Chaos On Serenity

Diary Of An Off-Grid Homesteader

Tag: homesteading

How To Ruin Your Teenager’s Life In Three Strategic Steps

To all my parenting peeps out there, sit down and hold on to your hats for a few minutes as we enter the turbulent world of teenagerism.

Truly, it has been my experience as having been a teenager once myself and now living through my second bout of it in my kids, that being a teenager is TOUGH. Much tougher, perhaps, than even being a parent of a teenager.

And it’s getting tougher. I mean just yesterday, when I was a teenager, we didn’t even have social media to screw with our heads. If we wanted to join up with other teens and make bad choices, we had to put a little scheme into it. Nowadays teenagers can just google their way into trouble. Often while sitting on the couch right next to you (if you can get them to come out of their room, that is).

This is why it is even more important than ever that we, as responsible parents, try really, really, hard to ruin our teenager’s lives. Because if you aren’t ruining your teenager’s life, somebody out in there in google world is (for realsies).

So, based on my aforementioned experience, I have created a quick How To guide to help you do your absolute best in your noble parenting quest to ruin your teenager’s life.

Strategy #1: Chores. Lots Of Chores. 

Now when I say chores, I don’t mean some cute little chart where they earn stickers for unloading the dishwasher and brushing their teeth. I mean real, gritty, down and dirty chores. That actually help you out and make life easier on the entire family. Sure, cleaning and bodily hygiene rituals are just fine (we could actually use a little more of those around here) but think about adding something intense to the mix- something that makes them sweat, makes them think, and/or creates a lasting result.

My children haven’t always had to do chores (this could be why we have such a hard time with cleaning and bodily hygiene rituals…). To be honest, it wasn’t until we started homesteading, living off-grid and taking care of animals that I realized chores weren’t cute anymore. In our life, everybody is needed to keep everything running smoothly (and even then, we are often still just puttering along).

For my sanity and because I would turn into a bitter old lady otherwise, everyone has to do their fair share of chores every day. Which translates to hours and hours a week. And the older they get, they more chores they get to do. Yay!!

So how is this beneficial to anyone else but me? (Said while sipping a pina coloda from my easy chair as the children fan me and feed me grapes). It creates this thing called character. It creates confidence. It gives a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. Basically, your kids won’t be whiny namby-pamby’s if you work ’em young and work ‘em hard.

Now, I realize most of you are not living off-grid on seventy acres with endless amounts of work on your horizon. I am not suggesting you disassemble your house and have the kids nail it back together. But I am suggesting you create the kind of life where each member of your family contributes in a valuable and meaningful way. And if it makes them sweat, even better.

If you are homesteading, coming up with chores is easy. If you are not, you might have to get creative when it comes to doling them out in large quantities. Some ideas for meaningful chores for teenagers are: Design and take care of a small butterfly or vegetable garden, help with a building/repair project, learn how to fix a flat tire/change the oil, assist in family meal planning, or committing to a volunteer project or organization like Habitat for Humanity, etc.

Fun Fact: The younger you start them on chores, the easier it is to get them to actually do anything by the time they are a teenager. Plus by then, if you have done due diligence, they will surprise you with how capable and helpful they can be, even while perfecting their death glare.

Strategy #2. Make Them Spend Time With You

Now I know this sounds cruel, but hear me out. To truly ruin your teenagers life, you need to insert yourself strongly into it. That way, when they are thinking back on how you ruined their life, they will have lots of memories of you doing all kinds of stupid stunts to support their theory. Drag them to a movie, ask them about their latest book (tips on how to get your teenager to read in Strategy Three), do a chore together (my favorite).

Don’t be afraid to act silly, talk to people in public, or show some kind of affection towards your teenager while spending time together as these actions are sure to having a lasting embarrassing impact, a key to ruining their life. 

It really doesn’t matter what you do together, but it is important that you remain positive and unaffected by their attempts at withering your soul with a single glare. Forcing your teenager to spend time with you when what they really want to do is kill you can be brutal on the tender parenting heart. This is a good time reach into your spiritual toolbox and pull out the Second Agreement from Don Miguel Ruiz’s incredibly simple yet profound book, The Four Agreements, which is this: Don’t Take Anything Personally.

Of course, getting a teenager to agree to spend time with you can be pretty tough. The first step is getting them out of bed.  For tips on how to do this, refer back to Strategy One. The second thing you need to do is to completely bore the shit out of them so they talk to you out of sheer desperation. Which brings us to Strategy Three, the Mother of all Methods for ruining your teenager’s life.

Strategy #3: Take their phone away. (Insert horrified gasping emoji here)

Yes. I. Did.

I took my teenager’s phone away.

And guess what, everyone? She didn’t die! She didn’t go into convulsions, or start blubbering and drooling. (Actually, she quit doing that when I took her phone away).

In the interest of full disclosure (a caveat of this blog, really), I can now admit (a year later) that Maverick was right (of course, once again, yawn..) when he suggested we wait to give Phoenix a smart phone and social media. But did I listen? Oh no, I did not.

In hindsight, the best tip I have for moms and dads approaching the should-I-give-my-teenager-a-phone-and-social-media-decision is this: The minute that smart phone (or even tablet or ipod) goes into their hands and social media accounts are opened, the lines between parent and child autonomy start to blur, getting ever blurrier as the days, months and years go by.

