May 16, 2015

No Man is an Island



At the girls' camp I attended through my jr. high and high school years, we had a tradition that still brings feelings of reverence and a bit of longing when I think of it. We would have campfire every night where all the girls from all over our stake (the regional LDS congregation we belonged to) would gather to laugh and play games and share skits and read "mail" from outside (we had to sing for it) and sometimes end up duct-taped to tree trunks because we snuck into others' campgrounds.... it was great. Everybody loved campfire. You sat with your "Unit" (groups created by the stake girls' camp leader... most often many girls that you didn't know very well before camp started,) and your leader, like a little family, cozy in blankets by the campfire, and laughed a lot, and sang really loud.

Then at the end of campfire, before we were doled out some delicious dessert prepared by a genuis kitchen staff and walked back to our campsites, we stood around and sang "no man is an island." It was a quiet, reverent moment in the middle of boisterous fun and ruckuss:

No Man is an Island.
No man stands alone.
Each man's joy is joy to me,
each man's strength is my own.
We need one another, so I will defend
each man as my brother, each man as my friend.


The words struck me then as powerful and important, and they still strike me that way.

We are not meant to work out our salvation alone. Heavenly Father did not create us that way.

Even if you don't believe in God or a higher power, you have to see, I think, how people can't become, alone, the best self they can be. A person can't reach the highest echelons of their potential without people around them to refine them.

I have been pondering, lately, the refining process. How we become better, and stronger, more patient, more resilient, more capable. I've been thinking a lot about how God has been involved in this process. I feel like, throughout my life, He has carefully and gently brought to my attention, when I am ready, things that I need to change about my behavior, about my environment, about my patterns of thoughts. He is gentle with me because he knows that, once I discover something about myself that needs changing (particularly if it is hurting others) I really struggle with myself as a person until I can change that thing.

My childhood was like a refiner's fire. I felt constantly awkward, constantly frightened, constantly blindsided by how my imperfect (whether because of my clumsiness, or my lack of awareness, or my inability to expression myself properly) actions affected others. I felt a bit like a loose cannon--someone who ran around making others unhappy by accident, who was inherently offensive just by nature, because I seemed to make people sad or uncomfortable a lot when I was trying to be kind and friendly or just trying to follow the rules, etc. It got so that I was afraid to even look people in the face. I remember, after avoiding eye contact in the hallways of my high school one day, realizing that even though my intention was simply to escape notice/be neutral/not make an a** of myself and make someone else upset or uncomfortable, I was *still* making people sad, baffling some who expected a smile from me or at least some small acknowledgement. I remember seeing (out of the corner of my eye) smiles start up, then disappear as I passed by them.

I made a goal then. I was going to try to smile at those who I knew, when I passed them in the hall. No matter how painful it was, no matter how awkward I felt, I needed to smile at people I knew so that they knew, at least, I wasn't mad at them or something. That I liked them.

I tried it. I remember, heart beating wildly in my chest, forcing smiles as I passed the girl who sat next to me in math class, as I passed the people I knew on the ski team (though some of those guys could be real punks, and didn't return any smiles... oh well.) And I remember being completely startled when....

they smiled back at me.

It was inconceivable. I had fully expected a 90% rejection rate at least, but plowed ahead knowing it was more important that people I knew, knew I appreciated them. And instead I got, like, a 90% smile-back rate.

I learned a profound lesson by smiling at people in the hallway in high school, and that is, that we are all fighting our own battles. Quite often we are all stuck deep in our own troubles, our own emotional whirlwinds, and if someone looked upset, it most likely was not because of me. And it takes only a small, friendly gesture to help someone kind of break out of whatever dark emotional place they're in to return a gesture in kind, which then gives you a little bit of hope... etc.

I still struggle to smile at people. Just FYI. It's a battle I'm still fighting. Particularly in situations where my "blundering" feelings come into play. Where I feel like a great big oaf, stepping in other peoples' happiness and well being, when get back into that mental state of "I should just go live in a cave somewhere that I can't hurt other people. The world would be happier."

But the words of that song.

The world wouldn't be happier. What if everybody went to live in their own caves and nobody ever interacted with each other or reached out to each other because they were all like me... worried about blundering, about hurting others, about making mistakes? We'd all be pretty lonely. And, to be honest, we'd all grow pretty self-centered.

