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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!

Animals, Appreciation, Brothers & Sisters, Christianity, Compassion, Creativity, Emergency Preparedness, Faith, Family, Friendship, God/Jesus, Gratitude, Healing, Homesteading, Human rights, Humanity First, illness, Lent, Love, Minimalism, Nature, Politics, Prayer, Reading, Religion, Scripture, Self-improvement, Spirituality, Understanding, Writing, YouTube

Blessings in Solitude

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May God bless you & keep you!

Abuse, Addiction, Alcoholism, Animals, Appreciation, Bereavement, Compassion, Exhaustion, Faith, Family, Forgiveness, God/Jesus, Gratitude, Grief, Healing, History, illness, Lent, Love, Memories, Music, Nature, Nostalgia, Prayer, Rock & Roll, Self-esteem, Self-improvement, Sleep Deprivation, Understanding

It’s Definitely NOT Like the Movies

“A man that strays from home is like a bird that wanders from its nest.” (Proverbs 27:8)

In my last post, I mentioned how seasonal allergies had left me feeling blehck! Well, over the last couple of days, seasonal allergies morphed into a little something more than just feeling blehck!. Tuesday evening post-nasal drip, headache and plugged ears added fever and chills to the mix. No, I don’t have coronovirus (don’t get me started on that one!). However, I do have some kind of virus. I went to bed early Tuesday evening, around 9 p.m., and slept through until 8 a.m with only one bathroom break around 2 a.m. I got up, took care of the farm, sank exhaustedly into the easy chair in the living room afterwards, and dozed some more. Needless to say, when I went back to bed Wednesday evening, I became the insomniac. And I did exactly what sleep experts say you shouldn’t do:

I picked up my cellphone and web surfed (blue light is supposed to trick your brain into thinking it’s daytime and actually wakes you up, making it harder to fall asleep).

I was good. I stayed away from Facebook, one of my Lenten vows. Instead, I opted to do some genealogical searching. In times’ past, I’ve typed in the names of grandparents and great-grandparents and found some pretty cool stuff. Like, I always knew my maternal grandfather was one of 18 children (yes, 18…) but I never knew all of their names. I once found a census record that listed the names of all my great-aunts and uncles. I found a great-aunt Doris (now one of three great-aunt Dorises) who died in infancy. I knew my maternal grandfather had a sister named Viola (I also knew her; she died when I was in my early-20’s), but there had also been a Violet who died when she was just a little girl. In fact, later scrolling had led to a confusion of these two great-aunties, though two very separate dates of birth existed. Another time, I googled my paternal grandfather’s father’s name and found this really cool article on The Outlet Co. in Providence, Rhode Island that talked about Mortimer Burbank’s history with their radio station…and the elephants he arranged for a parade through the streets of Providence. My great-grandfather eventually became owner of The Outlet Co., which in turn, passed to my grandfather. Before his passing, my Poppop (my nickname for my grandfather) liquidated everything to put into a trust for my Aunt Marjorie, who was a lot like Dustin Hoffman’s character in the movie, Rainman. It served her well until her passing several years’ ago.

I’m not sure what made me google my father’s name Wednesday evening but I did.

His obituary came up. He died a year ago, March 6, 2019.

Now, before everyone starts scratching their head in confusion, I have not seen my father since my paternal grandmother’s passing in 1976. He pretty much severed all contact with his family after her passing, except for a brief visit to his sister, my Aunt Nancy, down in Mississippi that ended with that tie also severed shortly thereafter.

Anyway, Wednesday evening, after more searching to ascertain that this obituary really was my father’s, and not another man by the same name, I called his one surviving sister, my Aunt Sandy, to tell her the news. Like so many other times, I wished we lived closer. I wanted to reach out and give her a big hug. Words can be awkward things at times like these. We expressed regret that every attempt at reconciliation had been rebuffed over the years. And acknowledged that what were the chances of finding out about his passing in such a way. Then we moved on to other topics (my new job as librarian; my cousin’s successful kidney transplant–praise the Lord!) before circling back to the original intent of the call.

Again, I really wanted to hug my aunt.

I’ve been grappling with telling this story ever since.

My father was a late child for my grandparents. He was the youngest of 5 children and the only boy. He was also 10 years’ younger than the youngest of the girls–my Aunt Sandy–and, by everyone’s admission, terribly spoiled. My grandfather, sadly, was already an alcoholic by the time he was born and didn’t have a lot of time for my father. My grandmother overcompensated by often giving my father what he wanted. And, of course, he had 4 older sisters doting on him.

He was also an extraordinary guitarist.

