Saying “No” to Stress

“And why worry about your clothes? Look at the field lilies! They don’t worry about theirs. Yet King Solomon in all his glory was not clothed as beautifully as they. And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and gone tomorrow, won’t He more surely care for you, O men of little faith?” (Matthew 6:28-30)

Yesterday the wind blew fierce and cold. I spent the day in the herb garden at work, feeling somewhat like a penguin with all of the layers of clothing I wore (i.e. couldn’t quite put arms all the way down) and getting windburn in my face. It shouldn’t be a surprise, really. It is mid-October in New England. 35-40 degrees is normal at this time of year. But I’ve been lulled into complacency with the milder temperatures that, due to climate change, are becoming the new “norm” in this part of the world.

The lull is a bad thing. Yesterday’s sudden drop in temperature is a reminder not to get complacent.

I’m not ready for winter yet. And, by mid-October, I should be. The oil tank isn’t filled yet. I don’t have wood stacked for the stove. I haven’t put plastic around the windows yet (old house in need of updates). There’s even an air conditioner in one of those windows. So, when I look at this whole picture, I can feel the stress and anxiety building. Again, I’m not quite ready for winter.

However, though this is certainly a concern, I remind myself that, though I love what I do in my “day” job, it doesn’t quite meet all of my financial needs no matter how carefully I budget; I have to take everything in stages (i.e. I’m not in this place because of procrastination). And, with the long commute, time is a precious commodity. Building a side hustle to make up the difference is a bit of a challenge–one I am at least taking baby steps to meet head-on. I may not get to where I’d like to be as quickly as I’d like, but I am moving forward. Though the house isn’t buttoned up yet, I have laid by my hay supply for the winter. Last week’s trip to the local feed store revealed a shortage on hay due to all of the rain we’ve been having. Thankfully, Agway had a supply and I had it delivered on Monday so there’s one concern mitigated. I laid in a supply of bottled water (gallon jugs) in case of a power outage in a potential winter storm (well-pump runs on electricity). I’m also prepping for a late-season crop of dark, leafy greens, taking advantage of the milder temperatures that are coming back in–and row covers against any upcoming frosts. In short, I’m looking at the positives, what I have already accomplished and what I can do without stressing my time and financial budgets too severely.

Instead of my usual beat myself up.

This is the key to worry–and the stress that it breeds: we have a choice. We can sit and stew–and waste valuable time and energy–or we can choose to cast our cares onto God. He knows my circumstances. And even if a storm blows in (though I pray not!), I will praise Him either way. He’s got this.

Now breathe…

May God bless you & keep you!

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Silencing the Saboteur

“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” (Matthew 6:9-13).

Here I go again…

I’ve finally created a time management strategy that really seems to work. I’m writing and blogging again, and even making some decent progress on the homestead. I feel good, that glow of accomplishment and the confidence that goes along with it. And the saboteur in my head is, well, trying to sabotage my efforts: protesting going to bed early enough for a 3:30 rising; creating a dissatisfaction that more wasn’t done (i.e. not enough = I’m not enough), and looking for other things to fill my time more solidly. There’s a little voice inside my head saying, “I wish I had more time for x,y,z.” And, masochistic individual that I am, I struggle to resist that temptation.

But maybe that’s the key: the struggle.

Why do I have to struggle? God says to cast my cares upon Him. Yes, I got to bed a little later than I had planned. And, consequently, got up at 4:30 instead of 3:30. I’m still at the keyboard. I’ll still be on the yoga mat in a few minutes. I will still have some time to pull 15 minutes of homesteading progress without making myself late going out the door (I’ve allowed for some “wiggle” room with this time management thing). I have my cuppa tea. And the animals at The Herbal Hare Homestead will all get fed, watered, and cared for before I make the hour drive to work. It’s not my ideal but it works. Why am I struggling?

For those who haven’t followed my blog for long, I grew up in a household with alcoholism and abuse; my well-being is often tied up with that feeling that I have to earn love, respect, approval, etc. Again, I’m not enough. I’m not doing enough. I haven’t done enough.

Enough, enough, enough already!

God says I am. I am enough. I am doing all I can. I am doing my best–and little voice inside my head, stop contradicting me. “Little voice” of that guy with the pitchfork whispering his lies again. I AM enough…

And, to my readers, so are you. We are all enough. God says we are. And He will never lie to us. Ever. You can rest your soul on that, my friends.

Take that, Saboteur! God and me? We’ve so got this!

May God bless you & keep you!

