe not hooked up to satellite, but a TV), sofa's and a tree in the room for us to enjoy. In November I discovered that I could put furniture on lay-a-way at Home Hardware/Home Furniture. I loved this idea! I could get the sale, pick what I want, pay within 3 months for pick up AND get Aeroplan miles. It seemed like a no brainer!

Of course I then had to work my butt off to pay for them. I dragged Len in - he did not kick and scream but you could see him groaning and wishing he could be elsewhere in his mind. He is good though, he came along, but was not big on giving me much feedback. We did agree on one thing - no fabric sofa's. With the kids, the farm and the potential of discoloured furniture that would not come clean, we agreed on leather. 

Yes, I loved the giant plush leather sofa's with the recline options and drink holders. I do have good taste - just not a big budget, so I quickly walked away from anything that looked as soft as butter and had a warm creamy leather texture.

Off we went to the sale section. I was thrilled to find I could get two leather three seater pieces for an incredibly reasonable price, the pieces were attached so none of that annoying sliding off the couch, or losing coins between the cushions. My only worry was that the set was too small. It looked so lost in the furniture store with the mammoth sets surrounding it.

For the month of November and December I worked hard, had baking orders, didn't plan much for Christmas for the girls because if we had a living room that was going to hit and beyond on the normal budget. I did pick them up a few things along the way that I thought they would like - for the most part I was right and a few things got the look - "Who are you Grandma? I would never use this!" with a laugh at my senility.

I have to admit that in the midst of all this I kind of forgot my loving husband and didn't get him much. (He does have about a year's supply of licorice though!) I don't worry much about spousal gifts - every year I tell Len that I would rather just have food, alcohol, fun and get the kids some stuff. I am not a wife who gets mad about the wrong gift or no gift, that is just not me.

Well, as you may recall, Len was away for a week, we were in a deep freeze in New Brunswick and I was very busy with last minute baking orders as well as the farm, kids and travel to get him from the airport. I was also sick for about 4 days, not completely sick, but enough to slow me down and make everything an effort. 

I was very grateful when two days before Len was to return from BC he called and suggested that we book a hotel for the night he arrived home so that I did not have to deal with night weather. Considering the fact that I had to make two trips to Fredericton that day, had been up until 2am the night before and he did not arrive until after midnight - I quickly said YES! Yes! 

During my multiple trips to Fredericton on the Wednesday of pick up we had a storm. Awful weather! Everything you could think of starting with blinding bright sun, dark gray sky, freezing rain, thick snow, ice, rain and slush on the road. I was exhausted!

The next day we had to rush back from Fredericton since I had an order to get out that day and had to bake the rest of my orders for the following day. I was up again for half the night, up early in the morning to bake pies and pack and decorate to deliver to my customers. 

By the time we left home, with the truck full and me mentally counting the cash on hand, in the bank and the funds coming in from the orders of the day, I knew I had JUST enough money to buy one sofa - not two. I had realized a day before that this was the case and decided I was still achieving the dream - meeting my promise of a living room and we would have a cozy Christmas. (Of course accomplishing this left me short for the Christmas turkey and a few other things like fuel, was a bit panicky... yet I was sure it would all come together!)

We finally left home to drive to market - it was 10am and snowing hard. We were late and I hoped that my message to the market and my customers would either have them wait for me or come back... (heart fluttery and anxiety setting in). The drive was horrendous and at any other time I would have turned around to go home. I was so tired, I had bags under the bags of my red rimmed eyes. If one didn't know better they would have thought I just traveled across the country and was dealing with the time change rather than Len. 

We finally got to the market, only slid and almost hit the ditch once, love my repaired 4x4! We no sooner pulled up to the market then Glenn came out to help take stuff in and in his own words so eloquently said "Where the hell ya been? People have been here for you!" I said "Oh Glenn! Will they come back???" He figured most would since they did read the Facebook status update on our group. There were also several people waiting for me and in a matter of minutes almost all of my trays went out hand to hand to the customers and I had a pocket full of cash.

Three trays left... without those trays I would not make the payment by noon to the furniture store to make delivery that afternoon. I stood by Len and Glenn and pulled out my piece of paper and counted and calculated and figured and panicked... At this point my heart was beating faster, my breath shallow and my mind manic... I had to do it! This was all I wanted for Christmas, to give my family a living room!

