Friday, February 13, 2015

She Bought the Farm...

If you haven't already figured it out, I have a quirky sense of humor.  It's evident after spending any small amount of time with my family that this trait is genetic.  So you won't be at all surprised when I refer to what could have been a horrible tragedy in our family as something that has turned into an amazing story.  

My mother could have been killed by a distracted driver, as she was walking within the crosswalk, of a street in my hometown, when she was struck by a truck three days before Christmas.

So what's so funny about that?  I get that you might be scratching your head.  She could have been killed, gone to the pearly gates, heard the fat lady sing, or bought the farm, as some say.  But my mother is the most resilient person I've ever known, and she has too much to do to admire gates, listen to obese singers, or buy farmland.  She is constantly listening to what she feels she is supposed to be doing to assist others on their journeys through this crazy blue marbleWhile still lying in the trauma room in the ER that day in December, she made phone contacts cancelling her literacy student's tutoring session , her hospice patient's visit, and the babysitting gig she had lined up.  To say my mother lives a life of service is an understatement.

But back to that farmland for sale...

Once released from the hospital, the post anesthesia effects caused her to awaken many times a night.  Those of us staying with her became used to awakening to the sound of the metal walker traversing the wooden bedroom floor and scraping on the echoing tile in the bathroom.  (After all, once you're awake, you may as well....).  She was, reportedly, in no pain, but was spent a lot of time at night, awake, with a sense of urgency.  She just didn't know what that call was really about.  

Clearly, it was a call to fund a chicken farm.

Health and Social Services

Did you know that there are four key career pathways?  If you were an Information Literacy student worth your salt, you'd be able to rattle them off quite efficiently:
  1. Business and Finance
  2. Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM)
  3. Arts and Communications
  4. Health and Social Services
My position as a teacher falls into the fourth pathway.  It's probably a good thing that teaching is considered a "social service", because it is clearly the genetic path that I have been predisposed to walk.  Obviously my mother loves others, and serves others in ways that others can only stand in awe and admiration.  So while I was staying with her in late December, she announced a plan to help Heritage Academy , a mission field near and dear to her heart, in the creation of another training program -- raising chickens.

"An egg for every student and a chicken in every pot."  That's her goal.

So during her recuperation for the last seven weeks, she's been dreaming, conspiring, consulting, networking, and recounting the plan that came to her in the middle of the night on one of her many walker-runs to the potty.  The Heritage Chicken Farm.

As a teacher in a public  school, nobody is supposed to know anything about where I stand on religion.  I am blessed to work in Lancaster County, where there is a healthy respect for human kindness, and genuine compassion for my fellow man.  (After all, that's what those of us in the Health and Social Services pathway need to feel wanted.)  And I have to tell you how much I get choked up at the holiday concert every year when the alumni are invited to join the choir on stage in our public high school to sing the Hallelujah Chorus.  I'm solicited on a fairly regular basis for support of missions trips, retreats, and other fundraisers by my students on behalf of their youth groups or churches.  I'm prohibited, by law, from sharing my faith in school, which is fine.   But often there's an opportunity in social services with a faith-based root, that may be a match for a student searching for community service opportunities.

Case in point, this interaction:

I met with a student feeling a bit overwhelmed because she can't choose a college without a potential career in mind, and she's not sure what she wants to major in, leaving choosing direction difficult.  She's applied a number of places, and has chatted about a year off for missions work, but really is just chasing her tail without getting anywhere at all.

She stopped by again in mid January.  After dealing with her scheduling changes, I casually inquired about her direction. " UGH!  I don't know what I am going to do!  I can't make a decision!"  I asked about the gap year, and she said "My dad is talking about going on a missions trip this year, but I don't feel like I'm supposed to go back there..."

"What would you do if you didn't go to college?" I asked.

Shoulder shrug.  "I guess I'd stay home and raise chickens and figure out what is next."

WAIT.  WHAT?  CHICKENS?

This kid is one of the brightest students with whom I've ever worked.  She's taken an entrepreneurship class and has a strong business sense.  she is a star student,  and she lives on a FARM AND RAISES CHICKENS, among other things.  She comes from a family with a heart for missions work. Suffice it to say that there was some talk about God's infinite wisdom and timing in my public school classroom, after we closed the door.  She's exploring her options, which may include a chicken coop in Ghana, on a farm dreamed up by my mother.

So once the Chicken Farm idea was fully developed and out of my mother's hands, she decided she needed to make a quilt.  A chicken quilt, of course.  Remember her goal?


"An egg for every student and a chicken in every pot."  

So the sewing commenced.  She sent images of her six finished chicken blocks, and lamented about the sashing between the blocks.  I campaigned, hard, for gold chicken wire on a black background.  It seemed that it would keep the theme going.  I even found some online at a local quilting shop.  So today, I went a bit out of my way on the way to visit my mother, to secure two yards of chicken wire fabric.

The windchill was -7.  The farmland was beautiful, with bright bands of sunlight bouncing off of the icy snow patches on the fields.  I pulled into the parking lot shortly after the store opened and found the section of farm fabrics.  See those top two shelves?  Naked as a jaybird.  No chickens, no eggs, no chicken wire.  It seemed that I had gone 30 minutes out of my way, for naught.

But I asked the girl behind the counter, anyway.  

"We had a leak in the roof, and it ruined all that fabric," she told me.  

I babbled a bit about seeing it online, and hoping I could find it, because my mother has this idea, etc., etc.

"It's outside -- I think -- and it's free."

Wait.  WHAT?


The next thing I knew, I was standing outside next to a shopping cart with the lovely Mennonite salesgirl  who was wearing very thin socks and shoes, digging through a pile of 88 bolts of wet/frozen fabric, all from down on the farm.  I admired the yellow fuzzy chicks, and commented on the white and brown egg fabric.  And then I saw it - the black and gold.  

I offered to pay for it.  She refused.  Oh, and she offered me the entire bolts of the eggs and the chicks.  Eighteen and a half yards of chicken-themed fabric. FOR FREE.

My mother and I worked together, all afternoon, to set the chicken blocks.  The tiny wallhanging grew -- as projects dreamed up by mother tend to do -- until we had created a pictorial representation of the vision that came to her in the night.  It still has to be quilted, but she was quite pleased with our progress today.

Oh, and her health?  It's quite fine.  She walked, today, without her walker or cane, around the local quilt shop.  

Of course, she was motivated by the quest to find the perfect barn red and sky blue to offset the chickens.