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Pronouns, Gender, and Feeling like an Outsider

A few months ago, I read an article about a mother who read The Hobbit to her daughter. The little girl insisted that Bilbo Baggins was, in fact, a girl, and, after some discussion, the mother agreed and began reading the story as if Bilbo was a women, changing the pronouns appropriately.

Initially, I recoiled at this. I’m somewhat of a literary purist, and Tolkein ranks up there, for me, as some of the finest works around. Certainly, his work is the basis for almost all modern fantasy. Changing his work is like changing… The Bible or something. You just don’t do it.

But the more I thought, the more I wondered, “Why not?” How does having Bilbo as a female change the dynamic of the story? Wouldn’t a female Bilbo be an exciting adventure story for our little girls to connect to? Isn’t this what I ask for over and over in stories? A rollicking adventure with a dynamic female lead who isn’t concerned with finding a darn prince for once?

The more I thought, the more I wanted to give it a try. So I did. For the past few months, I have been switching the gender pronoun of the main characters in all of Katie’s stories. I tried it with Gabi once, but she can read and quickly and firmly corrected me.

It has been an interesting experiment. Hearing the female pronouns over and over is jarring. It has gotten me thinking about how othering our language is. The default for everything is male. That can leave non-males feeling like outsiders and that’s not good.

Slowly, I’ve been getting used to hearing and saying female pronouns. It doesn’t feel as awkward as it did at first. I take that as a positive sign that thought patterns can be changed.

Words are powerful and I want the words my daughters grow up hearing to be about them. I don’t want them growing up feeling like outsiders.

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Drastic Steps

Tonight I did something dramatic. I deleted the Facebook apps from both of my iPads, removed the links and shortcuts from my computer, and posted a note telling people to call me or email me.

 

I’m setting a trial period. 3 weeks with no Facebook. I’m looking at it as a social experiment, but really I need to get it out of the way because it’s really interfering with my ability to be present with my children. Plus, I am sick of the drama brought to me by people I don’t know in real life and wouldn’t recognize if they walked past me on the street.

This evening, while watching Nickelodeon with the kids, there was a commercial with all these kids in amazing situations: camping, in a treehouse, at the beach, and you know what that commercial was for? Nintendo DS. Instead of enjoying the world around them and the amazing places they were blessed enough to be able to go to, they had their faces crammed into a video game. Like it was a good thing! I felt sick seeing that. I don’t want that for my kids.

I guess you could say this whole thing was inspired by one of my HG sisters who recently left Facebook. I thought the idea had merit, but I was too afraid to cut loose.

Tonight sealed the deal for me though, if you don’t mind the horrible cliche. It’s been an awful day. Road construction kept Katie from napping at all. She’s been cranky and miserable all day. Tonight, I’ve been completely exhausted and tuned out. Gabi was in the tub and Katie was running around, so I decided to pop in and check Facebook. Well, that turned into way, way too long of me sitting around doing God only knows what for God only knows how long. Seriously, what do you do on Facebook that takes that long anyway? How many Upworthy links, Sherlock gifs, and circumcision arguments can you read anyway?

During the time that I was farting around on Facebook, I heard them playing and reasoned that as long as they were laughing, it was all good. How wrong I was. I came into the bathroom to discover that Gabi had poured several gallons of water from the tub onto the floor, telling her sister that the dog had peed. Katie, who gets upset when the (elderly and incontinent) dog pees on the floor, was mopping it up with every single washcloth in the house. Not cool. I could not believe how much water was on the floor.

I ended up yelling really bad at Gabi (not something I’m proud of), and having to mop up the whole mess, carry it downstairs, and run a load of laundry. Gabi is grounded from TV through the weekend, which is a bummer because there is a Ninja Turtles marathon on.

And you know what? If I had just been present with them, none of this would have happened.

So goodbye Facebook. I’m just not able to have you in my life right now. I can’t be a good parent with you stealing my attention and I can’t seem to break away from your hypnotic grasp.

