A Four Year Sacrifice

I was in my early twenties when I moved to California. 

I moved away from, what I guess is considered, my hometown, in Missouri. Living in a suburb of Kansas City I remember the first time I ever drove to Kansas City by myself. I was terrified, I got turned around by a ton of construction and I was lost because the directions I had printed out no longer made sense to my panicked, frantic mind.

I grew up relatively sheltered. Not in an extreme way, but I spent my childhood into my teen years going to a Catholic or Baptist church. As a teenager, while my friends were busy putting on make up and sneaking out to experiment with their boyfriends, whatever that means, I hadn’t even kissed anyone, I was still jumping off roofs in the day time and sneaking out at night to eat taco bell.

There are no pictures of me on “the cloud” as a teenager…or even pre-Bob. All I’ve got is real photographs. And some tight self portraits…call me vain, its my favorite thing to draw/paint

Maybe I wasn’t necessarily sheltered. Maybe I was just innocent, very innocent. Whatever the case, I was very shocked when I turned 18.

Entering a job in the “service industry” can be a very confusing, overwhelming, and tough to keep up with lifestyle for such an innocent child. Of course, I learned very quickly how childlike I was and battled myself against it to fit in.

But being a child, while also being a new found Adult, I was having a hard time finding the balance of expressing my opinion or keeping it to myself. Remember what your mother says, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” ? I felt it was very important for me to express my opinion. I’m an adult for God’s sake, look at me.

One morning at breakfast, very soon after I had moved to California, I couldn’t help but notice a woman with her family. She had her spouse, and two children. Both children were running around screaming, catching my attention. The mother then lifted up her shirt and gave her son milk. Right there in public! I was horrified. Then after a few minutes, she told him, “Oh look! Your big boy food is here.” I couldn’t wrap my head around the situation.

In my young, sheltered mind I was thinking, “Why on Earth would you not only whip your boob out for all to see, I mean I’m eating here, but also for your son who can run and talk?!!”

I must have told 100 people that thought. The judgement I had for this lady was very, very deep. And I still am unsure of exactly where it came from.

I already miss the days

At some point my opinion on this matter shifted. It was, again, before I was a mother and had any kind of sense of that it takes to care for a child. Maybe it was the “hippie” of California that drew it out of me but I did a 180 and started to believe it was down right wrong to cover yourself up while breastfeeding. “Do you want this child to suffocate?” “My child should suffer and be uncomfortable because you, the adult, can’t sit with your own discomfort?” It was more and more outrageous to me that women are so censored and made to feel guilty for their natural bodies. Breastfeeding is VITAL for brain development and I should be able to do it whenever, however, and at whatever age is CORRECT. The correct age is don’t you know, backed up by science. My children will be fed until they are 2, at least.

Take a big sigh of relief here. That is a lot of judgement. Woo.

Fast forward to meeting Robert

Robert is a modest man. I really pushed against modesty, in many forms. I’d go as far to say that I overdo most things in my life. Or did. Maybe to show others that I was an adult. “I am powerful.” “I can do big things because I’m big.”

I just want the absolute best for my children

I could not have predicted the way I was going to breastfeed my children. I covered the hell up! And I loved it. Primrose needed a lot of extra care as a baby. She is considered a “high needs” baby/child and it took us a long time to find our groove. I’m pretty sure she didn’t have a proper latch until 3 days in, no wondering she was screaming crying. I was comforted to be able to shut out all distractions while she ate and really focus on being together. I also felt like I could be anywhere, which was completely opposite of what I had thought it would be like. A friend had once said to me, “My husband mentioned how cool he thought it was that you were covered up breastfeeding right there in the circle, like no one would have known.”. It felt like a relief. Some part of me wanted to be that open mama and bare it all. Who the heck cares? But then I remember the time I got into a sauna naked with 4 others, because its not a big deal right? But later I heard from other males that their friends got to see me naked why not them? And I am reminded that I don’t want people talking about my body like that. 

Always leaving to be in private to feed.

I quit breastfeeding Primrose when she was 15 months old, just over one years old. I was pregnant and I believed I could not tandem feed. So one morning I just decided that the day before was out last day. I thought this seemed fair, and easier to deal with for me. If neither of us knew it was going to happen, then we could both go through the emotions of it together. She couldn’t talk yet, but she was very good at using her sign language. Over the next three days she would give me the double milk sign (I loved when she would do this: She would use both hands and milk away) and it would just crush me but she adapted very well.

The day Prim stopped breastfeeding. It was TOUGH getting her to sleep. I even slept alone on the floor in the yurt for two weeks to break her of eating to sleep, it didn’t work. She never took a bottle to begin with but we attempted to give it to her again. She still was never too interested in it.

With Marlena I found a lot of comfort knowing I would cover myself and the ease I have experienced before. I also quite breastfeeding Marlena the same way. At 14 months I woke up one day and knew the day before had been the last. She did not take it as well, and did not as quickly forget why she had sat on my lap so much. My usual calm, cool as a cuke baby turned into a violent thrasher who would hit my face and sob face down on the floor. I am thankful she cannot talk. This was just last month. She has since cooled off, but every now and then she tries to remember something…..”What was is that I used to do on this lap”…..

Just 2 hours after Mars was born. In a not so modest display the ambulence crew was welcomed into my home with a naked bloody birth display. Birth itself is quite the sacrifice.

And with all that….I cannot believe that this is the first time in 4 years that I am not pregnant or breastfeeding. FOUR YEARS. I told Robert I might just go for a ski by myself….no worries about falling on a baby in my belly, no cares about getting back at a certain time to make sure the baby gets milk…..I can just go……

I did have a miscarriage when I stopped breastfeeding Primrose. I thought I had made a horrible mistake cutting her off. I got pregnant with Marlena 2 weeks later.
Robert took me on a walk in Girdwood to help me feel better
I learned how to ski while I was pregnant with Primrose. The following year I wore her. The year after I was pregnant with Marlena.

And all we have is rain.

And the opportunity to look deeper into ourselves and our opinions.

I’m not ready to be alone anyhow

I throughly enjoyed wrapping my babies in a cocoon to nourish them. Whatever you do, enjoy it, it’s ALL right.

Dealings with Doubt: How to Overcome Mental Health Struggles Part 2

This week I am writing about the insecurities and fears I deal with as a writer turned author and the ever-present voice that pushes my writing into privacy rather than into the public domain. How do I stay afloat when squalls of doubt tucked within storms of rage crash against my shattered vessel of dwindling hope? It’s not easy, but it’s possible…

During the invasion of Iraq in 2003, I wrote to try and stay sane and make sense of what was happening. I am unsure if it worked… But at least I am alive.

Ever since I can remember I’ve loved writing. Poetry, songs, lists, letters, short stories, long stories, columns, interviews, dialogue, settings, character sketches, and more. I love sitting with a blank page and a black pen while steaming black coffee waits within reach. I love storytelling and trying to make ordinary people into immortal beings and ordinary life into history. I love writing playful prose about dogs that talk to birds, and potent poetry about addiction, violence, and fatherlessness. While I have always been a writer, I still find it very, VERY challenging to share my writing with others. So how the hell did a doubtful man like me take the leap from writer to author? 

