Apron Stringz is Moving!

If you are an email subscriber, please check your inbox for an email titled “Latest from Apron Stringz” to confirm that you have been successfully moved to the new mailing list. The message was meant to have a post attached, but I must have done something wrong. Look for another email with the same title soon! With a post this time, I hope ;)

I know there has been a lot of changes lately. Thank you for your patience. This one is all good, and all for you dear reader. I have moved to my very own domain. Now apronstringz.org is all mine! Bwah, hahahahaha! The best part is that all of my content will now be 100% ad free.

I had been feeling like the ole blog needed an update. Mainly, I wanted things to look less cluttery. Because even if clutter more accurately represents my life, it is not the most pleasant of reading environments. More importantly, I visited one of my posts from a “private window” recently and was reminded that you all have to endure the punctuation of an advertisment at the end of every post. Blech.

Ok, I guess I didn’t really do it for you. I did it out of pure vanity. These words are important to me, this space is so personal and even raw. Seeing an ad at the end of my hard-won words made me want to be sick.

So for my own vain sake, to more properly imagine myself as a “writer,” I have moved Apron Stringz to a cleaner, ad-free space. All the archival content is there, in fact I even took the opportunity to organize a selection of my best posts into one place, easy to find. (And furthering my vanity…)

I moved my mailing list over as well, so if you subscribe by email, you should continue to receive email updates whenever I post. Please let me know if you do not receive these emails! I can be reached at calamityjane@homegrownhome.org


I had a friend many years ago who was living in a cabin in the woods with her partner and baby. One day she told me about catching up with an old friend over the phone who had said, “Wow, you are really living the dream, huh? Doing what you always wanted to do. You must be so happy.” And she was dumbstruck. “This?” She said to me, “This is the dream? I’m living it?” She related to me the frustration of not having running water, of carrying loads for the laundromat up and down the long stairs that climbed the hill to their cabin, with a baby in tow, of not living near family who could help. She didn’t know whether to cry or laugh. “I’m doing what I always wanted to do…” she murmured in wonder.

I have thought about that conversation so many times. A life, described in broad strokes, can look so amazing, so idillic. But when you hone in on the day-to-day realities, they are always the same. So many chores that need done, so many broken whatevers that need fixing, so many tense conversations about money or parenting, so much running around trying to make it all work. 

Writing for me has always been about outing those realities that we all keep hidden from public view. Dredging all the shit from under the bed and spreading it on the front lawn to air out. Especially as a modern person, taking part in this grand farce we call the internet, posting pictures of my broad strokes. Keeping it real feels vital, but it’s always been a struggle for me, balancing the real with the ideal.

Writing about yourself is hard. Writing about yourself, with any shred of honesty, when you are attempting to promote yourself as an educator is nearly impossible. Our world has a certain expectation for those who claim enough knowledge to share, and that expectation is that you have arrived. You learned your subject, past tense, and now you are an expert. There is no room for the bewilderment I still feel regularly in my own garden, after almost 30 years of learning. No room for such a vast gaping maw of knowledge as the natural world.

God help you if you aim to teach anything so broad and all-encompassing that it can be considered a lifestyle choice. Now suddenly, not only must you be an expert, you must also be living proof of the perfection of that choice. If you take my gardening class, you will soon live in a glowy bubble of harvest baskets and ladybugs and smiling children who prefer carrots to candy. 

Throughout my life I have been guided by that very image, the so called “simple life,” in which each day is filled with beauty and vibrancy, and feels like plenty. I have taken the steps implicit in the journey, and all the facts are in place: I grow most of our fresh produce in my organic garden, I cook most of our food from scratch, bake bread every week, and eat speckled-brown homegrown eggs for breakfast. I regularly put fresh flowers from the garden on our kitchen table, crouch outside quietly with my kids to watch an insect, and make gorgeous homemade pies. 

But I fear that I have arrived at the destination, and it is not what the travel brochures led me to believe. “This is it?” I murmur to myself, “I’m living it?” Because although all of those things are absolutely true, it does not paint an accurate picture of my life whatsoever. My life is complicated and hard, a chaos of contradictions and compromise. My day to day is made up of those beautiful glowy moments mixed in with a much greater proportion of very regular modern American bullshit. 

And so it is that portraying the beauty and satisfaction of keeping a garden and baking bread makes me feel like a fraud. Ever since I got back into this internet world a few months ago, I have been struggling with Imposter’s Syndrome. Who am I to talk about ‘cultivating abundance’ when I can barely get through a day without feeling the tight constriction of scarcity clawing at my neck. Scarcity of time, scarcity of money, scarcity of energy. Who am I to write a gardening guide when I can barely get my spinach to grow without bolting? Who am I to promote home cooking when my I keep my pantry stocked with corn chips and energy bars?

The world is so big, so complex, so dynamic. We are always trying to pare it down into something we can wrap our heads around, we create simplicity by putting differences at odds with one another. God vs the Devil. Heaven vs Hell. Republicans vs Democrats. A handmade life vs a consumer life. But true things do not fit into tidy, opposing categories. True things, especially living things, are vast networks of connections and complexity that we cannot hope to understand. 

And so is my life. A vast network of complexity that I will never understand. 

But here’s what I do understand. In the midst of all the regular American bullshit, the unemployment paperwork, the arguments about parenting, the hour after hour scraping the internet for shreds of meaningful community that I can’t find in real life, the corn chips and the energy bars, in the midst of all that, I get to go out to my garden and cut giant, luscious, glowing green collards for dinner. I get to wash those beautiful leaves and chop them and saute them with onions in my cast iron skillet. I get to taste that deep mineral flavor of earth and sunlight and feel, on some level, the connection all the way back to the seed I planted three months ago. 

Every night I have to go out and lock my chickens up. I’m always dead tired at the end of the day, the last thing I want to do is go outside and do one more chore. But I do it anyway, and what else would draw me out in the dusk to see the first stars breaking through the violet? What else would take me out past the nicotiana and the moonflower, breathing their secret scent into the night? Every morning I have to let them out again, and it forces me to start my day in the world for a moment, gives me a time and place to notice the way the rising sun gilds every leaf and flower in the garden with gold. And there, waiting quietly for me in a nest of straw, a perfect brown egg.

These simple acts in my otherwise life are a tiny prayer and a communion with the world. Although my harvest basket does not define or even really describe my life, it illustrates the beauty and abundance that is waiting there for me, every day, to connect with when I can. Those beautiful moments in my garden and in my kitchen may not add up to the glowy life I thought they would, but they are nevertheless real and essential, a deep and vital nourishment; they ground me, and heal me, and gild my life with joy. 

