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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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Racism in America and Demonizing Poverty

“Anyone who oppresses the poor is insulting God who made them. To help the poor is to honor God.” (Proverbs 14:31)

Kudos! to Tulsi Gabbard and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez for introducing legislation that would put money into the hands of the American people during this pandemic that has our economy floundering, at best. And, in these very frightening and trying times, I’m going to surprise a lot of Democrat friends by giving President Trump some credit. He is running with it, trying to get money into the hands of the American people who are struggling right now. He even went so far as to reach out to former Democratic candidate, Andrew Yang, to learn more about Yang’s signature platform, Universal Basic Income, or as Yang called it, The Freedom Dividend.

Now, before my Democratic friends think I’ve turned coat, or lost my marbles, no, one good deed does not override countless bad ones. He’s still calling it the “Chinese” virus and, sadly, many Asian Americans have been physically attacked because of it. CNN reports on it here: https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/20/us/coronavirus-racist-attacks-against-asian-americans/index.html. (And before all the accusations of “fake” news circulate, I also have an Asian acquaintance who has experienced this herself first hand) Racism wears many faces and fear-mongering blows it out of the ballpark. We are all in this together. And many of our Asian neighbors have, or will, contract Covid-19 the same as Caucasians, Native Americans/Alaskans, Latinos, Hispanics, African Americans, LGBTQ, Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Wiccan, athiest, etc. In short, while we may still be spouting racist dialogue here in America, Covid-19 does not discriminate. If you are calling this the Chinese virus and are reading this, please STOP…NOW! Our fellow Americans are not the cause of this virus. The first case may have been diagnosed in China; it does not make every Asian in the world responsible for a whole pandemic.

I am sensible enough to know that President Trump’s main motivation may simply be to gain approval from everyone and garner some more votes in November. However, it’s the right thing to do. And it doesn’t really matter how he got to this point. He simply did. Whether you agree with me or not, nobody is all bad. We each have dark and light moving for dominance in us at all times. It’s the choices we make that define us. And, again, most of the choices President Trump has made thus far have been bad ones…very bad. But that’s not the point of this post. I am giving kudos! to President Trump for reaching across the proverbial aisle, for putting partisan interests aside and being willing to work with others to help this country.

Sadly, I can’t say the same for members of Congress, on both sides of the political aisle, who want to drag their asses about passing said legislature to test means and decide who should be eligible. While I agree someone making 6 figures per year probably doesn’t need an extra $1000 a month to weather this pandemic, there’s also been some talk on various news’ programs that some of the discussion/hold up is to decide if people making less than $25K a year should receive assistance??!!?

The rationale behind this cruelty is that those in extreme poverty aren’t contributing enough to society under normal circumstances. They’re people who don’t want to work. They’re lazy; why should they benefit? All of the many EXCUSES that so many in our society dream up to justify cold-hearted cruelty to our fellow man.

First of all, the media lies. Our president does, too. Our economy is NOT booming…nor was it before Covid-19 reared its ugly head. GDP and Unemployment Insurance (UI) numbers do not reflect the true state of our economic affairs. Lower UI numbers simply mean less people are collecting UI benefits.

Period.

Are they truly back to work? Or did they simply exhaust those benefits without actually finding employment? Did they give up and simply not file another claim, having become despondent and depressed owing to the true state of our current job market?

I can relate. I’ve been in this job market. And it’s not pretty. The majority of the jobs out there are part-time, seasonal, temporary and/or minimum wage. The full-time, decent-paying positions are few and far between…and usually go to younger workers, i.e. under 50. A lot of industries are disappearing, too. Those of us with a career history in administration and tech support are no longer needed. Those jobs, thanks to modern technology, went overseas where companies can save on the cost of wages and medical benefits. The same is true for customer service. Automation is stealing retail positions, cashiers–how many of you have gone through self-checkout at the local grocery or department store?

Minimum wage in Connecticut recently went up to $11.00 an hour; it is expected to rise again to $13.00 in September. If you’re fortunate enough to be earning considerably more than this per hour, think about how much you might be struggling at $11.00 based upon your current monthly expenses. I know I’m being redundant from an earlier post, but let’s do the math again. $11.00 X 40 hours per week (if you’re lucky) = $440.00 before taxes, etc. are removed. If you’re full-time, you’re also fortunate enough to receive medical insurance through your company. So, to make this easy, let’s say you’re taking home $330.00 a week. It might be more, it might be less, but you get the idea. That comes to $1320.00 per month and, in Connecticut at least, the average rental is around $1000 per month. Again, it might be more, it might be less but, unless Auntie Mimi is renting you the in-law apartment she has dirt-cheap, there’s probably not much left over once the rent is paid. Or mortgage, depending upon your situation. Some of us once had better paying positions that made us eligible to purchase our own home…positions that The Great Recession took away.

