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That Time We Tore Down The Fence

                                                                             

Life’s taken some turns for us these past six months as we answered a stirring in our hearts to change things up a bit. Some of it so quickly its taken a sec to process the changes. So that’s what I’ve been doing. Processing. We sold our little house in Austin. The one with the big oak tree out front and the wooden tree swing. The one with our handprints in the concrete pad out back where the kids and neighbors played basketball as I watched out my kitchen window. The one where we raised toddlers and newborns and where we cared for my dying mom. My throat is closing and eyes welling up as I think about the people we gathered around our table for shredded pork tacos and special sauce, cheese trays and wine, coffee and Quiche, pizza and ranch dressing, or just plain old cereal or leftovers. Truth is the food was just the invitation to the more important thing. Time.

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The things I will always miss the most about that little spot in the world are our neighbors. We had several amazing ones on our little block but we go furthest back with the ones directly to our right as you walked out the front door. We could never get grass to grow in that area because of all the little feet making a quick turn off the front porch.

To Kristin, Gaylen. Freddie, Camden, and Cooper. To your various exchange students, various family members, various tenants that lived in your bungalow out back, various dogs, cats, hermit crabs and strays.

Thank You.

Thank you for teaching us more about love than just about any humans we have ever met. Thank you for being game to cut a hole in our fence with wire cutters so the little kids could easily go back and forth. The fence we eventually took down all together. Thank you for not thinking it odd for me to be scavenging your back yard at 6:45 a.m. in my bathrobe on a school morning looking for misplaced shoes. Thank you for going in with us on those picnic tables we put under the tall front yard Sycamore trees where we so often combined forces to come up with complete meals. The tables Kristin strung cafe lights above as it basically became our very own real life Pinterest set up.

Thank you, Kristin, for bathing my kids, doctoring their cuts, and doing things no neighbor should have to do, Gaylen, as you hear the singing words of a 4 year old saying “I’m doooone….” coming from YOUR bathroom as you walk in from work. Thank you for sitting by my mom’s bedside as she was sick. Thank you for sneaking in to our house and wrapping our doors with wrapping paper and switching labels on our canned foods. For months I’d think I was opening tomatoes and it would end up being peaches. (Then I would just sneak into your house and borrow a can of tomatoes.) Thank you teaching me how to fold crepes, how to use a table saw, how to use a smoker, and how to use those weird claw things that shred meat. (Great Christmas present for someone who is likely to shred meat) Thank you for sharing cups of coffee, bottles of wine, and various groceries we were out of. (most usually tomatoes, milk, eggs, or cumin powder)

The thank you’s are honestly endless and the sadness I feel as that season has come to an end reminds me of a quote that comforted me when we lost our mom. “That which brings you much sorrow, does so because it once brought you much joy.” Your family was (and continues to be) joy personified to us.

I’m so glad we tore down that fence down together years ago and that walls have been coming down slowly ever since allowing us to be more vulnerable, more present, less guarded, less resistant, more whole, and more at peace. The tearing down of walls that let the light in to our stories of brokenness and let healing begin. I’m still a work in progress.

At the moment, I’m scouting out a place for a new long row of picnic tables in the front yard our new home in the world. (This time under tall Pine trees.) A place where we can put in practice what you all  taught us. How tables really do bring people together.

Thank you for being the kind of neighbors that became family. I think at one point we decided the Paulson’s + the Dozier’s could equal the Paulzier’s? We are better because of you.

With great love from Colorado,

Cristi, Ben, Adelyn, Gunner, Creede, & South (Paulzier)

Trying to bring into play all I learned from the great family of Greenbay Packers we used to live next to. The ones who sometimes channelled their inner Kenny G and played the saxophone on their back porch, or the ones who wore cowboy boots with swimsuits, or the one’s who had parties with 50 plus foreign students from China (who loved to zip line) and taught them how to make s’mores. The ones who were ALWAYS up for an adventure and who set out on a big one this year living missionally out at Community First Village in Austin. Apple dumplings and cheese curds are now forever a part of my vocabulary and I like it.

Here is what I don’t like sometimes and often resist. Change. Kids starting high school is dumb. Kids graduating high school is dumb. Moving is dumb. But those sarcastic dumb changes comes with the territory of growth. And growth can be smart. And high school kids and college kids are funny. And they can drive themselves places and wash their own clothes. And moving? Moving makes you clean out your attic. Not gonna lie, that felt really good. You don’t even have to move to do it.

It’s been emotionally hard sometimes. And that has been ok.

To grieve the end of anything is ok and usually necessary. You can stuff it but the need to grieve will keep surfacing. So do that part. And then, with time, it will become what you make it. It will become how you choose to see it. How you honor the memory of it and how you choose to let it grow you.

Hoping we can all grow and change and be thankful in the process.

“When you have more than you need, build a longer table, not a higher fence.” 