Undoing the Apathy

“Then God said, ‘Let the water beneath the sky be gathered into oceans so that the dry land will emerge.’ And so it was. Then God named the dry land ‘earth,’ and the water ‘seas.’ And God was pleased. And He said, ‘Let the earth burst forth with every sort of grass and seed-bearing plant, and fruit trees with seeds inside the fruit, so that these seeds will produce the kinds of plants and fruits they came from.’ And so it was, and God was please.
This all occurred on the third day…Then God said, ‘Let the waters teem with fish and other life, and let the skies be filled with birds of every kind.’ So God created great sea creatures, and every sort of fish and every kind of bird. And God looked at them with pleasure, and blessed them all. ‘Multiply and stock the oceans,’ He told them, and to the birds He said, ‘Let your numbers increase. Fill the earth!’ That ended the fifth day. And God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth every kind of animal–cattle and reptiles and wildlife of every kind.’ And so it was. God made all sorts of wild animals and cattle and reptiles. And God was pleased with what He had done.”
(Genesis 1:9-13, 20-25)

Let’s face facts. Mother Earth is in deep trouble. And, at the risk of sounding like a naysayer, the environmentalist in me fears we may already be too late to stop the change in our present climate. Treehugger.com recently published an article about how the permafrost up near the Arctic Circle is melting–for the life of me, I can’t remember the title of the article, or what the main topic of it was, to quote it–but I’ve read similar in textbooks throughout the last few years of my life in academia:

Permafrost is permanently frozen ground that acts like an insulator, trapping moisture, heat, and trillions of tonnes of biogenic methane deep under the surface. All over the Arctic region, permafrost is starting to thaw more deeply and more widely than ever before, and although the full impact of this melting is uncertain, it is bound to accelerate the rate of climate change and radically change the nature of Arctic ecosystems (Kitchen, 2016, p.40).

And yet we’re looking for more places to drill…including the Arctic Circle.

Apathetic yet?

My faith tells me to trust in God. Though I quoted parts of the creation story in Genesis 1, there is also the reassurances God gave to Noah that He would not destroy the earth again. Fellow Christians quote this to me, and others, whenever the topic of climate change comes up.

But God isn’t destroying the earth.

Mankind is.

And Mankind, through faith, or simple determination, also has the power to change his/her habits in such a way as to affect more positive change. It’s called choice. And there are so many we can make that can lessen our impact: refusing single-use plastics, like straws and plastic cling wrap; bringing our own bags to the grocery store instead of using their plastic ones; buying organic; walking, bicycling, using public transportation, instead of driving whenever possible; working to button up our homes and businesses so less energy is used to heat/cool them; planting a tree, and/or casting our votes for people who care about our planet, and the life it currently is struggling to sustain. People will make the necessary changes to our infrastructure so that our dependency on fossil fuels decreases, instead of increasing. If each of us takes one small step every day in this direction, we may make a positive difference.

But we won’t know until we get started. Why not take that first step today? Trust me…with that first step, anything seems possible. And the apathy just melts away…instead of the permafrost.

May God bless you & keep you!

REFERENCES

Kitchen, D. (2016)_Global Climate Change: Turning Knowledge Into Action. New York, NY: Routledge

Yep, I’m Definitely a Morning Person!

“Let me sleep a little longer! Sure, just a little more! And as you sleep, poverty creeps upon you like a robber and destroys you; want attacks you in full armor.” (Proverbs 6:10-11)

My mornings can be absolutely manic: writing (both work on one of the two novels I’m writing and this blog), yoga, farm work, and the usual routine we all adopt getting ready for work work. When I give in to the temptation to “snooze” a few more minutes, that usually turn into “well, I can nix yoga today” and sleep in an extra 1/2 hour, everything in my life gets backed up. I rush around. I run through my morning. I run LATE.

Even to work work.

Not good.

I’ve tried pushing writing, farm work (and bunny playtime here (time when the rabbits come out of their cages and stretch their legs a bit)), etc. to evenings but it doesn’t seem to work that way. The truth is, after playing the part of a walking encyclopedia on the 19th century (not a lament, just what I do for a living…lol!), I am BURNT!

Write?

Yeah, I might be able to string a few words together that make sense. But work out a particularly difficult scene? Surely, you jest.

More importantly? I simply DON’T in the evening. I’m not 100% sure why that is but I simply don’t. Even on my days off, I’ve discovered, if I don’t get moving before the sun rises, I don’t get moving at all and I waste the day. So I’m back to my 3:30 a.m. rising time. (Yes, you read that right)

And it feels GREAT!

