Independence Day

“Now here is what I am trying to say: All of you together are the one body of Christ and each one of you is a separate and necessary part of it.” (1 Corinthians 12:27)

I always consider myself an independent person. In fact, I have always taken pride in my ability to take care of myself and to persevere in doing so. “Pride” would be the key word of that statement. Funny how He molds and shapes us for His work, His will.

Over the last few weeks, I haven’t been so independent. The pain and swelling in my right knee, ankle and toes has meant I’ve had to actually ASK for help. That’s usually the equivalent of pulling teeth with me. I feel weak. I feel ashamed. And I cringe, worrying that I’m being a burden to those near me. The flip side of it all is that I don’t want to become a burden, I don’t want the help that has been given to become “old” for anyone. I don’t want anyone to feel taken advantage of so I ask only for what I absolutely need and have done my best to express the appreciation for the help that I’ve received. And, amazingly, it has come from some pretty unexpected quarters…and in unexpected ways. I am grateful. Beyond what any words might express…despite my facile abilities.

We’re not meant to be islands unto ourselves. That is the message that He keeps telling me over and again…as long as I don’t let my own long-headedness get in the way of listening to Him. When I take charge. When I try to do everything myself. When I don’t allow others to help me. I am actually being a bit selfish. I offer an insult to that offer of help. No, this isn’t justification for suddenly becoming that burden I fear becoming. It’s a means of defining that fine line between being the sponge, the mooch, the burden, and accepting help when there is a real need. It’s about becoming a community. As I may be receiving help now, in time, I may be the one to give it when a friend is in need–not that I wish a time of need on anyone, but what I’m trying to say is that a true community, true friendship, is where there is an endless flow of give and take so that each feels blessed and less alone than they would be if they were that island unto themselves. I have always tried to be there for everyone, friend or family member; all are welcome. There is no one unworthy or less than. Maybe there’s a bit of pride ringing in that statement. It goads me to no end that I can’t still be that helping hand to others, that I must be reduced to being the one who has to ask for help instead. And maybe, by this forced convalescence, He is teaching me another valuable lesson with pride: no matter how much I might wish it, I can’t always be there…no matter what…and no matter how much that hurts. I am human. And, as it says in Ecclesiastes 3:1: “There is a right time for everything”. And one of those is “a time to heal”.

I am healing right now. In more ways than one. I am learning that while my independent living may bring a sense of confidence because of the skills and knowledge acquired along the way, it is not a utopia without faith in Jesus Christ, and the fellowship–and helping hands–of those near and dear to my heart.

Happy Independence Day, America…and May God bless you & keep you!

PS For those who may be wondering, I visited the doc on Friday. It seems I have developed bursitis in my right hip, knee and, possibly, ankle. In short, I can expect this sort of thing to happen again from time to time…it’s tough being 50 years young. (heavy sigh)

Ow…

I had a similar problem last summer when I started adding an hour’s fitness walk to my daily routine. Suddenly, my right leg started hurting and the third and fourth toes went numb. Last summer I went walking in inappropriate shoes, which is what I blamed this painful experience on. The doc ordered an ultrasound; they did an MRI; they ran all kinds of tests. Ruled out a blood clot, though I was advised to start taking an aspirin each day (and, no, I confess, I haven’t been consistent with it). The conclusion was that I must have strained or twisted something while walking. I tend to be klutzy so any ankle turning or twisting, nine times out of ten, is regarded as “routine”; I scarcely notice it. However, this summer I’m wearing decent walking sneakers with a good arch support in them. And the pain is back…with a vengeance.

Last night’s walk home from the dealership, I confess, I didn’t think I was going to make it. I had a stop to make at the local Walmart so, while there, I picked up a tube of Ben Gay and, before heading up the hill towards home, I slathered it all over my right shin, ankle and calf. As soon as it kicked in, I started walking again. The pain was less–enough so I could make it home–but I was close to tears by the time I reached the side door.

Mom helped with feeding everyone last night and I’ve been trying to take it easy. But I have work tomorrow and that requires another long walk. I am not looking forward to it. I took a very short walk today to pick up some birdseed at the local feed store, which is two doors’ down…and came limping back in agony again. And I’m not usually a baby about such things…only the enforced inactivity that is ultimately the end result (chuckle; I’m a terrible patient).

This northeastern corner of Connecticut has a very limited public transit system. This morning I signed Mom up for door-to-door pick up, which is available for seniors, but, for the rest of us, we have to go to the nearest bus stop. In this rural corner of the state, the nearest one would bring me almost to the dealership’s door so it doesn’t really solve the issue. And I am writing all of this, not to garner sympathy, but more as a way of brainstorming and trying to think of a way to bring about some sort of reform. I am hoping this is a temporary thing with my leg. The doc will have to be called and an appointment made again. And, yes, I know most people have automobiles and can drive themselves. But, surely, for seniors, for the disabled, and as our economy still struggles to recover from the Great Recession, for those who find themselves financially challenged and cannot afford the high loan payments, insurance premiums, maintenance fees and/or tax bills that car ownership brings, there must be a way to provide better transportation options. I’m hoping by brainstorming, some little light bulb will go off in my head, an “A-ha” moment, an inspiration that might show me the way to bring about some positive changes.

