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"Life doesn't have to be perfect to be wonderful."
- Unknown

"That which does not kill you, makes you stronger."
- Handed down through the ages.

"Life's tough. It's even tougher when you're stupid."
- John Wayne

A Clean Slate

As I think I’ve intimated before, I am what you call a proverbial Open Book. What you see is what you get. No real hidden secrets. And, in order to write well (or even at all, it’s become plain to me) I need to have that slate be clear & visible to all.

I haven’t been able to write lately due to the large elephant in the room that no one’s acknowledging. So, I need to address it in order to move on with my writing and this blog.

Here goes . . . .

My hubby and I have had a hard winter. It was coming since Tom quit working for “The Man” last May but it really became apparent around November. And, since then, life has been tough with a capital ‘T’.

Without revealing too much of his personal struggles, Tom has been blind-sided by the triple whammy of a Mid-Life Crisis, finally trying to discover his TRUE identity (what does he want for himself out of life), AND the downward spiraling economy.

You’ve heard that saying “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”? Well, the above-mentioned triple-threat makes my Jack a dull, unhappy, struggling boy. And, that in turn, makes our life together unhappy and struggling. And me unhappy & struggling.

On the up side, after hitting rock-bottom a couple of weeks ago, we’re taking all the right steps, both individually and as a couple, to “make things right”. We’re entirely committed to each other . . . but the really difficult thing is that we are both not entirely committed to our life here at Swamp River Ridge. This ever-so-unique and downright hard, at times, life we worked so hard to create. That’s been my biggest pill to swallow . . . realizing that This Life is not working, 100%, for my partner.

We went into this believing that it was a dream equally shared by us both. Being raised fairly uniquely and remotely, I knew the type of isolation and self-reliance that this lifestyle demanded. I was ready for that, and, probably more importantly, I was ready to embrace it with both arms. I am The Hermit. (As long as I have my computer to keep my connected to the Outside World!)

What only time could have illustrated, though, is that Tom is The Social Butterfly (at least in relation to my hermit-ness). And, our remote life here at Swamp River Ridge is NOT conducive to keeping a personal like that alive and healthy. Top that off with someone who suffers quite strongly (as many do in northern climes) from S.A.D. (Seasonal Affective Disorder), and . . . it’s ugly.

I remember reading in Catherine Friend’s book ‘Hit By A Farm . . . .’ that she and her partner suffered through what I take to be a similar situation. The life that they’d created for themselves turned out to be more suited to her partner than herself, and they went through some soul-searching, relationship-questioning, “will we make it” times as well. Ultimately, they choose to honor their commitment to each other and made the changes necessary for them BOTH to be happy with their life on the farm. So, too, have Tom and I (“honor their commitment to each other”), but the compromises are still being figured out. This isn’t a black-and-white, easy-peasy thing. Far from it. It’s one of those 2 steps forward and three steps back kinda thing.

There have been so many tears, so many fears expressed these last few weeks. Couples counseling has been such a fun, painful, wonderful, nearly vomit-inducing thing to do. I think many people have the misunderstood assumption, “Oh! Couples counseling, huh? Wow, you must be having troubles and be near divorce!” No, not at all. The smart ones CHOOSE couples counseling because they, yes, ARE having troubles . . . but want it to get nowhere NEAR divorce!

Marriage / life commitments are HARD. Couples who have been together for 50, 60 years will inevitably say, “There were hard times. Matter of fact, there were hard YEARS. But, we got through it. Together.”

Allow me a slight digression here. One of the fun things I’ve learned in couples counseling is learning about the Language of Love. This is what it means (to our counselor): how you express your love for your partner is YOUR (i.e. particular to YOU) language of love. But, now comes the real question: does your partner UNDERSTAND that language?! So, one of the exercises we’ve been practicing is saying, “You know when I do x-y-z, Honey? That’s my way of telling you that I love you . . . without words.” You could also parlay that into a request: “Honey, if you did x-y-z for me, that would really show me that you love me.”

The lesson to be learned here is that I could be saying, loud & clear (in my own mind) to Tom that I love him by doing x-y-z . . . but he might have NO IDEA! So, doing this exercise gave me the opportunity to tell Tom (for example), “When I offer to make you a cocktail, have you ever noticed how I put TONS of ice in it? Well, that’s one of my little ways of saying that I love you!” And then you explain the thinking behind that special effort. For me, Tom and I used to kinda bicker about the amount of ice he used. I thought it was wasteful. After all (to me), 5 ice cubes make a drink just as cold as 2 ice cubes do. But then, how stupid of me if that was something he truly enjoyed! After all, the only “waste” is my time in making more ice cubes (which are FREE) because the trays empty more quickly. Is he worth me taking the extra 20 seconds every couple of days to refill all the ice cubes trays? Uhhh . . . . yah. Unequivocally. J So, do you get my point?