I've realized that one of the answers to this problem (and I work through this when I am capable... there are some situations where the weight of negative thoughts and emotions and fears is still pretty heavy, and I find my face turns down in a slight frown automatically when I'm not being vigilant, and to be honest, sometimes I still end up in dark places where I don't care enough to try to be vigilant)is to not focus on what's inside of you, on what mistakes you might be making, and think instead of everyone around you, what their needs might be, how you can make their life better.

I think a lot of us are a lot less forgiving of ourselves than we are others. I will rehash conversations in my head, emails I've sent, text messages I've sent, meetings I've gone to... any form of interaction I have with those around me, and obsess about whether I came across the way I meant to, whether I've accidentally offended someone, whether I made someone's burden heavier by accident, whether I've made people uncomfortable, upset, etc, and inevitably that sort of cycle of thinking will produce evidence to verify fears whether valid or not, and I come away feeling like a terrible person, like I just should not reach out to people at all, I do too much harm to those around me.

I've realized, though, as I try hard to work myself out of this damaging thought pattern, that even if I did accidentally say the wrong thing, or give an awkward hug that someone really didn't want, or in a meeting come across a little stronger than I meant to.... how do I feel when people around me do these things?

I actually don't mind so much. And I appreciate their effort. If I don't really want a hug and someone offers one, I don't mind a two-second awkward hug. It's the thought that counts. If someone stumbles over their words when talking to me, I don't leave the conversation thinking how offensive or embarrassing the person is. I kind of appreciate them more, actually, because I realize that, in that moment, they were being real. Being vulnerable. Trying to reach out. And I understand, fully, what an effort that is... and it overwhelms me with gratitude that someone would care enough to make any sort of effort. In a meeting, when someone is visibly perturbed and trying to work something out, I don't resent them or think poorly of them, I sympathise because I have been there, and I respect them for caring so much about what they do.

I need to apply that level of forgiveness and tolerance to myself as well.

I've realized that thinking of what others might be thinking or feeling can either be a damaging process or a redeeming process, and the key is the focus... am I thinking of what others might be thinking or feeling about me? Thoughts stemming from that sort of self-focus are almost always damaging.

Or are my thoughts born of concern for those around me, wanting to make people happier, make their burdens lighter, noticing needs and pondering ways I might or might not be able to help? Thoughts stemming from that sort of others-focus are almost always freeing, if I can manage to believe myself capable of helping. I have to talk myself into trying. I remind myself that, for someone who is struggling, having no effort at all from those around them, nobody reaching out to them, is far more damaging than blundering, goodhearted efforts that show that people around them actually do care.

When I apply this concept, No Man is an Island, closer to home and think of the refining process that occurs between husband and wife (we become better because we love each other so much, we want to be better people so we can be better spouses) and between parent and child (we love our children so much and are so concerned for their well being that we become more patient, more longsuffering, more willing to deal with inconvenience and sleep deprivation, etc, and start finding hard-to-swallow duties actually becoming sweet), and in church callings (we step out of our bubble and our self-isolation, even if we're terrified of blundering, to teach passionately and offer service and cultivate friendships because we care about the people we have stewardship over and those we work with and we realize that *we* are the ones that have to do it, we were put in that position, so it has to be us)....

We realize that God (or, the universe, our biology) didn't create us as creatures of isolation. We cannot grow and adapt and become what we're meant to be, alone. And if we isolate ourselves, if we aren't willing to blunder, we never get refined. Everybody blunders a bit when they're learning something.

There are a few people out there who will make fun of you for your blunders, who will gossip about you, who seem take pleasure in making fun of the awkwardness of those around them and gather people into tight-knit, usually mutually emotionally abusive groups called "cliques".

Those people are hurting. What kind of emotional pain must someone be in to have such a giant defensive wall around them, to have to gather people as weapons to defend them? I think that often what we find most distasteful in others is actually what we dislike about ourselves. These people also deserve smiles. They also deserve patience. They need help. They might snicker after you walk by, but the smile couldn't have failed to warm their heart, just a little. I have to believe that. I haven't gotten good at that yet, to be honest. I bet many of you reading this are much better at that.

No man is an island. That's not just a concept meant to motivate, it's also a reality--spiritually, biologically, we can't help but be affected by the emotions and efforts (good or ill-willed) of those around us. That's how we were created--to be affected and refined by each other.

