Life Lessons Learned from My Backyard Chickens

Geneva mom, Carolyn Haber, shared at the New Moms Coffee on August 27, 2021.

My ultimate joy would be sitting with you in my backyard, in the shade of my magnolia tree, to get to know each of you a little better. If we were at my house, you might be a little surprised by “my girls,” my feathered friends, my chickens. They are all named (at least, most of them are): you would see Wilma Jean (she’s the most friendly) and Fern (named by the art teacher, Mrs. Fraser); then there is Lurleen, Thelma, Libbie, Matilda, Eleanor, and the list goes on. This morning, I want to share with you five things I learned from my chickens.

Stick close to the rooster.

Our rooster is named Ralph, after Dan’s father. Ralph’s primary role is flock security, which includes flock advisor and flock counselor. His eyes and neck dart, as he is constantly on guard; he gathers the hens close and physically protects them from predators. He also is one that will alert and alarm his ladies when he finds good eats; the hens come running. Just as I notice my hens stick close to the rooster, I will say for you and me: Cling to Jesus. He will guide you and protect you. He loves you unconditionally, he is always available to you, he knows your thoughts and hears your prayers. The Bible says that he knit you together in your mother’s womb and he knows the number of hairs on your head. He equips you for every good work. Stick close to JESUS!

A mother hen’s love for her chicks is inspiring.

This morning, I watched my mama hen with six less-than-two-week-old baby chicks. The day she became broody, which means the day she decided to be a mom, she started sitting on eggs. Mama hens sit on eggs for twenty-one days: her clutch of eggs can be a mix of her eggs and some of her hen friends’. (Some chicken mamas have even died because they were so committed to sitting on eggs—they didn’t get up to eat). Once the babies hatch, the mother hen is a fierce mama, constantly clicking and clacking to communicate with their chicks. She is teaching them what to eat, calling them when they are wandering away, fussing with the other hen friends that get too close to her babies. I love to find the baby chicks resting underneath mama or on top of her back.

Look around—this room is filled with mamas! Each woman in this room is here because you are a mama, you have a child or children at The Geneva School. I know you are equally committed to your chicks. You are not new to motherhood yet you are new to this school; welcome to Geneva! We are glad you are here! Mamas, you are in great company. And what you don’t see is a greater company of moms that have gone before us and the moms that you have yet to meet.

Last year, I felt new all over again, as I had a little one in K4. I loved meeting a bunch of new moms; we were all starting with our little ones, their first time in real school, a full day. I am a believer that relationships need repetition and experiences. For me last year, while sitting on the sidelines with other new parents at the Friday night soccer games, volunteering together the day of SALT, seeing one another at birthday parties or school events, relationships were kindled. Get involved. You have a place at Geneva. We are glad you are here. As a mother, you love your kids fiercely so sometimes it seems like work to get connected; yet make friends, get to know other mothers and families, and link arms, and let’s do this together. Which leads me to my next point.

Chickens recognize the value of community.

Innately, chickens understand the importance of sticking together. Where one goes they all go. Separating from the flock can lead to danger or death. At times, one will find a worm in one part of the yard, and at a moment’s notice, they will all be scratching the same spot for good grubs. Periodically, I will introduce new hens to the flock; it takes a little time for each of them to make new chicken friends and figure out their role in the flock. Sound familiar as you are making new friends, figuring out a new school schedule (possibly with drop-offs at different campuses) and uniforms that might not have arrived on time and what after-school activity will work for each child? Thankfully, the teachers and staff know and are there to help in a time of transition.

Three years ago, I received a breast cancer diagnosis on August 1, 2018. The next day, I met with a breast surgeon and she said, “I have you on my calendar for surgery for August 14”—exactly two weeks from that day. She saw the surprise on my face. She remarked, “Do you have a conflict on that date?” I mentioned that my boy would start kindergarten on that day, and she said, “You look like you have people who can help you.” The day Richard Daniel started kindergarten, I had a double mastectomy. And Mrs. Geer, his Geneva kindergarten teacher, texted me that day, “Your boy is doing great, we are praying for you!” Dan and I, somewhat new to the Geneva community, were surrounded by new friends, teachers, and Geneva faculty that helped us. One Geneva mama put a mini fridge on my front porch for meals to be dropped off, another sent her housekeeper to clean my house, another mom arranged pickups for my children every afternoon, countless meals were enjoyed, another mom took my son to soccer (I think I only went to one game that season). Dan and I were overwhelmed by the kindness and generosity of the Geneva family. In the last three years, I survived fifty-two weeks of chemotherapy, six weeks of radiation, countless infections, five more major surgeries, more infections, and we could not have survived and thrived without the Geneva family as they cheered for us and embraced us. The hard days solidify our love and commitment to the school and the community. And you are now part of the Geneva community.

