A Month of Gratitude, #17-19

I am grateful today for:

17) The fact that I have never had to wonder whether or not I would be able to enjoy a Thanksgiving meal. I have experienced financially rough times in my life, some that essentially cripple me with stress, but I have always known that I would have the ability to cook or enjoy a Thanksgiving meal. Going without that, on my favorite holiday, is something I cannot comprehend.

18) Modern medicine. As the weather gets colder, I tend to be prone to all sorts of respiratory bugs, and I am so thankful that we live in an age where we have medicines and treatments for many of the illnesses we suffer from. Earlier this year, my baby girl was hospitalized with pneumonia and influenza, and it was frightening enough to see her suffering so badly, but it was even more sobering when I realized that, had she simply been born in a different era, she could have died from these so-called commonplace illnesses.

19) Sunshine. Especially at this time of year, a peek of the sun through the clouds is one of the most calming things I can even think of–it’s a natural antidepressant, and I am so thankful for the days where I get to be out to enjoy being in the sunlight.

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OUR PATH TO FITNESS: Our First Set of Goals

So, we have started an accountability program at This Path Less Traveled, due to some requests on my personal Facebook page and in private messaging. Basically, we will have posts both here and on the blog’s Facebook page where we discuss our weekly/monthly/yearly fitness goals with each other, mainly to share them with others who are wanting to face similar goals and challenges, as a means of accountability. I also have set up a board titled Our Path to Fitness on the Pinterest page where I will occasionally post pins related to goals, exercise routines, and so forth.

So, feel free to chime in and share your fitness goals for the week either here or on the Facebook page. My goals for the week of 11/17-11/24, are:

1) Exercise for 30 minutes at least twice during the week.

2) Do not eat out for seven days, as usually this is both a financial and a physical vice (the food is often bad for me).

Wanderlust and the Dark

Forgive me ahead of time, as this is going to be a very personal one tonight….

I have always had very dark, melancholic periods off and on since I was a teenager. Then, I wrote it off as adolescent hormones, and that it was something that everyone went through at that stage of life.

Once I was in college, I started realizing that it wasn’t merely something of my early youth, but that this might be something akin to my inherent personality, part of my inner workings, so to speak. I would find myself walking through campus on gray, Autumn days with no direction, no reason, and a mind that was alternately racing and completely dark all at the same time.

I started realizing, as I changed majors in college, that, in some ways, it was a bit of an artistic personality showing. Although I wasn’t an exceptionally good writer, I found that the best work I did often came from these gray periods, these weeks or months of loneliness and despair. I would nurse them away curled in up in a chair in our college library’s stunning atrium absorbed in a book and writing frantic notes in the margins, dog-eared pages marking my way. I would watch films and start and stop them in certain places just to analyze them, to see if there was something more than met the eye. And I could work all of these thoughts out through essays and lectures through the rigors of academia.

I also longed to travel. Due to several factors, I was not a well traveled child. I went to Florida once when I was five, and beyond that, we stayed to “border states,” and I even attended college in my hometown. I consoled myself that, once I was an adult and had an adult’s salary, I would travel, see my great nation and see the world.

I kept a lot of my dark spells hidden. At the same time that I was holed up in Bohemian coffeeshops, book and honeyed milk in hands, I was also attending church regularly, as I was raised Mormon. I was taught to believe that motherhood was a calling from God and was the highest achievement a woman would (and should) possess, that and marriage to another fellow Mormon. So, while my soul was troubled, I also quietly held it in and played the part, and also had myself horribly convinced that marriage and motherhood was something that should be obtained right away. You can see why my heart and mind were so troubled and, ultimately, quite confused, as my church friends were all getting married and having children, and here I was producing essays and frantic notes in used paperbacks.

