The Children Did Well Today; I am Grateful

Today was trying for me. The test of the mettle I’m made of kind of days. What will I do when I can’t find the key to the car to go pick up my kids. Will I turn on my loved ones and find someone else to blame? It’s clearly my own idiocy to blame. And despite all this, the storm cloud and the potholes of navigating this as a mom, utterly failing at Adulting today, I was given much grace, which is all I pray for. 

I was given a supportive and loving husband. It has not always been this way.

I was given a lovely furry dog friend who did an excellent job as a shepherdess today. She was a very good girl. 

I was given a son who brought home a library book and spelling list and completed his first second grade homework assignment with fly colors. 

I was given a daughter who decided to go along with the class and have a good attitude instead of fighting back and making life difficult.

I was given a sunset, with a perfect bright star and a beautiful tree-lined meadow, and a billion different colors in the gradient. A gift given often, but never taken for granted. Smokey skies notwithstanding. 

I was given the listening ear of a concerned principal when I had a lot to talk about.

I was given safety once again in the midst of the pandemic.

I was given shelter in this cute little house that I work on loving every day. 

I was given healthy children, I will be thankful every day they are with me. 

I was given a comfortable place to rest my weary head. 

I was given medicine, clothing, and food by all the workers of the world, including myself. 

The weather was nice and the flowers were blooming and buzzing with bees making me feel some type of way. 

The children did amazing today; I am grateful. 

What to do when your husband explodes

A few of you have recently had experiences where your husband gets strangely aggressive quite suddenly and it’s scary and strange. I wanted to share that this seems to be a shared experience that’s happening at least partially on a collective level. I’m not sure exactly what the implications of that are, but I want you to know that you aren’t alone and that other women are going through the same thing. I also want to take a good look at what I’ve been practicing and recommending and make sure that I’m considering all possibilities when encouraging a “shake up” of dynamic. I wasn’t ever intending for things to be so shaken that men are willing to lash out violently. Regardless of my personal reflection in my role on this, I want to say this very clearly: There is NEVER ANYTHING that you could do that would justify him abusing you in any way. He is 100% responsible for how he uses his strength – physically, emotionally, and mentally. He has a responsibility to be your provider and protector and never harm you. He is responsible for being in control of his body and his actions at all times. Assuming you have never been violent toward him, there is nothing you have ever done that is comparable to causing harm like that to someone you love. We need to demand this level of respect. We cannot tolerate being mistreated anymore and they sense that and it’s very threatening so they are lashing out. But regardless of our role, it’s still their responsibility to be in control of themselves instead of in control of us. This is all about control. 

When you really start to nourish yourself and you start becoming more emotionally independent, they can sense that you won’t really need them in the same way you used to when you were co-dependent and constantly preoccupied with his emotional state. You not needing him will set off all of his fears about you not needing him. SO now you are feeling good, and he is feeling freer so you aren’t fighting but now he sees you being happy on your own and he’s like Oh no! Insecurities!! And he’s lashing out on those (insecurities like you are cheating on him, you don’t need him anymore, you are secretly angry, pick your poison). SO that’s what’s up with that. He might be so overwhelmed with his emotions that he can’t make any sense of them and expresses them in harmful ways, which is on him and he needs to apologize if we are to continue. OK so, once the apology is out of the way, what next….

Next, we need to have the conversation about where we are going with this. How what happened wasn’t acceptable for anyone to treat anyone. How it was a bad example for the kids to see. Or as a demonstration of how he feels about you. If he feels negative feelings about you, he needs to find a better/more evolved way to express them. He can come to you when he is calm and make his case and proceed from there. Negative physical interaction is never an option. It is illegal and you can call the police. He cannot use physical force or emotional manipulation to control you. His attempts will never be successful because that’s not where we are in history anymore. You are in control of your life and you will do what is best for you and you will absolutely love your life whether he is in it or not.

That said, you would prefer if he was in it. So the next step is to do whatever you need to do to get to a place where you can receive him. You will need to do some restoration work. Is this fair? Absolutely not. Is this your responsibility? Nope. But you are going to do it anyway. And here’s why: this is your life and you want it to be thoroughly good, you want your relationships to be good, you want goodness in your life and now you need to invest in that reality for yourself which means practicing forgiveness, love, kindness, understanding, empathy, love, receptivity, flirting. Be receptive to his goodness and ignore when he doesn’t bring his best self. You are only here for the best. You aren’t going to participate in anything less. You are bringing your best self and she is very confident and has quite high standards for herself and how people treat her. 

So now is a time to really Rise Above. Rise Above your desire to be right, rise above your desire to want things to be fair, rise above his bad attitude. You are raising your standards for your own thoughts. 

This is an extinction burst. In behavioral psychology an extinction burst is when things get worse before they get better. The ego has a ton of investment in maintaining itself, by changing up your habits and the way your respond to him and other situations (also consider that many of your partners don’t know that you are working with me so your likely triggering fear) this is his last ditch effort to bait you into the old song and dance that you both hate. View old stuff as bait to get you back involved in the bad old days but you don’t do that anymore. An extinction burst is an actual psychological phenomena that happens when the escalation dynamic changes. Google it and read some articles– it’s pretty fascinating. Your positioning at this moment is very important and extremely counterintuitive and is going to force you to grow into a new role. His extinction burst signals the end of an era if all goes well so you definitely want to be strategic in your position and use this an intimacy building moment. You will get through this. It’s a test of your faith and a test of your consistency and commitment to being a new kind of person as well as your commitment to being in a relationship with him.

You are an excellent partner, friend, woman, lover, wife. (Pick your cure.) See yourself as someone who doesn’t trifle. You are serious about loving and you do it. You accept him as someone with flaws. You still love him. You still think he’s funny and cute and has good taste in music or whatever it is. Value him like you value yourself. Be with him. Be present, be loving and lovable. Be generous and caring even when he doesn’t deserve it. Be as consistent as possible. Process your negative emotions elsewhere (a trusted friend, here, a journal). Bring your best self and be confident that he will continue to love you as your best self, even if he doesn’t know that yet. Even if he is scared. Even if you are scared that you won’t love him the same way. Well, you’re right. It’s going to be a completely new kind of love, maybe one you’ve never experienced. And you’ll never go back. But there will always be struggles and each on teaches us it’s own lesson. This lesson is about respecting you but also being someone worthy of that respect at the very same time. 

Blessings. Love you. I’m here when you need me.  <3

Just Keep Swimming…

Hello Friends,

It’s been tooooooo long. And I don’t say that because I hold myself to a standard that I haven’t met, which is what old Bonnie would mean by that.

What I mean is that I LOVE writing. It is one of those things that I enjoy doing. I get lots and lots out of it. I usually get a product that I like, I get to process whatever is going on in the piece while I write it, and I get to play with words and ride a wave of spirit that sometimes lifts me up like a magic carpet. That’s when I’m in the flow and everything is easy. But I’m not there right now. And I haven’t been for a while. And I’ve also been kind of an ass. More on that later. 

I’ve been in some really dark places in the last month because I’ve abandoned all the things that make me happy. And I abandoned all the things that make me happy because they weren’t making me happy. Because nothing was making me happy. Because I didn’t have time for myself. I’ve been grieving the loss of my previous life— one that I understand now was never mine to have. Yikes. 

My husband and I are very close but it doesn’t always serve us. When things are good, everything is good. We are so incredibly close that I’m entirely confident that if I should ever find myself looking for another partner, I would be entirely unsuccessful. There is no one on this Earth that’s like him and like the way he loves me. Our family is beautiful and perfect and fun and full of life. 

I was recently texted by an old friend. We caught up and I shared a bit about how my husband’s work schedule at his dream job has really impacted my life and he asked, “Well, what about your dreams?” And that’s when I simultaneously realize and say…

I already have my dreams. 

I wanted to learn about science and plants, I got my Botany degree. I wanted to be a teacher, I became a teacher. I wanted to find my soul mate and get married. I found Him and I got him. I wanted to have kids, a boy and a girl where the boy is older. AND I EVEN GOT THAT. I wanted to own a home with a little bit of land and here we are. I wanted to feel connected with the Earth and I do that almost every day. I wanted to be soft on the environment and my PG&E bill is less than $100. 

I wanted to stay in my marriage and be a better wife and I found Laura Doyle. I wanted more friends and I got more friends and now I have a massive support network that literally grows every day as long as I’m brave enough to share. (You are part of it. Thank you.) 

I wanted goats and chickens. Now I’ve got more eggs and milk that it’s literally a brand new problem. I have to remember to eat vegetables! 

