Appreciation, Books, Christianity, Culture, Exhaustion, Faith, Forgiveness, Gratitude, Prayer, Reading, Scripture, Sleep Deprivation, Spirituality, Understanding, Writing, Yoga & Fitness, YouTube

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!

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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I Don’t Care…

“Don’t plot against your neighbor; he is trusting you. Don’t get into needless fights. Don’t envy violent men. Don’t copy their ways. For such men are abomination to the Lord, but He gives His friendship to the godly.” (Proverbs 3:29-32)

I don’t care what color your skin is. As an artist, while monochromes and sepia may have their uses, a steady diet of such a restricted palette gets pretty monotonous. I much prefer the diverse plan of the Master Artist, that for me is my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who created all colors and hues that the world might be a more beautiful place to live.

I don’t care where you originally came from. We’ve been saying there’s not enough room for centuries; and yet, there’s always just one more place at the dinner table and a pillow to rest one’s head. We’ve been worrying for centuries about job scarcity, too. There’s some legitimacy to that. But it’s not because of who you are or that you came here in the first place. Automation, technology, and cheaper labor in other lands–perhaps even your own–are robbing us of our livelihoods. I’d rather bid you welcome, learn about your life in the Old Country, and why this land became the dream for you as it has for every generation before…unless you’re 100% Cheyenne or Cherokee, that is.

I don’t care who you love. The fact that you love someone at all tells me you have a heart…and I rejoice with you in having found that special someone who can know all about you and love you, too. Your gender/identity does not matter to me. I consider you a kind and courageous soul for being true to yourself…and for having the guts to reach out for love in the first place. Many people wander this world lonely and alone, broken by past trauma, or too afraid of rejection, to reach out for the greatest gifts we humans have to give to each other: our love, our compassion, companionship, and a sense of belonging.

I don’t care what your socioeconomic status is. A bigger house means more time and effort to clean…and more junk to fill it; a fancier car means a higher insurance premium each month. I rejoice with you if you can afford such luxuries today…and if you’re content in the having of them. Empty cupboards and drafty floors push many to despair. They do not mean that someone has been lazy and shiftless…or even that they’ve made a bad choice somewhere along the way. Sometimes we’re just victims of circumstance…such as an accident, or a company outsourcing one’s position. Until we’ve walked that proverbial mile in someone else’s shoes, judge not, lest ye be judged. The size of your wallet does not reflect the size of your heart. How you treat your fellow man, and even the other creatures who share this earth with us, tells me volumes about how truly wealthy, or impoverished, you are.

I don’t care if you call the Source of life Jesus, God, Allah, Goddess, or Buddha, etc., or if you don’t believe in such an existence at all. Regardless of your beliefs, we are all part of the same community of life on this third rock from the sun. Arguing about who’s right and who’s wrong only divides us, sets us to hating each other…when all of our holy texts tell us to love one another. Instead, I’d rather sit down and have the sort of conversation that brings about a new understanding and peace, a conversation where we both learn and respect each other’s beliefs…and the culture that founded them.

I don’t care who you vote for. As long as you vote with integrity, allowing the love you have in your heart for your fellow man and good reason to guide you, then your vote counts…even if your choice doesn’t win. It should not matter what someone looks like, who they love, how much–or how little–they earn, where they come from, their gender, or their beliefs. All are worthy of consideration and care. The only aisle between us is the one we have drawn in our minds…and in our hearts. When we reject even a single one of our brothers and sisters, we all lose. When we all work together, we all win…BIG!

May God bless you & keep you!

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A Song for the Year

“Play joyous melodies of praise upon the lyre and on the harp. Compose new songs of praise to Him, accompanied skillfully on the harp; sing joyfully.” (Psalms 33:2-3)

I probably should’ve written this post on January 1st. However, as we enter the Lenten season this week, my resolve to stay a particular course is tested and strengthened. This is my “new year”, my time to find something in my heart that I feel needs attention.

This time around it’s a growing awareness–an awareness that has been with me for many, many years (not just the last 3 or so)–of how divided we are in the U.S. And in the world. We see people who look differently than us, worship differently, love differently, dress differently. And we judge. I don’t think deep down inside that we’re inherently racist or filled with hate. I think we’ve become indoctrinated with a lot of racist rhetoric and assumptions about each other, rhetoric and assumptions that cause us to fear and mistrust…instead of reaching across an invisible aisle, or line, that we have drawn in the sand. Of course, it doesn’t help when our leaders continue to reiterate those assumptions. Or that we’ve been fed American history from a biased perspective.

What would American history be like if our history books told about slavery from the perspective of the men, women and children who were trapped in it for centuries?

What would our curriculum be like if it included the oral histories of the Cheyenne, Sioux, Cherokee or Iroquois’ (etc) nations?

Do we realize how many Hispanic and/or Latinos have contributed to that history, to the building of this country, from its very inception? Ditto for Asian, Indian, Jewish and Muslim/Middle Eastern peoples, etc.

