I lost myself for a while there. I chased the white rabbit into a world of madness and wonder. Now I’ve woken up and I find myself sitting under a tree and wondering if it was all a dream. Joy and despair tangled together and somehow I was more fully myself and, at the same time, I couldn’t recognize myself when I looked in the mirror. For the past few months I’ve been mostly camped out in my head, trying to steer my craziness back to some degree of normalcy.

I tend to obsess, turning variations of the same thought over and over in my head till I’ve worn all the jagged edges smooth or I’ve cut myself to shreds. I don’t always consider this to be a negative, sometimes my focus can help to bring something new and positive into my life. But, sometimes, I feel like I’m possessed. When I’m in the throes of obsession, I can’t write about anything else because my brain keeps inserting my obsession into my thoughts, flashing bright like lightning, leaving all other thoughts dull and gray in comparison. All I can do is pour my emotion into visceral poems until I’m completely drained. Once they’re out, I can breathe again, and get back into balance.

I hesitate to share this, to expose my soft underbelly to the wolves. But, it can feel so isolating to have a mind full of darkness and a constant thought pecking, pecking at your brain like Poe’s Tell-Tale Heart beating beneath the floorboards. And, though I’m not ready to share all the details (no, I didn’t murder anyone), I do want to acknowledge my experiences for those of you that might be in your own dark place right now. I have been there. I drank tea with the Mad Hatter and almost drowned in a pool of my own tears. But, I fought the Jaberwocky and here I am on the other side where it all seems like a strange dream. So, if you’re feeling small and lost, like your path is being swept away and the darkness is closing in, take a breath, take my hand, and take one step.

The fish are biting out along Mule Creek today. It’s a beautiful sunny day in the shade of the oak forest. Wait, did I say “fish”? I meant ticks. The ticks are biting. They’ve crept to the edges of blackberry leaves, poised, like suicidal jumpers on the edge of a building ledge, they wait for the scent of blood in the air. Just as we walk by they leap, swan diving down in invisible arches where they land on our clothes, in our hair, unfelt.

Itchy yet?

In a record-breaking attack, I am bitten by six different ticks in the span of about two hours. Some bit into my flesh right away. Others burrowed under my clothing to bite me once I was back in the office. And, that’s just the ones that I actually felt biting me, not the many others I flicked off my jeans or picked off the dogs. Now I’ll be scratching for days, and constantly checking in the mirror to see if any of the bites are surrounded by the tell-tale bull’s-eye rash indicating Lyme disease.

One of the bites is on my neck, like the tick was a tiny vampire going for the jugular. I picture it leaping silently for my throat with a tiny black cape fluttering in the wind. I clench my jaw and imagine driving a tiny stake through its black tick heart. I can’t stand killing anything, but right now I feel like it’s us vs. them. Us being Buffy the Vampire Slayer and I, united against a common blood-thirsty evil.

I’ve lost a few more weeks, washed away in the rain. Today I sat awkwardly positioning one leg at a time in front of a portable heater, attempting to dry my rain-soaked jeans and long-johns as I typed away on the computer, entering adoption statistics and answering emails. Bingo rolled around on his blanket under my desk, whining slightly under his breath as he too tried to dry himself off after 2 hour-long hikes in the pouring rain with Sanctuary dogs, Copper and Todd. The day quietly filled with one task after another until the clouds turned black and suddenly night fell clanging down with the finality of a slamming door. Time’s up. That’s all you’re getting done today.

I try to resist the urge to compare the list of what got done to the list of things lurking around the corner of tomorrow. The chicken coop needs a deep clean before the new hens arrive tomorrow. The mail needs sorting. The dogs need new training instruction cards printed. The alpaca adoption paperwork needs finalizing. The office needs to be vacuumed. And on and on and on. I am cutting myself some slack since our other full-time staff member is enjoying a week in Mexico.