This is not necessarily a bad thing, as developing personal autonomy in our children is a baseline goal for parents. But giving your child too much autonomy too early sets the stage for trouble, as I found out the hard way. So be very, very sure you are ready to go down this road.

Also, parental controls and/or spying apps are there for a reason, so don’t be afraid to use them. They allow for a slow release of your child’s privacy and autonomy as they prove they can handle it.

Above all, always make sure you follow your mom instincts and DO NOT give in to the mom guilt, no matter the amount of justification they sling at you. Truly, my resolve to wait on the phone/social media was blasted apart when Phoenix began pointing out all the deficits she already had in life, such as living in a camper in the woods, being homeschooled with no close friends, and the whole pooping in a bucket thing.

She begged for a phone, citing all the ways it would magically change her social life for the better. Saying yes to the phone, Snap Chat and Instagram was really my way out of all the mom guilt I was feeling. Of course, when I realized what I had done by giving her the phone, my mom-guilt came flooding back. Oh, the irony.

When I made the counter-decision that my teen’s phone had to go, it was not easy. By this time, she had pretty much turned into Gollum from The Ring, stroking the phone adoringly while muttering precious, my precious over and over to herself.

Honestly, I was downright scared. For some irrational reason, I thought I might actually ruin her life if I took her phone away. I even googled how to take your teens phone away and also should I take my teens phone away. (Apparently, teens are not the only ones who no longer have to think for themselves).

And even though, in all of google land, I found not one professional advising me to take my teen’s phone away (in fact, all I found were articles telling me how I should never invade my teen’s privacy or break her trust by taking/searching her phone), I did it anyway.

Best. Decision. Ever.

After all, do kids really have a right to social privacy? Shouldn’t they at least have to work for it?

I mean, when I was a kid, we had to sneak out in the middle of the night to have any privacy with our friends. And there was a reason why we wanted privacy in the first place, which wasn’t exactly anything our parents would have approved of.

It seems the leading edge opinion on the topic is that going through your child’s phone is akin to sawing off the top of their head and peering into their private thoughts. A complete violation of their personal being. Yet maybe, just maybe, it is not in the best interest of our children and teens to have unchecked and unregulated access to each other (and everyone else lurking around the internet)

Of course, when I took Precious from Gollum, there was a period of total freak out. The death glares were in full swing, along with dramatics to make any momma’s heart race. Yet, with the gentle support of Maverick, I stayed strong, my friends, and just loved her through it.

Then slowly, every so slowly, my child came back to me. Now a year later, she told me just the other day how glad she was we took her phone and social media when we did because she was being a ‘total idiot’ and that she is still suffering some repercussions from her ‘wild days’.

I am not telling you what to do, just reminding you to listen to your instincts and find what works for your family. But please, as tempting as it is, don’t put your head in the sand. What you don’t know CAN hurt them.

Believe me, I know how tempting denial is, but remember, as parents it is our job to ruin our teenager’s life. This means doing the tough work sometimes. So even though they may scream and shriek and have phantom limb pains, stay strong, my parenting warrior.

And if you find your resolve weakening, just repeat this mantra over and over: A phone is not an appendage, a phone is not an appendage.  Also, try not to delay, as I am pretty sure taking your child’s phone away will soon be illegal. 

And there you have it friends, three strategic steps for ruining your teenager’s life.  They seem to be working really well for me, judging by the intensity of death glares I am earning lately. If you have a strategy to share with the rest of us, let me know in the comments! #parentingwarriors

Two Sisters, A Comparison

I once joked with my sister that the only thing harder than my life is hers.

The face she made when I said this was one of utter shock.

Apparently, she disagrees with me.

So much so, she actually bet me that if I wrote this blog post, nobody who reads it will agree I have the easier life. ​Nobody.

And so, the challenge is on.

Don’t get me wrong, as mentioned in previous posts, my sister is basically perfect.

She has four, right-in-a-ridiculous-row, cutest-things-you-ever-saw, age-six-and-under, mesmerizingly adorable children.

She married her high school sweetheart at the tender age of 18, has never been in any kind of trouble for anything ever, and mails out thank you cards as religiously as I lose library books.

She has been a maid of honor at more weddings than I have been ​invited  too.

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Yet… yet… I still wouldn’t ​prefer her life.

She definitely wouldn’t prefer mine.

My sister and I are opposites, from our physical appearance to our personalities. We have learned to compliment each other quite nicely over the years. Where I am passionate and impulsive  (irresponsible), she is organized and level-headed (boring).

We are also very competitive. Hence this post.

Now I get it, I am the crazy sister – not exactly a badge of honor, though I wear it proudly.

Still, there has got to be ​someone out there who would rather live in the woods and commune with the trees than be at the beck and call of tiny humans 24 hours a day.

As mentioned, my sister has four young children. She has pretty much been pregnant or nursing for the past seven years, non-stop. She is also a very attentive mother – which translates to very needy children. Stage five clingers, she calls them.

I may live in the middle of the woods with no indoor plumbing, but my youngest child is eight. When my kids get on my nerves, I simply send them away to do chores.