I did this redundant exercise to prove a point: there are many, many Americans earning less than $25K per year, who will not receive a stimulus, if those Congressional “leaders” have their way. They are not earning less than $25K because they don’t want to work. They are earning less than $25K because the work isn’t there. Or, at the very least, the wages. They are earning less than $25K because our country has NOT fully recovered from The Great Recession of 2008. It is all too easy to envision, not another recession, but a depression that makes The Great Depression of the 1930’s look like a walk in the park.

This is a pandemic, folks. This is human life we’re talking about here. And an economy that needs sustaining while businesses shutdown to help preserve our lives. People, regardless of their income, need fresh food, clean water, medicine, etc to weather this medical storm. They need to pay their bills. They need to keep the roof overhead. It shouldn’t be conditional based upon the impaired vision of those who continue to look down their nose at those less fortunate than they.

Yes, looking down the nose.

We have such a stigma against poverty. Our society is guilty, even during a pandemic, of judging others based upon how much they earn. So many never stop to consider why that person may not earn that much.

America is supposed to be the land of opportunity. Yes, we have awesome colleges. Ditto for trade schools. Yet, sadly, many high school students are often dissuaded against going to a trade school rather than university. I guess the idea of getting your hands dirty is equated the same as poverty: it’s somehow beneath us. However, even in economic strife, we may still need the brakes fixed on our cars, or the furnace tinkered with to make sure we have heat this winter. These positions often start at $20.00 per hour, sometimes more. Had we encouraged that high school student to pursue a career as a tradesman, maybe they wouldn’t be hurting so bad in a tough economy. Not everyone is cut out to be a doctor or a lawyer…or even a school teacher.

There’s also a lot behind poverty that has everything to do with extenuating circumstances rather than personal ambition (or the perceived lack thereof). I once received a video in an email…and I wish I knew who filmed it so I could give credit where it’s due…that placed a couple of dozen young people in a line. It was supposed to be like a starting line to a race. The young people came from all walks of life, varying socio-economic backgrounds, male and female, African American, Asian, etc. At this “starting line”, if all things remained equal, they would each have a good chance of winning that race. However, the person hosting this short film asked every person in that line, if any of them came from families where their parents had divorced, to take a step back. The ladies were also asked to take a step back. They went on to ask every non-Caucasian person to take a step back. Every family who had been affected by alcoholism, drug abuse, suicide, physical, mental, and/or sexual abuse, etc. You get the picture. And, suddenly, that starting line was pretty uneven.

Many of us are like that. Though my western European ancestors won out in the gene pool, I can claim Native American heritage. That’s a step back. I am female. I could take a step back for alcoholism, mental and sexual abuse, divorce, suicide (aunt; father attempted a few times). We were low-income. I spent a number of years living in the inner-city (Yes, neighborhood/community was one of the steps back, too).

None of these factors were the fault of these young people. Yet we point the fingers and judge others for making what we, in our biased and narrow visions, consider poor “choices”.

If you grew up being told how stupid you were, do you think you’d think highly enough about yourself to shoot for a full scholarship to a university? If you were laughed at and bullied (another step back) in school, are you going to extend yourself and risk further ridicule? Not everyone rises to the occasion in an expression of defiance against the box they’ve been initially placed in. Or, if you were perpetually put down at home, abused in some way, etc. would you have that sense of self-worth that keeps you from entering into another abusive relationship? Oftentimes, when you’ve grown up with abuse, another abuser is what I call a comfortable-familiar. You have instant rapport because they’re just like the parent/sibling, etc who abused you and that gives you a false sense of security that the abuser will feed on perpetually to keep you with them.

In truth, if you’re poor in America, our society is going to continue to abuse you. This debate about whether or not extremely low-income families should receive this stimulus is proof of that.

I don’t remember the video talking about physical or mental limitations but it’s been awhile. We could also ask those who are blind, deaf, in a wheelchair, stricken with asthma or diabetes, etc. to take a step back. If you sustained an injury somewhere along life’s course, or have developed an autoimmune disease, if you’re older and have developed one or more of those conditions that come with age (macular degeneration, arthritis, etc.), you can probably take a step back, too. Because a stimulus that refuses to help those below a certain economic level will look at your SSI check and find you wanting.

And what about the value of that stay-at-home parent or caregiver? Or the person who chose life and has grown a rather large family? Apparently, you’re not worthy of a stimulus either.

And that’s just wrong…on every level imaginable.

In the hour or so it has taken me to write this, things may have changed. More compassionate hearts may have prevailed and, maybe, just maybe, even low-income families will receive the help they need to survive while we all stay quarantined in our homes to prevent the spread of this Covid-19.

I hope so. I hope that in this unprecedented pandemic reaction that families do not have to further compromise their immunity by stressing over how they’re going to pay the rent, or mortgage. I hope that families will not have to choose between food and medicine, but be able to choose both. In short, I hope that lawmakers, and those who have more, will make a good choice this time: a choice to save lives everywhere…rather than continue the abuse against those less fortunate. I hope, instead of looking down the narrow curve of one’s nose, we look the face of poverty straight in the eye, place a bowl of homemade soup in front of it, a warm, cozy quilt about the shoulders, and say, I believe in you. You are worthy of His love…and mine. You are worthy of consideration. Now let’s finish this race together.

