When The Table Isn’t Sacred

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“Anders, if you blow bubbles into your milk again, I’m taking away your cup,” I snap.

Ellis rubs chili into her hair. As I turn my back to grab a washcloth, she dumps the rest of her bowl on the floor. The dog almost knocks me over as he pushes past my legs to clean up the scene—at least someone is having fun. The baby cries in the bouncy seat, his chest covered in spit-up. My head throbs as I drop to my knees (how fitting) to deal with the mess under the highchair.

“Mom, I need a plate,” says Anders.

“Why?” I say from the floor as I mop up chili with a paper towel.

“Because my chili is getting everywhere.”

A quick look up reveals that he’s right. The tray of his highchair and front of his shirt are splattered with red chili like a beef-laden Jackson Pollock painting. I take a deep breath and hand him a plate from the drawer.

“No, I don’t want the green plate! I need the piiiiink one!”

Ignoring him, I squeeze my eyes closed and tip my head back to release the growing tension in my neck. Another glance at the clock tells me Kyle is late, again. Bedtime can’t come soon enough.

I wipe spit-up and melted cheese from my work pants. There wasn’t time to change when we got home.

As I refill milk cups, my elbow accidentally knocks the stack of dirty containers from today’s daycare lunches to the floor. Ellis hurls a handful of chili at the wall, and Anders stops wailing long enough to cackle hysterically.

I bang my fist on the counter. “Where is your father?!”

***

I used to love dinner time. Before babies, our table was a sacred space.

When Kyle and I first got married, we ate Hamburger Helper and Bertolli frozen skillet meals for six months straight. He was working long hours at the dairy and I was commuting three hours a day to my job at a college in the city. It was all we could do to dump a bag of frozen vegetables and chicken into a pan at the end of the day and call it dinner.

Eventually I moved away from the freezer section and learned the art of cooking. A glass of red wine by my side, I crushed garlic cloves into tomato sauce, minced red onions for pineapple salsa, and roasted sweet potatoes until they caramelized. I found my footing as a cook as we settled into the rhythm of a life together.

In the midst of a busy season, sitting at the table (or occasionally standing at the kitchen counter) was the one place we came together.

***

Today, dinner is a frazzled rush after long days at work and daycare, full of spilled milk, high volumes, and sheer chaos. The needs from our three small people are endless. I’m up and down—always on my feet—filling glasses, wiping spills, rinsing daycare dishes, breaking up fights, loading the dishwasher, and cutting fruit. I vacillate between hot flashes of temper and distracted attention.

Kyle is preoccupied too, eyes darting to his phone every time there’s a call or text from one of his farm employees. We all know that he could be called away at any moment. His body is here but his mind is not.

Our conversations follow a staccato beat, starting and stopping and losing their way. Instead of wine-warm lovers, we settle into our positions as co-cruise directors. “Did you find his library book?” “Can you cut her meat?” “Don’t forget you have a dentist appointment tomorrow.” Against the onslaught of constant kid interruptions, we give up on telling stories or finding true connection until later (or never).

Somehow the place that used to bring us together highlights how far we are apart.

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Read more about falling apart and coming together in my essay this week on
Coffee + Crumbs.

A Wish for the New Year

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This New Year’s Eve, Kyle and I sat down at the table with bowls of ice cream and a notebook. Together, we started reminiscing about the year and setting our intentions for 2020. A few minutes in, his brow was furrowed. “What’s wrong?” I asked. He tapped the paper in front of me—already half full of our to-dos for a better life—and said, “This isn’t fun! It just feels like another list of things we have to do.”

At first, I protested. This was exciting! The way to live an intentional life! Goals! Dreams! But as I skimmed the neatly written lines in my notebook, I could see his point. We were already setting a high bar for 2020. It occurred to me that the buzzing in my ears might not be born of eagerness but anxiety. We were already behind.

Resolutions are usually my jam. I’m an enneagram one—a goal-setter, list-maker, and thing-doer. I’m constantly moving. I measure my worth in achievements, accomplishments, and boxes checked off. Honestly? Setting goals makes me feel like I’m in control.