)

May 11, 2015

Steady in Your Goals



I made a goal, on this blog, one year ago this last January. If you don't count rewrites, I accomplished that goal by November. If you do, I completed it today. I wrote, rewrote, and polished two novels. One Epic Fantasy and one LDS Contemporary.

I'm going to just come out and say it... Fantasy is grueling to write. Grueling, and perhaps more wonderful than anything else. The LDS contemporary came so much easier and quicker and the rewrites were not nearly so extensive. Of course, it was also about half as long. The grand total: about 290,000 words in eleven months, and then polishing and rewriting in another five.

Man. What a trip it's been :) Two thousand words take me about two and a half hours to write each day. I think it's important and worth it and all that, but I'll feel better about it when it starts giving back to my family. That's where I'm at right now, but I'm not hanging my writing on it. I'm a writer, period. I keep writing. Right now, I have three polished (I believe, wonderful) as-yet-unpublished manuscripts. One of them (LDS historical fiction) failed to find a publisher. I'm setting it on the back burner for now. These two will be in the process of submission for quite a while... several months, even if I get a quick "yes" on my LDS contemporary novel from somebody. And it's possible that both of these will not find publishers as well. They're both kind of outside-the-box. Epic fantasy is hard to sell when you don't have big sales to back up the fact you can sell books. And the LDS novel isn't your typical romance-or-inspirational-fiction... it's kind of complicated.

But right now I can say, these are good books. ANd I know that some day people will read and enjoy them. In the meantime? I try the next idea. I've got quite a few ideas to try. I'll try them all, one after another, and become more and more accomplished at writing, and somebody will want something sometime. The odds of being picked up get better the more you have to offer. It becomes increasingly likely that someone will want something of yours if you continue to produce a variety of quality products.

(I don't like to think of my books as products. That's my marketing brain kicking in. As a writer, though, I have to think like that if I'm ever going to sell anything to anyone.)

I guess, to sum up: goal accomplished. I feel wonderful. In a way, even more wonderful because I've kept going with little encouragement from those I'm selling my books to. That means I'm a writer. That I do it for the creativity, for the love of storytelling.... not for the audience and (ha!) certainly not for the money.

I think that the best way to be lucky, if you need luck, is to keep steady in your goals. To keep working hard. The longer you work hard, the more you do, the more likely it is that someone will notice and appreciate your hard work and decide you're worth taking a chance on.


This week I will be writing summaries, chapter outlines, and query letters. And then I will be submitting, everywhere. Faith is the other part of it. You work hard, and you have faith in yourself, and you put yourself out there.

Apr 13, 2015

The Long and Winding Road of Today's Writing Career



I finally got my epic fantasy in final draft form, and I feel wonderful about it.

I have been writing that story since I was fifteen years old. I've written about 4 different full manuscripts of it. This particular version makes me very proud, and I'm resting on it. It is such a good feeling to get this project out of my head and into peoples' hands. Beta readers have come back with overwhelmingly positive feedback already, too. And all I can do other than that is

Submit. Submit. Submit.

My goal right now for this project is to do one submission per day. I end up doing about 2 per week instead. Stuff happens.

I'm currently working on another project that I have already finished multiple times. A story about emotional healing, romance and the Monarch Butterfly migration. I love it. This second version has lots of drastic changes--I changed the gender of my main character, for instance, and the entire setup changes as well. It's pretty funny. Going back to it with a fresh perspective after taming the behemoth of the epic fantasy, I'm chuckling a lot and pretty happy with it.

I'm a good writer. I believe I can accept that as truth now, without being accused of undue pride or whatever. I'm not a perfect writer, and I definitely need a lot of refining process to get my books in shape, but I think I write stories people like. It's nice, and important, to know that.

In the end, no matter who wants or doesn't want my stories, I guess the point is, I'm a writer anyway. I write because I love it.

After I get Butterfly Years off my plate, I'm going to go ahead and start a new project. Something sweet and fanciful and funny and fun and shorter and less epic than my other projects. Something more marketable. I figure another thing I can do to sell my epic fantasy is, sell something marketable first. So..... on to that facet of trying to accomplish my goals. In the meantime, keep submitting the epic fantasy, and hopefully find an LDS publisher for the LDS contemporary.

