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Instead of Gatorade, Try Haymakers’ Punch

“For I will give you abundant water for your thirst and for your parched fields. And I will pour out my Spirit and my blessings on your children.” (Isaiah 44:3)

There are many things I miss about working in living history. I miss “my” herb garden. I miss spinning wool into yarn on the Great, or Walking, Wheel. I miss filling the bobbins on the loom tool (another type of spinning wheel). I miss weaving. I miss braiding straw for making hats. I miss cooking and baking on the hearth. And I miss the clothing.

Except when it was 90+ degrees outside and I had to get a fire going both on the hearth and in the bake oven (that little beehive-shaped cavity next to the kitchen fireplace).

Housewives in the 19th century did bake…even in summer. Southern ladies had summer kitchens; those were rarer in New England. However, New England housewives were sensible enough to rise early and get their baking done before that afternoon sun rolled directly overhead. In 2018, in a living history museum, where you have to demonstrate during normal business hours, you simply endured.

Or not.

I remember one afternoon that I felt extremely tired, and even a little dizzy, after baking all day. During the long walk back to my car after the work day was done, I was hailed by a fellow co-worker. I turned to greet her and almost fell over. She looked at me funny. I think I mumbled something about heat exhaustion but that was all. Exhausted, I drove the 30+ miles home and figured a good night’s sleep would have me feeling better in the morning.

The next morning the alarm went off. I sat up in bed, intent on turning it off, and the whole room spun. I nearly passed out again. Instead, I sat there, chilling, thinking it was the longest minute in history before the alarm stopped on its own. Finally, I got up but I felt weak and shaky, and I had to cling tightly to the banister as I made my way downstairs. It took me 45 minutes to feed the barnyard; normally, it was a 25 minute job. I decided to call in; there was no way I could interpret for visitors this day.

I also decided I needed to go to the hospital.

Now, one would think I would’ve had the sense to call a friend, to wake Mom, etc. to take me to the hospital. There’s a reason why dehydration is equated with inebriation: both make you stupid.

After calling work, I got in the car and backed out of the driveway. At the end of the driveway, I turned my head to look both ways for traffic and the whole road spun out…much like my room had done when I first awakened. As soon as it was clear, I drove myself to the hospital (yes, folks, we’re out there…).

The folks in the lobby must’ve seen me zigzagging like a drunk across the parking lot. They had a wheelchair waiting for me.

I must add here, for the benefit of future heat exhausted patients, that emergency room workers should NOT run with their patients down to the ER. As I was hurled along those stark green and white fluorescently-lit halls, it was all I could do not to “hurl” in another sense.

Long story short, two hours’ later, the doc told me that I had flushed most of the electrolytes out of my body the day before. You see, I thought I was okay, all but immune to dehydration, because I had been sipping water all day. Apparently, when it’s 90+ degrees and you’ve got a couple of infernos going behind you…and you’re wearing three layers of clothing…you need to replace those electrolytes, not just slake the thirst.

The doc recommended either Pedialyte or Gatorade; I prefer something a little healthier…and less expensive.
Fortunately, folks in earlier centuries made something called Haymakers’ Punch, or Switchel. I got to try some while visiting another living history museum in New Hampshire over a dozen years’ ago and they gave me the recipe. It’s an acquired taste for some. Others, like myself, think it’s delicious. Here it goes:

1 cup apple cider vinegar
¾ cups of honey (preferably locally grown)
4 teaspoons of molasses
¼ teaspoon of ginger (there’s that ginger again…)

Place all of the above ingredients in a cup of warm water, stirring constantly until dissolved. Pour the mixture into a 1 gallon container (preferably glass or ceramic; I don’t recommend plastic for any recipe). Fill the rest of the container with water. Keep in the refrigerator.

A word to the wise: Switchel is meant to be sipped, not gulped, or drank straight down.

Though it does not have all the fancy labeling, coloring, and artificial flavorings of either Pedialyte or Gatorade, Switchel will keep you hydrated during those hot summer days when you need a little more than just plain water to keep your cool. And it’s definitely an inexpensive alternative.

May God bless you & keep you!

