Archive for the 'Mother Nature's Grocery Store' Category



Life nearly changed drastically for me a couple weekends ago.  My husband, whom I love and loves me with every fiber of our collective being, nearly left me for a couple days.  We were fighting, saying things that hadn’t been said before and were hurtful and only partially true and he threw up his hands and yelled, “I give up!” and he walked out the door. 

The problem that sparked the fight isn’t important.  It’s the underlying tension that had been building for months until the fight that’s important.  He left for a couple hours and came back to pack a bag and shower, and then leave.  While he was sitting there in his underwear, I begged him to listen to me.  He did.  We talked.  I realized some truths.

Truth 1: I’ve been miserable for a long time, with my career, with my health, with my weight. 

Truth 2: Misery loves company, and mine was trying to suck Mike down into my quagmire of loathing.  I hate me and I was trying to get him to hate me too.  It nearly worked.  I would come home in a horrible mood from work, from traffic, from worry, and I would yell at the kids for getting in my way when all they wanted was to play with me.  I would yell at him for avoiding me by escaping to the man-cave (basement) to watch TV or to the tub or to bed early.  But who wants to be around a grinch?  He was merely fleeing Medusa hell bent on making him miserable too.

Truth 3: I have some serious life restructuring to do.

The thing is, I have tried in the past to ‘fix’ myself.  I went to therapy and it helped me deal with my issues of doing anything/everything to gain acceptance from people.  I need to remember the lessons taught there.  But there’s a lot I want to change.  I’m not going to dwell a whole bunch on the reasons for the desire to make changes.  I can get trapped in the hamster wheel of why things are the way they are.  If you’ve read here (or my other previous blogs) for any time at all, you’ll know that I’m not happy with several things.

1. My career.  Unfortunately I’m kinda stuck there.  I can’t quit, can’t find something else in my area (already tried), am financially unable to take any kind of pay cut, and don’t have time/resources to return to school.  This is on the back burner.  Things won’t always be like this, and for the sake of my family, I need to stick this out for now.  It could be lots worse.

2. My health/weight.  These things go hand in hand.  I am almost exactly 100 pounds overweight.  This results in triple chins, fatigue, self-loathing, ill-fitting clothes, emotional eating (and that hamster wheel is more like barbed wire) and an inability to keep up with my kids.  It sours my mood, strains my relationships, and I don’t want to be this person anymore.

3. My general attitude.  It’s poor.  I am cynical and while I like helping people, I suspect the worst of people.  I need a new outlook.

So!  While Rome wasn’t built in a day, it was eventually built, and I can make some changes a day at a time to restructure my life and get the most out of it.  My husband has been supportive, and we’ve teamed up on things to help get our marriage back in the swing of things (it didn’t swing that far out, but it’s never been bad enough that either of us wanted to stay somewhere else for a few days.  That’s scary).  It’s amazing how the little things make a difference.  If I’m doing a chore around the house, he helps keep the kids busy and out of my hair.  If he’s tired then I make dinner.  I have decided to start with the things that I can immediately control, namely my fitness level and caloric intake.

Over the last couple of weeks I have begun to do some research into food and ways to eat healthier, and in that vein I’ve discovered a desire to eat more locally, sustainably, organically.  Given that we’ve got some financial troubles, I don’t know that we’ll be able to jump in all at once, but a little at a time, a step at a time, is a place to start.  I’ve been listening on audiobook to Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle book and it’s official: I’m a hippy granola convert.  I’ve discussed with Mike starting up a good sized garden in our backyard with strawberries, tomatoes, squash and cucumbers, broccoli, even asparagus and blackberries and more.  I’ve borrowed more books from the library on cheese making, and on canning.  My father grew up on a farm and knows how to make anything from scratch and how to can, so I can remember homemade strawberry jam in our pantry (and in fact, this spring, he canned some on a visit to our house and I have a couple more jars of yummy red goo for toast and sandwiches) and him making pickles when I was a kid.  I love pickles.  Since his canning experiment this spring, I have some jars and a big canning pot to boil the jars for a proper seal.  I can envision rows upon rows of jars of tomato sauce, whole tomatoes for stew, potatoes, beans, and all kinds of stuff.  I’ve borrowed books about gardening, composting, soil composition, and I’ve studied seed websites for the idea of germinating my own seedlings in the late winter.  I like the idea of heirloom seeds to preserve crops that are dying out due to genetic tampering and pesticides and saving seeds for exchange with other gardeners scratches an anti-establishment itch I’ve always had.  I’ve considered buying a share of a CSA (community supported agriculture) crop from local farmers, but around St. Louis, they sell out fast.  I don’t believe any spots are open for the 2010 year.  I even found a lamb farm and considered broaching the subject of a CSA for undyed yarn.  There are a few on the web, but they’re not local, so there are shipping dollars involved there.  However, I’m not opposed to looking into it more, since the farmers are not giant factories but small, family farmers and it helps them to keep going, farming, running their businesses.

