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A Thrifty Thursday – Leftover Rice

“You feed them with blessings from your own table and let them drink from your rivers of delight.” (Psalms 36:8)

I consider The Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn to be one of my secular bibles. When I first purchased it many years ago, I poured through it with all of the enthusiasm of a school girl with her first crush. I mean, who can’t appreciate some tips for saving money? And the ideas contained therein are relevant even 20+ years after its publication.

Mom made wild rice the other day. Rice is truly one of those thrifty foods anyway. A little bit goes a long way. However, because it is also filling (though not heavy and bloating in nature like pasta), there is usually some left over for another day.

If it is plain rice, either white, brown, basmati, etc., I like to re-heat it in the morning by placing the rice in a saucepan with some melted butter and sauteing it. Once heated through, I may add just a little more butter and 1/2 tsp of organic cane sugar sprinkled and stirred through. It makes a hearty, satisfying breakfast and keeps me going for much of the morning.

However, Mom made wild rice. This was an organic packaged rice. Even organic “packaged” isn’t the healthiest choice, but it’s better for someone with Irritable Bowel Syndrome than pasta (though I love the latter equally as much). It would also not, in my opinion, lend itself well as an alternative to, say, oatmeal first thing in the a.m. so I pulled out The Tightwad Gazette and flipped through the back index until I found what I was looking for: a recipe for turning your leftover rice into a savory “pie crust” for quiche. It’s simple. Grab a mixing bowl. Combine the leftover rice with an egg and a bit of shredded cheese (you may omit the latter if you don’t have any; the egg holds it together) then mold it into a pie plate and pop it in an oven heated to–it says 425 degrees for 20 minutes. I set my dial at 400, because my oven tends to run hot, and only baked for 10 minutes. I have found that if I go longer, it comes out a little too crispy. While it baked, I rummaged through the refrigerator, pulled out the leftover broccoli and cheese, some fresh spinach, and heated them both in a skillet with some garlic and chives, then scrambled some eggs. When the “pie crust” was done, I poured the vegetables and herbs into it and then poured the egg over them. I used 3 eggs; depending on the size of your pie pan, you may opt for more. Then I popped everything in the oven, same 400 degree temperature, and baked for 50 minutes…or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. It was delicious.

Bon appetit!

May God bless you & keep you!

REFERENCES

Dacyczyn, Amy (1998). The Complete Tightwad Gazette: Promoting Thrift as a Viable Alternative Lifestyle. New York, NY: Villard Books, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group.

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Ongoing Projects and A Visit with Old “Friends”

“I walked by the field of a certain lazy fellow and saw that it was overgrown with thorns, and covered with weeds; and its walls were broken down.” (Proverbs 24:30-31)

No, I haven’t suddenly decided to break the current state laws and go socializing in person. I value my friends, Mom, and even my own life, much more than that. Mom at 74, and myself with asthma, are amongst the high-risk categories so we’re still being careful and doing what we can to halt the spread of this pandemic. Instead, I picked up a favorite book and perused my favorite scenes throughout. And please tell me I am not the only avid reader who regards the characters of their favorite novels as old “friends”.

Yes, the writer in me also picks these beloved stories apart. What worked? How did the author build up to this event, etc? But there’s also a certain contentment, a grounding effect, produced by re-reading a beloved story…even if it is just the “good parts”.

Of course, as I read, I gave an occasional glance out the window. My garden looks much like the biblical description above. However, recent heavy rains have the ground still saturated and that’s the worst time to work the soil. Not wanting to compact it, I refrained from going out to pull weeds and grass poking up through the garden soil.

It doesn’t mean it’s not cringe-worthy though. And, as I look at the forecast for the rest of the week, the prediction is for decent weather and temperatures for the remainder…at least until Saturday. I’ll take it…and visit with some other old “friends”: the wormwood (Artimisea absynthium), Rue (Ruta graveolens), Apple mint (Mentha suaveolens), Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara) and a host of other herbs and perennial plants awakening after a long winter’s nap.

May God bless you & keep you!

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Blessed Be the Name of the Lord

“There are ‘friends’ who pretend to be friends, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24)

I had one of the most heartening experiences yesterday morning.

Mom and I rarely get visitors here even when there isn’t a pandemic. Though we live in Connecticut, we are transplanted Rhode Islanders. And Rhode Islanders are a rare breed. Because you can literally drive from one end of the state to the other in, roughly, an hour’s time, anything more is the equivalent to living on the moon. Mom and I being, roughly, that hour away from most family members, live all the way “out there”. So, you can imagine my surprise when I heard a knock on the door around 8 a.m. during a pandemic.

Sadly, I didn’t answer. I was still in my pj’s, on my way to take a bath, and Mom was still in bed. I also didn’t immediately recognize the truck parked behind my car (single female).

