Friday, April 28, 2017

When Paying it Forward Backfires

I mentioned a few days ago that I was going to work on giving money away for 29 days.  Let me tell you, it is much harder than I imagined.  The first few days were easy, giving a dollar to my neighbor, throwing change into a tip jar, and dropping a few quarters in my apartment complex's hallway, but then, I discovered, that when you don't spend any time with other humans, or go anywhere but to a farm, giving money away becomes a little more challenging!.

So, today, while I was relistening to You are a Badass at Making Money by Jen Sincero, I was reminded of my on going goal of giving money away, and I hadn't given any money away in three days.  I decided it was finally time to go grocery shopping... something I haven't done in months.  Yes.  Months.  (Last month I challenged myself to not get any groceries until April, and I got so good at cleaning out my cupboards and working with what I had, I didn't need to go to the store other than for one or two ingredients.  I believe I only spent $15 on food for the month of April.  I would also like to note several people gave me food such as potatoes, apples, spaghetti squash, and avocados, to name a few).

My dad had given me a left over visa gift card and he told me to use it to get some groceries.  I followed his advice, and headed to Aldi's to purchase some fresh fruits and vegetables.  My mouth was salivating at the thought of a salad.  (This is how I know I am lacking with my nutrition... I was craving a salad.  I love vegetables but I'd rather eat them other ways besides salads.  Salads get old fast, in my book, anyway.)   On the drive over, I realized this would give me an opportunity to give away some money because in order to get a cart at Aldi's, you have to put in a quarter to unlock it, and when you lock it back up, it gives you your quarter back.   My game plan was to give someone a cart!  Easy!  Right?!?!

I pulled in just as a lady was finished putting her groceries away.  I poked my head out of the car and told her I'd take her cart so she wouldn't have to take it back.  I grabbed my Aldi's quarter which always resides in the arm rest of my car door.  I offered her the quarter but she refused to take it since someone had given her the cart, so she was simply paying it forward.

Yay for the cycle of paying it forward continuing but nay... I wanted to give some money away!

I loaded my cart with groceries and headed to the check out line.  Once the cashier started ringing up my items, she came across a small wheel caddy I decided to purchase for my avocado tree.   It'll be a lot easier to move around when it is on wheels.  Except, when I added this caddy to my cart, the sku code sticker did not come with me.   I told the cashier I was pretty sure it was $2.99 but she just shrugged her shoulders, put her finger over her lips, made a shush sound, and placed it in my cart.

I have always said if there is no price tag, it means it's free... but this was the first time that statement was true.... or maybe I just had permission to shoplift the caddy... either way, it was in my cart of paid for items and I didn't pay for it.

She read my total and I swiped the gift card.  I had an idea of how much was left on the card and I knew I'd spent over the amount that remained, so I expected a second total to be paid on my debit card.

It went through.  I had $13.66 left to pay.  I swiped my debit card.

Nothing happened.  No beep.  Nothing.

I tried it again.  Again, nothing happened.

"It isn't working.. the screen doesn't even say it's ready to swipe.  Do you have to press any other buttons on your end?"  I asked the cashier but she said her screen looked normal and I just had to swipe.

I tried again, nothing.  I pulled out my credit card.  Nothing.

I looked in my wallet.  I had one crisp dollar bill and mentally slapped myself on the forehead for forgetting to get cash out when I went to the bank to deposit my paycheck a few hours earlier.

"I don't even have enough cash to pay that.  I only have my cards.  It's not like I don't have the money, it's just not letting me swipe!"  I mumble more to myself than the cashier, and the patient people in the line, looking at me and wondering why I am holding up the line.  I apologized to them for making them wait, but no one seemed annoyed at this, instead they all gave me sympathy smiles and shrugged their shoulders.

The cashier took my card and tried a few tricks but nothing was working.  It was some sort of technical error that wasn't reading the card.  She called the manager and as the manager arrived, so did another customer.  Without talking to me, she simply swiped her card through the machine, hers didn't read either.

"Oh, you don't have to do that, it's not that I don't have the money, the machine isn't reading anything."  I explain to her, grateful for her attempt to pay the remaining of my bill, yet feeling slightly embarrassed my register was becoming the center of attention.

Meanwhile, the manager typed in a few codes and the machine did something because the screen was now telling me to swipe my card.  However, the other customer never left and she swiped her card, typed in her pin number, and walked away, barely even giving me the chance to get out a thank you for her kind act.

I move my cart aside and start loading up my groceries, and I heard other people making small talk, "bless her heart, we've all been there...."

Once I got to my car, and emptied my cart, I looked around for someone to give my cart to so I could at least pay it forward with the already free cart.  The previously busy parking lot was empty.  I locked up my cart and took the quarter, chuckling to myself as I walked back to the car.... "Okay God, that was funny, I see what you did... I wanted to give money away and people ended up blessing me and taking care of me.  You are funny....there's no doubt about that..."

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Life Lessons from Hiking

The weather in Ohio has been perfect lately.  I'm talking sunny, 70°, gentle breeze, kind of perfect.  It's because of this weather I have found myself wandering around in the woods several times over the past week.  Well, the weather, and because of the emotional tornado of the last week.

(I may or may not get around to sharing about all of the stories but here's a few:  accidentally showed up to a scene where a twenty-something either ODed or killed himself because of a break up, talked to my ex for the first time since our break up to learn he is a fully committed Muslim whereas before he was raised Muslim but abandoned the practice, had one of my best friends call me because she lost her job, had another friend call me because she needed a therapy session, got a side upholstery job, got offered more hours on the farm, went on another date with Hank, one of my former closest friends got married.... a lot has been going on over the last week.)

So, on Sunday, instead of going to a church building, I headed into the woods to let nature show me how to testify and glorify God's awesomeness.  I was finally going to take the outer red trail, and I had all day to do it, so I planned on taking my time.

It was beautiful, then again, I've never been disappointed with nature.   It was my time of prayer and I released all of my burdens. I've realized the reason for my pain and anxiety is my struggle to surrender the control of my struggles.  In my head, I prayed that when I let go, and let God, that I see a deer to help me know I no longer needed to pray about those situations.  Then, out loud, I sighed, and said, "Let go, let God."  And a butterfly flew right in front of my face.  Maybe, a butterfly was my sign.  The butterfly led me towards the red path, and I gladly went, continuing my prayers but now leaning more towards gratitude than expressing my worry and fears.

