Know that you are happy.

The rash that had broken out all over my arms finally drove me to the doctor today, who advised me to get rid of our new chicks.  You see, when I had allergy testing done a number of years ago, I reacted to chickens and most other livestock.  I didn’t think touching them would cause me to break out in itchy red welts like this, but it has.  And not only I but also one of our daughters, our little animal lover who has had her hands in the brooder petting and playing with them, feeding them mealworms by hand, everyday…red itchy bumps up and down both her arms, both of us sneezing and uncomfortable. No one else has developed any allergic reactions to them, thankfully.

We moved them to the garage because they aren’t big enough to go outside in a coop yet (and we hadn’t prepared a coop yet, either, though we planned to do it this week).  But my husband talked it through with me, letting me know that this was not going to work because he would not be able to take on the sole care of the grown hens and didn’t think I’d be too happy to have to completely avoid them.  

We called the farm store where we had bought them; the kindly man we spoke to remembered our excited little girl who had petted all the chicks and was mighty sorry to hear about our suffering.  He told us to bring the chicks back and promised they would find a new home for them, so while our animal-loving girl and I sat crying, Philip boxed up the little sweeties and took them back.  Tears are running down my face as I type this; we liked them so much and are broken-hearted that they had to go.

The rest of the day had a grey patina to it.  My feet felt leaden as I went about my household tasks; this being spring break, I’d planned to rest and play with the children but now I just wanted to clean to keep my mind off my sadness.

I sat down to read the news but first indulged in a pity party.  Nothing I do is turning out right, I cried silently to myself.  Why is my life so sad and difficult?  Why can’t I have chicks when everyone else can?  Why when I try to make maple syrup does life hand me a lump of burned maple taffy?

I clicked around a couple of blogs, listing in my head all my failing and short-comings as I did so, listing all the things I’d done wrong and all the things that had just gone wrong with no help from me.  Why had a pipe burst in the basement?  Because everything is going wrong for me, that’s why!  

I clicked over to Vox Popoli and got a shock.  Now, I knew Muslim terrorists had slaughtered 150 Christian students in Kenya, but not having a TV I had not seen any images of the carnage.  I can’t bring myself to post the picture here, but Mr. Day had a picture of one of the classrooms full of slaughtered students, young men and women dressed nicely as students in Africa do when they go to school, lying like ragdolls on the floor in pools of blood.  My heart felt like it flipped in my chest.  My girls, my daughters whom I love so much even when they vex me, were right downstairs in the family room, not dead on the floor by a terrorist’s knife or bullet!  God in Heaven, thank You for this undeserved blessing!  My heart broke for those mothers and fathers in Kenya who sent their lovely girls and beloved sons off to school that day, so unaware of how happy they were at that moment and how the happiness they didn’t know they had was about to be turned to sorrow.

The day after my mother died unexpectedly a number of years ago, I clearly remember thinking to myself, “Forty-eight hours ago I did not know how happy I was.”  I played that game with myself for a while…”One week ago, I did not know how happy I was.”  And then, “One year ago, I did not know how happy I was.”  I did not know that my mother could be taken from me so suddenly, so unexpectedly, so I did not know I should appreciate how happy I was to have her.

And this is why I often say to my readers, “Be happy with what you have!  Don’t always turn the penny over to look for tarnish.  Don’t worry if your life isn’t perfect, your spouse isn’t perfect, your family isn’t perfect.  If you have a family, be filled with joy!  Look for the good in your life and praise it!  And encourage everyone you know to do the same.”

I sat pondering that for a while.  And then I clicked over to Patrice Lewis’ site and realized that God must be trying to remind me to choose contentment, gratitude, and joy by using what the late Lawrence Auster called synchronicity.

In The search for happiness, posted this very day, Patrice writes of a book she had just finished reading (highlighting mine):

“Brief synopsis of the last quarter of the book: The main character, Merowyn, is kidnapped by Vikings and taken to Iceland, where she weds an Icelandic man and has a son. After a period of difficult adjustment, she grows to dearly love both her husband and her new home. Later she and a group of other Icelanders colonize Greenland, where she bears a mentally-handicapped daughter. When her husband dies twenty years later, Merowyn returns at last to England, that gentler country she missed during the cold bleak years on an ice-swept land. As a widow, she must make do as best she can and ends up marrying a man she respects but doesn’t love. She thinks back to the silvery-gold early days of her first marriage and realizes she was happy then and didn’t know it.

For some reason that phrase – she was happy then and didn’t know it – stayed with me after I finished the book. And it made me wonder: how many of us are happy but don’t appreciate it, know it, or realize it?

Happiness is such a loaded and multi-faceted word that no one can really define what it means for them. It’s different for everyone. Happiness can be found even in places and circumstances you may not like; but it’s often there, buried among the less enjoyable parts. Facets of happiness (contentment, satisfaction, pride of achievement, etc.) can all contribute to the overall qualities of the emotion.

