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Stay tuned…

…our regularly scheduled program will be back as soon as I’ve finished my final exam this week! =)

Stay safe, stay healthy…May God bless you & keep you!

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Racism in America and Demonizing Poverty

“Anyone who oppresses the poor is insulting God who made them. To help the poor is to honor God.” (Proverbs 14:31)

Kudos! to Tulsi Gabbard and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for introducing legislation that would put money into the hands of the American people during this pandemic that has our economy floundering, at best. And, in these very frightening and trying times, I’m going to surprise a lot of Democrat friends by giving President Trump some credit. He is running with it, trying to get money into the hands of the American people who are struggling right now. He even went so far as to reach out to former Democratic candidate, Andrew Yang, to learn more about Yang’s signature platform, Universal Basic Income, or as Yang called it, The Freedom Dividend.

Now, before my Democratic friends think I’ve turned coat, or lost my marbles, no, one good deed does not override countless bad ones. He’s still calling it the “Chinese” virus and, sadly, many Asian Americans have been physically attacked because of it. CNN reports on it here: https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/20/us/coronavirus-racist-attacks-against-asian-americans/index.html. (And before all the accusations of “fake” news circulate, I also have an Asian acquaintance who has experienced this herself first hand) Racism wears many faces and fear-mongering blows it out of the ballpark. We are all in this together. And many of our Asian neighbors have, or will, contract Covid-19 the same as Caucasians, Native Americans/Alaskans, Latinos, Hispanics, African Americans, LGBTQ, Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Wiccan, athiest, etc. In short, while we may still be spouting racist dialogue here in America, Covid-19 does not discriminate. If you are calling this the Chinese virus and are reading this, please STOP…NOW! Our fellow Americans are not the cause of this virus. The first case may have been diagnosed in China; it does not make every Asian in the world responsible for a whole pandemic.

I am sensible enough to know that President Trump’s main motivation may simply be to gain approval from everyone and garner some more votes in November. However, it’s the right thing to do. And it doesn’t really matter how he got to this point. He simply did. Whether you agree with me or not, nobody is all bad. We each have dark and light moving for dominance in us at all times. It’s the choices we make that define us. And, again, most of the choices President Trump has made thus far have been bad ones…very bad. But that’s not the point of this post. I am giving kudos! to President Trump for reaching across the proverbial aisle, for putting partisan interests aside and being willing to work with others to help this country.

Sadly, I can’t say the same for members of Congress, on both sides of the political aisle, who want to drag their asses about passing said legislature to test means and decide who should be eligible. While I agree someone making 6 figures per year probably doesn’t need an extra $1000 a month to weather this pandemic, there’s also been some talk on various news’ programs that some of the discussion/hold up is to decide if people making less than $25K a year should receive assistance??!!?

The rationale behind this cruelty is that those in extreme poverty aren’t contributing enough to society under normal circumstances. They’re people who don’t want to work. They’re lazy; why should they benefit? All of the many EXCUSES that so many in our society dream up to justify cold-hearted cruelty to our fellow man.

First of all, the media lies. Our president does, too. Our economy is NOT booming…nor was it before Covid-19 reared its ugly head. GDP and Unemployment Insurance (UI) numbers do not reflect the true state of our economic affairs. Lower UI numbers simply mean less people are collecting UI benefits.

Period.

Are they truly back to work? Or did they simply exhaust those benefits without actually finding employment? Did they give up and simply not file another claim, having become despondent and depressed owing to the true state of our current job market?

I can relate. I’ve been in this job market. And it’s not pretty. The majority of the jobs out there are part-time, seasonal, temporary and/or minimum wage. The full-time, decent-paying positions are few and far between…and usually go to younger workers, i.e. under 50. A lot of industries are disappearing, too. Those of us with a career history in administration and tech support are no longer needed. Those jobs, thanks to modern technology, went overseas where companies can save on the cost of wages and medical benefits. The same is true for customer service. Automation is stealing retail positions, cashiers–how many of you have gone through self-checkout at the local grocery or department store?

Minimum wage in Connecticut recently went up to $11.00 an hour; it is expected to rise again to $13.00 in September. If you’re fortunate enough to be earning considerably more than this per hour, think about how much you might be struggling at $11.00 based upon your current monthly expenses. I know I’m being redundant from an earlier post, but let’s do the math again. $11.00 X 40 hours per week (if you’re lucky) = $440.00 before taxes, etc. are removed. If you’re full-time, you’re also fortunate enough to receive medical insurance through your company. So, to make this easy, let’s say you’re taking home $330.00 a week. It might be more, it might be less, but you get the idea. That comes to $1320.00 per month and, in Connecticut at least, the average rental is around $1000 per month. Again, it might be more, it might be less but, unless Auntie Mimi is renting you the in-law apartment she has dirt-cheap, there’s probably not much left over once the rent is paid. Or mortgage, depending upon your situation. Some of us once had better paying positions that made us eligible to purchase our own home…positions that The Great Recession took away.

I did this redundant exercise to prove a point: there are many, many Americans earning less than $25K per year, who will not receive a stimulus, if those Congressional “leaders” have their way. They are not earning less than $25K because they don’t want to work. They are earning less than $25K because the work isn’t there. Or, at the very least, the wages. They are earning less than $25K because our country has NOT fully recovered from The Great Recession of 2008. It is all too easy to envision, not another recession, but a depression that makes The Great Depression of the 1930’s look like a walk in the park.

