Animals, Appreciation, Bereavement, Brothers & Sisters, Compassion, Faith, Family, Friendship, Grief, Healing, Holidays, Homesteading, Memories, Nostalgia

Hindsight is Always 2020

“Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where then your victory? Where then your sting? (1 Corinthians 15:51-55)

I don’t believe I am alone in saying this has been one of the most challenging years we have ever faced: A contentious election; conspiracy theories of wide-spread voter fraud; a deadly pandemic; the worst economy since The Great Depression of the 1930s, and a whole new meaning to the phrases “2020 vision” and, to reiterate the title of this post, “Hindsight is always 2020.”

As midnight creeps ever closer on this December 31, 2020, the only place I ever want to see 2020 again is through hindsight!

Of course, my inner-Pollyanna still looks for the silver lining: many of us have also renewed our appreciation for what matters most. As we sheltered in place, we got to rest, to read a few good books, enjoy the company of immediate family, pets, and find creative ways to occupy our minds and bodies.

I pray that everyone reading this is hale and hearty, and that somehow, some way, you are still standing strong. We WILL get through this challenging time.

And, as the tradition I started last year for New Year’s Eve, this last post of the year also remembers in a very special way those faces that will no longer grace The Herbal Hare Homestead…except in our hearts and the memories we keep deep inside.

My uncle, James Kimble, passed away in January. Sadly, by his own hand. He was 58 years old.

My Auntie Anne Marie Heon passed away due to complications from Covid-19, as did a family friend’s boyfriend, Richard.

A childhood friend, Paul Shelton, passed a couple of weeks’ ago due to a heart attack.

Technically speaking, none of these people ever physically visited The Herbal Hare Homestead; all of them lived in other states. However, they were loved and, again, will live on in our memories.

As for residents here, we lost quite a few beloved furry family members: chickens Goldie, a Buff Orppington, and Crow, a Black Austrolop; my first goat to be lost, Domino, who succumbed to heat stroke, and two beloved felines: my Pearlina Wilhelmina, who suffered cardiac arrest while being given sub-Q fluids by our vet, and Priscilla, who was found a couple of weeks ago on the floor of the rabbit room, also a stroke. And, though she was only here for a little over a week, Dolly. Dolly was a stray cat that showed up just before winter. I finally trapped her and took her to the vet for shots and testing to make sure she was healthy and, sadly, the vet found that she was having trouble breathing, there was an irregular heartbeat, and she was ancient. All of her teeth had fallen out, she was well beyond motherhood, and she had been lucky to have been carried as long as she had on the heart issues he detected. The kindest thing was to put her down. Still broke my heart.

I hate saying “Goodbye!”

Somehow, I believe this time next year will see me saying “Goodbye!” to the current location of The Herbal Hare Homestead as we search for new digs. That breaks my heart, too, as all of the aforementioned pets, and more, are buried here. But the fixer-upper house needs far too much TLC–more than I can give it, and it has become unsafe. I can no longer afford the mortgage payments. And, with the new neighbors raising Cain and Abel about zoning regulations, there’s no reason to fight in the first place. It is time to move on. Maybe we’ll bloom better where next we are planted.

In the meantime, may auld acquaintance be forgot, etc.

May 2021 be a better year for everyone…Happy New Year, my friends! May God bless you & keep you!

Pearlina Wilhelmina (white cat with black patches); Priscilla (tortoisehell laying across back of chair, her daughter, Emmylou, is the Russian blue tuxedo on the right)

Domino

Bereavement, Brothers & Sisters, Christianity, Compassion, Faith, Family, Friendship, Grief, Love, Memories, Nostalgia

The Cycles of Life

“And now, dear brothers, I want you to know what happens to a Christian when he dies so that when it happens, you will not be full of sorrow, as those are who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and then came back to life again, we can also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him all the Christians who have died.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14)

My heart is heavy yet again.

Snow is drifting and blowing about outside my window. There’s at least 10-12 inches on the ground, more still falling, and a prediction of up to 20 inches before it is done. Usually my heart delights like a little kid over a big snowfall like this. Instead, I keep thinking of a childhood friend: Paul “Peewee” Shelton.

Paul’s family rented the apartment above my family’s in St. Louis, Missouri about a year after we moved there in 1979. We were neighbors and friends for a number of years afterwards; have remained friends forever since. I went to school with his older brothers. His niece, Amy, played with my baby brother, Shaun. Our families went to Six Flags together and I saw my first concert–Johnny and June Carter Cash–with them at Six Flags. Our mothers became the best of friends, their birthdays a day apart, and every night (weather permitting, of course) like clockwork, the two of them would sit outside together on the stoop and chat about everything under the sun. They were like family.

They were family.

And always will be in my heart.