But this year I feel a tightness in my chest. My social media feeds are bombarded by calls to exercise more, clean out my closet, see a therapist, set a reading goal, put down my phone, lean in at work, date my spouse, and play with my kids. These are good and worthy goals, but I’m already overwhelmed.

Maybe I’m coming at it all wrong.

As we enter 2020, I want to hold my hopes and dreams loosely—not in a death grip. I want to be gentler with myself and to slow down. I want to sit in discomfort and give myself grace to make mistakes. I want to remember that I have innate worth, regardless of the things I do or achieve or produce. I want to offer the same to the people I love.

Maybe then, the goals that really matter—serving my King faithfully, loving my people well, and offering my gifts with humility—will fall into place.

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This post was originally shared on my Instagram.

How Will I Remember?

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“Mommy! Take my picture!” Anders straightens his cape—blue with a red lightning bolt—as he leaps from the top of a stack of cushions to the ground in front of my chair. I look up seconds after he lands.

“Nice jump!” I say.

“Did you get it?” He scrambles to his feet and reaches for my phone.

“Get what?”

“A picture of my super huge jump.”

“Sorry bud,” I say, “I missed it.”

“But Moooooom, how will I ever remember?” His face, barely visible behind the red superhero mask, crumples.

I smile and ruffle his hair. “You will.”

This doesn’t satisfy him. I dutifully raise my phone for multiple subsequent jumps, and we finally manage to get one on film. The moment is preserved. But later that night, as I fold laundry by the light of the Christmas tree, his question sticks with me.

How will I remember?

It seems innately human: this desire to record the moments of our lives. I make yearly family photo yearbooks. I write down funny things my kids say in an Evernote document. I make notes on my Google calendar when milestones are reached—first words, first steps, first time they slept through the night. I track sickness and sentences and clothing sizes. I try to capture moments and memories in my words on social media. My phone currently holds 21,397 photos and 2,685 videos, and the numbers keep growing.

But my recordkeeping doesn’t stop there.

I’m also obsessed with the Timehop app on my phone. This magical little bit of technology shows me photos I took or posted on this day going back one, two, or even 15 years (thanks to being in the very first wave of Facebook users in 2004). Each picture represents a memory, a literal snapshot in time. The photos from college are cringe-worthy: questionable hairstyles, long-forgotten frenemies, and way too much white girl duck face. The photos and videos of my kids cut right through my heart.

The app helps me remember trips, milestones, and even the mundane aspects of our life. All of the puzzle pieces come together to tell the story of our family. The passage of time can be baffling. A child who’s speaking in full sentences today was just starting to babble last year. Last year’s amorphous newborn is this year’s opinionated toddler. A kid who once couldn’t put on his own shoes is now picking out his outfits. These seismic changes give me the distinct impression that time is slipping away.

Even on our most exhausting days, I pull out my phone when I crawl into bed and scroll through dozens of photos and videos. “You were just with them!” Kyle laughs.

“I know. But I miss them already,” I say.

I often can’t wait until my kids are in bed. Yet, faced with fond nostalgia, my heart aches at their absence.

***

When it comes to documenting our life, I feel like I’m trying to hold water in my hands. I clutch the wispy memories tightly, terrified they will fade, rip at the edges, or pour right through my fingers. I overcompensate and over-correct in the panicked hope that I won’t forget.

As I reflect on 2019, I feel the exquisite weight of this life. Last year we were barely out of the newborn fog. This year we have three kids who feed themselves, sleep consistently through the night, and are capable (though not always willing) of playing on their own. We’ve come so far. It’s only by stepping back that I truly appreciate this.

My Instagram grid from the past twelve months shows trips to the beach, family walks on the dairy, kids hugging in matching pajamas, and smiling faces. Life here, at least, looks rosy. But that’s not the whole story. These photos don’t show the bitter fights that were waged out of sheer exhaustion. They don’t show the countless nights I went to bed alone. They don’t show the unyielding stress Kyle felt every day he wasn’t able to plant or chop corn. They don’t show crippling anxiety or the times I yelled, lost my patience, or failed to show grace to my kids.