Yesterday morning, I worked on my neglected adult novel for almost an hour, hit the yoga mat, took care of my “15 minutes” task that I blogged about in an earlier post, took care of all my animals, let the buns out of their cages for awhile…and managed to get to work early. How’s that for being on top of one’s game? I even enjoyed a cup of tea while I wrote and prayed the rosary on my way to work. Definitely an improvement over my usual stressed out drive, glancing frantically at the dashboard clock as time rapidly slips away, and praying by some miracle that I’ll make it into the parking lot by 8:25 instead of 8:30; thus, giving myself time to walk the distance into check in. (And, yes, that run-on sentence was intentional…) That’s been the story of my life for the last several months and probably the biggest reason I’ve been rundown. It’s been eat, sleep and race ahead to work work with no semblance to the life that I lived prior to my latest career move. Writing and homesteading are what makes me whole; without them, I’m not really me. I’ve been neglecting myself, my personal needs. I’ve even been neglecting Him a bit lately. Talk about chaos…

It’s good to be back.

May God bless you and keep you!

The Hurt of Wanting

Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house. Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his male or female slave, nor his ox or ass, nor anything else that belongs to him.” (Exodus 20:17)

My friends and I used to have an expression when we really wanted to go somewhere or do something: we wanted it so bad, we could taste it.

So what does “wanting” taste like?

It’s that sharp little tang on the tip of your tongue. Almost like when you prick yourself with a needle or a safety pin. It’s that little jab that reminds you of…something. It fills the soul with dissatisfaction, a dissatisfaction that stings and bleeds.

I’m sort of there right now.

What is it I want?

To be free of debt…and to have that homestead of my dreams that completely sustains me. I know I’m working towards it, but that doesn’t stop the longing from time to time…which isn’t completely wrong in itself. To want better in life may be a natural inclination but, when it hurts, that pain actually pulls us farther away from those dreams…and from Him.

When I see someone else living a lot closer to my dreams than I am, that’s when I feel the sting, that safety pin jab that somehow seems to quiver upon my upper lip…so bad, I really can taste it. It’s not a pleasant feeling, this jab. And it certainly doesn’t fill me with God’s peace. That’s really what homesteading is for me: peace. Yielding to the “jab” seems sort of counter-intuitive. Perhaps I should yield the control of said dreams to God; I might get there faster and in ways I could’ve never imagined…without tasting the “jab”.

May God bless you & keep you!

15 Minutes…to Remember Who I AM

“We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” (2 Cor 4:8)

I neglected the “remembering who I am” part of yesterday’s blog post. The manic dash through what has become my “life” has made me neglect what really matters to me most: family, friends, farm, even my faith.

No time.

Struggle to make time.

I should be able to find the time.

Why can’t I move today?

So tired…

My poor, neglected garden.

We look like Tobacco Road.

I’ll never catch up.

Overwhelmed…

Depressed…

Sorry, Felicity, but I only have 2 minutes to get on the road again…as my cute, little Nigerian Dwarf goat extends her upside down Madonna grin at me. (Felicity’s gapped teeth are in her bottom jaw, not her top, like the singer’s…)

Guilt.

I could’ve spared her a few more seconds of my time. What if this was my last day with her???

Then I’d be late…

Again.

Who cares? (I do…they do; anyone would…)

More depression…

Those are the arguments, thoughts, feelings, etc. the little hamster running the wheel in my head is sending up on an almost daily basis. No wonder I’ve been rundown. And overwhelmed to the point of being unable to take the steps necessary to be less overwhelmed.

I read a notice on the bulletin board in my doctor’s office last week. It was a summer schedule suggestion to move kids away from too much screen time to actual play, chore, exercise time. The schedule listed just 15 minutes of reading a book; taking a walk; making your bed/cleaning your room, etc. 15 minute manageable bites. And once you did just 15 minutes of these tasks everyday, you could play video games, visit your tablet, etc.

15 minutes…

I decided to adopt and adapt it to my own life. Just 15 minutes…

Every day.

15 minutes to remember who I am each day: a writer, an artist, a homesteader, a herbalist, an animal lover/animal rights’ activist, environmentalist, Christian.

I can do that.

And it doesn’t leave me feeling overwhelmed…or depressed.

And that downstairs closet that I spent 15 minutes on this morning? It looks pretty good. And, okay, it’s actually taken me 17 minutes to type this. But, not bad…it’s only 6:25 a.m.

