Monday, August 29, 2011

The Final Post of Barefoot MomLady

Did I ever tell you the story about how I got started blogging? No? Well, it's about time I did. Get a cup of your favorite beverage, and maybe some cookies, and I'll tell you.

It all started back in 2004, just a few months after my beloved Eric and I tied the knot. I heard about this new thing called "blogging", and how Wil Wheaton (the kid from Star Trek: The Next Generation) had gotten a book deal from writing what amounted to an online journal. Now, I wasn't ever expecting to get any kind of book deal but I loved to write short stories about my life so I thought I'd start one for the fun of it. But what on earth would I call it?

Well, I was going through an identity crisis at the time...you know, the whole "I'm re-married now, I've got a new last name, and instead of being the breadwinner like I was since 1989, I'm a homeschooling housewife now so who the heck am I" thing. And since the only thing that hadn't changed about me was being a mother to three beautiful daughters, girls that insisted on giving me a superhero nickname (because I was just that cool), I decided to use that and began writing "The Adventures of MomLady".

I really loved that blog.

Alas, just when I'd started to really find a growing number of blogging friends, just as the whole "Mom Bloggers" thing was beginning to explode across the internet, I had to shut it down. It was like having a piece of my heart ripped out.

Eventually, the pull of blogging lured me back in. By that time, I was in the midst of successive pregnancies, enjoying and advocating the beauty of homebirth, and joking with my husband about being barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen all the time, when my two big girls (the eldest had left home for college by then) renamed me Barefoot MomLady. And that's how this blog was born.

Over this past year, though, I've felt led to something different. At first I thought it was time to change my attitude about this hobby and join thousands of other women by monetizing my blog. I bought my domain name and started looking for a professional blog designer. But by the time I found who I wanted to hire, God began telling me that Barefoot MomLady was not the direction He wanted me to go in. So, I prayed and asked Him what He wanted me to do.

And this is the answer He gave me.



Unpaved Roads will be a place of honesty, transparency and (I pray) encouragement. From struggles in the valleys to joy on the mountaintops, I will share my journey as a farmer's wife and homeschooling mom as I walk by faith, not by sight.

It's been a privilege to share my story up to this point here with you. I've been truly blessed by your comments and your friendship. Thank you all so much for that. I'm excited to see what God has in store for us on Unpaved Roads. I hope to see you there.

In obedience, faith and love,
Wendy

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

It's Not About Me

I was having my typical Monday morning pity-party. Seems like lately we haven't just been under spiritual attack...it's been an all-out siege against us. Strange dogs roaming onto our property and terrorizing our chickens, children coming down sick, finances looking bleak, sleep becoming an elusive mystery and all of the pressure, the stress, the heat, the worry, getting under our skins and pushing us to bickering, losing sight of the things that really matter and draining the joy out of my heart.

I went outside as I often do when I'm feeling burdened, to walk around the gardens and find a moment of peace in prayer.

Lord, you know the struggles we're having right now...

On my knees, pulling weeds near the okra, I poured out a laundry-list of worries and frustrations.

Help us...guide us...show us...let me know...what should we...

Us. Me. We.

Through all these weeks and months, I've wondered why everything we try to do seems like such a struggle and it's all just so hard every step of the way. Why can't anything just go smoothly for a change?

What am I missing in all this, Lord? What am I not seeing or doing?

And of all the things I've learned in my relatively short time as a Christian, one of the biggest I should always remember is to NEVER ask God a question without being prepared to hear the answer.

"I love you, Wendy. But it's not all about you."

Ouch.

I'll admit it, I didn't get back on my knees, turn to my Bible, or do anything that would've indicated I wanted to continue this conversation with my Maker. No, I pulled a mental Jonah and plopped myself down on the computer. As if I could run away from what He wanted me to know.

On Facebook, I saw a friend that I haven't "spoken" to for several weeks letting everyone know that she was leaving for surgery in a few minutes.

"When was the last time you prayed for her, Wendy?"

I had a new message waiting for me from the only real-life friend I've got out here, wanting to know if we could get together and start the Bible study we've been wanting to do since January but have repeatedly had to postpone due to health issues.

"When was the last time you prayed for her, Wendy?"

I signed out of Facebook and pulled up my favorite news website. Anything to get my mind elsewhere, right? There's rioting in London, and I remember my friend in England who is supposed to be traveling to Dublin soon to see her father for the first time in six years.

"When was the last time you prayed for her, Wendy?"

I am ashamed.

When was the last time I did more than give a brief, cursory prayer on behalf of a friend in need? When was the last time I put my own petty little problems aside long enough to allow the burden of someone else's worries drive me to my knees?

The word of God really is a double-edged sword.  I felt it, piercing my heart over and over as scripture after scripture rang in my ears.

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it...
...do not cease to pray for you...
...do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers...
...always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy...
...praying always for you...
...praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints...
Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving...

