Odds and Ends

Tuesday is my most creative meal day. When i cut vegetables and arrange them on the cookie sheet i always start with the thick and beautiful middle pieces. I save the end pieces and if i don’t have room for all of them i put them in a bag and keep them in the fridge for Tuesday. Red Barn is open on Wednesdays from 10 am to 5:30 pm. This means that Tuesday is the last day before a new shopping trip for the next week. On Tuesday the fridge is looking sparse and i cook the last of the finishing week’s produce to make room for the new stuff. I had a handful of brussels sprouts, a handful of mushrooms, and some squash ends. I usually cook all the vegetables separately but i decided to make them into a saute and put them all together with some home ground herbs and garlic powder. I cut the squash ends into little slivers and then cooked them all together in a pan. I shoveled the result over a warm bowl of brown rice and it was the best tasting concoction! Tuesday’s odds and ends dish is often way better than what was cooked with the bulk of each vegetable earlier in the week.

A Hug from a Cat

2023 was off to a rough start, per usual. Every year we get an opportunity to start fresh and within the first week 10 things go wrong, leaving us scratching our heads about the effectiveness of our ritual black eyed peas. Anyways, i was not coping beautifully with stress and could have used a hug. I stopped by my friend and neighbor’s house to drop something off and her cat Ricci was on the floor. I called to him as i always do. He usually regards me with a wary glare and skitters off into the shadows behind the furniture. However, as i was talking to my friend, Ricci hopped up onto the entry hall table and began rubbing his head all over my back and shoulder. My friend notified me that she and her husband have a trick they do with Ricci. If she makes her back a table, Ricci will climb on it. She said, “I wonder if he’ll get on your back. It sure looks like he wants to.” I made my back flat like a table and a second later i felt the weight of a little cat paw and then the whole cat. I could not see Ricci but i felt him turning around and then hunkering down on my back.

He began rubbing his head all over my back and neck and i wondered what on earth had gotten into this usually skittish creature. Had i rolled in catnip at some point that i didn’t remember? Ricci was really pressing his head firmly into my back and it felt like a heavy little kitty hug. At one point he began biting my hoodie and neck (all cat cuddles seem to go south at some point) and my friend spoke sternly to him, “no attacking, just cuddles.” Ricci went back to rubbing his head gently against my back. It made my day. I was a stranger to my friend’s cat and he gave me an enthusiastic hug anyway. At one point my friend had a worried look on her face. She said, “i’m so sorry…he’s drooling a little bit.” I could have cared less. Ricci was being nice to me and he always runs from me as if i’m an enemy or the unknown. Today he was giving me a hug and i was in hog heaven. He could drool if he wanted to. I did return to the thought that i may have rolled in catnip at some time i was unaware about. However, i like to think Ricci just finally got used to me. Whatever the reason, he gave me a sweet hug and i really appreciated it. It made my week.

Gate-Keepers

Throwback to 2014. I was 26. I was surrounded by concrete, steel, glass, and people. Every sunset was observed through small gaps in buildings or by looking directly overhead at the sky above. I was deeply unhappy at this point but it was all i knew.
2019. I was 31. I found a place my soul was happy. Anywhere there’s trees instead of concrete. 🙂

i’ve heard a lot of “you can’t” since i moved to the hill country. There was, “You cant get a bank to loan on a tiny house on land.” “You can’t homestead without a husband” “You can’t survive in the wilderness without a man”, “You can’t make enough money homesteading to keep this land” and in turn… “you can’t homestead with a day job”. “You can’t handle two dogs by yourself”. “You can’t all of a sudden learn to train dogs.” “You can’t tar a roof without a man. You’ll fall.” “You cant put chickens in the house.” You can’t coexist with snakes” “You cant coexist with scorpions.” “You cant coexist with coyotes.” “You can’t coexist with wild hogs” “You cant coexist with rabbits.” and “You cant coexist with foxes.” “You cant pull dead deer out of the middle of the road.” “You cant survive without a husband.” “You cant be celibate, you’ll die”… which makes me wonder about the wiring of the male brain. Do they really think that if they don’t get some their heart will stop and their lungs will cease to inflate? So dramatic. “You can’t treat yourself without the opinion of a doctor”. “You cant use plants as medicine. That’s nonsense.” “You cant wear that cross if you’re not catholic. The image of Jesus’ body belongs to them.” You cant lift me…you’re too little. Get a man.” “You can’t clean me up. This involves poop. Get one of the hispanic girls.” I find that one an insult to both of us. Im fully capable of changing a diaper and also there’s no ethnicity you must qualify as to handle poop. Now my latest encounter with one of these self appointed gate keepers was “You cant talk like that. You’re from Austin.”