Next, and I almost hate to mention it, yet it’s true.

Predators are everywhere!

Yesterday, as we were rushing out the back door trying to get to school on time, Ralph, the rooster, and a few hens were squawking. John Doster, my youngest, noticed on the neighbors’ roof, watching the chickens, a beautiful hawk. He was eying my flock and he was hungry for breakfast, doing what he knows best, hunting his prey. I would prefer to see him with a fish in his talons, which he caught out of the nearby lake. John 10:10, a familiar passage out of the Bible, reminds us that the thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy. Watch out: the enemy wants to distract us, cause dissension in relationships, destroy … but the second part of the verse reminds us that Jesus came into the world to give us abundant life. Not just mediocre, okay life but abundant. Beware, the enemy is flying over; alert and alarm your people, be on guard, look up, rebuke, run, and hide.

Even as I close this talk, it’s likely there are one or two hens singing.

Sing a thankful song, all morning long.

Every morning, before noon or so, I can hear my hens—some of them sing better than others. Hens squawk and squeal; it’s not exactly melodious, yet they celebrate their accomplishment of laying an egg or they sing for their hen mate who laid an egg in the basket before them or they sing when someone is in their laying basket and they want to sound alarm that they are ready to lay their daily egg. I guess they are trying to make a joyful noise. How easy it is for me to be distracted by the squawks and the squeals rather than appreciate the hard work of my hen to lay an egg and celebrate with her. Sometimes I have to choose to be thankful in all circumstances. Sometimes it is not easy or natural to see the good in the hard.

During the dark days of my chemo and surgery recovery, I was given a journal and challenged by a friend to write down five things I was thankful for each day. Such a journal is a gift I now pass along to newly diagnosed cancer patients, as I know it was a little exercise that helped me when my days were long. I also found great joy in friends’ visits when I didn’t have the energy to go out, yet loved for new friends to come in to see me. One friend of a friend called to say she had just tried a new recipe for banana bread with a mascarpone cheese spread; something so little was something that was a great encouragement to me, and I was thankful for that encouragement. Celebrating in gratitude makes life more fun. At Geneva, we have a number of opportunities to come alongside one another and our children to celebrate their work, their soccer goals, their theatre performances, and their accomplishments.

Ladies, there are five things I want you to remember from my time this morning:
  1. Stick close to JESUS! He loves unconditionally and cares about all the details of your life.
  2. You have a unique role as a mother: Be a Mother Hen and take it as a compliment!!
  3. Welcome to the Geneva family—you are now part of a fabulous community! Get involved.
  4. Watch out, be on guard against the enemy.
  5. Sing a thankful song. Choose to be thankful in the sometimes-hard journey called life.

Mamas, welcome! You are now part of the Geneva family.

In closing, you are invited to my backyard. It’s always shady under my magnolia tree and the Adirondack chairs are perfect for a friend (or two) and me! My girls will be thrilled to meet you in hopes you will feed them treats. And I will likely send you home with some of their fresh eggs to eat.


Carolyn Haber’s adventures began when she studied in China after graduating from The University of Alabama. While living in China, she was captivated by the people, challenged by the food, and changed by the culture. Carolyn worked on the university campus with college women until she moved to Orlando, to travel the world alongside the late Vonette Bright, cofounder of Campus Crusade for Christ. Twelve years ago, she met and married Dan; they have two sons, Richard Daniel and John Doster, both students at The Geneva School. Her work outside the home with The JESUS Film Project allows her to continue to be involved in helping people around the world see and hear JESUS in their heart language.

