Sam made this flag when he was in the 6th grade. On his own, with lights and a scrap of cardboard, he worked for hours before presenting us with his creation. Over the years it has survived rainstorms, freezes and the occasional neglect...but the lights have never gone out...not once.
For the past 6 months our family has lived with the very real possibility that our soldier might not come home...ever. For 197 days we have gardened, grocery shopped, done our banking and budgets, gone to work and to school. We've attended soccer games and back-to-school nights and hosted a wedding. We've visited relatives, had lunch with friends and watched parades. We've sat in front of the TV, built fires in the fireplace and brushed our teeth at night. But every one of those 197 days had an edge to it; every one of those mundane activities felt different. Today, for the first time in 6 months, the edge is gone. We finally got the call we've waited for since he deployed to Iraq; the one that told us he was back on American soil. Today, we can think of Sam in terms of what he will do for the rest of his life. Going to college, deciding on a career, having a family. . .things we couldn't let ourselves think about when he was in harms way...are a reality again. It's like that scene in the movie, Sleepless in Seattle where Tom Hanks talks about getting up every morning and having to remind himself to breathe and hoping that someday he could get up and not have to remind himself to breathe.
Today...I didn't have to remind myself to breathe.
I used to photograph and cover sports for the local paper. I fell into the job writing because the paper hadn't sent a reporter to the last game of a basketball season that I was shooting (not a single game won all year, not much interest) . As it turned out, the team won on a last second shot by it's star player. The stands were filled despite the dismal record and the game seemed more like a championship event than the only win of a very long season. I felt the evening deserved more that a couple of pics and a caption, so I wrote what I thought was a decent tribute to the hard work and effort that these young men had put in all year. When my editor responded by saying, "I didn't know you could write" it was high praise indeed.
And so began mycareeras a sports writer....part time and very limited, but a good initiation into the world of deadlines and fact-checking and quotes from coaches. It was fun for awhile, and the money was a bonus, but other than one near-perfect football season where I tried in vain to imitate the feel of a SI story, coming up with creative ways to cover yet another track meet was beyond my abilities as a writer. So after about 3 years, I decided to pack up my typewriter and concentrate on the budding farm here at the Garver homestead. I even sold my legitimateI'm a sports photographer telephoto camera lens because I was only shooting 3 or 4 games all year. I miss the lens occasionally, and I miss standing on the sidelines, but I don't miss the deadlines ...not even a little bit.
This past Thursday the high school football team decided to honor Veterans by donning camouflage uniform tops, letting anyone with a military ID in free and having a couple of local veterans toss the coin before the game. It seemed a good time to pick up my camera and brave the cold (she says with a straight face, this is California after all) to take a few pics of the guys for posterity. Without my fancy schmancy lens I was mostly relegated to shots of the sidelines, but those are my favorite anyway, so it was all good.
For a family that prides itself (ok, mostly I pride myself) in eating a healthy homemade diet we sure do have a lot of frozen pizzas in the house. And last month, during college boy's summer vacation, there was actually a box of....cue the gasp...corn dogs in the freezer (thanks Wilson;) So when I stumbled upon this challenge on Eating Rules blog, it sounded like just what we needed to getting back on the road to completely ditching the prepared (aka processed) foods we continue to buy. It doesn't hurt that Wilson is back at school so only Annie will have to put up with our idiosyncrasies. (we really miss you Wilson...honest)
Our biggest problem with this challenge is the timing. Our garden is in transition from summer to winter crops so not a lot of produce will be fresh home-grown stuff. We do have winter squash, sweet potatoes, and black beans coming out of the garden...so soups will definitely be on the menu...and we've got quite a bit of home-canned and frozen goodies. Guess we'll just have to hit the Farmers Market on a more regular basis and keep our trips to the grocery store to a minimum... staying on the outer aisles.
This will be a good exercise to see just how much processed foods we actually are eating. I think when you have a lot of fruits and veggies around it seems ok to have a bag of Kettle chips in the cupboard to snack on (hey, they're GMO free). It'll be interesting to see what we miss the most and if it's possible to duplicate those items with home-made versions.
Welcome summer! I think I can safely say that peaches are our families absolute favorite fruit (strawberries a close second:) We have planted several different varieties so that when they mature we should be able to eat tree-ripened fruit from June thru August. This is the first real harvest from our 4 yr. old Sun Crest tree, and we are thrilled. This is the peach made (relatively) famous by David Mas Masumoto in his book Epitaph for a Peach.
Sun Crest is one of the last remaining truly juicy peaches. When you wash that treasure under a stream of cooling water, your fingertips instinctively search for the gushy side of the fruit. Your mouth waters in anticipation. You lean over the sink to make sure you don't drip on yourself. Then you sink your teeth into the flesh and the juices trickle down your cheeks and dangle on your chin. This is a real bite, a primal act, a magical sensory celebration announcing that summer has arrived.
The family still farms organically on 80 acres south of Fresno and David Masumoto also writes a column for the Fresno Bee. Ironically, for a peach developed and grown in the Central Valley, we had to drive to the coast to find a tree to purchase. But we've not been disappointed; they are absolutely delicious peaches. Definitely worth the wait... and the drive!
Isn't our Tom Turkey quite impressive? He rarely goes into full macho mode but apparently today he felt like showing off.
It's been a busy couple of months, what with son's wedding, Mom in the hospital, visits from relatives, working in the garden, cars breaking down...you get the picture (and probably have a similar busy life). Anyway, hopefully I'll have a moment or two this week to sit down and write something a bit more substantial (like how many mentally ill people there are on Facebook;) till then... happy summer!
Just one of the reasons I've been neglectful on this blog lately....our oldest son Bradley got married last weekend to a lovely young lady....and we are thrilled. Brad and Laurel will be living in a cute little fourplex just a few blocks from us (we've promised no pop-ins) .
Photographs by Heather Chandler Nickell and Jamie Nickell
Our son Sam surprised us last month by coming home for a visit during Easter vacation. He hadn't planned on coming home until sometime mid-deployment so we were thrilled to be able to spend some time with him. He ships out to Iraq in the next few days and tho we've known about it for months, I find myself in tears at odd times during the day lately....a good country song will do it every time, or a commercial that features a soldier, or a random memory about him that a friend posts on Facebook. Nothing in particular and everything in general reminds me that our son will be in harms way for the next 365 days. When he walked in the door last month, our world brightened ...and for just those two weeks our worries subsided.
Playing our favorite family game....
....that's not a word.
Wilson and Sam playing with the toy gun...
...and thankfully shooting at targets, not my glass candle holders.
(oh yeah, they can't ....he shot them all when he was 7!).
Solar Oven Solar Dehydrator Grain Mill Pressure Canner Soil Block Maker Pasta Maker Indoor Seed Sprouting Station Cast Iron Dutch Oven - thanks John and Ashley!!! Freezer -Sears...no interest for a year!