I don’t consider my own playing ability “extraordinary” but I get my love of music from him. One of the few childhood memories I have of my father was creeping into his room to listen and watch him play. A few times he put the guitar in my hand and tried to teach me. The first time, I was still too small and my arms wouldn’t even go all the way around the guitar. Later, tender, young fingers protested the necessary pressure needed on the strings to make a clear, ringing sound (Ouch!). Such quality father-daughter moments were few and far between however.

My parents were wed in August of 1966; I was born in November of the same year. My mother had been in an accident as a young girl. She had been riding in the back of a pick-up truck when it collided with another vehicle. She flew. The doctors said she’d never have children (she should’ve sued). Doubtless, she told my father this, and so, he was unprepared when he found out that she was carrying me. From Mom, from both paternal and maternal aunts and uncles, he turned abusive, obviously resenting this forced responsibility (in those days, folks didn’t have a couple of kids and then get married…). In his defense, he may have felt “trapped”. But it does not excuse the many horror stories I have heard throughout the years of my mother being knocked down flights of stairs, having her stomach burned with a Zippo lighter, etc. all with the intent of forcing a miscarriage.

Before I go further, if my Aunt Sandy, or any other family member is reading this, I don’t write these things to hurt, or embarrass, anyone. And I apologize here and now, with a full heart, for any pain that reading this causes. It’s just that the hurt from someone does not stop with the grave and I need to acknowledge it to let it finally go. And, I promise, there are also some good memories and anecdotes as well. Nobody is all good or all bad; we each have a little of both in us.

I don’t remember my father living in the same house with me at all. He and my mother legally separated 4 months’ after I was born, though their divorce would not be final until 1974. There were a few attempts at reconciliation but they never took. I saw my father in passing on the weekends I spent at my paternal grandparents’ house, which were loving, magical times because of the love I received from them, my Aunt Marjorie, and from my other aunts, uncles, cousins who came visiting. “In passing” because, though he lived with his parents again after he and my mother separated, and though I ran shrieking “Daddy!” joyfully every time he came in the door, I usually received a non-committal acknowledgement of my greeting. If I was lucky, a pat on the head as he quickly ran upstairs to his room and shut the door.

Obviously, by one of the earlier paragraphs, the door didn’t always stay closed. He never chased me out when I came to listen to him play and he even talked to me sometimes…albeit in the same monosyllables as his greetings. He did put together a dollhouse for me once.

By far, my fondest memory comes from a weekend afternoon when I was about 6 years’ old. My father, grandmother and I squeezed into his little MG convertible sports’car and traveled to a farm up in Rehoboth, Massachusetts where my father boarded a couple of horses. Bourbon was magnificent. To the perception of a tiny, 6 year-old girl, I would wager he was a Percheron. But, again, I was a lot smaller than him. He may have just been a large, white horse of some other breed. But, to my young eyes, he appeared much larger than my Uncle Ernie’s Palomino, Sundance, so I’m going with the draft horse. My father picked me up so I could pat his nose, which was beyond my reach (Sundance’s was not). Travis was smaller, dappled gray in color, and incredibly fast. My grandmother stayed in the MG because she was deathly afraid of horses. My father knew this but it didn’t stop him from riding Travis right up alongside the MG, Nanny (my nickname for my grandmother) shrieking my father’s name in terror as the horse drew closer and closer. I remember laughing because I knew he was teasing her (and now, looking back, acknowledge the maneuver as rather cruel; she was terrified). Then my father did an incredible thing. He reached down a hand for me and pulled me up in front of him. He held on as we galloped all over the barnyard for quite a length of time. Nanny said afterwards I looked ready to burst my buttons with joy.

Sadly, that’s all I’ve got for truly happy memories of my father.

My mother remarried in 1974. We moved to Missouri, then Oklahoma, and came back to Rhode Island less than 6 months’ later in early-1975. It was just in time for me to see my Poppop one last time in the nursing home where he was being cared for when his alcoholism finally took its toll. He smiled for me. Nanny said it was the first smile she’d seen from him since he’d been admitted. Unlike my father, I have loads of happy memories of my Poppop. And then, a year later, Nanny was gone, too.

My family moved to Missouri again in 1978 some months after my brother, Shaun, was born. I found a new family in my stepfather’s parents, brothers, sisters, etc. but I still missed my Nanny and Poppop, my aunts, uncles, cousins, etc, with whom I had lost contact after my grandmother’s passing. When we returned to Rhode Island in 1985, I looked up my Aunt Marjorie, knowing that she had become a ward of the state through The Trudeau Center in Warwick. Through her, I was able to get mailing addresses for Aunt Sandy and Aunt Nancy (the 4th aunt, Janet, had died before I was born).

