Posted in Laura, Vince's Brain Tumor Battle by Laura with 6 comments.
“There is nothing in the world so good as good neighbors.”
Ma Ingalls, quoted by Laura Ingalls Wilder in On the Banks of Plum Creek.
Living out here on the prairie, we probably have a different definition of neighbor than most others. The houses are extremely spread out. I would use the word “neighbor” to describe someone who may live 10 miles away. I have to say that every one of my neighbors has always treated my family and me kindly. They can be counted on for a helping hand always, even to put out fires.
Certain neighbors have sold their house and are moving to a different state. I will miss them. While I wish them the very best in their new state and their new chapter in their lives, I am selfish and I will miss them, I will miss my friends.
My neighbors were there for me, time and time again.
There was that time when my cat Mr.Hooper kept running away to their house and I drove over to pick him up. Mr.Hooper stepped on the lock button in the pickup truck and locked himself and my oldest (who was a baby at the time) inside. My neighbor and my father-in-law had to break into the pickup to rescue my son and Mr.Hooper. Mr.Hooper decided he like them better and is now their cat. He is coming with them to their new state.
And who could forget the time my pasture went on fire and my cordless phone was lost and dead and I threw the children into the pickup and sped over to their house and barged right in screaming for them to call 911 for me? They watched my kids for me while I went to go check on my house, and they kept my sanity. They weren’t even the slightest bit upset when I ran into their house.
And then the time they helped me chase my llama all over the prairie, getting Kuzco home again when he wasn’t very happy about his new home.
They have supported all of my little endeavors, even purchasing eggs from me back when I had chickens.
They have always shared their kindness with me, cooking meals or treats for us when I had a baby or was going through a hard time.
They have remembered my children. They have shared sentimental things with us, like a book, for example, that their neighbor shared with them when their own kids were little.
They have always offered me kind words and encouragement and hope.
In short, while I am so happy that my neighbors will be starting a new chapter, I am sad to loose my friends.
Goodbye, Good Neighbors. I hope that you enjoyed your time in your little house on the prairie as much as I have enjoyed your time here. Geography had made us neighbors and your wonderful constant kindness has made us friends. I am proud to call you my friends and I will miss you.
I am in my thirties.
There is an old Catholic tradition that since Jesus suffered, died, resurrected and ascended all at 33, that we’ll all be 33 in heaven. At the end of the world when our bodies rise, we’ll be our perfect 33, even if we died before or after 33.
I always thought that my life would be a lot different in my thirties. I’m actually past the age of 33, and even with these extra few years, I’m still not anywhere near where I’d want to be.
I thought I’d have more of life figured out by now.
I thought I’d be farming. I mean farming for real and my husband not having an off-farm job.
I thought I’d have more kids. (I know I have six, but I really thought I would have started earlier and had more by now. I’ve always wanted a big family.)
I thought my house would be bigger. And cleaner.
I thought I’d be richer, a lot richer. I thought my student loans would be paid off.
I thought I’d have another degree or two. I have a Bachelor’s, but I thought I’d have a Master’s. I’m a grad school drop out.
I thought my faith would be stronger.
I thought I’d always know where my keys are.
And of course skinnier- I always thought I’d be skinnier.
It’s not all bad. I have had some successes. I had a llama. I am pretty successful at being a cheapskate.
But I’m frightened because I do not have too many more years left in my thirties. I wonder about the tone my thirties are setting for the rest of my life.
But then, I look at my six beautiful children. My children make everything worth it. All my children have been born when I was in my thirties. They have challenged me in ways I never thought I could be challenged and yet they have delighted my heart in ways that I never thought it could be delighted. I’ve had to find strength that I never thought I had and this strength was something I never even thought existed.
I am tougher.
I am smarter.
My heart and my soul have grown tremendously.
My thirties are nothing like I thought they’d be, that’s for sure. Of course I still wish I was skinnier and richer and above all else that my son was healed from his brain tumor. We take it day by day with him. We enjoy Vince’s preciousness, even if that means trying to have fun at chemo, something that was never on my radar. I enjoy all of the precious moments with all of my children.
So these are my thirties and it’s clear that this is not heaven’s version, yet I am here now as God draws me closer to Him.
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Every once in a while I finally think I “get it”, living out here. And then something slaps me in the face.
This afternoon I was reading Thursday’s edition of the weekly local paper. I had that slap in the face.
They were advertising for heifer bulls. Heifer bulls? Talk about a contradiction. This whole cow vocabulary had confused me, but I thought I was over it. If you remember correctly, a while back I shared my new found bovine term knowledge with all of you.