And how many of our most revered authors, artists, etc from centuries’ past would identify today as LGBTQ? Does who they love(d) make their contributions any less?

What truly makes America–and all the world, really–great is the beauty of that diversity. And I think it’s time that we focused on what brings us together, not what divides us. As my choice for “song of the year” by Mandisa (feat. TobyMac and Kirk Franklin) says, “We All Bleed the Same”. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HVKuA1s5I3o

May God bless you & keep you!

Works Cited

Mandisa. “We All Bleed the Same.” Out of the Dark, Sparrow Records, 2017.

Animals, Appreciation, Art, Creativity, Culture, Nature

The Beauty of Creativity

“Charm can be deceptive and beauty doesn’t last, but a woman who fears and reverences God shall be greatly praised” (Proverbs 31:30)

Okay…so it may be a bit rich of me to use the word “beauty” in the title of a post where I’m sharing some of my own artwork but the following are a couple of posters I am painting in watercolor as a part of my final in my illustration class. The beauty may not be so much within the rendering but in the total absorption and peace I found in first drawing and then painting each and every detail.

Sometimes we all need to take a little “time out” from the every day and ordinary.

May God bless you & keep you!

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What if?

“For the Lord watches over all the plans and paths of godly men, but the paths of the godless lead to doom.” (Psalms 1:6)

“What if” must be the most terrifying sentence in the world as it opens up every can of worms and sends them wriggling across the floor of our hearts where they feed and fester and eat away at our very soul. “What if” can stop us in our tracks from whatever our pursuits. “What if” is the ultimate second guessing of ourselves, our loved ones, our community and even our government. “What if” reflects a serious lack of faith.

And yet, I succumb to asking this question at least 20 times a day.

“What if” I can’t stop the foreclosure? “What if” I can’t find another place for us to live? I mean, it’s a tall order when you have a farm and an aging mother to provide for. “What if” the new job doesn’t culminate into something bigger? “What if” I don’t find work to sustain us? “What if” my dreams are only that–dreams–and never come to fruition? And everything shuts down inside as fight-or-flight spirals into overdrive. I find myself mentally, emotionally and even physically paralyzed with fear and panic and all those negative emotions the adversary would like us to believe in.

Instead of Him.

In my Al-Anon daily reader it talks about how you learn to accept uncertainty in life when you live with alcoholism. Plans and rules change ad nauseum and we’re left with a shattered trust that taints our present and our future. It also talks about how we react to every situation with desperation, fearing there’s only one chance–regardless of the situation. Sort of like the questions I asked above.

I know well where my anxiety comes from. And while the worries and fears may continue to surface, I’m learning how to beat them back into, well, maybe not complete submission, but at least I can send them to the corner for awhile for disrupting my life yet again. “What if” He breaks my hold here to give me the farm and animal sanctuary of my dreams? “What if” He demonstrates a miracle through me by manifesting the impossible–total “catch up” and halt of the foreclosure? “What if” the perfect “job” is the work that my heart, hands and imagination create each day as I sit here at this keyboard? “What if” I am loved beyond my ability to comprehend and He really does have my best interest in His heart, ready to write it loudly and clearly on mine?

And yours.

When we succumb to the apathy, the only one who wins is the adversary. And we can’t let him win. He’s been at the forefront of this world for too long now. What if we manifest a more positive world with love for everyone, regardless of where they come from, how they look, how they dress, who they love, or what they believe? What if we love ourselves unconditionally–not as a narcissist whose “love” is really a mask for their lack of confidence and self-esteem–so that we can love our neighbors as ourselves? As Christ commanded that we do. Kind of hard to love someone as yourself if you don’t have a love for yourself, a love that recognizes self as a child of God, in the first place. “What if” we finally opened our hearts to that unconditional love and spread it throughout the globe? Talk about a war on terrorism! Anxiety-the internal terrorism of self.

May God bless you & keep you!

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I Have Been a Coward

“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? When evil men come to destroy me, they will stumble and fall! Yes, though a mighty army marches against me, my heart shall know no fear! I am confident that God will save me.” (Psalms 27:1-3)

Back in 2017, especially towards the end of the year, my blog posts had gotten deeper. I no longer was exploring homesteading endeavors only but some of the real issues that I have faced over the years. Sometimes I questioned myself, wondering what these issues, such as alcoholism and abuse, had to do with homesteading. But I continued onward, seeking to find both a voice and a niche in the blogging world. What I eventually came to was that every homestead is different and reflects the individuality of the person/people living and/or working it. And, while this is a homestead–albeit a struggling one these days as I seek to find work to sustain us off the property–it is also a home. And the people that live here are human…with all of the human failings of every individual.