I wanted peace and independence and love and nature. I have every one in some form or another. 

Of course, I didn’t say all this to my old friend, but the message is the same. I already have what I wanted. And now I’m forging a new vision with new parameters, which is messy and strange, and I’m not really proud of how I’ve been handling it. 

I guess I thought things were always going to be the way I’d hoped — spending lots of time together as a family, working on projects together, building things, gardening, improving the land. But we rarely are together now and I struggle to see how we will make it to next week with all the limitations — there’s too many cars, every single one has some issue that needs attention but my husband is so far from having time for that. So we are now both driving my car (that has an exhaust leak now), which impacts our schedules and limits how much I can go out. So do the kids, I can’t go anywhere with them other than work at my dad’s and when I do go there I have to take two little ones and a dog in a crate who gets car sick. And after I’m done trying my best not scream at literally everyone – it’s hard to see the big picture. I don’t even really know what it looks like anymore. I’m also failing pretty hard at homeschooling at the moment. We seem to be stuck in a perpetual spring break. I think I just got tired of trying to make it happen. We learn and stuff. It just needs to be better. 

I rearranged my living room a few times over the past could months and now it’s back nearly the way it was before. I created a bunch of work for myself and made my life more difficult than it needed to be but I couldn’t see that at the time. Hindsight. 

So because my living room made no sense, I couldn’t do yoga or light my candles and do my morning ceremony stuff, but when the weather has been good I’ve been outside reading the Bible and doing devotionals by Candace Cameron Burre (DJ from Full House) which I’ve been really enjoying. What a strange sentence that was. Phew, glad we got that out of the way. My 20 year old self is horrified. (She’s naturalist and part-time Buddhist and despises creationism.)

The weather has also been wet and the field has been muddy and I have Polly the puppy now so I haven’t been going on runs in the morning. Usually I’ve been too tired to think about it anyway. Just getting kids fed three times a day and answering emails has felt like an unconscionable burden lately. Also I clean up a lot of misplaced animal and toddler waste. It’s a delightful job. Crisis management is going on my resumé should I ever need one. If you’re a mom, you should probably add that too. 

[Seriously, we should stop looking at “gaps” in our employment history and start claiming our skills at management under pressure. Our society needs to value mothers more, who are we waiting for? We need to value it ourselves and value it highly.] 

The last month has been me cutting all the things that I love out of my life so that I can be present with my children from 15 hours a day, keep some semblance of a somewhat orderly household (**I haven’t had a guest in a year**), ensure everyone (kids, dog, goats, chickens) is eating relatively regularly, and I try to take a shower most days. I’m sleeping and I’m not drinking too much. I need cannabis more than is comfortable to admit, but it’s literally what calms me down because my rage demons are back. 

Ugh, this sucks. But yeah, also a dream come true. 

So as I’ve been unable to figure out how to maintain a meaningful and enjoyable life through these new parameters, I’ve slipped into a lot of old habits. Some might venture to say — low vibration habits. I’m complaining, I’m not getting what I want. I’m not saying what I want because I feel isolated. I don’t feel valued. I’m super tired all the time. I get no rest, I get no love, etc. Cool stories, huh?

And when I slip back into this stories, I get my old relationship back— I’m codependent and he’s mean. Energetically we are on top of each other: I’m clingy and desperate, he’s annoyed and shoves me away to maintain distance. I’m violating his boundaries because I think they aren’t the way they should be. He should love me unconditionally, care for me, and understand my sacrifice but (I think that) he doesn’t. So I’m angry and I refuse to take care of myself. And I’ve been a jerk. 

And I’m telling you this as my repentance. I don’t want to be like this. I don’t want to nag or be upset that something isn’t happening on my schedule. I don’t want to be angry. I don’t want to be the monster that I can be when I rage. It’s scary, and it’s bad. It’s my demon and I’ve got to grow out of it. 

My husband has been no angel in this either. And previous me would continue to feel totally justified in blaming 100% on him because it’s his job and his mean things that he’s said to me and his inaction on a million to do list items and his lack of apologies or humility or grace or compassion. See? I know how the thinking works… it’s hard not to be trapped in seeing it that way. But I know better than that now. 

It’s all just another experience. 

This Earthly existence is about shaping us. tempering. honing. Giving us our deck of cards and seeing how well we can play even if we look at the cards and know we should fold right now. 

It feels like I accidentally rebooted and clicked hard mode and now nothing is as it should be. But it’s the same game— it’s just not as easy as it was before. And I’m not nearly as good of a player as I used to be. Now I’m dying all the time and I can’t get to where I used to be able to go (easy things like eating vegetables and visiting friends). My health gets to zero and when I get to save point I do nothing at all trying to soak up some mana from the ether. I used to play a lot of video games. They are a great activity for depression but it tends to keep you in the same place. They don’t have the same appeal to me as they used to anymore, which is probably for the best. 

I have to keep moving. I have to keep going. I have to find my joy again and do my pleasure seeking. I have to embody who I want to be for the life I want to have. If I can’t do that then everything falls apart. And it’s sort of heartbreaking to know that there isn’t much of a safety net. It’s on me to keep this family together. My piece is a big piece and I can’t let go of it. 

Thank you for witnessing me on my journey. We are all in different places on our own paths and I’m so fortunate to be able to connect with you and witness you with what is going on with your journey. In all of this, my faith in the universe taking care of us all has not wavered. 

We are here, in exactly the right moment, doing exactly the right thing. The more surrender I can find the easier I will be magically lifted back to my happy place so here we go. (Look! I wrote something!) I’m going to smoke a joint and take a bath. Love you. 

My Grandmother who Always Chose Control

This morning my mom came over and spoke of how lovely she was feeling with her new life here in California, free from all of “those people” she said with aversion. It reminded me of this piece I wrote over the summer that I’d figure I’d share. I asked her to sit down with me someday and tell me everything she remembered so we could document it. She agreed. So that’s coming… someday.  

As I was taking a lazy evening shower to rinse of the gunk and sweat from the day, I suddenly thought of my grandmother and how she died.

She was in excellent physical health for the vast majority of her life. Dedicated to keeping active, good looking, she had a habit of prioritizing very specific things.

At one point, she actually asked a waiter for fat-free mayonnaise at a regular restaurant. (I still don’t know how that is even a thing that exists, just proteins and binders and vinegar. Better living through chemistry!) 

She went to the gym daily until she was 92 when her doctor told her to lay off because she had begun to have heart issues. Nonetheless, she was very proud of her “health” oriented life. They seemed to make up most of her identity. She was physically healthy, good looking, well dressed, clean. Yes, very clean.

Doctors told her that she had an aneurysm in an artery near her heart, and at some point, it would burst and kill her, but no one could predict when it would happen. 

She lived alone so she arranged for my second cousin and her neighbor to check on her regularly in case that occurred. She prepared her belongings for her death and made my mother the executor of her humble estate. 

When I was growing up, my mom spoke with her on a landline every Sunday for about an hour and they maintained a good relationship through their phone conversations. My mom was the youngest of her three kids, but the only one she seemed to trust with business matters.

On the fateful day that she did collapse, she managed to call emergency services and was taken to the hospital where she died the next day. It was the way she wanted it to happen. She didn’t want to be found dead in her home. She wanted to be in a hospital where they were prepared for that kind of thing. She died on her terms. That’s how she lived her whole life– on her terms. She was a master of being in control. 

As a child, my mom recalls that her parents fought endlessly. When the kids grew up, they talked her into finally going through with a divorce from my grandfather, (who passed away before I was born.) 

When looking through the photos we found in her house after she passed, it seemed the most fun she’d had was when she and my grandfather took a trip across the country on motorcycles. It was the 1970s when they hopped from campground to campground with their duel sporty motos. They were featured in the local newspaper portrayed as a fun-loving and adventurous couple, though I unfortunately never heard a claim like that from any of their children. It looked like a fun trip. It probably wasn’t too bad since it’s hard to argue while on a motorcycle with someone else who is also on a motorcycle. These were the same people who gave my mother luggage for her graduation gift as a passive-aggressive kick in the pants. My mother was the youngest of three, and it seems like they were very done with children. 

After her divorce, she lived alone for the duration of her life, working at the local bank, and then a thrift shop as she aged. She dated a wealthy real estate mogul for all the years I knew her but they never lived together. Although he wanted to marry her, she said that would have turned him down. There were many things she disliked about him, which made him unfit for marriage but not unfit for dinners and dancing at the country club, and of course, rides in his luxury car. She kept him at arm’s length as she did with all of us. 

