Serving Coffee

Yesterday at 4:45, 15 minutes before our office closes, a young woman walked through the door and inquired about any open job positions we might have available. She had mousy brown hair that was snarled, a pale thin face that belied her youth as time and a hard life had aged her, her clothes were well worn and a few sizes to big. She spoke with the quiet voice of someone who places her value far below that of the person she is addressing, and she appeared exhausted physically, mentally and spiritually.

Our HR Coordinator was conducting an interview so I conversed with the young woman. We spoke of generalities and then got into the type of work she was looking for. She had been suffering with debilitating headaches for 8 years and was on disability but still wanted to have a “job” so she could feel useful. Her illness had cost her family almost everything and the knowledge that she was such a burden to them was too much for her to bear.

She said she would do any odd job we had like cleaning, making copies, running errands, “I will serve coffee, I’m good at that!” I smiled at her enthusiasm while at the same time my heart was breaking for this woman who was just a girl a few years ago. She told me she could never have an important job like mine because she is not all pretty and put together like me. 

When she said that I wanted to wipe off my makeup, put on my normal “at home” clothes and say “I am just like you!! I’m a grown woman who is still that terrified girl inside wondering if today is the day I can’t pay my bills. I too have medical expenses, $20,000 worth that scare me to death. We are the same, high heels and mascara do not give you importance!! You are special and I believe in you!”

But I remained silent as she hesitantly poured forth her story, her dreams of doing something with her life, her fears and frustrations. Again she pled with me to give her any kind of work and in my mind I was wishing I owned a company so I could help her, give her a job, give her some self worth. I remained silent and just listened feeling completely helpless and worthless since all I could do was hear this woman out.

As she prepared to leave I handed her our HR Coordinator’s card and told her to call and see what could be available. She pulled her hood up against the cold and before she walked out the door she turned and said “Thank you Mam and God bless You!” I said to her “I didn’t do much so no need to thank me!” She replied “You listened to me.”

The four most profound words I have heard in all my years “You listened to me.” I thought about those words all night and yet again today, hence this post. How many people out there just want someone to listen to them? To take the time out and give them just a moment of undivided attention, to make them feel like they matter? 

These days technology allows us to do more and more online without having to deal directly with people while at the same time allowing us to connect with individuals from around the globe. I wonder if in the process of connecting us on the web it really is tearing us apart from one another. We can chat with someone across the ocean on our phones and devices while our next door neighbor feels utterly alone and dejected. “You listened to me” rings in my ears, makes me think, makes me want to be a better person, one who does listen to others, one who gives others that modicum of security knowing that at least one person cares, and to make a difference somehow.

I learned yesterday that sometimes when you feel like you have done nothing for someone simply because you cannot hand them the world you actually have done more, you have stopped the world and focused on them at a time when they were perhaps feeling insignificant. Maybe the greatest gift you can give someone truly is the gift of your time.

Freidrich

I am the kind of person who goes through life flying by the seat of her pants. I make flash decisions without doing all the research and yet live with no regrets. I have found that when I allow myself to ponder my ponderings turn to over thinking which turns to insecurity and thus, inaction. So I act quickly and worry about the consequences later.

I had been paying frequent visits to a friend’s dairy goat farm a year ago when one evening I entered the loafing barn and saw a tiny white and black newborn goat huddled in the straw while his mother munched on grain. He was an angel in my eyes. As white as new snow with just enough black markings to create a pleasant contrast. The sound of his bleating melted my heart and the feel of his velveteen muzzle nibbling on my fingers won me over completely.

He was to be sold as a meat goat I was told. My blood ran cold, I felt physically ill and knew I had to do something. I had some money at home from the sale of my ATV. I had a barn at my disposal, I was ready. I took home that sweet little boy and two more baby goats. A female Toggenburg which I named Marta, a female Nubian which I named Liesl, and of course my little boy whom I named Freidrich. 

What joy these babies brought to my life!! Early morning feedings with soda bottles fitted with nipples, sitting in the pen with them as they crawled all over me nibbling and pressing up against me for hugs and kisses. They filled a very large hole in my life, they brought me happiness that I never dreamed myself capable of. 

In May all of my happiness came to an end. Friedrich started yelling day after day as though he was in pain. I spoke with the farmer I got him from. He was silent on the phone and I feared the worst. At 8pm I rushed him to the emergency vet and at 9:30 he was taking his last breath. Friedrich had developed urinary tract stones and there was nothing they could do so I had to make the decision to wait until his bladder burst or allow him to pass peacefully without pain. Friedrich was 3 months old, he was my greatest comfort, my joy, my baby and he was lying lifeless in my arms. 

I was numb all the way home. Friedrich’s little body lay in the backseat wrapped in a towel, my heart was broken. Then I started crying, I cried for hours over the loss of life, over all the things I had been through in life that no one but that little goat could mend, I cried in loneliness, I cried in rage over how everyone I ever have loved either left me or died, I cried until I went still. I thought I would lose my mind, to be honest. 