This homestead is the brain child of a 50-something-year-old woman whose father has never wanted any part of her life…and a step-father who wanted too much to do with her, if you take my meaning. It’s the brain child of a child who watched in terror as this same stepfather popped open that first can of many beers until he was raving drunk, breaking everything he could lay hands on, kicking holes in the walls and beloved pets across the floor, screaming like a banshee and generally terrorizing us all. I also saw the opposite side of alcoholism with a grandfather, the same paternal grandfather who instilled my love of writing, who came home inebriated, mildly sat down on the sofa, pulled me onto his knee and spent the rest of the evening reading fairy tales to me…or teaching this 3 year-old granddaughter the finer points of chess. At 8 years’ old, I visited a very yellow-skinned Poppop in the nursing home for the last time. And then was told by, again, the stepfather and my Mom not to cry about his passing because it might upset my maternal grandfather, with whom we were staying, and cause him to have another stroke.

However, before I continue to paint my stepfather in the darkest terms, there’s even a flip side to this raging form of alcoholism. He was endlessly patient when helping me with homework. He praised my writing to the hilt and, before he died, told me in all confidence that I would be a great writer someday and have that bestseller. I sincerely hope he is right. But, even if he isn’t, despite the abuse I endured from this man, it means a lot to me to have such confidence behind me…even as a part of me fears a feeling of failure if I never do write that bestseller.

Such is the mark of abuse: confidence is always subjective at best.

Some of my posts, and one in particular, focused heavily on the effects of alcoholism in a family. It shapes dynamics, creates an atmosphere of fear and distrust even among loved ones, and fosters a lack of communication. There were consequences to speaking your mind.

And I felt them after such posts.

One aunt, in particular, refuses to speak to me after one such post, denying such dynamics exist in our family because, on my mother’s side of the family, the last generation of active alcoholics was my great-grandparents. My post talked about learned behavior that, sadly, can be passed from one generation to the next. That’s why Al-Anon refers to alcoholism as a “family disease” because, in essence, it’s catching…even if you don’t drink.

Then there was the blog post, which has long since been taken down, where I lamented the cruel treatment of an animal where I was working. I came close to being fired, was put on probation, and threatened with litigation. Sure, I should’ve gone through the proper channels and brought the treatment to the attention of my supervisor first. I was so horrified, I didn’t think about it until after I’d calmed down…and after the damage had already been done, so to speak. I don’t negate what I witnessed–and continued to witness–but I stopped writing about it. And floundered some mornings about what to write about at all. After being written up for this infraction, I got reprimanded again for another post that, in all honesty, I never even considered might be offensive. In that post, I lamented being unable to serve at church on Sunday mornings because of the work schedule conflict. It wasn’t meant as a shot against the employer in question but they took it that way.

These hands have been, sadly, quiet over the last year-and-a-half or so. Fear of retribution has made me second guess every word typed. Yes, I know, as a writer, I have a responsibility to be cognizant of people’s feelings. I also know that I am going to piss some people off even without intending to. I know that I cannot please everyone and, maybe, depending on the subject of my post, someone will get angry enough to seek compensation for what they view as a damaging image created by those words. However, while I have no desire to cause pain to anyone, I also know that by remaining silent, sometimes I cause more pain.

To myself.

And, yes, to others, too.

None of the above subjects have anything to do with homesteading directly. Nor do the political or religious issues that sometimes crop up and demand my attention. However, they do have something to do with this homestead. Every homestead is unique. Not just in what that homestead produces, such as fruits and vegetables, herbs, fiber products, honey, etc but in the human force behind it.

What hurdles have those humans had to jump over to get to where they are right now? What hurdles have become road blocks to their success? What issues influence why they are homesteading in the first place? And what issues influence the direction they take?

I started homesteading because I wanted to rescue abused and neglected creatures. I wanted to help those without a voice, as well as remember those beloved pets of my youth whom I was too young and powerless to protect. Later, as I learned more about herbs, a love started by my mother when she cured a tenacious strain of conjunctivitis (pink-eye) with a decoction of spearmint leaves, I wanted to grow my own herbs organically and experience the healing power I’d heard so much of regarding gardening. Then, as commercial food products continue to get recalled and we learn about the harmful chemicals used in growing food on a commercial scale, I wanted to heal myself and my loved ones by growing as much of our food myself as possible. This led to an awareness of how much our planet is hurting due to the toxins in our air, water, soil and bodies. Many of those toxins come from plastic clothing, the synthetic fibers like nylon and microfibers and Spandex, etc that release tiny particles into our waterways every time we throw them in the washer. My brief career in living history was an enduring experience because of the gift of learning how to raise and then process natural fibers–without harm to the animals in question.

No, I can’t save the world. But I can mitigate the harm to our planet by reducing my own abuse of resources…and educating others on ways that they can reduce that carbon footprint as well. And I may not be able to save every animal who hurts or suffers under human abuse, neglect and/or exploitation, but I can mitigate some of that suffering one creature at a time…and, when resources allow, help empower others in the field of animal welfare.

