The Enchanted Friendship and Birthday Wish

Did we all have that friend when we were kids?  The one that was intertwined with our very self evolution?  The memory we keep with us forever?  I have written about mine a few times over the years.  Her name was Susan.  I watched her through the windows of my classroom that looked out on to the courtyard of my old Catholic school.  She walked in with her mother to the office to register.  I just knew she would be my friend.  I prayed that she would be my friend.

She had mousy brown hair, and big glasses.  She was very short and was athletically built, even at twelve years old, because she was a competitive figure skater.  And sure enough we were fast friends.  Her mother said to me one day that she always knew when I was on the telephone because Susan didn’t hang around and chat but would respond quickly, “Meet you in ten minutes!” and would dart out the door.  We would meet at the park, ride our bikes, take buses downtown, or just hang out at her house before her parents got home from work.  We would watch foreign films and drink too much coffee.  We would dance around the living room and stay up late to gaze at the moon.  She loved classical music and was intelligent and so, so confident for a teenager.  She inspired me to be better.  And we made some really great memories.

Then we go through those decades of marriage and raising children and working to make ends meet and before we know it we are middle aged.  Oh, we had the kids’ friends’ parents, we have friends we met at work, or we have the couple’s friends.  We have old friends and we have family but I always longed for another friend like I had when I was young.  I sent up a prayer about it.  You can do that.

Well, for the first eight months of our friendship when I would describe her to my kids or tell them what we were up to, I would say, “Oh, she’s like Susan.”  My children do not remember Susan- she was their godmother but our fallout was when they were far too young to remember- but they know what I mean because of all the stories I have told to them over the years.  Not that she is like Susan, but that our friendship reminded me of the carefree relationships of youth.

Tina took my herb class and that is how we first met.  I don’t really open up to many people.  So many times I am not what people expect.  I must have decided a long time ago that I really didn’t want to be hurt.  I started a women’s group at my husband’s recommendation to get me out of the house and meet new people in our new town.  One month five of us went to a nearby small town and shopped in the old main street shops.  We stopped and had coffee on a patio, our faces to the sun.  Tina had offered to carpool with me and as we drove down the mountain she asked me if I wanted to see the house she was building.  I was surprised but delighted.  I loved the second floor loft of her new home that looked down upon the river and the wildlife.  “It’s an Anne of Green Gables room!” I exclaimed.  And she knew what I meant.

“Meet you in ten minutes,” one of us will say.  To the coffee shop or to the mall or the Riverwalk or to each other’s house.

I was first astounded by her generosity.  I have met few people with such a big heart.  She and her fiancé (now husband) brought us over a whole truckload of chopped wood, barely knowing us.  She is the only one I know who owns all of my books, though I am certain she has little use for them!  I officiated their wedding.  As we walked down the path along the river talking about this and that and everything, a large owl swooped down in front of us.  The trees were filled with leaves and the water from the river was cool.  And all was enchanted.  Just like when I was young.

Tina is lovely and petite and gracious and funny.  Intelligent and kind and heartfelt and authentic.  She listens.  She talks.  She is wonderful to be around, whether in silence or in rapid conversation.  I can be myself.  She is herself.  We are at a stage of life where we can meet in ten minutes.  Being older, I appreciate her friendship so much more.  I am so lucky that she was sent to be my friend.  That she wants to be my friend.

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It is her 50th birthday today.  I hope you will join me in wishing Tina a very happy birthday.  Those friendships that define us and help inspire and build us get better over time and it is never too late to wish for a new best friend.

Taking the Extremism out of Veganism

What is the first thing you think of when you think of the word vegan?  I think of craziness.  I think of mobs of people pushing their way into health food stores yelling.  I think of anger.  I am vegan.  But the word vegan makes me nervous.

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Just like any group, there will be those that have to force their ideas on others in order to create what they feel is right, whether that be religion or lifestyle or opinion.  I understand it.  I just think there are better ways.  Because veganism is really a peaceful, beautiful thing.  My husband said that when I posted on Instagram and then on my farm facebook page the other day that we are vegan and opening a sanctuary we would lose followers.  We did.  The word vegan makes people nervous.

