Tag Archives: life

What Day is It? Update

Wednesday. It’s Wednesday, right?

As far as I can tell, our phones have finally been repaired. For a good while, we could not receive or make long-distance phone calls. That basically means that for nearly a week, I couldn’t contact my family. Keep in mind also, we live in 354, and work, stores a majority of our friends, etc. are in 462. So, the first week of our (self-imposed) quarantine, I couldn’t contact anyone I really felt the need to speak with.

Governor Justice gave us just a little over 24 hours to get ready for the state-imposed quarantine. I went to the library yesterday. I watered the plants, filled the birdfeeders, took out the trash, checked email. Libraries across WV (and the US) are pumping out all kinds of posts and links for free digital entertainment and education. You can follow Gilmer Public Library for the ones I’ve been sharing, or visit the WV Library Commission’s site for a list of links that’s being updated several times a day.

Since we were already set for a big bug-in, I hit the liquor store on my way out of town. I’m not much of a drinker, but …. well, it does help me sleep when I’m stressed.

The house is already the cleanest it has been in years, and no one will witness it. Such a shame. I was tempted to run to Ohio and grab Mother on Sunday and bring her here but didn’t. I’m still not sure if that was the best decision. Since then, a case has been confirmed in her county in Ohio, and in one of the WV counties I would have to cross to get to her. I know that cousins and neighbors there are keeping check on her, but I would feel so much better if she was here with us.

I also have this huge impulse to find a way to get family in Southern Virginia here. In all my prepper scenarios, family came to us. We have free gas, free well water, and pretty much all you need except a cell phone signal (and reliable landline service). We have satellite internet, and I expect will be adding to our data package this month.

I spent one evening online shopping. Not too much damage–a ring light for possible future video broadcasts, more wooden stamps to decorate the letters I write, and four pullets (chickens just past the chick stage) to arrive in May.

It’s just my luck that we were ready for the apocalypse (or economic crash) for ten years, and three years after we relaxed a bit about it, this happens. When I announced I had ordered hens, Frank said, “I thought we were going to wait on that.” Yeah, well… I’ve got that “We’re not ready for impending doom,” panic going on again in the pit of my gut. I’ve been sorting our pantry, lamenting all the empty canning jars that could, and should have been full. I’m sure within the next week I’ll order the converter that converts our gasoline generators to natural gas — the last and only item left on the prepper list we set aside a few years back.

Frank watches COVID-19 news all day. West Virginia’s number of cases damn near doubled yesterday. It churns my stomach hearing the constant bad news and reminds me why we disposed of our mainstream television service after 9-11. I was tired of the daily doses of new terror. The lack of air traffic overhead also reminds me of the time following 9-11. Air traffic here is quite common, but the skies are unmarked now. At some point each day, I steal the remote from Frank and pop in a movie or TV series (currently binging Supernatural, Star Gate, and Star Trek: DS9; checked in with movie classics including Hunger Games, Hobbit, Fellowship of the Ring, Lonesome Dove, Forrest Gump, and The Stand, of course).

Reading? Currently “Beloved” by Toni Morrison, “Me Talk Pretty One Day” by David Sedaris, and all kinds of articles I’ve printed out from the Internet.

Projects include working on a new non-fiction book, teaching myself watercolors, prepping to launch an online writer’s workshop/retreat, purging and organizing the file cabinets. You guys know I’ve unfriended lots of people on Facebook over the last few years. I check on some of them now online but am relieved I’m not getting all of it in my news feed.

I also make sure to catch the almost daily press conferences by our governor.

I’ve never been a Jim Justice fan. And, I admit, on TV he comes across as a bit of a twit. “Now” (my father was a “Now” person), “and everything,” (lots of folks say that), and “shape, form, make, or measure,” (yeah, getting tired of that one). BUT! All that being said? I’m proud of him. I am comforted by his simple down to earth approach. Jim is Jim. He knows this state I think. He knows his and our weaknesses…

I’ve come to the conclusion that “Big Jim” doesn’t have the ability to bullshit us. And Jim has sense enough to surround himself with experts. He doesn’t need to pronounce right, doesn’t need to speak the details. He has folks to do that for him. I’m okay with that.

