Join the Ranks!

Thank you to everyone who signed up on the new Readers’ Blogs page, I see many of you are still missing though. There is a lot of clicking going on, so if you want some keen Apron Stringzy new readers, do take a minute to leave your URL and a good description of your blog.

Non-bloggers, don’t leave yet!

As you know, we will be moving in little more than a month. I will be starting the whole crazymaking business of full scale packing in two weeks, and my writing likely won’t resume until at least mid-June. That adds up to two pretty quiet months here on the ole blog, and I thought I’d offer up the otherwise empty space to guest posts!

If you are already a blogger in your own space, you could either write fresh material just for us or I could re-post one of your old favorites. If you aren’t a blogger, all the better because I know you got somethin’ to say, sister! Crack her open!

You know I cover a pretty broad range of subjects here– the usual gardening, cooking, punk housewifery and parenting as well as more esoteric pontifications on the nature of our chosen path and the commonality of our deepest psychological workings. Basically, almost anything goes. Mamas like me would be wonderful, but divergent viewpoints are particularly welcome. Papas! Grandmas! Kids (ie: people under 30)! Anyone invited and everyone welcome. You can write how-tos, recipes, personal stories, manifestos, pretty pictures, psychological delving, smart-ass sarcasm… I will publish almost any post you send me unless it’s flagrant advertisement or downright offensive.

If you would like to join the fun, leave a comment here and I will email you. If you would like to offer an already written post, you can just send it straight to me, otherwise I will schedule you in and give you a deadline, to keep things on track. It would be cool to have at least one guest post a week during my absence, which would only take 8 submissions all together.

Imagine the fame! You too could guest star at the internationally renowned (err, internationally read) Apron Stringz blog! It’s your moment!

On Blogging, Readers and Stats

Blogs are increasingly interesting to me, from a sociological point of view. Writing has never taken such an intimate, immediate and responsive form before. Writers used to be “Writers” as in, someone far away, who could maybe write about what it was like to be you, but surely they weren’t actually like you. Surely a Writer must be a far more amazing person to be able to succinctly gather humanity’s collective thoughts and emotions and lay them out in such polished fashion. Surely they sit at their clean desk, surrounded by subtle yet challenging art, drinking straight black tea while they produce those smooth gems of verbalized consciousness.

Overall, I would say blogging is no different. In fact in some ways the medium provides an even better way to lure the reader towards fantasies of perfection. It’s what most people want after all, to soothe their own chaos with Other People’s calm (whether or not that calm has any basis in reality). But I’ve realized over time that blogging has so much potential. Not to replace literature by any means, I do adore books and the expansive feeling of high-quality that is only possible when the writer works over the same piece for months. But I believe blogs could provide a different kind of depth, a true intimacy never possible with books.

Erica at Northwest Edible talked recently about her “health keystone” being sleep, and how could she re-arrange her life to get more of it. I wrote her a teasingly admonishing email about blogging too much. I guess that hit a chord because her next post explained that she would not be blogging on Fridays anymore, in an attempt to take better care of herself. This is all great, I’m so proud of her, except that– doesn’t it seem strange that she should have to explain at all? Where does this expectation for bloggers to deliver the goods come from?

I mean, we are not (for the most part) getting paid. Erica runs a slightly more commercial blog than mine, but she also puts a shit ton more time into it, and I don’t believe she’s making anything remotely resembling a wage. We do this because we want to, because we love it, because we can’t help ourselves. But I have seen and felt this expectation before– if you want a good readership you have to blog often and consistently. If you take a break from blogging, or get patchy, your numbers will suffer. Do you as readers even know that this exists? Do you know that we otherwise self-respecting bloggers check our stats like little junkies?

