Wednesday, August 24, 2011

5 years.

 I know it is just an organization.  I know that 'it' could replace me in a second.  But I am proud to work and represent Penn State.  I've found my niche helping adult students find their place in a world that previously, has been the stomping grounds only of those who recently graduated high school.  Penn State certainly has its faults: it is extremely expensive, there is an issue with drinking, its not a good fit for many people.  But I love Penn State.  I love Penn State enigmas like JoePa, the Nittany Shine, the Blue Band.  It is not only that -- I love my co-workers.

I have by sheer, dumb luck, plopped myself into the best possible work environment for myself.   

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


 Literally. Figuratively. 

Today I experienced my first-ever earthquake.  On the third floor of the office building on which I worked.  In central Pennsylvania.

I was out of there in 15 seconds - my body worked automatically: grabbed my phone, grabbed my bag, and ran down the stairs outside.

The rest of the office building residents convened out in the parking lot because we weren't really sure what had happened.  There were people laughing and wondering why we were all outside.  There were many, many people on their cellphones trying to figure out what exactly was going on.  I seemed to be the only person on the verge of a complete and total breakdown.  The earth was NOT supposed to move at work - not in MY world!!!

So I ditched everyone.  I was terrified.  I could not bring myself to walk back up the stairs to the third floor.  I went home and don't even remember the drive.  I needed to get home and see for my self that my kids and animals were all fine.  Which they were.  The kids were hanging out in the living room.  The goat kids and horses and chickens and bull and Dolly Llama were grazing as if nothing had happened.  I got my normal back which is what I needed to do. 

I realize what a sheltered life I live.  In central Pennsylvania, we don't usually have to worry about hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes......and I like it that way.  But today's experience has certainly given me a different type of perspective.  I've experienced not-quite-a-hiccup of the earth.  And was terrified.  How must the people in Haiti or Japan or Richmond have felt? 

I am thankful for my peaceful life. 

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Tough Sell.

 Usually my Sunday afternoons are pretty eventless - usually spent doing easy chores or baking or sewing or napping.  I like quiet Sundays because that is my time to think - most often about the morning's sermon.

Today as friends came over to admire my goats, I started thinking about church and people and why some people don't go to church and why I've come to love my church so much.  This morning one of the challenges put out by Pastor Jeff is to reach out to others in the community.  Which in theory, I am all for - but in reality, am scared to death to approach someone and ask them to come to church.

Some time ago, my fear stemmed from being extremely nervous around strangers, fear of being judged, of being labeled as even weirder than my neighbors already believe that I am.  More recently, I would have to say that my fear is more of trying to explain to someone why he or she should come to church.

How do I put into words everything our little church is . . .  beyond the reasons of worship which should be enough but often isn't to someone new.  It is a tough sell.  How do I tell my neighbors about our church family - and how it is not simply family like --but a true family?  A place that we all come together for a common belief? A place where we share our joys and sorrows? A place where it is never out of place to ask a question?  How do I explain in 5 minutes or less the importance of these people in my heart? 

I know it is hard walking into a new place especially an established church.  I know that as nice as everyone is, you certainly feel like an outsider - even after many, many years.  And if you are a person who lacks a whole lot of social skills, it may take years to feel comfortable.

There are many times that I get to church a bit early and just watch and listen to people around me.  And I wonder how it could possibly be that our church is so incredibly fortunate to have the cast of characters that we have.  Do all churches have a Barb who gives selflessly of her time for the kids of the church?  Barb must spend hours planning various Sunday programs for the kids, for putting together a Sunday school lesson each week that although the kids may not seem to be listening, will remember years and years from now.  And a Denny who is always at the church doing anything that needs to be done and who always has a coffee pot on for Sunday morning. 

How about a Claude or a Nan who always have smiles for anyone they see? Or a Nancy or a Betty or She-Gene or He-Gene? My Sunday mornings are always brighter when they are there.  The best Sundays are when everyone is there.  And then there is our Pastor who somehow makes every sermon relevant to my life and to everyone elses.  It is amazing how sermons serve as life lessons when you are nearly 50.

Sitting in my pew with the windows wide open, the band the soft hum of the ceiling fan, I listen to the sounds of the church and wonder in how many churches do you hear a dog barking and yipping, a baby laughing, a rooster crowing, and the elders of the church being reprimanded because they are giggly as schoolgirls.  I really hope that there are more churches than not who are able to enjoy the sites, sounds, and scents of our country church.

I can't imagine how anyone would not want to be a part of this.  But yet how can you explain it?  I don't think I can explain it - it can only be experienced.  And I think that if everyone knew, there wouldn't be an empty seat in the place.

God smiles down on Sprucetown United Methodist Church.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Goats who stare at . . .

Hansel, our fence tester;
Today was a great day at One Old Goat farm.   So far I've been averaging a quart of goat milk a day - while milking once a day.  The fence is up. Everyone has been de-wormed.
It has just been a beautiful day!
Chestnut, the world's fattest rooster, investigating the goat house;

seriously, does this picture make my butt look big?;

Jord, so happy to have goats again at One Old Goat Farm;

Leslie, pondering the new fence;

love in the air - Dolly Llama and Snowball - nose-to-nose;

and finally, unnamed barn kitty!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


They still are a little unsure of me.  I've been waiting for over a year to hear the music of goats in my backyard.  These three are rather quiet.  I'm sure that once their fence is complete and they are free to roam on their own, they will be a little more vocal. 
In the meantime, I'm just wallowing in their goatiness. 
Who couldn't love a face like this?  There is a gentleness in farm animals.  It is very calming to spend time with them early in the morning long before other humans are awake.  Goats are always happy to see you - well, so are the horses and the chickens.  Dolly Llama usually is not happy to see anyone but me--and even her love for me is questionable. 