So I waited.

And then felt a moment’s perplexity (as well as a twinge of guilt) when I finally did recognize the woman walking back from my mailbox in the pouring rain: the owner of my local feed store. By the time I could throw my Wellingtons on and a jacket, she was gone. She left a note in my mailbox. As I hadn’t been into the store in a while, she was concerned and checking to make sure Mom and I were okay. I called her back to reassure her.

I know it sounds like a little thing but, especially in this pandemic when everyone is afraid of reaching out, that someone would make such an effort warmed my heart. She didn’t have to stop; in fact, she could have put herself at serious risk if either Mom and/or I hadn’t been feeling okay. However, her concern was stronger than caution. She told me when I called that she had actually had someone post on their website that we might be in need of help. However, I hadn’t been in because I did a little panic shopping for hay and feed a few weeks’ back. Not hoarding, just giving myself a little bit of a buffer until this thing passes. Apparently, people have noticed the fewer visits than normal and some, like my neighbor from the store, cared enough to check.

We may be quarantined, distancing ourselves, but we humans were not meant to be islands unto ourselves. We are a community. And never does that community rise with warmth and intention more than when we face a crisis such as this one.

Take that, Covid-19.

May God bless you & keep you!

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Prepping

“Finally the day came when the Lord said to Noah, ‘Go into the boat with all your family, for among all the people of the earth, I consider you alone to be righteous. Bring in the animals, too–a pair of each, except those kinds I have chosen for eating and for sacrifice: take seven pairs of each of them, and seven pairs of every kind of bird. Thus there will be every kind of life reproducing again after the flood has ended. One week from today I will begin forty days and nights of rain; and all the animals and birds and reptiles I have made will die’. So Noah did everything the Lord commanded him.” (Genesis 7:1-5)

The lights keep flickering. The forecast is for heavy rains (check) and high winds (also, check) with potential power outages. This last may be a “check” before the day is out. We’re still in the middle of a pandemic that could take the lives of hundreds of thousands in the U.S. before it is done. Our economy has been nearly frozen. Millions of jobs have been lost; mostly part-time jobs were to be had before the pandemic shutdown. Groceries are flying off the shelves. Ditto for toilet paper and cleaning supplies. Economists are predicting a depression that will rival the 1930’s. On a personal note, foreclosure has been eminent here at The Herbal Hare Homestead since last year’s battle with the icy driveway.

I’ve been “playing” at homesteading over the last 5-6 years. Financial struggles have left me on the fence about truly investing the time and energy into developing this place into the self-sufficient enterprise that I have envisioned. Confidence issues have gotten in the way, too. As has a personal struggle to get Mom on board with some of the more extreme projects.

Thanks to Covid-19, Mom is actually the one suggesting prepping. Working together, I know we can make this work.

As for the back mortgage payments, I’m considering swallowing my pride and filing bankruptcy so I can start clean again. At present, I am still employed. Albeit, it’s part-time employment but, if I do the work while I’m at home with this enforced quarantine, by the time work starts back up again, I may have a few supplemental incomes ready to roll.

My biggest obstacle though is myself. Yes, I procrastinate. But, more, I have a tendency to lose focus. I’ve never been tested, but I would be willing to bet, that I have some form of ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder). I do have anxiety issues; that can rob you of focus all by itself…and may be all there is to it. So, for the last week that I’ve been MIA on this blog, I’ve been creating detailed outlines about my homestead and where I want to go; about my writing; even about this blog and the direction I am hoping to take it, the content I am hoping to share as the days, weeks, months go forward. I’m even writing multiple blog posts on the weekend to copy and paste in WordPress each day so that I have time for all of the many endeavors I’ve set for myself. It will give me more time with my book instead of an either/or writing habit. You see, I want this blogging thing to remain sustainable. I also want to finish my book. And, once I’m back to the “day” job, it won’t be sustainable to do both…unless, of course, I write everything on the weekend. So, that’s the start of it.

And what about my faith? You ask.

Somehow, I don’t feel that prepping, as much as one is able, for disaster(s) is a sign that I’m losing faith. Just look at Noah. I feel that this prepping is an outward expression of obeying the warnings He is putting on my heart.

Our healthcare system is broken.

Our economic system is broken.

Our housing system is broken.

Our educational system is broken.

Our election process is broken.

Even, and especially, our government is broken…no matter what side of the political aisle you stand upon.

Almost all of this brokenness stems from a.) A love of money and materialism, and b.) An inability to truly live the teachings of our faith, which is to love our brothers and sisters as ourselves. Perhaps it’s because so many of us don’t have any self-love. I’m not talking about cultivating a selfish heart, nor am I talking about narcissism, but a healing, appreciating kind of love that values “self” as a child of the Creator. Today, any outward expression of belief is frowned upon in our modern society. It might offend some people. So we leave it at the door.