If you recall, a heifer is a female bovine that has not had a calf (baby) yet and a bull is an uncastrated male bovine. So obviously a heifer bull just confuses things.
As my husband explained (twice), it turns out that in the world of ranching, that is raising bovines, that the birth weight of baby calves is determined by genetics on their father’s side. A heifer that makes her entry into cow-dom, that is has a baby for the first time is younger and will have smaller hips than a cow who is older and has done this a few times. A lower birth weight calf is desirable for heifers, but not necessarily for cows. A heifer bull is a bull that is better to have a honeymoon with heifers to have low birth weight calves.
So heifer bulls exist. Mind blown.
Posted in Laura, Raising Bovines by Laura with no comments yet.
Should Farmers Be Added to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program? Here Is My Student Loan Story
Student loan relief is a hot topic. Currently, there is a wonderful group, the National Young Farmers Coalition, that has brought farmer student loans into the national spotlight. Since they are opening the conversation about farmer student loans, and since I am a farmer with student loans, I thought I’d share my student loan story with you here.
During the last few years there has been some programs aimed to somewhat relieve the student loan burden. The Public Service Student Loan Forgiveness Program allows those with certain jobs in the public sector to have their loans forgiven. They must make 120 monthly payments of at least the minimum amount. In certain fields, they do paperwork and viola!, the loan is forgiven. The other student loan relief program is called the Income Based Repayment Plan (IBR). IBR is basically a sliding scale to recalculate minimum payments. There is even a possibility of a $0 monthly payment if your income is low enough. If the IBR payment is $0, the federal government will pay the interest on the subsidized loans for three years.
The problem with the IBR is that if the student loan is not being paid (even if showing as current) the interest accumulates without the principal being chipped away at. In a way it’s like never having hope of repaying it. After 25 years, student loan debt is supposed to be forgiven.
There is a proposition to include farmers in the public service category under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. It’s in that thinking about thinking about becoming a law stage. The National Young Farmers Coalition is really pushing for this.
Right now under the IBR, my student loan payment is $0. I am still making monthly payments for what it was before the IBR, so I’m still chipping away at it. I am just paying that monthly amount towards the “unsubsidized” loans. Interest is accumulating on both. After a year, I am told, the student loan servicing company will get a credit from the federal government for the interest on my subsidized loan and they will apply it towards my account.
I feel it’s necessary to keep chipping away at it. Farmers being included in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program is just a hope right now. I need to deal with what is, and what is is that I need to keep chipping away at this loan. If the legislation ever passes, maybe I can pay $1 a month or something since I’d still have to make 120 monthly payments for more than my IBR payment amount.
As I will outline below, it’s really my own poor choices that got me into this student loan situation. If help was offered (in the form of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program) I certainly would not refuse it, but I don’t think it’s the government’s job to make up for my poor choices.
Let me start my student loan story where I’ll go back all the way to 8th grade. I was a very good student and my parents wanted the best for me. My father decided that the answer was a Certain Catholic High School. That Certain Catholic High School had all the best everything that my family considered important- a very large percentage of students that went on to college, great sports, strict policies, and a Catholic identity. My parents made many many sacrifices so that I could go to school there.
At That Certain Catholic High School, I was in their honors program. I did well. Not gangbusters, but my graduating GPA was still above 4.0. Because of the very competitive nature of That Certain Catholic High School, I wasn’t even in the top ten percent of my class. My best friends to this day are all ones that I met at That Certain Catholic High School. They are such great people that time, distance and different life stages have not separated us.
So I graduated and went on to Rutgers, Cook College. Rutgers Cook was New Jersey’s land grant college. They had a great Animal Science program: I wanted to be a veterinarian. So Rutgers it was!
I lived at home with my parents and commuted the 8 miles to Rutgers. I started out with 14 credits from AP tests. In my first semester, I took an introductory animal science class. I hated it. It was about farm animals.
I changed my major to Biology. I figured it was close and I wouldn’t “loose” any of my classes. I had started going through the course catalog in A. I stopped at B for Biology. So a Bio major it was.
I didn’t do so well at Rutgers. I chugged through. I failed a few classes. I got 3 D’s. I got a lot of C’s. It took my six tries to pass first semester organic chemistry. I always did great in my non-major classes. (That should have been a sign that I was in the wrong major.) I went to school during every summer. I worked throughout the school year. I failed a class my supposed-to-be-last-semester (organic chemistry, the fourth time). They changed the requirements on me and I had to unexpectedly repeat another class, so it took me 5 years to graduate. But I did it, by the skin of my teeth, and I do have a Bachelor of Science from Rutgers the State University of New Jersey. In retrospect, I think perhaps I was burnt out from my very competitive high school: I needed a break perhaps.