My father, however, continued to elude all of us. None of his sisters had heard from him since that unfortunate visit to Mississippi some years’ earlier. Eventually, I would meet friends of his, people he had worked with, etc. who would tell me about what a wonderful sense of humor he had–great guy–and I would find out where he worked. Ironically, it was at a manufacturing facility on Jefferson Boulevard that an inexperienced teenager had applied to some years’ earlier and gotten the position…only to have to turn it down as my friend, who applied with me, was also my transportation and she did not get the position (they were hiring for several). I sent a letter. No reply. I saw him once when I was dating my first husband. We were driving down Route 1, just passing through Apponaug and into East Greenwich, when I saw him getting into a car. My boyfriend turned around as quickly as late-afternoon traffic would allow but, by the time we reached the house where we’d seen him, he was gone. I found out later that he lived on the second floor–almost across the street from The Trudeau Center, though he never attempted to see my Aunt Marjorie. I sent more letters and cards. Still no reply…until, in the late-90’s, my Aunt Nancy passed away. I sent a letter through the manufacturing company, hoping he still worked there, and told them who I was, that my father’s sister had passed and I didn’t know how else to tell him. He responded. Not to me, of course, but my Uncle Lou in Mississippi received a sympathy card.

My father moved. I don’t remember how I found the new address but I sent another letter, inviting him for coffee at the Dunkin Donuts across the street from his apartment house, my treat. Though he didn’t reply, I went to Dunkin Donuts anyway and waited for over an hour. A car pulled into the apartment complex across the street. A man got out. This was years later. The hair was longer, grayer, and there was a definite paunch but I wasn’t entirely sure…until he took a step in the direction of Dunkin, searched the windows, zeroed in on me and then turned away and went into the house. I waited a bit longer, still not 100% sure it was he…except the shaking hands that fumbled with the keys as I attempted to drive home afterwards. I wonder now if I should’ve walked across the street and knocked.

Some more years’ later, I actually paid a search company to find him. The apartment complex where he had lived had been torn down and I didn’t know where he had gone. The company provided an address. My Aunt Sandy and Uncle George (her husband) came up to visit. Along with my Aunt Marjorie, we all drove to the mobile home park and found his unit on the organization’s map on the wall in the office. We drove to his unit and knocked on the door. Nobody answered, but the house was dark, and there wasn’t any car in front of it, so we assumed he was still at work; it was in the afternoon. However, the ashtray on the porch was full of butts…and the little matchstick figures he used to make…and, through the window, we saw a couple of guitars in stands. We left a note with all of our contact information. And, nearly every year since, I have sent a Christmas card, sometimes a birthday card, too. Always the same, inviting him to call, to visit, giving my address and telephone number. I think I even left an email address once, though I was never sure if he used email. I randomly searched his name on social media, too. I never found him there.

This past Christmas, however, I didn’t send any card. It came as almost an afterthought after I had already filled out the cards I would send to other family and friends. I was out of cards in the box that I had bought but considered buying a more personal one the next time I went to Walmart. And, unusual for me, I rejected it with an angry little voice saying he never answers anyway.

Little did I know he wasn’t there anymore to answer…even if he had been so inclined. I guess some part of my heart knew…even without the obituary found three months’ later.

I’ve grappled with writing this but I’m still not sure how I feel right now. All these years I’ve held onto that afternoon with Travis and Bourbon, and wondered if my stepfather hadn’t been right: that it only happened because my grandmother had poked and prodded him into it when I wasn’t there to see it. Had riding Travis up to her side of the car been a challenge? Or have I read too many novels? Could he have been capable of such? And how do I justify such thinking…especially now when I can acknowledge that I never really knew my father.

And I never will.

It’s hard to truly mourn the loss of someone that you’ve never really had in your life, never really known. It’s like that movie star, or rock star, that you’ve always admired from afar. And, like the movies, I’ve always held this little spark of hope that one day my father would knock on my door–or at least call–and say, let’s not waste anymore time; I want to know you, see you. Like on the Hallmark Channel. And now that hope is gone.

And, yet, I can’t even mourn that. It was false hope. If his sisters, with whom he had had relationships with, who doted on him throughout his childhood and cared for him, no longer existed in his world for him, how could the daughter he hadn’t wanted in the first place rank any higher?

