I am a North American woman hovering months away from the big 4-oh birthday (40) and I will probably leave this opening line up for a few years! Ha! Ok, I won’t… I am also painfully honest.
It is really difficult to write an “about me”. I can talk a bit about my resume, I suppose, and that does say a little bit about what I’ve done but I don’t know that it really says much about me.
For resume purposes:
I served, enlisted, as military intelligence for five years, then went to college for nursing, then decided to pursue my passion for dogs. I have been training and raising dogs for 15 years, starting in a little out-of-the-way town about a half an hour from the New Jersey shoreline. Now, I have carved out a little homestead in a rural area of south Texas along the Gulf Coast.
I have taken several education courses along the way in sciences such as zoology, ethology and animal behavior but the majority of my education in dogs come from relentless pursuit of valid scientific information in libraries and online.
I spent a handful of years working in veterinary hospitals before I joined the military and have continued building upon that foundation of early education ever since.
I have six incredible children whom I adore. My oldest two are 16 and 18 and are strong, brave and sensible young women of whom I am intensely proud. All my children are a big part of caring for the animals and plants that live at our home.
That about sums it up, but if you’d like to know a little more about me, the sort of thing you’d find out if we had regular chats over coffee, then feel free to read on.
I am a sensitive person who wants to mother everything and befriend everyone. I am a recovering perfectionist (due to anxiety) and so whenever I do something I research until I am a veritable walking encyclopedia. Some people find this charming, others find it bizarre, I tell myself that at least its a moderately helpful coping mechanism.
I am an energetic optimist that doesn’t like to sit down and relax because I will fall asleep due to a condition called PCOS which often couples with narcolepsy. For the record, narcolepsy in real life looks nothing like it does in the movies (and is far less comedic). PCOS has also caused me to struggle painfully with my weight, and though I think I’ve found a balance, in reality it is a complicated thing and I have periods of alternating success and hardship. I have made peace with food (or at least were are in a cease-fire) and am working on doing that with my body.
I am a fangirl of the body positivity movement because of the trauma my sister and I dealt with growing up with a disorder nobody diagnosed or even knew about until our 20s (and athletic parents that regularly shamed our curvy bodies). I believe the movement will find it’s balance and be a part of changing culture in a way that will make it easier for people to love themselves and aim for health because they love themselves and not because they feel unworthy. I am blessed to have a very mild form of these conditions, and so caffeine and a slightly obnoxious can-do attitude have gotten me through. Many amazing women have this condition far more seriously, and if you’ve never heard of it before, I urge you to do quick read-up to contribute to awareness, as it is shockingly common.
I want to do everything and am regularly frustrated by the limitations put in place by time and space and the reality of limited resources, and sometimes I get a bit frozen deciding what to do and wind up doing nothing at all but playing with my kids and animals. Prioritized check-lists are both my greatest foe and strongest ally.
I think creative people often struggle with the balance between chaos and order (and lean firmly into chaos, which isn’t helped when children-agents of chaos in purest form- are present). But I accept that my theory could just be a big cope.
After all, I know loads of incredible women who have all their sh*t together and get everywhere on time and when their hair is in a messy bun it was done on purpose. Some days I LARP at having all my ducks in a row. Most of the time, though, my ducks are ignoring me, and I’m trying to convince them to go to bed or the raccoons will eat them. Ducks are naughty sometimes.
I still daydream of being able to talk to animals like Dr. Doolittle. Some days I channel the energy of my 7 yr old daughter who believes in unicorns and will fight you if you disagree, and other days I just want to watch Ryan George videos with my teenagers and bake chocolate chip cookies. But most days I am working with my animals whenever I have a free moment outside of my regularly scheduled duties.
Have you ever found the type of passion where you can spend hours absorbed and don’t realize the whole day had flown by? The kind of work you can do for 12 hours without realizing your muscles are sore and you need to sit down and eat something? That is how I feel about working with animals. It is like disappearing into a whole different world, where observing them and interacting with them is a precious gift of which I can never get enough. It is also possible that I just hyper-focus, so probably something to talk about next time I do myself a favor and find an awesome therapist.
When I was a little girl I wanted to be Jane Goodall and live with the gorillas, or maybe chase a herd of wild mustangs, or be any of the people on National Geographic making those wildlife documentaries that I watched at every opportunity. I still remember pouring over the magazines as a little kid and disappearing for days into the world of James Harriot in his novels about being an English countryside veterinarian.
I have struggled to manage PTSD, depression and anxiety at times in my life and so I have a special place in my heart for helping people looking to work with an animal for therapeutic purposes. The healing, grace and self-forgiveness you can find through working with living things (believe me, even a little plant can bring so much healing) is something I’m really passionate about and I hope to encourage others to walk that path. I also feel deeply honored that so many people have felt safe to share their journeys with me as we discuss the best options for them personally. It is a very difficult and brave thing to do, and I am grateful to be given the chance to hear and help.
