Stupidity, Bad Luck, and the Power of Prayer

There was no initial sound that happened as my foot missed the side of that porch step; no audible snap, pop, or crack. It was anyone’s guess what i’d done but i knew it wasn’t good. I had a plate of beans and rice in my hand and before i knew it, it was on the porch. The phone went flying too. The little stand clipped to the back of the phone rolled across the wooden boards. There was no noise from me either. There never was at the time of injury. I had my father to thank for that. He drilled it into me at a young age that little girls who cried about their pain were the weakest and most worthless of all individuals and would only beget more violence and belittling with each noise made. So i learned to cry later. At the time of injury i was silent, always assessing and playing out options and possibilities in my head. So, as my foot turned upside down and the top of it made contact with the edges of several hard surfaces i was of course assessing and considering possibilities. I let the plate fly from my hand, making no attempt to catch it. I knew the best thing to do in order to minimize the severity of injury in the next few seconds was to go limp and let my body do what it may. To catch myself would be to break something. It was better to go fluid and roll. So i rolled. My left foot hit the edge of the porch step, a tiny sapling tree stump, and finally the corner of one of the two concrete squares beside the house; the extra of the blocks my home was propped on top of. I remember being surprised how many surfaces i was hitting before reaching the ground on my knee. My hands were still in the air, a trick i had learned from working in healthcare. Catch yourself with a hand and break your wrist. Land on your butt and have a bruised butt. Well, i didn’t exactly land on my butt. I landed on the top of my left foot with the bottom of my right foot somehow up on the porch. Despite the adrenaline coursing through my veins i was immediately overcome with that flooding pulled-muscle type of pain…the all encompassing near-numb, indescribably enveloping type of pain that comes from stretching something farther than its meant to be stretched. My foot was upside down and i was standing on the top of it so i could imagine that some part of me was stretched beyond the fashion God intended. I immediately shifted to be seated on my bottom in the dirt and grabbed my foot in my hands. I had hoped it would just be a bruise but the fact that i could feel pain even with my fight or flight hormones coursing through my body was a good indication that it was wishful thinking. It didn’t matter what i’d done. The first solution was going to be ice. Ice was the thing to get, preferably while i still had the benefit of adrenaline in my system. I stood and hobbled across the porch to the door. I made my way to the freezer and grabbed one of the ice packs. Then i hobbled back outside to make sense of the mess on the porch. I wasnt one to waste food. If i could get the plate up off the floor boards on the porch before the ants carried the kernels away, i could still eat the beans and rice that had landed atop the styrofoam plate. The dogs could be made to vaccum the rest, just this once. I sat there icing my foot. All the while a realization had been in the back of my mind. If i was injured it would affect my speed. I had a quota to meet and if my new employer thought something might hinder that, my new job would be over before it started. Injury was not an option.