It’s his loss. It truly is. Like all people, I have my faults. I’ve been spoiled at times, too. I can be selfish, the veritable loner. I tend to be a control freak at times. I’m impatient. I procrastinate…horribly! I’m also willing to lend a helping hand if you need it, an ear to listen and keep your secrets without ever sharing. I have a hope chest filled with family pictures (even two of my father from my maternal grandfather of when he and my mother were dating) and keepsakes that I would risk life and limb to rescue if there was ever a fire or flood…because they all matter. I’m smart and talented and I share my father’s love for horses and guitars. And I acknowledge this unwitting gift to me from him…that, and the grandparents who gave a lonely little girl a safe place to spend her weekends, and the aunts, uncles and cousins, who have been such an important part of this 53+ years of life. We could’ve had fun jamming together in impromptu music regales. We could’ve gone horseback riding…or simply chatted on the front porch, or over a table in Dunkin Donuts together. As someone who wanted a house full of children and didn’t get even one, I struggle to understand how someone can refuse such a blessing as family. Period. But, again, it’s his loss.

Despite everything I’ve just said, I am not bitter or angry at my father. The only emotion I can pinpoint right now is a sadness, a sadness for what could’ve been. I know he lived with a woman in common law marriage. Did she know about me? Is she the jealous sort who didn’t want him to have contact with his family? Some of the cards sent were returned “addressee unknown”. Others never came back. Did he throw them away? If he saved them, why? Did he always intend to respond at some later date that never arrived? Or is there a chance he never got them at this last address? Even the note we tacked to the door…despite verifying it at the main office of the park that it was his? He died without any other family there by his side. I can’t imagine anyone wanting that. Seems like most people I know want their loved ones near when they pass. Did he die suddenly? Or had there been a long illness involved that maybe, for genetic reasons at least, I should know about? I’ve considered contacting his widow; I’m not sure if it’s the right course of action. If she doesn’t know about me, how much hurt might I do to her memories of my father? And yet, if she does know about me, maybe she thinks we’re all a bunch of insensitive clods who didn’t give a damn about him. It is something I will be weighing carefully over the next few days.

I wish my father well, as I always have. I pray that his spirit is finally at peace. I pray that he’s happy; I pray that he was happy in life all these years…even if he couldn’t share that happiness with his sisters and their families, or with me. I pray, if there was an illness, that he didn’t suffer over-long with it. He had been suicidal in the past; it runs in the family. I pray he was not driven to such despair and that his passing was a natural one. In short, I would like to say “I love you” to him…even though I never heard those three words from him…and I forgive him for whatever it was in him that could never reach out to me, to my aunts, to family in general. I pray he’s finally the rock star he always dreamed of being…and that Bourbon and Travis were waiting over that Rainbow Bridge for him to ride another day.

May God bless you & keep you!

Christianity, Exhaustion, Lent, Writing

The 28 Hour Day

“To learn, you must want to be taught. To refuse reproof is stupid.” (Proverbs 12:1)

If I had 4 more hours, I might just make my Lenten vow today of one blog post for each website. Alas, it is now Saturday and I’m just now getting to this minute-sized post.

What does it have to do with learning?

I’ve spent the better part of the evening completing this week’s homework assignment. I’m actually charged again as this is the last of the environmental science electives that Southern New Hampshire University has to offer; I’ve taken them all. It is also the third from last class I will ever take with SNHU. I have American Literature and a Health and Wellness seminar after US Environmental Law and Policy. Then it’s time to look into caps and gowns.

But, for now, I’m going to look into going to bed. Pleasant dreams…

May God bless you & keep you!

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

Addiction, Appreciation, Birthday Wishes, Books, Christianity, Creativity, Faith, Family, God/Jesus, Gratitude, Healing, Lent, Prayer, Reading, Religion, Scripture, Self-esteem, Self-improvement, Social Media, Spirituality, Understanding, Writing, YouTube

An Offering of Ashes

“So I earnestly pleaded with the Lord God [to end our captivity and send us back to our own land]. As I prayed, I fasted, and wore rough sackcloth, and sprinkled myself with ashes, and confessed my sins and those of my people. O Lord, I prayed, You are a great and awesome God; You always fulfill your promises of mercy to those who love you and who keep your laws.” (Daniel 9:3-4)

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday. I knew that. And yet, for me, it was Tuesday all day…despite going to the early morning Mass. I let MIG out of his chicken tractor instead of Sargent Feathers and Tank (and, yes, I do have a schedule so each of the roosters gets some free-ranging time). I tried opening the library an hour earlier (Wednesday we don’t open until 2 p.m.) and, then, after laughing at myself and with the other librarians, I also tried to close us up two hours’ earlier. We had another good laugh. I’m not sure why my brain was in such a fog but it was. Now this morning I’m up and at ’em, grabbing something to eat as soon as my feet hit the floor at 3 a.m. after yesterday’s obligatory fast. I’m praying for the strength and determination to see this Lenten season through so I don’t break my vows.