I cannot describe the feeling of accomplishment when I saw a copy of my book at Title Wave Books in Anchorage, Alaska. I used to walk the aisles for hours dreaming of having my own book there. Mission accomplished!

Just to paint the picture, here is a pattern of circulating thoughts that beat me down daily. Maybe you can relate?

“I don’t have a story to tell that is any different than anybody else’s… I am not smart enough to be an author… I don’t have time to write a book… I have a shitty vocabulary, poor grammar skills, and an inability to be concise… There will be mistakes that people will notice and they’ll talk shit about me… I am not social enough to be in the writer’s circles, so I’ll never get the support I need… Why am I wasting time on useless stuff when I should be getting a real job that pays? Real men don’t write, they cut down trees, kill things, build stuff, and do labor… People are judging me as a sissy… Your military comrades consider you a sell-out… You are a spy… You have too many chores… Don’t waste your time… Your kids are too demanding… You were rejected by hundreds of agents and publishers because you suck… You’re a self-published author, and you know what that means, nobody else thought your writing was worth a damn— so you had to publish it yourself.”

And last, but probably the loudest voice in my head, shouts, “You can’t tell that story because it’s going to hurt somebody’s feelings and make somebody look bad.”

My biggest fans are definitely my family! Marlena is so proud of her Daddy, she helped me sell books at a local market.

Every day I deal with these voices. The same voices kept Warflower as a hidden document on a computer for fifteen years before being self-published and read by thousands worldwide, despite the grammar errors. The same voice hides a collection of poetry deep within hidden folders on my computer in terror of being judged as a shitty poet and shallow dude. So how the hell does a foul-mouthed, anxious, non-intellectual like me set these doubtful voices aside? I don’t. I repeat, I don’t. Sometimes the voices shout, other times they whisper, but they are always there. Despite their chorus, I still write, and while I write, I remember to have fun. Isn’t that why I started writing back in grade school? Because it was so much fun!

While most people dread sitting down with a blank canvas to let their imagination run wild, I have more fun writing random imaginary stories than doing almost anything else. I turn off the critical mind while writing by hand, and turn it on later during revisions. This allows me to tap into the weird wanderings of the subconscious, heart, and God. Hell, I don’t know the inner workings of it, but I know this- it keeps me from having writer’s block and from only writing a few pages every few months due to a hypercritical eye.

Ray Bradbury stresses the equal importance of “relaxation, work, and don’t think.” Without time to relax and spend time doing things that require no thought, the writer’s cup will be empty and his work will be dreaded and unenthusiastic.

When I am done writing, I think about how far I have come from the angry, drunk, guilt-ridden war veteran back in 2012 to the sometimes angry, sober, self-forgiven war veteran of 2023, and I know that writing has been the main medicine. I am more honest when I write than when I talk to my counselor, best friends, family, and God. Because I view my writing as both a therapy and a playtime, and I need both to live a happy life. 

Am I always happy? Hell no! Ask my wife about my attitude this week… Or don’t, let’s keep it hush-hush… But I know I’d be a lot worse off if I didn’t write on a regular basis, and have a best-friend/spouse who knows the importance of writing for my mental health.

Publishing Warflower brought the entire family to Whitefish, Montana where I was a guest on the Cleared Hot Podcast.

Now being an author and a writer are different things, and while most authors are writers not every writer is an author. So how do I have the courage, or audacity, to share my work with the public and ask them to pay me? Well, I finally see the value in my story and style, and I know how hard I have worked to fine-tune my craft, and I believe that I should be paid for my work. That was a big step in the battle against the inner chorus. Nonetheless, just because I am an Alaskan author does not mean I am on the cover of Poets and Writers Magazine or treated as a Guest of Honor at a 49 Writers event or asked to teach classes at the local college or to be a guest speaker at a conference. I highly doubt the Alaska writer’s community will ever have a raw, self-published writer as the Alaska Writer Laureate to represent our state. (Is that my self-doubt creeping in?) I may be an author, but I am still a nobody in the writer’s community, and that is okay. Maybe in time this will change, maybe not, but it will not stop me from writing the next blog or book to share with the public.

Since Warflower was published in June of 2022, I have done one book signing and one book reading. That’s not a lot! Some of it has to do with being self-published and being my own publicist. I am trying to find a balance between writing the next book and promoting and advertising the first book, and it’s not easy. But the main reason I haven’t done more readings or signings is due to one word: FEAR. “What if I show up to a signing or reading and nobody is there? What if there’s a bunch of people there? What if people ask…? What if people correct… in public…?” The list of “what ifs” could fill a Stephen King novel. It’s tough to get over that wall, but hey, progress not perfection, right?

To turn down the voices, I go online every day to see a picture of my book for sale and it validates me as an author. And even though I just received my first 1-star rating on Amazon, I understand that I will not please everybody, nor do I want to. I couldn’t finish Lolita no matter what the critics say! When I enter my home library, a copy of my book is on the shelf next to the greats. My wife insists that my writing is making a difference in people’s lives, and even though I hardly believe her, I have received hand-written letters, emails, messages, phone calls, and face-to-face compliments from people who claim that my book touched their hearts. And because of this, I tell myself every day, “I am an author, I am an author, I am an author.” And maybe eventually, when somebody asks me what I do for a living, I will say, “I am an author.”

In the meantime, I will continue to work as a writer because I wholeheartedly believe that bottling up our thoughts, regrets, and worries often leads to isolation, depression, and suicide. And I have a lot to live for, and a story to tell.

And so do you! So start writing those stories and turn off the inner chorus of critics!

The greatest gift my writing has provided is the ability to be a present, loving father and husband to my girls. I would probably be dead if it wasn’t for dumping my thoughts, traumas, insecurities, lists, and baggage onto a blank piece of paper and from having a long-term project to work on.

My Husband is a Minimalist

I am not. Since marrying, our 680 square foot home has gotten bigger and smaller. Since marrying, our home has gained more “things” than it’s probably seen in all its life. My husband has more clothes now that he has ever had since I’ve known him. He currently has 5 tee shirts, 2 dress up shirts, one pair of pants and one pair of overalls. His shoe collection is limited to a pair of boots, a pair of sandals, and a pair of snow shoes.

The reason I’m listing this is to emphasize when I say minimalist, I truly mean, he keeps his items to a minimum.

We are constantly donating items in our house. Monthly we get rid of items. Usually it is clothing for the girls. When our first daughter was about to be born, we were graciously overloaded with bags upon bags of clothing. We still have a lot of that clothing that our second daughter wore and is wearing. We also donate a lot of books the girls outgrew or toys that were given to us.

Our first daughter’s first toy. She loved to chew and whack this thing around. When we got our puppy, they bonded, and fought over it.
(Is it really any wonder why people think we are poor?!)

I am not a minimalist by any sense. When I moved out of an apartment I had in my twenties, I left there with 9 kitchen boxes.

