Tag Archives: homesteading

5×12

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I present to you my great and secret shame:

IMG_20150107_123527331

Shown with small enthusiastic ferocious terrier and larger loving but ultimately pretty useless Border Collie mutt for size comparison:

"When do we get our cheeseburgers for being such good models?"

“When do we get our cheeseburgers for being such good models?”

That, gang is a bag of t-shirts. A big bag of t-shirts, which has been sitting in the closet/Moon Man’s office/the basement for…lordy, two years now? Three? Long enough that I no longer have any idea what t-shirts are in there, and had completely forgotten he ever even had the red dino one on the top.

Now hold on to my Great and Secret Shame for a minute; we’re gonna circle back around to it.

Yesterday I was talking with a Very Dear Friend; she’d checked in to see how the Smoking Cessation Plan of 2015 was coming along (for which she gets 10 billion karma points, as she was the first non-Buffalo Moon Ranch resident to do so), and we were chitchatting about how one of the most challenging bits for me is figuring out what to do with myself. It’s not just about the nicotine addiction, y’know; it’s about the habit, the repetitive action, the thing you do to fill gaps in the day. What do you do when you’re a nonsmoker who gets to the restaurant before your friend does? What does a nonsmoker do when she has 10 minutes before her next meeting, since that’s really not enough time to, say, watch an episode of Friends? These are roughly 10-12 5-minute increments through the day, y’all, nearly an hour of time; what do nonsmokers do with that hour?

Very Dear Friend suggested blocking out that hour as “Time Formerly Known As Smoking Time Which You May Not Claim And Which I Shall Use For My Own Nefarious Purposes” (I may have changed the suggested title a bit there), but the problem is that a lot of smoking time was spent in the gaps between other things–having a meeting scheduled at 1:00 meant that I would pop out for 5 minutes around 12:45. Showing up to the movies early so we could get tickets and popcorn meant taking 5 minutes to grab a quick smoke before going inside. Et cetera. And since most of those things aren’t really movable times–they’re not going to agree to push all my meetings up to be back-to-back so I can spend a free hour in the afternoon, and they’re not going to just start the movie 5 minutes early because I’m ready before they are–those gaps still exist, still need filled with some small thing.

Enter the t-shirt bag.

While we were talking, it occurred to me that perhaps what I needed was a “fidget”, a little thing I could do with my hands that would mostly leave my mind free to wander/plan blogs/try to remember whatever it is I’m forgetting at the moment, that would take about 5 minutes or could be done in 5-minute increments. I thought about dusting–I always think about dusting–and added that to the Possible Options list, along with “tidying a small corner of the world”, “lovebombing someone out of the blue”, and “some small sort of exercise”…but then I remembered the t-shirt bag.

That bag, which has been sitting forlorn and forgotten, was originally destined to become a t-shirt quilt. Not that I know how to make a t-shirt quilt or anything ridiculous like that–there are a lot of tutorials online, and a lot of instructions, and goodness knows I have a lot of friends who quilt, but I’ve never personally made one and have only the dimmest idea where/how to start. (And no, that’s not a request for help or advice; one of the things I’m giving myself permission to do in 2015 is Trying Things Without Having to Get Them Right on the First Try. This could end up beautifully, or it may end with a pile of scrap fabric and me in tears. Who knows? We’ll see when we get there. And I’ll get to do some on-the-fly problem-solving, which is never a terrible thing to do.)

So I’ve dragged the bag up from the basement, where I found it after 10 minutes of playing “where was the last place I saw that dang thing?” around the house. I’ve gathered a bin to put the cut-up pieces in, and my fabric-only scissors. There’s a reasonable chance that I’ll set up a folding card table in my office so I can work between calls, and failing that, I’ve already picked a nice spot on the living room floor where it can sit and be an eyesore and probably eventually get peed on by one of the dogs or torn up by one of the cats.

