Category Archives: Survival

Scaling back

Late Saturday night, I realized I’d spent nearly 10 straight hours doing blog-related stuff and STILL didn’t have a whole week’s worth of posts filed, and I ended up so tired and frustrated, it literally made me sick. It occurred to me that I’ve taken something I started for fun and made it stressful. That’s really screwed-up.

My New Year’s resolution was to do less, live more, and hopefully spend less time battling the stress-related health problems that plagued me for most of 2016. To that end, I’m making some changes around here:

Vegetarian Friday. When I started this feature in 2014, my goal was to try one new vegetarian recipe every week for a year in an effort to incorporate more plant-based meals into our diet. Posting them was a way to keep myself honest. Three years later, a good 80 percent of the meals I cook are vegetarian, probably a fourth are vegan, and I’ve learned a lot about staging food photos. The most important thing I’ve learned is that I don’t like staging food photos. I see no point in doing something I don’t like if I’m not being paid for it, especially if other people are better at it. With that in mind, if you enjoyed Vegetarian Friday, I would encourage you to visit Oh She Glows and Minimalist Baker. If I dream up something really exceptional, I’ll still share it like I always have, but it’s probably not going to be a weekly occurrence.

Eco-Saturday. I’m not getting rid of this, but I’m changing it. Like Vegetarian Friday, Eco-Saturday was supposed to run for a year. Three years later, I’ve gone about as far as I can where I am, so I’m going to focus more on reviews, recommendations, links, and daydreams about things I’d like to do someday. If there’s anything you’d like me to cover, feel free to suggest it in the comments.

Make-It Monday and Tiny Tuesday. You’ll get one or the other each week, but probably not both, because they overlap a lot, and separating them out is starting to feel forced.

I hope that doesn’t disappoint anybody too terribly. At this point, trying to do too much is easily my worst habit, and I’m trying very hard to break it. Bear with me; down time is still an alien concept for me, and self-care isn’t really one of my strengths.

Emily

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Sunday Self-Care: Seed catalogs

It’s the third-most wonderful time of the year.

The most wonderful time of the year is the first Saturday after Tax Day, when we put the garden in the ground.

The second-most wonderful time of the year is the day Cubs pitchers and catchers report to spring training.

But the third-most wonderful time of the year is now, when the companies that sell seeds for the garden and beekeeping equipment for the apiary start sending out catalogs, which means I can start dreaming about spring in specific detail and figuring out how many times we’re going to have to eat enchiladas or sauerkraut to save up enough cans for all the seeds I intend to start. (Tin cans with the bottoms cut out make the world’s greatest seed-starting pots/squirrel deterrents. Unfortunately, about the only products that still come in cans with identical tops and bottoms are Ro-Tel tomatoes; certain brands of sauerkraut; and most enchilada sauce. This means for about two months every winter, my grocery list revolves around my gardening needs.)

Gardening and beekeeping catalogs are my saving grace every winter. Gray skies and short days don’t do anything positive for my mental health, and after a while, I start to wonder whether I’ll ever get to put my hands in the dirt and bask in the sunshine again. When that first seed catalog lands in the mailbox, I see the first glimmer of hope.

We got catalogs this weekend from Seed Savers Exchange and Betterbee, so I’ll spend the next few months dogearing pages and circling varieties that sound promising and drawing scale diagrams of the garden while I dream of spring.

Emily

Sunday Self-Care: Unplug

I promised myself I’d unplug from social media after the election, because the campaign had me so tense, it literally made my face hurt, and there’s a limit to how much valerian tea I’m willing to drink in the name of sanity.

Then the election turned out to be such a trainwreck that I couldn’t stop looking at it, and I spent several days bouncing insensitive jerks from my life and commiserating with like-minded people who are as concerned about their black, Latino, Muslim, Jewish, LGBTQ, and other non-cishet-male-WASP friends as I am.

On Friday, I unplugged for several hours while we spent the afternoon and evening in Southern Illinois, listening to Leonard Cohen on the car stereo, wandering through the Rainmaker garden in Makanda, sampling hyperlocal food and drinks at Scratch, driving along the Strip in Carbondale, and hanging out in my parents’ living room, where Dad offered some consolation in the form of references to long-ago presidents who’d risen above their questionable personal histories to become competent leaders.

On Saturday, I slept in late, spent time with the dogs, did a little housecleaning, and composed a handwritten note to Hillary Clinton, who I am fairly sure feels quite a bit worse than I do this week. I prefabbed a couple of blog entries. I played “Imagine” on the piano. I tuned my guitars and played folk-revival covers until my fingers were numb. I had a bowl of green-chile cheese grits for dinner. And then I lit a piece of charcoal, laid a pinon chip on top, and spent the balance of the evening with Miss Shirley in Coldwater, where she poured me a strong cup of Irish coffee, shook her head at my stress, and set me to work transcribing her story to take my mind off things as the wind wailed across Sangre Mesa.