The highlight of my time at Rutgers was when I worked on the Cook Student Organic Farm (now known as the Rutgers Student Sustainable Farm) as an intern. I worked on that three acre vegetable farm and that is where I decided that I wanted to be a farmer, that on a farm was how I wanted to raise my kids. That was actually a wise decision for my student loans, too- I earned about $1300 there through Americorps toward my student loan debt.
Financially, I made so many mistakes during my college time.
I am Kevin is still literally paying for them now. I’m going to enumerate them here, because these mistakes are my major point of this blogpost:
5. Although I lived at home, I first experience new found freedom when I started college. This was the first time my parents allowed me to drive. I had a car and a boyfriend. I worked. I never “partied”, but I spent my money on going out to dinner with friends, buying clothes, buying lunch at the student center on campus, buying lunch in the mall at work, etc. In retrospect, I should have brown-bagged it a lot more. I had never drove, bought my own clothes or any of that before. It was new. Perhaps living at home actually cost more because I was always looking for an escape. Escapes cost money.
I fared so horribly at Rutgers that I didn’t even go to my graduation.
I did start grad school a bunch of years ago, but I did that through my employer’s tuition reimbursement program.
I did “buy the farm” and move to my own little house on the prairie. Now that I am that stay-at-home mom with my six beautiful children, my husband works and we pay my student loans with his salary. I feel terrible about my anti-dowry. It is a financial burden to us. The government makes all that interest money off me, so in a way it’s a tax, (although I voluntarily went to college, so I voluntarily pay the tax).
If I keep paying the monthly amount that
I’m Kevin is paying, I still have about another four and half years to pay off the student loans.
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You may have heard about the tragedy this weekend in Castle Rock Colorado. A wife and mother of five children was fatally stabbed allegedly by her estranged husband. Her and her children had recently moved in with relatives in CastleRock to escape an abusive situation. While they haven’t released the names of the people involved, I do know who it is. Although the actual murder happened in the Front Range area, TheLady was from the Colorado prairie. She had umpteen children of her own and some of them were my children’s ages. She was a semi-local acquaintance. My heart breaks for her and her children. May her soul forever rest in peace. May these children somehow be comforted and consoled.
A tragedy like the recent murder of TheLady hits us all especially hard. She was a resident of the Colorado prairie, and we mourn for her. She was one of our own.
I always thought that stuff like that didn’t happen out here. I was wrong. And when tragedy does strike, we feel it deeper here. We have very few people out here and we all know one another. For example, March 2011 was probably the worst month ever in Lincoln County history.
On March 9, 2011, Limon police officer Jay Sheridan was fatally shot in the line of duty. This was in Limon. We’re not talking a crime filled area. He was serving an arrest warrant for an individual that really didn’t want to go back to prison. He pushed his fellow officers out of the way. The man shot him. Officer Sheridan’s little girl was less than two years old. The trailer that this happened in still stands, a sad reminder every time I drive by. I didn’t know Officer Sheridan well, but I rung up his coffee most every night when I worked as a cashier at Flying J. I pray for Officer Sheridan and his family.
On March 26, 2011, another Lincoln County resident stopped to help a driver after the driver was hit by a driver. The driver circled back and ran her over, killing her. I pray for her.
On March 27, 2011, a wonderful couple, Chuck and Laura Claggett, was fatally shot by their great grandson in their own bed. He left them there and his crime wasn’t discovered until a few days later when he had a car accident and the police tried to notify his great grandparents. Chuck and Laura lived in their own little house on the prairie, very very close to here. My blood boils, still, every time I drive by their homesite (they since burned down the house, as it stood as a grim reminder). I pray for them and I pray for their great grandson.
When we look back to March 2011 or the recent murder of TheLady, we grieve very deeply for our Lincoln County family. We are reminded that big crimes happen even in little houses on the prairie. We’re not immune to it here, although it seems we almost should be. With less than 5000 non-inmate people spread out in a county geographically bigger than the state of Delaware, it’s almost like we’re one big family. There is an unspoken comraderie on the prairie. My neighbors and pretty much all of Lincoln County have my back. I can count on them. There is a bond here like no other place. I just really can’t even put it into words. It’s a phenomena of a small town (or smally populated county, even if geographically big). That’s why these despicable acts hits us all especially hard.