Yet the non-believers can belittle and post their hateful rhetoric on social media…or spout it on the boob-tube on a regular basis.

I’m done with it.

I’m not ashamed of my God.

Nor of a renewed determination to live more intentionally, more sustainably…and, of course, more faithfully.

And, while it may seem crazy to invest myself in an—for all practical purposes—uncertain future here in Connecticut, I’m trusting Him. He has a plan. For my life. For your life. For even a frightening pandemic and its subsequent shutdown of all things “normal” in our society.

May God bless you & keep you!

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Rare Indulgences

“So I decided that there was nothing better for a man to do than to enjoy his food and drink, and his job. Then I realized that even this pleasure is from the hand of God. For who can eat or enjoy apart from Him? For God gives those who please Him wisdom, knowledge, and joy; but if a sinner becomes wealthy, God takes the wealth away from him and gives it to those who please Him. So here, too, we see an example of foolishly chasing the wind.” (Ecclesiastes 2:24-26)

I am enjoying the luxury of long fingernails. As a Reflexologist, long nails are a no-no. Even a slight white tip on the end of a nail can put a world of hurt into the client, who has carefully put their feet (or hands) into your hands for treatment. I have been on the receiving end so I understand wholeheartedly what those long nails feel like navigating the “map” of your feet. However, in this forced shutdown, Reflexology is the no-no. It requires physical contact. So, I’ve been letting my nails grow…just because I can. I’ve stopped just short of picking up a bottle of toxic nail polish at the grocery store when next I visit it.

(Yes, we all have our vanities.)

I haven’t played guitar in ages. Picking it up again would be a much more worthy endeavor than growing my nails. And, if I was playing right now, I would be cutting my nails off so that I could actually play…and play well. However, I know that once I return to work, even if it is a part-time position, I would not be able to keep my practice up. As an online student, my classwork has not diminished and that takes precedence until I graduate later this year.

So, I’m catering to this vanity…for at least as long as we are in quarantine. Or until I get too frustrated with hitting more than one key as I type away on the keyboard in creating this blog post. It has been a long time since I’ve indulged myself with something so frivolous. And, while a part of me is saying, “Wow! Look at these hands. They actually look pretty and feminine for a change”, another part of me is also thinking, “Arrrgh! I just had to re-type that sentence twice because of these vanities.” And don’t even look at these hands after I’ve been digging in the garden dirt or, like yesterday, cleaning out a goat barn.

And, yes, the subject of this post is equally frivolous. I mean, really, what does any of this have to do with homesteading. Or herbs. Or frugality. Or social issues. What does it have to do with faith?

However, from a healing perspective, I would say that this forced shutdown has shined a light on something I typically neglect: ME. And I’m not necessarily talking about indulging a few vanities. In the last few weeks, I’ve indulged myself with the occasional nap, spent much more quality time with Mom, read some awesome books, and had time to explore some plot development for my own novel-in-the-works. Because I’m one of the lucky ones right now who has been receiving a paycheck even though I’m not at work, I can relax for a moment and simply enjoy life…albeit without the usual social interactions that constitute day-to-day life. I’ve been able to get things done on the homestead that have been pressing…and that are usually done with an underlying angst pushing me to “get ‘er done” before I have to go back to work on Monday. No, I’m not lamenting work. I like what I do at the library…and the ladies I work with; no issues there. However, I’m looking on the bright side of this pandemic and seeing all of the things I can do that I seldom have time for in “normal” times. It’s been a lot more productive an attitude than the constant worry and stress that started this shutdown…and peppered every blog post since mid-March.

Here’s to hoping that every one of you reading this is having just as restful and productive a time during this pandemic as I am. I would be delighted if you would share in the comments below how you’re using this extra leisure time. Stay safe and healthy!

May God bless you & keep you!

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A Break from Coronavirus and Wednesday’s Weed Walk

“Now the report of [Jesus’] power spread even faster and vast crowds came to hear Him preach and to be healed of their diseases. But He often withdrew to the wilderness for prayer.” (Luke 5: 15-16)

The last few days the introvert went into a sort of hibernation from, well, this enforced hibernation. Too much information, too much “in-your-face” news coverage–both accurate and inaccurate–regarding this coronavirus pandemic. And, of course, our media, our government, etc. has set out on a course to make it all political. It became sickening.

So I took a break.