Today, West Virginia has a non-denominational day of prayer. It may be corny, but that’s WV too. I’m okay with that as well and will be watching. You can catch it on the WV Governor’s web site or YouTube channel at noon.

I had planned to return to town on Friday, to help hang a new hand-made door on the library’s outbuilding. I may or may not do that. Next week, I had hoped to order sand for the library’s paver-patio project. I will likely still do that. My need to see progress “in spite of” is damn near overwhelming. Besides, our board quickly voted to continue paying employees during this closure and I need to go in and do payroll.

I’m not capable of staying home for weeks anymore. Ten years I did that. My daily walks with the cat and dog help but I can only go so long without checking on the library — 19 miles away. (These visits to the library are permitted under the current stay-at-home order, by the way.) I have the road to myself on the commute now, and there’s no traffic at the county’s solitary stoplight. I see few, carry sanitary wipes, etc.

Last week I noted I would not stay home for weeks on end, “Coronavirus be damned.” I still will not. I’m not going to go out willy-nilly, and won’t be licking packs of toilet paper in the Dollar Store. But, stagnation is not in my nature. I am one of those people who can barely sit still for 30 minutes. I was completely relieved to learn that I have a legal reason to leave the house, to check on the library. I am quite grateful for that.

Right now, my stay-at-home skills seem to last about five days. Frank has taken up the habit of pointing out how many times I touch my face during the day. I’m pretty sure that’s going to cost him dearly very soon.

So. We’re surviving it, and will be fine. I’m a little antsy, but it is what it is. But, if we lose our long-distance phone service again, I may have to drink some liquor and post a slam against Frontier.

Stay well folks. My love for those who are homebound, and to those “essentials” who are still out there.

Peace and love.

Dear Pen Pal – I’m “On Break”

Dear Pen Pal,

I turned in my final portfolio for this semester yesterday – I’m sure you remember what that was like.  I sent if off around noon, and spent the rest of the day wondering What do I do with myself now?

Of course, the answers are obvious – everything I didn’t do while I was doing my homework.

So, yesterday afternoon I cleaned off the porches, and cleaned up the herb and flower beds. I’d like to mow one more time, but it’s not really necessary.

If you recall, I was freezing whole tomatoes from the garden as the season passed to process later – and later has come. They are thawing on the counter and I have jars in the sink water, the squeezo set up on the counter.

I also straightened the pantry, taking inventory of jars there. Looks like I’ll be making spaghetti sauce and/or chili sauce. There’s plenty of soup, salsa, sloppy joe sauce, juice, V8, pizza sauce.

I have an abundance of strawberry and watermelon preserves, rosemary and chocolate mint jellies. I keep thinking one winter I’ll teach myself to make tarts. If I don’t find some use for them, I’ll have them until the lids start rusting.

I’ve also gotten in my mind to sew me a new book bag for my next residency in January. The one you saw was measured to carry my lap top, which I did not carry so much after all. I’ve also realized there is a need for a pocket just to hold scarf, gloves, hat, etc when the temperatures drop to 4 below. Hopefully it will not be quite so cold again this year.

Canning, cleaning, sewing. All things that allow your mind to wander. I would be happy to not pick up a book at all for the next few weeks. I’ve heard again and again that writers should write every day. I try to be creative every day, but it may not always be through writing.

Of course, writing and publishing work still continues. We’re working on the December issue, our 100th issue and the Christmas issue. Magazine layout is like a big puzzle, and there are more pieces in the Christmas issue puzzle than normal. Also, more pieces and parts come in at the last minute, so there’s more pressure.

Planning work continues for the writing and creativity workshops we’re planning to launch next year. I hope to have a minimum of two next year, expanding to perhaps four different themes a year, depending on the response. I think I told you I have a poet friend working with me now – I value her input.

The garden may be finished, but our shiitake logs are producing well right now. They are so yummy when sauteed in sunflower oil and butter. We had intentions of selling the mushrooms, but like so many of the things we’ve learned to grow and produce, they’re so good we’re reluctant to part with any.

My teaching continues, as does yours I am sure. I cannot imagine carrying the load you currently are and I would not dare complain about mine knowing you are carrying three times as much. Won’t be long before Thanksgiving break, then finals.