So that heart broke a little last night to learn that the youngest passed away yesterday. He’s younger than me. That just seems off balance for some reason. It’s hard for me to credit him as being 50-something (I’m 54; he was 2-3 years’ younger). I still see the gangly string bean of a boy who teased me throughout my teen years. I’m also reminded of a time–I’m not even sure how old we all were–but Peewee, as he was known then, had broken a window. It was an accident but, he was sure he was going to catch hell for it. He ran off and hid. When his mother got home I went looking for him. I found him sitting on the retainer wall by the basement door. He was still working off the mad, or fear, and told me to get out of there. I braved the mad to let him know she had said he wasn’t in trouble; she knew it was an accident. My heart went out to him in that moment of time. I’m guessing he was maybe 12 or 13. Later, he dumped the “Peewee” nickname, but I had to translate for Mom when I told her last night; she never knew his first name was Paul. He was always Peewee to her. She also caught herself thinking of him as that youngster, too; long distance will do that.

It sucks having loved ones scattered all over the country. One of the drawbacks of homesteading, or farming, is not being able to travel as readily as others; your animals always need care. I don’t begrudge it; they are God’s gift to me on this earth and they keep me going. But, when something like this happens, I wish I lived closer to hold a hand, to cook a meal for his siblings, to help them in whatever way I can to get through this hardship. They were always there for us when we were neighbors; it would be nice to return the love.

The best thing I can do from this distance is pray: for Paul, for his family, for everyone who loved and knew him…and at least offer my ear if they need to talk to someone who shares at least a little of their pain.

Rest in Peace, Paul Shelton…we will meet again. May God bless you & keep you! Love you always, my old friend!

Animal Rights, Animals, Bereavement, Birthday Wishes, Christianity, ecosystems, Emergency Preparedness, Environment, Exhaustion, Faith, Family, gardening, God/Jesus, Grief, Herbs, Homesteading, Love, Memories, Reflexology

A Weary Heart

“I will lie down in peace and sleep, for though I am alone, O Lord, You will keep me safe” (Psalms 4:8)

I turned 54 yesterday.

I woke up this morning to find another beloved feline had passed away overnight. No sign of illness or injury, but her son, Alice Cooper, died of a heart defect when he was a little over a year old–on November 22, 2016; his mama left either late November 20, or early November 21, 2020, almost 4 years to the day. Perhaps Mama Priscilla had a heart defect, too.

Priscilla was a very pregnant stray dropped off here 5 years’ ago. Mom and I kept all three surviving kittens, Ozzy Osbourne, Alice Cooper and Emmylou Harris, got everyone spayed/neutered and they have all been a joy. It broke my heart to find Priscilla lying on the floor of the rabbit room. I wondered where she was last night when I went to bed. Usually she gets up on the bed for her nightly cuddle, rubbing her cheek as tightly against mine as she can possibly get it. I assumed there was a mouse brave enough to visit a home with 9 resident felines. Now I wonder if she was already gone by the time I went to bed. Not the most auspicious way to begin your 55th year of life.

Caught the next door neighbor–the same one who challenged zoning back in June and July–hiding in the bushes bordering our properties last week, craning her neck over the stone wall looking for…something. When we pulled up in front of the house to turn into the drive, she had the startled-deer-in-the-headlights look when she realized we were home and had seen her. She left rather quickly.

Mom smokes. When she goes outside at night for a cigarette, if the outside light pops on because she’s walked in front of the motion sensor, someone in this neighbor’s house walks over to the upstairs window and stands there, watching. What are they hoping to see? What is it about us that they find so fascinating? It’s a fixer-upper home. It didn’t have curb appeal when it was up on the market in 2004. It’s definitely gotten worse over the last 16 years. And, though my Mom is an attractive 74 year old, she’s still 74 years old. What do they care if their elderly neighbor sits outside at night?

It’s going to be hard leaving here…well, it would be if not for these neighbors. Perhaps that is His plan to break the sentimental hold this home has on me. 5 dogs, 11 cats, 1 goat, 3 guinea pigs, 1 pet rat, 3 parakeets, 20 rabbits, 4 ducks and 29 chickens have their final resting place in the pet cemetery out back. I kept a reflexology practice here; have planted trees and shrubs, fruits, vegetables, flowers and herbs; learned how to can food, bake bread from scratch and a host of other homesteading skills here. More importantly, I’ve shared a lot of laughter and tears, both good memories and bad, and a whole lot of loving within these four walls…even if the roof does leak and a host of other updates need attending.

But I’m leaving.

The remaining goats, chickens and ducks probably qualify for contraband these days since the nosy neighbors raised a stink. I’ve had some acquaintances suggest contacting Legal Aid to see if there’s help with the zoning issues–help that I engaged long before any farm animals arrived–but I’m thinking, while I may inquire, the biggest part of me is tired of the struggle. The mortgage is high, the repairs many and costly, and the job market in this area is one of the worst. The zoning issue is the straw that broke the camel’s back.

It won’t be easy. I’m looking to homestead, as I had been doing here, but I’m looking to do it on a larger scale. Not necessarily a larger property but a greater attention to self-sufficiency and environmental protection. So that will mean unrestricted use. Land only…to start with.

Even that little bit is daunting to this weary heart. But to give up is inconceivable. I’m getting too old for nosy neighbors and their drama, or living a life that barely scrabbles by rather than living a life that will bring me joy and a sense of security that will be the first I have ever known since I was a very wee child. A life lived with intention and a sense of purpose. It is too short, as Priscilla’s minute time on this earth has reinforced yet again, to waste it on drama and stress.

May God bless you & keep you!

Animal Rights, Animals, Appreciation, Bereavement, Christianity, Emergency Preparedness, Enlightenment, Faith, Family, Forgiveness, God/Jesus, Gratitude, Healing, Homesteading, Love, Minimalism, Nature, Open-mindedness, Politics, Prayer

Moving On Up?

“Let not your heart be troubled. You are trusting God, now trust in Me. There are many homes up there where my Father lives, and I am going to prepare them for your coming. When everything is ready, then I will come and get you, so that you can always be with me where I am.” (John 14:1-3)

The Herbal Hare Homestead may be moving. In fact, I believe it is almost a certainty. I’m not sure where. Or exactly when. I definitely don’t know how but I feel like He has been conking me over the head repeatedly, one hardship after another here, to finally light that fire under my backside so that I start actively looking.

And planning.

And taking one step after the other, trusting Him to see us all through.

A couple of weeks ago I received a letter from the local zoning officer. One of my neighbors complained about my roosters crowing. And they don’t like living next to ducks either.

Now before anyone jumps in with recriminations, before I ever brought chickens, ducks, or goats to this property I contacted the zoning office and then a zoning attorney. Strictly speaking, this is considered part of the commercial district of town, even as the whole town is zoned agricultural. However, after reviewing my deed, the attorney determined I didn’t need to get a variance or anything because the property has grandfathered use. He did warn it could be challenged but, to safeguard that, I wrote a letter detailing my plans here, made copies, and got each and every one of my neighbors’ signatures that they were okay with me raising these animals. I promised not to include a buck as they smell bad. I also have a doctor’s note stating that I’m supposed to be drinking goat’s milk.

Fortunately, I save everything.

Unfortunately, we have new neighbors. They didn’t sign that letter. And I get it…even if we were here first. The country is NOT as quiet as one thinks if one has never lived in the country before. And I will not be the first homesteader to be adversely affected by the city-slicker-turned-country-wannabe.

Ironically, there was no mention about the goats in their complaint. It was the crowing of roosters and, apparently, the occasional honking-quack from some of my female ducks when the males are being overly-amorous that my new neighbors are protesting.

We also have a new zoning officer, who is a delightful woman, and we hit it off immediately. She raised sheep until her husband’s passing last year; it liked to have killed her to give them to another farm but she was unable to care for them by herself, owing to some health issues of her own, so she was sympathetic to my plight. But she also has a job to do. Having worked for a local municipality last fall as a temp, I got to witness first-hand the b.s. stories people fabricate when they knowingly violate a zoning regulation. I think the new zoning officer thought that’s what I was about when I called her in response to her letter and told her I’d had a zoning attorney out here 11 years’ ago. When I was able to show her the doctor’s note and the signed letters from all of my neighbors stating they approved of my raising these animals, I saw her expression change to one of even deeper sympathy…and a sudden willingness to push back against these complaints. This was not the usual b.s. but someone who actually took the steps to do this all legally and ethically…and who willingly allowed her access to inspect the premises without giving her a hard time about it (That’s the key, folks! Work with, not against…even if the outcome isn’t exactly what you’d hoped it would be).

She read the letter, checked each address to ensure that each of the homes directly affected were included, then inspected the barn (I hadn’t built or added another building but re-purposed one that already existed here when I purchased the property in 2001). She inspected the animals, too, and wrote in her report that they were happy and well cared for. As she was a farmer previously, there was a moment’s pride that she found no fault with any of them. Though there is no pond here, there is a large kiddie pool for the ducks with a ramp for easy access in and out of it. There’s a 6-foot chain link fence to keep them all from roaming off-site…and for keeping predators out. That Chester (goat) came over and immediately rubbed his face all up and down her leg for affection said volumes about how well they are cared for.

Will she be able to swing it so my babies can stay?

There’s no way of knowing just yet. And she did say the roosters would have to go but, if I showed a willingness to comply with this one part of it, this new neighbor might relent about the rest. But, there’s a big part of me saying, do I have to go through this every time I get a new neighbor??? Do I have to perpetually fight to keep what matters most to me outside of faith and family? And, to be honest, I regard my animals as part of the family.

So I’m looking further afield, further ahead.

The animals may go to a friend’s farm as boarders until I can scrape together enough for that relocation. I’m thinking Maine, upper-state New York, Vermont…maybe Tennessee (though I would hate the heat!), as my brother and his family live there so we would have family nearby. It would be nice to see them more than every couple of years when we can afford to travel. And I will be looking for farm land…or at least a property that is actually zoned for agricultural use, or maybe an unincorporated town where there aren’t any zoning regulations. They’re few and far between but it’s worth looking into.

Of course, my main concern is how to finance all of this. Before the pandemic, I was staring foreclosure in the face owing to an injury in January 2019, a subsequent job loss, and the inability to find full-time work again to sustain us. My credit sucks…no polite way to say it. But, even if I get to keep the animals here, that issue still exists. Will I be able to save the home? Will He provide that job at the last moment? Or will He slide everything into place once I set my sights in the direction He wants me to go?

Because that’s how He works.

When you obey His commands, when you follow His direction, He moves those mountains completely out of the way. So, now I wait, and I do the work I must do in the interim, and in the meantime, I ask for everyone’s prayers. This ain’t going to be easy…

May God bless you & keep you!

Animals, Appreciation, Bereavement, Faith, Gratitude, Grief, Healing, Herbs, Homesteading, illness, Love, Memories, Prayer, Yoga & Fitness

An Answered Prayer

“Lord, you know the hopes of humble people. Surely you will hear their cries and comfort their hearts by helping them.” (Psalms 10:17)

I know I said in a much earlier post that I would save “those” kind of posts for New Year’s Eve only. “Those” being the posts that mention a loss here on The Herbal Hare Homestead. For the most part, I’ve stuck to it. The reason being there was a particularly dark period of time here where it felt like I was making one of “those” posts every other week. In sooth, there were 8 losses that year. Still a lot…and I could just hear all of my friends remarking how lately every time they read it, they get depressed. Whether that’s true or not, I don’t know. But, I confess, I started to feel depressed every time I sat down at the keyboard.

However, every once in a while, though homesteading conditions you to expect the occasional loss, there’s that “one” that truly clubs you off at the knee.

That happened Friday.

About a week earlier, Pearl went off her feed and started looking a little lethargic. This went on for almost a day with me deciding that, if she was still looking “droopy” and not eating the next morning, I would call the vet (she had had similar situations over the years and within a few hours, maybe a day, she’d bounce right back; we even visited the vet once in regard and he had reassured me that if it was only a missed meal or two, not to worry too much but simply keep an eye on her. He did a thorough check, took blood tests then, and could find nothing “wrong”.) Anyway, the next day she was eating again and seemed fine. In retrospect, I wonder if I should’ve taken her in anyway…even without any specific symptoms showing. Hindsight is always 20/20.

Last Thursday afternoon, I came in from dropping my car off at the garage and saw Pearl sleeping on the sofa. When I went over to cuddle her, she responded but something seemed “off” about her. I made a comment to Mom in that regard. As I told her, “she’s not showing any symptoms of anything but she doesn’t ‘look’ well”. I recalled that Pearl had eaten that morning, not as vigorously as usual, but it was also not one of her favorite flavors so I hadn’t been too alarmed then; perhaps I should have been. I sat down beside her on the sofa and she curled up in my lap…until Ozzy did his usual horn in on the action and she moved over to the afghan she’d been sleeping on when I came in. Then, maybe 15-20 minutes later, she got down and went into the bathroom where we have a water bowl sitting under the drippy tub faucet. Again, nothing too unusual except, over the course of the next couple of hours, she made multiple returns. I suspected she probably had a kidney infection coming in but, by then, it was evening, after hours for the vet, and the closest emergency facility is in another state (not to mention, I was without transportation) and I’m not overly trusting of this emergency facility in the first place. I brewed an infusion of parsley as a first aid and fed her some in an eyedropper, only as much as she would willingly take, knowing parsley’s gentle healing properties for anything kidney/bladder related. I also kept checking for dehydration. As the night wore on, she had started showing symptoms of the latter. By early morning, she was actually sleeping in the tub by that water bowl and there was no doubt about it: she needed to go to the vet immediately.

Of course, the car was still in the shop and, to be honest, the vet wasn’t open yet. I ran through the usual morning feeding routine, texted a friend to see if she was available to drive us up to the vet hospital, and then called the mechanic. Low and behold, the car was done so I walked over and, by the time I got home (1/2 hour later), the vet hospital was open. I called, got their answering service, and told them I was bringing her in; I wasn’t arguing about it. A few minutes’ later, we were waiting in the parking lot for one of the techs to bring her in for examination. They took her in almost immediately and confirmed what I had suspected: a kidney infection. They asked permission to keep her overnight. They were starting her on subcutaneous fluids, as she was dehydrated by then, and antibiotics to kill the infection.

I got a call a few hours later to give them a call back as Pearl was not responding to treatment. For some reason, the call had gone straight to my voicemail so I called them immediately back.

Dr. Lambert apologized the moment the receptionist put the call through to him: Pearl was gone. They had given her the sub-Q fluids but they discovered when they went to administer the antibiotics that she was still dehydrated. When they went to give her more sub-Q fluids, she started convulsing. They tried to save her but her heart just stopped.

And my world just stopped.

I am devastated. This was my little shadow. I haven’t been at the keyboard any more than necessary (homework only) because I know I won’t have her chirping at me to get in my lap…and then getting all indignant when my fingers are banging away at the keyboard instead of scratching under her chin indefinitely. I haven’t been on the yoga mat because little Miss Pearl would lay on the floor and stretch with me. I’m expecting a little white kitty with black patches to get in my lap when I’m eating my breakfast cereal, waiting for me to finish and leave her the last few drops of milk. Going to sleep at night has been a challenge. I no longer have 9 lbs. of kitty sprawled across my belly and chest, front paws encircling my neck, head tucked under my chin.

So where does the answered prayer come in? Because you know I was praying right along for Him to heal her, to bring her home safe, sound, healthy, etc–ALIVE!!

Four years’ ago, I came home from work, Pearl came running to greet me at the door, lost her balance, and flopped over. I took her to the vet. They treated her for an inner ear infection but Dr. Blakesley (other vet at same hospital) had cautioned that, if she didn’t respond, they would have to do a biopsy as they suspected Pearl might have a brain tumor. However, Pearl responded. When I was burying her beside her sister, Megan, I remembered praying that night that Pearl was too young. She was only 12 (then). Please, would He give me just a few more years with her? Let her at least make it to 16, which is a very great age for a cat, but Ariel had made it that far; please, could He let Pearl make it till at least 16, too?

She did.

Of course, I also remember telling Him that I knew when that day came at age 16, I would probably beg for a few more years with her…and I did…but that I would accept it, knowing that 16 is quite elderly for a cat and that I couldn’t expect too many more years with her.

Heavy sigh.

No matter how many years we have with each other, there is NEVER enough time. As I posted briefly on Facebook last week, who would’ve thought one little cat could have this big of an impact on my life? I feel so lost without her; I look for her everywhere…and even feel a twinge of guilt every time I cuddle one of the other 6 felines that share my world. I also apologize that, even though I love them all dearly, well, no, they aren’t Pearl. They’re Kirby and Ozzy and Emmy Lou and Priscilla and Whitney and Rosco, this last one actually traveled cross country with Mom 6 years’ ago, and they are each special in their own way. I wouldn’t trade them, would mourn them just as fiercely, but I’m still looking for a little sassy white cat with black patches and a black tail, leading me upstairs for some one-on-one cuddle time together, and listening for that sweet little voice talking to me at every opportunity.

But despite this empty, aching hole in my heart, I would do it all again, Miss Pearl. Maybe I would’ve adopted you the very first time I saw you and Megan in the cage at the vet hospital awaiting a forever home (I had visited the vet hospital a few times before finally deciding to take them home). Maybe I would’ve taken you to the vet the week before when you went off your feed that first day last week. Would it have made a difference? Would you still be here with me? Or would I have lost you a week sooner because your little heart was simply done and would’ve given out that much sooner with the stress of being in the vet hospital? I’ll never know. But I do know that Celine Dion was right: the heart does go on.

And, ironically, there is a mixed blessing in this stupid pandemic. Though I had to wait out in the parking lot while the doc examined Pearl, I got to spend these last 1 and 1/2 months with my girl almost non-stop because being a librarian is not an essential worker and we have been home since mid-March. I’m actually grateful for that today.

R.I.P. my little Pearlina Wilhelmina…I love you, Sweetie, and I’d do it all again.

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!

Appreciation, Bereavement, Brothers & Sisters, Compassion, Faith, Family, Friendship, Gratitude, Grief, Healing, Nostalgia, Self-esteem, Self-improvement, Writing

Lamentations of the New “Normal”

“A time to kill; A time to heal; A time to destroy; A time to rebuild.” (Ecclesiastes 3:3)

Yes, like many others, I’m growing rather tired of being home 24/7…despite being pretty much a home-body even during “normal” times. I know it’s more important than ever that we do continue to observe the quarantine imposed by state governments so that we do not wind up with another Swine Flu of 1917/18. Though many areas of the country are reporting the curve being flattened, there’s still a great risk of it spiking again. And, as someone who would be considered a “risk” (asthma), it is a concern.

But it’s not easy.

I feel like life is on hold again. It reminds me way too much of the Great Recession of 2008 when we all waited with baited breath to see what would happen next, cringing every time the boss walked out of his/her office, lest, he/she be handing out pink slips, and feeling the heartache growing every time a new tent “city” cropped up in another park, under another overpass, behind another church.

Yeah, I’m feeling pretty good right now (insert sarcasm here).

Is it me? Or does everyone else feel extra tired, maybe a little numb…or dumb?

I’ve had way too much screen time…and not of the productive kind. Though I’ve done some brainstorming as regards my novel, I’ve done very little work on it and may undo many of the changes I recently made to it. My homework assignments have all gone in late and without the usual level of interest I typically feel for them. I have the perfect opportunity to get some projects done and I’m glued to the news, social media, and endless games of Solitaire. The road to hell is paved with good intentions but the eternal procrastinator needs a good, swift kick in the you-know-what.

Yes, I know…complain, complain, complain (chuckle). I guess I needed to get that little rant out. I’m my own worst enemy at times and I’ve been a slug for the last few days: no energy, no interest in anything, just mindless distractions.

