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The Grand Adventure

In case you missed it, we bought a farm.

Really, we bought 5 acres in rural Wyoming and turned it into a farm. It was a “horse property”, but horses eat money, and my wife had always wanted goats. So we turned it into a goat farm. And chickens, aka “mini raptors”. Almost did pigs, too, for a minute. Peppa and George were very cute. J made sure they were very well cared for, giving them lots of delicious scraps and plenty of social and grazing time. We could never have brought ourselves to butcher them.

Goats are pretty sweet. They’re like slightly looney dogs, but you can milk ’em. They love to climb things and get into trouble. But mostly they love to follow you everywhere, especially when you have grain or treats. They have their own little personalities.. One of ours, Princess, loved to sip my wife’s drinks while we sat and hung out with them. Girl Crush, the first and only one we bred on our own farm, never stopped smiling. Ginger, a later addition to the herd, wouldn’t eat her grain without head scratchies and kisses. And Fancy.. oh Fancy. A prodigious milker who would just stand there without a care in the world as long as we were by her side.

We had a fluctuating herd size of anywhere from 4 (at the start) to 28 (at the peak). Plus the egg-laying chickens, which we never got eggs from due to a very sneaky snake that we discovered two days too late. We had about a dozen chickens after the dust settled (not all baby chicks make it, as you can imagine). We also had ducks for a minute, but we quickly discovered they weren’t for us. Then there were the guinea fowl — they’re like guard-dogs but in bird form, they sound the alarm when predators are near, and if you’ve got enough of ’em, they can take on small game like foxes with no problem.

But to really keep everybody safe, you need a LGD — livestock guardian dog. Enter Moose. Moose was a Great Pyrenees – Akbash mix, and he was the best boy we could ask for. We picked him up as a months-old puppy from a farm in South Dakota (where we actually obtained a lot of these animals, interestingly enough). He was great with the kids, he loved his goats, and he enjoyed guarding the property. He did eat a chicken, though. That as traumatic, mostly because she was J’s favorite, Sassy — a ridiculous fluffy white and gray Silkie hen, and pretty rare, from what I understood.

Theres always stuff to do and build on a farm. Luckily, one of things I enjoy in my spare time, is building stuff. I built a “chick brooder” or two (it’s a box for raising baby chickens in) — first out of cardboard, then a real nice wood one with chicken-wire windows and roosting-bar. I also got to build a hay feeder for the goats, constructed mostly of framing beams and a cattle-panel cut in half. I’ll include pictures of all this at some point.

Now, we “needed” barn cats (true, actually, because we did have mice), so we got Snickerdoodle and Oreo, then later, Mouse & Cheeseburger. We tried to convince the kids (and ourselves) that these were supposed to be semi-feral mousers, but they were just doo dang cuddly; they were domesticated within days. (Not to say we took them inside; no, they were just very people-friendly.) They still did their job — or at least, they would have, if we’d kept the farm long enough for them to grow up.

J loved all her animals. She’d look at me with those adorable pleading brown eyes and I couldn’t say “no” to the latest acquisition. But each one had a place and a purpose. And she handled them all with such care and grace. Even when it was hard, and she needed my help, she’d do everything she could before roping me in. Of course, I enjoyed it just as much. Perhaps it’s my Nebraskan farmer roots on my dad’s side, or my general inability to sit still and do nothing, but I loved working outside with the animals too. And I love J more than anything, so I would, and will, always do anything to make her smile.

One of the most incredible experiences on our farm was having our first few live goat births right there in our very own barn (which was actually the garage, using large dog kennels as birthing pens). The first birth, from a doe named Bomb-dot-com, a Nigerian dwarf, was fairly smooth. We had the birthing pen set up with lots of pine shavings blankets, and J was on & off the phone with her goat mentor (and original owner of said doe & several others that we’d bought) the whole time. We had the towels, the suction thingy, and lots of patience. Bombomb almost had the kid while we were out of town, but thankfully she waited til we got home that night. J had to help pull then kid out just a little bit, but the birth went just fine. The miracle of life — never gets old. We named her Aristi, the first born. She was black and white with a little mini-goat marking on her side, and very healthy.