I have not received a letter from you recently, but do hope to hear from you soon. I enjoy finding them in the mailbox, love the fact we’re keeping a lost tradition, letter writing, alive. Don’t worry, these online messages will never replace my snail-mail letters.

I was just thinking of you today, knowing you would understand this done with the semester burst of energy.

But now I’m off to deal with those thawed tomatoes, and to thread the needle on the sewing machine. And the sun has come out. I may mow the yard after all.

Real Writing Jobs! Click Here!

Writer’s Archive – Life is Like a Rag Rug

Rag-Rug-5

Originally written in September, 2010

When I lived in the city, my life had a year-round routine. With the exception of holidays, my life was my work schedule, with the rest of my life arranged around it. Changing seasons only meant that I dealt with different factors in  the process of the same routine.

The longer I have lived in these hills though, and the more I respond to the needs of our home and the land around us — the more I find my life has “seasonal” routines. Spring and summer are cycled around the  farm and garden routine. Planting, weeding, harvesting, putting up hay, gathering eggs, mowing the lawn. This routine is more of a reaction than a routine really; you just spend the whole season reacting to what needs to be done.

In fall though, there is more time available for us to develop our own routines. In the last few years, I have been compelled do my major “spring” cleaning in the fall.

Because summer is so busy, I spend most of the summer making a mess. Housework routines are not maintained when you are buried in tomatoes. Boxes of canning jars become normal obstacles in the daily kitchen duties. Teeny, tiny spiders build webs everywhere, and in the warm weather whirl of outside duties, I don’t really notice all these things.

And then, when harvest season ends and I finally get to sit down and rest, I look around and become painfully aware that the place is a mess, and I can’t stand it any more.

I think some of it is in defense. Knowing that in a few short weeks I will be shut in here for what will seem an eternity until spring, I cannot handle the thought of being trapped in such conditions. Windows are washed to let the last strong sunlight of the season to illuminate the dust bunnies and cob webs that must go. Furniture is moved, washed, dusted and vacuumed under, and then is arranged in a new layout. Closets are sorted and organized, curtains are washed and hung outside to dry while the weather still allows it.

I do all these things in the spring as an annual chore but in the fall, it’s more of a compulsion — a race to see if I can get all the dirt and clutter out before the weather shuts us in.

And the race is on.

*   *   *   *

When “city” guests come to visit us, I notice that many of them seem “antsy.” They feel a need to “go do” something: run to town, visit a neighbor, play in the outdoors in some manner. When I first moved here 18 years ago, I felt much the same way. I was restless, and often frustrated by those who mosied around me. Sometimes I still am. See, city life makes you rush. Always in a hurry. Always on the go.

It’s very difficult to slow down. Learning to “take your time” is impossible when you feel you don’t have any time to begin with.

Until the day we launched our business, I’ve been rushing through life. I realized it one morning when I was frantically brushing my teeth as if I was late running out the door — and yet I had no place I needed to go. For more than 30 years I’ve been brushing my teeth in a hurry, and now that I didn’t need to anymore, the habit was stuck.

Now brushing my teeth in the morning has become my “take your time” exercise. It has to be, because  I still wake up every morning in a rush. Each day I snatch the toothbrush from the cup, spin the cap off the tube and quickly slip a spot of toothpaste on the brush, stick the toothbrush in my mouth and look up at the mirror and notice, I’m still brushing to beat forty. Still rushing.

Each day, I force myself to slowly focus on brushing every tooth, one by one, front and back, up and down.

I also have trouble sitting still. A lifetime of 15 minute work breaks and half hour lunches has made my tolerance for being “at rest” about 20 minutes long. After that, I begin to examine my fingernails and push back my cuticles, tapping my feet, or I start looking around for something that needs done.  I can sit longer if my hands are busy — taking notes, stringing beans, petting the dog. So this summer, after learning how to crochet rag rugs, I thought that would be a good way to help me “stay at rest” when we watch movies in the evenings.

The first night, I sat down with “I’m going to make a rug,” in mind. I was focused on the completion of the project before I even started. I was up until 3 am, two nights in a row, rushing through stitches to get the rug done. Within four days, I had made an eight foot rug, but my hands were cramped, and I had dark circles under my eyes.

