Sunday, May 4, 2008

Settling in and enjoying Spring

This blog is going to be sporadic at best from now on. We don't have internet service at home, and I am focusing on family time and working in the gardens (both the big market garden and the community garden). Believe it or not, I'm also starting to go to bed and get up early. I'll let you know when I get healthy, wealthy and wise. LOL!

Anyway, we are still settling in to our new home. It had sat unused for many years, and we are close to a major highway, so there is a LOT of dust. Today, we have started hanging pictures and arranging things so that it almost looks like a real home.

Spring has been alternating between frigid, windy, rainy days and lovely warm sunny days. We have been enjoying all of the nature around us. Every morning the kids and I take a little walk around. There are calves and kittens, and a robin sitting on 3 bright blue eggs in the little pear tree behind our house.

So far, I have participated in planting onions (plants and sets), fava beans, potatoes, parsnips, and peas. Well, there's at least one thing I eat in there (guess which one.).

Believe it or not, Farmer's Market starts in 2 weeks!

Happy Spring everyone.

Thursday, April 17, 2008


And by that, I mean, RIPE, ORGANIC, fruit. Sigh. It is soooo hard to get any decent fruit right now, except for the ubiquitous bananas, which I am sorry to say, I don't like much.

I have been getting conventional Texas watermelons for $8 apiece a lot lately. Unfortunately, less than half of them are properly ripe, despite my attempts to properly thump and scrutinize them.

Further personal updates... The irresponsible compost pile has been moved. We got a warning notice from the city that we had 4 days to get rid of it or get a citation. It took over 70 5-gallon buckets to move it! And, it was stinky and heavy. The groundhog is sad. I saw him run up to the spot where the pile used to be and look around in confusion, then run back to his burrow. We left him some apple cores at his front door, and they were gone the next morning.

We are finally moving this week. The house is completely ready, and we are on our way.

The community garden project is kicking off another season, and we are seeing a huge increase in participation. I am beginning to learn to delegate and to relinquish my control freak tendencies, with great results. I couldn't be more enthusiastic about how wonderful it is going.

And maybe it's just the sunshine, and birdsong, and warming temperatures, but I am feeling optimistic about almost everything.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Quick update

Spring has finally arrived here in Northern Illinois. Thank goodness! When it snowed on April 2nd, I thought I might snap. The next day, it was 50s and sunny. Whew.

We are STILL moving. Our projected move date was going to be March 1st, and most of our stuff is in the new house, but we have had a plumbing delay that required the ground to thaw. I have been relaxed up to this point, but now I am beginning to feel a little frustated, because most of our stuff is already there, and my busy season approaches with planting and such. However, I feel optimistic that the delays will soon be over, and I will then have to find something else to complain about.

At the farm, the cows have begun to calf. There are four so far. And we have had some animal excitement here in town. A groundhog has moved in under our gazebo, and has been munching on our irresponsible compost pile. The kids and I have enjoyed watching! My husband has given the little critter a ridiculous name (can't remember it right now), and it prompted us to do a little research. Did you know that "groundhog" and "woodchuck" are names for the same animal?

The kids and I have been getting much more active... walking, gardening, and playing outside.

I am still not back to 100% lowfat raw where I want to be. I have some more to learn about loving and accepting myself. But I am confident that I am going in the direction I want to be going, so it's just a matter of continuing to walk forward.

Monday, March 24, 2008


I have been wanting to share so much about what has been going on in my self and my life... but I struggle to even find the words to describe the dramatic and powerful changes that are going on in my self-awareness. Now, I am feeling such joy that I am going to write about this no matter how incoherent I sound. LOL!