I was beating myself up since the week before I bought a TV for the house. It was our first TV since the move and I had to grab the deal since a 32" Phillips flat screen LED TV was on for only $218! That however, had left me short for today. I finally asked Len if I could borrow a few dollars until later in the day when my customers came. I really wanted to do this on my own, for our family and was disappointed to have to ask him for help. 

He lives on a minimum pension and there is not much left for him after the mortgage, plus he had just been to BC. What if he said no???? I finally started to ask him, fear rising in my throat, what if...? Of course, being the kind, loving, caring man he was and seeing how hard I was working for it, he said "of course."

Sometimes, I wonder why I think it will be bad? I have nothing to worry about with him, he is a great guy, loves me tons, even thought I was beautiful standing there in front of him, harried with almost no sleep, jeans tucked into my chicken shit boots that had I had not had time to clean, red flaky eyes and shuddering breath... He is definitely a keeper!

Len asked Glenn to watch our table and I gave him the who's who on orders and we walked to the furniture store down the street. I was so grateful to him for helping me and knew that I could pay him right back. My heart was racing since we had to pay the store by 12 noon and it was 11:45 and stormy and snowy... what if they had cancelled deliveries or left early?

Fortunately we found the right clerk and he assured us that the truck had not left, deliveries were being made and they would only charge $30 (which for where we live is an amazing price!) As the sales clerk rang up the till and I gave her all of my cash, then my debit, it was now Len's turn. He asked her how much was left - only $130. ( I was so close!)

He then said "No, for the other sofa too." She told him... He said "Add it on the truck and I will pay for that too." I was stunned! I looked at him and he turned to me, smiled and said, "Merry Christmas, I love you honey." I was speechless... but not for long, I was so overwhelmed, I said, "What? You don't have to do that!" Him, "I want to , this is my gift to you, I love you." Waaahhh!

I told him I was going to cry, at which point the sales clerk said no, or she would cry too... sorry, can't help it! Tears of joy welled up in my eyes, my throat unlocked and out poured my release, my happiness, my love for him. No, it wasn't about stuff, it was about working together, my wanting to do this for our family so bad and his opening his heart (and wallet) to help me. I love you my handsome!

I didn't stop crying all day, every time I told someone or thought about it, or looked at him with all my love - CRY! Happy tears though. I have wept enough sad ones in my life and today it was pure unadulterated love for him.

Needless to say, the children were thrilled and loved it. We have a living room! We have a room that is not stored with junk or boxes, it contains a brand new TV, two beautiful black leather sofa's, a gorgeous Christmas tree and the home theatre system that Santa brought for Christmas. More than all that, the living room contains our family. The people I love most in the world. It has been a beautiful Christmas, it was white with fresh snow, warm with wood burning in the fire, loving surrounded by the people who mean most.

The final piece to this story... Len has now been the biggest user of our couches. Sadly he turned to get grain for the goat on Christmas night and put his back out just before dinner. He was in excruciating pain and spent the next two and a half days pretty much laid up on his back... on the sofa enjoy the TV and movies! Wow, so glad it all worked out! I am also happy to say that he is up and moving around again and so long as he takes it easy and keeps the Superman cape off for awhile longer, he should continue to improve! (Love you my handsome!)

I hope you all had an amazing holiday 
filled with ordinary miracles that fill our lives.
 Happy New Year for 2012!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

The most wonderful time ... of the year!

"It's the most wonderful time of the year 
With the kids jingle belling
And everyone telling you "Be of good cheer" 
It's the most wonderful time of the year 
It's the hap-happiest season of all
With those holiday greetings and gay happy meetings 
When friends come to call 
It's the hap- happiest season of all " 1963
This song came to mind as I was beginning this blog and I was surprised to see that it was only written in 1963. You see, to me, it has always been around and I thought it was a very old song. I was born in 1966 and this was already a classic - does that make me a classic now too?

Today is December 18, 2011. It is shortly after 9am, as I sit in my old tattered overstuffed chair next to the wood stove crackling in the kitchen. I can see the sun get higher over the horizon, the sky clear blue with a hint of yellow as the sun rises in the sky. The earth is frozen, it is -17c now, not sure how cold it got during the night but it must have dipped close to -20c. The power was out for 5 hours, fortunately we were sleeping during that time, all snuggled all warm in our beds.