I was most worried about the part of my foot that had hit something hard on the way down. I wasn’t sure whether it was the step, the tree stump, or the concrete block. I hadn’t been looking at my feet. I just knew because i felt the solid object and the sharp pain right behind my pinky and adjacent toe. when i placed my foot flat on the ground a bump arose and when i lifted it the skin became smooth. I was worried i had broken something behind those toes. I didn’t like the way that bump was raised when i pressed my foot to the floor. I kept the ice on it, slathered the foot in arnica, and downed anti-inflammatories both natural and western like candy in an attempt to see through the fog of swelling and properly assess what i’d done. In the beginning i was so concerned with that spot of swelling behind my toes that i hadn’t even noticed my ankle. When it swelled up and turned green i thought, “oh…i must have hurt my ankle too.” Soon the swelling behind my toes disappeared and the whole top of my foot turned blue, with a mighty swollen mound atop my ankle bone. I realized that i had probably sprained my ankle and i prayed that was all i had done. An ankle sprain i could fix. A broken bone i couldn’t. For four days i tried to stay in the house. I hid from anyone that would be able to tell my new employer of my limp. I applied arnica and ice hourly and popped anti-inflammatories like they were a bulk item in the discount bin; with reckless abandon. It occurred to me that i had better not cut myself any time soon… my mother, my grandmother, my sister, and the internet all chimed in chorus, “stay off of it for 2 to 4 days.” Everybody thought that was the thing to do. Stay off of it for two to four days… i did some version of that; i had a homestead to run. I stayed off of it minus the daily trek around the homestead with a watering can to wet the plants, the multiple treks to the dog run, the three times daily trek to the chicken pen, the friday trek to the edge of the property and back to get the groceries from fedex, the monday trek to place and retrieve the trash can from the nearby intersection, and the trek to the compost pile to dump the week’s kitchen scraps that couldn’t be utilized by the chickens before the ants came in. Also, at some point i had to go get the rain water collection tub and fill the chicken water dispenser before finishing it off with well water and then go place the tub back where it was to keep the jack rabbits from having access to the aloe vera pup behind a thin layer of wire fencing. But other than that, i stayed in my rocking chair with my foot propped up on the little tv dinner table in front of it. I worked on my patchwork quilt, added to one of my many unfinished novels, monitored the weather on the emergency radio, and looked up recipes online. I watched clips like “navajo cops” and “keeping up appearances” on youtube on my phone. I was bored out of my mind. Not doing anything physical was really getting to me. I started to wonder how much stamina and muscle mass i was losing. I began to go stir crazy stuck in the house. Getting from point a to point b seemed to take an eternity and finishing the chores was a time-consuming task. I kept thinking, “hurry up. Oh hurry up. More to do!” My feet had always carried me quickly from one task to another. My work ethic was how i ran this place as one person. Now it was becoming quite the task. There was much bitching and moaning….grunting and peppered expletives as i moved throughout the yard. Another thing my father taught me was that while you had to be quiet in the moment, you could say whatever you wanted once out of earshot. The dogs seemed to know something was wrong. They were on their best behavior. Cashew gladly hoovered the mess on the porch, both dogs gave me a wide berth and avoided my left side at all times, and Cashew ran dutifully from the dog run to the house and waited to be let in while staring straight at a healthy young buck and a yearling doe not thirty feet from her in the yard. She didn’t even try to chase them. Cooking required standing at the stove and the chairs were in the shed across the yard so i mostly ate avocados, the left over soup in the fridge, tomatoes, fruit, and one day a loaf of bread from the bread maker. I ate half of it for breakfast and the other half for dinner. I think i had an apple for lunch that day. I was not on top of things but we were hobbling along and the homestead was still running. I was just barely getting done what needed to be done and still keeping off my foot as much as possible. I had been praying feverishly to God, asking him to let it be just a sprain and to heal my foot in time for training. I reached out to a few friends and close family members and asked them for prayer. I asked God to heal my foot knowing that everything rode on me being able to meet the physical requirements of that new job.

