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.

Learning Peace of Mind

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’ve neglected my Al-Anon daily reader for awhile now…and it shows. Tonight I picked up “Courage to Change” and read today’s message. As always, it was exactly what I needed.

Today’s reading talks about how we often deny the gifts we have by wishing that things were different. Or by refusing to “accept something over which” we are “powerless” (Courage to Change, p. 129). No matter how many years I have spent in therapy, or whether or not I am currently exposed to active alcoholism, it always amazes me how quickly I can fall back on the learned behavior that I grew up with. There is a constant maintenance that never really goes away. If I ignore it, get lazy, whatever you wish to call it, that learned behavior creeps back in and takes over again. Maybe not as strongly, because there is a healing that came with the past maintenance, but it can certainly wreak some havoc…sort of like the weeds in my garden. If I don’t get out there each day and pull a few of them, they’re liable to take over.

And, really, with Mom now living on the homestead with me, it is more important than ever that I keep up that maintenance.

No, Mom seldom, if ever, drinks alcohol. She was married to an alcoholic for 40+ years. Granted, he went dry the last five years of his life. Quit cold turkey. But never attended an AA meeting or sought any professional help; he didn’t think he needed it. Mom learned a lot of coping behaviors in those 40+ years. And, living together, I find myself confronting some of them in myself, too.

I’ve been in a bit of a funk for some time now. A lot of stress, mostly financial, but there is also some stress in simply learning how to live again with Mom. I’ve gone from being 50 years old to being treated like I’m 15. I know it is a Mom “thing” but it grates against the nerves at times. I also find I’m a bit territorial. When Mom moved in she offered to take over kitchen detail. On the one hand, I appreciate the offer, her willingness to help. On the other hand, I really miss my relaxing Sunday afternoons, cooking and baking for the whole week, freezing portions for later in the month, canning, preserving, and also making herbal tinctures and salves and such. I enjoyed planning out my meals before I did a grocery shopping and saving the money that such planning brought about. The simple solution would be to simply sit down with Mom and talk about it. But here is where the learned behavior comes in.

Mom will sit and listen to whatever I have to say. She will nod and agree with me, tell me to go ahead and start cooking, etc; defensively assure me that she’s not stopping me. A half hour later, she will be in the kitchen again. I’ve even gone so far as to half-jokingly tell her I was kicking her out of the kitchen, or firing her from KP duty (after the umpteenth meal of scrambled eggs, rubbery and tasteless on the inside, super-crispy-can-barely-cut-them-with-a-fork on the outside). It doesn’t matter. She’s learned to ignore such requests. Because my stepfather made requests and then changed his mind again as it suited him, which is typical of an alcoholic. Who could possibly keep up? She learned to agree with whatever he said to his face…even as she went about her own business later. She was very careful to agree while he was talking. Any opposition and, like many alcoholics, he would start yelling and screaming at her. He could also be violent. So she agreed. We all did. Because it was better than dealing with the temper tantrums.

As you can guess, we don’t communicate well. I learned to stuff everything. Actually, Mom did, too. We mutter under our breath instead…and then pretend we said something entirely different if, what we muttered, carries farther than we thought it would. A passive-aggressive approach because, living with an alcoholic, you really can’t voice your opinions, your feelings, express your wants or needs. Again, it’s the temper tantrums.

In Al-Anon, “The Serenity Prayer” is often recited:

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardship as the pathway to peace. Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it. Trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His will. That I may be reasonally happy in this life and supremely happy with Him forever in the next.”

I cannot change what our past has been. But, by ignoring the myriad tools that I have been given, through both therapy and Al-Anon, I allow that past to taint the present and the future. I’ve even allowed it to affect my homestead.

Another learned behavior from living with active alcoholism is a skewered perception of what one can and cannot accomplish in an hour, a day, a week, etc. The alcoholic will ask for the impossible and then berate you when you fail. I remember when I was learning to play guitar, my stepfather used to make comments that everyone else he ever knew who played would always have the guitar in their hands. They practiced 6, 7, 8 hours a day…or more. He would then insinuate that maybe I didn’t really want to play, or that I didn’t really have any talent. Though I worked 30+ hours a week, and still managed to practice for 2-3 hours each night after work, in his eyes it wasn’t enough.

Today, no matter how much I do accomplish, it’s still never enough. I am a single woman working this land alone. I know exactly where I want to be but, because I’m not there yet, I often feel ashamed. Because it’s not a fully-working farm yet. Because, like healing from the effects of alcoholism–even someone else’s, homesteading is a journey. And, like healing, there is always room for improvement. I deny myself the gift of that journey.