Len is in BC visiting with family for an early Christmas and won't be home until the 22nd. I am farming on my own while he is gone. Therefore when the morning starts I can't crawl straight back into my big comfy bed, covered by quilts and appreciating that I don't have to drive off to work. No, I get up, stoke the stove, wake up kids, prep them for school, wave goodbye to the bus at 7:15am, then pull on my coop boots, scarf, work gloves and coat to head out and check on my livestock - then if I don't have to go anywhere I might crawl back under the covers.
Jessica's Christmas card to me!
Perfect - I LOVE IT!
The routine goes something like this: feed Luki our Great Pyrenees dog first, lead him off with the bowl outside Len's studio so that he does not get agitated when any other creatures head near his food. He runs to his bowl, sniffs, then looks up for a scratch and a cuddle. He doesn't feel the sub zero temperatures with his thick double coat of fur. While he eats - sometimes allowing the cat, Finnegan 2 to share his bowl, I head off to set up the other creatures for the day.

First, I take out the frozen water from the chicken coop and put it in Len's studio to thaw. Then I give them some fresh water to work on while the big water feeder warms up. I fill their feeder and have a look around for loose eggs. All breeds are laying now, although intermittently due to the weather and some of the Rhode Island Reds seem to like laying the eggs on the floor. Most of the birds lay later in the day, but I try to get the floor eggs asap. It is then time to check on Freya, my pregnant goat. She is bleating... "mmuuummm, muuummm" , yes even the goat calls me MUUUM! I grab a few flakes off the hay bale and put it in her manger, stuffed down so she can grab it when she wants it, but not so that it hits the floor because then she won't eat it. (I don't blame her there!) I break the ice in her water, either dump it and refill or just crack it up so she can get it... depends on the morning.

I then head back to Luki, hug and cuddle, grab his bowl and put it away for the day. Now that he is fed I can let Freya and the chickens out. Although it is beyond freezing the birds like to go out since there is not much snow left on the ground. 

All that done, it is time to head in for a hot cup of coffee. I love my Reunion Island Privateer Dark fair trade organic coffee... .mmm! If I don't have to go anywhere I just might spike it with my home made Sherman's Irish Cream. YUM! 

This morning after I am done, I have to zip up the hill to the Fosterville Baptist Church to get Jessica from Sunday School. She goes each week from 9 to 10am and gets a ride there with a neighbour/Sunday school teacher. Thanks Louise! Some weeks she stays after to attend church service, but not today. 

Last night we went to bed very late, after decorating the tree and watching the Polar Express and then Elf - fun get in the spirit - Christmas movies. They are favourites at our house. It was not easy to get her out of bed today, but she had to go since tonight is the church Christmas concert and she is in the Christmas story.

Since there are only 5 regular kids in the Sunday school and one who attends when she is in town, there are not many too choose from for parts. Jess is discouraged that she has to play Joseph, but I told her, at least you get a part and to speak. She is mostly disappointed that she has to wear an "ugly brown robe and a towel on my head". This from a girl who is ten and very girly! Oh well, it is a half hour of your life and we will video tape it to send to the grandparents! After the play and concert there are refreshments so I guess this afternoon we will make some sugar cookies to take along.

As I said, it is the "most wonderful time of the year", not because of presents, it is the spirit in the air. I feel sad for people who focus so much on gifts. Yes, I get distressed when I struggle to get some things for my kids, but they know it is usually stuff they need and a few fun things they want - it has never been nor will ever be much of a big department store Christmas. This year I think since Rachel is 17 there will be a few gifts - things to take when she moves out and some cash to get what she decides she wants. Jess is still doable at ten... but it certainly does get more difficult.

I am excited since I bought a TV on Friday and we watched movies on it last night. We have not had a TV for over a year and a half and no furniture, cable, etc. We have only had our computers. So my good friends at Bell, will head out tomorrow morning to hook up satellite for us which will be really weird after so long without.

I am 90% positive we will have our new sofa's for Christmas. I figure if I go pay most of it, MAYBE a post dated cheque for the rest and perhaps flash a little cleavage they might deliver before Christmas! (Hmmm maybe I better put the cleavage away? That works in the city but not so sure out here in the bible belt! Besides the cleavage is also aging and saggy and nothing says sexy like wrinkly boobs.)