And I reckon I can use my 5-minute increments to make babystep progress with the thing: cutting the shirts apart; trimming the pieces to…the right shapes? squares maybe? still pretty fuzzy on this step; stitching them together in a meaningful way TBD. Heck, for all I know I might be about to embark on an adventure of making the world’s saddest collection of potholders, dust cloths, and trivets. We might end up with 8 patchwork pillowcases that don’t actually fit any of our pillows. There’s a very real chance we’ll end up with a garbage bag of cut-apart t-shirts and half-formed quilt blocks that ends up going back in the basement for another two or three years.

But one thing I do know is that I’ll have a way to fill those 12, 5-minute gaps each day. With something that isn’t a cigarette, and which might just turn out to be productive and lovely.

I’ll take it.

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Perfectly Imperfect

In a fit of creativity, I have recently taken up (re-taken up?) embroidery. I remember watching my mother embroider–and beautifully, I might note–and I remember a delightful afternoon when I was 10 or so, when she brought me this little dove-holding-an-olive-branch project and taught me various stitches as we completed it together. I’m reasonably sure it’s still floating around in a box somewhere, probably in her attic.

And I remember a winter, maybe a decade ago, when I decided I would embroider again, and I bought these nifty little canvas messenger bags with plain front flaps and raided the craft store’s embroidery floss section, and made everyone personalized bags for Christmas. As I recall, that was also the year when it became abundantly clear to me that I’m not very good at drawing, so most of the designs were a little…abstract.

So then a few weeks ago, as I watched Seashell knit, I decided I wanted to take up a handicraft again, and embroidery seemed like the best option–I’d enjoyed it before, and it’s portable, easy enough, and lets you escape into that zen space where you can’t really worry about anything important because you’re busy making a million tiny decisions: do I have enough thread on the needle to finish this row? What color should this flower be? Why, for the love of all that is holy, does the bleepin’ bloopin’ floss keep bleepin’ bloopin’ knotting on me when all I am trying to do is pass it through this one bit of cloth which is exactly the same as the bit from the last stitch and so there is absolutely no reason why it should be fighting me? Have I done something wrong? Have I offended it in some way? Does the thread just not want to be a flower?

I’ve been working on my new embroidery project in fits and starts for a couple of days now, and while I can’t show you the entire project (I’m planning to make it a gift), I can show you a representative little piece, so you can see the magnificence and brilliance and frank artistry that is springing forth from my fingertips:

Who

…So. Um. That happened.

In my mind, that was going to be beautiful flowing script. The way I drew it on the fabric with the washable pen, it was beautiful flowing script. The stitches were all going to align perfectly to create the illusion that someone had simply written on the fabric with thread, and they were going to lock and blend together like water in a stream.

Instead, …well, you can see the instead.

So last night I spent some time sitting and looking at my masterpiece, debating whether to continue (it’s a big project), debating whether anyone really wants to receive a gift that will look so very, very much like it was made by someone who had never done this before, debating whether it’s actually rude to hand someone something that’s so spectacularly imperfect and imply that they should look past its flaws to see the loving message that it is meant to carry.

And that’s when it hit me: that’s exactly what I should do.

It is said that the Japanese have a concept, wabi-sabi, in which the imperfect is prized as a reminder of the transience of all things. Nothing in nature is perfect; nothing in nature is meant to be perfect, because all things wither and decay, and it is only our attachment to the trappings of this world that cause us to feel sad or anxious about that. Some artists make sure to include flaws in their work as a way of embracing this ideal; others simply let the work happen as it happens, and accept graciously that imperfections will come either as part of the process of creation or as part of the object’s use.

Moon Man pointed out that a gift with obvious flaws means that it has to be unique–you can’t convince a machine to snag thread like that, or to pucker fabric. And I, being the sort of person I am, took it a step further: when we enter relationship with someone, we come in knowing that we are flawed, that they are flawed, and that those flaws are what make us beautiful. We talked recently about how violent processes can build for us the most amazing internal landscape, and I reckon this isn’t so very different–it is the failures that make the embroidery beautiful. It is the message that makes it beautiful. It is the gift, freely and lovingly created and given, that makes it beautiful.