Have I fallen short of the mark in my endeavors? Of course. I am human…with all of the human failings of our species. I can be lazy and undisciplined. I procrastinate. I can be short-sighted. I can also be loving and kind and laser-focused at times. I’m creative and a bit of a Pollyanna–this last can be both a failing and a success, depending upon one’s perspective. I’m also tackling another hurdle right now in trying to save this homestead from certain foreclosure if I don’t find a position, or a means of supplementing the current one, that helps me get caught up on all the back payments due.

I’ve cringed every time I’ve blogged about my financial situation. Shame, which is part of that pride cycle, has filled me even though I know my current situation stems from an unexpected fall and the subsequent injury I sustained in that fall. In many ways, it’s been a blessing. It’s made me stop and realize that, over the years, I have judged others less fortunate harshly. I’ve shared a common belief that somehow this person may have brought their troubles on themselves.

When I ought to know better.

In short, I’ve been a coward about humbling myself to my readers. I’ve allowed a few wrist slaps to influence the direction and reason for this blog. And, while those wrist slappings may curb some overzealous crusades, if I allow them to silence me entirely, I don’t deserve to be a writer at all. While a writer has a responsibility to all of the things I mentioned above, a writer also has a responsibility to share the truth, to be genuine, to lift people up and shed the Light of that truth on as much of the anger and prejudice and sufferings in this world as he or she can.

May God bless you & keep you!

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A Light in the Dark

“But if someone who is supposed to be a Christian has money enough to live well, and sees a brother in need, and won’t help him–how can God’s love be within him?” (1 John 3:17)

SNAP benefits’ cuts…that’s what’s been in the headlines this past week. It breaks my heart. If you’re a Christian, this is supposed to be a season of giving, a time when we open our hearts and welcome all of our brothers and sisters.

Instead our government is going to forget them.

No, not the single mother with children. Or the elderly (albeit, many of the aforementioned are lucky to receive even $16 a month…). They should be keeping their benefits. It’s those recipients that the government deems capable of working. They (gov’t) tout the “booming” economy, the lower unemployment rates and say, you need to look for a job.

Okay.

The best way to end poverty, supposedly, is to teach people how to fish instead of just giving them the fish. But, if they’re already starving, how will they find the strength to do the fishing in the first place? And our unemployment numbers–statistics–do not reflect the true situation for so many, many Americans.

Most people who have been reading this blog know that I suffered an injury a year ago and I’m now facing foreclosure due to time lost recovering and the loss of the first full-time job that I’ve been able to find in almost 10 years. Yeah. 10 years! It didn’t pay very well, and I had to drive over an hour to get to it because the northeastern corner of Connecticut has a pretty slow turnaround as far as getting people back to work…and most of the jobs found are part-time, seasonal, and/or temporary. In short, there’s not a lot of industry here. We’re considered one of the worst areas in that regard by the Department of Labor. But we’re not really unique. The job market in America is made up of lots of part-time, seasonal, temporary and/or minimum wage positions and few, if any, full-time with benefits’ positions. So many people are working 2-3 of those low-paying, part-time endeavors just to make ends meet…and they’re still just a layoff, injury or illness away from losing everything they’ve ever worked for.

Yes, worked for.

Add to these situations people with disabilities–not full disability status, but they have limitations. They will be hurt by these cuts. And people with a similar situation as my own, people still recovering from an illness, an injury, a major economic setback, who haven’t quite gotten their legs underneath them again, they, too, will be affected.

No, I’m not on SNAP benefits. Mom and I have a combined income of almost $25K a year; we only qualify for $16 a month. We pay that in copies and postage to get the necessary paperwork in to Social Services so why bother? Especially when Social Services will freeze your benefits if you happen to work a few hours of overtime next month…or change jobs (they tend to neglect to remove the old job and count both incomes…and there’s an obligatory jump through bureaucratic hoops to re-instate everything).

I read an article today from USA Today. While not always the most accurate periodical, this particular article hit the nail on the head about how it is for so many of our nation’s poor…and what these cuts will mean for so many. The qualifications are already quite low. They’re designed for the really impoverished, those making even less than Mom & I. The article talks about how many of the people who will be affected by the cuts are already living on the streets–homeless. Yes, some are recovering addicts, whether alcohol or drugs, but many simply lost a job, got sick, suffered an injury and lost everything. Many of them are veterans…also forgotten by our government. The average SNAP allowance is, roughly, $120 a month if you qualify for full benefits (Schnell & Hughes, 2019). How far does that stretch? And what type of food will it buy? Certainly not the fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meat and fish, etc. that provide the energy and good health needed to work those 2-3 jobs. And, if you’re already living on the streets, a lot of places won’t hire you. You need a permanent address.

The article also addresses the attitude towards extremely impoverished people. This particular cut in benefits does so with the suggestion that many people take advantage of the system. That may be true. But the cut will hurt many more who are not taking advantage and are truly in need.