This is a pandemic, folks. This is human life we’re talking about here. And an economy that needs sustaining while businesses shutdown to help preserve our lives. People, regardless of their income, need fresh food, clean water, medicine, etc to weather this medical storm. They need to pay their bills. They need to keep the roof overhead. It shouldn’t be conditional based upon the impaired vision of those who continue to look down their nose at those less fortunate than they.

Yes, looking down the nose.

We have such a stigma against poverty. Our society is guilty, even during a pandemic, of judging others based upon how much they earn. So many never stop to consider why that person may not earn that much.

America is supposed to be the land of opportunity. Yes, we have awesome colleges. Ditto for trade schools. Yet, sadly, many high school students are often dissuaded against going to a trade school rather than university. I guess the idea of getting your hands dirty is equated the same as poverty: it’s somehow beneath us. However, even in economic strife, we may still need the brakes fixed on our cars, or the furnace tinkered with to make sure we have heat this winter. These positions often start at $20.00 per hour, sometimes more. Had we encouraged that high school student to pursue a career as a tradesman, maybe they wouldn’t be hurting so bad in a tough economy. Not everyone is cut out to be a doctor or a lawyer…or even a school teacher.

There’s also a lot behind poverty that has everything to do with extenuating circumstances rather than personal ambition (or the perceived lack thereof). I once received a video in an email…and I wish I knew who filmed it so I could give credit where it’s due…that placed a couple of dozen young people in a line. It was supposed to be like a starting line to a race. The young people came from all walks of life, varying socio-economic backgrounds, male and female, African American, Asian, etc. At this “starting line”, if all things remained equal, they would each have a good chance of winning that race. However, the person hosting this short film asked every person in that line, if any of them came from families where their parents had divorced, to take a step back. The ladies were also asked to take a step back. They went on to ask every non-Caucasian person to take a step back. Every family who had been affected by alcoholism, drug abuse, suicide, physical, mental, and/or sexual abuse, etc. You get the picture. And, suddenly, that starting line was pretty uneven.

Many of us are like that. Though my western European ancestors won out in the gene pool, I can claim Native American heritage. That’s a step back. I am female. I could take a step back for alcoholism, mental and sexual abuse, divorce, suicide (aunt; father attempted a few times). We were low-income. I spent a number of years living in the inner-city (Yes, neighborhood/community was one of the steps back, too).

None of these factors were the fault of these young people. Yet we point the fingers and judge others for making what we, in our biased and narrow visions, consider poor “choices”.

If you grew up being told how stupid you were, do you think you’d think highly enough about yourself to shoot for a full scholarship to a university? If you were laughed at and bullied (another step back) in school, are you going to extend yourself and risk further ridicule? Not everyone rises to the occasion in an expression of defiance against the box they’ve been initially placed in. Or, if you were perpetually put down at home, abused in some way, etc. would you have that sense of self-worth that keeps you from entering into another abusive relationship? Oftentimes, when you’ve grown up with abuse, another abuser is what I call a comfortable-familiar. You have instant rapport because they’re just like the parent/sibling, etc who abused you and that gives you a false sense of security that the abuser will feed on perpetually to keep you with them.

In truth, if you’re poor in America, our society is going to continue to abuse you. This debate about whether or not extremely low-income families should receive this stimulus is proof of that.

I don’t remember the video talking about physical or mental limitations but it’s been awhile. We could also ask those who are blind, deaf, in a wheelchair, stricken with asthma or diabetes, etc. to take a step back. If you sustained an injury somewhere along life’s course, or have developed an autoimmune disease, if you’re older and have developed one or more of those conditions that come with age (macular degeneration, arthritis, etc.), you can probably take a step back, too. Because a stimulus that refuses to help those below a certain economic level will look at your SSI check and find you wanting.

And what about the value of that stay-at-home parent or caregiver? Or the person who chose life and has grown a rather large family? Apparently, you’re not worthy of a stimulus either.

And that’s just wrong…on every level imaginable.

In the hour or so it has taken me to write this, things may have changed. More compassionate hearts may have prevailed and, maybe, just maybe, even low-income families will receive the help they need to survive while we all stay quarantined in our homes to prevent the spread of this Covid-19.

I hope so. I hope that in this unprecedented pandemic reaction that families do not have to further compromise their immunity by stressing over how they’re going to pay the rent, or mortgage. I hope that families will not have to choose between food and medicine, but be able to choose both. In short, I hope that lawmakers, and those who have more, will make a good choice this time: a choice to save lives everywhere…rather than continue the abuse against those less fortunate. I hope, instead of looking down the narrow curve of one’s nose, we look the face of poverty straight in the eye, place a bowl of homemade soup in front of it, a warm, cozy quilt about the shoulders, and say, I believe in you. You are worthy of His love…and mine. You are worthy of consideration. Now let’s finish this race together.

May God bless you & keep you!

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It’s Definitely NOT Like the Movies

“A man that strays from home is like a bird that wanders from its nest.” (Proverbs 27:8)

In my last post, I mentioned how seasonal allergies had left me feeling blehck! Well, over the last couple of days, seasonal allergies morphed into a little something more than just feeling blehck!. Tuesday evening post-nasal drip, headache and plugged ears added fever and chills to the mix. No, I don’t have coronovirus (don’t get me started on that one!). However, I do have some kind of virus. I went to bed early Tuesday evening, around 9 p.m., and slept through until 8 a.m with only one bathroom break around 2 a.m. I got up, took care of the farm, sank exhaustedly into the easy chair in the living room afterwards, and dozed some more. Needless to say, when I went back to bed Wednesday evening, I became the insomniac. And I did exactly what sleep experts say you shouldn’t do:

I picked up my cellphone and web surfed (blue light is supposed to trick your brain into thinking it’s daytime and actually wakes you up, making it harder to fall asleep).

I was good. I stayed away from Facebook, one of my Lenten vows. Instead, I opted to do some genealogical searching. In times’ past, I’ve typed in the names of grandparents and great-grandparents and found some pretty cool stuff. Like, I always knew my maternal grandfather was one of 18 children (yes, 18…) but I never knew all of their names. I once found a census record that listed the names of all my great-aunts and uncles. I found a great-aunt Doris (now one of three great-aunt Dorises) who died in infancy. I knew my maternal grandfather had a sister named Viola (I also knew her; she died when I was in my early-20’s), but there had also been a Violet who died when she was just a little girl. In fact, later scrolling had led to a confusion of these two great-aunties, though two very separate dates of birth existed. Another time, I googled my paternal grandfather’s father’s name and found this really cool article on The Outlet Co. in Providence, Rhode Island that talked about Mortimer Burbank’s history with their radio station…and the elephants he arranged for a parade through the streets of Providence. My great-grandfather eventually became owner of The Outlet Co., which in turn, passed to my grandfather. Before his passing, my Poppop (my nickname for my grandfather) liquidated everything to put into a trust for my Aunt Marjorie, who was a lot like Dustin Hoffman’s character in the movie, Rainman. It served her well until her passing several years’ ago.

I’m not sure what made me google my father’s name Wednesday evening but I did.

His obituary came up. He died a year ago, March 6, 2019.

Now, before everyone starts scratching their head in confusion, I have not seen my father since my paternal grandmother’s passing in 1976. He pretty much severed all contact with his family after her passing, except for a brief visit to his sister, my Aunt Nancy, down in Mississippi that ended with that tie also severed shortly thereafter.

Anyway, Wednesday evening, after more searching to ascertain that this obituary really was my father’s, and not another man by the same name, I called his one surviving sister, my Aunt Sandy, to tell her the news. Like so many other times, I wished we lived closer. I wanted to reach out and give her a big hug. Words can be awkward things at times like these. We expressed regret that every attempt at reconciliation had been rebuffed over the years. And acknowledged that what were the chances of finding out about his passing in such a way. Then we moved on to other topics (my new job as librarian; my cousin’s successful kidney transplant–praise the Lord!) before circling back to the original intent of the call.

Again, I really wanted to hug my aunt.

I’ve been grappling with telling this story ever since.

My father was a late child for my grandparents. He was the youngest of 5 children and the only boy. He was also 10 years’ younger than the youngest of the girls–my Aunt Sandy–and, by everyone’s admission, terribly spoiled. My grandfather, sadly, was already an alcoholic by the time he was born and didn’t have a lot of time for my father. My grandmother overcompensated by often giving my father what he wanted. And, of course, he had 4 older sisters doting on him.

He was also an extraordinary guitarist.

I don’t consider my own playing ability “extraordinary” but I get my love of music from him. One of the few childhood memories I have of my father was creeping into his room to listen and watch him play. A few times he put the guitar in my hand and tried to teach me. The first time, I was still too small and my arms wouldn’t even go all the way around the guitar. Later, tender, young fingers protested the necessary pressure needed on the strings to make a clear, ringing sound (Ouch!). Such quality father-daughter moments were few and far between however.

My parents were wed in August of 1966; I was born in November of the same year. My mother had been in an accident as a young girl. She had been riding in the back of a pick-up truck when it collided with another vehicle. She flew. The doctors said she’d never have children (she should’ve sued). Doubtless, she told my father this, and so, he was unprepared when he found out that she was carrying me. From Mom, from both paternal and maternal aunts and uncles, he turned abusive, obviously resenting this forced responsibility (in those days, folks didn’t have a couple of kids and then get married…). In his defense, he may have felt “trapped”. But it does not excuse the many horror stories I have heard throughout the years of my mother being knocked down flights of stairs, having her stomach burned with a Zippo lighter, etc. all with the intent of forcing a miscarriage.

Before I go further, if my Aunt Sandy, or any other family member is reading this, I don’t write these things to hurt, or embarrass, anyone. And I apologize here and now, with a full heart, for any pain that reading this causes. It’s just that the hurt from someone does not stop with the grave and I need to acknowledge it to let it finally go. And, I promise, there are also some good memories and anecdotes as well. Nobody is all good or all bad; we each have a little of both in us.

I don’t remember my father living in the same house with me at all. He and my mother legally separated 4 months’ after I was born, though their divorce would not be final until 1974. There were a few attempts at reconciliation but they never took. I saw my father in passing on the weekends I spent at my paternal grandparents’ house, which were loving, magical times because of the love I received from them, my Aunt Marjorie, and from my other aunts, uncles, cousins who came visiting. “In passing” because, though he lived with his parents again after he and my mother separated, and though I ran shrieking “Daddy!” joyfully every time he came in the door, I usually received a non-committal acknowledgement of my greeting. If I was lucky, a pat on the head as he quickly ran upstairs to his room and shut the door.

