Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Opening Another Gate

My husband was doing very well as an independant contractor welding on a large project in our area.  He was making more money than he'd ever made as a ranch manager.  Way more money.  The project was also supposed to last awhile so there was a certain sense of financial security, for me at least.  For my husband there is never enough financial security.  Just knowing the job would indeed end in the next year made him cautious enough that we lived like it was  our last paycheck.  Thank goodness.  If it had been me making that much money, I would have bought every known appliance we needed, stockpiled clothes on sale, bought a new car, and so on....

He never really settled in to his new identity off the ranch.  The new job gave him more time to be on his family's ranch, which was also a full time job, but we didn't live there.  When the family ranch was split after his grandfathers death, his parents were able to keep their part but the other part of the ranch was sold.

 The part sold was the headquarters which had the house on it and the part his parents retained did not have a house so there is no place to live and that is why we live in town.  So even though he drove out to the ranch all the time, it wasn't the same as living there.
He likes to know what's coming, when it's coming and how much it's going to be.  Being an independant contractor provides none of those scenarios. He would have made a great businessman because he's very talented at managing tasks, keeps his word, and he's extremely ethical.  But I also knew that he would never be at ease and he would be in a constant state of worrying when the next job would end.

In April he received a call from a man who owned a large ranch in the area.  I knew the man because he actually owned the resort I mentioned in earlier posts.  He was a successful businessman and owned land in the area along time.  He offered my husband a ranch job of a lifetime.  My husband was thrilled to be offered the opportunity, but it wasn't an easy decision.  He never makes hasty decisions so he thought about it for days.

When we first moved to town I decided that if the opportunity arose that I would probably not want to live so remotely again.  I'd like to live 10-15 miles out of town maybe, but not drive an hour again.  I had become accustomed in a short time to buying groceries and getting home before the ice cream melted, or frozen meat for that matter.  I liked walking out to get the mail and not having to drive an hour to receive a package.  I'd bonded with the UPS guy.  And for the first time in years, we had people deliver pizza.  Real pizza.  (If you can call what we have here real pizza.)

On the other hand, writing out checks every month for the mortgage, the water, the electricity, cable, taxes, and insurance made me realized that it actually all evens out.  Typically, when you run a ranch all of those things come with the package.  Plus, we would be moving in to a very new house, which never happens on ranches, at least not in my experience.  It didn't hurt that the ranch was beautiful.  It's hard to go from having mountain vistas as your view to having a backyard fence.    The quality of life that we'd led on the ranch way outweighed the threat of ice cream melting in my back seat on the way home from the store.  And I can't eat pizza much anyway.

So he took the job and I instantly saw a sense of relief come over him.  He would again be doing what he's always done, something he really takes pride in and is good at.  Money is not the most important thing to him, saving money might be, but making large amounts of it isn't.  He would again be dealing with cattle and deer, not clients.  And as a family we'd make the decision to go back to homeschooling and leave the chaos of both parents working behind us.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

A New Bend in the Road

The move from the ranch taught me an important lesson:  God does not want me to be comfortable.  He wants me to be content and joyful in all circumstances, but not comfortable.  In his wisdom he has reminded me that I have a job to do and that is to serve Him.  Even though I was serving him through my role as wife and mother, He needed to me to know what it was to obey.  And so when the headmaster of the christian school my children attended asked me if I'd consider teaching there, I knew that God had opened another door and I would obey.

So just when I got in to the swing of things as an event planner, I became a teacher; something I said I'd never be.  And it's not because the profession is beneath me, but because when you grow up in a small town in Texas, its automatically assumed this is what you'll become, and I had spent most of my life, trying to surpass small town expectations.  Plus, my entire family network is made up of teachers and I wanted to be different. 

Homeschooling your own kids is different than being a classroom teacher in just about every aspect.  So I went into the job with apprehension and insecurity because I wasn't trained for this, even though I had been homeschooling for several years.  My safeguard was that it was a classical school and I had a grasp of the methodoligy and a fresh outlook on what education should be.  I may have not been a trained, experienced teacher, but I felt like I could at least be passionate about educating the whole child.   Plus, I felt it was an inspired calling so obviousely, the Lord would guide me.