This is what I want to share. This is what I fear so many people need but don’t know how to access. This is what feels so particularly important to me about teaching “backyard homesteading” right now. Because we are all feeling the tight claw of scarcity right now, of fear and division. We all need a little healing, a little joy, and a lot of grounding. The abundance of the world is waiting quietly to for us, waiting to nourish us one perfect egg at a time.

Stubbing My Toe

My new business venture has hit some speedbumps. Or, more acurately, I have hit some speed bumps, as I became better aware of what the job truly entails and balance that against what I am willing to do.

I started out thinking, “I know how to grow food. I know how to cook it too. People are hungry for these things right now, and I can share what I know. How satisfying.” I knew that marketing would be my weak link. I knew that I would have to suck it up and embrace Facebook, and maybe even (gulp) Instagram. I knew that I would have to sell myself in a way that was uncomfortable in order to “grow my audience.”

But even though I knew all of those things, I’m afraid I vastly underestimated them. The further I got down in to the marketing hole, the more disgusting it became. I could feel myself getting pulled in too, despite my disgust, because after all— pop-up forms are the new normal, might as well get with the program. Mine some data, discover the pain points, convert some leads, design a sales funnel (yes that is all real marketing lingo.)

I tried for a minute, tried to put my hippie ideals on a shelf and just glean the useful bits. But it didn’t last long. Even if I was willing to sell myself that way, I wouldn’t be any good at it. I wanted to do a job I was qualified for, and marketing sure as fuck is not that. I am way out of my depth. And honestly, I have no desire to learn how to swim. 

This puts me at an impasse. Do I give it up? Get out while I still can?

The thing is, I don’t want to. I feel like a stubborn 4 year old, stomping my foot. I finally feel like I have the space and the moment to share myself with the world again, and I want it to work goddamn it.

And so it was that I eventually realized the connection, and realized why I had to write about this here. Although it sounds like I’m talking about small business development, I’m actually talking about mothering. The drama I am living out now is the symmetrical other end of submission. 

Years ago, when I shared my life regularly with you here, I wrote a lot about my journey towards releasing my ego for the sake of motherhood. I used to be a badass before I had kids, I got Serious Shit Done, on a regular basis. But in order to be a loving and patient mama, I had to loose my white knucked grip on that vision of myself. Accept myself as the soft, squishy thing under that hard shell of accomplishments. 

I feel like I spent the last 10 years trying to beat my ego back down into the hole, and just roll with life, not try to be special because it put too much strain on my family.

Slowly my kids grew and didn’t need me that way anymore, but even after the job eased up I feel like I have spent the last few years foundering. I thought that I had accepted a more humble truth about myself— just your average Jane, go to work, make dinner, help the kids with homework, wash, rinse, repeat. But I’m afraid that what I took for humility may have just been resignation. Defeat. I had forgotten how to expect things of myself.

When I got the idea to teach online, it felt like all the pieces of my life had come together in one triumphal moment. Teaching was a natural culmination of My Work, and it made the rest of my life up till now make sense. The soft, squishy thing of me began to peek out. I began to feel like maybe I still had some hot sauce in me after all. 

Because somehow, at some point, you have to balance that quiet submission so necessary to motherhood with the fire of ambition so necessary to being human. You have to yang that yin. Stop being humble and retiring and assert your mother fucking awesomeness on the world.

We did the hard work, we gave ourselves so completely, we submitted when we needed to (or at least made a good effort.) We are mamas, first and foremost, and we always will be. But now we have the space to be something more, something that means something outside of our families. Our time has come to re-emerge, transformed, to take our part in the big wide world. 

But this process is not quick, or obvious. In fact I can hardly give it a word so poetic as “transformation.” From the inside, what it looks a lot more like is turmoil, chaos and confusion. 

I want to take my place in this world, do something that matters. But fuck if I know how. Asserting my awesomeness on the world is terrifying, and I’m completely out of practice. I feel like I’m on an important quest, blindfolded. Guess I’ll just keep on creeping forward, one toe at a time, trying to figure it out where the hell I’m going.

Only one thing is really clear to me right now. I’m definitely not putting a pop-up form into my sales funnel.

Psyche, The Universe, and Everything

Hello again beloved readers. 

Don’t worry, this post is not a thinly disguised sales pitch. I deeply appreciate you lending your ear to my budding business idea for this last few weeks, but I think I have gotten myself situated now. So, here’s the plan, including backstory. 

I started Apron Stringz with the idea of being focused on practical, DIY home and garden projects, but that stuff quickly took a backseat to the emotional journey of motherhood, and much more personal, introspective writing than I had originally intended. I loved finding my voice, and finding a loyal group of people who appreciated my voice. I also love that you gorgeous people have the mental bandwidth to read my longwinded explorations of pschye, the universe and everything— in a world otherwise governed by Instagram, Twitter and fucking TikTok.

Now that I am most definitely rejoined to the great mind-meld of the internet, I am fairly confident that I will find need to share again in that way. And this here Apron Stringz blog will continue to be the space for that deeply personal writing you all know and love. 


Although my life is still an emotional rollercoaster (and how!) I do finally feel like I have the space to expand back into My Work and put more focus on “subsistence,” those pursuits which sustain our family in a direct, practical and mostly edible way. I also know that many people around the world are craving to learn these practical skills right now, and I believe I am highly qualified to teach them! This is exciting for me. I feel like I have graduated from full-time mama, and can rejoin my previously chosen career path.

So, that is where Homegrown Home comes in. HGH will be the place for all the practical sides of me. It will be where I talk shop, and share tips about how to be the “punk housewife” I championed here. It will also, hopefully, be a way that I can contribute a little side cash to our family income by sharing things that I know and love, with people who want to learn them.

You may have noticed that Homegrown Home has co-opted the Apron Stringz Facebook page! Don’t worry, any heart-pourings that I post here on Apron Stringz will still show up on the Facebook page, but honestly these are likely to be much fewer than the daily details of keeping a homestead. So I decided let things evolve. If you don’t really want to wade through weeks of home and garden dross to find the occassional psyche-delving CJ you know and love, feel free to “unlike” the Facebook page and subscribe to Apron Stringz by email. I won’t be even the tiniest bit offended. 

So, that’s that. Now you know the scoop. 

Next time I come back to this space, I’m pretty sure it will be with a big, long pontification on The End of the World as we are beginning to know it, the writing of which has been itching my belly for months.

You’re My Favorite

It’s not that I haven’t been thinking about you, in fact I’ve been thinking a lot about you. Truth be told, I have been busy over this last few months laying the groundwork on a secret project. And I need your help.

You may remember that I taught a gardening class online a few months ago. It went well, and our small class became surprisingly friendly over the eight live Zoom sessions. I didn’t know what to expect from online teaching, and was pleased with how it came out. 