My thoughts shifted and I started going to nature school and learning all sorts of life lessons.

#1 Just because you are broken doesn't mean you are done growing

So many times in life, we get stuck in our brokenness.  We forget that just because one section of our lives is not perfect, that the rest of us is still thriving and growing.  Sometimes, it's the growth from our brokenness that makes us unique, and so much stronger.

#2  It's Just Mud

It's easy to feel like mud.  We've all been trampled on and it seems too hard to show any of our beauty and growth because every time we start to transform, we get rained on, walked on, and shoved even further down.  Sometimes we have to get out of the situation that makes us feel like mud so we can dry out, plant some seeds, and start fresh.  Maybe you are the mud, maybe you are treating people like mud, or maybe you're just stuck but here's the good news....there's almost always a branch nearby that is willing to help us out of the mud, don't be afraid to use it.

#3  We make climbing hills harder than it should be

Where is it written that we aren't allowed to pause and catch our breath when we are going uphill?  There isn't a time limit!  So often, we are in such a rush to get to the top that we miss out on everything that happens as we are climbing up.  I suppose that's why the saying is that it's lonely at the top.  Take the time to notice your surroundings, no matter the level of your climb.

#4 Balance brings calm. not chaos.

Have you ever noticed that when we rush through life and everything on the calendar, everything seems to be making life harder, and not better?  It's like trying to walk across a log without taking the time to get balanced first.  You're going to fall off.  But when you pause, focus, and breathe, you'll find your balance and will be able to cross with ease.  

#5 The unexpected is always waiting to be seen

It's amazing what you miss out on seeing when you aren't looking for it.  Roald Dahl once wrote, "And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don't believe in magic will never find it." One of the reasons I like to hike at my own pace is so I can take the time to notice what is around me.  If it weren't for taking the time to look around, I wouldn't have as many fun stories to share.

#6 There will always be forks in the road

We will always have to pick which direction we want to take in life, and though the choice is never easy, I believe we are always being guided.  Even if we take detours, there is meaning, lessons, and a purpose behind it.

#7 God hears your prayers

He really does.

I was on the final stretch of my hike when I looked felt peace rush over me.  I looked up and even though I had been praying to see a deer, I still had a moment of disbelief that a deer was looking right at me as I walked down the path.  I paused and thanked God for hearing my prayers, for giving me peace, and reassuring me of his faithfulness.

I can assure you, life is good, despite stress and struggles, and nature will gladly testify to this truth, over and over again.  And I will continue to do the same, learning more about life with every hike I take.

5. Instagram fun! Share a photo you took shared on Instagram this week and tell us what you love about it.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Paul from Apartment 8

Paul from Apartment 8 has been living directly underneath me ever since I moved in.  He's always saving all my stuff that falls from my balcony and giving it to me whenever I see him outside cleaning up the yard.  I've always made small talk with him but honestly, he just gives me the creeps, even though he is always nice to me.

The first time I met him, he gave me $20 to go on a beer run for him.  I forget why he couldn't go to the store and get it himself, but out of bad habit, I answer questions before they fully process in my head, and that's how I found myself at the drive-thru picking up a six-pack of beer.

Then, about a year ago, I saw him hanging out in the yard, telling me how his apartment had a case of the bed bugs.  I cringed my way through that conversation and then spent the next 4 hours deep cleaning my apartment out of fear of having bed bugs.  I've never fully recovered from this story but I'm happy to announce my apartment has never had bed bugs, and a week later, Paul informed me that his apartment didn't have them either.

So, when he asked me the other day if I would clean his apartment and I answered "yes" while freaking out in my head about bed bugs, I had no idea what to expect of the condition of his apartment.   I went to the store and purchased gloves and told myself to walk away if I saw any bugs, no matter if it was a paying job or not.  Bed bugs in my apartment wouldn't be worth a couple bucks of cleaning a lonely, old man's apartment.

Acting braver than I felt, I knocked on the door of apartment 8 on an early Friday afternoon, and asked him if it was a good time for me to clean now.  Did I mention he opened the door shirtless?  Ugh!

Much to my relief, he left the door to the hallway completely open the whole time I was inside cleaning his apartment.  His place wasn't overly dirty, then again, he didn't have much stuff to clean either.  His apartment was more furnished than my neighbor in apartment 24, but it was still the minimal.

(Again, I realized how much STUFF I really have, and how unnecessary most of it is.  Though I've been trying to cut back on waste and purchases over the years, I still have crap everywhere!)

He slept on the couch while I scrubbed the kitchen and searched for bugs.  I didn't even see a spider, which was a great relief....

The night before, I was just about to drift off to dream land when I felt something tickling my arm, and then my shoulder, and then I felt it on my face, going near my mouth!  I opened my eyes and saw a daddy-long-leg spider on my face!  I brushed it off my face and realized it was now somewhere in my bed... in the dark!  I jumped out of my bed, turned on the light, and told my cat to find the **** spider!  My cat looked at me and then curled back up and closed her eyes.  I spotted the spider crawling on my pillows and shoved them out of the way, in which the spider fell down between the wall and my bed frame.  I grabbed a tissue and smashed the spider but it got away.  I smashed it again, and it kept walking.  I screamed out to the heavens, "WHY WON'T YOU JUST DIE!!!!" and trust me when I say I sounded like a total villain!  And at that exact second, the spider stopped moving and just curled up and died.  I was relieved, shocked, and a little skeptical that it might be playing dead and get me as I picked it up with my tissue, but it didn't, and I smashed it one more time just to be sure.  I threw the tissue in the trash and went back to bed, keeping the lights on.  It took me a long time to fall asleep...

Back to Paul....

I was cleaning away, moving from room to room, with the brand new bottles of cleaning supplies.  I'd told him he could pay me $10 an hour and because I really wasn't comfortable doing this job, it was my goal to get everything done within an hour.  As I was scrubbing, my phone went off and it was my boss farmer telling me he didn't have any work for me to do today but to come on Monday.  Dang it!  I went from making $25 bucks to day to making $10ish, based on how long it took me to clean.  I thought to myself, while still on the serious look out for any bug that might resemble a bed bug.  I cleaned his whole apartment in an hour and a half, and this included mopping, sweeping, dusting, changing sheets, making beds, and the bathroom.