On the fifth day i woke up and could bear full weight on my left foot with only a dull and distant hint of pain to speak of. That was when i knew, it was just a sprain. I could move all parts of my foot easily and walk with a shoe on. The swelling had decreased considerably and i knew that i could now successfully fulfill the requirements of training and employment at my recently acquired job. No one needed to know about the stupid thing i had done. I donned socks and shoes and enjoyed the privilege of walking across the floor. I made myself a rule that i could no longer use the side of the porch stairs and definitely not in tandem with the adjacent cement “stepping stone”. I thought, “Jesus Christ, the Power of Prayer.” I would apply arnica two more times on the fifth day and by nightfall i was walking normally with zero pain. On my zoom call that night one of the questions asked during our bible study was “How can we remember to thank God for what we have?” I initially had trouble answering the question. I was thinking, “How could we not?” Everything i have and everything i am is given me by God. My strengths and my flaws, my abilities and inabilities, my injuries and afflictions as well as my healing… There is nothing that i could have done to render my foot fixed in five short days, especially not while traversing all over the homestead to get the chores done. For that, i thank God. For most wonders i have the privilege of witnessing in the wilderness, i thank God. For the rare times when i witness humans extending kindness to one another for no other reason than they felt moved to do so, i see God’s fingerprints all over it. I see his brushwork in the colors of the sunset, his legacy in my dear friend’s young granddaughter…barely old enough to read but confident in her ability to lead the thanksgiving prayer; asking our Lord to look after the health and well-being of all her friends and family, thanking him for teaching and guiding us each day, and thanking him for allowing us the opportunity to get together and share a meal. And i see him in tragedy and misfortune. It is not so much a test of faith as it is a catalyst of growth and change. Cozy in our snug routines and comfy lives, we would never evolve if we hadn’t the necessity to do so. That last bit, i hadn’t made peace with. I had dealt with loss in my life and always feared the next one, lurking around the corner, waiting for me. I knew loss was a part of life. I knew it had its purpose. I could accept that, but it didn’t mean i was joyous about it. I might spend a lifetime wrestling with the notion that i was to have peace about every part of God’s plan…but there was no molecule in my body that believed God was not securely in the driver’s seat during every moment of my life since the day i found my 24-year-old self standing in Brenda’s driveway and a deeply broken woman showed me God through the way she lived her life for others. It was the first time that i realized; there’s not some class of elite and flawless people out there changing the world in the name of Christ. God uses broken people to reach the lost.

Quarantine Kitchen

My recipes became simple and quick as i only had the ingredients that arrived in my weekly imperfect foods box to work with. Garlic bread was made from chickpea/fava bean flour, tapioca flour, water, vegan butter, and garlic. Pizza pasta was a can of tomatoes, some almond “cheese” and gluten-free pasta. I tried to make apple cobbler but didn’t have all the ingredients. I ended up using apple sauce and honey to glue some oats together so it could crisp in the oven. I did what i could with what i had and i ate pretty well considering. I dreamt of a time when people wouldn’t think twice about cooking or baking with nut milk instead of water. I hoped there would be a day when this time was part of history and not our present…a distant memory…something to tell the next generation about in stories.

Crystal

I was waiting for a break in the rain to mow the lawn, but the rain kept coming and the grass got taller with each passing day. with a 5-blade reel mower i couldn’t afford to let it get any taller. So i put on a t-shirt and some pants i didn’t care about and fetched the mower. I mowed the grass in the rain. It was a muddy and unpleasant affair. The wet grass gunked up the blades and had to be removed by hand often. The wheels dug tracks in the mud. The mower was extra hard to push. But, the grass got mowed. There was one area that i left unmowed. It was the span of about a foot. There was an orb weaver web stretching from the side of the house to the ground and to my sheer delight, there was a female golden orb weaver in it. She scurried up the side of the house and i clapped my hands with joy. I named her Crystal. She is the first female orb weaver i have seen this year. She is always in her web and i go out to chat with her and watch her weave at least once a day. What a magnificent find! I was beginning to miss my orb weaver buddies.

A Return to P90X

Not working for a couple weeks, i was beginning to lose my muscle mass. In an attempt to stay fit and maintain the strength i’d built lifting people and walking 5 miles a day for the past few years i began lifting 3 gallon water jugs and attempting to do lunges around the yard while carrying them. Then i broke out the old exercise mat and returned to my trusty p90x ab-workout. Most people ease into workouts they haven’t done in a while…start out slow and build onto it each day. But, i know no such thing as middle ground. I’m pretty “all or nothing”. So naturally, i did 25 of every exercise and 50 of the last one…rendering it difficult to walk upright for the next 4 days. I wouldn’t recommend this style of exercising…if you can, perceive the concept of middle ground. It’s a good skill to have, i’m told.

I had to improvise a method to keep the mat from rolling up with me in it. This is how one does exercise in a 384 square ft space…

…with 2 dogs.