I don’t want to remember life through a quixotic haze, but I am grateful for how memories soften and intertwine as we gain more perspective. A life is the sum of many parts.

In 2020, I want to balance nostalgia and being present. I don’t want to stop taking pictures, making notes, or basking in memories. But I also don’t want to forget to be in the moments as I’m actually living them. I want to feel it all—the splashy colors, messy emotions, and fleeting moments—deep in the marrow of my bones.

***

At the end of the year (and my life, actually), I want there to be one predominant thought: “We were together. I forget the rest.” This quote from Walt Whitman has always been one of my favorites. It’s not about taking thousands of photos or remembering every single moment.

It’s about the people living and breathing alongside me. It’s about the way I want my family to feel when they look back on our life.

Even if the iCloud crashes and my Google Drive implodes, we were here. We laughed and loved and walked side-by-side.

We were together. I forget the rest.

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@phoenixfeatherscalligraphy for C+C, 2019

This post was created as part of a blog hop with Exhale—an online community of women pursuing creativity alongside motherhood, led by the writing team behind Coffee + Crumbs. Click here to read the next post in this series “2019.”

How I Accidentally Fell in Love with a Farmer

How I Accidentally Fell in Love with a Farmer

Ours was not love at first sight.

Dairy Man was a friend of my college housemate. The first time I remember him was when he came to my door looking for her.

“Is Amanda here?”
 
“No, sorry.”
 
“Ok. Hey, would you like to get coffee sometime?”
 
“Um. What was your name again?”

DM wants me to point out that I’m oversimplifying this exchange, but that was the gist. He wasn’t on my radar until that moment, even though his friends had been pushing him the direction of Amanda’s single (and ravishing) housemate for a while.

I was startled but I said yes.

So we went out for coffee. Hands cupped around warm mugs, we talked comfortably for a couple of hours. I came home and told a friend, “It was fun. He’s really nice. But there weren’t any sparks.”

….

Fast forward six months.

DM had become one of my best friends. We studied together, spent hours engaged in witty repartee on AIM (#90schild), and resisted the less-than-subtle attempts of our friends to get us together.

Well, at least I did.

I let that poor boy chase me for the better part of a year, but I just wasn’t ready. I was selfish. I couldn’t get over the farmer thing. We were constantly embroiled in typical 20-something college drama deserving of a reality show. Will she? Won’t she? It was exhausting and nobody got a rose.

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Then I got accepted to a semester program in Chicago. DM’s frustration with my coquettish ways had reached a boiling point. We had a huge fight before I left and decided not to talk for a while.

….

Chicago was an incredible experience. I shared a studio apartment with a bed in the wall and a kitchen in the closet. I tried Indian food. I interned at the Museum of Contemporary Art by day and spent my nights going to plays, ballets, museums, and modern dance performances in empty swimming pools (just as weird as it sounds). I loved everything about the city.

But something still tugged on my heart.

Every morning as I walked the 15 blocks to my office, I talked to my sister on the phone. Many months later Mandy told me that I mentioned Dairy Man in almost every single call. I said that I missed him. That I wondered what he was doing. That it was killing me not to talk to him.

I had escaped Michigan for the big city, but I hadn’t escaped him.

….

He was the first person I called when I moved back and we started dating a couple of days later. It was instantly comfortable, perfectly right, as if this is what was supposed to happen all along.

We were so happy. Crazy about each other. But we weren’t out of the woods yet.

I still didn’t love the farmer thing, but DM talked about moving away after college, working for the commodities exchange in Chicago, trying something new. I clung to this hope.

….

The sun felt unbearably hot on my head as I sat in silence, trying to digest what he had just told me.

“Jess, I’m going to stay here and work on the dairy.”

My heart sank into my shoes. I suddenly wanted to leap from the bed of his red truck and run until my lungs burned. But I was frozen.

We had talked about this. After we graduated from college, DM went home to work on the farm and save some money. I knew there was a possibility of his staying on the dairy, but he seemed so sure he wanted to get out of West Michigan and experience something new. That was my expectation, my deepest yearning.

