The Grand Arrival of Ayla Mae

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She would be induced at 10:00 that night.  Not wanting to be two hours away, we checked into a hotel with our granddaughter, Maryjane, near the hospital after packing bags and finding a pet sitter.  We went swimming and snuggled in for the night, checking my phone every few hours.   Maryjane and I had coffee and then went to the hospital while Pa checked in at work.  Maryjane’s other grandma came to pick her up.  The soon-to-be big sister was nervous and excited and emotional.  My daughter, Shyanne, arrived and we all settled in for the seemingly long arrival of a little girl.  Pa came back a few hours later.  We drank tea, and watched the clock, and talked to relatives on the phone, and tried to help Emily.

Being her second baby, Emily knew what to expect and what to request.  She was amazing during her labor.  New daddy, Reed, was nervous and doting and sweet.

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The nurses all knew that we hoped the baby would arrive that day, November 14th, for it was the fervent request from the new baby’s great, great grandmother.  November 14th was my grandparent’s 70th wedding anniversary.  Never mind silver or gold, Grandma and Grandpa wanted a baby.

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And then quite suddenly it was time.  Within thirty minutes a very small little girl with curly, black hair arrived into the arms of her mother.  Daddy swelled with pride.  Pa and Auntie Shyanne cried.  Mama sobbed with joy.  I smiled and welcomed the new little one to our family.  We are ten now in our tribe.  Over a hundred in families that we gained through the children’s partners and our own extended families.  There is truly nothing more important to me than our family.

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And Ayla Mae was born.  A new little medicine woman in our line.

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Maryjane bounced into the room accompanied by her grandma.  She held a stack of papers that she had composed a song in scribbles on and immediately went to singing to her new baby sister.

Those near and dear came in to call.  Ayla has our family birthmark.  She has her daddy’s ears and nose.  She is so beautiful.  I caught my breath and held her close through the night letting mama and daddy sleep some.  And in the quiet of that dimmed hospital room, that precious heartbeat next to mine, I felt the immensity of it all, the blessings that fill my life and this family that we have helped create.  A Thanksgiving gift. (And an anniversary one as well!)

Ayla Mae Thompson

November 14, 2018

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The Beloved Family

There is a very large photograph in Aunt Donna’s basement of her as a young woman, dark hair, slim figure, standing primly in a beauty pageant.  Her forties hair swirled perfectly and her lovely face and smile… my Shyanne looks very much like her.

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Aunt Donna is my grandma’s sister.  I say ‘is’ even though she passed away on Halloween.  She is mentioned throughout this blog many times as my gardening guru, my insight to family history and spirituality, and my friend.  At eighty-nine years old, she left behind a family that she had helped keep together over decades.  The matriarch.  I shall miss visiting her.  I shall miss her home.  I shall miss asking things like, “What do I do with Jerusalem artichokes?” after a day of harvesting sumac and Oregon grape root, or apples, or grapes or Jerusalem artichokes.

Family is beloved.

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My own beautiful family. (From left: Reed, Emily, me, Maryjane, Doug, Andrew, Bree, Shyanne, Jacob)

Family looks differently to different folks, indeed, but a family is a family.  Even though the actual definition is of blood and descent, I feel the dictionary ought to update.  I was born into a very large family.  As I grow older in the line, the family line changes and we all take different places.  My grandmother is now the matriarch.  There are many pieces missing in between, either from death or distance or apathy, they move away or fall apart or come closer and evolve.

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Maryjane’s beloved Aunt Pat (my dear friend)

My granddaughter, Maryjane, knew Aunt Donna.  She knows my grandparents on one side.  She also called my friend, Kat, grandma and calls Rod, grandpa.  She calls my great friends, Auntie and Uncle.  The harsh lines of lineage change and soften.  Maryjane’s Pa adopted all my children when they were very small.  There is no question that he is their father and his entire side of the family can be found penned into Ancestry.com as such.  My lovely, dark skinned sister and brother are as much my brother and sister as my blond brother and sister.

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Four of the five of us. (From left: Patrick, Vanessa, Joel, me)

And to Maryjane there is no difference between anyone.  If they are in our lives, they are family.  Community and family and friends intertwine and become stronger.  Find those that bring you joy and choose to spend time with them.  Call once a week, pen a note and send it off.  Be there.  Be present.  Be kind.  Be thankful.  Because family, made up of the kindest and those that love us, is beloved.