Also along the health lines, I’ve decided to apply for a reality show on NBC called Losing It with Jillian Michaels of The Biggest Loser fame.  I doubt I’ll get picked, but they have to pick someone, right?  I might as well try for it.  Basically, the premise is that she comes to your house and helps you and your family figure out a way to prioritize things, make healthy decisions, lose weight (if that is your goal) and reorganize things for a happier life.  I am a prime candidate for that.  My sister is going to help me with my application video and then I’m all set.  You never know, right?

But I’m not waiting for a show to make improvements.  Last spring, I started running.  I stopped because my bum foot was bothering me.  I was going to rest for a week, and that morphed into the entire summer and into the fall.  That stopped today.  At lunch, I ran half of the time and walked half the time for a mile and a half on the treadmill at work.  Oh, I didn’t mention that my work has a work out facility?  State of the art?  Free weights AND weight machines?  A racquetball court that can be retrofitted with a net for wallyball?  An aerobics room complete with mirrored wall and a TV to play DVDs?  Showers?  That I haven’t been taking advantage of every week for the last 8 years I’ve worked here? 


See, this is another reason I’m not keen to leave my job.  Now that Mike is helping with the kids’ transportation after school and daycare, I may actually have time to use these facilities after work.  Or if I can get him to take the kids to school and daycare in the morning, I could do my workout first thing.  For now, I’m running at lunch on a treadmill.  When the weather warms back up and I’ve had some time to get used to running without horking a lung through my nose then I plan to run outside.  I’ve even got dizzy daydreams of running in a race.  Maybe. 

But in the last couple of weeks, just the act of looking into making changes has given me some hope.  Just the idea that a little at a time can be enough if I can keep it up.  I ran today.  For half an hour.  And I walked some of it.  I sweated.  I put on a sports bra (hate that uni-boob thing, but love that I don’t get smacked in the face) and running shoes and moved my fat around in ungainly and unsightly ways.  Hopefully, if I do that enough, there will be less fat to move around.  Maybe one day I can run without my belly flopping along with my boobs.  Maybe I can even put the treadmill on incline.  Maybe I could get a bike and go bike riding with the kids and Mike next summer.  Get one of those trailer things. 

The thing is, I have plans.  I haven’t had plans for a long time beyond what Mike set up for us to do with his family.  I want to be better, instead of wallowing around in my own misery, bringing everyone around me down.  Maybe, with some happiness and stability at home, and progress towards my weight goals, my career won’t seem so insurmountable.  Maybe I’ll have the energy to stay up late when the kids are in bed and do some writing.  I’m letting my dreams wake up again.  Someday is not so abstract to me anymore.  Someday has become Any Day Now.  I’ve begun.


My Pale Green Thumb

I’m fighting a battle, one wherein I desire to be taken seriously.  Throughout my life, I’ve discovered that if I’m not learning something, I’m not happy.  When I graduated college, I embarked on a series of adventures trying to keep the student in me happy and full of knowledge.  First, I learned about wedding planning and the suckitude therein.  Then I learned about house building.  That blew harder than the wedding planning, or getting caught in a bear trap in the tundra with no knitting to keep you warm and a strangely-immune-to-the-cold zombie shambling toward you with hunger in his dead and fevered eyes.  Next came procreation and all it entails, from conception to birth, and that naturally flowed into parenthood.  For the first three years of Son’s life, I made it my mission to know everything I could about parenting from trends, advice and which side of the fence I fell on hot button issues like Cry It Out and Formula vs. Breastfeeding, and the unimaginative people behind children’s movies.  When he was four, we got pregnant with his sister, so I reimmersed myself in all things baby.  In the last year and a half, I’ve begun to step outside my little family bubble and remember there are other things than kids kids kids.

So I tried to learn about photography.  I love photography, but find myself so tired at the end of the day and facing so little time with my kids in the evenings before bed that I didn’t feel comfortable using that time to practice taking pictures.  I didn’t want to spend the couple hours a day I get with them watching things happen behind a lens.  That didn’t seem fair to them, and to be truthful, when I did pick up the camera, I didn’t want to be distracted by refereeing kid fights when he’d take her toy from her and she’d screech like a howler monkey on speed and come ram her head into my knees, hobbling me.  I wasn’t going to learn anything that way.  Not to mention that the equipment is mighty pricy. 

