Monday, December 28, 2015

I will NOT be bought!

This Christmas was so much different than past Christmases.

Starting in November, 2013 we decided to attack our unsecured debt, and we did it with a "gazelle-like" intensity, eventually paying off $35,000 in credit card debt.  I had NO Christmas spirit in 2013 because we were budgeted so tight that in my mind if there were no presents, then there would be no tree, and woosh.... out the window went the spirit.

In 2014 we decided we were tired of buying absolutely nothing and we purchased gifts for our family but didn't do it in excess.  (Or at least I didn't feel like it was excessive...)  We put up a tree, loaded it with gifts, and paid cash for everything.  I was the Queen of Christmas Spirit last year!

This year was a combination of the two previous years.

I knew 2015 was going to be rough.  We were back on our budget in hopes of  knocking out the last $20,000 so we can tackle student loans in 2017.

I kept reflecting on what Christmas truly was this season and just when I would want to buy tons of stuff and be a Disneyland parent/partner/aunt, I would hear a gentle nudge saying:  "I will NOT be bought!"  Every time I prayed, reflected, or meditated I heard:  "I will NOT be bought!"  This was my mantra the entire season, and honestly I LOVED Christmas this year.

Somethings were the same:
- We were able to pay cash for everything!
-  There was no tree to stuff presents under.  (I can't be trusted to act responsible when there is a Christmas tree in my reach....)

But instead of spending on ourselves and measuring the holiday by what we bought:
-  We donated to the Syrian refugees.
-  We purchased 18 chickens for 3 families in Africa.
-  We donated to the victims of the earthquake in Nepal.
-  We were a family's Secret Santa, donating $500 in toys and gifts to a family of 3.

-  We purchased $200 in gift cards to hand out to random folks in Chipotle.
-  We donated to the Salvation Army.
-  Paid for several people's groceries.
-  Bought a criminally cute kid a set of bubbles at the Family Dollar.
-  Pre-loaded all the washers and dryers with quarters at the laundry mat.

The most precious part of the season was the time invested in ourselves and others.
-  We played Uno, Bingo and Phase 10 with our family.

-  Laughed and ate until we could hardly move!
-  The Reluctant Farmer made a Christmas dinner that was to die for, further convincing my father not to drag us to the local truck stop for his version of a traditional Christmas dinner.  (Thank honey, I owe you!)

-  Perhaps the most rare part of the season, was the fact we spent 72 hours TOGETHER!  As a family, just doing nothing except lounging in our pajamas, knitting, reading, coloring and watching Christmas movies.

As I read and reflect on 2015,  I am excited for 2016.
This is going to be our best year yet!  I want more quite time, more family and friends, and less credit card debt.

2016, I'm coming for you!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Seasonal Friendships

I have always believed there are different levels of friendship and most friendships are seasonal.  It seems most people enter your life when you need them the most, but they don't stay for eternity.

I have always been okay with this idea, not finding anything wrong with the fact that people fall out of touch and through no one's fault in particular, they aren't as close as they once were.

What do you do when you don't want the relationship to be seasonal?

My heart is breaking as I realize my relationship with a friend of mine was seasonal when I thought it would be for eternity.  This friend was more like a sister than a friend, and if I have to be honest, I feel like my heart has been ripped out.

Perhaps I was foolish for thinking our relationship was more than seasonal?
Perhaps I am just being immature?
Perhaps this has nothing to do with me?

All I know is there are no more outgoing phone calls, no more returned phone calls, and no more girl talk over dinner.

I keep waiting, hoping this person and I are just going through some growing pains, that perhaps we will recover, that she will tell me if I have done something to offend her.  (I asked...)  So far, nothing.

And perhaps this is just how it was meant to end.
It sure doesn't make it hurt any less....

Thursday, December 24, 2015

A Christmas story from a humbled, me....

I am a firm believer that God makes no mistakes, and that is why when I feel like He is at work, I try to listen.  