As for those who do take advantage? I’m not sure why anyone would. I don’t doubt that there are lazy people in the U.S. who abuse the system, but the whole process of jumping through those aforementioned hoops–both to obtain and then retain benefits–is quite stressful. Your whole life comes under a microscope and you’re made to feel like a slug for even asking. I get it. I really do. You think I don’t want to work and that’s why I’m here. Suddenly, I’m the roach crawling across the floor. I’ve asked for it. Again, I’m not sure why anyone would ask for this kind of existence. And, despite the theory that SNAP and welfare and all the other myriad programs are supposed to be that hand up to those fallen on hard times, the truth is, they’re really designed to keep those fallen on hard times impoverished. As I mentioned before, if you even get a little overtime, they’re ready to strip those benefits away…even if the overtime is a temporary thing. If you’re in the system, you have very little chance of getting back out of it again. And I get that that may be the reason for the cuts: to force people out of the system. But, the end result, I predict, will be a lot more people going hungry, falling off the wagon of their addiction, more theft and violence and suicide.

I know. Not a very merry post during the Yuletide season. And, if I had all the answers on how to solve this dilemma, I would be the most sought-after person on the planet. I guess what I’m trying to say is not to forget those in need this holiday season. The article in USA Today also mentioned how hard it will be for food banks and churches and other resources to help meet the needs of those hurt by these cuts. If you can give to them, please do. If you’re hurting yourself, seek them out. Or volunteer your time to help them help others. You never know what tomorrow may bring. At the very least, keep our brothers and sisters in your prayers. They need every one they can get.

May God bless you & keep you!

Works Cited

Schnell, Lindsay & Hughes, Trevor (2019). “Cuts to SNAP Benefits will hit 700,000 Food-Insecure Americans.” USA Today. Retrieved from: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2019/12/21/trump-food-stamps-cut-snap-benefits-more-hungry-americans/2710146001/?fbclid=lwAR3JUXAzoyO0LZZ1LY9_Nr10_xNk3M8QombVEOAdcnvuhdori21jUWnMDJw

Animals, Climate Change, Cooking, Creativity, Culture, ecosystems, Environment, Family, Frugality, gardening, Global Warming, Healing, Holidays, Holistic Health, Homesteading, Minimalism, Nature, Self-improvement, Zero Waste

A Sustainable Saturday – Keeping the Plastic Out of our Oceans and Streams

“O God, have pity, for I am trusting you! I will hide beneath the shadow of your wings until this storm is past. I will cry to the God of heaven who does such wonders for me” (Psalms 57:1-2).

As Thanksgiving Day just passed here in the U.S., we now enter the delectable week of leftover meals of turkey and ham sandwiches (if you consume meat, of course), and re-heated potatoes, stuffing, squash, turnip, sweet potato and green bean casserole. We always make too much, wanting to have extra for that unexpected guest…or simply to have those leftover dishes for quick and easy meals over the next few days. We’ll do likewise for the coming holiday season. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Yule, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, or another holiday, there will likely be at least one other family gathering to share a special meal together…and this, too, will likely produce another mountain of leftovers.

And another mountain of plastic waste heading to our oceans and streams.

Plastic wrap and single-use containers often get displayed in supermarket flyers right along with the sales on stuffing mixes, cranberry sauce and turkey. For convenience sake, we buy them in large quantities the same day we go shopping for food for said gatherings. The reasoning is that folks can use them to take home those leftovers. They’ll keep everything fresh and clean, and nobody has to worry about returning a host’s favorite bowl or platter.

But what happens after we get those containers home?

As I’m a frugal fanatic, those leftovers usually get eaten. By Monday, Mom and I will probably be sick of stuffing and squash. Or my chickens and ducks will have had a feast of their own on whatever we don’t eat (minus any leftover meat that Mom does not consume). However, no matter how careful we are, sometimes containers of food get forgotten in the back of the fridge. A few weeks from now, we may find a container whose fuzzy, green appearance gives not the slightest hint as to what it once contained in life. I hope not, as I am cognizant of the fact that food waste in our landfills actually exceeds our plastic waste (14% versus 12% of plastic waste (Cunningham & Cunningham, 2015, pp. 476-477)), but it does happen from time to time. Either way, eventually, there will be wads of cling wrap and/or plastic containers entering recycle bins and trash receptacles across the U.S.A.

The former raises an “ah ha!” moment in many. If you are recycling it, what’s the big deal? However, some forms of plastic cannot be recycled, especially if there are layers of materials involved, such as in paper cups designed for both hot and cold beverages. And, as many of these containers and wrappings have been used to store food, even with careful rinsing, the aromas cling. If not carefully contained at the curb, they may get invaded by wildlife who scatter it everywhere in their search for something to eat. Gusts of wind, either from nature or passing traffic, may tip over a receptacle and/or blow lighter materials about. And, if you’re one of those people who doesn’t bother to properly rinse your recyclables, once they get to the recycling plant, the Zero Sort machine kicks them out and into a waiting garbage truck to be sent to the landfill. All is not perfect in the world of recycling. (Google The Pacific Garbage Gyre to find out where a lot of our plastic waste eventually ends up)

I have fallen far short of my goals of Zero Waste this year. As always, part of it stems from other family members not being on board with it, part of it my own inability in disciplining myself in whatever new behavior I’m hoping to adopt. I’ve wasted a lot of time talking, explaining, telling people about plastic waste…only to hear the response that everyone else does it so it doesn’t make a difference.

