Animals, Appreciation, Christianity, Creativity, Emergency Preparedness, gardening, Gratitude, Herbs, Homesteading, Minimalism, Plants, Self-improvement

Feeding My Passions

“An empty stable stays clean–but there is no income from an empty stable.” (Proverbs 14:4)

Today was a rambling sort of day. I ran a few errands in the morning then spent some time in the garden. I weeded the strawberry bed, one of my edible perennials’ beds (Egyptian onions, broad-leaf chives and lamb’s quarters all grow there), and the rhubarb bed. The rhubarb was bolting so I clipped off the flowers and noticed that the soil level in this raised bed is getting rather low, which would explain why it is bolting. Rhubarb is a heavy feeder. I also noticed a new Mullein (Verbascum thapsis) rosette growing in behind it so I transplanted it. Most consider it a weed but, as it’s one of the main ingredients in my asthma tincture, I let it stay; I also love the yellow flowers that will form its second year. I clipped back the invading bittersweet and Japanese Knotweed from the border mix of flowering shrubs and small fruits, and fed some of the latter to Chester, one of my Nigerian Dwarf goats (a beloved treat!). Then the more common chives got clipped and brought in; they’re in the dehydrator now to preserve for use later in the year. The broad-leaf ones will get clipped once these are through drying.

Later I collapsed with a cup of Chai tea in front of YouTube and fed some of my other passions: tiny houses, and both agility and heelwork competitions for dogs. As most of the contestants are usually Border Collies–my favorite–I get a good fix.

I have been following the tiny house movement almost since its inception. I am fascinated with this minimalist lifestyle. I think one of the reasons is how economical it is. In such a small space, you use less heating/cooling, less electricity, and, potentially, less water. I also have too much “stuff” and think how much I would love to unload much of it, going all Marie Kondo by keeping only those special treasures that truly bring me joy. It can be overwhelming. Bigger isn’t always better; neither does having more of everything bring more contentment. Of course, I have almost no carpentry skills; no electrical or plumbing skills, and no place to park it. However, I am still fascinated. And I doubt I’ll ever lose that fascination…until I actually muster up the courage, or the confidence, to take that first step forward.

As for the agility and/or heel work competitions? This one’s a little more obtainable, if I can ever get completely back on my feet again. I loved working with my St. Bernards when they were going through obedience training. It was great fun for all of us…and a great way to bond with these two rescues when I adopted them in 2006. A little older now, though the gentle giants will always have a special place in my heart, I’m leaning more towards something a little smaller, such as the Border Collie, the Corgi, the Bearded Collie, the Australian shepherd or Australian cattle dog. As all of these are herding breeds and extremely energetic, they do well with both agility and heel work. And what a way to express some creativity by choreographing and then training the dog to “dance” with you.

I’m still feeling grateful for this extended shutdown, for the ability to dream and to continue feeding my passions.

May God bless you & keep you!

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Instead of Gatorade, Try Haymakers’ Punch

“For I will give you abundant water for your thirst and for your parched fields. And I will pour out my Spirit and my blessings on your children.” (Isaiah 44:3)

There are many things I miss about working in living history. I miss “my” herb garden. I miss spinning wool into yarn on the Great, or Walking, Wheel. I miss filling the bobbins on the loom tool (another type of spinning wheel). I miss weaving. I miss braiding straw for making hats. I miss cooking and baking on the hearth. And I miss the clothing.

Except when it was 90+ degrees outside and I had to get a fire going both on the hearth and in the bake oven (that little beehive-shaped cavity next to the kitchen fireplace).

Housewives in the 19th century did bake…even in summer. Southern ladies had summer kitchens; those were rarer in New England. However, New England housewives were sensible enough to rise early and get their baking done before that afternoon sun rolled directly overhead. In 2018, in a living history museum, where you have to demonstrate during normal business hours, you simply endured.

Or not.