But as much as I enjoyed our live sessions, the standard “online learning” formula does not float my boat. It’s all based on stock curriculum and pre-recorded videos. I wanted to be able to provide more support, in more ways and through more avenues. I wanted context. One of the students said, “I feel like the best part of any class is hearing the experience of the instructor, and the other students, and being able to ask questions.” Those real, human interactions were exactly what I wanted to offer.

So, I am launching a membership website! Homegrown Home will be a place to learn skills, ask questions, share your journey, and find the support you need to turn your home into a homestead. I am very excited, and can’t wait to hear what you think. Because, oh, did I forget to tell you? I need to do some Beta testing before I open this sucker up to the real world. I need some friendly faces to help me work out the kinks and make sure that Homegrown Home is 100% awesome. I need a small batch of loyal souls who can be kind and patient, but also brutally honest. 

Hello you. 

Naturally, I created a special membership level just for you. As a “Founding Member,” your first month will be free of charge. If you like it and want to stick around, you’ll get half off the membership fee, forever.

But, what is a membership website you ask? I guess you’ll just have to head over and find out. See you there!

***Please note that this offer is open to you few and proud, loyal Apron Stringz readers who are still around so many years later. If you have friends who you think would love to join, I would love for you to share! But not till next month. I want to keep our Beta group small. Thank you for understanding.

Grow More Strawberries!

A commenter asked for tips on growing strawberries recently. This is an important subject! Because although strawberry plants are one of the easiest crops to grow, getting a consistent harvest of berries in any significant quantity takes a lot of work.

First of all, let’s talk adaptation of species.

There are two different ways that plants pass their genetics into the future, one is by making seeds, the other is by spreading “vegetatively”– essentially cloning themselves through runners or rhizomes. Strawberries are the latter. This is important because it means that although they do make seeds (and the fruit that carries the seeds) what they really love to do is make runners. I like to say that strawberries are their own weeds. Left to itself, a strawberry bed will quickly become so thick with plants that you can hardly see the soil between them.

And when this happens, the plants stop making berries in any significant way.

strawberry comparison
Not only will the berries from uncrowded plants be WAY bigger, but there will be more of them

To fulfill its potential, each strawberry plant needs about one square foot of space all to itself. If you want to grow actual berries, not just lots and lots of strawberry plants, rule #1 is clip the runners whenever they appear!

But, you will doubtlessly miss that moment, frequently, and the runners will touch down and grow into cute little “daughter” plants. So rule #2 is be ruthless and rip those cute baby plants out. I know it’s hard but, take a deep breath, be strong. Think about strawberry shortcake.

The next important thing about strawberries is that the plants are short lived, designed to be replaced (or over-run) by their offspring. The first year after planting you will get a few berries, but mostly this is the establishment year. The second year will be the banner year, the third year should still be decent, but by the fourth year the plants are basically spent.

What this means is that you can’t pick a place, plant a strawberry bed and that’s it forever and ever, amen. Nope. Rule #3 is to keep things moving, keep things fresh. Every year, you have to take some of those babies that you pulled up and plant them somewhere else. They will be next year’s strawberry shortcake.

And if this all sounds like a lot of work, wait until harvest comes! It’s all well and good to dream of growing enough strawberries to binge on in season, and still put a few gallons in the freezer, but the reality of that is spending 30-45 minutes squatting in the strawberry patch, every other day for a few weeks in June. And then another 30-45 minutes processing each batch for the freezer.

Like I said a few weeks ago, likely the most time consuming crop I grow.

But 100% worth it.



Strawberry Season

strawberry seasonHomegrown strawberries are the epitome of thrift = thrive. Although strawberry plants are one of the easiest in the garden, practically a weed, getting a reliable harvest of berries from them year after year takes a lot of work. In fact I think they are one of the most labor intensive crops I grow. Which is why truly fresh, ripe  strawberries are so expensive to buy. At the farmer’s market I would have to spend $3 for one tiny little pint of berries, which just one of my kids could demolish in less than 2 minutes. There’s no way I could afford to keep our family supplied with strawberries, if I was buying them with money. 

Instead, I buy them with my time. I invest many, many hours in my strawberry beds throughout the year, and when strawberry season comes around the dividends roll in. The kids can wander through the yard, picking and eating. I harvest basketfuls of strawberries and just leave them on the kitchen table as an indulgent snack. The kids embellish their granola with sliced strawberries every morning. We eat strawberry shortcake and strawberry pie. I have not yet cultivated enough ground to grow our year’s worth of strawberries, but during May and June, we have a glorious glut. And I feel positively, luxuriously, rich. 



Early summer is rose season. I’ve always loved wild roses, and shortly after we moved to Eugene, I planted a Nootka rose. Rosa nootkana is the same species that grew in Alaska, the wild rose of my childhood, and it’s simple, fragrant pink flowers make me deeply happy. It grows about twice as big here in Oregon though, to almost eight feet tall, and spreads like a weed which also makes me happy.

Harvesting the petals is pure joy. Standing out in the sunshine amid a lazy bee buzz, pulling warm velvety petals away from stames of spun gold, all the while drunk on the haze of perfume! The experience always feels so rich, so indulgent. For me, there is no better way to connect to the sheer abundance of life than growing edible flowers.

We use the petals for Fairy Tea, my kids favorite. Mix about equal portions of rose petals, calendula petals, chamomile, hibiscus and mint, with just a dash of lavender. This is a calming tea– great for little ones, not bad for big ones either.

Creating Abundance at Home

I’ve been thinking a lot about abundance lately, and the skill of thrift. The phrase “thrifty housewife” is stuck in my brain, and it feels like a solution somehow, or at least a balm for the bruises of today. 

Thrift can mean many things, but in my mind it means making more out of less, using skill and care to turn what might otherwise be scarcity into plenty. A stingy housewife focuses on the lack and hoards what she can get. A frugal housewife is careful with what she has, stretching it to meet her family’s needs. But the thrifty housewife is too busy making a delectable French onion soup out of a bag of moldy onions to notice how meager are her resources.

The word thrift comes from the Old Norse word thrīfask, meaning to thrive. As many of us head into a time when our families will need to get by on a lot less money, we must take this idea to heart. We need to practice the skill and art of thrift— not just surviving, but thriving on less. 

Thrift is one part vision and one part skill. First, you must be able to see the beauty and potential in whatever you’ve got, the abundance that surrounds you no matter how scarce things look. Second, you must have the skill to bring about that potential. And just like any skill, and any shift in perspective, thrift takes time to learn.

The skill of thrift I have in spades. I grew up poor, not destitute— I was the second poorest kid in class— but poor enough to know the ranking. I learning by default how to make do, jerry-rig everything, turn one thing into something else. But it wasn’t just necessity. I was drawn to old-fashioned things, nostalgic for a past I didn’t live. As a kid my favorite game was pretending to be lost in the wilderness and figuring out how to survive. As a teenager, I started baking bread and washed my clothes in the bathtub. In my 20s I lived way out in the woods, on a few thousand dollars a year, cutting all my firewood by hand and canning fish I’d caught myself. 