Now it was August. I still hadn’t found a job in Chicago and DM was planning to stay here.

I felt silly for hoping. I felt silly for thinking that I could coerce him into my world of sushi and skyscrapers.

I should have known his heart was too deeply rooted in farming.

This was my first true introduction to an undeniable truth: farming is not a job, it’s a life. It was in DM’s blood. It pulsed through his body like oxygen. He couldn’t fathom leaving the work that made him feel most alive. I couldn’t fault him that. But that didn’t make my choice any easier. At a very young stage in our relationship, I had to decide: Chicago or him?

Because I knew in my heart that long distance wouldn’t work. Once my feet left Michigan soil, I wouldn’t be back for a while.

I wanted an adventurous life. But this boy was offering a farm.

“I just don’t know if I can do this.”

….

Happy tears burned my eyes as I rounded the corner, arms locked with my dad, white dress swishing.

And then I saw him. My love, my life, smiling and waiting at the front of the church.

Violin strains of “Bittersweet Symphony” by The Verve swelled around me in the most visceral way imaginable. I could barely breathe.

I kept walking, unable to take my eyes off the man in front of me.

We had come so far. We had crossed so many valleys together. I was young and terrified, but I did not doubt my choice.

For whatever reason in God’s design, I was going to marry a dairy farmer.

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….

And now we’re here. 900 words, nine years (five and a half married), two barns, one baby, and hundreds of cows later.

Becoming a farm wife has become surprisingly normal, but I don’t ever want to forget that it wasn’t easy to get here. I had to overcome a lot of fear, stubbornness, and unreasonable expectations before admitting that, EGADS, I was in love with a dairyman.

I’m so glad he stuck with me.

Because love isn’t always obvious or simple. It isn’t something you just fall into. It’s a choice you make every day.

As I look ahead to Valentine’s Day this weekend—that ubiquitous holiday of candy hearts and overpriced red roses—I am grateful for our kind of love. This love is hard-fought. This love is not perfect nor without cow manure tracked into the house, but it’s real. We make each other better through our differences.

Our love story reminds me that I chose this life. I chose him. I wasn’t looking for what DM offered, but God knew it was exactly what I needed.

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“If it is right, it happens—the main thing is not to hurry.
Nothing good gets away.” —John Steinbeck

When I Don’t Accept Farm Life With Grace

This may just be my old age talking, but I feel like this year is moving at warp speed

I often feel like I’m trying to hold time in my hands. But time is like water, a liquid substance. It spills over and between my fingers, despite my best attempts to store it, to savor it.

I know I’m not alone. If I did an informal survey of everyone I know in the world, I’m sure we all have a deep yearning for “more time.” We’re always rushing, always checking our Facebook newsfeed, always multitasking, always packing our weekends with fun activities. It’s a normal thing, to be busy.

But it’s also a farming thing. Times ten.

This summer alone we planted corn, harvested multiple cuttings of hay, built a barn, dug a five-million gallon manure pit, irrigated our corn (thanks to a lack of rain), and tried to plan out the future of this dairy. All of these things have taken place alongside weddings, birthdays, weekends away, illness, dog grooming appointments, extensive home renovations, parties, personal crises, and a million loads of laundry.

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Dairy Man finds it nearly impossible to sit still and to quiet his mind. I struggle with the same. Frankly, in farming, you don’t often have the luxury of calm. It often feels like we bounce from one “crisis” to another. Just when you get the bulk tank fixed, a cow goes into labor. Just when you finalize the milking schedule, someone gets a tractor stuck in the mud. DM is on-call 24 hours a day, and that makes it nearly impossible to ever truly relax, unplug, or find calm.

And when farming never slows down, how is a boy to find time for things like dinner at the dining room table, home repairs, or nights out with friends?

I feel guilty piling anything on. If I’m honest, this can be isolating. Being married to a farmer means (trying) to put everything else in life on hold from April to October in an attempt to keep your husband sane. I struggle with this every single day. I envy friends who have husbands home by six, who are able to take vacations, who tackle house projects as a team.