Of course, all of this circles around to the environmental impact of automobile ownership. I have long been an advocate for walking, bicycling and/or taking public transit whenever and wherever possible to mitigate the effects of fossil fuel usage. For those who sneer at this whole global warming thing, or succumb to denial about it, my present difficulties might seem to them a justification for all the number of autos on our highways and byways…and “proof” that one cannot exist without one, the lie we all tell ourselves that car ownership is a necessity. If it is true, it is only because our present infrastructure has been built around said automobile ownership and backed by funding from the same fossil fuel industry that promotes them. If we take a look at the Netherlands, the city of Amsterdam has been totally re-vamped and is now centered around bicycles. Children as young as four years old are seen riding them. And automobile traffic is kept to a bare minimum, with the bulk of it being deliveries for local businesses (Van der Zee, 2015). Their carbon impact has been greatly reduced, as well as the instances of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and many of the other diseases that plague us in our sedentary lifestyle.

I am willing to concede that this may be part of my problem in this: poor circulation brought about from the sedentary lifestyle of a writer. Though I am also a homesteader, even many of my homesteading chores see me sitting down: rabbit grooming, nail trimming, knitting, sewing, looming, etc. My part-time endeavor at the dealership is also a sit down, sedentary position as I stuff envelopes, answer phones and create the next newsletter each month. I’m thinking maybe our automobile fetish may be killing us in more ways than one.

And yet, I also enjoy a long drive in the country; a trip to sight see, etc. I’m not totally against the idea of auto ownership but rather a more judicious use of them. If one can walk, or bicycle, instead of driving, then by all means, please do. Despite my present circumstances, in the two months since I started walking instead of driving, I sleep better; feel better overall; have more energy; and my moods have been elevated. I find myself more concerned and aware of what’s going on in my community. And with the local environment (those gypsy moths I lamented earlier this week have been wreaking havoc all up and down the Interstate.). I’ve even had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of a young woman one afternoon while walking in to work. She was having her car serviced at the other dealership almost across the street. We shared the walk and a happy exchange of conversation. It would never have happened if I’d been in my own little fiberglass bubble, puffing out an unhealthy dose of CO2.

My leg will heal; Mother Earth may not.

May God bless you & keep you!

References

Van der Zee, R. (2015).  “How Amsterdam became the Bicycle Capital of the World.”  The Guardian.  Retrieved April 13, 2017 from: https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2015/may/05/amsterdam-bicycle-capital-world-transport-cycling-kindermoord

Who’s Really in Charge Here Anyway?

“We ought not to insist on everyone following in our footsteps, nor to take upon ourselves to give instructions in spirituality when, perhaps, we do not even know what it is.” St. Teresa of Avila

I’ll admit it. “Charles in Charge” has nothing on me. I’m in control, or so I tell myself, and then hear the echo of what can only be God laughing as I tighten the reins…and chaos erupts.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I think I remember reading somewhere that 98% of us have at least a touch of it. Some of us have a bit more than a touch, unfortunately. Oh, it comes in handy at times. The alphabetized CD, DVD, VHS and book collections make finding whatever I’m looking for a snap. Because, really, who wants to waste time looking for something that may be right in front of your nose? I have bigger fish to fry, as they say. And, maybe it’s a bit extreme but my closet is color coded with all the yellow garments together, all the red, all the green, etc. Again, it makes finding that outfit easier. And I’m all about economizing my time. However, these little impulses and neuroses also tie me in knots and can make me a rather difficult person to live with.

Poor Mom.

This feeble attempt at perfectionism often manifests as criticism. I hear myself and cringe. Criticism was definitely NOT the intent but that’s what surely came across if I put myself in her shoes. And really, how important is it if the buttery popcorn bowl wasn’t rinsed first before it went into the sink? Or if the spoon rest is backwards on the stove? This latter “pet peeve” doesn’t get spoken; I simply turn it around again but then I think, as I’m doing it, does it MATTER???

And here is where the knots get tied because, as one voice is asking about the importance of such an act, another voice knows how much of a mental distraction it will be if I leave the spoon rest backwards…or the toilet paper feeding from under, rather than over.

Of course, I’ve never really sat down with Mom and tried to explain exactly what it’s like to live with OCD. Sadly, such a conversation tends to veer off into why mine is so intense in the first place: it’s a response to the molestation I grew up with. And that is a subject Mom would rather forget about altogether. As a child, I couldn’t control what was happening to me so I acted out by adopting these little “habits”. It gave me a false sense of security. And I was desperate to feel secure. Not only the abuse but also the alcoholism, the drunken accusations that told us all that we were “stupid” and couldn’t do anything “right” and to “look a little harder than you have to”. Like many children who grow up with some sort of substance abuse…as well as the abuse of their bodies, minds, and spirits, I turned all this negativity onto myself and shouldered all the blame. If I was a better student, he wouldn’t be so angry. If I kept my room neater, maybe he’d leave me alone. If I did all the chores around the house, all this chaos would stop.