For the last two days I’ve been working on some more character development for my book, fleshed out a potential short story, and submerged myself in one of the novels that I checked out two weeks’ ago to tide me over during this hibernation…and now I’m wishing I’d checked out the whole series because it was good and I’d like to continue on (Angie Sage’s Magyk, 2005, Harper Collins, Young Adult). I got back on the yoga mat (I’ve been seriously lax), the exercise bike, the inversion table and I’ve started meditating. I’ve also been paying more attention to my spiritual life, praying the rosary for the victims of this pandemic…which is all of us one way or the other…and praying for true leadership, for divine guidance for our leaders, when we need it the most. It’s been a grounding experience and I’m feeling better mentally, emotionally, spiritually.

I turned on YouTube this morning to catch up…and was pleasantly surprised that The Late Show with Stephen Colbert appears to be back up and running to some degree. A little laughter over the first cup of tea of the day can never be amiss. There was an added chuckle as Miss Goldie, one of my Buff Orpington hens, put her two cents’ worth in from time to time from her cage in the kitchen.

Miss Goldie has been acting rather lethargic lately. That’s really the only “symptom” I’ve had that there might be anything “wrong” so I’ve been checking on her a little more often and contemplating separating her from the rest of the flock, maybe even a call to the vet. It is not unusual for chickens, because they scratch and peck in the dirt, the compost pile, the barn floor, etc., I even had one pick some undigested matter from a dog turd many years’ back (Ewww) when they were allowed to free-range a little farther afield, to also pick up a parasite. Or develop some sort of intestinal worm.

However, I should have separated Goldie a little sooner.

I found Miss Goldie curled up on the floor of the barn the night before last, her head and beak a bloody mess. After the initial gut punch as I assumed the very worst, I reached to pick her up and she turned her head and chirped at me. The wounds were still running freely so I had obviously just interrupted what would have been curtains for Goldie if I hadn’t walked into the barn when I did. Chickens are notorious for pecking to death any of their flock who is sick, or weak, in some way. Though it has yet to happen to me, I know other farmers/homesteaders who have found an indistinguishable bloody pulp in the barnyard. I didn’t think Goldie had reached such a place but, apparently, I was wrong. I can only be grateful that things had not progressed to that level of cannibalism (yes, that’s exactly what they resort to when they sense a sick, or weakened, flock-mate; they turn into sharks. Incited by the scent of drawn blood, they will often keep going until there’s nothing left of the sick one).

Fortunately, there was more blood than wound once I cleaned her up. She wasn’t sure about sitting in my lap but she bore my ministrations and, after I got the bleeding stopped, I gently dabbed the wounds with my “bunny” salve. This is equal parts of comfrey (Symphytum officinale) and plantain (Plantago spp.). I use a double boiler, add the dried leaves, cover them completely with olive oil, and a lid, and brew it on low heat for 20 minutes (do NOT bring to a boil). It is then strained and, in this case, because I want a creamier consistency, I only put 1/2 to 3/4 squared of beeswax into the 4 oz. container I just strained the oil into and stir until the wax dissolves (please do NOT use your best utensils/pans for stirring beeswax…and NEVER try to wash them in your sink or dishwasher but take hot water outside and scrub/dissolve away the beeswax over a patch of dirt; you will never unstop your sink, or the lines in your dishwasher again…). And, as you can see from the pictures below, the plantain is NOT the banana-like fruit found in most major grocery stores. This is that little patch of “weed” or “crab” grass that we choke out with all manner of harmful herbicides (PS Please reconsider…even if you’re not an herbalist; many pollinators visit those long, spindly “flowers” reaching up in the middle).

COMFREY (Symphytum officinale)

PLANTAIN (Plantago major)

Anyway, after cleaning Goldie up, I also found an eyedropper and popped open a jar of strained spinach, zucchini and peas (I always keep jars of baby food on hand for such emergencies) and hand-fed her. Then I placed her in the cage with a bowl of water, and another bowl of chicken feed with some birdseed mixed in to try and tempt her to eat on her own, and a clove of garlic minced up to kill any parasites that may have started the whole issue. Yesterday, I repeated said process and actually picked up a piece of the minced garlic, opened her beak, dropped it in and then chased it down with more of the spinach mix.

My biggest concern has been her right eye. It was swollen shut when I found her, and for all of yesterday. However, in addition to eating on her own last night/early this morning, both eyes are now open. So there is hope. And I am grateful that Miss Goldie does not seem to have lost her sight by this ordeal…even if she does still resemble Rocky Balboa a little bit…in chicken form, of course.

As Goldie, hopefully, continues to heal…and get pleasantly spoiled with all the hand-feeding and handling…I’m going to keep hoping that our nation continues to heal as well. Though I’m not 100% sure how accurate each source is, it appears there is finally a flattening of the curve, as they say, in the spread of this coronavirus. This is not a license to become complacent, or to relax our vigil, in controlling the spread of Covid-19…anymore than this marked improvement in Goldie’s condition is a license for me to become lax in continuing her treatments. As signs of improvement continue to show, this is actually the time to be even more vigilant.

