Tuesday, February 23, 2016

The Times They Are a-Changin'


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The title says it all doesn't it? Our lives are no different. Dramatic changes have been taking place in our lives these last months. Whether it be deciding to move across the country and pursue life long dreams or reconnecting with long lost friends, our consciousnesses have been steadily roiling through endless possibilities. One of the biggest of which has been calling the farm quits.

It started slowly and snowballed quickly. We decided it was time for a life adventure and that we were going to move to Alaska, something we'd always wanted to do, but never could fully commit to leaving our comfort zone here in Alabama. We talked and talked and debated and maybe even prayed over whether it was a flight of fancy or if we indeed should go. Would it be doing a disservice to our son to uproot him and move him across the country or would it be an amazing opportunity? Would it be a great adventure to us or a devastating blow to our extended families (or both)?
Lindsay prayed for a sign that it was the right thing to do, or at least not the wrong thing to do. That same day, she pulled out of the parking lot at the hospital in Florence, Alabama and right in front of her was a truck with an Alaska license plate. She called me in a state of shock; was this the sign she prayed for or just a coincidence? I thought it was indeed eerie, but couldn't fully say one way or another. Why would an all-powerful being care one way or another if we moved our lives across a continent just for the sake of exploring what life had to offer? I decided I'd just let it simmer.

If we were going to move, or even think about moving, there were things we'd have to consider; employment was as important as anything else if not the most important thing, since we are by no means rich. Lindsay's job as a registered nurse happens to be a very portable profession spawning its own off shoot called Travel Nursing. Travel Nurses usually are paid well and given tax breaks and incentives to travel to hospitals in need of experienced nurses who can just step in and get down to business with little or no orientation. So we investigated that route, and explored the various companies and job listings available to travel nurses. 

My first career in local television and radio provided me no opportunities for employment, nor did my second career as a lowly dirt farmer. Luckily I do have a degree, a Bachelor's Degree in Communications (lucrative, I know), and attempted to find anything even remotely related to communications in which I could be employed. The search offered a couple of thoughts, one being that I'd always been interested in teaching and education but never pursued it while going through school, and there seemed to be a decent amount of teaching jobs open out West. 

My desire to go out west always stemmed from my love of the frontier and homesteading out in the wild away from civilization, carving out something from nothing with no one around to limit your freedom of thought or expression. It also came from my love and interest in the native cultures of North America which exist out west more than anywhere else in our country. There are other reasons I've felt driven to go out West, but these were two of the big ones. Alaska being "the last frontier" made the top of the list of destinations followed by Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, New Mexico, etc. 

Lindsay's desire to go out West probably started when she was a young child reading about Laura Ingalls Wilder and wearing a bonnet everywhere she went much to her mother's chagrin. She'd always dreamed of living in a little house in the hills of New Mexico writing books and drinking hot beverages by a fire. She will have to fill you in on the details, but you get the gist of it.

So while checking to see what options lay available to us, we were hit with another potential sign. Lindsay got a call from her nurse recruiter saying that she'd had a couple of job offers for her come in, none of which were in Alaska. We were bummed, but we listened. Missoula, Montana, and Bozeman, Montana both jumped at the chance to get her. We'd thought about Montana, just like we'd thought about all the other western states, but both of these were larger cities and we were aiming at smaller out of the way places. So while we debated it Lindsay did the obligatory phone interviews with both places. Both went great, and both wanted her. One couldn't wait the 6 weeks we would have to give the hospital here at home, but the other was willing to, so we had a decision to make. We told them we'd think about it and get back to them, but she said we had only about 12 hours to decide and then she'd have to offer the job to the next person in line (or something like that). Lindsay called me wanting to know what I thought, how I felt, and whether we should do it or not.  

Well Montana wasn't Alaska, but there were some positives: closer to back home, not as expensive, more opportunities, etc. The only real drawback was that it wasn't Alaska; it wasn't the untamed wilderness that hasn't even been a state for 75 years. I decided I could get over that and that once we got moving we could always go on up to Alaska once we were through with the first contract in Montana if we wanted to leave there. 

Lindsay prayed again for a sign (and it should be noted we aren't the praying types, but huge life decisions can make prayers come out of all of us I suppose). I considered going to a small church where an old friend of mine had recently become the pastor, and asking him about our circumstances, but decided not to out of sheer fear of awkwardness. Lindsay called me on the way home from work that day to talk about the looming decision that had to be made within 12 hours; midway through the call she stopped and pulled off the road and said, "I wish we just had a sign, something that would tell me whether this is the right thing to do or not." A few minutes later she said, "You won't believe this, but I just pulled back onto the road and the car in front of me has a Montana license plate." 

Take it however you will, facts are facts. It happened. It might have been complete coincidence or it might have been a sign from the heavens. Practicality won out and we decided to wait, to keep looking for the right place and job to go to, and to keep our eyes open for more signs. 

The next week Finn came to us and said that he wanted to go to church. I'm not sure what compelled him, but for some reason he decided we needed to go despite the fact that I've not been to church for anything other than a funeral or wedding since before 1997. I'm open-minded, and I already had the little church where my friend was the pastor on my mind, so we got ready and showed up one Sunday morning for church at the little Methodist church in Elgin, AL. Lightning didn't strike me dead as I walked in the door so I considered that a good sign, and we were welcomed by one of the friendliest groups of people I've ever met in my life. 