I remember one afternoon that I felt extremely tired, and even a little dizzy, after baking all day. During the long walk back to my car after the work day was done, I was hailed by a fellow co-worker. I turned to greet her and almost fell over. She looked at me funny. I think I mumbled something about heat exhaustion but that was all. Exhausted, I drove the 30+ miles home and figured a good night’s sleep would have me feeling better in the morning.

The next morning the alarm went off. I sat up in bed, intent on turning it off, and the whole room spun. I nearly passed out again. Instead, I sat there, chilling, thinking it was the longest minute in history before the alarm stopped on its own. Finally, I got up but I felt weak and shaky, and I had to cling tightly to the banister as I made my way downstairs. It took me 45 minutes to feed the barnyard; normally, it was a 25 minute job. I decided to call in; there was no way I could interpret for visitors this day.

I also decided I needed to go to the hospital.

Now, one would think I would’ve had the sense to call a friend, to wake Mom, etc. to take me to the hospital. There’s a reason why dehydration is equated with inebriation: both make you stupid.

After calling work, I got in the car and backed out of the driveway. At the end of the driveway, I turned my head to look both ways for traffic and the whole road spun out…much like my room had done when I first awakened. As soon as it was clear, I drove myself to the hospital (yes, folks, we’re out there…).

The folks in the lobby must’ve seen me zigzagging like a drunk across the parking lot. They had a wheelchair waiting for me.

I must add here, for the benefit of future heat exhausted patients, that emergency room workers should NOT run with their patients down to the ER. As I was hurled along those stark green and white fluorescently-lit halls, it was all I could do not to “hurl” in another sense.

Long story short, two hours’ later, the doc told me that I had flushed most of the electrolytes out of my body the day before. You see, I thought I was okay, all but immune to dehydration, because I had been sipping water all day. Apparently, when it’s 90+ degrees and you’ve got a couple of infernos going behind you…and you’re wearing three layers of clothing…you need to replace those electrolytes, not just slake the thirst.

The doc recommended either Pedialyte or Gatorade; I prefer something a little healthier…and less expensive.
Fortunately, folks in earlier centuries made something called Haymakers’ Punch, or Switchel. I got to try some while visiting another living history museum in New Hampshire over a dozen years’ ago and they gave me the recipe. It’s an acquired taste for some. Others, like myself, think it’s delicious. Here it goes:

1 cup apple cider vinegar
¾ cups of honey (preferably locally grown)
4 teaspoons of molasses
¼ teaspoon of ginger (there’s that ginger again…)

Place all of the above ingredients in a cup of warm water, stirring constantly until dissolved. Pour the mixture into a 1 gallon container (preferably glass or ceramic; I don’t recommend plastic for any recipe). Fill the rest of the container with water. Keep in the refrigerator.

A word to the wise: Switchel is meant to be sipped, not gulped, or drank straight down.

Though it does not have all the fancy labeling, coloring, and artificial flavorings of either Pedialyte or Gatorade, Switchel will keep you hydrated during those hot summer days when you need a little more than just plain water to keep your cool. And it’s definitely an inexpensive alternative.

May God bless you & keep you!

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Stay tuned…

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

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

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A Thrifty Thursday – Leftover Rice

“You feed them with blessings from your own table and let them drink from your rivers of delight.” (Psalms 36:8)

I consider The Tightwad Gazette by Amy Dacyczyn to be one of my secular bibles. When I first purchased it many years ago, I poured through it with all of the enthusiasm of a school girl with her first crush. I mean, who can’t appreciate some tips for saving money? And the ideas contained therein are relevant even 20+ years after its publication.

Mom made wild rice the other day. Rice is truly one of those thrifty foods anyway. A little bit goes a long way. However, because it is also filling (though not heavy and bloating in nature like pasta), there is usually some left over for another day.

If it is plain rice, either white, brown, basmati, etc., I like to re-heat it in the morning by placing the rice in a saucepan with some melted butter and sauteing it. Once heated through, I may add just a little more butter and 1/2 tsp of organic cane sugar sprinkled and stirred through. It makes a hearty, satisfying breakfast and keeps me going for much of the morning.