The girls’ outdoor gear *may be* an overload. Definitely to my husband. Marlena owns 3 pairs of snow pants, two snowsuits and 2-3 fleece. Primrose has two pairs of mittens, endless amount of hats, a snowsuit shell, a warm full body jumper, snow pants, a fleece and a poofy coat with one handmade scarf. They get wet. We need emergency supplies in the car. What if friends come over? You can never have too much outdoor gear. (Unless you don’t have places for it 😀 )

Is there such thing as *too much* when it comes to outdoor children’s gear?

I find joy in having “backup” items for when I/we have guests. A joke in our house is “It’s for the guests!” because we never have guests, yet for some reason I still imagine we will.

I am notorious for having loads of craft/art supplies

But I am frugal. This is not to be mistaken with cheap. Cheap can kiss my ass. I will pay top dollar for quality items. I have a keen eye for liking the most expensive things. 😀 I actually think that my eye is trained to see quality and therefore, the price usually reflects that, although we know a lot of shit items can be costly. The definition of frugal is: “sparing or economical with regard to money or food and simple and plain and costing little.

We are very often mistaken for poor because of these qualities. We value these qualities in ourselves. It is part of our heart make-up. At its core, my husband’s minimalism and my frugality stand for a healthy living. We are doing this for the health of our family, our minds, the environment, laborers, resources…..the list is really endless. When we pair down our wants and our desires, we are naturally happier people. When we can pay attention to how our instinct to consume can become negatively impactful, we start to have a change of heart.

My first daughter and I. With less to distract, the more we connect.

A couple who lives on our road sent out a mass text that they were moving and had to get rid of everything ASAP. So we naturally thought of some items we could use and inquired about them. They happened to stop by and we were able to hear why they were moving and in such a hurry. The family is being affected by mold in their home and they are refusing to take ANYTHING. My husband, being the kind, compassionate, empathetic person he is, was expressing how heartbreaking this must be for them; they have put so much effort into their home, their dream of living here off the land shattered…….He mentioned how he can’t believe they have to get rid of EVERYTHING (even silverware, outdoor materials……etc)

When these people first moved here we had dinner with them. We got to see the inside of their home, and in a small office room they had this incredible desk. It was the woman’s grandmother (possibly great grandmother?). My husband immediately thought of this item. “Oh my gosh, your grandmothers desk even?!”

The woman responded to his empathetic, heartfelt distress for their family by saying, “You couldn’t afford my grandmothers desk, it’s $10,000!”

Eeeeeeeert! Tires screeching in my mind. I’m sorry, what did you say? She then proceeds to tell us that she knows we have mold in our house because standing inside of it, she doesn’t feel so good. She begins going around to the windows saying, “Yep! There’s mold in here too! I knew it!”

We were offered a job from her, selling her things when she leaves. We would make commission of course.

I don’t need your shitty job or your moldy life. We could afford to buy the desk, thank you very much. Thanking God every day for our decision to pay off our property to leave us debt free. We have one debt, our brand new car, that we could also pay off completely right now if we choose. We have been saving our money to buy a new piece of land somewhere. (Mexico is always calling :P)

I am a pretty defensive person. I tend to take things personally. And by this point, I had to leave the group and take my youngest child to the bedroom where we sat until they left.

It really impacted me. It made me understand why my values in frugality and my husbands minimalism are so strong in our family. What a miserable life. To be all consumed with material that you cannot even recognize a human heart connection trying to be made. Instead it drifts by the ears to lay somewhere fallen behind and the only thing present is greed. “What can I get from this?” “How am I going to recover from this great financial loss?” “It’s devastating us financially!”

There is a lot of emotion tied to materials and things rather than people and dreams.

I recommend everyone watch the movie Affluenza from PBS. It’s a one-hour television special that explores the high social and environmental costs of materialism and overconsumption. I am sure you can find it at your local public library in the United States. I know it is at the Homer Public Library.

Living this way has really made our lives much more rich. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Before we met my husband purchased this sweatshirt.
He still wears it everyday.

Dealings with Doubt: How to Overcome Mental-Health Struggles

I have had a recurring dream for twenty years where I am alone inside a huge house and stuck inside a single plain room. The room doesn’t have a washer and dryer, running water, or a bathtub. No books, movies, or writing materials. A bare room with a small bed and nobody to share it with. After what seems like eternity, I tiptoe fearfully into other parts of the house, each room more exquisite and grand than the last, yet every section I enter is haunted by a more powerful entity than the last who tries to scare back into my tiny room where I am free from harm. I had this dream again on Friday night, and I woke up wondering what the hell it all means. Since I am not a counselor, a psychologist, a ghost expert, a demonologist, or a dream interpreter, I didn’t get too deep into things. But for some reason a single word continues to replay in my mind, “Doubt,” with a capital D, especially “Self-Doubt.”

Why is it that every day I am faced with so much self-doubt that I sometimes stay in the same comfortable little space even though it’s not very comfortable and I want more out of life? Sometimes I get over it and move through it, other times I don’t and I later beat myself up for letting it rule me. After two years of seeing the same counselor every week, two years of seeing him every two weeks, and nine years of consistent counseling thanks to the VA. On top of nine years of sobriety, six years of sitting in recovery rooms learning from other people’s personal struggles, growth, and development— and working a certain number of steps that cannot be disclosed on a regular basis; I have a few ideas of where the doubts come from, but they still get the best of me at times. So over the next few blog posts I’m going to break down certain sections of my life where I struggle with self-doubt and how I work through them. 

Being a Husband
After so many failed attempts at past relationships, it is difficult to keep the “this isn’t going to work out” demon at bay. I regularly scan Savanna’s face for signs of distress, ask her at least once a month “do you still love me in that special way” and “are you going to leave me?” These questions are never met with a smile, and I understand, they must be super annoying. I try to walk the tight-rope of not being a pushover people pleaser, providing for my wife, and not being a stubborn asshole. It’s not easy, and I thank God everyday that I married a loving, patient, and accepting woman who understands my quirks, needs, and insecurities. Ugh, I hate the thought of being a “needy person”, but aren’t we all needy in one way or another? As somebody who didn’t have a positive example of a “healthy relationship” growing up, sometimes I feel like I’m screwing it all up and that Savanna is going to find a “real man” to take care of her. So how do I deal with these doubts without jeopardizing my relationship? 

For starters, I was honest with Savanna from the get-go about my history of feeling abandoned by parents, family, friends, country, and former partners. She knows I feel guilty for some of the shit I did in Iraq, and that I deal with what some psychologists call “soul wounds” because of it. Some days are better than others. She knows what keeps me healthy and she encourages me to do those things on a regular basis. “Are you going for a run today?” She says, or “I really love that you continue to see your counselor even when you’re felling good,” or “You can write everyday from 8-12 because people are being changed by your writing,” or “I would be happy to start going back to church, whatever you want,” or “I have zero friends, and that’s too many,” or “Thank you for doing so much for us every day.” She knows that I suffer not only from alcoholism and an addict brain, but from the recurrent negative and self-sabotaging thought patterns that led to my drinking. And I know it, too! So I talk with her about how I am feeling even though I feel like a weak little runt, and she says, “Anything that is mentionable is manageable.” I try really hard to believe the positive things she tells me, and since I am one of those guys who needs verbal validation and words of affirmation, she often repeats herself. 