If you had asked me a year ago, "Are you self-aware?" I would have not understood the question. But, I would have convinced myself that I did, and I would have been convinced that I, of course, was very aware of myself. I would have backed that up with a whole lot of judgements of my skills and talents and flaws and quirks. In other words, my self-awareness was just above zero, with zero being dead. :)

Here's the analogy to the changes I am experiencing that makes sense in my head. Whenever I moved to a town or city, no matter the size, I always felt overwhelmed in the beginning about how to navigate. So, I would map out, out of necessity, routes to the places I needed to go to do the daily business of life. I could get from my house to school, from my house to the grocery store, from my house to the library, etc. But, I couldn't get from the grocery store to the library. I had no idea how the whole map looked, how far things were from each other, or what the neighborhood in between looked like. Gradually, through exploration, I would eventually "fill in the map." Within a few years, even a large city like Chicago seemed quite simple to navigate because I understood the pattern of organization of the streets and the transit system, and had a general knowledge of the different neighborhoods and where they were in relationship to each other. No matter where I might find myself, it was easy to immediately collect clues about where I was in relation to everywhere else in the city, and quite quickly, I could envision where I was on the map.

Now, finally, I believe I am starting to fill in the map that makes up me, and my relationship to the world and other human beings. Suddenly, I am seeing the connections everywhere. I have stopped looking at my feet, as they plod forward, step by step, and I've started to look up and actually seeing what is around me.

Sometimes, I lose my sense of direction and feel lost. I can't access what I am feeling or needing. I can't see options or recognize anyone else. But those times are coming fewer and farther between. I can experience the sense of being lost without despair, because I know that I can just look around me, and learn! Next time I am here, I will remember it, and I will know the way.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Papaya Passion

I absolutely LOVE papaya, which is ironic, because I don't live where they grow, and the quality of the papayas I have available is third rate at best. I always joke that it's a race to see if the papayas I buy will ripen or rot.

I get the big Maradol papayas imported from Mexico for 99 cents a pound at the Mexican fruit markets in a nearby city. The Hawaiian papayas cost at least $2.50 each (about a lb.) and they are usually poor quality. I love this little place called Mi Dos Patrias (My Two Countries), a little convenience store-sized market with narrow aisles and great big pinatas hanging from the ceiling. Not so nice is the stink of the carniceria in back! I go in and buy all of their papayas, usually 30-40 lbs. worth. They must wonder who this crazy lady that shows up every couple of weeks and wipes out their papaya supplies.

I didn't grow up eating papaya, and I don't remember the first time I tried it, but it was college or after, during the period when I had started experimenting with food beyond the fare I grew up with.

A funny papaya story. I gave birth to my youngest child at home with my husband and two female friends. I had some ripe papaya in the house. About two hours after the baby was born, at sunrise, I was suddenly ravenous! I told my husband to go and cut up papaya for us all to have for breakfast.

Both my friends, who were pretty with-it hip kinda girls, admitted that they had never tried papaya. I was shocked! But thrilled, as well, because now I could offer them this special food on this special occasion. It was a ripe, sweet and juicy papaya. In my ravenous, oxytocin-drenched state, it was the best food I had ever tasted. Imagine my surprise when they both hated it. My one friend said, "Will you be offended if I spit this out?" LOL! I wasn't offended, I was just unable to comprehend that anyone wouldn't enjoy this delicacy. However, I was more than happy to eat all of their papaya after I finished mine.

Someday, I will eat tree-ripened papaya under the warm tropical sun and I will celebrate birth with each bite!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

5 Things You Don't Know About Me

I got tagged by Margi. Glad to see you posting again! I think Margi's raw blog might be invitation only, so here is her other one, Flora the Forager, where she talks about her other interests.

This assignment was hard... is there ANYTHING I haven't shared about myself on this blog already? Good grief. Well, here are some things that might be buried somewhere on this blog, but most of you probably don't know.

1) I have 6 sisters and 4 brothers, all younger than me.

2) My middle name is Frances (rumored to be named after a childhood sweetheart of my Father). When I was in Kindergarten, my Dad got mad because my teacher had me practice spelling it Francis, like a boy.