Sometimes I feel a deep hole in myself and I feel the distinct lack of care and love that a mother would provide. But that’s not my mother’s fault– she did the best she could with all the damage she struggled to heal from. It is likely that the women on that side of my family have been entrenched in controlling thoughts and behaviors for many generations. It’s impossible to see when it began and how it got so bad that it drove my grandmother into social isolation and kept her from developing meaningful relationships with her kin. 

Visiting with my grandmother as a child was an exercise in restraint for most of us, especially me and my father. When I was two years old, my grandmother came to visit us. The way my dad tells it is that she expected me to instantly love her even though we had never met. I was not a trusting child in general, I was shy and standoff-ish until puberty at least. She was never a warm or welcoming woman. She was thin and poised. Think the step-mother in Cinderella, but with up-to-date fashion choices. She wasn’t explicitly evil, but not someone children run to hug. She took personal offense at my hesitancy to accept a strange, cold woman into my heart and failed to treat her with the respect and adoration that she thought she deserved. My father was furious, and she wasn’t invited back into our home until I was in high school. My mother and I flew to her nearly every year during that time. 

Have you ever been to a restaurant with too many signs telling you how to do things? It’s weird and very off-putting. And that was what her house felt like. Some sort of cross between a restaurant with too many signs and a museum where touching things is strictly prohibited. It was beautifully kept and extremely uncomfortable. There were structured cleaning rituals that needed to be followed precisely and at all times. No messes were permitted ever. No carelessness would be tolerated. Her stovetop was spotless. The inside of her microwave had not a splatter. All countertops were uncluttered and free of debris. After using the restroom and washing one’s hands, one would be required to wipe the sink of any stray water droplets that might tarnish the finish.

Even when I returned in my 20s I was afraid to use the washing machine incorrectly, despite my overwhelming familiarity with the machines. Towels had specific purposes– an instructional video would have been helpful in sorting out which one I was supposed to use when I dropped a bit of coffee on the countertop. “Oh I’ll get it,” she would say, as I felt myself shrink into an irresponsible pile of mush as she brushed past me and selected the correct rag to use. 

Making my mom fried eggs on my grandmother’s pristine stovetop after she had passed, felt both liberating and sacrilegious as I allowed the oil to spatter on the cooktop and left an oily spatula right there– just sitting on the counter. I did the dishes and cleaned up eventually, but I left it a little longer just to see what would happen. 

Nothing did and I felt a bit better. I felt waves of healing move through me as I cooked my mom meals as she painstakingly sorted out everything from her financial records to a collection of ancient Ziploc bags that were worthy of display in a museum if such a thing were to ever exist. My mom nor her mom was ever much of a cook. My husband has taught me how. It was lovely to serve her in that way at that time. I felt free to cook a meal with love and spice and fat. My grandmother hated fat of any sort (hence the fat free mayonnaise) but she loved her things. They were kept in peak operating condition, clean, and organized. She had everything just how she wanted it. So when people came to visit, it was stressful and threatened the tightfisted grasp she held on her life. 

All the affection we had for each other felt forced and performative. When she would say that she loved me, it took considerable restraint to not look sideways and ask, “really?” 

At some point during our weeklong visit, there would inevitably be an incident of some sort, usually an argument that resulted in tears by at least some of the participants. It rarely involved me. I played a supporting role, allowing my mom the grace and hugs she was never given as a child. It was a difficult environment to exist in but I was always glad I was there. 

It was utterly unbelievable to her when I didn’t get up by 7 am, though the time change made it 4 am and my normal waking time was past 8. My mom and I would trade off who showered last because whoever was the last one had to painstakingly wipe out every drop of water in the shower and tub and that was a special kind of hell that neither of us were fond of. I would snack on romaine lettuce and something called “Turkey Bacon” which really seemed like neither. I usually stayed in the finished basement, on a very nice pullout couch, and watched TV until I fell asleep so that was nice. 

The last time I saw my grandmother before she died was when she flew out for my wedding 8 years prior. I set her up at a stately, large, and historic hotel that I thought she’d enjoy. She complained to my parents about the stiff bed, and the unusual sink height, and how could anyone possibly think this dusty place is clean? I spent many many hours scouring my own house in preparation for her inevitable visit. She came in, nodded, and left shortly. I felt cheated and relieved at the same time– cheated that I’d spent so much time and effort on something that was never recognized and relieved she didn’t say anything at all. (One time she visited us and my mom had neglected to clean the toaster oven out. We all heard about it. Now I think of her whenever I clean mine. It’s not really in a good way. So at least, I didn’t get a gem like that. Maybe her lack of commentary was even worse. I’ll never know.) The visit otherwise went well. My mom asked what she could do to help, and I told her taking care and entertaining Grandma was the best thing she could do. She did a great job and everyone seemed to have a good time. Though she was a notoriously picky eater, preferring only salads and low-fat sandwiches, she ate a whole plate of food at the wedding, which had been prepared by our closest and most industrious friends. So that was good. It was good to have a nice memory of her. Even if that memory amounted to: she ate a whole plate of food without complaint. 

When my grandmother was turning 90, I figured it was time for a visit. My son was 15 months on her 90th birthday so I figured I would take him to meet her since I didn’t know how much longer they would have living on this earth together. I began to make arrangements when my mother called and told me that it wasn’t a good idea if I came with my son. I asked why, but the answers were shallow and unsatisfying. 

It’d just be too much for her or my favorite– I see photos of my other great-grandchildren so that’s enough for me. The more I thought about it, the angrier I became. I was baffled as to how a great-grandmother wouldn’t want to meet her baby great-grandson. But he was a baby after all. He pooped in diapers and made a mess when he ate, and would probably touch many things that were never meant to be touched. It would be absolutely awful. 

And there was an implicit sting inside of that which whispered to me, I wasn’t a good enough mother to handle him. My mom and grandmother didn’t trust me to handle my own kid. Perhaps that was a stretch, but that was the message that I got. I know my mom’s head was always full of those maxims that stung as they rattled around inside her, but I was still angry at both of them. I felt foolish, rejected, and furious.

I had a lot of rage, sparked by postpartum depression and anxiety, and fueled by this rejection of my matriarchal line. I became angry at the whole world and stayed that way for quite some time. (Maybe you read my last post detailing that time in my life.) My own control issues lodged themselves firmly between my husband and me during this time. Looking back, perhaps what she was really fearing was that she would feel rejected by my toddler son as she was rejected by toddler me. Only now as I write this do I recognize that that could be an alternative explanation for why she would preemptively reject both of us. 

Perhaps if I’d been more wise and insightful at the time, I could have found forgiveness, and searched for some semblance of vulnerability in her or shared some of mine. Instead, I shut the door. I told her I wasn’t interested in maintaining a relationship with her anymore. I was done. I would send a thank you note if she sent me money, but that was all. I was sick of the years of expectations, passive-aggressive disapproval, and frankly, it was hard to see what she did to my mother. Now she had rejected me as she had rejected her, favoring the control she held over her environment over real family connection.

My grandmother’s values and identity were founded in a desire to maintain control over her appearances. She chose control over intimacy every time. She never gave me a recipe, fabled advice, or even very many stories. I’d be lucky to get in a rousing game of Kings Corner. 

Otherwise, I read a lot when I was at her house. She was a Sweet Adeline in the 1960s and 70s. She must have loved to sing, but I never heard her do it. I became a Sweet Adeline in 2016. Joining that chorus gave me 20 more grandmothers, each one more warm and welcoming than my own. They showered me with compliments, hot tips, sage advice, and even threw me a surprise baby shower for my second baby. I was deeply moved and my heart was warmed as I unwrapped oodles of handmade blankets and beautiful baby girl dresses and sets. How different things were at that moment gives me pause and forces me to reflect on what this all means, and how these things are all connected, like picking up a string to follow it. 

These women who love to sing like I do, like she did, giving themselves so freely and so beautifully to support a young mother at one of the hardest times in my life. They helped cracked me back open and find myself when I was angry and hurt and hardened. When my grandmother passed away, they sent me cards and gave me warm hugs and condolences and I didn’t know what to say so I stuck with “thank you.” We shared our love for singing, but not in real life. I inherited her sheet music collection when she passed, which is important to me. If only it didn’t remind me of the time that she heard I had joined a chorus and offered me the sheet music but only if I agreed to email her regularly. I passed. I really was done. 

What’s strange about all this is how desperately I want strong family connections. My husband and I are both only children, so there are just not that many of us. Our children will never have true aunts and uncles, but we’ve given them plenty with our friends and cousins on my father’s side. 

