You really wanted more sheep pictures, right?

Our lambs are amazing! They make us laugh, they are fascinating to watch, and we love their devotion to each other. So, here are a few pictures of them from the last week.

 

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This is Lana, clearly thinking that if she takes a nap by the bucket with the lamb formula powder, it might make her bottle come sooner. She was wrong.

 

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This is the two of them, looking at their reflections in the dishwasher, clearly thinking that there were two sheep stuck inside…

 

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Here is Hila, who loves my computer bag.  Yes, I wipe lamb spit off it each day.

 

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And here are the two of them, so excited to eat a little bit of lettuce. We are slowly weaning them off the milk, adding more grain and hay each day, and are starting to introduce some greens. They were so excited!!

 

What a week!

This week brought some truly intense and beautiful emotions. On Thursday, I was the keynote speaker at a Women’s Day, and got to spend time with some of the most amazing young women. Their warmth, honesty, and openness was a joy to behold. Many of them have struggled greatly in their lives, and their willingness to listen to me speak about grief, hope, and love was a gift for me.

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Then Friday, I received a note in the mail from someone I have known more than twenty years. The whole note was beautiful, but at the end, she added this:

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I sat and cried. What a gift for her to share that memory with us. Sam so loved his siblings, and at the time she described, Sam would have been six years old, keeping his baby brother company and protecting him.

Then today, a package arrived in the mail, and I found this inside:

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A rainbow tree! A hand-painted rainbow tree! It made my heart swell with love and gratitude.

As I’ve said before, we will grieve for Sam for the rest of our lives. But this week, the people who have joined in our journey through reading the book and being part of our lives have reminded me again of the how good people are.

 

 

Should they roam?

Our chickens (laying hens) are basically free range. If you aren’t familiar with the way chickens can be raised and live, that means that at night they go (by choice) into a coop, and we close the entrances to the coop to protect them. They hop up on their roosts, fluff up their feathers, and go to sleep.

Each morning, we take them a feeder of grain, which we put somewhere out on the lawn, or under the deck if it’s raining, and let the chickens out. They roam our land all day. They visit the compost pile, wander around the beehives, walk up and down the driveway, take dust baths, and eat bugs and greenery as they wander. They are happy as they explore, and you can hear them talking to each other as they travel.

Most of the time, they will head back to the coop when it is time to lay an egg. Chickens like to lay eggs in a safe, warm, protected spot, so we have nesting boxes in the coop. They climb in, sit a while, lay an egg, then leave the coop and make a huge amount of noise drawing attention away from that precious egg.

Sometimes, they get into ruts where they instead lay eggs other places, such as hiding them in the hay barn. Then we take a day or two and keep them in the coop so they get back into the habit of using the boxes. They complain incessantly when they have to be inside all the time, so we try to limit the number of times a year we do this.

Yesterday, a hawk got one of our hens. That is a sad event for us. We care for them deeply, and hate to have them taken that way. We could keep them in all the time, and they would be safe, but they would lose the joy of wandering and exploring.

Each time we lose one, which happens about once a year, we talk about keeping them in full-time. Each time, we come to the conclusion that freedom comes with risks that we are willing to take.

Time to Reflect

Today I had some time to reflect on our last week. In that week, we had two very different book events for Of Grief, Garlic and Gratitude. One was at the local library, one at a local theater. One was hosted by the library and a local support group, the other by the United Way.

Both events were very well attended — pretty impressive for winter nights in Vermont! One was full of people who knew us personally, and almost all of them knew Sam. The other had many people I didn’t know, and the number of people who knew Sam was small.

In thinking back about the two, it was a gift to be able to do them back to back like I did. One was very, very emotional, as I watched beloved faces struggle with the emotions of the conversation. The other way more nerve-wracking as I spoke to my largest audience yet as an author.

What did I learn from them? I learned that love is what matters most. I learned that my sons and husband are even more amazing than I thought. I learned again that we have incredible parents, friends, colleagues. I learned that people would willingly shove themselves out of their comfort zones to join us for the events.

I learned again how loved we are, and am so very thankful for that love.

 

Love is in the little things.

Last night we watched Morgan Freeman’s episode on love on The Story of Us. What struck me was the very end of the episode, when he talked about small examples of love changing the world. Exactly!

This week we have seen so many examples of love. People sending little notes about my post about the chair. People sending a cheery text before my book event tonight. A son helping out with chores. Offers to make sure we have dinner before Thursday’s event. Hugs. Sheep wanting to rub noses with us. A chicken wanting to be held. Friends stopping by the house.

Love, it is love. Love doesn’t have to be loud or showy. It doesn’t have to be expensive — in fact it doesn’t have to cost a cent.

 

No new memories — and that chair…

One of the hardest lessons for me in losing a child is that you don’t ever get to make new memories with that child. No new birthday photos. No family photos with everyone in them. And therefore, you hold onto the old ones with all your strength.

This week marked a milestone for us, one that is knocking me around more than I would have thought.

In 1998 and 1999, I scrimped and saved to give my husband a surprise for his birthday in 1999. He had wanted a recliner, and finally, with help from our parents, I bought him one for his birthday. I remember going to pick it up with him, with baby Sam in his backpack. The joy and excitement as we picked up one of our very first new pieces of furniture and brought it home was more than I can describe.