I try not to dwell on all the moments that slipped by unrecorded by picture or word. I can’t change yesterday’s choices. I can only make my choices now. Right now. Yesterday I chose to watch New Girl, drink Joe’s beer, and eat vegan cupcakes that were supposed to be for Joey’s Cub Scout troop. Today I chose to write. Ok, yeah, I still watched TV and ate crap. But, that was like, two-hours-ago Sansa. I am Sansa in the present, writing. Although, typing can be a little challenging while I’m so busy patting myself on the back.

I fell asleep in Zelda’s bed at 7:30 tonight while she read a couple chapters of “Beezus and Ramona” to me. I’m wiped out. My back is still a little sore, so I took a hot bath with Epsom salt and now I can barely keep my eyes open. I don’t want to go to bed too early or I’ll wake up in the middle of the night and be stuck awake. Then, just after I finally get to sleep, the alarm will go off and I’ll have to get up and get the kids ready for school.

My work days are dawn till dusk and today we had no volunteers. Sometimes that’s really hard and stressful, but today was great. I worked my ass off, but it was quiet except for happy animal noises and the steady light rain. I’d left my dogs home because I knew I’d be spending a long, rainy day cleaning and wet dogs are really no help in that area. Plus, I didn’t want Bingo to get chilled and sick.

Morning chores went smoothly, even if some of the goats needed a little encouragement to come out of the snuggly, dry barn into the drizzle. But, they all ran out to the big pasture to get breakfast. I took Gabe and the new dog on a long walk together to help them bond. The forest trail was dripping green and smelled delicious. They already seem like good buddies and are a perfect size match. During cleaning it was really nice just to be on my own and be able to focus on cleaning up things that needed a decision made, like taking the broken doggie pool up to await the plastic roundup and doing a super clean of the chicken storage shed. So satisfying. Yes, I’m tired, but it’s the good kind of tired. And, tomorrow I get to be lazy at home all day.

I was so close to dropping the Girl Scout troop, seriously close to admitting defeat as the Ruch troop leader and joining the Jacksonville troop. I’d sent out an email about plans for January including a Cookie Kickoff event and awesome Snowcapades. The only reply was from the woman who had agreed to be my co-leader. And she was quitting, said her daughter had absolutely no interest in Girl Scouts. Awesome. She was the one that had been excited about the new online cookie sales and had agreed to help with that end of things. Which was going to be perfect because I suck with numbers and also computers. And selling things. I am great at eating cookies, but I feel like that might be a weakness in the Cookie Manager. So, part of my email was asking her help to get a troop bank account set up. And, her response was to say she would never be coming to Girl Scouts again.

I read through all the training material as best I could before our meeting. It’s a lot. Like, way more than you could even imagine. I’ll admit it, I thunked my head down on the table and cried. I literally can not do all of this on my own. For one, I don’t have the time to do it all. And, for two, the Girl Scouts require two un-related adults to be co-leaders or you can’t have a troop. It’s for safety (and sanity). So, the goal for our meeting changed from a discussion about how we wanted to approach the upcoming cookie season as a team to a desperate plea to the one mom that stayed for the meeting while the girls ran around the library in animal masks.

She agreed to be the co-leader, so we’re sticking with the Ruch troop for now. We’re back down to 4 girls since the 5th one quit (and the troop minimum is 5, so we need to recruit at least one more girl). If only there was some kind of evil magic arrangement where they couldn’t quit until they’d replaced their spot with someone else.

The meeting actually went really well and I’m hopeful we can still pull this off. The girls had a great time and earned a patch about being honest and fair. Zelda remains dedicated and wrote in her journal something like, “I feel that Girl Scouts is my home because Joey bothers me.” Such a sweet sister. Did I tell you that when she draws family pictures, they’re always on a sunny day? And if you look behind the happy mom, dad, kid, and all the happy animals, up into the sky, you will see Joey’s legs sticking out of the sun as he burns. That’s the Girl Scout spirit. No boys allowed.