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Wednesday’s Weed Walk – Coltsfoot

“And God said, ‘Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed to which it shall be for meat’.” (Genesis 1:29)

My Master Gardener instructors and classmates would be horrified: I have intentionally planted Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) in my garden. The reason for their horror? Coltsfoot is said to be an invasive species and is not native to this land (albeit it has become naturalized like so many other plants brought from European settlers in earlier generations). My reason for defying some unspoken MG oath? Coltsfoot is one of the main ingredients in the tincture that I brew to control my asthma and to heal any winter bouts with bronchitis. I have even healed a bout of pneumonia with it and that makes it more valuable than any “oath”. Furthermore, I want to know what’s in my medicine. In my home garden, I know it hasn’t been sprayed with any chemicals or genetically-modified.

The information contained herein is for educational purposes ONLY. The FDA has not evaluated these statements. This blog post/article is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any diseases.

In Coltsfoot’s defense, the one lone plant that I transplanted over 3 years’ ago has only “spread” to a second plant in those 3 years. At the museum where I used to be their herb garden lead, it was also slow-spreading. So, while I’ll give it the “non-native” status, I question the “invasive” part. It wouldn’t surprise me if the university is receiving kick-backs from one of the major drug companies to downplay this little beauty. The latter makes an awful lot of money off of seasonal allergy sufferers, asthmatics and others with chronic upper-respiratory illnesses. A plant whose primary use is for upper-respiratory complaints is a threat to their livelihood and, because it is a “weed”, it cannot be patented. (And, yes, I’m on another rant and getting all conspiracy theorist, too; sorry, I trust big pharma about as far as I can throw them.)

Ahem…ranting aside, many may mistake Coltsfoot for a dandelion. They have similar flowers, albeit, Coltsfoot’s floral head falls somewhere between a dandelion and an English daisy. Unlike the dandelion, whose foliage sprouts before the flowers bloom, Coltsfoot flowers first and then the colts’ foot-shaped leaves emerge (hence, its name).

Images from my garden:

Image found on Yahoo of the foliage later in the season:

Image comparing Coltsfoot in full bloom with a dandelion, also in full bloom:

As stated above, I use Coltsfoot (leaves only) as part of a tincture to control my asthma and to treat bronchitis. The tincture in question (and I will leave the formula below) contains several other herbs, but it is the combination of Coltsfoot with another “weed”, Great mullein (Verbascum thapsus), that makes this tincture so effective against asthma. While Coltsfoot is both an expectorant and anti-imflammatory, mullein is antispasmodic, as well as also being an expectorant. Both herbs have demulcent properties, which mean they produce a mucilage that coats inflamed bronchial passages. Additionally, Coltsfoot is antitussive, astringent and sedative. It’s very name in Latin translates to “cough dispeller” and it has been used effectively over thousands of years to aid the healing of coughs, wheezing, asthma, bronchitis, whooping cough, emphysema, laryngitis, hoarseness, flu, colds, sore throat, difficulty breathing, and shortness of breath (Tierra, 2003, pp. 70-71). Since using Coltsfoot, I have not had to rely on a steroidal-based inhaler at all. And, while my allopathic medical doctor has not been willing to stake his medical claim on it, every time I have gone in for a note due to some sort of upper-respiratory ailment, he has repeatedly told me to keep taking/doing whatever I’m taking/doing as he has never heard my lungs so clear.

Great Mullein (Verbascum thapsus)

Now, all that being said, I would be remiss as a responsible herbalist if I did not state that even herbalists caution not to use Coltsfoot if pregnant, nursing, or stricken with some sort of liver disease. And, with children, only very small doses of the below tincture (1/8 – 1/4 tsp every 4 hours if battling some sort of bronchial condition, or as needed to control an asthma attack; or 1/2 cup of a weak tea brewed for 10 minutes with a lid with local honey added). Coltsfoot has contraindications with fritillaria, magnolia flowers, ephedra, scute, coptis and astragalus (some of these I have never even heard of using in herbal medicine???).

