A Month of Gratitude, #8-12

I am so behind on my Thanksgiving posts. Sometimes, the therapeutic posts need to come first before the “fun” ones.

What am I thankful for tonight?

8) A roof over my head and shelter. I know I said I would try to stray away from traditional items, but given what has been happening in the Philipines, one can’t help but be thankful for such a basic thing.

9) Movies and books that provide me the much needed escape from reality that I crave at times.

10) Candles. Sounds silly, but we have a lot of local candle makers who provide yummy scents that take my home from smelling like kids and animals, to possessing the sweet aroma of vanilla and cake (without the pesky baking).

11) Intelligent conversation. Sometimes, we need our ideas challenged and questioned.

12) Catharsis. The release that comes from either enjoying or creating a work of art or writing my thoughts is something I cannot live without.

What are you grateful for today?

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.

The Beginning….

It has always been a dream of mine to have a successful blog–ever since high school, in fact. The fact that I love books, and I have my Master’s in English Literature has not helped to curb the writing bug at all. The unfortunate problem with this dream is that it seems every other soul in America wants to do the same thing.

However, my dream will never be accomplished unless I try, so here we are.

I’ve written blogs before, about family, things, life, whatnot. But, I’ve always wanted to create a place that will help feed my soul, and others as well. I want a place where readers can come to learn a new skill, to become more self-reliant, to work toward a more sustainable lifestyle, to know that they are not alone in the pursuit to conquer debt (one of our family’s biggest struggles), that it is just fine to be a slacker mom. Essentially, this is a place for you to come if you want to move away from the rat-race, sit down, relish the traditional, share in trials and defeats, and to know that you can accomplish your goals, that we can take this path less traveled together… It’s not easy to say, you know, enough with the materialism the television and media throw at my family, enough with the parenting wars, enough with feeling like we have to keep up with everyone else. But, I know that, if we do it together, we will achieve it.

So, I welcome you to follow my family and me on our journey toward a more sustainable, less materialistic, more traditional lifestyle.

And who am I, you’re asking?

I’m a 30-something wife of an engineer, mother of two children (a son and daughter, ages five and nearly two, respectively). I’m a bookworm, a fledgling “prepper,” food storage addict, part-time cloth diapering mama, now former English professor, who is trying to find solace in going back to traditional roots and hoping to be able to break away from total reliance on the consumer world. (Trust me, I love to shop, but want to rely less upon it.) I’m a master bargain huntress, champion of the clearance sale, bulk shopping/warehouse store, and thrift store markets. (I’ll share some of these tricks with you along our journey.)

My hope for this website is to archive my progress (and inevitable failures) as I learn how to do things from scratch, my parenting experiences, our hope to one day remove debt from our lives, to share tips about everything from cloth diapering to mastering clearance sales to navigating Sam’s Club and Costco to sharing recipes, etc, etc. In the near future, I will add space for those who are interested in booking me for tutoring and proofreading help, and for those wanting me to teach classes on bulk buying, bargain hunting, and stockpiling.

So, like the poet Robert Frost before me, I’m taking the path less traveled, and I hope you’ll stay with me and take the trip along with my family.