3) I don't like apples, especially mushy ones. I don't like bananas much either, unless they are mixed with another fruit in a smoothie, or covered with date sauce. Or sometimes, if I'm really hungry, and the banana is just perfectly ripe, but not overripe.

4) As a kid, I played the piano and the flute, but haven't in many years. I just got a piano off of Freecycle and I am very excited.

5) I have a huge pile of fruit peels in my back yard. A very irresponsible "compost" pile! I also have a worm bin in my kitchen.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Durian fun

Sarah of Living the Fruity Life shared the sweetest picture of her son chowing down on his very first durian and weighed in on the "stink factor".

I was smitten with insatiable curiousity about durian after hearing about followers of Doug Graham talk about spending the durian harvest in Thailand, cycling hundreds of miles a day and monoeating durian. I was intrigued by the pictures and description of the fruit, whose scent was compared to "dog poop" and "rotten garlic." Apparently, while the fruit is wildly popular, it is forbidden from many enclosed places, such as train stations and buses, because of its stink.

I tried searching online for places to find durian in Chicago, thinking that on our annual summer trip, we could locate some. That did not come to fruition, although I did have lots of fun fruit adventures there.

Imagine my surprise when I found durian in Rockford (about half an hour away) in a neat little Asian grocery called The Golden Market. The owner was happy to give me tips on how to open and eat the large spiky creature that reminded me of a medieval weapon.

My first go at durian was quite enjoyable. I found the opening of the fruit challenging, but fun. The scent was noticeable, but not unpleasant. All three kids and I enjoyed the taste and creamy consistency immensely.

I began buying durian every couple of weeks. I soon found that some were more fragrant than others, to my husband's dismay. I soon found the taste and texture, while still pleasant, did not appeal to me as something I wanted to make a meal of. My son now refuses to eat it. But my two daughters are regular durian fanatics, and will insist that I cut them immediately when we buy them, which is impossible because they are frozen rock solid. Have you ever tried to explain to two crying children why you simply can't open a frozen spiky boulder now?!?

Now, for a funny durian story. I went to a conference on local foods with a colleague/ friend at Starved Rock State Park. As a joke, I brought her some durian, which she had never heard of before... partly because it's the antithesis of local food for us, and partly because it was a particularly smelly durian. She has a lot of jokes about smells. LOL! Anyway, we arrived late in the evening and had to eat in the bar. She ate a sausage pizza (the kitchen was closed and all they had to eat in the bar was pizza), and then we broke out the durian. She tried a bite, and I ate the rest.

Soon we noticed one of the patrons who had been seated at the bar talking urgently to the bartender. They then began sniffing around and moving through the room. I overheard their conversation and realized that they were concerned that there was a gas leak. I was amused and embarrassed. I waited for a moment, but as the bartender headed for the phone to call someone in to check the pipes, I 'fessed up. No gas leak; just a stinky durian, I apologized. Fortunately, everyone was polite, even if they thought I was a total freak. LOL!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Change takes time

I am learning this... the hard way. I get an idea, an inspiration, something that rocks me to my core. It can be absolutely true! But it's not going to just manifest overnight. Sorry for all you fans of the Secret out there. I don't just get to will myself to be in Costa Rica tomorrow, and wake up there.

I have been bemoaning how challenging it can be to wait for the changes I seek. This morning, while reading through my Enki philosophy guides, I stumbled upon more wisdom about growth and learning. Growth or learning is a process of moving from the known, to the unknown. When we move to the unknown, we must go at it slowly, moving from our stable home base, out into that unknown. If we jump, all at once, into something completely foreign, then we will shut down, and learn nothing. But, if we never leave the familiar and safe, then we never grow. We must learn to accept and embrace our fears and challenges. We must be prepared to learn from ALL experience, including the mistakes. And we must be patient and put in the work! We can't expect to learn to surf or garden or play the guitar in one week, and then give it up when we don't immediately succeed.

Right now, my son tells me almost every day... "I don't care," or "I don't believe you." He is talking about many things. Our move. Homeschooling. Traveling to Costa Rica. The low-fat raw lifestyle.