Where do all of these revelations to you, my valued readers (all three of you) leave us? Well, I just wasn’t able to honestly write about our life here if I also wasn’t able to address that proverbial white elephant standing in the living room wearing a pink tutu and doing a tap dance to the Andrews Sisters! But now, after clearing my slate, I can write about our life here again . . . not feeling like I couldn’t write openly & honestly because “there was something to hide”. Thanks for bearing with me thru the dearth of updates.

Now I will present this to Tom and have him read it. After all, we are a TEAM, and if he’s not comfortable with me sharing with you what I have here, I ain’t gonna do it. But, if you’re reading this, you know that I have his blessing. And, in turn, he has mine . . . to do what he needs to do to find his peace.


My wonderful husband just read this and, with tears in his eyes, looked at me and said, “Tell the whole truth. Tell ‘all three readers’ that I’ve been severely depressed. Tell them about all that (severe depression) means. It will help people understand what you’ve been going through.”

‘Nuff said.


  1. Oh, Chicken Mama-- I understand some of the struggle. My partner, too, wrestles with an inner darkness that magnifies over the course of hard winter work and long winter nights. Most of the time, I try to be brave and cheerful, but there are days this little pollyanna just wants to sneak off behind the almost-empty woodshed and weep.

    Yesterday was one of those days-- high winds and driving snow, no plumbing save for one cold-water hydrant, and even though THAT was wrapped with heat-tape, yesterday it froze. To add to the fun, my off-farm job hours were severely cut a couple months ago and we spent the day planning farm chores for the rest of the year and doing taxes.

    We'd drive down and hang out and help you with chores and I could get my partner to play the bagpipes for some lively entertainment, only our border collie gets carsick and we can't abandon the chickens and the cows!

    Hold on, Sister. Hold on, and keep tellin' it like it is. Maintain all the connections that give you strength and laughter. From your courageous post, I know you already know these things, but just know that, up in Maine, on another struggling homestead, there is another farm woman who's rooting for you, cheering for you, humming and singing and shouting along.

  2. Big hugs to both of you. You are definitely doing the right things - addressing the elephant, taking counseling, etc. You will get this figured out as you are doing the main things communicating and compromising. Glad you have honesty going for you both, too.

    You are both wonderful people and more importantly a great couple.

    Keep the faith! You both are dear to me. I thought the lack of writing was due to generator issues still. I miss my talks with Tom (mostly me doing the talking). He needs to know he can call anytime and I will gladly talk his ear off to help pass the brutal winter.

    Oh, I feel for you guys. It has been a long hard winter but Spring is coming. Josie has started to shed - true sign of better weather and increasing daylight.

    Hang tough!

  3. I'm so glad you got this out, and my heart goes out to both of you. Depression is so hard and all-encompassing until it lifts, which it WILL, all the sooner with the help you are both getting.
    As for the compromises, there are always solutions. They may not present themselves immediately, but they're out there. I know that I have dreams of spending a full year or so on our land, but there is no way that kind of isolation would work for the city boy I married. He loves it in small doses. Anyway, you will find a solution.
    Mainly wanted to say my thoughts are with you guys, as you know.

  4. I used to debate with an old boyfriend: who had more/better experience of marriage? Him with a marriage of 20 years or me with TWO marriages to different people?

    Bottom line -- I know nothing about marriage but a LOT about divorce ... and depression.

    Long helpful(?) winging its way to you even as we speak.


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  6. Guys
    It sounds tough but the current climate (meteorological and otherwise) doesn't help, does it? Just know that some of us down here are rooting for you and admire you for what you are doing. Despite all my recriminations, I wish I had the guts to just disconnect and live the life I want to live.
    Hang in there, keep at it and here is to seeing each other one of these days.

    ps: tom, you've always been a softie inside but we love you for that.

    t from the cities

  7. Getting married is easy--staying married is hard! I'm saying this from my almost 30 years of experience. We all go through some tough times, but I'm glad you guys are willing to do whatever's necessary to keep your marriage together. Hugs to you and Tom!

  8. Chickenmama,
    Depression is a tough one, but it sounds like you are doing what it takes to get some help for both of you. I started suffering from severe depression a few years back and decided last summer that I am ok enough to get off my meds. Be assured, it will all work out:) Meanwhile, dont' be afraid to post about stuff on your blog. We are here to listen and offer support. Hang in there-we are all rooting for you!

  9. I've been thinking about this post for a few days now, trying to come up with something eloquent to say about how much you touched me by putting this into words, how brave I think you are for doing so and how reading this was like reading a chapter from my own life. I gave up on the eloquent part but I just wanted to share my admiration and gratitude :) Hang in there, girl!


If you are familiar with me and where I live, please respect my right to retain some anonymity by not referring to me by anything other than Chicken Mama nor mentioning city/town/villages by place names. Thanks!