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My world.

Pa and His Present

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Two of my favorite people in my world are celebrating their birthdays.  My beautiful granddaughter, Maryjane Rose, who adds so much sunshine and love to our family arrived five years ago this morning.  It was a snowy March day and we were snowed into the hospital.  The next morning dawned bright as Pa celebrated his birthday with a stuffed animal from the gift shop and a new baby girl.

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“What should we get Pa for his birthday?” I asked Maryjane while we were shopping.  She looked at me blankly.  “Nothing,” she replied seriously, “am his present!”  She is all of our present.  She brought our family closer than we could imagine.  She is such a lovely soul.

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And so the next few days will be filled with festivities.  We believe in celebrating birthdays to the max around here because each day is not guaranteed and each year is truly a gift. And each soul in our lives truly matter.  Each day with these two loves of mine give me more joy than I can type.

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I am thankful.  Maryjane and grammie

Join me in sending some love and good wishes across the line to Doug and Maryjane.  Happy birthday you two!

A Thanksgiving Tale

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The hazy golden dusk illuminated the sky behind their silhouettes in the cool evening air.  The cars stopped and the elegant family of deer crossed.  The leader had a staggering limp.  Yet the two does stayed at her flank and did not attempt to cross quickly or ahead of her.  The large buck, his antlers glorious and scenic against the autumn backdrop of mountains and sunset color, stayed back with the two infants as they gingerly crossed.

In the chaos of a grocery store I stood looking seriously at disposable pans when an elder gentleman approached softly.

“Are you going to make a turkey?” he asked.

I smiled at the man whose dark tilted eyes revealed close to a century of memories and Thanksgivings.  His wife had fallen, he said.  Thank the Lord she was home from the nursing home and rehab but she still couldn’t walk good.  And well, his hip was killing him but he thought he’d come out and get a few things.  A package of frozen hash browns and a plastic container of diced watermelon well out of season sat in his cart.  One of his children was going to bring them a Thanksgiving feast.

He pulled from his inner pocket a photograph of his son to show me.  Two photos, actually, side by side on a funeral program.  A handsome young man in a navy uniform and one of the young man as a joyful middle aged man.

“This is my boy,” he says.  “He got sick from the war and died.”  He didn’t elaborate.  He just folded the three year old paper and placed it back into his inner pocket.  “Once he died my wife and I went downhill.”

Now, the crowds in the aisles bustling with noisy carts and lines of folks faded as I watched him hobble away.

The family of deer safely crossed and nimbly flitted through the fencing.  They stood together grazing in the golden field.

May we all keep the spirit of Thanksgiving in our hearts tomorrow.  I am thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Homeschooling Adventures Continue (my daughter’s new blog)

20171110_065324I will never forget the moment we decided to homeschool. The teacher that rummaged nervously through her notes looking to see who my son was.  At the end of the year.  We raised strong willed children and encouraged them to dress how they like, read what they like, and do what they like so they could learn at their own pace and really enjoy what they were doing.  Schools just weren’t keeping up.  Classes were too big.  Curriculums too restricted.  Those homeschooling years were the best years for us.  We went on vacations in the middle of the week.  Ate ethnic food in areas of Denver that we were unaware of for geography.  Visited museums.  Created.  Read in trees. We have three very intelligent, compassionate children who think for themselves.

20171110_065341My youngest daughter will be twenty-one years old in a few months.  (How that is possible, I will never know!)  She has a four year old whom you all know well as she is often the highlight of this Grammie’s blog!  Maryjane Rose.

Maryjane assists us at our shop.  She gathers plants to be used in medicine.  Helps to measure the dried herbs into jars.  Chooses teas for people based on their ailments.  Talks to fairies and squirrels and trees.  That magic begins to leave when they enter school.

schoolI am thrilled that Emily Lynn is homeschooling her beautiful, strong willed daughter.  I am even more glad that I get to help.  Emily’s long-time, serious beau, Reed came from a family of six homeschooled children.  Emily has a lot of support.  We still get the question from well-meaning family and friends about when she’s going to go to school.  But she is in school!  Every day we all wake up to a new day of school.  Maryjane will read what she wishes, write when she wants, learn the real history of the world (not the edited version available in text books), and will pursue what she is interested in.  This makes her a well rounded, delightful, social child.