Yes, I broke a sweat.

He had pictures all over his apartment of whom I assumed to be family members, though the pictures were very out dated because the fashion statements in the pictures was early 90's.  I had sympathy for him, realizing he's just a lonely old man, and did my best to make small talk with my neighbor.

As I finished up, I asked him where I should put the dirty rags, hinting I was ready for the exchange of cash.  He understood the hint and told me he needed to go to the bank to get some cash.  "Okay" I said as I was walking down the hallway, but actually what he had said was "why don't you ride with me to the bank so I can get some cash and pay you."  He huffed and puffed as he put on his shoes, taking a minute to breathe as he put his hand to his chest.

"Are you okay?"  I asked after a long ten seconds of silence and not hearing him breathe.

"Oh yeah, just have a bit of trouble breathing from time to time."  He said between breaths and with his faded West Virginian accent.

I was lecturing myself on the need to learn to tell people no and stop putting myself in awkward situations as I got into the car with him.  About a half mile down the road, the already awkward situation got more awkward.

"How's your love life?"  He asked me.

"Currently non-existent."  I answered without thinking.  I quickly thought of a way to cover up my reply though it didn't help the situation out at all, "I got dumped two months ago."  I blurted out.

"Well, I'm single."  He responded.

I laughed to cover up my natural gagging reflex, a habit created after years of getting hit on by old creepers.  Side note frustration....honestly, I'm a decent looking woman... yet I only get hit on by men much older than me, men who look like they are on the verge of death, and homeless men.  What the what!  Can't I at least get hit on by creepers who are my age?  Or am I pushing my luck asking if I can get hit on by a gorgeous 6' tall, dark hair, dark eyes, Christian?  "Thanks but I'm good."  I causally slip out.

We make it to the bank and he gets a bit of cash, and hands me $25.  "I only worked for an hour and a half.  You only owe me $15".  I tell him to let him know I am an honest person.

"Well, I gave you $25."  He said matter-of-factly.  I realize I now have the total amount of money I was going to make if I would have gone out to the farm to work.

"Thank you so much, I greatly appreciate you helping me out like this."  I word-vomit more gratitude because if I've learned anything at all over the last few months, is that gratitude is like paying it forward.

We drive down the road a little further and he asks me if I've thought about his offer to date him.  I let out another awkward laugh and tell him, "Thanks, I'm good, I prefer to date someone my age."

Either I offended him or shocked him because he gave me a double take of a facial expression.  "Just how old do you think I am?!?!?!"

I hate guessing ages.   He looks about 60, moves like he's 80, but I generously suggested, "mid-fifties?" along with a ditzy shrug.

"What? Really?  I'm 46 years old."  He said as I picked my jaw up off the floor.  I HAD dated guys his age and that was when I was younger!


After a moment of uneasy silence, he asked me how old I was and I really wanted to lie because I have been told I still look like I'm in my late-20's, but the honest person I am, told him the truth.  "34 so you're still a little too old for me."  I said, trying to smooth things over, while holding down the vomit that was churning in my stomach and about to rise up and out.  We rode in silence the rest of the drive back the the apartment complex and I got out of the car, thanked him one more time for the extra cash, and told him I would see him around.   He mentioned he wants me to clean out his car, shampoo his couch, and other various jobs but I have no interest in spending any more time with Paul from apartment 8.  Mostly because I start itching all over when I think about him and his apartment.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Money Matters

On Tuesday, I was thrilled to see Jen Sincero's newest book was finally available, and even better, the audio version was over half off!  I was a thoughtless purchase because I knew this book was going to help me in the current situation I am.  After all, the book is called You are a Badass at Making Money.  I've listened and read You are a Badass hundreds of times and it's one of my go to books when I find myself in a slump, but instead of empowerment and living your life awesomely, Jen was going to cover a topic that I know I have a weird relationship with... money.

The book was amazing.

I'd been doing some of Gabrielle Bernstein's money practices over the past few months such as praying before you pay.  Each time I write a check for a bill, I pray something like this....

Dear God, 
Thank you for giving me the resources to pay these bills and for providing me the opportunity to give back to the community and help others keep their jobs so they can pay their bills.  I am blessed and grateful to contribute to the economy.

And let me tell you, there has been a lot less stress when it comes to paying bills from what feels like a never growing account, yet, I always have enough to pay my bills.

In You are a Badass at Making Money, Jen Sincero gives a lot of great advice and I know I will be listening to this book hundreds of times to help me get a healthy relationship with my money.  One of the stories in the book that stood out to me was when a friend of hers would run out of clients for her interior design business, so she would go driving and every house she passed, she would say, "you are a potential client" to remind her how many people have homes who could use some interior help.

So, I did something very similar.   Every time I drove by a house, I said, "The people in this house have enough money to have a home.  There IS money everywhere."  I mean, have you ever really noticed how many houses you pass on a ten minute drive?  It is an eye opener to see them all and realize everyone in that home has money.  Whether their money situation is healthy or not, I don't know, but I do know, it takes money to have a home, and A LOT of people are making enough to provide for their lifestyle.

I've been practicing changing my words and instead of saying "I'm broke", I say something like "Money is on it's way", or "I'm having a temporary financial set back", or "I have the resources to pay my bills".

Perspective, yo!

In the book, Jen also suggests doing a 29 day giving money away challenge, even if it's only a nickle a day.  I was telling my friend about this challenge and I said I wanted to do it but I was a little nervous since I'm only averaging 20 hours of work right now.  I am still making my monthly donation to a charity of choice, but giving away money for 29 days in a row makes my stomach turn.  How?  Who?  Where?

And, before I could finish my thought process, I was walking down the hallway of my apartment, coming back from a hike, when my neighbor from apartment 24, approached me and asked if I had a dollar.  It was at this moment, I realized I'd left my wallet in the car and told her that I didn't have the money on me right now, but I could give her a dollar once I got to my apartment.

I dug up some quarters and handed her a dollar.  "Oh bless you!  I need my cigarettes so bad!  You wanna know why I'm so broke and needed to borrow a dollar?  Let me show you why I am broke..."

"It's okay, don't worry about it, enjoy your cigs"  I tell her but she insists I follow her to her apartment to see why she is so broke.  I have lived in this abandoned-insane-asylum-looking apartment for three years and I have never been inside another apartment because I don't want to be!  I prefer to keep my head down and mind my own business.  She opened the door to her apartment and I expected it to ooze with cigarette smoke and to feel a layer of it on my skin as I entered, but was surprised to barely smell anything.   Instead, I saw an empty living room except for a couch.  No pictures on the walls, no table, no television, just a couch.  She was the first person I met when I moved in and I know she has been living here longer than me, so I was surprised to see just a couch, and I wondered if the couch purchase was what made her so broke.

She took me into her bedroom which was fully furnished, but again, no decorations, no knick-knacks, nothing besides a bed with it's head and foot board, a dresser, and a vanity mirror.  "This is why I am so poor.  I've been waiting 38 years to get a bed with a head and foot board and now I have it!  How much do you think I paid for this?"

I shrugged my shoulders.  At 34, I still didn't have a bed with a head and foot board.  I could tell it was used by the scratch marks on the wood but I had no idea where to begin guessing.  I don't like guessing games when it comes to age or what something might cost.  The Price is Right will never be in my future.

Before I could guess an answer, she shouted, "$350!  Can you believe that!  I have a bedroom set and now I'm broke!"  She laughed about her fate but she couldn't hide the prideful glow that was beaming out of her.  I told her it looked fabulous and headed back to my apartment, only to see ALL THE STUFF!  I have things everywhere!  EVERYWHERE!  I realized how "rich" I am, and how blessed I am to have more than what I need.

As I was cleaning up my balcony, my neighbor underneath me said hello and asked me how I was doing.  I told him all was well despite my lack of work but I was getting by with the help of odd jobs.

"Do you clean?"  He asked.

I wondered who doesn't clean?  And then I thought maybe he doesn't clean.  But, my bad habit of talking without thinking first answered him and next thing I knew, I had plans to come clean his apartment the following afternoon.  (Inside two apartments within 24 hours...and yes, that story will be coming soon...)

Maybe Jen Sincero is right, when you give your money away, it opens up more opportunity to make more.  So, for 28 more days, I am going to be giving some money away, even if it's just a nickle, to not only help me overcome my negative relationship with money, but to also trust that God will continue to provide for me.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Life with Miss Prim

Whenever I am home, and sitting, or laying, or even standing, Miss Prim is doing her best to give me loving.  I call her my first pet because she's my first non-fish, non-turtle, non-hamster, pet.  And to tell the truth, I'm kinda of surprised she has survived the last 5 years with me given my pet "record" of the my first fish freezing to death due to an ice storm, my hamsters getting lost in the attic and we never exactly found them, and the turtle that I rescued on the side of the road who was set free into the wild less than 24 hours later.

However, I did have a decent fish streak after learning my lesson of leaving it behind in my apartment when the ice storm made me lose electricity.  (When I say it froze to death, I'm not kidding, the tank was a solid chunk of ice with a floating fish near the top.)  I took better care of my fish and even brought the beautiful beta fish to live with me when I moved back in with my parents when I had my run of financial and employment bad luck.  He was growing big and as happy as could be and then, my dad, the most non-pet person I'd ever met, brought home two baby kittens.  One was a fluff ball, the other was a runt who loved me at first sight and has hardly left my side ever since.  (A few months later, the fluffy cat got my fish out of the tank and murdered it...I think my attempts of having fish are over.)

Even though I was on the verge of 30 years old, I had my first REAL pet, you know, the kind that stick around for longer than a week, and the kind that you can spend quality time with instead of watching them inside a tank.  Miss Prim was supposed to be an outside mouser but she found the soft pillows on my bed much more appealing.  She would sneak into my bedroom any time there was opportunity, and because I was on the verge of being a lonely-30-year-old-maid-spinster, I appreciated the snuggle time and pleaded to let her be an inside cat.  My dad declined her cuteness and would send her back outside where she would pout or look at me with lonely eyes from behind the glass door.

When I moved from my parents house, the apartment owner said pets were not allowed.  I gulped, and said goodbye to my purring faithful friend and promised I would visit on the weekends.  And that's when Miss Prim ran away.  I was devastated.  Every time I would drive to my parents house, I would look for dead cat on the side of the road but in my heart, I believed Miss Prim was still alive.  A month later, she arrived back to my parents house, starving and skiddish, but when I went over to see her, she immediately found comfort in my arms.

I decided to ignore the no pet rule at my apartment complex, as many of the other residents had done, and took Miss Prim with me.  She was now a full-time inside cat and she has been the happiest cat ever since.

I never thought I would be a cat person or talk about a cat as much as I do, but Miss Prim really was a blessing in my life.  She reminds me every single day that I am lovable, playful, and worth spending time together.  And to me, that is the best pet to have!

Prompt #6: Your Favorite Childhood Pet

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Baby Fever, Baby Love

I doubt any of you will be shocked when I tell you my life long dream and desire is to have children.  I've always liked kids, and kids have always liked me, and so I figured I'd do the small town thing and graduate from high school, marry the love of my life, and be done having children by the time I hit 30.

Ah, life.

I am now 34 and still childless.  And with encouragement giving to me by the doctor who told me about my auto-immune disease, he also shattered all my hopes and dreams by telling me my chances of ever getting pregnant or carrying a child full term would require a miracle.  Three years later, I am still scarred by his comment, even though I am a firm believer in miracles and that if I'm meant to be a mother, someday, I will be one.

Granted, the internal time clock is not being kind in reminding me that I turned away the one guy who was willing to marry me and start a family with me, even if it meant years of medical trial and error, due to a difference of religion.  Okay, technically, we both just kinda dropped each other without talking it over, and we are both too stubborn to see how each other is doing about it.

So, 34, childless, and very much single.

All this to say, as much as I try to be happy for the 9 million people in my facebook feed who are sharing pregnancy announcements and baby bumps, there is a part of me that dies a little inside with each announcement, wondering if they will give me their baby....  it will ever be my turn.

I didn't know my baby fever was this strong until I was watching a television show where a newborn baby was being rushed to the hospital and I couldn't contain my tears!  "Why!?!?!  It's just a baby!  It's too little to die!!!!"  I shouted at the television.  "My heart can't handle this show!"  I then wondered if I would ever be able to recover from a miscarriage since my doctor made me consider the thought of losing a child, if I ever become pregnant.  Why must doctors destroy hope?

I was relieved to get my mind off of the things in life that I can't control such as pregnancy and giving birth by going to work on the farm.  Physical motion is a great way for me to clear my mind and work through my thought process.  I suppose this is why I have so many "great" thoughts while hiking.  And, so I was off to clean the pen of the lone sick lamb.  As I was scooping up all the muck and mess this sick lamb had created, I began to wonder what made it sick.  I, then remembered the 93 pregnant lambs, and wondered if this one was sick due to pregnancy complications.  I rolled my eyes at myself for having an over-active imagination and got back to work, thinking of all the different reasons why animals could be sick beyond pregnancy complications.

I shoveled up another shovel full of muck and that's when I saw a redish, rubbery, glob.  "Weird, that looks like a placenta, not that I really know what one looks like..."  I mumbled to myself and the surrounding lambs.  I tapped it with the edge of the shovel.  It didn't feel like the typical hay and poo mixture I'd been scooping up.  I wiped away the hay that was around it and that's when I saw the rest of whatever it was that I was scooping up.

It was a half developed baby lamb.  It's little head and knobby knees were all curled up together.  "Poor baby lamb!" I fought back the tears.  "You didn't even have a chance to live!  Why? What caused the miscarriage?!?"  Anger of the situation rose up inside my chest, my boss farmer lied to me, the lamb wasn't sick, the lamb was having a miscarriage!

I gently scooped up the baby and placenta and placed it in the big pile of muck, and then the unthinkable happened.... the head of the lamb fell off and rolled down the pile!  I gasped!  I beheaded the dead baby lamb!

I felt like I had committed murder.

I did my best to bury the remains all together in the pile of muck, but I couldn't shake the feeling of finding the dead-half-developed lamb, then beheading it, only to bury it again.  I did my best to honor it in its burial but I didn't know the farm work was going to drain me so emotionally.  I simply can not deal with hurt or dead babies.

When the boss farmer told me about the 93 pregnant lambs, I was giddy and excited to be a part of it as they would give birth, because I didn't think about the ones that wouldn't make it. Now, having seen the dead lamb, the excitement is gone, and now I feel like a worried-about-to-be-a-first-time-mother wondering what other pregnancy complications might take place over the next several weeks.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken

I had two standout favorite movies as a child.  Singing in the Rain and Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken. I have no problem being out in the rain, in fact, a good rain makes me a bit giddy to go outside, and for this, I gratefully blame Gene Kelly for making being out in the rain seem so joyful and desirable.  It is for this reason, I blame the actress who played Sonora Webster in Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken for my desire to have a horse as a child.

I love the scene in Wild Hearts Can't Be Broken when she is so desperate to have any type of job within the diving horse business she gladly accepts the offer when asked if she can shovel manure.  "Manure just happens to be my specialty."

I've never been around horses much, and besides a quick pony ride as a 6 year old at the county fair, I have never ridden a horse, nor dived off a tall tower into water with one, but I don't think they do that anymore.  However, I have been around animals more and more over the last few years.  Animals used to intimidate me because I was never around them, but lately I have become an animal magnet, finding friendly animals, anxious to run away with me.  (Hence the beginnings of my family members owning cats....)

My lack of work from the upholstery shop has been frustrating for picking up extra work.  My hours there are still currently limited to 16 hours per week, however, I still don't always know which days I am working.  Not only that, but we have several positive leads which I am hopeful will bring my hours back to full time, even if only for a few weeks.   There is also a chance I might be joining my boss on a job in Knoxville, Tennessee, and we'd most likely be gone a full week.  As you can see, this makes finding other work a bit complicated.  Though I've only heard from 3 people in my massive application submissions, they have  not been willing to work around my current work schedule.  In other words, these companies told me I'd have to work my schedule around their hours, not caring I already had a job that paid a lot more than they were offering.

That's when I saw the ad for the farm work.  Evenings, 5-10 hours per week, and HORSES.  Though I could use a few more hours than that, it would be flexible, and fit with my current work schedule.  I sent an email with little hope of them hiring a 34 year old female with farm experience including petting chickens, pigs, and cows, and sometimes feeding them.  My email went something like this:

"Hi, I'm Jen and I am an animal magnet who doesn't mind getting down and dirty.  My parents have a small farm and I take care of the animals when they are out of town.  I've never been around horses and lambs, but I'm willing to learn."

They responded immediately, asking me how I felt about shoveling manure, and I giggled at the thought of responding with manure being my specialty, instead I told them I was capable.  The truth is, I was hoping to find some sort of landscaping job, or a greenhouse, because I love my garden time, but without experience, getting anyone to take a resume with jobs such as an upholster and cook, doesn't seem to scream I have a green thumb.   So, the farm work, in a way, was like the landscaping job, only instead of shoveling dirt and mulch, it was going to be horse poop.

I started a few days later on a sunny spring day.  I met the farmer and he gave me a few tools and a task, and walked away, leaving me alone, in an empty barn, with horse poop.  He told me the task would take an hour.  I did it it 40 minutes.   The next day, when I went back, I did it in 35 minutes.  Then, in 30 minutes.

Yesterday, I finished the barn and told him I would need a new task soon.  "Wow, I can't believe you have that done already.  We've had helpers before and this task does them in and they never come back."

"Really?"  I thought to myself.  It was an hour a day, and though I broke a decent sweat, I never had sore muscles or a sore back.  It just felt like another day of work.  In the back of my head, I was thinking of saying with your brains and my back, you're going places... but instead I awkwardly told him I've always done physical labor and I liked challenges.

As I stumbled over my words, I realized he was the only human I'd seen or spoken to in 3 days.  (I had sent emails and texts to people but no actual talking...we live in a sad world...)  It also makes sense to why I started talking to the horses as if they were humans when they ventured over to see all the commotion that was happening in their barn.

Even though it is just an hour a day, it keeps me moving and gets me outside.  They have 93 lambs expecting babies soon, so I imagine the farm diary stories are only beginning.  And honestly, I like the work.  I've always preferred physical labor that keeps me busy over paper shuffling.

Maybe shoveling manure just so happens to be my specialty.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Is This Real or Not Real?

When you are a small town girl, without any close local friends, and without a social life, the only way to get a date is through the internet.   And even that can be a struggle since men from the big cities of Akron, Canton, or Cleveland, can't fathom the idea of coming to Wooster for a date, so most of the time these meetings never happen.

About a week, I started a conversation with a guy named Hank, via internet.  The conversation went something like this:

Him:  Hi, how are you?
Me:  I'm good, just got done doing some deep spring cleaning in my apartment!  It feels good to have my place this clean.
Him...24 hours later:  You inspired me to do some cleaning!  Thank you for that.
Me:  That's awesome.  How are you today?
Him...24 hours later:  I'm good.  I'm going to be in your area today, want to meet for dinner at 5 at the Barn?
Me:  I actually have plans and won't be able to meet you tonight.  I'm interested in getting to know you.
Him:  No worries, I'll be in the area on Wednesday too, how about dinner then?
Me:  Yeah, that should work.  I won't be free until after 6.
Him:  That's perfect, I won't make it into town before 6 anyway.

After that message, I gave him my number, and my past experience has taught me, that once a guy from online has your number, you receive texts all morning, all day, and all night.  So, I waited for a text in hopes of getting to know this guy a little more before sitting down for a meal together.

The week went on and Wednesday arrived.  I went to my part time job on a farm to scoop poop, and then stopped by my parents house to pick up some mail and a book.  In my mind, I was going home, taking a long hot shower, and settling down with a book.  The perfect evening!

As I walked through the door at 6:15pm, my phone alerted me.   It was Hank, asking if we could push back our dinner to 8 o'clock.   Oh ****!  I completely forgot!  I responded with a quick "perfect" as I was stripping myself naked to hop in my not so long and hot shower.  After I got out of the shower, I realized we never set a location.  I messaged him to see where he was familiar with in Wooster and he told me to pick a place.  And so, I picked the safest, easiest to find place in Wooster... Applebee's.

He responded, "how about picking a place more local and less franchise."  

Oh, he was one of those.  Don't get me wrong, I love supporting local restaurants but I also have no problem dining at a chain restaurant.  After all, I do make restaurant booths for chain restaurants, so in my book, they aren't just greedy corporate franchises, they also supply a lot of jobs for the communities.

The thing was, Wooster is a small town, and local restaurants in Wooster are downtown, and downtown restaurants close between 7-9pm, so finding a place that would be open late enough for us to actual enjoy our dinner and have time to talk before kicking us out so they can go home, was going to be a challenge.  I googled a few of the local places to see their hours, and found one that closed at 11 pm.  Once we established the location, he told me his directions said he'd be there at 8:15pm and I was immediately bummed that I didn't take a longer shower.  So, after I got ready, I sat down and started reading the book I wanted to spend the whole evening reading, but only got a few pages in before it was time for me to go meet this guy who I'd literally only had exchanged a few sentences with over the last week.

I'd picked the Olde Jaol which has two different buildings.  One for the steakhouse, and one for the tavern.  I picked the tavern because it was first date, laid back, Applebee's feel, material.  When I saw a guy walking up the sidewalk glancing from building to building, I figured this had to be Hank.  Trying to be witty and cute, as well as breaking the ice with a light hearted  joke I said, "Based on the confused look on your face, you must be Hank, and this building here is the tavern."  I gave him a cheesy smile and he came in and gave me a big bear hug.  

"I wasn't confused, I was just taking it all in!  What a great night!"  Hank said with enthusiasm.

"Oh, well, from my perspective, you looked confused."  

We entered the restaurant and sat down, completely oblivious that we knew nothing about each other, but that was okay because this was a brand new moment for him to experience and explore.  I knew this three minutes into our conversation because before answering my "what brings you to Wooster?" question, he had to take in the whole restaurant.  He answered with a story about life being absolutely crazy and how awesome it was to live such a crazy and unexplained life.

I was on a date with a combination of all the self-help and personal development books I've read over the past two years.   It was completely intriguing!  So, instead of answering a question at surface level, like, what do you do for a living?  I got the story about how he loved to bake as a child and realized the need to only use local ingredients while baking and so on.  From there, we started discussing farming and agriculture, and that's when I said, "Did you know if every single household had 5 chickens, the amount of waste would drastically decrease?  If I weren't in an apartment, I'd have a chicken."

"You are making my heart explode with romantic feelings right now."  He exclaimed.  He went on to tell me how he was trying to pass the chicken laws in Cleveland so people could have chickens.  

I was fascinated with this guy and then I said, "Are you familiar with Joel Salatin's farming methods?  That's the kind of farm I want."

"Okay, this might be a little soon, and I don't want to rush things, but you do want to go live on a farm together?"

"Yes!" I answered in the way I'd fantasized about when my ex-boyfriend talked about proposing but in reality, when he would talking about it, my response was more like, "okay, yeah, this could work."  I told him I didn't want him to propose until I could excitedly answer with a yes, and without hesitation, just as I had done in this moment with Hank.

Our conversation shifted towards politics and religion, more-so, our parents views and how we were raised.  We were both raised in a Christian conservative home, while I continue to hold on to these beliefs, he decided 10 years ago to wonder if anything was real or not.  Was gravity real?  Would we have it when we woke up the next morning?  Would he still treat people the same if religion hadn't told him how to treat people? He went on to explain all these thoughts about not having set beliefs because he wanted to continue to explore them.

My head was beginning to hurt because I could no longer follow his thinking.  Wouldn't it be exhausting to question everything ALL the time?  Finally, I asked him, "so, do you believe in everything or do you believe in nothing, or do your beliefs change every day because you have to decide each day what you believe?"

He was quiet and I could see his mind working by the way his eyes focused in on nothing in particular.  "Wow, no one has ever asked me this question before, I guess I've never really thought of it that way before."

He rambled on for 10 minutes tossing out intelligent information, facts, and perspectives, without actually answering my question, and somehow we got on to the topic of mediation, and then I told him my story about how I've seen tons of deer since December, like fields of deer, and I finally asked my friend who is half Native American if she thought it meant something.  He enjoyed my story and then asked if he could share some of his deer stories.

And this is where he lost me.

Mostly because he knows so much about the Native American lifestyle and he has participated in words I can't pronounce so I don't even know how to spell them, or google them, also known as Native American spiritual rituals and stuff.  He told me how he's been experimenting with the dream state because Native Americans would live their real life while in a dream state, so they would see things that weren't really there, while being in reality.  He started telling me stories about his experiences with deer and then he would say things like, "and then I would cross over in my dream"... 