I’ve spent the last 7 years living in a community where everyone at the bank, the post office, the grocery store, the feed store, my jobs, and even my neighbors speak to me with a certain accent. I’ve sort of adopted that accent through osmosis. The more time i spend amongst people speaking to me in this way, the more i sound like them. The other day was the second time in 7 years that someone told me i was not allowed to speak with this accent because i’m not from here.

On some level, this argument sounds ridiculous to my ears. In my efforts trying to learn russian, german, spanish, and japanese, i have conversed with many people around the world via the internet who laughed at me, told me i said the right word but maybe with a texas accent, and then repeated themselves again and again so i could listen and try to say the word in a more german way, or in a more russian way, or in a more authentic spanish accent. I have never encountered someone that has said, “yes, you’re speaking German, but now do it with a less German accent because you’re not from here so speaking like us native Germans is not allowed.” So what we’re mad about today is that i’ve assimilated too well. If i had called the cow gate a driveway adornment we would have been mad i was too city. Sometimes i think people just need something to be mad about.

I thought about what the latest gate keeper said and i wondered if there was really very much difference between the way i talked and the way i spoke 7 years ago, so i started to pay very close attention to what i was saying. I watched some news clips from austin and tried to pay attention to the way the anchors spoke. I tried to see if there were many differences between the way they pronounced words and the way i pronounced words. I came to the conclusion that there are a few things im doing differently than people speaking in the city. Every word that ends with “ing”, im pronouncing “in”. “Freaking” becomes “freakin” and talking becomes “talkin”…makin…thinkin…feelin…. There’s no “g” sound on the end. Then “for” becomes “fer” and “to” becomes “ta”. Some words are just shortened. “Going” becomes “gon”…pronounced more like “gun”….

I started to realize that there were three options here. Option number 1: the guy was being a jackass. Option number 2: the guy was insecure about being the new guy on the team in my environment and needed to pick at me to call the attention off of him and pump up his own self esteem by picking at others until they seemed beneath him. Option number 3: He was really and truly offended to the core of his being because he thought i was making a conscious effort to imitate something i didnt come by naturally in an effort to make a mockery of what he considered his native tongue. If it was option number 1 or number 2, i didn’t give a hoot. However, if it was indeed option number 3, i could clear up the misunderstanding and give him peace of mind by letting him know that i was high functioning autistic and imitation is something i come by naturally. It’s a huge part of “masking” which is where an autistic person puts away behavior, facial expressions, and body language that come naturally to them in an effort to appear socially appropriate in society, effectively mimicking neurotypicals. It’s something i can maybe do more fluidly than the average person because i’ve had to entertain my entire life that those around me are not wired in the same way and adaptation on my part is required.

