However, it IS true we've been getting some feedback lately that perhaps we've been favoring Chris in way more posts than we have any of the other Um...What?? family members. This is a little something Gus The Cat my staff and I like to call valuable blog input. Until everyone is out of earshot, that is, and then we call it Whiney Whining From Jealous McWhinersons. HAHA! We kill us!
ANYWAY. Because I blog for the people –– the people who like really, really, tragically bad blogging –– I can promise you all that I'm listening. And on that note, you can rest assured Chris will not be
appearing anywhere at all in today's post. So those of you who've
expressed concerns have absolutely nothing to worry about PHIL AND
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Welcome back, Um Whaters!! I realize that even by our virtually non-existent standards it's been WAY too long since there's been any sort of activity around here. Blog as cobweb collector!! But –– and this obviously goes without saying –– IT'S TOTALLY NOT MY FAULT. An unforeseen chain of events was recently set into motion where we almost instantly went from absolutely nothing at all going on...TO THIS (and apparently I can only blog during times I have nothing at all to blog about, WELL OF COURSE):
Some of you who've been here for a while might know I've recently been busying myself trying to figure out how to fill back up my pitiful, emptied-out heart after it was gutted by The Porcupine's long, painful vanishing act that left him physically here but, you know, not actually here at all. It was such a slow process that it wasn't until he was barely more than a ghost in front of me that I realized in a moment of near-panic how much of myself had disappeared along the way, too. OOPSIE!
Of course the only thing I knew to do next was to sit around wondering what to do next. I'd been so fixated, walking my one narrow, Porcupine-centric path for so long that I had no idea which direction to go without it. Who was I now? Why was I?? It was clear my life needed a gigantic do-over, which would've been fine except for how that required some sort of actual doing of something and I had absolutely zero idea what to do. I did know what I wanted though, even if I had no idea where to start: to take all the energy I'd been so intensely focusing on The Porcupine (and, essentially, myself) and redirect it out into the world on a larger scale. I mean honestly: If I'm not here to try to make some kind of a difference in whatever ways my own abilities allow, why am I even here at all?? Beyond the obvious, of course: TO PHOTOSHOP.
Then I came across a Facebook post from The Gentle Barn, an organization in my area that rescues and rehabilitates the bodies and spirits of severely abused animals and, through their work with these animals, teaches at risk and special needs kids (and adults) lessons of hope and forgiveness and healing and love. And despite how wonderful this sounds, it's even more wonderful than it sounds. The barn's founder was looking for anyone who might be interested in volunteering to come out and be a special friend to any one of their animals. All you needed to qualify was a surplus of time and love and a willingness to share both.
And in that moment, the time and love the barn needed to receive perfectly intersected with the time and love I'd been needing for so long to give and then those two things even more perfectly intersected with say, do you know what kind of animal isn't found in a barnyard A PORCUPINE, THAT'S WHAT and two days later I found myself at The Gentle Barn. Because sometimes life hands you exactly what you need, exactly when you need it. Which, if you think about it, really was the least life could do, considering how it had spent most of the past few years ENDLESSLY POKING ME IN THE EYE. Rude.ANYWAY. Please say hello, Um Whaters, to the newest extended family members of our little global, interwebby family: the Gentle Barn goats!! Oh, yeah right. Like I had any chance whatsoever at all of being able to pick just one animal to be special friends with. Are you new??:
Sophie's a sweet, gentle soul who's completely ridiculous with the cute!! She likes grapes and bananas and more and more and more bananas and oh, hey maybe do you have some more bananas? Sophie's older and sometimes a bit stiff with arthritis, but she
doesn't let it bother her, because Sophie has A CAN-DO ATTITUDE. She enjoys resting her chin on my knee and rubbing her horns all over my boots. She also occasionally likes to try climbing into my lap, which I'm sure is bound to end badly for me at some point considering all the hooves and horns involved, but honestly who really cares because hello?? THERE'S A GOAT. IN MY LAP. WHICH IS AWESOME.
Tink likes getting brushed and brushed and brushed and staring at me forlornly when I'm brushing someone who isn't her. She loves snacking on grapes and apple pieces and delighting people with her totally Zen vibe and beautiful, perfectly curved horns. She can often be found hanging out in a barn stall with a pig or three or rubbing her rear region on a nearby railing on account of goats get kinda itchy. Her hobbies include sunbathing and showing me her chin so I can scratch it and making me melt with her RIDICULOUS CUTE. She would also like you to please get those disgusting bananas out of her face.