The Clinic

Without my health care salary i could no longer afford our vet. We were settling into our lives in our new tax bracket. I had to switch the brands of supplements i had taken for a year to cheaper ones. We bought dry supplies from the clearance table in town. I found bar soap for 89 cents a piece. Also, the dogs would need to be seen at the low-cost clinic for their vaccinations and preventative meds. Namely, i was out of flea and heart worm meds for the coming month. I would need to obtain some by the first. It had been a long roundabout headache of a process and with training for my new job starting in two days i was losing my window to obtain these meds. I got the dogs up before dawn, put the tarp and towels down in the trunk, and packed the car. We were going to the clinic on the outskirts of town.

They either vaccinated the wrong dog or recorded it under the wrong name but either way i didn’t care. At that point, i’d spent absolutely all i could afford to spend and i had in my possession 6 months worth of flea and heart worm meds for each dog. That was what we needed. The babies needed to not have worms in their hearts. Did they need a lot of other stuff? Sure. I needed a dentist visit, a new glasses prescription, and a not-cracked night-retainer. But life is not one big abundance party and one has got to prioritize. The important thing was that the meds were in the car. Both dogs had received their rabies shots within the past two years and one of them probably twice in one-year. Whatever the vets did, we will be okay. The important thing is, we have those flea and heart worm meds.

The girls were so good. They sat in the trunk like good dogs most of the way just watching cars out the back window. They hushed when told “no bark”. They tolerated my two errands without any fuss. They didn’t pee, poop, or vomit on the ride there (an important one). I sat in the front seat breaking apart the individual tablets and putting them into labeled baggies for storage. Getting these heart worm meds had become the second most important task of my month.

As we headed home on the winding country roads i noticed the girls getting sleepy in my rearview mirror. All the excitement of the other visible cats and dogs at the clinic had worn them out. I fancied a bit of quiet and wondered if they would take a nap. I tuned the radio to a church sermon and both dogs laid down. I wasn’t sure if they were sleeping or just resting but neither one of them made a peep the rest of the way home and the drive was peaceful. The sermon was about depression. Specifically, about the misconception that faith is the absence of despair. The minister argued that most Christians felt they didn’t have a right to feel despair or depression because how could one feel blue if they had faith that God was in charge? But there is no passage of the bible that promises Christians a life free of suffering. In fact, the bible actually promises that there will be suffering in this world, and that God will be with each of his children throughout that suffering. The minister listed all of the individuals from the pages of the bible that had asked God to end their lives for they could take no more suffering. He mentioned that Vincent Van Gogh had painted starry night from an insane asylum and that Winston Churchill refused to live on the second floor for fear he would throw himself off the balcony because at times, on hard days, wild thoughts did enter the head. The minister argued that the real courage lie in the perseverance throughout the depression in the middle of circumstance and reason not yet understood; that faith was to trust even when the big picture was anything but clear. I realized that i had been looking for the reason we were experiencing plagues and natural disasters. I realized that perhaps the answer wasn’t for my eyes or ears. It wasn’t my job to know everything in the world, but i did have to live in it. Then the minister spoke once more. He said he wanted to read a poem by Rudyard Kipling. It was called “If”.

“If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
   If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
   And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
   Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
   And stoop and build ’em up with wornout tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
   And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
   And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
   To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
   Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on”;

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings—nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run—
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!”

It was a stunning poem. I repeated the verses over in my head as he continued with his sermon, trying to dissect the lines and squeeze every last drop of meaning out of their words. When i parked at the gate i brought the car to a stop softly, realizing the dogs were indeed asleep. I sat and googled the poem on my phone. I read over the lines again. There was something about that poem that just captivated my attention. It had its own truth. I decided, if i ever successfully went back through school and obtained another degree, if i found myself with a comfortable salary again at some point in the future, i would call my cousin with her engraving machine and put in an order for my wall; the poem “If” by Rudyard Kipling etched in wood.