I’m not going to try to change my accent back to a city accent while surrounded by people speaking to me with a country accent, watching videos of austin news anchors every night and trying to annunciate my words, then hold those broadcasts in my memory while the people in front of me speak to me in a country accent. This is a waste of time. I’m also not going to tell the latest gatekeeper in my life that im high functioning autistic. Im smart enough to know that if it is option number 1 or option number 2 he will use the information against me, and if it is indeed option number 3, he should try to be a little more tolerant of those around him. Not everything is black and white. If he moved to the city and lost some of his country twang after speaking with people who said “ing” instead of “in” for 7 years, would he love it if a coworker called him out in front of his boss and other coworkers and told him he had to speak more country because he wasn’t from Austin? Probably not. So i will add him to a long list of gate keepers i’ve encountered over the last seven years and i will add my accent to a list of things people have felt are incorrect about me, including my heritage, gender, height, weight, marital status, financial status, career choice, religion, and political stance. I was standing in the kitchen the other day and a thought came to me. People spend their entire lives looking for the work place or the social group in which they are going to be fully accepted for who they are. A little voice in my head chuckled and said, “Stop looking for the place on earth where you will be accepted for exactly who you are and start creating it within yourself.” I am never going to be a stereotypical anything, and no-one should. We are all different and we have ten thousand little pieces of information that shape and make up who we are. All these little pieces of information are part of my story. I am a deeply religious christian and yet i have jewish blood in my veins. I am a woman and yet i dont wear dresses nor do i subscribe to stereotypical gender roles. I have a womb and yet it can’t support life. I love animals and yet i kill grasshoppers, cicadas, scorpions, praying mantises, and one rooster that had to go. I have embraced life in the country but i find every single deer, every fox, every cow, every sheep, every sun rise with no buildings on the horizon…a small miracle to witness. Natives to this area sometimes laugh at me because these are mundane daily sights, and i expose the part of my story where i am not from here when i get so excited about these phenomena. And i dont mind this part of me. If i had been born in the hill country i wouldn’t have the appreciation that comes with not knowing it for 27 years before finding it. I’m never going to fit into a human constructed box. I would argue that it’s a waste of time to try. If you want to aspire to be accepted by somebody, worry about what God thinks of you, because the recipe for failure here on earth is trying to please everyone all at once. For every person who gets upset i no longer tack “ing” on the end of my words there’s somebody who gets upset because i give them directions to my bathroom when they tell me they have to pee. FYI, in the country, if a man says they have to pee they’re just giving you a heads up not to let children or animals run around the other side of the truck for the next two minutes lest they see a willy in mid stream. You just can’t satisfy everyone. You have to wake up every morning and do your best to be a good person and spread kindness and grace while being true to the things you believe in. Never stop entertaining the idea that you could be wrong about things but don’t let other people change your behavior without a sound reason. There will always be at least one of a thousand details about who you are that others dont like. The only one who is going to accept you for all the little fractions of your life that make up who you are in your entirety is God. So know yourself within, do your best, and leave people to their opinions. They’re entitled to them.

A Quick Repair

When the environment is wet wood swells and warps. Wood that can no longer fit where it is nailed, screwed, or glued bends, sometimes with so much force that it rips the nail holding it down right out of the piece of wood it is attached to. It happens most notably with the wood surrounding the door of the chicken coop. When it has been raining for a week i find it difficult to open the door and if i succeed in getting it pried open i have to wait for drier weather to get it shut again. Now that is after i used tools and sand paper to shave wood off the door to get it to fit in the first place. It has also happened once with the boards of wood that made up the shed porch. One lifted from where it was pinned and took the nails with it.

I was doing the evening chores. I was walking the property covering plants and readying the well house for another freeze when i noticed the framing for the well house door was pulling away from where it was pinned. Upon further investigation there was a pencil thin nail that had been pulled out of the wood it was meant to be tethering the warped wood to. my immediate thought was that fixing this was going to be a dangerous endeavor because of the close proximity of the water softener tanks, tubing, and pipes to the wall where the door was hinged. Literally a half inch in front of the wall was a small black tube which i was sure was important to this operation. The piece of wood that occupied the vertical space directly in front of the displaced pencil thin nail was very thick. So i decided to attempt to screw the warped piece of wood back down and just drill incrementally, checking to make sure i wasnt getting close to the black tube.

I grabbed an extension cord from the shed, fetched the drill, and checked my toolbox for screws. Every screw i had wasn’t long enough to really anchor it into that piece of wood. There would just be a centimeter of length (if even) once it had gone through the warped piece of wood itself. I decided the only thing to do would be to get one of the three inch construction screws leftover from when i first moved onto the property. There was a bucket of them in the field mouse infested tool shed. I opened the toolshed and picked my way through all the rat feces and rat urine soaked cardboard. I had been breaking it down and throwing it out in the trash every week but when the mice really started saturating it with urine i just kind of gave up and let them claim it. I wasn’t interested in tearing it into rectangles anymore once it was pungent and sticky. I found the bucket, caked with a thick layer of dried turds and urine. I pried it open, grabbed three screws, and snapped it shut. I put two screws in my toolbox and used the third to pick out the drill bit. Then i plugged in the extension cord, plugged in the drill, picked a spot in the wood that wasn’t already cracking or split. with the door open so i could keep checking to watch for the end of the screw, i drilled the screw into the wood incrementally. At a certain point i had to just go for it and pray because had i stopped at this point the drill would not have forced the two pieces of wood together but rather apart.

I peeked into the well house to survey the possible damage. I neither saw nor felt the end of a screw. It was still inside the piece of wood i had tethered the flimsy gray outside piece of wood to. The tubing was fine, untouched, though i looked everywhere for water and even turned on the spigot and the indoor sink just to watch and make sure there was no water inside the well house in places where it shouldn’t be. It appeared that i hadn’t drilled through anything but wood and so i turned the well house heat lamp on and locked it up for the impending freeze that was to arrive overnight.