So, what have I pledged this year?

I’ve given up social media, at least for the most part. I will still check Facebook each day for any birthday notices so that I may wish long distance friends and family a happy one, but I won’t be scrolling through all of the political commentaries and sharing/posting on my own timeline. I’ve given up YouTube except on Sundays (I really have become an addict). And fictional reading, except my own, and except on Sundays. I even checked out a novel yesterday as both a temptation to resist and something to look forward to on a day of rest. I’m committed to praying the rosary each day and listing 3 things I’m grateful for every night before I go to sleep, both practices that have fallen by the wayside as my work schedule has shifted over and again over the last year or so. I’ve committed to 3 pages of my novel each day, one post to each blog daily, a daily posting of my Go Fund Me campaign on all of my social media accounts (I can do that from my Go Fund Me page without visiting my social media sites…) and I’ve given up sweets and white flour products (diet has also fallen by the wayside over the last couple of years).

Sound extreme? Yeah, well, I’m sort of an all-or-nothing sort of gal.

Will I break one of these vows? It was already a near miss with the novel I checked out yesterday but I resisted. It’s not supposed to be a punishment, but a break in the very real habit of hiding within each story and avoiding some stressful situations.

Such as working through my financial issues.

I can’t avoid it anymore. The time to act is now, to become more aggressive in my job search…and in swallowing my fears and insecurities, and querying editors regarding the publication of some short stories. In the immortal words of Dr. Phil, “It’s time to get REAL!” Life is too short. And the yearnings for a better life, of peace and tranquility, of some financial security, etc. is too painful to ignore any longer. I am trusting in Him to see us through it but, I feel like He’s brought me full circle to this very scary place again for a reason. And I believe it is because I didn’t do the work He was calling me to do the last time. I keep telling myself that I don’t know what that work is but, deep down inside, if I’m truly honest with myself, I do know. It’s time to act. Not waste more time.

The vows may be extreme but the heart is committed…at least it is this morning. A few prayers to keep it strong are greatly appreciated.

What were some of your Lenten vows this year? I’d be delighted if you’d share in the comments.

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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Gratitude for Community

“Is there any such thing as Christians cheering each other up? Do you love me enough to want to help me? Does it mean anything to you that we are brothers in the Lord, sharing the same Spirit? Are your hearts tender and sympathetic at all? Then make me truly happy by loving each other and agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, working together with one heart and mind and purpose” (Philippians 2:1-2)

I’m feeling so grateful today. My church community is helping out with my situation and words cannot describe how grateful I am. There’s been an onslaught of emotions: hope, joy, relief…and, yes, even a little shame and embarrassment. The last vestiges of an attempt to hang onto pride…or maybe the adversary’s feeble attempts to keep pride’s hold on me.

But Jesus will always be stronger. God’s got this. So, take that, adversary!

There’s something to be said for community. Maybe that is the lesson He wants me to learn (above and beyond the pride thing…).

I’ve always dreamed of living like a hermit in the woods, the whole “Walden” thing. My dream home is in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by nature, and living like it’s still the 19th century. Maybe there’s something to it. Solitude and simplicity are needed for a healthy life balance, but without fellowship with others, what’s the point? And even Henry David Thoreau wrote about visitors to his little cabin in the woods. We need both. If I can hang on to this place, or if He wants me to sock this money away for a potential move, either way, I want my homestead to be a welcoming place: for family gatherings; for friends sitting around a campfire at night; for prayer meetings; for knitting, sewing, quilting circles; for clients to have their treatments; for hosting classes about herbs, 19th century skills, and no-dig gardening…and even a refuge for those caught in the eye of their own personal storms.

I’ve blogged before about how I crave solitude like flowers crave the sun and rain. And it’s true. I’m the classic introvert. Too many people, too often, and I start to feel a little sick at heart. I retreat inward. Not because I’m anti-social, but because that’s how it is for an introvert. For an introvert, too much social time quickly becomes overwhelming. We enjoy time with our loved ones, and even strangers, but the introvert greatly needs that balance between solitude and socialization to keep recharging.