I would be completely fascinated with his story and then I would be doubting his story because I wasn't even sure if he was telling me what was real or was a dream that seemed real.  All this to say, that if I thought the amount of deer and the encounters I have had with these animals was something to take note of, his experiences far surmounted mine!  After he told me all of his deer stories, he sighed and said, "you have no idea how awesome this is to talk to someone about all of this stuff, most people write me off as a freak."

I gave him a soft smile and said, "you intrigue me."  Which was true, and though I didn't think the idea of moving to a farm with him sounded as appealing as it had an hour previously, I was still fascinated with our conversation.   We still didn't know anything about each other because we skipped all the surface level small talk and talked about taboo first date things like politics, religion, spirituality, and dreams.  

The sound of thunder echoed in the restaurant stopping our current conversation.  "Whoa!"  we said in unison.  While he looked up to the ceiling of the restaurant, I'm assuming to look for the spot the thunder came from, I commented that the storm we were supposed to get must have rolled in.  He gave me a look of confusion, so I said, "Did you know we were supposed to get a storm?"

"Oh, yeah, I knew, I was just taking this moment in."

I sighed.  I am all for being aware of the moment and appreciating the small things but I also live in reality where we have thunderstorms.  Fighting a yawn, because it was way past my bedtime, I asked if we should leave so the employees can close up and go home.   

"Well, when you put it that way, yes, we should get going."  Hank said, and I didn't spare a moment to move from my chair.   We walked outside and admired the rain.  I suggested he should dance like Gene Kelly in Singing in the Rain while he made his way to the car, while I ran to my car because it was cold-chilled-to-my-bones-rain.  He gave me another big hug and told me he enjoyed all of our moments we spent together, and I responded, sincerely, "I am fascinated with you."

We parted ways and I called my friend who had sent me my "get out of jail for free" text an hour ago.    
"Do you think you'll ever go out with him again?"  She asked.

"You know, I don't know.  He really was interesting but I don't even understand if he believes in everything or nothing, so wouldn't it be a waste of time if he doesn't know if he believes in love or God or living in reality?  Anyway, he lives up in the Cleveland area, so I don't imagine he will be in this area very often, but I did learn a lot of interesting things over dinner.  I guess we will see."

It is the next morning and I am typing up this blog while it is all fresh in my mind, and guess who is in town again, and wanting to go out for lunch?  That's right, being out of work is giving me the opportunity to have a lunch date with Hank.   And boy, do I have a lot of questions to ask him because I am seriously curious about this guy.

Monday, April 3, 2017


I had a simple realization the other day while listening to the sermon at church.  The topic was about waiting and it hit home, since I feel like most of my life has been stuck in the transition zone instead of the present.  I keep waiting to hear about work coming in.  I keep waiting to hear from applications I've sent in.  I keep waiting for a man to see my worth and stick around during the hard times.

I keep waiting on change, but not just any old change, change that will make my life better.

In the sermon, he talked about waiting patiently, praying earnestly, while eagerly waiting with hope.  And then he said, "you have to transform your bitter to better", and carried on with his sermon.

That was the sentence I heard echoing over and over in your head.  He didn't explain how to move from bitter to better but that was alright, because for the first time in my life, I saw the difference between the two words beyond the one letter difference.

I thought back to the book of Ruth, a book we'd studied a few weeks earlier, and how Naomi changed her name to Mara because it meant bitter. (Ruth 1:20-21)  And Naomi/Mara wore her bitterness well, letting everyone know she was a widow, her sons had died, and God had taken everything away from her.  During a hard time, she chose to be bitter.  Not better.

And then I thought about some of my past struggles and how my first reaction was to turn bitter and blame others for my misfortune, compared to now, where I see my current situation clearly and understand the struggle, but my attitude isn't bitter.  It's optimistic.  I'm faithful and in constant prayer. I'm not consumed with fear because I trust God is guiding me.  After all, everyone in the Bible, and anyone called by God, has gone through a few "bad spells" where nothing seems to go right, but in the end, they see God's providence leading them to exactly where He wanted them.  After all, we can lose a lot of things in life, from careers, to houses, we can even lose our faith, but the one thing we never lose is our purpose in life, or the destiny God has designed for us.

Back to my thoughts and how I started thinking about the story of Ruth.  After I realized how bitter Naomi/Mara was, I realized how much better Ruth was.  She too, was a widow, and now moving to a foreign land with her mother-in-law, working long hours in the fields for food, and despite her circumstance, she had the heart of a servant.  She was better.  Not bitter.

Then, I noticed the true difference between the words.

B{I}TTER.... I.  Woe is me!  Bitterness is created when the whole world revolves around us and what we are lacking.  Bitter people complain.  Bitter people aren't grateful.  Bitter people are self-consumed.  If they aren't happy, no one around them should be happy.  It's negativity full speed ahead.

B{E}TTER....E.  Everyone.  Others.  Everyone is included.  Have you ever noticed the people who are happy in life are the ones helping others?  And, it's not out of obligation, but it's because they genuinely want to make the world a better place.  They have learned to look outside their own personal life to see a bigger picture.  Most people feed off of their energy, while bitter people try to destroy it because after all, it makes them look bad!

It is still my natural tendency to be bitter because pointing fingers, living in fear, and complaining, is really EASY!  Each day I try to do and be better.  It is a process but I am making progress.  Even if I don't always go out of my way and have the heart of a servant, I am much more aware of my missed opportunities to make the world a better place.

Today, and every day, I choose to see love instead of fear.

I choose to be better instead of bitter.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Slow Deep Breaths

I called my friend in a panic.  She answered with a casual hello.

"Give me positive vibes NOW!  I demanded.  I was driving and struggling to calm my emotional reactions to my current frustrations.

"Um, okay.  You are sunshine and light.." she laughed as she mumbled the words into the phone but then I interrupted her confusion of my demand.

"LIAR!"  I laughed.  "I mean, remind me how to control my emotions and see the positive instead of being annoyed at this group of people, that I, for some pathetic and idiotic reason, keep hanging out with?  Am I that desperate for a social life?"  Though I am speaking sarcastically, there is so much truth to my words.

"Um, did you want me to answer that?"  she asks, sounding ready to reveal the cold hard truths of my life to me over the phone.