I struggle not to feel alone, disenfranchised. The farm trumps most things, but it’s not always easy to swallow. I work full-time and try to see friends and family, make nutritious meals, and keep a clean home. Yet I constantly feel behind. Deep within the dark and shameful places of my heart, I resent having to do everything (non-farm-related) by myself. I’m not proud of those feelings. They creep up on me as smoky tendrils, slowly squeezing out joy and positivity.

Honestly, there are times I’m exhausted, I’ve had a terrible day at work, the house is a mess, the dog needs a walk, everything feels chaotic, and I just can’t handle another farming crisis with understanding and grace.

Sometimes I’m not really listening. Sometimes I’m making a grocery list in my head or wishing we could talk about literally any other topic in the world but the dairy. Sometimes I can’t tear my attention away from the dishes he forgot to put in the dishwasher. Sometimes I resent the irrevocable monopoly the farm has on my husband’s brain and respond with frustration or anger.

Those are the moments I regret. When I’m not gracious. When I don’t control my feelings. When I’m not calm. When I choose to be selfish.

But marriage can’t be selfish, especially marriage to a dairy farmer. I chose that man and thus, I chose this life. We will spend our entire lives trying to balance, trying to carve out time for anything other than the dairy. You can’t compartmentalize farming. It’s not a job; it’s not a hobby. It’s a life.

Generally I’ve come to accept this. The Dairy Man pulls himself away during the “slower” times of the year and I try to accept the periods of insanity with understanding.

Because even when he tracks manure into the kitchen or never responds to my “When will you be home?” texts, I love that man. I admire the passion he feels for this dairy. I know he wouldn’t be happy doing anything else. And even when I’m feeling neglected, I know for a fact that he would do anything for me.

Love and marriage aren’t about perfect equality. There are times where we must carry each other. As my mom reminded me in my first year of marriage, “you can’t be so concerned about things being perfectly 50/50. You both have to give 100 percent–all of the time. Things aren’t always going to be equal. You might have to take turns carrying the other. But you should both always try to give 100 percent. That’s what love is.

This quote still convicts me. While it’s so tempting to succumb to unhappiness or frustration this time of year, the Dairy Man needs me now more than ever. It is my turn to carry. Whether through delivered dinners, a kind and patient temperament, or a listening ear.

There’s nothing fair about it. But there’s nothing fair about life or love. Happiness comes in the realization that we’re here to carry each other. If you find someone willing to carry you–even an occasionally distracted Dairy Man–you are richly blessed.

So I will enjoy my fall nights of solitude. I’ll read, take walks, watch girly TV shows, bite my tongue, and make sure that DM is fed and loved. Jersey the dog accepts this time of year with far less grace than I (since he’s stuck in the house for a few weeks), but it’s nothing that can’t be fixed with a heaping dollop of peanut butter.

For me, I find catharsis in an evening walk through the rustling corn. A good book and a steaming glass of apple cider. A few quiet moments spent sitting in the grass with Jersey before the sun sets.

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All seasons are beautiful and messy. All seasons bring frustration and joy. All seasons make up a life.

And I am grateful.

8 Things I Learned About Love From My Parents

On this overblown, Hallmark-ed, commercialized day called Valentine’s Day, I like to take a moment to think seriously about the loving relationships that have shaped my life and my own marriage.

Despite Dairy Man and I being pretty awesome already (and ever so humble), we have both learned a lot about happy marriages from our parents and grandparents.  All of the relationships were different, but each one taught us something important.

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As you can see, Dairy Man and I come from good-looking stock. And yes, my dad (bottom right) DID have a legendary ’stache on his wedding day.

Nearly everything I know about love comes from observing my parents. Those crazy kids have a quirky, steadfast love that has stood the test of 33 years.

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My parents aren’t showy, but it’s impossible not to soak up some marital goodness to apply to my own relationship. So, let’s take a stroll through Dave & Judy Marriage 101.