Thank You Lord

A cold front had come in, making it 90 instead of 100. It felt unusually cool to my Texan skin, used to the heat radiating from everything the sun touched as if each object not in shadow was a stove. I sat on the front porch and watched the sun set. For the first time since i quit my job my day had consisted of something other than sitting in front of the computer and applying to jobs. I was wearing actual clothes, not pajamas…i would have at least one outfit to wash come laundry day. I had spent the day eradicating a city of wasps in the well house, replenishing the dog and chicken feed in their storage containers in the house, harvesting and drying the sumac berries for the year, and trimming trees on the property. In 24 hours my sense of normalcy and reality had been restored and i had both the energy and the time to spend on physical endeavors like work on the homestead. It had been a very busy day. I had gone to town and back twice. It all started with a phone call. I had been up all night applying to jobs so at 8 am i was still buried beneath the sheets, having gone back to bed after taking my supplements at 3 and letting the chickens out of their coop at 7. The phone rang. Knowing i had applied to 30 some jobs recently i couldn’t afford to ignore it. I reached out from under the covers and grabbed the phone, clearing my throat and trying not to sound like i’d just woken up; I answered as professionally as i could. It was the company who i had originally interviewed with. They wanted to bring me in to interview for a different position. It would be the same company but the person conducting the interview would do so from their other location in town. Immediately my brain was awake. New location, new hiring manager, new chance. I pulled my knees up underneath me and began unzipping the mosquito net tent over the bed, “Interview? Yes, that sounds great. Today or tomorrow? Yeah, i could do today…”. I was opening the doors to the dog crates and locating my interview clothes. “What time works for me? How about this afternoon?” The woman on the other end of the phone explained that she left work in early afternoon so that would not be good for her schedule. I really wanted the job. I heard the words come out of my mouth, my confident and upbeat voice betraying the actual situation, “How’s 11?” “Great. That would work perfect. I’ll see you at 11.” I thanked her and hung up the phone. My brain did a backflip and immediately shouted, What did you do!!!?” 11. It was 8:10 now. I was at least a thirty minute drive from town. I didn’t have a printer at the house so i would have to go to the office depot in town and stand in line at the print center to print a new cover letter and resume for this specific job description…that is, after i had written it. I opened the medicine cabinet and scooped supplies into the sink; floss, night retainer case, tooth paste, mouthwash…i grabbed a pear and began cutting it while yelling at the dogs, “get up, get up, everybody up, go potty….everybody out potty!” I looked in the mirror, “What did you do?!” I raced to the computer. I booted it and opened the program to work on a new cover letter. When i had both it and my new resume rewritten i emailed it to the print center in town. Then, i dialed the number and left it on speaker phone while i jumped in the shower. While rinsing shampoo out of my hair i explained to the print center that i needed them to print 3 copies of each document i had sent and have it set aside so i could come in to pay and pick it up in an hour or so on my way to the job interview. The print center agreed to have it ready for me and i thanked them. While applying deodorant and makeup i was also eating the pear. I managed to get my interview clothes on, my boots, my make up, get my hair put up, and put my mask on. This was a job that men or women could hold…i could wear my pearl earrings today. I put them on. As i drove to town i wondered if this interview would be like the last one. I wondered if i would get a chance to make an argument for myself and if anything i would say would matter in the end. I pushed the thoughts from my head. It didn’t matter. What mattered was that i was the bread-winner of this homestead, and i needed to put myself in a position to go and win bread again. If there was an opportunity to interview for that privilege then i needed to take it and do it to the best of my ability. No matter what the outcome, i would give it my all, every opportunity i got. The car was nearly out of gas so i had to stop to fill her up. While i was there i went into the store and bought a peanut bar. I was so hungry but there had been no time to cook. Once the gas was done pumping i continued on to office depot. My first indication that the day was going to be a bit different from the others was the bit of kindness the print center had shown me. They had printed my resume and cover letter on nicer thicker paper to give me a better chance at the job and gave me 3 free paper clips so i wouldn’t have to use staples. They said that was more professional. They left a sticky note on top of my order that told of the paper upgrade and wished me good luck with a big smiley face. I smiled. It was really nice of them and they didn’t have to help me. I paid and continued on to the parking lot of the store where i’d be interviewing.