This was not helping me rest at all.

And besides that, the rug looked awful. Straight edges weren’t straight, every knot showed, stitches were loose in some places, tight in other, and in some spots, completely skipped – leaving a hole.

Rush. Rush. Rush.

I tossed the raggedy run on the floor inside the front door where I knew it would be covered in mud within a few short weeks.

And I started again. This time, I sorted my colors, laying out patterns and shades that would compliment each other. I focused on the tension of each counted stitch, tied tiny square knots that wouldn’t slip or bulge in the rug.

I’ve been working on it five days now, and it’s only about three feet long – a little over half done.

But the edges are (mostly) straight, the knots are (almost) invisible, and it is going to be beautiful, if I do say so myself. Just by slowing down the process, I have improved the quality of the rug.

My busy life was like the first rug, haphazard and unplanned, strung together on weak knots and uneven stitches. But since we have simplified our lives, and begun focusing on what we do and don’t need, want and don’t want, we have become more like the second rug, stronger, thicker, and more comfortable. The first rug will fall apart, likely, the first time it is washed. The second rug will last the rest of my life.

I am so thankful that I am learning to find pleasure in the simple things in life — the rewards of hard work, the creative flow released by organized spaces, a relaxed ease that comes with resting when you truly know you deserve to rest.

We’ve worked very hard this summer, and in many ways, I feel we are facing a season of holidays and rest. I’d like to think I’ll slow down a little.

But there is still so much to do before then.

Oh, for cryin’ out loud. I am NOT sick.

It’s been three years nearly since Frank and I decided to change our lives. Overworked, stressed out, unhealthy, undecided, unguided. We needed change. So, we launched a magazine, got some chickens, started a vegetable garden and an herb garden. We starting paying attention to our lives, not just going through the motions.

We learned about food – what’s in it, how it’s made, what it does to our bodies. We didn’t go over board, but we did make some changes to our diet.

Small changes, mind you. Nothing really major.

And well, I’ve lost about thirty pounds.

I personally think it is so totally excellent that at 40, I weigh the same as I did when I was a senior in high school. Considering that between then and now, I’ve weighed up to 60 pounds more (and never have been pregnant), I think I look darn good for 40.

But now, more than twice, I’ve had the following conversation:

“You’ve lost weight.”

“Oh. Yeah, I have.”

“Have you been trying to lose weight?”

“No, not really.”

“Have you been sick?”

“No, I just changed my diet.”

“Changed your diet.”

“Yup.”

“That’s all?”

“Yup.”

“Huh. Are you sure you’re not sick?”

I am NOT sick. Stop implying that I am sick. I reject that vibe.

And don’t even ask me if I look sick. I know I look pretty darn good for a woman my age. I use Avon anti-aging products and they kick butt. (And no, I’m not saying that because I sell Avon. I sell Avon because their anti-aging products kick butt, and the local Avon lady quit.)

For breakfast, I have one large cup of sweet, creamy coffee. This has been my breakfast for the last — oh, twenty years.

I used to drink coffee with three spoons of sugar and a heavy dose of half and half. Now I drink it with two spoonfuls of honey and a splash of whole milk.

I eat lunch around 2 p.m. That’s my down time. I snack. Something light. Crackers and cheese, peanut butter and jelly, nothing much, with water to drink.

I used to eat at a mom and pop diner three, four days a week. Taco salad, today’s special, a greasy cheeseburger, all the sweet tea I could swallow.

For dinner, I eat around 6 p.m. I used to wait on Frank, but he goes until dark, which could be 9 p.m. in the summer. And now, I don’t wait. I eat my fill at 6, and then except for a few M & M’s or some popcorn, I STOP EATING for the day.

See, I used to eat a whole bag of M & M’s (with peanuts) at a time. With colby cheese on the side. Now a handful of candies will do, and a bag will last 3-4 days. (I don’t remember the last time we had colby cheese in the house, and I truly do miss it.) I used to have a quart glass of chocolate milk every day. I still have chocolate milk every day, but in a regular 8 oz glass. In fact, I used to drink a gallon of milk, myself, every two days. I can now stretch a gallon out to almost a week.