I think what haunts me about the notion of being happy and not realizing it, is how many of us let overall happiness slide through our fingers because we’re too concerned with little things we don’t like. Anyone who takes their health for granted and then loses it, for example, will appreciate how much happier they were when their health was good.

We all have a zillion things we would like to do. As a trivial example, we look forward to when we can make some cosmetic improvements to the house – paint, replace ugly carpeting, that kind of thing – but we don’t let minor details interfere with the fact that we have a nice home that keeps us sheltered, even if the linoleum is chipped.

And if we lost the house, then how much would we look back at the ugly carpeting and unpainted walls and realize we should have appreciated a solid sheltering home when we had it?”

I’m sad that we had to give away our darling chicks and that I have to give up my hope of keeping hens again as we used to when I was in high school.  I’m sad that I’ve faced some real difficulties this year and not always gone through them with humor and grace.  But I have so many blessings, so much to be grateful for!  Like me, my family are far from perfect people, but they are mine and they are here and not dead, and I love my imperfect husband and children and extended family and in-laws and I resolve with firm conviction to know how happy I am right now for however long it pleases God to let us be together.

Do you know how happy you are right now?  Choose to be happy about what you have and to love those whom you have been given.

This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. (Psalm 118:24)

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16 thoughts on “Know that you are happy.

    • I’m also allergic to mites, which perhaps you are as well, and chickens not infrequently have mites. We checked our chickies pretty carefully and didn’t see any, though there could have been some we didn’t see, so it’s probably just that I’m terribly allergic to the chickens themselves.

      Darn it, I didn’t know how happy I was those first few days we had them, before my arms blossomed with hives. 🙂 I would’ve preferred to count my blessings and my chicks, though.

      But am I ever glad I’m learning all these homesteading lessons NOW when I don’t really have to rely on producing my own food.

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      • I am sorry that you had to give them up. It’s good that you could take them back. At this time of year, he has to be taking back in a lot of bunnies. Good that you didn’t go that route.
        Someone else will give a good home to the peepers.

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  1. We got chicks. Raised then to layers. Found out our older son was allergic to eggs just as they started laying. Our younger son saw where the eggs came from and swore to never eat another (though we told him long before considering chickens, so not sure why the shock). He hasn’t touched an egg to this day. We finally blessed another family with them. Sigh. It was a sad day for the kids as well.

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    • Our younger son saw where the eggs came from and swore to never eat another

      Oh dear! Yes, a lot of people don’t realize chickens only have one opening and that their excreta and eggs come from that same spot (the “cloaca” for those readers who aren’t familiar with chickens).

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  2. This is so true. We recently moved from Oregon to Texas and wanted to buy acreage. Unfortunately none is available right now in our price range and we need to settle in. We chose a house in town with a large yard. I cried about having neighbors, about not being self-sustaining, about high property taxes and the lack of tall trees. In short- I was throwing a fit because I wasn’t getting exactly what I wanted. In the midst of all this I had a serious health scare and my mind explored the possibility of dying and leaving my children without a mother.. Thankfully, I think things are ok. It was mostly stress. That wake-up call put all other petty concerns in their proper place. Who cares if we’re in a neighborhood as long as we’re together on the Earth?

    Very sorry about your chicks, but I rejoice with you for the blessings you have.

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    • Sorry to hear of your health difficulties! But health scares do have the beneficial side effect of focusing us on what really matters in life, don’t they?

      Anyway, down the road a piece you may be able to buy the acreage you want. We lived in a small house long after we could afford a larger one just so that we could save up enough money to find our property; it was very hard to wait, though! \

      My sister and her husband recently moved to Texas and are property-hunting as well.

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  3. A chick update:

    What good folks at the farm store! They couldn’t resell our chicks or put them back in with the others (they have strict rules about disease/contamination spreading), so they had the four chicks in a separate bin in back. They just let us know that one of their regular customers who is experienced at keeping chickens agreed to take all four and raise them! So they got to stay together and go to a good home.

    We’re still sad about not getting to keep them, but we’re relieved to know they’re in a good home now. My husband was close to going back and getting them and just raising them himself – underneath his gruff exterior is a kind, good-hearted man. 🙂

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    • That is good news!
      I was thinking about commenting on something deeper but, it may be best left unsaid. It was about acceptance.

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  4. A few more thoughts about keeping chickens:

    Despite our not being able to have them, I would still encourage others to consider having hens. They really do make fun pets in addition to producing eggs. Our four girls all had very distinct and funny little personalities; Toast, for instance, was already nicknamed “Ninja” because despite being the littlest, she was the fastest and known to steal the mealworms right out of the other chicks’ beaks and go zooming off to eat them!