But I see a glimmer in his eyes that tells me he is hopefully watching. He is waiting to see if *I* really believe what I say I believe in. He is trusting me to be the leader, even when he claims not to believe in anything I say.

Friday, February 15, 2008


Hi my name is Marjorie, and I am an English teacher. [Hi Marjorie...]

Sometimes, I don't post, not because I don't have a lot to write about, but because I am afraid I cannot come up with a coherent and well-written post. You can take the composition teacher out of the classroom, but you can't take the red pen out of her head. Or something goofy like that.

So... here, in random order, with no attention to coherence, flow or style, and with no revision or polishing, are a bunch of things that are going on in my life.

1) We are getting ready to move in less than a month. This move is a huge step forward for our family. We will be giving up the house that is too expensive for us and a burden to maintain, and moving to something we can afford. We will be living where I have my garden, which will mean that our lives will be simpler, and that the whole family can be more involved together in producing our own food.

Of course, I have a lot of anxieties and frustrations about the preparations for moving. Part of it is the crazy trap of thinking all of our stuff must be pared down and organized perfectly before we go. I have been alternating between procrastinating, and worrying, and then Freecycling like crazy. Starting tomorrow, I think I'll cut out the procrastinating and worrying and cut straight to the Freecycling and donating and packing.

2) We have been making some huge changes in our financial lives. Maybe, just maybe, we're ready to start living consciously and creatively in this regard, instead of acting like victims.

3) We are taking a Nonviolent Communication parenting class. You may hear a lot more about that in future posts. Right now, we are all struggling to live together in peace and harmony. But I'm beginning to believe that maybe, just maybe, it won't be a struggle forever.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Ooey, gooey, oh so delicious!

We finally got our dates today. The Date People are awesome folks with an even more awesome product, but they aren't exactly "all business." You might have to call, wait, make a couple of calls, and wait some more. But trust me, it is soooo worth it.

We ordered three varieties that we have never tried before: Halawi, Barhi, and Amir Hajj. All three are phenomenal, and quite unique.

Considering the amount of calories in one date, they are extremely reasonable in price. And, of course, they are extremely kid-friendly. My son says they are his favorite food, and frequently talks about how he plans to move to California when he grows up so that he can catch fish and grow dates.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Human Design

I recently read Nurtured by Love, by Schin'ichi Suzuki, and was absolutely floored that a man who lived through a terrible war, at times forced to scavenge river bottoms for moss to eat, could have such a deep faith that human beings are essentially creative, beautiful and loving.

Among the lessons I gleaned from the book:

1) Humans are a product of their environment and training. Immerse your child in a world of love and beauty, and they will flourish.

2) Practice makes perfect. Forget the myth that you have to be born with some sort of special talent to do something. Simply practice the skill you wish to attain over and over and over (thousands or hundreds of thousands of times). He encourages us to look on such practice as play. Enjoy learning! In fact, he taught himself to play the violin at age 17 by listening to records and imitating them. Talk about dedication.

3) Don't grumble, scold, or manipulate children. Just model the behavior you want them to display.

4) If you find yourself procrastinating or resistant to achieving your own goals, it is probably because you were coerced as a child. (I felt a strong and deep understanding of this, based on my own experience.) Find away to talk to yourself with love, but be persistent and determined to achieve what you want.

5) Surround yourself and your children with people of culture, wisdom, and creativity who model the values you wish to emulate.

Reading about Suzuki's life, I wished with all my heart to believe that all humans, deep down, are born to be bringers of light and love and beauty. I wanted to immediately connect deeply with every person, to see their inner light (Namaste--I bow to the god within you), to "grok" them fully as Robert Heinlin would say.

But practically speaking, I think there is something missing in this picture. A recent conversation on the Path of Health about personal appearance led me to reflect on my own observations of human design. By design, I refer to the particular quirks that all members of a species share.

