Very November

A few days ago there were a few bare branches here and there, but the trees were still dressed in most of their colorful leaves. Over the last day or two, however, the leaves have been flying off the trees. Sometimes the whole sky has been filled with leaves. The wind has increased in strength throughout the day. It’s dark now outside the windows, but I can hear the wind roaring. I’m sure by tomorrow the trees will be completely bare. It’s amazing how quickly it happened. It’s supposed to rain and/or snow throughout the week. It looks very November outside now.

EJ puttered in his garage quite a bit today. I think he’s getting it more organized and working a few projects. In the afternoon he shot his guns to make sure they are accurate because deer hunting season isn’t far away.

I made a little room in the chest freezer in preparation for the three sheep that are being delivered later in the week. I’m not sure how much meat that equals, but if I have to I can move more things to the refrigerator freezer. It is good to have this problem.

Poultry feed

I wheeled the poultry feed to the coop and scooped the feed from the bags into empty kitty litter buckets to keep them safe from mice and other rodents. I’m not sure we have enough to last the winter, but it will last for a while.

The two new chickens haven’t really integrated into the older flock yet. They seem to be staying mostly in the coop during the day and at night they are sleeping on the straw bales in the front part of the coop while the others sleep on the little coop and the old doghouse in the back section. However, I have noticed that our rooster Captain AmeROOca joined the new chickens on the straw bales for the past few nights. I think he’s pretty far down in the pecking order. I went outside this evening hoping to get a photo of the Captain with the two new hens, but he wasn’t with them tonight. I think coop feels very peaceful and cozy at night with the chickens all settled down.

Some of the chickens are still a bit naked from moulting. I think they look very ugly without feathers. Shhh…don’t tell them I said that!  The new feathers begin to grow in a sort of gray-blue sheath. I think it’s kind of interesting. I didn’t know much about chickens until a couple of years ago when I started my flock. I thought I’d share a photo of a chicken’s feathers growing in for those of you who have never seen it and might be interested. You can click on the photos to get a larger view.

I’m still stressed, of course, but not as turbo stressed as I was before. Today was calmer with no difficult people so I could catch my breath. Dealing with difficult/abusive people drains me of energy and pushes me into emotional exhaustion. When I do think about our situation (EJ having health problems with no job), I tell God that I’m scared and to please help us. Then I just tell myself that if God can provide us with three sheep, He can provide us with other things as well.

Tomorrow morning we have to get up super early to drive to the hospital. EJ is having a metal splinter surgically removed from his hand so he can have an MRI on Wednesday so we can figure out what is going on with his health.

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Distortions

Friday the hospital called EJ to ask him questions about his health in preparation for his surgery on Monday. These are the same questions his doctor asked him during his pre-op appointment on Thursday and no doubt EJ will be asked the same questions at the hospital before his surgery. It seems to me that one time would have been enough, and two are redundant, and anymore than that is tiresome. I can’t exactly see the sense of it, but, oh, well.

EJ later had to call the hospital to find out what time he has to arrive at the hospital on Monday. He has to be there at 5:30 a.m. Yikes! We will have to get out of bed at about 3:30 a.m. Will the surgeon even be awake enough to do his work at that time? Will the surgeon have had time for coffee? I wonder what a surgeon does if he has to pee during surgery?

When all his calls were out of the way, we left for TSC to get poultry feed. There had been a very bad accident not long before and the road was closed for several miles. We didn’t know exactly what had had happened until later when we got home and saw news reports on the internet. 😥 One person is in critical condition, but it appears that there were no deaths. Traffic was backed up, but we were just able to get into the TSC driveway. We headed to Meijers after TSC, but we had to drive miles out of our way to avoid the closed section–both on the way to Meijers and on the way home. We didn’t mind though because the scenery was beautiful.

I had a panic attack at Meijers.

There are still things people need to buy, even if they have no income. Things like toilet paper, and kitty litter, and some fresh vegetables. We were very careful with what we bought, but I shuddered every time we put something in the cart. We are actually doing quite well, but still every dollar spent is one dollar less than we have between us and nothing. The anxiety built up until I thought I was going to begin crying. I didn’t tell EJ at first. I went to get trash bags while EJ went on to get a few other things in different aisles. For several minutes I stood in front of the shelves filled with different boxes, and brands, and sizes of trash bags and couldn’t remember which we usually get even though I’m usually the one who buys them. Finally I found EJ and told him that I had no idea what trash bags to get so he went to the aisle and got what we needed.

A few minutes later, EJ and I passed one of  those little sample tables that are set up in grocery stores so you can sample a food  product and maybe love it so much that you buy the item–you know what I mean? EJ stopped–usually I do too–but I just kept going because I wanted to get everything we needed as soon as possible and get out of the store. When EJ rejoined me, I told him that I was having a panic attack so he helped me focus on colors, and textures, and touch to help me distract my mind. It’s called “mindfulness.” It is a way of becoming focused on the present moment without becoming overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around you. It creates space for ourselves—space to think, space to breathe, space between ourselves and our reactions. EJ reminded me that having a panic attack doesn’t mean that I am weak, it means that I am emotionally over-budget. He sometimes tells me that I am the bravest, strongest person he knows because I have endured a lot without breaking, without becoming unkind.

It is very scary to experience EJ both losing his job and having uncertain health issues. I’m stressed, but overall doing quite well. Whenever I get anxious, I think of the three sheep being gifted to us, and I think that if God can give us three sheep, He can take care of us. The thing that is really causing me problems is abuse.

In addition to the other stressors this week, we dealt with a person who showed no empathy, but wanted us to do something for him. He wanted it done and done NOW. When I said no, we have enough to deal with, this person nagged and nagged and nagged, and insulted, and threatened to have nothing to do with me, and told me I was crazy. He told me he had done nothing wrong. This person is the most abusive person I have ever encountered, but he doesn’t see anything wrong with his behavior. This is what drained me and made it difficult to stand up under the stresses of the week. It pushed a stressful time into super-charged stress. Dealing with him took all my emotional strength so I had none left to deal with other things.

This morning I felt I was battered and crumbling. EJ comforted me, and told me to ignore the false accusations of abusers because they aren’t at all true., which is good advice. However, prolonged emotional abuse really batters a victim, and after a while she might not know what is “real” and what is “false.” As I wrote before, an abuser will work to break a person and then condemn her for being broken. The article, You’re Not Going Crazy: 15 Signs You’re a Victim of Gaslighting, describes the effects of emotional abuse very well.

“The only way you can describe how you feel is that you feel minimized.  You feel crushed and smothered.  You’re constantly second-guessing yourself; your feelings, your perceptions, your memories, and a small, suffocated part inside of you wonders whether you are actually going crazy.”

I told EJ that if I absolutely knew that a person was speaking lies, I could stand against it. The difficulty is getting to the place where I am sure of what is true and what is false. It’s sort of like mirrors.

A House of Mirrors at a carnival is full of mirrors that give horribly distorted reflections of what a person looks like. They are false reflections, and everyone knows it, so it’s funny and not taken seriously. A real mirror gives true reflections of what a person really looks like. You can look at it and see if your hair is fixed the way you want or if there is dirt on your face that needs to be washed off. The problem is if you think the mirror is giving a true reflection when it’s not. Deceptive mirrors can be confusing and disconcerting, like in this Youtube video of a prank. Observe how the person who is participating in the prank acts ignorant of the problem and seems concerned when actually she is part of the deception. Notice how confused the victims appear about this “normal” situation that doesn’t make sense. One of the victims even wondered if she had died. That is how a victim of emotional abuse feels.

Image may contain: text that says 'Narcissists like to "provoke" negative emotions in others, in order to get a reaction. This is often accomplished by saying something rude, insensitive, or doing something cruel. They then shame those emotions by claiming you are crazy, saying you over-react, calling you a drama queen, or trying to make you feel your emotions are all wrong. That makes you doubt yourself which affects your self esteem and self worth. Don't allow a narc to control you or tell you how to feel. This is form of manipulation and emotional abuse.'If the victims in the video were confused and disconcerted about a one-time prank, imagine what a victim of long-term emotional abuse feels. She would start to believe that the problem isn’t with the “mirror”–with the abuser–but with herself. After awhile it’s very difficult to discern the true reflections from the false ones. The abuser puts in just enough “truth” to make the reflection seem true. For example, he may insult, accuse, belittle, mock, gaslight a victim until she reacts. Any reaction–telling him to stop, explaining how his behavior was wrong, raising her voice, crying, anger–and the abuser can say things like, “You always criticize me, you misunderstood, you over-reacted, you were shouting at me, you are just as bad, it’s not my fault, I didn’t do anything wrong.” And because the victim actually might have raised her voice, been angry, etc., she begins to believe it was really her fault when it was actually a deliberate tactic the abuser used. That makes it difficult to understand which mirror, which reflection, is true.

There are times when I have felt so battered that I recognized that either I must reject the abuser’s distortion or I will be destroyed by it. But it’s very difficult when I am not sure which mirror is true, and I’m second-guessing my perceptions, feelings, actions, or motivations. The longer the abuse goes on, the harder it is to battle it. It’s also difficult because the abuser is usually someone the victim loves–such as a spouse, family, a close friend, etc. These are people you want to help, to forgive, to give second (and third, fourth…a hundred) chances to.

The destruction an abuser causes is why I get so angry at them. I do not understand why a person would want to destroy others.

 

Yes, Sir, Yes, Sir, Three Bags Full

As I grew up in the church, I often heard that Christians should never question God, because questioning meant a person was doubting God, and doubting God was sin. People who were full of faith never questioned God–and never felt afraid, anxious, angry, or doubt, or any other “negative” emotion. I tried hard to be “full of faith” by pretending not to feel those things. However, at some point–when I was in high school or maybe even younger–I realized that this was crazy because God already knew if I was afraid, or anxious, or angry, or questioning and pretending I didn’t feel these things didn’t fool Him. So over the years, I have been honest with Him with both “good” and “ugly” emotions–thanking Him, praising Him, pouring out fears and anxiety, telling Him that I’m upset about this or that (Why are you NOT bringing evil people to justice?!), letting Him know when I am angry (I really think we’ve had ENOUGH problems!)  or think He’s unfair (this SO totally SUCKS!), and so on. Being honest with God doesn’t mean that I don’t love Him. It means that I trust Him enough to handle my honesty. I think honesty and trust and love go together. You can’t be honest with people you don’t trust, and I’m not sure you can really love untrustworthy people.