The little piece of wood now laid down fairly flat against the tin sheet.

For now the wood on the interior of the well house was a little more sheltered from the weather on the outside of the well house. Maybe it would last longer.

One day i really should fill in the holes in the well house walls where it looks like somebody put a screw in and then changed their mind and took it out.

An Overdue Realization

As you go through different phases in your life sometimes the circles you can run in change. It doesn’t mean you stop respecting the people you once kept company with. It doesn’t demand hatred or an impressive amount of hurt and bitterness. You must acknowledge that you are now walking different lines on the map and what is important to the people you are departing from is different from what is important to you. Not better or worse…just different. Sometimes you have to realize when it is neither the time nor the place to ask a group of people to walk a mile in your shoes and that is at an elective event that is neither about you nor hinged upon you.

I have a leather journal in which i write down any sayings i hear over the years which i believe to be wise and true. I do not write down the authors as i am less concerned with who first coined the revelation than the revelation itself. I am writing the quotes down to be absorbed and implemented in my daily life and so the author need not be penned beneath each one in a journal for my own use. However, when mentioning someone else’s thought in their own words to hundreds of others, i do believe credit is in order, ethically and legally. So i have attempted to find the person who penned a quote i try to live by daily. I will say that the idea seems to have been introduced by a man called Ezra Taft Benson and then rephrased a bit by a man named Stephen R Covey. If i have neglected to list anyone before or after these men who also contributed to the penning of this idea i do apologize. Feel free to correct me in the comments and i will add anyone i have missed.

“We are free to make our own choices. However, we are not free from the consequences of those choices.”

i made a choice to prioritize meaningful work far away from where i live over profitable work close to home. I made a choice to work half days instead of full days due to the chronic fatigue and rheumatoid arthritis covid left me with. I am not in a condition where i can easily handle a full caseload and to sustain something long term, the maximum i can really handle is about six hours of work and two hours of driving a day, but most days it is four or five. I made a choice to disagree with someone whose financial support hinged upon unwavering allegiance. As an adult woman in my thirties it was past time to return to financial independence anyway, but no inner peace will be achieved as long as you are obligated to agreement with another’s thoughts and beliefs, your own individual opinions and boundaries unexpected. I made a choice to hang onto my homestead rather than trying to sell and look for an apartment with much cheaper rent than my adjustable rate mortgage. I made a choice to keep my dogs and keep my chickens, though the feed and preventative medicine is costly. I made a choice to keep them on the feed that has them so healthy rather than switch us to the cheapest crap feed that will carry them on living in some format. I want them to have quality lives and i want them to be here with me for as long as i can render them. When my weekly food budget is $30 and i have the chickens walking around with the most beautiful thick shiny feathers and the dogs running around with limber joints and shiny coats, living on vegetables from the discount produce warehouse and bulk rice provided as a holiday present from the Japanese store is totally worth it. I dont need that miyoko’s cashew cheese wheel, the pina colada coconut milk yogurt, or the soy based crispy mock chicken bites. They’re all good. They’re all tasty. And i know i’ll get to try them again around the holidays when my family gifts me an insane amount of food and grocery gift cards that i feel very blessed to receive. But coconut milk yogurt is not a daily necessity. Its a holiday treat. I made all these choices for me and my animals but lately my choices have spilled over into a previous social circle and begun affecting others they were not intended to touch.

I no longer have extra funds to spend on fancy plating and so my potluck offerings arrive in a plastic bowl rather than a ceramic or glass one because the plastic bowl was cheaper. It holds just as much food or liquid as its more expensive brethren, but it doesn’t look as nice on the table. I can’t afford the 12 to 18 dollar fruit trays i used to buy and so i go for fruit such as mandarins in a bowl or snacks such as carrots and guacamole. I cant afford all the different vegetables and grains that would go into making a dish from scratch. Even making appetizers from scratch is beyond my financial capabilities. If i buy store bought guacamole i have spent a few dollars. If i buy tomatoes, onions, limes, and avocados to make a guacamole from scratch i’ve just spent half the food budget for the week on one dish. Then there is a need for quantity…one should make enough for everyone to have their fill of the dish, not just a taste. If 25 people attend a gathering then you need to bring enough for twenty five people to have their fill of your dish. That means more avocados, more onions, more tomato, more limes, and multiple bags of carrots. Now i’ve spent nearly the whole week’s food budget on my potluck offering for one meal to go and see people whose company i enjoy.