Stay safe.

Stay home, if you can.

Wash your hands frequently…as well as door knobs, steering wheels, etc. anything that might have some of those Covid-19 germs on it.

Keep the world in your prayers; He’s got this…He truly does.

May God bless you & keep you!

The FDA has not evaluated these statements. The information contained is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any diseases.

REFERENCES

Comfrey (Symphytum officinale) (n.d.). Yahoo Image Search. Image. Retrieved from: https://images.search.yahoo.com/search/images;_ylt=A0geKIwEuYReREsA1yZXNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTEybzY4bXJpBGNvbG8DYmYxBHBvcwMxBHZ0aWQDQjk4NDdfMQRzZWMDc2M-?p=comfrey&fr=mcafee#id=8&iurl=https%3A%2F%2F2.bp.blogspot.com%2F-PIuJY1clecU%2FUBepNQAveYI%2FAAAAAAAAAcg%2FzTF_atb-HmE%2Fs1600%2Fcomfrey.jpg&action=click

Plantain (Plantago major) (n.d.). Yahoo Image Search. Image. Retrieved from: https://images.search.yahoo.com/search/images;_ylt=AwrJ6yvduYRe.NwAmChXNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTEybzY4bXJpBGNvbG8DYmYxBHBvcwMxBHZ0aWQDQjk4NDdfMQRzZWMDc2M-?p=plantago+major&fr=mcafee#id=24&iurl=https%3A%2F%2Fi.ytimg.com%2Fvi%2FOntYFofcDMM%2Fmaxresdefault.jpg&action=click

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Moments of Reflection

“But they delight in doing everything God wants them to, and day and night are always meditating on his laws and thinking about ways to follow Him more closely.” (Psalms 1:2)

There have been way too many outraged, ranting and raving against a broken government, system, and society type posts that I cannot change/fix, etc. with my outrage, rants and raves. I cannot fix a pandemic, or a collapsing economy, with it either. So, though I’ve sneered a little bit in the past over those rubber bracelets that people wear that say, “What would Jesus do?”, I did exactly that. What would Jesus do? Or, more importantly, what would He have me do right now? Can He use me in this pandemic? And how? How may I best serve Him? And/or my fellow Man?

Yesterday was a day of reflection, of finishing some organizational projects, of completing homework assignments, and connecting with friends.

Certainly more productive than ranting and raving.

I’m not 100% sure yet what He has in mind, but I’m contemplating doing something special with this blog on Sundays. Connecticut has shutdown even places of worship. I don’t know about everyone else reading this, but I miss my worship community. I miss singing with the choir. I miss giving the readings, serving Communion. I miss Father Ben’s gentle homilies. And the fellowship of friends, of course.

That’s the hardest part of this enforced quarantine: the loss of social interaction. Though I consider myself an extreme introvert, even an introvert needs someone to chat with from time to time. Thankfully, I have Mom here with me…and a large network of friends and relatives just a mouse click, or speed dial, away from a long distance connection. How much harder must it be on the more gregarious of our brethren? Those among us who are always in the thick of things are suddenly caged. And, to be honest, though I’m an avowed introvert, I’m also a free spirit who hates even a necessary oppression of that free spirit…such as a shutdown. I guess this is proof that we always want most what we cannot have.

The flip side of this is the elderly, the shut-ins, people that are often alone and forgotten in the best of times. We had a Texas “leader” recently suggesting the elderly sacrifice themselves for the younger generation. Sure, if I contracted the virus, and it came down to one ventilator between myself and one of my nieces, you bet your a** I’m going to give it to them. And I know this is what this politician was saying, but it came out bass-ackwards. At any rate, before I go down another rant, oftentimes, the elderly, the shut-ins, etc. only ever see folks when they come to church/synagogue/mosque or temple each day/week. Though it is impossible to get together physically, I’m thinking it might not be amiss to come together for a Sunday Cyber-Service. I am an ordained minister, after all…non-denominational. And, if nothing else, what I manage to put together might bring solace and comfort to those who read it. If I knew how to do conference calls, I’d host a prayer meeting via phone…or Skype.

(I thinking it also might not be amiss to use this enforced shutdown to teach myself some of these technologies…)

In closing, I can’t promise that there won’t be some future posts that continue to rant and rave and rage against what is happening in the world today. Like everyone else, I am frightened for our future. I have an elderly Mom, a brother who had his spleen removed last year and cannot fight infections/viruses as easily as most, and a niece who is Type I diabetic. I have a couple of beloved aunts who are Type II diabetic, several aunts and uncles who, like Mom, would be considered elderly, and a cousin who just had a kidney transplant and is also vulnerable right now. So, yes, I do worry about them…despite my faith…because, though I know losing loved ones is inevitable under any circumstances, I’d prefer to keep them all here for as long as God wills it (and I’m not above praying to Him and begging for their continuity in my life either).