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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It’s Definitely NOT Like the Movies

“A man that strays from home is like a bird that wanders from its nest.” (Proverbs 27:8)

In my last post, I mentioned how seasonal allergies had left me feeling blehck! Well, over the last couple of days, seasonal allergies morphed into a little something more than just feeling blehck!. Tuesday evening post-nasal drip, headache and plugged ears added fever and chills to the mix. No, I don’t have coronovirus (don’t get me started on that one!). However, I do have some kind of virus. I went to bed early Tuesday evening, around 9 p.m., and slept through until 8 a.m with only one bathroom break around 2 a.m. I got up, took care of the farm, sank exhaustedly into the easy chair in the living room afterwards, and dozed some more. Needless to say, when I went back to bed Wednesday evening, I became the insomniac. And I did exactly what sleep experts say you shouldn’t do:

I picked up my cellphone and web surfed (blue light is supposed to trick your brain into thinking it’s daytime and actually wakes you up, making it harder to fall asleep).

I was good. I stayed away from Facebook, one of my Lenten vows. Instead, I opted to do some genealogical searching. In times’ past, I’ve typed in the names of grandparents and great-grandparents and found some pretty cool stuff. Like, I always knew my maternal grandfather was one of 18 children (yes, 18…) but I never knew all of their names. I once found a census record that listed the names of all my great-aunts and uncles. I found a great-aunt Doris (now one of three great-aunt Dorises) who died in infancy. I knew my maternal grandfather had a sister named Viola (I also knew her; she died when I was in my early-20’s), but there had also been a Violet who died when she was just a little girl. In fact, later scrolling had led to a confusion of these two great-aunties, though two very separate dates of birth existed. Another time, I googled my paternal grandfather’s father’s name and found this really cool article on The Outlet Co. in Providence, Rhode Island that talked about Mortimer Burbank’s history with their radio station…and the elephants he arranged for a parade through the streets of Providence. My great-grandfather eventually became owner of The Outlet Co., which in turn, passed to my grandfather. Before his passing, my Poppop (my nickname for my grandfather) liquidated everything to put into a trust for my Aunt Marjorie, who was a lot like Dustin Hoffman’s character in the movie, Rainman. It served her well until her passing several years’ ago.

I’m not sure what made me google my father’s name Wednesday evening but I did.

His obituary came up. He died a year ago, March 6, 2019.

Now, before everyone starts scratching their head in confusion, I have not seen my father since my paternal grandmother’s passing in 1976. He pretty much severed all contact with his family after her passing, except for a brief visit to his sister, my Aunt Nancy, down in Mississippi that ended with that tie also severed shortly thereafter.

Anyway, Wednesday evening, after more searching to ascertain that this obituary really was my father’s, and not another man by the same name, I called his one surviving sister, my Aunt Sandy, to tell her the news. Like so many other times, I wished we lived closer. I wanted to reach out and give her a big hug. Words can be awkward things at times like these. We expressed regret that every attempt at reconciliation had been rebuffed over the years. And acknowledged that what were the chances of finding out about his passing in such a way. Then we moved on to other topics (my new job as librarian; my cousin’s successful kidney transplant–praise the Lord!) before circling back to the original intent of the call.

Again, I really wanted to hug my aunt.

I’ve been grappling with telling this story ever since.

My father was a late child for my grandparents. He was the youngest of 5 children and the only boy. He was also 10 years’ younger than the youngest of the girls–my Aunt Sandy–and, by everyone’s admission, terribly spoiled. My grandfather, sadly, was already an alcoholic by the time he was born and didn’t have a lot of time for my father. My grandmother overcompensated by often giving my father what he wanted. And, of course, he had 4 older sisters doting on him.

He was also an extraordinary guitarist.

I don’t consider my own playing ability “extraordinary” but I get my love of music from him. One of the few childhood memories I have of my father was creeping into his room to listen and watch him play. A few times he put the guitar in my hand and tried to teach me. The first time, I was still too small and my arms wouldn’t even go all the way around the guitar. Later, tender, young fingers protested the necessary pressure needed on the strings to make a clear, ringing sound (Ouch!). Such quality father-daughter moments were few and far between however.

My parents were wed in August of 1966; I was born in November of the same year. My mother had been in an accident as a young girl. She had been riding in the back of a pick-up truck when it collided with another vehicle. She flew. The doctors said she’d never have children (she should’ve sued). Doubtless, she told my father this, and so, he was unprepared when he found out that she was carrying me. From Mom, from both paternal and maternal aunts and uncles, he turned abusive, obviously resenting this forced responsibility (in those days, folks didn’t have a couple of kids and then get married…). In his defense, he may have felt “trapped”. But it does not excuse the many horror stories I have heard throughout the years of my mother being knocked down flights of stairs, having her stomach burned with a Zippo lighter, etc. all with the intent of forcing a miscarriage.