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Others have changed the term to plant based diet.  A benign term that means lots of delicious plants and denotes more of a health food approach then a save the cow message.  I told the teller at my bank that I was plant based and she looked at me very confused.  “I’m vegan,” I corrected.  “Oooh,” she answered, “what do you eat?”

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My friend is in the trenches.  She and a group of dedicated, emotional, loving people go out to cities all over the country.  They stand on street corners with masks on, wearing all black, holding televisions that display the atrocious way that animals become meat.  Blood, fear, and reality fills the screen.  Videos of these events show people walking briskly by.  Does empathy enter any of the bystanders?  I don’t know.  I hope so.  They go out to factory farms and create an unnerving presence.  They rescued a hundred turkeys before Thanksgiving.  The thing is, that when I see my friend, the violence and the plight has so greatly affected her.  Her emotional wellbeing.  Her eyes.  I worry that it is slowly destroying her.

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I have been on both sides.  So, I know that anything anyone told me while I had my blinders on when I was farming would not have changed my mind.  Only I can change my mind.  I taught herbalism for many years and a plant based diet was a central part of my teachings because you can only heal symptoms for so long before you have to look at diet and lifestyle.  I am surprised still how many of those students became vegan.  At least one or two a class.  Including the aforementioned friend.  Friends have sanctuaries now.  My writings whisper and inspire.  My friends know I am vegan.  I make amazing food.  They make amazing food for me.  No one is being forced to do anything.  Most people do not want to harm animals.  They can only eat meat because they can’t see the suffering, the crying, the blood.  They don’t see families, they see packages.  But sometimes people want to see what this is all about.

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So if you want to try veganism, keep these things in mind:

1- You don’t have to tell anyone.  You can just do your thing.  I didn’t want to cause harm.  I know there are cow parts in my tires and I still drive.  I know there is no way to completely avoid it all but I can be vegan.  My anxiety has notched down to near nothing.  Depression is not an issue.  Karmically I feel better.  I love animals.  Why would I want to consume them?  I smell like death when I eat them.  Plants create vibrancy.  But I don’t have to wear a PETA shirt to the grocery store.  I can inspire in my own way.

2- Don’t go out and buy new leather shoes, but the old boots you been wearing, keep wearing them.  Throwing them in a landfill doesn’t bring that cow back.  Be reasonable but be mindful moving forward.

3- Just peek at the labels of cleaning, beauty and bath products and make sure they are vegan and didn’t test on animals.  Goodness knows, no one wants dogs and rabbits to be stabbed and tortured in the name of good eyelashes.

4- You don’t have to go no-oil, no sugar, no gluten, only whole foods vegan.  The health benefits of giving up animal products is huge.  Knowing that you saved one more animal.  One more animal.  That is enough. You can use veggie meat along with your veggies and fresh bread and glass of wine.  There are no rules.  The meat and cheese substitutes out there are awesome.  No better time to be vegan.

5- Follow farm sanctuaries on Instagram or facebook.  The animals speak for themselves.  Know that you are saving hundreds of animals in your lifetime from pain and slaughter.  Watch some documentaries if you don’t know what goes on.  Don’t be tricked by the term “humane meat.” There is no such thing.  You are also helping the environment, your health, and so much more just by one simple, light decision.

Let’s take the craziness out of veganism and replace it with compassion.  I am Animal Friendly!

 

Losing My Identity

It all began simple enough.  A ringing came from my stocking on Christmas morning in 2002.  My husband wanted me to have a cell phone so we could reach each other.  Then many years later came the smart phone and all of a sudden I could be instantly connected to my email, to text messaging, to the internet.

It all began innocent enough, you know.  Such a new, fascinating thing, social media.  I could find old friends, see photographs of family, keep track of my kids, share our fun, farm life.  I started my first company- a modeling agency- twenty years ago.  Since then I opened a dance company, two apothecaries, a farm, written ten books, and have been written about in several newspapers from the Denver Post to the Huffington Post.