Since then I have moved pretty fully back into the modern world. My family and I live in a small city, My Man works full time, I work part time and raise our kids and grow a garden. Pretty typical stuff. But all the skills I acquired are woven into my life, even now. I use those skills, coupled with a lot of time and energy, to make our humble non-profit incomes worth more.

Or, that has been the standard for the last few years anyway. Now I am unemployed, our income has dropped by a small but significant amount. I may or may not have a job again in the fall. My Man’s job is pretty secure, for now, as secure as working for an environmental non-profit in a time of economic duress can be. If we are headed into a real Depression, all bets are off. I find myself seeking backwards to those skills of thrift more and more. 

And wanting to share that skill. It seems we could all use a little “thriving on less” right now. 

When I first started cogitating on this subject though, I felt a deep hesitancy. Sure I may have skill in the bag, but what about vision? Who am I to write about what is essentially a positivity perspective, me the self-proclaimed pessimist. As a perennial glass-half-empty girl, I can complain about anything, and regularly do. I have a good ability to see potential where others can’t, but as for walking through life feeling some kind of inherent gratitude at the abundance which surrounds me? Even just writing those words makes my skin itch. 

But then I remembered that although I enjoy teaching, and you the reader seemed to appreciate my more instructive posts, this blog was never about me brandishing my mastery to the world. I may have started the blog as a DIY instructional, but I didn’t really find my voice until I began to share my journey, with all the raw, tangled, dirty bits intact. Writing honestly about my struggles to be the person I want to be, and continually falling short but dusting myself off and getting back to it— that is what hit a chord in this too often counterfeit world. That is what you, the reader, loved to read and what I, the writer, loved to write. Instruction is good, necessary even. But company, solidarity, that is the stuff of magic.

Over the next few months, I will be shedding some of the niceties that I have come to think of as necessities over the years, pruning our budget back. At the same time, I will be trying to see the abundance all around me, and feel gratitude for it. In the spirit of solidarity, I’ll be sharing that journey here, with you, because I suspect that many of you are also shedding, pruning. And we might need company.


My first-post-back the other day was actually not my first first-post-back. Below is the post I broke the silence open with, to myself. I had to sit on it for awhile, not sure I was ready to share. Because as usual, it came out quite a bit more personal than I meant for it to be. In fact, I started writing this to let everybody know about the online gardening course I am offering, but my apparent need to bare my soul quickly took over. In the end it seemed way to close to the bone to be an advertisement for an online course. So I offer it to you now, Calamity Jane’s patent soul baring word-work, for old time’s sake.


These are strange times. So very strange, that I am still trying to understand just how strange they really are, or will be. I myself do not do at all well with uncertainty. When question marks crop up in my own life, I clamor to answer them with a period. As I have gotten older I have realized just how very anxious uncertainty makes me, and how intensely I crave predictability. 

Let’s just say, this year promises to be challenging for me.

However, in the midst of all the anxiousness, between the moments of cold, sick dread, I am struggling to come to terms with a very different and certainly less popular set of emotions. Excitement, expectancy, even joy. 

I’ve been practicing for this! All of my life, in a sense, has been building towards this moment, my time has come to shine.

Before you judge me, let me back up. I need to fill you in on the last several years. 

Writing this blog was a rewarding experience, on many levels. I loved connecting to all of you, and feeling the support of community. I loved the writing process, trying to tease out my deepest thoughts, and then the gratification of finding solidarity with you all. But I’m not sure that I ever truly convinced myself of this ‘revolutionary housewife’ line. In fact, this blog represents me trying really hard to believe it, and succeeding for a few years. But during the 8 years that followed my exodus, I slowly and steadily lost that conviction. 

Much of the fall came as my kids aged-out of the stay at home category. With my kids in school, it was hard not to feel like I was supposed to fill that time with a job, especially since our family was operating on a thin line between the red and the black. But as soon as I started looking to see what the hell kind of job I was qualified to do, I got deeply depressed. I have so much worldly experience, and know how to do so many useful things, but none of it fits on a resume. On paper, I am practically worthless.

Things really hit a low for me when we moved from our tiny town in Alaska to Eugene, Oregon. Back home in Alaska at least all of my non-professional pursuits made sense. I had built up a solid reputation in our little community. I had one of the best gardens in town, I led wild plant walks and taught classes on cooking with wild edibles, I could butcher a whole moose myself. Even if having a wafer-thin resume was a practical difficulty and a bit of an ego blow, it didn’t matter on a deeper level. In Alaska the skills of self-sufficiency are more respected than a comprehensive resume.

But in Eugene, nobody knew me from Adam. I was just another marginally employable person with no degree and precious little job experience. Looking for work here was humiliating. Furthermore, the skills I had spent my life accumulating were more or less irrelevant here, even to my own home economy. There is a whole different set of wild plants, which I am still learning; Hunting seems theoretically possible but with no social context, hard to get into; Gardening was the only thing I knew how to do that fit here, but I was doing it on a brand new piece of land, in a brand new climate, with a brand new set of crops. 

I felt like a chalkboard that had been wiped clean. All the skills, knowledge and connections I had built in Alaska leveled to nothing. I was 40 years old and starting over. 

Over the last three and a half years since our move, I have been slowly, painstakingly rebuilding. Learning the plants around me, learning how to garden in my new world, finding small, humble ways to fit into the job market. But I have not recovered from that knocked down feeling. I was visiting a writer friend recently who suggested we do a creative project together. “I don’t know…” I said, resignedly. “I don’t really feel like I have anything to share anymore.”

All this to explain the mental state I have been in. I am perfectly happy day to day, living my life with my wonderful family, learning my new place. But somewhere deep inside I have been shadowed by a sad feeling that the light I used to think I had was just an illusion. 

Enter the end of the world.

I don’t really believe that this is going to be some cataclysmic, distopian crashing down of civilization. But it is looking like it might be the end of the American dream, the end of an era of thoughtless plenty and the end of the inflated living standards which we were reared on. Although I try to remain hopeful, it’s hard for me to see how this will not lead us into the next Great Depression, and it’s also hard for me to see America emerging whole from another one of those. 

Certainly, already, many people are suddenly out of work, suddenly attempting to adjust to a very different life than the one they have known. Home all the time, trying to make ends meet with a lot less, learning to buy in bulk and cook from scratch, digging up a patch of lawn to start a garden, all the while taking care of kids full-time. Suddenly, everybody is trying to build a resilient home economy, and become revolutionary housewives.

And now you see. Now you understand my embarrasing excitement. Now I can go back and say those terrible words again, and hope that they make more sense. Maybe you will even join me.

We’ve been practicing for this. Our time has come to shine.

Remember Me?