I myself have been incredibly patchy. I come on strong for a few weeks and then disappear for a month. I try to post at least once/week, but sometimes even that falls away. Because I am a real person. With a real life. That is sometimes smooth and sometimes ridiculous. Not only a real person, but a real mother! My babies sleep or don’t sleep, nap or don’t nap, go through phases of fits, dvd addiction, and even occasionally happy independent play. Sometimes I get in a funk, and even though I have the time, I don’t give a shit about blogging, it seems trite and useless. Other times my absences here mean I’m busy living my life and enjoying it. And yes, my numbers have suffered.

But overall I have been impressed at how, despite the big unspoken threat of inconsistent blogging, so many people do in fact continue to read! You, dear remaining readers, you have stuck with me through these ups and downs like real life friends. I like to think that, in a way, it deepens your experience here– knowing that my occasionally eloquent words come out of a very banal tide of chaos. My readership may be very small, by big blog standards, but I dare to think that those of you who willingly suffer the inconsistency and foul language are unusually loyal.

I love NW Edible Life. I love her range of topics, I love her candor and humor, I love her absurdly type A efficiency fixation so much like my own (if better realized). I would love it if she would post every single day, alternating in depth how-to’s and enlightening social commentary. But in this life, at any given moment, you can either do or write. Or sleep. More than reading her entertaining posts every day, I want Erica to get enough sleep and still have time to actually be the person she writes about. If that means she has to blog less, so be it.

As for me, I feel a bender coming on. I have six or seven posts going in my head as we speak. If only I can carve some calm out of my chaos.

Brave New World

No time to talk. Just spent the better part of two days fucking around with motherfucking Faceb**k trying to set up a page for this madness I call a blog. Did finally get it done. Phew! It’s a long story, which I will divulge at a later date. Starts like this though, “Dear Faceb**k, I hate you…”

For those of you who share these coarse feelings about FB, I also started a nice, wholesome group over at the lovely Homegrown.org. If you sign up under a psuedo-nim, you high school nemesis will not track you down through this humble site. There’s a lot of awesome-ness on Homegrown, so be prepared to waste some time.

Both links are now in the sidebar.

I feel pretty silly having a blog and two groups. But, this is 2011. Might as well live it up before next year’s appocolypse, right?

Out From Under the Floorboards

I realized awhile back that my email address isn’t in the sidebar. It used to be, but after some reupholstering months ago, it must have slipped between the cracks. This is not because I want to remain a contact-less voice in the ether. On the contrary, so long as you’re not spamming me or otherwise being nasty, I love to hear from my readers! I used to take the time to write a quick hello to anyone I had seen in the comments more than a few times, but that was back when I was a wanton blog-aholic, checking my stats 5-10 times a day, and yelling at the Toddler to go back to her movie. I’ve progressed.

So, in case any of y’all have been dying to contact me personally to glow on and on about how much you love Apron Strings and how you can hardly get out of bed on the days I don’t post, you can now find me email address just over to your right, in that handy sidebar thingy.

If on the other hand, you can’t stand my smug facade of supposedly raw reporting from the self-righteously crafty mama underground, you can get fucked.

Speaking of blog stats, where the hell did you all just come from? What I mean to say is, errr, welcome new readers! My numbers jumped off the charts yesterday, and are still up today, triple my average. That’s awesomely exciting. Like any junkie, I love me some hits. But I am ravenously curious to know where you all came from. Do tell!

A Virtual Garden Party

I’ve been meaning to update the Readers’ Blogs list for ages. I just had an extra half hour, with nothing else in particular to do (!!!) so, I finally got to it.

I like the idea that we all keep up with each other a little bit, in this weird virtual community. Even though I’ve had my issues with computers and their inherent addiction problems, it has sure helped me to find you all and feel like– if not close by then at least somewhere in the Wide, Wide World– there are some folks like me! We gotta stick together y’all!

If you write a blog, please scroll down and see if it’s there in the sidebar. Did I spell your title correctly? Click it to make sure I entered the link right, and please let me know if it doesn’t work. If you don’t see your blog in there with the Readers’ Blogs list, it could be because you haven’t commented recently (I only went back a few months) or worse, haven’t commented at all! Comment you!