I am connected.  Bound.  A Facebook page, four business pages, two Instagram accounts, two emails, a cell phone, and an unexplainable addiction to the thing I despise, technology.

My very self has been wrapped up in it all.  My identity.  I fear that if I don’t have a social media presence that I will disappear.  If I only have a home phone, will I become invisible?  How will I make friends?  I might be out of touch.  I might be free.

My friends know where I live.  There is a big sign that says Pumpkin Hollow Farm out front!  They can call me on a home phone hung on the wall in my farm kitchen.  In reality, my daughter can send me photos.  The same eight friends like all my posts on all my pages.  I don’t really like the wide world of Instagram knowing where I live, actually.  I am kind of tired of hosting zillions of events.  Amazon sells my books, as do the local shops and museum.  If I wanted to boost my farm, or my books, or my work, I could go to markets.  I could be local, face to face, authentic.  You know, old fashioned.

I can still write my beloved blog.

Does anyone else feel trapped by the constant pace of the tech world?  How much time do I lose?  I am a simple housewife, apron donned and all, who grew up in a time where the phone cord wouldn’t reach around the corner so I could have privacy.  How did we get here?  With every person we see on the phone, all the time, in every place, in every situation, always connected, as if we will lose our place on this earth if we disappear from it all.

I think I am going to get a home phone.

December Morning Dawn

The lavender sky spreads and stretches over rolling pastures and forests of trees.

Along the railroad tracks the mist lightly rolls as dawn awakes

Golden sun rises and the air is ever cool in the December morning breeze

Deer move along the tracks with motions swift on crisp winter grass.

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Here at cozy home the dawn wakes me without clock as the lavender clouds drift by

Outside my window a new day begins of promise and light

No window coverings block my view of the large trees and the colored western sky

I mutter silent prayers of gratitude and breathe deeply.

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‘Tis too easy to get caught up in past affairs and travesties, harsh pain and mire

‘Tis too easy to become obsessed with what one still desires

But in this moment, my Dear ones out there, be the heart and smile that you would admire

Let not any negative word or thought escape to the world.

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Focus, Dears, on what is real and light and bright and sweet, upon blessings, and present here

See beauty in all things big and small, from children to birdsong,

Speak in tomes of love and forgiveness and inspire those that are near, for joy they hear

For your spirit’s light this Yule tide season can be very bright.

 

A Housewife with “the Sight”

Thick snow begins to blanket my quiet, little homestead.  It is peaceful.  Last night my spirit was reeling, this morning it is calm.  The birds sing sweetly from the trees.

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Have you read my memoir?  (AuthorKatieSanders.com) The Making of a Medicine Woman; the Memoirs of Bird Woman is my life story.  It is filled with many of the tales that I don’t typically mention on Farmgirl School for fear of scaring off a few folks.  In my other, less written about blog, DancingwithFeathers.com, I wrote a few months ago about a shaman friend who came to visit me.  “You are not getting out of it that easy,” she breezily said.  I didn’t think I would do that work anymore.

“You’re a medium,” the reader next to my cousin at the holistic fair yesterday said as he stopped me.  “Can you help this woman?”  Uh…er…what?  I sat down with her at my cousin’s empty table (she was out shopping) and immediately her recently deceased husband started talking to her through me.  I felt his every pain, how he died, how he was still worried about his business partner.  For twenty minutes, the fellow filled his wife in with everything she needed know.  Through tears, she nodded, smiled, and I may never see her again.  She gave me twenty dollars.  It is so awkward to take money for spiritual work.

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I suppose that this is only odd in this day and age.  My Nordic, Celtic, and Native ancestors wouldn’t have thought it at all strange that the lady of the house would have “the sight.”  I always figure that I can just be normal.  I can be a housewife.  I can sew and make tea and play the piano and play with my grandbaby…who is psychic as well.

“You have to do readings.  You have to do the medium work,” the reader said.  I had sat down with him after I spoke with the woman.  If truth be told, I had already done three other readings at Julie’s table.  They just kept coming.