But every effort we make, makes a difference. It may be a small one, but we’re telling the world that it matters. The lives of sea creatures and birds and possums and raccoons…and countless other species of life matter. Our own health and well-being matter…because what so-called lesser creatures consume, we also consume.

So this year, knowing I cannot control the amount of plastic waste my family produces simply by telling, I decided to lead by example.

I always have tons of canning jars around the house from preserving whatever I produce in the garden. So I packed up several of the wide-mouth quart jars in a reusable shopping bag and toted them to my aunt’s house. When the meal was over, and my aunt was asking everyone if they wanted to take some of the leftovers home so they didn’t go to waste, I ran out to my car and grabbed the bag of canning jars. Though she offered the use of some of the plastic and/or aluminum plates she’d purchased for this express purpose, I politely thanked her, then told her I’d rather use the canning jars. I then filled the jars with what she’d offered. She watched me and then admitted it was a good idea because it was cheaper than buying the plastic wrap and single-use containers, which have gotten expensive.

No, it’s not exactly the reason behind my bringing the canning jars, but ecology and economy go hand-in-hand. The less we spend on things we don’t really need, the less we send to the landfills. This is true for pretty much everything. And, even if we can’t get everyone on board about plastic waste for the sake of our planet, saving everyone a few pennies can be an incentive. The end result will be the same: less waste overall.

May God bless you & keep you!

Works Cited

Cunningham, William P. and Cunningham, Mary Ann. Environmental Science: A Global Concern, Thirteenth Edition. New York, NY: McGraw Hill Education, 2015.

19th century, Animals, Appreciation, Culture, Healing, Herbs, Holidays, Holistic Health, Homesteading, illness, Plants, Recipes, Spirituality

Wednesday’s Weed Walk – (Salvia officinalis) Sage

“And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat” (Genesis 1:29)

As tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and most will be dressing their plate with a delectable mixture of bread crumbs, onion, celery, butter and sage (among other ingredients), it seems befitting to write about a herb that has become pretty synonymous with this holiday.

But, before I go any further, there’s this:

“These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, cure, or prevent any disease.”

Now, back to our regularly scheduled program…

Though we may also dress our tables with cardboard cutouts of Pilgrims and First Nations’ peoples, and though I also found this herb in “A Handbook of Native American Herbs,” sage is NOT native to North America, but a southern European plant that has long been naturalized here. I was thinking of smudge sticks, which I use to clear negative energy from a room, my home, even a client, before they enter a room or home, and how popular culture has connected them to Native American culture. As the book in question does not say how long this herb has been naturalized in this country, perhaps it does fit into the Native American materia medica botanica, but I will refrain from making a direct connection and instead, share a use found in this book that I also learned about when I worked in living history: a tea made with sage leaves is an excellent gargle for a sore throat (Hutchens, 1992; OSV Training Materials, 2017).

An herb tea, or infusion, is made a little differently than a cup of, say, Lipton tea. With herbs, you heat the water and remove it just before it boils (too hot will kill the natural healing properties of the plants). Then you pour the hot water over the herbs, cover the cup, or teapot, and allow the herbs to steep at least 20 minutes so that whatever you’re brewing will be strong enough to take effect. In this case, this is a gargle so you would use it the same as a swig of Listerine or Scope. If the flavor is too strong (and even the herbalist here considers it slightly gag-inducing in such a raw state), a bit of honey will counteract its astringent taste and have the added benefit of further soothing that raw throat.

**Another note here: when heating the water (or herbs, when making a decoction), it is not recommended to use cast iron as the iron may change the desired effect. Also, NEVER use Teflon-coated, no-stick pots and pans–even for cooking food. There has been too much controversy surrounding their negative effects on our health and, like the iron in cast iron, may leach into whatever you infuse. Metal pans/tea kettles are a better vessel; ceramic, glass, etc. vessels for steeping in.

Renowned herbalist and champion of natural rearing of animals, Juliette de Bairacli Levy says that sage’s very name bespeaks its healing property. It’s Latin name, that is: Salvia officinalis. Salvia comes from the Latin word, salvere, to be well (de Bairacli Levy, 1991). She, too, recommends it as “first-rate…for the treatment of all disorders of throat, lungs and ears” and as external “application for bruises, watery swellings and tumours”. Further, she says that our neighbors south of the border, the Mexican peoples, “make brushes from branches of the herb, using them to cleanse and dry off the sweating bodies of their horses and cattle, the leaves being both absorbent and invigorating to tired flesh”. In her book The Herbal Handbook for the Dog and Cat, she also recommends it for mastitis…in dogs, cattle, goats, etc., the latter of which are more prone owing to the unnatural removal of their calves and kids for commercial milk production. In this case, you would infuse the leaves as above for a gargle but instead bathe the udders (or breasts if a dog or cat) with the sage “tea” 4-5 times a day, making sure to gently press out all milk beforehand. The area should then be “bathed with a brew of elder and dock leaves – one handful of each brewed in 1 1/2 pints of water” (de Bairacli Levy, 1992).