Then, let’s all get cozy with some tea and talk shop.

 

The Whole Fam Damily

(I used to have a friend who, completely unrelated to the content of this post, often said “Well, siss on you pister, you and yer whole fam damily can go buck fufallos.” I just never got tired of it.)

A few weeks ago I got a note from New Urban Habitat, that she’d chosen me as one of seven recipients of the Kreativ Blogger Award. I am honored, especially since she has a very impressive blogroll. I’m now supposed to divulge seven things about myself, and then pass the award along to seven other bloggers.

I never have been much of a direction follower.

It’s cool to bolster everyone up, and I’m all for it. But it does seem a tad more like chain mail to me than an award. If I remember right from those ‘scare the kids into chastity’ AIDS diagrams in high school, 7 x 7 x 7 adds up quick. Purty soon we’d all have… an award. And that just seems a bit silly to me.

So, at the risk of being shamed and potentially excommunicated from the creative blog world, I’m going to sort of pass.

By sort of, I mean that– true to form– I’ve just changed the rules to suit me. I do like the idea of creating community, giving smaller blogs exposure and sharing good stuff around! So, I’ve added a new thingy onto my sidebar, with all my readers’ blogs. I got these all from comments, so if you’re a reader who’s never commented and would like your blog added, just comment here and I’ll hitch it right on!

And so’s ya’ll know, I’ve subscribed to all your blogs with a reader, but when I checked it against my own, the subscription didn’t show up. So, if you (like me) watch your sub numbers obsessively, count me in there among them!

Also, I’m going to set up the flickr group as mentioned earlier, so we can all get cozy.

Fear Not, Kind Readers

I got an email from a friend saying, and I’m paraphrasing here, ‘What the hell? Where are you? Why did you suddenly drop of the face of the earth? And, are you okay?’

I’m fine. All good here. My sister is visiting! I was going to post a Blog Recession Warning, but I ran out of time. As you may remember my main and often only chance to write is in the wee AM hours. Which depends on the Babe waking early. And the Toddler not waking early. So if you don’t hear from me, it could either mean I’m going crazy or sleeping late (7 AM). Recently, it’s been the latter (though, some of the former thrown in as well).

This morning when the Babe woke at 5:45, I felt the “ugh,” but also a twinge of happy that I’d probably get some writing in. This blog has finally convinced me that I am a Writer. People had been trying to tell me for years, but I was stubborn. And my realization has not come because I think my writing has improved or even as any reflection at all on my writing. I have come to terms with the fact of myself as a Writer because I have discovered my need to write, to express myself through words. Writing smooths the wrinkles in my brain. It’s my tall drink of water.

Ahhhhhh……

So, although I might suffer hiatuses, you will not be losing me. Not so long as I’ve got c.r.a.z.y messing around in my brain, looking for a way out.

And a little postscript for those of you who know me: My sister is the only other person I know who will geek out on my level with costume making, and we are going all out together for Mardi Gras. She brought two huge boxes of costuming supplies, including the hot pink fish nets I will be using in my costume. Last night I started sewing cheap strands of beads onto an old tank top. We spent $25 each on mask making supplies. I’m in heaven.

Weaning from the Cursed Box

A spending challenge is always good practice, but the thing I’ve really been feeling I need to cut back on is computer use.  I don’t begrudge myself the time I spend writing posts, this feels pretty healthy. A way of processing my life, which right now needs a lot of processing. But all the other bullshit I do out of pure addiction, the just wasting time stuff. I’ve really got to knock it off.