On some level there is a pleading in my heart that they see that this is all i can offer at this time, that i am trying to bring something to their table, to do my part in a collective effort to feed everybody during a communal meal. There is a flicker of hope that they see im not asking for an exception or to be fed without doing my part to feed others. However, the reality of the situation is that my offering falls short. The quantity and quality of food i am bringing is not meeting expectation. It’s been called to my attention several times. Many people have helped me avoid social embarrassment by transferring my food to one of their serving dishes and discarding my plastic bowl, or even discarding my food offering altogether and making one for me from scratch to pass off as my own. I am free to make my own decisions in life, but i am not free from the consequences of those decisions. Last night’s consequence of my recent decisions was the realization that i no longer qualify as the kind of person who can successfully participate in this particular gathering. I can no longer afford a proper offering, and so i can stay and ask to be fed while i feed no one, or bow out of this particular social gathering during this chapter of my life. In an effort to be helpful my surrounding peers volunteered to pray that i get a higher paying job closer to home so that i could afford to buy more expensive offerings. Nobody asked me if that was a thing that i wanted.

Pray for gas to cost less. Pray for food to cost less. Pray for my health to improve, but don’t pray for me to find another job. For the first time in my adult career i am working somewhere that my coworkers in all departments view each other as being on the same team. The kitchen staff bless the food and say a prayer before serving meals to the patients. They wear hand made clothes protectors (bibs) from all different patterns of fabric tied in the back with pieces of ribbon. They are ministered to by all different pastors who come to conduct catholic, lutheran, baptist, episcopal, and so many other services and communions. The community children make them art projects at the schools and come and sing to them so the choir can practice. There are musicians in the community that volunteer their music weekly as entertainment and a chance to practice their skill for an audience. They are not forgotten. They are well incorporated in their community. And the staff care about the patients. They are not paychecks. They are people. And the more humane treatment of the staff as people rather than numbers allows for this dynamic to be fostered and maintained. What we are doing here as a team is more of a family taking care of itself than a company running. There are bibles in the gym. There are bibles in the patient rooms. Religion is not a secret topic that cant be spoken on according to company policy. The staff give bibles or devotionals to anyone who asks for one and sometimes the patients trade exercise for one of the therapists to read a passage in the bible to them because they can no longer read it due to failing eye sight. At one of the buildings the activities director conducts a bible study multiple times a week in the front room near the piano and anyone who wants to attend is welcome. During Christmas all the patients help put the ornaments on the tree and hand the activities director the lights and the little christmas village pieces and wreaths for the doors. They are involved in the decorating of the facility for the holidays, not because its a “life enrichment activity” but because this is their home and the staff and other patients are their family and a family decorates together during the holidays. The staff supplies the patients with snacks and coffee in return for doing their exercises and to my amazement, when their friends or family bring them snacks sometimes these patients come down and gift their staff members with a few of their cookies or snack packets…because they want to feed the people who feed them. It is a very endearing thing to witness. Imagine you live in a facility and you cant go to the grocery whenever you want and the first thing you do when you get your hands on cookies is make sure others have some. I see God here. Every day i help someone shower or get dressed or eat or go to the bathroom i feel i’ve been trusted to care for one of God’s children. I try to brighten their lives with funny stories about the dogs or the homestead. I listen to their own stories. I bring them news of the weather and stories about deer, coyotes, and foxes. I ask them about their memories and help them hang onto and celebrate the funny or enjoyable ones. I see that they look forward to my visits and i look forward to seeing them. I know that if i am gentle with them i occupy that space of a staff member who is caring for them. I block someone who might be abusive with them from filling that space, and thats how we all feel. By standing in that space to be filled, as a staff member who will be gentle and patient and treat them with dignity, you protect them from professionals who would comment on odors or skin folds, be rough with them during transfers, yank on their arms without care for their rotator cuffs, and yell at them for farting or leaking a bit on the way down to the toilet seat. By standing in this job position and treating them with care, you block others who would not, from having access to your patients. It feels like a calling. It feels like a gift from God to have the opportunity. It also feels like mercy. I can’t physically handle a full caseload anymore and God has made a place for me to do what i love part time in a quantity that wont destroy me. This is a place that is happy to have me even though i cant offer them full time work because i dont have it in me, and neither does this crazy australian shepherd who needs her outdoor time. Pray for me yes, but dont pray for me to find another job, i beg you. I am happy here. I am useful here. I am accepted here, as i am…broken and tarnished and ever willing to serve.