My plan is to start with 3 weeks. 3 weeks cold turkey. From there, I will see what happens. I will severely limit my feed to people I know in real life or people who I regularly have positive interactions with. I plan to reduce the number of groups I’m in pretty severely, too.

It’s going to be hard. I usually use Facebook as a way to make contact with my friends and plan outings with my mommy buddies, so I will have to work harder to keep from getting isolated. I’m also in a few how-to groups for cooking that I use fairly actively. But you know what? I have lots of cookbooks, and if I can find my phone, well, then I can get together with my friends that way.

As a final note, the irony of deleting Facebook and then immediately blogging about it isn’t lost on me. I’m trying to find other ways to find the balance I seek in my life and find healthier outlets for my energy.

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This Means War

I’ve always liked squirrels. I admire their take no prisoners attitude. I giggle at the way they chase each other up and down trees. I am charmed by their ability to steal birdseed from the most complex bird feeders. They’re cute, funny, and full of piss and vinegar.

We have tons of squirrels in our neighborhood. On most days, I can count six or more frolicking around my front yard. They drive my dog crazy. It’s funny.

But there is one squirrel that isn’t satisfied by the delicious acorns in the front yard. No. This squirrel comes to the back yard. Is she braver than the rest? A fearless ninja squirrel too fast and too clever to be caught by my dog? Is she an outcast squirrel, unwelcome at the party in the front yard and forced to run the gauntlet of dogs and owls in the back?

I’ll never know this squirrel’s story, but today she crossed an uncrossable line. Today she went too far. Today she fired a warning shot over my bow and in response, I’ve declared war.

Today, she dug up and stole one of my garlic cloves. One of the cloves that I planted in November and nurtured over the long, bitter winter. One of my precious few garlic cloves.

The war is on sister squirrel. My garden is at stake and you are not welcome to my vegetables.

Garden Plan

Finalized 2014 Garden Plan

As promised, here is my 2014 garden plan!  I am very excited  I’ve already got a few seeds in the ground.  For a list of the specific varieties, check out this post: Gardening has Begun!

Seeds that are already in the ground include Super Snappy pea, Fire ‘n Ice radish, red Swiss chard, and Yugoslavian Red lettuce.  I’m staggering my radish and pea plantings, so I will plant a couple more squares of these in the coming weeks.

In the front yard I’ve also planted my (shockingly expensive) Comfrey seeds and my skullcap.  Healing herbs y’all!  Comfrey is going in the front because it is toxic and I don’t want the kids and dogs eating it.  That stuff is for topical application only (bruises, bumps, etc).

Garden Plan

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Gardening has Begun!

Today is an outside gardening day!  Remember, I’m doing Square Foot Gardening, so my gardening notes will be specific to that method.  For a quick refresher, check out this post from earlier in the year: Garden Planning for 2014: Square Foot Garden Intro

I bought all of my seeds online this year after consulting local websites to find out which varieties grow best in my area.  Here is what I will be planting and where I purchased it:

Burpee

  • Artichoke: Lulu – 3 plants
  • Luffa – 1, seeds
  • Tomato: Black Krim, grafted – 3 plants
  • Tomato: Amish Paste – 2 plant, seeds
  • Tomato: Sunchola – 1 plant, seeds
  • Cucumber: Supremo Hybrid – seeds
  • Pea: Super Snappy – seeds
  • Lettuce: Yugoslavian Red – seeds
  • Lettuce: Braveheart – seeds
  • Radish: Fire ‘n Ice – seeds
  • Herb: Parsley, Single Italian Plain – seeds
  • Hot Pepper: Hot Lemon – seeds
  • Hot Pepper: Hot Jalepeno Early Organic – seeds
  • Carrot: Purple Dragon – seeds
  • Herb: Basil, Plenty – seeds, direct sow
  • Flower: Nasturtium, Vesuvius – seeds, direct sow
  • Strawberries: All Season Mix – 16, plants n/a
  • Flowers: Zinia, Queen Red Lime – seeds, direct sow

