Category Archives: New Perspectives

I’m not Intending to Ignore this Blog

Things have been hectic. I haven’t shared with you all yet, but I really should have.

I decided to go back to school full time. I am intelligent enough to succeed. Time management has proven challenging, however.

I have also found another job. I’m still underemployed; I’m just underemployed in two locations, with two commutes, and two tiny paychecks now. See time management.

One of my children has fallen into a significant depression following a situation with the ex. This is, by far, the most important thing on my mind at this time. I am working with all of the appropriate professionals, but this situation won’t just evaporate. It’s going to take time and work. I’ve already decided that second job is optional if the extra time away proves to be too much. I can’t undo what he did or the depth of the scars he has caused, but I can skip meals if I have to in order to be there for my child.

I’ve learned some things over the last few weeks. One is that I need this blog. It’s a release. I’ve been losing my damned mind without it. Another is that I can take some credit it when it’s due. I AM a single mother with all the duties of an 1800s housewife (all food from scratch, lack of major appliances – seriously bread making is a much bigger chore when you have to hand wash all of your dishes after you’ve invested a couple of hours into making the bread), school, two jobs, and the emotional needs of children who have been traumatized by circumstance (well, circumstance and a very large asshole). I balance more on my plate in one day than most people deal with in a week or a month and that is big.

Rather than hating on myself when I pass out with a sink full of dishes,  an overflowing trash can, or the fact that my lazy ass didn’t get bread made on a given day, I’ve learned to appreciate what I did accomplish. Getting everyone to class, finishing homework, making sure nobody had to walk home, hand washing favorite t-shirts because I didn’t have the money to go to the laundromat, cobbling 2-3 meals together from my pantry and freezer, meaningful conversations with each kid, washing *most* of the dishes we used that day, putting in 0-12 hours between one or both jobs, and making sure the kitties got some quality petting and scratching. Maybe what I didn’t finish doesn’t make me a failure – maybe it just makes me human. And, maybe, just maybe, what I did manage to do makes me a worthy human. I’m always searching for ways to improve, to be better, to be worthy, to be more efficient, just to improve. I think I’m learning that my drive to improve at everything doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m a failure at everything when, in reality, I’m managing to almost hold my own against nearly impossible odds. Fuck feeling like a failure; I don’t have a minute to waste feeling anything that isn’t contributing to improving our circumstances.

Daily Bread

I signed on this morning with the intention of forcing all the muddled stresses crushing my soul into a single, coherent post. The universe clearly understood that there’s really no way I can accomplish that and threw me a bone with a daily prompt from WP.

What do I prefer to have handmade?

I prefer my bread handmade. Really, truly handmade. I don’t have a mixer so we’re talking hand mixed, hand kneaded bread. I love it, though I suck at slicing.

I used to own a bread machine, but it rapidly became a dust collector. It was nice to set it and forget it, but cleaning it was a pain and the family could not abide the after taste. Time passed. One of us developed a severe condition that imposed unforgiving dietary restrictions and the bread machine continued to collect dust, eventually finding its way to a donation box. I was able to trust one brand of commercially available bread and relied on it for a little too long. Fresh baked bread from the store had contamination issues enough times that I’ll never buy it again. Meanwhile the commercially produced bread for people avoiding the things we were avoiding was expensive, dense and rejected. $4-5 for a loaf of safe bread that went to feed the birds visiting my compost heap. We relied on that single brand of bread until after we found it contaminated. That loaf went to the heap and was replaced with a new one.

Sick again. Compost. Wait over a week. Buy new loaf. Sick again. Flip over the package. There was no contamination issue – the ingredients changed. Our safe bread was no longer safe. We checked the bread aisles at three large grocers only to discover that we could not find a single safe loaf.

No bueno.

There were times when I wished I hadn’t given away the bread machine. They were fleeting. Throwing away homemade bread was no more appealing than throwing away store bought. I experimented on and off with making bread. We usually ended up with something similar to the specialty brands. Not terrible, but not what we wanted. My family wants bread that feels and tastes like the bread they have spent their lives eating. Because we have given up so much “normal” food, some homemade versions have to look, smell, taste and feel like their commercial counterparts. Sometimes, a runner up just won’t do. Time passed and we basically gave up bread.

Enter the holy shit! moment.

Similar failures with purchased hamburger buns had me on the lookout for bun recipes. I found one and went through the motions without high expectations. I did notice that the dough was very light and wondered if I could use it for bread. After baking, I fried some bacon and hamburgers. The buns were normal. Very normal. They were excellently fucking normal. And perfectly safe.