I had about 50 minutes to practice and collect myself. I fixed my hair in the mirror, went over everything i intended to say to market my skills, and spent some more time researching the company. The timing had actually worked out just perfectly and i was no longer panicked about whether i had scheduled the interview too early. When i had practiced answering mock interview questions enough i sat still in the car and let my eyes wander to the road i was parked in front of. There were young men in bright yellow reflective vests moving orange traffic cones up and down the street. After each car passed they moved the traffic cones, clearly trying to create a new lane space whilst also directing current traffic. The cars didn’t know what to make of it and they went this way and that at a snail’s pace, watching all the while for the men in yellow vests and their emphatic arm motions telling the cars they were displeased with the way they had chosen to interpret the ever-moving traffic cones. I couldn’t help but laugh. This one guy looked barely 18. His hard hat kept falling off his head and he was running all about in the street, hurrying to move the cones from here to there as fast as humanly possible. A bit of movement to the right of the scene caught my eye and i suddenly realized what they were doing. There was a new traffic light going in at the corner but the road was literally called “main street” and they couldn’t very well shut the main street in town down to put up the light. A semi truck carrying the poles and traffic lights to be put in had pulled up and was waiting in the turn lane to see where to park. The town had very narrow roads to begin with. It didn’t help that a police man had parked his car in the right lane and chosen to stand next to it in the street. I recognized the policeman. He was one of the officers that had shown up when my former friend and her ex husband had gotten into a dispute after his new girlfriend had smashed up his car with a golf club. Everyone knows everyone in a small town. I watched as the men in yellow vests directed the semi driver where to park. To my surprise, the driver was a woman. I smiled, “alright.” I expected the policeman to move his car, as they were directing the semi to park right where it was. Not only did he not move his car…he refused to move from beside it. I watched in awe as this woman, clearly cursing at the men in yellow vests, pulled that semi right into the narrow lane created by the orange cones, never grazing a cone, and driving inches from the policeman’s feet, but never touching him. She parked the truck exactly where the yellow-vested guys pointed. I don’t even know how. I sat in awe. I was sure God had put that scene in front of my face before the interview because i needed to see it. I needed to see that one small town’s gender stereotypes did not reflect all of reality. I was trying to see more of the woman driving the truck from where i sat when i noticed a smaller truck carrying the rest of the yellow traffic lights pull up. There was a man driving this truck. He didn’t know what to make of the ridiculous orange cone maze that they were ever-moving around the street. The young guy in the yellow vest pointed and the guy in the smaller truck drove forwards. He ran over one, then two, then three cones and proceeded dragging them under his vehicle all the way down the street. He missed the driveway where the yellow-vest guy had apparently wanted him to turn. So he threw it in reverse. I watched to see if the truck would let go of the cones. It didn’t. The driver was looking behind him when he put the truck back in drive and turned around just in time to slam on the brakes before running down a frantic guy in a yellow vest that had assumed the truck driver had seen him. The load shifted as the truck lurched to a halt. I looked at the straps on the big semi, pulled tight. As an argument ensued between the yellow vest worker that had almost been run over and the driver of the smaller truck, i grinned. The woman in the semi could see the whole thing unfolding and now she was on the phone, pointing through her windshield and waving her arms around. I laughed. I couldn’t help but grin. God had an interesting sense of humor and i couldn’t help but love it. The alarm on my phone went off and i pushed the button and then flipped the switch to silent. It was show time. I got out of my car, grabbed my purse and paperwork, and headed for the building.

