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  • Writer's pictureRyan & Ally Gerken

The Path

A little over a month ago, I had a meeting at work. In this meeting, my department was informed that we would be removing one position on our team. As a result, we would all be eliminated and invited back to apply for our jobs. Only two of the three of us would continue on, that is if we all decided to apply.

During this same meeting, my heart was pounding for several reasons. A big reason was that I had concluded from various intuitions that something like this was coming for about a week. To see it happen doesn't change the uncertainty of it all, but the advantage was I had already made up my mind how I would respond should something like this occur.

To be honest, I felt relieved after the meeting. Ryan and I discussed our lives and what we want it to look like with all that is going on in today's world. The farm was taking a back seat yet, was the bulk of what we want from life. I knew with planting and harvest season on the horizon, the farm would stay a hobby. The farm could never be a business if we both didn't put in more effort, not just more effort but all our effort! Recently, I helped myself to some audible inspiration and found my way to Jessica Simpson's Open Book. She puts it best "your dreams need to be nurtured just like a baby does."

I/we were not doing that at least not I. And the problem was I had a decent job that I kind of really enjoyed. I saw myself on two different paths 1. The stereotypical career and 2. The entrepreneurial organic farmer. By the time that meeting happened, I had already chosen between the two. The only thing I hadn't figured out was the how and when, and now I didn't have to, it happened on its own.

Personally, I really enjoy signs. They are my proof of higher power and the primary connection I have to my grandparents. When I say that I really liked my corporate job, it is because of my grandparents. Growing up, my Grandpa and Grandma were my best friends and my most favorite people! My Grandparents took me everywhere, school, church, CCD, Sunday Soup, play and choir practice (at church of course), to dinner every lemon and rice soup night at Market Square, the fish fry on Fridays at the legion hall, and just about anywhere they were going I was going too!

My Grandpa was Santa for my preschool, he took me to Daddy-daughter dances. He would sit with me outside every night and teach me how to think for myself and ask questions while showing me the stars. He and I had dessert every night – ice cream with Hershey chocolate sauce that I would stir to soup and feed to Tootsie, my Grandma's overweight basset hound. And he was the 40-year veteran volunteer firefighter that everyone knew in town, and I revered him much like a celebrity. My Grandpa spoiled me, which meant my Grandma had to be the adult. Indeed she was not my favorite growing up… she spanked me!

As I grew older and definitely once my Grandpa passed, my Grandma and I became very close. She lived with me this time rather than I with her. Her memory was fading, and I could feel the ache in her heart after my Grandpa passed. She would kiss my brother's good night and say, "see you in the morning, God Willing." Maybe that is a normal thing to say, but I always suspected a part of her wished God wouldn't be willing. I would sit in my Grandma's room. She would tell me stories about her childhood. I became fascinated with our family history, and I didn't mind hearing the same story twice. Her life was so different than mine - like out of an old movie. I was in high school during this time, and I am so grateful to have had her in my life then.

Women of all ages, not just high school, tend to be mean to other women of all ages. I suffered greatly with this, but my Grandma was a female that I had to love and support me unconditionally. She was ALWAYS kind, and I didn't get it for a long time, but now I do. And now I am more grateful than ever, raising three little girls, to have had that kind of love to pass on.

When I took my most recent job, I remember crying in my second phone interview because I recounted a story about my Grandma. She had gone out driving to the grocery store to get her medication and managed to get lost. It took her a very long time to get home. She was scared and refused to stop anywhere and ended up alleviating herself in the car. I had a friend over when she pulled in the driveway, and I didn't know what happened. She was so embarrassed she started to cry. I wish I could have conveyed to her then, how much it didn't matter, she made it home safe.

I told this story because I was being asked about my passion and commitment to seniors because my role was to help seniors gain access to care; I worked with them all day long, and 90% I saw my grandparents in each person I worked withs eyes. And now you might understand why I really loved the work I did, and why I struggled so hard deciding what path to take.

The first time I met with a senior, I sat down and began asking her standard questions, age, birthdate, etc. She tells me her birthdate, and my heart jumped. She shared a birthday with my oldest daughter, who happened to be born on the exact same day as my Grandma.

Penelope is an oops! baby that was due early February, though I'll admit it felt like less of an oops when I realized the month. I always new I wanted to be a mother, I just hadn't planned on it happening when it did. I planned a scheduled c-section with reluctance 10 days after my due date, my Grandma's birthday. I really wanted her to naturally come on that day. I thought, "what a SIGN that would be!!!". I would tamper with the dates to try and get her due date closer to my Grandmas's birthday on the App I was using. But no matter what I did, it felt hopeless. The day before our scheduled induction, I made the bed, and I felt something happened, but my water didn't break. I had terrible pain and called the doctor. They called me in early for a checkup and sent me to labor and delivery. Still feeling hopeless because I was now 12 hours away from the next day, I thought for sure Penelope would come a day too early! But 23 hours later, my daughter naturally came into this world on the same day my Grandma had.