Our next kidding was a bit more scary. Pepper, the sweetest Nubian doe in the world, was hangin out in the birthing pen, and we were keeping our eyes on her. She suddenly started pushing, apparently, but we think she’d been trying for longer. When we got to her, we had to pull out the first kid (a boy), and it got pretty bloody. The second followed quickly, a girl. The boy wouldn’t stand, while the girl started looking more healthy. Neither would nurse, at first, but the girl caught on. The boy wasn’t looking good. There’s something called “floppy kid syndrome”, which we almost suspected he had, but we think what really happened was that he was stuck in the birth canal for a long time and we didn’t know.

J. nursed these babies with such care and devotion. She stayed up all night with a feeding tube and blankets and baby wipes. She gave the boy selenium so he could try to stand and walk, after learning that a selenium deficiency was a possible cause of the issues. Hours upon hours she coaxed him to nurse and stand, worried about his tiny little throat from the feeding tube, wiping him clean any time he had yellow runnies. We ended up giving them to Pepper’s original owner, after doing everything we could to make them healthy babies. That was hard on J, giving them back, but they are now living healthy and happy goat-lives, thanks to her tireless care. She saved that boy kid’s life, that’s for sure!

J was made to be a mom, both human and animal. She loves hard, with such a deep care and devotion that is nothing short of incredible. Her dedication to giving these animals a happy healthy life was a beautiful thing to see and be a part of. We made so many great memories on our little farm.

But farms a lot of work. Like, a LOT. Too much, as it turns out, for our current lifestyle and family dynamic. Our kids, bless their hearts, are just a bit too “city”. Plus, we found that we felt stifled and stuck in a way that was new and disappointing. Bring in a small rural town of less than 2000 people, you start to get tired of the same old 2 restaurants (where 1 gives you food poisoning and the other is closed on Sundays), and 1 grocery store (with no health food and expired meats), and 2 gas stations (both of which are overpriced because they can). So you keep driving 45 minutes each way to the closest big city multiple times a week, never having enough time to actually have any FUN there because you’re too busy trying to squeeze out every possible errand you can from the one trip so you don’t have to turn around and do it again in 2 days.

On top of all that, we missed our family. The kids needed grandparents, and we needed the free babysitting. (kidding, sorta.. not really.) And we all needed more friends, the teenager included. Don’t get me wrong, we made a few friends in Wyoming that’ll last a good long while. But nothing really beats a Grandma and Crampa (as our toddler calls him) being less than 20 minutes away. But we’ll miss Wyoming.. we still do. The freedom and open spaces, the good people and the lack of income tax. And the GOATS!!

So we up and moved again to central Oregon. And that’s where the adventure continues…

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Weddington

Say what?

I think it started with a typo she made in a text, but it became one of our inside-jokes, where we started ending things with “ington”, like Paddington — Campington (our first family camping trip), Yardington (our backyard landscaping plans that we built for the wedding), and of course, Weddington itself.

The day was a blur, in the best possible way. We actually stayed at our hotel the night before, as well as night-of, to get some time away from kids. Thankfully Grandma and Grandpa had flown in early to keep them busy and fed and loved while we had our couple-time. That morning, I departed for home to help with wedding setup while she had her gals come do the bridal thing. You know, mimosas, hair & makeup, silly selfies.

The vendors – floral, catering, photog & video – started to arrive at the house, while the nanny wrangled kiddos. I loved being able to help my little boys with their ties and suspenders. Plus I got a sneak-peek at the food and flowers before anybody, which was pretty sweet! Yet in the midst of the scramble, I realized that I had no white undershirt for my suit. Thankfully my sister was able to pick some up on her way in from the airport. I paid the favor forward to our eldest teen who didn’t have a button-up shirt to wear; I had a nice hunter-green number that we’d luckily left out from our furious honeymoon-packing.