Friedrich was buried under a pile of boulders in the new play area being constructed for my goats. Liesl and Marta called out for him day after day, I could not heal. Headaches were frequent, I couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, couldn’t move on. People would tell me that he was just a goat, a farm animal, get over it. Those words hurt. I am not able to have children, my mom had just been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, things were not going well at work, and those goats were my only source of joy. 

After particularly bad days at work I would go out to the barn and Friedrich would be the first to come running. He would jump into my lap and snuggle his little head under my chin while I let my tears of frustration flow. He loved me, he was always so happy to see me, and he healed me in so many ways. How does one just simply “get over” that?

In June the farmer I got Friedrich from presented me with a tiny, floppy eared, Nubian buckling to help ease the pain of losing Friedrich. Then a couple weeks later he called with directions to a farm 2 hours south and when I got there the owner came out of the barn with a tiny, yet long legged, white and black Alpine buckling just like Friedrich. It was June 11th, my birthday.

Gunter and Gustav became my world. I kept them in the house and would wrap them in blankets so they could nap with me on the couch. They went with me all over and Marta and Liesl soon adopted them as their new brothers. My family was complete again. My heart was still broken but I had not lost the capacity to love.

Animals are great healers. Somehow they have the ability to enter our lives and make them better. They love unconditionally, do not judge, do not suddenly decide to stop loving you, and they give everything they have. I will never be fully over the loss of my Freidrich but his death taught me a very valuable lesson in how short life truly is, how things can change at the drop of a hat, and how you are never truly alive until you have loved someone so much that to lose them is like losing yourself.

Someday

Perhaps one of the most depressing words in the English language is the word “Someday.” When I hear it spoken it always comes out with a hint of longing or regret. A word of defeat, a word of hope without hope, a word that, in some cases, is synonymous with “never.”

The older I get, the more I dispise the word “Someday” because it reminds me of how, no matter how many years, decades even, have gone by, my somedays just keep getting farther and farther away. Then I fall into berating myself for how much time I have wasted, how many mistakes I have made personally, financially, and spiritually. I get frustrated, I give up, I get motivated then fail to get started, I cry, I rage, but nothing changes.

I know I am not the only one caught in this web of wanting to move forward to our somedays but being held back by routine, lack of funding, lack of guidance, lack of ambition brought on by the sting of too many failures, bad relationship choices,  lack of faith in ones own self, etc…

To re-write a saying I once read; It is sad when you have failed so many times that you start saying “I’m used to it.” But, are bumps along the road really failure? I think not!! Refusing to get started is what constitutes failure, refusing to work hard at what we want is failure, refusing to keep trying, that is failure and I have failed more often than not.

45 minutes from my place of employment is a farm. It is for sale. 9 acres of woods and pasture, a white farmhouse with a porch, a red barn, an outdoor brick oven for baking… I see it in my minds eye, that utopia I have searched for, given up on, then searched for again. It exists, however, it is real and tangible, it is for sale. It is $269,00. It might as well be $269,000,000 that negative voice in my head tells me and in the tip of my tongue is that horrid word “Someday.”

I don’t want to wait for an obscure date in the future that may never come. I am tired of excuses for why I am not living the life I deserve because frankly I got right where I am because I didn’t do anything to deserve more. I refused to acknowledge that I am an artist who could be making money off of my art, I scoffed at the fact that companies wanted to publish my writings, I degraded myself to the point where I felt I was not worth working on. “Someday” I would pursuse those things, I said, just not today.

As we speak my mom sits in a nursing home not knowing where she is or even what day it is. Years ago she looked forward to her retirement and how “Someday” she would finish all those quilts she wanted to make. Well, here we are and all those somedays don’t mean a damn thing because time ran out. Mom will never sew again, never see new places, never have dreams to keep her going, or hopes for the future. 

I wonder what she would have done had she known what would transpire in her later years. Would she have stayed single, joined the WACS like she always talked about, would she have lived for more than just 3 children and a difficult husband? Or is what happened to her a glimpse into my own life’s mirror? A chance to throw a stone at the reflection and see more in the shards than what was displayed before?

9 acres, a home, a place to keep my goats, all of my somedays in one physical location, happiness, dreams coming true, a business of my own, freedom, how? By changing all of those somedays into someways, and some hows. Someday has no guarantees and I am tired of banking my future on that kind of uncertainty. We always think we have more time but the harsh reality is that we have less and less each day.  I may not get those 9 acres overnight but it will not be from a lack of trying. 

Antlers for Supper

“You can’t eat antlers!” My dad used to say to me when I was a kid and complained that no big bucks ever came our way. I was not impressed by shooting does, I wanted that big 30 point buck to come my way so I could prove to the world that this 11 year old was a force to be reckoned with!

