Appreciation, Books, Christianity, Creativity, Reading, Writing

“Company” During Covid-19

“My health fails; my spirits droop, yet God remains! He is the strength of my heart; He is mine forever!” (Psalms 73:26)

The library books I brought home from work have long been read…in one case, many times over (and I wish I had brought home the sequels ) so I’ve been resorting to re-reading beloved favorites…as well as perusing some of the short stories and even a couple of novels assigned for class. It’s been a hodge-podge but it’s been keeping me company. So I thought I’d share some of what I’ve been reading.

First of all, for class, we’ve been assigned To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. This classic is one that I have overlooked over the years; reading it as an assignment is the first time I’ve ever picked it up. There’s a reason it’s such a classic. It’s a deep and riveting story, and all of the characters are finely-drawn, easy to “see” as they move about their lives upon the pages. Our theme this course is “loss of innocence”. Scout definitely loses hers but, also, her father, Atticus, loses his a bit, too. Again, riveting story and, if you haven’t read this classic either, I definitely don’t want to give anymore away.

We also have a short story compilation that we’ve been reading through. I just re-read Donald Barthelme’s “The School,” which is a bit bizarre, especially at the end, but you don’t ever really forget it. Last week it was “The Communist” by Richard Ford, and the week before, “Tony’s Story” by Leslie Marmon Silko. I’m finding that, so far, I have enjoyed the latter the best. According to Wikipedia (which is not always the most reliable source), Leslie Marmon Silko is of both Native American and Mexican American heritage. Though I have only read this one story so far, I am tempted to read more once I can get my hands on them. She writes a lot, or so I have read via the web, of the prejudices against both Native Americans and Mexican Americans, with a little bit of Native American spiritualism mixed in. She does it tastefully, but is also painfully honest about the racism that confronts both peoples. So far, all of them have been stories that make you think…which, as they are classroom assignments, is what they’re supposed to do. However, I might add, were it not for the fact that they’re assigned readings, like To Kill A Mockingbird, I might never have read them on my own; they’re not exactly the genre I typically look for. I would’ve missed out on some decent stories.

As for some beloved favorites, I’m re-reading Christy by Catherine Marshall. I plowed through the “Twitches” series by H. B. Gilmour and Randi Reisfeld a few weeks’ ago. And Those Miller Girls by Alberta Wilson Constant. I’ve plowed through the Stephanie Tolan series: Surviving the Applewhites, The Applewhites at Wit’s End, and now The Applewhites from Coast to Coast. (Please tell me I’m not the only one who reads more than one book at a time…). This last one I’m not so sure I like as much as the first two. Ms. Tolan wrote this last with her son and the characters’ personalities seem to have changed just a little bit. “Jake” suddenly goes from being this rather troubled teen who is really a decent guy at heart, to being the “bad boy” again, easily swayed and forgetting all of the lessons he learned in the previous books. And “E.D.” suddenly allows herself to be made over, sending a message that, if I had a Young Adult daughter reading this series, I’m not so sure I would like them reading this and thinking that they have to become something they’re not, that they cannot be themselves and still be liked, still succeed.

Out of the books I brought home from work, my favorite has definitely been Magyk by Angie Sage. This is the first in the Septimus Heap series. While the reviews I’ve read have likened it to Harry Potter (and I can see the reasons why with only this first book; mischievous older twin brothers, overly-ambitious older brother who turns against the family for a while before finally coming to his senses, etc.), it can stand on its own. I can’t help wondering, too, if Angie Sage wasn’t also influenced by Elizabeth George Speare’s The Witch of Blackbird Pond. I see a lot of Hannah Tupper in Aunt Zelda, living in her little cottage by the swamp with her cats and her goats.

And, as I type this, I wonder if people will see similar influences in my work once my novel is finished.

May God bless you & keep you!