She didn’t want that. She didn’t want people. She only wanted to control. Maybe intimacy scared her. Maybe it had only brought disappointment. Maybe she’d never felt the joy of a warm embrace. Maybe she was born warm but her mother never tended to her and her ability to connect with others in a meaningful way diminished as the years wore on. I’ll never know why she was like that, but I do know that she’s inside of me and that part of my task is to unpack whatever is in there and let so much of it go. I’ve struggled for years to separate my idea of self-worth from how clean my space is. I still have two small children, a small house, and a lot of clutter. I have to be very gentle with myself or I’ll start falling into a pit of self-hate, bitterness, and become consumed with the urge to question and control others. I struggle to allow myself to exist as a fairly cluttered and messy person without telling myself rude things. 

I brought home a lot of her things when she passed. Her windchime, sun catchers, and a bell that she never rang are the things I use and see the most. All of these things bring me and my family joy now. The windchime which always hung inside her house from a balcony is now forced to face the elements next to my chair on the porch. I ring it when I feel like it and it tells me when it’s really getting gusty outside. It’s beautiful and simple. I’ve loved it my whole life. It’s getting dirty. I’ll clean it when I’m ready. In my house, cleaning isn’t prioritized over fun or relaxation. I know she’d disapprove, but I’ve chosen that that’s not important to me, I have the luxury of time that allows me to separate myself from that kind of distorted prioritization. 

I hung the sun catchers in the southern-facing dining room window, so it catches the light just right and fills the sunny yellow room with rainbows every day at nearly the same time. My children yell, “rainbow time!” and beg me to spin them, then they chase them, laughing and dancing as children do. They are amazing and delightful little people. They are funny and kind and bring me so much joy and purpose. I hope they have lovely memories of this time, in this house, with those rainbows. I hope they know that I love them, and want their lives to be relentlessly joyful. And also that they can get messy and make mistakes and that there is value in living life fully. 

The bell hung on a nice wood bracket off of her kitchen cabinets. It never had a string and was too high to ring. I always admired what a nice bell it was, but never bothered to ask to ring it for fear of the shocked look on her face that I’d undoubtedly provoke and never forget. I took it with me and the bracket that came with it. I mounted it outside our back door and made a macrame bell rope for it. Now we ring it when dinner is ready or just for fun sometimes because it’s loud and beautiful and unabashed. I clean the spider webs out and give it a few more rings and let the sound echo through the generous meadow we live in. 

My life is beautiful. I love it so much. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for her. She gave me so much to have and to work on. She perfected control, and I seek to perfect intimacy. What if I choose to let everything go and just love? I’ve tried so hard so much to do that with amazing results. It’s still difficult sometimes, this year especially. I get scared. I get lazy. I get hurt. Then I demand that others keep up with some unreasonable standard and it’s not fair, but more so, it drives people away. I rarely do that anymore, I’ve been working to break the cycle every day.

My children, my husband, my friends all depend on my ability to surrender to what life has to offer instead of obsessing over processes and details and images and the rage that comes with the failure of meeting my own expectations and of course, then the inevitable and unfathomable distance it creates between two people that should love each other. I don’t want to be like that. That’s not who I am, but it is who I am, so here I am, sorting out the pieces, following the string, and ringing the bell whenever it feels right. 

*Cling Clang* Dinner is ready. Let’s eat.

Reprioritizing Saved Me

    When I had my first baby, I was woefully underprepared in all the ways that mattered and over-prepared in all the ways that didn’t. I was an only child who felt awkward around children who couldn’t talk so I didn’t do much baby babysitting. The first diaper I ever changed was in the hospital after giving birth. I had endlessly researched and planned a home birth, we ended up in the hospital just to be safe. I worried and worried about breast feeding, but it was smooth sailing, though still exhausting. I learned everything there is to learn about cloth diapers (there is way more than there should be), because I wanted to help the planet, but ended up driving myself into exhaustion to keep up with all my own standards instead. (In that state: who was I helping exactly?) I wanted to be an excellent mom who did all the things and made all the best decisions. I painted a portrait for myself that looked nothing like me. She had a cape and never needed sleep. 

    One ordinary Saturday in that first year, I found myself screaming in the shower, holding the shower curtain in my teeth to keep myself from ripping it down. I was filled with unbridled rage I’d never felt before. I didn’t know that humans shouldn’t exist on less than 6 hours of a sleep at a time for more than a week. It was an entire year before my first baby slept through the night. I wasn’t doing good. My coworker’s words haunted me as I was packing up for maternity leave “Sleep now!” she cackled, “you won’t have chance later!” I nervously fidgeted my way out the door, not knowing exactly what that meant.

    What I didn’t know at the time was how to be gentle with myself. I didn’t know how to prioritize myself or even ensure that my basic needs were met. I didn’t know that a dirty house and a relaxed mind is preferable to a rage-filled, mom stewing in a nauseating cocktail of resentment, exhaustion and frustration— but have you seen how her laundry is done and the kitchen is clean? AND her baby has fresh clean CLOTH diapers! 

    I went to the doctor for my 6 week postpartum check up and my doctor said I might have— a bit of baby blues, whatever that means. It didn’t mean getting any help, that was for sure. I checked in with my midwife, she recommend I see someone. How was that supposed to happen? I had a full time teaching job during the day, my husband worked nights so we could afford to… ya know like live and stuff. I also had to pump, manage milk all the time (donate the excess!), do all the diaper laundry, keep the house clean, make my own baby food, lose 65 lbs of baby weight, grade papers, process whatever trauma happened at work (which was a lot at the time.) I just didn’t have the capacity to navigate the mental health care system and find the time off.     

    Knowing what I know now, I just want to give my past self a hug, make her a nice meal and tuck her in for a nap and tell her she can just stop. It felt impossible at the time. My cortisol levels were so high I couldn’t sleep when the baby sleeps. Pretty sure that was when the depression and anxiety really set in. 

    I never even saw my husband, so I spent my days thinking about how I wish he were helping more, getting more done, being more affectionate, did more nice things, had more time for me. I had a long list of reasons why HE should improve. Oh and he should definitely appreciate me more because I was doing all the laundry. We were so exhausted that we couldn’t even fight anymore. We spent a lot of time just looking out opposite windows and just staring. I missed my old life a lot. It was filled with sleeping and things I liked. 

    But the crazy part is that now I see that every single one of my stressors was something that I chose. I chose to have a baby in the first place, I chose to use cloth diapers, I chose to be a teacher (a career known for being underpaid and overworked, and I still chose it), I chose to continue working full time, I chose to move away from my friends, I chose to marry someone whose strong suits are many but do not include folding laundry. (That was how he came, why would he change because there was suddenly more?)    

    I chose not to get help when I definitely needed it. I chose to give up all my hobbies and interests. I chose to keep my house cleaner than absolutely necessary. I chose to commit to losing the baby weight faster than was healthy so I didn’t have to buy a new wardrobe. I chose a life where napping wasn’t easy. 

    I didn’t know that by prioritizing myself after everyone and everything else was slowly wearing down my identity until it was actually completely gone, leaving me unmoored and hopeless and still very very angry.    

    I didn’t know that motherhood requires a completely different approach than what I was used to. The work ethic that I’d learned in college and the work world wasn’t the miracle solution I’d always assumed. I was showing up with the wrong tools for the job.

    I did manage to go to hypnotherapist after I raged and knocked over and broke a glass in the living room.  He told me that I “seemed stressed.” Thanks buddy, here’s $150 — buy yourself something nice, I know I won’t be. I was a victim of my own making and victims don’t buy themselves presents. 

    After that first year, I managed to make a few better decisions but my relationship was still in shambles and would continue to deteriorate until I filed for divorce in 2017. I thought I would be better off alone than with a man that actively despised me. I was pretty unpleasable at the time, which is difficult for husbands to handle. 

    When we separated, I started to take the burden of taking care of me off him and back onto me where it belonged. I started doing things I liked and I felt so much better. But I missed my husband. He was my soulmate. We had a lot of dreams together and it was hard to imagine me doing it alone, having my kids part time. Actually it was easy to imagine, but it wasn’t what I wanted. We decided to stay together since we had another baby on the way anyway. 

    I was determined for this to be different. I committed to sleeping at least 6 hours a night, getting proper health care and medications if I started to spiral again, and I wasn’t cloth diapering this time BECAUSE I’M NOT SUPERWOMAN. (Sorry Earth! I’ll make it up to you in other ways!) I’m a regular woman, who needs sleep, and relaxation, and time to herself. And I love that about me. It doesn’t make me a failure. It makes me lovely. Lovely to be around. Lovely to interact with. Lovely to look at. It makes me feel lovely inside (instead of the old fiery caldron ready to be splashed on the nearest bystander.)  