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My sister and I both added new puppies to the family last year. Mine is a little shit, but since he has the run of the woods, who cares?

My sister’s dog is a little shit too. Only they don’t live in the woods, so it matters. She often escapes from their fenced-in backyard and runs straight over to the neighbors. This neighbor is not a nice lady.

Neighbors scare me. The thought of wrangling my wayward dogs out of some crotchety old lady’s yard makes me quiver.

This is why I live in the middle of the woods.

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Also, I do a lot of cooking. As a vegetarian who wants to eat healthy, it’s sort of a must. Plus it’s a very homesteady thing to do.

My sister doesn’t really cook and her kitchen attests to it. She has like, one pan and a whole bunch of upcycled yogurt containers.

With one baby glued to her boob, another poking a finger in the dog’s butt, a third crying because someone looked at her wrong, and the eldest hiding in a closet making silly videos on a stolen phone, I get why my sister doesn’t have time to cook.

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Still, is that really an excuse for not having a decent can opener or a simple lid for steaming rice?

No, no it isn’t.

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But what I really want to know is how she manages to keep her children so clean and coordinated, looking like little baby models, every single day.

Sure, she has indoor plumbing, so that helps.

But still, when it is time to leave the house, she’s like Mary Poppins, all smiles and songs, managing the impossible: four snotless, stainless, adorably dressed children out the door on time with no yelling. Something’s not right people.

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My sister is an extrovert. She never stays home if she can help it. In one day, she can easily handle ballet class, lunch date, park, grocery store, library, another playdate and top it all off with a ladies’ night out.

I am an introvert. I never leave the homestead if I can help it. I get tired just ​thinking about running errands. Socially busy days drain my body of vital life force energy.

Another reason I live in the woods.

You know what else? I have spent the last 20 years coming up with awesome business ideas. A handful of them even made it out of the idea stage, like, to where I actually made business cards and everything. None of them ever amounted to much as I have a tendency to move on to something new as soon as I get bored (usually right after I order business cards).

My sister, though. She sits silently by watching me come up with one hair-brained idea after another. Just minding her own business, changing diapers and such. Then bam! She decides she wants to be a photographer. And after less than a year has a bonafide photography business with actual ​clients.

She doesn’t even have a business card! Something’s not right people, I’m telling you.

So sure, she is organized, efficient, calm, patient, beautiful, joyful, sweet, polite, reliable.

But she doesn’t live in the woods.

Now, who’s with me?

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Library Liberation

I am in love with our local library. Obsessed is more like it. As a poor, homeschooling, homesteading family, the library is a miraculous beacon of hope in a world of expensive curriculum, allowing us to function with little funds in our quest for wisdom.

It’s a beautiful thing, my friends.

After all, the library has to be one of the last places on earth that offers it services completely free. Free books, free movies, and free internet (makes it a triple threat in my book). They also have free room rental, which we occasionally use as a winter school solution to keep from killing each other in our tiny, cramped space.

So, yeah the library is amazing. And the people who work there! At least at my local library, they are like another species of humans all together, so friendly, patient and ​helpful.  My local librarians are my idols. I want to be just like them when I grow up.

So you can imagine my embarrassment when, just the other day, my girls called me out in front of one of my favorite librarians so brilliantly, so perfectly, I was left bright red and sputtering from shame.

See, the problem is, I have very little self-control, especially when I’m surrounded by books. I’m like the proverbial kid in a candy store. Only a kid is at least limited by the change in his pocket. When it comes to checking out books, I am limited only by the library’s generous cap of 75 items.

Lots of books plus poor organization skills equals large library fines.

Amazingly, considering all of my issues, it has taken me a long time to get to my current library low.

Mav was the first one to go down. It took me less than a year to desecrate his library card. Then I got a card in my name and, for a long time, I kept it under control. Sure, there were occasional hiccups; a lost or ruined book here and there. But I paid off the fines as needed and we kept the reading rolling.

Unfortunately, I had a recent relapse and watched my library fine jump to $160.00! Oops. Can’t pay that anytime soon. But…

I must have books.

In desperation, I turn to Phoenix who shakes her head, shrinking away from me.

She knows what’s coming.

“We are going to have to put a few of our school books on your card. No choice, we need them for our learnin’. Plus a book on cultivating mushrooms for the homestead, and this other one on fermentation. And just one more item, a princess book for London. That’s all, promise. Unless you want to get a movie…” says I.

Phoenix sighs, reluctant to allow me to defile her sacred card. But, she basically has no choice.

I must have books.

And so that’s that. We got some books on Kyrah’s card. No big deal.

But, after having to beg Kyrah to relinquish her card, I realized it was completely shameful to force her hand. I mean, what kind of example am I setting here?

So I got a card in Leyla’s name.

And everything was cool until a few days before Christmas. Phoenix wanted to grab a few books to read over the holidays and I had a couple of holds that were ready for pick up. When I walked up to the counter, the librarian, recognizing me, immediately went to look for my holds, only she couldn’t find them under my name.

I casually mentioned they were on Leyla’s card. Shrugging it off like, of course an eight-year-old is reading this 800-page biography on Joan of Arc.