And when I say hurtful things or I forget to thank her for the million things she does, or I’m overly critical of myself and super bitter and short with her and the family, I apologize. And we do not, I repeat, we do not go to sleep without making up. Savanna says all the time that I am the person who apologizes first anytime we have an argument and 99 % of the time she is true. Because 99% of the time I am the cause of the problem. Being a kind, thoughtful, patient, present, and compromising husband does not come natural— but four years later and with a very happy wife by my side, I am still granted an opportunity to work at it.  

Being a Father 
How many times can I yell at my kids before I finally realize that it bear positive results? When will I stop cussing at my kids? When are my kids going to realize that Daddy is not the hero they think I am? How do “good fathers” balance a full-time job, maintain vehicles, do household chores, pay the bills, manage finances, build friendships, cook now and then, while being a present and fun father… all without a gripe or complaint? 

These are some of the negative, comparative thoughts that creep into my thick, fatherly head. I keep them at bay by forgiving myself when I lose my cool, and vowing to take deeper breaths next time with a longer pause between words. I am trying to speak less, this includes repeating myself, and being more action-oriented. Enough with the, “I’m not going to tell you again,” and the “Like I already said.” I don’t like repeating myself for anybody, how could I do it over and over for my kids without becoming upset? By working to be a better father and person everyday through present moment awareness, healthy preparation instead of obsessive worry, prayer for guidance and wisdom, and focusing on the kids rather than myself— I am able to be a better father. And when they fall asleep at night or take naps, I look at their cute little faces and I am reminded that even though they have HUGE emotions they are tiny, fragile, helpless toddlers who NEED me for safety, guidance, and leadership. And then I ask myself, “Do I want my girls to marry somebody like me? So be the person you want them to marry.” And when I start feeling bad about myself because I don’t feel like I’m doing a good enough job, I remember what it was like with a distant father who sulked from thousands of miles away instead of called me up to see how I was doing. Followed by one shitty step-father after another, and the the struggles my brother and I faced, and continue to face, from not having a consistent positive male role model in our lives, and I realize that I need to quit sulking and step up to the plate to be the dad that I wish I had.

One Year, One TV

For the last 10 years, almost half of which we weren’t married or even dating, my husband and I did not own a television. I didn’t even have a laptop, and so it was rare and fun to plug something in to the external dvd player hooked up to the laptop (before we even had internet out here) to snuggle up and watch a movie.

3 going on 13 in the hotel room

Last Christmas though, Uncle went all out and bought the girls a new TV. It was huge. It was new. You could STREEEEEEAM! I’ve been logged into my sister’s Disney account (yes I also had my moms Netflix account, however we got kicked off of there not so long ago, which was fine as we never watched it anyway) and Primrose and Marlena have been able to watch endless hours of classic entertainments. There are also other free “apps” through this tv like PBS kids and some random other things where we can watch things like Mrs. Doubtfire. However, it’s rare we get to watch anything that isn’t an animated kid movie.

Zombied out

We love animation. We love kid movies. But how did we let our children become in control of the tv? Whenever Bob or I try to watch something we choose, if there isn’t yelling and screaming about it, you better believe there is a non-stop wrestling match, mole picking, in your face laughing hysterically, climbing a human jungle gym thing that starts happening. It has been very frustrating. At night, after the girls go to bed, sometimes we sneak movies in (our recent views are “The Godfather” and “Ocean of Fear”). Now, we understand, some movies, like those mentioned, are not suitable for children, but like I had also mentioned, we love animation. We have the Studio Ghibli collection. We have movies by Tomm Moore. We rent movies from the library. The options are plentiful.

Daddy has always been better at using TV time to connect

I was scared and strict when we first set up the tv. I didn’t want it to interfere with our daily life and take over. I didn’t want the girls to get TVitis. But slowly it crept its way in. “Oh my, look at how many chores I got done.” “oh my, look at that, I just went poop all ALONE.” “Oh my, let me just put this movie on while I make dinner, talk to your dad, try to do some work.” And little by little my limit grew as well as my children’s eyes. I knew that when they were finished with an episode or a movie, the tears would flow. So why not watch one more while I get things done to prepare for the emotional overload?

I have let this damned thing become the babysitter of my children. But step aside Mrs. Doubtfire! (no doubt, I still do love that movie) Mama is back. Country mama.

We have talked it over in the house and we are sick of it! Sick of the emotional rollercoaster the girls face, even after watching only a half hour! Their poor tiny selves cannot handle it! We are sick of not being able to watch anything but 101 Dalmatians! And again, I do love that movie (but not for 5 days in a row), and I adore Cruella De Vil, but I cannot take my tiny 3 year old yelling at her even tinier 1 year old “you idiot!” any longer. We are sick of missing our kids and having them zombie out just so we can get some things done. It’s just a fucking excuse. It’s a way for me to basically say, “stay out of my way, I’m too busy to deal with you”. We still get stuff done with them around. Maybe we need to lower our exceptions on what “gets done”. Or maybe we need to stop lying to ourselves are realize that just yesterday Primrose and I baked a quiche, two dozen cookies, a loaf of bread, and made humus and soup! We cleaned up the kitchen (as best we could) and I watered all the animals while the girls played together in the house.

Our decision came down to this….

We are getting rid of all the streaming. It’s just not good for the brain. If we feel like we can handle watching a movie, a show, or anything for entertainment or education, for kids and/or adults, we will all sit down together, sometime between the hours of 5 pm and 7pm, and watch it as a family event. A way for us to become closer and spend time together, rather than to live separate lives.

We have implemented this already for the last 3 or 4 days. And I can tell you the emotions in the house are already so much more stable. Its incredible what a little change can do.

No Mexico Trip for Us

Our trip to Mexico was canceled. We planned to on the Pacific Coast in one week for three months, but it’s just not happening this time around. What will be, will be. Here is a quick tale about what happened…

Three months ago we posted an ad on Facebook looking for a house sitter and we had a few good leads. We followed one up, and the perfect individual popped up. Hardy, capable, qualified, with a car, winter experience in Alaska, loves dogs, and he wanted to move to Alaska from Minnesota to live a lifestyle similar to our own. Our two hour Zoom call ended with all of us agreeing to go forward with the gig.

But then things progressed weirdly…

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love God with all of my heart, soul, strength, and mind. And I am a huge fan of people who also do. But I am also an earthly man who tries hard to stick to a schedule and to keep my word. So when I deal with people who don’t stick to their word or are not clear in what they say, it can get me pretty frustrated.

“When will you be up here? We had initially planned for you to stay with us a week before we leave… Can we still make that happen?” I texted.

“As God wills…” he would say. “I’m not sure if I’ll be able to drive up with my car or not… don’t know if it will make the drive. I will pray about it…”

“Okay… We’d like to have you here for at least a few days to show you the ropes.”

“I cannot make any guarantees, the only one who can is God.”


The next text conversation be like…

“How’s it going? When you coming up? We’re getting excited to leave.”