Recently I began to feel a deep need to rescue a new animal just for myself. For keeps. I am lucky enough to have a job where I get the privilege of caring for rescued animals, loving them, and finding them wonderful new homes. Homes that are not mine. Most of the time I’m genuinely happy to send them on their way. Sometimes I cry, but they’re happy tears. Sometimes I wish I’d kept them for myself. But, no matter how I feel, I don’t keep them. And, I especially don’t keep any of the adorable puppies. Mostly I haven’t kept any because I already have 3 dogs, 2 cats, 7 chickens, a turtle, and a pony. Not to mention two young kids that are the energy equivalent of 10 untrained Dalmatian puppies. Each. Nonetheless, I couldn’t shake that feeling. My horse, Anuhea, passed away several months ago. My big dog, Indiana, that comes to work with me every day is now 14 and having seizures. My heart was pulling me and I told my husband, “Honey, I’m really feeling like I need either a horse or a Pit Bull puppy.”

With my daughter’s Shetland pony happily enjoying life as a wild winter pony with her friends next door and with no extra daylight to spend time with a new horse, we chose to go for a puppy. There was really no question in my mind at all that it would be a Pit Bull. It was always my plan to get a Pit as my next dog. I’ve fostered so many amazingly smart, loving, and absolutely goofy Pits throughout the years, that I’d already chosen the breed as my next dog. God only knows how I ended up with rotten little Dachshunds anyway. I’d been picturing a black or brindle Pit at my side for a long time. The question had never been if I would be getting one, but when. Timing was essential and it came down to Indiana. At 14, he was slowing down. In fact, he had already semi-retired from working with me. Sometimes he’d just go home. I’d come out of the cat cottage and he’d be gone, having trudged back up the hill and gone home to nap for the rest of the day. When he started falling over, it was scary and sad. He always popped right back up after an episode, but I knew his time was starting to run out. So, then the question became, do we wait to get a pup until after Indiana passes away or do we get one now so Indy can help us train him. Well, if you know Indy, you won’t be surprised that we chose to get the pup right away so it can spend as much time as possible with Indiana as a big brother and mentor.

Now, as someone in the rescue world, to keep a highly-adoptable puppy seems greedy and wrong to me. Better to let someone else adopt it and get an older animal for myself. That’s always been my thinking. But, not this time. This time it was essential for me to get a bottle-baby pup. I had a plan. This time I was determined to raise up a pup from the beginning. I wanted him to be the best socialized dog there ever was, an ambassador for the breed. And I knew exactly where to find one. I called up the Jackson County Shelter and asked if they had any Pit pups in foster care. As luck (and statistics) would have it, they had a mama with 5 pups that were just about 2 weeks old and needing to go into foster homes. I decided to take 2 and choose one after I got to know their personalities.

I took Zelda with me to the Shelter to pick out the pups. At the end of a row of barking dogs, we passed a cage with a towel hung over the front. It was mama. She was having such a hard time trying to raise her babies in this crazy environment that she was dangerous to people. So, the staff had moved her away from her babies so we could safely handle them. Sparkle had been surrendered to the Shelter by owners that were scared of her. They barely spoke English, but made it clear they didn’t even want to get her out of their own car and they had no idea she was pregnant. The Shelter allowed her to give birth and raise her pups to be 2 weeks old. This gave them the colostrum and early nutrition they would need for a healthy start at life. But, the sad fact was that if they stayed with Sparkle any longer, they would start to pick up her distrust of humans. It was important for them to get out of the Shelter into quiet, loving foster homes that could socialize them properly.

As the Shelter worker pulled them out one by one I though, ok, cute. Then she pulled out the tiniest little pup. He was all white and looked like a little rat. I knew with those white genes he’d have a higher chance of turning out deaf. Zelda loved him right away, “I like the pink one!” So, we chose him as the foster pup. Then came my boy. It was immediately obvious that this was the one. He was a giant compared to the others. The others were white with just a few brown spots, but this chunker had a great brown coat with white feet, a little white tip on his tail, a white head and an adorable brown spot over one ear. My original plan had been to pick two boys (since I’m almost always drawn more to the male energy in my own dogs) and then see how they develop before choosing one. But, that plan went right out the window. I knew this was my pup and Zelda knew the tiny “pink” one was hers to foster. So, those are the two we took home. The other three would be going to another foster home.