Asthma/Upper-respiratory Tincture:
3 1/2 tbsp each of Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) and Great Mullein (Verbascum thapsus)
1 tbsp each of Elecampane Root (Inula helenium), Lobelia (Lobelia inflata) or, if being used for smokers, substitute Hops (Humulus lupulus)
1/2 tbsp each of ginger (Zinziberis officinalis) and Comfrey (Symphytum officinale)

To tincture, measure the above herbs (I normally use dried herbs; fresh herbs would need to triple amount) into a clean 1-quart size Mason jar. Fill the jar, covering the herbs, with 100 proof vodka or brandy (Majorska has a good 100 proof vodka that has worked well for me). Screw the cover on, give it a good shake, and place the jar in a dark, dry cupboard. Shake it a couple of times each day while it tinctures. In two weeks’ time, it will be ready to use. I typically strain the liquid through a sieve and funnel it into dark-colored bottles found at my local herb shop (check online if you do not have a herb store nearby).

NOTES: You can also use apple cider vinegar, if using alcohol is a concern, but it will have a much shorter shelf life and have to be kept in the fridge. Also, it can be challenging to find 100 Proof. I recommend it because anything less than that may cause mold to form over time. With 100 Proof, it typically has a shelf life of 2 years. However, if you can only find 80 proof, 1/4 tsp. of vitamin E will aid in the preservation. I would also recommend labeling the jar with the date created, the ingredients used, and I always include a batch number so, if you’re making this for the first time, it is “Batch 1”.

May God bless you & keep you!

REFERENCES

Tierra, Lesley (2003). Healing with the Herbs of Life. Berkeley, CA: Crossing Press.

Yahoo (n.d.) “Coltsfoot Plant-lore.” Image. Retrieved from: https://images.search.yahoo.com/search/images;_ylt=AwrJ7FWB6KpeHHkAzD9XNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTEybDY4NmF2BGNvbG8DYmYxBHBvcwMxBHZ0aWQDQzAwNzBfMQRzZWMDc2M-?p=coltsfoot%2C+images&fr=mcafee#id=62&iurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.plant-lore.com%2Fwp-content%2Fuploads%2F2010%2F12%2FIMG_2774-e1505765426444.jpg&action=click

Yahoo (n.d.). “Coltsfoot vs. Dandelion.” Image. Retrieved from: https://images.search.yahoo.com/search/images;_ylt=AwrJ7FWB6KpeHHkAzD9XNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTEybDY4NmF2BGNvbG8DYmYxBHBvcwMxBHZ0aWQDQzAwNzBfMQRzZWMDc2M-?p=coltsfoot%2C+images&fr=mcafee#id=7&iurl=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.coldclimategardening.com%2Fwp-content%2Fuploads%2Fcoltsfoot_vs_dandelion.jpg&action=click

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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!

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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!

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A Light in the Dark

“But if someone who is supposed to be a Christian has money enough to live well, and sees a brother in need, and won’t help him–how can God’s love be within him?” (1 John 3:17)

SNAP benefits’ cuts…that’s what’s been in the headlines this past week. It breaks my heart. If you’re a Christian, this is supposed to be a season of giving, a time when we open our hearts and welcome all of our brothers and sisters.

Instead our government is going to forget them.

No, not the single mother with children. Or the elderly (albeit, many of the aforementioned are lucky to receive even $16 a month…). They should be keeping their benefits. It’s those recipients that the government deems capable of working. They (gov’t) tout the “booming” economy, the lower unemployment rates and say, you need to look for a job.

Okay.

The best way to end poverty, supposedly, is to teach people how to fish instead of just giving them the fish. But, if they’re already starving, how will they find the strength to do the fishing in the first place? And our unemployment numbers–statistics–do not reflect the true situation for so many, many Americans.

Most people who have been reading this blog know that I suffered an injury a year ago and I’m now facing foreclosure due to time lost recovering and the loss of the first full-time job that I’ve been able to find in almost 10 years. Yeah. 10 years! It didn’t pay very well, and I had to drive over an hour to get to it because the northeastern corner of Connecticut has a pretty slow turnaround as far as getting people back to work…and most of the jobs found are part-time, seasonal, and/or temporary. In short, there’s not a lot of industry here. We’re considered one of the worst areas in that regard by the Department of Labor. But we’re not really unique. The job market in America is made up of lots of part-time, seasonal, temporary and/or minimum wage positions and few, if any, full-time with benefits’ positions. So many people are working 2-3 of those low-paying, part-time endeavors just to make ends meet…and they’re still just a layoff, injury or illness away from losing everything they’ve ever worked for.

Yes, worked for.

Add to these situations people with disabilities–not full disability status, but they have limitations. They will be hurt by these cuts. And people with a similar situation as my own, people still recovering from an illness, an injury, a major economic setback, who haven’t quite gotten their legs underneath them again, they, too, will be affected.

No, I’m not on SNAP benefits. Mom and I have a combined income of almost $25K a year; we only qualify for $16 a month. We pay that in copies and postage to get the necessary paperwork in to Social Services so why bother? Especially when Social Services will freeze your benefits if you happen to work a few hours of overtime next month…or change jobs (they tend to neglect to remove the old job and count both incomes…and there’s an obligatory jump through bureaucratic hoops to re-instate everything).

I read an article today from USA Today. While not always the most accurate periodical, this particular article hit the nail on the head about how it is for so many of our nation’s poor…and what these cuts will mean for so many. The qualifications are already quite low. They’re designed for the really impoverished, those making even less than Mom & I. The article talks about how many of the people who will be affected by the cuts are already living on the streets–homeless. Yes, some are recovering addicts, whether alcohol or drugs, but many simply lost a job, got sick, suffered an injury and lost everything. Many of them are veterans…also forgotten by our government. The average SNAP allowance is, roughly, $120 a month if you qualify for full benefits (Schnell & Hughes, 2019). How far does that stretch? And what type of food will it buy? Certainly not the fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meat and fish, etc. that provide the energy and good health needed to work those 2-3 jobs. And, if you’re already living on the streets, a lot of places won’t hire you. You need a permanent address.

The article also addresses the attitude towards extremely impoverished people. This particular cut in benefits does so with the suggestion that many people take advantage of the system. That may be true. But the cut will hurt many more who are not taking advantage and are truly in need.

As for those who do take advantage? I’m not sure why anyone would. I don’t doubt that there are lazy people in the U.S. who abuse the system, but the whole process of jumping through those aforementioned hoops–both to obtain and then retain benefits–is quite stressful. Your whole life comes under a microscope and you’re made to feel like a slug for even asking. I get it. I really do. You think I don’t want to work and that’s why I’m here. Suddenly, I’m the roach crawling across the floor. I’ve asked for it. Again, I’m not sure why anyone would ask for this kind of existence. And, despite the theory that SNAP and welfare and all the other myriad programs are supposed to be that hand up to those fallen on hard times, the truth is, they’re really designed to keep those fallen on hard times impoverished. As I mentioned before, if you even get a little overtime, they’re ready to strip those benefits away…even if the overtime is a temporary thing. If you’re in the system, you have very little chance of getting back out of it again. And I get that that may be the reason for the cuts: to force people out of the system. But, the end result, I predict, will be a lot more people going hungry, falling off the wagon of their addiction, more theft and violence and suicide.

I know. Not a very merry post during the Yuletide season. And, if I had all the answers on how to solve this dilemma, I would be the most sought-after person on the planet. I guess what I’m trying to say is not to forget those in need this holiday season. The article in USA Today also mentioned how hard it will be for food banks and churches and other resources to help meet the needs of those hurt by these cuts. If you can give to them, please do. If you’re hurting yourself, seek them out. Or volunteer your time to help them help others. You never know what tomorrow may bring. At the very least, keep our brothers and sisters in your prayers. They need every one they can get.

May God bless you & keep you!

Works Cited

Schnell, Lindsay & Hughes, Trevor (2019). “Cuts to SNAP Benefits will hit 700,000 Food-Insecure Americans.” USA Today. Retrieved from: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2019/12/21/trump-food-stamps-cut-snap-benefits-more-hungry-americans/2710146001/?fbclid=lwAR3JUXAzoyO0LZZ1LY9_Nr10_xNk3M8QombVEOAdcnvuhdori21jUWnMDJw

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Treading Uphill

“It is God’s privilege to conceal things, and the king’s privilege to discover and invent. You cannot understand the height of heaven, the size of the earth, or all that goes on in the king’s mind” (Proverbs 25: 2-3)

I keep telling myself, as I continue to face the very real threat of foreclosure on my home, that He has a plan. I also keep reminding myself that He must be bringing me here again because there was something He wanted me to learn the last time and I didn’t get it.

Or do it.

Maybe this frantic, trying-to-run-in-every-direction-to-stop-the-flood is what He’s telling me to give up, to trust Him with.

Or maybe it’s the part of me that wants to curl into a ball and shut out the world. That part of me has perpetually won out over the last 10 years. I’ve hidden in books, in movies, in YouTube videos. I’ve neglected housework, yard work, my own personal needs, etc., because as the adult child of an alcoholic, I know it’s a sure-fire way to keep the world out. I can recognize this on a subconscious level; it hasn’t been a conscious decision. But while experts say knowing what the problem is is half the battle, it seldom changes. The neglect now stares me in the face as “overwhelm”. Perhaps He’s using this season of want and need to heal another layer of that childhood. And by my inactivity, I haven’t been getting the memo.

What’s that old expression? When the going gets tough, the tough get going? Every successful person I know, when faced with adversity, places their trust in Him (or whatever their concept of God/Source), and forges resolutely forward anyway. They stand and fight. They do their level best not to succumb to despair. Does that mean they don’t have their moments? Of course not! But I have to stop waiting for that perfect moment, the perfect conditions. They don’t exist…at least not on a human level.

On His level, it’s all happening in perfect time. Maybe I simply have to trust in that…and stop trying to read His mind. If He wants me to know His plans, He’ll tell me…if I’m willing to open my heart wide enough to let Him in.

Yes, you heard the resistance in that statement, too.

I fear He’s leading me away from here. That’s not inherently bad. The cost of living in Connecticut is abysmally high. And full-time, good paying jobs are few and far between. If you find one, hang on to it!

However, the majority of my family lives in New England. How can I miss the 4th of July celebrations at Uncle Ernie’s? Or holiday dinners with the aunties? Ditto for my friends. What if I never attend another fiber fest with Karen? Or dine with Katie or Kellie? What if Donna and I never visit LaSalette Shrine together again and laugh at our youthful foibles? My church community is here. I love Father Ben, my fellow Lectors and Eucharistic Ministers, my friends in the choir. I have a farm full of pets here. It would be extremely difficult to relocate with them–not impossible, but near enough. And I’m not low-life enough to shelter them. I rescue, not abandon. But, if things keep going in this direction, there’s a very real part of me stressing and worrying that this may be my only option in time. Then there’s all the little things that constitute a life already established: doctors, veterinarians, my therapist, mechanics, the folks at the local feed store who know my order before I even get to the counter. It would take years to build those sorts of relationships again. And I’m worried, with my curl-into-a-ball tendencies, if I’m really up to the task.

Of course, I know if He wills it, He’ll give me the strength to be “up to it”. And, while it would take as much in the financial department to relocate, re-establish, as it will to get out of hock, I know He’ll provide that, too.

On the flip side of all this, my brother’s visit two weeks’ ago was a painful reminder of how much of his life, his children’s lives, I’ve missed. And the missed opportunity to truly bond with my sister-in-law. The week spent together was wonderful and I’m so happy my brother has found such a lovely woman to spend his life with. I love them all but we seldom see each other due to distance. My best friend of all lives in Missouri, as do countless classmates, friends, and family, too. I can surely homestead somewhere else. And, Lord willing, maybe even better than I’ve been able to do here. My property is small, which limits what I can do here. Maybe He’s leading me somewhere where those dreams He’s put on my heart have a better chance of being realized.

At the very least, He’s given me work to do. I ask you all to pray for me for the strength to see it all through.

May God bless you & keep you!