It wasn’t the nicest chair even then, brand new. But it was sturdy, fit in the space, and was a symbol of love. My husband would sit there and give Sam his bottle. He’d read to all three (at the time) of the kids, with them balancing on his lap. When Ben was born, I can remember Sam sitting on his lap, holding his new brother, so excited to have that tiny baby join the nightly reading time.

As the kids grew, sitting in Daddy’s chair was still a joy. They read there, slept there when sick or scared, watched TV in it, and even as big kids, could still be convinced to cuddle with us in that chair.

Years went by. The chair showed its age. It began to have some shiny areas where the fabric was fraying. Then the seat began to tilt. Then it really tilted, so it was hard to sit in comfortably.

Finally, we agreed it was time for the chair to go. And our kids disagreed. It needed to stay, so it moved into our two youngest sons’ room. Years passed, and it was still used almost daily. When the youngest went to college, it finally reclined for the last time, then just became a spot for stuff to gather.

This week, with some reorganizing of the house, we made the decision that it was time for the chair to go to the landfill. It couldn’t be fixed, was grubby, and it was time to let go of it.

It’s just a chair, I know that. But it also was a chair that Sam sat in, slept in, dreamed in, cried it, and on one memorable occasion, threw up in it in truly impressive fashion. It was part of his life, and saying goodbye to it hurt a lot.  I will miss that chair, what it represented, all those hours and years of love, laughter, and being whole.

 

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The little things…

It is Sunday. For many, many years, Sunday afternoon our kids were home, we had a big Sunday meal together, and then we watched a movie. And every time, Sam would fall asleep watching the movie, and snore. He could snore louder than anyone, and that includes me, a master snorer.

As the kids have grown, our Sunday afternoons have gotten quieter. When our youngest is home from college, he joins us for a meal and a movie, and sometimes our oldest son does as well. If it’s just the two of us? We don’t usually do the big meal, instead opting for snacks, and watch a movie or something together.

Sundays are the hardest day of the week for me since Sam died. The only time he didn’t do the meal-and-a-movie was when he was at UVM, and even then, he often got a ride (or took the bus) home for the day. I miss hearing him come slamming through the front door, asking what was for lunch, usually dragging mud in on his shoes or even on his bare feet. Then he would regale us all with what he had seen, heard, learned, tasted, or just plain experienced since we’d seen him last.

I miss those conversations. I miss the mud. I miss him taking out the ketchup and pouring it over almost any meal. I miss the arguing over what movie to watch. I miss hearing him pick on his brother about setting the volume on the TV to an even number. I even miss the snoring.

Grief is funny. Sometimes it’s the big things that hit me really hard, like birthdays or holidays. Sometimes it’s the little things, like not hearing snoring on a Sunday.

Friendship

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As you know, two needy lambs came to live with us about ten days ago. Each one is a twin, but they are not a set of twins — their moms favored the other twin and ignored these girls, so they came to live with us.

Right from the start, they had very different personalities. Lana (on the left) is quiet, shy, and a bit more skittish. She likes to be cuddled, and will rub noses, but doesn’t like strangers at all. Hila (on the right) is loud, loves her people, loves to cuddle, and runs and jumps like crazy. A new person is a potential new friend or source of warm milk.

But the funny thing is that within hours of coming home with us, they were the best of friends. They play together, eat together, sleep together. If one goes running across the house, the other is right behind. When we take them down to their pen at night, Hila cries with sadness until she is back with Lana. They are best friends.

Again, as I wrote about in the recent grief, animals teach us a lot about emotion. These two are friends, buddies, companions. They look after each other, snuggle for warmth when it’s cold, and entertain each other.

And we are so very fortunate to be able to take part in their friendship!

Please vote!

Kris Francoeur
Of Grief, Garlic and Gratitude is up for an Author Academy Award for best memoir of 2019 — I hope you will go and vote for it. 
 
NOTE: you will need to use the arrows to go to page 9 of the nominees (for the Memoirs nominated) — and scroll down until you see the cover photo. Please note, if you tap on another book, that will count as your vote, so please scroll carefully!!!!

I am an author, and a lot of other things too…

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I am an author. And an educator. And a wife, mother, daughter, grandmother, aunt, cousin, daughter-in-law, friend, farmer, knitter, spinner, and baker of great chocolate chip cookies.

For some of you, you have come to reading my posts fairly recently. So here’s the back story. I always have stories running around in my head. Sometimes the idea for a novel comes to me from something I see or read, sometimes from a dream, sometimes just pops into my head. Once a main character or characters start to develop, the story just keeps growing in my head, and I eventually sit down and write it all out. There are many times that characters take the story in directions that I didn’t expect or want, but it seems like they take on a life of their own.

For many years, I wrote romance stories. I tried to make them into novels, submitted them, got rejected a lot, and kept trying. That was the key — to keep trying! My family always believed that I would get published — how lucky I am to have that constant support. Finally, after Sam died, I got serious about my writing, and hired a great editor to help me polish my work. And then I submitted it again, and got a publishing contract! And another, and another.

 

Then I started working on my book about grief. Of Grief, Garlic and Gratitude was not as fun to write as the novels, but it was both a truly self-reflective process, and somewhat healing.  And I got a publishing contract on that one too!

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So now I am continuing to write fiction, while also working on a journal system for pre-teens and a non-fiction piece about living your life in balance. We’ll see what happens with those books!

All of the other things I am (wife, mother, educator, farmer, etc.) all come into all I do as a writer, all of them make my life rich and meaningful.

Who/what are you? How does it impact your life and your dreams?