And, by holding onto these learned behaviors, I also deny myself the gift of my mother, whom I am still blessed to have here on this earth. 40+ years of learned behavior will never likely ever be “unlearned”; this is where I learn to accept the things I cannot change. The only thing I can change is…myself. My own behavior. So I think “Courage to Change” is going to become a daily reader again…along with some regular meetings whenever I can either find a meeting within walking distance…or find the transportation to drive to the nearest one.

“While I am responsible for changing what I can, I have to let go of the rest if I want peace of mind. Just for today I will love myself enough to give up a struggle over something that is out of my hands.” (Courage to Change)

May God bless you & keep you!

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

I’m a Martha

“As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a village where a woman named Martha welcomed them into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat on the floor, listening to Jesus as he talked.
“But Martha was the jittery type, and was worrying over the big dinner she was preparing.
“She came to Jesus and said, ‘Sir, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me’.
“But the Lord said to her, ‘Martha, dear friend, you are so upset over all these details! There is really only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it–and I won’t take it away from her!”
(Luke 10:38-42)

It has been a crazy week here at the Herbal Hare Homestead with goats needing de-worming and, of course, it was Holy Week last week and I’ve spent the better part of the last few days at church, giving the readings for Good Friday and Holy Saturday.

It was a blessing to be able to serve in such a way. The Holy Saturday vigil was done by candlelight and it was a truly beautiful ceremony. As I gave some of the readings, listened to others’, to Father Elson’s homily, and celebrated a young soldier being baptized, receiving First Communion and Confirmation, for the first time in a very long time, I felt my soul filling with His word, His love. For the first time in a very long time, I surrendered my will to Him and placed at least a tentative trust in Him, that He will not lead me astray, but allowed the knowledge that He truly wants the very best for me–for all of us–to fill me.

And yet, I kept glancing at the clock.

Good Friday’s Liturgy was at 3 p.m. Though the service lasted two hours, even walking, I was home by 5:30 p.m. with plenty of time to feed animals and focus on the day-to-day stuff. The walk home was a perfect time to reflect and absorb the beauty of that service. We observed the Stations of the Cross and, while my bad knees screamed some abuse at me after kneeling twice for each station (14 stations in all), all-in-all, peace settled over me and I walked home feeling contented…and looking forward to the following evening’s ceremony.

I have rarely attended a Holy Saturday vigil. Though I am usually home from work early enough to attend, I confess to placing some worldly concerns before it. But, when the request for volunteers to help with the readings came out, I quickly volunteered…and looked forward to it. Again, it was a beautiful service and my heart was moved throughout. But, like the previous evening’s ceremony, it was rather lengthier than a typical Mass and I found myself looking over my shoulder at that clock.

My farm is on a slightly later schedule than most. As I work evenings and do not get home until around 8 o’clock, feeding time is between 8:00 – 8:30 a.m. and p.m. each day. Saturday there is a slight variation on this because my work schedule is earlier; feeding time gets bumped up to around 7:30. As the hands of that clock drew closer and closer to 7:30, I began to get antsy. Goats and rabbits are both prone to bloat and must be kept on a regular schedule. My poor babies must be getting hungry. I wonder if I can slip out as soon as Communion is served without being noticed…(this from the very first pew!). These thoughts, and more, threatened to derail the peace of this Holy Saturday vigil and I found myself thinking about one of the readings given for Palm Sunday last week. It was the story of the two sisters, Martha and Mary, and how Martha complained to Jesus because her sister did not help with the chores but sat at Jesus’ feet and listened. Suddenly, I felt Him knock and I realized that, while I tell myself that, no, I would be more like Mary, listening to His every word and choosing the better part, the truth is, I’m more like Martha. I worry. I stress. I drive myself to distraction over the “little things”…and miss out on the more important things in life. I have my “routines”; heaven help anything that alters those routines. I snap and squabble and mutter under my breath at these alterations.

In short, I have issues.

And it was never more apparent than during that last half hour of the Holy Saturday vigil. My initial reaction to this realization was to pray for His forgiveness for allowing myself to be so distracted by worldly concerns and then asking Him to still my heart that I might let those concerns go, to place them in His much more capable hands. And then I looked at the clock again. It took several attempts to finally draw my attention back to the vigil and truly focus in again on the blessings being given. The enemy of my soul was doing his best to draw my attention away; Jesus kept reminding me, no, look here. I am the Way.

May God bless you & keep you!

Thoughts on This Blogging Thing

It has been seven months of pretty steady blogging. And, wow, what a change in my life this has made. Sure, there have been a few hiccoughs along the way when my postings haven’t been quite as steady: a bout of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (still recovering from that but it’s getting better); the loss of Internet service at home; and, amazingly, once you break a habit, such as a very early rising to write and blog, it is very difficult to get back on that horse again and ride, as they say. But I won’t give up. And I love horses…and blogging.