    Now motherhood looks like taking 5 to 10 minutes to myself after every chore. It’s sitting and playing a random game of uno, or crawling into a fort built by my kids, who are now excellent at sleeping through the night. It’s thanking my husband for making me delicious meals and drinks. It’s staying in bed longer than I should according to any responsible person’s schedule. It’s taking a bath instead of doing dishes if I feel like it. It’s telling my kids that I’m taking time for myself and laying out consequences if they pester me. It’s communicating clearly what I want in a way that husband hears it. 

He makes sure I’m taken care of now, because he sees me doing it for myself. 

He’s happy, I’m happy, and I get to stay with the man I married and enjoy it. Was it easy? No. Would it have been easier if I had had someone to help show me that I didn’t have to do all the things to be a good mother? Definitely. 

    We’ve got to change things for ourselves. Let’s rethink some standards we have for ourselves here. Let’s give ourselves lots of breaks. Our nurturing spirits need ample nurturing. I serve from my overflowing cup instead of being angry that it’s always empty because no one else filled it up for me. 

    Some women hear this and say, “How I am I supposed to take care of me too? That sounds like another responsibility!” And I say let’s look around and see what you can drop so you have enough hands to pick yourself up. No one is going to do it for you. Plus you are better at it than anyone else anyway. It just takes commitment and some easy and very-rewarding planning. Find out what you are choosing to prioritize over yourself and stop. Just stop. Rest regularly. Let yourself just flow and own your choices. Maybe you’ll even find some gratitude just in time for Thanksgiving in a year where it’s been difficult to find. 

    I’m grateful for having a working washer and dryer, disposable diapers, hot meals that my husband makes, being home together all day every day, living in this amazing community on this incredible land and so much more. I’m grateful for my transformational reprioritization. I’m grateful for my health and my mental peace. I’m grateful that I rarely lose my temper anymore. I’m grateful that it all worked out. The self-portrait makes so much more sense now. She takes lots of naps and wears vintage skirts with sewn-in pockets instead of a cape, which is still pretty badass and much more useful.

Late Summer is Hard

This is hard time of year for me every year. It’s hot. We don’t have central AC and we only run window units at night when electricity is cheaper for us. The fires are terrifying. The ash in the air makes me worried. All of our precious belongings are packed in the car and I’m hesitent to take them out. I feel a constant battle of maintaining my own body temperature while trying to actually get things done outside. My goats don’t have much to eat as the ground has dried. I worry about them more than I should. The increasing fascist activity by the federal government also has me concerned. Our little town made the news when a man attacked peaceful protesters downtown a while ago. I used to be a vocal anti-racist activist and I’m fortunate not to be involved at the moment. School was supposed to start this week, but we are homeschooling now. My son has been a jerk since turning six and I just want to turn the clock back to four. (It has dawned on my that if your child chooses to be rude, you just have a rude person that lives in your house now and there is nothing you can do about it.) My daughter is coming up on three and is showing it. My children haven’t played with friends or been to a park since March. It’s been five months of isolation. I need to stack wood, but it’s still to hot to work. We are still trying to get some UI so we can clean up our finances. I left LD because of their new policies and old habits. I’m so tired. Every morning I get up and find provisions for 8 goats and 11 chickens because we can’t afford adequate fencing yet. We’ve been trying for years. It feels like we can never get ahead. Still using this terrible laptop. It feels like dishes and laundry never ends. I pick blackberries and make banana bread and my husband makes yogurt and cheese. And do dishes, so many dishes. I was line drying our clothes on a rack outside, but not I’m worried about them smelling like smoke so it’s back to the dryer, which is hot and expensive. And I’m always behind no matter what. We are anticipating power outages soon. Last year, it was incredibly hard. 

So it’s been hard to find my joy lately. 

But I really do try. Every day my mission is to be happy, to release my stresses and to live with love on the tip of my tounge. It feels so hopeless and hard but I keep trying. I know that if I can take it one day at a time someday winter will be here. 

In the meantime, I take a lot of baths and showers. Water has a relaxing, centering, and indulgent quality to me. I splash myself with cold tap water and everything else goes away and I get to focus on the sensation of freezing cold water on my hot skin. If I get it cold enough, my skin will stay cold for a half hour or so, and I really love that feeling. So I do it a lot. I take cold baths, cold showers, I even set up a private place outside where I can take a sitting basin bath. Well, it was private until the fire planes showed up. Whoops.

It’s hard being the lovely, upbeat and fun person I want to be every day under these circumstances. I like to charge up at night with snuggles with my husband, but most nights it’s too hot to snuggle so I’m in a state of feeling needy and a little desperate. Desperate for rain, for cold, for warm embraces that last all night. Desperate for a party with friends. Desperate for security and familiarity.

With all the amazing blessings this year has brought us– our first real garden, our first eggs, our wonderful goat babies, and my amazing husband and his successes toward getting his dream job, it still has been difficult. 

I’m grateful for our peaceful home, for our love that binds us tightly together, and for my cousin who always listens to my ridiculous Marco Loco videos even when they are 45 minutes long and go in strange directions. She’s been amazing. I can’t tell you how grateful I am to have her in my life. 

I pray a lot now. I never used to. I pray for the strength that I need to get through every day and not yell. I pray for patience. I practice having faith that this will all work out like it always has. I even downloaded an app and fell asleep while “having a moment with God” last night. 

And cannabis, I use a lot of cannabis now. It makes me happy. I can let go of my worries and embrace my children without anger. It keeps my head clean when everything feels like it’s closing in. It brings the joy to to the forefront and heals my ailments. 

So that’s what I’m doing lately: taking baths of all sorts, talking a lot with friends and family, building my faith by surrendering and trusting, using cannabis to keep my mood lifted and my heart light. Sometimes people ask how I do it and that’s how even though it’s been hard lately. Just gotta keep flourishing despite feeling like a melting cat.

We’d be at the fair now

We live in Nevada County, California, home of the best county fair in the world. Last year I took my son, Jules, and the two of us spent the whole day riding rides. We stopped for food and treats twice and tried walking around to see the animals, but we both knew where our hearts were. They were at the top of the brand new log flume. A towering beauty, blue and gleaming in the hot midday sun. It’s friendly blue splashing waiting for us to partake in the fun-filled adventure inside of a floating plastic log. We rode it 5 times. My son is a bit of a fraidy cat like I was at his age. Very timid children. But I love riding rides more than most anything else in the world. I was very careful to craft the discussion that would end with him happily enjoying a ride instead of him bolting and hiding behind a corndog stand.

Jules had just turned five and was now tall enough to ride on a good selection of rides. A few of the less intense grown-up rides were now fair game for us. He was barely past the 36 inches that he needed to safely ride the rides and we were both stoked. I ran some quick growth estimate figures in my head. So, if he’s 5 and 36 inches now, then in x years he will be tall enough to ride the zipper… so I have that many years to get up the courage to ride in one of those things again. I didn’t come up with any significant figures and nothing made sense but I did know that right now, we got to ride the log run, which was a new arrival and had never been featured at our fair before. It was beautiful. Jules looked unsure. He watched the people scream, and the fast drop, and the big splash. He had a lot of questions like he always does but these ones were exceptionally good. Does it hurt? Is the water cold? Do you get wet? Do your feet get wet? What do you hold on to? Does it go fast? (This is my reality, people, just being real) I answered them all one by one, giving him rational, reasonable answers in an appropriate language that he could understand. We turned and walked in a different direction, with the log flume heavy on his heart. 

As we walked holding hands through the games area. (Oh btw, can we think about using an alternative to “carnie”? I’m not a big fan, ride operator is the preferred nomenclature, man! *passes bong* Anyway, as we were walking through, there I saw it. Himalaya….she was beautiful. 

If you’ve been to a few county fairs and/or amusement parks you may be familiar with Himalaya. It’s a circular coaster that are driven by rotating arms in the center. You sit side by side with another person and you are thrown to the outside of the car while music blares impossibly loud and random sirens and honking goes off and you are dazzled by a thousand little twinkling and flashing lights. It’s a sensation. I’ve been on them plenty of times. I love them for their simplicity and their unapologetic garishness that only a county fair ride could pull off. I love the vibrating floor, and the stupid loud music and how nonchalant the guy who buckles your seat belt is. I love it all.