Looking back on my dad’s simple wisdom, I see how much times have changed. Back in the 1960’s Dad would load up his buddies in a renovated school bus with questionable breaks and head out to Buffalo, Wyoming for their annual mule deer hunts. They didn’t go out there to bring home trophies, they went to enjoy the camaraderie of deer camp and to bring home meat to fill the freezer, and memories to fill the year ahead.

Black and white photos from back then often depicted A-framed structures lined with deer harvested. There were no photos of a guy and his 40 point, non typical, mineral fed, selective bred, food plot deer. Just photos of rangy men standing by decrepit shacks in red wool and tattered hats.

What changed? How did the age old tradition of hunting become so glamorized, so Hollywood? Is it the TV shows featuring people in perfectly clean expensive camo always getting monster deer without breaking a sweat? The female hunter has morphed into women on the screen so perfecty coiffed that they look nothing like the women in my life who grew up hunting. Meanwhile, guy hunters show up to events in bedazzled jeans. It’s all about the big show, who is better, who gets more ratings.

These days, it seem like the whole atmosphere of the sport has changed from fun and camaraderie to a cut throat competition over who can shoot the biggest deer. Social media is littered with images of guys and gals posing strategically behind behemoths of the forest so as to make them look even larger than life. It is all about the size of the rack and even that is not real anymore. Not even deer could escape man’s constant quest to alter nature and now there are whole industries dedicated to producing products to “enhance” antler growth to the point of absurdity. Selective breeding on deer farms is also a norm and people pay thousands of dollars to get the opportunity to bag “trophies” inside fences. Why?

Because it is not good enough anymore to be common, to be that redneck hunter in dirty, blood stained orange who hunts on instinct and the will of God. It is not “glamorous” enough to come home with your tag limit of does and a small (by today’s standards) buck to fill the freezer. The network and code of honor among hunters too has died in the sense that social media is filled with trolls waiting to pounce on anyone, man, woman, or child for shooting anything under 14 points. Hunting has become a competition to see who can bag the biggest and the best.

Is that really what it’s all about? I think not, but that is my opinion. I’m old school and to me hunting is all about the unknown. It is about going out into the woods and waiting for days and not seeing one deer. It is about freezing and sweating and pushing yourself and your patience to the absolute limit then going out and doing it all over again the next day. It is about no guarantees, it’s hard work, intuition and skill not gleaned from watching TV but from years of training, years of disappointments followed by years of victory. Gadgets and equipment can’t make a hunter, they may make things easier but is anything really worth having ever easy?

I have probably hit a nerve with this post and pissed some people off but I’ve never been one to mince words or worry about offending others. All I am saying is that we can learn a lot from those old deer camp photos. Namely that sometimes size doesn’t matter. Isn’t it supposed to be about tradition, bringing home stories, lessons, and if you are lucky, some meat for the table?

Never Enough

We say it constantly “There are never enough hours in the day.” Why? Because, for the most part, our lives are so inundated with a plethora of tasks we cannot possibly hope to complete in the waking hours we are given.

So focused we become on cramming as much as we can into one day that we fail to see the big picture. It’s like driving on an endless interstate at 100mph being so focused on the task at hand that we completely fail to see what lies to the left and right of that asphalt ribbon.

The truth is, at that very moment when you start to panic over all you didn’t get done you should really be admonishing yourself for all you failed to experience in your mad rush to complete an absurdly long to-do list.

Did you miss your child’s first game, your Mom’s birthday, a chance to sit on a dock and drop a line, a chance to truly live?

I get on my soapbox about this all the time for the simple reason that I see so many unhappy people in this world. Rich, poor, popular, young, old it doesn’t matter. The reasons could be many but I’m convinced the biggest contributor to dissatisfaction in one’s own life is the fact that (as the saying goes) we spend so much time trying to make a living that we forget to make a life for ourselves.

When my dad was putting in 14 hour days at work did you think he ever thought that Mom would get Alzheimers right at the moment when their lives had finally settled down enough for them to enjoy? Heck no! If he had perhaps he would have re-evaluated everything. Nothing is promised in this life, nothing.

I get asked all the time about how can I spend so much time hunting in the swamp or woods? My answer is simple. I disappear every weekend into the swamp because it is where I can shut everything out. Every disappointment, every frustration, every distraction, everything. I am left entirely alone with nothing but magnificent nature around me. No deadlines, no phones ringing, no to-do list and it is exactly why I am a happier person.

So, the next time you glance up at a clock and feel your heart tighten with dread because you still have a million and one things to do ask yourself this “Is all of this worth giving up so much of my life for?”

Happiness and a good life, my friends, are not a matter of how much you can pour into each day but how much you can get out of each day.  Instead of staring at a list of things to do in the morning, write a list of the blessing and experiences you had in those 24 hours. A life well lived is one that is treated like a gift and not a bunch of years to just get through.