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Finding My Stride Again

“I will bless the Lord who counsels me; He gives me wisdom in the night. He tells me what to do. I am always thinking of the Lord; and because He is so near, I never need to stumble or to fall. Heart, body, and soul are filled with joy.” (Psalms 16:7-9)

Back in November of 2017, shortly after I had first started working in living history, I witnessed something that bothered me greatly at my new job and I made the mistake of blogging about it–first. The proper channels would have been to report what I saw to management first and, then, if I didn’t get the results I hoped for, take it higher within the organization. Blogging about it probably should have been the last course of action, if at all in this instance.

I suppose I don’t need to tell everyone reading this that I got myself into some serious hot water over it. Of course, a co-worker saw the post and brought it my manager’s attention. I saw it coming almost the moment I hit “Publish” but, the activist in me, squashed the Nervous Nellie voice inside, insisting that what I saw was wrong and needed to be brought to “light”.

Wrong assumption.

I had one manager get in my face and tell me I didn’t see what I said I saw, threaten my job, and then with litigation if I ever posted anything like that again. The only reason I hadn’t lost my job right then and there was I had never been issued an employee handbook when I first started so, legally, they couldn’t let me go. I spent the next several weeks going back through all of my blogs and changing every place where my employer’s name might’ve been to “living history” or simply “my employer”, etc. I also removed the offending post…and then another that they found objectionable, and on another subject entirely, that I hadn’t even considered might be offensive in any way.

Yes, it was the responsible thing to do after such a misjudgment. And it had far more serious implications than anything threatened in that fateful meeting.

First, my credibility regarding what I saw came into question. Such a misjudgment meant that I also might not be a reliable person to ask. I saw more of the same actions/behavior over the next year or so but, even with another co-worker backing me up, my complaints and concerns fell on deaf ears.

Second, I went from being in complete awe that I had had the good fortune of snagging this job to, in many ways, hating it. Oh, sure, I loved the skills they taught, I loved learning more about the history of the time period, and especially, the day-to-day lives of people in America prior to the Civil War. As I am in the northeastern part of the country, I learned a lot about abolition and the anti-slavery movement. I loved the fashions I felt privileged to wear. And, when they still allowed/scheduled me to work in it, I loved working in “my” herb garden.

After that fateful meeting, however, I felt more and more the outsider in certain corners.

And found friends and allies in unexpected places.

Lastly, thoroughly chastened, I stopped blogging almost completely. I went from publishing a post nearly every week day to weeks without a single one. I found myself alternately depressed and angry. Stress and anxiety took over. Joy showed up only on rare occasions. Burnout quickly followed. More, I felt–and still feel–guilty for failing those without a voice by my hasty actions on their behalf.

In short, I lost my stride. And now I’m struggling to get it back.

Prior to this event, and its aftermath, I had regular posts, such as Wednesday’s Weed Walk where each week I talked about a different herb, its uses, and even some of its history. I had regular posts regarding frugal living (I am the eternal tightwad and proud of it!). Throughout my first October of regular blogging, I shared stories of my haunted homestead. And even some more personal stuff about growing up in an abusive, alcoholic home. The latter may not have had much to do with homesteading, the original theme of this blog, but it certainly had a hand in shaping this would-be homesteader. I would truly love to get back to this…in some capacity.

Of course, I am also facing a new challenge: time management.

My weekdays now consist of an early rising to meet with my instructor by 7:30 a.m. to spend an hour on the road behind the wheel of a school bus. Before I leave home, I have goats, chickens, ducks, rabbits, cats and Smoky the Cockatiel to feed, water, etc., and yoga. Then I head several towns’ over to the Town Hall to work with the tax assessor’s office. I have more of the same animal care when I get home, class work to complete for college, and a novel that I am already promoting, though it may be several months before it is completed.

I’m not sure I can squeeze a daily post in again, especially with a second blog on my author’s page (lisaburbank.wordpress.com) to keep up with also, but I am certainly going to be more intentional with my blog. I’m going to commit to 2 posts per week. And I’m asking, you, my readers, what would you like to see more of? I’ll do my best to deliver. In the meantime, I would like to thank everyone who has stuck by me, read, followed, and liked my posts, and who have shared the rather sporadic posts of the last year or so. Here’s to hoping I can catch my stride again soon!

May God bless you & keep you!