Tonight, The Reluctant Farmer called me while I was on my way home from work and asked me to pick up a can of chicken for a recipe she was making Christmas day.  I was was really put off by this request because she had already been to the grocery store earlier this morning AND who sends someone to the store on Christmas Eve?  Did she not understand what she was asking me to do?!

Normally, I would have gone to our small town grocery store, but for whatever reason, I decided I would take a back way home and I chose to stop at a Meijer's two towns over.  (Meijer's is a huge grocery/department store that is normally open 24 hours a day, and they are quite popular here in Ohio.)  

I grabbed a few last minute items to complete our Christmas shopping, including the can of chicken and made my way to the checkout line.  At this time it's 5:30 pm, and the store is set to close at 6 pm.  In front of me there was a couple arguing about something, and I was all about ignoring them until the husband looked at me and said:  "You can go in front of us.  She has lost our credit card, again!"  I graciously said thank you and jumped in front of them.  At this point there were 2 other people in front of me, so as I waited for my turn, I continued listening to the couple behind me and I could hear the woman say:  "I know it's here!  Just give me a minute!", as she dug through a purse the size of Montana.  "You make me so nervous!  I could find it if you would just stop pressuring me!"  At this point the gentleman turned his back to me and I read United States Army on the back of his jacket.  I could see him digging through a huge stack of paper and other unorganized chaos.  (We ladies, know the stack... This is the stack of papers that resides in the bottom of our purses.  Receipts, notes, old bills, etc...) when I heard him say:  "Jesus, how much stuff can you fit in this purse?!"  Silently, I thought to myself, "You haven't seen anything until you've seen my purse..."  

Then I eyed the grocery cart.  

I couldn't see exactly what was in the cart, but I could make out a turkey, some fruit, several pies, some soda and beer, plus some clothing.  After 10 minutes of them going back and forth over how much stuff was in her purse, and the fact she couldn't find her credit card "again," I could hear Jesus speaking to me.

I called The Reluctant Farmer and did the ol' famous:  "So, I need you to move more money to my checking account and I am not quite sure how much money I am going to need."  Never batting an eye, or asking me if I was in jail, she moved money over to my account, and I spun around to say:  "How about you let me buy whatever you have in your grocery cart."  

They both quickly refused:  "No!  No, thank you!  I mean the offer is very generous, but no."

I then rephrased the question:  "Would you please allow me to buy what you have in your grocery cart?"  

Very adamantly the man says: "No!"

I take a deep breath.  Clearly this man does not realize I don't take "no" for an answer.  I then replied:  "Look, it's 5:30 pm on Christmas Eve.  Clearly, she has misplaced her credit card somewhere in her purse, and from another woman's perspective, I know you could be here for a LONG while if her purse looks anything like my purse!  There has to be a way to get you, and your groceries out of this store, and if you won't let me buy them for you, then how about I pay for them and then you can write me a check for the money that I spend?"  

The woman says:  "That's the problem.  I don't think we actually have the money in our checking account to write you a check, that's why we are putting it on our credit card.  Thank you for the offer though."

I then ask:  "Were you in our military?"

The man states:  "Yes, I was in the Army.  I was deployed and came back a little over a year ago."

I said:  "Alright, let's compromise.  I know what it's like to be proud.  Why don't you put the clothes back, and allow me to purchase the rest of your groceries.  Consider it a thank you for the fact you fought for my freedom."

The man looked at me, thanked me, and left the line with the clothes in his hand.  

I looked at his wife, who was now crying.  She said:  "Thank you so much.  Seriously, you will never know how much your kind gesture means to me.  He came home with a lot of issues, one of them being PTSD.  He means well, but is quick to anger, and I'm sure that card is in my purse, but with him standing there, I just can't find it!"  

We exchanged hugs, commiserated over large purses full of junk, and before I knew it her husband had returned.  He wrapped me in a big "man hug," and with tears streaming down his face he said:  "Thank you from the bottom of my heart.  I hope you have a wonderful Christmas and that God blesses you greatly for your kindness."

I simply said "thank you".

What I wanted to say was:  "I want for nothing.  There is nothing I need.  My job is great, my stomach is full, my house is warm, and my family is healthy.  I have been blessed, that's why I am able to help you."