"NO! Because I already know the answer!  I am!  This is my life!  Desperate attempts of putting myself out there, only to be rejected, or ignored.  Also, I forgot to take off my invisibility cloak again."  I let out a slow, deep, and loud, sigh, and then let it all go.  "I just don't know how, after a year of changing my mindset, being more open and understanding, loving and accepting myself, and going through so many emotional and mental changes that I still struggle with finding people to be involved in my life, or mine in theirs."

She understood my struggle because she has listened to me vent my frustrations about this issue since I was 16 years old.  "So, what happened?"

"It's so stupid, I shouldn't even be annoyed by it but this group has the worst case of ADD.  I got invited over for game night.  I went over in comfy casual clothes, even took some games, and upon arrival, the girl in charge decided she wanted to have a bonfire and we were going to relocate.  And since she is the kind of girl that always gets what she wants, and no one speaks up to her because she doesn't hear what other people say anyway, we end up doing what she says.  So, now, instead of playing some games and getting to know each other, I'm heading home to change into warm clothes because it's 30 freaking degrees outside, and sit outside by a fire.  Oh, and she wants to watch this guy shave his beard.  Apparently, it is going to be hilarious."

"So, you're going to the bonfire?  Why?"

"Because I want to have friends."

It wasn't much further into this discussion that I learned what I already knew... this group of people was not serving me in a sense to make me a better person or want to open up, this group of people was suffocating me and I was constantly going back after I got a little bit of air.  "But, if Christians don't want to be friends with me, and Americans don't want to be friends with me...maybe I should just pack my bags and move to India or Thailand or somewhere and go on a spiritual quest.  Maybe then I'll find the right people for my life."

This is something I've been deeply considering lately.  Selling everything and going to a different country.  I've even considered looking into teaching English overseas.  But then I make excuses like I have a clingy and anxious cat who would not do well with separation.  Oh, and my family is all here.  Things like that.  But I seriously wonder if the reason my life constantly feels like tires stuck in the mud is because maybe I'm on the wrong continent!

I went to the bonfire where I spoke a handful of words and took a trip down memory lane when I discovered the guy who got thrown into hosting the bonfire and I had a mutual connect... my first adult crush, the-we-became-friends-and-he-never-made-a-move-guy.  We watched the guy get his beard shaved off and I kept trying to imagine how this was so exciting and funny.  I even imagined me surrounded by some of my closest friends asking one of them to shave their beard off in front of us, but I still couldn't see the amusement in this event.  Maybe it's because I come from a family where the guys grow a beard in the winter, and shave it off in the spring.  This event seemed kind of normal yet unusual since we were watching him as one might watch an acrobat in the circus.

Once the person who had blocked my car in left, I took advantage of the chance of freedom and made my way home, ignoring the feelings of loneliness creeping in on me.  I walked in my apartment to find my loyal and loving cat anxious to snuggle and so I sat down and she quickly found comfort in my arms.  I rubbed her belly as she purred and said what I say to her every night, "it looks like it's just you and me for life."

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Creative Living

For a while now, I've been dabbling with the idea of creative living.  In a way, it's a way I have been living my life fro the past 34 years, but I've done it without really being aware of it.   Now, I want to be aware of creative living, and push myself to do more of it.

I've been reading a lot of books on this topic lately to fully understand the concept.  It isn't necessarily being a starving and struggling artist, but more about going and "making stuff" because that is what you want to do.  I firmly believe that it is possible to live a financially secure life while creating, in fact, that's what all businesses are doing on some level.  My struggle has been which direction to continually show up in.

I've dabbled in everything artistic and I suppose this is why I am so hesitant to give up my current job, despite only getting 16 hours a week, to pursue a new job.  Upholstery and cooking are the only jobs I have ever had that have fulfilled my creative habits and desires while getting a paycheck.  But creative living is beyond a job and a paycheck, it's about being authentic especially with your creativity.

And to be honest, I've been rather lazy with my creativity.  I get ideas all the time but instead of doing something with these fun ideas, I sit down and watch a movie because I don't feel like sitting down and writing after a long day, or I don't want to pull out my art supplies because I finished cleaning my apartment.  I find myself making more excuses to avoid being creative and then complain because I'm not feeling like myself.

I love to create.  Though I'm no where close to being a Van Gogh, Picasso, Monet, or even a Bob Ross,  I have a different kind of calm when I am painting, letting my hands move in a steady motion while trying to paint what is in my head on a canvas.   And when I cook, I throw in spices, or whip something together without a recipe because it feels natural to mix certain foods together.  When I write, I lose track of time because my mind is more concerned about picking the right words than tracking the time.   And when I go on a walk, I can take 300 pictures without even knowing it.  I am a natural creator and though I'm not at a professional level of any of these artistic outlets, it is when I am doing these things that I feel like I am at home in my own skin.   I hear a different voice in my head, one that is optimistic, one that is hopeful, one that tells me that tells me the dream is real, I just have to do something about it.

Once a project is finished, I know that it is an authentic one of a kind and it is up to me to put it into the public's eyes, so they can praise or criticize what my inner most being created.  This is the process that keeps most people from sharing their creative living because people are...people.  There are those who take the fine comb over the creation to point out all the flaws, there are those who murmur meh's and shrug their shoulders, saying "I don't see what the big deal is..." and there are a few people out there who simply appreciate the creation because it is a creation.

One of the reasons I stopped writing was because of the noise that came after I released my first book.  Actually, it was the lack of noise.  Other than a handful of people I gifted the book to, in exchange for a review, I hadn't gotten any reviews of my most vulnerable writing.  No one cared I had released a book, and even though I sold a handful, only two people told me they read the book, and only one said they liked it.  As a new writer, I wanted the validation that I had written something worth reading, that my story had some impact, and that I was worthy of writing another book.  The silence haunted me so much that I stopped writing.  I convinced myself my writing was unworthy of being read.  I stopped creating for years and my life felt stale.

And then a few months ago, the writing bug bit me again, and I jotted down a few notes.  Then, a friend suggested I read a book, and then another book, and then another book.  I found myself telling her that I could have written these books if I would sit down and write.

If I would sit down and write.

With it being a new month, I am committing to writing 500 words a day, via blog, via prompt, via working on that novel I've been wanting to write for 7 years, and I am going to live creatively and artistically.  It's not about writing something to sell or publish right now, it's about simply getting back into my creative habits and doing the work.

When is the last time you got in tune with your creative side?  Do you find yourself feeling differently when you are in the creative zone?