I am embarrassed and i am saddened but i am not angry nor am i bitter. My time in this social circle has ended and i’ve been in denial for a bit now. It is time to face that. We are just different people in different chapters of life. I belong to a class of people now where dollar store chips and a bag of oranges are perfectly acceptable offerings and all the plates are paper. It doesnt mean i cant respect and enjoy a friendship with the people in my former social circle. It simply means i must understand what i can and cannot qualify to participate in if i choose the priorities i have. Im not going to be sitting in a swing next to a fire pit in a backyard cooking station on the river. I am more likely to be found in the front room of an apartment or the front yard of a single wide enjoying a styrofoam plate of chips and some grapes while others scarf down hotdogs. I will still see the people who i previously enjoyed when i come to drop off chicken eggs or borrow their internet but it is time to bow out of a social gathering that is not for whoever it is i am coming to be in this particular chapter of life.

Blue’s Resting Place

Blue has been in the freezer all winter. Now that the weather is back in the seventies and eighties it seemed like a good time to dig a hole and bury Blue. I put him in the insect and arachnid graveyard next to all the orb weavers i’ve buried after they succumbed to horrible beheadings at the hands of various praying mantises. I’m certain that my legit cattle ranching neighbors would find a funeral for a butterfly laughable but that’s the beauty of living some place where you’re surrounded by trees and the nearest neighbor’s house is acres into their property. Nobody knows what we do here. Myself and the dogs are free to be as weird as we please. Blue was a good butterfly and he gets a funeral.

The rocks are to deter the armadillo from digging Blue up. It likes recently upturned earth and searches for grubs in it.

New Year, New Bed.

Once upon a time i had norovirus and vomited continuously from sundown until the dollar general opened the following morning, until all i had to give was bile which was burning my throat and nasal passages each time. This resulted in some pretty severe dehydration and desperate to absorb water via osmosis or simply trick my brain into thinking i was getting water in some way, i soaked my clothes, a sheet, and laid wet towels all over my forehead and skin. Occasionally i would have to sit up rather suddenly to upchuck in a violent way and the towels flying off of me would soak the bed rather than me. This resulted in a certain mildewy odor. Had i not been such a loner i probably could have called a human who was not upchucking and asked them to drive to the next town where the walmart was still open and purchase anti nausea tablets. However, i am a loner and the result of that at the time was no one close enough to me to desire to run such an errand in the middle of the night. Add 4 years of unwashed and occasionally wet dog and you get a mattress that smells as if it has outlived its expiration date. It was time to get a new one. However, my financial situation didn’t think so. Unable to ignore that i had to scrub my skin thoroughly every morning in the bath to make sure i didn’t track wet dog and mildew to work every day, i was motivated by a strong desire to make the bed clean. Slightly before new years day i noticed things were on clearance online. I could get a mattress for 100 dollars, a comforter from gap for 22.50, 2 pillows for 3.50 each, and a flannel sheet set for 16 dollars, all with free shipping. This seemed like a plan that was going to help me render the bed clean. There was a sadness in me as i realized that if i did this i would not be purchasing the 8 inch extra soft memory foam mattress i usually got from walmart. The mattress was 6 inches. I knew it would be thinner and it ended up being quite firm with very little give. I bought it anyway, even though i knew it would be significantly less comfortable. I had to render the bed clean and this was the only way i could do that without putting myself in a situation where i had to seek extra work to pay for my splurge. I needed to keep extra money aside for 3,000 dollars of car repair, two $300 dental visits and any fillings that i might need pending discovery at such routine cleanings, home owner’s insurance, an annual blog fee, taxes, and i knew the government would revoke some of my health insurance credit when they realized i worked more than 3.5 hours a day during about half of my work days. Unable to give them a consistent number because it fluctuated and was not set, i guestimated an average based on what i was doing at the time. Then my hours moved to an average of 4.5 hours a day following the coverage of some full time people’s vacation and sick leave which put me at 8 hrs a day for a couple weeks and then an additional 4 or 5 days. I will need to set aside some money to atone for my sins of making more money than i said i would later. So, a super comfy thick memory foam mattress was not in the cards this year. I moved the old mattress into the shed, trying to convince myself that if i absolutely hated the new mattress i could put the old one back on, but i knew mentally i would not be able to convince myself to switch it back if i had one that smelled clean. I bought the thinner firmer mattress. One pillow case came with the sheet set. A sham came with the comforter. In this way i secured two covers for the pillows. Sili could have the pillow with the sham on it. The comforter was reversible with lavender tie dye on one side and solid lavender on the other. It was a thick cotton comforter and on sale. I usually stuck to blues and greens, unwilling to give those who thought i needed a husband to own my land, fell my trees, and lift my feed bags for me any indication that i might in fact be a girl. It wasnt that i didn’t enjoy a nice dusty rose color or a plum purple…i just didn’t want to have to overcome the additional bias it would result in. But, at the price the comforter was, from the gap, i felt it would be foolish to pass it up. The flannel sheets were gray with white reindeer and snowflakes. I would have a gray, white, and purple bed. It seemed the practical decision to make. I would repurpose the old blankets as fruit tree covers for the following winter.

