Abuse, Animals, Appreciation, Art, Christianity, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Creativity, Exhaustion, Faith, Family, gardening, Healing, Herbs, Homesteading, Religion, Self-esteem, Self-improvement, Sleep Deprivation, Writing

Ups and Downs

“Lord, grant us peace; for all we have and are has come from you.” (Isaiah 26:12)

The last 10 years have been a struggle…on so many levels. Financially it has been a never-ending roller coaster with lots of part-time, seasonal, and temporary job positions. And the one full-time position, while great for me on some levels, proved insufficient regarding my time. It wasn’t a lack of management on my part but a simple lack of that time. I left home at 7:30 a.m. and arrived home between 6:15 and 7:00 p.m. Once home, there was/is the farm to care for, homework to keep up with for college, and a property that perpetually looks like tobacco road owing to the lack of time to care for it. It’s pulled me down. And now, I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed but also hopeful that I can “catch up” little by little as I have only these two hands with which to do that catching up.

Emotionally, it’s also been a roller coaster. The loss of many pets; the precarious financial situation that has me perpetually in fight-or-flight mode; adjusting to having Mom living with me after my stepfather’s passing. It’s been the eternal introvert having to adapt to new places and situations on an almost regular basis. I just start to get comfortable somewhere and things change again…and not always for the better. Anxiety and depression have become a way of life. Shame and fear, too.

On a physical level, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome has kicked into overdrive. Loss of sleep owing to some crazy work schedules; the stress of being unable to pay all of your bills on time…or sometimes, at all; constantly feeling like I’m getting clubbed at the knees whenever I start to feel some hope. All of this triggers the CFS, the feeling like life is completely out of control. I’ve even found myself reduced to all of the little nervous ticks and habits that I thought long gone–habits that an abused little girl adopted because the pressure was too much for her. I guess it is again. So I whistle…not the usual kind or way. I have this stupid human “trick” where I can somehow constrict my vocal chords, open my mouth and a rather loud and audible whistle, or buzz, comes from the back of my throat. I usually wind up with a sore throat afterwards but I did this often as a child when my stepfather’s drinking made me nervous. I twitch and blink too hard, too fast. And I crave sleep. A lot. Over the last several years I’ve been in the hospital for heat exhaustion (last summer); had a bad reaction to a tetanus shot that sent me to the ER with a raging fever of 105 degrees, and this past winter, a fractured arm that still hasn’t quite gotten back its full range of motion.

Talk about setbacks!

But, while all of this may sound so wholly depressing even to read, the up notes are, despite everything I just typed, I’ve met some wonderful people over the last several years. I’ve made new friends, reconnected with old ones via social media, learned some new, neat and unique skills working in living history, and new pets have come into my life. I’ve tried my hand at beekeeping…and will again soon! I’ve discovered a love of painting and rekindled the interest in my first novel. I will soon have a degree in creative writing. My herb garden at home has come a long way towards being wholly landscaped; it’s only a matter of time before I can start selling plants, dried herbs, and teach classes on them as well. And I have a warm and loving church community that has been an inspiration to me over the years. I also have my Mom living with me again and get to spend a lot of quality time with her…when so many of my friends have lost theirs. These are reasons for rejoicing.

In short, it’s all a matter of perspective. What am I focusing on? What am I giving the most attention to? Whatever the answer, I’m either going to be more up, or more down. Because whatever I focus on, intensifies with that focus. And I’m choosing to focus on the One who has given me both the joy and the valuable lessons learned over the last 10 years. The biggest one is learning to live again by trusting in Him. And that’s the best lesson of all.

May God bless you & keep you!

Appreciation, Christianity, Environment, gardening, Gratitude, Greenhouse, Herbs, Homesteading, Potted Plants, Spices

And the Window Opens…

“And I will bring my people Israel back from exile. They will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them. They will plant vineyards and drink their wine; they will make gardens and eat their fruit” (Amos 9:14).

I feel like He’s grooming me for something. I know that sounds rather big-headed but I feel like there’s something happening in my life, this shift taking place. Things are falling into place. Skills needed now have a teacher for learning them. I feel awed. And I’m trying not to give in to the voice of fear that typically looks at changes and shifts and The Unknown and wants to run screaming into the hills. If nothing else, I’m finally allowing myself to trust Him.