Seed Savers Exchange

  • Cauliflower: Early Snow – Seeds
  • Broccoli: DeCiccio – seeds
  • Cucumber: Parisian Pickling – seeds

Horizon Herbs

  • Borage
  • Calendula
  • German Chamomile
  • Echinacea Purpurea
  • Lavender
  • Lemon Balm
  • Marshmallow
  • Plantain
  • Skullcap
  • Thyme
  • Valerian
  • Comfrey
  • Feverfew
  • Thyme

According to my calendar, now is the time to plant cold weather crops like sweet peas, brassicas (broccoli, cauliflower, and romanesco), beets, and radishes.

Today, however, in anticipation of a late snow tomorrow, I will hold off on planting and concentrate on getting Mel’s Mix (1/2 peat moss, 1/3 vermiculite, 1/3 compost) into my last 2×6 bed.  I also need to complete the construction of my trellises.

For the trellises, I am following Mel’s directions almost exactly.  I constructed the frame out of 1/2″ electrical conduit that I had the people at Lowe’s cut to size for me.  I fit that over 48″ long rebar that I drove one foot into the ground.  I am tying nylon vegetable netting onto that frame.  Easy!

This is important:

One error I made with my original garden plan was failing to take into account the shadow cast by my trellis.  I had originally planned to put my trellises at the back of the garden beds.  Turns out, that’s the south side.  Bad idea.  So I am switching the trellises to the other side of the garden so they won’t throw as much shade over the plants.  This necessitates changing up my garden plans a bit, so once I get that finished, I will post the final garden plan for you all to see.

Planting too late.  But you can see what an SFG looks like with the grid and the Mel's mix in place.
Shade is not my friend in this garden as I learned this fall.

Anyone else excited that gardening season has finally arrived?  How are you celebrating the return of Spring?

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Teaching Respect

I woke up this morning to see these thoughts from a friend of mine who is a school librarian.  What are your thoughts on teaching children respect?

Yesterday I had a conversation with a kiddo that led to some rather profound realizations. The child was frustrated because he’d gotten in trouble for disrespect. When I asked him about it, he said that he wasn’t aware he was being disrespectful. Further questioning led to him providing the following definition: Respect is treating others the way you want to be treated.

Sounds good, right? Except in this case, that led to the kid getting in trouble. He is a kiddo that wants to be able to joke around, not be taken too seriously, and have a rapport with someone that leads to banter. It’s the kiddo who, when asked to write similes, will write, “Mrs. Askew is as old as dirt,” or “My teacher is as mean as a starving T-rex.” These comments aren’t meant to be taken personally, and are his way of saying, “Hey, I like you as a person.” The problem is, not everyone is okay with those comments, and to the wrong adult, things like that come across as disrespectful.

That’s about when it occurred to me: We tell kids to be respectful, but we often forget to tell them two things: 1. What does respect look like to me? and 2. Respect looks different for each person, so you need to determine what their definition is very early on in your interactions with them.

I see a lot of posts complaining about kids these days not having respect. The thing is, they do have a lot of respect. It just LOOKS different. Just because a kid doesn’t meet your definition, doesn’t mean that they’re being disrespectful. As teachers, we’re told to reteach when a child has a behavior problem. I think, at least as far as respect is concerned, I will REDEFINE instead.

–Caroline Burkhart Askew

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Why I Ferment (and why you should too)

Last year, I got started with fermenting. I started small. It began with home brewing kombucha, a fermented tea, and expanded to sauer kraut in an amazing crock my grandma gave me for my birthday.

I had heard an an interview on NPR with Sandor Katz who had just published and new book called The Art of Fermentation the year before, and was intrigued. I did a bit of poking around, remembered that the friend who taught me to brew kombucha had mentioned a book called Wild Fermentation. After I looked it up, and realized it was by that same guy who had caught my attention so strikingly on the radio, I decided to pick up a copy.