Humans are the animals that must try everything. We have put literally everything on the planet in our mouths. There are people who eat sheep intestines or raw whale blubber and call them a delicacy. Who figured out how to take a hard, tasteless grass kernel and turn it into bread. Seriously, who was the first person to dig a muddy carrot or a turnip and try a bite?

We have tried to live in every environment we encounter, no matter how inhospitable. Why would you want to live shivering in a frozen wasteland that is dark almost all day, for months out of the year? Whose idea was it to build huge cities in the middle of the desert?

If we can conceive it, we try to build it. We are inventors, improvisers. We rely on the magic of our imagination! Most of the time, we do things JUST BECAUSE WE CAN. It doesn't have to be a good idea. All ideas must become reality.

This is reflected in the way we approach our appearance. No other animal goes to such amazing lengths to alter their form. And yet, we do such incredible violence to ourselves in the process. Tattoos, piercing, pouring toxic chemicals on our hair, coating ourselves with colored minerals. Then there are more painful traditions such as foot-binding, neck lengthening and circumcision.

Why? Why are we so deeply dissatisfied with ourselves, as Nature (or Goddess or whoever) created us? We stamp our feet like little children. "NO! You can't make me. I MAKE MYSELF!" (Even if that means I make myself ugly, evil or sick.) But deep beneath this seems to be the little voice of dissatisfaction that both spurs us to greater heights and drags us into deeper despair... "You are not good enough," it whispers. This little voice may be the only human design flaw.

I choose not to listen. I celebrate my animal nature. I let hair grow in the color and places it wants to. I eat the food I was designed to eat. And very soon, I plan to move back to the tropical warmth where I belong.

I'll save my creativity for creating art and beauty. Maybe I'll teach myself to play the violin.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Inspirational Blog Award

I was sooooo thankful to receive this award from Connie, at Banana Island Getaway, since she is one of my biggest inspirations! However, I have now found out that virtually everyone who inspires me has already gotten the award from someone else. Well, shoot.

I want to say that I get my inspiration and support from all of YOU, but most especially the bloggers whose links I provide on the right.

I am not going to tag anyone else, but I do want to send out a huge thank-you to everyone who shares their raw journey with me through their blogs. And I want to thank all of the people who stop by and read my ramblings. Blessings to you all!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Accepting imbalance

Well, there are significant improvements going on inside of me!

I first took a bit of inspiration from Enki philosopy...

"In order to really learn something new, we must suspend the world we know and just receive or take in the new, in its own right. If we don't do this we are only re-learning what we already know. Opening to the new does require welcoming or at least accepting a kind of imbalance, what Piaget calls a disequilibrium."

Beth Sutton

Oh, so it's o.k. to be dizzy? LOL!

Fear of failure. Why? If I constantly derail myself, then I have already failed. Better to accept that everyone wobbles, falls, and then stands again to move on. Better to be patient with myself as I learn.

"When our fundamental confidence rests in our inherent wisdom and vitality, and not in what we know or own (our territory), we will welcome this disequilibrium."

Beth Sutton

I believe we are all, by design, gifted with wisdom and life. It is buried under a layer of fat, maybe. We might drown it out with idle chatter, with learned fears and entrenched habits. But we can find it, if we look and listen.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

What IS the problem?

In a nutshell, I never calm down. I have never been able to feel a peaceful sense of moving steadily through life, meeting challenges with excitement and confidence.

No matter what is going on, I perceive emergency, chaos, and distress, followed by swings into joy, excitement and optimism. Up and down and round and round till I, and everyone around me, is exhausted.

And THIS is the problem.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Increased Self-Awareness, Contrast, and other Blessed Irritations

When I went raw, I was shocked at how sharp my sense of smell and taste became. I was also pleasantly surprised to find that many symptoms I took for granted disappeared. I hadn't noticed them because they were so much a part of my life... That achy, lethargic, groggy feeling I woke up with every morning? Turns out it's a "food hangover", not just a result of turning thirty, or bad genes, or "not being a morning person."

