Monday, April 27, 2009

Life is a Quadratic Equation

The Problem:

I grew up in the suburbs, an indoor girl, a reader, a doodler. The extent of my gardening knowlege reached to the far side of my grandmother's garden ~ and the only real expertise I gleaned there was a quick eye for the the spiders and caterpillars I helped pick off before Mommom washed and cooked up a batch of collards for us.
Our family had a couple of cats and a couple of dogs through the years, and I pig-sat our classroom guinea pig in the fourth grade. But that was the extent of my dealings with critters before we moved out to the country and started collecting a furry menagerie. A thing which we did because we had a quiver full of children that we wanted to keep busy. And, boy, did we keep them busy. We got the big boys started on the farm project and they took off with it ~ while I kept house, home, new babies and schoolbooks together, swept up around the edges, and grumbled a good part of the time.
'Cause, see, the problem is: I'm really a lazy city girl masquerading as a farm girl.

These ten-odd years in the country, sweeping up hay and scraping hog manure off of the boys' boots has not been my idea of nirvana. I learned early on (like the first week out here) that "homesteading" is not the idyllic life I might have imagined reading the Little House books. It's hard, it's gritty, and it's unrelenting. And, in all honesty, I never have liked the physical reality of it. I don't like the sweat, you know. I don't like the dirt. I don't even really like eastern Colorado. My favorite exercise is swinging in a hammock. With a glass of ice tea. And a book. In the shade.

I haven't had much time for the hammock thing, though, with this, that, and another thing through the years. But I've had plenty of time for whining jags. I admit it, but I'm not proud of it.

I've gone through phases these last ten years where all the "don't likes" of my life were like gremlins meeting me around every corner: mocking me through windows always dusty from the prairie wind, snorting at me through ancient plumbing, kicking at me through the mountains of tumbleweeds piled on the fences. They rode on my shoulders; they put their hands over my eyes and their fingers in my ears. They've been the chief instigators of my ongoing attitude problem. It's been real easy to find things not to like.

But I've hit upon a solution, of sorts:

There always is one. (You find that out as you go along, don't you? When we say there isn't a solution it's because we don't like the one we know is there, or we don't like the work we have to do to get to one. ) And recently I found my solution ~ or at least a reason ~ for my chronic dissatisfaction. Of all things, I recognized the mote in my own eye when I was lecturing Michelle about how important it is to get through Algebra, whether one likes it or not.

"It's hard," I told her, "and it may seem pointless to us, but, that is what makes it character building. We dont' have to aspire to being a mathmetician to benefit from the discipline and hard work needed to conquer a quadratic equation," I said. "Like a lot of things, it's all about the journey of math. If all we ever do is practice simple addition, or just hang out in the playground all day (seriously, Michelle...), it won't ever profit us a thing; our minds won't grow, our horizons won't expand. We have to climb the math hill to develop brain muscle. If you go after Algebra with the right attitude, with that in mind, you might find out it's not so terrible. You might find out that you're actually pretty good at it. You might even find out that you enjoy it."

Well, Algebra for Michelle is the farm for me. It's always been a hill to climb, a dusty dirt road to travel. It's a type of life that doesn't necessarily come naturally to me. I have to work at it: I have to struggle against my own laziness and inclination to whine. But, I've had the feeling more and more lately that the farm has been more than our attempt to keep our many growing children busy and challenged. It was meant for me, too ~ though I've never had the sense to think of it that way. God knew that I needed the physical, mental, and spiritual challenge of this life at least as much as my children have needed it. He's been giving me weights to build muscle all this time and I've been whining and lolly-gagging. I tried to get away from the farm, and because He is so good (not because I deserved it), He gave me a two-year vacation (when we got to live on the western slope of Colorado), but then He sent me right back. Back to the farm. Back to work.
It's His plan for perfecting our particular family, and now I understand that He means for me to perfect myself through it, too.
So here I am. We have the garden started, and just got the chickens going this past week. A dairy goat is likely on its way the end of this week. We've been drying apples (we got on sale), and looking at goat milk soap recipes. I'm dragging my eyes away from the life I thought I wanted (that nice, new, modern house with a small yard in the suburbs), and zeroing in on the meadowlark perched on my garden gate.

It's not like I won't have any relapses, but I'm trying to be focused, to be grateful for this life and the benefit that comes with sweat, mud, hay, and manure. I've done the work before, but now I want to build the muscle. Hopefully I'll be able to get into the swing again, the right swing.

And it'll only be a hammock if all my work is done first.

(Most of the time, anyway...)

* Sidenote: Michelle's not into quadratic equations yet; she's just finishing algebra I. The spectre of quadratic equations made a natural juxtaposition for me, because they're a nightmare from my own highschool experience... Shell and I share a common dread of math, I'm afraid.


Mama to much! said...

Wow! In all the years I've known you, you have never complained once! You are my hero. haha! I'm right with you in that hammock and I tell you, the older the kids get, the more I'm assigning those dreaded chores! Guess I better go fold that laundry that I've been putting off all day.

ps. Michelle made Katie feel good, she's not alone in the I don't like Math world. haha!

MightyMom said...

great post!!

all of life is like that!

course it always helps to keep a keen sense of humor about too....for those times when you have to put your apron over your eyes against the dust that the wind rocking your hammock is blowing. ;-)

GrandmaK said...

You know, I have had that very sense of journey in my own life. The algebraic analogy was wonderful. There is not one of us who cannot identify in some way with your "adventure." The most important thing to remember for me is to be sure and follow the Guide. On a side trip I could get lost! Thank you for this grand post!!!!! Cathy

Aimee said...

This was great, Lisa! This is EXACTLY how if feel about my own small garden. And cleaning the bathroom! :)

Bia said...

Dear Michelle,

I did not like Math when I was your age, and I do not like it now. So, I totally understand. Who wants to work with boring numbers when there are millions of wonderful novels to read! That's why I married an engineer . . . I let him do all the math while I do things that are much more fun.


P.S. Sorry, Mom. I know I wasn't much help. What's a quadratic equation, anyway????

Blessings each day said...

What a wonderful post. I love your Blog but you already knew that (I had to work so hard to get you into my favorites).

I, too, was a city girl, but I actually wanted to to have a garden and "get dirty", but I think the animals would have been a severe challenge for me. Sometimes finding those blessings each day seems a super challenge, but I do believe that we need to "count it all as blessing".

You will find one of my "weak" links in my post today as well as your little Gabey getting mentioned!

blessings for your "hammock" moments,

Wendy said...

Thanks so much for this post. When I read it tonight, it was exactly what I needed to hear. Of course, I still went ahead and wrote my whiny post about my own challenges, but yours words were a salve. Thank you.

Plus, I had to copy your You-Tube post with the dancers in the railway station. Both your words and their actions, have allowed me to go to bed with a smile on my face.