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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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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.

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Yang Leaves, Takes Hope with Him

“Why, then, should you forget us, abandon us so long a time? Lead us back to you, O Lord, that we may be restored: give us anew such days as we had of old. For now you have indeed rejected us, and in full measure turned your wrath against us.” (Lamentations 5:20-22)

Last night when I received the word that Andrew Yang had suspended his campaign, I felt like I had been clubbed at the knees. I’m not surprised, really. The Democratic propaganda machine decided from the beginning that they wouldn’t allow Yang to run all the way. From pro-Democrat media outlets repeatedly inserting journalist John Yang’s picture instead of Andrew Yang’s in debate posters, to the muting of Andrew’s mic in many of the debates so that he couldn’t get the attention of the moderators when he wanted to speak, this man has been snubbed at every turn. Not by his fellow peers on the Democratic stage. Many of the other candidates–Republican and Democrat alike–have started parroting some of his talking points. But by the DNC itself. Yang is an outsider, not a career politician. And, I’m guessing, many of his ideas have seemed too radical for more traditional Democrats. I’ve also heard the argument from many that we have someone in office already who is not a career politician…and, sadly, we’ve become more polarized than ever since the 2016 election. So, while I’m not surprised, I am heartsick and disappointed.

Before I alienate every Republican in the room, like Yang, I am not here to attack President Trump or anyone who has supported him. In 2016, the majority of voters simply voted for what they viewed as the lesser of two evils and, depending on your party affiliation, voted accordingly.

Yang got that. And so do I.

In this last debate, he became very vocal about how Donald Trump was not the cause of this nation’s problems. He wanted to bring us together as a nation again. He wanted us to start talking and working together to get things done, to help the American people–many of whom are hurting worst than ever today. He said that Donald Trump was a symptom of the ills in our society, not the disease itself.

And he was right.

Granted, some of President Trump’s shenanigans may have turned that disease terminal. So many of our environmental protections have been rolled back under his administration. Again we must fear that our drinking water is more unsafe and unclean, species of life hang on a thinner thread dangling towards extinction, and our air quality is declining at an alarming rate with the roll back of emissions’ standards.

The environment is what swayed my vote in 2016; it always is. It’s also the reason I started homesteading: I want to know what’s in my food, my medicine, and even my clothing…and I don’t want it to be more chemicals and plastic, the latter a by-product of the fossil fuel industry.

We do have more jobs now.

However, if you’re in the job market, as I still am, you know that most of those jobs are part-time, temporary, seasonal and/or minimum wage. In Connecticut, minimum wage was recently increased from $10.10 an hour to $11.00 an hour. Even if you’re lucky enough to find someone to hire you full-time at minimum wage, that comes out to $440 a week before taxes and SSI, etc. are deducted. Gross income for the month is $1760.00. Again, this is before taxes, etc. are taken out. And, if you’re full-time, we have to factor in benefits as well. So, if you’re lucky, you may be taking home, roughly, $1400-$1500 a month. A one bedroom apartment in Connecticut averages $1200 a month…nothing included. And, sadly, most of these minimum wage gigs are, like my current position, also part-time. $1400-$1500 a month is grossly optimistic and totally unsustainable for the average person trying to stay afloat. It’s only one illness, one injury, one major car repair, etc. away from falling behind…perhaps indefinitely. And, if you can find two or three part-time gigs whose hours don’t overlap, you’re likely to run down fast trying to keep up this crazy pace…making you more ripe for that injury or illness.

Our unemployment numbers are better only because, yes, people are working, but they’re going without food, without medicine–much needed prescriptions, such as insulin and blood pressure meds–without hope just to keep a simple roof overhead.

Yes, hope.

You can’t do much if you lose that. And, no, Yang is not on the same plateau as my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, but in him I saw a humble man with a heart, someone with a clear vision of how it could be in this country, of how we could help lift

Every.

Single.

American.

Period.

I truly fear for our country now because most of the remaining candidates do not understand why Trump got elected. They think taxing the rich will work. Yang debunked that; other countries have tried it. It failed. They think an increase in minimum wage will help. It will only create more part-time gigs…and fewer full-time because employers cannot afford it. Like the citizens of this country who are, like me, only an injury or an illness away from homelessness and total financial ruin, most businesses are slowly being beaten out of business by big tech companies like Amazon. They can’t compete when Amazon can run much of its operation with robots…instead of humans who demand a wage for their labor. Just look at your main street empty storefronts for proof of this. Even Walmart is going automated, having recently remodeled and removed more than half of their cashiers for self-checkouts.