I watched on in excitement as my family at burgers on buns. No forks, no knives. Buns. Whole burgers lifted up to the mouth to be bitten into.

A few days later, I made the recipe again. This time, half the dough went into a bread pan. It was exactly what I was looking for! Moreover, it is a hit with the family.

I make it at least once per week, though I am striving to average twice. There are only six ingredients (flour, liquid, sugar, oil, salt, yeast) and they are mixed by hand with a spoon. The dough is kneaded by hand. It’s a process and I choose a day when I have a couple of hours to be home where I can babysit it. It forces me to be still and focused even when my stressors are out of control. Kneading dough also happens to be a great way to work out the bitter unfairness of life from time to time.

So, I prefer my bread handmade. For obvious reasons, everyone’s health and well being, ingredient control, freshness, etc. But I also prefer it for a very simple reason…making bread from scratch, a fairly abnormal thing in the modern US, has returned some normalcy to my family. White bread, toast. Sandwiches. Peanut butter and jelly. My kids can eat peanut butter and jelly! Just like everyone else. (With empathy to those who cannot.)

One Moment of Appreciation

I’m pretty sure I’ll beat the grocery goal. Mostly because I have no choice. One of the kids has to have a procedure ASAP and a hefty chunk is due upfront. And the car is getting pretty damned sick of me limping it along with promises of a trip to the mechanic sometime “soon.” At least two utilities are getting skipped in July and I’m trying to keep enough in the bank to cover a tow just in case.

I was careful with my last grocery trip and definitely have enough food to get through the coming week. Unfortunately, I may only be able to squeeze pennies out of my next check to put toward groceries and child support has been taking longer and longer lately. I’m mentally gearing up to make what I’ve got last 2 weeks instead of one. I’m also trying not to grind my teeth into dust while I sleep.

Tonight, I roasted a chicken for dinner and served it up alongside reheated mashed potatoes, grapes and strawberries. I was beating myself up for not making breadsticks or a salad and wishing I had some corn. (Only two mini ears in the freezer and no kernel corn to be found.) I could have roasted carrots with the chicken, but I didn’t. So, I’m wandering back and forth from the stove, mentally browbeating my many shortcomings as a mother, when my oldest child made a comment about having a “simple” meal. Not simple as in lazy or too easy (it was easy, LOL), but simple as in everything was identifiable and being consumed in a recognizable form.

The chicken was seasoned and roasted. The potatoes are cooked in water, drained, and mashed – with nothing added. And they are fantastic. The strawberries are pitted and “shaved” (we don’t like the seeds). The grapes are whole. The loaf of bread and biscuits on the table were handmade using ingredients I can recite from memory without getting winded. For as broke as we are and as much as I felt I had failed the family, my child pointed out that there was plenty of quality food for us to eat tonight.

I decided to take a break from feeling inadequate and let myself enjoy dinner, and my child’s appreciation tonight.

Just Four More Days

This month will be over in four days and I kinda can’t wait. I want to set aside the budget audit, the June series of fights with the ex, the yet again disappointing returns on my job search efforts, and everything else that has weighed me down this month. I want the June 2014 chapter to be completed and the July 2014 chapter to begin.

June was heavily scheduled, much more so than I liked. There was a school’s out rush of things to do and the pace was a little much for me. We literally had one day where I was off and didn’t had a bunch of stuff to drag the kids around for. I was going to catch up on mowing and weeding that day, but there was a lengthy downpour shortly after I finished mowing so the weeding never got started. Although, it was kind of nice to go inside and just sit for a while. I need that from time to time. More than once a month, definitely.

As I look toward July, I find that I am simply looking forward to July. We don’t have an aggressive schedule and we are looking forward to spending time together on my days off. I have some sewing and crafting projects for the kids that I’m really excited about. My work schedule looks to be relatively stable, which really lends itself to better eating and sleeping habits. I’m entering the month without anything past due on my utilities. And, very comfortingly, the month should begin with some fantastic grocery store sales that I can take advantage of.

My goals for now include:

  • Cut 16% from what we’ve been spending on groceries. I’d like to cut it all the way down to budget, but that’s an unrealistic change to make in one month. I’m switching to cash for grocery purchases to make sure this happens. Trips to the store won’t be based on what’s in the bank, only what’s in the budget.
  • Make the breakfast muffin recipe twice each week, once as muffins and once as coffee cakes.
  • Make bread twice each week. I’ve only been doing this once a week, but I have found a good recipe that the kids are loving and they are gobbling it up.
  • Add more soups to meals. They really are a great way to get more veggies into the kids, they are reasonably priced to make, and I just finished cooking up a big batch of chicken stock.
  • Get a fall garden planned and planted. I did so poorly this spring that we’ve got very little to show for it. Thankfully, it’s not too late and we could still end up with some fall produce if I use my time wisely.
  • Take two recreation days. I want two days with the kids where we just do something fun. Two days this month that we spend out of the house, without worrying about our problems or what we can’t afford to do.