Right now is my blessed moment between kiddos. The Babe of late wakes at 5:45. Ugh. But at least that gives me time to ogle him for 20 minutes, then we go out and take a walk which puts him back to sleep (are other babies like this? Both mine woke early, but only had about 20 minutes of happy time before getting fussy and wanting to go back to sleep) and I can still be back home by 7 and have, theoretically thirty minutes, sometimes more (sometimes less), to think and write my own thoughts before the Toddler wakes. The thing is, what I’ve been doing is trying to eek that time out, because she does play pretty well by herself first thing in the morning, and just staying on the computer, and then being annoyed when she starts to distract me (ie: get my attention). How hideous! That is tops on my list get rid of. So, rule one: when the Toddler wakes, keep myself open to her, and the moment she tries to catch my eye, close the computer and be with her. Don’t know if I will need to be more specific with myself, we shall see. Then throughout the day, none of this popping in to the computer to check my stats (oh yes, I do, it’s sooooo embarrasing).

I believe it’s hugely important to allow, encourage and even gently require kids to play alone. And I’ve sort of been, without thinking it through, using that as an excuse to tell her, “Not now, sweety. I’m working on something. In a little while.” And I do think that’s a great lesson if I’m in the middle of a cooking project, or folding laundry, or any other active activity. But obviously if I’m staring at a glowing box half the day, she’ll want to too. Duh. Anyone could figure that out, right? Our kids follow our lead to a frightening degree. Those little sponges don’t miss a thing, so look out! She has started whining, “I wanna watch a movieeee” every time she has any kind of lag or low feeling. And it seriously disturbs me!!! We gotta nip that sucker in the bud!

Where I’m waffling is the afternoon “nap.” The Toddler doesn’t take one, you might remember, and while I was pregnant and packing up our entire lives for this move, I started to allow her to watch a movie in the afternoons because, you can’t argue with that it is a kind of rest. And I myself needed that afternoon break like crazy. I didn’t feel too bad about this. I mean, I know, do I want to teach her to turn on the TV as the only way to rest her brain? That’s fucked. I should instead sit down with her and read to her for an hour, or take her for a walk (riding in the stroller is very resting, for her anyway). But, can I muster the energy to take away my afternoon break? A mama has to keep her sanity, above all else. If she really just sat down to a movie once a day for 40 minutes or so, it wouldn’t bother me that much…. It’s this new using it to solve all her problems that really freaks my shit out.

Here’s the other thing, and this is really how the movie watching spiraled out of control. Baby naps. I mean, what the hell am I supposed to do? Our house is small, and no room is removed and quiet for Little Guy’s naps. Let alone the actual putting him to sleep. And of course, I’ve birthed another Sleep Fighter. How can a four month old fight sleep so hard? So it takes me 20-40 minutes to put him to sleep and what’s the Toddler supposed to do for that time? She’s still of the age where she wants to at least be in the same room as other people. If not up on the bed with them, snuggling (read: jumping). Don’t forget, in case it’s been too long since your last baby, that the little buggers take four or five naps a day. Especially when they’re such light sleepers that the naps often don’t last more than 15 or 20 minutes.

No, I mean, seriously. What am I supposed to do about that???? Any ideas welcome.

Oh, back to computer rules. Another problem is that I await my moments like a true addict, any time I have to myself, like if Hubby takes the kids for a walk, I just immediately think computer. Gross. I’m a project person, really I am. But my projects are all getting usurped by the computer. I love writing about them (kumquat syrup coming soon!) but I have to actually do things to write about them! So, one idea is to limit myself to one hour per day. If I get it in the morning, so much the better, otherwise, I can make up in the afternoon if I get the chance. But for now anyway, I’m going to limit myself to just mornings, and save any afternoon breaks for project time.

Okay, I’d say that’s just about enough time spent at the bar, telling my drinking buddies all about how I’m gonna quit!

See ya’z later, tomorrow mornin!

ps. Yesterday I used my afternoon break (Toddler in the bath, good thinking huh?) to weave. Good for me. Some of the first weaving I’ve done since we got back from our xmas break. My loom had just been sitting in the corner, shooting me dirty looks.

Searching in the Dark

If you’re a fellow blogger, you know about search terms. But for the rest of you, here’s a quick explanation.

WordPress keeps track of your readers and how they found you (creepy, eh?) Mostly people find my blog from links. In fact half my (modest) readership comes straight off the boat from Down to Earth blog and forum. But a few folks every day stumble upon my blog from googling something. Like, “satsuma marmalade.”