I ran up with Jules and excitedly asked him if he would ride it with me. I told him it was going to be fast and loud and he might feel like he’s being squished real hard. He wanted to try it. He sat bravely in the seat as serious as I’ve ever seen him. He rode it. It shook him up a bit, but he wanted to go again later. He was a trooper. He survived and he was ready for the log flume. 

We waited a bit and he jumped in the log. He was quiet on the ride up. I held his hand and told him what would happen next. He loved it, I assumed, as he got off screaming and giggling with glee. We rode it five more times. 

Later, he was struck by the moving and grooving of a nearby Zumba class. He and I danced in the back and attacted a crowd until a spectator took his hand and asked for a dance.

We had ice cream and corn dogs that day, and visited with my amazing friend Wendy who was working there. Incredible memories to keep me going. But best of all it was a day that I spent sharing a passion with my kid. 

Today it’s mid-August 2020, and it feels like we should be there now. Of course, that isn’t possible in our brave new world

I have hope that someday I’ll feel safe enough to bring my kids into a crowded place like the fair, so that we can enjoy the wholesome, down-home goodness that only the Nevada County Fair can provide.

I just hope we make it there in one piece.

April Updates

My, oh my, what a lot has happened since my last message. This has been a time of intense change. Many people have been talking about the emotional roller coaster and I have to say I’ve had the same experience. When this first started I was much happier than I rationally should be. I felt confident and grateful in my situation: a great relationship with my husband, a plot of farmable land, a locked gate, and armed with plenty of knowhow on how to survive an emergency like this. I felt this incredible freedom from all the demands constantly placed on me by having to be places all the time. I was excited to spend time as a family unit as my husband stopped working and schools were shuttered. 

Since then I’ve moved through all sorts of emotion as I watched the death toll rise and all the unforeseen effects that began to threaten our way of life. My husband was taken on as a radio producer which is his dream job, but he isn’t getting paid. Now he needed an office, quiet, and many hours by himself, leaving me with the job of keeping children fed and quietly entertained for hours on end and without my usual place to relax. Not exactly the vision of gardening and farm accomplishments that I’d hoped for.

My lower back tightened, and when I move through that, then my neck would be sore, or something else. I couldn’t find relaxation and the stress of it all was getting to me. I felt jealous of people who are getting to spend this time on their couch binge-watching and eating snacks. I felt like I was getting nothing done and struggled with how angry I got that an overhead light was on. (I get strangely emotional about lighting. It’s weird but it’s real.) I got sad that everyone I love to talk to wasn’t available after 9 pm to talk and that’s the only time I have because of my constant childcare duties. I even started to feel jealous of all the ladies with put together homes that I was seeing on Zoom. I temporarily lost sight of cherishing all the progress on various projects that I’ve made and the reasons my home is the way it is, i.e. I love old things and I’m super frugal, which means I don’t have a pretty shelf with only a fake plant and a candle on it or modern light fixtures or even a properly painted ceiling. But I love my uneven, old walls and strange antiques and I hate painting so…::shrug:: radical self-acceptance, I guess.   

After two and a half weeks of not leaving my property, I went to my favorite grocery store. Everyone was wearing masks and staying away from each other. No small talk or greetings were uttered because it’s hard to do those things from behind a barrier. They were playing Leonard Cohan’s “Hallelujah” and I decided that as much as I wanted to, it wasn’t really the time to start sobbing into a bag of frozen dino nuggets. Instead, I stocked up on wine and goodies for Easter and made my way to the parking lot. The non-perishable groceries are still in my car waiting to be released from their own quarantine. Yesterday I got suddenly furious with my husband for sitting in the car too long after spending the day away. Fortunately, we didn’t talk about it and instead hugged it out in the hallway.

I’ve been wanting to write something on self-care, relinquishing control, vulnerability, and gratitude. It’s too big of a topic to handle; there are just too many things to say. I guess I’ll try anyway. Here’s my take on self-care and a bit of vulnerability too.

I’ve added daily yoga to my self-care routine. Adriene from “Yoga with Adriene” just released a new video called Yoga for Vulnerability. It was hard to see someone who had given me so much comfort and permission to indulge in self-love to be struggling just like I was. In the beginning, she starts in the fetal position, and says with undeniable sadness in her voice, “Here we are. We’re doing it.” Yes, Adriene, yes we are. We are doing it whatever it is.

We spent 3 weeks sort of doing whatever without a schedule, it was cool but I was struck with the feeling of how disappointed I would be if I let this time pass without using it productively. Earlier this week (after my husband had asked a few times) I got my act together and drafted a daily schedule. It has given us allotted time to do homeschooling, having regular meal times, have office hours, time to clean the house together and preserves “nap time” as quiet time, which is a two-hour block in the middle of the day that I use for self-care. I use this time to do what I want: naps, reading, having a bath, whatever it’s going to take to recharge. My husband has also graciously begun to leave the overhead light off in our bedroom so I can still have a place to relax away from the main centers of the house. He is getting the hang of his new job and we are settling into a routine that will help us all get what we want.

Oh and we watched Tiger King, pretty much the furthest thing away from self-care, but it’s been nice to feel included in the internet buzz. (Snakes stuffed with drugs?? How is this even real? Also are there any sane people who are obsessed with big cats? Because ya’ll need to chill.) It’s sparked some amazing conversations with my husband about human nature, motivation, manipulation, and ulterior motives. Interesting fodder for intellectual discourse found in an unusual place and that does totally count as something that recharges me.

I hope you are staying safe and sane during this strange, stressful, and vulnerable time. Please don’t hesitate to reach out, I’d love to talk.

Getting Comfortable in a New Way – Part 1

Some of you might know that I’m like what I like to call a wannabe homesteader which also means I’m a lowkey prepper. If you aren’t familiar with homesteading, it’s basically working toward self-sufficiency in many areas of your life. It can be done to any degree in a country or an urban setting. While I don’t have a degree on the subject (do they even offer that? They should!) because of my informal studies, experiments, and successes over the last 10 years I figure I have at least a Masters in Grandma Studies. I put this together a few days ago and I hope you will find it helpful, comforting, and maybe a little inspiring in the face of what will ultimately be a terrible tragedy.

Attitude

Your attitude is important. I usually use the blog to talk about relationship skills and I’m not going to do that now except to say that this is huge excerise in relinquishing control. We cannot control this virus. We cannot control others. All we can do is protect ourselves and those around us as much as possible. I invite you to take some time to reflect on how the fear from this is pressing our buttons and making our urge to control stronger. This weekend has been absolutely lovely for me and my family and I give the Skills and my perchant for sustainability all the credit. Please let me know if you’d like coaching for this strange time. I always do phone calls 🙂

Some of my friends on Facebook aren’t taking this pandemic seriously and calling people who are preparing “stupid.” I don’t think I need to tell you how unattractive this is. You’re smart, you get it. 😉 This is serious. It’s smart to prepare. It will continue to get more and more difficult as each day passes. Get things done now while you still have the chance.

The impact of this worldwide pandemic is far reaching, and will leave none of us unaffected.  Our events are already being cancelled, our travel restricted, and our looming mortality is in full relief. If you are young healthy person, you probably aren’t too worried about contracting Coronavirus, but here are two reasons why you should be.

It’s not fun to be sick. I’ve read a few first-hand accounts of having this illness and it does not sound fun. Mild or not, it’s better not to be sick than it is to be sick. To what lengths are you willing to go to avoid getting sick? This will vary from person to person.  I encourage you to stretch yourself to think of all the ways you can minimize your exposure and your role in transmission.

More importantly, you have moral responsibility to not become a disease vector. We must protect our elders and our more vulnerable friends. Personally, I would have a very hard time living with myself if someone I inadvertently exposed to coronavirus died. I would feel responsible if I didn’t do everything in my power to prevent that from happening. This IS a matter of life and death. Please feel comforted that if you decide to stay home instead of going to an important meeting or whatever people want you to do, I am in your corner yelling, “IT’S NOT WORTH IT.” Your life and the lives of others is the best thing we have, it’s the only thing we have. It’s the way we raise the next generations, it’s all the joy you experience, it’s all the knowledge and love and support that you give to the world and that’s important. It’s more important that you preserve yourself and others than it is that you continue to do all of your external every day “duties.”

Of course there are many, many people, particularly in the United States that don’t have sick leave, that have to work with public, or that don’t have stable places to live without wages. If that’s you, first of all, thank you for continuing to do your job. I absolutely want to express that some people will have to continue working and the rest of us should be very thankful for the measures that they will have to take to keep themselves healthy. It is a risk that may not have an alternative. Please join me in prayer for our federal government to provide financial assistance to those who rely on every day of wages to survive, so that they may take time off and isolate.