Forgive me, Lord.  It's not all about me.

photo credit

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Learning to Plan, Planning to Learn

Some of you may be shocked at this, but going into our eighth year of homeschooling, this is the first time I'm going to make a lesson plan.

*GASP!*

Pick yourselves up off the floor. I'll explain.

I've never been particularly pushy with my girls when it comes to their education. I want them to want to learn, not because I say they have to but because they have the desire to do so. I don't want to re-create public school here at home, turning out cookie-cutter minds that retain things only long enough to pass a test without any real understanding of what they've been taught or why. I love watching the girls dig for information they want to know more about, like what makes blood types different, or who invented paper. Don't think for a minute, though, that we don't use textbooks or have tests. I've got a book (or several) for every subject we study; I've just never felt it necessary to be bound by the publisher's syllabus. My approach isn't exactly "un-schooling" or student-led education...I tend to think of it in terms of "relaxed" homeschooling. If we don't finish chapter 14 on such-and-such day, I'm not stressing about it. We don't move on until the concept is mastered, not just memorized.

For the most part, it's worked. After picking up Romeo and Juliet because, "I've heard about it, I wanna know how it really goes..." my "reluctant reader" is now a budding Shakespeare enthusiast and currently enjoying Hamlet.

The truth, though, is that I'm not the most disciplined mother in the world when it comes to making sure my "students" are following through on their lessons. I could makes excuses for myself...I went from pregnant to nursing to pregnant again to nursing again to pregnant yet again to nursing yet again with barely a break between, had my world turned inside out by moving to the country and finding myself suddenly turned into a farmer's wife without a clue of what to do (talk about on-the-job training!) and oh yeah, there's been that whole depression thing added to the mix.

But it's high time I got a little tougher with myself and excuses don't cut the mustard. I've got two high-schoolers and a kindergartner on my hands, and it's my job to shape, mold and guide their young minds now while they're still in my care. If I want to turn out responsible members of society, I need to model responsibility for them.


Besides, I'm going to need a game-plan for this little guy. 'Cause if he ever figures out that his smile can melt me into calling off school for the day? I'll be sunk.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Holding Me

I came to the end of my rope and cried out, "Lord, what do I do now?"




And He answered.....



"Let go. I am already holding you."


Imagoism Thursday # 40 [End of the Rope]
photo credit


Are you worn out from holding yourself up? 



Or are you resting in the Hands that are already holding you?




"He reached down from on high and took hold of me..." Psalm 18:16

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Trying New Things - Grinding Our Own Meat

Last week, I shared how I overcame my fear and canned tomatoes for the first time. This week isn't about overcoming a fear, but finally getting off my duff and doing something I've been meaning to for some time now.

Ever since Marye told the world about an additive in hamburger meat known industrially as "pink slime", I've been determined to grind our own beef. But this is coming from the same woman that's been determined to finish getting rid of the boxes sitting on my upstairs landing since we moved here.

Procrastinator? Me? Nooo...

It just takes me forever and a day to get around to doing things.

Ahem.

Now, you may be wondering what the big deal is about grinding your own meat. Well, aside from the health and safety aspect outlined so eloquently by Marye in the link above, there's another benefit that simply can't be argued with...

It's cost-effective.

I would love to have grass-fed beef, and we still plan on adding a cow to our farm someday, but right now it's just not feasible. Even if I could find someone in the near vicinity selling, I simply cannot afford it right now. I can afford to buy chuck roast when it's on sale, though, and it's undeniably cheaper than ground chuck. And seriously, why should I pay some grocery-store butcher extra to grind my meat when I've got eager and willing hands right here at home anxious for the chance to do it for me?

grinding the beef

Using the meat-grinder attachment to our KitchenAid stand mixer, it took an average of two minutes for every five pounds of chuck, give or take. For healthier eating, peace of mind and saving money, who can't afford a few minutes for that?

Now it's your turn! Have you tried something new in the past week? Link up your stories here or (if you don't have a blog) share your story on my Facebook page so others can come by and be encouraged to try new things. I'm looking forward to seeing what you've been up to!

Friday, July 15, 2011

In Honor of Bees

"One can no more approach people without love than one can approach 
bees without care. Such is the quality of bees..."
~ Leo Tolstoy

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The careful insect 'midst his works I view,
Now from the flowers exhaust the fragrant dew,
With golden treasures load his little thighs,
And steer his distant journey through the skies.
~ John Gay

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"Bees do have a smell, you know, and if they don't they should, 
for their feet are dusted with spices from a million flowers."
~ Ray Bradbury

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Bees work for man, and yet they never bruise
Their Master's flower, but leave it having done,
As fair as ever and as fit to use;
So both the flower doth stay and honey run.
~ George Herbert

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"The keeping of bees is like the direction of sunbeams."
~ Henry David Thoreau

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“The bee is more honored than other animals, not because she labors, 
but because she labors for others.”
~ Saint John Chrysostom

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"If the bee disappeared off the face of the earth, 
man would only have four years left to live."
~ Albert Einstein

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Trying New Things - Canning Tomatoes

Seems like I do a lot of confessing on this blog, so if you'll forgive me (you will, won't you?) I'll share another one with you. If you are what you eat, then it's no wonder I eat a lot of chicken, because that's what I am when it comes to doing new things. One big ol' scaredy chicken. I guess when your childhood accomplishments are received with statements like "Well of course you got straight As...of course you won the talent show...." you tend to start thinking that failure is not only not an option, it's completely unacceptable.