However, over the last decade, I’ve taken solitude to a whole new level. Some of it has been the 2 years of unemployment, followed by 8 years of severe underemployment. When socializing equals an event that requires an entrance fee, I’ve often had to reconsider. Some of it though–most of it–has been the depression that often comes with that same unemployment/underemployment. Due to a lack of steady and adequate funds, the house, the grounds, even myself, have started looking neglected. There’s also a lot of emotional baggage attached from the last “romantic” relationship I was in, that was anything but romantic, that has had me drawing the curtains tight and shutting out the world.

And, boy, does the adversary feed on that!

In many ways, though I’m not living in the middle of nowhere, I’ve allowed myself to become almost as isolated as if I was living in the middle of nowhere. And isolation is defeating. The neglect becomes indifference becomes more depression becomes more neglect becomes more indifference…until the effort to dig yourself out of this vicious cycle becomes so overwhelming, you don’t know where to turn, where to start. That’s where the hopelessness sets in.

And loneliness.

Despair.

Even bitterness.

Thank God, literally, for the fellowship He’s blessed me with! It started with certain friends and co-workers reaching out with a helping hand over the last several months. This time, it was a church member who saw my Go Fund Me campaign and brought it to the attention of our priest. And, truly, though the financial help is a blessing and appreciated, the true blessing is knowing how many people out there care enough to help. I’m overwhelmed…but in a good way.

I’ve been sitting back here, feeling sorry for myself, indulging the adversary with my “cares” and “woes” and getting nowhere in life. Today I’m feeling hope for the first time in a very long time. Yes, there’s still a risk of losing the homestead. I still missed the deadline for the second installment on the modification trial period and I don’t know where that leaves me. However, I’m that much closer to meeting the back payments owed. Or to engaging an attorney who can help me get back on track again. It’s help to tide us over until I’m working again…or to help us start over on a new homestead. I’m leaving it in His hands to decide, praying for His guidance regarding the best course of action.

Our God truly is an awesome God. Thank you! To everyone who has been moved to help, to share, to pass along the information. I don’t feel quite so alone anymore. And that’s the greatest blessing of all.

I hope everyone reading this is as blessed with community as I am.

May God bless you & keep you!

gofundme.com/9fymzf-medical-leave

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Down and Out

“I am leaving you with a gift–peace of mind and heart! And the peace I give isn’t fragile like the peace the world gives. So don’t be troubled or afraid” (John 14:27)

I want to believe those words. I want to believe His grace is sufficient for this particular trial. I want to believe that He has something special planned at the end of it all.

But, today, I’m down and out for the count.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll find the way to bounce back up again. I hope so. Right now the fear and anguish in my soul is almost more than I can bear. Proof that there’s still fight left in me that I can feel such emotions, such protest, but, if I’m meant to go through this, if there’s something He means for me to learn that I didn’t learn the first time around, there’s a part of me even fighting that.

So much for laying it at the cross. But what other choice do I have? All of my efforts have gotten me nowhere. But where do I go from here? What does He want me to do? To go?

Losing the house, the land, I can bear. It’s potentially having to re-home the animals if I cannot find a farm where I might board them until I get on my feet again…and, of course, for a fee that I can manage in my current situation. My heart is breaking at the thought. And, at the moment, I’m not feeling God’s love. I’m feeling His anger. I’m feeling the punitive “father” that reflects the neglect of my biological father and the abuse of my stepfather. “Father” for me has always implied mistrust. Is He trying to heal this once and for all? Or is this going to cement it once and for all in my heart that the word “father” is equivalent to a dirty swear word?

No, I don’t hate men, and certainly not fathers. There are good ones in the world. I’ve just never known that love…at least not without personal cost. And you’re never too old to need that love–His love.

Right now, I really need a healthy dose of it. And as many prayers as I can get.

May God bless you & keep you!

https://www.gofundme.com/f/9fymzf-medical-leave&rcid=r01-156707024092-4fb3fb58787b443d&pc=ot_co_campmgmt_w

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Laying Everything at the Cross

“Keep your eyes on Jesus, our leader and instructor. He was willing to die a shameful death on the cross because of the joy He knew would be His afterwards; and now He sits in the place of honor by the throne of God” (Hebrews 2:12)

After Saturday’s widely-publicized meltdown, I went outside and attacked the giant multi-flora rosebush climbing over the back fence. And “attacked” is definitely a good word for it.

I pruned ruthlessly.

It pruned me of blood just as ruthlessly.

I look like I’ve just narrowly escaped a particularly nasty cat fight but I can now walk under the multi-flora rosebush without losing even more blood…and a thorny branch’s worth of hair. This particular stretch of fence line has been a problem “child” as the ducks and chickens know I can’t get underneath the rose bush to check the fencing. Now I can. I found an almost-duck-sized gap in a low spot underneath; I shoved an old cage in front of it for now and will find something more permanent going forward.