“Staying super busy here. Vehicle won’t make it up… I’ll have to use your vehicle. My friend is a real estate agent in Girdwood who makes a lot of videos for her clients about the houses she is showing. Maybe you could make a video that shows me around the place and the chores, and then upload it for me to watch.”

“If that will help, let’s do it.” I wrote.

“It will.”

“When will you get here?”

“I need to get my dog a kennel for the plane, which will be super stressful. And I don’t have any money for the kennel right now. So I’m praying hard about it. My water was turned off because I couldn’t pay the bill. So now I have to deal with that. But I was reminded in the book of James….”

Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah

I recorded a handful of 1 to 2 minute videos and texted them to him. He said they were too pixelated and that he needed new ones uploaded on Dropbox. It was starting to really get to me. Feeling like I had been manipulated, led on, and then bossed around by somebody I hadn’t even met. And while I didn’t mind loaning my old car to a family member or friend, to a complete stranger during the winter made me pretty uneasy. What made me the most upset was his non-direct method to telling me when he would arrive.

The final straw was this… From only three weeks ago…

“How’s it going? When you coming up?” I asked.

“Hi, Bob. God bless. So I will have to leave your place for at least 3 nights each month to do God’s work in Anchorage with all of the homeless people. I can bring my dog, but you’ll have to find somebody to take care of your animals while I’m gone.”

I had to pause for an hour before responding to this one, I was pissed. The nerve of some people.

“So what you’re telling me is that you are going to use my vehicle to drive 200 miles to Anchorage in the middle of winter with your dog… And I have to find another house sitter to take care of the chores while my initial house sitter is gone?”

“That’s correct.”

“I need to think about this one…”

After talking with Savanna, my trusted friend and mentor, Barry White, my brother, and my counselor- we decided that we were not comfortable trusting our home, our belongings, and most importantly, our animal’s lives, with a person who seemed to be showing signs of a manic episode.

So I told him that we canceled the trip, and he responded with some passive-aggressive, manipulative bullshit about how he had spent $5,500 to prepare to come here, and that we had all agreed to keep our words and that he was keeping his while we were not keeping ours. Blah, blah, blah…

For the next few days we put the word out to other sitters we know and people in the community, and we didn’t have any solid leads. So we canceled our reservations completely, darn it… And now we’re staying home for the winter.

And you know what, while we are all really excited about being here for the snow, free time, fun, friends, $ making opportunities, and our new work/exercise schedule… it seems that our bodies and minds were preparing to bask in the Mexican sun for three months with few chores, dishes, or food preparation. So it’s been kind of a difficult few weeks after finding that out… but it’s all good. We’re getting through it, we’re staying positive, and we are doing new things around here.

My big brother, James, left a few days ago to spend the winter in the Philippines. That has left an empty yurt here on the land and a quiet space that was once filled with his wonderful presence. While we are super excited about his new adventure, we sure miss him.

I’ll end this weekly Sunday blog post with a little reflection… I have always heard the saying, “Good work is hard to find” and I have come to believe that statement is one hundred percent true. We are not giving up on finding the right family/person/persons to share our property with for the short-term or long-term, it’s just not going to happen this October. Thankfully, we love our home, community, property, friends, and endless opportunities for fun and fellowship right here. Not to mention, we are so damn grateful to live in a safe place.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention- since we are not going to Mexico, we got goats…

Until next time… baaahhh on!

My Rise and Fall

A short Era.

It’s shoulder season. Just to get it out there.

As summer is wrapped up, and the neighbors are out spending their Permanent Fund Dividends, every one is complaining of the weather again, and people suddenly have loads of free time – coming out of the woodwork trying to “get together”, we are still busy as hell….if not busier!

For all who are curious “just what are you busy doing” (said a “friend” to me not too long ago in a tone that was dripping with skepticism and obvious disapproval of something), the list is long, baby.

I have started classes to become a Clinical Herbalist through Eclectic School of Herbal Medicine. I have been doing online classes for well, a least over a month. now. In the spring, I have been accepted as a student at UAF (University of Alaska Fairbanks) studying Ethnobotany. So I am a full time student. Knowledge is worth every night I spend reading after the girls go to bed, my days shut up in the library studying, and any chance I get to listen to someone talk rather than put on the tunes. The future is worth my time and attention.

Making a Honey Rose Cordial

One day driving the girls home from gymnastics class in Kenai I was listening to a podcast about a woman who LOVED her job. She was helping others, it gave her purpose, and she just sounded so jazzed about life I wanted what she had. I was wearing my glasses and when I came home I told Bob I wanted a job. HE WAS STUNNED. I think he was a little scared I was talking about some full time something somewhere far away and that I had had enough of our life. But it was just the opposite. He really supported me and helped me to make these decisions I want. I want these for myself, to feel another purpose (I believe we all have more than one). I want this for my family, to have the knowledge and confidence to use herbal medicines when I can. I want this for my community, to educate and support, and guide others into a healthy lifestyle for them.

Growing medicine – my thumb is still swollen from peeling apart 20 pounds of garlic!

Even with the bustle of school, Bob has been picking up substitute jobs at the Ninilchik school so he can stay connected with the kids. It’s wonderful and tough for him, because if he wanted work every single day he could get it (not only did they ask him to come back as a Teacher this year, but two long term sub positions are opening up and of course, they want him) although we have decided that we don’t want daddy to work full time away from us!

Combined we have been taking GREAT care with the closing of the gardens and farm this year. We planted 20 pounds of garlic in our fields this year. We just finished mulching our new “Moosewood” garden, the high tunnel, and our “Casa Del Sol” garden space is 95% put to sleep. We have been raking leaves on the side of the road, bringing them up to the farm and spreading them all over. We moved the ducks into their new house for the winter and we are currently trying to decide weather or not we can and should move the chickens to the high tunnel for the winter and buy goats to be in the coop. The labor outside is not done with the mulching and wrapping of the trees, and probably a list of other things I cannot seem to remember until I step outside.

the best medicine

I’ve taken on more of a business mind for us and I have HEAVILY relied on Bob to do it. And he has done it all. I figure it’s high time I lift some of that burden as I start my new business (for herbalism) I will also tweak and plan for our farm. I’m signed up for webinars, I have online garden plans for 2024 currently going where I’m designing and planning the entire growing year for maximum organization, rotation and financial gain. This includes looking into the licensing that we need to make sure everything is legit and we won’t be getting in any kind of legal trouble with all that we are planning to roll out this year.

homemade yogurt on Messy Mars

On top of all the work we have, we are having a lot of freakin fun. We just spent an entire day making a months worth of samosas (whoops, thought it would be a meals worth and take 30 minutes not 4 hours!) . We made our first batch of yogurt that is so wonderful and fun to eat. We went to Talkeetna and stayed at the Roadhouse, dreaming of buying it. We went to the Fall Festival in Palmer and that was…different. We are getting outside every single day, chasing chickens, Dulce and the sunlight. Primrose and Bob built snowmen on our first snow and Marlena and I have been enjoying slowly strolling up and down the driveway.

Daddy’s girl for every reason

But it’s a tough time of year for me.