And I used to eat a huge meal every day right before bed. Now I don’t.

Oh. And we gave away our microwave. Haven’t had a microwave in four years, haven’t had a television in….. eight years.

I don’t eat as much red meat. I watched “Fast Food Nation,” and couldn’t eat red meat for two weeks. I still to this day look at red meat in a whole different light.

I know dairy is bad too. But I just soooooo love dairy. Even so, I’ve likely cut my dairy intake by at least half.

Yesterday, I had a tomato sandwich for lunch. Today I had a Quarter Pounder with cheese. Yesterday for dinner I had an egg sandwich with eggs from my chickens, and tonight we had grilled cheese with sweey and spicy tomato soup, fresh made in a canning pot from tomatoes, peppers and garlic grown in our own yard.

I’m not sick. I’m 40. I have lower back issues, occasional insomnia, thankfully rare migraines, and last winter, I lost all muscle tone in my upper arms while I was under long sleeves all season, leading to such a sad sleeveless spring day discovery — but I am not sick.

I’m losing the side-effects of a lousy diet that had accumulated on my body.

I’ve lost 30 pounds over three years, and I’ve developed a low tolerance for processed foods.

Hello?! That’s a good thing.

I didn’t really mean to do it, it just happened.

Even better.

It doesn’t mean I’m sick.

It simply means that small, healthy changes to your diet can really make a difference over time.

It doesn’t mean something’s wrong. It simply means that things are getting right.

Now I’ve just got to work on some muscle tone.

Give them a dirt bath.

Friday evening, we attended a bonfire in celebration of a friend/columnist’s daughter’s graduation. It started at 9 p.m., and I had no idea how time flew until the teens headed to bed around 1 a.m. I immediately said, “Oh! We have to go!”

We made it from the kitchen table to the front porch chairs before we got caught up in another interesting discussion.

When we finally did leave, it was 4 a.m.

Frank, who falls asleep quickly and knows it takes me about an hour, let me sleep in until 10 a.m. this morning, when the phone rang — my weekly Saturday morning phone call from my mother. About 10 years ago, because my life was so crazy and I often forgot to call her on a regular basis, Mother suggested she call every week at the same time.

It is now a routine part of our lives.

The topic of this week’s phone call, (and much of the party discussion) concerned four laying hens. My new hens. My hens who didn’t get fed this morning until 11 a.m. because I was up all night talking about them and sipping home made wine.

My friend Sue, who hosted the party, is The Farm Queen, Ms. Organic Herself, a woman who (I am sure) has not a single additive or preservative in her entire body. She has several beautiful chickens.

It’s Sue’s fault I have laying hens.

And once we finished celebrating her daughter’s accomplishment and settled down to chat I said, “Sue, I have chicken questions.”

She explained. Hens lay every 28 hours, not 24. They have to have food, PLUS oyster shells (calcium) to make the egg shells hard, PLUS grit which is basically rocks in some part of their throat that helps them chew because they have no teeth. But — that’s not all.

Sue’s also get Olive Oil, to make their feathers shiny. They get garlic every three days to keep away mites, fleas, and other nasties. They get brewer’s yeast for the same reason.

She gives them raw meat (organic) and milk and cream (organic). The layer feed she gives them she makes herself, and it’s 100% natural, not like the 17% natural mix you get at the feed store.

Sue has the most beautiful, glossy, spoiled hens there are. That’s what I pictured when I pictured hens. And then, we went and purchased mine, from a farm overstocked with mixed multitudes of chickens, guineas, ducks — all free range and rather fending for themselves.

We brought them home at night, captured from their roost. When I got a good look at them the next morning, I realized, these were not like Sue’s hens.

They were not beautiful, they were not clucking and cute. They were not pets.

First off, they stunk. I can handle bird poop, feeding schedules, food formulas, egg gathering, care taking.

But I don’t do stink.

At the party, I asked Sue if I could give them a bath. She told me to put out a pan of dirt.

“Dirt?”

“Diatomaceous Earth.”

“O-kayyyy.”

See, if you want chickens to bathe — you give them dirt, not water.