Obviously, by one of the earlier paragraphs, the door didn’t always stay closed. He never chased me out when I came to listen to him play and he even talked to me sometimes…albeit in the same monosyllables as his greetings. He did put together a dollhouse for me once.

By far, my fondest memory comes from a weekend afternoon when I was about 6 years’ old. My father, grandmother and I squeezed into his little MG convertible sports’car and traveled to a farm up in Rehoboth, Massachusetts where my father boarded a couple of horses. Bourbon was magnificent. To the perception of a tiny, 6 year-old girl, I would wager he was a Percheron. But, again, I was a lot smaller than him. He may have just been a large, white horse of some other breed. But, to my young eyes, he appeared much larger than my Uncle Ernie’s Palomino, Sundance, so I’m going with the draft horse. My father picked me up so I could pat his nose, which was beyond my reach (Sundance’s was not). Travis was smaller, dappled gray in color, and incredibly fast. My grandmother stayed in the MG because she was deathly afraid of horses. My father knew this but it didn’t stop him from riding Travis right up alongside the MG, Nanny (my nickname for my grandmother) shrieking my father’s name in terror as the horse drew closer and closer. I remember laughing because I knew he was teasing her (and now, looking back, acknowledge the maneuver as rather cruel; she was terrified). Then my father did an incredible thing. He reached down a hand for me and pulled me up in front of him. He held on as we galloped all over the barnyard for quite a length of time. Nanny said afterwards I looked ready to burst my buttons with joy.

Sadly, that’s all I’ve got for truly happy memories of my father.

My mother remarried in 1974. We moved to Missouri, then Oklahoma, and came back to Rhode Island less than 6 months’ later in early-1975. It was just in time for me to see my Poppop one last time in the nursing home where he was being cared for when his alcoholism finally took its toll. He smiled for me. Nanny said it was the first smile she’d seen from him since he’d been admitted. Unlike my father, I have loads of happy memories of my Poppop. And then, a year later, Nanny was gone, too.

My family moved to Missouri again in 1978 some months after my brother, Shaun, was born. I found a new family in my stepfather’s parents, brothers, sisters, etc. but I still missed my Nanny and Poppop, my aunts, uncles, cousins, etc, with whom I had lost contact after my grandmother’s passing. When we returned to Rhode Island in 1985, I looked up my Aunt Marjorie, knowing that she had become a ward of the state through The Trudeau Center in Warwick. Through her, I was able to get mailing addresses for Aunt Sandy and Aunt Nancy (the 4th aunt, Janet, had died before I was born).

My father, however, continued to elude all of us. None of his sisters had heard from him since that unfortunate visit to Mississippi some years’ earlier. Eventually, I would meet friends of his, people he had worked with, etc. who would tell me about what a wonderful sense of humor he had–great guy–and I would find out where he worked. Ironically, it was at a manufacturing facility on Jefferson Boulevard that an inexperienced teenager had applied to some years’ earlier and gotten the position…only to have to turn it down as my friend, who applied with me, was also my transportation and she did not get the position (they were hiring for several). I sent a letter. No reply. I saw him once when I was dating my first husband. We were driving down Route 1, just passing through Apponaug and into East Greenwich, when I saw him getting into a car. My boyfriend turned around as quickly as late-afternoon traffic would allow but, by the time we reached the house where we’d seen him, he was gone. I found out later that he lived on the second floor–almost across the street from The Trudeau Center, though he never attempted to see my Aunt Marjorie. I sent more letters and cards. Still no reply…until, in the late-90’s, my Aunt Nancy passed away. I sent a letter through the manufacturing company, hoping he still worked there, and told them who I was, that my father’s sister had passed and I didn’t know how else to tell him. He responded. Not to me, of course, but my Uncle Lou in Mississippi received a sympathy card.

My father moved. I don’t remember how I found the new address but I sent another letter, inviting him for coffee at the Dunkin Donuts across the street from his apartment house, my treat. Though he didn’t reply, I went to Dunkin Donuts anyway and waited for over an hour. A car pulled into the apartment complex across the street. A man got out. This was years later. The hair was longer, grayer, and there was a definite paunch but I wasn’t entirely sure…until he took a step in the direction of Dunkin, searched the windows, zeroed in on me and then turned away and went into the house. I waited a bit longer, still not 100% sure it was he…except the shaking hands that fumbled with the keys as I attempted to drive home afterwards. I wonder now if I should’ve walked across the street and knocked.

Some more years’ later, I actually paid a search company to find him. The apartment complex where he had lived had been torn down and I didn’t know where he had gone. The company provided an address. My Aunt Sandy and Uncle George (her husband) came up to visit. Along with my Aunt Marjorie, we all drove to the mobile home park and found his unit on the organization’s map on the wall in the office. We drove to his unit and knocked on the door. Nobody answered, but the house was dark, and there wasn’t any car in front of it, so we assumed he was still at work; it was in the afternoon. However, the ashtray on the porch was full of butts…and the little matchstick figures he used to make…and, through the window, we saw a couple of guitars in stands. We left a note with all of our contact information. And, nearly every year since, I have sent a Christmas card, sometimes a birthday card, too. Always the same, inviting him to call, to visit, giving my address and telephone number. I think I even left an email address once, though I was never sure if he used email. I randomly searched his name on social media, too. I never found him there.

This past Christmas, however, I didn’t send any card. It came as almost an afterthought after I had already filled out the cards I would send to other family and friends. I was out of cards in the box that I had bought but considered buying a more personal one the next time I went to Walmart. And, unusual for me, I rejected it with an angry little voice saying he never answers anyway.

Little did I know he wasn’t there anymore to answer…even if he had been so inclined. I guess some part of my heart knew…even without the obituary found three months’ later.

I’ve grappled with writing this but I’m still not sure how I feel right now. All these years I’ve held onto that afternoon with Travis and Bourbon, and wondered if my stepfather hadn’t been right: that it only happened because my grandmother had poked and prodded him into it when I wasn’t there to see it. Had riding Travis up to her side of the car been a challenge? Or have I read too many novels? Could he have been capable of such? And how do I justify such thinking…especially now when I can acknowledge that I never really knew my father.

And I never will.

It’s hard to truly mourn the loss of someone that you’ve never really had in your life, never really known. It’s like that movie star, or rock star, that you’ve always admired from afar. And, like the movies, I’ve always held this little spark of hope that one day my father would knock on my door–or at least call–and say, let’s not waste anymore time; I want to know you, see you. Like on the Hallmark Channel. And now that hope is gone.

And, yet, I can’t even mourn that. It was false hope. If his sisters, with whom he had had relationships with, who doted on him throughout his childhood and cared for him, no longer existed in his world for him, how could the daughter he hadn’t wanted in the first place rank any higher?

It’s his loss. It truly is. Like all people, I have my faults. I’ve been spoiled at times, too. I can be selfish, the veritable loner. I tend to be a control freak at times. I’m impatient. I procrastinate…horribly! I’m also willing to lend a helping hand if you need it, an ear to listen and keep your secrets without ever sharing. I have a hope chest filled with family pictures (even two of my father from my maternal grandfather of when he and my mother were dating) and keepsakes that I would risk life and limb to rescue if there was ever a fire or flood…because they all matter. I’m smart and talented and I share my father’s love for horses and guitars. And I acknowledge this unwitting gift to me from him…that, and the grandparents who gave a lonely little girl a safe place to spend her weekends, and the aunts, uncles and cousins, who have been such an important part of this 53+ years of life. We could’ve had fun jamming together in impromptu music regales. We could’ve gone horseback riding…or simply chatted on the front porch, or over a table in Dunkin Donuts together. As someone who wanted a house full of children and didn’t get even one, I struggle to understand how someone can refuse such a blessing as family. Period. But, again, it’s his loss.

Despite everything I’ve just said, I am not bitter or angry at my father. The only emotion I can pinpoint right now is a sadness, a sadness for what could’ve been. I know he lived with a woman in common law marriage. Did she know about me? Is she the jealous sort who didn’t want him to have contact with his family? Some of the cards sent were returned “addressee unknown”. Others never came back. Did he throw them away? If he saved them, why? Did he always intend to respond at some later date that never arrived? Or is there a chance he never got them at this last address? Even the note we tacked to the door…despite verifying it at the main office of the park that it was his? He died without any other family there by his side. I can’t imagine anyone wanting that. Seems like most people I know want their loved ones near when they pass. Did he die suddenly? Or had there been a long illness involved that maybe, for genetic reasons at least, I should know about? I’ve considered contacting his widow; I’m not sure if it’s the right course of action. If she doesn’t know about me, how much hurt might I do to her memories of my father? And yet, if she does know about me, maybe she thinks we’re all a bunch of insensitive clods who didn’t give a damn about him. It is something I will be weighing carefully over the next few days.

I wish my father well, as I always have. I pray that his spirit is finally at peace. I pray that he’s happy; I pray that he was happy in life all these years…even if he couldn’t share that happiness with his sisters and their families, or with me. I pray, if there was an illness, that he didn’t suffer over-long with it. He had been suicidal in the past; it runs in the family. I pray he was not driven to such despair and that his passing was a natural one. In short, I would like to say “I love you” to him…even though I never heard those three words from him…and I forgive him for whatever it was in him that could never reach out to me, to my aunts, to family in general. I pray he’s finally the rock star he always dreamed of being…and that Bourbon and Travis were waiting over that Rainbow Bridge for him to ride another day.

May God bless you & keep you!

Abuse, Addiction, Appreciation, Books, Compassion, Emergency Preparedness, Frugality, Gratitude, Healing, Reading, Self-improvement

Frugal Fridays – “Mad” Money

“So I bought the field, paying Hanamel seventeen shekels of silver.” (Jeremiah 32:9)

One probably doesn’t think about spending, or “mad”, money in the same sentence with “frugal”. However, it has been my experience that I tend to binge shop whenever I don’t allow myself, well, an allowance. Every time I have tried to save, to pay down debt, etc. if I don’t have that little something once in awhile–it can be as little as $5 in a given pay cycle–I start to feel deprived. And, the next thing I know, I’m dipping into that savings. It may be just a smidge, but when that smidge doesn’t ruffle the financial feathers too much, well, it can become a vicious cycle of a lot of “just a smidges’ more”.