So, imagine my dismay, when I began eating poorly again, at having all of my gains disappear and all of my symptoms return. Actually, they seemed worse. Are they worse? No, I am not being "punished." It's just a matter of noticing these things more now that I know what it's like to feel better.

In a way, this increased self-awareness has been the one thing that my detour to SAD land can't erase. And I am grateful for that. Grudgingly grateful.

I know my detour has been temporary, because now I've seen the promised land and want to go back.

Thursday, January 17, 2008


I have not been cataloging all of my struggles here as often as I was, mainly because it feels defeating to write about them day in and day out.

But if I could recap the last 4 months for you, they would be as follows: I have been freaking out about virtually everything. Money, family relationships, my ability to parent and homeschool, etc. and so on. And, I have been medicating myself heavily with junk food.

However, as we are transitioning our kids, I have been sticking with the program in front of them, and sneaking the junk food in the evenings after they are in bed. I know it's a bad situation, but it is the best I could come up with for now.

So, the other day, I am out for a little walk with my three kids and a woman comes out to the curb to pick up her garbage cans. She stops and looks hard at me and says, "Oh, hi!" "Hello." I say. Although she looks vaguely familiar, I don't know who she is. "I'm your Taco Bell drivethru lady," she explains, seeing the look on my face.

Good grief! How small is this town? How often have I been to Taco Bell? I don't have THAT memorable of a face, do I? Sheesh. It's like the universe was sending me a message.

"What does that mean, Mommy?" my five-year old innocently asked.

Turns out my kids don't even know what a drivethru is. Well, there, at least there's one thing I'm doing right.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Thoughts about cooking...

I took up cooking when I was pregnant with my oldest son. I think it was a subconscious bid to become a "mother" like my own mother. My mother always cooked meals from scratch when I was a kid, and we ate very little processed food.

So, I started reading Cooking Light and Vegetarian Times religiously and checking out cookbooks from the library. I secretly knew that I was a better cook than my mother, but I did share her penchant for getting distracted and burning things.

When I discovered the raw 80-10-10 way of eating, I was spending approximately 3-4 hours per day preparing meals.

Now my food prep is down to an hour or less.

At first, I felt a little bit of discombobulation... who knew so much of my identity as a mother was so tied up with my role as family cook?

However, now I realize what freedom I've stumbled upon. Free time to spend with my kids in meaningful activities we all enjoy. And freedom from worry that someone won't like the food I've spent so much time on. I used to really get hurt if the kids didn't like a recipe.

I'm glad to put that ugly issue behind me at least! Good grief.

And, I am not adding to my collection of scars from burning myself, or stinking up the house when I accidentally burn something (again). :)

Saturday, January 5, 2008

I don't like waiting!

The waiting is the hardest part

Every day you see one more card

You take it on faith, you take it to the heart

The waiting is the hardest part

from The Waiting by Tom Petty

Actually, I can stand in line just fine. I don't usually race around trying to find the shortest grocery lane. I don't harumph with irritation if someone is 5 minutes late to meet me.

But when it comes to the changes I want to see manifest in my life, I really feel anxious and well, impatient.

I don't want to spend another week desperately hoping that we won't run out of money for food. This has gone on literally as long as I can remember, no matter what our earnings. We ALWAYS run out of money to pay all of the bills or have to subsist on bananas or dumpster gleanings for the last 3 days before payday.

I don't want to spend another winter shivering and feeling blue from lack of sunlight.

Is impatience a lack of faith? Possibly. Possibly I don't really believe I can create a stable financial situation or ever have the courage to start my life over in a new place. Perhaps I don't have faith in myself. Perhaps I am afraid to make some sort of "fatal" mistake if I make huge changes.

At this point, perhaps impatience is simply a symptom of system overload. I literally cannot take this amount of pain and stress for much longer. I have reached the end of my tolerance. Much more, and my spirit may sicken and die.