I took a break from doing spiritual work in July.  I love being a spiritual guide.  I love helping people.  But I wasn’t sure if I was actually helping anyone.  And I wasn’t sure what emotional or physical effect it was having on me.

A woman in the hall stopped me at the fair.  “Remember when you told me that a cowboy would be coming in to my life?  He did!  Just as you described him!”  She was so happy.

Apparently there is no hiding behind the sewing machine or pressure canner on this one.  Yes I am a homemaker, a quilter, a homesteader, a Grammie, a wife, a mama, an animal lover, a passionate gardener and herbalist.  I am a great lover of the Creator and of Mother Earth and of all the ancestors and guides and nature spirits and yes, I guess I am an instrument to help people find their way with a most unusual talent.  We all have a role to play in helping others.  It is our destiny.

 

It is Enough

My mantra this year, for 2018, was, “Never make a decision based on fear.”  It was amazing how many times I caught myself making decisions (keep my struggling apothecary open, open another shop, apply to begin school) based on fear rather than faith.  This simple mantra helped me understand my motives and make better decisions (no more shops, no school).  And through that faith Doug got an amazing promotion and I am able to stay home and do what I do best, homestead and homemake.  I am available to help my children, feed my husband nutritious meals, keep a house, take care of a mini-farm, and grow our food.  That mantra led to a great outcome.

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Autumn always feels like a new beginning to me.  Like the pagans of old, I feel this is the New Year.  My mantra for the next year is, “It is enough.” I have enough things.  I have enough love. I have enough creativity.  I have enough space on this mini-farm right here, right now.  And most importantly, I am enough. 

Our Lady of the Goats

With so much time on my hands I have had way too much space to reminisce, regret, and be hard on myself.  Over the past four years we have built our dream farm, lost it, went homeless, lost our animals, lived with friends, lived in the city, rebuilt, bought an urban home, made a farm, closed our businesses, Doug went back into the IT field, our children have found the loves of their lives, and our second granddaughter will arrive any day.  A lot to take in.  A lot of gratitude.

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So I may have made some dreadful decisions over the years.  But I have made a lot of good ones too.  I am enough.  I don’t look like I did when I was modeling in my twenties.  I have faults.  But I have more wisdom and I have more love.  And everything around me echoes, It is Enough.

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…maybe one day we will have goats or the animal sanctuary I so dream of….or maybe we will stay here in this space…or maybe it will become legal to have farm animals beyond chickens in the city here…but in the meantime, I must leave the future where it belongs and be present.

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It is Enough.  We are enough.  You are enough.  This beautiful life is enough.  And when we realize that, gratitude comes rushing in with peace and great joy on its wings.

Sunday Morning on the Farm

We need to bring in more wood.  I shall find some more kindling.  Empty the ash into the compost.   A wood fire is far more warming than the furnace.  And delightful as well.

The grandfather clock chimes and the morning is still.  Blue jays call in the distance.  Steam rises from my coffee cup as my husband sips his beside me.  A quiet Sunday morning save for sounds of the homestead.

Blur….upp, the sound the honey wine makes while fermenting.

The busy whir of the sewing machine as I work on Yuletide gifts.

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Gentle snoring from the farm dog who reclines comfortably on the sofa after a cool night outdoors keeping watch over the urban farm.  He loves his work and does it well, coming in to rest then opting to go outside again late morning.

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This life, this home, it balms, sweetens, and simplifies.  This homestead life.

Root vegetables- sunchokes, parsnips, and potatoes- harvested from the garden beds will be roasted for brunch alongside fresh eggs from the coop.

The chickens dig around in the leaves and the golden light of autumn cascades over the sleeping beds.  I jot down ideas for a preservation garden.  I will need more fencing.

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Dreams, and the gentle lilt of every day life pervades me and I smile, and take another sip.