Phoenix had come to the counter with me to check on her fines. She knew she had some late fees (of her own doing!) but was aiming to keep her card under $25.00 in fines so she could still use it.

When the librarian announced her fines at $32.00, blaming a certain over-due princess book, Phoenix immediately turned on me, claws out.

“This is why I don’t want you using my card! You’ve already ruined yours, it’s not fair, now I can’t get any books!” She hissed loud enough for the whole library to hear her.

I could feel my ears burn, I began to sputter, about to throw Leyla under the bus in my place when-

The librarian, beautiful being that she is, sprung into action, overriding the fines so that Phoenix could use her card. “You need to get some books honey, and it’s Christmas.

We thanked her profusely, me feeling doubly ashamed. The shame of the poor and the shame of the guilty. I told myself it was okay, the librarian still loved me, they are super-human after all and not prone to judging. I took a deep breath and got my anxiety under control.

As I was finishing up my transaction with the holds, Leyla popped out from under my elbow. The librarian was explaining the more rigid late fee policy with the special-order books when Leyla piped in and said, “Mom, no! You can’t order these books on MY card, I don’t want big fines!

My ears, which had just returned to their regular color, burned bright all over again. I gave the librarian a pitiful smile and nudged my loud-mouths out of the library where they got a full briefing on tact and diplomacy.

In other words, throw me under the bus again ladies and kiss those coveted cards goodbye!

How about you? Have your kids ever thrown you under the bus? How did you handle it?

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What Drum Are You Beating? Find The Rhythm Of Peace With These Three Simple Tools

Most of my life, until about five years ago, peace was something that I never actually felt. Only, I didn’t realize it.

In fact, I thought I was pretty happy. I had a job, a mate, cute kids and fun friends. I had a social life, and a supportive family. Yet, I also had unchecked ‘voices in my head’. You know, those worrisome fear thoughts that run a constant loop inside your brain?

Cloaked in the rhythmic rehashing of past or future events, my incessant internal musings went something like this: Why did I say that?, Why did I do that? or, even more profound, why did I wear that?

If the thoughts weren’t specifically about me, then they were about everyone else. I can’t believe she said that, or he better not do that again.

If I wasn’t stewing over what had happened, I was fretting about what was to come. Seldom was I ever truly present. 

No matter the specifics of the thoughts, they were all pretty much saying the same thing: I’m not good enough, nobody likes me and, of course, the classic, I’m a terrible mom.

Basically, without actually being aware of it, I was telling myself a story and believing it. I was beating the drum of fear. I’m not good enough… I’m not good enough… I’m not good enough.

The problem was, I was living in the past and the future. I was never in the Now.

So what? Well the past is full of regrets, woulda’s and shoulda’s. Even if it’s full of the best times of your life, it’s still the past. Done. Over. Time to move on and live.

The future is full or worry, uncertainty, what-if’s and what-wills. Even if its full of exciting projects on the horizon, spending your Now day dreaming about the future has it’s limitations. The only time we really have is Now.

It is said that humans have anywhere from 50,000 to 70,000 thoughts a day. The interesting thing about this statistic is we are not having 70,000 new thoughts every day. We are actually repeating the same thoughts every day. Even every hour and even every minute. Over and over again. Beating the drum. I’m not good enough… I’m not good enough.

Before I had a practice of staying in the Now, these voices literally took over my life. They were me. They were my story and my identity. But they are not real. Ultimately, they were just thoughts.

Yet, I had no awareness that it was my thoughts that were creating my peace or lack of it. I assumed it was my circumstances. If things went according to plan and everyone followed my script, then I was happy. If things didn’t, then I wasn’t. And, true to my Taurus nature, if I’m not happy,nobody gets to be happy.

So, what changed? Well the first thing is, I became open to something new  and began to seek answers. With authentic desire and a humble spirit, God brought me some new tools for peace.

Tool #1: Get Out Of Your Head

Get out of your head and stay in the Now. This means when you catch yourself in the loop, jump off and pay attention to This Very Moment. Shake off the what-if’s and what-will’s, the shoulda’s and coulda’s, and Be Here Now. The difference between how I feel when my head-stories are interrupted by my pesky children’s endless wonderings versus how I feel when I am fully with them in the Now, answering their questions and discovering life right along with them, is remarkable. Life is meant to be lived in the moment.

Tool #2​: Breathe

Peace is all about rhythms. Choosing the rhythm and pattern of peace is a daily, hourly, minute by minute practice. In the Angel Communions of the Holy Essenes, it says: “Breath long and deeply, for thy rhythm of the breath is the key of knowledge which will unlock the secrets of the Holy Law.”

Essentially, the breath is the connection between the physical realm and spiritual realm. It is the Angel of Air, messenger of God, and provides immediate access to God, which is Peace, which is Love. Anytime I feel myself losing my peace (and decide I want it back), I always first and foremost go right to my breathe and practice deep, intentional breathing.