I also found several bird’s nests in the upper reaches of the bush…and delighted in them. I should probably add that this bush has been allowed to climb up and over the 6 foot chain-link fence. Despite its invasive nature, I allow it to stay as it does provide shelter for the birds, shade for my chickens and ducks in summer, and beauty for all of us when it blooms. And my goats had a feast on the leaves I pruned off (Really guys? There’s THORNS!!). It simply needed a good trim to keep it manageable.

Somewhere along the way I lost the anger and angst that so overwhelmed me earlier that morning.

Maybe it was finding those bird’s nests in the bush. Maybe it was watching the new ducklings exploring the world outside of the pen they and their Mama have been in since they hatched for the first time; they’re finally big enough that I don’t have to worry about them slipping through the gate jamb or even the chain-links(!). Maybe it was marveling over the goats’ delight at the new “treat” awaiting them with each cut of the loppers…thorns and all. Maybe it was retrieving a few dozen eggs from the nests and watching Miss Opal, one of my Buff Orpington chickens, streaking across the yard, squawking loudly, in celebration of those eggs. Either way, I found myself laughing often, enjoying the sunshine and fresh air, and the warm company of my beloved pets. Such a sense of peace settled over me. It was bittersweet, in light of my current situation but this is home.

And I’m not losing it.

It may not be this particular plot of land in the end but the farm and I will survive, together, intact, some way, somehow.

I may sound determined. I may also sound unrealistic and delusional. But I’m not giving up.

I bought this property with a husband, now an ex-husband. Two incomes can handle it; one income will always struggle…unless I can find a way to pull in enough income to equal what two could do. Maybe that’s out there somewhere. Or maybe He’s giving me a much-needed shove to look elsewhere. If this was where I was meant to be, I’d be thriving.

Or maybe He’s telling me I need to learn how to thrive wherever I am, however I am.

Either way, God has this. He knows where I am, what’s happening in my life, in my heart, in my thoughts. God has a plan. There’s a reason He’s brought me around full circle to this place of uncertainty and fear. I don’t know what it is. And I haven’t stopped being scared shitless. But I’m surrendering my will to His. He’s brought me to this place one more time; I’m trusting Him to carry me through it.

May God bless you & keep you!

PS I would also be delighted, and ever in your debt, if you would share the Go Fund Me campaign link below in your blog, your social media sites, etc. The wider I cast my net, the greater chances for that miracle I’m so in need of. 😉

https://www.gofundme.com/f/9fymzf-medical-leave&rcid=r01-156682970061-1e1042ab1d164daa&pc=ot_co_campmgmt_w

19th century, Abuse, Addiction, Alcoholism, Animal Rights, Animals, Appreciation, aquaponics, Art, Bereavement, Biodynamic, Birthday Wishes, Books, Brothers & Sisters, Christianity, Chronic Epstein Barr, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Climate Change, Compassion, compost, Cooking, Creativity, Culture, ecosystems, Emergency Preparedness, Enlightenment, Environment, Exhaustion, Faith, Family, Fashion, Fiber Arts, Fleece, Forgiveness, Friendship, Frugality, Gaia, gardening, Ghosts, Global Warming, God/Jesus, Gratitude, Greenhouse, Grief, Gun Control, Hauntings, Healing, Heavy Metal Music, Herbs, History, Holidays, Holistic Health, Homesteading, illness, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Lasagna Gardening, Lent, LGBTQ, Love, Memories, Minimalism, Mother Mary, Music, Nature, No-dig Gardening, Nostalgia, OCD, Open-mindedness, Organic, permaculture, Politics, Potted Plants, Prayer, Reading, Recipes, Reflexology, Reiki, Religion, Rock & Roll, Scripture, Self-esteem, Self-improvement, Sleep Deprivation, Social Media, Sophia, Spices, Spinning, Spirituality, Straw Braiding, Supernatural, Touch for Health, Understanding, vermicomposting, Weaving, Wicca, Wool, Worm castings, Worm Tea, Writing, Yoga & Fitness, Zero Waste

When All Hope Seems Lost

“I waited patiently for God to help me; then He listened and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out from the bog and the mire, and set my feet on a hard, firm path and steadied me as I walked along. He has given me a new song to sing, of praises to our God” (Psalms 40:1-3)

I have one week to come up with $989 for the next mortgage payment or the homestead goes into foreclosure. The current job has cut me back to 12 hours’ per week; the previous job wouldn’t have kept me up-to-date either. I had an interview for a position yesterday. It’s another part-time position, but one that I can work while continuing at the greenhouse…provided they don’t decide I’m seasonal and I lose even the 12 hours in the coming weeks. I start training for the new position on September 16th; I don’t get paid until after training. Then the money is decent and will, hopefully, keep us afloat. But it’ll be too late for the homestead…unless the mortgage company is willing to negotiate another modification.