In humans, many of the same uses seem to apply. Herbalist Michael Tierra recommends it for “excessive perspiration, night sweats” to “clear vaginal discharge and to stop the flow of milk” and says it is also “useful for diarrhea, dysentery, the early stages of cold and flu, sinus congestion, bladder infections and inflammatory conditions” (Tierra, 1998). In this case, the infusion is made with 1/4 ounce of sage to a pint of hot water steeped “in a closed vessel for 10 minutes”. He also recommends combining it with equal parts rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), peppermint (Mentha piperica) and wood betony (Betonica officinalis) for headaches…and, again, I’m finding mention of its uses as a gargle for sore throats. Though I could not find any specific remedies mentioned in his wife’s book, Healing with the Herbs of Life, Lesley Tierra does mention how white sage (Salvia apiana) has become endangered due to over-harvesting.

And, lastly, herbalist Rosemary Gladstar recommends sage as a facial tonic, hair rinse, in foot soaks, to aid digestion (which is probably why it is added to stuffing/dressing on Thanksgiving Day, considering our over-consumption at mealtime this day), help lower cholesterol, as part of a throat spray(!), and to combat hot flashes. This last one combines 2 parts each of black cohosh (Cimicifuga racemosa), motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca), and sage, 1 part each of blue vervain (Verbena officinalis) and chaste berry (Vitex agnus-castus) and a measure of mint for taste. These are combined together in their dried form. Then a teaspoon of the mixed herbs is infused for 30 minutes (see sage infusion above) and 1/4 cup is drank throughout the day as needed, not exceeding 3 cups in a 24 hour period (Gladstar, 2008). She recommends, if the tea’s taste is too strong, to instead fill a couple of OO size capsules and take 1-2 capsules 3-4 times each day.

Though I knew all of this stuff, having read these books many times over (as their tattered spines will attestify), I always appreciate the reminders as I peruse them yet again to share the love and knowledge that herbs have given to my life. I hope this little powerhouse, sage, will enrich the quality of your life, too…even if it is only to enrich the flavor of your Thanksgiving Day stuffing. Bon appetit!

May God bless you & keep you!

Works Cited

De Bairacli Levy, Juliette. The Complete Handbook for the Dog and Cat. London, England: Faber and Faber, 1992.
De Bairacli Levy, Juliette. The Complete Handbook for the Farm and Stable. London, England: Faber and Faber, 1991.
Gladstar, Rosemary. Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health. North Adams, Massachusetts: Storey Publishing, 2008.
Hutchens, Alma R. A Handbook of Native American Herbs. Boaston, Massachusetts: Shambhala, 1992.
Tierra, Lesley,L.Ac, Herbalist, A.H.G. Healing with the Herbs of Life. Berkeley, California: Crossing Press, 2003.
Tierra, Michael, L.Ac, O.M.D. The Way of Herbs. New York, New York: Pocket Books, 1998.

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We’re Hurting…It’s THAT Simple

“I walked by the field of a certain lazy fellow and saw that it was overgrown with thorns, and covered with weeds; and its walls were broken down. 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 24:28-34)

My overgrown yard is intentional. Any thorns found come from stands of wild blackberries that I allow to grow–albeit with some pruning and careful maintenance to keep them from completely overtaking everything else–and the “weeds” are actually wild herbs like mullein (Verbascum thapsis), dandelion (Taraxicum officinalis) and red clover (Trifolium pratense), all of which have medicinal properties and are allowed to grow for that reason.

However, the above piece of Scripture does play into the common mindset about a yard that is seemingly unkempt: that the person who lives in that particular home is lazy. We never stop to consider that they are struggling in some way. They could be elderly with no children or grandchildren to help them (or maybe it’s their kids and grandkids who are too lazy/busy to help…). They could be disabled. They could be overwhelmed with bigger responsibilities–like an aging parent, whose home they are taking care of in absence of their own. Maybe they’re single and struggle to keep up alone. They could be a young couple fallen on hard times…or an aging couple with health issues. And, in each of these cases, they likely cannot afford to hire out. There are myriad reasons why someone’s home may not be ready for the cover of Better Homes and Gardens‘ magazine. Yet we judge…as the author of this Proverb did.

No, it’s not really a criticism of the Bible itself. I’m guessing, because He knows our hearts, that the subject who prompted this Proverb was truly a lazy body and slept all day, not getting a lick of work done. And, in my present struggles, I can honestly admit to allowing overwhelm and despair to win-out in the ambition department, from time to time, as I struggle to get back on my financial feet. But we cannot use this Scripture to judge every single soul whose dwelling is less than our stellar expectations. Such a judgment smacks of, well, judgment but also, materialism.

