Updated: Jan 13, 2021
Hi, I'm Nicole. Sharing this story is a way for you to truly see me. Behind these words is a perfectly imperfect woman.
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 seeking to communicate in a secret language. My heart and mind came alive when I read stories of other places and times. My greatest desire was to become a writer and pen epic tales like those of 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 memories 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 sixteen I resigned from traditional schooling to attend a night school program. This allowed me to work full time during the day and contribute financially to caring for my 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 more for myself, then I would have to fight for it and carve out a new world for myself. This strife lit a fire in me that refused to abate and thus a fighter was born.
Fast forward a few years: I was one cog in a giant wheel that made up the United States Army. I found myself on the battle field, hands choking the steering wheel of truck, the lead vehicle in a convoy filled with my comrades and it was my duty to operate the mine roller. The mine roller was a hydraulic powered piece of equipment attached to the front of 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. In short: I go BOOM, so all the trucks behind me don't go BOOM. The only way to describe being in Afghanistan is that it was like being transported to biblical times. The houses were actually just mud huts where livestock live in the same room as 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 military showed me that I am cut from a different kind of cloth than most folks. These experiences 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 firstborn 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 the life-changing experience I had endured to the mundane existence that 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. It was then that my journey of discovering myself again began. I devoured books like never before and 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 new purpose, something greater than me to give my life meaning again. I needed that. What I soon came to realize was that the greatest impact I would have would be the incredible little people that I created who would bring brightness to this world long after I am gone from it. My purpose was to nurture, to teach, to share laughter, to grow together in love.
From our families first garden, homesteading was born for me. One of my supreme joys was to grow sunflowers that were as tall as our second story windows. All the magic I needed could be found standing among those behemoth stalks with their yellow petals reaching towards the heavens. When I think of them now I and am awash with the peace that brought me after so long of living life at full speed. Those quiet moments made me slow down, reflect, assess, meet the new me I was becoming.
My family was hooked on homesteading. There was a real connection between the hard work you put in and the rewards you reaped. It was so different than the rat race at the office where I often felt like a hamster spinning in a wheel and getting nowhere fast. My husband, Sam, begged to add chickens for fresh eggs and truth be told I wasn't initially sold on the idea. This greatly amuses me now considering how much I adore our flock today, but I am all caution and he is all action so back then I wanted to pump the breaks. Baby dinosaurs seemed like a big step! Never the less, we impulsively bought chicks before we had a chicken coop and from there we were all in with homestead life! Watching our chickens scratch around in the yard under the summer sun was everything I didn't know I needed to feel grounded and it turned out that Sam and our two daughters felt the same. This simple life beckoned to me. I longed to be immersed in days with my family cultivating our food together and creating new memories. We were ready to leave city life behind and start a quieter chapter in the country.
The afternoon that we stood in the front yard of our log home, seeing it for the very first time, will be seared into my memory for all time. I was 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 wooded acres and could see the girls getting lost in the streams and 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 hardship as I had. I wanted them to always have the courage to chase their dreams and for their childhood to be a rich foundation to launch themselves from.
Standing in that cabin with my husband and our children made me realize that THING I had been chasing my whole life...it was here. It was us. It was our adventures. It was our love. It was our story.
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. My name is Nicole and I'm a mother, a wife, a homesteader, and once again...a dreamer.