Who was I kidding?

I’ve been tied up in knots since I was a very little girl. Is it any wonder that I’m still tying myself in knots? Unhealthy though it may be, it’s also a comfortable numb. It’s familiar. And, if I don’t grasp, and clutch, and sterilize my whole life, I start to relax…and then chastise myself for being “lazy”.

The paradox of all of this is that my property from the roadside looks like tobacco road. This is another coping mechanism from dealing with alcoholism. It keeps people away. But such a desire never cropped up until a few years ago when I had a live-in boyfriend…who was also an alcoholic. He seemed a nice enough guy when we met. And there was an instant rapport. This last one should have been a red flag…heck, it should have been flashing in neon red. Because that kind of comfort level so early on, well, they say a girl looks for her father when she dates…or, in this case, father figure. I was embarrassed. The sometimes-arrogant self, who would never allow herself to be caught in such a situation, got caught in it. How did this happen? How did I let this happen? And, worse, it took me forever to finally get out of it. The same mind control that I grew up, manifested again in this romantic partner. The same self-doubt and shame crept in. And I felt sorry for him. He, too, had grown up with abuse in the home. I knew what that was like. And, while I had had a network of family and friends behind me as I sought therapy and tried to claw my way into some sort of normalcy of life, he was still wallowing in the beaten-down misery he grew up with. He even threatened to beat me physically…and I still let him stay. It wasn’t until, in a drunken stupor, he cut down a beloved shade tree in the yard that I snapped and gave him the boot.

Tobacco road’s been growing ever since…because I’m mortified that I allowed myself to be caught up in this unhealthy situation. I fell down on my principles. Every stitch of therapy went out the windows. Though I have no actual proof, I even suspect he was abusive to one of my cats as Trooper’s behavior while he was here was almost unbearable. And it stopped almost immediately once this man was finally gone for good.

A little bit at a time. That’s what friends tell me as I tackle this overgrowth. It’s a little bit like that “One Day at a Time” motto advocated by both Alcoholics’ Anonymous and Al-Anon. A little bit at a time, one day at a time.

This homestead is healing me as well as it is healing the land. My OCD says I should be able to perfectly landscape the 3/4 of an acre I’ve set aside for fruits, vegetables and herbs in a weekend’s work; it’s not good enough otherwise. Reality says, as I am implementing Charles Dowding’s “No Dig Gardening” method to bring as low an impact to the earth as I can, that such an enormous undertaking simply cannot be done in one weekend…not to the scale I envision. And not by one single person…especially one on a part-time income.

No, the “No-Dig” method isn’t expensive. Quite the contrary. It uses flattened cardboard boxes laid out on the ground (something easily had for free from many of the local businesses who don’t mind not having to pay out to cart the cardboard away instead) and then composted waste, from both the kitchen, and the animals, layered on top of the cardboard to create a raised bed. I’ve been dismantling a broken section of stone wall that runs along the front of my property to outline the beds once they’re made and using old feed bags that I’ve cut open and laid flat for the walkways in between. As funds permit, I buy a bag or two of red mulch and lay it atop the bags. This is where the part-time income comes into the picture as I cannot purchase enough at one time to cover all of the walkways at once. And, as I am on a major interstate, as well as in the commercial district, it has to be “pretty”.

So, a little bit at a time, one day at a time.

And, when the OCD starts kicking up again and stresses perfection, I need only look outside to see the rhubarb growing tall and strong in the three-tiered pyramid I built for it and the strawberries; I need only look at the green beans poking their kidney-shaped heads out of the ground in one raised bed and the beautiful purple flower heads of the chives, and the lush expanse of marjoram in another to tell me that, yes, one day at a time is good enough. It doesn’t matter that it’s not “perfect”. Obviously, these plants don’t care a fig if it’s perfect or not; they’re still growing in imperfection.

As for the grass?

Mankind has ever strived to tame and “control” Nature. I refuse to use anything gas-powered, or any chemicals, to kill it off. Even with the raised beds, the weed and grass barriers being laid down, there’s still the occasional blade that pokes up even amongst those sections already landscaped. This is a reminder that, despite my valiant efforts to control and manipulate this landscape, much like the landscape of my life, there is Someone greater than I who is really in charge. Someone who takes those knots I’ve tied myself into, lays them out flat…and helps me to grow.

May God bless you & keep you!

A Bigger Life

“Ask, and you will be given what you ask for. Seek, and you will find. Knock, and the door will be opened. For everyone who asks, receives. Anyone who seeks, finds. If only you knock, the door will open. If a child asks his father for a loaf of bread, will he be given a stone instead? If he asks for fish, will he be given a poisonous snake? Of course not! And if you hardhearted, sinful men know how to give good gifts to your children, won’t your Father in heaven even more certainly give good gifts to those who ask him for them?” (Matthew 7:7-11)

Believe it or not, I often struggle with this biblical passage. Struggle because there is too much doubt in my heart that what I wish for, what I hope will come to be, I am not worthy to have. This passage says nothing about worthiness. It asks only that we, well, ASK. No other hidden clauses.

Of course, when/if I discuss this passage with others, I invariably get that old standby of predestination. If it’s meant to be, it will be. Yes, that’s probably true. Does not the Bible also tell us that even the hairs on our heads are numbered by God? And that He knows when every sparrow falls so, therefore, He also knows our struggles…even the desires of our hearts? And yet, I hear that old adage and, no sooner have I gone to God in prayer for what I need, or even want, and I’m already deciding that what I’m asking for is probably not a part of His will and, therefore, why am I asking? I defeat myself as soon as the prayer is out of my mouth…or head.

What kind of lukewarm faith is this? Is there nothing too great for God? Did He not make me along with everyone else?

Then we get into the whole thought process of accepting that maybe He is instead trying to mold and shape me for something better, something that is in line with His plans. And my anxiety ramps up because maybe it will require too much of a sacrifice…like the loss of someone I love (did not The Twelve leave even their closest family members to follow Jesus?) in order to have that dream. Because, whatever dream He put on my heart, I’ve already convinced myself I’m not worthy of. So I try to guess His plans. What does He want me to do? Show me the way. And then I start chastising myself for being so ungrateful for what I already have. And I shouldn’t want or ask for more. Who cares if I’m robbing Peter to pay Paul and find that Peter’s flat broke? I’ve reached the cap on God’s mercy, or gifts, or grace. Such thinking, I consider, must surely anger God. For where in the Bible does it say He has a cap? Nowhere. His love is unconditional. Passage after passage tells us that He wants only the best for His children. Yet still I doubt. If You’re going to show me the way, I need neon signs and strobe lights highlighting that way. And even then I’d probably doubt if it was “meant” for me.

You see, people who grow up in abusive homes, especially if the abuser was their father, or a father figure, have difficulty believing in a loving and compassionate Father in heaven; it’s an alien concept. We get the angry and vengeful God who punished the Israelites for worshiping other gods and erecting idols, for being stubborn, etc. But the God who loves us, who will give His children good gifts, we struggle with.

I am grateful for everything I have. I know I have been richly blessed already. Even when so many others were losing their homes during the Great Recession, I managed to hang on to this one…despite only being a part-time and/or seasonal worker (the only jobs available in this sleepy New England town)…simply due to His grace. It does seem a bit, well, sinful and selfish to be wishing for something more. This house is a fixer-upper; the homestead is small and, because of it’s smallness, it can also be limiting. However, the smaller size has forced me to get more creative as I continue to landscape and design, to find ways to re-purpose certain areas. It’s also on a major interstate so the dream of growing organic vegetables, fruits and herbs is already out the window. With that much carbon zooming by in a continuous stream, even with the row of Thujas across the front border, that carbon is undoubtedly settling onto each and every leaf; the Thujas can only filter out so much. And, though I am grandfathered in for the use to which I put the land, as big box stores continue to climb the hill, closer and closer to home, I can’t help but fear how much worse that carbon impact is going to be…or how long before that grandfathered use gets challenged. Of course, I probably wouldn’t say “no” if some big developer came by and offered me a decent price for it, enough that I could start over somewhere else…but that’s a bit like waiting to hit the lottery.

I dream of acreage somewhere. I dream of that plot of land down that dusty, country lane, with pastures full of goats, sheep and chickens, maybe a horse or two, and border collies zipping around “Come by” and “Away to me” as they herd those sheep and goats into the barn at night. I dream of a small pond, or lake, on that property where my ducks can swim until their hearts’ are content. I dream of paddling a canoe, or pedaling a paddle boat, out onto that lake or pond after the workday is done. I dream of campfires, with friends and family sharing meals and some good music as we break out the guitar, the dulcimer, and open our hearts and lips to song. No Kumbaya, mind you, just a gathering of friends. I dream of herb gardens, lush, full, and diverse. Gardens made for teaching how to cook with herbs; how to tincture, infuse, poultice and compress. Maybe even some “magickal” uses for luck and love and a bit of romantic whimsy. I dream of equally lush vegetable gardens and small fruits growing and a greenhouse that houses an aquaponics’ system for growing even more food. I dream of a thriving produce stand, or a booth in the local farmers’ market. I dream of supplying the local food pantry with fresh, nutritious produce instead of the packaged, processed donations they typically receive. I dream of looms full of brightly-colored threads, all weaving a brilliant tapestry from the wool, angora, mohair and cashmere fibers routinely sheared, or plucked, from the animals I raise. I dream of a little store where yarns and fabric are sold from my stock. I dream of fresh goat’s milk and cheese, and goat’s milk soap scented with some of the herbs I grow. I dream that all, or at least most, of these animals are rescues, given a second chance at life, for a forever home. I dream of summer days out on the road with a trailer full of goats as we clear land for others in a manner that is much gentler on Mother Earth. I dream of an orchard with healthy and thriving honeybees buzzing in and out of the blossoms. I dream of honey and beeswax candles. And I dream of walking into that bookstore someday, or logging into Amazon, and seeing my name on the cover of that bestseller.

And I dream. And I yearn. And I consider that, maybe, these are just dreams and never “meant” to be. Maybe someday I will do as that Garth Brooks’ song says and thank God for unanswered prayers. Surely, His plans ARE bigger and better than anything I could ever imagine. But, maybe, just maybe, I can finally find it in my heart to TRUST that God truly has put these dreams in my heart for a purpose, that it isn’t all a pipe dream, fueled by an over-active imagination. Perhaps *Someday* I will trust that, yes, I am worthy of such dreams, that God loves me beyond any human ability to comprehend. Just because. Not because I “earned” it. Not because I prayed the most compelling prayer and that was the one He chose to answer. Not because of anything of my will but because His will shall be done. Maybe, just maybe, He’s using these dreams and yearnings to first answer another prayer, a prayer that asked to draw closer to Him, to know Him better, to learn how to trust in a loving Father.

Can I let go enough to let that healing begin? To allow His miracles to take place? Can I trust that, even if these dreams do not come to light, that wherever He does lead me, will bring me more joy than I can possibly imagine? Can I trust that His gifts are not like those given on earth, to sometimes bribe, sometimes stifle, to sometimes manipulate? This isn’t a toe-in-the-water sort of thing. It’s that proverbial, giant leap of faith. Can I do it? Can I accept God’s will for me on this earth? And, more importantly, can I accept that, yes, I do have a loving Father in heaven who does desire to give me good gifts?

Okay, then.

Breathe.

Relax.

And let go.

Thy will be done, Father. Thy will be done.

May God bless you & keep you!

Over It

“Get over it!”

I hear a lot of this whenever I talk about, or add a new blog post, that shares about my childhood. Oh, the fun and games that every child remembers is acceptable. But the darker, more sinister aspects of my childhood should be kept quiet…if only because it offends the delicate sensibilities of others.

I say, if it offends your delicate sensibilities, then good. Great, in fact! If I’m offending your delicate sensibilities, then I’m getting under your skin. I’m making you aware that 6.6 million referrals of child abuse/molestation are reported annually in the United States alone–many involving more than one child, and alcoholism affects 15.1 million adults over the age of 18 (Child Help; NIAAA, 2017). Quite often, the two are irrevocably linked. And these are just the incidents that were reported…because the delicate sensibilities of those closest to many of these lost children dictate that these children should suffer in silence, rather than exploit the family dysfunction. I say, to what purpose should I “get over it” unless both of those statistics change to a big, fat ZERO.

SPOILER ALERT!

I hate to burst a few bubbles but, I am “over it”. You see, if I wasn’t “over it”, I wouldn’t be able to blog, or talk, so candidly about my childhood experiences. 20+ years in therapy have led me to a much healthier place, mentally and emotionally. I know sometimes it may seem otherwise when there are so many “hang-ups” that still trip me from time to time. But, honestly, before therapy, I bottled everything so deeply inside that I couldn’t see the proverbial forest through the trees. And I guess this blog post is coming about as a means to change some misconceptions…about a lot of things.

First of all, therapy. Whenever I get tripped up by some sort of coping mechanism I adopted as a child, or by a wave of self-doubt, there are some who cast aspersions on that therapy…or the therapist who worked so closely with me. But therapy, while valuable, can never truly wipe away those “hang-ups”; my memories aren’t going to disappear. I’m not going to forget what happened. However, I no longer dwell upon it. It isn’t an all-consuming nightmare from which I cannot wake up anymore. Therapy has helped me to put those painful memories, well, not really on a back burner but, instead, I can look at them with some distance, take them out, study them, study their effects, and, like an onion, peel away another layer of hurt and dysfunction in manageable bites. This is important because, if I tried to deal with everything all at once, I would get overwhelmed and incapacitated by that overwhelming. The abuse that I endured growing up was spread out over several years; is it any wonder that the recovery from it would also take a number of years?

