You Have to Be Brave to Live the American Dream

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 Live Your Dreams: Our Willamette Valley Oregon Vineyards

While I finished tending to the unsavory country-living task this morning of cleaning up the new pile of coyote poop that was closer to my front porch home than ever yet, as well as some mice or vole or mole remnants courtesy of Mr. Twiggsie kitty,  I admit to being kind of grumpy and grouchy for a minute or seven about having been woken up again, before dawn, by the giant skunk too incapable of climbing back out of our kiddie swimming pool located right below my bedroom window.

Skunks! Ugh.

They’re good diggers and stinkers but not climbers, and it was trying to scratch its way out of the empty pool through the vinyl bottom.  Totally awake now, but with my eyes still closed,  I began dreaming up some special thing my daughter, Sweet Petite, and I could do together tomorrow.

My little son would be spending some time working at his “intern day” with daddy, checking on the progress of some of the other Willamette Valley vineyards and driving into Portland for a batch of wine labels because the winery is still in bottling season.

Live Your Dreams: Oregon free range chickens and my son

As home schoolers we are very sheltered, blissfully living out here surrounded by the hundreds of acres of the recently hedged by machete pinot noir, pinot gris, chardonnay and Riesling.

Beyond the vines are forests of Douglas fir, majestic, centuries old oaks, and our closest neighbors are the cattle on the beautiful and bucolic land farmed by a real, honest to goodness, old fashioned cowboy and his large family.

A perfectly wonderful and safe place for our children to grow and learn about life in and around nature.

Though we are enjoying our close to the earth, viticulture, and big sky education, it’s also extremely important to us to be well informed about the world around us and keep our children out of harms way, yet let them know that harm does, indeed, exist.

While total disclosure about ugly things in life is based on age and maturity appropriateness, I recently shared the sad and awful truths as my husband, Bryan, and I saw fit, with our children, about the Colorado theater shootings.

After the family discussions about this horrific tragedy, I proclaimed, “It is such a great blessing that we have a big flat screen TV, blueray DVD player, surround sound, live in a quiet setting, I can make our own organic popcorn and we will just wait until our favorite movies come out on DVD.  We will never have to go to the theater.”

There are two kinds of fear, I‘ve heard it said: Rational and Irrational.

When my greatest, dare I say only fear, that which threatens the life of my family, whether rational or irrational invades my dreams and living, I can become frozen.

The very same feeling consumed me in the weeks after September 11th.

I could not sleep, and it wasn’t because my infant daughter was keeping me up at night.

I ate and ate in my long hours of wakeful times, sometimes while sitting on the floor next to my baby’s crib listening to her breathe, and it wasn’t because I was hungry.

I cried at the notion of being without my baby and my husband, and I wasn’t even working outside of our home at the time.

Bravely Living my Dreams on a Lake Tahoe Scenic Drive with my family

Then, for the first time to my memory, I was forced to not only face up to my crushing irrational fear, I had to stare it down, push it to the side and walk through the door where fear lives, while it hovered just outside.

The only motivator for this kind of bravery, for me, is love.  I did it to save a relationship.

My one and only sibling, my younger sister was having her second wedding.  When she asked me to be her matron of honor, I said yes.  The original plan of a summer celebration in California or here in Oregon was something I was looking forward to, (also an excellent reason to get back on track with my weight/health and fitness).

I saw it as a much needed blessing…until…the date was moved up, way up, to January.  My birthday, in fact, January 12th.

“Well that might be fun!”  I thought, and said to my sister.  “Two reasons to celebrate, right?”

But, that wasn’t all that changed.  The wedding was to be held, not just in the middle of winter, but in the middle of Albequerque, New Mexico, where my (now second, former) brother-in-law’s family lives.

Although my husband and I racked our brains and searched our hearts trying to figure out ways in which we could drive, with the baby, from Oregon to New Mexico, we simply couldn’t afford to take that much time off of work from the winery and I, like so many Americans who had a fear of flying even before September 11th, did not give this option a first OR second thought.

While it definitely took some guts to phone my sister to say that we wished her all the luck and love in the world but…“we just weren’t going to be able to make it this time.”

The long distance silence was rough, to be sure, but her “I don’t know how I can call you my sister if you won’t stand up for me.” 

Was what got my attention, hurt me deeply and also got me to book a seat for one on an airplane just four months after the terrorist attacks on this country.

Saying an excruciating good-bye to my baby girl, Renee, whom I named after my sister, my husband-love and my very own first dream come true of having a child, was the most difficult thing I have ever done.  Ever.

The fervor with which I clasped my hands and prayed right out loud, for my life, through the flight’s turbulence was the most intense I have ever done.  Ever.

Returning home to the loves of my life, two seemingly eternal days later, was the greatest feeling in heaven or on earth.

Ever. And my vow to God to remain grateful, in every single day I‘m blessed to be with them, has never been broken.  Ever.

Just a few perfect days ago, a wonderful, intelligent woman whom I’ve been gifted with as a person who follows my posts on Facebook and encourages me to stay the course on this dirt road of my vineyard farm living dreams, through the (and it’s real this time) loss of “Dogcat“, our pet bunny and several chickens to predators, suggested that I might enjoy this new Disney/Pixar film, Brave.

Bravely Living my dreams with my Princess Merida hair

First, thoughtful Diane stated in her wall post on my page that the wild, curly hair of the lead character reminded her of mine.  Then it was her spirit, she said, like me– Adventurous.

Hah!  Dangit! It hit me like a surging wave of emotion. I was letting fear guide me.

I can take on the wild critters, home school two children of two different ages and sexes, tame the unforgiving, hand ravaging, back breaking clay soil and vines and grow my own food.  Heck I even raised up a Tom turkey from fuzzy chick, dispatched the beast, cleaned, plucked and cooked the going into the oven at 33 lbs. giant fowl, but I could not go into our small town movie theater ever again?