There was a horrible little man who worked for walmart’s customer service department. He got angry i spoke when he was speaking and put me on hold indefinitely. Then i got an email notification saying that i requested the mattress be cancelled from my purchase. The sheets and the comforter were still on the order but the customer service rep had written that i requested the purchase of the mattress cancelled. I had called to change the generic delivery instruction “leave at door” because the address was a P.O. box and i was worried this would confuse the delivery driver. I spoke when the customer service rep was speaking and he informed me that he was very angry i was speaking over him and then put me on hold indefinitely. (He was telling me i should send it to my physical address next time and this wouldnt happen and i was trying to tell him i have a PO box out of necessity rather than privacy because i live some place where the city does not provide mailboxes because im too far out to be considered part of it.) I say indefinitely because i gave him the benefit of the doubt. I waited for him to return but he never did. I ended up having to call back twice. The third customer service rep was kinder than the first two, could see what had happened, confirmed that he had indeed cancelled the mattress from my order, and gave me a 20 dollar off coupon to buy the mattress again but this time for 80 dollars instead of 100. So, in the end the first agent’s petty behavior saved me $20 but if i could have kept my blood pressure in a safe range for the hour that i dealt with him, i would have gladly let them keep the 20 dollars. Tired of problems and setbacks, to make sure that this mattress made it to its destination, despite the auto generated delivery instructions, i paid my friend in a nearby town with a legit porch and a mailbox 2 dollars as a courtesy fee to address the mattress to her, send it to her address, and pick it up in my car upon her notification of its arrival. It arrived vacuum sealed. I wrestled it into the mosquito net tent and let it inflate. When it was near done inflating i put the linens on the bed.

It is different. Im trying to remind myself different is not necessarily bad. It is very firm. It is clean at least. It smells very nice, like clean linens. I tried to keep it that way by banning the dog from sleeping with me. Cashew appreciated Sili’s company for about a week. They would curl up together and sleep with their heads on each others’ backs. However, i really missed Sili. There’s nothing that helps you get to sleep more than a dog holding onto your arm with their paw and smooshing their head against your chest or shoulder. After a week i said “oh **** it” and Sili climbed into the bed. Sili’s assessment was similar to mine. It wasn’t as comfortable as the expensive memory foam. It was thinner and firmer. She looked at me like, “what did you do?” she slept curled in a ball at my feet instead of stretched out with her head on the pillow under the blankets. We missed the smelly mattress but neither one of us would admit it…her for fear of losing bed privileges and me out of sheer denial. I quickly ended up with my neck in nots and my back really tight. I would wake myself up at night because i was getting sore and needed to change positions. There was something initially more comfortable about the support of a firmer mattress…you didnt sink into it like the expensive memory foam. However, gone were the days of waking up in comfy memory foam bliss…too happy to move. I told myself, “you were the one that wanted to work less so the dogs could have more outdoor time. You were the one who wanted to work only for privately owned companies and no longer for corporations. This is the consequence. You make your choices, and then you must live with them.” This was the mattress we could afford. I stared at Sili. Sili stared at me. “It’s a good bed.” I said. She looked at me.

I had better get used to it because walmart reviewed my complaint about the customer service rep cancelling the mattress from my order and decided that he was indeed in the wrong for his actions. They sent me the mattress from the original order…to the PO box. They left it despite the auto generated delivery instructions. Now i have 2 of them. I stood at the post office bewildered, not wanting to be ungrateful. It is a perfectly good mattress. Now we just have the next one for four years from now when this one wears out. I pressed my lips together in a thin line. This is a perfectly good clean mattress. We are happy to have it. We will get used to sleeping on a firm mattress. It can be done. It will be done. 2023 is the year of a clean house and smart budgeting. It will be fine.