I did marry, and obviously, I have had children. But the bleak periods still remain. You’re taught in church that you should love and revel and relish every moment of motherhood, and while I love my children, no one really informed me, or can anyone really inform you, honestly, that, in addition to losing the ability to read or watch movies, you lose the ability to even properly obtain or privately have the most basic human needs–there’s a lack of sleep, often, I put off meals, going to the bathroom in peace rarely happens. So, when you combine the loss of your coping mechanisms, plus adding in the inability to achieve the most rudimentary needs in life, you can see that those dark times can turn positively black. Sometimes, even though you love your children, you find yourself wishing you could just simply run, be alone, wanting to go back to the days of libraries and coffeeshops. And then comes the regret and the guilt associated with longing for that instead of simply enjoying every minute of motherhood. Shame. Self loathing.

There’s little travel. I’m lucky to pull out even the most trite and formulaic writings for blogs and other things, let alone anything analytic. By the time I am able to read, I am either too exhausted, or I am almost feverishly desperate, read for hours in the dark of night, and then start the day with screaming children and chores to do with maybe two or three hours of sleep.

By nature, I don’t have a homesteader’s heart, even though I ultimately have a blog centered around that lifestyle and self sufficiency. I have accepted the fact that I tend to have more of an artist’s spirit (without the artist’s talent). But, in realizing and accepting that my needs are more basic, that I need to have the release that comes from reading and analyzing and writing and creating, it has helped me to start shedding the things that I thought I needed for years in an attempt to be the perfect Mormon wife and mother, has taught me to treat materialism and consumerism and the need to have things with disdain. And when you start tossing away the facade of things, you are left craving a simpler life, one with meaning, the creation that comes from cooking from scratch and building a new life–which is where the drive for self sufficiency comes into play for me, I think.

I am in one of my dark periods right now. I find myself in tears or enraged at the drop of a hat. I long for an outlet, or the lost days of my academic career. I am antsy. I want to travel, though there are few resources to do so. I am both desperate for independence and holding to my family for dear life.

Sometimes, whether it was through my upbringing, or whether it is due to my natural maternal instincts (which do exist…I love my children dearly), I find myself feeling guilty for wanting anything for myself. When I have time on my own, I either feel I must clean or do something for the family, or I sleep because I am exhausted both physically and mentally. And in discussions with my husband, I have come to the conclusion that it isn’t, and shouldn’t, be all or nothing. I accept the fact that I am prone to depression and times where I need a means of emotional release and creativity. And I am beginning to wonder if, instead of being a bad mother for wanting them, I would be a better mother for having them. I want my children to learn that it is okay to create, to play, to mess around and to mess up, to roam, to be who they are, and not what society, religion, other people want them to be. I want them to see me doing all of these things, to know that their mother wasn’t afraid to try something new, to explore, to be something different.

My husband and I are wanting to (slowly) make travel a priority. I have developed a serious case of wanderlust. I want to learn to paint, to become a better photographer, to write more, to learn to analyze and pick apart literature and film again. I even want to learn to act, and I have never been able to keep a straight face worth anything. But, I want to try, and I want the children to know it is okay to try.

I am not sure why I am sharing this, really. It has nothing really to do with self sufficiency or sustainable living. But, if it helps another parent to feel less alone, then it is well worth the words.

Advice Needed for Sleep Issues

So much for canning apple pie filling this morning, as planned….

I used to have a sleep schedule that was roughly the following: wake up at 5:30-6:30am, stay busy until about 8pm or so (with the occasional nap in between), and asleep by 10:30pm, 11, tops.

I understand that having children and increasing age can affect your sleep rhythms/cycles tremendously, but my little ones generally sleep well enough, and yet, I’m becoming sleep deprived.

My current sleep schedule runs: wake up at 6am, get the Kindergarten son off to school, either go back to bed for a few hours or nap in the afternoon for a few, up until 1am-3am, then maybe 3-4 hours of sleep. Also, important to know is that I am napping and sleeping in BECAUSE of the late nights. They started first. I am usually quite tired at night, but I can’t get my mind and my body to get into “sleep” mode. I’m tired, mind you, but can’t get myself to wind down enough to sleep.