Well THAT’s not brave at all!

Was this the example of the good woman I strive to be, and who I wanted my children to look to for guidance and strength?

Also, it breaks the vow to embrace all life enhancing opportunities that present themselves, that I made back in 2002.

Stories of real bravery, coming out of  the horror in Colorado, where boyfriends covered girlfriends, husbands shielded their wives and strangers attempted to protect other souls suffering through the unthinkable hell that was the theater shooting.

Bravery.  Dear God. This defines it.

What is more unfathomable to me, as a mother, is the level of bravery it will take for the woman who lost her 6 year old daughter that night, her unborn child the use of her arms and legs and how she is to begin to consider the possibility of wanting to take another breath in this life after such devastating pain and loss.

How can I allow my blessed American Dream life to be a one lived in fear of doing something as American as going to see a movie with my family?

I will not walk dishonorably through my days.  I know that the real pain and suffering in this terrible event are not mine to take in.  The prayers for hope, healing wherever possible, and love I give freely and sincerely to the families and loved ones of the fifteen lives that were taken on that night, and to the many dozens of injured and their families and loved ones, as well.

And prayers also, to all of those who were in the theater, lived in the surrounding area, the medical emergency workers and Colorado itself.  How deeply will these people have to dig to begin to sort out how to move through their lives now, and in which direction?

Not my question to ask.

For me, it always works out to this.  Sometimes it comes to me Divinely, like from my friend Diane, over the internet, but here it is;  Living out my dreams every day, in a constant state of gratitude for my many, many blessings and helping and praying in every way I can think of for those who truly need my help and my prayers is the key to living this American’s Dream.

As I dust off my Sunday go to meetin’ boots and prepare for tonight’s big movie, on the big screen, in our small town, I smile as I keep my vow to live each day to its fullest.  I cherish my family and continue to shower the people I love with love.

Thank you to all who share in the wonderful, wild adventure here with me, and God Bless the Brave Hearts.

Until we visit again next Sunday,


  • Thanks Shellie for the lovely reminder to be aware of the decisions we are making because we are letting fear into our lives. Fear is one of those sneaky ones that show up – even when we are surrounded by beauty and caring support.

    I know I let fear stop me from so many opportunities in my life, so thanks for sharing your brave story.

    • Thank you for reading, Heather:)  I agree, it is a sneaky one, that fear thing.  But wow the feeling of facing it, and kicking its ass…so worth it.

      Love ya lady!

  • I must correct the misspelled name, here.  My lovely encouraging friend’s name is Diana, not Diane. 

  • Hey!  I think Disney stole your hair! 

    • So, totally enjoyed the movie, and for the first time in Disney Princess locks history, they finally got it right!!!  Merida’s hair is crazy, not at all uniform AND it catches on stuff whenever you do anything outside, especially in the woods:)  HAH!

  • Cath

    In some ways I was lucky with 9/11 and other ways I was not.

    I made a decision after my divorce to not have cable television. My son and I had Internet through the phone lines, and I hand-picked movies from Netflix for us to watch. He was 3 and full of imagination. We played a lot of music and danced under the Christmas lights in our kitchen.

    We did not miss television.

    When 9/11hit we were still living our television-free life. I actually watched the news on a computer, standing with my dear friend, Eric in our technology center where we both worked. I did not go get my son from school, because my bold, nurse mother always taught me that during crisis you must do as you’ve always done.

    That’s how you get through it.

    Because my son and I were not exposed to 9/11 flooding into our living room from the major networks, I was able to shield him from such a horrific event. Our home was what I had always dreamed it could be: a secret garden full of love, laughter, and most importantly safety and protection.

    But 9/11also rocked the corporate world and that event took the company I worked for to its knees. I went to work for the Royal Bank of Canada. I was lucky enough to find work, but it required that I travel 5 – 14 days a month all over the U.S. I had to take the job, but cried to my mother and a Jesuit priest I greatly admired. Both told me that I must do what I must do and that many immigrants come to this country without their families to make a living and gain citizenship before bringing their families over. It can take more than 5 years.

    So I sucked it up and joined the very few who were traveling on airplanes after 9/11. There were times I could count the business travelers with me on planes with just both hands. We could have bowled on those empty planes. I was also introduced to airport security: being assumed guilty because I traveled, having my wallet gone through, and watching small children get padded down while they screamed and cried, with their parents watching in horror, because they could not stop security form “doing their job.” There were times I wanted to cuss them out and tell them how stupid we were all being, but I did not want to go to jail myself, so I’d shake my head, put back on my shoes and belt , gather all my belongings and travel on.

    It would seem that 9/11 was in my life whether I wanted it to be or not.  The project eventually ended and I returned to working near my home.  I miss travel, but I don’t miss airport security.  My son will never know what it is like to walk someone to their gate and waive to them from the window as their plane takes off. Now he’ll walk through body scanners just for the privilege of wanting to go see another city.

    My mother was here the other day bemoaning what the world had become, and I started to go there too, and then I remembered that she lived through the depression, Hitler, seeing the atomic bomb dropped … and I had lived through the 60’s with the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA), the shootings of two Presidents and a president’s brother, Martin Luther King’s death, Patty Hearst, the NLF, Jonestown, Cuban Missile Crisis, Son of Sam, the Zodiac, Viet Nam, and much more. 

    Maybe the truth is that we have always been exposed to darkness in this world, but its our reaction to it that makes, or breaks us.

    Enjoy the movie ;-)

    • Shellieacroft

      This time, all I’ve got for you is love.  Oh, and also, WE DID!!!