8 Things I’ve Learned About Love From My Parents

1: Love is not always equal

One of the wisest things I’ve ever heard about marriage came from my mom. When Dairy Man and I first got married, I had delusions of a perfectly egalitarian relationship. I envisioned a line in the sand with “my duties” on this side and “his duties” on the other. But life is a little messier than that, especially during a farm wife’s first planting season. I was crying on the phone one night to my mom about being lonely, feeling like I was doing all of the work, and she said to me: “Jess, in a marriage you can’t be so concerned about things being perfectly 50/50. You both have to give 100 percent–all of the time. Things aren’t always going to be equal. You might have to take turns carrying the other. But you should both always try to give 100 percent. That’s what love is.” (Read more about this revelation here.)

2: Show your children your love

I have absolutely no doubt that my parents love each other. They were free and easy with hugs and kisses in front of us kids (even amidst a chorus of “Eeeeeeeeewwww!!” and my mom swatting my dad away, “Dave, get off me!”) and weren’t afraid to say “I love you.” When Dairy Man and I have a family someday, I want to emulate my parents and make sure to thoroughly mortify and embarrass my children with a little Mom&Dad PDA.

3: Keep laughing

My parents are dorks. There are no two ways about it. They make up their own words and phrases (like “sugarjets” and “ookums”), tease, poke, and laugh. They don’t take life too seriously. Sometimes they even wrestle at Christmas.

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It’s easy to see how my entire family ended up being so weird.

4: Money isn’t important

My parents do not express love in gifts or extravagant experiences. It’s painful for them to spend money on “frivolous” things like soda at a restaurant or new shoes when the old ones don’t have holes yet. Basically they are good upstanding Dutch folk. Not surprisingly, my mom doesn’t really like flowers: “Why spend good money on something that’s going to die? I’d rather have a puzzle.” One year my dad found a way to get around this. While he was rollerblading, he saw some flowers growing alongside the road. Being the hopeless romantic he is, he plucked a bouquet and bladed it home. My mom was thrilled. Because she got flowers on her anniversary? No. Because my dad hadn’t spent a cent on them. That’s love, people.

5: Failure is not an option

It’s inevitable that parents will fight in front of their kids at some point. Mine were no different. But I still remember what they would tell us if we witnessed an argument: “Don’t forget, your dad/mom and I might fight, but I want you to know that we love each other very much and will be together forever.” They taught me early on that marriage vows are forever. My parents will be together for better and worse, in sickness and health, for richer for poorer, as long as they live.

6: Being happy is more important than being right

Over the years, I’ve noticed that the happiest times in my parents’ marriage were often after someone said “I’m sorry.” While there is great delight in being right (my dad and I delight in it just a little too much), it is a far more beautiful, loving act to let things go. If DM and I have a fight, the quickest way to happiness is for someone to let go of the need to be right.

7: Faith sustains a marriage

My parents’ marriage is founded on more than respect and love. They’re the first to admit that #5 would be impossible without God’s help. Every step they take as a couple stems from prayer and deep faith. This faith has sustained them through the best and worst that life has to offer.

8: Happiness is found in mutual hobbies

My parents became empty-nesters a few years ago when my little brother went to college. After getting reacquainted in this post-spawn world, they found a mutual love for hiking in the dunes by Lake Michigan. On one of their hikes, my dad stuck a large branch into the sand and tied a ribbon to it. Over many months, my parents added more ribbon and string to the branch. Other hikers did the same. There’s something wonderful and symbolic about this branch.

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I only hope to have a marriage as full of love and laughter as my parents. Or my in-laws (shout out to Kent and Vonnie) or grandparents (Bill and Shirley; August and Anne; Roy and Gloria; Marv and Virginia), for that matter. Dairy Man and I are surrounded by examples of steadfast, godly love.

And that’s something worth celebrating on this day of chalky candy hearts and overpriced roses!

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So, dear reader, now it’s your turn to share.
What have YOU learned about love from your parents, step-parents, or grandparents?

What It’s Really Like to be Married to a Farmer

A while back, Meggie from Hooiser Farm Babe wrote a post with this same title. While reading her words, I found myself nodding, laughing, and thinking to myself, “Holy goodness. This is exactly how I feel. These things are all true for me too.”

And then I wondered if I could add a few things to the list. I could have used all of her headings and wrote my own thoughts (because, as mentioned, all apply!), but maybe I can add something to the conversation.

