Monday, March 14, 2016

Daylight Saving...


I made no secret that I hate Daylight Saving. If you like it, today is probably not the best time to tell me. Or tomorrow. Maybe not for two weeks. It would pretty much be a giant mistake even then. There is no saving or spending of light. You just agreed to go to work an hour earlier so you could come home an hour earlier. If you tell me you have "more light in the evening" I am likely to push you into the mud. Because you don't. You have the same amount. The only difference is that you finished work an hour earlier because you started an hour early. Sell crazy somewhere else, we are full up here.


But for the rest of you not crazy folks, I got something for you. If you managed to get up and start your day, you deserve a little more than a double shot in your Americano. You deserve a Daylight Saving Participation Ribbon. Did you manage to avoid committing acts of violence and treason despite extreme exhaustion? You are killing it, though not really. You know, because you didn't. Did you manage to leave the house fully dressed? Double high five for not being naked! Did you barely manage to haul your hide out of bed and hobble to the kitchen for coffee? Then today is all about you winning it.

So here is your Daylight Saving Participation Ribbon because you look like a winner to me. Treat yourself good today because you freaking deserve it.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Finding new strength...

I know I have been absent. I have been on Facebook and I hope that counts. It is just so fast and finding time for other things has been hard. The good news is that my book is now available for sale and will be shipping out now. I am pretty darn excited about it. In case you did not know, I spent the last year writing a book on the in's and out's and how's of Eastern Christian Fasting and it has an extensive, soy-free, busy family oriented recipe section. You can find out more HERE on the Ancient Faith Publishing website. I also am creating a new video podcast for Ancient Faith and I will be talking about fasting and feeding your family. I am always thinking about, reading about, and talking about food so this is pretty natural. Keeping the kidlets reasonably quiet might be something of a challenge but this is life and I am talking to real moms so, I think they will be pretty understanding. Then I also developed real food (and mostly gluten free and always soy free) menus, recipes, and shopping lists for a fantastic holistic Orthodox Lenten program called My Beautiful Lent. I also started teaching art one day at week at my kids' tiny country school where they are almost half the population. All good things but all a lot of work.

I was feeling super run down and in the beginning I thought it was just stress. I was working out this neat little blog post in my head. I was planning on telling you all about self care and I was even practicing some self care but then I realized I was not stressed. Well, I was, but it was not primarily that the stress was getting to me. I was getting sick. I had known that another family at the school had confirmed RSV but I was not terribly worried. We might have had the flu but I am thinking it was more likely the RSV since the school and church and pretty much all we do. My father had the old saying, "When you hear hoofbeats, think horses and not zebras." Since we knew people with RSV and they were the sick people that we knew, we probably have RSV. It was like being hit by a truck. A big ugly upper respiratory virus truck that hunted us each down and smacked into us in turn. I am pretty crunchy, having come by it honestly with a pretty crunchy mom. I did the usual tea with cinnamon and cloves and honey, the Oscillo (life changer, get a coupon HERE), and for the couple of kids who did vomit, ginger root tea. In the end, we needed to pull out the big guns and resort to things like Advil and Mucinex because, dang.


I remember when I first had children and I got sick. I would struggle through caring my kids while sick and I would think about how I thought it was hard to be sick by myself. When you have kids, you dig deep and find a new strength and just push through, You do it because you have to and even if you did not know that you could do it until that moment, you could. You did. I learned that there is an even greater depth I could find. We have large animals. This means that twice a day, we could scrape together all the kids who who were well enough to help a bit and assign someone to look after the little people and if there was anyone left, we would take them to go out and milk and haul water and feed the cows. With overnight lows in the negative digits and daytime highs in the low twenties, there is no water and there is no food. The cows have thick fur and as long as it is not windy, they enjoy getting out in the sun and air. Zeus, the steer, he even likes to go for a bit of a run and smash through snow drifts like children do. They they will eat a bit and drink a bit and then lay down next to each other and chew their cud. The cows need us. We have to make sure their water heaters are working and that their water is full and that they have they hay they need; not too much because they will play with it then not eat it. We needed to put fresh wood chips down in the barn stall to give them a nice dry place to sleep each night.  There was work to be done.


It is a funny thing. Sometimes we break, this is true, but sometimes we scrape by and that is a victory in itself. Just realizing that we found just enough strength to crawl just a bit further should not be a moment of doubt or even an opportunity for self-pity. I always thought I was doing a lot that I was doing pretty much all I could handle and then I did more. This was a very hard couple of months topped off with one of the worst weeks I have had since my father died. Pretty much the worst. But I am here. The kids are fed and the dishes are done and there is even some clean laundry and one load is even folded. It is on the table but, hey, I am counting it as a victory. This was a hard week and we are coming out the other side. I think we did good.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Severe Winter Weather Tips...