People start wanting to hang out and I find the more and more I’m around people, the more upset I get. I suppose this is partially why I am in counseling. Being someone who tends to be submissive and introverted, I am constantly out and over talked. I tend to attract people that are very opinionated and love to tell others what to do. Instead of upholding my boundaries or standing up for myself I tend to keep quiet and build resentments. It’s very difficult for me to make friends. It makes me feel even more upset because I feel like the friendships I should have with my family just aren’t there. If I don’t call to talk to my sisters, there’s no way we would talk. They don’t call or text or ask me questions about any of the things that I am doing. When I do call and ask what they have been doing a lot of replies are “I haven’t been doing much. Nothing going on. Im good.” It’s like pulling teeth. Well I haven’t talked to you in a month AT LEAST tell me anything that you went and did or saw…….I just can’t understand why communication and human relationships have to be so intimidating that you either spend the entire time telling someone what they should be doing or saying nothing at all.

can I hug you?

I try not to focus on it, but it is something that really is a sore to my heart. I wouldn’t trade what I have though. My immediate family, my HUSBAND (MY BEST FRIEND), and my two daughters are the best life support. We are able to work through communication difficulties. We have conversations that don’t feel like you are forcing or being forced. its totally reciprocal and I think this may just be my most favorite time of year.

family <3

We Almost Named Our Baby Wendell

“Mars” eating a radish in the sun

Farming in the far north takes a lot of…..trial and error. Just when you think you know the ways you can improve your crops, your yield, your soil, your organization and tools, the next year is so wildly different.

Pink Dandelions I have been growing the last 3 years FINALLY came up in the field this year

Take this year for example. Every single person you come in contact with in Alaska this summer will tell you this is the rainiest, nastiest, coldest, darkest summer we have had in a long ass time. Fireweed on most of our property still hasn’t even bloomed. By this time last year, we had picked strawberries, blueberries – high and low bush, crowberries, and raspberries were almost finished. Harvested and (eaten first) frozen in the full freezer. This year, the raspberries and Saskatoons haven’t even started to ripen, we harvested half of a quart jar of strawberries (that broke full of berries and we didn’t even get to enjoy any!) and the blueberries we have only pecked at the bushes – wondering if more will magically appear and sparing what little food the birds must be getting to eat. The cranes are honking outside my window now to leave and the bees have only barely enough honey to feed themselves one day.

No matter the year, Primrose is dedicated to her baby chicks and loves her chicken chores

Every year has its own story. Last summer it was an entire garden space that just would not produce. It was a bear and the devastation it caused to our flock. It was the porcupines and moose coming in and eating almost everything.

Mixing native and cultivated plants for beautiful boquets

Who could have predicted that this year we would have had so much rain that we “should” have used every square inch of the high tunnel for food production? How could we have better equipped ourselves? What can be done to be more precise in so much uncertainty? With a season that is drastically shorter than the lower 48 it also makes finding information, tips and tricks, and tough ass fast growing crops so much more difficult to come by.

My best helper, “our time” is picking the flowers together

Sometime I feel, and I know my husband feels the same, like we are failing. We are failing at business, we are failing at organizing, we are failing at being successful, we are failing because we are not making much money, everything seems to be constantly in a state of disarray, and I cannot ever seem to think of a solution let alone implement one that is 50/50 to work.

But then we read the words and work of Wendell Berry. We are inspired. Filled with pride. ˆReminded . Reminded that what we are doing is a success. We don’t need to focus on our societies first impression of success : money. We are reminded we chose to not sell anything this year and work solely on our family’s food and infrastructure for our farm. We are reminded that we have a Family Farm, by Berrys definition (read his 1986 piece “In Defense of the Family Farm”) We are creating soil fertility naturally. Reminded that we are learning. How do we learn the answers to the questions I have just typed? We keep going. We learn the cycles through time, through experience, through dedication. The dedication of doing it over and over and over.

Our new garden did/is doing well this year despite the fact that this was all wetlands last fall

So here we are today. After feeling crummy last week. Feeling absolutely revived. Feeling purposeful. INSPIRED. This IS why we are doing it. Because it is the right thing to do. No other reason necessary.

How could you argue with the “rightness” of this

And that is why we we were going to have Marlena’s name be _?_ Wendell _?_ Stark . Because I was also sure she was a boy.

I am glad you were born you baby girl

“Love, it’s a sacrament and it’s probably some kind of a necessity, to take responsibility to be able to love somebody, and marriage is a way of acknowledging and accepting that responsibility.” -Wendell Berry on “Bill Moyers in Conversation podcast

The happiest. My hero. My forever inspiration of life.

The Rat Race/The Road Not Taken

Despite living off-grid in the middle-of-nowhere, Alaska, I still succumb to the rat race on a regular basis. A daily engagement of battle between what I need, what I want, and what everybody else has. A daily struggle to find contentment with where I am, to learn from past decisions, and to make wiser decisions for a better future. While I feel that I do a decent job of winning the Rat Race battle on a day-to-day basis, sometimes I feel like I am losing the war. And that is how I feel today.

We visited Seward for a few days, and as many of you know, Seward is where I moved to in 9th grade, graduated high school, and returned after the military. Seward is where my mother died, where my mother and grandmother had their ashes spread, where my two nephews live, where nearly every friend I made in my life besides the ones in the military and the few I have around here live. Seward is the place where I learned how to work hard, drink harder, and smoke tough. Where I broke hearts, had my heart broken, bought and sold property after my mother died and I cheated on somebody I did not love but had no escape from the relationship. Seward is a place full of memories, both good and bad, trapped within the mountains like fog on the bay. A fog that I cannot escape.

And while we had a wonderful time visiting friends I had not seen in years, many of whom had not met my wife and children, hiking, biking, trying to stay dry, playing at playgrounds, and having an all around rad time… After returning home to our little country haven, I can’t help to shake this feeling of “not doing as well as my colleagues.”

Many of my friends in Seward own a house, some of them own two, and the houses are priced exorbitantly due to lack of space and an influx of people moving to Seward in the past 10 years. And while the houses are close enough to feel like San Francisco, we can’t even dream of being given a loan there because we don’t make enough consistent money. I’ll provide an example: We found a 1.4 acre lot on a road named Olympia (I went to college in Olympia, it must be a sign), that used to be a forest where I pitched a tent in high school (it must be a sign.) 1.4 acres of raw land = $299,000. We paid $80,000 for 20 acres and a 700 square foot house. Many of my friends make a killing with AirBnB rentals, others are looking into buying second homes to do just that. They literally make thousands of dollars a month from May-September, on top of thousands of dollars a month with restaurant jobs, longshoreman jobs, teaching jobs, heavy machinery jobs, mechanic jobs, carpentry jobs, and on and on…

I imagine that all of these people are overloaded with money, that every problem that comes from not having enough money are non-existent. They don’t keep a budget or go without cheese or think twice about buying a snow machine or a new travel trailer or a boat or a second home in Hawai’i or using hand-me-downs from one sibling to the next. They make so much money that their bank accounts are loaded with hundreds of thousands, their assets priced at millions, and their purpose within their community on the priceless list.