May God bless you & keep you!

A Trip to the ER Prompts Some Serious Soul-Searching

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.” (Matthew 5:13)

First of all, I have to say that anyone who is still in denial about climate change in the face of this present heatwave, needs to have their head examined. It no longer matters the why it is happening; it IS happening. Period. If we can, we need to slow it down because temps of this magnitude are killing people and animals and the earth. If you have children and/or grandchildren, this should matter to you. Because they are the ones who will suffer the consequences of our inaction to address this issue…

I do not handle heat well. I jokingly tell everyone that my dream home is in Alaska. That is partly true. “Partly” because my stereotypical vision of Alaska is of snow and ice and cooler temps; I’m a fall through spring kind of gal. Give me crisp, fall temperatures and I am unstoppable. Three feet of snow outside? As long as the woodstove is going, the animals safe and snug in their barn, and I’ve got a good book, a cuppa tea and a couple of felines to cozy up to and it’s the ultimate. But I don’t fly–at least if I can avoid it–so such a move would mean an almost total separation from me and the many people I care about. That’s the part of the statement that would be untrue; I would not like to be that far away from those that matter most. I have enough family and friends scattered about the world that I seldom, if ever, get to see. While I might consider relocation from time to time, Alaska would be a bit extreme. We’ll save it for the bucket list of places to visit in the future; I’m not sure I would want to live there. (wink)

But that’s neither here nor there and getting a little off topic: the ER (Emergency Room)…

I do not handle heat well. I never knew how accurate that statement was until two weeks’ ago.

What has become an ordinary day for me started with the usual protest as the alarm went off. I don’t remember if it was a good night of close to 7 hours of sleep, or the more common 6 hour squeak. My body craved more, but I finally dragged my butt out of bed, wincing as the plantars fasciitis worked itself out along the hobble down the hall. Meditation, blogging, some early morning gardening have all gone the way of the Conestoga lately; yoga only sporadically entering into my morning routine. I may have done some yoga that morning; it’s a bit hazy right now…and probably always will be. I do remember running–literally–through the morning feeding/watering routine, yelling at chickens, ducks, goats, etc. to get out from underfoot because I’m running late as usual…and then the now-routine guilt trip that ensued, making me pause at least long enough to scratch a few heads and apologize for my mad-dash through life. The usual hour-long drive into work and also now-routine soaked-to-the-gills-standing-before-the-fire-cooking-in-three-layers-of-period-clothing-in-90+ temperatures followed. Only this time, I kept catching myself as the room spun a little before my eyes. My co-worker, a lovely volunteer named Diane, kept suggesting maybe I should sit down for a minute, drink some water. I did. Frequently. But more visitors would come and I’d be up again. This was the fabric of my day. And has been since this heatwave started. When the day finally ended, though I had been careful to keep drinking water throughout the day, I could definitely feel the effects of heat exhaustion. Another co-worker–this one a junior intern (high school student working at the museum for the summer) hailed me as I walked to the parking lot. I turned to greet this young lady and nearly toppled over; I barely caught myself in time. When I got home, it was blessed relief to feel the AC running. I took my time with evening chores, getting an early jump on feeding so I could get to bed a little earlier. My body needed rest. And I knew it. I’d be okay with a good night’s rest. Really, I would.

After 9 hours of sleep–a luxury for me and usually unheard of–I awoke to the alarm and sat up in bed to shut it off. The room spun completely out of focus. That’s not good. Carefully, I reached over to grab my cellphone and turn off the ever-increasing volume of a mechanical rooster crowing. I sat for a moment to get my bearings, head pounding. Then, hobbling down the hallway again, I found myself holding close to the wall to keep my balance. The stairs were a nightmare; I clutched the banister tightly and went down one step at a time, stopping to be sure my foot was firmly planted with each step. I considered calling into work. Then, stubborn, I persisted in getting ready for the day; I can’t afford another day out. I ate breakfast. The room kept spinning even while I sat to eat. I clutched counters, tables, chairs, whatever was in reach as I fed cats, rabbits and Smoky the Cockatiel. I zigzagged across the barnyard with buckets of water and feed, a different sort of panic entering the surprisingly gentler requests not to get underfoot this morning. I clutched the rooster tractors for support as I fed them. And finally made up my mind that maybe I’d better go to the ER because this dizziness was not going away and this was a bit more than mere heat exhaustion.

