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  • The farm has always been my refuge. This I know. 2013 was an exciting year—full of so many unexpected adventures—which always made them bittersweet because as fun and exciting as they were, they took me away from the farm. A lot. I finally got home around Christmastime, and I couldn't wait to relish in the quiet and solitude of the farm, the cozy barn, and just be among the animals. But I found that after months and months of working in warmer climates, my body betrayed my excitement to be home, and it was painfully slow in adjusting to the cold. I was just so cold. Looking back, maybe I was just tired. To my genuine delight, there was a big snow right before Christmas, and no matter what my body said, I knew the zebra needed out. I guess I needed out, too. One last time.

    Now, I have mono. I only get to enjoy outside from a window in a house that is not on the farm, and I sleep more than I am awake. My only friends are my dog, Gabriel, faithfully at my side, though the culture shock of living in a suburban house with my parents is starting to wear on him, and a falcon, that sweeps past my window, perhaps all day, but he seems to know when I'm awake, and he comes to say hi.

    I guess, maybe secretly, I knew this was coming. Just after Christmas, I gathered the horses and put them all in one place. I felt such a strong, protective, herding instinct, and following through with it seemed to take more strength than usual, so then I just laid down in the middle of the barn aisle at midnight with my dog. Because he was laying there waiting for me to finish and I wanted him to know that I appreciate all the nights he waits for me like that. I started to grab my side, and I automatically thought “ohhhh my liver.” I was only half-joking—trying to lighten the mood for myself—but it’s amazing how the body knows.

    I also started to feel odd about being alone…I felt like I shouldn’t be alone. I hand-painted the “Go Away” signs on the farmhouse gates this summer myself, so I can honestly say that not wanting to be alone has never been a thought I’ve had before. I felt like I needed to get where there were people, and not just any people, but my parents. I didn’t have the energy to think too far into it, I just knew I needed to go home…to my old home.

    After getting out of the hospital (sidenote: my hospital bracelet had “zebra” printed on it for no clear reason, and I thought that was amazing…and comforting), I exhausted every episode of “Alaska: The Last Frontier,” “Flying Wild Alaska,” and “Hell on Wheels” on Netflix. They’re all nearly impossible to watch, mostly because it’s like….just get me on a horse and back to Montana (or Alaska). Please.

    I never expected to spend the first few weeks of the New Year in bed. Since November in Kenya, I've learned that hot water and electricity are not to be taken for granted, but on January 1st, I couldn't walk. Hot water means nothing if you can't even stand. A whole new wave of humility has washed over me, and yes, I'm supposed to be resting....I'm not even supposed to doing my schoolwork (but I am).

    I was honestly relieved with the mono diagnosis because I was convinced it was something much worse (when I say I couldn’t walk, I literally couldn’t walk and my whole body would heave when I tried. It was scary, and I was too embarrassed/stubborn to let anyone else know what was going on). I’ve never felt so sick in my life, and I may or may not have pleaded with God for a night or two to just take me right then and there if I couldn’t wash my own hair or get up on my own to at least let Gabriel outside. The idea of not being able to feed my own horses was unbearable to me.

    I’d been pushed around by doctors for a week straight while I just kept getting worse, so when one finally took the time to really see me…hear me….believe me (thanks Dr. Steve), being rebellious during recovery (knowing I’d make a full recovery) made me feel better. So, in addition to keeping up with my graduate work, I've started a new website to promote my book and the school (farmfairytales.com), and I've just finished another for acting. I opened a shop on Etsy, selling the book, as well as prints, to benefit the school and hopefully raise enough funds to start construction this year. I've pulled up my novel (which has been sitting unfinished for longer than I care to admit), and I've got a new project in the works with Cody (my sister) and my agent. But before you think I’m just signing myself up for a longer recovery and looking for trouble (or already sounding crazy, and therefore, in trouble), let me explain.

    Simultaneously fantastic and terrible is that this has all happened from a couch. I am stuck on a couch (while connected to the internet). A couch has never been my style. Indoors is not my style. Looking out a window, instead of just being out, is not my style. I feel so out of my element. I miss the farm. But I am thankful 2014 is already full of change, as that is what life is meant to do...change. I look forward to one day soon, when I'll be back with the animals, and can soak in the familiar scent of the horses, who smell just like home, and can breathe in the wild, vibrant energy of the zebra, which tastes just like freedom, adventure, and mystery. I long for the unknown. I long for the wilds of the farm. Normally, I'd long for Kenya, too, except, as I mentioned, I sleep for longer than I am awake, and so, every dream carries me to Kenya, and that is where I've been suspended, spending most of my time thinking, planning, worrying in my sleep. Waking up, then, even off the farm, isn't so hard, because at least I can actually do something about it...I can keep chipping away at Project Kenya, if only from a couch. It zaps my energy in no time, and then I have to sleep for like 28 hours afterwards, but knowing I’m awake fighting…or rather, fighting when I’m awake…that is what keeps the couch (and my life, at the moment) bearable. It’s the second best medicine, next to sleep.

    What happened in Kenya, both in May and November, will never leave me. No time in Kenya will ever be forgotten, even in future trips. But November was DIFFERENT. It was HARD and unfair and troubling and when you’re stuck on a couch (or anywhere you don’t want to be, I imagine), you have a lot of time to think. Too much time to think, and I never thought there was such a thing, but I guess there must be. Because there I am, typing a paper, a school paper, and old thoughts and new feelings about the past, they come bubbling up and I can’t go take a ride or sweep the barn to get rid of them. I just have to sit there and STEW. Mostly, I just kept getting angry with too much thinking and that led to a series of emails in an attempt to address a real injustice I found in the world and really, that’s probably great because those emails have started the ball rolling….which makes me wonder if perhaps I don’t spend enough time on a couch.

    I also realized what a completely content introvert I am. I turn to a horse or a broom to escape my problems. I won’t get to do that for awhile, so my escape is now finding the perfect monologue for generals at Purple Rose next month. I have to be up and walking and healthy by then. I will be. That’s my goal. Practicing that monologue, little by little, is what’s going to help my get my strength back and it’ll be my ticket to getting off this couch and convincing the doctors to lift the farm-ban. There’s nothing funny about a farm-ban (the doctors are afraid I’ll puncture my enlarged liver before it has time to settle back down, so I’m banned from risky activity which apparently is farm activity), and honestly, I feel a lot like yelling and screaming, but it’s a comedic monologue I need to come prepared with instead. So I will. And when audition day comes, all this mono will be behind me. And if I want to go ride afterwards or climb a mountain in the afternoon, I will do that, too.

    I had an excellent dream a few days ago that I had a cheetah for a pet. Then I woke up and realized I didn’t have a cheetah for a pet, and I was pretty crushed. I even cried. I cry at everything now (apparently, it’s a side effect of mono). Which is good, you know (as long as no one is around)…and I try to remember how being overly-emotional is feeling so I can use it for acting, which I was told is a very actor thing to do, which makes me cry all over again because I like being an actor. And it’s important to me to learn how to be a good one.

    Then "Mr. Brightside" comes on Pandora and I get frustrated with everything all over again and back to my school paper I go. I am so getting an A.

    I’ve also learned to accept help…but not too much help…and only just this one time.

    I’m still not over the cheetah, by the way. He was such a comfort and such a wonderful, loyal friend.
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