Monday, February 22, 2010

Hope is renewed, I'm blessed and grateful

2/22/10 Monday
It’s been rough. Had some bad slowdowns yesterday evening and again this morning. Alan came to work early, as he does every day. Not real early, just fifteen minutes, which is commendable. But he saw me while slow for the first time. It’s something I try to hide as a general rule but also something I can’t always keep out of sight. My pain level is up there right now, high enough that I must lay down.

Alan lost his glasses somewhere out here, they fell out of his pocket and are no where to be found. We called around to find a place where he could get an eye exam in order to buy new glasses and the only place we found he could get in was at Walmart. He asked when it would be ok to go and get it done so I told him now would be best. This works as I have much to do writing wise and besides that it’s miserable cold outside. So I have time to catch up with this journal as I lay down waiting for the pain pill to take effect. Besides that just laying down helps it hurt less. Somewhere the two outside dogs found a deer leg and brought it home so they are all taking turns commandeering it, growling at the others as they proudly say “I’ve got it and you don’t”. Where the leg came from I don’t know and am not happy with the idea that our two outside dogs are invading somebody’s property and stealing stuff. The bone is cut clean with a saw so is apparently from some hunter’s butchered venison.

Let me take the time to tell you about Alan. I asked him if it would be ok for me to write about him and he said yes. He’s 50 years old, just three years younger than I am but has spent the last fourteen years in prison and has only been out for a little over two weeks. I’ve been to prison a couple of times but never for such an extended period of time. However I have a good idea of the shock and fear that faces someone in his shoes and am grateful I am able to help him during this period of transition.

Unlike many, Alan wasn’t a career criminal and doesn’t have an extensive criminal history. He had been a self employed contractor and businessman but drinking and drugs did what they do to so many, led him down paths he ought not have gone. We are so very alike in our personalities and somewhat in our backgrounds that I can see why God led him to us, or perhaps me to him. Cherie met Alan and had an instant liking for him. Alan has a gentle spirit and a healthy fear of going back to prison. We have made him feel at home and extended a trust that I am confident will not be violated. In fact we told him that we consider him to be a part of the family. We took him out to eat at our favorite Mexican restaurant yesterday. When all you have had is prison food for fourteen years even a hamburger at whatever fast food place is a gourmet meal so we were anxious to treat him to this. He’s having a hard time slowing down as in prison you only have six or eight minutes to eat your meal and vacate your seat so I encouraged him to relax. The next treat we plan for him is to cook him a steak, something he’s dreamed about now for…well a long time.

It is a tremendous blessing to have his help, a real win win situation. If it works out Alan will become a permanent part of this farm and our lives. What that depends on is my ability to pay him and we are trusting that God will continue to provide in that area. This gives me hope, something I lost a lot of last year as I struggled with depression, pain, and the inability to accomplish what I desired here at the farm, or anywhere else for that matter. The words of someone we know still hurt when they expressed how I need to get a real job as if I was just being lazy or something, not understanding at all how hard it is to get up some mornings or to keep pushing through a whole day and paying the price for doing so later.
Here's the old hen house that I'm converting to a seed starting station. Am insulating it and running electrical wiring. Started this a year ago but never finished.

But with Alan’s help and a few dollars to invest I have great hopes for this year. There are still many difficulties I must overcome but I’ve been fighting to overcome difficulties for nine years now and have no intention of stopping. It’s with the help of friends and others that success is possible and it helps to know that I’m not a lone ranger, so to speak, regarding these things.

I am planning on getting involved with the Kairos prison ministry. Went to the first training session Saturday and was impressed greatly at how it is structured and the effectiveness of the ministry. It requires a lot of work on my part to recruit support for this, very similar to missionaries finding people to back their efforts. I worry about my ability to hold up physically and mentally for the three or four days they spend at the prison working the program but will trust in God to strengthen me. I’m already in a preliminary stage at involvement with the Stepping Stone halfway house, where I met Alan and have taken him under my wing as a mentor. Why would I do this when I have a hard time taking care of the farm? Because people and doing what I feel God wants are more important than anything else, with the notable exception of my wife, Cherie. And Cherie is very supportive and encouraging with regard to this and everything else. I am so blessed in so many ways and Cherie is at the top of the list of the blessings. It is beyond words to describe how good it is to have her as my partner in life.

I’m still working on the widow’s financial nightmare and that is a continually evolving scenario. At least they won’t be stopping her monthly check but at this point it’s unknown exactly how much that will be. What a bunch of heartless paper pushers they are at Met Life, who are making this poor woman pay for the mistakes they made. Plus the widow has other loads on her shoulders with her adult children and equally adult grandchildren taking advantage of her. Wish I could get them all together so I could tell them what I think but that wouldn’t help anything, though perhaps it might. So I see the widow regularly and try to keep her cheered up, or at least give her hope. The last time I saw her she was terribly depressed so I read her a psalm that related to how she felt, that God had abandoned her, and counseled her the best I could. We finish every visit with prayer as I look to God to do what I can’t.

What else is going on? We met with the NRCS guys last week and that was encouraging. There are lots of ways they can help with the vision I have for this farm but I need to follow through with things, a big weakness of mine. Alan just called from where he went to get his eyes examined and I let him know that it wouldn’t just be ok for him to take the rest of the day off but that it would actually help me out as I must do things like fill out paperwork for the NRCS guys. I also need to email Congressman Mike Conaway’s staff member regarding that. Mike and I talked about it a week or so ago along with his staff so that’s another thing I must not keep forgetting to do. I’m my own worst enemy when it comes to these things.

The VA sent me a letter stating they would not accept the payment arrangements I asked for and set an amount that they required. That letter was dated the ninth of January and then I got a letter dated the thirteenth from the Treasury Department demanding payment in full and threatening all kinds of collections stuff because I had not fulfilled the requirements of the first letter. Plus they added over $2,000 in interest and penalties on top of it. Geeze, let me take a breath at least between letters or something. Welcome to the Obama government. So that’s something else I’ll write Congressman Conaway about.

That’s it for now. At least I’m not as fuzzy headed as I was this morning and can think clearly, plus the pain level is down to manageable now. That’s good cause I have more firewood to split in preparation for the snow they are predicting tonight.

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