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Feeding My Passions

“An empty stable stays clean–but there is no income from an empty stable.” (Proverbs 14:4)

Today was a rambling sort of day. I ran a few errands in the morning then spent some time in the garden. I weeded the strawberry bed, one of my edible perennials’ beds (Egyptian onions, broad-leaf chives and lamb’s quarters all grow there), and the rhubarb bed. The rhubarb was bolting so I clipped off the flowers and noticed that the soil level in this raised bed is getting rather low, which would explain why it is bolting. Rhubarb is a heavy feeder. I also noticed a new Mullein (Verbascum thapsis) rosette growing in behind it so I transplanted it. Most consider it a weed but, as it’s one of the main ingredients in my asthma tincture, I let it stay; I also love the yellow flowers that will form its second year. I clipped back the invading bittersweet and Japanese Knotweed from the border mix of flowering shrubs and small fruits, and fed some of the latter to Chester, one of my Nigerian Dwarf goats (a beloved treat!). Then the more common chives got clipped and brought in; they’re in the dehydrator now to preserve for use later in the year. The broad-leaf ones will get clipped once these are through drying.

Later I collapsed with a cup of Chai tea in front of YouTube and fed some of my other passions: tiny houses, and both agility and heelwork competitions for dogs. As most of the contestants are usually Border Collies–my favorite–I get a good fix.

I have been following the tiny house movement almost since its inception. I am fascinated with this minimalist lifestyle. I think one of the reasons is how economical it is. In such a small space, you use less heating/cooling, less electricity, and, potentially, less water. I also have too much “stuff” and think how much I would love to unload much of it, going all Marie Kondo by keeping only those special treasures that truly bring me joy. It can be overwhelming. Bigger isn’t always better; neither does having more of everything bring more contentment. Of course, I have almost no carpentry skills; no electrical or plumbing skills, and no place to park it. However, I am still fascinated. And I doubt I’ll ever lose that fascination…until I actually muster up the courage, or the confidence, to take that first step forward.

As for the agility and/or heel work competitions? This one’s a little more obtainable, if I can ever get completely back on my feet again. I loved working with my St. Bernards when they were going through obedience training. It was great fun for all of us…and a great way to bond with these two rescues when I adopted them in 2006. A little older now, though the gentle giants will always have a special place in my heart, I’m leaning more towards something a little smaller, such as the Border Collie, the Corgi, the Bearded Collie, the Australian shepherd or Australian cattle dog. As all of these are herding breeds and extremely energetic, they do well with both agility and heel work. And what a way to express some creativity by choreographing and then training the dog to “dance” with you.

I’m still feeling grateful for this extended shutdown, for the ability to dream and to continue feeding my passions.

May God bless you & keep you!

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Wednesday’s Weed Walk – Zingiberis officinalis

“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)

I use ginger (Zingiberis officinalis) for everything! It’s in the asthma tincture I shared about recently; it’s in my digest tea (see recipe below); it’s in the golden milk I drink to control my Irritable Bowel Syndrome. I put it in a winter tonic. I also make and eat gingerbread and ginger snap cookies (or small cakes, as we used to say in the 19th century). I mean, it is so versatile and I’ll bet most of the people reading this have it in their spice cabinet right now.

Ginger has many healing properties. It is said to be a “stimulant, diaphoretic, carminative, emmenagogue, expectorant, antiemetic, analgesic, antispasmodic, stomachic, antipyretic, and antimicrobial (Tierra, 2003, p. 87). It has been used to treat motion sickness. It’s great for any lung complaint, such as asthma, bronchitis, and even pneumonia. It’s a stimulant for people with poor circulation. It has been used in poultices to ease the pain of arthritis. It’s capable of soothing sore throats and easing menstrual cramps. It’s also good for indigestion, nausea and flatulence. In fact, if you’ve ever had candied ginger, this was one of the earliest “treats” found in the local “country” or “general” store, along with horehound and lemon drops. Candying these “medicines” was a way to get children to take them. Think of Mary Poppins and her “spoonful of sugar” to help the “medicine go down”.

The FDA has not evaluated these statements. This blog post is for informational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any diseases.

Despite being a Christian, I have spent years studying Wicca and have a lot of respect for this religion. According to their traditions, ginger is said to “lend power” when “performing spells” as ginger is warming by nature and is particularly effective for “love spells” (Cunningham, 2006, p. 125). Supposedly, if you plant the whole root, you will attract money into your life, too. It is also recommended that you sprinkle some powdered ginger into your pockets, which could be interesting, to say the least ;).