My experiences with farming really didn’t begin until I said “I do” that hot August day. I had no idea what I was getting into. I came from a suburban realm where dads came home at 5 and dinner was at 6. In my world, families took summer vacations, slept in on Saturdays, and were always on time to church. Farm life is an entirely different animal.

So, what is it really like being married to a farmer?

You are alone a lot (this is such a big one I had to borrow it from Meggie)
I’m not sure what I expected when I married a farmer, but it wasn’t eating dinner at 8 and spending my weekend by myself. But that’s the nature of farming. Between daily chores, fixing things that are broken, supervising employees, and the crazy times of the year (planting, harvesting, haying, etc.), there isn’t much time for things like vacation, going out for dinner with friends, or weekend getaways. It’s very difficult for the Dairy Man to peel himself away from the dairy, even for a night. I go to a lot of events alone. Watch a lot of TV alone. And talk to our puppy far more than I should…

You do the housework
At first, it was very important for me to keep things equal in the marriage. I didn’t mind doing some of the housework, but I wasn’t doing it all just because I was the girl. I wanted my husband to know how to vacuum, load the dishwasher, and do his own laundry. And he does. But unfortunately there are just times of the year where he can’t. The Dairy Man works 6.5 days a week and usually gets in around 8. I work 5 days and get home at 7. I have more time, so I do most of the housework. But not because I’m the girl. And my husband does know how to do laundry.

You just can’t commit
To events and obligations, that is. This reality drove me crazy during our dating life. If you say you can go bowling with your friends on Friday, then you GO bowling with your friends on Friday. But not if you have to work late. Or if the tractor breaks. Or if there’s a cow having difficulty in labor. These things all take precedence over previous plans.

You’re always late
The dairy makes us late for everything – church, parties, dinner at his parents’ house, vet appointments, and nights out with friends. There’s always one more thing to do, one more thing to fix, or one more problem to tackle. Fortunately our farming community gets it. If you’re 30 minutes late for church you can say, “Sorry, Pastor, problems on the dairy,” and he nods his head knowingly and declares, “Well, we’re just glad you made it!” A secret added bonus of this reality is that people start to get excited when you actually make it to an event. We’re fashionably late. All the time. I like to think we’re the life of every party.

You learn flexibility and patience
Two traits I did NOT possess before I married the Dairy Man were flexibility and patience. I’m a planner. When I say I’m going to do something, I do it. I like to know what to expect and I don’t like surprises. Some might call me type-A OCDish, but I call myself organized. I may or may not have matching baskets labeled by category in the bathroom closet. But farm life doesn’t work that way. It isn’t neat. It isn’t organized. If you want to be happy, you’d better learn to be flexible. And, really, being a little less uptight hasn’t hurt me one bit.

I could go on, but you get the idea. That being said, being married to my farmer is fabulous in so many ways.

He exemplifies work and passion
I’ve never seen someone work so hard. Seriously. My Dairy Man has a work ethic that baffles me. It has downsides, but I am so proud to have a husband that understands the value of an honest day’s work. He also loves it. He’s passionate about it. He talks about it all the time because it’s so exciting to him. Again, annoying, but I think this kind of vocational passion is so rare and admirable.

He asks me about my day
Despite dragging himself into the house exhausted each night, my Dairy Man still cares about my life, my day, and my feelings. I can’t remember the last time he didn’t ask me “how was your day?” before sitting down to dinner. He’s busy and gone a lot, but he always takes a moment to ask about me.

He teaches me something new every day
Did you know that cows can get pink eye? Or that cows don’t give milk until they have a calf? Or that there’s a big difference between a bull and a steer? I’m always learning new things from my Dairy Man. It’s impossible not to. And even though I sometimes learn things I never wanted to know, it’s great to expand my knowledge base.

He loves me
Sometimes I catch the Dairy Man looking at me and the love in his eyes takes my breath away. I love being married to him more with each day. That’s why I’m here. That’s why I’m not in the land of steel and concrete. I’m here because of him.

And, also, he cleans up quite nicely.