We kept going back on Sundays and my old friend and I reconnected and I found out that we could still ponder together on things philosophical and interesting despite the fact that he was now a clergyman. I'd worried that I would have to hide things about myself or my beliefs when talking to him if we were going to hang out again, but all my fears were ridiculously unfounded and I found my old friend to be one of the most open and accepting and deep thinking people I've ever been around. After a few weeks I went to speak with him about our huge, looming life decisions, I asked his opinion on the signs we might or might not have seen, and I asked his advice on the future in general. I won't get into all the details, but it was an enthralling talk. I left trying to force myself to be open to seeing anything that might present itself to me as a sign, insight, or epiphany (be they religious or not). 

One thing that had struck me was the excitement I felt at the thought of going to be a teacher out west in one of the handful of jobs I'd seen posted needing teachers to help educate kids on and around some Native American Indian Reservations. Another thing that struck me was how much I missed coaching basketball this year (I'd signed Finn up to play travel ball instead of recreational league basketball, and they already had a coach and assistant). I'd been twiddling my thumbs watching, and just realized how much I enjoyed coaching and that I really felt I had something to offer to the kids. It just so happened that a job posting popped up on my screen that was for an English teacher on a Reservation in Montana and they needed multiple basketball coaches there as well. Montana has a fast track licensure program for getting teachers in the classroom where they are needed while they pursue the post-graduate work once they already have a Bachelor's Degree in a related field. I emailed the school to see if they hired teachers that had the temporary certification and they confirmed that they indeed did. They requested my resume and education background etc. and I scrambled to get them together thinking that this could be it; this could be what I was meant to do. I sent them off and waited. Nothing. I sent an inquiry a week later to see if they received my information. Nothing. To this day I've not heard anything back from them after the two initial responses asking me for a resume and requesting for me to do a skype pre-interview meeting with them. I was mildly discouraged, but after thinking long and hard about it decided that maybe this was an experience intended to motivate me or cause the self reflection that would direct me on my current course. Maybe it was put in front of me and then jerked out of my grasp to make me realize if I actually wanted it or not.

I decided that I did want it; I wanted to be a teacher and a basketball coach. I wanted to help these children from the cultures I've admired for as long as I can remember, and any other children for that matter. So with that direction I started moving with a sense of purpose. I jumped through the hoops and started finding out what it would take for me to be a legit teacher, what I lacked educationally. I was only 3 classes away from meeting the prerequisites to start a Masters of Arts in Teaching English program, so that's where I started. I studied and took the CLEP test for American Literature and passed. I signed up for the other two missing classes (Linguistics & Intercultural Communications) and am halfway through with the first of those. Once I finish the prerequisites I'll begin the Masters Program. 

This is the most focus and direction I've felt in years. Sometimes those signs we seek or see might not be exactly what we are expecting or looking for, and they probably aren't. Often they answer questions we didn't know to ask or affect us in ways we would have never believed beforehand, like a chain of dominoes or an internet search gone awry. Life is weird and unpredictable so one thing we all need to learn is always be open to change.   

While all these things were happening, I started preparing our farm for what was or is to come, since I knew there was going to be a change regardless of which direction it went (or goes). I sold all our goats except for the 3 my brother wanted to keep for his family to raise. I shipped our cows off to Goodman farm to be with other Jersey's and Holsteins and within easy visiting distance. I sold our pigs after a horrible winter in which we lost 3 litters of babies completely. I set the few rabbits we had free in the yard to see how that would turn out (they have all since disappeared). The rise of the foxes took care of them and the remaining guineas (sans 1) and geese; I suppose the pigs had been keeping them away from the geese but once they were gone so was the protection.

Our pugs both died. Neko, in her arthritic, aging state, with an irreparable bone spur on her spine, wandered off when I let her out to the bathroom. She had done this once before and ended up a mile away at the neighbors house getting fat off table scraps, but this time when I found her she had laid down and given up fighting. Wicket on the other hand, was healthy as a horse (as the saying goes). I returned home from work one day to find that he had passed away from no apparent cause. He had issues sometimes getting choked up on his elongated pallet to the point of nearly passing out, but he usually got up no problem. I can only assume this was the case, but proved to be fatal. Their passing left young Scout as our sole dog.

A few years ago I couldn't envision a life without a farm or animals; I didn't want to. Now I can't help but think about how our future will play out and how it will lead us in different ways than we expect. Who would have believed that all those years ago those desires stirred in my soul by reading old Mother Earth News magazines and watching a PBS Documentary would lead me through the rabbit-hole and back around again to going back to college (something I said I'd never do) to become a teacher (something I always wanted to do) and a coach (something I never thought I could do) while regularly attending a church (another something I said I'd never do). 

My first nephew, Benjamin.
(I made his hat do that because
I thought it looked funny).
What are some of the other changes? My brother got married, and just had his first child, a boy. Lindsay got a promotion at her job, suspended her midwifery apprenticeship, and is now going back to a different version of her previous job, older and wiser. And I'm sure there are all manner of other things happening that I'm forgetting to add, but for now, "you better start swimming, or you'll sink like a stone, because the times they are a-changin'."

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Yours Truly,
The Crowsons