I had a wonderful year teaching eight children.  It gave me an entirely new appreciation for teachers and for private schools.  I loved my class so much and felt like they were an extension of my own family. I was able to implement things in my classroom that I never had in my own education, in addition to intertwine God into the framework of the entire day so that not only was it an education but also a misnistry of sorts.   And it was exhausting.  Holy cow, who knew how much work it would be! 

I had an unrealistic expectation that I'd be so much closer to my own children and could participate more in their classroom events, but was I wrong!  I don't think I went to one classroom party for my own kids.  I missed every field trip and didn't have the time to visit my daughters preK classroom once, like most other moms.  I was so busy planning, grading, fundraising, directing the Christmas play, taking my  own class on field trips that I missed everything my own children were involved in.  

Even though it was exhausing, it was satisfying work.  I was totally invested in the mission of the christian school, invested in the mission of classical education in a remote, rural town.  I had great dreams for what the school would become and for the roles my children would play in its growth.  It never surpassed our homeschool experience, but it came close.  At the end of the school year I found a new self confidence that the next year it would be even better because I would know what I was doing... but there would be no next year, because things were about to change again.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The End of the Dirt Road

On January 1st of 2012, my husband received an email, (not a phone call, but an email) from the ranch owner (actually from his wife, weird)  informing him that life as we knew it was about to change drastically.  Without giving many details, we were instructed to sit around and wait for more information.  It was a fabulous way to start the new year.

Without going into to much detail, and at the risk of sounding resentful and bitter, let's just say the next two months were disappointing and painful for our family.  My husband resigned from his job because they had chosen to significantly downsize their operation.   He'd worked for this particular ranch owner for ten years and we considered them family.  The insensitivity with which they treated us was shocking, but we tried to handle it with grace and dignity.  For my husband, it was particularly hard.  The ranch was originally homesteaded by his great-great grandfather is the 1880's and had been in the family for almost 100 years before his uncle sold it to absentee owners in the late 1980's.  My husband then was hired to manage it and had done so for two owners.  The current family has owned it for ten years.

My husband had known no other job really.  He was the only one who really knew anything about the ranch at all because the owners only came a few times a year.  He knew it like the back of his hand.  In addition to that, he still managed the part of the ranch his family still owns, which adjourns the ranch we lived on.  

To live there we had decided to homeschool because the ranch was so remote from the nearest town.  We had committed to a lifestyle that required sacrifice and at the time, we were glad to make those sacrifices.  Now we faced the unknown.  The unknown was commonplace in my life and I was quite comfortable with it.  In fact, the house we lived in on the ranch was the only home I'd ever lived in for an extended period of time.  I had grown up with a father that changed jobs frequently and I myself had moved more than twenty times in my life.  I did not fear change, but rather lived to expect it.  That was not the case for my husband, who had lived in one house growing up, had never left the county and had only one job in his entire life.

When we decided that we had no recourse but to leave the ranch, we bought a house in the nearest town, put our kids in a local christian school and I took a job in another town as an Event director at a resort.  I felt much guilt putting my two and half year old in preschool, but my other two were very excited to go to school in town.  It was a wonderful environment for them because the classes were small and they had friends for the first time that they could see on a daily basis.  If they missed homeschooling, you certainly couldn't tell.  In fact, I was the only one that seemed to feel bad about putting them in school.

 I began to love my new job, which was actually a dream job for me if I did have to work.  I had always worked until I became a mother at 34, but when I became a mom I was determined to stay at home with them.   In my past life I was a wedding planner, theatre director, waitress, restaurant manager, paralegal, and various assortment of other things while trying to be a writer and actress, so needless to say I was used to having a flexible identity.  However, I took my job as a stay at home, homeschooling mom very seriously and switching gears back to working in an office and being away from my children was difficult.

My husband became his own boss, independently welding for businesses while continuing to manage his family's ranch.  I didn't expect that he would make that transition from employee to self employed as successfully as he did.  He is the type of person who likes to know what he's making, when he will get paid, how much he will get paid and what exactly is expected of him.  The paychecks were much more, albeit unpredictable, so thankfully he is a wonderful money manager.

During this time, I completely lost interest in this blog.  We weren't on a dirt road anymore, it was just a sidewalk.  No longer homeschooling, we were the typical family going in five directions and surviving the chaos of everyday life.  I barely had time to do a load of laundry after work, much less bore anymore online with the details of my new found craziness.  When I'd sit down to post something, I would just look at old posts and photos of what a good life we had and I would cry....

 Although I felt sorry for myself, I tried to remember how good God had been to us and felt extremely blessed.  It could have been different and much harder for us.   I still longed for our old life, but tried hard to be thankful.  I reminded myself that God was molding us through trial and expected us to serve him in our new life.

Months flew by.  The boxes were never completely unpacked and I kept thinking we were just renting this house until we could move back home again.  It took everything I had to keep my feet under me.  I worked full time, catered events on the weekend.  My husband cooked dinner - not something he was used to, nor did he enjoy.  My children cried for me at night when I was working late.

I came home from a full time job to my other full time job as a mother, did homework with the kids, put them to bed and started all over in the morning.  This is exactly why I never wanted to be a working mother.   I admire women who have to work and do it successfully, but I am not one of those women.  My ADD takes over and things start slipping through the cracks:  bills don't get paid, kids don't get picked up on time, ovens are left on.

Truthfully, I really loved my job.  After a few months I began to adjust to my new life.  It was kind of nice to drop the kids off, go to an office, talk to adults all day, eat lunch with friends, plan parties with fun people, buy clothes that were somewhat fashionable and not just comfortable, wear heels and not clogs and all without feeling guilty about it.  I had to look nice for work didn't I?   My husband was a little confused at to why I could fix my hair and wear makeup for strangers at work, when in the six years I was at home it was all I could do to get out of my house shoes by noon.

So just when I finally got comfortable with my new identity, God gave me something else to do....

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Changing seasons

This year we made the decision to send our oldest, our seven year old boy, to a private school part time.  For a proud homeschooler, it was not an easy decision.  And I have to admit, it's a decision my husband is still not very happy about.  It was really all my idea.

I love homeschooling, but there were challenges.  My son was not reading at the level I thought he should and I was at a loss as to how to improve it.  I read blogs, books, had him read for professionals and prayed.  Most of the homeschooling advice I got was to just wait it out because boys read later than girls.  But I couldn't do that.  

We are very fortunate in my area to have a wonderful new christian school that uses the classical method.  It's not a Charlotte Mason type school like Ambleside in San Angelo or Fredricksburg, but I think the classical method is the next best thing.  I really felt like God was leading me at least visit with the school head mistress.  Amazingly, she was open to letting our son attend part time.  In other words, he would go there three days a week and the rest of the week I would do school with him at home.  I thought it was an amazing opportunity to have the best of both worlds - private school and homeschool

My husband is beginning to come around.  It is a logistical nightmare to get him to school, even for three days a week.  Plus, he loves having his kids around full time.  As do I.  And I really believe homeschooling is the fabulous education if you do it right.  For us, it has been a blessing.  I wouldn't trade learning at home in a nurturing environment for anything.  I would never do this if it was full time or if it was public school, at least not at an early age.

I have to say though, after a few months of doing both private school and homeschooling, my son is flourishing.  His reading has improved dramatically.  I think it has a lot to do with reading in front of other kids.  Since he is of a competitive nature, reading in front of others who read well makes him try harder.  That may not work with some kids, but it works with him.  And he loves his school and his teacher and they really love him.  We went to our first parent/teacher conference last week and his teacher told us that she had been praying for him.  I was so touched.  I can't imagine hearing those words from a teacher when I was in school!

He actually wanted to wear this tie to his first day of school.

I pray that the school continues to let us go part time and that my other children will have the opportunity to go there.  That will give my children the chance to experience learning at home and still have a private christian school education. It's in God's hands, but I am so thankful.

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Monarch Invasion

After the longest, hottest, burnt to a crisp, dry summer in history, I was shocked that we had the largest influx of Monarch migration that I've seen since being at the ranch.  It seems every other form of wildlife has suffered greatly because of the drought, but the Monarch swarm was bigger than ever!  

The kids loved walking through the trees, surrounded by butterflies.  We have them every year, but not in the abundance we've seen this year.  I know they're just moving through, but they brought us a little hope that not all is lost in this parched land.

My own little butterflies enjoyed climbing the trees to try and touch  the monarchs.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

RANCH KIDS ON A MISSION Junior Ranger Day - Ft. Davis National Historic Site

Here we are back at the fort again and this time we're here for Junior Ranger Day and we've brought along a friend.  We're so excited to be back after having so much fun a the fort's Frontier Christmas.  The first thing we did is sign in and they even gave us bandanas to wear!

We were given an introduction to the Fort and then they showed us the barricks where the enlisted men lived.  The men slept in cots with wool blankets.  They played games in their spare time and cleaned their weapons.

One of the brave Buffalo Soldiers explaining the interesting history of the Buffalo Soldiers at Ft. Davis
the names of the enlisted men still hang on their beds
The card table where the men played cards
Then we split in to two groups and the girls went one way and the boys went the other.  Girls went to the beautiful cotton wood trees and made handmade dolls, learned songs and made other crafts.
The staff were very nice to help me make my doll.  They have alot of pretty fabric to choose from.
Look at the pretty doll my friend made

The boys learned how to hold their rifles, shoot the canon and build a tent to sleep in.

Later on, the girls also got to learn how to hold and shoot weapons. 

Then everyone was taken to the kitchen and the nice ladies showed us how they made homemade ice cream by kicking around a can with milk and cream in it.  Afterwards, we even got to eat the ice cream!

As usual, we loved our time at Fort Davis!  The people that work there are so nice and helpful and we learn so many interesting things!  It makes us appreciate how easy it is for us to live here now thanks to the sacrifices the early settlers made at the fort.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Independence Day in Rural America - 4th of July in Ft. Davis Texas

Patriotism is still alive in rural America folks!  In fact, few places in the United States showcase the resilience of the American Spirit more than this small little town.  It was only a few months ago that Ft. Davis was ravaged by a wildfire that burned 314,000 acres.  Many families lost their homes.   Ranchers lost valuable grassland already devastated by drought, livestock were lost and hundreds burned, fences were burned to the ground.  Most ranchers had to sell off what cattle they had left because they had no where to put them. 
photo by Carolyn Nored Miller

During the wildfire, this small town did what other small towns like Joplin, small towns in the South and in Minot, North Dakota have done - they banded together and took care of each other.  Ranchers and cowboys fought their own fires beside the volunteer fire department and Foresty Service, they looked for each other's cattle and lended what little land they had left to pasture cattle for those that had lost everything.  Neighbours took in those that had lost their homes, restaurants shut down to donate their time and their food to feed the hungry, churches opened up to serve first responders meals and volunteers poured in immediately to assist in distributing resources. 

This weekend, Ft. Davis was ready for a celebration.  The town was determined to show it's true colors and red, white and blue were displayed everywhere.  And thank God, people showed up.  Hundreds of people from all over the state came to celebrate the 4th with the townspeople.  The parade seemed even larger this year.  Several long time residents had their family reunions and were in the parade, the Prude Ranch summer camp kids filled flatbed trailers, the Ft. Davis National historic site Buffalo Soldiers marched, the Martinez family rode their horses, the Baize family rode side saddle, and anybody with a four wheeler or a dune buggy roared loudly down the parade route. 

Every type of law enforcement or civic organization imaginable was represented from the Sheriff's Department, the Fire Department, EMS and Border Patrol.  Apparently, the only rule is that there are no rules and anyone with a siren can be in the parade.

After the parade, people gathered around the courthouse lawn (the only green patch of grass anywhere in the tri-county area, by the way)  and enjoyed a very eclectic array of culinary choices from food vendors.  You could find anything from the 4H crew selling BBQ, Menudo to Turkey Legs and Shrimp on a Stick.  Of course there were the wide assortment of booths selling everything from lavender ice cream to handmade rocking chairs.  We even had a barbershop quartet serenading people.  And at the historic Ft. Davis National Bank they had a bank robbery re-enactment for those that wanted to see the mayor, local pastors and other townspeople, dress up and shoot each other.

Ft. Davis Methodist Church Float
My two year old melted down about half way through the festivities and so we didn't stay for the shoot out or the street dance that evening.  The kids were actually on a float this year instead of watching from the side lines so we left the ranch early to be at the parade route in time.  I'm glad they had the chance to be in the parade for once, but it's also nice to sit in your lawn chair and get pegged in the head with candy by kids that don't know how to throw, while watching all of the interesting characters go by. 

So if  you ever want something different to do for the 4th of July, and you feel like driving a long way to Far West Texas to a little town in the mountains called Ft. Davis, please do.  It will be worth the drive.  They'll probably even put you in the parade!

The Patriot and Rooster Cogburn - can you get any more American that that?