Who decided what is “pristine” and what is “unkempt” in our society? Why does the rolling green, blunt-cut lawn, with its host of chemicals polluting our soil, our water supply, even the air we breathe, constitute acceptable when the unkempt space, one that seldom sees even a carbon monoxide-guzzling lawnmower, equals unacceptable? That pristine lawn, sadly, smacks of prestige. It’s a carryover from the English monarchy who had rolling green lawns surrounding their estates. However, England’s climate is more suitable for such…without the costly (in both dollars and environmental costs) expense of maintaining that lawn.

And, sadly, this mindset carries over into every other aspect of our lives. How often–and I’m owning my bad in this department myself–do we judge that person because they’re standing in line at a food pantry or breadline? By the low-income neighborhood they live in? By the clothes they wear? The car they drive? Or the public transportation they use because they can’t (or refuse to) afford the cost of an auto of their own? How often do we make assumptions based upon religion, color of skin, gender identity, country of origin, or even one’s weight? How often do we write a chapter of another person’s story with our judgments and assumptions?

Back in 2008, I worked three jobs + treated clients in Reflexology, Reiki, and Touch for Health to stay afloat. I lost the first part-time gig in late-2008, the full-time, corporate position in November 2009, and six months’ later, the part-time gig at a laundromat. This was during the economic crash. My clients also felt the pain of that crisis and stopped coming in for treatments. Thankfully, President Obama extended unemployment benefits to 99 weeks while struggling to create jobs for people. We’re only now starting to feel the benefits of those efforts…and we’re still seeing mostly part-time, minimum wage, seasonal and/or temporary positions (at least here in New England). However, even with the extension of benefits, I was forced to live off of my 401K while I continued to search for work to sustain me and mine. I found plenty of the aforementioned part-time gigs but they haven’t been enough to keep me afloat. I was forced to rely on mortgage assistance for a number of years. Finally, in 2017, I found a full-time position. It required a long commute, which ate up any money I might’ve been able to save for a rainy day, and was barely above minimum wage, but I loved what I did. The mortgage assistance had just run out, and I had made my first full mortgage payment without the assistance, when I slipped on the ice and fractured my shoulder. Now I’m behind on mortgage payments again…and it doesn’t look good. I worked a seasonal job throughout the summer. Now I’m working a temporary position, which looks promising on the full-time spectrum, but I’m not banking on anything yet.

Even if I get the position, there’s no guarantee that my mortgage company will do another modification to get me right-side up again. So I’m socking away every spare penny I can earn to try to keep foreclosure from happening…but it’s not easy. And I’ll admit to being scared down to the very tips of my toes. I feel like I’m in a race that maybe I can’t win.

Maybe He doesn’t want me to win this one. Maybe He wants me to relocate. Maybe He has plans for me to be somewhere else and that’s why I’m no longer thriving here.

I get asked that one a lot: why don’t you move if things are so rough where you are?

The answer is simple: if I had the kind of money it would require to start over, I would also have the kind of money I need to catch up on my mortgage. And, with everything in default, how likely are my chances of buying another property in another state where I don’t have any job at all? And rents are just as prohibitive. This is a farm. I have animals to consider. I have my elderly mother living with me. Trust me…the free spirit would love to find land somewhere, put up a tiny cabin and live completely off-grid. Maybe, as I save and squirrel everything away, if push comes to shove, I’ll have enough to buy that piece of land.

But that’s a big “if”. I’m not banking on that either.

So I’m hurting right now. And the blog posts have been spotty at best. I feel like they’ve been a constant variation on the same theme most of this year, and if I hate redundancy, I don’t wish to bore my readers by catering to redundancy…in any form. So, I’ve refrained.

But maybe that’s where I’m wrong.

Writing this blog post this morning has actually been a sort of therapy. I can pour out my heart. And, while it may backlash somewhere along the way, or repel others (I’m thinking of that breadline I mentioned in the beginning…), I’m laying myself open anyway in the hopes that someone will read this and know of a resource I hadn’t considered that might help me get back up and running. Keep me in your prayers. Or, at the very least, please share the Go Fund Me campaign link that I’ve included below. Perhaps it will reach the right person willing and able to help…with my heart-felt gratitude for each and every prayer, share, suggestion, etc.

We’re not meant to struggle alone. We’re meant to be a community. Yet, when we’re hurting like this, we tend to retreat inward…as I have been doing. Though I cannot see the faces of my readers, my head is down in shame that somehow I have brought this all upon myself. Somehow, I caused a financial crisis throughout a whole nation…or intentionally hurt myself so I could “get a little more sleep, a little more slumber” and fold my “hands to rest”. But there is no rest in my heart right now…only angst.

May God bless you & keep you!

https://www.gofundme.com/manage/9fymzf-medical-leave