Monday, May 23, 2011


We all have seasons in our life. Some pleasant and calm, some crazy and tragic, and some are somewhere in between. I have been experiencing one of the latter variety lately.

In many ways, this past year has been one of amazing change. Yet as summer approaches, I find myself right back where I started. It has been a wild, anxious, frustrating, scary time, but also a season of spiritual growth.

Last summer, our family was in negotiations with the County of Sacramento to continue our concession of the equestrian services at Gibson Ranch Park. My wife has been the general manager of the equestrian facilities for eighteen years, and we had been operating without a contract for the past two years. It seems the new parks administration did not know what to do with us.

As a private contractor inside a public park, we were always trying to find ways to bring in more revenue by offering more services, all the while it seems the county was trying to find ways of offering as few services as possible. We had always payed a percentage of our monthly income to the county, so if we were successful, the county made more money also. Seems simple enough, it's called a win-win situation. I guess they don't teach that in public administration or recreational management classes in college.

To the parks department's way of thinking, the only real way to find revenue is tapping the counties' general fund, or trying to pass a new parcel tax. The mindset of each side was foreign to the other. We were trying to offer services the public wanted, in exchange for a fee, and the parks people just wanted to get enough money from the budget to pay for its staff and administration. It's hard to find common ground with so little in common.

It's a shame, but in the end the County closed the park. We had to move eighteen years worth of ranch stuff back to our place in Esparto in one month. Tractors, trailers, hay wagons, horses, cattle, panels, feeders and saddles, they all had to come home in thirty days. It was quite a task. The whole time I was thinking, (while lifting the 200 lbs corral panels) if we have to move all this stuff back, I'm going to cry, or kill someone, whichever comes first.

At home, the fall rains came, followed by a very wet winter. Our fields turned to mud pits, and two barns worth of hay were fed down to the last bale, and then some. The hardest part was losing a few newborn calves and goats with the weeks of steady rain. It was a miserable winter on our place.

In the midst of all this, our son became ill. We had gone through something similar the previous year, but this was different, harder, for all of us. Trying to get a proper diagnosis was a trial of hope, and disappointment. He finished the second half of senior year on home study. In the end, we still do not have a final answer, although he has been doing well for the past month or so. Having a sick child is the hardest thing for a parent, even when that child is six foot three, and two hundred fifty pounds.

Through this past fall and winter, my lovely wife had no full time job for the first time in her adult life. If you have ever met Dawn, you know how much this is outside her comfort zone. She works hard, and she likes stability. This winter, she had little of either. As bad as it was for all of us, this past year was much rougher on her. Looking back, I wish I could have done more for her.

Through this season of our lives, we have some great friends step up to help and support us. We were kept in the prayers of many of our friends at church, and especially our small-group Bible study. Having been through a tough time or two, I am still learning to trust God. Not trusting that He would make things work the way I wanted, but that no matter the outcome, trusting in His love for me. Knowing that love, the love of Christ, gave me peace in the midst of this stormy season. That peace kept me going, as the months past and brought new challenges that seemed to come at us in rapid succession.

So, as the hills to the west turn from green to a dark blonde, we find ourselves particularly blessed once again.

Our family has formed a business arrangement with the new private operator of Gibson Ranch; Doug Ose and his family. My wife is back at work, knee deep in horses, cows, employees, soaring hay prices, voice-mails, emails and chaos. In short, she is back to normal, and loving it.

Our son is finished with high school. He is looking forward to working this summer to buy more guitar gear. In short, he is back to normal.

Me? I guess I am back to normal, whatever that is. For me, normal is just a setting on a washing machine, not a way of life. We even moved most everything back to Gibson, and I did not harm a single person. I am however, taking the month of June off my calendar. With the exception of our wedding anniversary, I am clearing my meeting schedules, and my weekends. I need to find a little quiet time, catch my breath, spend some time with my wife.

I may even find time for a little writing. I hear there is a presidential election coming next year....