As I walked out of the store, I tipped my face up towards the sky and said:  "Well played God!  Well played!  Here while I am worrying over the measly difficulties of going to the grocery store, there are folks standing before me who are worried about how they are going to eat.  Message received!"  

It took me a minute to reflect on the fact that of all the hundreds of people in Meijer tonight, God put those people right in front of me, and do you know why?!  Because God doesn't make mistakes!  Those folks me and I needed to be reminded about how blessed I truly am.

Merry Christmas friends!  May the wonder and spirit of the season shine upon you and yours this holiday season!  xo    

Don't drink and Prime!

Several months ago, I had a moment of clouded judgement.

I was house sitting for friends of mine who had bonsai trees, and one night as I was sitting on their deck marveling at their little trees, I was instantly hit with the distinct memory of a time in my teen years when I really wanted a bonsai tree because I had seen the movie Karate Kid.

Later that same night I was flipping through the television channels, and what is playing?!  Karate Kid!  Now, call it fate, call it destiny, or call it too much wine, but I just KNEW it was meant to be.  I was meant to own a bonsai tree!

So, I did what any logical person would do:  I got on and I drunkenly ordered 2 bonsai trees.  You know how they always say, "Don't drink and drive?"  Well, my advice to you would be, "Don't drink and Prime", either!

Several days later, in a cardboard box via the Fedex man, arrived my bonsai trees.

After I got them home and unpacked them it dawned on me I had NO clue how to keep these things alive!  The next day, I went to our local nursery, admitted to the bonsai folks there what I had done, got a ton of information and bought another tree.  (You know, just in case I killed the first two trees...)

Before I knew it, I was purchasing special scissors, a watering can from England, etc. and I was the Michelle Duggar of bonsai trees.  (There are now 8 of them with an additional 2 trees I am attempting to grow from cuttings.)

I have kept these little beauties alive for several months now, and I have to admit they are sort of a a big deal to me.  I am attached to them in some weird way.  I equate them with a cross between a plant and a pet.  They require more effort than a goldfish or a regular house plant, but less effort that a dog or cat, and I am pretty much in love with them.  I must also admit they are filling the huge hole in my heart that not gardening in the winter brings, which is welcome this time of year.

I am hoping with enough love, water, and prayer I can keep them alive through the winter....

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Tiger Farts and a Kleptomaniac Monkey

This year for Christmas I planned a surprise trip to Wildlife In Need, for The Reluctant Farmer and Miss K.   As in avid member of PETA in my formative years, I had mixed feelings about this adventure, but The Reluctant Farmer is an avid cat fan and I knew that petting a tiger was high on her life time bucket list, so I booked the trip.

For weeks I have been reading the reviews online and there were mixed reviews about this place.  (I would expect nothing less though when dealing with exotic animals, zoos, etc...)  So, last night I prayed I had not made a mistake by paying for this adventure, and I am happy to report, we had fun!  (You can't wipe the smile of The Reluctant Farmer's face!)  

Now, it was a private zoo and the animals were not in their natural habitat, however I got to thinking, with the rate of extinction rising, captive conservation might be the only way I ever get to see a tiger this close or touch one in person.  The animals were well fed, the cages were impeccably clean, and they taught us a lot about conservation.  It was evident by the way the animals interacted with their caregivers, there was a mutual love between both human and animal.  Honestly, there was not much difference between this guys love for his animals and my love for my animals.

When we left, I asked The Reluctant Farmer, who was beyond giddy with excitement:  "Did you have a good time?  Was petting a tiger everything you thought it would be?"

Her reply:  "Thanks!  It was amazing!  Did you notice after the tiger ate, he farted on me?!  Who knew tigers farted?!"

I just shook my head and laughed.  

$100 to play with tigers/monkeys/puppies.
Across 3 states and 6 hours in the car to make this trip happen.
The smile on their faces because tigers farted on them and monkeys tried to steal their earrings?  Priceless!

I would pretty much do anything for these two ladies.  Even semi-change my stance on animals in captivity... 