I love, love, love, the Biblical writers because they seem to honestly pour out their emotions too, sometimes praising God, sometimes wrestling with Him, sometimes crying out that He is unfair, sometimes confronting Him. I totally connect with them.

A number of years ago, I began to teach myself Hebrew, and in learning Hebrew, I connected with people like me who were also learning the language, as well as with Jewish Bible scholars and rabbis. Many of my Jewish friends believe Yeshua (the Hebrew name of Jesus) is their Messiah, but I learn awesome things about the Bible even from those who don’t believe He is. They have an immense understanding of the Bible that humbles me. One thing I especially appreciate about the Jews is that they are not afraid to question–in fact, they encourage questioning because they feel that it is only through questioning that a person learns and grows. I really enjoy Rabbi David Fohrman‘s teachings. In a recent video I watched, he said that when he was younger, his rabbi would tell him, “No one dies from a question.”

It might seem that talking about honesty with God is totally unconnected with my description of our day, but really it underlies how I live my life and the way in which I write.

A couple of weeks ago, EJ ordered a sheep from one of his co-workers who raised sheep. After EJ lost his job, he and I discussed whether or not to cancel the order, but we decided to go ahead because we still need to eat, and $200 for a sheep that would be raised, butchered, packaged, and delivered to our home seemed like a good price–cheaper than meat at the grocery stores and we knew where it came from.

This morning the guy texted EJ to tell him that he would deliver our sheep next week, and that someone(s) had already paid for it. Not only that, but two additional sheep had also been bought for us, for a total of three. We do not know who did this–we are not sure if the man, himself, is giving us the meat or if the employees of the company had contributed, but we were overwhelmed by the generosity of the gift. That’s approximately $600 of meat. EJ texted to the  guy, “I told my wife and now her eyes are leaking.”

For the rest of the day, the old nursery rhyme kept running through my head:

Baa, baa, black sheep,
Have you any wool?
Yes, sir, yes, sir,
Three bags full…

Only we aren’t getting three bags of wool, but the meat of three sheep. I feel like, Wow! Ok, ok, God is so totally going to take care of us.

The sheep guy told EJ this morning that everyone is sad and upset that EJ was fired because they all thought highly of him. EJ reassured him that it is ok, and that this gives him the time to figure out what his health issues are.

Today EJ had an appointment with his primary care physician for a pre-surgery checkup. Afterwards, we stopped in at his (former) company to drop off his uniforms and some paperwork they had given him to sign. We were going to stop at the store for some necessities–toilet paper, kitty litter, etc.–but EJ wasn’t feeling well so I drove us home.

After a late lunch of homemade egg rolls, EJ worked in his garage. He now has time to get it organized. I didn’t sleep well last night–I had only four hours of sleep–so I didn’t have the physical or emotional energy to do anything beyond basic chores.

Writing

EJ’s primary care physician sent him to a specialist who can remove the splinter from his hand so he can have his MRI. We met with the specialist early Wednesday afternoon. I was surprised that he is a plastic surgeon. I had expected someone like the hand surgeon I went to last year.

There was a possibility that the splinter could have been removed in the surgeon’s office. However, the x-rays showed that it was very deep in his hand so it will require surgery. It is scheduled for this coming Monday. The surgeon used a marker to draw on EJ’s hand to show how he will cut into his hand, pull back the skin, and probe for the tiny splinter. The surgeon said that there is a risk that the nerve in his hand could be damaged, but doctors always list the risks, and this surgeon has many, many awards. I tried to distract myself from listening too closely since I have a tendency to faint in medical situations. Yuck.

Thursday EJ has a pre-op appointment with his primary care physician. I’ve never had to have one, but it appears to be normal in the area where we now live. Afterwards, we plan to stop at EJ’s company…the company…where he used to work…to drop off his uniforms and do some paperwork.

I always feel shocked, overwhelmed, and anxious when I’m first hit with a difficult situation, especially since JJ’s battle with cancer. I invented the word “life-quake” a few years ago to describe these types of difficult situations because it feels like an earthquake–a major upheaval where everything is turned upsidedown and collapsing and nothing is steady.  But after a few days, we usually find our balance and start dealing with “what is.” Unless, of course, we are hit with another life-quake. More about that later.

Image result for I write because I don't know flanneryI often write in the midst of life-quakes because, well, writing is how I think things through, how I process, how I confront anxiety or pain, how I struggle to reach a new understanding. I tend to grow through struggle, and I work through the struggle in writing.

I also write to explore and remind myself of things I am learning or want to remember. For example, I write about what I hate to be told when I’m experiencing a life-quake, but mostly it’s because I want to remember that if those things were unhelpful to me, they probably aren’t helpful to others either. “So,” I tell myself, “remember and don’t say or do those things to others.” Or, conversely, if someone said or did something that was especially comforting and helpful to me, I try to remember to say or do those things for others who are suffering.

I also write because I love authenticity. I find raw, messy, flawed, honest emotions much more beautiful than perfection. Perfection shuts me out. If someone shares only their strengths, how they went through heartbreak and turmoil in unflawed faith singing songs of praise, and admonishes that I should do the same, all connection between us shuts down. How can anyone possibly empathize with another person’s suffering if they never felt any fear, turmoil, confusion, heartbreak, pain themselves? How can we help–or be helped–if everything is hidden behind a mask of perfection? On the other hand, people who honestly share their life-quake moments strengthen me because I know that they do understand, they have been through it, and they made it out alive. I love and agree with what Larry Crabb wrote:

“Everything in spiritual community is reversed from the world’s order. It is our weakness, not our competence, that moves others; our sorrows, not our blessings, that break down the barriers of fear and shame that keep us apart; our admitted failures, not our paraded successes, that bind us together in hope.”

Of course, I am aware that people can have good reasons for not sharing, and all that. I think each person has to deal with suffering in the way that best suits them. There is no “one size fits all.” And I know that sharing is a risk. Sometimes I feel that what is inside me comes bleeding out in writing, and after it has poured out, it looks messy, weak, and ugly. I tell myself I should have kept it hidden safely inside. But if I feel it strongly enough, it bleeds out my fingers anyway.

There are a lot of different reasons I write, even more than I listed. But you get the point?

So…I was beginning to find a bit of stability after the life-quake of EJ losing his job on Monday and the uncertainty of his health. I could even see blessings, such as the friends who told me that I could pour everything out to them, ugly or not, and they would support me. Or the friend who sent me a basket of her beautiful homemade soaps and things to brighten my day. Or the friend who told me she had bought me a book of crochet patterns filled with adorable mythological creatures. It hasn’t even arrived yet in the mail, but she already knows someone who wants to buy three of them.

Then today some things exploded and fell apart in another life-quake tremor.

Here’s the thing: I often write about the beauty of simple things. Natural beauty, simple tasks, soothe and restore me and remind me of goodness. So I write about them to breathe their goodness in. Other times I write about difficulties and struggle. But I never really write every detail or every difficult situation. Some are parts of others’ stories that were entrusted to me. Some are things I really think ought not to be shared. So when I write emotionally about things that might sound minor, there really might be other things beneath the surface that can’t be shared. The bloody words sometimes pours out of an unexposed wound.

This week has totally sucked, and I have felt shocked and stressed about life-quakes and uncertainties. And today something happened that I can’t really share, but it has to do with abuse and PTSD.

I have for years and years and years endured all sorts of abuse–most of it from family members. I have experienced more than I can describe. And we’ve had our share of other difficulties, such as EJ’s chronic back pain, my chronic illnesses a few years ago, JJ’s battle with cancer. There’s more than I can share.

I started out as a child wanting only to follow God and be “good” and kind. Even at a young age I was called “Wise,” “The Caring One” and “What a Christian Should Be.” When I began to experience–or, rather, recognize–abuse from my Mom and family (excessive control, insults, accusations, condemnation, and rejection), I did not defend myself nor did I attack back because I loved them and didn’t want to hurt them. I did good to them when I could. I was taught at church to give unconditional love and unconditional forgiveness to others no matter what–because that would show them the Love of Christ–so I did, I tried. But eventually–after years and years–I recognized and could no longer tolerate the damage to myself or my own family.

I learned about the dynamics of abuse through those years, and I learned that unconditionally loving and forgiving doesn’t stop abusive people from abusing. It tends to enable and empower it. I used to think that if only I could explain myself to my Mom and siblings, we could reconcile. So I explained, only they didn’t understand. So I thought, “Ok, if I explain things THIS way instead of THAT way, they will understand.” Only they didn’t. “Well, if I explained THAT way instead of THIS way, they will understand.” They didn’t. So I thought, “Oh, I should have said THIS thing!” But saying it–words such as “I Love you”–just made them mad. I kept trying harder and harder to say exactly the “right” thing, only it never worked. And I kept trying to show them that I loved them–short of allowing them total control of my life–but no matter what I did, they always accused me of not having good enough motives or something. Finally I realized that they didn’t want to understand, and that reconciliation was impossible (my Mom said that no matter how hard I tried, she’d never forgive me), so I gave up and went No Contact with them. It broke my heart and I grieved deeply but I had to save myself and my own family.

Experts say that predators target empathetic people with strong principles. Because EJ and I have been kind, and helped people, and forgiven offenses, we have experienced toxic people. Most of them called themselves Christians. I believe God is good, the Bible is true, and there are real Christians who love and follow God. I know some of them. But there are also very evil people who pretend to be Christians, who intentionally hurt people. The Bible warns of this and I have seen it. With each encounter, we’ve learned another aspect of abuse, and we’ve learned another way to set a boundary. But we also were damaged.

We’ve also suffered at the hands of EJ’s family, who came together as a group to try to pressure us into having contact with their brother, who is not a good person. They mostly bullied me because EJ was at work, but I/we stood firm. People have the right to make decisions for their own families–themselves and their children. They don’t have the right to force their decisions on other families, even if they are related. And it’s unacceptable to bully and insult people because they don’t do what you want.