Obviously, this post is a reflection of these past seven months. Prior to making this commitment, my blog posts were pretty sporadic, spanning months sometimes in between. Now, when I’m away for even a few days, I’m like that hungry bear coming out of hibernation. It’s become like a drug and I need my fix. These seven months have taught me a few things, too.

First, I underestimate myself. And maybe others, too. When I first started, I think the reason my posts were so few and far between was because I didn’t believe I had anything to say that people would want to read. The long list of followers and “likes” for each post that I have received these last several months–both here on WordPress and on my Facebook timeline from friends and family–have proved me wrong. And a big “Thank You!” to all of you for the boost in confidence; the support; and simply for being curious enough to read a post or two in the first place. Also, to the many friends and family members who have “shared” some of my posts.

“In Al-Anon I realized that I had a distorted self-image. I had never thought to question my beliefs, but when I took a good look, I discovered they were untrue.” (Courage to Change, 1992, 192)

Another thing I’ve learned, and there is a little voice of cynicism rippling through as I type this, is there is definitely some truth to that old adage that those closest to you have the toughest time accepting changes in you. In being brutally and painfully honest about the effects of alcoholism and abuse in my past; in sharing political views; in taking a much stronger stand with my blog about animal rights and environmentalism; in staying true to my faith in God and openly sharing that faith, I have alienated many who have been close to me and yet, ironically, found new friends who share my views–in some cases, in places I never would have expected. This last one is a gift because we can never have too many friends.

A difference of opinion can divide the best of friends. I am learning, through blogging, to be more forgiving of those whose reactions in the face of a different opinion may be hostile. I’m learning not to react in kind. A difference of opinion is simply that. A difference. It need not divide us. But I’m also learning to accept that sometimes it does…and not to take it so personally. In short, I’m growing a thicker skin yet being more willing to offer that olive branch in return. Life is too short.

I think the most amazing thing that has happened with blogging, is I am learning to stand up for myself and what I believe in. I hope I am doing so in a respectful way; I have no desire to purposefully alienate anyone…I do enough of that without trying. (chuckle) But I am no longer as afraid to rock the proverbial boat. My thoughts, feelings, views and opinions may be in the minority in some circles. But I truly have learned to say, “That’s okay”, and really mean it. I now share those feelings, thoughts, opinions and views anyway. And not as a heart-on-my-sleeve victim but simply as a fellow human being with a voice that no longer wishes to be silent. And, really, I think that’s what writing is all about: having something to say. Whether it is a blog, such as this one, a news story, a textbook or even a story made up expressly for the purpose of entertaining, writers are good with words. I hope I am…and this blog is good means of exercising that creative muscle.

As for homesteading? This blog has been good medicine for that, too. I know where I want to go, where I want to be but, for years, I have allowed others to sometimes influence of bit of my direction. If there is anyone more of a non-conformist as me, I’d truly like to meet them. While more and more people turn back to the land because of a distrust of what’s in our food and what sort of damage is being done to the environment, I am in the minority even further being a single female doing this homesteading thing and, while I raise animals, I do NOT raise them for meat. That’s a complete anomaly. They are here for eggs or dairy, or fiber for spinning, depending on the animal; they give me free fertilizer for the garden; companionship, love and laughter. That’s enough. But it has taken me seven months of steady blogging to be able to write this and to say it aloud, and to not care if people don’t “get it”. This is part of who I am and I make no apology for it.

A friend sent me something that I copied on a little Post-It note that has been attributed to author Anais Nin. I don’t know if she really said this or not but it fits: The time came that to remain in a tight bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”

May God bless you & keep you!

Works Cited

“Courage to Change” Al-Anon Conference Approved Literature. Al-Anon, Virginia: 1992

Walking the Walk–Literally

I have long been extolling the virtues of choosing to walk or ride a bicycle rather than driving everywhere. When the Lenten season started, one of the vows I made was, as soon as we turned the clocks ahead and it was light enough out after work, I would start walking to and from the dealership. This probably doesn’t do much for auto sales but I have always walked to the beat of my own drum–no pun intended. And it’s all for a good cause.

However, I have not lived up to this vow…until I got pulled over by a policeman coming from the local grocery store. Now I had just pulled away from the traffic light so there was no way I could’ve gotten up to “speeding” and I did not peel out. Lights are working. Turn signal was on. I admit I was stymied.