The previous blog talked about how Mom and I did some pleasure shopping this past weekend. For everyone who has been following this blog, such a statement must sound a bit strange. There’s been repeated “Go Fund Me” links in my blog, on my Facebook and Linked In pages. From January until May of this year, we have pretty much been living off of savings, the much-needed help from local food pantries and the kindness and generosity of family and friends. Truth be told, the Go Fund Me campaign is still on. Though I am back to work, we are not out of the woods yet. There’s a mountain of medical bills piled up owing to my medical insurance giving me a hard time about paying them. It appears that only one doctor in this group of orthopedics is in their network but not his colleague in the same office (how is that possible???) But that’s neither here nor there. Saturday’s shopping was actually a carefully budgeted investment in the homestead…and a small celebration over being back at work.

And, as blogged about earlier, work is no longer living history. I’ve gone from overseeing an extensive collection of rare and heirloom herbs to potting an extensive collection of rare and exotic plants. I am now working in a greenhouse. And here is where some new skills are being learned, skills that will further my effectiveness as a homesteader. While I’m merely potting and transplanting seedlings into larger pots for sale, I’m also working alongside propagators, learning the ins and outs of how to grow plants from the ground up. I’m learning about different soil types and the different needs for each plants. We grow herbs, too. While it may not be quite as glamorous as the last job–no historical facts to learn, no acting required–it is proving to be oddly satisfying. Somehow, just sticking another tag into the soil on a flat of perennials feels like the greatest of accomplishments. In short, I find I really like what I’m doing. And I seem to be pretty good at it (albeit, I was a good interpreter, too!).

I don’t think it’s any secret that I’d love to have an aquaponics’ system here on the homestead “someday” and, barring that, I would love to at least have a greenhouse where I could grow some spices, like cardamom and turmeric, that like warmer climates. I don’t know the first thing about greenhouses and caring for plants in such an environment. Yet He’s provided the perfect opportunity to learn more. We don’t have an aquaponics’ system at my job but we do have the heat-loving spices. It’s a start. And it’s a fine source for the plants themselves once I get to that place where a greenhouse is feasible…or I just decide that a few potted plants will suffice for my own personal needs.

Now if I can only figure out how to keep the dirt out from under my nails…lol!

May God bless you & keep you!

19th century, Abuse, Animals, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Enlightenment, Exhaustion, Family, gardening, Healing, Herbs, Holidays, illness, Sleep Deprivation, Spinning, Straw Braiding, Weaving, Writing, Yoga & Fitness

“Elvis” Has Left Living History…Almost

“The Lord is close to those whose hearts are breaking; He rescues those who are humbly sorry for their sins. The good man does not escape troubles–he has them, too. But the Lord helps him in each and every one. God even protects him from accidents.” (Psalm 34:18-20)

Okay, so maybe not Elvis but The Herbal Hare. And “almost” because, while I tendered my resignation to the museum I had been employed with two weeks’ ago, I have every hope to return as a volunteer before the season is out; I’m not sure my heart could take a permanent separation from my beloved herb garden there…or the many friends I’ve made who, in many ways, have grown to feel like family. But, for now, though the doc has cleared me for work without any restrictions, I have also been cautioned to take it slow as I strive to get back to my usual level of activity.

So, why did I tender my resignation? I mean, there have been a host of glowing blog posts extolling its virtues; I loved what I did there.

Well, the deciding factor for me was the receipt of a letter from them saying they would not be able to hold my position open any longer, which I totally understand. They need my physical presence there. And that has not been something I’ve been able to provide since January’s spill on the ice. However, I had been coming to this decision on my own for various reasons. The main one being the overwhelming stress of a 2 hour commute everyday.