***  I will put the entire album of pictures on our Facebook page if you want to see more of the fun we had today. ***

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Learning to be a dog...

Star is making progress.  I was really hoping after a week or two of kind treatment she would quickly turn around and I would be able to instill a little more obedience and socialization, but that hasn't happen exactly as I thought it would.  There is progress being made though and she is a long way from where she was when she first arrived.

On occasion you find a dog that is so damaged and broken, "life skills" become the training you teach.  Star is that type of dog.  She has been working on just being a dog, and folks she is succeeding!  She loves all dogs, big and small, and they are where she finds the most comfort.  She plays with the cats, and she is learning the finer things in life like how to sleep in a bed or on a couch.  She is housebroken and the crate training is moving along swimmingly.  

Even though she often times acts like Drew Barrymore's character on the movie 50 First Dates, she wants to be with people badly.  You can see it in the tail wags, the way she forgets to be afraid and wants to be petted when the other dogs come up for affection, and the fact she is always lounging 2 feet away from us when we are in the office or doing housework.  

It's dogs like Star that burned me out on rescue, and one of the reasons I quit last year, because if you look at the way Star acts it's easy to loose faith in humanity.  We will not mention that in her presence though because I need her to move forward and grow.  And grow she will, her trick for today is learning how to beg from the table!  She is catching on....

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

My partner, my love, my pain in the arse.....

You all have heard me say time and time again how I hate the term "rescue" when describing a dog.  I feel like folks use the term "rescue" to defend the fact their dog acts like an ass.  In addition to the fact I feel like it puts you in a frame of mind to feel sorry for the dogs thus holding it back and not allowing it to move forward with it's life.  When I bring a dog into my home I always say that:  "To be committed to a dog is to accept no excuses.  It is to expect results." 

A year ago I drove to Michigan to adopt a Border Collie.  Never having a Border Collie before, I was expecting a well behaved dog that was going to worship the ground I walked on.  I have never been more wrong about anything in my entire life.  It was in the car on the way home from adopting Lilly, that I found a letter from her previous owner, and I remember looking over at The Reluctant Farmer and saying:  "What the hell did we just adopt?  A gremlin?!"  

A gremlin she was.

Lilly was a victim of being loved too much and not having any discipline.  She ruled her life by scaring people, and that was a system that worked very well for her.  She got exactly what she wanted, to be in control.

What the little darling failed to realize was that I am used to dogs that are edgy and act a little crazy.  My breed of choice is the Belgian Shepherd.  I LOVE a dog that flips me off and says:  "Make me!"  

I won't lie that for a minute I was frustrated with this girl.  She was a tough nut to crack.  But looking back over the last year, I now realize I don't own just a dog.  She is my partner.  This girl and I work everyday together, and I am so proud of the team we have become.

I have learned so much from Lilly this year, about myself and dogs in general.

1)  Lilly is proof that relationships are hard work, but you get out of them what you put into them, and I would not trade the last year of my life with this dog for the world.  

2)  She frequently reminds me to be a humble dog trainer and person, because just when I think I'm superior due to me being human, she does something that makes me realize dogs are far more intelligent than what humans give them credit for.  

3)  She reminds me daily that if you're going to work together you need to trust your partner.  One of the hardest lessons this year has been learning that without her nose, I am screwed.  I can't work without her and she won't work if she is upset, feels like she is being treated unfairly, or thinks she is being ignored.  (Really, I have dated women that are less demanding....)

In closing, I just want to say:  Happy Gotcha' Day Lilly!  My honorary Malinois in a black and white suit.  You are by far the coolest thing that has happened to me in many years.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Face of Guilt

Due to the impending descent of Christmas, I decided tonight to finish what little shopping we still needed to complete.  I wasn't gone very long. but that didn't matter to the quick acting creatures in my house.

When I hit the door after returning home, it was evident that either our trashcan spontaneously exploded or our dogs were very irresponsible beings.  I was just asking who the guilty party was, when I noticed Ziggy's bed looked like an episode of Hoarders.

This is the face of guilt.....