So who cares if the “o” in “who” is a little boxy? Who cares if the “W” isn’t quite the right size? Who cares if the fabric has puckered a bit, or if the lady behind the needle is fat, or if I’m afraid of heights or still haven’t mastered crispy fried potatoes or have pontoon boat-sized nail beds so manicures never quite look right on me?

What matters is that I am creating a thing for a person I love. I am spending my time working on this thing, just to see that person smile. It is radically imperfect and utterly flawed, but that’s ok–so am I, and the gift’s intended recipient loves me anyway. I’ve already asked this person to look past my split ends and reluctance to go boating and fear of abandonment; I’m pretty sure it’s not going to collapse the whole thing if I add “…and the fact that I am not a master-level embroidery artist”.

Instead, I will embrace the wabi-sabi of my little bit of stitchery. And I will trust that the recipient will understand that the gift is made and given with love, in the same way that the recipient has already accepted me–beautifully flawed, utterly unique, and perfectly imperfect.

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A House That Shines Bright as the Sun

Dear New Family,

I have no idea who you are, and you have no idea who I am, and that’s ok. All I know about you is that you’ve bought my friend, Star’s, house, so let me wedge my way in here to be among the first to congratulate you. It’s always so exciting, isn’t it, starting a life in a new home, and knowing that you’ve got all this space to fill with memories and laughter. And I hope that your life inside those walls is everything you dream it can be.

But before you move in, there are a few things I want to tell you about the place you’ve just bought, so you’ll know what a treasure you’ve found.

In that house there were the most epic parties. Not in an “oh, hi, Officer, were we too loud again?” sort of way, and not in an “are we completely sure we got all the red plastic Solo cups out of the trees?” sort of way, but in an “I’m looking at my Facebook friends list and realizing that easily 30 of the people on the list are folks I met at Star Parties” sort of way. The musician who played at our wedding, and his lovely wife and their two kids who did Irish dances at my birthday? Met ’em at a Star party. The fellow I jokingly refer to as my boyfriend, regardless of what his husband thinks about that? Star party. I could seriously do this for a long time; so suffice it to say that yours is a house where people gathered together to have the best times, laughing and talking and debating and making music together. May you, too, celebrate with a depth and richness that brings people together and fills them with joy.

In that house “family” was redefined. My friend bought that house so she could care for her aging parents (one with Alzheimer’s, one with Parkinson’s). It was always meant to be a house for family to live in together. And when her two friends came to stay and help with her parents, the family expanded; and after her parents moved out of this life and into their next Grand Adventure, another roommate came to stay, and the family expanded again; and at some point, every one of us who has ever been in that house has realized that family is whatever you make it, and that we are a part of that grand and glorious family. May your family, too, be strong and vast and loving regardless of bloodlines or definitions.

In that house people were real. They came together to laugh. They came together to cry. They came together to argue, sure, but then they came together to find their common ground and try again. They behaved well or behaved badly; they did the right thing on the first try or made mistakes and asked for forgiveness; they said exactly what people wanted to hear or exactly what people needed to hear or sometimes nothing at all; but at the end of it, they were honest and upfront and beautifully flawed. May you, too, have the strength to live your truth, as magically perfect and inevitably imperfect as it may be.

In that house, above all things, there was love. There was love because, and love despite. There was love through hope, love through transition, love through frustration, and love through fear. There was love in hello, love in goodbyes that we knew were coming, and love in goodbyes that caught everyone off-guard. There was love that healed, love that uplifted, love that welcomed, and love that fought. There was love for people who came from very far away, and love for people who lived just down the hall. If you came into that space with love in your heart, you left with it multiplied; and if you came needing love, you left with more than you could carry. May you, too, above all else, have love.

So congratulations, new people, and welcome home. It’s not my place to offer you a housewarming bottle of wine or potted plant; but I can offer you these words, and these blessings, and my prayer that your life there will be as memorable as the lives of the people who lived there before you. We’re gathering together for one last Star party this weekend, and I promise, we’ll do everything we can to fill the house near to bursting with one last grand whoop of laughter so it will still be echoing when you move in. Enjoy yourselves there; goodness knows we all did.