    However, you might want to get allergy tested first, or at least spend some time touching someone else’s chickens to see how you react. Chickens didn’t bother me when I was in high school, but when I was in my early twenties, my allergies changed a lot and I developed a lot of sensitivities that I hadn’t previously had. I was sick a lot from about 20 to 25.

    Also, if you want to get chickens, do a bunch of reading about them first. They aren’t hard to keep, but you do need some information. One thing I hadn’t known was how much of a world-wide problem chicken mites have become; that was barely a problem back in the day, but they think that the upsurge may be due to all the backyard urban chicken-keeping. Bird mites mostly infest sparrows and pigeons, who are spreading them to chickens when they interact with them in city backyards. So learn about taking care of that before you get any.

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    • The chicken mite theory is a bit odd. My impression was that small scale free-range [which would get more exposure to wild birds] chickens where pretty standard one or two hundred years ago.

      Of course it’s possible that there was a drop off as large scale cage farming took over, but now that backyard chickens are coming back into fashion so are chicken mites.

      Also are you allergic to chickens, or allergic to birds? There are some other options in the egg-laying department. My aunt & uncle have a really friendly and sociable duck for example.

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      • The chicken mite theory is a bit odd. My impression was that small scale free-range [which would get more exposure to wild birds] chickens where pretty standard one or two hundred years ago.

        It is odd, isn’t it?

        My family lived out in the country when I was in middle and high school and we always had a backyard flock. I asked my dad if our hens had been particularly bothered by mites and he said no. He said they dust bathed themselves daily and that pretty much managed the problem. So I really wonder what’s causing the big increase in mites. It seems like everything in our world is kind of out of whack, doesn’t it?

        Also are you allergic to chickens, or allergic to birds? There are some other options in the egg-laying department. My aunt & uncle have a really friendly and sociable duck for example.

        My husband is lobbying for ducks, but I’m still grieving having to give away the chicks. Don’t laugh – I really liked the little Fuzzy Butts! 🙂 But I am not actually sure if I’m allergic to ducks or not. We had a pair of domestic ducks when I was in high school; we always fed the eggs to the barn cats except one setting we allowed the female duck to brood, but the ducklings all died for some reason.

        If we do get ducks, we won’t repeat the mistake we made this time, which was to brood the chicks in the house. We always did that when I was young, but given my allergy issues, we’ll brood them in the garage and have the coop and run set up before we even get them. If we’d had a hen coop all set to go, we might have kept our chicks and just finished brooding them out in the coops with a couple of warming lights. But I still would have had to avoid going near them. 😦

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  5. I’m sorry the chickens didn’t work out.

    Even though it snowed again last night I can sense that spring is around the corner because the couple that own the house behind my office let their chickens out today. It’s the first time I’ve seen them since late fall. They’ve spent their winter in the carriage house.

    They have about a dozen of them in different colors. Some are in a pen. Others are in a portable coop. The owners wheel it around different parts of the yard to fertilize the soil with the droppings.

    I have fun watching them from my office window. Backyard chickens and large raised-bed gardens seem to be becoming very popular in the towns and villages around here, though I’m sure people have done it for centuries.

    You don’t need acres of land to raise a lot of food. Our garden probably takes up less than half an acre and we grow most of our herbs in pots to keep them from spreading all over the place. If I were more ambitious, I could probably grown and can most of the vegetables we consume and only buy salad greens in the cold weather months.

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    • Others are in a portable coop. The owners wheel it around different parts of the yard to fertilize the soil with the droppings.

      Oh, sure, that’s called a “chicken tractor” and people use them to keep the chickens safe while still letting them sort of “free range”. We never did that when I was young; we just opened the chicken yard and let them come out and go where they pleased. This was generally fine except now and again when a neighbor’s dog would stop by and cull the flock a bit. Hawks and foxes also took a few as I recall.

      You don’t need acres of land to raise a lot of food. Our garden probably takes up less than half an acre and we grow most of our herbs in pots to keep them from spreading all over the place. If I were more ambitious, I could probably grown and can most of the vegetables we consume and only buy salad greens in the cold weather months.

      It’s true, you really can grow most of what you need IF you can keep the deer at bay. 🙂 Like chicken mites, deer are a much larger problem now than they used to be. We had an enormous garden – probably close to an acre – when I was young and it was very rare for deer to mess with it. But now, the deer eat EVERYTHING you try to plant around here. I was speaking with an old farmer just today who said the same thing; when he was a boy, it was very rare to spot a deer on their farm, he said, but now he says they are a big nuisance and he has to get a special permit from the DNR that allows him to shoot up to 5 does in July.

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  6. Pingback: Going batty. | The Sunshine Thiry Blog

  7. Pingback: Preparing for Spring: sowing seeds, planning for poultry, and dissuading the dogs. | The Sunshine Thiry Blog

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