Act Two: Chapter 17- My Life

There are many blogs out there that stay on point.  They do not veer into private matters or personal life.  This, my dear friends, is not one of them!  Geez, I even freely give out my address so folks will send me a Christmas card.  Now, I try to stay on subject, I really do; decorating, recipes, gardening, chickens, gatherings, et cetera.  But, this blog also acts a bit as my journal and sound board.  This is my network of international friends and loved ones.  I respect your notes, your thoughts, your own writings and lives.  I credit the success of this blog to the realism that comes from it.  You know me as well as anybody, even if we have never met.  This blog is about the real life of our family.  So, come on in and sit and spell and let me know your thoughts.

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Ah,  it was a beautiful day yesterday as Doug and I traversed three or so miles of rugged landscape through sweet smelling spruces and pine.  Across ledges looking out into the vast expanse of valleys and the city nestled below.  Crows veered ahead and the scent and feel of autumn was present on the warm day.  Last time I was there it was so dry you could hear the oak crying for the contents of our water bottles.  Since monsoon season, things have perked up and new growth was eminent and joyful.  And that, my friends, is where we are in our life at the moment.

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“You always panic when things are going really good,” my straight-forward cousin, Julie noted.  The beautiful ebb and flow of life freaks me out.

It didn’t used to.  Why, I used to taut go out on a limb, fly baby, fly!  Now, that we have lost everything a few times over and are settling into a rhythm, I tend to panic when not in survival mode.  Decisions become much bigger than they should be.  I plead to the universe for a clear and precise answer, preferably with details of the future, so that I can make a good decision that won’t land us destitute.

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The answer floats back from beyond…”what do YOU want?”  Do that, Sister.

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My incredibly hard working, intelligent husband got a huge promotion/job offer at work this week.  HUGE.

Our next act begins.  The next chapter.  Now, I have the amazing opportunity to be a homemaker.  I excel at this work.  We save a lot of money when I am home taking care of everything.  I am happy here.  Content.  Except that I desperately want to go back to school.  And I am all set to do so in January.  English and Anthropology to finish a degree from a long time ago.  I want to teach college…maybe high school.  I have always wanted to teach school.  Okay, so go back to school then, yes?

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To the tune of forty plus grand, y’all.  Now, last time I had a full scholarship.  I am a diligent and good student and can very possibly again get scholarships.  Will I like teaching?  What if I spend that much money and then don’t like it?  What if’s sound through the air like mischief in the making.

…what do YOU want?….

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I will be fifty when I get a job as a teacher.

I tell this story often, but when I was working as a caregiver a long time ago I took care of a lovely older woman who told me while I was trying to figure out if I should go to school or not (because I would be the ripe old age of 38 coming out), that time flies and I will be that age soon enough so why not be doing what I want to then?  Well, here we are again, just a different age when I get done.  I hate to add so much debt to us.  I hate the unknown.  (will I even be able to get a job?!)

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Our monsoon season has come and new growth is all around us.  I have the great gift of a being a woman in a free country, with a beautiful family, and a husband who wants me to be happy and follow what my heart says.  Of course, shutting off the chatter is half the battle.  Can’t hear a damn thing.

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…what do you want to do?…Let’s do that.

 

A “Falling in Love” Baby Shower

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Autumn is such a lovely time to host events.  It becomes its own decorating theme!  I think in this day and age all of us are ready to host simpler parties, to have easier get-togethers, to really celebrate without enormous expense.

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I was inspired by our city park.  Every weekend, if it is warm, one will find entire families in the park.  Portable tents popped up, folding tables and chairs, a BBQ smoking, and children running about while the elders talk.

We chose the old, indoor pavilion at the park in the woods in Elizabeth to have the baby shower.  It was a half way point for most people.  It snowed so only half the people came, but the ones that did had a great time and it was warm and cozy within the red walls of the building.  My friend, Vanessa, and I strewed leaf garlands and mini pumpkins on the tables.  A simple sign, “We are falling in love with Ayla Mae” graced the gift table.

Being somewhat introverted, Emily and I dread those silly games thrown at baby showers.  Reed is excited to be a dad and he wanted to be at the shower as well, so co-ed it was.  We did a contest where each person wrote down their guesses of what day the baby will arrive, hair color, weight, height, and day or night arrival.  The winner will get a gift card in the mail.  A simple journal was laid out for family and friends to write a note to Ayla so she could read in the years to come how excited we all were that she was joining our family.