Before I go further, if my Aunt Sandy, or any other family member is reading this, I don’t write these things to hurt, or embarrass, anyone. And I apologize here and now, with a full heart, for any pain that reading this causes. It’s just that the hurt from someone does not stop with the grave and I need to acknowledge it to let it finally go. And, I promise, there are also some good memories and anecdotes as well. Nobody is all good or all bad; we each have a little of both in us.

I don’t remember my father living in the same house with me at all. He and my mother legally separated 4 months’ after I was born, though their divorce would not be final until 1974. There were a few attempts at reconciliation but they never took. I saw my father in passing on the weekends I spent at my paternal grandparents’ house, which were loving, magical times because of the love I received from them, my Aunt Marjorie, and from my other aunts, uncles, cousins who came visiting. “In passing” because, though he lived with his parents again after he and my mother separated, and though I ran shrieking “Daddy!” joyfully every time he came in the door, I usually received a non-committal acknowledgement of my greeting. If I was lucky, a pat on the head as he quickly ran upstairs to his room and shut the door.

Obviously, by one of the earlier paragraphs, the door didn’t always stay closed. He never chased me out when I came to listen to him play and he even talked to me sometimes…albeit in the same monosyllables as his greetings. He did put together a dollhouse for me once.

By far, my fondest memory comes from a weekend afternoon when I was about 6 years’ old. My father, grandmother and I squeezed into his little MG convertible sports’car and traveled to a farm up in Rehoboth, Massachusetts where my father boarded a couple of horses. Bourbon was magnificent. To the perception of a tiny, 6 year-old girl, I would wager he was a Percheron. But, again, I was a lot smaller than him. He may have just been a large, white horse of some other breed. But, to my young eyes, he appeared much larger than my Uncle Ernie’s Palomino, Sundance, so I’m going with the draft horse. My father picked me up so I could pat his nose, which was beyond my reach (Sundance’s was not). Travis was smaller, dappled gray in color, and incredibly fast. My grandmother stayed in the MG because she was deathly afraid of horses. My father knew this but it didn’t stop him from riding Travis right up alongside the MG, Nanny (my nickname for my grandmother) shrieking my father’s name in terror as the horse drew closer and closer. I remember laughing because I knew he was teasing her (and now, looking back, acknowledge the maneuver as rather cruel; she was terrified). Then my father did an incredible thing. He reached down a hand for me and pulled me up in front of him. He held on as we galloped all over the barnyard for quite a length of time. Nanny said afterwards I looked ready to burst my buttons with joy.

Sadly, that’s all I’ve got for truly happy memories of my father.

My mother remarried in 1974. We moved to Missouri, then Oklahoma, and came back to Rhode Island less than 6 months’ later in early-1975. It was just in time for me to see my Poppop one last time in the nursing home where he was being cared for when his alcoholism finally took its toll. He smiled for me. Nanny said it was the first smile she’d seen from him since he’d been admitted. Unlike my father, I have loads of happy memories of my Poppop. And then, a year later, Nanny was gone, too.

My family moved to Missouri again in 1978 some months after my brother, Shaun, was born. I found a new family in my stepfather’s parents, brothers, sisters, etc. but I still missed my Nanny and Poppop, my aunts, uncles, cousins, etc, with whom I had lost contact after my grandmother’s passing. When we returned to Rhode Island in 1985, I looked up my Aunt Marjorie, knowing that she had become a ward of the state through The Trudeau Center in Warwick. Through her, I was able to get mailing addresses for Aunt Sandy and Aunt Nancy (the 4th aunt, Janet, had died before I was born).

My father, however, continued to elude all of us. None of his sisters had heard from him since that unfortunate visit to Mississippi some years’ earlier. Eventually, I would meet friends of his, people he had worked with, etc. who would tell me about what a wonderful sense of humor he had–great guy–and I would find out where he worked. Ironically, it was at a manufacturing facility on Jefferson Boulevard that an inexperienced teenager had applied to some years’ earlier and gotten the position…only to have to turn it down as my friend, who applied with me, was also my transportation and she did not get the position (they were hiring for several). I sent a letter. No reply. I saw him once when I was dating my first husband. We were driving down Route 1, just passing through Apponaug and into East Greenwich, when I saw him getting into a car. My boyfriend turned around as quickly as late-afternoon traffic would allow but, by the time we reached the house where we’d seen him, he was gone. I found out later that he lived on the second floor–almost across the street from The Trudeau Center, though he never attempted to see my Aunt Marjorie. I sent more letters and cards. Still no reply…until, in the late-90’s, my Aunt Nancy passed away. I sent a letter through the manufacturing company, hoping he still worked there, and told them who I was, that my father’s sister had passed and I didn’t know how else to tell him. He responded. Not to me, of course, but my Uncle Lou in Mississippi received a sympathy card.