Tool #3: Let It Go

We have to be willing to let it go. We have to be willing to redirect our thoughts. Instead of picking apart every little thing that did happen or might happen, just let it go. This takes practice, constant diligence and a choice. We choose to let it go. When it comes back up (you’re not good enough), banish the thought, come to the Now, breath deep, and let it go. Breath In… Breath Out… Breath In…

Beat A New Drum

So with these three tools, I have learned to beat a new drum, to find a new rhythm. The drum I choose to beat these days is the drum of I am a powerful creator and everything is always working out for me. Sometimes, I even beat the drum of I’m a great mom. When I make mistakes, I don’t rehash them 70,000 different ways every day. When other people make mistakes, I try not to take it personally, I let it go.  I breath… I breath… I breath. I jump off the loop.  I find a new rhythm. I choose peace. I choose to Be Here Now.

How To Wash Your Dishes Without Running Water: Six Steps To Off-Grid Domestic Success

Ok friends here we have quite possibly one of the most important How To tutorials of your off-grid extreme homesteading life… dishes. Yes, that’s right. More important than solar power, more important than growing food, more important than a composting toilet (ok, now I am exaggerating) is doing your dishes.

After all, dishes make the world go ’round and it is nary a homesteading woman who can live without clean dishes. Unfortunately, they have a tendency to multiply right before your very eyes, popping out dirty creations like the gremlin spawn of a mogwai. And, like a gremlin, they sneer and snarl at you from their crusty perch on the counter, daring you to just try and wash them without running water.

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Fear not, my extreme homesteading friends (or weekend campers), as I have found a pretty decent way to wash your dishes without running water. All you need are the right tools and set up and those evil dishes will no longer have you sleeping with one eye open.

Step 1: Get a Gigantic Pot

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There is one key item to doing your dishes without running water quickly and efficiently and that is the Gigantic Pot. The Gigantic Pot is absolutely essential if you don’t want to spend an entire day heating up small batches of water. And believe me, you don’t. I started off with a Small Pot, and I was not happy. The Gigantic Pot brings me much joy.

Step 2: Get a Long, Crappy Table

Okay so you have your Gigantic Pot. Now you need a long, crappy table. I say crappy table because if you can do your dishes outside on a crappy table, you can slosh water all over the place – which tends to make you feel better about having to do your dishes outside on a crappy table. Get it? I have a nice, crappy eight foot long table that is the perfect length for our size family, or for my lazy housekeeping habits, whichever way you want to look at it. So technically you could use a smaller table and you can also use your actual sink and counter area, but that’s a little boring, don’t you think?

Step 3: Set Up Dish Area.

First, there are a few other things you will need:

  1. Two basins, one for washing and one for rinsing. These are what I currently use. I know they don’t match. Don’t judge me.
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2. A cup with a handle for scooping hot water out of the Gigantic Pot into the wash basin. I use this measuring cup which conveniently hooks right on the handle of my pot when not in use. A match made in heaven.

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3. A jug (or two, depending on your dish load) of clean, cool rinse water next to your rinse basin

4. A sponge or rag to wash dishes and some biodegrable dish soap

5. A drying rack and/or large towel

6. A large bucket to dump dirty dish water into (another option is to just dump directly onto the ground if you are outside and it won’t create a mess.)

7. Compost container to scrape your food scraps into.

Step 4: Heat Up Water

Now we are ready to get to work. I will forewarn you, I like my dish water hot and clean, so I refresh often. I use anywhere from 2-4 gallons of hot water, depending on the dish load. I usually heat up more water than I need, because is saves time and hey I can always take a shower after.

Pour water in your pot and heat it up. One of the many blessings in my extreme homesteading life is my (nearly) full-size propane stove. So heating things up is easy peasy (until we run out of propane right in the middle of making dinner. that is). I just put my Gigantic Pot on the stove, turn two burners on and it heats up quick.

If you don’t have stove yet, you might want to look into getting a portable burner used for camping, if you plan on cooking more than once a week. Of course, if you want to (or need to), you can always go to the maximum extreme and heat your water up over an actual fire (technically the maximum extreme would be rubbing two sticks together to start said fire, but I digress). As romantic as it sounds, however, it’s really a pain in the ass to do everyday. But I have done it and so can you.

However your go about it, the important thing is to get your water HOT. That way it stays nice and hot until the last dirty dish has been hunted down. If your water gets too cool, it is a hassle to reheat and you run the chance of loosing motivation and not finishing the dishes, which does not feel nearly as satisfying as finishing the dishes.

Now scoop your hot water into your wash basin and pour cool water in the rinse basin. If the water is too hot (which it should be if you have been following directions) mix it with a little of the cool water until you get the right temperature. As you work your way down the dirty mountain, the water should cool off to a reasonable temperature. Better hot than not, I say.

Step 5: Wash Your Dishes

Now you wash your dishes. I like to move from the left to right, but to each his own. As your wash basin water cools down and gets dirty, dump it into the waiting receptacle or onto the ground if you prefer and refill with fresh hot water. Same with your rinse water, if it gets too soapy. Finish all the dishes. All of them. It feels good, remember?

Step 6: Call In The Troops

This is about the time I start yelling for Maverick and the girls. Maverick, with his strong shapely arms and equally strong stomach, gets to dump the teeming bucket of dirty dish water. We like to dump it right into the garden beds. depending on the chunks. Yum.