The car was unregistered. (What?) It seems I have been driving around in Mom’s uninsured and unregistered vehicle for over a year now. (How the heck did I dodge that bullet for so long???) Though we had a current registration and insurance card sitting in the glove box, the DMV had dropped the registration after Nationwide dropped our policy for lack of payment. Mom was also mystified. She’s been making payments. What happened? Sadly, Mom was a recent victim of ID theft. Payments, of roughly the same amount, have been going to a cellphone company for someone in California. Mom saw the payment coming out but did not notice the name of the organization pulling the payment. And Nationwide did not send her notification that she was falling behind. A trip to the DMV revealed we cannot renew the registration in Mom’s name because she can no longer drive with her cataracts and does not have a valid license anymore. So I’ve been “grounded” so to speak…until we can find a way to get this thing valid again. And, as if that wasn’t enough, the car will not start. We suspect the battery. So we have a few obstacles to overcome. But it has also been a good turning point for me in this campaign to reduce my carbon footprint.

We live in rural CT so the roughly uniform city block is not a part of our immediate world. However, as The Herbal Hare Homestead sits just on the edge of the business district of the town, we are close enough to my work, the feed store, the post office, the library, town hall, church, and even the local Walmart so that this walking thing isn’t really so bad. The toughest part is the huge hill that leads from my neighbor’s farm down into that commercial area. It’s mostly downhill on the way into town but I am finding myself woefully out of shape traversing that uphill climb on the way home.

But I’m not complaining. When all is said and done, I should have lost this extra 30 lbs. I’ve been lamenting, improved my circulation greatly, saved money on gasoline and wear and tear of the car–because I don’t intend to start driving locally even after this glitch is resolved–and, yes, reduced my carbon footprint on the world.

The good Lord works in mysterious ways. I’ll admit to a bit of an “Oh, Lord, why me?” reaction after this citation (and, yes, the nice officer did cite me but, coming from a family of police officers, it’s all good; he’s just doing his job and it’s good to see). Now I am seeing some of the benefits of it. Even Mom asked me last night, “Isn’t walking or riding a bike part of homesteading?” Who-hoo! Yes, it is.

May God bless you & keep you!

The Minimalist Challenge – Update

I posted about this back in December after reading about The Minimalist Challenge on Treehugger.com. For those who missed the post, The Minimalist Challenge is taking a month and on the 1st of the month, you donate/recycle, etc. one item you no longer have a use for. On the 2nd day, you donate/recycle two items. And so on and so forth. By the end of a month you should have donated, recycled, or as a last resort, properly disposed of 465 to 496 unwanted items (depending on whether your month has 30 or 31 days in it; less if you’re doing the challenge in February and its 28/29 days).

I started mine in December. There’s probably a reason why everyone on Treehugger was doing theirs in November; December is fraught with all those last minute holly-jolly Christmas details. And, I confess, it was not easy to navigate around bags of clothes slated for goodwill while also navigating around various homemade Christmas gift projects and such. But it is a worthy investment of my time. So I carried on. We’re almost into March and I’m still not done.

No, I haven’t completely emptied the house. Far from it. In truth, halfway through December, I stopped counting the number of items vs. the date because, once I got into this early spring cleaning mode, well, it has been more important simply to clean, organize and, yes, minimalize. I have a long way to go. Instead of opening my closet and taking out 2 shirts for the 2nd of December, I’ve simply gone through the closet and taken out everything I haven’t worn in over a year. It has started a fever. And, because my daily schedule is so all over the place, it is being done in small chunks. It is actually proving to be the better way because I’m not feeling as overwhelmed as I would if I did it all at once.

Of course, I’m not 100% sure I’m doing this all correctly. The frugal fanatic over here has found herself re-purposing a lot of things. Old T-shirts have been folded into a laundry basket to be reworked into throw pillows. The collars may be frayed but a throw pillow proudly proclaiming: “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman” (one of my favorite shows of all-time), or commemorating the “RISPCA” dog walk I almost participated in years ago (long story involving 2 new St. Bernards with minimal leash training and a line of horses walking across our path…and the tree Bear almost pulled me into in his quest to investigate these larger-than-he-was animals…). In short, I am finding that, while I may not wear some of these items anymore, there’s a sentiment, a memory attached that has me re-purposing rather than donating or disposing. The same is true for some old canning jars, bits of yarn, buttons, etc. that might be used as part of a craft. However, re-purposing is along the lines of recycling so maybe it’s all good after all. What I do keep/re-purpose can be organized so that it ceases to be “clutter”.

Either way, I’m having the time of my life. It is actually liberating. And, as I come to the end of another term with SNHU, and await the next one starting on March 6th, I am looking forward to finally finishing this minimalist challenge with the few days I have between terms. This has been a wonderful experience. Maybe I’ll start another one in the fall…or hang a shingle up as a “professional organizer”; it might be the perfect line of work for someone with OCD.

May God bless you & keep you!