It has been recommended by most experts and media outlet that we self-isolate as much as possible, which means limiting your outings to the essentials while we still have the freedom to do so. If we all participate in self-isolating, this will pass in a matter of weeks and will do minimal damage. We cannot afford to continue go on as “business as usual.” It’s is not safe and it’s morally wrong. Please limit your exposure and your potential transmission by preparing yourself and your home to accommodate your needs and wants for a few weeks of isolation.

Preparing now if you haven’t already

Wherever you live, consider the following options to make your isolation feel a whole lot nicer than it might seem.  Some of these things are survival strategies but most of them will just make your life more comfortable. Homesteading values comfort. It should not be an excessive burden to provide for yourself and your family. Given some knowledge and preparation you can live a comfortable life.

There are now shortages in some stores and in some areas. Do not panic. There is no reason to. Your grandparents and great grandparents survived on much less than you probably have in your home today. If they could do it, so can you. And guess what? You have access to all of humanities knowledge! So lay back and learn to do some things the old way. There are some really fun videos on YouTube that can help. Always feel free to ask in the comments or in a PM. I’d love to hear from you.

A global pandemic, while totally terrifying, is a great opportunity for us to practice sustainability in our homes.
Wherever you live, consider the following options to make your isolation feel a whole lot nicer than it might seem right now. Some of these things are survival strategies but most of them will just make your life more comfortable. Homesteading values comfort. It should not be an excessive burden to provide for yourself and your family. Given some knowledge, a thirst for joy and a healthy dose of preparation, you can live a comfortable life while you are staying at home.

There will be some things that you will probably need to obtain, either from Amazon or another delivery service or at a local store. If you do go to the store, please limit your outings and practice social distancing inside the store, and carry hand sanitizer or disinfectant wipes with you. Please don’t take children in if you can avoid it. If you have to, carry babies and toddlers and teach older children not to touch surfaces by keeping their hands in their pockets and follow up with an incentive if they are successful.

Here are some areas of life to consider. Buy now if you can, things are only going to get more expensive and more scarce. Don’t wait to depend on relief efforts, be self sufficient if you can. If you can’t, ask and receive help. I’m happy to provide any more info and resources. Need help cooking something or sewing something? Just ask 🙂

Disinfectants and Cleaning Products

You probably already have what you need, a bottle of bleach, Clorox wipes, isopropyl alcohol, hand sanitizer, soap. You have soap right? Now is the time to use it. If you are truly isolating, then you don’t need to be disinfecting all the time because you are controlling your exposure already. However when you do go out or have people over, practice hand washing, sanitizing, and disinfecting. Be careful with the bleach and observe proper dilution to use, the internet can help you find out how to disinfect with bleach safely. Also obviously, please don’t drink isopropyl alcohol (we’re not that desperate yet, right?) Isopropyl is a fundamentally different alcohol than drinking alcohol and will harm you if you drink it. Ethanol, however, is fine to drink in small quantities, it’s the alcohol found in spirits, wine, and beer BUT it doesn’t hold the same disinfecting power as isopropyl because it’s diluted for human drinking comfort. Do some research on the disinfecting power of both of these options and how Coronavirus responds to each. The science is evolving daily as researchers learn more and more about this virus. Keep reading reputable sources. This brings me to a side note:

You also have a responsibility to pass on vital, accurate information, cite your sources, and only indulge in news that is credible. Facebook is not a news source. Reading a headline does not qualify as learning something. This is a great opportunity to become a critical thinker. If you are sharing information, share the source too. If you don’t have a source, just say, that’s something I’ve heard, I haven’t confirmed its validity. In other words, if you don’t know the details or the source, say, “That’s what I’ve heard, we should probably confirm that.” This intellectual practice will serve you well. You will learn things as you confirm facts and you will be doing your due diligence against the harmful miseducation that has plagued the internet since Facebook became a thing. Okay, back to prepping:

Stock up on laundry detergent, cleaning supplies for your home, yourself and your family. Grab an extra tube of toothpaste or be okay with using baking soda. You do have baking soda right? Definitely get some… or a lot. It will come in handy. Love a certain shampoo? Order an extra, or be okay with using Dr. Bronners (a soap with 18 uses! I don’t know what they all area but I read that on the bottle once.) Have laundry detergent or know how to make it. I haven’t learned yet because a Costco bottle of detergent lasts me at least 6 months. Long term I do plan on making my own, but these things take a bit of time. I invite you to look into DIY products using everyday items you already have in your home. My husband makes deodorant from witch hazel and essential oils. Works for him doesn’t work for me. I need stronger stuff. Experiment, have fun, do research, try new things!

Medications, First Aid, and Safety

There is a chance that our hospital and medical system may become overwhelmed when we start to see the influx of cases. Get your prescriptions filled now, stock up on commonly used over the counter medicines, and I feel like I have to say this: When I say stock up, I don’t mean buy the whole shelf. Alternatively, know what your usage is and purchase accordingly. If you use one bottle of ibuprofen a year, grab an extra bottle. If you never use it, skip it. Also, make sure you have birth control if that’s something you need. Whether its pills or condoms or both; get as much as you think you could use. Condoms are available online for much less money than a brick and mortar store. Pharmacies will often give you extra packs of pills if you ask in advance. There are mail order options as well.


Consider getting a nice first aid kit. You don’t want to find yourself in a situation where you have to go to a hospital because you can’t self-treat. We have a tendency to say “Go to the doctor, just to be safe.” And while that is a fine attitude to have most of the time, this is not a time for relying on that thinking. Do you have band-aids? Do you have medical disinfectants, tweezers, braces, bandages, etc.? Use your brain. Make good decisions. I believe in you. Avoid going to the doctor if you can. Practice good dental hygiene to avoid a trip to the dentist. Heck, practice good hygiene, in general, to stay healthy! Don’t take risks that might land you in the hospital. Be careful with yourself, people are depending on you.

Water

It is extremely unlikely that our water system will cease to function. Personally, I don’t have a stash of bottled water. I think bottled water is kind of gross on multiple levels. I live in an area with a lot of water access and I have a well that could be rehabilitated in my backyard. I could get water if I needed to. How will you do it? Do you know how to sanitize water? I have a couple of water filters for backpacking and fuel to boil. That feels good enough for me. A rain barrel would also be a good idea. I’d like to have one of those for extra security. What will make you feel secure?

Disposable Everyday Products

Here we are talking about things you buy to use and throw away. Toilet paper, paper towels, napkins, tissues, pads and tampons, diapers are the big ones. Every single one of those has a totally reasonable and comfortable alternative, all of which I’ve used with great success. They are not as convenient but they do work. Reusable diapers are expensive, but if you were considering using them, this is a great way to get started. There is a wealth of information on the internet about the different options available. Menstrual cups and washable pads are readily available now. I make my own pads out of scrap fabric. It’s not easy, but it can be done with time and patience. Kitchen towels and rags can easily replace paper towels. I went for about 9 years on one roll of paper towels without much trouble at all. If you are still using paper napkins at home, please just stop. Use cloth napkins. Get some at a thrift store, Target, make your own, whatever. Throw them in a laundry bag when they are used with your kitchen rags and launder. I know you are dying to know what I think about the toilet paper shortages so here it is:

Toilet paper is a non-essential item. This is an American problem. The rest of the world uses washing and reusable options. Personally, I have a handheld bidet hooked up to my toilet. Also called a “diaper sprayer,” it’s basically a kitchen sprayer but mounted on your toilet tank, it was about $30 on Amazon. It’s relatively easy to install if you follow the instructions. Is the water cold? Yes, very much so. Does it leave me feeling way cleaner than TP? Also yes. Once you get off all the gross, pat dry with a nice clean cloth. Fabric scraps will do for this. Put them in a bag and launder with hot water. You will feel clean, pampered, and way less gross. Honestly, the reason we still use TP in our home is that it weirds people out not to have it. Come on, America, we can do better.

So there you have it, a bunch of ways to replace disposable products with easy to use, readily available, and are cheap or free to use. If we are hunkering down for more than a few months, I would recommend trying some of these strategies. I don’t use cloth diapers with my youngest because it was too much work to add on top of my other duties and I gave my stash away. She’s two so I figure worse comes to worst and we can just spend some time potty training which we’ve been meaning to do anyway. If all of these seem like too much, that’s fine too! Just get a few extra packs of what you usually buy so you don’t have to run to the store during isolation.