I am a strong proponent of improving the mental health care crisis the world is facing, though I can only help with one dog at a time, every human life I connect with in this way has been a sign of God’s enduring benevolence.
For religion, a contentious subject I realize, I identify as Christian, though I do not belong to any church and have some “modern” views about things, though I find it fair to point out that the same was said of Jesus and His followers in His time. I believe in God and find the teachings of Jesus to be incredibly important. That is an understatement. I seek to lead a life that aims at “the Good”: love, hope, and truth.
I have a deeply held belief that it is an important responsibility to raise children to be connected with the plants and animals that we eat as well as those we choose as companions and those that live in the world around us. It is a beautiful way to teach empathy, compassion, responsibility and to help children understand that there is life all around us and that life is precious, even when it looks different from the life we see reflected in the mirror.
We grow a lot of food, have free range chickens and ducks for eggs, we have a beautiful dairy cow that is grass-fed and lovingly looked after and I hope to continue to expand our little homestead. We also have some “pet” earthworms and other cool creatures that we use to keep our pasture clean and sanitary for our animals without needing chemicals or diesel burning equipment. I am planning to install a bio-filter of plants and beneficial bacteria this year for our duck pond, I will post that project since I think it will be pretty cool, though I am also sure I’ll make lots of mistakes, but the journey should be fun nonetheless!
I’ve grown out my partially white and silver hair this year, so hello to any silver-sisters out there and I’ve started playing around with skin care as well, which has been a fun adventure. I also recently took up yoga (hey, when the kids go to bed and the house is quiet, I don’t watch TV so I’ve gotta do something besides the dishes!). I’m terrible at staying connected on Facebook and other social media, that falling asleep thing is just killer for me, you should see me trying to edit videos for YouTube, my kids regularly laugh at me when I get stuck in the stage of nodding off over my laptop! And almost all of my dearest, bestest friends in the entire world I have made through connecting over dogs.
I’m probably super “basic” although I also don’t really know what that means, except that I know it is connected to pumpkin spice coffee and look, I’m not trying to start anything here, but I’m really not much of a pumpkin spice fan. I’m more of an earl grey tea kinda girl. Please don’t @ me. Which I’m fairly certain applies only to other social media sites that I’m also not active on. I’m starting to feel like that meme of Steve Buscemi saying “hello, fellow kids”. Getting old is weird. I don’t think I’m going to do it gracefully. I think I’ve decided to go down kicking and screaming. Though I admire those classy, beautiful women that glide effortlessly into their mature selves like mythical woodland goddesses. I’m pretty sure I’m not making an entrance like that at all. I made my awkward appearance at the top of the stairs, tripped over my own feet and tumbled the whole way down. But don’t worry, I’ll shake it off.
JUST A LITTLE END NOTE DISCLAIMER SORT OF THING
Not-so-small end note: Not everyone can afford local, sustainable, ethically-sourced foods and I have absolutely no judgement in my heart for anyone doing the best they can to take care of their families. Please do not misunderstand my personal ethos to mean that I am on a soap box. I have lived in dire poverty and I have gone hungry and have lived among caring, beautiful people that helped me even when they were struggling as much as I was. I remind myself regularly not to judge others. It is such an easy and human thing to do, but it can be so destructive and harmful. We do not know the stories of other people and I think it is important to spend time listening, understanding, and loving instead of judging, condemning and shaming. That is a sentiment I have seen shared by other people more and more regularly, for which I am heartened.
I have been both inspired and horrified by the changes in the world over the past twenty years. With so much pain and contention around us, I seek to keep my animal-space free of hate and political turmoil. If we cannot come together over the love of animals and nature then we can go our separate ways, but this is one place I will not allow the insidiousness of creeping political divisiveness to infect. We can disagree on a million things and I can still love you and share with you the simple joys of being with animals.
My Eden is a space I carved out to shut away much of that noise. We all have to do our part, stay informed, do what is necessary and I am not suggesting that we should avoid duty and activism or sit in a corner with our hands over our ears, humming.
But we all need a reprieve from the 24/7 news cycle and the worries associated with the various roles we take on in our day-to-day lives. This is my haven from that and so let me assure you, there will be no judgment, shame, condemnation or hate from me to anyone, for any reason, should they come to me looking for help, education or connection over love for animals. The love we have for the creatures we share the earth with can transcend policy choice differences.
All that said, I have and will remove hurtful comments from this page. While I will never intentionally hurt anyone and will be the first to hear, understand, apologize and fix my mistakes, I will also not permit anyone to come to my little quiet spaces and spew hatred for others. This is something that has become a really common occurrence the past few years and makes me very sad. The type of person apt to leave vile comments is most certainly not reading this particular page, so to those that are reading, I just want you to know that you’re welcome and loved here just as you are and I will not permit any bullying or hate in the few spaces I have dominion over.
And that is Annette in a long, rambling page!
Is it weird that I just referred to myself in the third person? Probably.