Fortunately, I learned long before my accident in January 2019 that this just doesn’t work. And, though I was working a pretty low-paying job when I fractured my shoulder last year, I had still managed to save enough in the 16 months I had worked there to pay at least one mortgage payment, plus 4 months’ worth of my other bills, before my extended convalescence ran my savings dry.

You see, $5-$10 each pay cycle allowed me to throw an extra dollar or two into the Salvation Army bucket at Christmastime. It allowed me the occasional lunch “treat” of a veggie burger at Burger King. Or a trip to the local second-hand bookstore for new reading material. It may not sound like much, but it makes a difference. The money I put aside as savings remained savings. And that unexpected tire repair didn’t ouch so much.

Now, some may argue that that $10 could’ve been a little extra in that savings’ fund. Yes, maybe it would have been initially…until that ol’ devil depravity started creeping up again. And, depravity, well, it’s sort of like holding on too tightly. You lose control of yourself, your circumstances. It’s a fear that there isn’t enough. And, maybe, sometimes there isn’t. But it’s also another way of beating up on yourself when you’re already down. Again, we’re not talking huge amounts here. And, to be honest, there were many times that the $5 or $10 I put in my billfold the pay period before was still there when I got paid the next two weeks. I didn’t always spend it, but I knew it was there if I “needed” it. I could afford to replace the worn-out slip-on summer shoes with the holes in them…instead of trying to tuck them behind each other so folks didn’t see them. There is a certain freedom that comes with pocket cash…even if it’s only a small amount here and there. And, if you’ll notice, when I did spend, it was the second-hand bookstore, not the $30 hardbound best seller sitting on Walmart’s over-priced shelf.

Actually, keeping that allowance at a small amount is a key in all of this. If you place, say, $100 in your pocket as “mad” money, you might be tempted to buy that $30 hardbound best seller instead of a second-hand book. Your rationale will be that you can afford it…and it’s okay if your budget can handle such a splurge. However, when you keep a lower tab on that allowance, you’re apt to weigh each potential purchase more before you make it. If I buy this $30 book, will I have enough left over for X-Y-Z? Or you’ll realize you can have a lot of last year’s bestsellers, while also supporting a small business in your local community, for the same amount of money you would’ve paid at the big box store for this year’s…which will wind up on the shelf at the local, second-hand bookstore once another patron of the big box store reads it and donates it to them.

Sometimes my “mad” money has even became another savings’ fund. Like in the early-spring when I know the next Sheep & Wool Festival is coming up. By the time it gets here, it may only be $20-$30 in my pocket, but it’s also lunch out with a friend. And maybe a bar of patchouli-scented goat’s milk soap.

Of course, there are times when even a small allowance just isn’t possible. Such was the case last year for me. I am not suggesting that a bill, or much-needed groceries, get neglected entirely. However, when we can be kind to ourselves occasionally, we often find we have more in the long run.

May God bless you & keep you!

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An Offering of Ashes

“So I earnestly pleaded with the Lord God [to end our captivity and send us back to our own land]. As I prayed, I fasted, and wore rough sackcloth, and sprinkled myself with ashes, and confessed my sins and those of my people. O Lord, I prayed, You are a great and awesome God; You always fulfill your promises of mercy to those who love you and who keep your laws.” (Daniel 9:3-4)

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday. I knew that. And yet, for me, it was Tuesday all day…despite going to the early morning Mass. I let MIG out of his chicken tractor instead of Sargent Feathers and Tank (and, yes, I do have a schedule so each of the roosters gets some free-ranging time). I tried opening the library an hour earlier (Wednesday we don’t open until 2 p.m.) and, then, after laughing at myself and with the other librarians, I also tried to close us up two hours’ earlier. We had another good laugh. I’m not sure why my brain was in such a fog but it was. Now this morning I’m up and at ’em, grabbing something to eat as soon as my feet hit the floor at 3 a.m. after yesterday’s obligatory fast. I’m praying for the strength and determination to see this Lenten season through so I don’t break my vows.

So, what have I pledged this year?

I’ve given up social media, at least for the most part. I will still check Facebook each day for any birthday notices so that I may wish long distance friends and family a happy one, but I won’t be scrolling through all of the political commentaries and sharing/posting on my own timeline. I’ve given up YouTube except on Sundays (I really have become an addict). And fictional reading, except my own, and except on Sundays. I even checked out a novel yesterday as both a temptation to resist and something to look forward to on a day of rest. I’m committed to praying the rosary each day and listing 3 things I’m grateful for every night before I go to sleep, both practices that have fallen by the wayside as my work schedule has shifted over and again over the last year or so. I’ve committed to 3 pages of my novel each day, one post to each blog daily, a daily posting of my Go Fund Me campaign on all of my social media accounts (I can do that from my Go Fund Me page without visiting my social media sites…) and I’ve given up sweets and white flour products (diet has also fallen by the wayside over the last couple of years).

Sound extreme? Yeah, well, I’m sort of an all-or-nothing sort of gal.

Will I break one of these vows? It was already a near miss with the novel I checked out yesterday but I resisted. It’s not supposed to be a punishment, but a break in the very real habit of hiding within each story and avoiding some stressful situations.

Such as working through my financial issues.