I am going to be honest here. I am not always understanding or sympathetic when people complain about or are concerned about severe winter weather. I am pretty sorry about that but, really, in my defense please take a look at the photos of the house where we live. The snow banks are taller than me. Because I see annual snowfalls of 28 feet or so, a foot or two seems pretty manageable. Because I see double digit negative highs, I honestly don’t worry about air temps in the teens or even single digits. It’s cold but it doesn’t seem that cold. I know, I am jaded.

I do know that because I live here year round, we have planned for these things and that makes all the difference. We have a block heater that insures that the tractor we use to clear snow can start when we wake up to -36F air temps (not windchill). We have three heating systems to account for a failure of either of the first two. There is cast iron wood burning cook stove that stands between us and cold canned beans with a side of icy death. We have outdoor clothes that enable us to go do barn chores outside in that weather. If it is not your regular experience, then you will not, and not having the right equipment means not being able to do the same things. That said, it has taught us a few things that might be helpful to you whatever your severe weather looks like and whatever your resources might be. Here are my top tips.

1. Get some electric candles. They are brighter than you think and the LED ones use very little electricity and unlike real candles, when your kids knock them over, they will not burn down your house. Keep them next to the beds, in the bathrooms, in hallways, and in each room. This is actually the set that I have and they are all over the house. Each kid has one that they can reach from their beds so that they can find their way through the house in an outage. A tree fell and knocked out our power on Christmas Eve and I was really, really glad for these. 

2. Get some Justin chargers. If our power is out for an extended period of time, we can charge   phones with them so that we have news and a means to contact the outside world. Our neighbors are pretty darn far, almost a mile, so this is a critical issue. Hand crank emergency radios are not expensive and are a good idea to keep around for emergencies. The one I linked to will also charge your phone.You will have access to news about the weather or other conditions and cranking it will help the kids work out some frustration. Or you. You might need to work out some negative energy!

3. If the power goes out, use painter’s masking tape to keep the fridge and freezer closed. Otherwise, you will open the repeatedly without thinking about it.The more people in the household, the more it will be opened. If it is below freezing, you can put things in the garage or on the porch that you will want access to later; things like milk and such. If it is very cold, like single digits or lower, put them in a cooler outside to keep them from getting too cold.

4. If you have a gas stove, you can light it using matches or a lighter which means you can still have stop top meals. If you have an electric stove, make sure you have a manual can opener and canned food options. Make sure that you have some protein and that it is not all canned pastas.

5. If the power goes out, open the cupboards under sinks and run the tap at a trickle to prevent frozen pipes. Shut the bedroom doors and put a towel under the door to keep the air from moving. This way, you can trap the heat into central locations and keep your family warmer. If you do not have a secondary heat source, you should find out who among your closest neighbors does, in case of an extended emergency. That said, even if your house gets down into the low fifties, you will not die. Bundle up, wear hats, and get out the blankets. It is going to be fine.

6. Do not, under any circumstances, use any un-vented heating source such as a camp stove or a BBQ indoors!!! The invisible fumes will kill your family faster than the colder temperatures will. It is not worth the risk. If it falls into the 40s, you should seek shelter elsewhere rather than risk gassing your family.
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7. Put together a collection of non-electric games, books, puzzles, crafts so you are ready for the long haul with no electronic distractions.

8. If you have a well, get two 3-galllon water jug with a dispenser for every family member so that you will have enough drinking water for nearly a week. You will also want to fill your bathtubs to the brim with water which you can use for washing and for flushing toilets. Then you have a water source if the power fails.

9. Stay calm. This is unusual but it is not unheard of. People cope with this other places and you can too, you just need to stay calm. Really. It will be okay.

10. I mean it. Stay calm. You’re going to be fine. I promise.

(The above links are Amazon referral links and while your purchase price remains the same, I would receive a referral fee. If you don't want to use them, that's okay, we are still friends. If you use them, super thank you!)

Monday, January 4, 2016

Resolutions for 2016...

New Year's resolutions are funny things. We come to the new year, take a good at the clean slate, and we start to think about the ways in which we want to fill it. Most of us will make resolutions that all look remarkably similar. Many of us will promise ourselves that we will lose weight, get fit, get organized, build up our savings, and things along those lines. Not only are they similar on the surface, but deep down the motivations are also very much the same and the way that we talk about them is also the same. When we talk about how we want to lose weight it is sometimes for reasons of health, for instance I know someone who was faced with the decision between knee replacement or a significant weight loss, but this is the exception and not the rule. We want to lose weight because we are disappointed in who we are. We think we are unacceptable as we are and we want to be someone else. We want to lose weight, get fit, get organized, do all of these things so that we will be less of who we have been and more like the fantasy of the thin, beautiful, wealthy, together kind of person that we want to be. In the end, we resolve to be less like ourselves and more like someone else.

It is not that I think that resolutions are bad things or that the things that we resolve to do are bad for us but that I think we need to be careful what we resolve to do and why we resolve to do it. Resolutions are slippery things and if we are not careful, what we actually do is resolve to hate ourselves even more with every year. What if we firstly resolve not to make the same self-destructive resolutions that we design to tear ourselves down more and instead decide that we want is to be more of what is good about ourselves. What if we make this the first year of self-affirming resolutions?