I read somewhere that writers nowadays can expect their writing careers to take several unexpected turns, and to have to "start over" several times. I'm experiencing that. I've published two novels and won the Whitney award, and now here I am with nearly three finished manuscripts, and unsure if I have a place for them.
I think that patience is a big huge piece of the process. Patience and diligence and continued work on honing craft, trying new ideas, and putting yourself out there. It feels exhausting at times, but everything in my life is exhausting so that's not really anything new :) the nice thing is, just about everything in my life is also incredibly fulfilling.

Apr 6, 2015

The earth's elliptical rotation (hint: it does not revolve around you)



This is a weird title for this post. It's something symbolic, though, for me. I used to think the earth turned a perfect circle around the sun, and when I realized the orbit was in fact more elongated, it was hard for me to conceptualize. I like things orderly. I like things to come out even. Eliptical just seemed disappointing.

It was even more disappointing to find out that the earth isn't perfectly round; is in fact, slightly pear-shaped. Did you know that? Is your mind bending just a bit?

This weekend was my church's big bi-yearly meeting. Every six months, at the beginning of October and the beginning of April, we meet for two days to hear our leaders speak. We spend a total of ten hours or so if you count the sessions for the women of the church and the priesthood meetings. I love these meetings. I feel a lot of peace--perhaps more than I feel at any other time. I also, suddenly, seem to find perspective, which is hard for me, sometimes--I am often very stuck in the moment and stressed. Being able to see and feel a more long-term, gestalt perspective of my life, of why I'm doing what I'm doing, being reminded of how much I love what I believe to be true and how much I appreciate and am grateful for all I've been given, is so refreshing and important. I wish they had general conference every three months instead of every six.

I used to be a part of an online community that took in LDS people from many different perspectives, mostly the off-beat among us Mormons. Radical feminists, disaffected members who still wanted to be part of an LDS-cutlure-based-community, members struggling with feeling sidelined because of things that had happened to them like divorce, or same-gender attraction, or infertility or whatever else gave us a need to go someplace to feel included. For a while I felt like Mormon Culture did not know what to do with me, a divorced 22 year old woman with a child. I went there to feel like I wasn't alone.

I loved being a part of this community for a short while, but I quickly realized that this community had its own standards of inclusion and non-inclusion. They were talking, one day (sorry, this is a bit gritty but it's my example) about female genital mutilation in Africa (a terrible thing, which I have read and thought a lot about because I knew I'd be adopting girls from Ethiopia. BTW my girls are fine.) Anyway, I brought up male circumcision. Jeffrey and I have had a lot of discussions about this, and we read a lot of information on both sides of the issue, and I wanted to discuss how our cultural expectations/norms also brought us up against something similar. In other countries, you see, they don't do it. But we do. Why?

I was pretty much kicked out of the discussion. Angrily sent on my way, in fact. I tried again a few times, and found that the same thing happened... kicked out, ignored, mocked even. It was strange, to me. If LDS culture has been so hurtful and non-inclusive to this particular collection of people, why the heck, after feeling all of that, experiencing it firsthand, would they turn around and do the same to others?

I had kind of an epiphany yesterday as I was watching Elder Packer talk. For those of you not familiar with Mormon stuff, Elder Packer is the most senior of the LDS apostles. He often speaks on the topic of difficult moral questions--pornography, marriage, etc... all the hot button issues. And he does it unapologetically. So he gets some flack.

Lately he has been very ill. In this last conference, I couldn't understand what he was saying. He was tired. He was struggling. I felt a great deal of love for him... the man's personality might not be mine, or mesh well with mine, but what he has to say has a great deal of merit. I remember one conference a couple of years ago, a talk of his that just struck me as powerful. It raised the hairs on the back of my neck. I may not understand him well as a person but he has valuable things to say.

Anyway, just out of curiosity, because I'm like that, I went over and peeked at this website I've stopped following. They often take conference talks and dissect them, discuss why they disagree, etc. Often, Elder Packer has been the butt of a lot of angst on this site. But seeing him struggle, with so much courage and humility, to deliver his conference address, nobody could possibly make fun of him, right? Because we're kind people. Even if we don't agree with the man, we're decent human beings.

Well, I shouldn't have looked. The thread on his talk was all about his garbled speech, making fun of him for a word people had mis-heard, talking about how they're ready to take offense because of all else he's said, etc. It made me pretty sad and pretty angry.

I shouldn't bother myself with this stuff. I know that. But this, for me, speaks to an overarching theme that disturbs me a lot. I see examples of it everywhere.

People think they're the center of the universe.