Blessings and light,

Mama BW

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Let Them Eat Cake

Last night for dessert, Moon Man and I had cake. It wasn’t supposed to be a Splurge Day, but a) he’d had a seriously long coupla days at work and needed a little treat, and b) we wanted to do our part for Science and for the troops (none of this would’ve happened if we hadn’t been watching The Nerdist’s Tribute to Science. That Chris Hardwick will get you, every time).

Here’s what happened: about a month ago, we baked Cakes in Jars. I’d stumbled across the idea on a forum for Navy moms (of which I am not one, but moms have the best ideas when it comes to care packages, and indeed, pretty much everything else in life), and it seemed interesting, but really, what kind of friends would we be if we just whipped up a batch and shipped it off without testing it first? I mean, c’mon, our friend is stuck on a boat in the middle of nowhere most of the time–it’s not like he can just throw together a cake whenever he wants one, and it’s just mean to promise him a cake and have him open his box to find a bizarre mold specimen in a jar. So in the name of Science and ‘Murrica, we had to try it ourselves first. It’s a hard sacrifice to make for one’s country, the eating of cake; but by gosh, we can’t let other people make all the sacrifices, now can we?

So for the last few weeks we’ve been cracking open a cake jar each week and using a highly scientific approach to analyzing the results:

1. Look at it. Does it still look like cake? If no, discard. If yes, proceed to…

2. Smell it. Does it still smell like cake? If no, discard. If yes, proceed to…

3. Eat it. Did you die? If yes, we thank you for your service and will notify your parents. If no, then congratulations! Your experiment has been a success, and you get cake as a reward.

And holy crap, it worked. For the last four weeks, we’ve been eating cake that we baked in July. We’re both still alive, and aside from some slight flavor changes, the cake had remained intact and ready for devourin’ that whole time.

In other words: one of these days, our friend will receive cake in the mail, despite the 3-to-4-week shore-to-ship mail delay. Also, in case of Zombiepocalypse, our fortress will have cake. We’ll be the coolest fortress on the plains.

Now, the careful observer may have noticed that I put the link to the site where I found the directions I followed, back there at the beginning of the second paragraph. But in case that link ever stops working, or in case you didn’t notice it, here’s the quick’n’dirty how-to, so you too can have fun with Science:

  1. Gather canning jars and rings–we used pint-sized, with wide mouths–and new lids (they have to be new, ’cause you’re gonna need ’em to seal).
  2. Whip up your favorite cake or quickbread recipe. We used a boxed mix because we were feelin’ lazy that day, but I reckon we’ll use a Real Live From-Scratch Recipe when we start making batches to send overseas.
  3. Grease the inside of the jars, being sure to cover the entire inside. We used the spray stuff, and it made a chemical taste develop over the last couple of weeks; so next time I reckon we’ll use the old tried-and-true vegetable oil + flour combination.
  4. Use a combination of wide-mouthed funnel and quarter-cup scoop to dump slightly less than a cup of batter into each jar. You’re right, that won’t fill the jar; but fear not, Science rules the day again–once the baking happens, the magic of cake expansion will happen too.
  5. Wipe down the interior of the jar–you don’t want any drippy batter bits along the sides, because those will be un-lovely. Also make sure the top edges of the jars are clean, because this will affect the lid’s ability to seal later.
  6. Bake as directed by box, recipe, voice of god, etc. You may end up with a slightly shorter baking time, y’know, since you’re breaking the big cake down into little component cakes, so start checking for doneness (with the old “stick a wooden skewer in there and check for crumbs” test) about 10 minutes early.
  7. Remove from oven and immediately place lids on tops of jars and screw on rings. You’re relying on the carryover heat of the jars themselves and the air inside to help seal the lids, so no waitin’ around. (No panicking, though, either–you’ve got a coupla minutes to complete this step. Just, y’know, don’t take ’em out and then go have a cup of Victory Coffee before you start the lid’n’ring process.)