Dear beloved readership of long ago,

The world has turned upside down, and my life is circling back on itself. Here I am again, turning my full attention back to the limited scale of my own household economy. Home with my kids all day, and struggling to get shit done.

A lot has happened since I quit this gig, even before the world turned upside down a month and a half ago, and I guess I’d better give you a quick review before I explain why I’m here.

Most relevantly, I moved on from the days of full-time revolutionary housewife awhile back. As many mamas have before me, once my kids started school, I got a job. Just a part-time job mind you, but it shifted my focus somewhat away from home pursuits. As you all know, being home full time with my kids was always a mixed bag for me and I won’t lie, I enjoyed the opportunity to grow as an adult independent of motherhood. (I discovered that I am an educator! I’m sure that you insightful folk already knew that, but it took me till the age of 39 to figure it out.)

In 2016 we moved to Eugene, Oregon. The reasons are too many and too personal, but I will say that we all miss Alaska, and the transition has had some bumps. I have been able to build the garden of my dreams here, and although it is a work in progress, I love it. Last year I grew 30 lbs of sweet potatoes!

The kids are now 10 and 12, and although parenting still takes time, it doesn’t take as much time and nothing like as much energy as the years I wrote this blog from. I have loved being with my kids through all of their ages, but I have to say, I am much better suited to older kids.

This is all to explain the irony. Because after all these changes, now here I am again, back at home, mothering and housewifing all day, trying to squeeze an hour of garden work in between homeschool and house cleaning. 

(Who am I kidding, I haven’t been cleaning the house!)

So it’s no real surprise that all my creative, intellectual and social energy is once more looking for an outlet. As much as I love project-ing around my homestead and focusing on the tangible world around me, I also have a deep need to connect and feel like I am making some kind of impact on the world outside. 

I don’t know that I will be blogging again, exactly. Maybe… we’ll see. Blogging was a bit close to the bone for me, I apparently have a hard time keeping my real self and my blog self untangled. But I do have a big virtual project that I am excited to announce. Starting next week, I will be teaching online classes! The first one will be Beginners’ Gardening (about that in a minute) but I hope to expand my offerings in the future to other backyard homesteading skills– advanced gardening, cooking from scratch, preserving, animal husbandry and permaculture. 

The world is hungry for these skills right now. People have a visceral need to feel more self-reliant, to do something hopeful and joyful which connects them to the Earth, and to take part in building a positive future. Growing a garden and cooking from scratch may be key to that future, but these skills also ground us in our past and the resiliency of our species. These are essential pursuits for this uncertain time.

And I have those skills to share, I even have the skill of sharing. It sounds embarrassingly self-important, but I can’t help feeling that my whole life has been leading up to this moment. I grew up in Alaska learning how to make do and get by; I spent the last 20 years learning how to grow, store and cook food and generally create a home economy; and now, for the last 8 years, I’ve been growing as an educator, learning to communicate ideas, simplify complex subjects and lead people through the challenges of acquiring new skills. My role seems to have been written in, and I will admit to a quiet thrill.

I was telling My Man the other day how awkward it feels to be excited about this right now, at a time when so many people are suffering, and that part of me wants to just let the moment pass me by. “How selfish,” he said admonishingly. “You have something to share that people need, don’t keep it to yourself.”

So, here’s the deal. My course is called Breaking Ground. It will run for 8 weeks and be as much like a real live gardening class as possible. Over the 8 weeks, I will walk you through the steps of setting up a new garden. There will be some reading, but not a lot. There will be plenty of Q&A and a weekly “live” check-in session on Zoom. The class size is limited to 12, which means that we will actually have the opportunity to get to know one another and function like a real class community. 

I have designed this course for absolute beginners, and pared the information down to make it simple and accessible. If you have really wanted to get into gardening but feel overwhelmed by how much there is to learn, and just really want a wise and practical friend to talk you through it, this course is for you.

It’s $40 for the 8 week course. However, I am offering a full scholarship to anyone who needs it, no questions asked. You will see more details about that on the course page.

It starts next Monday, April 20th, and class size is very limited, so sign up soon!

Online classes are never ideal, I much prefer meeting people face to face. But this is what we’ve got right now, and there is much work to be done. Let’s get started together.

The Evolution of a Mama

Turns out, I miss this place. I went on for many months quite happily without the computer. Working on my farm projects. Summer was banner this year, and my plate was manically full. But somewhere around July, I started to itch for writing. A place and a way to express my thoughts, to communicate all the stuff that crowds my head. Ears who care to listen.

Now, don’t go creaming yer panties, I’m not coming back here on a regular basis. But, maybe just a quickie now and then, in the laundry room.

Besides, I have some important addendums to the inherent subject matter of Apron Stringz. My life as a ‘mama who likes to get shit done’ continues to evolve, and it seems wrong to leave off when new discoveries are being made.

Not that I have come to any conclusions. As usual the farther I get into it, the more confusled I become. Certainly nothing has become clear to me, in my absence from blogging. I have not come back to share brilliant epiphanies. But that’s why you love me right? For laying bare the absolute bewilderment of life and loving?

I do have one particular thing to say, the thing that has made me come back, an admission.

For the record– it didn’t work.

This whole ‘yielding to motherhood and the inglorious work of housewifery’ thing, it didn’t work. I mean, I guess it worked for a while, gave me some peace when I needed it most. Allowed me to survive a period of intensity that otherwise might have destroyed me. I still recommend it, wholeheartedly. If you can manage it, submitting to the humble task of motherhood is a strangely liberating experience.

I just want to make sure you understand the further evolution of that story. Although I cultivated it successfully for a few years, as soon as the life-or-death necessity for submission had worn off, I abandoned it like a leaky rubber boot. I went straight back to my old ways– taking on way too much for someone with small children, trying to do it all, wanting it all with an almost debilitating lust, then beating myself up for failing on all accounts.

Part of that is just summer in Alaska. It all happens so fast. It’s winter and winter and winter, and then all of a sudden– BAM. It’s summer and it’s going to be over before you can finish even half the projects on your list, so hurry the fuck up!

But I can’t just blame summer. There’s more to the story.

Six years ago now, we had our first baby. I slowly and painfully began to set aside my own projects and passions for the all-encompassing work of motherhood. Two years into it, we moved to New Orleans, My Man went to law school, and we had our second baby. Enter the Submission Phase, blah, blah, blah. I gave up on accomplishing anything of consequence, outside of raising up two beautiful new souls. I didn’t submit easily, in fact it was emotionally akin to amputating both legs. But I did it– I put my own, separate, non-mama path on hold for a few years. I relegated my passions and what I consider my real work to ‘charming hobby’ status.