I can’t avoid it anymore. The time to act is now, to become more aggressive in my job search…and in swallowing my fears and insecurities, and querying editors regarding the publication of some short stories. In the immortal words of Dr. Phil, “It’s time to get REAL!” Life is too short. And the yearnings for a better life, of peace and tranquility, of some financial security, etc. is too painful to ignore any longer. I am trusting in Him to see us through it but, I feel like He’s brought me full circle to this very scary place again for a reason. And I believe it is because I didn’t do the work He was calling me to do the last time. I keep telling myself that I don’t know what that work is but, deep down inside, if I’m truly honest with myself, I do know. It’s time to act. Not waste more time.

The vows may be extreme but the heart is committed…at least it is this morning. A few prayers to keep it strong are greatly appreciated.

What were some of your Lenten vows this year? I’d be delighted if you’d share in the comments.

May God bless you & keep you!

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What if?

“For the Lord watches over all the plans and paths of godly men, but the paths of the godless lead to doom.” (Psalms 1:6)

“What if” must be the most terrifying sentence in the world as it opens up every can of worms and sends them wriggling across the floor of our hearts where they feed and fester and eat away at our very soul. “What if” can stop us in our tracks from whatever our pursuits. “What if” is the ultimate second guessing of ourselves, our loved ones, our community and even our government. “What if” reflects a serious lack of faith.

And yet, I succumb to asking this question at least 20 times a day.

“What if” I can’t stop the foreclosure? “What if” I can’t find another place for us to live? I mean, it’s a tall order when you have a farm and an aging mother to provide for. “What if” the new job doesn’t culminate into something bigger? “What if” I don’t find work to sustain us? “What if” my dreams are only that–dreams–and never come to fruition? And everything shuts down inside as fight-or-flight spirals into overdrive. I find myself mentally, emotionally and even physically paralyzed with fear and panic and all those negative emotions the adversary would like us to believe in.

Instead of Him.

In my Al-Anon daily reader it talks about how you learn to accept uncertainty in life when you live with alcoholism. Plans and rules change ad nauseum and we’re left with a shattered trust that taints our present and our future. It also talks about how we react to every situation with desperation, fearing there’s only one chance–regardless of the situation. Sort of like the questions I asked above.

I know well where my anxiety comes from. And while the worries and fears may continue to surface, I’m learning how to beat them back into, well, maybe not complete submission, but at least I can send them to the corner for awhile for disrupting my life yet again. “What if” He breaks my hold here to give me the farm and animal sanctuary of my dreams? “What if” He demonstrates a miracle through me by manifesting the impossible–total “catch up” and halt of the foreclosure? “What if” the perfect “job” is the work that my heart, hands and imagination create each day as I sit here at this keyboard? “What if” I am loved beyond my ability to comprehend and He really does have my best interest in His heart, ready to write it loudly and clearly on mine?

And yours.

When we succumb to the apathy, the only one who wins is the adversary. And we can’t let him win. He’s been at the forefront of this world for too long now. What if we manifest a more positive world with love for everyone, regardless of where they come from, how they look, how they dress, who they love, or what they believe? What if we love ourselves unconditionally–not as a narcissist whose “love” is really a mask for their lack of confidence and self-esteem–so that we can love our neighbors as ourselves? As Christ commanded that we do. Kind of hard to love someone as yourself if you don’t have a love for yourself, a love that recognizes self as a child of God, in the first place. “What if” we finally opened our hearts to that unconditional love and spread it throughout the globe? Talk about a war on terrorism! Anxiety-the internal terrorism of self.

May God bless you & keep you!

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I Have Been a Coward

“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? When evil men come to destroy me, they will stumble and fall! Yes, though a mighty army marches against me, my heart shall know no fear! I am confident that God will save me.” (Psalms 27:1-3)

Back in 2017, especially towards the end of the year, my blog posts had gotten deeper. I no longer was exploring homesteading endeavors only but some of the real issues that I have faced over the years. Sometimes I questioned myself, wondering what these issues, such as alcoholism and abuse, had to do with homesteading. But I continued onward, seeking to find both a voice and a niche in the blogging world. What I eventually came to was that every homestead is different and reflects the individuality of the person/people living and/or working it. And, while this is a homestead–albeit a struggling one these days as I seek to find work to sustain us off the property–it is also a home. And the people that live here are human…with all of the human failings of every individual.

This homestead is the brain child of a 50-something-year-old woman whose father has never wanted any part of her life…and a step-father who wanted too much to do with her, if you take my meaning. It’s the brain child of a child who watched in terror as this same stepfather popped open that first can of many beers until he was raving drunk, breaking everything he could lay hands on, kicking holes in the walls and beloved pets across the floor, screaming like a banshee and generally terrorizing us all. I also saw the opposite side of alcoholism with a grandfather, the same paternal grandfather who instilled my love of writing, who came home inebriated, mildly sat down on the sofa, pulled me onto his knee and spent the rest of the evening reading fairy tales to me…or teaching this 3 year-old granddaughter the finer points of chess. At 8 years’ old, I visited a very yellow-skinned Poppop in the nursing home for the last time. And then was told by, again, the stepfather and my Mom not to cry about his passing because it might upset my maternal grandfather, with whom we were staying, and cause him to have another stroke.

