Appreciation, Books, Christianity, Creativity, Reading, Writing

“Company” During Covid-19

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May God bless you & keep you!

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These Dreams…

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

I am grateful for this Covid-19 shutdown.

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

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

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

But I don’t “stop”.

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

Daydreams…

Imaginings…

Manifesting…

Planning for the future…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May God bless you & keep you!

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Stay tuned…

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

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

Appreciation, Books, Cooking, Creativity, Emergency Preparedness, Frugality, Gratitude, Herbs, Homesteading, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Minimalism, Organic, Reading, Recipes, Self-improvement, Spices, Zero Waste

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.

Animals, Appreciation, Books, Christianity, Compassion, Emergency Preparedness, Faith, Family, God/Jesus, Gratitude, Healing, Herbs, Homesteading, illness, Love, Nature, Politics, Prayer, Reading, Recipes, Religion, Writing, YouTube

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

Animals, Books, Christianity, Exhaustion, Faith, Forgiveness, gardening, God/Jesus, Healing, Homesteading, Lent, Reading, Scripture, Sleep Deprivation, Spirituality, Writing, Yoga & Fitness

Exhaustion Overcometh

“Then, as I looked, I learned this lesson: A little extra sleep, a little more slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest means that poverty will break in upon you suddenly like a robber, and violently like a bandit.” (Proverbs 24:32-34)

I fell off the wagon, so to speak, the last two days. I am definitely NOT cramming another whole novel into Sunday. It will have to be no novel reading at all throughout the Lenten season…or nix that particular vow entirely if I don’t think I can do it.

Why?

My late night marathon Sunday evening resulted in a couple of nights’ worth of insomnia. Even going to bed at a reasonable hour, I tossed and turned and couldn’t get to sleep at all. Monday evening I actually brewed a cuppa tea after supper and thought, well, I’ve already started the ball rolling so let’s see if I can push my writing habit to evenings. I mean, why not? It probably wouldn’t give me more time to write, per se, but it would reduce the “push” in the mornings when I want to finish just one more thread in the scene that I’m building, or point I’m trying to make in a blog post. Even after I wrote for a little bit, I still tossed and turned until well after midnight. Tuesday I didn’t drink any tea but I still had trouble going to sleep.

And woke up yesterday morning still tired and grumpy and groggy. After taking care of the animals in the a.m., I took a nap (my shift at the library doesn’t start until 1 p.m.), thinking this is really going to throw my schedule out of whack but, lo and behold, it simply gave me the oomph I needed to finish the day. I still crashed around 8 o’clock last night, conking out as soon as my head hit the pillow, and I slept a full 9 hours, getting up at 5:30 instead of my usual 3:30. I hit the yoga mat. I didn’t hit the exercise bike but I’m okay with that for today. I can get back on it tomorrow. I’m actually feeling pretty good…except for the scratchy throat, which I’m thinking is probably some seasonal allergies kicking up as the weather warms.

I’m not begrudging the extra sleep (I know the Proverbs’ verse I chose probably points otherwise); I was completely useless for three whole days and getting a little extra sleep was the only way to nix that. However, by overindulging on Sunday, and depriving myself of normal sleeping hours, I wasted the earlier part of this week that could’ve been better spent. It is warming up. I have a golden opportunity with this part-time endeavor to use the extra hours in the early part of the day to finish that landscaping project. I have apple trees that will need pruning this week. And a shed-turned-barn to clean out, repair, and get ready for the animals again (they were relocated to another outbuilding for the winter as the goats knocked one of the barn doors askew jumping on it last spring). I have compost to turn and a few more bins to construct from an unexpected gift last fall (a truck going by dropped a load of pallets in the road in front of my house; I found them scattered along the front edge of the property when I came home from work one day). And, of course, I have stories to write…and try to sell. I have a side hustle that I’m promoting to try and scare up extra business. I am also still looking for either full-time work, or another part-time gig, to supplement what I’m already earning as a librarian.

The side hustle?

Do you need a proofreader? Have you written a speech and want to ensure it will deliver? Are you a student with a report, essay, composition or thesis due that you want reviewed for grammar and flow (no, I won’t write it for you)? Maybe you’ve written a letter to the editor, or an article that you want looking its best before publishing…or even a book “in the works” that you’d like critiqued. Does your company have a regular newsletter that you’d liked checked before it’s distributed? I can help.

Perhaps you’re short on staff and need someone to actually write that speech, letter or newsletter. Got an event coming up and need flyers created? Or perhaps your business would benefit from some new brochures…

That is the bulk of the brochure that I’ve created to distribute around town but, the wider I cast that net, the better chance I have of catching a fish or two. So why not promote it on my blog? It is what it is. And whatever I can do to keep us out of foreclosure, I’m determined to do. So, no more late nights with my nose in a book. I have work to do…and vows to keep. In short, I have to get back on that wagon and honor those vows.

May God bless you & keep you!

https://www.gofundme.com/f/9fymzf-medical-leave?utm_source=customer&utm_medium=copy_link-tip&utm_campaign=p_cp+share-sheet

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Overindulgence

“When dining with a rich man, be on your guard and don’t stuff yourself, though it all tastes so good; for he is trying to bribe you, and no good is going to come of his invitation.” (Proverbs 23:1-3)

Okay. No, I haven’t sat down with a rich man…or woman. I didn’t stuff myself either. And I doubt anyone is trying to bribe me. However, I did overindulge just a little yesterday…in the pleasure-reading department.

Normally, during Lent, I don’t bother to give myself the allowance of having Sunday as a free pass day. I continue to follow, to the best of my abilities, the Lenten obligations that I’ve given to myself. The rationale has always been that I’m liable to have a tougher time getting back into the groove, so to speak, come Monday morning.

Boy, have I ever!

I told myself no Facebook, outside of wishing loved ones a “Happy Birthday!”; no YouTube, except on Sunday, and no fictional reading, also except on Sunday. So I rented a book from the library (my day job) last Wednesday–Ash Wednesday–as one-part an immediate slip regarding giving up novels for 6 weeks, and one-part a temptation (as if working in a library full of books isn’t enough of one…) to see if I could avoid it.

I did.

I didn’t read the novel I checked out until Sunday afternoon.

All day.

And into the evening.

And I suppose I did “cheat” a little because I was still reading said novel at 2:00 a.m. when I finished it from cover to cover.

Needless to say, I did NOT get up early and get on the yoga mat, or write anything at 3:30 a.m. I slept later–still without getting enough sleep–because “later” was 7 a.m. That is the latest I can do before I push my goats off of their feeding schedule. Now I’m sitting here yawning, a bit over-tired, and thinking that maybe I was wrong about one thing: I actually CAN string two or more words together in the evening; might be a good way to develop it into a more sustainable habit as 3:30 a.m. isn’t. At least not when you’re staying up late on a reading marathon…which I’m liable to do even during “ordinary” time.

Maybe I should go back to my usual plans and save the novels until after Lent…even on Sundays.

May God bless you & keep you!

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