Taking the pups away would also give Sparkle a chance to settle, stop feeling protective and have a shot at life. Unfortunately, even once the pups had been fostered out, Sparkle only warmed up to two of the staff members and became enough of a danger to others that she was euthanized. Rest in peace to the poor dog that gave birth to my little pup. Before I took the two pups, I held each one up to Sparkle to allow her to say goodbye. My heart broke as I watched her try to lick her babies through the bars. No matter what else happened in her life, she loved her babies and did her best to care for them. Every day I try to honor her by raising her son up so she would be proud.

Now I know why army guys have to sing while marching. Because it’s way harder than just exercise alone. I can’t possibly be that out of shape with the amount of walking I do. But, last night when I was marching my tired ass up the hill to my house, I found myself gasping for breath in between half-panicked lines of B.I.N.G.O. All I can say is thank God for the clapping parts or I would have passed out on the ground.

Why didn’t I just stop singing? Good question. Because I didn’t want to be eaten by a cougar, that’s why. With the short days, I’ve mostly been driving to and from work, but it seems ridiculous when I live so close. I thought I’d walk this time. But, of course, I managed to get all the Sanctuary animals tucked in for the night only just before dark. That left me and my 8 week old puppy walking through the forest as the dark closed in and the predators awoke. If only my Pit Bull would hurry and grow up so he could protect me. Right now all he’s good for is screaming like a little baby if another dog scolds him. At least he’d sound the alarm if we’re attacked.

So, yes, I sang, and at the top of my lungs too. I wanted to be damn sure all the cougars and bears and coyotes knew I was a human being and would not be an easy meal. Just try eating a nice meal while someone yells in your ear, “and Bingo is his name-o!” Not pleasant.

Thankfully, as I neared the top of the hill, I saw a blessed light shining down the road towards me. My husband had started walking down to see if he could pry my mangled body away from a hungry cougar. But, I had survived another night, even if I was embarrassingly out of breath. So, if you’re looking for an extra workout to really get your lungs burning, try singing as loud as you can. Preferably old Disney songs. You know you want to… I bet you just can’t wait to be king.

I’m kind of a sceptic when New-Agey words are bouncing around the conversation. Normally, I scoff a bit in my head when people use the word, “manifest”. But, the funny thing is, I kind of believe in it, if people would stop using all the weirdo words and get down to the heart of the idea I could get into it. Wait, that sounds New-Agey. Crap. Let me tell you where this is coming from.

Recently, on a hike up into the hills with a few volunteers and Sanctuary dogs, we came upon a deer, trotting up the trail towards us. We stopped and watched as he bounced gracefully and not at all fearfully up the hillside and nibbled a few leaves before wandering out of sight. The intern in the front turned around and told us how she had been thinking of deer, calling to them silently, just moments before this one appeared. This launched the conversation into the idea of manifestation and if we can really call wild animals to us, just by thinking of them. I did have to admit that in the five and a half years I’ve been walking those trails, I’ve never had one come walking all nonchalant down the trail towards a group of people chatting loudly and walking a pack of dogs. (The dogs barely reacted at all to the deer.)

So, a couple weeks later, I was walking in the woods, just me and one of the Sanctuary dogs. Snoopy Jane is a lovely tri-color Foxhound, but she had been returned for resource guarding and I was working with her. Anyway, at this point in the walk, I was giving her a break and allowing her just to sniff and fulfil her Hound side. So, while she was occupied and I was just walking along, I remembered how someone had recently captured a sick owl and taken it out to Wildlife Images. I thought about how I’d never seen an owl out in the forest even though this was prime spotted owl habitat. I hadn’t even seen the one barn owl we had actually released into the barn after the first day he was there. So, for about a minute I “manifested” owls. I literally said in my head the words, “I am manifesting an owl.” And I pictured owls in the trees or flying past. Then I thought of Harry Potter, laughed at myself and forgot all about it.

