Before You Give to a Charity (really helping those in need)

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‘Tis the time of year for charities.  To give to those less fortunate.  To share some of our blessings.

We often gave money to organizations that helped the homeless.  Then we became homeless ourselves after losing our rented farm.  We opted not to go on welfare, but rather to work very hard to get jobs and get back on our feet.  About this time two years ago we were out of money and hungry.  You can only eat so many dollar burritos from Taco Bell with found change.  We looked into getting a food basket from a local charity that distributed them.  I didn’t have a coat, I was freezing.  We were really struggling and not a single organization could or would help us.  They gave everything to the “poorest” in the county.  Well, you couldn’t have been poorer than us at that moment.  You have to work pretty dang hard to be the poorest in the county.  You have to get on welfare and food stamps, and you can’t try to find work or you would lose your pay out every month.  No thanks.

Then we have the homeless organizations that we gave to.  Those are intended to serve the perfectly able folks with signs-who make more money than anyone I know- on the corners of busy streets.  We did a farmer’s market for years in a park that was popular with the homeless.  They stole, took drugs in the park, excitedly went and got free food from the food kitchen, and had no desire to change their lives.  Or they wouldn’t be homeless anymore.  It was a lifestyle they chose.  They were the first to admit it.  And that really surprised us.

Now, this all sounds a little harsh, but let me be clear, there are people out there that need your help.  They just don’t have cardboard signs and are working hard to try and make it.  They are the elderly on your block who would love company and a meal with someone.  It’s the single mom who can’t afford new coats for her swiftly growing children.  It’s the friend at work whose wife is sick and they need help with meals and cleaning the house but would never ask.  There are people all around you who could use a bit of charity and mercy and help.

Only a few cents goes to the people large charities serve.  If you were to just look around you could have a much more powerful impact, make a personal connection, and strengthen the community you are in.  I will forever be grateful to my old neighbors who showed up at my shop with a box of home canned food, squash, a winter coat, and a hug.

Before you write a check to a big charity, look around and see if anyone near you could use a little holiday help.  We all need a little help here and there.

(Thank you to all of our friends that pitched in back then with money, a place to stay, a dinner, and hugs.  We never imagined we would have been in that situation.  Amazing how much can change in such a short time. We are really grateful for all we have now.)

 

Thankfulness and Determination

 

familyThanksgiving.  I am thankful.  I am thankful for the soft, plush fur of my purring kitten that greets me each morning at dawn.  The pink glow of day through the trees as I awake.  The hot coffee, its earthy aroma and taste, filling me with life.  I am thankful and say “wado” do the Creator each day.

“It’s just material stuff.  You can’t take it with you!” folks say, then go to their warm homes and kitchens.  Easy for them to say.

I know friends and family that have lost children, spouses, their health.  They would rather have our lot.  I know.  We have so much to be thankful for.

My beautiful baby granddaughter is with me four days a week filling my spirit with light.  My children are healthy.  Beautiful.  Pursuing their dreams.  What more could I ask for?

I asked an organization in my county how one can be gifted with a basket of fresh vegetables.  They said they were distributing them to the people in the county in need.  Where do all these things get distributed?  They erased my request from the page.  I shiver without a coat.  Wear the same four outfits mismatched so they look like a new outfit.  We have lived on the kindness and loans from friends for five months.  What Doug makes from his new job goes to support the shop and gas to get to work.  He brings home expired pastries for our breakfast.

“I didn’t realize you were still struggling so much,” a friend says.  How do you talk about that kind of thing?  You don’t.

I am thankful that we have shelter.  When I used to say that it meant I was thankful for my house.  Now I am thankful not to be out of doors.  I am thankful for food.  I am thankful for friends.  And hugs and gifts and smiles and visitors and that I could hang on to my cats.  I am thankful for my husband.  I would not trade our marriage for anything in the world.

“We are definitely not living our life,” he says as I tell him about a video I saw of a woman who has lived off-grid for thirty years.

I started to doubt my own words that I write and speak about.  The manifesting your own destiny and dreams seem a little full of it now.  My roommate agrees.  There is great danger in making people feel like they can achieve anything.

I am thankful.  I am blessed.  I have everything I need.  This I know.  I need to get out there and help and inspire as many people as I can.  And mark my words, readers, this time next year I will be writing you from my farm on how to create a homemade Thanksgiving.