5 Tips to Stay Balanced during Quarantine

We are all out of our normal routines!  Some of us have more to do than usual and are feeling stressed due to steep learning curves to prepare for online learning, helping children with their learning at home, among other things.  Some of us are out of work and may be concerned about the lack of income.  We are all probably feeling a little disconnected and out of balance.  I’m sharing my top 5 tips to stay in balance during this unusual season:

 

Get Outside!
Whether you are crazy busy or not busy enough, you need to get yourself outside EVERY DAY!  A little fresh air and sunshine outside your 4 walls will keep you from feeling so cooped up and will help:
  • boost your immune system
  • improve your mood
  • keep your circadian rhythm on track to allow for better sleep
Aim for at least 15-30 minutes outdoors to exercise. Do yard work, walk the dog, play with your kids, or just deep breathe and soak up some Florida sunshine.  If you have children at home, they need to be outdoors too!

 

Move!
Whether you have extra time for exercise OR feel like there are not enough hours to do all that is asked of you right now, we ALL need a little movement to:
  • boost the immune system
  • improve mood
  • relieve stress
  • improve sleep
There are a lot of resources available to help you with “in home” workouts. YouTube and other internet sites (both free and subscription) provide an endless source of guidance.  This week my family has enjoyed the extra time at home to walk, run, bike, paddle board, explore a new nature trail, and do yoga together.  If you have children at home, they need you to set an example and have you engage with them to get them moving too!

 

Ask “What CAN I Do?”
During this time of uncertainty, we need to work extra hard to keep a positive mindset.  Negative thoughts lead to negative emotions, like anxiety, fear, and depression.  While there is a lot that we CAN NOT do right now, there are lots of unique opportunities and things we CAN do that we often lack time for in our busy schedules.  Let’s reframe our words and mindset and not miss these special opportunities to make good use of this unusual enforced time at home.  May I suggest a few:
  • Spend time reading something you enjoy alone, or aloud with others
  • A little yard work each day…just 15 minutes of weeding or trimming each day will create a sense of accomplishment, and will get you outside
  • Declutter closets, tackle “honey do” lists, and check off home repairs
  • Exercise and get outside every day
  • Look for ways to serve others (a family member, a neighbor…) to keep you focused outward and not inward
  • Break out the board games, card games, and puzzles
  • Meditate on Scriptures that remind you that God is sovereign
  • Each evening think of 5 things to be grateful for from the day
If you have children in the house, they will feed off of your mood and attitude, so staying positive yourself will have ripple effects.  Get them involved in the list above.

 

Eat Fresh Food!
Thankfully the grocery stores have stayed open, and thankfully fresh food has stayed readily available, unlike toilet paper!  Use this time of confinement to cook real food at home, and be thankful we weren’t limited to weeks of canned food.  Cooking at home will have many benefits:
  • A nourished body and soul
  • Budget friendly
  • Opportunities to be connected as a family around the table
You may want to stick to family favorite recipes for comfort, or you may want to use this time to try some new recipes and be a little adventurous.  Some of my favorite healthy and easy Tasty Friday recipes are archived on the health & weillness page of our school website.  If you have children at home, this is a great opportunity to get them involved in the kitchen learning to chop, prepare a dish, or prepare a whole meal for the family.

 

Connect!
While “social distance,” “lockdown,” and “shelter in place” are the battle cries of the day, we are really just trying to keep a physical distance from others to prevent transmission of COVID-19.  We need to work harder at staying socially connected to each other during this quarantine.
  • Stay connected to your family, friends, and colleagues via text, video chats, or an old-fashioned phone call.  Be especially mindful of your older family and friends that may be feeling isolated
  • Take the opportunity to write an old-fashioned letter
  • Phone neighbors to check on them
  • When you are out on necessary errands be intentional to be encouraging and show gratitude to those working hard to serve you
  • Meet a friend outside in a park or trail to walk and talk
I have loved seeing the faces of upper school colleagues on Zoom for Morning Devotions we are sharing together each day. If you have children at home, you can encourage them to be creative in connecting with their friends and relatives,  too.

 

This challenging time will pass and become a page in the history books.  Until then, a little time outside, movement, a positive mindset, fresh food, and connection with others each day can help keep your balance and even enjoy this change of pace.

by Lou Jones,
Geneva School Nurse, RN, Health & Wellness Coach

The Geneva School
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    Time: 12:00 am- 11:59 pm
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  • 7th-10th Exam Schedule

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  • US Early Dismissal at 11:45

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  • Fathers Watch

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