When I got back into the house, a whole half hour had passed in what would normally be a 10-15 minute job and I wasn’t even dressed yet. Running late? That would be an understatement. I made the call, pulled a skirt on over the cut-off leggings I wore to bed and got in the car.

Yes, you read that right…

Probably not the brightest decision I’ve ever made…

Don’t try this at home, kids…

When everything spun out of focus at the foot of my driveway while I was looking back and forth to make sure no traffic was coming, I probably should’ve pulled back in and called someone to drive me (an ambulance??). Again, do NOT try this at home, kids. Amazingly, and only by the grace of God, I managed to drive to Day Kimball Hospital all in one piece…and without injury to anyone else. Their parking lot became a bit of a challenge though. I found a space right next to the staircase leading up to the ER doors. Again, I clutched tightly to the banister, this time with two hands and pulled myself up each step. Like the barnyard, I zigzagged across the road that runs between those stairs and the sliding doors of the ER, and hugged the walls to the check-in desk.

Day Kimball Hospital has never moved so fast. There was a wheelchair behind me before I’d even finished telling them I thought I had heat exhaustion. I can also tell you that allowing orderlies to run you down to triage when all the world is spinning crazily before your eyes is a little like when Captain Kirk orders, “Warp speed, Scotty!” Just this blur of lights flashing by and before you. I’m not sure how I managed not to toss my cookies. They hooked me up to an IV and then another when that one finished. In between, they did a CAT scan to make sure I wasn’t having a stroke. At some point they fed me juice and graham crackers. I slept most of the day. I did a lot of praying, too. When I wasn’t sleeping, or praying, I was answering texts from my supervisor, who had messaged me as soon as she got the message I’d left on the call-in line, saying that I was heading to the ER for heat exhaustion. I was also doing a lot of thinking…as much as anyone can when their butt is burning from reclining on one of those wonderful gurneys for 7 hours’ straight (chuckle).

But it’s no laughing matter.

I am lucky.

I am lucky it wasn’t a stroke. I am lucky not to have passed out coming downstairs, feeding livestock, behind the wheel. I am lucky not to have hurt anyone in my travels. I am lucky to be alive.

I lost all of my electrolytes. Though I drank plenty of water, I did not replenish things like potassium and zinc; instead, they were getting flushed and sweated out. A sports’ drink, or Pedialyte, or even some orange juice from time to time would’ve helped. Not having incurred an incredible amount of sleep-deficit and stress would’ve also helped.

Those 7 hours, plus the 5 days’ enforced convalesce that followed, gave me a lot of time to reflect and think…as well as bear the brunt of family and friends’ fury that I didn’t wake, or call, someone to help me. Asking for help from time to time is not a sin passed bearing. It does not make me weak. Or a failure. Or any of the other insults the Adversary whispers through my brain. In those 5 days, and all of the days that have followed, as my body has rested and my equilibrium slowly restored (almost), inside, has been another sort of re-calibration.

“Those that matter most,” climate change and the environment, my homestead and all of the creatures who share it with me, this blog and my writing, herbs and natural health, my faith–these are the denizens of my attention and care. This is what matters most. This is what makes me, me. This is what brings me joy in this life. And I’ve been neglecting all of them…while also being a bear when dealing with all of them, human or humane. This infernal heat has only excerbated the bear-like personality; stress, sleep-deprivation, and living life like an out-of-control robot created this grizzly. Adding to the stress has been the incredible guilt that my reaction to even the simplest pleas for my time and attention has elicited. Changes need to be made. Better care taken of myself so that I can be here to share this life with family, friends, and pets, so I can write those stories, paint those pictures, work this homestead and worship the God of my heart is what needs to be changed. I can no longer keep this breakneck pace–especially in this heat–without serious consequences.

So I am slowly, painstakingly, removing the stress-causing entities in my life while my body still struggles to find that balance again. What matters most? My therapist and I have been working closely on this ever since. I’m learning to say, “no!” to some of the demands on my time that are not necessary. I’m learning that it’s okay if I finish that homework assignment a little late. I’m learning to even say, “no!” to that serpent-like voice that pushes me beyond endurance to be the perfectionist with everything…and snickers more guilt into my consciousness for a day off spent relaxing with a book, or watching a few videos, instead of working outside in the heat. My health is more important. And filling my time with those I love, and doing what I love, will go a long way towards improving that health and well-being.

This “salt” lost her flavor in more ways than one. Though my faith cautions against selfish behavior, in this case, selfishness, in the form of doing what it takes to be healthy again, is necessary.

May God bless you & keep you!