When she was arriving to “finish” getting ready (read: more mimosas and formal pictures), I DID avoid peeking, respecting the tradition that I not see her in her wedding dress before she walked down the aisle. (Although I did see it when she picked it out at the store.. Sshhh it’s a secret!)

We’d written a note to each other to read on the morning of, in the hours before the big event. Hers was the sweetest, most thoughtful and precious thing I’d read. And of course, being me, I bungled mine like a big doofus. Thank God she loves me anyway.

So I’m standing out in the backyard, which has now become a wedding venue. (Well, really the whole house was; and this was no small task, involving several hours of deep cleaning and herding kids from one side to the other so they didn’t ruin the aforementioned cleanliness, and booting the dogs out to boarding camps for several days. This is why people pay for venues. But we truly loved the way we did it, despite the sprinkled bits of chaos.) My dad and I step up to the.. what do you call it? The arch, the flower-adorned wood frame under which we’d perform the ceremony and declare our eternal love and devotion. (No, not me and my dad; me and HER! Jeez people.) The arbor. Thanks Google.

Anyway, we chat idly for a bit while people take their seats. It’s a beautiful day, not too hot, and our best man C. is workin the pre-wedding playlist. (Link to follow!) J and I picked out all the music ourselves, including an instrumental Star Wars themed aisle-walk piece that was, honestly, so special to me because she knew how much I loved Star Wars and wanted me to have this big part of myself in what most of our culture considers a primarily (if not solely) bride-focused event.

But I’ll tell you what. As soon as she stepped out that back door into the aisle, I forgot about the music. I didn’t even hear a sound. I lost track of where my feet were.

She. took. my. breath. away.

I’ll never forget the way she looked. Deep adoring brown eyes. Lustrous brunette locks in gentle waves, crowned by the most delicate white pearl & lace. And the dress! Oh ho. The plunging neckline, the white silk, the gorgeous subtlety of so many tiny lacy leaves. And her lovely ivory heels with matching delicate detail. Perfection, she was. Beauty and love and desire and devotion. I could barely stand! I took her hands as soon as I could and held on for dear life, because this moment– this WAS life. She IS my life.

I barely remember my dad’s officiating, which really is no knock on him; I was just so hyper-focused on my beloved bride, J, standing there, seeing me like nobody ever has, accepting me like nobody ever could, and loving me like nobody ever did. We read our vows with trembling voice and breath, tied our Cord of Three Strands, and exchanged our beautiful hand-picked rings. That moment she said “I do” was the happiest moment of my life. Followed immediately, of course, by “You may now kiss the bride!”

We also had a Star Wars song picked out for exiting (walking down? up?) the aisle together, but again, I barely remember hearing it, because I was so ready to escape for a moment into our bedroom (which had become the bridal suite) for a moment alone to breathe and embrace and cherish that moment with her. Then of course we had to assemble for formal pictures — and we got some super adorable ones, including our whole family together (me and her and our kids), which was no small feat with a toddler in a tux mind you!

Thankfully, after that mad scramble, we came back to ourselves with our first dance. “Love Me Like You Do”, a remix by Sleeping At Last; very sweet and intimate song. And once again I simply shut out the world around us and it became just her and me, in warm adoring embrace. I know this will always be where we return to, in times of trouble or tribulation. This is home for my heart and soul. She is my safe place, my calm and peace.

We spent some time with our guests, as you do, and loved on our kids because we knew we wouldn’t be seeing them for a few days (honeymoon time!). Then we ditched the party to finish our photos at the winery where we were staying. Our villa was literally right next to the vines! We got so many amazing pictures, made memories and did adorable, romantic, silly things together. Then we met some of the fam for dinner, since a lot of them came form out of state and didn’t get much time with us. Yet again, though, we ditched them to be alone — are we sensing a pattern here? Hey, we’re allowed to be a little selfish; it’s our wedding! It was a night to remember.