That evening, as I’m driving through the Sanctuary driveway at dusk, heading home after a full day of work, I see a blob on the fencepost. Weird, I think, I wonder if Jerry set something down and forgot it. I drive closer, and I think, hmm, maybe the UPS guy left a package up there so we’d notice it? Then I realize it’s an owl. I hit the brakes and peer through my dust-covered windshield. That is crazy! I slowly inch the car forward, aiming it slightly to the right so the headlights shine on the post. Oh yeah, that’s an owl, just sitting on the post in the driveway, twisting his head around and staring at me with his strange yellow eyes, like he’s saying, “Uh, you wanted to see me before you left today?”

I was stunned. It felt magical, powerful and, a bit irresponsible. Here was this amazing creature and I had just summoned him for no reason at all. Just because I wanted to see him. “Um, sorry, you’re probably busy,” I muttered as he spun his head around again, peering into the light. “Darn, I’m probably ruining your night vision with the headlights. Sorry, you can go.” I inched the car past him and he spread his enormous wings and flew silently into the dark, leaving me a quivering mess of excitement, confusion, a little bit of guilt.

As I processed what had happened, I came to terms with the word, “manifest,” because, what the heck else would you call that? Other than, of course, a coincidence (and I believe the jury’s still out on whether or not there is such a thing as a coincidence). So, I have to admit that I actually manifested a mother fucking owl. I did. And the question is, what did you manifest today?


My 5-year-old has been carrying her journal around everywhere in her Hello Kitty purse. She’s writing her plans, making up little stories with illustrations, copying Dr. Seuss quotes she likes, and generally making me feel like a schmuck for not being more motivated than a child. A Kindergartener who shouldn’t even be old enough to read more than a few words is writing more than I am on a daily basis. Take that Ego.

So, once again, as the new year rolls around and I eagerly unveil the new calendar, I find myself resolving to write every day. Yes, I tell myself this every year and every year I do okay, but not great. Weeks will disintegrate around me as I realize I haven’t written a single word for myself. I don’t think it counts if I’m writing stuff for work. The difference this year is that I have a companion in this resolution. A tiny me full of passion and devoid of responsibility. A perfect little writer who’s excited about the words, not worrying about if it’s good or not. A perfect little muse for me.

Together, we’ve resolved to write every day. It might be a little or a lot. It might be crap, but it will be our crap that we created. Realistically, statistically, I’ll fail, I know. But, what is the point of starting a new year if we’re not going to aim high?

Oh, and she thinks we should also do more yoga and save more animals.

Take time for yourself. Don’t give me that crap about why you can’t. You can. You need to. Schedule it into your day, your week, your month. Plan it out and make it happen. NOW. If you can’t do it for yourself, do it for those relying on you. Put your oxygen mask on first, then put it on your children. How can you care for them if you are completely drained?

So, take a day for yourself. What’s the worst that could happen? Hubby learns it’s not so easy to care for the kids after all? You spend more than you planned on child care this month? Okay, not great, but, now flip that around. What’s the worst that could happen if you DON’T take some free time for yourself? Your temper flares and you damage your relationship. You have zero patience with the kids and yell at them for little things. You burn out your body and get sick.

If your family and friends love you (and you know they do), they will support you in your quest for some regularly scheduled free time. If they don’t understand at first, help them to get it. Make it clear that it’s not just about you getting those hours by yourself. It’s also about them spending quality time with the kids. Make it a special treat for them too! Brainstorm a list of fun activities that can be special, just for Papa Time. Get the kids involved and excited.

Next, show them that when you’re back from your free time you’re recharged, you’re able to be more loving and you’re more productive. It’s the difference between being the vivacious, creative person your husband fell in love with and being a fricking zombie, trudging through the day, moaning and biting your kids heads off.

While you’re looking at your calendar, don’t forget to schedule some fun time for the whole family, and also some kid-free date time. These things don’t have to cost money. They can be as simple as a board game on the living room floor. It’s all about having fun and loving each other. That’s free, but worth all the gold in the world.

Now I’d better climb down off my soap box and follow my own advice.