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Another Chapter

“A merry doeth good like a medicine, but a broken spirit makes one sick” (Proverbs 17:22)

I turned 54 the Friday before Thanksgiving. I started my day with a cuppa tea and a steady stream of Weird Al Yankovic videos from YouTube.

Odd.

No, I wasn’t jonesing because, as I grow ever deeper into my 50s, I cannot help but grow more aware of things like aging and mortality………

Okay.

Maybe just a little.

But who couldn’t use a little humor on their birthday?

And, if I’m really being honest, I’ve always had a “thing” for Weird Al. He’s my brand of sexy. And, as he was a bachelor for quite a number of years, well, he’s not now, but hope bloomed steady in this heart for those numbers of years (chuckle). As if…

Sigh.

No, I’m not jonesing that he’s been a seemingly happily married man for some time now. I wish he and the Mrs. many more happy years. If I had to analyze my musical choices on the birthday, I would say, if any jonesing, it was the trip down memory lane that many of his videos evoked: Donny Osmond, Florence Henderson, Michael Jackson…so many of the icons of my youth grace his videos, or inspired them. So much so that the real jonesing flourished alongside the chuckles over his cleverly written, tongue-in-cheek lyrics.

Damn. I’m getting old.

Eventually I turned off the TV and headed upstairs to spend some much-needed time with my characters. And there I stayed, hacking out another chapter in the literary desert, praying that with God’s grace, this book will be one of many. Perhaps someday another individual will read a few chapters on their 54th birthday and feel some of the same emotions as I did watching Weird Al’s videos: hope, humor, awe, humility, nostalgia, and yes, even some low-key depression.

In the meantime, I have continued to ponder life. I’ve been looking back over the years. Seeing all that I’ve done, all that I’ve accomplished…at least in terms of academics. It’s time to put to use the college degree, the myriad certifications, and live the life of my dreams. There is no room in the heart of the faithful for fear. And I’ve allowed it to take root and stay.

Time to clean house.

Looks like my birthday spent with Weird Al had a bit of a cathartic effect, too. Here’s to another 54 years, give or take, and a merry heart finally ready to follow the path that God has been nudging me towards before it’s too late.

What dreams are you holding in your heart but too afraid to follow? Time to clean house and give the adversary the boot.

May God bless you & keep you!

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Which Way Do We Go, Which Way Do We Go?

Rest in the Lord; wait patiently for Him to act. Don’t be envious of evil men who prosper. (Psalms 37:7)

Scatter Syndrome (skah’ ter sin drohm) 1. The inability to focus on that one thing owing to the over-eagerness of having so many options. 2. When the mind leaps from one option or opportunity to the next like a squirrel leaping from branch to branch in a tree. 3. The anxiety and subsequent exhaustion that results from considering too many of those options at once to the point of being overwhelmed and then getting absolutely NOTHING done so you crawl off feeling like a failure again. 4. All of the above.

No, I don’t believe that’s really a term. And I can’t claim I just made it up either because I got it from a friend. However, I’d like to think I’m at least one of the first to formally give it a potential dictionary meaning.

Now that I’ve graduated college with a Bachelor’s of Art in Creative Writing with an Emphasis on Fictional Writing, the world, supposedly, is at my feet. At least that’s what all the recruiters tell you as you sign the agreement at said university. In addition to a multitude of creative writing workshops, grammar and composition, literature, poetry and linguistics, I studied grant writing, business writing, entrepreneurship, art, advertising, and, of course, environmental science. This last encompassed the bulk of my electives.

So, where do I go now?

Of course, my main objective is to finish my book. But, in the meantime, I’m thinking I need to focus on some other aspects of writing, such as short stories, articles, etc. that I can finish quickly and send off to a potential editor for publication. I’m trying to focus on my writing as a business as much as an art. Though I’m leaning more towards self-publishing where my book is concerned, I would like to get my name out there. And, who knows? Maybe, in time, I’ll land a publishing deal after all.

Get an agent.