 

 

Sunrises, Gratitude, and Magic Coffee

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Today I unpack our books and photos, writings and my aprons.  I will make this downstairs area emanate life and our love for each other and home.  Tomorrow we will pick up all my plants from the greenhouse at Margie’s and will be officially moved out of her home.

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I owe Margie and Pat a great amount of gratitude for taking us in while in the depths of despair holding nine cats.  We made such beautiful memories over there this summer, flying in Pat’s airplane, feeding the raccoon on the porch while watching bats, enjoying drinks together as the moon rose over the horizon of trees.  Their graciousness held no bounds and I am truly thankful.

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The shop continues to change and form each day.  Each day it looks more and more like how I envisioned it.  And in mad rushes it will be done and ready to open Tuesday with cups of tea and glowing medicines ready to pour.

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But now I sit here as the dawn stretches and rises quietly over the earth illuminating all the autumn splendor and old trees as the cool breeze awakes the upper branches.  My spirit is tired and my back is sore but I sit in peace with my cup of coffee.  These things we hold onto to bring us joy.  A sip of this coffee brings me back to years of holidays, and years of happiness.  Each sip holds magic.  We call it Christmas coffee but I start it in October.  A sweet reminder of all the fun to come, of trick-or-treating, sharing Thanksgiving meals, of the childlike wonder of Christmas and Hanukkah, and the new beginnings of the New Year.

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This year (and last) may have been a wild ride, but all I feel at this moment is peace and intense gratitude.  For the memories with my children and family and friends that are family, for sunrises so beautiful they erase the previous day, and for sips of magic coffee.

In a coffee pot, or preferably a French press, add 2 drops of peppermint essential oil to regular scoops of coffee ( I do like a nice strong roast myself, 7 heaping scoops to an 8 cup press) and brew as you would.

Magic.

Our New Home

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We rambled up the long driveway in our old truck and took in the view of the alpaca farm down the hill and the glorious eastern horizon where the sunrises will glint down upon the plants and through the numerous trees that reside on his property.

“I really feel that the sage is here to welcome you,” he said.  I was struck and honored at his words.  The sage is prolific there.  It grows rampant this year among the many Cherokee roses.  The prickly pear and the mullein are all there.  Pines so tall they can recall when the Kiowa Indians roamed these hills and called them home.

The owner of this property is well respected, a friend of mine, who works in an emotionally challenging job helping the ill and passing.  He lives in this large home alone.  He needs help here.  It is a glorious home that holds the spirits of his parents that built it.  Sparkling ceilings and medicine bags in the foundations.  The property has a retreat-like property and vortexes abound.  It is a special place. We will live here for a year.  We will help him sort and get ready to let this beautiful house go as he moves on to his next journey next autumn.

In the meantime we will have acres of medicinal herbs and trees to use and protect.  Sunrises that greet us through the walk out basement doors.  Three more cats to add to our menagerie.  One of his chickens approached me in greeting.  A wood cook stove and wood stove to help supplement heat.  A kitchen upstairs for me to make sure everyone has sustenance.  I feel quite well received here among his mother’s things and the spirit of the house and land.  I found Doug in a recliner with one of the house cats on his lap.  I think we’ll be real happy here.

It is two miles from my shop so a brisk morning walk will take place each day but that, perhaps, is a part of the hidden blessings.  Since becoming homeless and losing everything three months ago we have been swimming several times with our granddaughter and friends, to Utah, to a winery, in an airplane, sang on our son’s album, have visited, and made friends.  We have dreamed, comforted, and become fiercely grateful for everything.  We are more flexible and need less.  We will be content with a bed and two chairs before a roaring fire as the snow drops silently outside the window upon the world of peace and quiet.  Cats curled up near us.  A table.  A bookshelf.  Cups of hot coffee.  That is all.  That is all we really need anyway.  Each other and an enjoyment of this life right here and now is what we’ll thrive on.

The Bad Day

My friends, I appreciate every single person that takes the time to read my words, to cheer us on, to cry with us, to talk to me outside of this blog, who cares about our family, who lets me write and allows me to have readers.  Thank you.

One of my problems, that I think might be cured now, is that I speak too soon.  I cannot keep a secret to save my life and I love to share news and get excited about possibilities and I speak too soon and send everyone on a wild goose chase of emotional rollercoasters and bottles of wine.