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I’m going to jump on the end-of-the-year blog-bandwagon and post a little about 2014.
The best way I can describe 2014 is a year without babies. I had a baby in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, & 2013 and this is the first year that we were married long enough that I did not have a baby. This is my first year that’s not a Baby’s First Christmas.
Kevin and I are Catholic, married, fertile and of child-bearing age. The Catholic Church permits the use of NFP (natural family planning) for serious and grave reasons. (See here, here, here, here, here, and here.) We are grateful that we have access to NFP, but disheartened that we had reason for NFP. This next baby, due in May, 19 months after Baby5 is my biggest distance. On purpose.
2014 started off with news that has changed our world, rocked our very being. My son Vince, now almost 3.5, had an MRI appointment scheduled for 1/2/14. We had the other kids sleep over their grandparents the night before and took Vince into Children’s Hospital, leaving before 5:30 a.m. We were doing the MRI because Vince had a small lump at the base of his skull. The surgeon wanted to find out exactly what it was before he removed it.
“It’s not a big deal,” the pediatric surgeon, the primary doctor and the MRI scheduler-people all said. “When you get to it,” they added.
Surprise! They found a brain tumor, a totally seperate thing than he had had the MRI for originally. The brain tumor was the size of a golf ball in his left frontal lobe and ended up being a polymixoid astrocytoma. Our entire focus changed. We took Vince 500 miles to the closest other real Children’s Hospital in Kansas City for a second opinion. They agreed with the first docs and Vince had his brain tumor removed March 7th. The surgery went remarkably well and Vince had no neurological effects from the surgery.
Vince continues follow ups. He continues speech therapy, too. His latest follow-up was inconclusive. They were unable to tell if the tumor was coming back or not. There is nothing to do but wait and pray. In March, he’ll have another MRI and if the tumor is coming back, he’ll need chemo. Even as I type these, I can’t believe I’m writing about my own child.
Of course Vince and his tumor have dominated us this year. I’ll give you a few quick takes on other 2014 happenings…
1. I bought a pregnant pig. Her name is Mouse and she is a sweetheart. She had her babies in June and we’re raising some of them for meat. They’re still around because I don’t know what I’m doing and their weight gain has been slower than it should have been.
2. My garden failed. Again.
3. We finally refinanced our house. We had issues with that, just with the house itself, like that our well was on a different property and that kind of crazy stuff we don’t have control over and banks don’t like.
4. I finally got my propane stove. Have I ever mentioned how much I hated the electric coil stove I used to have? When it finally broke beyond repair and we were without an oven for four months, someone gave us their old oven and then that broke, too. I got a propane stove and the oven spased out and rather than Whirlpool sending a repairman to my rural area, they credited me back and I got yet another new stove. In the past 12 months, I’ve had four stoves. I hope this last one is a keeper.
5. I went grocery shopping in Kansas once. I hate Colorado. I remember lamenting that in 2012, I never left the state. In 2014, I left the state three times- one quick trip by plane to New York and New Jersey to visit my ailing grandmother and one quick trip in August into Kansas to go grocery shopping. And of course there was Kansas City Missouri and Kansas for Vince’s second opinion. Pathetic travelling. I know.
I really don’t know what else to say.
2014 was a miserable year, a year dominated by Vince’s brain tumor, a year without babies, a year so bad that we actually had a reason for NFP. I wish I could leave it behind, however, Vince will have followups for this the rest of his life. Pray for good results!
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I am a blogger. On this particular blog, I hope that you can laugh with me (not at me) in my journey from Jersey girl to prairie farmer’s wife. I learn every day. I die to myself every day. I share some of it with you.
I love my computer. My little house on the prairie has four walls, four walls in the middle of the lonely prairie. On my computer, I can do some of my grocery and Christmas shopping, learn a new recipe, and educate myself (a bit).
Although I can say that all-in-all, the computer has enriched our lives, I wanted to caution you on something… Don’t believe everything you read. Take everything with a grain of salt. Do your own research. As much information is out there, there is almost an equal amount of misinformation.
I’m a housewife from New Jersey. Sure I have a BS degree, but what this really means is that I know jack. There are tons of other bloggers out there (whose blogs and posts get a lot more traffic than mine) and I can bet that a lot of them aren’t scientists either. So when you read on a blog or a forum that A definitely causes B, chances are that the author is shooting from her hips.