Every one of those self-checkout lines is an American job being lost.

Let that sink in.

And it has nothing to do with Latinos and Hispanics coming across our southern borders. That’s a Republican propaganda fable to prey on our fears and uncertainties, our prejudices and bigotries.

I’ve been hit and miss on this blog because I’ve spent the better part of this year sharing Yang interviews and speeches, highlighting his policies from his website and sharing them on social media, and even canvassing for signatures to get him on every ballot. It’s the first time in my 50+ years that I have believed enough in a candidate’s platform to lend my support in whatever way I can. He may still get my vote…written in and impotent and not likely to ruffle the feathers of any other candidate.

You see, with foreclosure looming ever larger overhead, owing to the lack of a decent-paying job, to reduce the stress and worry, to channel all of my negative energy and emotions on something other than my problems, I threw myself wholeheartedly into this campaign. I haven’t ignored my problems. But, having something else to occupy my mind has made life more bearable, sleep more manageable–rather than the anxiety-induced insomnia. Some may argue it was an escape but, I would not be the first person in the world to donate her time and energy to a bigger cause…and find a solution to her own troubles along the way. Sometimes we stress and obsess so much that we block any good coming in. I gave my troubles to God and focused on getting Yang into office.

Again, he wasn’t a savior, or an idol. He was simply someone I would’ve been proud to call “President of the United States”…instead of another heavy sigh of “Oh, well, this one seems the lesser of two evils”. At this point, I’ll settle for Vice-President Yang. Is anyone listening?

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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Closer to Home

“After you have suffered a little while, our God, who is full of kindness through Christ, will give you His eternal glory. He personally will come and pick you up, and set you firmly in place, and make you stronger than ever. To Him be all power over all things forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Peter 5:10, 11)

Well, I got the job.

I’m a little stunned because it happened so fast, but it feels good to have someone believe in me so quickly. Granted, it’s part-time–at least to start–but it’s also steady income without the stress of being a temp where the proverbial rug can get pulled out from under me at any given moment. Will it be enough to turn this mortgage thing around? It’s too early to tell. If I’m being completely honest, probably not. But it’s better than “temp” and both the pay rate and the hours will increase after the 3 month probationary period. The real beauty is I’m within easy walking distance from home. That’s a significant savings on gasoline and car maintenance. It’s also healthier for both me and the planet.

Oh. I guess I am getting ahead of myself. So just what is this new job?

Funny you should ask.

The writer gets to feed her other passion: I’m the new town librarian/library clerk (positions are combined due to budgetary constraints). Soon, one of my own stories will be gracing their shelves. For now, I get to be surrounded by others’ literary works, the printed page, the smell of crisp-musty miracles…for isn’t the imagination a miracle in itself?

And, while I may have part-time hours (at least in the beginning), I don’t intend to be idle. I have long dreamed of having a designated space for giving treatments in Reflexology, Reiki and Touch for Health. Most spas, health clubs, and even some doctor’s offices, rent space for holistic health treatments but there’s usually a rent on the space. In northeastern Connecticut, that rent averages around $300-$400 a month. And, despite the expense, the space isn’t all yours. You have to share it with others in the field so that your own personal stamp cannot be marked. I dream of hosting on-going food drives to help support the local food pantries and giving people a discount on their treatments when they bring in valid non-perishables and even pet food for the animal shelters. I long to host prayer meetings and maybe start a writer’s workshop. It will also be classroom space for when I finally have my garden landscaped for teaching herbs. I have the space. It just requires some elbow grease to make it happen.

So that’s where I am tonight.

There is some sorrow mixed. I had high hopes that the temp position I’m currently working would become permanent (or semi-permanent; there’s no such thing as a permanent job). I’ve been working with some incredibly awesome people, many of whom have become friends. But I’ve also been feeling a little like the horse having the carrot dangled before him: promises of a sweet reward that I can never obtain. I can’t catch up on my finances with promises. I need steady. And I’m putting my trust firmly in Him that whatever decision I make in this endeavor is exactly the right one to align with His plans for me, that I’m right where He wants me to be.

May God bless you & keep you!