Billy is Sophie's totally cute son (I know! It's ridiculous) and he loves cucumber slices and sucking on my shirts and walking around with hay or dirt hanging from his beard because it's styley. He can be kind of a rascal –– like when I try to stop for just one second to give him love in the middle of giving him cucumber slices, and he's all, UM, NO WE ARE EATIN' THE CUCUMBER SLICES RIGHT NOW PLEASE KNOCK OFF THAT JUNK OR YER GETTIN' SOME OF THIS HORN ACTION –– but this is probably why I'm slightly, kind of, just a little, totally extra in love with him. Because underneath the occasional bravado, Billy's A SQUISH. He takes tender, devoted care of his mama, and when he's in the mood for love –– which is almost always he just likes to be the one to ask for it –– he'll tether himself to my side and follow me all around the barnyard, pestering me endlessly to IMMEDIATELY DROP EVERYTHING ELSE AND PLEASE AND THANK YOU BE ONLY AND ALL ABOUT BILLY THE GOAT.
Zoe may be the smallest of the four goats, but she's filled to the brim with a size extra-large, feisty, loving spirit and gigantic RIDICULOUS CUTE. She specializes in charming all the barnyard visitors with her compact stature and powdered sugar-dusted muzzle. Her hobbies include being shaped like a football, having the munchies and staring at me intently while hanging on my every word. She also enjoys spending time head-butting Josh The Sheep and then casually standing around
acting like she did not just head-butt Josh The Sheep and do not even
bother calling her on it because she seriously has no idea what you're talking about.
And, as none of you who've spent any time here should be surprised to read, this story isn't over yet, you are getting sleepy welcome!! Because the problem with waiting [insert number so large here even Stephen Hawking is confused by it] weeks to finish this post about my new volunteer gig, is that when that gig suddenly took off and became way more all-encompassing, this post had to become way more all-encompassing and then blah blah goats this and something something hosing off an emu that and then TA DA! No one has any idea what my point is anymore, least of all me. Oh, hey! Welcome to every single post ever published on this blog!! Yay!
ANYWAY. As it turns out, there was just no way I could focus all my time and love on ONLY the four goats in the midst of so many wondrous upper barnyard residents since, you know, have we met??, and I quickly became hopelessly attached to the whole entire lot of them: four goats, two llamas, 11 pigs, three sheep, three turkeys, a peacock, two peahens, 20 27 33 sit still chickens I am tryin' to count ya oh whatever A LOT OF chickens and one very spectacular emu.
My weeks of being The Goat Girl quickly evolved into my becoming the upper barnyard manager, or, as I like to think of it, the upper barnyard happiness facilitator. Woot! Barn raising! Raise the roof! Besides being there in the mornings before work and sometimes in the evenings and sometimes for staff meetings, I also oversee the yard every Sunday during what are becoming busier and busier visiting hours to make sure all of the animals are well-treated and safe and all of the visitors are happy and content. It's usually never any less than five hours of non-stop motion on my feet in the sun letting people in and out of the gigantic gate and answering questions and telling the animals' stories and it's demanding and exhausting and I never fail to get a sunburn of some sort despite always wearing sunblock 14 gagillion because I AM A DELICATE FLOWER and, oh yeah, one more thing: In the end, the happiness that's most facilitated is my own.
Here are just a few more select upper barnyard highlights as I'm trying to keep this post short. HAHA! I don't even know what that means:
No one remembered to take the minutes.
Josh The Sheep is made of teeth and love. He's the entire barnyard's big brother – keeping the peace, taking special care of any new or needy animals and cheerfully transporting the chickens around on his back. Josh is mellow and patient and a true gentleman, and he's never met a Gentle Barn visitor (or a snack) he didn't absolutely love. He also uses Crest Whitening strips. Probably.
Yoda's an emu –– not to be confused with an ostrich or, as I've heard on an occasion or two, a giant chicken.
If Josh is the barnyard's big brother, then Yoda's its ambassador ––
socializing with everyone, happily posing for pictures, accepting hugs
and spreading around his special brand of limitless, optimistic love. He enjoys
neck rubs, being way more curious than any cat, and racing Jewel The Peacock in gigantic, spastic circles all around the yard. He also has big, awesome feet that look like they belong on a Velociraptor, so when one little boy asked me if we had any dinosaurs at The Gentle Barn, I was able to answer that UM, KIND OF, WE DO. And I introduced him to Yoda, and he was happy. Because at The Gentle Barn, happiness always happens.