My father moved. I don’t remember how I found the new address but I sent another letter, inviting him for coffee at the Dunkin Donuts across the street from his apartment house, my treat. Though he didn’t reply, I went to Dunkin Donuts anyway and waited for over an hour. A car pulled into the apartment complex across the street. A man got out. This was years later. The hair was longer, grayer, and there was a definite paunch but I wasn’t entirely sure…until he took a step in the direction of Dunkin, searched the windows, zeroed in on me and then turned away and went into the house. I waited a bit longer, still not 100% sure it was he…except the shaking hands that fumbled with the keys as I attempted to drive home afterwards. I wonder now if I should’ve walked across the street and knocked.

Some more years’ later, I actually paid a search company to find him. The apartment complex where he had lived had been torn down and I didn’t know where he had gone. The company provided an address. My Aunt Sandy and Uncle George (her husband) came up to visit. Along with my Aunt Marjorie, we all drove to the mobile home park and found his unit on the organization’s map on the wall in the office. We drove to his unit and knocked on the door. Nobody answered, but the house was dark, and there wasn’t any car in front of it, so we assumed he was still at work; it was in the afternoon. However, the ashtray on the porch was full of butts…and the little matchstick figures he used to make…and, through the window, we saw a couple of guitars in stands. We left a note with all of our contact information. And, nearly every year since, I have sent a Christmas card, sometimes a birthday card, too. Always the same, inviting him to call, to visit, giving my address and telephone number. I think I even left an email address once, though I was never sure if he used email. I randomly searched his name on social media, too. I never found him there.

This past Christmas, however, I didn’t send any card. It came as almost an afterthought after I had already filled out the cards I would send to other family and friends. I was out of cards in the box that I had bought but considered buying a more personal one the next time I went to Walmart. And, unusual for me, I rejected it with an angry little voice saying he never answers anyway.

Little did I know he wasn’t there anymore to answer…even if he had been so inclined. I guess some part of my heart knew…even without the obituary found three months’ later.

I’ve grappled with writing this but I’m still not sure how I feel right now. All these years I’ve held onto that afternoon with Travis and Bourbon, and wondered if my stepfather hadn’t been right: that it only happened because my grandmother had poked and prodded him into it when I wasn’t there to see it. Had riding Travis up to her side of the car been a challenge? Or have I read too many novels? Could he have been capable of such? And how do I justify such thinking…especially now when I can acknowledge that I never really knew my father.

And I never will.

It’s hard to truly mourn the loss of someone that you’ve never really had in your life, never really known. It’s like that movie star, or rock star, that you’ve always admired from afar. And, like the movies, I’ve always held this little spark of hope that one day my father would knock on my door–or at least call–and say, let’s not waste anymore time; I want to know you, see you. Like on the Hallmark Channel. And now that hope is gone.

And, yet, I can’t even mourn that. It was false hope. If his sisters, with whom he had had relationships with, who doted on him throughout his childhood and cared for him, no longer existed in his world for him, how could the daughter he hadn’t wanted in the first place rank any higher?

It’s his loss. It truly is. Like all people, I have my faults. I’ve been spoiled at times, too. I can be selfish, the veritable loner. I tend to be a control freak at times. I’m impatient. I procrastinate…horribly! I’m also willing to lend a helping hand if you need it, an ear to listen and keep your secrets without ever sharing. I have a hope chest filled with family pictures (even two of my father from my maternal grandfather of when he and my mother were dating) and keepsakes that I would risk life and limb to rescue if there was ever a fire or flood…because they all matter. I’m smart and talented and I share my father’s love for horses and guitars. And I acknowledge this unwitting gift to me from him…that, and the grandparents who gave a lonely little girl a safe place to spend her weekends, and the aunts, uncles and cousins, who have been such an important part of this 53+ years of life. We could’ve had fun jamming together in impromptu music regales. We could’ve gone horseback riding…or simply chatted on the front porch, or over a table in Dunkin Donuts together. As someone who wanted a house full of children and didn’t get even one, I struggle to understand how someone can refuse such a blessing as family. Period. But, again, it’s his loss.

Despite everything I’ve just said, I am not bitter or angry at my father. The only emotion I can pinpoint right now is a sadness, a sadness for what could’ve been. I know he lived with a woman in common law marriage. Did she know about me? Is she the jealous sort who didn’t want him to have contact with his family? Some of the cards sent were returned “addressee unknown”. Others never came back. Did he throw them away? If he saved them, why? Did he always intend to respond at some later date that never arrived? Or is there a chance he never got them at this last address? Even the note we tacked to the door…despite verifying it at the main office of the park that it was his? He died without any other family there by his side. I can’t imagine anyone wanting that. Seems like most people I know want their loved ones near when they pass. Did he die suddenly? Or had there been a long illness involved that maybe, for genetic reasons at least, I should know about? I’ve considered contacting his widow; I’m not sure if it’s the right course of action. If she doesn’t know about me, how much hurt might I do to her memories of my father? And yet, if she does know about me, maybe she thinks we’re all a bunch of insensitive clods who didn’t give a damn about him. It is something I will be weighing carefully over the next few days.