It was a good interview. Quick, to the point, and we appeared to be on the same page. They needed motivated people who were determined, organized, and could handle time-management expectations. I was good at time management, organized, and i wanted a job that would keep up my current level of fitness. We discussed pay rate and availability before i left the interview. I felt that was a promising sign. I left the interview feeling hopeful and upbeat. Later that night i checked my email and found a message titled “job offer”. The two best words in the english language. The best words i had ever seen in my life. I sat back and pulled at my jaw. I suddenly realized i was smiling. The nightmare was over. I was employed. I accepted the job offer and then immediately drove back to town, both because i needed more wasp spray and because i had something to do. I walked every inch of the store for two hours and wrote down every product on every aisle and end cap. I spent the following day memorizing all of the information. I had people quiz me and was able to tell people where any item they asked for was. I hoped that this would make me faster at completing orders after training. I wanted to be fast enough to stay. I had prayed so hard for this job and now i had it within my grasp. I would do whatever it took to keep it. I realized that im not the kind of person that does well without a 9 to 5. For the next couple days i remained outwardly calm but inside i was buzzing with excitement. I was employed again. Thank you, thank you Lord. Thank you, thank you, thank you Lord.

“You’re not right for the job.”

It’s 3:30 in the morning. I took my evening supplements. I brushed my teeth. I put in my night retainer. Then i sat in a chair until morning came and it was time to pull the retainer out and take supplements again. I was thinking about my job interview. It wasn’t so much that i had tanked it as it was that i never had a chance. I spent an entire day researching the company. It was 115 years old. It was founded by a very brave woman who was determined to support 5 boys on her own after the death of her husband. It was a company that gave back to its community through charity efforts and christian values. I wanted to be a part of such a company. I laundered my interview clothes, tucked in my shirt, picked out my most masculine earrings, shirt, shoes, and mask…i didn’t wear anything remotely girly. No pearls. No pink. I wanted to be taken seriously. I couldn’t risk coming across feminine. I was off to try and convince someone i could handle physical labor and i could be taught to drive a fork lift. Now, i know how that sounds. I know people look at me and see 98 lbs of femininity and nothing else. But, people once felt the same way about me becoming an occupational therapy assistant. I graduated, passed the certification exam, the licensing exam, and spent 6 years walking an average of 5 miles per shift and lifting 100 to 200 lb people with a gait belt and a good understanding of body mechanics. So, things are not always what they seem. You can’t just assume you know what someone’s capable of by looking at them.

I dressed for the role i wanted. I perfected my cover letter and resume. I researched the company to Timbuktu. I came up with an answer for every question i thought i might be asked. I was assertive, confident, and upbeat. It didn’t matter. The interview lasted 5 minutes. The first thing that was said was that i was not right for the position. They did not see me as the quota-meeting, fork-lift driving, fast paced kind of worker. They felt i’d be better at carrying grocery bags through the parking lot to peoples’ cars. Less stress and a more appropriate amount of physicality for me. I could tell the interview was over. I didn’t want to lose the possibility of a different job offer down the road so i tried not to let on how insulted i was. I had lifted people from bed to chair, from chair to toilet, and from chair to tub for the past 7 years. I had dug 6 tree-sized holes through straight limestone with a metal stick, i had lifted those chicken pen panels by myself and constructed a greenhouse, a chicken coop, and a chicken pen by myself while combatting covid symptoms. I built and carried my own winter tree boxes. I lifted bags of salt chips, dog food, and chicken feed on a regular basis. I had actually been known to lend my box cutter to baffled employees in the produce section who werent sure how to break down their boxes without the one they’d left in the back of the store. I never went anywhere without mine. You never know when you might need it. I was strong enough to do all those things. I was fast enough to see all the patients daily at 95 to 102 percent productivity. I was collected enough to handle the stress of working in healthcare. But i was not qualified to open boxes and put items on shelves quickly. What bothered me was not so much that they didn’t think i could do it. What bothered me was the notion that a man could sit in the same chair, stare at the same interviewer and answer the same questions and somebody would decide to take a risk on training him on the off-chance that he would be fast enough to meet the nightly quota. How did they really know if a man would be good at or fast at the job just by looking at him. They didn’t. They thought. They figured. They decided to give him a go and see how he did. As i untucked my shirt and ditched my bra and boots i looked in the mirror and i tried to see what other people must see when they look at me. I tried to put myself in their shoes and look at myself with new eyes, as if i’d never met me before. It gave me a sickly feeling in the pit of my stomach. I saw a small-statured woman around 100 lbs that wouldn’t be able to reach things that others could. How my appearance betrayed my soul. How my stature betrayed the amount of fight i had in me. Even my gender was all wrong. To own a homestead i needed to be a man. To run the homestead without help i needed to be a man. To drive a forklift i needed to be a man. To be decidedly single in a small town without it being news…i needed to be a man. Sometimes i wished i were. Not because i felt like that’s who i wanted to be or because i was uncomfortable in my own skin. I just sometimes wished others could see what i knew to be there, and i didn’t feel like it would be such a fight to have my gumption acknowledged if i had dangly bits. I sighed.