Moving to Montrose was very scary. Ryan and I brought our girls to a small town without any family to pursue our passion. Like becoming a mother for the first time, I was scared. So when I met with my first senior, and she told me her birthday, I accepted that it was my sign, everything was going to be OK.

When I made the decision to leave my job, it wasn't easy. I was confused, uncertain, and scared – still am FYI. But I knew. I knew because when the decision was made, I was on the phone with, who would be my last senior, and this time it was a gentleman. I asked the same questions as my first senior, and he tells me his birthday. This time I about started crying. He shared a birthday with my second daughter Madeline, who happened to be born on the exact same day as my Grandpa.

Madeline was my most wanted baby. I don't love her more; I love them differently but equally and with my whole heart. You see, after Penelope, Ryan and I wanted another baby so badly, and we wanted them back to back. Ryan has some phobia about being an old parent and not keeping up with the kids. Anyway, we found out a few months after Penelope we were once again pregnant.

I remember now, coming home from cross-fit, this weird pinch in my stomach… We went to the doctor pretty lackadaisically because we had just been through all this before. We assumed we were young and healthy baby-makers, so no need to be concerned. But when we got to the initial ultrasound, something wasn't right. There was a yolk but nothing inside of it. That is the first time we heard the word "miscarriage." We took a few days to think about our options, and I decided to let things happen naturally. My body got so sick, and we all thought, us and the doctors, things were happening fine on their own. A few weeks later, I basically went through everything a second time. I was terrified and confused.

Thankfully I worked right across the street from a hospital. And that was when and where we were told it was an incomplete miscarriage, and we would need to do the steps we/I were trying to avoid taking. Several weeks later, all was done. Our doctor advised it would take several tries before getting pregnant again but that he felt we would not have a problem. Now you see where the special yearn for another baby came from, and that baby happened to be Madeline.

I remember seeing that thin blue line and thought NO WAY! It was mine and Ryan's first try after our miscarriage. I felt this rush of happiness, reluctance to believe, and fear that I had a broken body that would lose another baby. When I came home from work that day, I threw the pregnancy test at Ryan in tears. I bought him a bottle of Champagne, but he wasn't excited. Awareness hit me hard right then. I had not been aware of how impacted Ryan was by this. I selfishly thought he was just along for my ride. But in fact, Ryan was all the things I was, and it was hard for him to believe and smile. We waited to make our first appointment until we knew what the ultrasound photos should generally look like. When we miscarried, we had to come back two weeks after the suspected miscarry to "be certain." Two weeks of agony, NO THANKS! So, we patiently waited until we knew I was beyond the questionable phase.

There we were sitting in the doctor's office, and the ultrasound technician was out sick. I thought, "you have got to be kidding me!!! NOOOO". Ryan and I had a special relationship with our OBGY and his assistant. They delivered Penelope and were with us through all the bad stuff. Dr. Levy was an old man, and I made him promise not to retire until I was done having kids! Dr. Levy understood how devastating it was that we would have to wait to know if we were pregnant. So, in came his assistant Amy, with what looked like a time machine. It was, however, an ultrasound machine from who knows when? The four of us sat there in the dark. Simultaneously, Dr. Levy attempted to get the machine working, advising that if it didn't work out the way we wanted, it didn't mean anything and not to panic. The thump of Madeline's heartbeat came in strong and clear, picture not so much, but we could see her…. EVERYONE started crying!

I hadn't even taken a moment to calculate a due date because I was too afraid to go there. When it was time for that, I was told my daughter was due on my Grandpas birthday. So, when my last senior at work shared his birthday with me, yes, I started to cry.

That was it, I knew and know that I am making the right decision for my life and my grandparents are right here making sure I know I am not alone and never will be. They have shown up for the scariest parts of my life subtly and not so subtly ☺️. I could say it was all I needed to know I am on the right path. However, there is still a hefty amount of personal effort that needs to happen. I, of course, question myself and my abilities.

The day before my last day, my very first senior called me. By now, I just felt like throwing up and also checking for my pulse to see if I was actually alive and living this. It is unusual for seniors to call once they work with me. I am step one of an initial process, and my work doesn't come back to me once it's done, but she fell upon my business card and needed to call someone, and it just so happened to be me. We laughed for about 20 minutes talking on the phone, I told her everything that was going on and how serendipitous it was for her to call. She wished me well, and well, here we are.

I am officially a Gerken's Organics Farm full-time employee – more than full time actually! It is a lot of work starting a business of which we think will be a nonprofit but more on that next week!

Be Kind. Be Positive.


To be fair to my youngest daughter, who shares the same God Mother with my other two daughters, Aunty Megan. Well, Violette came into the world on her birthday. She is an exceptional person and will be getting her own feature in the blogs to come ♥︎.

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