I wish my father well, as I always have. I pray that his spirit is finally at peace. I pray that he’s happy; I pray that he was happy in life all these years…even if he couldn’t share that happiness with his sisters and their families, or with me. I pray, if there was an illness, that he didn’t suffer over-long with it. He had been suicidal in the past; it runs in the family. I pray he was not driven to such despair and that his passing was a natural one. In short, I would like to say “I love you” to him…even though I never heard those three words from him…and I forgive him for whatever it was in him that could never reach out to me, to my aunts, to family in general. I pray he’s finally the rock star he always dreamed of being…and that Bourbon and Travis were waiting over that Rainbow Bridge for him to ride another day.

May God bless you & keep you!

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Overindulgence

“When dining with a rich man, be on your guard and don’t stuff yourself, though it all tastes so good; for he is trying to bribe you, and no good is going to come of his invitation.” (Proverbs 23:1-3)

Okay. No, I haven’t sat down with a rich man…or woman. I didn’t stuff myself either. And I doubt anyone is trying to bribe me. However, I did overindulge just a little yesterday…in the pleasure-reading department.

Normally, during Lent, I don’t bother to give myself the allowance of having Sunday as a free pass day. I continue to follow, to the best of my abilities, the Lenten obligations that I’ve given to myself. The rationale has always been that I’m liable to have a tougher time getting back into the groove, so to speak, come Monday morning.

Boy, have I ever!

I told myself no Facebook, outside of wishing loved ones a “Happy Birthday!”; no YouTube, except on Sunday, and no fictional reading, also except on Sunday. So I rented a book from the library (my day job) last Wednesday–Ash Wednesday–as one-part an immediate slip regarding giving up novels for 6 weeks, and one-part a temptation (as if working in a library full of books isn’t enough of one…) to see if I could avoid it.

I did.

I didn’t read the novel I checked out until Sunday afternoon.

All day.

And into the evening.

And I suppose I did “cheat” a little because I was still reading said novel at 2:00 a.m. when I finished it from cover to cover.

Needless to say, I did NOT get up early and get on the yoga mat, or write anything at 3:30 a.m. I slept later–still without getting enough sleep–because “later” was 7 a.m. That is the latest I can do before I push my goats off of their feeding schedule. Now I’m sitting here yawning, a bit over-tired, and thinking that maybe I was wrong about one thing: I actually CAN string two or more words together in the evening; might be a good way to develop it into a more sustainable habit as 3:30 a.m. isn’t. At least not when you’re staying up late on a reading marathon…which I’m liable to do even during “ordinary” time.

Maybe I should go back to my usual plans and save the novels until after Lent…even on Sundays.

May God bless you & keep you!

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Getting Back to What Matters Most

“To learn, you must want to be taught. To refuse reproof is stupid.” (Proverbs 12:1)

I don’t usually post on Sundays. It is the Lord’s day and I try to keep work out of the picture–even if it is work that I thoroughly enjoy. However, this morning while I was eating my usual breakfast of cereal, fruit, and a spoonful of peanut butter, I decided to read through some older posts at random. What I noticed was the overall change in the tone of this blog.

I read my very first blog post first. There was a bittersweet feeling in my heart as I re-read that happy and upbeat tome. I had such high hopes for building a working, thriving homestead here, but life has thrown so many curve balls at me, I’ve forgotten why I started both blog and homestead in the first place.

There’s been a long theme of indecision. Do I stay or do I go? Can I be content working with what this tiny property will support? Or do I want to reach out for bigger, better, more? If I can’t financially support “tiny”, how will I support “more”? Or, does the limitations this smaller parcel presents make it next to impossible to thrive the way I’ve always hoped and dreamed I would? With everything that has happened–especially in the past year or so–my finances are in such disarray that I’m liable to come away worse for wear.

Or will I?

I keep thinking that maybe this is His answer, this is the “why” of my coming back full circle to facing foreclosure yet again. This is the decision I have to make…and see through to the end. Whatever that end is. Yes, He’s asking me to trust Him. But I’m of two minds as to what He may want me to do. Stay? Or go? (Yes, I believe that’s a song, too)

Even my heart is divided.

