The country life is so different from the life I lived in the city. The one thing both places have in common is they both have their own kind of trouble. Some of it just shows up and is hard to avoid, yet there is that certain kind of trouble that we bring on ourselves. I guess I need to rely on one of our former presidents Teddy Roosevelt for some help with this one: If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn’t sit for a month.
One of the worst situations I can recall since I’ve been living out in the country happened the summer my dog, Mae (Pay It Forward), made her appearance on our front porch. It never occurred to me that a mean dog could show up as well. One rainy afternoon, a full-grown pit bull appeared in our backyard.
We called the police (it’s a small town…that’s what you do), and the policeman told me that they had recently passed a law banning pit bulls in my county unless the owners complied with the provisions stated in the resolution; I lived on the county line, and the policeman guessed that someone had just traveled there to get rid of the dog to avoid the $100,000 liability insurance required to keep it.
The policeman stated that the dog appeared to have been abused and was a trained fighter. I was scared and sick to my stomach when I heard the gunshot in the dark. The policeman guessed how upset I would be. He came in and told me how sorry he was that he had to put that poor stray down in my yard. It had attacked his partner. Trouble visited that night, and it was something that I could not control. (Note: I have nothing against pit bulls. This dog just happened to be one of the many unlucky pit bulls that had a heartless owner.)
My dog, Mae, spent her first summer with me as an outside dog, but because we don’t have a fenced yard, we decided to kennel her when I went back to work. We still spent lots of time outside, so when she took an interest in the farm road in front of our house, I saw how Trouble was interested in visiting again. My dog was great, but she was stubborn and would not come when I called her. She thought it was a game and would run away…sometimes down the middle of the road. I can’t tell you how many times I would have to stand in the middle of the road hoping the cars saw me just so I could protect her. I know. That was stupid. I realized I was offering Trouble a chair by continuing to overlook this flaw in my dog. No. It was a flaw in how I trained my dog. This was my fault because she was my responsibility.
It’s true. Two summers ago I literally did not follow this rule; the horse went left and I went right…and down. I did a complete flip (well, almost) and landed on the rock hard ground as dust billowed up around me. My insides gelled together while I checked for feeling in my legs. This rule is not really about horses, but rather the fact that our world is constantly changing; we need to make sure we are changing with it.
Change is constant. Do you remember when you first encountered a new piece of technology for the first time? A few years younger than I, my graduate school project partner insisted that the way to eject a disk from a Macintosh computer was to drag the disk to the trash. Really. Does that make sense? No. I know it doesn’t. I was so very far out of my comfort zone on that day. I eventually realized that this thing called the Internet might be sticking around for a little while, and I probably better get it figured out.
Change is constant. My example of the change in technology over the years is just one tiny little blip on the world radar. It’s true that just a few years after I watched the virtual disk drop into the virtual trash can and then watched the actual disk pop out of the computer, I was teaching others to create web pages. But then the world as I know it changed again. I moved wwaaaayyyy out into the country. I could barely get an Internet connection. WiFi? Not out here!
I love my life out here on the ranch, but it is not without its hardships and disappointments. Everyone has his or her burdens to bear, but the key to putting them behind you is what Rule #3 is all about: choice and attitude.
During college a friend of mine once commented on my “always up” attitude. He alluded to the fact that because my happiness always seemed so extreme that my sad times that he never saw probably had to be really, well, sad. I think he must have just come from one of those freshman psychology courses and wanted to be the first to diagnose me. It gave me reason for pause, and I waited for those “really sad times” to present themselves. They never did.
Last summer I attended a luncheon with a group of ladies. The hostess began our luncheon by reading “Complaining,” an excerpt from Wouldn’t Take Nothing’ For My Journey Now by Maya Angelou. Every person listened intently as the final part of the passage was read:
“Sister, there are people who went to sleep all over the world last night, poor and rich and white and black, but they will never wake again. Sister, those who expected to rise did not, their beds became their cooling boards and their blankets became their winding sheets. And those dead folks would give anything, anything at all for just five minutes of this weather or ten minutes of that plowing that person was grumbling about. So you watch yourself about complaining, Sister. What you’re supposed to do when you don’t like a thing is change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it. Don’t complain.”
Complaining. That’s what this rule is about. When I got home I quickly created a little tile with our picture and this excerpt written on it. I put it in my underwear drawer, so when I am getting dressed in the morning, I feel that tile. It reminds me to be grateful for waking up to another day.
Out here on the ranch there never seems to be enough time. We are always tending to the animals, building something, or just performing the everyday maintenance that all homeowners have to do. Somehow, and it’s not always easy, I make time for hobbies that enrich my life. So rule #2 translates into “find a hobby you are good at and make time for it.”
As a kid, I took dance and piano lessons outside of school, but I had an opportunity to explore sewing (the home economics/shop era) and art during school. I actually remember the advertisement for an art school that read “If you can draw this… you may have a future in art.” We had an empty lot across the street from our house, and I watched my mom start a garden there before it sold and a house was built on the land. I worked summers in the home building industry with my step-dad. I was exposed to a lot of different activities. Exposure is important.
Just because we are exposed to different activities doesn’t mean we will have the opportunity to pursue those activities. For example, it wasn’t until a co-worker introduced me to quilting and my Aunt Sally gave me a sewing machine that I had the opportunity to pursue sewing. That happened over twenty years ago, and I am still making time for it. I have found that I can look at something and figure out how to make it, but I have also found some success in designing my own interesting projects. Now that I live on a ranch, I have my own space for a garden. I am still learning the basics, but a friend talked me into enrolling in our local Master Gardener class. What a learning experience! I have realized that two of my favorite activities were merged in the creation of the Tag Rag, the gardening bandana I made that I wear every day in the summer.