We had the party at 2:00 so there was no pressure to put on a big spread.  I would have, but I had the furthest to drive and it would have been hectic, so mid-afternoon leaves room for easy snacks like chips and salsa, pita chips and hummus, and ranch dip and carrots.  A big pot of coffee and a crock pot of hot cider warmed the guests that ventured out into the snowy afternoon.

The highlight was my daughter’s cupcakes. (http://facebook.com/wickedlydeliciousdesserts)  Shyanne made the most delicious cupcakes filled with caramel apples or ganache and hand made, perfectly sweet frostings with hand made and and hand painted decorations.  Amazing.

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The twinkly lights in the wood building, the smells of hot coffee and cider, the colorful leaves, the laughter, the sweet gifts, the glowing parents, it all was so lovely and simple.  I took the opportunity, having all of the kids there at the same time, to have my dear friend, Alvin, get some family pictures.  It is always a perfect day when families can be together.  And a fall themed party is an easy way to do it!

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The Humble Housewife

My mother was a housewife.  It was easier and more affordable for her to stay home with all of us kids.  We started caring for foster babies when I was young so there were no less than five of us at any given time.  The home was her domain and everything was tidy and clean and healthy supper was on the table nearly every night.  In the evenings she and my dad would often escape together to go get a Coke and take a drive with the portable cassette player singing tunes sans children.  I always assumed she would get a job when we all moved out.  But she didn’t.  It took awhile for me to realize, she has a job.  And even though my dad is retired, she still has the job. She is a full-time homemaker.

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Women are brilliant nurturers, mothers, and just asking one’s husband to get something that is clearly right in front of him in the cupboard but he can’t find it is proof that the home is our domain.  Men are our warriors, our providers, our heavy lifters.  There are exceptions, of course, but homesteading on a prairie practically off-grid taught me that our roles are not to “put us in our place” or “keep us in the kitchen,” they were (are) practical ways for survival.  Yes, we can all switch roles, but it took Doug a quarter of the time to chop wood, move hay, or fix something.  And if he goes to clean something, put something away, or heaven forbid, sew something, odds are I am going to have to do it again so we just stuck to our roles!  Men innately take pride in providing for the family.  Women in the past always took care of the children, took care of the home, took pride in their work, and would often make a little extra money for the household by selling hand crafted items.

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We have noticed over the years of raising children, and even as empty nesters, that when I have a job we spend more money.  At that point, I don’t have time to clean the house so we hire a house cleaner.  I don’t have the energy to cook so we go out.  I need a break so we go do something.  We spend a lot of money and eat terribly.

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I always stayed home or had my own business that I could take my kids to when they were growing up, but what about now?  I think about the judgment I passed on my mother in my late teens for staying home and making dad “do all the work.”  Is that how society will view me?  Now that my businesses have closed we have been talking about me being a homemaker.  We are modern homesteaders in the city.  We preserve as much food as possible.  We have chickens.  I crochet and quilt and sew.  We use a wood stove in the evenings.  I write books and this blog and I do get some small royalties.  I teach a few classes in my home and I am an herbalist.  Can I give myself permission to be a homemaker too?

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We purposely chose a city where our mortgage payment can easily be covered by one person.  We don’t have fancy cell phone plans or cable.  We have designed a life where I can be a housewife, which is where I am happiest.  I love nurturing, folding warm clothes, having a hot meal ready when my husband gets home from work, having the errands done so we can relax together on the weekends, hand making Christmas presents, caring for my animals, and being there when my grown children and grandbabies need me.  It is the hardest job I can think of but it suits my busy, independent nature just fine.  Yes, I think I will thrive here.

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If we give ourselves the option to be anything and to do anything, let us also give ourselves the right to be homemakers.  May we all give more respect and honor to the housewives, the homemakers, the stay-at-home Mamas, and the stay-at-home Grammies in our society for they keep the heart of the family and home beating strong.