What good does it do me to make a resolution like "lose thirty pounds" if what I am doing is reinforcing the idea that as I am, I do not measure up?


I think that you and I are worth more than that. We are good enough right now. There is lots of good in each of us and I think a clean slate is the time to not only see it and recognize but then try to grow that good. If we foster our strengths, it only makes sense that we will push out the less desirable parts of ourselves. We should be at least be as kind to ourselves as we are to complete strangers. So my 2016 resolutions are all about that. This year I am making self affirming resolutions.

Firstly, I am resolving to get in the shot more with my family. I take a lot of photos of my kids but never any with them. To be honest, I have a fear and dread of the camera. I was a child model and I carry a lot of unrealistic baggage from that. I was picked over and discussed before jobs as if I were not even there. By my teens, I was not tall enough to keep modeling and it was the best thing that could have happened. I cannot imagine how destructive it would have been to be a vulnerable and fragile teen with people tearing me down all the time. I still have unresolved hurts almost thirty years later and eleven kids later so that now I can literally count the number of times I have been photographed since my wedding. I can even count it on my fingers. So this is the year of having a least one photo of me a week. I think I can handle that.

By the way, that above is my new publicity photo which I took here at the farm. I am literally standing in the doorway of the woodshed as a winter storm was blowing in. I have Photoshop, I could have thinned out my face and smoothed my skin to a Barbie doll perfection, but I didn't. I made a conscious decision to leave it and to not only delete the photo, but put it out there. Not easy for me but sometimes the things that are for our own good are very, very difficult.

Secondly, it has been years since I made time for myself. I used to do Pilates and I loved it. I loved that I was more flexible and that I felt more coordinated and that it was something I could do by myself. Life is noisy. I need that quiet, alone time, and it is hard to come by. This is the year of making sure I do it no less than once a week. More is better but I need a minimum otherwise I am going to skip it and a few weeks later, the habit is gone and I won't get it back. I am worth more than that.

Third and lastly, I am in a photography group and I am promising myself to do every single weekly challenge, especially the ones that I hate starting out. The only way that I will grow is to jump in and do it. When there is a skill that I do not know, I am going to learn it. I spent two weeks thinking that I could never get a specific shot that I was looking for because the settings were escaping me. I walked away from it and came back to it a month later. Guess what? I had a workable shot the whole time but because I was comparing myself to some other photographers (some who are clearly geniuses), I could not even see what I had. No. It is not amazing like some of the other submitted shots but is a solid shot. Only by being willing to go halves will I ever be able to do the distance. Now I have some new skills that I learned and I will carry those with me as I go forward. That is the shot below, by the way.



In end, blogging is an incredibly personal thing. I sit here, telling you everything that is running through my head, even though I have no idea who all of you are. I am laying open some wounds that I am loathe to think about, let alone discuss, and it is because in the end I think it is right thing to do. I could offer some fuzzy, vague recommendations to be kind to yourself, to make affirming resolutions, and you might think about. This way, is showing you my own in this crazy personal way that happens when blogging, you will likely really think about it. Maybe you will even do it.+

Monday, December 21, 2015

The two faces of Janus...

So far this winter has been pretty warm and we have not had much snow. It feels strange to be able to see the tall grass out in the fields. This is December and there is usually at least five solid feet on the ground at this time. Right now, it is a little less than two.We had more than twenty inches overnight from Thursday into Friday morning but it has settled a bit like it does.

That Friday morning drive to the bus was awful. I have to go seven miles to meet the bus at the highway and it was clear at two miles that I needed to go back home. It was still snowing fiercely and since it was a half past seven in the morning, it was at least an hour until sunrise. It was pitch black and the snow was at the maximum depth that I could get the van through. I was legit afraid that I would get stuck out there in the five mile stretch of woods with no cell service but there was no where to turn around. So, I got to a neighbor who had cleared enough that I could turn and I went back home. We stayed home and worked on ornaments for an exchange that we are doing and wrapped gifts. That was that.

It is nice to have more than a thin layer of snow on the ground. This place is something like the mythological God, Janus. There are two distinct faces to this place. In the summer is it this shocking verdant place where you literally see the ferns grow overnight. In the winter, you need to carry a snow shovel, cat litter, a blanket, and snow gear just in case you become stuck somewhere or are trapped in your car. It was looking a little too dirty, a little too shopworn and I am glad to have the snow. I know, it is a little crazy, but I am still glad.

Jack was really proud of this shot. I just
straightened it and lightened it a bit for him.

Best news! Today I go get the oldest boy from the airport! He is coming home from college for Christmas! We are ready. We have extra coffee and a freezer full of meat and a happy cow out in the snow. Now all we need is Christmas and all that milk, cream, butter, cheese, and meat! We made spiced apple cider this fall and canned it so we have plenty for hot buttered cider and I am aching to make eggnog. I have all kinds of things planned and it always come down to food. Everything here comes down to food. I am working on the menu today and I thought I would share it with you tomorrow!

What's on your menu?
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