We have experienced more abuse–more insults, accusations, guilting, blame, gaslighting, unkind actions. Again, from relatives. Some of it is meaner than any other that I’ve written about. It is things that we would not/could not even imagine saying or doing to even our worst enemies. 

With my family, I stood silent. With EJ’s family, I spoke out. With others I have sometimes done one and sometimes the other. There are times when I tried to be silent, but the insults grew worse until I reacted–and then I was condemned for my reaction. Sometimes I have confronted, but I’ve been accused of being overly critical or reactionary. Sometimes I tried to walk away, but I was followed with insults and told that I was refusing to deal with the issues. If I cried, I was mocked. I’ve been patient, not patient. I’ve been  supportive, and I have confronted. I love, but nothing I do stops the insults. An abuser abuses because he (or she) is an abuser, not because of his victim’s actions.

The Bible says that there is a time to be silent and a time to be speak, but I am never quite sure anymore when I should do one and when the other. If I speak, I should have been silent. If I am silent, I should have spoken. Both EJ and I suffer from PTSD. Some of our symptoms are the same, some slightly different. We both have anxiety, panic attacks, fatigue, and sometimes depression. I have insomnia and nightmares. I struggle with intrusive thoughts, guilt, self-blame as I go through memories, trying to figure out if it was my fault, if I should have/could have/would have done something different. I am not always sure who I am or what I should feel. Sometimes I feel nothing, sometimes I feel everything. At times I feel guilty because I feel nothing…or everything. I used to be calm, but now I feel quickly emotional. I’m not always sure if I am good or evil, right or wrong. I used to be strong, now I feel weak. Problems quickly feel overwhelming. Abusive people make me very angry. Abusers break people down and then condemn them for being broken.

EJ and I battle these things every day. Sometimes strongly, other times not. When one of us is feeling weak, the other tries to be strong.

So this week has totally sucked. I was regaining my balance, but dealt with a person who demanded that we deal with HIS problem, who didn’t listen when I said we needed space to figure out what comes next, that we were dealing with uncertainties and were busy trying to get to medical appointments and tests, and schedule EJ’s surgery to remove the splinter in his hand so he can have an MRI. I felt callously hounded, stressed, overwhelmed and I reacted. I do not know if I should have or not. I might have made a mess of things and totally screwed it up, but maybe what happen is something that really needed to happen. Maybe this is a tragedy but it might not be after the dust clears. Whatever, the person angrily ended our relationship. Our relationship has been deteriorating for a while. I don’t know if I feel sad or released. I think I feel both. The person metaphorically slammed the door, I tried to keep it unlocked. Sometimes I second-guess myself and wonder if I am nice or awful, or if I should have said things differently or not at all. EJ read everything before I sent it and he said that I only spoke the truth, and that I was much kinder than the person deserved. My close friends–the only ones who know details–say they know that I am not a terrible person, they love me, and they are here for me. And I’m just sitting here telling God that I’m really a bit tired as I read Psalms 43:

Wake up, Adonai! Why are you asleep?
Rouse yourself! Don’t thrust us off forever.
Why are you turning your face away,
forgetting our pain and misery?
For we are lying flat in the dust,
our bodies cling to the ground.
Get up, and come to help us!
For the sake of your grace, redeem us!

I love the people in the Bible. They were so honest.

I will be ok. I think I will survive and grow. I just need to catch my breath, and regain my balance, and let words bleed a little on the keyboard.

Beyond SISU

This morning EJ and I should have been off to the hospital for EJ’s MRI. However, yesterday evening his doctor emailed him that his recent x-ray revealed that there are metal slivers in his hand from his years of working as a machinist. Even small bits of metal can cause damage during an MRI so we have to postpone it. We have an initial consultation early this afternoon with a doctor who will remove the splinters. Hopefully, the actual procedure will be scheduled quickly.

Having to delay the MRI is agonizing because it’s more delays and additional medical expenses when the health coverage is draining away. We also can’t plan our next steps until we know the cause of  EJ’s health issues and how serious they are. At EJ’s appointment last week, the doctor had said that his symptoms could be caused by his medications, which means his health should improve once the drugs get out of his symptom. But she also said that his symptoms are very similar to a condition called Hydrocephalus, which is the buildup of fluid in the cavities (ventricles) deep within the brain. The excess fluid increases the size of the ventricles and puts pressure on the brain. The Mayo Clinic website says that the pressure of too much cerebrospinal fluid associated with hydrocephalus can damage brain tissues and cause a range of impairments in brain function. Before EJ’s appointment, we looked up some of his symptoms on the internet, and some of them can be caused by diseases like MS or Lupus. So we could be looking at something relatively minor or something very serious.   We don’t know.

I feel a bit like the description of the sailors in Psalms 107:25-27:

For at his word the storm-wind arose,
lifting up towering waves.
The sailors were raised up to the sky,
then plunged into the depths.
At the danger, their courage failed them,
they reeled and staggered like drunk men,
and all their skill was swallowed up.

I imagine Psalms 107 describing a storm like the one in this Youtube video. I don’t know if this storm is considered just a regular storm or one that causes sailors to lose their courage and skill, but it’s scary enough for me and illustrates what I sometimes feel:

Honestly, I feel like all my courage, strength, and skill has been swallowed up years ago. We persevered while struggling with abusive family through the years. We had faith and Sisu while battling JJ’s cancer a few years ago. It pushed us beyond our emotional, physical, and financial resources. Then we reached deep inside and used Sisu to move to Northern Michigan. I don’t think we would have made it if we had stayed downstate. Since then, I think we have struggled with Complex PTSD, struggling to regain our balance. We’ve battled anxiety, depression, insomnia, nightmares, and have had no emotional resources to handle even minor-ish problems that came our way. Now we are facing EJ’s health problems and loss of income. I think we have used up all our Sisu. We are empty with no resources left.

Right now I’m struggling with a sort of shock, much like I felt when we first learned that our son had cancer a few years ago. I feel a sort of brain freeze, where my mind is spinning but going nowhere. I don’t know what action to take next because there is so much uncertainty. We don’t know if EJ just needs time to rest and get healthy or if we are facing a debilitating illness and he needs to go on Disability. I think uncertainty is a terrible place to be because there is no concrete path or direction to go in. I feel frozen.

Sometimes I think, “God is good. We have blessings. We are going to be ok.” We have been working hard in the last month or so getting projects finished–we were almost through our list when this happened–and the things we have still on our list can wait. We have been busy getting a winter’s supply of food in. We still need a little more poultry feed, but otherwise we have enough pet food and poultry feed for several months. EJ ordered a sheep (killed, butchered, and packaged) from a co-worker to be delivered in the next few days. We thought about canceling it but decided that it would fill our freezer for cheaper than buying meat from the store so we are going ahead with it. Also, EJ already has his deer licenses so he can shoot us some venison. His company has been kind to us, so we have a bit of time to catch our breath. I’m so glad that we were able to get our geo-thermal compressor fixed this last summer, even though it was expensive. It will save us money in heating our house this winter.

I’ve thought, “Ok, so this could be a time of redirection and opportunities, it could be a time of blessing in disguise instead of disaster.” This period can give EJ time to discover what is wrong with his health, to recover, and rest. We have discussed for a couple of years other crafts that we can learn so we can make items we can sell at my Etsy store to bring in extra income. Maybe we can do that now. Maybe this is new opportunities.

But these times are interspersed with frequent periods of acute anxiety, of not knowing if EJ’s health issues are serious, of not knowing if EJ will even be able to work, of not knowing how we are going to manage without an income, of not knowing how we can address serious health issues or pay medical bills after we lose our health insurance. Downstate they let us make payments but up here they require half at the time of the procedure and the rest soon after, which will make it very difficult. I’m wondering if we will end up losing our house, and I don’t know how I will survive if EJ’s health problems end up being life-ending. And it takes energy and money for supplies to be creative, both of which are in short supply. I’m “supposed to be strong” but I feel that I have nothing left. I totally tired, numb, and empty.

We have been working very, very hard at paying off our debts and have made some encouraging progress, but now making extra payments is out of the question. I tell God, “This would be a very, very good time for You to miraculously pay off our house–and possibly our other debts–so we can survive on little income.”

I have friends whom I know are deeply caring, but I haven’t wanted to talk to any of them since EJ lost his job other than ask them for prayer in Facebook groups or chats. I know that some of them have an abundance of difficulties of their own to deal with. My emotions are close to the surface, and I don’t want to add to their burdens by breaking down if I talk to them. I also know that there is a tendency to want to give advice to a suffering person, to “fix” them, and I really don’t want that right now.  Even if it’s really good advice, my brain is frozen and I feel overwhelmed: I can’t take in advice and it just feels like an overwhelming list of “Things I Ought to Do” to “fix” the problem. I don’t want abusive family/people to consider this an opportunity to step back into our lives. Yeah, like we really need more of your kind of “love” that battered, bullied, and damaged us. I also don’t want a theological lecture about how I need more faith, that I should rejoice in suffering, that everything will work out for good, or that emotions like anxiety is a sin. Lectures don’t help when we are struggling to catch our breath and find our balance. In fact, the Bible doesn’t say that if someone is suffering, you should lecture them, even if what you say is Biblically true (which I don’t think it always is). Job’s friends messed up later when they began advising, criticizing, and lecturing him, but they responded very well to him at the beginning:

When Job’s three friends…heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was. (Job 2:11-13)

In other words, “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” (Romans 12:15).

I will probably be ok later when we have an idea of what we are facing, but I find myself pulling in a bit right now. I don’t have the energy to deal with even the most caring responses. I think suffering is very isolating. Maybe it can’t be anything else.

Update: Update: Eric had an appointment with a doctor today about the metal sliver in his hand. It’s in very deep so the doctor will do surgery this coming Monday to remove it. After that he can schedule his MRI.

Survival Mode

There are times that the days fly by very quickly and then I have to catch up, trying to remember what I did over the last few days so I can write about them.  This is one of those times.

EJ used to work a lot with various kinds of metals and  he often got metal slivers in his hands. Metal in his body could cause problems during his MRI tomorrow so his doctor ordered an x-ray of his hands to make sure there were no metal. We never need to schedule an x-ray here in Northern Michigan, we can walk in just whenever, so I went with EJ after supper on Thursday.