My thoughts began to drift towards other jobs i’d like to have. I thought, “if i didn’t have fruit trees and chickens that needed tending i would just go ahead and learn to drive a semi. I could travel the country, watch weather patterns developing, spend the whole day driving, listening to tunes, put the dogs in the truck with me, a bag of dog food in a chest where they couldn’t reach it…the thought balloon busted. Truck driving would have probably been the same thing…a guy’s job. I could be a server, a nanny, a cashier, or an in-home care aid. Those were the roles people would see me in if they looked at me…i applied for a pest control technician, delivery driver, and telecommunications specialist. I might not win this game but i wasn’t ready to stop trying yet. At some point, somebody would have to take the chance that i knew myself better than they did by glancing at me for 5 seconds.

The Chickens Surprised Me!

Ladies and Gentlemen, for the first time ever, in the scorching texas heat during the middle of summer, all 5 chickens laid an egg. I entered the coop hoping for 3, rooting for the possibility of 4, and was surprised to find; 5 eggs. From left to right we have Lily’s, Petunia’s, Daisy’s, Buttercup’s, and Rosie’s egg. Rosie’s eggs are the only ones that sometimes come out with speckles on them. Lily and Buttercup produce more cream-colored eggs, and buttercup and daisy make the smallest ones (they’re the smallest chickens). I was so proud of those chickens. Everyone did their part. What a day. 🙂

Mystery Eggs

One day i noticed these eggs hanging from the underside of the porch railing. The last eggs i discovered turned out to be praying mantis and brown widow eggs. I dispatched both of the batches of eggs. Praying mantises grow up and behead my humming birds and orb weavers in order to eat their brains. Brown widow spiders? Well, i’ve never met one but i have encountered black widow spiders and if those eggs were going to hatch into anything remotely like the black widow…they were not welcome where i found them. So, whenever i find eggs on the property i like to research them. If they are beneficial i will keep an eye on them and try to ward off predators until they hatch. If they are not, i kill them.

These eggs are now under the protection of our household as it turns out they are going to hatch into something very beneficial indeed. They belong to a critter called the “lacewing”. The little green bugs eat aphids. I have aphids and would welcome some natural help with that problem. So, the eggs remain undisturbed and growing on the underside of our porch railing.

Merlin

This is definitely a male orb weaver. I’m not entirely sure what kind but i’m hoping a male spotted orb weaver because the female spotted orb weaver is my favorite kind of spider and if he finds a girlfriend, hopefully there will be more. It was a sizable male specimen as the male spiders are usually much smaller and less impressive than the females. However, because this one was large enough to see all the detail, i found him quite impressive. He made his home on my front door. Unfortunately, every time i opened it all his hard work was disturbed and eventually he scurried off somewhere and i haven’t seen him since. However, the sighting of Merlin was so significant because i haven’t seen a single orb weaver all year during 2020. I was beginning to worry. Where were my little slender-legged buddies? I thought maybe the apocalypse had done the species in…it would be on theme with the rest of 2020. However, the sighting of this male orb weaver on the front door in late august meant that they were still out there somewhere. I hoped Merlin would go and find a girlfriend so i could see more little spotted orb weavers in 2021. They were truly magnificent spiders and watching them was better than any television show.