And voila! That’s all there is to it. After a few minutes you’ll start hearing that “tink!” sound that indicates that the seals have held and the jars are cooling–we stood in the kitchen and listened to the tinks ’cause we’re old and boring like that–and you’ll be able to see the lids dent in (ooh! aah! the magic of the vacuum! Feel free to use this opportunity to turn this into a Science lesson for any kids you’ve recruited as sous chefs). Once that happens, just hang back and wait for the jars to cool enough to handle, then chuck ’em (gently!) into the pantry for consumption whenever you want ’em; or package ’em up (be sure to use lots of bubble wrap) for shipment to your favorite service member.

Oh! And as for the frosting, we just cracked open a container, broke out a coupla spoons, and scooped up some frosting with each bite of cake (which we ate straight outta the jar like barbarians).

So there you have it! Cake-in-a-jar, or “Science and Patriotism 101”, or “Why we’ll have the best Zombiepocalypse fort this side of the Mississippi”. And now that we’ve tested the cakes out to the one-month mark, I’m pretty comfortable sending a shipment to our friend.

…Though they do say that a good experiment should be repeatable. Maybe we should repeat this one first. Y’know, just to be sure. 😉

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WWCH: Cook Them Tasty Food

I think we can safely say that the whole Chicken Restaurant Which Shall Remain Nameless issue has reached–and passed–the saturation point. We’ve all had our fun, gotten nice and riled up about things, and now…well, now mostly what I’m seeing is people saying “If you mention that restaurant one more time, I will punch you in the head”. And frankly, I’m inclined to agree. I think we’ve all reached our limit for the number of hyphens we’re willing to use, and ohdearlordinheaven am I ever tired of hearing the word “chicken”.

So this weekend for our Weekend World-Changer Homework, let’s try something altogether different: let’s try cooking at home. It’s healthier, for one thing, and it brings families together (at least according to all those bazillion studies the powers-that-be like to quote), and if you buy your ingredients from farmers markets, you don’t really have to worry about what the Corporate Head Office is doing with the cash you give them. I mean, ok, sure, maybe you want to ask your friendly local farmer about his or her politics, and that’s your business; but at least I know, by buying from these nice folks, that some six-tiers-removed muckety-muck isn’t going to use my dollar to support … y’know what, never mind. Politics schmolitics. Today we’re talkin’ about food.

So here’s what I propose: this weekend, hit your local farmers market and buy some ingredients. Any kind you like. Any kind at all. Then take them home, prep them as needed, and cook dinner. The family can help, unless you’re planning to use all that choppin’ as a way to make ’em scurry and hide (which is also totally fair game). Then bring everyone together at the table–go pick up a $10 folding table if you have to, or go to the park; they have tables there that you can use for free–and sit down and eat together. Talk about what’s going on in everyone’s world. Talk about what the heck this meal was supposed to be, since it appears to be a pile of vaguely reddish slop. Talk about how you get no respect or appreciation. Talk about whatever is on your mind, while enjoying a meal that you made all by yourself, with no concerns about accidentally having supported human rights violations in far-off lands with it.

And for those of you who are finding this idea a little intimidating, allow me to offer the following suggestions, which we’ll call Mama Buffalo’s Cooking 101–Tips and Tricks for the Mighty At-Home Chef (remember that title. There might be more posts like this in the future.):

1. Recipes are your friend. So is the internet. I confess: most of my best recipes come from the internet. I reckon there’s absolutely no call to try and reinvent the wheel; so if someone else has already looked at their pantry, discovered some kohlrabi, some apples, and some lemon juice, and has sorted out what to do with that, then by gosh, I’ll just go right ahead and help myself to their advice (hint: Kohlrabi-Apple Slaw). It’s certainly fair game to tweak as needed, and if you’re a creative chef, then by all means, invent something new; but if you’re like most of the rest of us, just remember that if someone else volunteers to do the heavy lifting, the appropriate response is “thank you”.