This is home. It has been for a long time. But it’s fallen into disrepair and dishevelment. Depression, lack of adequate income, and indecision–boy, I am certainly proof that people get dumber the farther they fall down on their luck!–have wreaked havoc here. It no longer resembles a homestead but a war zone along Tobacco Road. The only denizens of my time and attention are my “babies”. If I ever start to neglect them, it’s time to call it quits completely. However, this is home. Disheveled as it may be, there are 19 years’ of memories attached. My first blog post mentions two St. Bernards. I lost Roxy in 2014 and her son, Bear, 9 months’ later in March of 2015. She was 14, an amazing age for a Saint; he was 11, still a remarkable lifetime, as St. Bernards have a life expectancy of 8-10 years. Roxy, Mom’s dog, Max (Australian cattle dog) and the two lovable mixed-breeds who graced this place before the Saints, Tessa (Black lab/Belgian shepherd/pitbull mix) and Hooch (Beagle/German Shepherd/pitbull mix) are buried here. As are most of the cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, rats, birds, chickens, and ducks who have passed before (I have Bear and Trooper’s ashes). The thought of their remains being paved over, or dug up, for the next strip mall breaks my heart. Ditto for Helen being cut down (Norway maple in the front yard), or any of the other trees and shrubs that have become familiar friends. I can still see the bare bones of this fixer upper and know that, with a little bit of a boost in income–and a lot of TLC–she could easily be a real beauty again. A big part of me would rejoice in being able to revitalize her again.

The other side sees limits everywhere. It is a fixer-upper. I am NOT a carpenter. Last night the outside light’s motion sensor burned out. The light stayed on until I hit the switch instead. I worried for long minutes, before finally nodding off exhaustedly, that it might short out and cause a fire. If I do find that sustainable income, once bills are caught up with, there’s a roof to replace. The house needs lifting so a new foundation can be poured. The electrical and plumbing need updating. The water softener has been on the fritz for years; the toilet bowl is perpetually rust-colored. In short, it is a money pit. And, after so many years both working and volunteering in living history, I would be perfectly content in an old fishing shack in the woods somewhere, off-grid, living a life that most people would consider “roughing it”. For me, it would be heaven on earth…as long as I can bring the goats and the roof doesn’t leak.

I’m limited there, too.

One acre means dwarf varieties and only a small handful. I have three goats. I could easily house 8 in the barn…and still have plenty of space in the barnyard as well. But that’s only enough milk for my own household; it would not provide a surplus to make into soaps and lotions, etc. for sale. It also doesn’t allow for raising a few Angora and Cashmere-grade goats for fiber production. I would have to choose one or the other. And there’s not enough room for sheep.

Or the agility field for the Border Collies and Corgis I dream of owning someday.

I’m limited in growing space, too. There’s been an on-going landscaping project for years…and I’ve completely overwhelmed myself. I love all the shade trees, but they cast a shadow over the ground. In retrospect, I probably should’ve fenced in the shaded front yard for dogs, goats, etc. and left the ever-sunny back for planting. But I wanted some space between them and the interstate that runs past that front lawn. So far, no goats have escaped, but there have been chickens, ducks and St. Bernards roaming free in the past.

All of this leads me to the conclusion that He’s already given me the answer. Do I have the courage to step out in faith to follow where both heart and head are leading? Can I overcome feelings of longing and nostalgia to brave the unknown? And how do I get there? I don’t have sustainable income anywhere else either. And my credit’s bad.
At this point, I really would welcome that rustic fishing shack in the middle of nowhere. But I’m not sure what would happen to the goats if I got arrested as a squatter. This homestead’s going bust at an alarming rate. Got a bunkhouse available? I’ll trade labor for rent (no joke)…provided I can bring the farm with me…including the roosters, who really do crow all day, every day.

Wish I knew what they were so happy about? Or are they complaining that the girls got all the sunflower seeds again this morning???

May God bless you & keep you!

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I Don’t Care…

“Don’t plot against your neighbor; he is trusting you. Don’t get into needless fights. Don’t envy violent men. Don’t copy their ways. For such men are abomination to the Lord, but He gives His friendship to the godly.” (Proverbs 3:29-32)

I don’t care what color your skin is. As an artist, while monochromes and sepia may have their uses, a steady diet of such a restricted palette gets pretty monotonous. I much prefer the diverse plan of the Master Artist, that for me is my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who created all colors and hues that the world might be a more beautiful place to live.

I don’t care where you originally came from. We’ve been saying there’s not enough room for centuries; and yet, there’s always just one more place at the dinner table and a pillow to rest one’s head. We’ve been worrying for centuries about job scarcity, too. There’s some legitimacy to that. But it’s not because of who you are or that you came here in the first place. Automation, technology, and cheaper labor in other lands–perhaps even your own–are robbing us of our livelihoods. I’d rather bid you welcome, learn about your life in the Old Country, and why this land became the dream for you as it has for every generation before…unless you’re 100% Cheyenne or Cherokee, that is.

I don’t care who you love. The fact that you love someone at all tells me you have a heart…and I rejoice with you in having found that special someone who can know all about you and love you, too. Your gender/identity does not matter to me. I consider you a kind and courageous soul for being true to yourself…and for having the guts to reach out for love in the first place. Many people wander this world lonely and alone, broken by past trauma, or too afraid of rejection, to reach out for the greatest gifts we humans have to give to each other: our love, our compassion, companionship, and a sense of belonging.