I've been thinking lately, about leadership and why it's hard. I was given a calling in my church a couple years ago (still plugging away) that involved an element of leadership. I got to know my bishop pretty well, and he'd talk to me about the struggle of being a leader and also being a principal. Jeff and I have been watching some star trek. You won't believe me but, if you want a good treatise on leadership and what it means, go watch a few episodes of Patrick Stewart in the role of Jean Luc Picard. I've learned a whole lot about being Young Women President from Jean Luc Picard. I don't think anyone ever thought that sentence would exist.

I've had a lot to chew on, thinking about leadership and what the job really is. Do you know what it is?

Making people upset.

Ok. Not on purpose. A leader shouldn't go out of their way to offend, to sideline, or to disagree with those who serve with them. But the thing is, the hardest part of leadership... the part of it that is the front-line, the part nobody else can take on no matter how much you delegate, is that very thing: having to make decisions based on careful consideration of all information, all opinions, all situations brought to your attention. I've learned that you have to expect that whatever decision you make will make a few people unhappy. Because that is just how it works--a collection of people with all different ideas of how something should, or could, or ought to or it would be nice!, to have it done this way, is just not going to agree. And so that's what a leader is for. To listen to everything and then make a decision. And then, the way it's supposed to work is, everyone accepts that decision and works together to bring about the common goal.

Of course, in order for that to work, all the people have to trust that their voices were heard, and that the leader is capable of making wise choices. That's the other ucky part about being a leader... you have a sort of obligation to try to get people to trust you. It's not about being liked, it's about giving whatever group you're trying to bring together confidence in your ability to make the choice that's best for the whole.

And generally speaking, it works out ok. There are a few who aren't all that glad, but they come along and work good-naturedly alongside everybody else and then the next time, it'll be their idea that gets put into practice. It balances. It comes around again. Everybody gets heard and eventually, everybody's ideas will be implemented and everybody's causes given attention. In an organization like the LDS Church, we fully expect that everybody who is there is there for a reason, and God will inspire each individual with something important to the whole.

The problem is, this doesn't always work. Do you know why?

Because there are some people who really struggle to see another's perspective. Their ideas are more important than others' ideas. Their cause is the most important cause. Their perspective is the only perspective.

It's like some people really struggle to see the universe as anything but revolving around them. THey see through their eyes, and feel with their feelings, and see the world around them as being only that way--the way they see it. They struggle to notice or give importance to anything but their feelings, their needs. And that even goes so far as spiritual feelings. One leader will have their heart touched, hard, by a certain issue or a certain individual they have stewardship over. Another person will have another set of needs and ideas come into their heart. A good leader will make sure each issue and each need and each individual is eventually addressed, but as there is only so much time and only so many resources, unfortunately all can't be addressed at once. Some understand this, and others see it as their ideas and promptings going ignored or being pushed aside as unimportant, no matter how you reassure them their issue is important to you as a leader.

In the case of General Conference, there are people out there who are hurting. I'm one of them. I really struggle with priesthood authority, with the issues of single parents, pornography addictions, and children in need. So when those issues come up my heart is extra-sensitive. THere have been times when the speaker went the direction that didn't necessarily nurture and help me, and if I wanted to, I could take offense and become angry and feel unlistened-to and hurt. Or.

The OR is this: Or I could realize that the Mormon faith is made up of many, many individuals with different and sometimes contrasting pains, hurts, and needs. I need to remember: the leaders of my church lead everybody. Not just me. The issues they address are everybody's. NOt just mine. A woman struggling with years of infertility might feel a lot of heartache over a talk about motherhood. But another woman, struggling with severe postpartum depression and feelings of inadequacy, needs that talk.

A woman who is divorced or single and struggling for perspective may be hurt by a talk about the importance of marriage, but another woman, contemplating marriage with a great deal of fear because of events in her life, perhaps parents or a sibling who has endured a painful divorce, needs to hear that message--that marriage is wonderful and important.

A man struggling with a pornography addiction may feel horrible during a talk about the damaging nature of pornography, but there are twelve year old boys who need to hear it, to have that salient in their minds as they negotiate the difficulties of junior high school and cell phones and sexts and free videos and all the stuff.

We all have very real needs and we all look to those who lead us for comfort, reassurance, and validation.

