New Life: A Spark Ignites
Updated: Nov 27, 2018
A dreamer is what I have always been. My earliest memories are of playing in the woods and bringing the world to life with my imagination. Under every log was a woodland sprite waiting to lead me on an adventure. Around the next river bend was an animal wishing to communicate. My heart and mind came alive when I read the written word in poetry and stories of other places and times. My greatest desire was to become a writer and pen epic adventures like the heroines who had inspired me. Yet life has a way of leading you astray if you are not steadfast on the course you wish to travel. I became lost.
Those magical years gave way to being snapped harshly into reality. My family struggled a great deal and we often found ourselves relocating, starting over...again and again. When I was 16 I resigned from traditional schooling to attend a night school program. This allowed me to work full time during the day and assist my mother with caring for our family. This went on for many years and it seemed that there was no greater purpose to the challenges we faced. We were simply surviving from one day to the next and it was a difficult way to live. These years taught me that if I ever wanted anything for myself that was greater than what I had been born into then I would have to fight for it and carve out for myself the life I wanted. This strife lit a fire in me that refused to abate and thus a fighter was born.
Then one day I found myself on the battle field. Hands choking the steering wheel of a Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle, the lead truck in a convoy filled with my comrades and it was my job to operate the SPARK II. The mine roller was a hydraulic powered piece of equipment attached to my truck that is used to transfer a portion of the weight of the host vehicle onto the roller wheels in order to generate the push down force necessary to detonate explosive devices. Basically: I go BOOM, so you don't go BOOM. The only way to describe being in Afghanistan is that it's like being transported to biblical times. The majority of homes are made from mud and the livestock live in the one room house with the family that shepherds them. The men walk the streets barefoot clad in a knee length linen dress and trousers. The women are like wraiths, you see nothing but their eyes.
The Army showed me that I am cut from a different kind of cloth than most folks. The experiences it afforded me taught me what kind of metal I'm made of and for that I will be eternally grateful. When I returned home from my tour overseas my daughter was nearly two years old. She had walked for the first time the day before I left. As if to give me some small gift to cling to during our time apart. There were so many other firsts that I missed and will never be able to get back, but it serves as a reminder for me to remain present and appreciate what is before me in each small moment of every day. It seemed only appropriate that upon my return home I would plunge right back into my old life as if nothing had changed. I went back to work after only 3 weeks and convinced myself that it was the right choice to make...to stay busy or otherwise occupy the mind. That was my first mistake in a long line of mistakes in failing to properly transition from this life-changing experience I had endured to the mundane existance i felt waited for me on the other side of it.
It took a long time for me to realize I had let myself get lost. I wasn't a dreamer anymore. I was a tiny vessel lost at sea in the midst of a hurricane, swept to and fro at the mercy of the swell of the waves. There isn't a precise moment that I can recall, but one day I awoke as if from a dream gasping for air. The girl I once was opened her eyes in the world of the woman I had become and I was starving for whimsy and enchantment in a concrete forest in the city. It was then that my journey of discovering myself again began. Books were devoured like never before and I found myself drawn to the days of old where life was a bit more simple and it was a spark lit in the darkness. I wanted more knowledge, new purpose, to give my life meaning again. My hands needed to be in the dirt coaxing up green sprouts to the sky. I needed to do that for myself.
From our families first garden, homesteading was born for me. One of my supreme joys was to grow sunflowers and they were as tall as our second story windows. All the magic I needed could be found in those flowers with their yellow petals reaching like towers towards the heavens. When I think of them now I smile and am awash with the peace that standing among those behemoth stalks brought me. My family was hooked! My husband, Sam, soon begged to add chickens and truth be told I wasn't initially sold on the idea. This greatly amuses me now considering how much I adore our chickens today, but I am all caution and he is all action. So ofcourse we ended up with chicks before we had a coop and from there we were playing catch up as any homesteader knows is NOT the way to start. Never the less, watching our chickens scratch around in the garden under the summer sun was everything I needed to feel grounded and it turned out that Sam and our two daughters felt the same.
The afternoon we stood in the front yard of our log cabin seeing it for the first time will be seared into my memory for all time. We were finally home. I could look at the long lines of the logs and see years with our children unfold in its walls. We walked the trails through the woods of our 18 acre lot and could see them getting lost in the streams and the meadows the way that I did as a child. All I ever wanted to give our girls was the gift of their own imaginations set free to run wild in a place where they were safe and felt truly loved. I didn't want them to ever know struggle as I did and to feel like their dreams weren't attainable because of where they came from. Standing in that cabin getting ready to purchase a home for the first time with my husband and our children made me realize that Thing I had been chasing my whole life...it was here. We had found our homestead and the possibilities of what we could do with it were endless.
So that's my journey in the most concise fashion I am capable of conveying it. There are plenty of hiccups and joys along the way that I omitted in an effort to make it clear how I arrived here. Homesteading. My name is Nicole and I'm a homesteader, a mother, a wife, a chicken wrangler, goat lady, photographer, hunter, trapper, Veteran, voracious reader...and a dreamer again, maybe even a writer one day. This IS my first blog, so who knows. A girl can dream.
I thought this introduction would be a great way for us to get to know one another and for you to truly see me. The reality is that behind the staged images is a perfectly imperfect family. Welcome to our story.