2. Nobody said you can only use one recipe. Here’s another confession: most of my best meals come from taking a whole heap of recipes and averaging them. Sure, you can pick a chef whose food you admire and stick to their cookbooks (we’re big Alton Brown fans here, so his biscuit recipe is pretty much the only one I’ll use)…but it’s also a great deal of fun to go hunting for something new and different and just hobble together your own Frankenrecipe from what you find out there. For instance, there are approximately one hundred kaspillion chili recipes out there, and everyone believes theirs is the best. So go look up some chili recipes, and start looking for the points where everybody agrees: you’re probably going to find “brown some meat”, and “add some onions/onion powder”, and “add cumin, chili powder, salt, and pepper” in just about all of ’em–so start from there, and add any additional steps you find exciting. It’s like crowdsourcing, but with dinner. And that makes me very happy.

3. Try something nobody in your house has ever had before. This is seriously my favorite tip of all time. Here’s why: if nobody has ever had it, there’s really no way to tell if you did it right. I mean, there are the obvious tells–undercooked meat, things catching fire, etc–but if nobody knows what it’s supposed to taste like, then who can tell if you got it slightly wrong? For all they know, you’ve just thrown down like an Iron Chef, and suddenly you become a legend in your own home. Case in point: I make a heckuva Moroccan lamb stew, which is a Frankenrecipe that pretty much comes down to “put thinly sliced onions in a pot with some ground lamb, dates, apricots, raisins, cabbage, diced tomato, chicken stock, and a lot of ras el hanout, toss in a little salt and pepper, and come back later”. We’ve had this stew approximately 900 times since I “invented” it–we love it that much–and the good news is that neither of us has the first idea whether it tastes “correct”. It tastes good, which is all that matters. Well, that and it’s all nutritious. We like nutritious things around here. We also like cupcakes, which is neither here nor there but does lead us to the final point:

4. Dude, chill out. It’s just dinner. Nobody expects you to cook like a Top Chef, and the President would’ve let you know if he was planning to drop by for dinner, so there’s nobody here to impress. Your family already loves you and will forgive you if you screw up (though they’ll probably tell the story at embarrassing moments, so plan for that). In a worst-case scenario, you can always go buy a coupla premade pizza crusts and some toppings. Or make spaghetti. Or declare it breakfast-for-dinner night and show everyone how to make their own scrambled eggs. It’s ok. It’s really, really ok–right down to the cupcakes for dessert, which are nutritionally valueless but man-oh-man are they tasty.

So that’s our mission for this weekend, ‘Tracters: show people you love ’em by making ’em some delicious food. Who knows? It might be a huge hit with your family, and become a regular weekly thing. Or a daily thing. The possibilities are endless.

Oh, and if what you make ends up being particularly delicious, feel free to invite me over the next time you make it. *grin*

The nice people at Penzey’s Spices have it exactly right.

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Dry, Baby, Dry

A few foundational points:

1. I believe in preparedness, sort of. That is, I believe that there are things that it can’t possibly hurt to learn, so when you get a chance, why not go for it? For example, I have never heard of anyone saying, “Man, I wish I didn’t know any easy and convenient ways for preserving the summer’s fruity bounty”.

2. My father was a Navy man (U.S.S. Pine Island, baybee!). This never really impressed me much as a kid–it was just a fact about Dad, right in there with “he was tall” and “he had a lot of tools”–but it finally occurred to me to be proud of this fact when the Navy flag flew at his funeral and the nice young men in their crisp uniforms played “Taps” and presented Mom with a flag. They gave the “on behalf of a grateful nation” speech, too, which just underscored it all for me, though to be honest, I only halfway heard it because I was pretty busy being struck by how incredibly young they were and trying very hard not to lose my mind in front of someone’s baby boy in a sailor uniform. But I digress.

3. I am all for being a kind, generous, giving human being. This is doubly true when doing so doesn’t actually require much effort, which sounds a lot worse out loud than it does in my head. Basically, I reckon that taking an extra minute to do something kind for someone else is a wonderful thing; but there’s a line between “being a nice person” and “being a martyr”, and nobody likes a martyr. So, y’know, do what you can with what you’re given; but going insanely far out of your way ends up being more of an ego thing than I’m really ok with. More on that some other time, I think.