However, Mom made wild rice. This was an organic packaged rice. Even organic “packaged” isn’t the healthiest choice, but it’s better for someone with Irritable Bowel Syndrome than pasta (though I love the latter equally as much). It would also not, in my opinion, lend itself well as an alternative to, say, oatmeal first thing in the a.m. so I pulled out The Tightwad Gazette and flipped through the back index until I found what I was looking for: a recipe for turning your leftover rice into a savory “pie crust” for quiche. It’s simple. Grab a mixing bowl. Combine the leftover rice with an egg and a bit of shredded cheese (you may omit the latter if you don’t have any; the egg holds it together) then mold it into a pie plate and pop it in an oven heated to–it says 425 degrees for 20 minutes. I set my dial at 400, because my oven tends to run hot, and only baked for 10 minutes. I have found that if I go longer, it comes out a little too crispy. While it baked, I rummaged through the refrigerator, pulled out the leftover broccoli and cheese, some fresh spinach, and heated them both in a skillet with some garlic and chives, then scrambled some eggs. When the “pie crust” was done, I poured the vegetables and herbs into it and then poured the egg over them. I used 3 eggs; depending on the size of your pie pan, you may opt for more. Then I popped everything in the oven, same 400 degree temperature, and baked for 50 minutes…or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. It was delicious.

Bon appetit!

May God bless you & keep you!

REFERENCES

Dacyczyn, Amy (1998). The Complete Tightwad Gazette: Promoting Thrift as a Viable Alternative Lifestyle. New York, NY: Villard Books, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group.

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Prepping

“Finally the day came when the Lord said to Noah, ‘Go into the boat with all your family, for among all the people of the earth, I consider you alone to be righteous. Bring in the animals, too–a pair of each, except those kinds I have chosen for eating and for sacrifice: take seven pairs of each of them, and seven pairs of every kind of bird. Thus there will be every kind of life reproducing again after the flood has ended. One week from today I will begin forty days and nights of rain; and all the animals and birds and reptiles I have made will die’. So Noah did everything the Lord commanded him.” (Genesis 7:1-5)

The lights keep flickering. The forecast is for heavy rains (check) and high winds (also, check) with potential power outages. This last may be a “check” before the day is out. We’re still in the middle of a pandemic that could take the lives of hundreds of thousands in the U.S. before it is done. Our economy has been nearly frozen. Millions of jobs have been lost; mostly part-time jobs were to be had before the pandemic shutdown. Groceries are flying off the shelves. Ditto for toilet paper and cleaning supplies. Economists are predicting a depression that will rival the 1930’s. On a personal note, foreclosure has been eminent here at The Herbal Hare Homestead since last year’s battle with the icy driveway.

I’ve been “playing” at homesteading over the last 5-6 years. Financial struggles have left me on the fence about truly investing the time and energy into developing this place into the self-sufficient enterprise that I have envisioned. Confidence issues have gotten in the way, too. As has a personal struggle to get Mom on board with some of the more extreme projects.

Thanks to Covid-19, Mom is actually the one suggesting prepping. Working together, I know we can make this work.

As for the back mortgage payments, I’m considering swallowing my pride and filing bankruptcy so I can start clean again. At present, I am still employed. Albeit, it’s part-time employment but, if I do the work while I’m at home with this enforced quarantine, by the time work starts back up again, I may have a few supplemental incomes ready to roll.

My biggest obstacle though is myself. Yes, I procrastinate. But, more, I have a tendency to lose focus. I’ve never been tested, but I would be willing to bet, that I have some form of ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder). I do have anxiety issues; that can rob you of focus all by itself…and may be all there is to it. So, for the last week that I’ve been MIA on this blog, I’ve been creating detailed outlines about my homestead and where I want to go; about my writing; even about this blog and the direction I am hoping to take it, the content I am hoping to share as the days, weeks, months go forward. I’m even writing multiple blog posts on the weekend to copy and paste in WordPress each day so that I have time for all of the many endeavors I’ve set for myself. It will give me more time with my book instead of an either/or writing habit. You see, I want this blogging thing to remain sustainable. I also want to finish my book. And, once I’m back to the “day” job, it won’t be sustainable to do both…unless, of course, I write everything on the weekend. So, that’s the start of it.