You should do the same! Even if you don’t ferment!

Wild Fermentation is so much more than a cookbook. In it, Sandor Katz offers his expertise in getting you started. It’s less a cookbook and more of a helping hand. He gives quite specific recipes, but encourages the reader like a friend would, to go out and find your own ferments.

What really connected me to his style of fermentation, though, was the spiritual aspect of it. Yes, fermented foods are full of probiotics. Yes, they have lots of readily absorbed vitamins and nutrients. Yes, fermenting is a practical way to preserve a garden harvest. But for me, thanks to Mr. Katz’s gentle guidance, it’s also about connecting with other living things.

When you allow foods to ferment wildly, that is, to pick up the natural flora and fauna in your own space, what you are doing is forming a partnership. You’re not going to the local brewers’ supply and buying a strain of yeast. You are offering a comfortable home and hoping that new friends take up residence. You can’t make them grow. You can’t put them in the jar yourself. You have to close your eyes, reach out your hand, and wait for the microorganisms to reach back.

The last chapters of the book especially moved me. In those chapters, he talks about life, death, and social change, and he draws a comparison between wild fires and fermentation. Like Katz, I’ve seen the detestation of fires, although not a close as he has. I will never forget watching the fires burn down out of the mountains and down to the sea when we lived in California. The change in the landscape is dramatic and undeniable, painful, and destructive, despite the new life that rapidly rises from the ashes.

But, as Katz says, there is undeniable change in fermentation also. Flavors become stronger, foods become more nourishing, spoilage slows or ceases. It makes me think of Nonviolent Communication and how we can peacefully create change through partnerships without tearing everything down to ashes.

I’m back to fermenting here in the Midwest and I will certainly be posting more about that. I’m learning new techniques, and revisiting the old, and I will definitely be sharing that with you more. In the meantime, go get a copy of Wild Fermentation and get inspired!

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My No-Fail Falling Asleep Trick

Sleep when the baby sleeps.  That’s what they always say. But really, how hard is it to just turn out the lights and fall asleep?

There’s always something to think about. Something to worry about. I found myself falling laying awake for what seemed like hours after Katie was snoring away.

When she was brand new, I developed a little trick to help myself fall asleep, and I want to share it with you in the hopes that it will help you guys get some much needed shut-eye also.

I call my trick Alphabet Animals. Okay, I know. It sounds dumb. But it really works.

The trick with this is to engage your brain with something that is just interesting enough to keep you from thinking about that fight you had with that guy on the internet or the giant pile of laundry in the washer that you forgot to put in the dryer and is probably going to stink in the morning. But it has to be boring enough that it doesn’t stimulate you and keep you awake.

Simple alphabet games can be perfect for this provided you pick a topic that doesn’t wind you up. Initially, I was doing alphabet gratitude, but since I grew up in the South, the gratitude morphed to guilt and I found myself staying awake feeling bad about random things. Not helpful. So I switched to animals. I rarely get past K. Which is good because K is a tough letter at 10:30 at night.

I’ve got some pretty specific rules that I follow when I play this game. I’ve got to name actual, specific animals. A for ant, b for bear, c for cat does not cut it. They’ve got to be more unusual animals. And some nights I pick a theme like marine animals or birds.

I happen to know a lot of animals, so this particular theme works for me. What can I say. I mostly only watch nature documentaries on TV. You might know more book characters or food items or celebrities. Pick a theme that works and go for it.

Here I go!

A is for arapaima.
B is for banana slug.
C is for chinstrap penguin.
D is for dusky dolphin.
E is for elephant seal.
F is for frigate bird.

…..
*yawn*
…..

G is for giant Pacific octopus.
H is for Humboldt squid.
I is for ichthyornis. (I cheated there, but I is a hard one)
J is for …..

Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

*Please do be aware that trouble falling asleep can be one of the signs of postpartum depression. If this is a constant thing and you are having other indicators that PPD is staking a claim in your house, please do contact your healthcare provider right away.

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