Our honeymoon took us to the most adorable little cabin in Idyllwild, complete with private hot tub. We toured the town, bought way too many things, cooked and ate delicious food, and spent hours talking in the jacuzzi. We even beat Jenga! Yes, literally, we took the tower as high as it would go having no layers of 3 remaining (all 1’s and 2’s). And of course I made fire. In the fireplace, that is.

Doing all this has taught me something. When God answers your prayers, and blesses you with an incredible, amazing partner, you don’t wait and see what happens. You get grateful, you get busy, and you give her your all. Because she’s giving me her all. She is my wife — my supportive, loving, caring, kind, generous, beautiful, smart, giving, best-friend, equal-partner, team-mate, self-sacrificing, treat-me-like-a-king, WIFE. And there’s no denying that. I love her more every day.

So. What have we been doing since then? Well, you’ll have to stay tuned! But, as they say in Harry Potter, “I solemnly swear we are up to no good!” =P

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New Beginnings Part 2

So where did we leave off? Oh yes, ourstory.

She wore blue jeans, black boots, and a black blouse. We drove in my car to a Thai restaurant in Temecula. We talked for hours, yet the time flew by. It felt as though we’d known each other in some previous life. (Those readers who don’t believe in such things, feel free to replace the metaphysical reference with something more palatable.) Also, this “talking for hours” thing would become a long-standing pattern. We’re both communicators, after all!

We dated fairly consistently for the first couple months. On our second date, another dinner out, she actually brought along the toddler, which was a refreshing experience to me because, while I had met the kids casually, I had yet to experience a full-on outing with any of them. Thankfully this would start happening more in the near future. We’d generally go back to her house and spend hours talking at her kitchen counter over drinks/tea/coffee. I think we stayed til almost 2am one time.

We knew that we had a lot of “catching up” to do, as it were. Because of our age and our life journeys, we didn’t have time to mess around with casual “let’s see if this goes anywhere” style dating. So we talked. A LOT. I felt like I could tell her anything, and she felt likewise.

As I’ve mentioned, whenever I was with her, it felt like home. I played with the kids, hung out with her friends and our mutual friends, and cooked a lot of burgers in her back yard. I found myself missing her during the week and wanting to spend more and more time with her. We had undeniable chemistry, both physical and mental.

It was easy to fall in love. In fact, she even predicted it. We still laugh about that. Not because she was being self-aggrandizing or over-confident. But because it was (and is) true. She was (and is) exactly the woman I need, with the sense of self-worth and self-realization that perfectly balances my own.

I knew that I loved her when she threw me a karaoke party for my birthday with our closest mutual friends. I mean, I had felt the feelings, the spark, before that, but it was truly cemented in my mind with the way she cared so deeply and thoughtfully as to make my birthday something that special and memorable. It was the most fun I’d ever had in one night, that’s for sure.

But true love is loving someone for who they are, not what they do. This was merely an item on the timeline that I could point at and say “yes, there!”. She IS kind and generous and thoughtful and fun to be around. She IS supportive and driven. She IS the light of my life, and an embodiment of good energy, beauty and intelligence.

Three months later, I asked her to move in with me. Now, when we tackle our “helping others by our experience” project, this will be a much larger chapter of lessons-learned. But for now, I’ll just say that I had some work to do and she helped me do it, the right and healthy way, and she stuck with me even when I pushed back unreasonably. Again, focusing on the positive, she made this house our home. She put an incredible effort and energy into redecorating and making sure that I liked everything that she did, and I feel that we truly have a special partnership in the way we create a space together.

Two months after that, we were engaged. We picked out the ring together (yes, I highly recommend this), and I proposed the week that it came in from the jeweler. The next day we shared the wonderful news with our family, friends, and church family. Shortly after that, we started trying to pick a date. And all the other planning that goes along with that.