And what about my faith? You ask.

Somehow, I don’t feel that prepping, as much as one is able, for disaster(s) is a sign that I’m losing faith. Just look at Noah. I feel that this prepping is an outward expression of obeying the warnings He is putting on my heart.

Our healthcare system is broken.

Our economic system is broken.

Our housing system is broken.

Our educational system is broken.

Our election process is broken.

Even, and especially, our government is broken…no matter what side of the political aisle you stand upon.

Almost all of this brokenness stems from a.) A love of money and materialism, and b.) An inability to truly live the teachings of our faith, which is to love our brothers and sisters as ourselves. Perhaps it’s because so many of us don’t have any self-love. I’m not talking about cultivating a selfish heart, nor am I talking about narcissism, but a healing, appreciating kind of love that values “self” as a child of the Creator. Today, any outward expression of belief is frowned upon in our modern society. It might offend some people. So we leave it at the door.

Yet the non-believers can belittle and post their hateful rhetoric on social media…or spout it on the boob-tube on a regular basis.

I’m done with it.

I’m not ashamed of my God.

Nor of a renewed determination to live more intentionally, more sustainably…and, of course, more faithfully.

And, while it may seem crazy to invest myself in an—for all practical purposes—uncertain future here in Connecticut, I’m trusting Him. He has a plan. For my life. For your life. For even a frightening pandemic and its subsequent shutdown of all things “normal” in our society.

May God bless you & keep you!

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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!

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Weathering This Storm

“Riches can disappear fast. And the king’s crown doesn’t stay in his family forever–so watch your business interests closely. Know the state of your flocks and your herds; then there will be lamb’s wool enough for clothing, and goat’s milk enough for food for all your household after the hay is harvested, and the new crop appears, and the mountain grasses are gathered in.” (Proverbs 27:23-27)

It’s funny how God works. Always, just before some unforeseen calamity hits, He provides a boost in financial resources. We’re not talking a major windfall, but a little something extra that comes our way. Such happened to me just before this pandemic hit. I am so grateful for this resource. It will allow Mom and I to stay reasonably safe at home during this pandemic.

It wasn’t always this way though.

Sure, I’d get a rebate check, or find an error in my favor when balancing my checkbook, but I’d spend it. And then calamity would hit. No, not another major virus like corona, but I’d get a flat tire, spring a leak somewhere, get sick and lose hours, and I’d be hurting for it.

Lesson learned.

This time, like many more before it, I put the extra aside and left it alone. This week I spent it…on a month’s worth of animal feed, groceries and toiletries for Mom and I, and the delivery of a load of hay to get us through at least two months. Now we can weather this storm…provided neither of us has corona already percolating in our system, waiting to breakout in the days ahead.

We’ve been staying in most of the week. However, yesterday, after it was announced that Connecticut may go into total lockdown, I looked at what I had stockpiled for animal feed and took a trip to the feed store again for more chicken feed and a bag of rabbit chow. I also made a stop at the local grocery store, replenished some of the perishables we’d run out of, and actually found a can of disinfectant wipes on the shelf. I grabbed it, thinking of doorknobs and draw pulls and car door handles. I was in and out quickly, came home, washed my hands carefully with soap and water and then used the wipes as mentioned before. I even washed the steering wheel and the dashboard…just in case.

No, it’s not fear-shopping. Not really. It’s getting in whatever we might need–without going to extremes and selling the stores out of supplies to hoard them away here–to make it through. I want to do exactly what our health officials and governors, etc. are telling us to do: STAY HOME!

I spent some time over the weekend also making up a new batch of the herbal upper-respiratory tincture I make to combat my asthma. It’s helped to clear bronchitis and pneumonia in the past; I’ve started taking it routinely…again, just in case. And, though I bought some sanitary wipes, I also filled a spray bottle with water and vinegar, my usual cleaning solution, and added some rubbing alcohol to it this time to give it a boost.