It doesn’t help that I lost an aunt this week, presumably to Covid-19. Sadly, because there aren’t enough tests, anyone who passes due to an upper-respiratory complaint is considered to have had Covid-19. Whether she really did or not, we’ll probably never know. And, sadder still, we cannot pay our last respects. It would require a gathering of more than 10 people.

We will get through this.

And, when we do, if you’re like me, you have so many “dates” with friends, family members, etc. that life will be one big party to make up for this dull, lethargic state for a very long time.

I talked to a friend on the phone today. It was an actual conversation, not just a text or a posting on social media. It broke the sluggish “spell” I’ve been under…and has made me appreciate that I have at least had Mom here to talk to when so many others live alone and do not have this interaction. It has also made me realize the real impact this Covid-19 is having on our society. Though this quarantine is necessary to reduce the chance of spreading this virus further, depression, loneliness, anxiety are all taking their toll. So I’m making a pact with myself to pick up that phone a little more often. The sound of a loved one’s voice on the other end is one of the best medicines.

May God bless you & keep you!

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Sunday Cyber-Service

“Remember to observe the Sabbath as a holy day. Six days a week are for your daily duties and your regular work, but the seventh day is a day of Sabbath rest before the Lord your God. On that day you are to do no work of any kind, nor shall your son, daughter, or slaves–whether men or women–or your cattle or your house guests. For in six days the Lord made the heaven, earth and sea, and everything in them, and rested the seventh day; so He blessed the Sabbath day and set it aside for rest.” (Exodus 20: 8-11)

So this feels just a little awkward…so I guess I’m on the right track. God loves to take us out of our comfort zones. He wants us to trust Him…even in the midst of coronavirus. Actually, I should amend that: especially in the midst of coronavirus. And, while this isn’t exactly a traditional service, I’m going to start by sharing a song by Christian artist, Zach Williams, called “Old Church Choir”. Though I can carry a tune myself, just for today, I’m leaving it to the pros. Let’s lift the somber mood of these past few weeks just a little bit:

For everyone reading this today, I hope that the prayers and Scripture I offer, even the music I share, will enrich your day, your week, and bring you solace and hope in a seemingly chaotic situation. Truly, faith in Something–Someone–greater than one’s self is the only thing that does bring hope in the face of chaos and adversity.

And the adversities we face today are unlike any that we have seen in 80, 90 years.

I don’t share that to overwhelm, or to spread further terror. It’s to bring this situation into perspective. There’s been so much anger masking fear and uncertainty, so much finger pointing–something of which yours truly has been guilty–and it only excerbates the situation…both in our hearts, and in our communities. Yes, we are seeing who the *true* leaders are, and those whose hearts the Adversary’s lies have settled into as well. And, no, they’re not the ones closing down even the churches. The officials that have closed nearly every door are doing so to save lives, to prevent the spread of illness. However, the Adversary is watching this, wringing his hands together at the opportunities he sees before him now that so many of us are not coming together in prayer, to receive Communion and fellowship, to confess our sins of the previous week(s), and to seek forgiveness. I say we pray without ceasing, giving praise to the One who is truly in control and has our backs in all of this, effectively binding those wringing hands from doing their dirty work. We have enough to contend with in Covid-19. That’s enough chaos for one community, one country, one world. And, without God, without a belief in Someone greater than ourselves, where will we find the strength to get through the weeks ahead and their endless challenges? Or to resist those adversarial lies?

Yes, you read that correctly: give God praise during this epidemic. He knows what He’s doing, and why. It is our job to trust Him, to believe Him, when He tells us He loves us, that He has our best interests at heart. Though it may not seem apparent at the moment, He does. He truly does. If we give in to the doubts, and I know it’s difficult not to at a time like this when so many are sick, scared, dying, but this is where He needs us to follow Him ever more closely. He needs us to be steadfast and stand together in solidarity with Him, to root out the lies and bring them into the Light, to bring comfort to those who are afraid, or have suffered loss.

You know, we talk about pulling together during this crisis. And yet, we are being asked, for safety’s sake, to stay apart. It seems a bit of an oxymoron but, while we may not be together physically, we CAN be together in our hearts, in our minds, in spirit…in Spirit. It is, in my opinion, the only way we will get through this crisis.

