Friday, July 30, 2010

"Do You Work?"

I think I've mentioned here, once or twice LOL, that I didn't get married until I was almost 29. Which may not seem that old to some people, but in the religion that I was raised in, it was extremely unusual. Especially since I spent 7 years (from the time I was 18 until I was 25) in Utah where there were plenty of eligible bachelors. Apparently, however, none that were a good match for me. I moved to Illinois at 25 and dated some, but still, I knew that I wasn't dating anybody that was any sort of contender.

And then I talked to Mr. Simple for the first time on August 19, 1994 and married him exactly one year later.

But from the time that I was 25 until 28, I was fairly certain that I was not going to get married. And I wasn't going to have kids. So I decided what I was going to do was go to school, get my degree in English, and become a technical writer in a Big City, and I was going to be a woman with a Career.

So I went to school, got a degree in English and became a technical writer in a Big City for a couple years.

And then I decided to come back to school and get a masters degree in English and then work for 5-7 more years, and then go back to school and get a PhD and become an English professor. That would suit me more than 30 year career working in a Big City.

I thought since the undergraduate plan worked out so well, surely my next plan would work.

It didn't. I didn't enjoy the master's program in English and dropped out after a year. And I got married after a year of school too.

But I could still be a technical writer in a Big City. I could still have a Career.

And so I did. I went back to my previous job in the Big City. I worked for a couple more years. I should be happy.

But of course, I wasn't.

We decided to move back to a smaller city, but not too small. And I was starting to think that maybe, just maybe, I would like to have a baby. I could still work. I might not be able to have that Big City Career but I could have a Regular City Career, even with a baby.

I got pregnant with Flower in December 1998 and I was offered a job as a trainer at a University in another city in March 1999. I had never done training before, but I liked the idea of it. So we moved again. Flower was born in September 1999.

I took 14 weeks off after she was born, but I had to get back to work after that. I had to do some traveling when she was 4 months old. I still remember trying to find someplace to pump without having to tell the entire group what I was doing. But I enjoyed my job (well, not the searching for a place to pump in a Quad Cities hotel, but you know what I mean) and it didn't matter much anyway because we needed the money, so I kept working.

But now, I knew I also enjoyed being a mother, and I wanted to have another baby. After a number of months of trying, I got pregnant again with Jelly Bean. My pregnancy was tough with her. I spent 1/2 of her pregnancy on bedrest - either at home or at the hospital. I worked from home for most of that bedrest. It wasn't too bad. It gave me something to do besides stare at the walls. Jelly Bean was born in December 2001 and I spent another 14 weeks on maternity leave. When I went back, my excitement for working had gone down. A lot. So I started talking to Mr. Simple. We made a 5 year plan for me to stop working. (What??? What about my Career?) So we made the Plan. I'd stop working in 5 years, and I'd stay home until they went to junior high.

And then, just a few mere months after we made the Plan, I found myself in my boss' office saying "I need to go down to part time." I hadn't talked to Mr. Simple about this discussion. I hadn't even known I was going to do it until about 3 minutes before I walked in. My boss said "I will fix things for you. We would rather have you part time than not at all." And he fixed it. I was home in the mornings and worked in the afternoon. I could do this. It was wonderful, mostly. The downside was that I realized how much I really did enjoy being with my then 3 year old and 1 year old and it made me long for spending all my time with them, but the upside was that I was making very good money for part time work.

And then, very suddenly, it was over. In September 2003, I was one of hundreds of part-time university employees that were laid off due to "budget cuts."

So much for The Plan. Or was it? I'd take a couple months and then I'd go back to work. I'd probably have to go back to work full-time instead. So I started teaching preschool to keep myself busy and bring a little money in, and I started looking for a full-time job. I really looked that first year. Nothing. Preschool got bigger, so I took a couple years off. And I had another baby. Then I started looking again. I got some interviews, but no offers.

At the beginning, I was secretly thrilled - I wasn't thrilled about the loss of money, but I was a SAHM now, years ahead of The Plan. I would make the most of this. We would have great times together, and it would be happy all the time, and we would go to all sorts of fun things that only SAHMs got to take their kids too - playgroup, storytime, spray parks, etc.

We did do those things. It was great. At first. And then, my kids weren't as behaved as I thought they would be if I was home all the time. And Preschool, while I enjoyed it most of the time, was still something that took up quite a bit of my time, and it prevented me from doing some of the things that I wanted to do instead. And then, there was the Big Problem, of course. Money.

When I was working, we didn't have tons of extra, but we had extra. Ever since I was laid off, there has been no extra. Some months, especially the year before I started doing daycare, it wasn't like there wasn't any extra, there just wasn't enough. With the stress of teaching, my feeling of inadequacy as a mother, and the money, I figured that it would just be better to get a job.

Yet, every time that I've tried, everything that I've tried, has never worked, in terms of me getting a full-time job. I even got a masters degree in Training. Surely that would help me get a job. It didn't. And things kept happening in my life, mostly other trials, while I was trying to go back to work. So to distract myself, I started reading Laura Ingalls Wilder's cookbook and surprisingly found myself wanting to cook like that instead of opening a box of mac and cheese. I found myself getting excited about yarn and canning jars. And seeds. I hadn't been this excited about anything since I decided I was going to have The Career in the Big City. And I found myself trying to not have those perfect, happy, children, but to be a mother instead that made my children realize that I loved them. A mother that would just do simple, easy things. We would just be together. And when it was best for my children, a mother that would homeschool them. I would make the most of the time that I had with them, and I wouldn't look at my home as just a place where I ended up. I'd enjoy homemaking skills. I'd enjoy my home.

Now, don't get me wrong, all of my problems are not all solved. Money, while better, is still an issue. My children's behavior could still be better. I could be more self-sufficient. I could waste less time on non-important things.

I've been a work outside home woman (I worked full-time as a police dispatcher when I was in my early 20s too) and I've been a work outside home mom. At first I thought that it was great, and then I wanted to be home. And then I was home and at first, I thought it was great, and then I wanted to be back at work.

And other women? I've stopped wishing that I was on the other side of the fence. Either side. Because I've been on both sides. Neither is Great or Horrible.

I'm also trying to appreciate the good and bad of where I am today. Today I'm at home, but doing preschool/daycare. There's good and bad in my situation, and that's o.k. Tomorrow, I may be somewhere else. And there will be good and bad in that situation too, and that's o.k.

I'm learning, finally, that there usually is good and bad in all situations. And that it is o.k.

Busy, Busy

I've finally got motivated to get started on my "book." It will be a book about Simple Self-Sufficiency (shocker, I know) and so I've been reading, and reading and reading and deciding on the format, etc.

I've also been making dried herbs (from my herb garden) - this year, I've got parsley, basil and oregano. I love making my own. I am probably just kidding myself, but I swear the homemade tastes better.

And I canned some bread and butter pickles last night as well as started making tomato pulp in preparation for making tomato sauce. I run the tomatoes through a food strainer as I pick them, put them in freezer bags until the end of the season, then defrost them, boil them down, and can them. Making the sauce is a couple days of hard work, but it keeps most of the other stuff spread out and manageable.

The girls finished up a great season of Swim Team, and Super finishes his last T-Ball game tonight. The Library Program ended last week.

I'm sad that there is only one month of summer left, but August should be much less busy (well, except for all that gardening LOL)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Food Storage Series: Rolled Oats

Oats are an excellent source of protein, vitamins, and minerals such as iron and calcium. Both old-fashioned and quick oats have the same nutritional benefits: no preservatives, artificial ingredients, salt or sugar.

Before oats are hulled, they are dried and toasted. Drying keeps them fresh-tasting longer and toasting gives them a nutty flavor. A few oats get over toasted and darken during the process. Next, the hulls are removed, leaving the oat groat. The groats are left whole for old-fashioned or cut into smaller pieces for quick oats. Instant oatmeal is cut into even smaller pieces and processed so no cooking is needed - just boiling water. The groats are steamed to soften, then rolled or "flaked" into desired thickness. The oats are then cooled and screened for consistent quality.

A flavorful breakfast cereal, they are also a popular addition to cookies, meatloaf, and other foods. Sore at room temperature or below.

Recipes using rolled oats are posted on my recipe blog - My Recipes and Menus.

NOTE: My Recipes and Menus is up to date! I have recipes up for all the things covered so far in the Food Storage Series (Wheat, Whole Wheat Flour, White Flour, Rice, and Rolled Oats.) Come check it out!!!!!! I will also be posting some canning recipes soon (strawberry jam, pickles, spaghetti sauce) as well as my seasonal recipes as I get to them.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Lacto-Fermentation: What is that again?

I'll admit that I didn't really know what this meant until recently. But it is a way of preserving food that was used before modern canning methods came along.

Sally Fallon, author of Nourishing Traditions (a book I don't have but want), feels that we should return to eating more food that is preserved in this way because of the health benefits.

Here is a link to a blog that talks more about Lacto-Fermentation, along with some recipes.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

It goes so fast . . .

My oldest, Flower, is 10. She will be 11 in September.

She loves to play with her American Girl dolls. She loves to do art. She loves to make "plays." She loves to play on the playset, ride bikes, swim. She loves to read.

In a lot of ways, she acts "younger" than some of her peers. (Which is just fine with me, by the way.)

But in other ways, I see the "older" her peeking out. She asks big questions about big subjects. She wants to spend less time with the younger kids. She worries about things that little kids don't.

I am trying to look at her growing up as part of life - her life, my life, just life.

But I just don't feel prepared. I remember being 11, 12, 13.

And I also remember when she was a baby. It feels like it was just a couple years ago. It doesn't help that she was the child that I didn't appreciate her babyhood either. For me, I was always looking towards the next milestone instead of savoring them.

And as difficult as it was to deal with nursing problems, potty training problems, playground problems, I just feel more equipped to handle those kind of problems.

And now that those problems are gone, I find myself almost wanting those times back. I don't want to deal with girlfriend problems, boyfriend problems, not wanting to talk to your mother problems.

We were on vacation a couple of weeks ago and she was swimming in the lake with her sister and brother. And I sat there wondering if this summer was going to be the last one like this. The last one that she would just go on vacation and play with her siblings. Next year, it may not be as "cool." And the year after that, she will have church girls camp for a week in June. And just more and more things that will keep her busy as the years go by.

I'm babbling, for sure. There is no little quip that is going to wrap this blog post.

And I've got to go anyway. She has set the table for lunch . . . .

Monday, July 12, 2010

Whose Life Will You Touch??

Over the weekend, I was reading the book The Lovely Bones. (Yes, I'm aware that it came out 8 years ago. When you buy your books at the thrift store and garage sales, you don't always get the most current stuff.)

Anyway, the story is about a 14 year old girl who is murdered and then watches (and narrates) from heaven about how how her family and friends' lives continue to go on and how they were affected by her death.

And while it was interesting to hear how her parents relationship was affected (and her siblings to a lesser degree), the more interesting part of the book, to me, was reading about how her death affected the boy that she had a crush on and had kissed just a few days before her death. Or the girl that she didn't know well that was in her class at school. Or the police officer that handled her case.

And so then I got thinking about the people that have impacted my life.

There was, of course, The Boy. I met him when I was 13, almost 14. (I can't believe that I have a child of my own that is almost this age, but I digress.) We were playing softball. I enjoy sports, but honestly, I'm not that good at most of them. Especially anything that involves hitting a ball. Or a team. But today, today, I was having a good day. And since it was the first time I met The Boy, he didn't know that it was a Fluke Day. He was on the other team. He was playing shortstop and anytime that I could, I would sneak a glance over at him. And all of sudden, I realized that I liked him. I'd never liked a boy before now, and now I was 100% head over heels.

And that is part of the whole story of The Boy - that I liked him, and he was cute, and he liked me, etc. But it isn't the whole story. It would have been enough to probably remember him with fondness as the first boy, but he was able to affect me much more than on a hormonal level. He was Kind, so Kind. And Funny. And helped me see that the part of my life that seemed so dramatic, really didn't have to be. He showed me that it was possible to be everybody's friend without having to sacrifice being myself. Now, he showed me all of this, but I still couldn't always DO it. But at least I knew that it was possible. He gave me hope and a safe place to be when I really needed it.

And then, when I was coming out of all of that, he died.

I could tell you about how I cried for two years. Or how I spent the first year either trying to be perfect so that if I died, I would be able to be with him, or just doing nothing but laying on my bed, just wishing I would die.

And that, of course, is part of the story too. But the other part of the story is that now, 25 years later, I am still affected by The Boy. I don't cry every day anymore. But I'm often reminded of his kindness and I try to remember to be kind to others. I remember how funny he was, and I try to remember help others see the humor in life. I remember how he always stayed true to himself and I try and do that too. And I also know that I was able to get through his death. I was able to go on. I was able to finish degrees, I was able to be a wife, a mother. And I was able to go on when there were other moments when I just wanted to lie on the bed and wait to die myself.

And there have been others, so many others. There were two Youth church leaders that were there for me during those years that were always there to talk when I needed a grown-up to talk to. There was the man (I don't even know his name) who talked to me when I was ready to just leave school and camp in Yellowstone Park for the rest of my life, who helped me see that running away wouldn't solve any of my problems. There was the friend who when I was in a deep, dark place, just held me. There was the professor who convinced me that I was a good writer and that I would make it at that first big job in downtown Chicago.

And there was the woman who came to see me, just days after Christopher died. I knew her, but not well. She was more friends with my parents. But she said that she felt drawn to come see me. She brought me a plant and a card. And then she said "Tell me about your son." And I told her. Two days later, she fell asleep at the wheel, crashed her car, and died.

There have been others beyond these people here. And of course, my family and friends have touched me too. But I wonder when the day comes that I die, will there be lives that I touched too? Not just my friends and family, but those less obvious ones? Because I don't know what I would have done without these people who touched my life, and yet I'm fairly certain that not one of them have any idea of their impact.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Garden Update - Early July

Two rows of green beans - I harvested a bunch of beans last Friday. Hopefully the first of several.

Third row of beans that was planted three weeks ago - washed out. Not even one seed was able to hold on and grow. I'm debating about replanting the row now.

30 tomato plants - all caged, and I've got several tomatoes that are starting to turn red. I don't know if I'm excited or scared, because I'm going to have hundreds of tomatoes that all turn red at the same time soon. Keeping up is going to be a real challenge.

8 broccoli plants - basically done. The broccoli was YUMMY. It was all eaten raw, mostly by me, on salads.

Three cucumber plants - I'm not sure what happened to two of the plants, but I do have one cucumber plant that is growing vines and starting to flower.

One zucchini - Growing slowly but consistently. Flowering, but no signs of squash yet.

6 sweet potato plants - No idea. I don't know if they were mistakenly pulled by the kids when they were weeding, or if they just died, or if they were eaten, but I don't have any left.

15 corn stalks - About waist high. I'm not sure if they are actually going to grow corn. Some of the stalks are at least a foot away from each other, and I'm not sure if they will manage to pollinate.

3 eggplants - They look o.k., but they don't appear to have grown much, and they've been in the ground for at least 2-3 weeks.

3 pepper plants - I'm not sure. They look pretty green, but I've only seen a few flowers, and no signs of actual peppers.

So far, it appears that I'll have some beans, and plenty of tomatoes. Everything else is a maybe right now.

I do plan on planting some spinach, lettuce and peas for a fall crop next month.