It is a goal and that will be my happy Christmas - us sitting in our living room - I am painting the ugly fuchsia wall white today - I look forward to waking up Christmas morning, next to our beautiful tree, fire place burning, TV playing Christmas tunes, drinking our Irish cream and coffees and  being grateful to be together.

Len, I miss you my darling, but you will be home soon and I am so happy you were able to head west for a visit! We are all well here and the kids only have a few days of school left. They attend until noon on Friday, December 23rd, which seems very weird!
Retirement cake for the Farm Market cook
I have a few baking orders left for this week and have the farm market Friday morning. Wednesday night at midnight, weather permitting, I shall head to the Fredericton airport to retrieve Farmer Sherman and happily hug him in front of all the late night travelers. Well, I had better run, it is time to get Jessica from Sunday school and I think the old diesel, Buddy, will need a few minutes to thaw out! At least it is warming up - only -16c now!
Have a wonderful day everyone! MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Monday, December 12, 2011

The countdown to Christmas

House warming cake
for good friends!
Christmas is apparently only days away and everyone is rushing around getting ready for it. I am plodding towards it since there is no way to keep it away. I love Christmas and all that goes with it. It isn't really about the presents, but the gatherings, food, drink and fun. Of course the kids love presents but now I realize how it was for my parents as I got older and it was harder to please me - oh it was possible, but financially a nightmare. Try to keep a teen happy on the same budget you can make a 5 year old happy with - next to impossible! Then of course we are away from family which is very noticeable this time of year.

Now is when I regret (only slightly) not having a traditional 40hr week decent paying job to make all their "dreams" come true. As excited as the girls are getting about Christmas they know it is not going to be extravagant, they know they will get things they like, some they wanted on their lists and some that is just from their "crazy mom". As for family out west, I have made everyone's gifts - so SURPRISE!

Jess's 10th birthday
Yesterday, as I was in the porch, I heard Jess tell Rachel that she "knew what mom was getting me for Christmas!" I was a little shocked since I have no clue what I am getting.... Rachel said, "What?" Jessica said, "A living room and a TV!" Well, I laughed and thought cool! That was not even too selfish! Of course then I trembled knowing I might not be able to make it happen as much as I am trying. I love the words that come out of the mouths of babes! (and the added pressure)

I looked at my blog and realized that I haven't posted anything since Rachel's birthday over 1 month ago. I then looked at my log of the blog and saw that three times I had started to write but never finished. None of the writing seemed very inspired or profound, so delete, delete, delete... In fact, I am not sure if I will even post this.

Birthday Cake
Kids Halloween Party
Maybe it is the seasons changing, the darker days, the snow on the ground and the upcoming holidays, however, I have felt very little creativity. It feels forced, uninteresting, boring and maybe my little life at writing is over? I have written an outline and premise for my potential novel, but, I am afraid to start, what if it is another thing I can't finish? Does that make me a failure? Does that mean that I am unable to complete a task and I am just another hack without any talent? Could be.

I have taken time over the past month to reach out to my friends and have long deep chats. Apparently men don't understand that concept. My husband thinks we just gab all day on the phone and men don't do that. True, men don't, but maybe they should? Maybe if men sat and talked about their lives, family, feelings and emotions more ... nah, then we would NEVER get to use the phone!

No calories!
Christmas baking tray
My latest thing is to decorate cakes and now to do baking trays for Christmas. The cake decorating has all been free so far with the exception of the wedding at Thanksgiving. The baking trays are picking up and I am hoping to sell some more for Christmas money. I have put a sofa set on lay a way and need to give Santa a hand paying for it so it can be put under my tree! So, chocolate and cookies anyone?
Ready to serve!

If I never write again due to complete writers block
 or if Christmas comes before I put my hands to the keyboard again, 
I wish you all a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS!

long days of winter - December 8, 2011

i can't write
i don't care
nothing comes to me
my mind is bare

thoughts are blank
empty, void, alone
brain feels dark, dank
cold and hollow

it seeps up on me
i don't know its coming
i can hardly see
i am surrounded

desolate and sad
heaviness in my heart
when did it come?
why did it start?

what is it exactly?
stress? pressure?
how can good go bad?
hollow beyond measure

it will lift
i will rise
but am i lost
in their eyes?

sarah sherman (C)