Now its the minions’ turn to help. Remember how we were doing the dishes outside? Well they are the lucky ones that get to haul the clean dishes back inside, put them away all nice and neat and then hang the dish towel on the line to dry until we need it again for a new table-load of dirty dishes, usually about ten minutes later I’d say.

Well there really is no glamorous way to end a dish tutorial, so bye!

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Beautiful Farm Girl Seeks Vegetarian Cowboy: A Law Of Attraction Love Story

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Five years ago I met Maverick, my (mostly) vegetarian cowboy; the man who is making my dreams come true by building me an off-grid, sustainable community surrounded by nature with only his bare hands… and a bulldozer.

While many people say our successful union was a stroke of blind luck,  the very fact he isn’t a serial killer (so far…) defying all odds,  I like to believe our meeting each other was a result of one of my more successful incidents of deliberate manifestation. Either way, one thing is for sure,  our ‘how we met’ story is so utterly unromantic and scandalous that it makes the perfect story for today’s blog post.

Before Maverick, I had dated my share of questionable characters (shocking, I know). Some of these guys were pretty terrible, some were just the typical zombie-types, devoid of any meaningful, independent thoughts. To be fair,  it takes one to date one, so I could only describe myself as a zombie as well.  

Anyway, after having an epic awakening followed by the crumbling of my latest  zombie relationship,  I moved north with my girls to explore community farm life and learn to grow my own food. We moved into a tiny primitive cabin (or shack as Mav likes to call it) on a small farm in a quaint country town in mid-west, America.  

It was a bold move to be sure, some would even call it reckless. Yet it remains to be one of the best decisions of my life. 

I spent an idyllic spring and summer pulling weeds and tending seeds (both figuratively and literally), eventually deciding I felt emotionally healthy enough to meet someone great. I had dumped some baggage (though come to find out, not all of it!) and was confident in my newfound creative abilities to attract a great mate into my experience.

So now that I was ready to date, the question was, where would I meet someone? After all, I lived in a tiny cabin on a farm in a city where I did not know anyone. I was not working outside of the farm. My hosts were great and I was quickly becoming best friends with the head lady of the farm. But her husband was oooolllldddd. Like just-suffered-a-heart-attack old. And so were all his friends. (In the interest of full disclosure the odd social structure on the farm consisted of a lot of young, lively, fit farm girls and a handful of really old dudes. It’s no surprise my city friends were convinced I had joined a cult!)

Anyway, back to the love story…

I am not a very patient person. When I make a decision, it pretty much has to happen right now. So once I had decided to meet someone, I was not content to just wait for fate to bring him to me. Taking a proactive approach to dating clearly left me with only one option: Online dating. (This was in 2013, just as dating apps were really gaining in popularity. Good thing I am usually a few years behind the latest trends or Mav and I might have never met seeing as how he still carries a flip phone).

So I crafted a clever profile, with vegetarinism and cowboyism a clear prerequisite, and joined a popular dating site (or two). However,  the selections were very few and far between of people who shared any of my interests (who wants to go roam the woods barefoot? … anyone?)

 I met a few guys that could never be pinned down to an actual date or were, um, a bit different than their pictures. Yet not a single cowboy. Basically, the process was long and drawn out and not worth the money. I felt using the dating sites just served as a buffer to immediate communication and actual interaction. Looking back, I wonder if maybe it also served as some sort of safety feature… hmm…

So, I decided to take matters into my own hands and create a Craigslist Personals Ad.

Now I know you are all gasping in absolute horror.

And I agree, Craigslist personals are teeming with filth and debauchery of all kind. But seriously guys, it is not like I advertised my address or any other personal information. I also did not include a picture or make any references to sexual fetishes. It’s all good, people. Calm down.  

What I did do is remain 100% convinced that I could find an amazing person anywhere I put my mind to, as long as I believed. 

So, yes. Maverick and I met on Craigslist. I put out an add, he ignored my very specific qualifications (vegetarian, yo!)  and responded. I decided to overlook my non-negotiable standards based on the fact that he owned a huge lot of land and seemed willing to let me do whatever I wanted with it. 

From the very beginning, our dates have consisted of wondering aimlessly around the woods. That is literally all we do, other than the whole homesteading thing. He has more patience with me than my own mother. He never yells or demeans me when I lose the car keys, or my driver’s license, or drain the batteries for the millionth time (okay, well, he does lose his patience over that one, but the first 100 times he didn’t even bat an eye). 

Seriously though, Maverick is 100 percent dirty cowboy, 90 percent vegetarian (thanks to my many years of food shaming him), and the sweetest, kindest, safest, calmest, pure-of-heartist man I have ever met. He is so amazingly capable and smart and warrior-minded, I have full confidence we would survive a zombie apocalypse completely unscathed. He is my knight in dirty work boots. 

And there you have the most epic, unromantic love story of all time. Swoon. 

Remember, if you want miracles to happen you have to BELIEVE they can.

P.S. This post is in no way an endorsement for Craigslist Personals or any other form of online dating. It’s just a story, people. Date at your own risk! 

Namaste, my friends 

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How To Become An Enlightened Christian In Five Fearless Steps

I grew up in a typical Christian home. My siblings and I were all involved in various church activities and my parents talked often about God and Jesus, albeit from a strict biblical perspective.

