Things Learned When Walking is your Sole Transportation

It has been almost three months since Mom’s car had to be taken off the road. And while I still yearn for an adult-sized tricycle to get me around more efficiently and safely than my feet, I’ve also learned a great deal from this experience:

1. People look at walking, and sometimes even bicycling, everywhere as hardship!!??! In some ways, that’s true. When you’re forced to “grocery shop” for only what you can easily carry two miles from the local grocery store, it does get “old” and it makes for having to seriously manage your time and resources better. Those little hand shopping carts they sell in department stores everywhere help but…

2. Little hand shopping carts filled to the brim with cases of cat food and cat litter do NOT make it up steep hills without making one feel a deeper empathy for beasts of burden.

3. Friends come from unexpected places.

4. Walking in extreme cold is much easier than walking in 90+ degree temperatures; an extra layer or two, a good pair of gloves and socks to cover the extremities, and a hat make all the difference when it’s cold…and a brisk pace will set the blood moving that much faster. One can only remove so many layers of clothing before Connecticut’s finest gets involved…

5. Those kitchy, supposedly eco-friendly reusable grocery bags, when full, are much more capable of cutting off circulation in your fingertips than are the equally-full, bad-for-the-environment plastic numbers.

6. You meet people when you walk…neighbors…people you would never meet when behind the wheel; find a sense of community you never knew existed.

7. Despite traversing concrete walkways and macadam road shoulders, walking puts you deeper in touch with nature. Damage done by this year’s gypsy moth invasion; small wetland areas on the other side of guard rails…and the diversity of life that lives in them; longer days/shorter nights; shortening days and lengthening nights; sadly, a greater awareness of how many creatures really lose their lives on a major interstate all become more apparent when walking.

8. My piggy bank has grown due to all of the loose change found in parking lots, breakdown lanes and along the sidewalks near local gas stations.

9. Bursitis flare-ups, sore knees, hips, calves all help to remind me that I’m not 25 anymore.

10. Despite the 6 lbs. lost when I first started, walking alone will not readily shed pounds if a proper diet is not incorporated with it.

11. My status as a single woman seems to have reached the attention of far too many local gentlemen…

12. Wearing a bright, fluorescent vest (so that you become more visible to local traffic while traveling on the shoulder of the road) when visiting the local Walmart will get you mistaken for an employee…and prompt you to memorize where everything is located in the store so you can answer all those “Can you tell me where (fill in the blank) is, please?” sort of questions.

13. Wearing a bright, fluorescent vest often gets you mistaken for a crossing guard.

14. Trying to traverse 2 miles of extremely hilly territory without arch supports in your shoes is a good way to flare bursitis up…especially if you’re over 50.

15. Horror stories of missing women flash through your head when you walk home at dusk.

16. Strange men will offer you a ride.

17. Strange men who are also attractive will also offer you a ride…tempting good reason but provide relief that such good reason still exists as you pick up your pace towards home.

18. I don’t tan; I freckle.

19. Even if it is only 2 miles, travel light.

20. We need a better infrastructure in our cities and towns…one that includes sidewalks that connect everything so that people can walk safely; bicycle lanes so that cyclists can also travel safely, and good public transportation lines that don’t require walking several miles to a small handful of bus stops.

21. While there are buses in northeastern Connecticut that will come directly to your doorstep–elderly and disabled only–it took over 3 weeks for Mom to get her bus pass…I wonder how many other seniors and disabled persons are left isolated due to their lack of transportation…

22. Even with a bright, fluorescent vest on, motorists do not stop for pedestrians in the crosswalks…especially if that crosswalk crosses the entrance to Walmart’s parking lot.

23. Walking in the rain, as long as there isn’t any lightning to go with it, is actually kind of fun…sort of like being a kid again and splashing in the puddles.

24. The creative genius engages while walking…I “write” my best chapters, work out my best plots when I walk.

25. Walking provides the perfect medium for finding that quiet stillness where we meet God.

May God bless you & keep you!

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A Pipe Dream

“For I can do everything God asks me to with the help of Christ who gives me strength and power.” (Philippians 4:13)

This morning I arose early, unable to get back into a deep sleep again after Paz’s not-so-rude awakening. I mean, how can you resist when your butterball of a tuxedo cat wants cuddles? At 17 years old, Paz is my geriatric buddy so, while he’s hale and hearty, and I’m definitely not writing him off, everyday we have together is precious. Though “Mommy” laments a bit of lost sleep, I was happy to scratch him under the chin and cuddle him close. When he’d had enough, he took my hand between his paws–much like a child would a stuffed toy–and went to sleep…typical Pazzy-style. I dozed but it wasn’t long before the knees started aching and I noticed a faint line of pink gracing the horizon. As soon as the first birds started twittering, Paz leaped down in search of some dry kibble.

It was a productive morning. Yesterday Mom and I were graced with a visit from an old friend from my corporate days. She had seen my plea for more cardboard on Facebook and, also being a resident of northeastern Connecticut, she offered to bring some by. Christmas came early in the form of an SUV loaded to the gills with huge cardboard boxes. I am so grateful! I managed to build the largest of the beds I will use to plant my herbs into just as the sun was coming up. Now I just need to make some more compost to fill it. Again, I am grateful.

And still on a quest for more so I can landscape the rest of the garden…(hint, hint) (chuckle).

All of this was before 7:15 a.m. I did some yoga and then headed back downstairs to start feeding time here on the farm. And, for the more traditional farmers reading this, yes, 8 a.m. is a little later than most for feeding time but, as I work until 7:30 p.m. off site, it’s a good 12 hour balance between feedings this way. Anyway, I fed and watered ducks, chickens, goats and cats; dosed the goats with some B-12 as some anemia had set in with the recent worm issues. The worms have been eradicated but, Domino, in particular, took it hard; I am happy to say that he seems well on the mend, with his appetite returned (thank God!). I spent the rest of the morning in the rabbit room, giving them some playtime outside of their cages, feeding and grooming them. Of course, I also spent some of the time in prayer (rabbits are restful creatures) and reading one of the chapters due for this week’s homework assignment.

Now it is 1:30 p.m. and I’ve already spent some time writing my book, now this blog and will soon begin the trek to the dealership.

I love what I do at the dealership. More importantly, I love the people I work with; it’s like a great big extended family. But, as much as it’s needed, there’s a part of me lamenting that, once the midday heat passes over, how much I would love to be back out in the garden, working this farm, working to make it into a working herbal, apian and fiber farm.

That is my dream.

Other people do it. But I am definitely not in a place financially where this is even remotely viable. So, for now, this is my little pipe dream: to earn a living, both as a writer and a homesteader, and not have to rely on the insecurity of working elsewhere.

And, yes, everyone read that correctly: insecurity. There is no such thing as job “security” anymore. In fact, there never really has been. The economy, sales–or lack thereof–affect every single industry in some capacity or another…at some time or another. That’s why achieving a measure of self-sufficiency is so appealing. No, not self-sufficiency away from God; He’s at the heart of every endeavor, whether it’s planting some seeds and watching them grow, trimming a goat hoof, or greeting someone on the phone at a local car dealership, I can do nothing without Him. This is the self-sufficiency that doesn’t rely on the traditional 9-to-5 (or, in my present part-time scenario, 3:30 – 7:30), or the energy grid, or the fossil fuel industry but a self-sufficiency that relies on faith in God, and on the wit and capable hands He blessed me with. To know where my food comes from, to make it all from scratch, to spin my own yarn, weave my own cloth and sew my own fashions…that is the dream.

And, as I bask in this feeling of satisfaction from such a productive morning and early afternoon, I hold onto this feeling, memorize it and allow it to motivate me into making it more than just a pipe dream. A reality, where all of the goodness of the Earth gets purposed to God and abundance is shared with a smile.

May God bless you & keep you!

Ow…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My leg will heal; Mother Earth may not.

May God bless you & keep you!

References

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

Rainy Days

“In bygone days He permitted the nations to go their own ways, but He never left Himself without a witness; there were always His reminders–the kind things He did such as sending you rain and good crops and giving you food and gladness” Acts 14: 16-17

I’m of two minds when it rains. There is that laze-around-in-my-pj’s-curled-up-with-a-good-book mindset. And woe the temptations of the flesh because that is often the mindset I follow under angry, black clouds. Today it’s the good-day-to-putter-around-the-house-and-get-things-done mentality. I hit the yoga mat early this morning, waking before the alarm–despite the dreary skies–and then added a few pages to my book. Max was waiting for me at the bottom of the stairs to go out when I finished up. The rain was only threatening at 7:30 a.m. but the warmer temperatures we’ve had over the weekend has left a muddy mess of the barnyard as snow from Blizzard Stella melted away. Max, being a dog, did what dogs do best…he stayed out in the mud a little longer than usual and tracked wet, muddy prints throughout the house when he came back in. I tugged on my rubber boots, threw a coat over my pj’s (standard morning chore attire) and began schlepping water and feed out to the goats, chickens and ducks. The usual cacophony of barnyard greetings met me as I opened first the hen house and then the goat barn. I’d like to think they’re happy to just see me but I suspect it’s only the canisters of feed I’m bearing as gifts that bring about this reaction to me…

The rain started in earnest shortly after their breakfast.

Mom calls these heavy rains we’re having today “season breakers”. And she’s probably right except she will call every hint of snow or rain, from now until the trees finally bud and the thermometer hits and stays steady above 50 degrees for more than a week, a “season breaker”. It’s all good. And she bears the occasional razzing from me with grace.

Actually, I hope she’s right. There’s much to do this spring on the homestead and I am eager to get started. Despite Mom’s predictions, the weather in New England is too unpredictable this time of year so it will be a few more weeks before I can start planting and there’s a bit of landscaping to finish up from last fall before that planting can be done. Again, I’m looking forward to it. The last couple of years I’ve been in such a slump that I’ve neglected my gardens. I’ve got itchy fingers now, looking to plunge into that soil and cultivate some life-giving sustenance from it.

The goats, chickens and ducks are also getting new living quarters. The old shed that I converted back in 2010 has seen its better days. I can throw a few old pallets down on the rotting floors and continue to use it for storing firewood and/or hay but it has seen its last winter as a barn. This will take some doing; I’m definitely not a contractor or construction worker but I don’t think this will be too difficult. The “new” structure is already here in the form of a double bay garage. The previous owners of the property had removed the garage doors, built a wall, and added a door to the outside (albeit, it faces into the garden so it will not be seeing much use…). The floor is still concrete, which will be much easier to clean than wood. No oil stains or anything that might prove hazardous to the animals. There’s even a propane space heater mounted towards the ceiling, well out of reach of curious goats, but available if needed. The only real work to do is the construction of a few stalls inside, the removal of the back window that faces the barnyard, and building a ramp for the animals to get in and out. And, of course, said window will have to be replaced with some sort of door to keep them in at night…and the predators out. The biggest part of the job will be cleaning it out as it has become the depository of any unwanted “junk” and out of season “stuff”. And that about sums it up.

(Yes, I do still have some minimalist chores to attend to, too…)

In another 15 minutes or so, it will be time to head to work–the paid position in town. But, for now, I’m compromising with this rain, writing and working and puttering around in my pj’s, as it washes away the last of the snow and reveals just how much clean-up is still to do in the gardens. And about the homestead.

May God bless you & keep you!

The Sabbath

“Remember the Sabbath Day; keep it holy

The 4th Commandment ripples through my mind repeatedly on Sunday mornings, as I sit and try to listen to the sermon being given this day. Sometimes, I think I should lighten up. I mean, yes, so it’s a bit of a distraction from said sermon but, at least, my fellow parishioners made the effort to get up on a Sunday morning. They dressed in their best–even if it is their best pair of jeans, or a sweat suit, and sneakers–and came to hear His word, to sing His praises. To worship. How many others are still abed, worshiping St. Mattress? Who am I to judge? I mean, really, what anal gland unleashed its fury on me again?

I’m talking about cellphones, of course.

I made the later Mass this morning and managed to get there early enough to join my friends in the choir loft…where I had a bit of a bird’s eye view of the other parishioners below. I didn’t bother to count the number of cellphones in hand, the number of people web-surfing on their smartphones while Father Tom gave his homily. All I kept thinking was, “How rude!” Common courtesy, to my way of thinking, should dictate we give him the courtesy of at least looking attentive while he gives the homily–even if we are not. Instead, heads were bent, thoughts and interest zeroed in on whatever the Twitter or Facebook community was about. Instead of giving at least half an ear to our Lord and Savior, and the message He has for us through Father Tom’s homily.

I know. That’s their business. And I’d like to believe that His word will reach these distracted ears through osmosis or something at least. But I also find myself getting angry because it isn’t only their business. Around each and every smartphone addict at least a couple of other heads were bent or leaning in to share the latest media gossip. The light-up of the screen drew eyes away from the altar. Distracting…

How rude.

And, perhaps, I’m being uncharitable. Again, it is their business but I can’t help but think how disrespectful it is. And how He asks us to keep this day holy, to remember Him…one day out of the 7 each week. Is it so much to ask? While any attendance at church is a positive, if you’re focused in on your cellphone instead of the sermon, how much are you really attending? I mean, why bother? He deserves at least that much. And your fellow parishioners, those of us who truly want to be present and hear His word, to sing His praises…TO WORSHIP…will thank you for leaving these modern wonders off and in your pocket or purse for a single hour each week. So we may enjoy without the distractions they create.

Yup. I probably should lighten up. Take a deep breath. Breathe. Remember the centering of the week on the yoga mat. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Again, at least they came to church. They remembered. Forget the pet peeve.

But, as another light flutters somewhere to my left, what was that Father Tom just said about loving my neighbor as myself? Okay. I’ll start practicing what I preach and get off my Sunday soapbox.

I really wish I’d caught the first half of that homily though…

May God bless you & keep you!

Another Benefit

Adding onto yesterday’s “Public Office” posting, I’m definitely seeing another merit to using a public facility to write/study. Here in this booth, I am in my own little world and yet, life is swirling all around me. It’s rather comfortable.

More importantly, I am also being forced to be a little more pro-active in completing my homework assignments well ahead of their due date. As long as we’re boycotting Charter’s high prices, I cannot procrastinate and then “cram” Sunday night when everything is due. Everything closes down fairly early in Northeast Connecticut on Sunday evenings. The public library, my first choice for working in public, isn’t even open on Sundays. And the hours are pretty limited during the week: M/W 2-7 (I work 3:30-7:30), T/S 11-5 and Th/F 2-5. I didn’t make the 2 p.m. time slot this afternoon so I’m back at the coffee shop with another cup of tea. As it is Friday, two days’ before my assignments’ due dates, and I have already turned them in, I am feeling pretty good.

So far, the only drawback I can see is, as it is a public venue, video viewing, which is part of my education, may be limited. I may lower the volume but it also eats a lot of battery juice so will have to seek out booths and tables with an outlet under them…just in case. Otherwise, this isn’t a bad deal at all.

It also gets me out of the house. I really am the hermit in the woods, tending to be a homebody these last few years. And, because I am taking up public space, and trying to be respectful about it, I’m also focusing on the essentials…rather than the multiple newsletters and free webinars I lamented about a couple of posts’ back. Come springtime, and my investment in an adult-sized tricycle (they come with handy little hauling baskets between the back wheels…I also have balance issues, despite the yoga), I can add 1/2 hour each way of exercise to my routine…and a reduction of my carbon footprint. Not a bad deal at all for a $1.79 cup of tea…or a free book rental from the local library to curl up with when my work day is done.

May God bless you & keep you!

Crash and Burn

It has been so long since I’ve had a bout of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome that I’d almost forgotten what it feels like when it clocks me. But clock me it did this week. I’ve been down for the count, feeling a little like a lazybones but, overall, not caring a fig.

Too many late-nights, staying up until 2 a.m. either painting, knitting or looming, just before the holidays, took its toll. And, while I am happy with the end results–and those family members and friends I gave these creations to also seem happy with them–this is a much more solid lesson in not procrastinating. I waited until the last minute and then had to “cram”. Not only did it take some of the fun out of the holiday season, it rendered me nearly useless for a couple of days.

Monday I woke up before the alarm, took care of my fur- and feather-babies, ate breakfast, and felt like I had run a marathon. A quick look in the bathroom mirror showed a pale and extremely drawn expression; my whole face looked like it was drooping onto the floor. Mom commented on it the moment she came downstairs. I almost never take naps; when I do, I usually have trouble falling asleep later in the evening so, really, I all but avoid them. Not this time. I don’t think I could have. We’ve all heard the expression “trembling with fatigue”; I went back upstairs around 10 a.m. and crashed for a couple of hours. When I awakened, I felt better but the head was still “swimming”. However, too long in any one position and these old knees start to ache and cramp. (And damned if I don’t sound like one my grandmothers with that remark…) I got up, did some homework, ran a couple of needed errands then went to work. Within an hour of being there, I could feel the face sinking into that “drawn” expression again. I made a cup of tea for the caffeine to keep me going through the shift (thank God my job consists of only answering phones, stuffing envelopes, and filing (mostly); were I still driving a forklift for a living, I probably would have called in). Needless to say, once all the animals were fed and safely bedded down in the barn (or their cage, depending on species), I had no trouble falling asleep.

The rest of the week has been more of the same, with each day feeling a little bit stronger, healthier, better rested.

I’m also thanking my stars–and God, of course–that this term’s class is “Intro to Art” and not something like chemistry, where I might blow the place up, or algebra (who uses this outside of classroom torture anyway???). I’d be losing that 4.0 GPA.

In addition to indulging in a few extra ZZZ’s, I’ve also been chilling while feeding my soul with some much-needed “me” time. I spent one morning pouring over some of my gardening books, planning some landscaping and/or gardening projects for next spring. I’ve also been viewing many of Jon Kohler’s “Growing Your Greens” videos on YouTube; some videos from Farnoosh Brock of Prolific Living and Prolific Juicing; videos from the folks at “Path to Freedom” and even threw in some music videos, mostly Within Temptation. In short, recharging some of the batteries.

Not quite there all the way but I’m thinking we’re well on our way. I haven’t touched the Jillian Michaels’ DVD since last week’s attempt that ended in under 10 minutes; this morning, while I didn’t “sail” through it, I managed to finish the whole beginner’s workout…and then another 30 minutes of yoga afterwards. And I actually feel more energized today. Go figure…

May God bless you & keep you!