And that brings me to another point of this post. I’ve talked a lot in previous posts about being an introvert. Truly, it’s not all that difficult being an introvert in America. Our society encourages distance even when things are “normal”. Look at how we are structured. Most people travel to work solo. In fact, I know of plenty of people who look down their noses at people who carpool, or utilize public transit. The auto industry touts independence, freedom of spirit, etc. to sell their products. If you don’t have an automobile of your own, people are scandalized (I have first-hand knowledge). In short, we’re encouraged to be alone in our commutes. Though “tiny houses” are all the rage today as sort of a grassroots’ movement that is gaining some traction in the mainstream, our housing/construction industries push the mantra of bigger being better. Our streets are lined with countless McMansions, surrounded by acres of well-manicured status symbols of lawns that rob us of clean air, clean soil, clean water…even home-grown food so, if for no other reason, we do not starve during an epidemic. We’re disconnected from the earth, from our food, from the animals that sacrifice theirs that we might have life (oftentimes under horrible conditions). More importantly, we’re disconnected from each other. Again, in short, I see millions of “islands”. I get needing elbow room…and we don’t always find “good” neighbors, but in these Islands of Suburbia, we might never know. How many of us, when there isn’t a pandemic, have walked across those acres of useless grass to extend the hand of friendship to those whose multi-acres of McMansion border ours? And, sadly, even within the walls of those McMansions, we remain islands of humanity. Every child must have its own bedroom. We must have a man-cave, or a she-shed. Every human in the house must have their own bathroom, too. I suppose during a pandemic such as this one, we might conclude that the distance between us, even within our own communities, is a good thing to help slow the spread of infection. But do we know how to sit down as a family and share a common meal? Do we even know how to cook a meal without zapping it in a microwave? We’re not running off to countless after-school sporting events, clubs, extra-curricular activities right now. How has that changed the dynamics? Do we know how to entertain ourselves as a family? When was the last time we pulled out a board game? Or a deck of cards? When was the last time we prayed together as a family…outside of our church, temple, synagogue, or mosque? For those of you who have been sitting down together as a family to share a meal, a game, or a prayer, you are truly the wealthy during this crisis. And that’s something we can all appreciate, whether introverted, or extroverted.

Dear Heavenly Father,

I praise you in this “storm”. We truly are at “war” with an enemy we cannot see. But I know that Your Eyes do see this “enemy” and You’ve got this! I praise You for that knowledge. I praise You for the knowledge that You are giving to doctors, nurses, first-responders, scientists, etc. to help heal those who are ill. I praise You, too, for protecting these healthcare workers from contracting the Covid-19 virus themselves; we need all of their expertise. I praise You for lifting every healthcare worker up, relieving their fatigue, and for giving them clarity when it is most needed.

I praise you for every grocery, pet and/or feed store worker, for every pharmacist, for every essential worker who is also on the front lines during this epidemic. I praise you for protecting them also, and the families that they go home to each night.

I praise You for our government officials. I pray that sound minds and compassionate hearts will prevail in this crisis. I praise You for guiding the hands of those who would lead…and showing us just who those people are. I praise You for touching the hearts of those who would profit from the sufferings of others that they might repent and seek You in all future endeavors, bringing Light, instead of the darkness that our world has become.

I praise You for lifting up the hearts of all people everywhere during this epidemic. Where hearts are hungry, provide them Your sustenance. Where hearts are frightened, give them courage. Where hearts are angry, bring them peace. Where hearts are in doubt, fill them with Your grace. And, for those who have lost a loved one to this illness, I praise You for comforting them in their hour of sorrow and loss. Help them to remember that when we are a part of the body and blood of Christ, we are never truly alone. I praise You for the hope that is forever Your name, in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Our Father, who art in heaven
Hallowed be thy Name.
Thy Kingdom Come, thy Will be done.
On earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day, our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses.
As we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the Kingdom, and the Power,
And the Glory, forever and ever…Amen

May God bless you & keep you!

REFERENCES

Casting Crowns (2008). “Praise You In This Storm (live).” Lifesong (2005), producer by Mark A. Miller, Beach Street/Reunion Records. Neyolov. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ype1xE0wzsg

For King and Country (2015). “Shoulders (Official Music Video).” Run Wild. Live Free. Love Strong, producers Ben Glover, Matt Hales, Seth Mosley and Tedd Tjornhom, Fervent Records alongside Word Records. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TfiYWaeAcRw

Williams, Zach (2017). “Old Church Choir (Official Music Video).” Chain Breaker, producer Jonathan Smith, Essential Records. Vevo. Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yOEviTLJOqo&list=RDyOEviTLJOqo&start_radio=1

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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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Yang Leaves, Takes Hope with Him

“Why, then, should you forget us, abandon us so long a time? Lead us back to you, O Lord, that we may be restored: give us anew such days as we had of old. For now you have indeed rejected us, and in full measure turned your wrath against us.” (Lamentations 5:20-22)

Last night when I received the word that Andrew Yang had suspended his campaign, I felt like I had been clubbed at the knees. I’m not surprised, really. The Democratic propaganda machine decided from the beginning that they wouldn’t allow Yang to run all the way. From pro-Democrat media outlets repeatedly inserting journalist John Yang’s picture instead of Andrew Yang’s in debate posters, to the muting of Andrew’s mic in many of the debates so that he couldn’t get the attention of the moderators when he wanted to speak, this man has been snubbed at every turn. Not by his fellow peers on the Democratic stage. Many of the other candidates–Republican and Democrat alike–have started parroting some of his talking points. But by the DNC itself. Yang is an outsider, not a career politician. And, I’m guessing, many of his ideas have seemed too radical for more traditional Democrats. I’ve also heard the argument from many that we have someone in office already who is not a career politician…and, sadly, we’ve become more polarized than ever since the 2016 election. So, while I’m not surprised, I am heartsick and disappointed.