Yeah, I’m looking forward to July.

That Voice You Heard…It was Mine

In somewhat of a rush, I opened the door and immediately spotted him. Neatly dressed in neutral business attire and carrying a clipboard, he advanced rapidly, a carbon copy of so many uninvited doorbell ringers. His heart must have skipped a beat – I was outside and he was at the end of my driveway. No waiting to see if someone would answer, no door to be slammed in his face. To him, I was potential. A potential sale? Potential convert? Who knows? I was the mark he was waiting for, practically delivered up on a silver platter.

I locked the door and turned to see his first step onto my driveway. He was coming and I needed to make a decision. Whatever he was selling is out of my reach financially and that’s assuming I even wanted or needed it. Not to mention, I was already in a rush so being a wimp and allowing his pitch was not going to happen.

Before his second step onto the driveway, I looked up, smiled, and said, “Nope,” in the most assertive, yet friendly manner I could.

He smiled back, “Nope?” and nodded.

I nodded back and said, “Thank you,” as he proceeded to my neighbor’s.

Once upon a time, I would have been afraid of hurting his feelings or just too damned weak to say I wasn’t interested. That didn’t happen today. I was firm and assertive, while still nice.

I’ve spent my life eager to be kind and fair toward others. I’m drawn to being a nice person. Self-sacrifice for another’s benefit is as deeply ingrained in my psyche as my physical heart is ingrained in my body. Unfortunately, these traits played a significant role in allowing my husband (and others, sadly) to take advantage of and hurt me for so many years. I struggled with coming to terms with that. Would asserting myself or choosing my needs over someone else’s desires make me into a person who was unkind, unfair, or, gasp, not nice?

Today, I proved to myself that it wouldn’t. I am still nice, even without giving something up.

What’s more is that the guilt pangs I keep feeling serve to remind me that I did not lose myself during the divorce and there remains a long distance to travel on my survivor’s journey.

Why I Don’t Hate Weeds

I like to maintain a fairly neat lawn and I work on balancing my gardening style with aesthetics. Okay, I want to maintain a fairly neat lawn and balance my gardening style with aesthetics. It does not seem to be happening so far this year. Despite that, I want to come out in defense of a few maligned plants, aka weeds. My truth is:

They (Usually) Aren’t Hurting Anyone

Okay, so I do chop and pull anything that can cause pain or discomfort. I’m looking at you, Burdock and Thistle! However, most weeds are just sitting there, chilling. They can’t really be accused of harming the soil or lawn. They’re just there, doing their own thing, right alongside your grass.

They Tell You What’s up with Your Lawn

Clover, dandelion and plantains everywhere? You may just have some really compacted soil. You could also be running low in available nitrogen and calcium while holding onto plenty of potassium. Knotweed is alerting you to acidic soil (Hello, blueberry lovers!) and ground ivy wants you to know that things just aren’t draining very well.

They Can Help Repair Soil Problems

Clover doesn’t just tell you that your soil may be deficient in nitrogen, it actually sucks nitrogen out of thin air and deposits it into the soil when the plant decomposes. So you can mow and leave adequate slow release fertilizer behind without cost or any of those pesky runoff issues. Dandelions may tell you that your soil is lacking in available calcium, but they are masters at getting it. A single serving of dandelion leaves contains 10% of your daily calcium requirement. You don’t have to eat them if you don’t want to, though. Yank them out (their roots have already wiggled their way deep, breaking up compacted soil) and compost them.  Wanna do some lazy vegetable gardening? Skip the composting and mulch your tomatoes with freshly clipped dandelion leaves.

Biodiversity Isn’t Just a Farm Thing

Nearly everyone knows about the dangers of monocropping in large farms. Consider this on a smaller scale. Clover feeds grass as it decomposes, effectively eliminating the need for chemical fertilizer. It also attracts bees, who get to work pollinating food crops and producing honey. Wild mustard attracts ladybugs which devour plant killing aphids and serve as food for dragonflies and birds.

All in all, weeds are just plants. Dandelion arrived in North America thanks to European settlers who cultivated it for consumption and is making a comeback in salads, jellies and artisan wine. Purslane was once an American staple. Amaranth was a staple crop for the Aztecs. It seems that one generation’s weed is another’s food. With climate change looming on the horizon, some of today’s hardier “weeds” might just be tomorrow’s staples.