Then My Man finished school. Moving back to Alaska was something of an anti-climax because even though I was back in my own home turf, surrounded by my previous years’ work on our little property, My Man was studying harder than ever for the Bar. Time and energy were still too tight for me to take back up those passions in any meaningful capacity. So, I squelched them back down and screwed the lid on once again.

Our little backyard homestead lay in a state of dormancy, fertile soil covered in a dense blanket of weeds. It would have to wait.

My mind lay similarly neglected. After years of fighting for each little scrap, I had acquired a resident apathy. I could hardly remember what I might care to do with myself, should I ever have time to do anything in. As someone who had been vehemently motivated to do cool stuff, before I had kids, the apathy was perhaps the most disturbing thing of all.

But, here we were– back home in my chosen context, with all the things I claimed to care about around me. And that is when my greatest fear of all surfaced. What if I had just changed? What if I didn’t care about homesteading and wilderness and harvesting anymore? What then? What would I care about if not that?

This is the identity crisis which I alluded to in my few posts last summer, but never had the guts to write about. I was terrified. I had built my entire life around this homesteader dream, the possibility of it’s loss was haunting.

Our girl started kindergarten that fall. Suddenly I had just one kid again, for half of every day. The desperation of mothering two littles began to ease. I had finally settled back into Alaska. My Man passed the Bar, and started working. At long last, the 3YO began to sleep through the night and into the morning, allowing me a good night’s sleep and an hour or two of quiet solitude at the beginning of each day. I took a deep, wonderful breath.

My mind opened tentatively into that extra space, like a hermit crab poking out of it’s shell. Is it safe? Is there really room for me again?

It was at that moment in time, serendipitously, that I discovered permaculture. I was ripe and ready, it was exactly what I needed. Knowledge! Learning! Permaculture was the next step to everything I had done before I had kids– an advanced course in gardening and homesteading. I was consumed, like a hot, teenage crush. It was so exciting to be excited again. Even now, when I hear the intro song to Thomas the Train (which allowed me many an hour to sit around learning) I feel a wave of giddy joy.

And that is when I realized that I had not changed at all. I had not lost my love for all things which grow from the soil, and a life which relates to wild nature. Rather, my lust for learning had just been squashed by too many loads of laundry, I had had too many attempts to try something new crushed into the ground by a screaming toddler. I had given up.

I had tried for graceful submission, but in the end had settled into apathetic resignation. Not towards my life as a whole, but certainly towards my personal passions and ambitions.

I still believe that graceful submission would be a beautiful thing. I did hit it for small moments, and they were good and sweet. I don’t begrudge the resignation either, it is acceptable to me on a short term basis. It served me well when I needed it.

I was so thrilled to find my own spark still alive, so relieved that it was (conveniently) still flaring in the same general direction, that I hardly cared whether it had been submission or resignation or what. I flung my painstakingly acquired good mom habits out the window and set right into ignoring my kids in the name of backyard homesteading.

I weeded out three years’ worth of creeping buttercups and planted all my old garden beds. I started teaching classes, something I had always wanted to, in bread making, gardening and wild plants. I butchered, packaged and froze two black bears given me by a local guide. I started making herbal medicine. I picked gallons of wild blueberries. But, most significantly, before summer had even begun, I ordered fifty chicks and ducklings thereby turning my nice little gardens into a full fledged small farm.

I ordered the birds while there was still snow on the ground. I had spent the winter drawing up a totally awesome permaculture design for our property, and had convinced myself on paper that I could build an addition to my coop which would quadruple it’s size, before the chicks grew out of their brooder.

I had forgotten that I was in fact still a mama! You can throw the ole’ submission idea out the window, but the kids don’t seem to notice. Well, I’m sure they noticed something. Like the fact that I had stopped taking them to kid activities around town, stopped doing crafts with them, stopped reading stories in the middle of the day, and started a hell of a lot more yelling.

It wasn’t all bad. There were some absolutely amazing days, the kind of days I imagined motherhood would be– working outside building the coop, or digging in the garden; a little pack of kids ranging around between our yard and our neighbors, happily playing in the sunshine with sticks. Brilliant days, which I did have the good sense to stop and appreciate, recognizing these moments as the best of the best, what I had always hoped my life would be like.

I don’t regret my regression back into project-land. Mamas busy with projects are a good thing. But there’s busy and then there’s too busy. I do regret ordering fifty birds. What the fuck was I thinking? I could have simply doubled my flock, like a normal person, just dabbled in raising meat birds; but no, I needed to quintuple my flock so that I could put a year’s worth of birds in the freezer, and still have several different laying breeds left to trial.

The stress of all those animals under my care, inadequately housed (barely better off than factory farmed birds for a while there) gave me actual belly cramps during the month of June. I just couldn’t build fast enough. It seemed like I managed to nail up about two boards/day.

At any rate, here I am now, at the end of it. A nice big pack of roasters in my freezer, and a beautiful flock of laying hens and ducks. I am learning new things, evolving my homesteading skills, moving forward on my path again.

Occasionally I miss those days when I just let taking the kids on an outing, doing laundry and making dinner be enough. I am still often jealous of the mamas who can sustain that kind of devotion. But I am not that mama. For me, submission was a temporary helpmate.

And for you other mamas out there who used to like to get shit done, who now feel your own passions numbed by motherhood, understand that you can submit for a few years and still resurface intact at the end of it. It might take some time to wake your mind and passions back up, but don’t be frightened by a little apathy. When the time comes, your spark will reignite.

Dja Miss Me?

Friends, I am actually in the middle of a real post! An interesting, contemplative, reliving the good ole’ Calamity days post. Though it could take me another month or two to finish.

But in the meantime, two things.

1. Check me out, I made another website. Don’t worry, not a real blog, if I ever come back, it will be here to you. This one is just a virtual ego stroke in which I name my whole homesteading-project-extravaganza and thereby give it identity and recognition. I am now master of Feral Edge Rainfarm. Ha! Take that!

2. We are planning a short vacation to central California– from San Francisco to Carmel (family reunion)– and I have a nagging feeling that one or another of you live in that neck of the woods. Is it true? And if so, can we crash at yer place for a night or two? Extra credit if you live on a farm, or downtown SF.

Email me! I’m scarletfevir (at) yahoo (dot) com

Also just email me if you missed me and you want to tell me all about everything, and how you can’t live without my posts every week.

PS. I missed you.

When, What, Why, How

It’s been awhile.

I am well and happy, my family is all good, we are settled firmly back home in Cordova and beginning spring work on our tiny yard-sized homestead. I have lots and lots of things I could write about, many cool projects underway and, as always, deep thoughts aplenty.

But the truth is, I waited and waited for it and the urge to blog just never really came back to me. Since I left you all waiting as well, I thought I’d better at least come back and say it– farewell for now, it’s been a good run.