Most of the time we considered ourselves Methodists, though we did get a little wild for a few years as Pentecostals. By my teen years, we had settled into one of those huge mega-churches. You know, the kind with stellar music, fancy-pants coffee stations and zero risk of having to talking to someone you don’t know?

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My Three Dads!

Anyway, having grown up with some very clear definitions of what it meant to be saved (hallelujah!), what the trinity was (three dudes in one, man), heaven and hell, sin, etc., I always struggled to be a ‘good’ Christian girl. I mean, I didn’t struggle so much as in actually trying to be good. That just wasn’t my style. But I did struggle with the shame that came from being a sinner, especially a woman sinner, (burn her at the stake!)  and deep down I struggled with not feeling so great about the  “You were born a sinner” slogan.

To be honest, there were more than a few things I didn’t buy into. For example, we have in the old testament an enraged, war-hungry, rather fanatically jealous God, obliterating entire villages of innocents, desiring sacrificed blood, and gifting out virgins to his favorite followers.

Then Jesus comes along for a little while and things seem to get better (especially if you can read between the lines) but as soon as he is offed, we go back to getting all our advice from another ego-maniac patriarchal slave-supporter, otherwise known as Paul.

And then there is this business of the all-male, Holy Trinity which is at the core of evangelical Christianity. We are told to believe we, as children of God, are the offspring of three males in one, no females needed. It would seem the whole of nature reflects otherwise, yet I suppose infallible is infallible. I mean, hey, who am I to question divine inspiration?

Step One: Ask For Help

Yes, I knew my bible facts. Unfortunately, rather than compelling me to claim Jesus as my Lord and Savior, they were repelling me. Something wasn’t right. I was actively seeking. I wanted, I desired, I craved to understand this God thing. The infinite energy that creates worlds pulsed in me, yet I could not claim it. It was a time of despair, it was a time of loneliness, unhealthy relationships, financial struggles.  I desired intensely to know God, to connect to something bigger than myself, but I was failing to do it in the context of mainstream Christian doctrine. I began praying earnestly for a mentor, thinking that a wise Christian woman would be able to sort it all out for me.

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Step Two: Relax and Let Go

And then something awesome happened. God brought me my mentor, in the guise of my best friend.  After (another) argument with my (at the time)  beau, I ended up having a rare and impromptu sleep over at her house, She introduced me to something different, something called “The Law of Attraction” by Abraham Hicks.

Oh, I was resistant at first. My old belief system was whispering, “this is the devil’s work”. When she told me it was channeled material, I almost suggested we hold an exorcism right then and there. But my mentor, wise sage that she is, told me to relax and just be open to the message, without judging it.  So I did.

Step Three: Be Here Now

Driving home with my kids the next morning, I felt noticeably better. Something had clicked. I understood more about the mysteries and the mechanics of the Universe than had ever been taught to me before. I was beginning to play around with the idea of being a ‘vibrational being’. I decided to pay attention to how I felt, noticing the contrast between feeling good and feeling bad, and choosing to think thoughts that felt good. I recognized how I was always in my head, rarely in the moment. So I decided to be in the moment with my kids, enjoying our Now for what it was. A major breakthrough had been made.

Step Four: Release Fear

From then on, things were different. I finally had ‘ears to hear and eyes to see’. As I scoured through my mainstream bible, I began to put together little clues about what was missing (deliberately edited, perhaps?).  Rather than seeking answers outside of myself (the bible, a preacher, my dad), I could trust my own intuition – provided it was not clouded by fear and doubt. I was empowered.  I began to work on releasing myself from fear-based thoughts and opening myself up to trusting the larger part of me that vibrates with unconditional love, the same vibration God holds, that ultimately is God.

Step Five: Collect Your Jewels

Now I allow myself to question freely, to pray for clarity,  and to trust the evidence as I come across it, whether it be an ancient text or an absolute inner knowing.  I am learning to shake off the fear-based lies of my traditional Christian roots, the ridiculous claims and ego-centric imposters,  while treasuring the many shining jewels of Truth. I have merged these jewels with new ones of my own discovery and feel incredibly confident and at peace that I am finally on my way to understanding God and by default, my own inner being.

What Type Of Homeschooler Are You?

Sometimes I feel like an imposter when I tell people I homeschool.

After all, when I think of homeschooling, I picture a super-organized, perpetually perky mom and her brood of perfectly polite, constantly clean, studious children. I imagine this homeschool mom having a detailed schedule that she sticks to like clock work, planning out her handpicked curriculum a year in advance while her offspring practice rote memorization and dote on each other all day. Hmmm… come to think about it, that sounds an awful lot like my sister!

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Okay, so now that we established my sister is my fantasy homeschool mom alter ego, lets talk about what kind of homeschool mom I am.

I am the type of homeschool mom that starts a cleaning project in the morning and by evening realizes the only ‘school’ we did that day was home ec.

I am the type of homeschool mom who makes a mountain of lists, outlines, and diagrams only to misplace them right before we need them.

I am the type of homeschool mom whose children wear pajamas all day and brush their hair only when we are going somewhere important (grocery store is low on the priority list).