So, while it may be scary and feel unproductive to be home, instead of at work/school, please stay home anyway (if you can, of course; front line workers and necessary trips to the grocery store/doctor’s office being the exceptions). Wash your hands frequently. Clean and disinfect frequently used surfaces, like doorknobs and countertops…and steering wheels. Avoid gatherings with large numbers of people. No, we probably won’t be back to “normal” by Easter, but we can find peace in our hearts, knowing we’re doing everything we can to protect those we love and cherish. Here’s praying all of your loved ones are safe and healthy, too.

May God bless you & keep you!

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What Happened to “For the People”?

“Giving preferred treatment to rich people is a clear case of selling one’s soul for a piece of bread.” (Proverbs 28:21)

I am struggling to find a positive spin on the recently agreed upon stimulus. The best I can come up with is “it’s better than nothing”. And I’m not sure that’s entirely true.

I feel like it’s 2008 all over again. We’re using the hard-earned tax money paid by We the People to bail out Corporate America again…and, likely, the money will only go to those corporations in the states that our current administration needs to win again in November. Said corporations will stay afloat, continue to monopolize the marketplace, force the smaller businesses completely out of business…or buy them out of hock and incorporate them. They will continue to pay their workers minimum wage, those workers that they decide to keep, as they will use this extra capital to automate away as many positions as they possibly can. It’s all about the Almighty dollar. In the meantime, we, the American people, must appear stupid in their eyes. Here’s a few measly crumbs–a whopping one-time payment of $1200–to tide you and yours over for however many months we’re forced to stay in quarantine. Yes, I know we’re also extending unemployment benefits. But, despite the loans and grants to small businesses, will it be enough for Main Street to stay open and solvent? Because staying open and solvent means they will also have to remain competitive against those corporate giants who have considerably greater resources than Main Street, USA…including lobbyists in Washington, D.C. who have far too many of our politicians in their hip pockets.

And, yes, I am angry and cynical…and trying desperately not to be. Despite the above rant, I am incredibly grateful that there is a stimulus at all…it really is “better than nothing”. But will it be enough to stave off what, for many, may mean total ruin? I want so badly to hold onto my faith that every American will get through this crisis, safe, happy, healthy. I want to believe that the majority of our politicians are inherently good and have the best interest of We the People at heart. And there have been some rather unsung heroes in the midst of it all.

And maybe that’s where my thoughts should go right now. Because, just as there have been politicians on both sides of the aisle who appear to be looking out for their own interests instead of We the People’s, there are some–also on both sides of the aisle–who have stepped up to the plate with boldness and compassion: Marco Rubio, Mitt Romney, Bernie Sanders, Andrew Yang, Andrew Cuomo and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, to name a few.

Actually, I’m amazed that the House and Senate were able to work together at all to accomplish as much as they did…even as I acknowledge that it won’t be enough in the long run. It is all too easy to imagine tent cities cropping up across America again…2008 regurgitated.

I hope I am wrong.

And, yes, I am breaking my own challenge of yesterday to spread hope. But I have trouble wondering why our government has no qualms about spending trillions of dollars to bail out corporations, but that same money is too much to bail out individual citizens as we do exactly what we’re being asked to do: stay home, stay out of public spaces, do our part to stop the spread of this Covid-19, etc. In the richest country in the world, we have an embarrassingly large number of our citizens living on the streets. Why are we unwilling to spend the money to ensure that the number of homeless doesn’t grow by leaps and bounds at the back-end of this pandemic?

Yes, I know…follow my own advice. Breathe, just breathe. We will get through this…the same way we got through 2008. And, no, that statement really doesn’t inspire a feeling of hope either. Instead, I’m going to take it to the One who always inspires hope:

Dear heavenly Father,

I come to you broken, scared, listening to the lies of the Adversary robbing me of my faith when I need it the most…when I need You the most. I ask Your forgiveness for my dismay, my anger, and my impatience, and ask that You strengthen my faith in the midst of chaos. Help me to step up to that plate, to step up to the challenge of spreading hope during this time of darkness and despair for so many of Your people. For those who feel that despair, please give them the strength and courage they need to weather this “storm”.

For all of the families and individuals who are suddenly feel like they are without recourse, let the miracle of Your Son feeding thousands with just two fish be extended to them in their time of need. May they have enough healthy, nutritious food to feed their children and keep their bodies strong. May they find Your grace in the compassion of those debt collectors who willingly suspend payment until this crisis is over. May You provide them with work for their hands to do once the danger of this pandemic is over.