I think that the thing that has helped me most, is to *look* for those things in what my leaders say. Be on the lookout for those messages of peace and validation that speak directly to my heart. Expect to come away with a handful of messages that were meant specifically, specially, personally for me. I need to see and feel the love in that: this is a big church, 15 million people, and Heavenly Father, and my leaders, took the time to say these few, special things, just for me.

I remember how emotional and grateful I felt when President Hinckley, addressing BYU during the time I was there struggling as a single parent, mentioned divorce. Mentioned single parenting. How it was so hard. How he knew that those of us going through it spent long hours sorrowing. He said Heavenly Father knew our sorrows, and that he also knew our sorrows, and sorrowed with us.

Heavenly Father knows me and my sorrows. And the leader of my church was aware as well, and sorrowed with me. That's something I have cherished in my heart ever since. And I've cherished the countless other times when this has happened.

General conference is not just for me. The earth revolves in an ellipse... it moves in response to all the different forces pushing and pulling on it. And it does not revolve around me.

One popular phrase I find very frustrating:



Yes. Well, only from your perspective.
To someone else, It is something else.

This applies to more than just religion and religious discussion and policy. It applies to politics, policies, issues. It applies to Stuff. All Stuff. People struggle because they see out of their eyes and feel from their bodies and think from their minds and forget that other people, just as smart, just as caring, just as wise, are feeling and seeing and thinking from another place entirely and so they see something different. And both are important, valid, real, intelligent places to think and see from.

I hate guns.
You love guns.

I have eight children.
You are passionate about the environment and feel large families are irresponsible.

I am very religious, and I believe the gospel I've been brought up in holds important and necessary keys to salvation.
You believe that organized religion causes unecessary pain and conflict.

You think our country’s on the brink of socialism.
I feel frightened of the hysteria that seems to have gripped our nation on the topic of socialism.

We’re both here for a reason. Every human is born with passion and perspective, and over time all gain experience. We are all here to create what needs to happen and to be, together, what needs to be.

And that takes *All* perspectives. Yours, mine, the guy ranting in your politics class. The REAL killer in our society is apathy.

We need to step out of our lonely solar systems, where all the planets seem to pass around us in perfect symmetry and circumference and we're standing there on the sterile, lonely ground of our own making, and start seeing the universe for what it really is--a balance of so many crazy elements and objects and forces that we really can't even begin to understand how it all works together (though some really enjoy trying, and I dig that). To truly enjoy life we must enjoy the richness of a home, a church or social group, a society, a country, a world, made up of everything you don't understand. And we need to fully comprehend how every different perspective plays a part in that, even if we can't fully comprehend every perspective.




Mar 30, 2015

Tired and Grateful





My days go like this:

Wake up feeling like something large has run over me, perhaps a rhinocerous

Read Scriptures, Write in Journal, get dressed and hug, diaper, clothe and perhaps bathe protesting, independent children who only want to run free and wild

Do school for an hour or so, in spite of tantrums over how much math and how much reading and whether lowercase letters are necessary

Send the kids outside and do laundry/tidy/give kids snack/kiss cuts/tell toddler not to whack his baby brother with sticks

Try to control the chaos of small children/go outside with the kids/sit exhaustedly in a chair in the shade and let the dog lick me

Make lunch & insist that bananas and carrots are important food

Put the babies down for nap/send the older kids outside with a reminder not to hit one another with sticks/dig up the yard with shovels/play with power tools

Write

Do YW calling

Market/submit

Try to fall asleep if possible for perhaps 15 minutes

As they come in the door, lecture adolescent daughters who forgot to brush hair/wear jeans without holes/wear shirts without stains/wear coats when it's snowing

Help school kids with homework/pick up or drop off from Piano lessons or soccer or playdates

Make dinner, which must be made so people can eat

Eat dinner, which must be eaten in spite of the fact that it's hard to like something I've actually made (why is that??)

Do chores/send kids to play practice/try not to snap or yell too much

Play games with the kids after chores/go to mutual

Collapse into bed and want to do nothing but lay there with Jeff and watch Poirot or Star Trek.


I feel like, lately, I've been losing my ground on sleep. We've had sick kids, I've had a stressful month. I'm struggling to be able to go to sleep, to be able to stay asleep, to be able to sleep in if I've not been able to go to sleep or stay asleep.

Honestly, I'm pretty exhausted.