I am the type of homeschool mom that starts a lesson, realizes its boring and pointless, and sends the kids to play Legos while I regroup over a bottle of wine.


One of the rare occasions I managed to get the girls all cute and somewhat matchy-matchy. This was the first day of a twelve week homeschool art class (note the bow in Leyla’s brushed hair and the fact they both have their lunchboxes packed and in-hand). Sadly, it all goes downhill from here my friends.

​It use to be that I pushed against who I was as a homeschool mom.

I would spend hours creating beautiful schedules and chore charts, ordering curriculum and reorganizing our collection of books. Hours I would spend on these things, waiting for them to magically transform me into the homeschool mom of my dreams. We are now in our fourth year of homeschooling and I have yet to be organized or perky.

In fact, the only thing which has really changed over the years is that I no longer strive so hard to be what I am not. I have given up trying to fit us into a fixed schedule, as we are just too spontaneous for that kind of planning. Instead, I keep a nice loose tally on what we have going on. When something is working, it is easy to keep at it. When something isn’t working, we drop it and move on.

Once I gave myself permission to relax, we became way more consistent and found a routine we actually look forward too. Since we no longer have to follow a list of Things We Must Get Done, we can get lost for hours reading together. We can choose to put the books down when the weather is gorgeous and friends want to come over, knowing we will pick right back up where we left off tomorrow, or the next day.

So how do I measure our homeschool progress if I not by what we have tangibly accomplished?

I pay attention to who my kids are. I look for signs we are on the right track. I am happy to report my kids are curious, creative, and thoughtful. They love to explore and have adventures. They are able to converse with people of all ages. They are not too self-conscious. They are smart and capable. They are strong and responsible. They care about ethical issues. Most of all, they are happy.

This is not to say I don’t still pine over moms who actually stick with their curriculums and carefully chart their children’s progress. Mom’s who always have a clean, matching pair of shoes (and socks!) for each of her smiling, hair-brushed children.

The fact is, a part of me will always want to be that mom.

But, I am not.

And I have realized when I quit trying to be someone else, I can actually be a pretty good me.

And now some more pictures of my adorable nieces and nephew.

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So what type of homeschool mom are you? 

How To Be Happy and The Magic Of Perspective

My family and I live a hard and dirty life with very little luxuries. We live a life that, described from a certain perspective, might have most of you feeling a bit sorry for us.

The fact is, we don’t have much money and we rarely buy new things. Our vehicles are so old and obnoxious, we make a scene everywhere we go. Due to not even having what some would consider the basic necessities of life, it can be a daunting task just keeping up with the day to day household operations.

On top of all this, we have hours of physically taxing farm chores that have to be done too, every single day. Being out in the middle of the woods, living in very tiny, very temporary housing, even a simple rainstorm can create so much mud and mess it’s enough to drive any woman crazy.

​Yet I stay… Why?

Because it’s all a matter of perspective. Everything I just described are some of the facts of my life,  but the perspective is all wrong. I’d like to share with you a different perspective

 My family and I live a fun and free life with ample amounts of time together, working and playing side by side. We live a life that, although unconventional and challenging, is one we have chosen just for those very reasons.

We try not to be weighed down by unnecessary possessions, yet we surround ourselves with the things most important to us, such as books to spark our curiosity, animals to teach us kindness, and the natural world to help us connect to the divine. We have chosen to live frugally so we can pursue our dreams of living sustainably, building a community, and teaching our children spiritual and ethical truths they are not likely to learn from a public institution.

From our perspective, cuddling up in the middle of the woods to watch a movie in the great outdoors powered by off-grid technologies is a luxury. Squashed into the front seat of our ’72 Chevy, bouncing down our mile-long dirt driveway, we learn to laugh at ourselves and not take everything so seriously. We have time to literally stop and smell the roses, though it is more likely we are pointing out a hawk in the sky or snapping a picture of an strange-looking mushroom.

And when, as inevitably happens from time to time, I begin to feel some mom-guilt that my children might be missing out due to their lack of electronics and shiny new shoes, I remind myself that helping split firewood for winter warmth, chipping in on building projects and foraging dinner in the woods, creates strong and capable children who will eventually turn into strong and capable adults, where as shiny new shoes are simply muddied up before they can be outgrown… around here anyway.

Our specific things and circumstances, we don’t take those with us once we leave these physical bodies. We take our beliefs. We take our perspectives.

If we see ourselves as victims, then our lives will reflect that idea. The same is true if we see ourselves as blessed. It is my belief that whatever perspective we die with is the one we return with in the cycle of many incarnations.

If the eternal part of ourselves is that which is unseen, and all that manifests stems from our beliefs, getting a handle on your perspective will create the eternal happiness we all desire.

After all, the only thing we can ever truly control is our perspective; not our circumstances.  Maintaining a balanced and positive perspective takes practice and perseverance but is worth the riches received: joy, peace, and true security.

For myself, when I feel circumstances out of my control creeping up on my happiness, I breathe deeply. I grab my dog and we go for a walk in the woods, where I connect with the eternal truth of the divine, and bring myself back into the perspective of my choosing.

Baby Jasper waits under the hammock while mom takes a moment to reset her perspective. (Hammock naps = Happiness)

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