For our leaders, both in our government, and in the unsung heroes in our local communities, bless them with hearts full of love for their fellow man, and clear heads for finding real solutions in these troubled times. For the many, many individuals working in retail, who brave the risk of infection themselves, to make sure groceries and medicines are obtainable for all who need them, and for the factory workers, truck drivers, etc. who are keeping those supplies available, please watch over them, protect them, and their families, as they continue to serve their communities.

Father, lastly, I ask that You spread Your mercy over those who have been stricken with Covid-19. I ask that You stretch Your mighty Hand of healing over them, and bless the doctors, nurses, technicians, first responders and emergency workers, etc. who are working selflessly to care for those stricken with this virus. I pray that You find the medicine(s) and equipment needed to ease their suffering. And, for those whom You have called home, I ask that you comfort those they have left behind whose hearts are breaking for their loss. I ask this all in Jesus’ precious, pure and holy Name. Amen.

May God bless you & keep you!

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Spreading Hope

“A cheerful heart does good like medicine, but a broken spirit makes one sick.” (Proverbs 17:22)

We are overwhelmed.

As a nation.

As a people.

As a world.

It’s like we took the flu epidemic of 1918 and The Great Depression of the 1930’s, mixed them in a bowl, tossed it into a microwave, and let it explode out. It’s all too easy to imagine martial law, and even the outbreak of another civil war, as fear and worry and, sadly, blame takes hold…and fights to stay.

There is no one person to blame for this. It simply is. We can charge that maybe this elected official, or that one, didn’t act swiftly enough, didn’t take things seriously enough, etc. I understand. How many times in the past has our media hyped up a flu virus only to have the hype be so much larger than the reality?

This time is different however.

We’ve never shutdown our whole nation over a pandemic before…at least not since 1918. Businesses are closing. People are out of work. We don’t know when we might safely return. And we have bills to pay. I get it. We all do…at least I hope so, even if we would rather deny it.

We also have loved ones who could easily be listed among the most vulnerable. Maybe they’re elderly. Maybe they have asthma. Or emphysema. Or COPD. Maybe they’re on dialysis or chemotherapy. Maybe they’ve had a spleen removed. Or struggle with diabetes or an autoimmune disease. Now is not the time to get overly optimistic. Such optimism, taking the stance that we can go out again in a couple of weeks, could put those loved ones at risk. Again, I get it. We still have those bills to pay, a roof to keep overhead, etc.

Please…breathe, just breathe. Worry is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to “do” but it doesn’t get you anywhere…even during a pandemic.

Despite this grim outlook, we really are all in this together. Though Congress seems intent on making this a political thing…no matter which side of the aisle we stand on…still, Congress members, our president, the White House, our local officials, etc. have all been risking their own safety to work round the clock to find a solution to these challenges. Have they succeeded? It may be too early to tell. I believe the efforts have probably fallen short of the mark. Do I trust that all of them have our best interest at heart? No. However, we haven’t seen either a health pandemic, or the risk of an economic depression, this strong in over 90 years. I’d wager our elected officials are as overwhelmed and frightened as we are.

If you’re reading this, you’re alive and, hopefully, still well. I’m going to also hope that, at least for the moment, you have enough to eat, a roof overhead, etc. If all of this is true, give thanks…to God, to Allah, to Buddha, Goddess, etc. It’s one day at a time, one step at a time. If you’re reading this, you also probably know someone who is taking this pretty hard. Pray for them and, if they’ll allow it, with them. Now is not the time to argue religious doctrine anymore than it’s the time to further political agendas. Do you have extra canned goods/non-perishables? We can safely put together care packages by washing our hands carefully first and then washing/wiping those cans and packages before packing them into a box, a tote, a bag and leaving them anonymously on the doorstep of a friend or neighbor in need. Make sure to include a note stating the precautions you took to keep everything clean. If you’re one of the people hoarding toilet paper, you might also include a couple of rolls of that (chuckle). By such selfless acts, we can inspire hope in those who are beyond scared.

Including ourselves.

Such acts of kindness make us feel better…which can actually boost our immunity. It also breaks the cycle of scarcity and want in our communities. It lets others know that their neighbors are watching, seeing their added struggles, their fear, and reaching out to help in the best way possible right now. It chases away the loneliness in our isolation, inspires hope for a new day tomorrow.