My parents meant well. They really did.

So when it came time to start canning last year, I just couldn't bring myself to do it. After reading "Putting Food By", a book which warns about the risks of botulism due to improper canning on almost every. single. page. I was convinced that I'd surely do something wrong like, oh I don't know, maybe leave a speck of dirt inside the canning jar and kill my entire family with food poisoning! It didn't matter how many times friends or family would say, "It's not that hard, you can do it!" I was completely convinced I'd make some tiny mistake that would prove fatal.

Yes, I have dramatic tendencies. And a huge fear of failure.

So the only canning that happened last year was whatever my husband undertook. And between you and me, I got a tad bit jealous. And embarrassed at myself. Sitting in the living room with my little ones, I could hear him out in the kitchen, laughing and having a good time with the big girls. And guess what? Of all the jars of jams, preserves and apple butter he canned, not one gave us food poisoning.

This year, our tomato crop is coming in beautifully, and I've decided that I'd be dog-gone if I didn't get at least a few quarts put up. Bless his heart, my husband didn't bat an eye when I asked him if he'd walk me through my first time canning, he just smiled and said, "Sure thing, honey, any time you're ready." I think he must have known I'd ask eventually.

(Have I mentioned lately how much I love my husband? And what a lucky woman I am to have someone so patient and understanding with my drama-queen, emotionally-challenged self? Because I so am lucky to have him.)

And, as you're about to see, it's really not that hard after all.


First, we get the jars and lids ready. (Sorry, I didn't include a shot of the lids simmering. I ordered a neat little gadget to hold the lids in the simmering water, but it didn't arrive until the day after we canned. Now that I've overcome my fears, I'll be using it and sharing my thoughts on how well it works soon.)


You need to have a big bowl of ice water nearby because you want to blanch the tomatoes before processing them.


I don't know who discovered "blanching", but they were a genius, I tell you. Put your vegetables in boiling water for 30-45 seconds, pull them out and put them in ice water to stop the cooking process. What do you get? Vegetables that retain their freshness and have an amazing color. Seriously, aren't those some of the most beautiful red tomatoes you've ever seen? (And they weren't even Photoshopped, honestly!)


Give the tomatoes a chance to chill, then core and peel.


Oh, did I mention that another benefit of blanching is how easy the skin comes off?


Lots of them just slid right off.


Tomatoes are a "high-acid vegetable", which means you don't have to use a pressure canner, but you do want to add an acid to your jar to raise the pH level. Two tablespoons of lemon juice for a quart jar does the trick nicely. (It's a good idea to put the lemon juice in the jar before the tomatoes, just so you don't accidentally forget it.)


Fill the jars with tomatoes and a little hot water, use a rubber spatula to make sure there aren't any air bubbles, put on the lids, twist the rings finger-tight, put them in your big pot of boiling water and put the lid on. Once the water returns to a rolling boil, let them sit in there for 45 minutes (40 minutes for pints). Pull them out, set them on the counter with a towel over the top of them until they cool. If you hear a "ping" sound, it's the lids sealing into place properly. If you don't, you can keep that jar in the fridge for about a week and use them right away.*


Basically, that was it!  We had one jar that didn't seal properly, so we used it the next night for pizza sauce and oh my goodness, it was delicious! (And no one got sick to their stomach, either!)

I'm so elated from this experience that I'd like to make a little proposal to you. I'm going to try something new (to me) every week and share my results, good or bad, here every Tuesday, and I'm inviting you to join me. If there are things you've always wanted to try but haven't, may I be so bold as to suggest that this is a great time to do it? Whatever has been holding you back, whether fear, lack of time or whatever, don't put it off any longer. It can be as big or small a project as you want to make it...it doesn't even have to be finished in one week. It just needs to be something you've always wanted to try but just hadn't worked up the gumption to do before. Ever wanted to learn how to knit? Make a quilt? How about something even simpler, like planting some herb seeds in containers and growing them in your kitchen? Or maybe something purely creative, like painting with watercolors? It doesn't matter what it is, it doesn't even matter whether or not we "succeed". The real success will be simply in trying. I hope you'll join me.


*Please note that these are not fully detailed instructions on the proper method of canning tomatoes. For an accurate step-by-step procedure, I highly recommend Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving.  
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