I may not bother logging into social media again for a good long while. It’s peaceful here at the Tumbleweed, and I’d much rather sit here at Miss Shirley’s kitchen table, gazing into her otherworldly eyes and listening to her spellbinding stories, than waste my time fussing over a world I can’t control at all.

Emily

Starving

It occurred to me tonight this morning that I have not done a volunteer project of any magnitude since the last time I laid out the Trip Guide, which was over a year ago.

It also occurred to me that I have not done a volunteer project that involved ending a weekend paint-spattered and sore and sunburned in almost two years.

No wonder I’m cranky as hell; my soul is starving to death. I wasn’t built for this level of self-indulgence.

At least I’ve finally pinpointed the problem. Now maybe I can start fixing it.

Emily

Follow your bliss.

“Your only obligation in any lifetime is to be true to yourself.”
— Richard Bach

I’ve been having a conversation with a former student on Facebook about the difference between following your dreams and following the dreams other people are projecting onto you.

Throughout your life, just about everybody you encounter is going to have an opinion about what you should be doing with your life and what “success” is going to look like for you.

Understand two things:

1. You are never going to please those people.
2. You are not obligated to please those people.

I have had people give me the side-eye because I don’t have a master’s degree. I have had people give me the side-eye because I’m not on the evening news. I have had people give me the side-eye because I’m a [insert current job title] instead of a [insert higher-paying or more prestigious job title].

You know what those people have in common?

THEY DON’T KNOW MY LIFE.

I don’t have a master’s degree because I have no need for a master’s degree. It won’t get me a raise or make me a better reporter. At this point, a stats class and an Adobe Illustrator workshop would be far more useful. When I point that out, I get a mouthful of platitudes about the personal growth that comes from being a lifelong learner. Never mind that since I got my bachelor’s degree in 1997, I have studied dog training, horseback riding, distance running, martial arts, neon sign repair, metaphysics, trig, calculus, acoustic guitar, and the history of U.S. 66, all purely for sh*ts and giggles. Apparently it doesn’t count as “lifelong learning” if it doesn’t have an expiration date.

I’m not on the evening news because I’m a print journalist, not a broadcaster. I’ve never taken a broadcasting class, never applied for a broadcasting job, and never said anything that would imply admiration or, really, even a modicum of respect for that profession. Being disappointed that a newspaper reporter isn’t on the evening news makes about as much sense as being disappointed that Andre Dawson never won a gold medal in figure skating.

I’m not wherever it is someone else wants me to be, doing whatever it is someone else thinks I should be doing, because I am too busy enjoying what I’m doing here and now.

Wherever you go, and whatever you do, someone is always going to be more than happy to project his own hopes, dreams, disappointments, priorities and expectations onto you if you’ll let him.

Don’t.

Emily

Bullying: Prologue

There’s been a lot of discussion in recent years about the effect of bullying on kids. I don’t know whether it’s gotten any worse since I was a kid. I do know its consequences have become more apparent, forcing adults to pay more attention to it and make a better effort to intervene when they see it happening. The issue has come up again on my Facebook timeline because a 15-year-old boy in my dad’s hometown committed suicide last month, citing bullying as the reason.

Beginning when I was 7, and continuing for the better end of a decade, I endured near-constant ridicule by my peers.

I don’t think it occurred to me at the time that I was being bullied. In the ’80s and early ’90s, a bully was someone who shoved you down or beat you up. People who called you names weren’t bullies; they were just a pain in the ass. (As a society, we took a while to figure out that sometimes a pain in the ass is a serious injury.)

Admittedly, my ugly-duckling phase was spectacular by any metric, and asking a bunch of immature brats to overlook it would have been a wholly unrealistic request — but regardless of the relative accuracy of their comments, my peers’ tactless behavior left scars, some of which I’m just discovering 20 or 30 years later.

For instance:

I am desperately uncomfortable in social settings that involve large groups.

I rarely trust people when they compliment my appearance — and if I do believe them, my first instinct is to deflect the praise.

I have an extremely self-deprecating sense of humor.

I don’t dance.

I cuss like a sonofabitch.

I would rather chew off my own leg than let anybody see my tears.

That last bit is why I am not particularly looking forward to the project I’m about to do.

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to take a closer look at each of these battle scars — partly to satisfy my own curiosity about the shapes they took, but mostly because I’m sick of hearing about kids closing the book before they get to the good parts, and if the story of how I survived a decade of verbal attacks and grew up to have the world by the tail can keep even one kid from killing himself over somebody else’s bullsh*t, then I need to suck it up and tell that story, even if it means giving up some secrets I’d rather keep.

Stay tuned. We’re finna kill some dragons.

Emily