Though we had ginger growing in the herb garden at the living history museum I used to work at, I have never tried growing it at home. My garden is still in the landscaping stages owing to when I have the necessary resources, such as time or money, to finish…or I dig down into that Yankee ingenuity to re-purpose something for the job. However, it seems to grow just fine in New England and overwinters with a healthy layer of mulch covering it. The only issues we had at the museum was that the groundhogs liked it a little spicy; we could never keep either the ginger root (it’s the root we use, not the leaves or other aerial parts) or the horseradish completely free of their nibbling. Surrounding it with chicken wire might do the trick. It’s worth a shot.

Whether you’re healing a bout of indigestion, casting a love spell, or baking some gingerbread to enjoy with family and friends, planting some ginger root in the garden, or simply buying some powdered organic, I’m confident you’ll find some new and effective uses for this little powerhouse.

May God bless you & keep you!

Digest Tea

1 tablespoon chamomile
½ tablespoon fennel
1/8 teaspoon of ginger
1 pinch of cardamom (with both the ginger and the cardamom, this is more to taste rather than science)

Heat water in a stainless steel kettle or sauce pan (water should be hot but not boiling; I often bring it to a boil and then let it sit for a few minutes so as not to damage the healing properties in each plant). Pour over the measured herbs/spices. Cover with a lid and allow it to steep for 20 minutes. Strain (or you may use a tea ball) and, if desired, add some honey to sweeten.

This is great about ½ hour before a meal…or as a soothing treat before bed.

REFERENCES

Cunningham, Scott (2006). Cunningham’s Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs, 2nd edition. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Publications.

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

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A Plea for the Anti-Anti-Vaxxers

“The wise are promoted to honor, but fools are promoted to shame!” (Proverbs 3:35)

I’m struggling here. I know the whole vaccine thing is a heated debate. However, I’m a little disturbed by some of the stories I’m hearing about the upcoming Covid-19 vaccine potentially being mandatory. They may just be “stories” but

Hell, NO!

I am even more concerned about the abuse heaped upon those of us who choose not to get vaccines. We’re labeled selfish, insensitive, arrogant. I’ve even heard of people being physically accosted for their stand.

Yes, I understand the need to protect against another future pandemic. I understand that, in most cases, vaccines save lives. And I’m not necessarily an “anti-vaxxer” in the usual sense. I mean, I was vaccinated as a child against polio and small pox, and a host of other diseases, just like everyone else. If I had children, they would have gotten those vaccines just like every other kid. And, though there’s some controversy about the potential side effects of these childhood vaccinations, none of those side effects is death. These diseases kill…as does Covid-19, in some cases.

However, back in 2015, I had a bad reaction to a tetanus vaccine. I spiked 105 degrees, wound up back in the ER…and spent the next two weeks in a constant state of panic that I was going to die. The headaches that made it so I couldn’t even open my eyes; the serious brain “fog” that has never entirely left me; the constant fever surges, and the uncontrollable shivers that shook me, even as I burrowed under multiple quilts in 90+ degree temperatures, were terrifying. My doc believes that I had a reaction to either a preservative, or a carrier, not the tetanus vaccine itself as this was not my first tetanus.

But how can I be sure?

My doc also said that the next time will potentially be worse…and that those same preservatives/carriers are used for most vaccines, including flu, pneumonia, and shingles. Again, there is no way of knowing for sure. So I now wear one of those medical bracelets. Inside is a little card that says, “No TDP/TDAP, No Vaccines!” because the next time, I may not be merely terrified about dying. I am not a human guinea pig. And nobody else should be either…unless they choose to take the risk that they will be okay with any new vaccine.

You see, it’s all about choice. And that’s what a free society is all about.

No, I do not wish to harm anyone in any intentional way. I do not wish to spread this virus further. I wear a mask and gloves out in public; I wash my hands thoroughly. I clean door knobs and steering wheels, etc. with Clorox wipes. I’m staying home except for necessary trips to the grocery store, the feed store, etc.

But I’m not getting a vaccine. For me, it would be the equivalent of playing Russian roulette. And I’m not much of a gambler.

I recognize the fear; I truly do. We have this invisible enemy that we should all be working to defeat…and yet, we’re attacking each other instead.

Perhaps because our fellow human beings are more tangible than a virus.

Again, I’m not really an anti-vaxxer. I’ve had vaccines and, with the exception of that “bad” tetanus 5 years’ ago, there’s been no harm done…and I’ve avoided deadly diseases. I am certainly not telling anyone not to get the vaccine once it is available.