I’m not sure they will.

And, yes, I’ve read “The Secret”. I know about manifestation. Maybe there’s something to it. Maybe it’s “Pshaw!”. Maybe there’s too much angst in my heart for the basic principles of “The Secret” to work. Either way, I’ve also read the Bible numerous times. I know what my faith tells me I should be feeling, thinking, doing.

And I’m coming up empty.

Maybe He has something bigger in mind for me down the road. I hope so. Maybe this new something will be the dream homestead: off-grid; enough acres to grow my own hay; room for more goats to start my brush clearing business; a greenhouse for growing food and spices, such as turmeric, cardamom, ginger and others, year-round for sale. Maybe the new something will provide room enough that I can provide a forever home for animals that have been abused and/or neglected. Maybe the new something will allow me to plant an extensive herb garden that I can teach from…and a backyard habitat to help mitigate the destruction modern-day progress has made of the natural world.

You see, when I’m down and out, I escape into my fantasies (or a book…and endless YouTube videos (sigh)).

I keep thinking, if I could only get back on my feet again, I would be unstoppable. But I’m drowning in debt and doubt and fear and futility.

Yes, futility.

I feel like all of the efforts I have made in the last 5 years to improve my credit rating, to pay down the debt, to build up the homestead to be a working endeavor have been in vain. Granted, the latter has been half-hearted out of fear that any efforts I make might also be futile if I eventually lose the property. The result has been over-grown and overwhelm. I keep spinning my wheels and getting nowhere. I don’t know what to do. I keep asking Him to take the reins, to drive this train wreck of a life, because I have no more fight left to put it back on track again.

I’m down.

I’m broken.

I’m done. Stick a fork in me.

And, underneath it all, I’m scared shitless. I thought I was done with this 5 years’ ago. How the hell, why the hell have I come around this full circle?

And, yes, I’m almost done with the woe-is-me-feel-sorry-for-me pity-party. I’m not so sure about the intermittent crying jag that’s running interference in the background. And I can’t promise there won’t be an F-bomb lacing this post further along…I’ll try to refrain.

I’m asking, but from where I’m standing, the answer seems cruel.

I’m seeking but I’m not finding.

I’m knocking but the door’s not opening.

And, most importantly, I’m angry. I didn’t ask for this. I didn’t ask to fall. I didn’t ask to fracture my shoulder. I didn’t ask to be jerked around by the previous company regarding the necessary time out to heal. I didn’t ask to be backed into a corner so that I was forced to resign…even if, in many ways, it was a blessing in disguise. Despite this desperate situation.

What’s that expression? When the going gets tough, the tough get going. I’m just not sure in which direction…except He’s asking me, I think, to go through this. Again.

I’ve been paralyzed by indecision over the years. Even after I righted the mortgage (or so I thought), I continued to waver. I’ve wanted to relocate. But I’ve got a lot of years in this house. Sure, it’s rundown and needs a ton of work, but it’s home. I have friends and family close by…even if they seldom call or come to visit. I have a church community that I’ve been active in and that I love. I’m close to the current job, even if it is part-time. I have a vet that I also love, who has been kind and caring and has given great care to my animals over the years. This is my world.

It’s familiar.

It’s comfortable.

And I’m not 25 anymore. I am the poster “child” for proof that the older you get, the harder it is to change, to uproot and leave everything beloved and familiar.

Again, He’s asking me (I think) to step out of my comfort zone and trust Him. Really trust Him.

I have trust issues even on a human scale.

So where do I go from here?

The song, “What If I Gave Everything” by Casting Crowns is running a steady monologue in my head. What if I did give everything? What if, despite this seemingly impossible situation, I poured my whole self into building the homestead of my dreams…wherever it lands? Or even if it winds up staying where it is? To hell with the toe in the water. What if I plunged in right here, right now? What if I stopped waiting for the perfect conditions to be that “unstoppable”? And, more importantly, what if I stopped trying to reason everything out with my limited human understanding?

Maybe the only thing really stopping me is, well, me. Somebody, please, push me out of my own way (heavy sigh).

May God bless you & keep you!

Works Cited

Casting Crowns (2016). “What If I Gave Everything.” The Very Next Thing. Beach Street Records.

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