Before I alienate every Republican in the room, like Yang, I am not here to attack President Trump or anyone who has supported him. In 2016, the majority of voters simply voted for what they viewed as the lesser of two evils and, depending on your party affiliation, voted accordingly.

Yang got that. And so do I.

In this last debate, he became very vocal about how Donald Trump was not the cause of this nation’s problems. He wanted to bring us together as a nation again. He wanted us to start talking and working together to get things done, to help the American people–many of whom are hurting worst than ever today. He said that Donald Trump was a symptom of the ills in our society, not the disease itself.

And he was right.

Granted, some of President Trump’s shenanigans may have turned that disease terminal. So many of our environmental protections have been rolled back under his administration. Again we must fear that our drinking water is more unsafe and unclean, species of life hang on a thinner thread dangling towards extinction, and our air quality is declining at an alarming rate with the roll back of emissions’ standards.

The environment is what swayed my vote in 2016; it always is. It’s also the reason I started homesteading: I want to know what’s in my food, my medicine, and even my clothing…and I don’t want it to be more chemicals and plastic, the latter a by-product of the fossil fuel industry.

We do have more jobs now.

However, if you’re in the job market, as I still am, you know that most of those jobs are part-time, temporary, seasonal and/or minimum wage. In Connecticut, minimum wage was recently increased from $10.10 an hour to $11.00 an hour. Even if you’re lucky enough to find someone to hire you full-time at minimum wage, that comes out to $440 a week before taxes and SSI, etc. are deducted. Gross income for the month is $1760.00. Again, this is before taxes, etc. are taken out. And, if you’re full-time, we have to factor in benefits as well. So, if you’re lucky, you may be taking home, roughly, $1400-$1500 a month. A one bedroom apartment in Connecticut averages $1200 a month…nothing included. And, sadly, most of these minimum wage gigs are, like my current position, also part-time. $1400-$1500 a month is grossly optimistic and totally unsustainable for the average person trying to stay afloat. It’s only one illness, one injury, one major car repair, etc. away from falling behind…perhaps indefinitely. And, if you can find two or three part-time gigs whose hours don’t overlap, you’re likely to run down fast trying to keep up this crazy pace…making you more ripe for that injury or illness.

Our unemployment numbers are better only because, yes, people are working, but they’re going without food, without medicine–much needed prescriptions, such as insulin and blood pressure meds–without hope just to keep a simple roof overhead.

Yes, hope.

You can’t do much if you lose that. And, no, Yang is not on the same plateau as my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, but in him I saw a humble man with a heart, someone with a clear vision of how it could be in this country, of how we could help lift

Every.

Single.

American.

Period.

I truly fear for our country now because most of the remaining candidates do not understand why Trump got elected. They think taxing the rich will work. Yang debunked that; other countries have tried it. It failed. They think an increase in minimum wage will help. It will only create more part-time gigs…and fewer full-time because employers cannot afford it. Like the citizens of this country who are, like me, only an injury or an illness away from homelessness and total financial ruin, most businesses are slowly being beaten out of business by big tech companies like Amazon. They can’t compete when Amazon can run much of its operation with robots…instead of humans who demand a wage for their labor. Just look at your main street empty storefronts for proof of this. Even Walmart is going automated, having recently remodeled and removed more than half of their cashiers for self-checkouts.

Every one of those self-checkout lines is an American job being lost.

Let that sink in.

And it has nothing to do with Latinos and Hispanics coming across our southern borders. That’s a Republican propaganda fable to prey on our fears and uncertainties, our prejudices and bigotries.

I’ve been hit and miss on this blog because I’ve spent the better part of this year sharing Yang interviews and speeches, highlighting his policies from his website and sharing them on social media, and even canvassing for signatures to get him on every ballot. It’s the first time in my 50+ years that I have believed enough in a candidate’s platform to lend my support in whatever way I can. He may still get my vote…written in and impotent and not likely to ruffle the feathers of any other candidate.

You see, with foreclosure looming ever larger overhead, owing to the lack of a decent-paying job, to reduce the stress and worry, to channel all of my negative energy and emotions on something other than my problems, I threw myself wholeheartedly into this campaign. I haven’t ignored my problems. But, having something else to occupy my mind has made life more bearable, sleep more manageable–rather than the anxiety-induced insomnia. Some may argue it was an escape but, I would not be the first person in the world to donate her time and energy to a bigger cause…and find a solution to her own troubles along the way. Sometimes we stress and obsess so much that we block any good coming in. I gave my troubles to God and focused on getting Yang into office.

Again, he wasn’t a savior, or an idol. He was simply someone I would’ve been proud to call “President of the United States”…instead of another heavy sigh of “Oh, well, this one seems the lesser of two evils”. At this point, I’ll settle for Vice-President Yang. Is anyone listening?

May God bless you & keep you!