My daughter started a blog yesterday.  I am so proud of her and I am glad my children are writers.  Please check it out and send a young mama some encouragement!  She has a million great ideas.  https://homeschool341.wordpress.com/

Roses; Memory and the Gift of 17 Rose Bushes

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I adore roses.  Roses on their stalks and heady smell.  Taller than me when I was young.  I stood in Grandma’s and Great-Grandma’s respective yards (next door to each other) and had my first internal lesson of aromatherapy.  Nature teaching me early.

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I have grown roses in pots, roses in the gardens, and have a granddaughter named Maryjane Rose.  The tall, cut stalks in the store ready for Valentine’s Day are not my favorite flower to receive (I do love tulips), but in the garden and cut from an old varietal, roses are so powerfully beautiful.

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Medicinally, roses are a mild nervine.  That means they are a supporting actor in medicines for sleep, stress, and pain.  Particularly stress.  All one has to do is feel the effect of smelling a rose to note its healing properties for calming.  Spiritually, it is love medicine and we use it in our teas to help create more love for oneself. It is a lovely tonic to drink and a beautiful water or oil to apply to skin.  It is, of course, the flower of romance and beauty.

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Yesterday, I had a few moments to actually walk around our property.  There are many stumps along the fence line because Siberian Elm is insistent upon taking over the world.  (I will use it for medicine.)  Among the stumps I found new stalks.  New stalks of rose!  Many of the stumps are ROSES!  I wonder how old they are.  Perhaps planted by the mistress that first built this home. Some are feeding off of the elms.  Some are their own masses made up of smaller stumps, some two feet in diameter, and life shooting out of them here in this milder climate.  Seventeen rose bushes from what I could see.  They have been fiercely neglected, but they waited for me.

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I have five in pots that I brought with me that are ready to be added to the garden.  Perhaps one day my grandchildren will walk through my gardens and remember fondly the towering rose bushes and how they made them feel.

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A Novel Breathes Life and the Wisdom of the Elders

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My friends, you must read Big Magic by Liz Gilbert.  I keep referring to it.  I loved how it stated that genius lands on people, not people become geniuses.  An idea has its own entity, its own life and “lands” on willing recipients.  Sometimes a recipient isn’t ready for it and it goes to another person.  That is the reason we see books, movies, songs that we were going to write.  With this in mind, I asked for an idea to land on me.  I wrote snippets in California.  I asked every day for an idea.  And one landed on me last week.

I then sat in front of my computer, a first time novelist, trying to construct a “proper” novel setting.  Where do I insert dialogue?  How many adjectives should I use?  How do I set the pace?  I have been reading novels this month trying to see the map of it all.

When I do my work in herbalism, I just kind of zone out, so to speak, and do the work.  My hands move deftly to the right plants and combinations, and I can “see” easily.  If I were to overthink it, I wouldn’t get much done.  I went into that same zone and just started writing.  It was as if I were meeting the characters myself as they hopped from fingertips to screen.  “Oh, well, hello, nice to meet you!”  “Are you coming back at the end of the book?  How nice.”  The prose and which person I used to speak changes and surprises me.  I am not writing this book, it seems, I am just privy to how it is creating itself, much like my paintings, much like my recipes, much like my work as an herbalist, I am merely the middleman…woman.

The book starts in the nineteen thirties.  As I was visiting my grandparents yesterday I asked a few basic questions, like did they drink tea or coffee more?  Did many folks have cars?  I told them I was trying to research the Cherokee land disputes that took place in the 30’s due to land rushes and oil companies.  Turns out Grandpa remembers all about it.  Grandma and Grandpa took turns illustrating in real life the dust bowl, the depression, the locusts, the farming, history unveiling itself.  Many, many things we never learned in public schools.  I was fascinated, humbled, grateful.

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These beautiful old dolls are among my grandmother’s.  As if my day couldn’t get any better, they were gifted to me.

Sometimes I fall into an irreconcilable sadness, wondering if we will ever get our own place, our own homestead, the city life here…I try to make the most of it.  I visit other’s farms, I try to save money (try being the key word), I cry.  It all seems so impossible.  But I can, at this moment, write….