Advice? I actually have a local friend going through something similar. I am looking for natural, non prescription options, as I think it is prescriptions that might have got me into this in the first place. (I am currently on Zoloft, Advair, and was on Tussionex and Levaquin for an infection up until recently.)

Kretschmer Wheat Germ Review and GIVEAWAY (Ends 10/24/13)

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I was recently given the opportunity to review Kretschmer Wheat Germ.

On one hand, I was excited because we are trying to eat foods that are better for our family, and it was something new and different for us.

On the other hand, I had no real clue what wheat germ was. I kept thinking of those chunky bits in 12 grain or artisan breads, you know? I am NOT a person who likes hard bits in my bread. I guess I have this thing with textures and bread, but I was, admittedly, slightly nervous about what was in store for me.

Luckily, wheat germ is NOT those nutty pieces in breads (but it can be used in bread). Before I go too much farther, let me talk to you about what wheat germ is. Basically, wheat germ is kind of like the embryo of wheat. It’s the part that grows into the plant (think: germination).  It is full of vitamins and nutrients, is high in fiber, and is a good source of protein and healthy fatty acids.

The bad news is that, although it is exceptionally good for you, it is also taken removed/taken out of things like processed white flour (that’s why they have to “enrich” things like cereal and flour because they take the good stuff out of the wheat and are required to put *something* back into it to make it nutritionally “acceptable” for sale). It seems so sad to me that food companies remove the healthiest part of a food before processing, but that’s another story for another entry.

As mentioned, I had always heard of wheat germ, but didn’t really know much about it. You can use it in bread recipes to take place of a portion of the flour you use, if you wish (and it adds a heartiness, but NOT an extreme texture), but what really interested me is how versatile it is in ways I didn’t expect. Through friends’ suggestions, I added it to smoothies, to my bowls of cereal, to cottage cheese (with jam–so good), and it was especially good with vanilla yogurt (I topped it with wheat germ and pumpkin).

But what I liked best of all is that I could use it as a substitute in my meatball recipe. I’ve made meatballs for this blog before. I don’t do a lot of things well, but I really do like the meatballs I make, and I was curious how the wheat germ would affect my “famous” (at least to my family) meal.

I subbed wheat germ for the full amount of the bread crumbs.

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Here goes….

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Looks roughly the same as my usual recipe…

The finished product was heartier than my usual meatball recipe. It wasn’t bulky like I thought it might be, and, in fact, it seemed to add a richness to the taste that I really liked. My picky children even ate second helpings. Overall, I admit to being pleasantly surprised at how versatile this product is. It wasn’t “wheaty.” It had a bit of sweetness to it, and a nice, subtle crunch. Honestly, I prefer it to my plain bread crumbs! I’m looking forward to using it to make my own granola, too!

Want to try some for yourself? Kretschmer is graciously offering a jar of their original toasted wheat germ to one of my lucky readers. To enter, just follow these easy instructions:

1) One entry is earned if you like my Facebook page and leave a comment HERE letting me know you have done so.

2) Another is earned if you comment here and let me know that you shared this post on Facebook.

3) A third is earned if you share this post on Twitter.

4) A fourth is earned if you follow my blog via email (the option is on the right of your screen).

Four chances to win! Open to U.S. residents only. Contest winner will be picked via random.org. I will verify the winning entry’s validity. Winner will be announced here, on Facebook, and by provided email address and has 48 hours to respond before I pick another winner. Contest ends on 11:59pm on 10/24/13.

Disclaimer: I was provided a product to review and giveaway for this entry by a third party. However, the review is 100% honest.

Thank You, Farmers

Dear local farmers,

I wanted to say thank you at the close of this season’s farmers market and the CSA year.

Thank you for waking up before the sun each and every Thursday so my little family could enjoy the simple abundance that can only be found at a community farmers market. Thank you for keeping your costs low so that we were able to bring home bright, fresh produce each week. Thank you for answering my inane questions (“What IS that?”), for dealing with rude customers, the “bargainers,” the line-cutters, the unpredictable weather, and the unruly children (sorry), and also for helping my little ones learn that the market is a place of wisdom, perseverance, and kindness.