I do feel the need to explain a bit. Because it’s not completely without reason that I have abandoned writing here. I wish I could say it’s because I’m not using the computer much, but that’s not the case– I have been researching permaculture all winter, and now I’m on to botanical medicine, both involving lots of computer time.

Honestly, it’s more about the particular perspective blogging gives you on your world. Have you ever been into photography? Carry your camera around long enough and you get ‘photo-eye,’ everything is seen through it’s possible worth as an aesthetic composition. You don’t see life as it is so much as you see potential photographs.

Blogging is like that. When I’m deep in it, I see life through the post I will write about it.

Interestingly, this downside is all wrapped around the upside, the thing I loved best about blogging– the way it gave me an outlet to process my thoughts, a way to make sense of the world and my life. Blogging was immensely useful and enjoyable for me, during a very hard time.

But the long enforced break of our move home shook off the ‘blogger-eye.’ Eventually I remembered what it was like to just be me, living my life with my family, instead of Calamity Jane: Punk Housewife Extraordinaire. And, I liked it. I like being plain old me.

I do miss the glamour, the acclaim and the page hits. I miss the way I felt important, big.

Some would say I need to find ‘big-ness’ in myself, not in others’ perception of me. I don’t know. It’s complicated. I think we as humans want to feel useful to the world at large. We crave purpose beyond self. Doing anything very useful in the world is all tangled up with the self-satisfaction of having done it. What are we to do?

So many of what I consider my important writings on this blog were about learning to find value in the eminently humble work of motherhood and housewifery. Don’t you think it’s ironic that in writing about it, I created for myself a more auspicious and vainglorious work? I made myself a “writer,” with loyal readers around the world. Although I tried so hard not to, I inevitably framed my homemaking as punkier than it really was. There is really no way to convey truth in this media. Without intention I painted a very cool picture of myself. Hardly a way to actually submit to the humility of motherhood.

I don’t mean to devalue my writings in any way, or their worth to you or myself. They were genuine expressions of my humanity. They were good and true and useful to so many of you, and I feel blessed to have been able to give in that way. I loved being Calamity Jane, and I reserve my right to reclaim her at any time.

But for now, I’m enjoying being just plain old me. Thank you for reading, thank you for commenting, thank you for existing as a community, however virtual. That’s the part I miss most. I don’t forget friends, even ones I’ve never met.

Here’s to life, in real life.


Leftover Granola Muffins

If you stock homemade granola in your kitchen, and you have small children with incredibly variable appetites, you are likely to have come across the leftover granola issue. After the cost of the high quality ingredients, and the time of mixing and baking each batch, to throw away even just a half cup of it just about kills me.

So, I save up the leftovers in a pint jar in the freezer. When it’s full, I make these puppies, and redeem my children’s otherwise wasteful habits.

This recipe is from an old post, full of all kinds of jumble. But since I myself have G**gle searched “apronstringz leftover granola muffins” at least half a dozen times since publishing it, it occurred to me today that maybe I had better give it it’s very own brand new post. They are really good!

Cinnamon Crumble Muffins (wink)

makes one dozen very tall muffins

  • 1 pint jar (2 cups) leftover granola and milk
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1/4 cup oil (don’t be afraid of olive oil for baking btw, it works just fine)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 cup white all-purpose (plus 1/2 cup or more if necessary)
  • 5 teaspoons baking powder (I know this seems like a lot, but it wasn’t too much)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/4-1/2 cup raisins (optional)

for the crumble topping

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup oats

Butter your muffin tin generously. I never used to use butter to grease pans, but have since realized that it does a much better job than oil and makes a delicious crust to boot.

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Beat all the wet ingredients together, whisk the dry ingredients together, then fold the dry into the wet. Add the extra 1/2 cup or more of white flour until you have a thick batter. You should be able to scoop it with a spoon like soft ice cream. Fill the muffin cups to the brim, and then even a teeny bit more. This recipe fit (barely) into my tin, which I think has 1/2 cup sized cups.

Dump all the crumble ingredient together in the empty batter bowl and mash/stir until thoroughly incorporated. Sprinkle onto muffins. It will seem like way too much, but keep trying to pack it on there. As the muffins bake and expand, the tops will suck up the crumble and it will be perfect! Pat the tops so that the crumble stays put. If you really can’t fit all the crumble on, save it in your freezer for your next batch o’ muffs.

Pop into the oven. After 10 or 15 minutes, turn the heat down to 350. Starting at a high heat like this helps make your muffins nicely domed. Bake another- oh hell I don’t know, I never time ’em- 10 minutes? They’re done when the tops feel springy, stick a butter knife in if you’re not sure, there should be sticky crumbs but no batter clinging.

Cool on a wire rack, where the 3YO can’t reach if you want to have any crumble left for anyone else.

Post Script: Add chocolate chips to the batter, and top with frosting and sprinkles for some big mama points!


Continuing Education

That DIY permaculture “class” I posted about a few weeks back took off over at Homegrown. There are about 12 participants reading The Manual, as well as an offspring ‘beginners’ group reading Gaia’s Garden. It’s great.

I have been devouring Permaculture: A Designer’s Manual, the 560 page textbook/bible. It is essentially earth science as it relates to ecological food production, coupled with a very methodical approach to the design process. I love it. Bill Mollison is the scientific counterpart to Wendell Berry’s decidedly literary work, and you know how I feel about Wendell. They are both extremely thorough and concise, dense enough to be academic but with heart and pulse (and a healthy cynicism about academics). Putting them together fulfills all my fantasies of intellectual stimulation.

And, guess what? I had fantasies. They were unspoken, nearly unconscious. I was jealous of My Man when he was in school. Not because I wanted to be in law school, hell no! But because the idea of taking one’s knowledge to the next level, of devoting oneself to studies and furthering oneself intellectually, was delicious.

But, I gave up on the idea of finding the things I wanted to learn in a school setting long ago. I love to use my brain, to challenge my brain, but the things I like to use my brain on are the domestic issues never ever discussed in universities. Everything else just seems mundanely boring. I have always been mildly interested in ecology, but never interested enough to put any time into it. Ecology as I’ve read about it before seems so unrelated to me. It was not until now–reading about it in the context of learning to grow food based on natural ecological processes– that it became fascinating.

At first I thought it was because permaculture relates everything back to food and/or design (my two top favorite subjects, hands down!) but there are plenty of food history books that I find boring. After some thought I realized that it’s the fact of being related to something I can do, and furthermore want to do! It’s the possibility of involvement and participation that compels me.

That’s all good, but what I really wanted to share with you today is just how much blissed-out fun I am having learning something big! Considering that the manual is 560 pages of dense, sometimes technical reading, coupled with the self-made ‘final project’ of creating a genuine permaculture design for our property, I have given myself and the Homegrown group 5 months to get through it. It’s like a real college course! And since it builds on what I already know, it is quite literally ‘continuing education.’