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The house we grew up in had a big stone fireplace.  The kind with a stoop in front of it that you can sit on or use as a stage, as my sister and I so often did. Living in Austin, Texas, we didn’t build fires so much for warmth…more for ambiance.  If it was fall and hit below 60 degrees  outside, you better believe it was fire time. We’d grab some wood off the porch, stick it in the fireplace, light one of those really long matches, turn the little iron key which opened the gas underneath, held the fire to it and POOF…fire. I never really thought about where the wood came from. It just seemed mom would make a phone call and it would magically appear stacked on our back porch. Might I add, the back porch with the bright green indoor/outdoor carpet. (Think astroturf.) We had green carpet in the living room too; and green countertops in the kitchen…. the kitchen that had green wallpaper. I am sensing a theme here.

Fast forward 30 years or so and I’m married, with 4 kids, living in our first house to have a working fireplace.  Only, we are not in Texas, we are in southern Colorado. It’s October and temperatures dip into the 20’s at night. Come morning, you need a fire, you need firewood…but,not so much for ambiance. It is cold . Repeat. Cold.

My  husband and I had a conversation about the need for firewood. Later that day I came home with the phone number of a guy with a truck, we’ll call him Chuck. Chuck had a truck bed full of chopped wood that he would conveniently deliver to our porch and stack neatly for our immediate use. Sounded familiar. Sounded good.

My husband came home that same day with some pink slips of paper. Apparently he had spoken to some locals in the town…the locals cut their own wood. “Ok….” I say with a severe lack of excitement.”Have you ever done that before?” I added.  He didn’t answer directly but rather pulled out a brochure from the forest service with his pink permits for a couple cords of wood. I have no clue what type of cord he is referring to at this point. My mind wanders. I picture a tree falling on our truck or one of our kids. It’s terrible. “It’ll be an adventure.”, he says.”The kids will love it.”

I smiled at him in a way that conveyed a sort of sarcastic response like, “For real?” To which he silently replied with an affirmative,yet mischievous, smile meaning “for real.”

The next day was Saturday. We packed water bottles, egg salad sandwiches, buffalo bleu chips, fruit and chocolate. Chocolate makes everything better. I have no idea how long this deal is going to take so I pack more snackie snack type stuff. We are about to venture up a mountain with a chainsaw, 3 axes, and 4 young children.

I pray.

We load up, pull out our map, and hit the road…The kids are all pumped up. They have no clue we have no clue what we are doing and that’s how we like to keep it, usually.

We read the rules. You can’t just cut down any old tree. There are only certain areas where you can go to collect “fuel wood” as the forest service calls it. Then after you find the right area, you have to find the right kind of tree, the right species, the right diameter, etc. We are winding into the mountain wilderness of 50 plus foot trees and I ask, “How do you know how to cut one of these down, and,then, which way it will fall.?” I can tell by his delayed response he doesn’t know. “I’ll Google it.” I say scrambling for my phone, praying we have service. We do. A diagram sets us straight. Three cuts is all it takes and you can select what direction you want the tree to fall by where you make the cuts. Easy.

We spot our tree. It stands 60-70 feet tall and has been a victim of some crazy vicious beetle killing trees all over the area. Dead trees equal dry wood. Dry wood burns well. He winds up the chainsaw….I’m taking pics of this momentous occasion. The kids are all huddling together behind some other huge trees in the distance anticipating something earth shattering. The two year old is crying. The chainsaw scares him.  “This is great”, I reluctantly think to myself.

As my husband gets to his third and final cut, we decide to rally the kids back to the truck up the hill. We know which way the tree “should” fall but we are not absolutely positive it will. So we took the safe route. My daughter carries the baby of the family. He’s calmed down. Who knows what he’s thinking. Atop the hill we watched as the completion of the third cut sent the tree crackling to the ground. The echoes thundered through the canyon and the mammoth tree took down another smaller tree as it hit the ground with a booming rebound. I’m oohing and ahhhing as I film and the kids are going crazy cheering like we do when our son scores a touchdown or our daughter nails her gymnastics routine. It’s a rush. A proud rush. My husband hops up on the fallen tree raising his chainsaw in conquest.  Success.

Ok, everyone is safe….at least for now. We have to chop this sucker into logs. The chainsaw’s going again. Three of my children have axes in their hands. I’m thinking, “this is really great parenting.” My mama bear skills are in full effect setting guidelines and boundaries.  I try to let them enjoy the adrenaline rush of chopping of the small branches while not simultaneously chopping off something else.

They were little mountain barbarians. Yelling with every small swing of the ax.  We were all sucking air laughing in the elevation.

The cuts of wood smelled amazing…. like a Christmas tree on steroids. But no breath was as sweet as the sigh of relief I breathed when the day was done and we loaded up in the truck, covered in saw  dust. We had chopped a truck bed full, or half a cord, of wood. My 7 year old son, basking in accomplishment, smiles and out of no where says, “I wish mom was pregnant.”

What?Where do those thoughts come from. Four kids is a nice size brood but apparently not enough for my first born son. I can tell you this….If I was pregnant there is no way we would have been out in the wilderness chopping down trees with 4 kids. That’s crazy talk. More than likely, I would have been cozied up on the couch suffering from the type of morning sickness that lasts all day. I would probably be popping a Zofran as I pick up the phone to call Chuck.

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