That was a steady stream of advise from nearly every college professor. But, as someone who is staring down the road to foreclosure right now (I’m behind more than the amount for which the Go Fund Me campaign was created), paying said agent would be next to impossible.

Then there is the zoning issue that I’ve recently come up against so that even if I could get right-side up on the mortgage, I would have to forfeit the heart of this homestead (the animals who share it with me) in order to stay. The attorney I consulted with over a decade ago–before I brought home my first dozen chicks and ducklings–either gave me some bad advise, or this new neighbor is throwing his weight around at the town hall. The attorney costs money, too. As does relocation. So, some of that scatter syndrome probably stems from the pressure to produce and succeed in a hurry. And it doesn’t help that his wife hides in the bushes bordering our two properties, craning her neck for…something? Gladys Kravitz has reincarnated. Maybe it’s time to twitch my nose and find my inner Samantha Stevens.

Financial challenges aside, yes, I do want to focus on my book, on my writing, first and foremost. But there’s also the homesteading and prepping that started years ago and all the myriad directions that I’d love to take it. There’s the original premise for The Herbal Hare: a business producing herbal, apian, and hand-spun/woven fiber products. There’s a second-hand spinning wheel downstairs that needs some TLC to get it moving again. It’s not the Walking/Great Wheel that I learned on and dream of owning, but it has potential…even if I do not have the fiber-producing animals yet. A loom and loom tool (smaller spinning wheel used for filling bobbins for the shuttle) are beyond me right now, but definitely hovering on the radar. There’s a shed full of bee equipment gathering dust. And dozens of seed packets and catalogs to plant that extensive herb garden for making those herbal products, selling plants and seeds, and teaching workshops on herbs. I’m even considering a YouTube channel for the same. I’d like to add some microgreens and sprouts to the list in time. There are visions of a market garden down the road. And a small garden patch planted with rye for drying and braiding the straw for making hats–a skill I never would have guessed at, a gift from my time in living history. As is the interest in lace making, which I have also tried and proven to have some proficiency in producing.

There’s an easel gathering dust. And a stack of books checked out from the library, where I currently work part-time, focused on drawing and art. There’s a guitar, amp, and Appalachian dulcimer equally dusty. Can I do something with either of those? I have a good voice. I spent over a decade fronting metal bands and I’ve served as both a member of our church choir and Lector for many years. (And, damn, if I don’t regret not taking a public speaking class during my tenure at SNHU…if it was even offered via online learning). I’m thinking voiceovers…albeit, that would require equipment I can’t afford at present, another agent, and it would take away much of the energy that I should be focusing on writing.

See? Scatter Syndrome. Twenty different directions to take and continuing to circle back to my true passion: writing, and the very real need to secure home and hearth before too much more time elapses. If this keeps up, I may find myself 90 years old and still circling.

Sigh.

Despite all of this circling, I rearranged the upstairs of my house. I used to have my office in the center bedroom where I painted a mural on the wall depicting a homestead with those fiber-producing animals, an extensive herb garden, lots of bee hives, and me standing triumphant in front of a PC whose screen shouts “BEST SELLER”. As the holistic woo-woo guru, I thought it might aid in manifesting my dreams but, I feel like it has kept me stagnant. The original intent when I painted it was to paint a house that resembled my paternal grandparents’ house, as it will forever be my happy place. I remember my irritation that I couldn’t quite get the roof line correct and, not wanting to wreck something that would forever be displayed on the wall of my house, I left it slightly “off” and continued on. Over the last couple of years since I painted it, I’ve realized that despite the white with black trim color scheme, and the dormer windows, that skewered roof line is this roof line…as is the positioning of the barn with my current barn. If it wasn’t for the new neighbor, I could have this dream here. There’s room enough. But alas…

Another sigh.

So, I’ve moved the office. And there’s a white board awaiting it’s first assignment in getting that much closer to my dreams…once I kick ol’ Scatter Syndrome to the curb and discipline that focus in its place.

May God bless you & keep you!

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Stay tuned…

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

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

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Prepping

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

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

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

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

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

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

And what about my faith? You ask.

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

Our healthcare system is broken.

Our economic system is broken.

Our housing system is broken.

Our educational system is broken.

Our election process is broken.

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

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

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

I’m done with it.

I’m not ashamed of my God.

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

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

May God bless you & keep you!

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Spreading Hope

“A cheerful heart does good like medicine, but a broken spirit makes one sick.” (Proverbs 17:22)

We are overwhelmed.

As a nation.

As a people.

As a world.

It’s like we took the flu epidemic of 1918 and The Great Depression of the 1930’s, mixed them in a bowl, tossed it into a microwave, and let it explode out. It’s all too easy to imagine martial law, and even the outbreak of another civil war, as fear and worry and, sadly, blame takes hold…and fights to stay.

There is no one person to blame for this. It simply is. We can charge that maybe this elected official, or that one, didn’t act swiftly enough, didn’t take things seriously enough, etc. I understand. How many times in the past has our media hyped up a flu virus only to have the hype be so much larger than the reality?

This time is different however.

We’ve never shutdown our whole nation over a pandemic before…at least not since 1918. Businesses are closing. People are out of work. We don’t know when we might safely return. And we have bills to pay. I get it. We all do…at least I hope so, even if we would rather deny it.

We also have loved ones who could easily be listed among the most vulnerable. Maybe they’re elderly. Maybe they have asthma. Or emphysema. Or COPD. Maybe they’re on dialysis or chemotherapy. Maybe they’ve had a spleen removed. Or struggle with diabetes or an autoimmune disease. Now is not the time to get overly optimistic. Such optimism, taking the stance that we can go out again in a couple of weeks, could put those loved ones at risk. Again, I get it. We still have those bills to pay, a roof to keep overhead, etc.

Please…breathe, just breathe. Worry is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to “do” but it doesn’t get you anywhere…even during a pandemic.

Despite this grim outlook, we really are all in this together. Though Congress seems intent on making this a political thing…no matter which side of the aisle we stand on…still, Congress members, our president, the White House, our local officials, etc. have all been risking their own safety to work round the clock to find a solution to these challenges. Have they succeeded? It may be too early to tell. I believe the efforts have probably fallen short of the mark. Do I trust that all of them have our best interest at heart? No. However, we haven’t seen either a health pandemic, or the risk of an economic depression, this strong in over 90 years. I’d wager our elected officials are as overwhelmed and frightened as we are.

If you’re reading this, you’re alive and, hopefully, still well. I’m going to also hope that, at least for the moment, you have enough to eat, a roof overhead, etc. If all of this is true, give thanks…to God, to Allah, to Buddha, Goddess, etc. It’s one day at a time, one step at a time. If you’re reading this, you also probably know someone who is taking this pretty hard. Pray for them and, if they’ll allow it, with them. Now is not the time to argue religious doctrine anymore than it’s the time to further political agendas. Do you have extra canned goods/non-perishables? We can safely put together care packages by washing our hands carefully first and then washing/wiping those cans and packages before packing them into a box, a tote, a bag and leaving them anonymously on the doorstep of a friend or neighbor in need. Make sure to include a note stating the precautions you took to keep everything clean. If you’re one of the people hoarding toilet paper, you might also include a couple of rolls of that (chuckle). By such selfless acts, we can inspire hope in those who are beyond scared.

Including ourselves.

Such acts of kindness make us feel better…which can actually boost our immunity. It also breaks the cycle of scarcity and want in our communities. It lets others know that their neighbors are watching, seeing their added struggles, their fear, and reaching out to help in the best way possible right now. It chases away the loneliness in our isolation, inspires hope for a new day tomorrow.