Every few days I have a little chuckle over just what people have googled when they find me. But today it was a guffaw, because some poor sop googled “beach babe” and found this blog! So I thought maybe it was time to share a few of the best with you.

This one cracks me up. Four different people have found this here blog by googling “wifely duties” and boy were they disappointed.

Then we’ve had a:

“wife won’t cut apron strings with children”

“weeds screaming”

“i hate cars”

“jesus bicycle apron”

and, my personal fave: “camping same clothes punk dirty”

Two people have found me through “creative housewifery,” and one through “feminist on housewifery.” And I hope they might have stuck around. Hello? Are you there?

Dear Readers

Just wanted to say a thank you to all of you for reading, and especially for commenting. When you write a blog, you can track your stats obsessively, but there’s no way to know how many of the “views” were actual reads. Writing a blog is kind of like shouting into a black hole. It can be kind of lonesome sometimes. It’s always good to hear other voices talkin’ back atcha from out there in the ethernet.

If you’re a regular here, please leave a comment with just a sentence or two about yourself, so I know who all’s out there and what you’re into!

Thanks again, friends!

Riana’s Slow Year Blog

I have been reading a blog about urban farming, called Ghost Town Farm for over a year now. It’s written by Novella Carpenter, who recently turned all her experiences into a book called Farm City. The book is awesome. I love these kind of raw, honest accounts of pursuing the challenges of a truly alternative life. She starts, sort of by accident, a small farm in a ghetto-ish area of Oakland, CA. It’s a gritty book, and I love grit.

Anyway. One day after arriving in New Orleans, I was perusing the side bar links on Novella’s blog. For some reason, even though the name did not sound at all compelling, or suggestive of anything in particular I might be interested in, I clicked on the link that said “Riana’s Blog.”

I guess because the real name of the blog, These Days in French Life, is a mouthful, and also not suggestive of the contents. Or at least not anymore.

Riana is Novella’s sister. Wow, what a duo. They grew up with hippie back-to-the-lander parents, and Riana did a typical hippie kid manouver– first she rebelled by becoming super materialistic, a self-confessed shopaholic living a very glamorous lifestyle in LA. Then she married a French guy, had a baby and, though the real change must have been gradual, seemingly suddenly forsook all the bullshit. She made a pledge to herself not to buy anything beyond food and absolute necessities for one year. During her first “Slow Year” the apple of Riana slowly migrated, complete circle, right back to the tree. She loved it. The more she did without the more she wanted to do without. She loved having time to spend with her daughter, and the creative challenge of every day.

Discovering Riana’s blog (I dug through the archives until I found the start of the slow year, and have been back reading ever since, I’m to March of this year now, almost done, boo hoo) has been an interesting emotional journey for me.

My own trip is a true negative of her story. Though I also grew up with hippie parents, I made the opposite move when I left home. Trying to pick up where they had left off, living far more extreme than I had growing up. After adventuring around my home state of Alaska, and the wider world as far as Iceland and Italy, I found someone on the same track as me, and we “settled down” 26 miles (by road) from a small, coastal Alaskan town to build a little homestead of sorts– treehouse/cabin, big garden, root cellar, smoke house, sauna. Learned how to can fish and butcher bear, tan hides and make birch bark baskets, wiped our asses with moss and cooked in our open fire-pit most of the year.

We lived there for four years, but when we broke up, neither of us could stomach staying at the place that was so very “us.” I moved, heartbroken, to a different coastal Alaskan town. Eventually met a shaggy man living in a tipi/shack of his own design. Fell in love and three years later, married that man. Through a set of circumstance too complicated to describe, we ended up moving out of that sweet, drafty, moldy tipi and buying a house, right in town (albeit a tiny town of 2,500 people, without even a stoplight). We made a couple of babies, and then my man decided to go to law school, in New Orleans.