It seems bloggers make these outlandish statements when it comes to a lot of topics that I’m interested in. Things like parenting and discipline, breastfeeding, natural child rearing and attachment parenting, GMOs, vaccines, cancer and nutrition, organics, soy, etc. I’m telling you, in a lot of cases they are giving anecdotal evidence or shooting from their hips.
I tend to write things on my blog like “This is what works for me.” or “This seems like a plausible theory.” I really try not to contribute to the misinformation problem. Let me know if I do.
“But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” And this is my philosophy. I take all the information and misinformation and try to weed through it. When I need to make a decision for my family, I make it using principles of God, nature and good ol’ common sense. This is my advice to you, too…. make your family decisions based on the principles of God, nature and common sense.
If some blogger said it, all that means is that she has an internet connection and the freedom of speech. It doesn’t make her right. Remember this always.
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This blogpost will attempt to compare Sam’s Club to Costco as I see them. These are just my own opinions. I recently joined Costco after getting a good deal on membership. I also still belong to Sam’s Club. Since I have had the opportunity to compare these wholesale clubs, I will share my findings with you. If you’re on the fence about which wholesale club to join, perhaps I can help you decide.
How Sam’s Club Has It Over Costco…
1. Click n’ Pull. Sam’s Club offers a service called Click n’ Pull. I pick out my groceries online, tell them when I will pick them up and they have a grocery cart waiting for me full of my stuff. As a mother of many young little children who lives about 90 miles from the closest wholesale club, this service is invaluable. This is the main reason that I will not cancel my Sam’s Membership. I can be in and out of Sam’s in less than a half hour, car seats, lines and all.
2. Sam’s Club takes all payment methods. Costco only accepts cash, American Express, checks or debit cards. Sam’s Club takes everything. I don’t have an American Express card. I manipulate my rewards credit cards and usually receive 2-3% back on my grocery purchases. That 2-3% adds up to a lot of extra cash in my pocket.
3. Sam’s Club’s website seems to cater to business. I have bought more than a few items over the years on Sam’s website. They have more things that my very small little home-based business needs. They ship the majority of it for free that is unavailable in their store. This is a win-win. They have all of their grocery prices posted online. This makes budgeting and unit price comparisons easier.
4. Sam’s Club opens at 7 a.m. I am a business member. I am allowed in during their early shopping hours. Although it isn’t often that I’m in Colorado Springs or Denver at such early hours, it’s nice to know that when I need them they’ll be there for me. Costco doesn’t open until 10 a.m.
5. Sam’s has wi-fi. Costco does not. This might not be an issue for you, but for anyone in the stone age like me who just this year got a kindle and takes it with me on outings for when I occasionally need to access the web, wi-fi is a wonderful convenience.
6. Sam’s Club gives three cards with their Business Membership. I am a Business Member of Sam’s Club. They gave me three cards. One card has only the business name on it and is supposed to be only used for checks. My husband carries this one. He uses it for gas. He also uses the self-checkout and pays how he wants to. My friend is a joint member on our membership.
How Costco Has It Over Sam’s…
1. Costco has brighter atmosphere than Sam’s. Costco seems to be aimed at higher class customer. They have a better lighting in their stores. I have yet to find a shopping cart with a broken safety strap. They have two employees per register so their lines move faster. Their store is cleaner. Their snack area is yummier. They offer tons more samples. Costco is all-around a nicer place to shop.
2. Costco pays their employees better. I like being a customer of a store where they provide their employees a living wage. It just makes more sense.
3. At Costco, you can return things forever. I have never tested this out, but that’s what they tell me.
4. Costco offers a lot more healthy options. Costco offers organics for cheap or the same price as the non-organic food. They have more gluten-free items. Their produce is far superior. Sam’s produce cannot even hold a candle to Costco’s produce.
Where Sam’s Club and Costco are equal…
1. Customer Service? I have had a few incidents with Sam’s Club over the years. They have always made it right. I haven’t had the chance to test out Costco yet.
2. Prices. On one thing I buy Sam’s is a dollar cheaper there. On another Costco is a dollar cheaper. All around, I think their prices even out.
3. Rewards Memberships. Sam’s Club recently changes their memberships to earn a percentage (2%) of purchases back. This is in the top level membership and not their basic one. Costco offers the same thing, although my membership is just the lower level there.
4. Neither wholesale club accepts coupons. B.J.’s in New Jersey takes coupons, so I’m told, but they are not in Colorado.
These are only my experiences. Having big family and living very far from “real” stores I really think a wholesale club membership is necessary. I hope my comparison helps you to decide which club to join.
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