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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

19th century, Abuse, Alcoholism, Appreciation, Christianity, Faith, Fashion, Frugality, gardening, Ghosts, God/Jesus, Gratitude, Hauntings, Healing, Herbs, History, Homesteading, Nostalgia, Reading, Self-esteem, Self-improvement, Understanding, Writing, Yoga & Fitness

Finding My Stride Again

“I will bless the Lord who counsels me; He gives me wisdom in the night. He tells me what to do. I am always thinking of the Lord; and because He is so near, I never need to stumble or to fall. Heart, body, and soul are filled with joy.” (Psalms 16:7-9)

Back in November of 2017, shortly after I had first started working in living history, I witnessed something that bothered me greatly at my new job and I made the mistake of blogging about it–first. The proper channels would have been to report what I saw to management first and, then, if I didn’t get the results I hoped for, take it higher within the organization. Blogging about it probably should have been the last course of action, if at all in this instance.

I suppose I don’t need to tell everyone reading this that I got myself into some serious hot water over it. Of course, a co-worker saw the post and brought it my manager’s attention. I saw it coming almost the moment I hit “Publish” but, the activist in me, squashed the Nervous Nellie voice inside, insisting that what I saw was wrong and needed to be brought to “light”.

Wrong assumption.

I had one manager get in my face and tell me I didn’t see what I said I saw, threaten my job, and then with litigation if I ever posted anything like that again. The only reason I hadn’t lost my job right then and there was I had never been issued an employee handbook when I first started so, legally, they couldn’t let me go. I spent the next several weeks going back through all of my blogs and changing every place where my employer’s name might’ve been to “living history” or simply “my employer”, etc. I also removed the offending post…and then another that they found objectionable, and on another subject entirely, that I hadn’t even considered might be offensive in any way.

Yes, it was the responsible thing to do after such a misjudgment. And it had far more serious implications than anything threatened in that fateful meeting.

First, my credibility regarding what I saw came into question. Such a misjudgment meant that I also might not be a reliable person to ask. I saw more of the same actions/behavior over the next year or so but, even with another co-worker backing me up, my complaints and concerns fell on deaf ears.

Second, I went from being in complete awe that I had had the good fortune of snagging this job to, in many ways, hating it. Oh, sure, I loved the skills they taught, I loved learning more about the history of the time period, and especially, the day-to-day lives of people in America prior to the Civil War. As I am in the northeastern part of the country, I learned a lot about abolition and the anti-slavery movement. I loved the fashions I felt privileged to wear. And, when they still allowed/scheduled me to work in it, I loved working in “my” herb garden.

After that fateful meeting, however, I felt more and more the outsider in certain corners.

And found friends and allies in unexpected places.

Lastly, thoroughly chastened, I stopped blogging almost completely. I went from publishing a post nearly every week day to weeks without a single one. I found myself alternately depressed and angry. Stress and anxiety took over. Joy showed up only on rare occasions. Burnout quickly followed. More, I felt–and still feel–guilty for failing those without a voice by my hasty actions on their behalf.

In short, I lost my stride. And now I’m struggling to get it back.

Prior to this event, and its aftermath, I had regular posts, such as Wednesday’s Weed Walk where each week I talked about a different herb, its uses, and even some of its history. I had regular posts regarding frugal living (I am the eternal tightwad and proud of it!). Throughout my first October of regular blogging, I shared stories of my haunted homestead. And even some more personal stuff about growing up in an abusive, alcoholic home. The latter may not have had much to do with homesteading, the original theme of this blog, but it certainly had a hand in shaping this would-be homesteader. I would truly love to get back to this…in some capacity.

Of course, I am also facing a new challenge: time management.

My weekdays now consist of an early rising to meet with my instructor by 7:30 a.m. to spend an hour on the road behind the wheel of a school bus. Before I leave home, I have goats, chickens, ducks, rabbits, cats and Smoky the Cockatiel to feed, water, etc., and yoga. Then I head several towns’ over to the Town Hall to work with the tax assessor’s office. I have more of the same animal care when I get home, class work to complete for college, and a novel that I am already promoting, though it may be several months before it is completed.

I’m not sure I can squeeze a daily post in again, especially with a second blog on my author’s page (lisaburbank.wordpress.com) to keep up with also, but I am certainly going to be more intentional with my blog. I’m going to commit to 2 posts per week. And I’m asking, you, my readers, what would you like to see more of? I’ll do my best to deliver. In the meantime, I would like to thank everyone who has stuck by me, read, followed, and liked my posts, and who have shared the rather sporadic posts of the last year or so. Here’s to hoping I can catch my stride again soon!

May God bless you & keep you!

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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

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

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