However, for all of the people who get in someone’s face and start ranting and raving, and even threatening someone, for not getting a vaccine–whatever that vaccine may be, or their reasons for not getting it–please stop and put yourself in their shoes for a moment. If you’re reading this, please consider that maybe this person has had a similar reaction as the one I shared here today and they fear more for their life with the vaccine than without it. Maybe they’re not being selfish at all.

May God bless you & keep you!

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These Dreams…

“As a hungry man dreams of eating, but is still hungry, and as a thirsty man dreams of drinking, but is still faint from thirst when he wakes up, so your enemies will dream of victorious conquest, but all to no avail.” (Isaiah 29:8)

I am grateful for this Covid-19 shutdown.

No, I haven’t lost my marbles. I know people are sick, dying, or have lost loved ones to this pandemic. I would be an insensitive clod to be grateful for that. Far too many people also don’t know where their next meal, or rent/mortgage payment, is coming from while they wait until it is truly safe to venture out again in numbers greater than 10. Without some serious assistance from our government, which doesn’t seem to be forthcoming anytime soon, far too many people are at risk of losing their homes. I’m not grateful for that either.

What I am grateful for is the stop of nearly everything “normal” in life.

You see, somehow along the line my life got “stuck” in survival mode. It’s been driven by purpose, by necessity, by the sheer panic that a potential foreclosure can instill in someone. Yes, I write my blog, my book, take care of my animals during “normal” times. Mom and I play games together, too, when there isn’t a pandemic.

But I don’t “stop”.

I can’t remember the last time I just sat and listened to music. Not while I’m playing games or doing housework, but just sat and listened. And dreamed. I can’t remember the last time that I woke up without an alarm and got to lay there and…yes, dream. Where do I want to go? What do I really want to do this day?

Daydreams…

Imaginings…

Manifesting…

Planning for the future…

During this crazy pandemic, I’ve actually been thinking about a future again. I’m looking at what I have, where I want to go, and allowing myself to dream about it…sort of like I did when I was a young girl just starting out in life with everything open before me. That is a gift, if we will only choose to look at it as such.

No, I don’t plan on wasting a whole day doing nothing but dreaming, but allowing one’s self to dream from time to time, actually opens our imagination. We start thinking about making the impossible, well, possible.

So, what do I dream about? What do I see when that imagination opens up?

Besides a few novels gracing the best sellers’ list, I’m imagining how my whole front lawn is going to look once I’m done landscaping. I’m envisioning all manner of herbs, small fruits, vegetables and flowers…a veritable food and medicinal forest. I’m seeing a stand along the roadside with cut flowers, herbs and plants for sale. I’m imagining that other half-acre fenced in and providing more ranging space for the goats, chickens and ducks. I see an agility course and several Border and Bearded Collies, and Welsh Corgis, running through lickety-split. I’m dreaming of a Great Wheel, a loom and a loom tool (another type of spinning wheel), and a number of Angora rabbits and goats providing fiber for spinning and weaving.

Sometimes, though, that dream isn’t here, but in another place…kind of murky and undefined, but larger, with room for more goats, and sheep. I see some greenhouses for growing spices, like cardamom and turmeric, year-round. I’m envisioning an aquaponics’ system and racks of microgreens and sprouts. When I’m really being far out, I see a greenhouse full of mulberries and silkworms…and the necessary apparatus for spinning their silken threads. I’m thinking of a thriving Reflexology practice–not just the occasional client–and herb classes hosted in my own extensive herb garden.

More, I dream of hosting potlucks and quiet nights spent with loved ones around a campfire.

Yes, all of this probably demands more energy, time, etc. than I have these days. This run-down, ramshackle abode has become a money pit; it would take too much to make such happen. Or would it? Maybe what it needs is simply for me to take a few more steps forward…and to really start thinking about that transition from impossible to possible.

That’s another thing to be thankful for: I have some time on my hands to do some of the work for those things I can do here and now. And I’m being honest enough with myself that I may not get all that I’d like to accomplish done, but I can certainly make a dent in it.

In the meantime, I’m enjoying not having to make a mad dash through life. We’ve got to take the silver linings where we can find them.

May God bless you & keep you!

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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!