Through this first week, I have seen improvement in my hens. Not being a farm girl, I am not about to judge their former living environment. However, I do think being catered to is much better for them than fending for themselves.

They no longer act like they’re starving, and have already gotten accustomed to my voice and the shaking of their feed can.

Within three days, they established their little “pecking order.” They are now a rather cohesive club, not a bunch of snippy singles.

My favorite, the Barred Rock, is low girl on the totem pole. I’ve named her “Peppa,” as she’s salt and pepper speckled.

Her eggs have a dark brown shell.

In the first week, our four hens produced 12 eggs in all, two of which I dropped.  (I need a little more practice reaching through the access hole in their pen to grab the eggs.)

I had provided one roost and one nest for them to share (as Sue’s do) but after a day of watching them establishing their pecking order, I broke down and provided a second roost and a second nest bucket so Peppa wouldn’t have to fight so hard for her space.

I put in a second feed container so she wouldn’t have to fight the other three so hard for food.

She must realize I favor her, because she is no longer intimidated by my presence as the others are.

Every morning this week, I have tried to feed them on a schedule, gather eggs on a schedule, uncover and cover them on a schedule.

Today, I blew it. I couldn’t help it, I was up until 5 a.m. for the first time in nearly two years.

Frank went out an uncovered them for me this morning, but didn’t know my feed formula….

So when I fed them, I was four hours late.

They didn’t seem to mind — and had two eggs waiting for me.

I’ll make it up to them tomorrow.

I’m setting up a dirt bath.

Two Gates: A Poem

TWO GATES

There are two gates between the house and the road,
Two gates to open, two gates to close.
Two gates �round the horses, one on each side,
Two gates blocking my daily drive.

The inner gate�s held by a black bungee cord,
The outter�s propped open with a scrap piece of board.
Gate one is in the sunlight, gate two in the shade,
And often two horses will be in the way.

(And when the gate�s open, horses try to get through
So you have to hurry, before they do.)

I�ve opened and closed in the cold, wet and dry
Opened and closed as lightning flashed �cross the sky
I�ve opened and closed in sunshine, in rain,
When night was so dark my eyes had to strain.

And if I am running five minutes late,
I�m fifteen behind once I deal with the gates.
And if I forget something and have to go back,
I�ve dealt with six gates once I�m back on my track!

Open and close, open and close,
I get my hands wet, get mud on my clothes
Open! Close! Open! Twice a day � sometimes more!
Close! Open! Close! Also with the car door!

Two Gates! Two Gates! Not just one, count them, TWO!
Two gates in the way, and horse clods too!
Two Gates! Two Gates! They are racking my brain,
These two bloody gates will soon drive me INSANE!

There are two gates between the house and the road,
Two gates to open, two gates to close.

Burdens & Blessings

“Burdens and Blessings”

Life is a series of burdens and blessings. Unfortunately, both can cause stress and anxiety. You can be dealt one, then the other, then back again, a million times a day. The trick is to learn to just roll with it–and hope burdens don�t outweigh the blessings. You have to count them both to survive.

Last year, Frank and I were blessed with a new (to us) vehicle (blessing). Frank was not �going to work� (burden) but instead was working the farm (burden/blessing) and could piddle around the roads in our beat up Ford truck (blessing). His back has been ailing him (burden), but visits to the chiropractor are helping (blessing).

With that situation, we decided to sell our old van (burden). It was my father�s (blessing), but now has 400,000-plus miles (burden) and just sits in the yard (burden). We listed it in all the trader�s mags, and people came and went and called to see it (burden), and never did buy (burden).

Then Frank went back to work (blessing), and we didn�t feel so pressured to sell the van (blessing). He no longer carries his wallet in his pocket when driving (which helps keep his back aligned), and he feels better (blessing). He was working again without extreme pain (blessing).

Two weeks after he�d been trekking back and forth to work in Glenville, the Ford truck broke down (burden). But, we still had the van (now a blessing), so we parked the truck for expensive repair (burden) and both of us worked (blessing), preparing on the sidelines for the upcoming annual family reunion (blessing). Close to 125 people (blessing), expected at our house (uh, burden).