While here I am… living in an unfinished house, off-grid, without any more than a couple of friends and a couple of crops after ten years of struggle and hard work on the land.

When I allow my mind to stay in this place, I look past all of the accomplishments, assets, memories, and internal growth that has happened on this land in the past ten years. I focus on imaginary positive aspects of everybody else’s life, the “pros”, while neglecting to gain a deeper understanding of the negative sides, the cons, of their lives.

I know that I am “only human” and that this feeling comes to most of us out here struggling in this material world. Whether it’s comparing my garden to my neighbor’s, my book sales to Jack Ryan’s, or my lack of toys to a guy down the street who I have never even talked to. It happens, and sometimes it hits like a blizzard that only lasts a few hours while other times it strikes like the rain that hasn’t lifted all summer.

I forget to look at the gifts God provides me and my family, and I have to take inventory of them. Savanna read some of Wendell Berry’s essay on Family Farming to me today reminding me that a family farm isn’t meant to focus solely on profits, but on the long term health of the farm and all who reside on the farm. And we are all healthy, no doubt. We spend countless hours together raising our girls instead of paying somebody else to. We have a paid off home and property with twenty acres of freedom to build and do whatever the hell we want without having to ask permission from a city or town or Homeowner’s Association. We have two paid off vehicles that run and a sporty rig that does more than we need. We don’t worry about money, but desire more when we dream of snow machines, boats, four-wheelers, surfboards, second homes, vacations, college education for kids, horses, and living more comfortably than we are. We have a big garden that is growing larger every year, tons of skills that are used daily, and others that are on the back burner for just in case times. I have a loving relationship and a best friend in the girl of my dreams, and we have two healthy daughters who love and respect us. We have healthy dogs, too many chickens, and a cat that is happy to pee on my bed when I leave for a few days. And most importantly, I have a sober life that is filled with present moment gratitude and awareness of the treasures that I possess.

Could I learn healthier and wiser ways to invest our money to potentially make more money? Yes. Could I learn better ways of strategizing to build a successful farm, a profitable writing career, and a healthy work/play balance? Yes. But, I need to step away from this feeling of “not keeping up with my colleagues” and be reminded of Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken”.

The Road Not Taken 


Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

13 Things We Are Working On

I don’t mean to sound busy or to use this format as a way to track a to-do list or to receive validation from anybody other than myself and my family, but these are the things that are on my mind so I am going to write them down. Like many Alaskans, we are busy during this brief and rainy summer season trying to enjoy the outdoors, to stay warm, to fill the freezer, work hard, and have fun. Is there really such a thing as a balance in Alaska’s extreme seasons?

1. Fence: We are fencing in 11 acres by cutting down trees, peeling their bark with a draw knife, burning the ends, digging holes, and putting up 13 H-Braces and 4 corner posts for the first time in our lives. It’s been a fun learning process that is time consuming, tough, and well worth it. We couldn’t have done it without our hired help this season, Marcus Hunt. A 16 year old boy who work hard, loves motors and engines, and eats anything we set in front of him. He is a joy to have around. Marcus and I put up all of the H-braces and corner posts and last Saturday we started putting up T-stakes and barb wire until he had an accident by dropping the post pounder from the T-stake onto his head. We had to rush him to meet his mother in Ninilchik where she brought him to the Emergency Room. The doctor said he had an extreme concussion and needed to rest and “do nothing” for 7 to 10 days. Since school is starting next week, we don’t expect to have him out here again for the rest of the summer. But we sure hope to see him out here again next season. After 2 months of having Marcus stay in the yurt from Thursday-Sunday, we sure will miss him. We had some fun bike rides in Homer and on our road, lots of ice cream, thousands of shared calories around the dinner table, and some good laughs. Having a set work schedule has been a game changer for us this season, rather than tinkering a little everyday, we are able to stay focused on working during work days and hanging on days off.

2. Salmon. We were able to go dipnetting, which means you stand in a river next to hundreds of other Alaskan residents with a 20 foot long metal pole and a big net on the end waiting for salmon to swim into the net. My buddy Barry and I went two days, the first day was slow and we caught 12 salmon (SUPER BLESSED!) and the second day we came home with 70. At least 45 of them were caught in a single hour. It was a bloody, gory, awesome mess on the beach as hundreds of Alaskans raced in and out of the water with flapping fish on the beach, in coolers, and trash bags. It was crazy. Barry, Donna, and I spent the next two days filleting and vaccum-sealing the salmon. We must have over 200 pounds of salmon now in the freezer. Our freezer went from almost empty to full. Salmon is a vital food source in our household, it has been since I was an old enough to eat. My daughters love salmon, my wife loves salmon, and I love salmon. Smoked, canned, baked, fried, dried… All of it.

3. Garden: Our expanded garden space is doing better than we could have expected despite not testing the soil. We have grown and canned dozens of jars of pickled radishes. We have been eating and freezing kale. Eating beets, broccoli, lettuce greens, garlic scapes, peppers, chives, rhubarb, and I forget what else. We are waiting on potatoes, which are looking decent, cauliflower, peas, beans, tomatoes, and sometime next month— garlic. We are hoping and praying for a good potato and garlic harvest, and we keep telling ourselves that if we have salmon, potatoes, and garlic we can live for years. Let’s hope the potatoes are growing well underground!

4. Tractor: Thank God for Barry White! Without that guy, who the heck knows where we would be. He loaned us a tiller and a tractor this season, so we have been able to see how much we can actually get done with some machinery. They are saving our backs and clearing out stumps and other forested lumps for the fence. Last night I was up at midnight looking up tractors… now that we know what we can do with one, we’re trying to decide if we want to go in debt for one. Barry fixes things for us, teaches us how to build, shares meals with us, and loves or kids like they’re his own.

5. Kodiak: We drove the car onto the Alaska State Ferry and went on an overnight journey to Kodiak Island to camp in our cousins’ yard for an entire week of visiting, hiking, video games, good eats, and a whole lot of fun. It was so fun to get the girls with their cousins and monumental to spend some time with our own cousins. I am so proud of my cousin Dave, who owns the Suzuki Dealership in Kodiak, he is killing it as a mechanic and businessman. And of my cousin, Athena, who is making huge moves with her kindness, hard work, dedication, and loyalty. They are incredible parents and people and it was an honor to spend a week hanging out with them. We came home from Kodiak with a butt ton of stories and a roof rack overloaded by a giant trampoline.