Update: On Wednesday i made my usual trip to Kerrville to buy produce at Red Barn. I stopped at the Walmart afterwards and bought a 47 dollar vacuum sealed 2 inch mattress topper. When it was done unfolding and inflating i put the bed back together and tried it out. Sili and i looked at each other in complete relief. This will do. It’s not the old mattress but close enough to it with the topper. I got my first solid sleep since replacing the mattress and Sili curled up on the pillow under the covers rather than sleeping on top of the comforter at my feet.

Mr. Silver Teeth, the old Friend I dont have.

I pulled into a space outside the grocery store and put the car in park. As i did so the doors automatically unlocked. Out of habit, i pushed the button and relocked them. I began untying my lunch bag and spreading the utensils and baggies out on the seat beside me. I did need to go into the grocery store but i also hadn’t eaten lunch. I figured i would do that first as i was hungry and generally less and less functional as the hunger went unattended. Then i would run errands. Before i knew it there was an older hispanic man with silver teeth pressing on the hood of my car. He waved at me through the window. He said something but he was speaking so quietly i couldn’t even tell if it was in spanish or english. He seemed to know me but i didnt know him. He waved to me and looked at me with this big grin of recognition as if i should know who he was. I wracked my brain trying to think of anywhere i knew this man from but i was certain i’d never seen him before. He motioned for me to roll the window down. I played dumb as if i thought he was just being polite and saying hello. I smiled and waved and went back to my food, pretending as if i thought he’d left and gone into the grocery. I had rules against taking possible bait, no matter how populated the parking lot. I didn’t know what he wanted but in my mid thirties i’d lived long enough in this world as a single female to know better than to roll the window down for someone i didnt know and therefore wouldnt have any legit business with. This is a topic i hate speaking on. I dont view myself as a target or easy picking, so its hard for me to swallow that others do. However, to be in denial about the thing is to be unaware, and i’m in the habit of that less. If you are a single female of small stature you are a better target for those with nefarious motives than someone with company or who would be difficult to lift into a van or a truck.

He did leave for a moment. He disappeared between the cars. Then all of a sudden he was back again, this time near the driver’s side window. He motioned for me to open it. I considered that i may be paranoid. Perhaps he needed help jumping his car or something. If he needed help jumping his car, there were plenty of young men walking around the well populated parking lot like ants. Why ask a small woman in an suv, i quizzed myself? There were plenty of men, some exiting work trucks. If he needed a jump, he was mighty fixated on me when there were plenty of others already out of the car who could have helped him. Now a young man in a colorful button up shirt and a cowboy hat returned to the truck parked beside me. He opened the door as if he was going to get in but he didnt. Instead he stood around as if he were waiting for someone. Eventually he did get in the truck but he got in the passenger side of the truck. He seemed to be waiting for the driver. The older man waved goodbye and disappeared walking towards the store. The younger man remained in the passenger side of the truck, glancing at me every so often. I decided to take a long lunch. My gut told me that it was not time to get out of the car. On my phone I fetched an episode of 60 minutes about a drilling company that cut corners and ended up erasing 7 towns off the face of the map in an environmental disaster. As i watched tv and ate i realized the older man with the silver teeth was back. This time the colorful shirt guy had a buddy, presumably the driver. They were both young and fairly good looking, unlike the man with silver teeth. They had both doors to the truck open on the side next to my car and the young men were looking at me now as the older man beckoned for me to get out of the car. I played dumb some more…waved emphatically and then went happily back to my program. I was not getting out of the car. I also wasnt running. I wasn’t going to be scared out of a well populated parking lot into some isolated area where they could hit my car and then get me out in an obligatory way to exchange insurance cards and survey the damage. I stayed in the parking lot watching my program for an hour. Eventually they gave up. They loaded into the truck and drove out of the parking lot together. I ran in, got my five items, checked out, walked briskly back to my car, and left. For them to spend so much overall time trying to get me to roll down the window…i knew it was not just an old friend i didnt remember trying to get my attention and say hi. Such a person would have shrugged and went on with their day. Especially when someone parks beside you and leaves the door open as if they need to retrieve something, yet lingers without doing so…don’t ever get out of the car.