I don’t care what your socioeconomic status is. A bigger house means more time and effort to clean…and more junk to fill it; a fancier car means a higher insurance premium each month. I rejoice with you if you can afford such luxuries today…and if you’re content in the having of them. Empty cupboards and drafty floors push many to despair. They do not mean that someone has been lazy and shiftless…or even that they’ve made a bad choice somewhere along the way. Sometimes we’re just victims of circumstance…such as an accident, or a company outsourcing one’s position. Until we’ve walked that proverbial mile in someone else’s shoes, judge not, lest ye be judged. The size of your wallet does not reflect the size of your heart. How you treat your fellow man, and even the other creatures who share this earth with us, tells me volumes about how truly wealthy, or impoverished, you are.

I don’t care if you call the Source of life Jesus, God, Allah, Goddess, or Buddha, etc., or if you don’t believe in such an existence at all. Regardless of your beliefs, we are all part of the same community of life on this third rock from the sun. Arguing about who’s right and who’s wrong only divides us, sets us to hating each other…when all of our holy texts tell us to love one another. Instead, I’d rather sit down and have the sort of conversation that brings about a new understanding and peace, a conversation where we both learn and respect each other’s beliefs…and the culture that founded them.

I don’t care who you vote for. As long as you vote with integrity, allowing the love you have in your heart for your fellow man and good reason to guide you, then your vote counts…even if your choice doesn’t win. It should not matter what someone looks like, who they love, how much–or how little–they earn, where they come from, their gender, or their beliefs. All are worthy of consideration and care. The only aisle between us is the one we have drawn in our minds…and in our hearts. When we reject even a single one of our brothers and sisters, we all lose. When we all work together, we all win…BIG!

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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Yang Leaves, Takes Hope with Him

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

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

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

Yang got that. And so do I.

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

And he was right.

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

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

We do have more jobs now.

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

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

Yes, hope.

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

Every.

Single.

American.

Period.

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

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

Let that sink in.

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

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

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

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

May God bless you & keep you!

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What if?

“For the Lord watches over all the plans and paths of godly men, but the paths of the godless lead to doom.” (Psalms 1:6)

“What if” must be the most terrifying sentence in the world as it opens up every can of worms and sends them wriggling across the floor of our hearts where they feed and fester and eat away at our very soul. “What if” can stop us in our tracks from whatever our pursuits. “What if” is the ultimate second guessing of ourselves, our loved ones, our community and even our government. “What if” reflects a serious lack of faith.

And yet, I succumb to asking this question at least 20 times a day.

“What if” I can’t stop the foreclosure? “What if” I can’t find another place for us to live? I mean, it’s a tall order when you have a farm and an aging mother to provide for. “What if” the new job doesn’t culminate into something bigger? “What if” I don’t find work to sustain us? “What if” my dreams are only that–dreams–and never come to fruition? And everything shuts down inside as fight-or-flight spirals into overdrive. I find myself mentally, emotionally and even physically paralyzed with fear and panic and all those negative emotions the adversary would like us to believe in.

Instead of Him.

In my Al-Anon daily reader it talks about how you learn to accept uncertainty in life when you live with alcoholism. Plans and rules change ad nauseum and we’re left with a shattered trust that taints our present and our future. It also talks about how we react to every situation with desperation, fearing there’s only one chance–regardless of the situation. Sort of like the questions I asked above.

I know well where my anxiety comes from. And while the worries and fears may continue to surface, I’m learning how to beat them back into, well, maybe not complete submission, but at least I can send them to the corner for awhile for disrupting my life yet again. “What if” He breaks my hold here to give me the farm and animal sanctuary of my dreams? “What if” He demonstrates a miracle through me by manifesting the impossible–total “catch up” and halt of the foreclosure? “What if” the perfect “job” is the work that my heart, hands and imagination create each day as I sit here at this keyboard? “What if” I am loved beyond my ability to comprehend and He really does have my best interest in His heart, ready to write it loudly and clearly on mine?

And yours.

When we succumb to the apathy, the only one who wins is the adversary. And we can’t let him win. He’s been at the forefront of this world for too long now. What if we manifest a more positive world with love for everyone, regardless of where they come from, how they look, how they dress, who they love, or what they believe? What if we love ourselves unconditionally–not as a narcissist whose “love” is really a mask for their lack of confidence and self-esteem–so that we can love our neighbors as ourselves? As Christ commanded that we do. Kind of hard to love someone as yourself if you don’t have a love for yourself, a love that recognizes self as a child of God, in the first place. “What if” we finally opened our hearts to that unconditional love and spread it throughout the globe? Talk about a war on terrorism! Anxiety-the internal terrorism of self.

May God bless you & keep you!