If nothing else, I am offering up a challenge to everyone reading this. If you are spending a lot of time on social media, you know that there is a lot of negativity being shared throughout. Instead of sharing the negativity, lets look for the news’ stories of the heroes in our communities. They may be few and far between, because coronavirus is getting the bulk of the coverage, but keep looking. If your mayor, your governor, etc. has stepped up to the plate in a way that is above and beyond the call of duty, share it. If you know of any programs in your state, or community, that might help those in need, share that information. Start a prayer chain via email, text message, etc. with those in your worship community, and share that. If your neighbor left that box of groceries on your doorstep, share it. And keep sharing it. It may not do anything to heal coronavirus, but it may be enough to heal anxious hearts and get them focusing on the positive. We will get through this! We’ve got to believe. Do you believe? Are you up to the challenge? I have faith that you are. Again, we’re all in this together…and together, we can be unstoppable.

May God bless you & keep you!

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Blessings in Solitude

“Wisdom is enshrined in the hearts of men of common sense, but it must shout loudly before fools will hear it.” (Proverbs 14:33)

Though I’m still shouting at the television screen on a nightly basis while both Democrats and Republicans dither over partisan agendas, instead of putting cash into the hands of the American people and small businesses to help them make it through this pandemic, I’m actually enjoying the solitude. If you look in the dictionary under “introvert”, I’m pretty sure my picture is sitting there beside it. My dream home is a small cabin out in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by nature.

For the moment, I’m making do with an early-20th century fixer-upper sitting alongside a major interstate in rural Connecticut.

When this whole shutdown started, I checked out a stack of novels for Mom and I to read. I’ve read two. The other two, well, I’m sure I’ll get to them sooner or later. Instead I’ve been going through a lot of paperwork. Isn’t it amazing how it piles up over time? I’ve cleaned my office, my bedroom and rearranged them both. Ditto for my workout space. Next is the bathroom…and that pile of bags and boxes that have been sitting outside the bathroom in the hallway since my Auntie Marjorie died several years’ ago. Most of it can be shredded. They’re old rent receipts and telephone bills. There are also some stuffed animals; it’s about time they went to a shelter…when it’s safe to make such contact with the world again. The kitchen could use some re-organizing, too. And I’m contemplating a major purge of all the unnecessary bric-a-brac that also tends to pile up over time. The idea is to keep one gift from each person. If I have multiple gifts from the same person, I’m choosing the one I love the most and putting the rest into a yard sale. Going minimalist has been a long time in coming.

As for the homestead itself, we’ve had lots of rain, and even a snow storm yesterday, so outside work has been curtailed. The snow has already melted. My Mom would call it a season breaker. She says it’s God’s way of purifying the earth of this scourge, the coronavirus. I hope she’s right. Her anxiety disorder has been through the roof with this pandemic, especially with so many reports that people over 60 are likely not to be treated as there aren’t enough ventilators for everyone.

The biggest blessing is being home together in all of this. We’ve been having Scrabble tournaments. And, at night, though it’s a break in Lenten vows, we’ve been watching all of the uploaded videos from Crufts’ 2020 dog show on YouTube. My favorite is the agility competitions. When I’m back on my feet again financially, I’m hoping for a few Border Collies of my own to train in agility…and, if I can finally swing it, the herding of sheep.

Of course, that will probably require more land for the latter. For now, I’ll be happy with the Border Collies and an agility course–my plans for the half-acre that has been completely overgrown for years.

That’s the other blessing right now: being able to relax, just a little, and to dream. Because I’m one of the fortunate ones who is still getting paid, despite being out of work, it’s different than last year’s fall and subsequent convalesce. I just sent off the electric bill, paid the Internet, the car insurance and the car loan. We’re well stocked with 300 lbs. of poultry feed (a month’s supply), 50 lbs. of both goat and rabbit chow, 14 bales of hay, and 5 cases of cat food. We had just done our month’s grocery shopping a week or so before this hit and I stocked up on a few more bags of frozen vegetables, tea, sugar, cereals, etc last week. We won’t starve. The only thing marring the peace is the mortgage payments that are overdue…and the threat of foreclosure that still looms. But one thing at a time. There are so many who are worse off than we are right now. And, so far, nobody I know has come down with this coronavirus. Though it is a serious situation, a part of me is giving myself permission to relax, to think, to dream, to write…and who knows? Maybe with this extended breather, maybe all the noise and chaos of day-to-day life will quiet enough that I can finally hear Him speak to my heart and show me His will for me in this situation.

In the meantime, I give thanks for these blessings, for the quality time with Mom, my pets and livestock, for the phone calls, emails, text messages, and even an Easter card that came in the mail from friends I haven’t seen in ages. I give thanks for being slightly ahead on the bulk of this household’s expenses…and for our continued good health. And I give thanks for everyone reading this blog, the friends/acquaintances I have made through it. I pray that each and every one of you stays safe and healthy through this worrisome time. He’s got this. He truly does.

May God bless you & keep you!