Another blessing of that therapy is that, while I am peeling away those layers, I also have tools to help lift me out of depression and anxiety, to boost my self-esteem when it wants to plummet, to deal with anger and even the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder that became one of those coping mechanisms. I will probably always be afflicted with some trace of OCD. In fact, with Mom now living with me, I find myself falling back into some old obsessions. I’m guessing it’s because I am suddenly exposed to some of that learned behavior from dealing with active alcoholism again. I escaped life with an alcoholic when I was in my early-20’s; Mom lived with that same alcoholic for over 40 years. For at least half of those years, I was in that therapy, peeling those layers away; Mom was still in the midst of it, dealing with it. Yes, she did choose to do so but that doesn’t change the fact that she learned a few coping mechanisms of her own. I see it, hear the sometimes sarcasm, the passive-aggression, the lack of concern for her own well-being, the escapism, the manipulation, the desperate attempt to develop a new co-dependency with me. It saddens me. Because, overall, she’s a good woman who simply allowed herself to get caught in a bad situation…partly because she didn’t believe that she deserved better treatment, and partly because, underneath the alcoholism and abuse, she saw something–someone–that she loved despite the abuse…and she’s still struggling with the ill effects of that choice.

Of course, I will also concede that the OCD has become over-active again because some small part of me may still harbor some anger at Mom…for not acting when I first told her what was happening to me. I was eight years old. Today, she says she doesn’t remember me telling her. I’m not sure how one would forget such a conversation but, I am willing to concede that it may have been such a shock to her, that maybe some part of her did block it out. Because it was too much for her to deal with. It hurts too much to think that maybe she simply didn’t care enough to help me. Either way, acceptance is the only way to true forgiveness.

And therein lies another misconception: forgiveness. A lot of people look at forgiveness as giving in, giving up, as saying that whatever vile and/or hateful thing that has been committed is okay. No, it is never okay for a little child to be abused…in any way, shape or form. It’s not okay for any living creature–human or humane, child or adult to be abused. Forgiveness isn’t about the actions of the abuser. We’re not forgiving the act–or lack of action–but the person committing the act, or lack thereof.

“Your heavenly Father will forgive you if you forgive those who sin against you; but if you refuse to forgive them, He will not forgive you.” (Matthew, 6:14-15)

Forgiveness isn’t truly about them anyway. Forgiveness is a gift for the one doing the forgiving, for the peace that settles over the soul once we finally let go of the grudge, the anger, the stubbornness that inhibits further healing from the transgression. Forgiveness releases the power the transgressor still wields over us to hurt us even more…because by hanging onto our anger, truly, the only person we hurt is ourselves.

So, what does all of this have to do with homesteading? I get asked that one A LOT. Because, really, that’s the whole reason I started this blog. I wanted it to be a daily accounting–or at least a weekly one–of my journey as a homesteader. However, as I technically started this blog back in 2010, but never really contributed to it on a regular basis until last August (2016), obviously, I didn’t have as much to say about my homesteading endeavors. Or maybe I just needed to get into a regular writing routine, which I have done, and see which direction it evolved. I’d like to think that these two separate journeys are somehow intertwined…above and beyond the fact that this modern-day homesteader is also the one still healing from the effects of childhood trauma.

In fact, there’s the link: a journey of healing from childhood abuse…and a journey to heal Mother Earth from the effects of Mankind’s abuse of her. What’s in our food? A lot of things that should not even be used in the same sentence as “food”: high fructose corn syrup, monosodium glutamate, dyes, aspartame, saccharin and sucralose. Where does it come from? A package? A can? From over 3000 miles away where a huge carbon footprint is created to transport it across country, across the globe, after lacing it with these artificial preservatives, and growing it with chemical pesticides and fertilizers…which kill us, kill the animals, the plants, kill the honey bees. What’s in our clothing? Nylon, synthetics–by-products of the petroleum industry. Athletic wear, especially, contains a lot of plastic. Plastic off-gases in our landfills. It gets dumped into our rivers and streams, our oceans, where tiny particles of it…and sometimes even larger pieces…get ingested by wildlife and aquatic life. I recently did a presentation regarding climate change. I found a photograph of a seal that had died from ingesting run-off from lawn fertilizers–such as Scotts or TruGreen. We’re killing our planet, ourselves. And, while one lone homesteader may not be able to make much of a dent in that carbon footprint, I can lead by example. And I can rest knowing that I’ve done the best I could to lessen my contribution to the abuse. That’s worth it to me.

As this homestead is also intended as an animal rescue and rehabilitation, a sanctuary to help heal animals of abuse and/or abandonment, here, too, is another journey of healing. I need a bigger homestead if I’m to achieve the level of success that I envision but, for now, I work with what I have and mitigate whatever suffering I can, one heart at a time.

For every new skill I learn as a homesteader, whether it is canning, preserving, a new gardening technique, a new fiber art mastered, for every new animal that I learn to care for and that thrives, I gain a new level of confidence that takes me even further away from those painful memories. And that’s a link that will endure forever.

May God bless you & keep you!