A Special Coffee Pot Indeed

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Coffee.  A homesteading necessity.

Doug and I have gone through many a coffee pot in our adult lives and for the past several years on the farm we opted for a simple French Press.  Off grid ready, rich, fresh, easy.

This apartment has brought on the “great respite” for us while outside its walls we work and save for a farm.  Inside it is peaceably quiet with only the old clock ticking.  The overhead lighting (where are my oil lamps?!), fireplace run by a switch, dishwasher, washer, dryer, easy layout to clean, all of these things make life remarkably lazy and sweet at the moment.  Not too bad.  And as I relax further I realize how much I do not want to wake at six (still on farm time) and boil water and pour it over the grounds.  Oh my, I have gotten lazy.  (It’s only temporary, Folks.)

Doug and I reminisced over a certain coffee pot we used to have.  Some sixteen years ago I wanted it so much.  It was a hundred dollars, a fortune for a coffee pot at the time.  It had a grinder built in.  And it was programmable to show the time, set a timer, and by itself grind and brew coffee.  Grandma and Grandpa bought it for me for Christmas that year.  Grandpa used to joke that it did everything, wouldn’t surprise him if it served you too!  I’d get up, feed the children, turn on Martha Stewart and pour myself a cup that was brewed just for me.

That used to be our alarm.  The sweet sound of a coffee grinder.  We set out to find one of these old coffee pot models but only found a regular coffee pot or a one pod, one cup variety that seemed like it was aiding in killing Mother Earth each sweet cup at a time (and I drink three cups each morning!).  A box sat on the counter and Doug had me open it.  It was my anniversary present.  He had found it on the internet.  The sweet sound of the grinder wakes us and the smell of fresh coffee brewing alerts our senses to a new glorious day.

Life is made up of the small things.

 

The Gushing Grammie and Mini-Farmgirl

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We have the great honor of babysitting our granddaughter, Maryjane, five days a week during the day.  Many of you know our sweet Maryjane in person and many of you know her through my writings.  Some of you were there when she was born, peeking through the computer screen at our newborn.  She has stellar parents who work hard and go to school so we lucked out to be able to watch her.  It is one of the joys of homesteading and making our own schedule.  We live with less, but we have time.

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This little girl has the most adventurous spirit.  She brings out the fun in us too.  I have found myself pretending to feed my “horse” while we are driving and picking our imaginary horse carrots from the front seat.  She wants to play music.  Any platform at all from umbrella stands at restaurants to real stages will find her atop them singing.  She dances suddenly and smiles unabashedly.  Then throws a mighty temper when she doesn’t get her way.

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She loves animals and is a compassionate little girl, brushing the hair from your face and kissing you if you are sad.  She notices everything in her little world.  She is a great gift to this life and I am so very thankful for her.  She makes this farm all the better.

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The moment she entered the world I had the oddest sensation that I knew her.  Like we had been sisters or friends running through woods together in a past life.  I knew her soul instantly.  Perhaps I just knew her because she came from my daughter.  I do not know.  All I know is that this is the greatest job that Doug and I have had yet.  And when the others have children we are getting a van that reads “Grammie and Papa’s Sittin’ Service” and will drive around town to pick them all up and bring them back to the farm!

The Joy of Celebrating Birthdays

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Two of my favorite people have birthdays.  Who could have told me the intense connection and recognition of a new soul that I would feel upon seeing the small creature born from my daughter’s womb?  I think I must have known her in a past life, I think I understand her completely.  I am enthralled by her feisty personality, her silent communication (just like her mother’s), and her mischievous smile, in a person two feet tall!

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Was it really two years ago that I announced her birth?  Our princess, Maryjane Rose, is two years old the 8th.  A tea party and mass gift giving will ensue.  Five sets of grandparents will gather, three could not make it, a huge family adores this little girl.  We are so blessed to have her.

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And behind the scenes, snowed into a hospital two years ago, holding a new life, a new life for us, was Doug who spent his birthday cradling his first grandchild.  My partner in all things from business, to celebration, to mourning, to farming, to family, to friendship.  He is my stability and a part of my very soul.

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So, happy birthday my dear Maryjane and Doug (Papa).  Wishing us all many, many more years of celebrations of life and love and family!