Food

This is where most of my thinking has been focused. Now is not a good time to eat at restaurants. When you eat out, you are counting on the people working there observing very strict hygiene protocols, so strict it would be hard to meet them myself! So that’s why I’m urging you to make as much of your own food as possible. If you don’t know how to cook, this a great time to learn. You will have a lot of time to learn on YouTube. Do your researches, gather your tools, and start making things you like to eat.

It might be tempting to buy a 50 lb bag of beans and another bag of rice, but you must know how to cook these things to use them! And in an emergency, I know that you would definitely figure that out, because anyone alive today is descended from many smart humans that have overcome food shortages and famines many times. I just want you to be comfortable while we face the possibility of that potential.

I lived off of variations of rice and beans for lots of years so I’ve got my game down pat. I always use a slow cooker or instant pot for cooking beans. Beans must be soaked for hours before they are cooked. Pinto beans are great, black beans are great for nutrition, mayo coba is a favorite of mine that we prep like pintos and I really like chickpeas to make hummus or channa masala, they are a great bean to have in stock at your house. At this point, it might be a matter of just grabbing what’s left at stores and figuring out a good way to cook it. We get into a bean cycle where we start soaking the next batch while we are eating the one before. It’s a good system.

I always use the same pot to cook rice which ensures my success. One cup of white rice in the pot first, add 1.5x water, heat till boiling, put a lid on, lower heat as low as it will go and still be on, and leave for 20 min, don’t open the lid. There are different kinds of rice, brown vs white, long-grain vs short-grain. You can look into it and learn all about it if you want to. Most commonly people use short-grain white rice and if you buy a bulk bag, that’s probably what you will get.

Here are some things to add to your shopping list that will make eating rice and beans more enjoyable: cooking oil, onions, broth, canned tomatoes, hot sauce, soy sauce, lime juice or another acid (vinegar will do in a pinch.) Make sure you’re all stocked up on spices and other things you use in the kitchen often.

Learn how to make your own staples with cheap, non-perishable ingredients. If you have flour, sugar, salt, yeast, baking soda you can make a whole lot of different baked goods. Add butter and you have the ingredients to make pie crusts as well which would be a great way to eat canned fruit if the pickings get slim in a few months.

Winter squash can be stored on your counter for 2 to 3 months.

Oats and other bulk bin items make easy baked granola, however at the moment, bulk bins don’t seem to be the best idea. But it’s easy to make a snacking or cereal granola out of random things you might already have. I can post a recipe if you want.

Learn simple recipes of the foods you enjoy, making bread in a bread maker is very easy, casseroles and quiches are a great calorie dense way to feed a family and have leftovers. Eggs have a great shelf life and are very versatile. Eggrolls are a great way to eat cabbage and stuff like that. Making your own tortillas is extremely delicious and fun as well.

When I want to learn to make something new, I always use search terms that include the words easy, simple and/or best and I only make things with good reviews like “easy best white bread breadmaker” or “easy simple pie crust.” You get the picture. Dutch oven camping cooking also has a lovely community with simple, easy, foolproof recipes that use nonperishables. The recipes could be made in an ordinary casserole dish in a home oven or get yourself a dutch oven and start cooking outside. Hey, that actually sounds fun!

Additionally, you can stock your freezer full of things you like to eat. Everything from frozen pizza to eggs and cheese can stay in your freezer for a few months. Just search how to freeze things and figure it out! You can do it. All of humanity’s wisdom is at your fingertips!

Also, at the risk of sounding like your mother, eat your leftovers. Now is a great time to cut down on waste. Eat those leftovers before they become science experiments and you are on your way to waste not, want not.

Oh and stock up on pet food. Make sure you can feed all the mouths. Don’t take on another liability. Don’t take on new animals if you don’t have a plan for feeding them (says the lady with pregnant goats. T-minus 3 weeks to goat milk!)

Part 2 will be coming soon. Keep calm, prepare a little today and stay in touch.

Respect and the Stories We Tell

Laura, my relationship mentor, asked me what I thought made the biggest difference when I was transforming my marriage. I told her my biggest change was all the things I stopped doing. I still feel like that’s the case. Looking at the Six Intimacy Skills – two of them are centered around what you can go ahead and delete from your relationship and the other four are what you can focus on doing instead. So my effort to restore respect was about cleaning up my habits to show my husband that I admired him, supported him, respected his decisions and his opinions. After all, I wanted to build him up instead of tearing him down, like I had unintentionally been doing all along. Whoops! 

I just got off a wonderful coach call about the stories we tell ourselves about the people around us. At this stage in my life, I can really see how our perspectives can change not only how we feel about others, but also how they feel about themselves. Over the course of my relationship transformation, I’ve become much more conscious of my power as a wife as well as my responsibility to establish a norm of respect that flows in every direction of our relationship.

Claudio and I have been talking a lot about the historical relationships between husbands and wives. I am totally amazed by how so many details of how this institution looks has changed over thousands of years, but how there are so many constants that remain the same. A few weeks before we scheduled to be married, he told me that he was excited to be a husband. I was floored. What did that make me? A WIFE? Yuck. What does that even mean? I was interested in being a gender neutral, 50/50 partner. I was (and am) a progressive feminist and that meant I had absolutely no idea what being a wife actually meant. We had a fight that day that shook both of us and we both still remember it. Reflecting back, one of the greatest gifts that Laura has given me was opening the door to me understanding what was possible for me as a wife. I had imagined that wifedom included servitude, subservience, and turning straight into a doormat. I am happy to tell you that I was so incredibly wrong. Turns out my husband wants to serve ME (but that’s a lesson in receiving that I’ll save for another day.)

Before I could take my place as the queen of my own life, I had to restore respect in my marriage which meant doing all the things that I had done out of habit, but felt deeply justified in doing.

Things like:

  • Dismissing his ideas in favor of my own.
  • Trying to help him at every turn. 
  • Offering my dissenting opinion about every single thing.
  • Assigning him tasks.
  • Expressing my complaints when he didn’t complete said tasks.
  • Sometimes interpreting his help as a personal affront to my own capabilities and then other times interpreting his lack of help as being uncaring. 

I did these things because I thought that was how people acted. I thoroughly bought into the story that men are bad at most things; they are generally unsupportive and make us do all the work. They are usually immature, irresponsible, and useless. And my husband, because he wanted me to be happy, did his best to live up to my deplorable expectations. 

I desperately wanted him to be better, but I kept telling the story to myself and to him that he wasn’t helpful, he wasn’t supportive, and because of those things he didn’t love me. If he loved me, he would be different. I didn’t stop to ask myself, what would happen if I saw him as what I wanted him to be? Instead I bought into the story that every other wife and girlfriend I knew had told me about our fate as heterosexual women. 

Respect for men wasn’t popular in the circles I was running in. The thinking goes like this: Why should I do xyz for him? He doesn’t deserve it, he wouldn’t do that for me. How can I appreciate him for doing nothing? He needs to hear me complain! He should know better. Women are really good at agreeing on things as truth as if it came from the sky in a beam of light and then taking the corresponding steps deemed necessary and deserved. 

Have you ever been ostracised from a group of women? Take it from me, it’s rough to be on the receiving end of a woman’s scorn– been there. Women can do this because of our wonderful storytelling abilities and impeccable and unyielding follow through. The good news is that we can use our powers for good. We can build up our husbands, our children, our friends. We can be beautiful goddesses of fun and light that bring joy and happiness to the people that we love, we just have to change the story that we tell to ourselves, to others, and to the ones we love.

Once I found the skills I started asking new kinds of questions:

What if I started looking for his success in areas I wanted him to be stronger in? What if I started acknowledging it and thanking him? What if he needed me to just listen to him, support him, and love him? What if he just needed me in his corner and no one else? What if I alone had the power to lift him up and give him the confidence to be his best self and he could finally be the man he was meant to be?

I see him grow into his best self every single day now. I see him getting stronger, honing in on what he wants, making plans for us, building the life we want. He does that now– and in an act of radical self-control– I let him and I use my powers for good. 

I don’t question his judgment. I don’t interrupt him. I don’t help unless he asks for it. I listen to his ideas and I tell them how great I think they are. I never assign him tasks. Occasionally, I’ll ask for a favor, but I frame it in a respectful way and thank him for helping me out. I accept his help. I tell him he’s the best and I really believe it. I’m in his corner. And now, he’s in mine. He gives all those things back to me. He thanks me for everything that I do. He snuggles me and brings me gifts and works relentlessly on building a life for me and our children. How could such a useless guy do so much? Strange! Funny how that worked out.

So, what stories have you been telling?