This seemed so promising but sometimes things are not as they seem.  At the last minute the whole house dream was over.  So many things I cannot discuss in order to respect others’ thoughts and ideas and this time it just didn’t work out.  Again.

Where are we supposed to be?  I wish I knew.  I will work on getting this shop open.  I will not have a nervous breakdown.  I will not even have a glass of wine.  I will just go get my book and go to bed.

To Thine Own Self Be True (a recognition of oneself when starting over)

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I am Yeopim Indian and Cherokee proud, and Scottish and English and Irish loud, along with Dutch and Black French and possibly more.  And from them all my genetic disposition lays.  In my hair, in my eyes, in my innate knowledge and intuition, in my sense of adventure and in my search for home do I find glimpses of all those that came before.  All my ancestors, all in me.  But I alone have my spirit.  My true self.  That has been here before.

And in mindful analysis and decompression of the physical frame as each day becomes a bit more mundane the layers of thought and peers wash aside as the essence of being comes forth in glints of light.

“Why do you fear being wealthy?”  “Why do you believe you do not deserve riches?” I am asked.

Struck, I wonder, is this true?  Should I be rich in homes with heightened ceilings and possessions galore?  Is that what my life’s work is for?  I would like to have enough-though that maybe less than many, more than some.  Seeds to grow into food for mind and strength and chickens here and there.  A rambling adobe with rooms for art and friends, for laughter, for cooking, for light, and memory.

Enough to visit new places at whim, for inspiration and to meet people and culture new.  But to watch a sunset from my own porch swing would be as sweet a riches as I could dream.

Sommelier?  I cannot drink more than one glass of wine!  Food industry?  I can’t stay up past nine!  A city plot, cement gardens, and lack of birds, no deer around, no late owl heard?

Impossible.

Homesteader, homemaker, home dreamer am I.  Making a home under the Great Mystery’s sky.

My job is to raise grandchildren when so blessed to have them near.  To teach them herbs, and trees, and birds, and through the wind the Creator heard.  To show them things that schools do not know.

To help those that seek my help, in physical or spiritual need should they ask, to find the right herbs and prayers and songs.

Silence and nature are my friends as the early dawn and the night sky guide my days all year long.

Saving the Ice Cream Maker (and dreams of adobes and cabins)

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Have you ever wondered what you would take if you had to leave your home?  Photographs seem to top the list and yes, I did grab three boxes of mine.  The other items now that I stand back and look made me laugh.  Granted I have been in a fog lately but my priorities must have come through anyway.  The highlight of my stash is as follows.  I grabbed the pottery pieces that my children have made for me over the years.  I packed a select number of books.  And the ice cream maker.  Seriously?  I grabbed the ice cream maker?

Jill gifted me with some milk yesterday if I goatsit for an hour tomorrow and my friend, Diana, gave me some farm fresh eggs so I will make some ice cream.  That might fix everything.

Another friend who lost everything in a fire aptly said that you find out that things do not make up who you are.  They do not define us.  My style represented me, gave glimpses of my personality, but are not what me and Doug are about.

I am a homemaker though.  That is my favorite job.  Taking care of my kids and now granddaughter, fixing supper, working in the garden, making sure the house is clean, mending, canning, day dreaming on the porch all bring me joy.  So, understandably I have swirls of possible houses and dreams of cabins and adobes and porches running through my mind.  Then I’ll think, ‘Oh crap!  I don’t have anything to put in the house (save for some fine art deco, books, photos, and an ice cream maker).’

I cannot imagine how this will all unfold.  How the heck will we get our own place?  But I know when that mystery unfolds then the things to fill a home will follow easily.  I had to give away so much for free that I know that there are ways to get things for a low price.  I don’t know why I ever bought new.  I will make sure that I do not accumulate as much stuff.  Lord, where does all our stuff come from?!  I think my new style will be Quaker style.  Of course there will be things that I miss but part of me is the slightest bit relieved to be free of so many items to care for.

I am, as usual, ahead of myself.  Job first.

What this journey is really teaching me thus far is to get out of my head.  My friend, Pat, is the most joyous creature, just full of energy and life.  She is rarely stuck in the cerebral but rather enjoying good food, drinks, her husband, life, adventures, and sensations.  I am always thinking.  It gets annoying and I miss the chance to be human.  I am so stuck in the spiritual/cerebral/can’t shut off my brain for two seconds that I forget to be in touch with right now and all the sensations that make being a human worthwhile.  I am learning to be present.  Well, I am thinking about learning to be present.  We’ll get there.