Jeff and I are trying to move on to the next phase of getting the greenhouse ready. What's stalling us right now is we don't know how to do interiors... to put siding on interior windows/windowframes/beams/etc, how to make it look good. So we're waiting for a consult, right now. We could do the outside but we need to buy all the siding in one shot, so we get a good enough deal on it. We've set aside a bit of our tax return (usually all put toward paying off the house) for this purpose. But we have not had time, yet, since January, to actually have someone come in and look, or to decide on what kind of siding we want.

I guess I should feel grateful I'm dealing with these sorts of stresses, and not the sorts of stresses some mothers in rural Africa, for instance, are dealing with right now. I'm struggling because I don't have energy to make dinner... there are mothers out there who are struggling because they don't have food to make dinner. I'm stressed sending my kids off to play practice, there are mothers out there whose children are forcibly taken from them and made to go to war. I'm struggling to teach my adolescent daughters how to care for themselves physically and emotionally... there are mothers out there who are preparing their young thirteen year old daughters for marriage and the exhausting, heartbreaking life they've had to endure themselves. I'm struggling because i'm not getting enough sleep. There are mothers out there who are staying awake all night taking care of children dying of malaria, of aids, of starvation.

Sorry. I know that's a bit morbid. It's how I think though. I guess I'm just a bit morbid. I'm grateful that I have all my kids here, safe, and that I can keep them safe.

I'm tired and grateful.

Feb 10, 2015

Greenhouse update: foundations and family



We finally (finally) after worries and weather and seasons passing wherein we could not continue until the ground un-thawed...

we finally finished the foundation for our greenhouse.

We stacked the cinder blocks during winter last year and buried them. This spring, we un-dug them, stacked them, swept and cleaned all the dirt from the footers



and then



slowly, painstakingly stacked them and cemented them and coated them (with the help of our wonderful aunt Arlene, with Squirt as her sidekick.)


That's a picture of Jeff laying in the last block.

This is how things look now.




We have also bought insulation for the roof and walls.


The next step is to buy siding, and then get to work on that. But in the meantime, Jeffrey bought lots of braces and screws, and we're reinforcing the roofline. Just to make sure it'll bear the weight of snow. We were told in our inspection that this needed to be done... better do it before we have awesome stuff to protect.


It's getting there, guys. I'm excited. This spring we will likely be able to start some plants inside. By the time summer ends i hope it will be insulated enough that we can keep them growing through the winter. Hooray!

Jan 26, 2015

Brussels Sprouts are of the Devil




I feel like I've outgrown a lot of prejudices. For instance, freckles. I used to think freckles made everybody ugly, probably because I always got a thick patch of them in the summertime and I hated them on myself. I felt so sorry for people with freckles.

but now, I think freckles can be rather beautiful.


I used to find mustard horrifying. I'd throw a (hopefully usually internal) tantrum if even a tinge of yellow graced my sandwiches. And now, not so. Mustard is one of my favorite condiments, if not my favorite. Particularly when anointing corn dogs or corned beef and cabbage (which I have always loved. No changes there.)

I used to think blond hair was quite boring. All my sisters had blond hair, I had blond hair. Blond, blond, blond. Boring.

I've realized, since moving to different places and seeing lots of people, that blond hair is rather rare. So now I try to like my blond hair and not think it's boring, and I overcompensate for the blond stereotype by using words that are too big and wearing nerdy shirts.


I have never been able to overcome one prejudice, however. Not even as an adult.

I hate most vegetables.

They don't taste like food.

I hate them.

I've been forcing myself to eat a lot more raw vegetables lately. I know they're good for me. I've been hoping that, after having consumed them for a while, I'll get used to the taste and start liking them. And while I *do* like how I feel when I eat them, I still haven't gotten over the slight gag-reflex that comes when I try to swallow a grainy mouthful of raw broccoli, or that strange, mealy-crunchy texture of cauliflower, or when I taste the bitter, sour-sweet-with-that-tinge-of-alkaline-poison taste of Romaine lettuce.

Green beans.
Brussels Sprouts (ugh).
Carrots, beets, turnips, parsnips....

Why. Why?? I want to like them. I'd love to like them. It's not like I haven't developed my palate since childhood. I like things like sushi, for crying out loud. What so offensive about an innocent little spear of celery?

What possible adaptive reason could this have? Did I inherit some primitive, bloodthirsty genetics adapted from centuries of viking ancestors?


I've smothered them in mirin sauce. In nacho cheese sauce. In hollandaise sauce. I just. can't. like them. And I guess like blondness and freckles, I have to live with that.