I think my ecstatic joy at the learning process might be particularly based on where I’m at right now, mama-wise. I was at a kind of a shifting point, well primed for a learning phase; and having just moved back to our own place, I am ready to re-immerse myself in the project of living sustainably in this environment.

Whatever the reason, my oh my, does it feels wonderful. If anyone else is feeling the need for some continuing education, I highly recommend taking a good book on the subject and turning it into a DIY class. I did this once before, years ago (Tom Brown’s Guide to Nature Observation and Tracking, doesn’t that explain in 8 words the shifts my life has made?) and also really loved it. The right book is important, but I think equally important is treating it like a real class. Which means setting aside consistent and adequate time. That’s the hardest part. After that, if the subject is of interest and the book is good, the rest unfolds itself.


She was trying to explain something to me, just exactly how she wanted me to open the cheese so that the wax held together, and I wasn’t getting it. She was getting increasingly frustrated, her voice rising. I was getting increasingly agitated, my voice rising and hardening. Eventually she was yelling at me and I was yelling right back at her not to yell at me, which always feels so stupid. So I changed tact. I summoned all kindness and patience and carefully evened my voice out. “I can’t just let you yell at me anymore. I’m going to stop listening until you stop yelling.” A threat obviously, in retrospect, though it didn’t seem so at the time. I don’t believe in threats, partly because we are incapable of upholding most of them. But there I was.

She immediately broke out into tortured sobs and I felt the regret flood in for a move I could no longer take back. She crawled under the table and wailed for several minutes before the words finally came. A pivotal moment in any mama’s life.

“You don’t love me! You don’t love me!”

There was some mad in her voice, and certainly a little drama, but so much raw emotional devastation that I wanted to cry. I came over and crouched beside the table, explaining as I have before that no matter how mad I get, or how much I don’t like the things she is doing at the time, I always, always love her. “The love is the part that doesn’t go away, ever.” I say.

But she’s too wild to hear me. If you don’t have a child like mine, you might not understand what I’m talking about. You might make the mistake of thinking I am describing a fit. It is not a fit, she has those too sometimes. These are different. I understand them because she is my daughter and the fruit did not fall far from the tree. We are sensitive. Not that we are easily thrown into oblivion– in fact we are both, in a sense, fairly stable. But that oblivion, when we do hit it, is exceptionally engulfing and terrifying. The difference is that I have always been stoic and private. I experience life and emotions on an extreme level, but I do no share that level with the world or almost anybody at all. I keep it all locked up healthily inside. My Girl on the other hand, is expressive.

At any rate, she screams at me to talk to her, then when I do, screams at me to stop talking. There is a lot of screaming, while I go back and forth between trying to calmly and undramatically reach out to her, and tending the soup on the stove (see this old post about her 2yo fits for the story of how I arrived at this “technique”). Eventually she starts to calm down and, still teary, asks to watch a movie. “Sure,” I say. “Will you come out and sit with me for a minute first?”

She hesitates, but climbs out onto my lap. “Mama,” she says, still upset but quickly deflating, “You never say ‘please’ when you’re mad!” She says this to me often. I don’t think it’s really about the please, I think it’s about the way that I get mad and then stop being kind and caring, the way she thinks a mama should be. I think that she feels upset that I am not consistently nice, not realizing that she is asking me to be inhumanly perfect.

“You’re right.” I say, “You know I honestly just forget. When we’re mad, we kind of forget how to be nice.” Which is certainly true. Ideally, as perfect people, we would hold it together even when we were mad, and all of our actions would be intentional. We would be like practice scenarios at the counselor’s office. But in real life we get mad and lose it. We are all of us imperfect, by a long shot.

I try to explain all of this to her, and suddenly I realize that the solution to human imperfection is forgiveness, and that I have to explain forgiveness to her. That the concept is essential to her right now. She needs to be able to forgive me, and to understand that I forgive her. She needs a way to deal with the budding knowledge that I am not perfect and that that’s okay, she is not perfect and that’s okay. That we get mad, and we get over it, and we have a special way out of it, a special human way that we move forward with love.

I stumble around, trying to figure out how to define forgiveness to a 5 year old. I tell her that when someone does something you don’t like and it makes you mad, forgiveness is “accepting that they aren’t perfect and loving them anyway.” To which she says, predictably, “What’s ‘accepting?'”

….Shit. Then I have a little brilliance. “When you were under the table, you were still really mad at me. And when I asked you to come out and sit with me, you kind of didn’t want to, right? ‘Cause you still felt mad? But you did anyway, you came out and let me put some love on you. That’s what forgiveness is. Forgiveness is when you came out from under the table.”

I don’t know if it worked. It’s a big concept, and probably takes time. I had honestly never even thought about it before. Like so many milestones my kids have hit that I had never thought about. And maybe she’s not even really ready yet, but it’s a start.


Solo Parenting

Straight from working full-time away from my kids, to 24/7 solo parenting for three weeks. Geesh, we are writing a case study for crazy-making this year.

The good news, the great, fantastic, thank dog news, is that My Man passed the Bar. Although I have no doubt that the next year of setting up his practice and finding work will be very hard, at least we know (more or less) what lies ahead. We can make plans now, stability of a sort has been found. Waiting the three months for his test results, and not knowing what the future held, were absolutely excruciating.

This also means I am back to full-time mama, pretty much indefinitely. And I am glad. It was really excellent to have a break, and do some other work. I felt almost guilty with the enjoyment of it. But to work away from home year round would get wearying for me, in a different way. Overall, if given the choice, I still choose the mothering and revolutionary housewifing. I made my first batch of granola since the move this week, and I feel ridiculously satisfied.

It also means all this is once again my responsibility.
I swear this floor was pristine less than 48 hours ago. I have a witness.

But, not unrelated to the mess, I have time to do projects with my kids! I didn’t miss playing, and I certainly didn’t miss the endless hours of fight-breaking-up, but I did miss projects. Currently underway is a T Rex costume–

She’s painting the teeth gnarly and bloody. That’s my girl. While she was painting she said, “Mama, when something is really fun, I like when it takes a long time.” My sentiments exactly.

All this glowing pontification on motherhood is quite sweet and absolutely true, but I didn’t plug my kids into netfl*x so that I could write because I was so overjoyed. Nope. I did really good for the first 5 days of solo-parenthood, but about day 6 I started to crack. Last night I let a really shrieky-mean yell loose on them right at bedtime. They were caught off guard and looked genuinely scared. I realized that with these few months of doing other work, of getting my own separate physical and mental space for 8 hours/day, I had not had many attacks of mama-rage.

Solo parenting is hard. Three weeks will definitely be my longest stint yet, though My Man’s finals while in law school probably compared in hard-ness. These next two weeks will be pretty rough. But, good news for you, you’re likely to see more of me here! Desperation makes for the best blogging.