Archive for September, 2010

Truly Blessed

This is an artistic representation, not an actual photo of either of my horse trailers.

This is an artistic representation, not an actual photo of either of my horse trailers.

Once upon a time (I’ve never started a blog or story that way before; I like it), I bought a horse trailer.  (Seriously, how good can this blog be if the first sentence begins with “Once upon a time” and ends with “horse trailer”?  *grins*  Stay with me, please.)   It was extra tall and wide, a slant-load, which was exactly what I wanted.  It was a big-ticket item, for us, but we could afford it and I was pleased.

A year later we had to sell.  It wasn’t hard to let it go.  I was bummed, but circumstances had changed and mostly I felt grateful that I had something to contribute, to sell to help us get through a tough time.

I missed that trailer, but it wasn’t too long before I had to sell the horses too.  That cost me something emotionally.  I loved them like people.  But I was still grateful that I had something to contribute, a way to help.  So many people have NOTHING to fall back on when hard times come.  We were blessed; I saw that.

Then, without a change in circumstances, a horse came back into our lives and it was a love thing for our whole family.  I won’t go into how it happened.  I’ll just say that we weren’t looking for a horse;  in fact, we were hesitant about taking him, but I wanted to help a friend, so my husband agreed and there we were with a horse on our property again.  He’s our horse now and he’s a blessing.  A short while later, just a few days ago, in fact, one of the ponies that we sold came back home.  I wasn’t looking for that to happen either.  It just did.

To top it all off, I was able to trade my extra saddle (I was sorry to see it go) for a very old horse trailer.  There’s nothing fancy about it.  It needs work.  The thing is, I love and appreciate it more than I ever did the fancier, brand new trailer I had before.  It makes me unreasonably happy to see it parked there in our barn.

And seeing the horse and pony in the field?  Pure bliss.  My dream horse is gone but in her place there’s this other horse that doesn’t have her breeding or her refinement, but I love him so, so much.  I love him more than any horse I’ve ever had before.  He needed us and we needed him and his coming was this unexpected blessing, a blessing I didn’t even want!  We struggled to figure out whether or not we could keep him, if we even wanted to.  When times are hard, having a hay burner is a luxury, but circumstances conspired to make it possible.

I’m profoundly grateful.  I’ve re-learned something I already knew, that the things that come easiest aren’t as precious as the things that we work for or the things that come as a result of a struggle of some kind.

I drove past a friend’s house the other day and saw her new trailer, purchased at the same time as my new trailer, and I saw all of these new big toys, new EVERYTHING, it seemed, and I didn’t envy it one bit.  I thought of all the things we’ve given up, how hard it’s been, how we’ve struggled and are struggling still, and I felt an overwhelming sense of peace and gratitude.  I appreciate the many blessings in my life with stark clarity, sharp gratitude, an awareness of how quickly things can change, how important it is to live in the moment.  When things come easily it’s easy to drift, to let life happen, as we coast along unaware of how fortunate we are.

Don’t get me wrong.  I wouldn’t mind a bit of easy just now.  I could REALLY use a job (please God, help me find a job), but I don’t begrudge life the changes that have come.  When adversity strikes we can either embrace it, learn, and grow, or we can kick our heels and bemoan our misfortune, the unfairness of it all.  I’m thankful that I’ve been able to do the former; it makes life a hell of a lot easier, too.

By any standard, I am blessed.  Blessed isn’t synonymous with ease of living, by the way; for me it’s a word with connotations of love, connectedness, and goodness.  One can be blessed and in failing health.  One can be blessed and poor; history has provided us with so many examples of that truth (think Mother Theresa).

Please don’t comment that you’re sorry for the hard things.  If that’s what you come away with after reading this blog you’ve missed the point ENTIRELY and I have failed to communicate well.

Before I go, I’ll mention my friend Jo whose little girl has bone cancer.  As I receive updates and see pictures of sweet Faith with her beautiful strawberry hair taken by chemo and scars from painful surgeries, I don’t see anything to pity.  I feel compassion, yes, but more than anything I see BLESSING.  I see LOVE.  I see something so beautiful it sometimes hurts to look.  In a heartbeat, I would take the pain away for Faith and her family;  I wish they never had to walk this road.  But I can’t do that, so I pray and love, and I notice the blessings of family, faith, and love.

We’re all of us truly blessed in one way or another, if we only have eyes to see it.


Everyday Heroes

My grandma picked hops in these fields when she was a young woman.I smell like cauliflower… or is it broccoli?  Oh, never mind.