So with those bits in mind, I’m dehydrating things again today. The weatherpeople say we’re in for another run of hot temperatures–not quite as cinematically shimmery-hot as it’s been in recent weeks, but mighty hot nonetheless, and I figure I may as well keep putting the sun to use while it’s volunteering for it.

Today, then, I’m making fruit leather (the apple pie-flavored kind is on the deck, drying as we speak, and will be joined by some vanilla-pear leather once I get up from this computer and go put it together). I’m following a recipe I found on LoveUMadly (via Pinterest); and I have a great deal of faith that it will turn out beautifully.

I’ve also got some strawberries in the oven–another Pinterest find, this one coming from The Worldwide Gourmet. The recipe calls for salt and pepper on ’em, which I find intriguing; I guess we’ll know in a few hours how that one turns out.

And the reason I’m doing all this dehydrating is threefold: 1. It can’t possibly hurt to know how; 2. Dad was in the Navy; and 3. I’m all for being a nice person, especially if it’s going to be all easy and convenient to do so.

Oh, and a fourth reason: a friend (and former coworker) of mine is on a ship in the middle of the ocean.

I’ll admit: it’s taken a while for me to be ok with having a loved one in the military. I’ve had family members who have enlisted, and while officially Supporting Their Life Choices, there’s always been that little part of me that has jumped straight to “eww military guns war bad bad” and decided not to think about it any more. And while that kneejerk reaction is still there–and honestly, I have no real desire to quash it–I’ve made my peace with the knowledge that whether or not I’m delighted about the Armed Forces as a concept, I can at least be grateful that there are people who have volunteered to be the People Who Handle It When the Proverbial Excrement Hits the Proverbial Fan. If one day we wake up and things have started going very, very badly, it is not going to be my problem to go solve it, because someone else has already signed up for that task, and got a jump start on learning the relevant skills. Someone else has said, “Sure, I’ll go where the shooting is, so you don’t have to”. Someone else has said, “I mostly want to sail around the world and see interesting places, but I’m ok with that possibly turning into an exceedingly dangerous plan, so you just chill at home and live your life, ’cause I’ve got this”.

And when I think about it that way–as human beings volunteering to, at the very least, have their lives wildly inconvenienced for a while (and at worst, having their lives ended altogether) so that I’ll never have to do a damned thing except hang out in Kansas and complain about Congress–then it occurs to me that since I’ve got all this free time on my hands anyway, and I’m kinda interested in learning how to dry fruit anyway, then the least I can ruddy well do is dry some extra to send to my dear friend on the ship in the middle of nowhere. I mean, really.

So I’ve dried an extra pint of Bing cherries (one of his favorites), and I’m making some extra fruit leather and dried strawberries, and I’m making cakes in jars (more on that in a future post, I promise–it really does deserve a post to itself), and I’m making a trip to the Post Office every so often, a whopping 3 minutes from our house, to send goodie boxes to my friend. And since I know amazing people, I’ve got some folks lined up who also want to send goodie boxes, so I’m having my friend gather the names of some shipmates who never get goodie boxes so we can get some love headed their way.

Because y’know, at the end of the day, I’m dehydrating things anyway, so it’s not like this is some huge sacrifice; and I go to the Post Office anyway, so tossing some things in a box and taking ’em with me isn’t exactly the most inconvenient thing in the history of humanity; and since there are some nice people out there who are wildly inconveniencing themselves so that I can keep on being a lazy Buffalo, then the least I can do is send ’em the occasional prezzie in the mail.

I like to think that Dad got lots of care packages while he was in the Navy. And I like to think that they made his day a little brighter, knowing that someone out there cared about him specifically.

And if not, I like to think that in some small way, I’m atoning for that now.

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‘Tis a Gift to Be Simple; ‘Tis a Gift to Be Free

Let’s all take a second and meditate on this image, shall we?

 

“Fear can make you cling to the strangest things.”