The goats are still wondering whether I am friend or foe but I am pretty sure that with enough carrots and apples, I can win them over.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Road trip.

My goat-mobile is ready for the journey;

Today's trip had the potential for disaster.  In the spirit of my brother's and my first cross-country goat run, I took a much shorter trip to southern PA to pick up 3 nubian goats.  I've learned a thing or two since I last traveled with goats.  First, the goats will fall asleep when the vehicle is moving - so it is very important to make any restroom or coffee stops before picking up the goats.  Especially if you are travelling alone. Which I was.  Second, it is imperative to have a barrier between the goats and the driver. Goats are notoriously pushy and will sit in the front seat if given a chance.


The goats are nestled in for the trip;

Leslie - my co-driver

I am prepared for my goats this time.  I've been given some very good advice by experienced goatherders: goats won't jump the fence if they are happy inside the fence, goats are the farm animal version of the dog, goats don't really eat everything.  This latter tidbit I knew since I owned 3 of the pickiest goats on the planet at one time.  Picky to the point that they pulled out their favorite bits from their hay, turned up their noses at carrots, lettuce, or anything past its prime. 

I've missed having goats - there is something so calming about the bleating of a goat.  I have visions of goat cheese, goat's milk fudge, goat milk smoothies.  And we will have goat baby at the beginning of January.

It feels really good to have goats back at One Old Goat farm.

Friday, August 12, 2011

The start of something great.

 Tonight was the first performance of the 2011-12 Penns Valley Marching Band season and the first performance of all time for two of my kids.  There was a lot of build up to tonight's event - if only in the Brown household.  Listening to the kids' concerns and speculations of the night brought back so many good memories of my band days: the white bucks (they have black), the careful donning of the uniform for the first time (they have crisp, new uniforms this year), the nervousness in performing in front of so many people -- I can remember being absolutely sure that mine was the only instrument that people could hear, and if (gasp) I screwed up . . . .  
 My kids' nervousness shows in different ways.  My son will tell me straight out that he has butterflies in his belly.  My daughter will not let on that she is nervous at all.  But I can tell.  She gets a little louder, a little gigglier.  There was a lot of laughter tonight as the kids waited for the parade to begin.  But the instant the drum major gave the command for attention, every musician snapped into place.
I think this is amazing.  I've written before about the changes that have occurred recently within our band department.  The musical leadership in our school district is amazing.  Under their guidance, these kids - many of them new to the program - brought it together with only one practice a week over the summer. They were sharp and sounded great. 

If anyone ever questions the value of a teacher, they need to spend some time observing some of these programs of the arts.  I'd be willing to bet that if not all, nearly all of these kids will contribute greatness to this world - above what they've already given us tonight.  But yet funding for school programs continues to be cut, teachers are given less and less freedom to teach creatively, and everyone suffers. 

But for a half hour tonight, pure magic played at Medlar ballpark.

Thursday, August 11, 2011


Do you think he knows he's different?

Do you think they notice?

Does it matter?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

49 years.

Today is my birthday.  Happy Birthday to me!  I am so incredibly lucky to have lived this long despite my relative ignorance about most things.  I was gifted with many things - but common sense is not one of them. 

This is what I've had to learn along the way:

That the really best things in my life truly have not been things. They have been the experiences with the people who are in my life. I’ve learned that no matter how old I get, I still need (and want!) my mom and dad. I’ve learned that you never really outgrow sibling rivalry. I’ve learned that you may have to risk being labeled as crazy, odd, and eccentric to be able to fully live out your dreams. And I’ve learned not to care if others think of me as crazy, odd, and eccentric. I’ve learned that suppressing your dreams can have dire consequences.

I've learned that all families are dysfunctional - and the degree of dysfunctionality of each family is relative to that family's perception of the neighbors.  But no one is normal.

 I’ve learned that time spent with my kids, family and animals is way more important (and enjoyable) than cleaning my house and that no one will die from a messy house. There have been longitudinal studies done (by me) on this topic, and it has been proven to be true.

I’ve learned that you can love your career and give 110% of yourself at work without sacrificing your family.

I’ve learned that my life does not fit into 15 minute increments and that clocks are the work of the devil.

I’ve learned that no matter how grown up I’ve gotten, I still want my big brother to think I’m cool and that no matter how big he gets, I will always look out for my little brother.

I’ve realized that all I’ve ever really needed other than my family, has been faith. And after years and years of searching, I have come to realize that God has been with me all along. Since I was very young, I’ve been looking for the answers to two questions: what is that spirit I’ve always felt with me and who, exactly, is the Holy Ghost as in the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. At bible study, my pastor answered that question and I nearly fell off my chair. It was such a simple question with such a simple answer.

Which brings me to my next realization that if I want to know something, I should just ask. How bizarre that I could have saved myself so much anguish, so much time researching, if I had only swallowed my pride and just asked.

I've learned that success is not measured in money, that babies grow up quicker than you can blink your eye, that good dogs don't last forever.  I've learned the importance of letting people know I love them and to tell that cashier, server, anyone, when a job is well done.  Or when you appreciate the good service, the eye contact, or the smile.  And then return the smile.

I’ve learned that I really, really want another 49 years to re-do everything that I have screwed up, forgotten, ignored over the past 49 years.

I'll try harder to get it right this time.

A torrid love affair

 I've written about the ducks quite a bit. It's a little like Peyton Place around here I think. A couple of months ago, the male d...