I think the hospital is very pretty with a lot of warm colors and little alcoves with cozy waiting areas. I like how the staff gives directions. When we asked how to get to Radiology, the lady at the reception desk told us to go down the hall, turn right at the piano and then make another right at the fish windsock.

Because we got there so late, the hospital was quiet and we were the only people in radiology. We had a short wait and then we were on our way home.

Raised Garden Beds

On Friday I did a few tasks around the house. EJ had brought home a large wooden box to use as another raised garden bed. I heaved it into the wheelbarrow, carted it to the garden, and put it in place to use next Spring. I set it between the old pool and the box EJ had brought home several weeks ago. We use discarded work boxes, an old broken hot tub, an old kiddie/duck pool–whatever–for raised garden boxes.

My simple latch

I also fashioned a better latch inside the coop so I can keep the doors closed so the chickens don’t get a blast of freezing air in the winter when I go into the coop to care for them. I simply hammer in two large staples, one on each of the double doors, twist a wire onto one staple and bend the wire so I can hook it into the other staple.

Friday evening Hannah’s Favorite Uncle (HFU) stopped by again to spend the night. Years ago he was riding his motorcycle when someone ran an intersection and hit him. He suffered a closed-head injury. He functions very well. There aren’t many closed-head injury conferences or support groups on his side of the state so occasionally he attends one in our area. He’s attended a conference/group in our area for the last two weeks. I forgot he was coming on Friday so I was glad he called when he was in a nearby town to ask if I needed him to pick up anything for us at the store. I didn’t, but his call gave me time to prepare the guest room.  HFU also stops to spend the night at our place if he’s on the way downstate (or back) to visit his daughter and her family. He calls our house T and E’s Bed & Breakfast. 🙂 We always welcome his visits; Hannah goes wild when she sees him.

HFU went spent Saturday morning at his conference and returned to our house afterwards for another short visit before heading to his home. After he left, EJ and I enjoyed a quiet day together studying and watching the last few episodes of The Closer on Amazon Prime. Hannah, Little Bear, and Kee-Kee slept on EJ, which was very cozy. These are the only two cats Hannah tolerates. Shortly after this photo was taken, I went out to gather the chicken eggs. I was halfway through the garage on my way to the coop when I realized that I had forgotten my basket to put the eggs in. I went back to the door to the house, opened it, and saw the movement of a wolf spider on the threshold. I screamed. EJ heard me and I heard his shout, “Go! Go! Go!” as he tried to quickly get the pets off his lap so he could come to my rescue–because obviously I was in distress if I was screaming. I would have told him that I was ok except I was busy trying to locate the spider to make sure it wasn’t in the house. When EJ came rushing through the door into the entrance hall, he exclaimed “What wrong?! You ok?!” He wasn’t particularly impressed when I told him that I had seen a wolf spider. LOL. I located my spider spray, opened the door into the garage, saw the spider on the step, and gave it a toxic blast. For all those ghoulish spider lovers out there: I tolerate spiders outside (mostly), but if they get into my house, they are on MY turf and they are dead.

EJ and I spent Sunday doing a variety of small tasks. In the afternoon, we took Hannah with us to Lowes to pick up a couple of things. It was a very beautiful drive. The trees are losing their leaves, but there are still many hanging on and the colors are breathtaking.

EJ just now came home early from work. He has been struggling so much with his health in recent months that he lost his job today. He was told that everyone loves him at the company, they all wished him well, they gave him hugs. The manager said that firing him was the hardest business decision he has ever had to make. However, the company feels he needs time to get healthy.  The company was very kind.

So now we are in “survival mode.” We will have to cut out all extras. Fortunately, we have almost all our pet food for the winter. EJ will still have his MRI tomorrow morning so we can see what’s going on with him. He will take the next few weeks resting before searching for another job. I’m not sure what we will do next.

Yikes.

Please keep us in your prayers.

Perspectives

So, I was thinking this morning that probably I could have just written about EJ’s doctor’s appointment without writing about all the INFJ stuff. But I realize that I wrote about the INFJ stuff because it helps me describe so much of what I think and feel. Like, how I believe that people have different characteristics and gifts, which should be valued instead of seen as less. I happen to believe that the world needs people of all types–both dreamers and doers, both logical and emotional, both fighters and lovers, and so forth. It’s very much as described in 1 Corinthians 12–that the many parts of a body has different functions, and one part can’t say that another part is not needed.

Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. Now if the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

In addition to everything else, INFJs have the ability to see through many different perspectives This can be very helpful, but also difficult. I’ll make a statement that I believe is true, but then I can see the exceptions and contradictions to that statement. At times it’s like having double or triple vision. I suspect we INFJs can see through so many perspectives because we live in paradoxes–being both one thing and its opposite at the same time. People who are aware of the MBTI classifications sometimes wish they were INFJs because we are rare and have some amazing gifts, but being an INFJ is both a blessing and a curse. For example, being very empathic is a tremendous gift, but it also causes us to feel the sorrow of the world and makes us a target of abusive people who exploit our empathy. And living in the paradox of being both logical and emotional is awesome, but it also can tear us apart: I can logically conclude that a person is abusive and I must stay away from him/her, but my intense emotions cause me to deeply grieve for the necessity of doing so.

Yesterday I quoted from an article that said that “INFJs tend to pick up on other people’s emotions and in some cases absorb them…Unfortunately, by focusing on others, we end up neglecting our own problems. When left alone, those problems become a pressure cooker waiting to explode. When it’s time for us to explode, we need someone to unload to. We need to discuss our feelings and work through what’s stressing us out.”

Sometimes I feel alone with a burden that’s too heavy, and very few to help me carry it. But yesterday two friends stepped up. One said, “Ohhhh sis! Why didn’t you think of unloading to me?? Well…for next time think of me. I’ll be here if you need to vent ok?” The other said, “With me you can be yourself in crying, ranting and finding someone to be with if your emotions are getting to overwhelm you.” And already, just like that, I don’t feel so alone with a burden I can’t carry. I appreciate them so very, very much.

But I also know that not everyone can carry the world’s burdens all the time. I care deeply for the people in the world who suffer, but there are times when the cruelty, heartbreak, pain, and sorrow becomes overwhelming. I appreciate a friend who once told me that she isn’t able to carry the burdens of all the world so she limits herself to entering into the burdens of a handful of close friends whom God has put in her life. My family is one of those handfuls, and she helped us through JJ’s cancer. Without her, I don’t know if we would have made it. I try to follow her example in this: It’s too much to help all the world, but I can help a few.  Sometimes I can care for more, and sometimes for less. I’ve pulled back a bit from Facebook recently, unfollowing a few people and pages, not because I don’t care, but because I care too much, and I find myself immersed in too much pain and sadness. I usually write about the simple activities of my life in this blog as a way to counteract the sorrow and ugliness in the world by reminding myself of its joy and beauty.

Image result for i would rather be annoyingly positive and optimistic
I hate this quote. There aren’t only these two options. We can choose to be realistic.

The people I struggle most with are those who acknowledge only the happy things in life. They see only good in people, they see only positive in circumstances, God will heal every disease or problem if only you have enough faith. It might be–probably is–unfair of me, but I find them to be some of the most uncompassionate people who deny reality because they don’t allow people to express less positive emotions. Of course, pessimistic people are also not living in reality. Life isn’t all sunshine and roses or doom and gloom. I prefer a third option. I try to stay centered between optimism and pessimism: There are very good people in the world, but also very evil people. There is beauty, but also ugliness. Sometimes God miraculously heals and delivers people, but for some reason that I can’t fathom, sometimes He doesn’t. I mean, we all eventually die of something–I don’t see anyone hundreds or thousands of years old running around. Not being healed doesn’t mean our faith wasn’t strong enough. It means that right now we live in a world where there is sickness and death. I love God deeply and I think He is good and faithful, but sometimes I get mad at Him for allowing suffering. I’m very honest with Him because, well, He already knows when I am afraid or angry so why deny it?

I hate it when I am facing a very frightening situation and someone tells me “You need to have more faith.” I sort of feel like punching them in the face. I don’t do it, of course, but I mutter in my thoughts, “What makes you think I don’t have faith?” Living in realism, to me, means that I honestly acknowledge my fears, anxiety, pain, sorrows, and weaknesses. I don’t want to get stuck in doom and gloom, of course, but denying that I have these “negative” emotions doesn’t mean that I don’t have them. Telling me not to feel these things doesn’t comfort me. It makes me feel alone in the dark.

Here’s a true story illustrating what I mean by all this. Years ago I had a friend who started experiencing an erratic heartbeat. It was severe enough that she was scared that something was terribly wrong with her, and that she might die. She told me in frustration that whenever she expressed this fear to her family and friends, they all told her that nothing was wrong and she wasn’t going to die. As she was telling me this, I was thinking that sometimes really bad things happen–sometimes people get sick and die, even mothers with little children. I hate to lie so I didn’t tell her that nothing was wrong and she wouldn’t die. I’m not a doctor. I also couldn’t tell her that I would be there for her family since we lived in different states. So I said, “If something is seriously wrong with you and you die, I promise that I will pray for your children every day.” Then I felt bad because it sounded so pathetically uncomforting. But my friend immediately grew calmer. She wanted someone to allow her to express her fears. Her major fear was that her children would be left without spiritual support. Being told that her children would be prayed for strengthened her. She didn’t die, by the way.

I prefer confronting fears. I can’t face them if I can’t acknowledge that I have them. Sometimes I look very ugly and messy when I’m confronting fears because fear is so very powerful and scary. I get battered at first, and knocked off my feet. I feel like the sailors in the storm described in Psalms 107, who “were raised up to the sky, then plunged into the depths. At the danger, their courage failed them,
they reeled and staggered like drunk men, and all their skill was swallowed up…” But that didn’t mean they didn’t have faith. I don’t think faith always looks like singing in the sunshine. Sometimes it’s like being knocked down seven times, beaten and bloody, and getting back up. I deeply relate to this scene in Lord of the Rings, in which Eowyn fights the Witch King. She’s obviously terrified, her shield is broken and she drops her sword. It appears at first as if she will be completely defeated, but she gets back up:

So…Stay tuned while I confront these fears now and then.
Today I am doing quite well.