What would you take if you had to leave your home?

Ponderings From the Road

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What is home?  Long drives leave one with little more to do than ponder such things.  To visit with myriads of emotions.  Scenery passes swiftly as we zoom down the corridor to Utah.  The scenery is very much the same among New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah, only slight variances arise.  The rocks become more ornate as we drive on.

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We pass dilapidated homesteads that have seen pioneer faces and harsh winters, wood fires in the hearth and babies born on spring mornings.  Shelters falling into the earth from whence they came. We want not much more than a one room homestead, a large open fireplace and wood cook stove, animals near the barn.  Nothing expansive.  Oil lamps will do.  A cat curled up by my feet.  A stew in the open hearth in the Dutch Oven.  Such a simple dream and as attainable as a mansion in Hawaii.  Did I bring such visions of how life could be from a past life?  Does it even exist anymore?

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Rodney plays swing music and jazz.  Pat rests her head on the seat in front of me. Doug looks out the window. Silent reverie among friends.  I am lulled in and out of slumber.

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The railways run for miles and I imagine cowboys riding alongside the Iron Horse of old.  Parties arriving in the unchartered prairie with packages and children in tow.  Long skirts stirring dust in the wind.

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The wind farms we left behind have found us in Wyoming.  Miles and miles and hundreds across the prairie. More wind farms coming than food farms and I am suddenly alarmed.  I must have a place to push in a seed, to pull up strangling weeds, and to water soft earth.

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I am homeless this week.  Not for lack of working, friends.  When I return Monday I must empty the house of all my belongings either by sale or give away.  We will put our cats in carriers and head to a new location.  What is homeless?  Our hotel is gorgeous.  A new Embassy Suites in Salt Lake City.  We walked back from dinner and was passed by a homeless man.  Shatteringly dirty, mix matched, and focused on his tasks.  Will that be us?

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We worked so hard and helped so many giving of our time and thousands and thousands of dollars of medicine to those that needed it and could not afford it.  We have not been complacent or sloth.  What keeps us from the streets?

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It is humbling to be in position to ask for help.  Our upbringing frowned on being a nuisance to others or for requiring help.  I would never dream of asking for money.  My pride is some bruised.  To write at the bottom of the well, a place we never imagined to be, is embarrassing.  But what good would it be if I only wrote of rainbows and sunshine and how to plant collard greens if the real stuff in life were not intertwined.  A heartbreaking story I hope ends in redemption.

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The mountains rise up all around us here.  We sit on the patio of the hotel with cold drinks and comfortable silence with our oldest friends.  Strength and lessons to be sought.  I cannot let this consume me.  I cannot become bitter and angry.  I trusted and it stung us to the extreme.  Perhaps losing everything will get us to where we were trying to go.  The sheep on the beer bottle makes me cry.

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We go through shops and I cannot buy a thing.  There is no home to decorate.  How strange this is.  What is home?  Dear readers, what is home to you?

Plans, God’s Laughter, and Ghosts in Utah

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I really need to stop making plans.  For some reason the universe has something magnificent planned for us and apparently none of my plans are fitting into that scheme.  I must follow my gut feeling.  That I have learned.  I must listen to Doug’s too.  There aren’t really any details to share, just that at the end of next week we will officially be vagabonds (aka homeless).  I forgot what plan we were on…plan M or something?  I just know plan A, B, C, D and so on fell treacherously to fate.  Doug always says the old phrase, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.”  My school will still be alive and well as it follows me.  But I hate to utter that for fear the universe hears I have a plan!

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We are grateful, for it could be much worse.  Neither of us are ill, no cancers, no injuries.  Our children are great and healthy and alive.  We will be able to keep our cats for the time being.  And we are blessed with many, many great friends.  We are just going to have to take this one day at a time.  There will be many delightful adventures to write about!

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It has been awhile since we have gone on a field trip!  And you readers are going with us!  Our dear, dear friends that you either know or have read about here, Rodney and Pat, offered us a nearly free vacation this weekend.  We are all hitting the road tomorrow for Salt Lake City and you are coming with us!  So pack your bags, we have eating, window shopping, ghost hunting, and sight seeing through northern Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah to do.

We’ll move on to the next great adventure when we get back but this weekend is just for rest, play, and celebration of life and friends!