6. Parenting: Gymnastics, horseback lessons, counseling, doctor’s appointments, more appointments and more appointments and libraries, Salmonfest, playgrounds, groceries, bike rides, naps, sleep time.. The things that parents take care of that go unnoticed and unseen but keep us exhausted and busy, busy, busy… Being that we live out in the middle of nowhere, we have to drive 3 hours round trip to go to gymnastics, the same for grocery shopping… everything is a drive, and you know what, it’s all good. We signed up for it. Would we rather be walking and/or riding a bike? Yes… But would we rather live in a town or city than the country? No… Not at this time, at least. One of the most time consuming parts of being a parent is the nap time/sleep routine that we have got ourselves into. Primrose, our 3 year old, won’t nap unless she’s in the car or on a bike ride… Marlena, our 1 year old (in 4 days) won’t nap unless she’s being carried or in a seat. Savanna and I have to put both kids to sleep at night, Primrose in her bed downstairs and Marlena in her bed upstairs. So needless to say, Savanna and I sleep on different floors in different beds. I sleep with the older girl and Mom with the baby. When will this change, dear God? It takes a lot of work, but we stay positive about it and know that it will eventually come to an end. We are secretly hoping it’s when Marlena is big enough to sleep with her big sister…

7: Mechanics: With a 30 year old pick-up truck, a 20 year old car, a 2021 Toyota forerunner, two generators, a borrowed tractor, a four wheeler, and a handful of bicycles there is always something breaking down that needs fixing. I am not a natural born mechanic/practical thinker, I am more of an artist, no doubt, so it takes a lot of patience, work, and help from Barry White, Youtube, and others to help me when I need to fix something. And let’s just say that I stay busy by learning and doing.

8: Conex: We bought a 20 foot shipping container this year to use for storage. So we used the tractor to clear out a space near the driveway, ordered a couple loads of gravel from a neighbor, spread the gravel over Typar, set the railroad ties on level ground, and finally got the Conex delivered. It’s been a game changer for our storage! All of the totes from inside the house and in our generator shed are now in the Conex, labeled and stacked. All of our 5 gallon buckets full of dried food are no longer under the house, they are in the Conex. Beekeeping equipment, backpacking equipment, fishing equipment, gardening, carpentry, mechanics, clothes… All of it is now in the Conex. And it’s bone dry and fun for the kids to play with and in.

9: Chickens: We started the spring with 35 free-range laying hens and 3 roosters. We now have at least 25 baby chicks that were born in the woods, 3 ducks that we raised from ducklings, and 27 Freedom Ranger meat birds that will be ready for harvest in a few weeks. The meat birds will go into the freezer and be used for meals, stock, and all of the goodness that comes from them. The baby chicks will either be given away to people wanting to start a flock or added to our own. But we really don’t have a large enough coop for 60 + birds to stay inside all winter, so we need to get ride of some. It’s been a real blessing to see the hens disappear into the woods for weeks on end, come sprinting out every day for a few pecks of scratch and feed before sprinting back to their nests. And eventually, seeing baby chicks enter our little homestead life. There are drawbacks to this, no doubt— like the amount of feed we are putting out everyday, and the deaths that come from chicks born without a mama around. And yesterday, I watched a hawk fly down and grab a baby chick and land in a nearby birch tree. I could hear and see the chick in the hawk’s talons, it was chirping like a cute little baby, until the hawk starting tearing at its flesh until it was dead meat. Predators can be a real drawback with free range animals. Last year it was a bear that wiped out our bee hive, killed over half our meat birds, and devastated our raspberries. This year it’s a hawk.

10: Bees: I will say this… we were advised that the bees were weak coming to Alaska due to some late frosts that struck California. And yes, they were very weak. More dead than ever before. How the bees are still alive today after this rainy, late summer– I don’t know. But they certainly aren’t producing any honey, they are barely surviving on nectar. So we are planning on going into the winter without any local honey, but it is what it is.

11: Travel/Moving Plans: This is something that has been occupying our minds and hearts since we first met. Recently, we started studying Ecuador and looking into potentially spending part of the year if not multiple years there so we can focus on family, art, and culture. But after spending a few weeks studying, praying, reading, watching videos, and finally looking deeper into logistics… we decided that it would be too difficult to move our dogs, cat, and humans to and from Ecuador, a country that does not allow you to enter by car. So… we decided to buy plane tickets for Mexico, where we will revisit some of the towns we fell in love with two years ago and continue to travel to new places in that country. Will we eventually start spending more time south of the border? We don’t know at this time… But are we open to what God has planned for us? Yes. Do we know how to differentiate the signs and messages from God from those of our friends, family, and selves? We are learning. But right know we know one thing, we have a sitter scheduled to stay at our home from October 29-February 1st, and we have our tickets and lodgings all set for 2+ months in Mexico and 2+ weeks in Missouri. It’s going to be a blast. Thank God we love living right here right now!!!

12: Writing: I am an Author!!! I have to keep telling myself that so I can try and squeeze in some writing time. Isn’t it crazy that writing is last on my list? Geez… but that’s just the way things go sometimes. I have been recording an Audiobook version to Warflower and am almost halfway done with the book. By doing so I have been coming upon too many darn grammar errors to count, and I have become a little embarrassed by it, to include being embarrassed about exposing so much raw material to the world. But it is what it is, I made the changes and paid IngramSpark to upload a new copy of the book but the changes were never made… So there’s nothing more I can do at this time. I am really excited to finish the Audiobook so I don’t have to continue being hypercritical of my voice, reading rhythm, accents, audio quality… not to mention the damn writing!!! But hey, I want to do it myself and I don’t have the money or time to pay a professional recording person to do it for me. And… I’ve been squeezing in a few minutes here and there working on the second book. I’m really excited about that! I am still receiving an incredible amount of support and reviews from people who were touched by Warflower, which motivates me even more to promote the book whatever way I can and to write the next one.

The recording process has driven Savanna and I to start a podcast of our own... because why not add more things to our “to-do” list. You will all know more as the first episode nears airing…

13: Weekly Dinners: During Covid, right after Primrose was born, we started a weekly dinner tradition with Donna and Barry White. They are definitely our closest friends in the neighborhood, and they love us and our children like we are blood family. Every week we go to their house at 5 to hang out and chat before Donna serves a delicious dinner at 6. We all sit around the table (Primrose generally runs around and Marlena crawls on the ground) and we talk about the week and what’s new. We finish our meal and either play outside, watch TV, keep chatting, or Donna takes Primrose into the swim spa to teach her how to swim. We have dessert around 8 or so before leaving sometime after 9 to come home. It is a staple in our schedule, a consistent foundation for our children, our family, and the Whites. The kindness and generosity they have shared with us is exceptional. Every week Donna buys the groceries, plans and prepares the meal and dessert, and then does the cleaning up. It really is an incredible act of generosity that I can only hope to share with others as our resources continue to grow in abundance.

So all in all, these are some of the things we’ve been up to lately. We are so grateful to be given the opportunity to spend everyday together as a family. Sometimes it can be so damn stressful to feel like all we are doing with our lives are parenting, or as I put it “pacing around the house until one of the kids calls.” Our number one duty at this time is to provided for our kids by filling their needs. They are slowly gaining more independence as we are slowly stepping away from over-parenting, but all of these things take time. So I would say that we are learning more and more patience, wisdom, and faith in God and what God wants for our family than we are able to check boxes on a to-do list. And I would rather be growing into a more spiritual man than a more practical man, at this time in my life. But you know what, maybe there is a balance that we are finding out here? Or maybe not, either way, I’m saying my prayers everyday, doing my Bible readings and Video studies with Savanna, and we are praying together and working on being better people everyday. We are happy, joyful, busy, and purpose-driven.
Thank God for that!