Let me start again. I was driving along when I saw a huge sign that read NOW HIRING with a big red arrow pointing toward an ugly gray building, beyond the acres of cow pasture, that houses a huge agricultural packing plant.  I turned in.

In the vast, gravel parking lot, I found a place to park and stood facing the blank facade of the building, with no clue where to enter.  A man walked by wearing a hair net, goggles, work boots, and long, thick rubber gloves.  I said excuse me and asked him where to go to fill out an application.  He looked at me  and smiled, and I saw that two of his top teeth were missing.  He spat on the ground next to me and said, “Why you want to work here?” I told him that I need money, just like everyone else.  He looked at me, laughed, and pointed to a door partially hidden behind a security shack.

I went to the desk and waited for the woman behind the plastic partition to open it.  I told her I had seen the sign by the road and wanted to apply.  She looked at me, laughed, turned around and said something in Spanish to the women behind her who all looked my way and laughed too.  I felt my face flame red.  I must have looked as out of place as I felt but damn it, I need a job.

She handed me an application and a nub of a pencil and told me to fill it out upstairs, gesturing that way with her chin.  I walked up the stairs, jostled by workers stomping up and down in heavy work boots, geared up like the man I’d spoken to in the parking lot.  The whole building reeked of vegetation – cauliflower, broccoli, I’m not sure what, but it wasn’t a nice smell.

I sat down and filled out the brief application.  I wasn’t sure what to list under previous occupations.  I’ve been a freelance writer, a homeschooling mom, a business manager, an administrator for a couple different non-profit organizations, a student, and a few years back I did seasonal work in a local flower farm gift shop.

I started with freelance writing and worked my way back.

On the back of the form I found a questionnaire about the applicant’s race.  I read through it and noted that the form was noncompulsory.  It said the applicant may fill out the form voluntarily, at his or her own discretion, and that opting out would have no impact upon the applicants ability to obtain employment.   I opted not to fill it out.

When I got back to the counter, the woman who’d handed me the application took it back, glanced through it, then stabbed her finger against the blank, noncompulsory form and said, “You must fill out.” I smiled and pointed to the instruction area and the word noncompulsory, and said, “But it says it’s noncompulsory.” She frowned and said, “You must fill out.” I tried again, “See here, (I pointed) it says the form is voluntary and that opting out won’t impact my ability to obtain employment.” She gave a sigh of exasperation, looked behind her to the other women in the office, lifted her hands, and said, quite loudly, “What is she saying?”

At that point, I was jostled from behind by a group of people stomping past in their gear, clearly headed out of the building after a long shift.  I stepped in to the counter, forced a smile, and tried one more time, “I’m opting not to fill out the form.” The woman behind the counter looked me up and down, crossed her arms, and said, “Then you no can work here.”

I felt tears pooling behind my eyes and I heard my paternal grandmother whisper in my ear, “Hold your head up.” I lifted my chin and held out my hand for the form, which I filled out.  I can’t explain why that was so hard for me, except that it didn’t make any sense.  The form is noncompulsory.  It said, clearly, that by Federal Law they could NOT demand compliance.  I wanted to hold onto my right to say no.  I wanted to be treated like a person with RIGHTS.  But I need a job, desperately.

I didn’t have the birth certificate I needed to complete the application, as I’d pulled in on a whim, having seen the Now Hiring sign from the road, so I said I would come back.  All the way down the hall I heeded the voice of my grandmother, “Hold your head up, Katy Jo.  Do you think I was too good to pick hops in fields?  Do you think Grandpa was too good to work the farm?  Are you ashamed of wanting to take care of your family?”

I hit the door and took a deep breath of slightly less tainted air and looked around with fresh eyes, and, suddenly, the tears that were  pooled behind my eyes spilled.  Those people around me had physically demanding, smelly, factory jobs.  They surely weren’t working for the joy of it.  They were PROVIDING.  They were taking advantage of the opportunity to make money to support themselves and their families.  And I realized that I was surrounded by everyday heroes and I was suddenly proud to count myself among them.

We have hit hard times like many other people and the only way we are going to get through them is to work through them.  I’ll pick hops, sort broccoli, work a press or conveyor belt… I’ll do whatever the hell it takes to stand with my husband and help take care of our family.  Any chance to work for a wage is an OPPORTUNITY.

I’m a writer, manager, administrator, mother… maybe, soon, I’ll be a factory worker.  What I will not be is ungrateful.  I will not be lazy.  I will embrace opportunity in whatever form it takes.

*The above photograph is of a local hop farm; perhaps the very farm where my grandma picked hops when she was a young woman.