References

Child Help, (2017). Statistics. Retrieved June 2, 2017 from: https://www.childhelp.org/child-abuse-statistics/
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Statistics. Retrieved June 2, 2017 from: https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-facts-and-statistics

Reactions

It is both touching and comical the reactions I am receiving as I walk everywhere instead of driving. Granted, my decision to do so was forced upon me. While I have long been an advocate of either walking or pedal-pushing when and where possible, I confess, I have put off this commitment to lower my carbon footprint to the extreme for quite some time now. Granted, I don’t live in a city where everything is within a safe walking distance. Nor do we have a decent public transit system for those out-of-the-way places next to impossible to walk to. I live in a rural community that has a few sidewalks plunked down at random but they do not connect the whole demographic area; much of my travels lately have been in the breakdown lane of a major interstate. So, yes, it is a little hairy at times. Thank goodness for fluorescent vests and flashlights for twilight travels after work.

First, the humorous side of it all. “You walk to work?” “You walked all the way from there to go to church?” Etc, etc. My home is in the 200 “block” of this interstate; my job is in the 500 “block”. I have “block” in quotation marks because these are not evenly-planned residential areas but a patchwork of farms amidst a few cul-de-sacs of houses leading up to a small commercial district. My trek each way is just under two miles. It takes me about 25-30 minutes to walk it downhill to work; an extra five minutes for the steeply-uphill climb to home. Church is about half the walking distance and definitely not as uphill. All-in-all, it’s not a bad walk…even if it is in the breakdown lane. It makes me laugh because we have become so dependent on our automobiles that the thought of walking, or riding a bicycle, less than two miles seems like the greatest imposition to many. Granted, for someone like my mother, who is in her 70’s, such a trek is a bit too much. She tried it one Saturday while I was at work. She said the walk down wasn’t so bad but she needed a ride back home!

Of course, Mom is part of that humor, too. Having christened her “Nervous Nellie”, she hovers and flutters about when, like yesterday, the rain was falling steady and she saw me gearing up to walk again. It wasn’t until I pulled out the umbrella that she calmed down a bit. Oy vey! I feel like I’m 15 again instead of 50 (now if only my hips, shins, calves and knees felt the same way…)

And yet, Mom’s actions are also touching as I come around that last bend in the road and see her and Max, the Blue Heeler, waiting for me at the foot of the drive, watching anxiously to make sure I get home okay.

Touching, too, has been some of the reactions from friends and co-workers along the way. Halfway to work yesterday afternoon, one of our mechanics saw me walking–and thoroughly soaked–and offered me a ride the last 1/2 mile or so. It was much appreciated as the wind kept kicking up and blowing me about like Mary Poppins on steroids. And then yesterday’s rain storm intensified during the late-afternoon, early-evening. By the time I left to come home again, it was pouring buckets. One of my co-workers saw me gearing up and actually told me I was NOT walking home in this. However, while I appreciated the offer, and the concern, knowing I had to make a stop along the way, I didn’t want to put him out and finally convinced him I would be okay. And I was. But it warmed my heart nonetheless. Chivalry is not dead. And it is good to see it, to know it. And to know people do care.

Yesterday’s rain taught me something else, too: bring a change of clothes. Walking in the breakdown lane with traffic, and especially 18-wheelers, whizzing by leaves you soaked to the gills. I suppose I should bring gratitude into the mix that it is late-May and not early-January.

May God bless you & keep you!

A Part of the Whole

“As God’s messenger I give each of you God’s warning: Be honest in your estimate of yourselves, measuring your value by how much faith God has given you. Just as there are many parts to our bodies, so it is with Christ’s body. We are all parts of it, and it takes every one of us to make it complete, for we each have different work to do. So we belong to each other, and each needs all the others.” Romans 12:3-5

In this journey of healing and homesteading, it shouldn’t be any surprise to myself that I often measure my worth by what I have accomplished each day. I pressure myself constantly to do more, over-crowding my life until I squeeze all of the, well, life out of it. And I drive myself bananas trying to fit that 30 hour day into a 24 hour time frame. As I blogged about yesterday, growing up with an alcoholic in the home, unreasonable expectations were placed upon me.

In high school, and for several years after, my dream was to be a heavy metal rock star. I wanted to be on that stage, playing my guitar, being viewed as the best of the best. I was driven to find some worth in myself and, despite having a beloved grandfather as a mentor with my writing, that wasn’t an acceptable career in those days; a metal artist was so much cooler (sorry, Poppop…). And, in my more honest moments, I know part of the musical appeal was to get under my stepfather’s skin; my father plays guitar, too.

Gary Richrath of REO Speedwagon (though not a metal band), George Lynch of Dokken and, later, Lynch Mob fame, and Yngwie Malmsteen were my heros, my mentors, if you will. And I wanted to play just like them…especially George. I also sang lead. Queen of Metal, Doro, was the major influence there. I wanted to sound just like her but she’s a powerhouse as a vocalist. My own voice, by comparison, sounded weak to my ears. As mentioned yesterday, my stepfather often taunted me about my musical aspirations. However much I practiced, it was never enough. I should work harder, practice more…if I wanted to succeed…even as he directed from the easy chair. In those earlier days, if I read an article that George Lynch practiced 8 hours a day–and, of course, this jived with my stepfather’s “advice”–then I would suddenly be killing myself trying to squeeze those 8 hours of practice around 6-8 hours of work and another 7-8 hours of sleep…and mentally beating up on myself when I failed. My younger self did not take into account that each of these artists were performing for a living. They didn’t have to go to a “day” job (though I’m sure they all had one before they “made it”).