Knitting came next.  I’m still in the throes of that. But there’s been something else.  The whole time I’ve been courting knitting, and even before then if truth be told, I’ve been seduced by something else, something completely out of character for me.  Gardening.  I don’t like being outside when it’s hot.  I don’t like getting dirty.  I don’t like bugs.  But gardening keeps beckoning to me with the promise of produce as fresh as can be, bounty large enough to be preserved and saved for year round use, the idea that I can grow the food we eat and therefore can control that which gets put on the plants and in the soil it in which it roots.  The green movement in this country has contributed to my desire to nurture a green thumb to reduce our family’s carbon footprint, as well as save on our grocery bill.  The fact that I like to experiment in the kitchen a bit helps and spurs me on a desire to find new ways to cook veggies, to plant veggies I’ve never tried before and to increase the variety of things we eat in our house.  That I want to have a big garden necessitates a need to learn to can and preserve that which can be saved for the year.  That in itself appeals to me because my dad’s family were farmers and canning was a way of life when he was growing up.  I feel like it brings me closer to my own roots.  When my parents visited in May, my dad bought a bushel of strawberries at our local orchard and made a bunch of jelly out of it.  He bought some of the supplies to do the canning and so I already have a better start than from scratch.  The only thing that scares me is the potential for botulism.  I don’t want to poison my family.

Where does the fight come in?  Well, mainly with my husband.  He likes fresh tomatoes, and he’s all for a small garden with tomatoes, onions, and squash.  But he’s not on board with the big garden with raised beds taking up half our yard, and a compost bin for fertilizer.  He doesn’t get the whole green thing, though he’s the one who got me started a couple years ago when he saw that energy efficient light bulbs could save us on our electric bill.  For him, it’s all about the money.  We drive the more fuel efficient car most of the time because of better gas mileage saving us at the pump; we got a diesel truck because it hauls the camper better but who cares that it’s lower emissions; he wants to plant trees not for the environment, but for their aesthetically pleasing look and their shade which might give our air conditioner some relief in the summer.  A garden to him is simply a means to save money at the grocery store.  So when I mentioned my dream garden to him, all the varieties of veggies, and the work I want to put into it, he poopooed the idea because it would require him to build me some raised beds, fence it in to keep the dog out, and help me with composting and doing some of the work.  He also said he wasn’t interested in many of the vegetables I wanted to plant.  Beets?  I don’t know that I could eat all the beets by myself.  I could try.  I definitely know I couldn’t do the asparagus by myself.  And yes, I want to try asparagus, though I know it takes 7 years to grow and is extremely sensitive. 

new season for the vegetable garden

But I’m inspired.  I want to make jars of my own spaghetti sauce.  I want to have fresh tomato cucumber salads in the summer.  I want onions that sing in chili mace with my own beans and tomatoes and tomato paste. I want to make strawberry rhubarb pie out of my own strawberries and rhubarb.  I want to grow my own pumpkins for the kids for Halloween.  I want to learn the different things to do in the kitchen with chickpeas.  I want to show my kids how to take care of their environment in a way that is both healthy for the Earth and themselves, how to use what Mother Nature has to offer to live and instill in them a healthy respect for soil that isn’t littered upon or covered over with asphalt.  I want to have a fresh herb garden so I don’t have to pay $5 for a small jar of a spice that is dried out and muted in flavor.  I want to eat as locally as I can, expending my own bodily energy instead of machined energy to harvest my food.  I want to make my own pickles, try different kinds of lettuce, do something besides get in the car and drive to the store, pay too much for food that will go bad before we can eat it, and then throw it away.  But I need to convince my husband.  He’s skeptical, saying this might be like the photography thing in that we’ll invest the money into it and then I’ll find a reason to quit.  I’ll say back that the photography thing isn’t gone, just on hold until a.) I can afford the equipment, and b.) the kids get older and don’t require as much supervision so I can put my face behind the camera and not turn around a second later to find that the baby has upended the cocoa powder on the kitchen floor and is ‘painting’ in it.  True story.  I’ll say that this gives back in a way that photography doesn’t.  This can save us money at the store.  This can make our food taste better (that should appeal to the chef in him).  This is the way

If that doesn’t work, I’ll bribe him with sex.  And hand knit socks.

Anyone have any good gardening tips?  I’m starting from scratch.

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