Celebrate–and Be Flexible

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One day last week I showed you this crowded mother-in-law apartment where we operated our business after moving to Gainesboro in 2004. Notice the boxes in the lower right corner. The boxes are labeled America the Beautiful. Those boxes are at the left edge of a space about six feet by six feet that served as our “warehouse.”

After years of binding our books, we began having them printed in paperback form at H & H Graphics in Pennsylvania. How fun it was to visit them when we traveled to Harrisburg to attend the Christian Homeschool Association of Pennsylvania (CHAP) homeschool conference and see stacks of our curriculum in process.

In 2010 we published America the Beautiful in paperback. For the first time, H and H Graphics used a technology where they could insert a few selected pages in color. It was exciting. The printers were so excited about our books that they included the cover of America the Beautiful in their own trade show backdrop.

Our first printing run for that curriculum was for 400 books. Not long after the first books arrived, our daughter Bethany called to tell me something she had seen while looking through it. She warned me: “Mom, you can’t get upset. You have to laugh. You said that Woodrow Wilson won the Noble Peach Prize.” Sure enough, there it was in print. Since then I have held on to one of those books from the first printing. I call it the Noble Peach Edition. That year at Christmas Bethany and her husband gave me this Noble Peach Prize.

And, by the way, I know I didn’t write Noble Peach Prize. My guess is that a spell check on the curriculum before it went to the printer was the source of the problem. Transpose two letters in Nobel and change one in Peace and you end up with a noble peach! I’m just glad Bethany found it before we printed any more.

In 2011 we began to have America the Beautiful printed in hardback and full color at Jostens Printing Company in Clarksville, Tennessee. It was our first hardback. Again we were excited. As you can see, by that time we had expanded the office into one of the rooms in our house, the room adjacent to the mother-in-law apartment.

As we wondered where else we could find space, I remember someone suggesting that we use some of our bedrooms. We decided instead—to my great relief—to build a small warehouse across the driveway. In late 2011, our detached garage began to come down in preparation for a new 1,800-square-foot warehouse space which should be “all the space we would ever need”—we thought. Boy, was that a miscalculation, but an understandable one. We had no idea how God would grow what we were then still calling The Notgrass Company.

It was exciting soon to see cement trucks coming down our rural road . . .

. . .  and walls start to go up.

That December we celebrated with an incorporation party in our dining room . . .

. . . while construction continued across the driveway . . .

. . . and the need for the new space mounted. See Mary Evelyn surrounded by boxes.

By January 2012, we were making progress.

I think that this was the first delivery into the new warehouse.

Our son-in-law and warehouse manager Nate was relieved to have our first pallet jack and glad that there would be no more packing a pallet for a wholesale order in the driveway, wrapping it with shrink wrap, and hoping it didn’t rain overnight.

Storing books in the new warehouse was great.

When God sends rainbows our way, they almost always frame the warehouse and our barn to its right.

We continued to work out of the mother-in-law apartment on the house side of the driveway . . .

. . . while Nate and Ethan, our first non-family team member, worked to finish the portion of the warehouse where they would pack orders.

That fall of 2012, it was great to see another set of hardback textbooks, Uncle Sam and You, head to the post office, . . .

. . . and it was a happy day when we could start shipping out of the new shipping space.

We had lots of good times in that shipping space, including the year that Ethan’s wife Isabel crocheted beards for Ethan and Ian to celebrate Christmas in July.

As I’ve written before, my parents taught us how to persevere, to work hard, and to have fun. One thing Ray and I have tried to remember along our way is also to celebrate! It was such a sweet surprise that July when Ethan and Isabel surprised us with Santa beards and a Christmas tree. What good sports those young guys were to wear those beards—in July!

Celebrating takes creativity—and flexibility! That flexibility can be tough sometimes. For example, we had big plans for June and July this year, including celebrating Ray’s 70th birthday. Three times in those two months, sickness of various folks got in the way of plans that were very special, so we’ve been celebrating in numerous smaller ways. Just this past Thursday, we celebrated Ray’s birthday with Bethany and her family. It was a wonderful day with planned delights and delightful unplanned surprises.

Flexibility is essential for successful homeschooling and successful family life, and it is an essential trait to teach and demonstrate to our children.

Come now, you who say,
“Today or tomorrow
we will go to such and such a city,
and spend a year there
and engage in business and make a profit.”
Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow.
For you are just a vapor that appears for a little while,
and then vanishes away. 
Instead, you ought to say,
“If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.”
James 4:13-15


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  1. Love hearing and seeing all you have been through to get where you are..love the family books by ray, Mary Evelyn Katy,and johns ….these really help us get to know you all. And I love your teaching books…thank you all for encouraging me to step out on faith and homeschooling like God wanted me to…its not always easy but being a parent/caregiver is not easy either. With always wondering if you taught all you should have, and seeing mistakes when they’re grown. Thank God for you all helping make it a little easier to teach…love you all and prayers always as your business grows…it’s easy to see God is first with you all…that’s what works…

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