Sadly, that vicious cycle of comparing myself to others and pushing myself to do more, because I never do “enough”, has stayed with me through the years. I recently read that author, Nora Roberts, writes 8 hours a day, every single day of the week…including holidays and vacations. I don’t know how true this is but I do know I simply don’t have 8 hours a day to give to my craft, no matter how much I may wish it or enjoy it. The best I can do is 4 hours…and that’s only if homework and homestead work don’t take priority. I still try to get to the keyboard–or at least sit with a notebook and pen–every day. Again, that’s the best I can do. I do not have the luxury of staying at home all day, everyday. I haven’t gotten that proverbial foot in the door of the writing industry enough that I can afford to stay home (and maybe some would argue that’s what’s holding me back but I’m also partial to food and shelter…for me, for Mom and for my animals). That doesn’t mean I haven’t tried to “find” 8 hours a day though. And, for anyone who has been following this blog since last August or September, you know I suddenly started setting my alarm for 3:30 a.m. after reading an article that Dolly Parton does her best writing at that hour. That fell by the wayside fast as first Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and then a bit of Chronic Epstein-Barr slapped me in the face. I work away from home evenings; I don’t get home early enough to support such an early rising. And that’s a fact. I’m now back to 5:30-6:00 a.m. And most of my writing time has been shifted to evenings, after all of my college homework and chores on the homestead are done, and the rest of the world is heading off to bed (fewer interruptions that way).

It’s the same with the homestead. In this case, my mentors are the folks at Path to Freedom. My homestead is nowhere near as developed as theirs; it’s certainly not a working farm yet. I have to constantly remind myself that this is a family working 1/5 of an acre. I have almost a full acre and, while Mom may plant a few vegetables, most of the work is mine. The Dervaes also started over 20 years ago; I’ve only just begun.

What all of this means is that the mental and emotional abuse I endured as a child and teen, I still perpetuate on myself today. I’m still not “enough”, not doing enough. And so, I see myself as less than those I might unwittingly put on the proverbial pedestal. Whenever I receive a compliment about my playing, my singing, my writing, or anything else I do, it always comes as a surprise and then a bit of discomfort that I am not deserving of the compliment. Such are the seeds of doubt planted by the alcoholic…and they are as perennial and as invasive as a blade of couch grass.

The truth of the matter is that my perception of self is actually quite skewered. I may not get up at 3:30 anymore, or write a full 8 hours each day, but I continue to maintain a 4.0 GPA in a creative writing degree program. I have been published before; have had a couple of professors encourage me to try publishing some of what I’ve written for class, and I’ve managed to attract a following of over 500 people with this blog in less than a year’s time. Once, while practicing with the folk group at church for our Christmas program, I was admonished by the choir director to sing softer. Our objective was to sing the Baby Jesus to sleep…not wake the dead. So much for that “weak” voice. And, many years back, my second husband’s nephew gave me quite a compliment when his mother pooh-poohed my guitar playing and he exclaimed, “But you haven’t heard Auntie Lisa play!” And, of course, having grown up with alcoholism in the home, my mind immediately rejected the compliment.

“One evening I was taken by surprise when another member complimented me. I was very uncomfortable with this gesture of kindness, feeling inside that I didn’t deserve it. When I tried to talk her out of her kind words, she refused to take them back.” (Courage to Change, 1992, p. 130).

Ironically, it is a young adult fiction story that has helped me to accept and appreciate who I am. It is a novel by author, Karen Cushman, called “Catherine Called Birdy” in which a young woman in medieval times seeks to find her purpose in life by trying to be an artist, running away with a circus (or maybe it was a fair; been awhile) and various other projects. In the story, Catherine trails a Jewish family and the old grandmother finally gets her to open up about why she wants to join their traveling show. I’m going to paraphrase a bit but the old woman admonished her that when she got to the pearly gates of heaven, she wouldn’t be asked why she wasn’t an artist, or a dancer, or someone else. She would be asked why she wasn’t Catherine. It doesn’t matter that I don’t play like George Lynch, sing like Doro, have a fully-working homestead like the Dervaes or write for 8 hours like Nora. I sing, play, write and homestead like me. Like that part of Christ’s body, as He intended.

May God bless you & keep you!

References

Al-Anon Family Groups, (1992). “Courage to Change.” Al_Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc, Virginia Beach, VA.

Cushman, K. (1994). “Catherine Called Birdy.” Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston, MA.