If nothing else, I am offering up a challenge to everyone reading this. If you are spending a lot of time on social media, you know that there is a lot of negativity being shared throughout. Instead of sharing the negativity, lets look for the news’ stories of the heroes in our communities. They may be few and far between, because coronavirus is getting the bulk of the coverage, but keep looking. If your mayor, your governor, etc. has stepped up to the plate in a way that is above and beyond the call of duty, share it. If you know of any programs in your state, or community, that might help those in need, share that information. Start a prayer chain via email, text message, etc. with those in your worship community, and share that. If your neighbor left that box of groceries on your doorstep, share it. And keep sharing it. It may not do anything to heal coronavirus, but it may be enough to heal anxious hearts and get them focusing on the positive. We will get through this! We’ve got to believe. Do you believe? Are you up to the challenge? I have faith that you are. Again, we’re all in this together…and together, we can be unstoppable.

May God bless you & keep you!

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Weathering This Storm

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

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

It wasn’t always this way though.

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

Lesson learned.

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

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

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

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

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

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

We WILL get through this.

We have to BELIEVE.

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

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

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

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

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

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

May God bless you & keep you!

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Shutdown

“Rich and poor are alike in this: each depends on God for light.” (Proverbs 29:13)

I’m of two minds in this pandemic crisis. Yes, I believe it is serious. Yes, I believe we do have to isolate to prevent the spread of this coronavirus. However, I also think there’s an extra hype being built around it that may just have its roots in the political scene. I know that sounds all conspiracy-theorist and, maybe there’s a doubting Thomas in me that just doesn’t want to believe it, but I am worried that this over-hyped coverage will continue to empty grocery store shelves and cause an economic panic that will make the Great Depression of the 1930’s look like a walk in the park. However, like the 1930’s I hope we haven’t forgotten how to pull together as a people and help our neighbor along the way…because we’re all in this together, worldwide.

The Herbal Hare is a homestead first and foremost. It’s funny. Mom and I aren’t overly worried about ourselves but the many animals who share this homestead with us. Though I am loathe to give in to the panic, I also sent a silent prayer of thanks that we recently received our month’s wages (library pays once a month). It allowed me to take a trip yesterday morning to the local feed stores. I stocked up on poultry and goat feed, cat food and litter. As we’re down to only one rabbit, she has enough feed left to get her through several weeks. However, I did order a delivery of hay today.

And breathed a sigh of relief after I got it stacked and realized, as long as things don’t go all wonky later on down the road, we should weather this okay. I also bought some extra groceries for Mom and I…just in case.

So here we are hunkering down, preparing for the worst but hoping for the best.

Like so many other places, the library closed its doors last night at 7 p.m. until further notice. We took the added precaution of isolating any returned books, disinfecting them, and setting them aside. Because we will be home for an extended amount of time, I also stocked up on reading material for Mom and I. We have cards and games. I have my classwork, a book to write, and, as we’re heading into spring, I have a goat barn to finish cleaning and repairing, vegetables to get started for planting out later in the season, and fruit trees to prune. I’m hoping to use this unforeseen vacation of sorts to get caught up on things around home.

And now we wait.

I confess, I’ve also broken some Lenten vows. I brought home some fiction and, as we rely on Roku for media, YouTube is our window on the world.

To stay healthy, we all need nutritious food, adequate sleep, exercise and fresh air. Malls and movie theaters may be forbidden right now, but there’s no reason we can’t take a walk around the block. If we run into someone, a hello in passing won’t hurt us either. If you have a neighbor who is elderly and/or has mobility issues, it won’t hurt to check on them to make sure they have enough to eat…or medications if they need them…even if you just leave them on the stoop for them and both of you make sure to wash your hands thoroughly afterwards. It’s not a plague; it’s a particularly nasty flu virus. Yes, it is serious. But, even in crises, we are a community.

Or we should be…as long as we use common sense and follow the instructions our medical experts are giving us.

Though most of us have a remote connection to each other via this thing called the Internet, it is important to remember that, amazingly, some of us do not have Internet. Again, the elderly are often less likely to have it. Being asked to stay home can be particularly hard on them. If you have older relatives, and/or relatives/friends out of state, this forced shutdown might be a good time to pick up the phone and call. It won’t spread any germs and it will brighten someone’s day.

Just some thoughts. I hope everyone weathers this well. I hope those who are sick, heal.

May God bless you & keep you!

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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!

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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!

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Down and Out

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May God bless you & keep you!

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