 

I first saw this yesterday on a dear friend’s Facebook page, and I’ve been chewing on it ever since, partly because it’s one of those Really, Really True Things, and partly because it feels a little bit like a poke in the head by the Cosmos. Here’s why:

 

1. Moon Man and I have been talking more and more about downsizing–we currently live in a home that could easily house 4-6 people, and that’s just a ridiculous amount of wasted space; and we are paying a frankly hilarious amount of money each month toward the mortgage, which I acknowledge to be a necessary evil in some ways, but really, I can think of uses for part of that money that would be way more entertaining, philanthropic, or delicious (just imagine how much cake you could get if you cut your mortgage, say, in half!).

 

2. It’s coming up on tags-and-taxes time for Mom’s car, which means someone needs to find some spare money in a hurry, and thanks to the heat and drought this year, I haven’t managed to grow a money tree in the backyard yet, so we’re thinking “garage sale”.

 

3. …Which would be easier if we hadn’t just given an entire carload of nouns to a friend’s garage sale, so at first glance, we’re all out of sale-able nouns.

 

But here’s the thing: we’re nowhere near being out of saleable nouns. Right now, if the Magic Mortgage Fairy offered to buy this house from us for a sum large enough to match what’s left on our loan and provide a little seed money for a down payment on a smaller place, and if the Little Cottage on the Prairie Fairy (ooh! that rhymed.) had a delightful bungalow on some beautiful acreage all lined up and ready to go, we’d need, like, a fleet of trucks and a couple of outbuildings to store all our stuff.

 

This, kids, is madness. And if I think about it–if I sit down with each noun in this house and really think about why it’s here–a solid 50-60% of our possessions are floating around this place because of fear.

 

There are the surplus plates and bowls and silverware we keep around in case we have dinner guests drop by unexpectedly. But here’s the deal: if you know us well enough to “drop by for dinner” without calling first, then you can ruddy well eat off whatever dishes we scrounge up. It might mean eating steak off a Tupperware lid, or cauliflower out of a bowl. If this would wreck your perception of us as people, you’re probably not actually on the “feel free to drop by, unannounced, anytime” list. Maybe we can just go ahead and trust that our real friends will continue to love us even if they have to eat straight out of the pan.

 

There are the hundreds of books we have on our shelves, both because we’re total book addicts but also because they’re a sort of badge of identity: “Look!”, they shout, “We’re smart book people!”. But if you can’t figure that out from conversing with us, then we could line the entire house with stuffed-to-bursting bookshelves and it wouldn’t make a bit of difference. Maybe we can release some of them, rather than clinging to them for fear that someone will misunderstand who we are as human beings.

 

There are the dozen-odd bottles of lotion I’d kept lying around, all in various fragrances and all making various promises on the labels, because I never could find one I really loved but figured having something that was Merely Acceptable was better than having nothing at all. I gave a lot of them to Mom when she came to visit yesterday, because maybe I can just go ahead and believe that people will still like me even if I have dry elbows. (And besides, I’ve gotten all hooked on making homemade beauty products. I just need to pick up some coconut oil, and I can make all the lotion I could possibly want, in whatever fragrance makes me happy.)

 

…I could do this all day, really, and it’s a pretty ludicrous list when you look at it through the “what Horrible Awful Soul-Tormenting Outcome am I trying to prevent by keeping this item?” lens. Yes, there are nouns that we choose to keep around us because we love them, and that’s fair game; and yes, there are nouns that we keep because it’s really not such a bad idea to have a Plan B; and yes, there are nouns that we keep around us because we need things like weed-whackers and chainsaws, and our neighborhood is nowhere near groovy enough to go for the “let’s all share all our power tools” arrangement.

 

But then there are the things we cling to out of a warped sense of the ways in which our world could fall apart if we don’t keep them. And if, by selling them, I can take some steps toward freeing myself from a life of clutter and fear, then good grief, man, get me some Yard Sale signs and let’s get this thing started today.

 

So over the next few weeks, I’ll be going through this house like a woman on a mission: a mission to raise money for Mom’s tags’n’taxes; a mission to declutter so we’re ready for the Little Cottage on the Prairie Fairy; and, god help me, a mission to start living from a place of decisive intent, and not from a place of fear.

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Filed under General Musings and Meanderings, Play Nicely, Share the Toys