Of course, it didn’t go quite like that, it was a slowly evolving and mutual decision. He has for years worked what I consider the other side of my coin. He does non-profit environmental work. Which means he more or less tries to stop Progress, or at least muck it up as best he can, via the legal system. He’s been doing law work without a law degree for years, and it’s always a pain in the ass for him to try to find a lawyer who’ll work for non-profit wages. He’s got the brain for lawyering and even, amazingly, enjoys the puzzle of the legal system. So going to law school was a logical step.

There were a few schools in smaller towns, one in Vermont that everyone thought would be perfect for us. And maybe it would have been. But we both felt like if we were going to leave our home, our favorite place in the world, for three years, we might as well go somewhere completely different– for the pure adventure of it. We would have liked to go to another country, but you can’t study law in another country. New Orleans seemed about as far as a person could go from Cordova, on every level, without leaving the country. Plus they offered him a huge scholarship…

So, to New Orleans we came! Where I could garden all winter long, supposedly, and have a lemon tree. I love small town life, but I also liked the idea of living where there are lots of weirdos doing things I hadn’t even dreamed of. Where I could find maybe a whole big community of my own kind of weirdos. I was at a time of life ready for some new adventures, and was excited about the move.

But, inevitably, the transition has been hard.

My daily life, especially when we first got here, consisted of buying stuff. We did need stuff, we’d hardly brought anything (except 2 huge coolers full of frozen wild meat and fish, and 9 flat rate boxes of home canned same) because it didn’t seem worth it when the American world is so overladen with second-hand. But also, there just isn’t much else to do in a city when you don’t have a true Home yet. Especially when it’s 95 degrees and you’re 7 1/2 months pregnant, and you were born in Alaska, and you can’t fathom hanging out outside. In fact, even inside with the AC going I was too hot to want to do anything. I didn’t even feel like cooking, which for me is probably a sign of clinical depression.

And of course, it takes a long time to find your particular community of weirdos. I felt cut adrift. I’d only met one person who I could imagine dumpster diving (not that I’m such a hard core DDer, but it’s a measure of a person’s brand of weirdness). It seemed especially impossible that I’d ever meet another mama I could truly connect with.

My fire of discovery, of pure driven direction, had been fading for years. The move suddenly felt like the complete wrong turn. If I’d been not pregnant, without toddler in tow, I could have probably pushed my way through, relit my fire. But I felt heavy.

This is when I found Riana’s blog. At first it made me so sad I almost cried. Here she was, living the gorgeous, soft-focus, Slow life in France of all places (how obnoxiously romantic), and describing perfectly that sharp, heady joy of singular direction that I felt I’d lost. The bitch.

It’s so hard to have a distance perspective in life. Everything seems it will always be just how it is right now. But thankfully after awhile I was able to remember that this seemingly directionless moment in my life would pass. I was tired and heavy because I was growing a big, healthy baby inside of me. It was hard to get anything done because my beautiful first born was having her own rough adjustment period. And everything felt harder because it was too fucking hot.

With some perspective in hand, I was able to let go and just enjoy Riana’s blog, her diary of change and discovery. She definitely puts a rosy glow on everything, and I am old enough to know that’s not the whole picture. But I’m also old enough to know that the hidden dings and scratches don’t make the picture less true. She is obviously having a great time with her Slow Years, and it’s a pleasure to be able to share in her story.

But I don’t just want to sit around and read about someone else’s good times! Riana’s passion and drive have motivated me to kick myself in the butt. I’ve always been annoyed at people who just moan about their situation and limitations, instead of making whatever changes they need to make to be doing what they want to do. There’s no reason I can’t do my thing here in New Orleans. I love mountains and trees and wild things, but my thing has always been about living deliberately and directly, about doing and creating instead of spectating and consuming. Those principles can be practiced anywhere, no matter how limited your resources, or non-existent your community of others. Just look at Riana– somehow I suspect no one else in their picturesque little French town is wiping their bung-hole with a washable cloth wipe.