Yeah, I guess I am a little afraid. But I’m also using that fear to take the necessary precautions to help us fight this thing. If I give in to the panic that threatens to overtake me from time to time, it serves no one…and will undoubtedly paralyze me from taking those necessary steps.

Mom is the one I really worry about. She’s not a self-starter. She’s on medication for an anxiety disorder. And she spends WAY too much time on Facebook and other social media sites, reading all the hyped up, doom-and-gloom that is overwhelming cyberspace these days. Though I tried to curb it, there were a few times, while she was reporting the latest pandemic “news,” that my head dropped to the back of the easy chair in exasperation. Not wanting to hurt her feelings, I decided to take affirmative action yesterday afternoon. I broke out the Scrabble board game and turned YouTube on to some of our favorite Christian rock music to listen to while we played. We had a nice 4 rounds, in which she kicked my a**, and for those few hours at least, she put some of that stress and worry aside.

We WILL get through this.

We have to BELIEVE.

No matter what happens, a failed economy, several weeks, even a few months of quarantine, even a depression, God/source has THIS.

And, yes, I did type “source” for all of the people out there who do not believe, or follow a different religion, where maybe it’s Buddha or Goddess, etc. It is out of deference to those people. Criticizing another’s beliefs–or even a lack thereof–only divides us more…and pushes folks away from God, rather than leading them to Him. I always think of how I feel when I hear someone ridiculing me, or other Christians, for our faith. Or how I feel when another religion shows a serious lack of respect for mine. We’re all in this together, folks. Again, Covid-19 doesn’t discriminate so why should we?

God has THIS. He has your back. We WILL weather this storm.

He’s already giving us some sensible tools…like staying home, if you can, and frequent hand-washing. We can use this time to take better care of ourselves. Sleeping in, or the occasional nap, will help build our immunities to help us resist better. It will make us stronger. And, if you’re like me, your home is getting the thorough spring cleaning it has long been needing. This, too, will help keep germs from spreading, keep us healthier. It also gives our hands something specific to do so we don’t use the time playing all day on social media, stressing and worrying. And we can take our time about it, actually enjoy the feeling of accomplishment that comes with a job well done. If you can, it might also be a good time to plant a garden…or at least a few pots with some herbs, or tomatoes and peppers. If we’re making a trip to the grocery store to stock up on necessary items, I don’t think anyone’s going to sneer if we pick up a couple of packets of seeds to plant during this enforced quarantine. It’ll keep us home…and provide some of those perishables so we have fewer trips to make. Incidentally, dark leafy greens, like spinach, arugula, bok choi, etc. grow rather quickly.

Above all, if you are a believer, pray without ceasing…or a reasonable facsimile thereof. And be an angel of mercy in spreading hope and encouragement on social media–instead of fear and anxiety. We are all in this together. We need to stand together, too. We need to share with those less fortunate by not hoarding every roll of toilet tissue or can of beans. We need to remember the elderly, and those with a compromised immunity system, and offer to pick up a few things for them, too, on our next grocery/pharmacy trip. If we follow that advice of frequent hand-washing, maybe leave those purchases on the front steps so there’s less contact, etc., we should be able to do so without infecting anyone. And, instead of lamenting how we can’t go out and about as we normally do, we can focus on what we can do. We can call that friend we haven’t talked to in ages. We can sit and read to our children, or grandchildren (if you have them). We can play board games with our family. We can cook real meals…instead of the “instant” crap that is slowly killing us anyway. We can play fetch with the pooch…or peek-a-boo with the pet bird. This is a time for quality time with loved ones. This is a time for reflection…and renewed faith. It is a time to focus on strengthening our relationship with whoever, whatever, that “source” is…and maybe learning about someone else’s “source” so that the next time we see them, we can approach with love…instead of fear and suspicion.

We all bleed the same…but a smile, a kind word, a prayer, can bind wounds and heal hearts.

May God bless you & keep you!