However, before I continue to paint my stepfather in the darkest terms, there’s even a flip side to this raging form of alcoholism. He was endlessly patient when helping me with homework. He praised my writing to the hilt and, before he died, told me in all confidence that I would be a great writer someday and have that bestseller. I sincerely hope he is right. But, even if he isn’t, despite the abuse I endured from this man, it means a lot to me to have such confidence behind me…even as a part of me fears a feeling of failure if I never do write that bestseller.

Such is the mark of abuse: confidence is always subjective at best.

Some of my posts, and one in particular, focused heavily on the effects of alcoholism in a family. It shapes dynamics, creates an atmosphere of fear and distrust even among loved ones, and fosters a lack of communication. There were consequences to speaking your mind.

And I felt them after such posts.

One aunt, in particular, refuses to speak to me after one such post, denying such dynamics exist in our family because, on my mother’s side of the family, the last generation of active alcoholics was my great-grandparents. My post talked about learned behavior that, sadly, can be passed from one generation to the next. That’s why Al-Anon refers to alcoholism as a “family disease” because, in essence, it’s catching…even if you don’t drink.

Then there was the blog post, which has long since been taken down, where I lamented the cruel treatment of an animal where I was working. I came close to being fired, was put on probation, and threatened with litigation. Sure, I should’ve gone through the proper channels and brought the treatment to the attention of my supervisor first. I was so horrified, I didn’t think about it until after I’d calmed down…and after the damage had already been done, so to speak. I don’t negate what I witnessed–and continued to witness–but I stopped writing about it. And floundered some mornings about what to write about at all. After being written up for this infraction, I got reprimanded again for another post that, in all honesty, I never even considered might be offensive. In that post, I lamented being unable to serve at church on Sunday mornings because of the work schedule conflict. It wasn’t meant as a shot against the employer in question but they took it that way.

These hands have been, sadly, quiet over the last year-and-a-half or so. Fear of retribution has made me second guess every word typed. Yes, I know, as a writer, I have a responsibility to be cognizant of people’s feelings. I also know that I am going to piss some people off even without intending to. I know that I cannot please everyone and, maybe, depending on the subject of my post, someone will get angry enough to seek compensation for what they view as a damaging image created by those words. However, while I have no desire to cause pain to anyone, I also know that by remaining silent, sometimes I cause more pain.

To myself.

And, yes, to others, too.

None of the above subjects have anything to do with homesteading directly. Nor do the political or religious issues that sometimes crop up and demand my attention. However, they do have something to do with this homestead. Every homestead is unique. Not just in what that homestead produces, such as fruits and vegetables, herbs, fiber products, honey, etc but in the human force behind it.

What hurdles have those humans had to jump over to get to where they are right now? What hurdles have become road blocks to their success? What issues influence why they are homesteading in the first place? And what issues influence the direction they take?

I started homesteading because I wanted to rescue abused and neglected creatures. I wanted to help those without a voice, as well as remember those beloved pets of my youth whom I was too young and powerless to protect. Later, as I learned more about herbs, a love started by my mother when she cured a tenacious strain of conjunctivitis (pink-eye) with a decoction of spearmint leaves, I wanted to grow my own herbs organically and experience the healing power I’d heard so much of regarding gardening. Then, as commercial food products continue to get recalled and we learn about the harmful chemicals used in growing food on a commercial scale, I wanted to heal myself and my loved ones by growing as much of our food myself as possible. This led to an awareness of how much our planet is hurting due to the toxins in our air, water, soil and bodies. Many of those toxins come from plastic clothing, the synthetic fibers like nylon and microfibers and Spandex, etc that release tiny particles into our waterways every time we throw them in the washer. My brief career in living history was an enduring experience because of the gift of learning how to raise and then process natural fibers–without harm to the animals in question.

No, I can’t save the world. But I can mitigate the harm to our planet by reducing my own abuse of resources…and educating others on ways that they can reduce that carbon footprint as well. And I may not be able to save every animal who hurts or suffers under human abuse, neglect and/or exploitation, but I can mitigate some of that suffering one creature at a time…and, when resources allow, help empower others in the field of animal welfare.

Have I fallen short of the mark in my endeavors? Of course. I am human…with all of the human failings of our species. I can be lazy and undisciplined. I procrastinate. I can be short-sighted. I can also be loving and kind and laser-focused at times. I’m creative and a bit of a Pollyanna–this last can be both a failing and a success, depending upon one’s perspective. I’m also tackling another hurdle right now in trying to save this homestead from certain foreclosure if I don’t find a position, or a means of supplementing the current one, that helps me get caught up on all the back payments due.

I’ve cringed every time I’ve blogged about my financial situation. Shame, which is part of that pride cycle, has filled me even though I know my current situation stems from an unexpected fall and the subsequent injury I sustained in that fall. In many ways, it’s been a blessing. It’s made me stop and realize that, over the years, I have judged others less fortunate harshly. I’ve shared a common belief that somehow this person may have brought their troubles on themselves.

When I ought to know better.

In short, I’ve been a coward about humbling myself to my readers. I’ve allowed a few wrist slaps to influence the direction and reason for this blog. And, while those wrist slappings may curb some overzealous crusades, if I allow them to silence me entirely, I don’t deserve to be a writer at all. While a writer has a responsibility to all of the things I mentioned above, a writer also has a responsibility to share the truth, to be genuine, to lift people up and shed the Light of that truth on as much of the anger and prejudice and sufferings in this world as he or she can.

May God bless you & keep you!