I’m usually a reliable worker. Past employers would tell you that I rarely miss time from work. The one exception would be back in 2002 when I injured this same arm in a car accident; there was a lengthy convalesce then, too. But I’ve missed a lot of time with the museum. 2002’s accident was during a snowstorm; I HATE driving in snow and will avoid it at any turn. And the back country roads from The Herbal Hare Homestead to the museum are not always well plowed. Add to this, the extremely early mornings coupled with late nights because, in order to get the farm fed, watered and out of the barn for the day, I had to be up by 4:30 the latest and lucky the evening I could get to bed by 10, it is safe to say I’d racked up a deficit on sleep. On slow days, I’d catch myself nodding over my knitting…and being startled by the sudden arrival of an errant visitor.

My homework assignments (I am also a middle-aged college student; due to graduate October 2020) are always due Sunday nights. Thankfully, Mondays and Tuesdays were usually my days’ off but I’d start them so exhausted from staying up–often past midnight–to complete those assignments, that I’d be a near vegetable, dozing in the easy chair while watching YouTube videos and never getting anything done. The farm, the gardens here, all started to look a bit shabby and neglected. Even the animals, who are like children to me, received only the most basic of care: food, water, mucking out/cleaning of their areas and, maybe, if I wasn’t literally running through feeding time, a scratch or two on the head. I’m still playing “catch up” on some of the bigger chores that have been neglected these past 18 months. And, for those who have been following this blog since its inception, I’ve certainly blogged about rising at 3:30 a.m. to write. That also went by the wayside. I still got up early but there was no time to write, seldom time to hit the yoga mat and, by the time I returned home in the evening, no time for either then. I was ripe for catching every malady that crossed my public path…and I did.

All of this leads to feeling beaten down, depressed, anxious. Overwhelmed. And I’ve definitely blogged about that, too.

The last few months of convalescing with this injury forced me to get the rest I was so desperately in need of. And with that rest came the realization that I was, in essence, eating, sleeping and breathing the museum…even if I was often physically absent. I was an empty shell. The things that make me, well, me kept getting put on a back burner: writing, homesteading, my animals, drawing, painting, yoga. I seldom saw my friends or family. And there was a tremendous guilt growing because Mom was also missing time with family as I am her only means of transportation and we are open most holidays.

Before I continue, this is not an assault on the museum where I worked. This is more a recounting of a lesson hard learned. While I love the museum, love spinning yarn, weaving cloth, planting, weeding, and cultivating in the herb garden, cooking and baking on the hearth, and braiding straw, I also love doing these things at home. (Okay, I don’t have a hearth (I did look into it; $40K was the quote…probably won’t have one anytime soon…(chuckle)) or a loom; the latter is coming in some indeterminate point in the future). And none of it has any meaning, here or there, if you cannot share time with those closest to your heart. By spreading myself out so thin, and depriving myself even of necessary sleep, I short-changed the museum. They never saw the best that I could be. And I short-changed my pets, my family, my friends…even myself.

Mom and I went to Easter dinner this year. It felt so good to be with family again, to share a meal and some laughs…and I wasn’t nodding at the table this time, as I had been at Christmas (one of two holidays that I didn’t work). In the last few days, we’ve done a bit of shopping–not the necessary kind like groceries (though we’ve done some of that, too) but fun stuff. We went to Hart’s Greenhouse and purchased flowers and herbs. We bought mulch for the garden walkways. There’s even a new wind chime. I’ve missed that…which has been more of an eye opener at how much such a little thing can mean to one’s well being.

Of course, I knew all of this. I knew how long my commute would be. I thought I could handle it. As the museum closes at 5, I thought I could get everyone–goats, chickens, ducks, rabbits and cats–settled for the evening, complete some homework, etc. by 8:30 so I could continue getting up at 3:30 and write this blog, write some scenes for my book, do some yoga, care for the animals, squeeze a little weeding in before (or after) work and still get to work on time and be on top of my game there. (Yeah, phew!)

Nobody can sustain that level of activity for long, especially with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome…and on some nights, with only 4 hours of sleep (and don’t ask me about the mornings after an evening program…lol!).

This convalesce has been an eye opener as to how greatly I miscalculated. Sadly, in miscalculating so greatly, I let the farm down, I let my family and friends down, I let the museum and my co-workers down, and, most importantly, I let myself down.

Lesson learned.

May God bless you & keep you!