So, two days before the reunion, we pile in the van to go pick up tables and chairs for the event (burden). On the way, the van breaks down (burden), right in front of our friend�s house (blessing), who was home (blessing), but doesn�t have a phone (burden).

We both have to work the next day (now a burden), still have to pick up tables and chairs (burden), and we only have one operating vehicle (burden), which is somewhere where we aren�t (burden), and won�t hold tables and chairs (burden).

We have just enough time (blessing) to get to our house, call to find a part, (which was affordable – blessing), get in the new-to-us ride (blessing) and fly to the parts store in Spencer which had it in stock (blessing.) While Frank�s on the phone, I take out my wallet to show our friend (blessing), who gave us a ride (blessing), a picture of my niece (blessing) and her unborn jelly bean who will be a boy (blessing).

Meanwhile, another family member (FM 1) whose vehicle went down last month (burden), has a new (to him) vehicle in his driveway (blessing), but the paperwork to make it legal hasn�t been processed yet by the state (burden). He, after work, knew we were supposed to pick up chairs and tables (burden), and had his ride drop him off at the table and chair location, knowing we could bring him the rest of the way home (thinking – blessing.)

We are pulling out of the driveway to head to the parts store, when in pulls a helpful friend in a truck (blessing), pulling the non-operating vehicle (burden) of a second family member (FM 2) who had been sitting, broken down, on the far side of Sand Ridge Hill (burden) for more than an hour.

But, that one�s an easy fix as well (blessing), and an affordable part (blessing) and guess what–we�re just on our way to the parts store (now a blessing).

So, on a quest for two parts (burden), we fly towards Spencer, not knowing FM 1 is waiting for us to pick him up with the tables and chairs (known and unknown burdens). We arrive in the parking lot with 20 minutes to spare (blessing).

We can fix the van tonight (blessing), get tables and chairs tomorrow (uh, maybe), get FM 2�s vehicle back on the road more quickly (blessing), and both go to work in the morning without issue (blessing). Right?

Frank reaches to the console for his wallet–which is in the van, broken down, in front of our friend�s house.

I reach then for my wallet–which is still on the kitchen counter where I showed my friend my niece�s picture.

! ! !

I am glad to report that neither of us spontaneously combusted in the parking lot of Advance Auto Parts in Spencer (blessing). In fact, we both just sat, completely beaten and defeated (burden), thinking that life had decided we were going to be dealt a lousy hand that day (burden), and there was just nothing we could do about it (burden).

As I lowered my head to wallow in my misery, I spied the moneybag I used that day to collect on my newspaper delivery run. Within it was just enough cash to cover what we needed (Blessed Miracle!).

Meanwhile, a third family member (FM 3) with a truck (blessing) encounters FM 1�s original ride home (blessing). FM 3, knowing we are one vehicle down and in Spencer (burden), heads towards FM 1 and the tables and chairs (blessing).

So, we head back from Spencer in our working vehicle (blessing), to the broken van (burden), which Frank can easily fix (blessing), now in the dark (burden), across from a friend�s house (blessing), who has flashlights (blessing) with dead batteries (burden), but just fixed a big dinner (blessing).

Frank fixes the van (blessing) and while we�re on the porch eating hot dogs (blessing), we think about when to pick up chairs and tables (burden), still ignorant that FM 1 was counting on us for a ride. (Actually, it�s a blessing that we didn�t know, or the added pressure may have caused a mental meltdown for us earlier in the evening.)

Up pulls FM 3 with FM 1, in a truck with a bed full of tables and chairs (double blessing). FM 1, who hasn�t had dinner (burden) while waiting two hours for a ride (burden), is also fed by friends (blessing).

So, before too late (blessing), we had operating vehicles (blessing), and all family member�s home (blessing), all family members fed (blessing), tables and chairs unloaded (blessing). We were ready for the reunion (blessing), and both had vehicles (blessing) to get us to work (blessing) the next day.

Anyone who says life isn�t a roller coaster ride isn�t counting all the highs (blessings) or lows (burdens). The best you can do is roll along, laughing when you can, gritting your teeth when you can�t and occasionally throwing your hands up in the air–all without throwing up.

Then, at the end of the day, the blessings will outnumber the burdens. And that, in itself, is a blessing.