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My daughter with a sunflower, given to her by our CSA share farmer at the market.

Thank you for reminding me to appreciate the little things–a late summer bouquet of flowers, the glory of autumn’s pumpkins, the sweet newness of a baby goat exploring its big, wide world.

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Sugar

Sugar

Thank you for teaching me the value of leaving my comfort zone by enabling me to accomplish things I never believed I could do. Thank you for the encouragement to learn traditional arts and the homesteader’s way. Thank you for the strawberries to dehydrate, the apples to can and preserve, the flour to bake with, the lessons on soapmaking.

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applesauce

Thank you for teaching my family about community. Thank you for showing me the importance, and value, of community supported agriculture (our CSA). Thank you for the festivals, the hayrides, the walks along your fields for no good reason, the gatherings, the classes. Thank you for giving my family the joy that comes in knowing where our food comes from and allowing us to participate in it.

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Farm festivities.

Farm festivities.

Above all, thank you for providing my family REAL food, nourishment, sustenance, that we cannot find in equal anywhere else.

Thank you for the inspiration you have given me to do better, live better, FEEL better.

Natural and Home Remedies for Allergies

I have a red, snot crusted nose, bloodshot eyes, a pain in my throat, and a tickle in my nostrils. With every movement, I sneeze. I’m using eye drops and ear drops like they are candy. My beloved kitty has temporarily become my mortal enemy.

Yep, it’s that most wonderful time of the year–my personal allergy season.

I won’t lie…I’m in utter misery. In desperation, I turned to Facebook and friends to help me find some relief that doesn’t come with its own advertising budget. I was thrilled to get a lot of responses, though it made me realize that I am not the only one suffering! 😦 Here are some suggestions for relief–

1) A Neti Pot/Neil Med. I admit I haven’t tried this, as I feel a bit squeamish squirting things into my nose (even nasal sprays give me an icky sensation). But, thousands of people swear by this remedy, and it’s enough to peak my interest. It works by flushing the nasal cavities with a saline solution that will help relieve inflammation in your sinuses. You can find more information here.

2) Local honey.

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Honey (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The theory behind this natural remedy is that, by buying local honey, you’ll get exposure little by little (and therefore, a tolerance) to regional pollens through the work of the bees. Some doctors dispute this theory, but seeing as I am also a food storage buff who keeps local honey by the pounds, and that this remedy is super yummy, really, I have little to lose. Make sure it is indeed locally produced honey to be able to reap the benefits of the bees’ exposure to your region’s pollen. Also, store bought honey lacks regulation, and a little bear of supposedly 100% honey in the grocery store can actually legally contain other ingredients–like corn syrup!

3) Elderberries. Our great grandmothers and new moms alike  recommend this to treat allergies. Elderberries are purported to ease respiratory ailments like colds and allergies, and have been used for centuries medicinally. I have seen elderberry syrups, and I’ve ever seen elderberry gummies. Another yummy method to try, whether it works or not.

English: Elderberries Ripe elderberries growin...

English: Elderberries Ripe elderberries growing by the Roman wall at Calleva Atrebatum. Elderberries can be used in a number of ways, including making elderberry wine. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

4) Herbal teas. Is it me, or are a lot of these remedies sounding really tasty? I wonder if there is a connection between the herbal teas and honey, as honey also contains the cough suppressant dextromethorphan, which is in many over the counter cough medications. There must be something in the warmth of the tea that can help ease a sore throat, and I’m sure you can find a combination of herbs that have reported success with allergies. (There seems to be an herb to help ease just about any ailment.)  Some swear by chamomile, others swear by hone and lemon in their herbal teas. I think you’re likely to find even temporary relief either way due to the soothing steam and warmth the tea provides.

What do you use to combat allergy symptoms naturally?