Warrior Mode

i do this wish i didntI want to talk a little bit about the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), which classifies people according to their personality traits. I know that some people take the MBTI very seriously and some not at all. I think the MBTI can be a useful tool to understanding ourselves and others. Sometimes we assume that everyone thinks or feels the same as we do, or we think those who are different are “less”–for example, that someone who is more emotional is weaker–without understanding that people are different, and  being different doesn’t mean being less. Learning that people think differently helps us understand and appreciate them.

We are complex.

I am an INFJ, which is one of the rarest, deepest, and most complicated of the personality types. INFJs tend to value the MBTI because it helps us understand and value our gifts. Since we are the most misunderstood Type, the MBTI helps us feel understood.

INFJs are very deep, complicated thinkers who think in metaphors and patterns. We are imaginative with a rich inner life. We are very paradoxical, living in the midst of opposites. For example, we are very introverted but need connection with others, we are logical and very emotional at the same time, we are very protective of those we love but struggle to protect ourselves, we can be very quiet if we don’t feel comfortable but talk a lot when we are comfortable, and so on. We care about others and are observant and intuitive about people. We tend to be very empathetic, gentle, and understanding–to the point of being empaths who feel what others feel and hurt when they do. This makes us good listeners and we tend to be the counselors in relationships. However, because we feel so deeply, the chaos, cruelty, and suffering in the world can drain us, exhaust us, and even make us sick. We despise cruelty, manipulation, and deceit. We have strong principles that we live by and we value integrity and justice. We try to help people reach their potential with no hidden agenda of our own. We tend to be writers. Here are a few memes describing INFJs. It’s easier for me to share them then to try to describe us in words. You can see how my INFJness has resulted in me caring and writing about things like abuse.

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As an INFJ, I observe the people I love–especially EJ. I try to figure out when he needs support and encouragement, when he needs a bit of fun or more rest, when he needs my strength. I do things like snowblow the driveway even though it tires me because I know he is more tired after a long day of work and the snowblower hurts his injured back. I am fiercely protective of EJ and even though I hate conflict, I will defend him against toxic, abusive people, including standing against all of my family or all of his.

Many times I am strong, but sometimes my strength gives out and I feel like I can’t be strong anymore. As one INFJ article said, “As much as we cherish the depth of our relationships, these interactions can really drain us. If we don’t find a way to relieve the burdens placed on our heart, soon enough, our legs will start shaking under the weight of them.”  I try to be careful who I confide in at these times. I know there are some people who cannot physically handle the stress of others’ problems. I, also, can feel stressed and sick by suffering in the world so I totally understand. When the suffering in the world becomes too heavy I limit my exposure to the news, etc., for a bit. But there are many people who are uncomfortable with “negative” emotions such as sadness, fear, questioning, struggle. They want everyone to be always HaPpY and ♪♫singing♫♪, and never struggle with anything. They say things like “You need more faith,” or “[Non-happy emotion] is sin.”  I personally believe God gave us a range of emotions, and appropriate emotions–such as deeply grieving when a loved one dies or feeling anxious when facing a serious illness–is normal and healthy and isn’t necessarily indicative of a lack of faith.

I love Psalms 107: 23-31 because it describes sailors who experienced a terrible storm at sea:

For at his [God’s] word the storm-wind arose,
lifting up towering waves.
The sailors were raised up to the sky,
then plunged into the depths.
At the danger, their courage failed them,
they reeled and staggered like drunk men,
and all their skill was swallowed up…”

Despite all this stormy terror, the Bible says that the sailors “saw the works of Adonaihis wonders in the deep.” In other words, they didn’t lack faith. They experienced His wonders. I often learn and grow tremendously through difficulty, and I value the freedom to honestly struggle, even though things can get very scary and emotionally messy at times.

People who expect everyone to always be STRONG and HaPpY are extremely unhelpful to me. I rarely confide in them because rather than make me feel connected, they make me feel isolated in the dark. Rather than make me feel strong, they make me feel weak. I prefer to confront my fears (sometimes with shaky sword) than pretend they don’t exist. I prefer raw, honest emotions to a happy mask and advice that says: “Hey, you need more faith! Just praise God! Don’t ever let them see you cry!” I like this Brene Brown video about empathy:

As an INFJ, I can be strong, but sometimes my strength gives out. Anxiety, fear, sadness, exhaustion, can build up and up and up and I need to have a release. Sometimes I do it in writing. Sometimes I spend a day crying. Or ranting. Often I feel emotional and weak when I feel overwhelmed, but “ranting” in order to release inner pressure is one of the INFJ characteristics. One article said this:

INFJs tend to pick up on other people’s emotions and in some cases absorb them…Unfortunately, by focusing on others, we end up neglecting our own problems. When left alone, those problems become a pressure cooker waiting to explode. When it’s time for us to explode, we need someone to unload to. We need to discuss our feelings and work through what’s stressing us out. Otherwise we feel like we are being edged out by others’ problems and that we don’t matter. Take the time to hear us out when we need to rant—even if it’s about a problem that you told us to fix about one hundred times already and we ignored your advice. If you listen to us, we will be forever grateful. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been emotionally distressed over a simple problem because I let that warning light above my head become critical.

One of the many things that I love about EJ is that he understands my need to “rant” in order to release emotion so he listens to me. And listens and listens. And cares. This is invaluable.

I’m writing about all this to lead up to sharing that life is becoming a bit scary and messy right now.

EJ has been really struggling with some health issues that we felt could be side effects of the medications he is on or could be the result of a more serious problem. These issues are affecting EJ’s performance at work, which is very difficult for him because he’s always been a hard-working, skilled, and valued employee and now he feels as if he is not.

The symptoms having been becoming more problematic so yesterday I went with EJ to his doctor’s appointment. I told EJ that I was in “Protective INFJ Warrior Mode” and that I was going to insist that the doctor doesn’t just give him yet another medication to try. It’s time to get to the bottom of this. EJ knows that usually I am quite quiet and nonconfrontational, but my “Protective INFJ Warrior Mode” can be quite fierce at times. He joked to a co-worker when he left work that he was going to his doctor appointment to referee. But I was like, “I’m going to do this.” And my “fierce “Protective INFJ Warrior Mode” isn’t confrontational–unless there’s no other option. Usually it’s just firm and determined. The difference is that in the past I found it difficult to speak up, but now I do.

I was prepared to be forceful if the doctor didn’t listen to me. In fact, I didn’t sleep the night before because I was practicing my beliefs, arguments, and counter-arguments in my head. During the appointment, I just calmly and firmly stated that I know some of EJ’s medications are quite dangerous and could cause serious side effects and I was concerned they were causing his problems so I wanted him off them. I told the doctor that I was also aware that his symptoms could be indicative of a serious illness so we needed to get to the bottom of this. I told her that I know that many doctors are opposed to alternative medicine, but I think that it might be helpful to consider them in order to treat his pain without drugs.

Surprisingly, the doctor listened to me and agreed with me. She said EJ’s meds could cause the systems he is struggling with, so she took him off all his meds because she wants to sort of do a system flush to see if his issues diminish/disappear when he is off them. She said his symptoms could also indicate a more serious health issue so she is ordering an MRI. And she said that rather than calling different treatments “alternative medicine,” she’d prefer to call them “complementary treatments.” She encouraged EJ to try some of them. While the ones I suggested might/might not help him, they certainly wouldn’t hurt him, she said.  So EJ and I will be discussing what steps to take and changes to make.

Of course, these health issues dredge up all sorts of anxiety, including intense concern for EJ’s health, worries about how we will survive financially if EJ can’t work,  and–worse case scenarios about how I will make it if EJ dies. My body is thrumming with stress, and EJ is struggling too. We used to feel stronger and more resilient, but we both feel battered by years of dealing with abusive people, JJ’s cancer, and other difficulties. We never feel as if we can catch our breath or balance before being hit with another difficulty. So I am having a few meltdowns–crying, ranting, writing, etc.–to release the build-up of emotional stress. I’m trying to do it without being a burden to anyone else.

Sigh.

 

Start, Stop, and Continue

After breakfast this morning, EJ and I got out our whiteboard and we sat down for a “staff meeting.” He called it a “Start, Stop, and Continue Meeting,” meaning we discussed which new goals and projects we wanted to start, which we were stopping because they had been completed, and which we were continuing to work on. We discussed what we wanted to accomplish today.

We decided to postpone going to TSC today for more poultry, canned cat food, and suet for the wild birds because EJ ordered a sheep–dead, butchered, and packaged–from a guy at work and that will be delivered within the next week or so and we need to make sure we have enough money to pay for it. I’m not really sure how to cook sheep, but I guess I will learn. It will be an adventure. And it will fill our freezer.

Changing of the seasons…

We went outside to get a few tasks done. It was “snaining,”–my newest invented word combining the words “snow” and “rain” to describe a snowy rain or rainy snow. With the seasons changing, EJ moved the lawn mower to the back of the garage and moved the snowblower to the front of the garage.

I forgot to mention yesterday that before we headed off to the feed store, EJ loaded the old living room carpet into the Suburban. It had been lying next to the garage ever since we tore it out last summer in preparation to getting new flooring. We’ve wanted to get rid of it since we tore it out, but we’ve been busy the last few months and other tasks had higher priority. We drove the carpet to EJ’s company and threw it in the dumpster. His company lets employees discard personal stuff in the dumpsters for free.  Today EJ put a small dingy in the Sub and we took that to the company dumpster as well.

Snow Measuring Stick

Before EJ started his tasks, we consulted each other about the best location for  my new snow measuring stick that I had made last week. We put it at the edge of the forest where we can see it from the windows of our house. I used the post hole digger to dig a hole and put up a post. After EJ finished his other tasks, he fastened my snow measuring stick to the post. We now have one in the back yard and one in the front yard.  It will be interesting to see how much snow we get this year. My snow sticks measure up to seven feet.

We enjoy observing weather and look forward to measuring the amount of snow we get. We’ve heard reports that we could have a warmer-than-normal winter this year. We expect that means that we will get a lot of Lake Effect Snow dumped on us. It is my understanding that regular snow is caused by a storm system. Lake Effect Snow is not a result of a storm system but of moisture being scooped up from Lake Michigan and dumped on us as a lot of snow. Once Lake Michigan freezes over, moisture is no longer scooped up and Lake Effect Snow stops. If we get a warmer-than-normal winter, Lake Michigan won’t freeze over, and we are likely to get snow and snow and snow all winter long. And if we get warmer weather, I expect there will be melting and freezing of snow into treacherous ice, which is not good. If our long steep driveway becomes impossible to drive up, we might have to park our vehicles at the bottom and walk up and down the hill. It would be better for us to have a cold winter than a warm one.

After I got the post up, I pushed the wheelbarrow over to the Suburban and unloaded the five straw bales we bought yesterday at the feed store. I could take two at a time in my wheelbarrow. I wheeled the bales over into the coop. I spread half of the last bale on the raised beds and then put the other half in the coop with the other bales we bought a couple weeks ago. Some of the straw fell out of the wheelbarrow while I was spreading it out in the garden beds and the chickens had to come check it out. The chickens all come running when they see me and they follow me around, curious about what I’m doing. I really like chickens.

Cool Michigan coasters

Last night I came across a posting in a local Buy/Sell/Trade group on Facebook in which a woman was selling coasters. They had images of Michigan and the Great Lakes on them. Did I mention that I’m totally Michi-centric? I love my state. I’ve been looking for coasters, and these weren’t very expensive, so I messaged the seller that I would like to buy a set. We were already planning to go to town to discard the dingy in the dumpster at EJ’s company so we arranged to meet at a township hall parking lot.

This is where our day took a humorous misadventureous turn.

We usually pay for items with our debit card but we needed cash to pay the woman for her coasters. We decided to stop at the local grocery store, buy an inexpensive item, and get “cash back.” For the benefit of those in other countries where this might not happen, “cash back” is when, for example, a customer buys a $10 item but pays the cashier $20 with a check, debit card, or credit card. Ten dollars goes for the purchase of the item and ten dollars is given back to the customer in cash as change. In just about every store we go to, a cashier asks us if we want “cash back.” We almost always say no, but this time we needed actual cash to pay for the coasters. Only today the computers were down at our grocery store so we couldn’t get cash back. Bummer.

Since the Suburban needed gas, we decided to go to a gas station. EJ stopped at a station along the way. He pumped the gas and went into the station to pay for it. He came out with no cash. He said that this particular gas station doesn’t do “cash back.” Bummer.

So we decided to stop at Culvers, a favorite fast food restaurant, for some coffee. It was cold and “snainy” all morning and besides being delicious, the hot coffee in the cup would warm my cold hands. I stayed in Suburban because the front passenger door doesn’t open–it’s on our list of things to get fixed–and whenever we take the Suburban, I have to enter through the driver’s door and climb over into my seat, and exit the same way in reverse. Many times I knock the GPS off its holder trying to climb out, or I knock over our water/tea cups (so EJ now removes them first), or I get “stuck” in an uncomfortable position because some days I’m less flexible than others. It’s rather funny. Since we were making quick stops, I just stayed in the Sub. EJ came out of the restaurant with coffee but no cash. The restaurant didn’t do “cash back.” Seriously? Every cashier in every store we go to always asks us if we want “cash back.” But today we couldn’t find any store that would give it to us.

So we decided to try a grocery store further down the street. EJ went into the store and bought a container of almonds and–success!–he was able to get cash back!!! Only when he got back to the Suburban, he realized that it was a $20 bill and if the woman selling the coasters didn’t have change, we’d be in a bind. So he went back into the store and bought another can of almonds and got the $20 bill changed into four $5 bills. We now had cash to pay the woman.

Fortunately, we had left our house early, but with all these stops, it was getting closer and closer to the time we were supposed to meet the woman with the coasters. We were several miles from the meeting place but we still had plenty of time to get there. Only EJ seemed to hit every red traffic light on the route. There was also road construction along the way, and heavy traffic, and we had to wait through several red lights at an intersection before we could finally continue on our way.  We finally reached our destination only a few minutes late. We were able to meet the woman and buy her coasters. Whew.

It’s a good thing we both have a sense of humor. It was actually very funny and we laughed about it.

Dumping the Dingy

After we bought the coasters, that’s when we drove to EJ’s company and dumped the dingy in the dumpster. It felt like such a HUGE thing to have gotten rid of both the old carpet and the old dingy this weekend.

One of the knee supports EJ bought yesterday wasn’t the right kind. The boxes looked very similar but they weren’t. So our next stop was at Meijers to exchange the wrong knee support for the right one. This time I climbed out of the Suburban and went into the store with him. That transaction went amazingly well with no snafus of any kind.

One of the flocks of geese we saw.

On the way home, we saw several flocks of geese flying overhead. One of the flocks flew rather low, but I didn’t get my camera out in time. I did get a photo of one of the high-flying flocks. EJ and I love watching geese and we always pause to watch them flying overhead. Unless we are driving somewhere. Then EJ glances out the window and I try to take photos. The geese are gathering together to make the long journey south. They know winter is quickly approaching.

EJ at the burning barrel

At home again, EJ went out to burn some stuff in the burning barrel (we can still do that in the rural areas) while I gathered eggs. I found only two eggs today. Soon the hens will probably stop laying until Spring. That’s ok. They need a vacation too.

I fixed us a quick late lunch. We relaxed for a bit, and then we drove to an auto parts store in a different town where EJ bought a thermostat thingy for the Suburban. This time we took Hannah Joy with us. She loves going on drives with us, but we couldn’t take her on our other errands this weekend because with the carpet and then the dingy, there wasn’t room for her. But on this latest errand there was room. Even though it was cold outside, EJ rolled down the back window for her so she could enjoy the scents.

We got a lot accomplished this weekend. We checked a lot of tasks off our list. We feel very good about that.

Wild, Wacky Weather of Michigan

Wintumn–a word I invented to describe a mix of autumn and winter–continues with crazy weather. In the last week, we’ve had a day or two of sunshine and blue skies, but also days of rain and Lake Effect snow, and a slushy combination of the two. Most days it’s been windy and the leaves are flying off the trees. It won’t be long until the trees are bare. This was our snow on Wednesday:

Crazy, huh? Snow hasn’t yet stuck to the ground in our area, but that’s a’coming…I’ve heard that north of us in the Upper Peninsula they are an inch or so of snow today while downstate is getting thunderstorms.

Thursday I drove to TSC to buy poultry feed, dog food, and canned cat food. I put as many on the flat shopping cart as I could manage, which amounted to four 50 pound bags of poultry feed, two 55 pound bags of dog food, and three 32-can boxes of cat food. It was quite a workout loading it all onto the cart, then into the Xterra, and then unloading everything at home. I carried the dog food and cat food into the house and then I pulled all the bags of poultry feed into the wheelbarrow and pushed it over to the coop where I lugged it inside. Friday I scooped the poultry feed from the bags into the kitty litter buckets to keep the feed safe from hungry mice.

We are now all set on the dog food, but we need about two more boxes of canned cat food, a few more bags of poultry feed, and some bags of cracked corn for the chickens. If we stock up now, we won’t have to worry about running out in terrible winter weather. I’ve read that the corn raises the chickens’ body temperature and helps them keep warm. Plus, they really enjoy their cracked corn treat. EJ and I will run to TSC for these additional items tomorrow.

EJ’s friend had a meeting at our area of the state Thursday evening. After his meeting, he came over here and spent the night. It saved him from making the long-ish trip home. Hannah Joy was very excited about seeing her “favorite uncle.” When he visits, she sits as closely to him as she can get on the couch with a proud grin on her face, and she brings him her favorite balls so he can play with her.

Last night EJ, Hannah, and I all had a quiet evening watching The Closer on Amazon. I love this photo of Hannah fast asleep on EJ’s lap:

Hannah Joy

The sunrise was very beautiful this morning. I grabbed my camera and went outside to capture it. I love how the sun makes the trees blaze with color.

After EJ and I had slowly emptied a pot of coffee this morning, we got busy. We would prefer to have quiet, relaxing Saturdays, but we needed to buy another 40 pound bag of dry cat food and some more bales of straw from a feed store that is closed on Sundays. Usually we just buy four bales of straw, but I wanted to get as many as we could fit in the Suburban as we could so we don’t have to make any return trips. We weren’t sure if we could fit five or six in the Sub so I waited in the store while an EJ and an employee loaded in as many as they could. Then the employee came in and told the clerk how many we were buying–five–and I paid for our purchases. EJ said that they probably could have fit six in the Sub, but it was raining so they just threw the bales in as quickly as they could. The weather was so crazy today with downpours of rain that periodically became slushy snow.

On the way home, we stopped at Meijers to buy EJ knee braces to support his knees. They are giving him a bit of trouble.  We also wanted to buy a variety of nuts because they make healthy treats. That’s it. I had a coupon. I also had a coupon for a bag of rawhide bones for Hannah Joy. Going from one side of the store to the other, we came across a large jug of peanut oil for 50% off. I need peanut oil. A few more things found their way into our cart. I hate going to Meijers because we always seem to buy more than we intended. It’s all things I was intending to buy, but I wasn’t going to buy it NOW. This is why I prefer to shop at our little local grocery store.

It was still slushy rain-snowing when we arrived home so we grabbed the bags of groceries and left the cat food and straw bales in the Suburban to be unloaded tomorrow. I don’t want to risk getting the straw wet.

The new chickens

Last night I opened the door between the two halves of the chicken coop to let the old and new chickens mingle. I felt as if I was putting the new chickens into the general population of a prison where they would be bullied. I keep telling myself that it is normal for there to be bit of bullying when new chickens are added to a flock as their place in the pecking order is established. It is part of chicken society.  But still. I saw the new chickens outside this morning. Later in the afternoon when I went out to gather eggs, I saw the new chickens in “their” side of the coop while all the others were outside, but they didn’t look beat up so I think they will be ok.

Wintumn

I currently have many different coats in our laundry room, ranging from light to heavy. I have a hoodie jacket, a warm lined hoodie jacket, a warmer lined windbreaker, and two winter coats–one for every day and one that is nicer. Oh, I also have my winter chore coat. I need all those coats because I never know what the weather is going to be: warm or cool or cold. Yesterday I wore my warm hoodie until it warmed up enough that I took it off and wore just my sweatshirt. Today it was downright cold so I wore my everyday winter coat when I took Hannah outside and my chore coat when I went out to care for the chickens. Once the weather is consistently winter cold, I will put away all the lighter jackets.

I am calling today “Wintumn” because we experienced a combination of autumn and winter weather. I suppose I could have called it Autumnter. Take your pick: Autumnter or Wintumn. Both are appropriately descriptive.

We started out with rain. We could hear it tapping on the roof when we woke. The rain stopped about mid-morning or so, but then we had snow. Yes, snow. Sometimes it came straight down and sometimes the strong wind blew it sideways. None stayed on the ground–it was just a warning shot that winter is moving in. In between the episodes of snow, we had periods where sunlight that broke through the clouds and vividly lit up the colorful trees. Then dramatic dark clouds moved back in, lumbering through the blue sky like huge ships in a sea. The sky would grow gray and dark and snow would fall again. Accompanying all this variety of weather, we had strong winds that tore the leaves off the trees. At times the whole sky was filled with leaves. Sadly, I didn’t get a photo/video of it. Sometimes there was both snow and leaves falling from the sky, as if Winter and Autumn were dancing together. Rain, snow, leaves, sunshine, clouds, wind: It was wildly beautiful.

Early this morning when I took Hannah Joy outside, I smelled the strong smell of skunk. Ugh.

Churned up ground

When I took Hannah Joy outside this afternoon, I noticed a small hole in the ground near the deck. I thought at first that maybe Madeline, our sweet serial killer cat, had tried to dig out a mouse, vole, or shrew. But then I noticed another hole, and another, and another–some deeper and some more shallow. A very large area was churned up. I thought, “Hmmm, I wonder if bucks had maybe been fighting during the night?” They would have been just outside our windows. When EJ arrived home from work, I showed him the churned up area. He didn’t believe it was deer because some of the holes were rather deep. He thinks that maybe it was the skunk we smelled digging for grubs. Every now and then throughout the day, I got a whiff of skunk, and we both smelled it this evening. We are hoping the skunk isn’t making its home under the deck.

The new chickens are settling in ok. They are still separated from the rest of the flock; I’ll keep them separated for about a week so they can adjust to each other before they mingle. The new hens are roosting on the straw bales in their half of the coop, as I suspected they would. In fact, I had deliberately made sure the straw bales were clear of feed buckets and egg baskets because I know chickens like to roost high up. It’s very comforting to go into the coop when the chickens are settling down at night. They have soft coos and clucks that are as comforting as a cat’s purring. I think I could fall asleep listening to their them.

EJ’s Autumn Birthday

Yesterday was EJ’s birthday. Well, not exactly. His birthday is actually in early Spring when the trees are still bare and there is often snow on the ground, but he declared that yesterday was his birthday because autumn is such a beautiful season with lots to enjoy.

Tunnel of Trees Route

Originally we were going to drive through the Tunnel of Trees, which is very beautiful in any season but especially in autumn. But EJ fell at work and hurt his knee last week, so we decided not to take any long drives. We heard today (from JJ’s girlfriend) that the traffic was bumper to bumper through the Tunnel of Trees yesterday because it’s such a beautiful scenic drive and the weather was awesome. We are quite glad we took roads less traveled.

We were going to just stay at home yesterday but then EJ saw at Facebook that a nearby ski resort was offering chair lift rides to see the autumn colors from higher up. We thought, hey, it’s close by and won’t take long so let’s just go and do it. So after looking up the location on Google Maps, we hopped in the Xterra and made our way there. We knew we were in the right place when we saw a long, long line of people stretched back, back, and out of sight toward the parking lot. I exclaimed “Oh my goodness! Look at all the people!” Then we saw that the line of people went under the bridge we drove across and stretched forward, forward, out of sight toward wherever the chair left was. We couldn’t see where the line began or where it ended. EJ said, “By the time we got on the chair lift, the leaves will all be gone from the trees!” So we both agreed to keep driving. We are both very flexible and don’t mind if we discard Plan A and go to Plan B, or C…or even K.

We meandered on winding roads through vividly colored forests to the town of Gaylord. The trees seemed especially vivid and beautiful this year. Since it was EJ’s sort of birthday, we stopped at Jay’s Sporting Goods. After EJ looked at the items he was interested in, we stopped to look at game/trail cameras. We’d love to have some for security and to see what wildlife goes through our property. We know very little about such cameras, but the salesman was very knowledgeable, and after we explained what we wanted, he helped us choose the best camera for us.  We didn’t buy it yesterday. We will buy it when we have some extra money.

Cops & Donuts

A Cops & Donuts bakery was next door to Jays–in fact, you can enter the bakery through Jays–so we went in and ordered pasties, coffee, and a donut each. This “precinct” isn’t as wonderful as the original bakery in Clare. The one in Clare has a lot of character, and a feeling of excitement, and the employees look like they really have fun and enjoy their jobs. The one in Gaylord is smaller, nondescript, and the employees didn’t look like they particularly enjoyed their jobs. I think when we go to Cops & Donuts, we will head for the one in Clare, even though that’s further. But we enjoyed our treat.

Protected Apple Trees

This morning–well, actually more like noon because we had a leisurely morning drinking coffee– EJ and I went outside and fenced in our six apple trees to protect them from the deer. We have three t-posts around each of tree. We measured how much fencing we needed, rolled out the fencing and cut it with wire-cutters, and then fastened the fencing to the posts. We didn’t fix the fencing to the posts permanently so we can take it down in the summer months.  I think that when the fences are covered in ice and snow this winter, it will make an interesting landscape.

Sassy Rooster checking out the new hens

JJ’s girlfriend stopped in this afternoon with her daughter and a friend to give us her two chickens. JJ had originally planned to come with her, but he had to work and isn’t feeling well. K was sad to give up her pets, but we told her she can come visit any time she wants.

Our coop is divided into two sections. The chickens are in the back section and the poultry supplies are in the front section. We are keeping the new chickens in the front section for a few days. The old and new chickens can see each other through the dividing fence, but can’t intermingle. This can help them all adjust to each other. Even so, I read that there will be some pecking and bullying when they are all put together as the chickens work out the pecking order, but it might be less severe to ease them into the flock.

After JJ’s girlfriend left, we went to the store. EJ put gas in the Suburban while I went into the store to buy a couple of items. We then went on to the hardware store because I can’t find my little paint roller so I needed to get another.

EJ putting the other hinge on the gate while the curious chickens watch.

Once at home, we banded the new hens with different colored bans, but we will need K. to tell us which one is Agnes and which is Inez (or is it Ines?). I gave the chickens fresh water and gathered eggs while EJ put the other hinge on the large garden gate, made out of a dog pen. I came into the house to do a few tasks while EJ did a little maintenance on the Suburban.

Finally, our tasks done, I made popcorn and hot cider. Hannah saw an opportunity and shoved her nose into EJ’s bowl. She got banished to the bedroom while we finish our popcorn in peace.

The Irritated Spider and Other Stuff

It’s been rainy all week. I think we’ve had more rain thus far in October than we had all summer! The first three days of this week were warm with temperatures in the 70s, but I think . Each day the leaves on the trees are noticeably more colorful. I think we are now nearing the peak autumn color.

Despite the rain, I was able to get several tasks done this week.

Monday morning I scooped the wild bird seed from their bags into kitty litter buckets to keep them safe from rodents. Timmy helped me.

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We had ordered a few things from Amazon, trying to get ready for winter. It’s always a bit of a chore to order anything in the winter because the delivery guys won’t drive up our long steep driveway to the house. Instead, they place packages in the Magic Box–a large wooden box we have at the bottom of our driveway for packages. I call it the “Magic  Box” because packages suddenly appear in it! 🙂

One of the items that arrived on Monday was a string of Christmas lights. Our coop is not wired for electricity so I hang Christmas lights in the coop, which makes it quite festive. We have them plugged into an extension cord running out through a garage window and in through the coop window. The garage and coop are only a few feet from each other.  Half of my old Christmas lights were no longer working and the chickens kept knocking parts of them down, which didn’t help matters. So I bought rope lights which I thought would be less fragile and more easy to secure on the nails I hang them on. The lights are a brighter, harsher light than the previous ones and not as cozy, but I wanted a brighter light to encourage the chickens to lay eggs for as long as possible, even though right now we have an over-abundance of eggs. Another few weeks and they’ll stop laying until Spring.

In our Amazon order, I also got an outdoor thermometer. I fastened it to our North Post weather station. Later, I had EJ stand at our bedroom window to direct me in adjusting it so we could see the red line indicating the temperature from inside the house.

There wasn’t a good place on the North Post for the rain gauge so after consulting with EJ, I fastened the rain gauge to one of the fence posts so that we could see it from the house.

JJ’s girlfriend needs to rehome her chickens, so we agreed to take two of them that are hens of the same breed we have. JJ and his girlfriend just have to find time in their busy schedules to bring them to us. I’ve been reading about how to introduce new chickens to a flock. I’ve read that there can be a bit of a fuss as they fight to establish a new pecking order. An article suggested keeping the old and new chickens separated for about a week to help them adjust to each other so I’m going to put them in the front part of our coop where we had kept the ducks, and which we now use for storage for the chickens’ food, straw, etc.

Only one side of the coop’s double doors has an inside latch and I want to be able to keep the new chickens contained so on Monday I hammered a large staple on each side of the door, and then twisted a sturdy wire on one staple and bent the other end so I can latch it onto the other door and hold them closed. I didn’t even know these large staples existed until we moved to our new home. Now they are my “best friend”–I use them to attach fencing to posts and to make latches for doors and gates.

Staple and irritated spider.

While I was hammering the staple in, I apparently irritated a large wolf spider. People always say that spiders are “more scared of you than you are of them” but this spider wasn’t scared of me. He (or she?) rushed toward my hand. I leaped away with a “Ahhhhhh!” of fear, barely escaping its attack. I found a long stick and brushed the wolf spider off the door. It jumped into the mud and I finished my tasks while trying to watch for the spider.

Tuesday morning EJ tripped on a wooden box at work and fell hard on his knee. His company sent him to the hospital to have it looked at. Fortunately, he didn’t break anything. The doctor x-rayed EJ’s knee and said he “just” bruised a bone and that it would be really painful for a few days. EJ came home after his exam to ice his knee. Ouch. EJ has been struggling with some health issues. I’m a bit concerned for him. I don’t know if his symptoms are due to stress, his medication, or some other problem. I hope to accompany him to his doctor on his next checkup later this month.

EJ had wanted to put fencing around the apple trees this week to protect them from the deer. The plan was to get one tree fenced each night after work. Instead, it looks as if that will be our weekend project.

I worked a bit in the garage yesterday. A month or two ago, EJ brought home some old four-drawer file cabinets that his work was discarding. He is planning to put tools and such in them. I moved the cabinets against the wall with the others. I also began painting another long thin board to make another snow measuring stick for the front yard.

The temperature has been in the 70s for the last few days. While the weather was warm I opened the windows to let the fresh air in before I had to close them for the winter. I finally took the screens off today and washed all the windows because a cold front came through last night and it’s been much colder, with high temperatures not reaching 50 degrees. There was a blustery wind that made it feel much colder. I wore a heavier jacket today, which was barely adequate–any colder and I’ll switch to my winter coat. I also wore a winter hat; unless I wear a hat, my ears ache painfully in cold weather. I can well believe that winter is quickly approaching. It has snowed in the UP and in western states. We are running out of time to get things done.

Hannah Joy is a real character. She doesn’t have much patience. When she wants me to do something, she wants it NOW. I thought you’d enjoy this video I took of Hannah yesterday when she was trying to get my attention. She growls and whines, gets up in my face, and nudges aside my laptop. My laptop has a touch screen so in nudging it aside, she often touches the screen and messes up what I’m doing. Sometimes she deliberately wraps my laptop cord around her nose and pulls it out. Hannah is impossible to ignore. She’s funny.

Ambush at Barker Creek

Today we needed to get fencing so we can protect our apple trees from hungry deer this winter. We decided to go to a different TSC in a different town than we usually go to so we could stop at the Cops & Donuts bakery so we could get yummy donuts for my birthday “cake.” EJ also wanted to stop in at Jay’s Sporting Goods which is right next to the bakery.

But our plans changed.

EJ woke up in a lot of pain so we decided to go to Meijers to buy the heating blanket for back pain that we had seen in the pharmacy yesterday when we stopped in to pick up EJ’s prescriptions. We though it might be worth a try. On the way to Meijers, we stopped in at our regular TSC store to buy the roll of fencing. EJ said that after we can maybe fence in one of the trees each evening after work until they are all done.

Our favorite nursery and landscaping place was having a Customer Appreciation Day today, and since we have bought most of our fruit trees and plants there, we decided to stop in. They had tables set up in an autumn-decorated greenhouse with lots of seasonal food–chili, soups, sandwiches, and such–so we filled up our bowls and plates and enjoyed a delicious lunch for free. For dessert I had a cookie and, yes, I was finally able to enjoy a pumpkin donut and glass of cider. While we ate, a lady played American folk music on a concertina, which added to the fun harvest atmosphere. I told her that I really enjoyed her music, and her face lit up with pleasure.

After we ate, EJ and I wandered through the nursery grounds, drinking in the autumn colors. Barker Creek is huge–about 90 acres. It stretches back and back and back almost to the lake. It has little ponds and a stream running through it. It is a beautiful, magic place that always makes me think of an enchanted land like Narnia.

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There is danger in every enchanted land, and we faced terrible danger today at Barker Creek. We were able to resist (barely) buying any trees or plants that were on sale. We have too many other things we need to get before winter. However, we almost were overcome by the dogs. We were unaware that a local animal shelter would be there with multiple adoptable dogs needing homes so we weren’t able to strengthen and prepare ourselves. As soon as we arrived, we were ambushed by a volunteer with a beautiful five-year-old lab/retriever mix. The dog’s owner was seriously ill and didn’t think he could care for his beloved dog, so he had just sadly given him up that morning. The dog was very sweet and loving, and EJ fell totally in love with him. I really think EJ would have adopted him even though just yesterday he was saying that he only ever wanted one dog at a time. Fortunately, just before we left, a man and his daughter were preparing to adopt the dog. Whew. We barely escaped unscathed.

Image may contain: textWe escaped adopting another dog, but we didn’t escape the chickens. A couple of days ago I shared the video of Sassy crowing in our garden, and JJ’s girlfriend commented that she was sad that she had to rehome her two chickens. I don’t really want more chickens–we already have too many eggs–but these were the same breed we have, they were hens, and I thought it would be nice to help out JJ’s girlfriend. The chickens are practically her pets, and she’s been having trouble finding them good homes. Soft-hearted and soft-headed me, I asked EJ what he thought about taking them, and he said to go ahead. So now I have gone from 8 chickens to 10–or I will as soon as she brings them over. By the way, adding more chickens than expected is humorously called Chicken Math. Often people start out intending to buy only 2-4 chickens, but they end up with a huge flock of chickens–and also ducks, turkeys, geese, etc.

I’m glad our plans for today changed. We had a lot of fun wandering through Barker Creek. We weren’t the only ones who enjoyed the day. Look who we saw. LOL.

Birthday Adventure

Today is my birthday. I think that my birthday occurs in the most beautiful month of the year, and my annual gift of taking a long drive to enjoy the autumn color is the most awesome gift imaginable.

We left home at 9 a.m. We had discussed whether or not to take Hannah Joy with us, but we decided to leave her home because Hannah can be headstrong and we wanted a relaxing day. Before we left home, we shut the cats in the entrance hall/pantry so Hannah would leave them alone. She likes to chase some of the cats. We closed the pet door so she couldn’t get into the pantry because there is a lot of things in there that she could get into. We put away anything in the rest of the house that Hannah might get into and gave her a rawhide bone to keep her occupied for a while. Although we were gone all day, she really did quite well. Nothing chewed up, no messes to clean up. However, she misbehaved quite a bit after we returned home–chasing cats, trying to eat our food, and so forth.

Since it was on the way, our first stop was at a feed store in Traverse City to buy a winter’s supply (we hope) of cat food, wild bird seed, and a big box of treats for Hannah.

Our morning started out rainy. The rain stopped later on but there were dark clouds in the sky all day. We didn’t mind. We actually enjoy all the “moods” of autumn. We had worn “layers” of clothes–t-shirts, sweatshirts, and windbreakers–so we could put on/take off layers as needed according to the weather. We had also brought along warm winter hats because we knew it would be especially chilly and windy near the coast of Lake Michigan. It’s a good thing we did: we would have frozen without our hats and warm clothing.

Since we moved to Northern Michigan, my birthday drives tend to take us either north on M-119 through the Tunnel of Trees up to the Mackinac Bridge or south along Lake Michigan on M-22. Sometimes we do both, traveling north one weekend and south another. Today we traveled on M-22, pretty much following the route marked out on the map at the top of this post–only we turned west at Sutton’s Bay and went only as far south as Frankfort before turning around and working our way toward home. Although EJ’s birthday is in late March, he declared that next weekend is his birthday and he wants to go north.

Boats on Grand Traverse Bay

From Traverse City, we traveled north along the coast of Grand Traverse Bay. The rain and thick clouds shrouded everything in a mysterious fog. The sky and water seemed to blend into each other. It was difficult to take good photos as we drove along because our windshield was dirty and the raindrops blurred everything, but I liked this photo of the boats on the bay.

At the picturesque town of Sutton’s Bay, we turned west to the coast and meandered our way down to the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. We went on a very beautiful scenic drive through the area called the “Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive.” The rangers at the entrance to the drive gave us a map with places of special interest marked. We stopped at the overlooks and walked along the dunes, taking in the gorgeous views. At one overlook, we saw birds soaring overhead. It was difficult to see what they were, but we are sure that at least one of them was a bald eagle. I took many, many photos at the dunes. Here are some of them:

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Here are a couple short videos that I took of two different areas at the dunes:

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore 1
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore 2

We were very hungry when we finally left the dunes, so we drove south to Frankfort hoping to find a restaurant. We parked the Xterra and walked through the cute town. Surprisingly, most of the restaurants didn’t open until 3 p.m., but we finally found L’Chayim Delicatessen, which was open until 3 p.m. EJ ordered us two sandwiches–a Reuben and a Berg–and we each had half of both sandwiches.  They were very good.

EJ looking for rocks at Point Betsy Lighthouse.

We drove to the shore at Frankfort to take a photo of its lighthouse, and then we headed back north. We stopped at Point Betsy Lighthouse to go rockhounding. At Sleeping Bear Dunes we were high above Lake Michigan, on top of very steep dunes, but at Point Betsy we were able to walk along the shore at the water’s edge. We’ve been to Point Betsy several times before, but only on calm, sunny days. It was fun being there on a day when the waves were higher and came crashing to shore. I thought they were beautiful, and very mesmerizing. As we were crossing around some large boulders to continue down the beach, we got caught by some higher waves. My shoes and pant legs were drenched. We found a few pretty rocks, but didn’t want to get too close to the water to find more. We both agreed we would like to visit Lake Michigan on a stormy day to watch even higher waves.

As we left Point Betsie, we suddenly realized how very tired we were. We had had a very full day of fun. We headed home. I took my soaking wet shoes and socks off in the car. We stopped at Meijers on the way home to pick up a prescription for EJ, and I grabbed a gallon jug of cider.  We hadn’t found any donuts or cider on our trip. We had planned to stop at a farmer’s market in Frankfort after we ate, and we might have found some there, but we forgot to stop. We have a few errands to run tomorrow and may go to Cops & Donuts.

When we got home, I took Hannah outside and then went out to gather chicken eggs and give them fresh water. Meanwhile EJ unloaded our cat and bird food. He also heated up enough cider for a cup for each of us. He sprinkled in some spices–I think cinnamon and cloves. I made popcorn. Hot cider and popcorn was just perfect after a day spent along windy Lake Michigan.

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