As anybody who’s self-planned a wedding will tell you, it’s a big project. We’ve drawn-up at least half a dozen outlines of timing, vendors, decor, and guest-lists. But we’ve finally settled on just about everything. (Not a moment too soon, as I write this approximately 2 months out!) Through this journey, we’ve learned a lot about each other. And to paraphrase some superb advice we read in a couple’s devotional book, “Don’t let the wedding planning consume your life.” In other words, don’t let it get in the way of just living and being with each other. This is especially true in cases where the timeline is somewhat compressed, as ours is. And I feel like we’ve done a pretty good job of following that advice.

I’m excited to marry her. It’s the most certain decision I’ve ever made. Backed by the truest love I’ve ever felt. And the most real life, which we’re building, with each other.

selfie in the woods
Also, we go camping together. =D
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New Beginnings

Dear readers. It’s been a minute. I need to start by saying that the content you may have been accustomed to is no longer a part of my story. Because I’ve begun a new story. A new life. An amazing, wonderful, joy filled and fulfilling life. And I’m here to tell that story. To actually tell it RIGHT. And even to correct a few misplaced, misinformed opinions.

As you may have noticed from my header image, I’m happily engaged (well, the picture doesn’t show a ring, but we are), and soon to be married, to an incredibly special, wonderful, brilliant, beautiful, kind, caring and loving woman. A woman of God, of faith, of character, and of family. Family is one of the biggest parts of this story. Because I now have one to call my own — by de-facto adoption, step-parenting, “bonus dad”-ing, whatever you want to call it. I have the amazing challenge and opportunity and gift to help her raise her — now our — children. And I love being a father. I had an incredible example and role-model in my own dad, my own parents. I try to live up to that every day.

But this isn’t about my dad or my childhood memories of camping and playing with tools and riding on the back of the motorcycle. This is about the love of my life, J. (pictured, as noted, above!)

We met through church, in a sense through mutual friends but in another sense, entirely by God’s divine providence. She’ll tell the story much better than I can, but essentially, she was driving with her kids down Scott Road (the ex-burb street our church property sits off of) and felt the true-life pull of the Holy Spirit to come check out the church in the white tent.

Side-note, if you do happen to live in or be familiar with the area, we are not the spiritual-cult next-door with the large white tent and the mini-compound of mysterious buildings; we in fact no longer have a tent, but that’s another story for another time.

Anyway, there she was, checking out our church. (I say ‘our’ in the sense of myself and my parents and siblings, since we’d all grown up in it, even though said siblings had moved away and said parents were nearly ready to retire up north.) So, in an effort to welcome the new family, we, the ministry team (such as it was) took them out to lunch at a local pizza place after the service. Little did I know that a number of months later, we (J. and I) would be dining together at the same pizza joint, in much the same capacity — joining our ministry leaders in welcoming another new young couple to the fold.

Backing up a bit. The first time I actually got up the nerve to speak to her was when I noticed that she came to church unaccompanied, and I went to say hi. But the first time I really got to talk to her was when she got baptized a few weeks later, along with her second son, and we had a get-together BBQ at her house with our church friends. I remember being excited to go there and have a conversation with her and meet her kids. And let me tell you, even though we didn’t know we’d end up together, when I walked into her house, I felt at home.

So for one, we have God to thank, for bringing us together. For another, we have her former roommate, to whom she’d rented out her spare room after getting divorced. This person, as girls talk, had found out that J. was attracted to me, and when I helped this person with a computer issue, she said as much. Which of course gave me the courage-boost to ask her on a date!

And the rest, as they say, is ourstory. (Yes, I did just portmanteaux.) But really, all I mean by that is wait for another post, because this one is getting a bit lengthy. But I will leave you with this.

I am happy. I am blessed. I have found the love of my life. She is the most beautiful woman in the world. She has a deep, deep soul. A unique mind. A heart of grace and kindness. An incredible story of healing and of darkness to light. And she is mine. And I am hers. For the rest of our lives.

love is composed of a single soul inhabiting two bodies, by Aristotle
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