King The Llama's hobbies include sun bathing nearly belly-up, hanging
out with his sister Duchess and following me closely around the
barnyard to study even more closely every single thing I do while not letting me touch him at all EVER. (He is starting to eat out of my hand, though, so one day at a time.) Both he and his sister are glorious and regal and dignified, bringing an extra level of class to the barnyard that helps balance out some other, less classy things that go on there such as why didn't anyone tell me I have poop all over the side of my boot??
My chicken identification skills still need some honing.
If you've never gotten to know a chicken, you really should. They're interesting and funny and engaging and curious, and when you talk to them, they listen very, very closely. Unlike some people I know. JARED.
Zeus likes tummy rubs, feasting on produce deliveries and rolling around in the barnyard's mud pit. He also enjoys having the cutest piggy ears you have ever seen and being large in size but gentle in spirit.
Stanley is the upper barnyard's newest resident –– about three months old at the time of this photo and five months old now. The first weeks of his life he suffered physical treatment so horrendous that we are just going to totally skip it here on account of dear holy god. But now he's safe and loved and settling in happily to his new home. And talk about the ridiculous cute, right?? OH, LIKE ANYONE CAN TELL FROM THIS.
That's one pound for every year I've been writing this post.
Biscuit's huge but SUPER SWEET. You can hand-feed him the smallest of things and he ever-so-gently takes them from you, being very mindful of your fingers. The first couple of times you try this, it can be a little intimidating, but after that? AWESOME. And very, very dirty.
Look at this pretty darling. Sweet, quiet Toulouse used to live in a house with her human family until that got too dangerous for her (the neighbors started throwing bricks at her because SOMEONE NEEDS TO LOOK UP THE WORD "NEIGHBORLY" APPARENTLY) so now she's moved to The Gentle Barn where she's loved and cherished and well cared for. But despite her wonderful new home, Toulouse is still getting over the loss of her past. She mourns the life she used to know and misses a special person she used to love. Now she's learning to adjust to change and figuring out how to be happy again when everything she knows is so different and oh hey, Toulouse! That happens to be a little something in which I'm currently earning a black belt*.
*A black belt I plan, of course, to wear around my head PHIL MONGER STYLE.
Note: This photo is actually courtesy of Susan Shaddock. And by courtesy of Susan Shaddock I mean I have no idea who that is because I stole this off the intertubes. You can visit The Gentle Barn's Facebook page to see the original photo and hundreds more just like it, all of which are WAY, WAY better than the crappy ones I take. Because I don't have to time to take a photography course as I am way too busy constantly blogging. Like I even need to explain this.
And then an unexpected thing happened one day as I found myself standing in the barnyard: Standing in the barnyard, I found myself. Hey, me, IT'S ME. Where the hell have I been??? In that moment, I remembered that the holed-up, locked away, sad and faded girl I'd become during the past few years wasn't me at all. All that time I'd spent holding my breath and trying so hard to be perfectly unmoving wasn't getting me through anything. It was just leaving me out of everything and I'd almost completely stopped living. But in that place, surrounded by all these animals who've transcended such horrible circumstances to become filled with love and trust and joy, and in the midst of such wonderful, like-minded and generous people all working together to try to make the world better for as many souls as possible –– in this place so overflowing with life, my own life rushed back in. Only better. Less self-involved. Hopefully. More connected and connecting. Definitely. Down one Porcupine, but up so many other things. Like purpose and peace. And poop.
Because at The Gentle Barn, everyone gets to come just as they are...and leave as so much more than they ever were before.
A gal, a goat and a seriously, seriously unfortunate outfit not at all ideal for posting all over the intertubes. So, naturally I'm posting it all over the intertubes! And the entire Um...What?? family lived happily ever after.
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P.S. Today's post is dedicated to Um What's CFO and Creative Director In Charge Of Writing Chris-Themed Jokes (BLAME HIM), Gus The Cat –– who, despite however many other animal loves I may have, will always and forever be my main squeeze.
P.S.S. Besides their upper barnyard (named as such for being at the very top of the five acre property), The Gentle Barn also has two other main areas down below –– one for their horses and the other for their cows. And they have another pasture down the road where yet more cows live. And this is the kind of information a half-decent blogger would have remembered to include in the actual post. So sue me. (No, really! Sue me! YOU COULD WIN SOME PIG POOP IN THE SETTLEMENT!)
P.S.S.S. Coming next time...THIS GUY: