Being a Dad Without Having Had a Dad

Primrose and I spend time in this seat every morning as Savanna gets a few hours of uninterrupted sleep. I am the luckiest father alive.

Primrose Flora Lynn Stark is cuddled in my left arm sleeping as Savanna sleeps in our bedroom. Since they cat nap through the night as I get a few hours, I take the baby to the winter room in the wee morning hours to cuddle by the stove, drink coffee and read. All while watching the sun rise over the valley as light envelops our dark home. I have plenty of time to reflect on what it means to be a father?

Nap time for papa bear.

My birth father only spoke to me three times in my life, we met twice. Each time he told me how much better off I was without him around. He died at 61, after living for almost 30 years in the Oregon Forest in a Ford Explorer with solar panels and a battery bank. He never got to know me nor allowed me to know him. He was an example of what it is like to grow up without a father around, an example I do not want to follow.

We celebrated my 36th birthday during a pandemic by buying a pizza and eating it on the beach. Notice Primrose and I with matching shirts… gifts from her sweet mother. I couldn’t have had a better birthday!

My first step-father provided money and a roof and that was about it. He punished me rather strictly and instilled a sense of fear I still live with today. I am certainly one of those people who say “sorry” a hundred times a day for nothing at all. “Sorry I cooked you soup while you were sick.” Is one such example. Stan was highly involved at work and with the Masons and Rotary, yet he was not involved in my life. I can recall only a couple times he hugged me. I was not allowed to sleep in his bed as a scared young boy and was shown that men are to be serious at all times. Mother left him because he was not affectionate, appreciative and kind.

We are doing our best to continue having fun as a family. Fun may not be the same things that it used to be. Sometimes it’s a simple dance or song or meal, but we realize the importance of laughing, joking and being a positive light in our child’s life. Some days… are harder than others.

My second step-father was a man who murdered another’s man and was sentenced to life in prison. I spent countless hours in visiting rooms talking and playing cards. He wrote and spoke like a theology professor with a master’s in poetics. A brilliant man, kind, stern, affectionate, only present in mind. Always looking to the future for a better life. Parole, after-life, next life. Mother divorced him because she was lonely.

Savanna continues to reassure me that the most important thing I can “do” as a father is be here for our family. She reminds me that she did not marry me because I’m stunningly handsome (which I most certainly am) or because I can cut down trees without being killed, but because I am kind, loving, tender and present.

And that was the end of my run with father’s.

I change my daughter’s diaper, sing to her as she screams in tears, cook for and take care of her mother as she heals, and hand her back to her mother when I feel rage building and self-loathing surface.

Primrose Flora Lynn Stark was born on June 30, 2020.

At times I want to runaway to hide from the world because I think my family would be better off without my crazy ways, but then I remember what it felt like as a boy and then a man whose father abandoned him. So I stay… and we pitch a tent in the yard to camp for a couple nights.

Before Primrose was a month old we camped in the yard for two nights to take advantage of the very few nice summer days here in Alaska. She slept better in the tent than in the house, and we realized that we have a true outdoor Alaskan on our hands. She is the first Alaskan born in our family, and she’s already showing signs of being hardy.

At times I want to spend all our money on gifts and trips and toys and to spend all my time working or volunteering to make sure the baby and her mother know that I love them, but then I think about how it felt as a boy and then as a man who didn’t have a father around to give love and affection. So I stay.

Car seats aren’t light, I learned that real quick. Now I can see why so many parents are ripped.

At times I want to woo my wife and child with words and promises about the future, but then I remember how it felt as a boy and as a man and the way my mother was crushed over and over again when parole was denied. So I stay.

Savanna and I spent our first night away from each other in over a year when I went to the Kenai River to dip net for salmon. This is our first year with a low watt freezer, so we don’t have to can all of our salmon. It was difficult to spend a night away from the family, but totally worth it to return home with 50 pounds of salmon. I have discovered a new meaning of “providing for one’s family.”

I have to remind myself over and over especially during these times when unfinished projects remain unfinished, our greenhouse is overgrown with weeds, and the orchard is a clover field that needs cut. The list of projects is endless, our time together as a family is not.

Her first bath wasn’t as cute and calm as some of the pictures I have seen of baby’s first baths. She was a screaming, scared wild child! But we got through it as a family, and the second one was easier than the first.

Primrose is 6 weeks old now. She has gained 2 pounds and is now smiling, cuddling, sleeping, and of course— shitting a whole bunch. I have been here every day to support her and her mother during the colic phase, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Am I going to make a bunch of empty promises about our future? Hell no. But I will clip my baby’s fingernails after this post and then wipe her poopy little butt.

When I asked my sponsor in recovery how I was supposed to be a good father when I never had a good father he said, “Be the father you always wished you had. Do things with your child you always wanted a father to do with you. And stay calm.”

So far, I am a better father than I ever had. And I plan on keeping it that way.

New Life-Spring is Here, Baby is Near

Spring is here!
Bees are buzzing in their box, collecting pollen in sacs on sunny days to feed babies in the hive to grow into worker bees. Birch buds are abound. Sandhill cranes returned with their pterodactyl like appearance and flight, their lovely call fills the valley and can be heard from our bed. Nettle and yarrow were harvested and dried. One nettle plant that grew beside an apple tree that was planted 4 years ago has turned into dozens of nettle plants. Fiddlehead ferns are uncurling and dandelions are brightening the roadside. Clovers are popping up! Snow and ice have melted!!! Finally, daylight has returned!!!

Savanna weeds the spinach bed.

It seemed like winter lasted forever. It was my first winter as a full time employee of a company and I hope to never do it again. Waking up at 7ish and leaving the house by 8:15, driving icy roads in pitch black and returning around 6, only to restock the fire box, build a fire and get ready for bed. It was draining… but rewarding. I am grateful for the time spent, money earned, education gained and friends made. And even happier now that I get to stay home and work on my own slice of pizza out here in Stariski Acres.

We borrowed a tiller from a good friend and used it to mix in our amendments. It sure made easy work!

Savanna is 34 weeks pregnant and glowing like a fire fly. Her face and belly are tan and her blue eyes are shining. Her attitude is cheerful, excited, and tolerant. She has heartburn on the regular but does not let it get her down. The baby is face down and rolling around trying to get more space. Our baby gets really excited when we eat salmon, which makes me really really happy. Here in a month we will have another human in our family, it is a truly miraculous thing.

Leaving the dogs alone at home all day was probably the hardest part of working a Monday -Friday 9-5 job. I am so blessed to have such amazing animals that have kept me stable and grounded. I say it often, but I don’t think I would still own this property if it weren’t for the dogs.

With that on the horizon, we are doing our best to stay calm and graceful while taking care of a long list of projects. Our high tunnel is completely planted with tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, greens, peas, peppers, radish and herbs. We are already harvesting Tatsoi (Bok Choy) and spinach with stir fry mix and salad greens. We planted potatoes yesterday outside. Planted pumpkin, zucchini, squash, Chinese cabbage, kale, beans, peas, broccoli and sunflowers outside last week. Building more garden beds. Had a yurt dropped off and need to build a platform on sonotubes. Currently building a 8 x 12 chicken coop that is almost done!! Not to mention, the never ending list of additional projects inside and outside our home and the long list of chores that NEED to take place on a daily basis to keep clutter at bay and our minds at ease. I.E. Sweeping, baking bread, dishes, cooking, feeding dogs, bunnies, chickens, cat, walks with dogs, beach trips for fun, bathing, laundry, mopping, watering plants… did I mention sweeping up dog hair?! Let’s just say, we are really active.

One of the best things we have been doing as a family is setting a time every day for yoga. We go upstairs to the loft, set aside the projects at hand, roll out the yoga mats and set a timer using Insight Timer to do our own practice. Last month we did a 30 day yoga journey with Yoga With Adrienne, and it really sparked us and inspired us to do our own practice. That has been key in staying calm, positive, and healthy. We also take time every day to make and eat breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks after praying.

Nothing fancy does the trick.

So yes, spring is here… We are both still drug and alcohol free!! (I am actually taking Ibuprofen for an injury but hope to ween off… it’s only been 3 days of them… but it’s the first time in years…) We are growing closer to each other through trust, vulnerability, prayer, consistency, affection, and support. I love Savanna more today than I did when we got married 8 months ago, and it will continue to grow as time goes along.

Savanna is 34 weeks pregnant and totally happy. All of the pregnancy apps, YouTube videos, books and information we hear from people warn us of the crazy mood swings and awful side affects of being pregnant… Savanna has been solidly positive. I am truly blessed to call her my wife.

Lastly, we are really really really grateful for Diane, Shannon and Morgan Mcbride who allowed us to stay at their lodge, Kachemak Bay Wilderness Lodge, for two nights last week in exchange for some work. Covid-19 caused them to reimburse all of their tenants and to close the lodge for the season, and they were kind enough to offer their world class lodge to a couple former hobo hippy drunks. Trust can be built if we stay consistent with our actions over time.

The overflowing wave of support from family and friends have loaded us down with baby stuff. It’s been incredible! A baby registry was started on Amazon and people we haven’t talked to in years sent us gifts and money. It’s been really heart warming and tear wrenching. Here, Savanna excitedly sets up the changing station in anticipation for the coming arrival.

I hope that all of you who are reading this are safe and happy with your current situation. We are. This virus outbreak has shown me the importance of building a nest and learning how to stay close but still fly. Our neighborhood is abundant with opportunities for adventure, friendship, mystery and adrenaline. I am deeply grateful to live in the great state of Alaska and very lucky to own a piece of earth to call home.

We may not live in a mansion on the hill, but we are blessed to have a safe, dry home we call our own.

What Do You Want?

It seems hard to think what it is I should be writing about. There are so many things happening in my life, in our life, yet time seems to have almost stopped. A few times I have taken the train from California to Missouri. One particular time I woke up in the middle of the night and noticed the train had stopped. I couldn’t see much out the window, but I could see some flashing lights- was it ahead of the train, or behind the train? I couldn’t tell which direction we were traveling. Eventually, I saw lights began to move by us, we were passing a town, and I wondered how long we had been moving, and how fast, and how could I not know. I can experience this feeling now, in a different way, but much the same.

The hours are turning into days, the days into weeks, the weeks into months and soon it will be years. What is this virus and how is it changing our world? I seem to be in many different places all at once, with time being obsolete. In one world my life is incredible. I’m uncertain how much “quarantine” has really changed my daily routine, but I am aware my routine has changed immensely since Bob has been home with me. We have had so much more time! We have both delved into our passion- and that is our creative sides. We are creating more than ever. I have been working a lot on knitting. I am mainly knitting stuffed animals for our baby- I’ve made bunnies and I’m working on my second octopus. I have a pattern mapped out for our babies birth record that I will hand embroider. I have added to my baby doll body collection that hangs over our porch and soon I’ll add the heads to join the others on the ceiling in our library bedroom.

I can’t wait to see our baby snuggle with these toys

Bob and I have spent much of our days cooking together. Something we have been called to re-recognize as an important way for us to bond together and feel connected to each other, to the Earth, and to Spirit. I made bread that we turned into French toast on Friday morning with syrup Bob cooked up from our leftover berries this last summer. We made pizza with our sourdough, and the sauce from our canned crushed tomatoes from last summer and dehydrated zucchini. We made granola, egg sandwiches, chocolate cupcakes, sourdough pancakes, delicious soups, smoothies, salads…I mean its pretty intense how good we eat.

I’m so happy to have this picture…
when I grow old I will cry with fondness when I see this

He’s the bread, I’m the butter
notice the one cherry tomato….he doesn’t like to use the last of things

We have spent an enormous amount of time rearranging, organizing, and what I would call nesting- however my mom sent me a picture the other day and she too was testing every pen and marker in the house and tossing any that didn’t work. So is this quarantine, or are we just nesting? Every day we check the news and watch the numbers rise…how many more people will become infected? How many more people will die? When will I be ripped out of this Utopian world of love, art and family and experience the suffering of this sickness. Sometimes when the internet doesn’t work, or I don’t hear back from someone I love, I get paranoid- is this a shutdown? Has everything gone haywire? Will this be like the horror movies? There becomes a fear in me that I try not to let take over. Last night while laying in bed I had to discuss a plan with Bob that I have been thinking about…if and when the time comes that one of us has to die, it must be me. Of course, he didn’t agree but I wanted him to know why I thought this way. He is stronger than I am, he is warmer (he thought I meant emotionally but I meant physically-but after thinking about it, he’s both) he is just as, if not more, sensitive and nurturing, he has the ability to stay calm, he is more prepared, he knows more, he’s more mentally and emotionally fit. He would be a way better single parent than I. Is this the fear of the virus speaking, or is this just what parents think about? Will I get a phone call about someone I love dying from this? What are they doing with the bodies of the people who die from it? Can they have a funeral? Do they have to be cremated? Are they kept for science?

But then, here I am again. Swirled back into my beautiful life…Sitting in front of the wood stove, knitting a stuffed animal while my husband tickles my feet and reads poetry to me and our baby.

“…I’ve got the whole world
in my hands
I’ve got the whole wide world
in my hands….”

Doesn’t happiness mean: wanting what you have?

Forever Saturday

—Fire crackles inside our home—wife drinks lemon water in bed—dogs snore—water heats on wood stove for laundry by hand—snow falls —rooster crows—cat scratches door—

These are the moments we miss when we work away from home all day every day.


I quit working for a company yesterday because I
Can’t sit any longer, this body isn’t made to be sedentary.
Now I get to work from home with wife, pens, plants, animals, paper.
No more boss one, boss two, boss three
Boss four, boss five, boss six, boss seven, boss eight.

Boss 1= God (Whatever that is)
Boss 2= Wife (Sometimes seems more powerful than God)
Boss 3= Me (Who am I?)

Writing by candlelight as Corona Virus wipes out thousands. Shut down jobs, schools, parks, museums, libraries, government, Wall Street. Cruise ships full of sick humans float as lungs and hearts shut down. Two weeks ago we had 1 case in Alaska, today we have 42.

I say prayers of gratitude and relief as millions suffer worldwide.

After 13 months as a nine to fiver, driving 60 miles everyday with countless hours of unpaid worry, preparation, being told I’m not doing a good enough job, and spending, I am done; I resigned. I am back to being a full time farmer, artist, human, Dad. Back to simply being.

I laid in bed two hours feeling our baby wiggle and kick as mama breathed on my neck in a deep sleep.
The virus is coming, and what about the economy…
What really matters?

My dear wife, Savanna, planting seeds that will grow into food that will nourish us this summer.

Time with loved ones. Time in silent creation. Time in prayer. Time in sobriety. Time with people who care about me. Time building snowmen with pregnant wife while songbirds sing and snow melts. Time to take long walks through our neighborhood of trees down to the melting creek to hang our feet off the bridge and listen to the water. Time to sit in the rocking chair with a book. Time to make sourdough pancakes on a Monday morning. Time to give the dog a bath. Time to water the seedlings and celebrate their growth together. Time to write emails to people I care about. Time to listen to music and play music and write songs and be grateful to be alive instead of annoyed by life.

Covid-19 has shown me how wonderful my life is. This virus has reminded me that I don’t need to buy a pop-up trailer and drive with the family to New Mexico to have fun, or fly to India to hike the Himalayas, or rent a bungalow in Panama to surf, or think about moving to Sitka to be near a very inspiring author/friend named, John Straley. No, Covid-19 has shown me how wonderful my life is right here and now. Thank you, virus, for placing a crown on my discontent. Today, I am grateful to be alive right here and now, especially after resigning from my job.

Fukkura (fuzzy in Japanese) and Unchi (poopy in Japanese) enjoy their daily runs around the house.

Create Miracles

“When they tell you to shut up, they mean stop talking. When they tell you to grow up, they mean stop growing. Reach a nice level plateau and settle there, predictable and unchanging, no longer a threat.” – Tom Robbins, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues

What an extraordinary piece I have been reflecting on since the day I read this years ago. Today this seems so prevalent. We all have SO. MUCH. TO. SAY. And sometimes, I wish everyone would just shut up, SHUT UP. But that is only when I am feeling overwhelmed and burdened by my own thoughts and fears. I do not really want anyone to shut up, no, not even the president [eye roll please!]. And heres why- because we NEED conversation
we need to be heard
we need to listen and be listened too
we need to connect to each other and know we feel the same feelings
we need to see a different experience to see a different reality
we need to be able to discern our own truth from others truth
and see the lies in plain sight.

We need everyone to keep talking, communicating, communing.

It has been weighing heavy in my heart the negative statements I see and hear being made about others. Statements about preppers and hoarders, statements about people who seem to not have a care about the virus, statements about Asian people, statements about rich and poor people, statements about vaccinated and non-vaccinated people, statements about old, young, and middle aged people, statements about tree huggers and hippies and that of the capitalist, statements of country folk and city dwellers, statements about people who have decided to quarantine and statements about those who have decided not to bother.

It is wrong for us to condemn our neighbors. We are in this situation because of every single thing that has happened in history. So, what can we do about it? Rather than call each other names and point the finger of blame, let us TALK. I have my own ideas and opinions that I would like to share.

First and foremost the prayers in my family have radically changed. I am returning to a purer relationship with my God. My prayers tend to be of gratitude and praise, as I don’t like to ask God for things. Through AA I have been trying to embrace the Serenity Prayer:
“God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change.
Courage to change the things I can
and the wisdom to know the difference.”

What a scary and weightlifting experience this prayer has been. About five days ago, Bob and I were in the greenhouse. He asked me if I was afraid. I said no, I’m not afraid of the virus and getting sick. We decided we needed to have acceptance of what will happen. We need to accept Gods will, and not try to plan and control our own destiny. This does not mean however that we will be careless. Not being afraid does not mean being careless or aloof. We are just not asking God “Please let us live, please let our family and friends live, and please keep us safe, don’t let us fall sick or be victims of crime” but instead we are learning what trust in God is. We are praying for open our hearts and minds to accept all that is Gods will, the will for the GREATER GOOD. We are praying for strength and courage to stay calm and centered and present. We are finding a great happiness in the peace and relaxation this brings us. And in this peace and relaxation amid the chaos we are seeing in the world outside of ourselves, gives us a passion to continue loving and respecting each other.

And that my friends is what is making quarantine SO GOOD to me. If you read a few blogs back, I’ve basically been there since quitting my job last month. My daily routine has only changed by not going to yoga class, but I’m still about to do it at home. This brings me to another point I would like to talk about.

IF you have the option, please stay home! I understand this is not possible for everyone. Bob is currently still going to work. It isn’t required, but I do feel like he was slightly guilt tripped into it. Since others are taking off, he needs to be there to pick up the slack. [major eye roll] I won’t go in to too much detail about my feelings there, but I would like to put in my thoughts about this quarantine business. This isn’t just a virus for old people. Everyone is catching it. You may not die from it, but you may catch it (and never show symptoms) but spread it to someone who WILL die from it. This has been the common sense rule of getting sick for a long time. If you are sick STAY HOME! I understand that this can be hard in a world that we are living in where you have to work, cannot miss it, because you are living paycheck to paycheck. For everyone who has stripped down all luxuries, is struggling to make ends meet, living off a non-liveable pay, I think this will be a time of great change. I have hope things are going to turn around. We people will rise and say, I’m worth something more than this. I am not afraid of the economy crashing. I think THAT will be a potentially positive thing that comes from this. Right now “The Economy” is in control of our lives. We work day to day to day to make ends meet. Radical things need to happen. Aside from realizing our wealth and worth, we NEED to STOP spending so much! Affluenza and consumerism is a sickness bigger than this virus. Hundreds of thousands of people are dying because we cannot stop. The Earth is suffering because we cannot stop. This needs to change. We need to remember what is important.

What is important? I started to become afraid. It comes in waves and rolls out again just as the tide. The tide. The tide is important- taking walks on the beach. I notice the birds, they are returning for spring and singing their songs. I watch the trees, they are just as strong and sturdy. Nature is important. The connection we draw between it and us. The most important thing for me currently is to love my life. If this isn’t a “live like theres no tomorrow” kinda feeling, I don’t know what is. Death is on the tip of our tongues. It is so close you can smell it. Every moment seems to suddenly overwhelm my heart with so much tenderness and gratitude. I’m so thankful. I am the luckiest woman alive. I spend my days in nature with my animal friends who show me the most unconditional love I’ve ever known. Each night I get to lay with my husband as we cuddle and whisper in candlelight while feeling the baby we have created move inside of me. Last night we stared into the eyes of a pregnant moose who came to our porch. We talked to her without words. She laid asleep in our yard for the night, us all having an understanding and love for each other and the creations we are capable of. Life is a wondrous miracle. Create miracles.

She stuck her head into the hole of the porch to stare into our eyes
I could have melted seeing the love Bob has
Watching from our loft window as she slept in our yard

The Times Are a Changin’

Mixed emotions, thoughts and information are circulating like salt in the ocean, muddled. Some say it’s the end of the world, others say it’s not a big deal. Some say it’s a government conspiracy, other’s say it’s nature’s way of controlling population. Some say there is a vaccine and a cure, other’s say there is no such evidence. The other day I saw somebody filling up water bottles with gasoline, another person said that gas was going to be restricted, I have seen no evidence… yet. Some people think that we are exempt from the pandemic in our Alaskan Hamlet, others don’t think so. I am one of the people who definitely doesn’t think so.

What is to come of our future? I don’ t know. My family is preparing for the worst while hoping for the best. Savanna is staying at home in “quarantine”. She spends her days playing with bunnies, watering seeds, feeding chickens, and petting the dogs. Yesterday she made art, listened to the sounds of our animals and fire, yesterday she was at peace in our home. I was at work, in a clinic, where people come for Medication Assisted Treatment to help them live free of drugs and alcohol. It was a HIGH stress zone. Some of our patients/clients/peers are afraid that the medication will stop coming. Others don’t seem to care whether they live or die. Others don’t say anything. Fear is palpable and can be read in people’s faces, and I am seeing and feeling fear all around.

When I returned home last night all I could do was go upstairs and lie on the floor with my feet on the couch, Savanna by my side, our baby kicking, both dogs on our sides. I could hear the bunnies drinking water from their kennel. The cat was stretched out on the couch. The rooster crowed and fire raged. I almost fell asleep, I was so relaxed. We made banana pancakes and ate dinner standing in the kitchen. We sat by the stove and watched the sunset. We went upstairs and did yoga together to relax before falling asleep. It was a great night, a peaceful night.

Today is a new day. I am afraid for my wife and unborn baby. What if she gets sick? I am afraid for my elderly friends. I am afraid for her mother who continues to work delivering food to people’s cars. I am afraid for people on medication. I am afraid the market will crash and people will start looting. I am afraid that people will starve and go crazy out of desperation. I am afraid that I will see what I saw in Iraq in 2003, on a larger level. The world and our country and state is changing so fast it’s making my head spin. A mandate from our Governor has been sent out that all restaurants, bars, gyms, theaters, bingo halls, food trucks, and other places where people gather will close down. People can go inside to order food but have to maintain 6 feet of separation and must leave with the food. Will people adhere to this? Public offices are closed. People are working from home. Libraries are closed. We went from having zero cases a week ago, to one case, to three cases yesterday and six cases today. I anticipate it will keep growing, I am not alone.

I called an elderly native lady today named Lorita who is a dear friend. She is the person who married Savanna and I. Yesterday she was feeling sick so she decided to go in quarantine. She has all of the food she needs, two freezers full plus her shelves. She has diabetes, a life time of smoking and really bad lungs, and she is in her late sixties. Lorita is afraid. She is not afraid to die, although she is the perfect candidate, she is afraid how many other people are going to die. She thinks a lot of people are going to die in the next few weeks and months, I agree with her. She doesn’t want to spread it, and wants to make sure that Savanna, myself and the baby are okay and well taken care of. When I asked her if she needed anything, she said that all she wants is that I promise to take care of my family. I promised her that I would, and then I offered to bring her a box of books in a week when she finishes the books she’s reading. She almost cried in excitement and forgetfulness. I know how much she reads and how often she visits the library, and she loses her mind if she doesn’t read. So I’ll bring her a box in a week or so when she asks, and some eggs and anything else she needs.
She said something that really sticks. She said, “Now is the time where people have the option to either be incredibly kind, or incredibly ruthless. What will we be like?” What will we all be like? Do we have something to share with your neighbors that you often overlook? Books…Music… Movies…Board Games?

I don’t know what the hell is going to happen in the next few weeks and months, but I know that I will continue to reach out to those in need and be here for my family and friends. May we all find time to reach out to each other and lend an ear. Let’s not be confused, terrified, or persuaded by endless opinions, ideas and misinformation. Take care.

P.S. I can’t express how grateful I am to have property to grow food, harvest food, be at peace, and have space. My heart goes out to all of those in the cities.

1st Case of Corona Virus in Alaska, Everything is Shutting Down

Seventeen years ago this month, I prepared to invade another country. My cell phone was taken and I was put on lockdown with the rest my brigade. We packed our rucksacks and duffel bags countless times until they were stripped of inessentials and we all knew exactly what we had and where it was. Fear, anxiety and mystery filled the air, combined with an endless cloud of tobacco smoke and disbelief. Nobody believed it was really going to happen.

Me in the center, I had just turned 18 when I graduated from basic training. I had no idea that within 6 months I would be in a war zone.

Some of the guys obsessively read papers and watched the news while others stuck their heads in the sand and drank alcohol like it was our last week of freedom. On March 23rd, 2003, I watched on TV as American troops moved north from Kuwait into Iraq and I still did not believe it. Fear, anxiety and mystery filled the air. Nobody believed it was really going to happen. Even up to the point when we convoyed north to Aviano, Italy where 10 C-17 cargo planes lined the runway in preparation to load paratroopers like myself. I still didn’t believe it. Even when we loaded into the tightly packed aircraft with our 100 plus pound rucksacks hanging at our knees and our parachutes tightly strapped to our backs, I thought the mission would be canceled. Even when I was on the plane, where the smell of chew spit and sweat pervaded as sweat ran down my hairless chest into my crotch and down my legs. I didn’t believe we were actually flying to Iraq.

The year before I joined the military, just a kid.

Until the doors opened and cold air rushed in and my brothers started disappearing out the door into pitch black air. The drop zone was wet and muddy. I shivered in fear and near hypothermia. I couldn’t tell if I was in Iraq or on another planet. There was snow and hail and rain and all of things I didn’t know existed in the desert. I didn’t believe any of it, until we moved south toward the incessant bombs and chaos.
It began to feel real when we were rationed one bottle of water and one MRE each day despite doing endless patrols in 120 degree temperature in full body armor. It began to feel real when we pulled security at a hospital in Kirkuk where thousands of Iraqis stormed the entrance trying to receive treatment for their family’s war wounds. It began to feel real when we set up traffic control points on the highways to search every vehicle for weapons while trying to find ex-soldiers from Saddam’s army. It began to feel real when we closed off villages from anybody coming and going and we kicked in doors trying to find people. It began to feel real when thousands of Iraqis formed chaotic lines behind rows of concertina wire to wait for hours in 130 degree temperatures for propane, water and food. It began to feel real when my body was covered in rashes and sores from lack of cleanliness, lack of toilet paper, and malnourishment. It began to feel real when we all got dysentery and leishmaniasis and began to lose weight. It began to feel real when we started getting blown up and being shot at and we starting blowing people up and shooting at them.

Even today, 17 years after I parachuted into Iraq on March 26, 2003, it sometimes doesn’t feel real. But it was; my dreams, body and reactions remember.

When we found somebody infected with Saddam’s virus, we quarantined them.

This Corona Virus scare may be blown out of proportion by media and people, or it may not be— I don’t know— but I sure as hell saw first hand what chaos can do to a country and it’s people— and I want my family, our neighbors, and the world to be prepared. Because preparation, physically, mentally, and spiritually— are medicine to prevent chaos. Panic is the enemy that could take us all down if we let it.
So I suggest that we band together with our neighbors, we inventory our supplies, we fill our gas cans and water cans, we clean our rifles and sharpen our knives, we strip down our necessities to the minimum and then call our family and friends and pray to whatever God we believe in for a stable mind, and we keep on praying. Because preparation is prevention to panic.

The future is in our hands.

I feel truly blessed at this point in life. My pregnant wife and I live in the deep country surrounded by an abundance of life and love. We have a well for water, birch trees to tap if need be, and a fresh water creek on our property. We have seeds to grow food, an abundance of perennial fruits well established on our land, and an abundance of natural vegetation to eat. We have a rainwater collection system, solar panels with batteries, laying hens that produce almost two dozen a day and a rooster that is happy to reproduce. We have countless jars of salmon, jam, dried greens, pickled vegetables, grains and beans, with at least 40 pounds of potatoes left from last year to plant in the spring. We have instruments, art supplies, board games, books, music and movies to entertain. We have a radio to listen to the news; gasoline for generators, chain saw, 4-wheeler and vehicles and a big stack of logs to burn with a nearby beach full of coal, seaweed and salmon coming soon. We have a wood stove to keep us warm and to cook on if we run out of propane. We have a survival tote full of food and supplies that we typically wouldn’t eat. We have rifles to hunt, poles and nets to catch, and the knowledge to do both. We have acres and acres to play in fresh air and to escape the chaos. But most importantly, we have solid relationships with some of our neighbors and we have each other.

We are two people who thrive on minimalism, will power and resiliency. Two people who trust each other and have confidence in each other, with plenty of experience to stay level headed, healthy, and strong.
Who knows what the future holds regarding this virus? But I learned 17 years ago that being prepared is the best thing that I can do.

Marching Out to Marching In

With my head held high! Next week marks one month since leaving my office day job to pursue matters of the home. This has been the best decision we could have made for our family, and I am so thankful Bob continues to push through and work full time to allow me to handle things here on the Homefront.

I see bikini bottoms in this snow on the high tunnel…winter has been too long….

My days start by being snuggled out of bed where I relax my the woodstove and drink a hot lemon water tea Bob has already prepared for me since he has been up longer than I have. By this time its 7 AM. Bob mills around and gets ready for work while I tell the dogs good morning. Bob mades himself breakfast, and always asks if I want anything, but I like to eat a little bit after my water. I usually end up eating his leftover eggs or oats, because he makes extra knowing I’ll be hunger soon enough. Then I’m packing his lunch- its usually homemade granola (the recipe below!), leftovers of whatever we had the night before, and fruit. He is so good at never complaining about eating things so many times in a row. Then we read “The Daily Stoic” by Ryan Holiday, to reflect on throughout the day (this month’s topic is awareness). Once Bob leaves for work- its go time. I take hot water out to the chickens- they are fancy they like a little tea in the wintertime. I feed them and start collecting eggs so they do not freeze in these cold temperatures. I go inside, feed and water the bunnies and sweep out their cage. Then I get dressed, prepare my bags and by 9 oclock I’m out the door on my way to the gym, where I work out on the elliptical, bicycle or treadmill for 30 minutes followed by an hour long yoga class. Take a quick shower and head on home. Once a week I leave from here to go to counseling and two times a month I leave here and go to acupuncture. But normal day to day, I head home and collect the eggs. Come in and say hi to the dogs and eat lunch. Then I will clean the house (LOTS of sweeping to do) while letting the bunnies run around downstairs whenever the cat is in a deep slumber upstairs, which happens to be VERY often these past few weeks. Every tasks takes just a bit longer to do than normal living off grid but adds such a joy to it. Bob and I will usually get to FaceTime or call for his lunch break, which is always a nice time to kick my feet up. Then I take the dogs for an afternoon walk, where I leash them and make them go at my pace. They get so worn out by the end they are trying to lay down before we get home! By 3 o’clock I take more tea and food to the chickens collect and wash the eggs from the day and start preparing a delicious meal for when Bob comes home. In the times I may have in there I try to sneak in a bit of reading or knitting. And once Bob gets home, we enjoy a meal together and relax and spend good quality time together with the animals until it is time for bed. It has really been so perfect.

Bunny Mama-enjoying all my babies

I can feel the spring blooming into my heart, although it is far from spring weather outdoors. The more we get into March, the more sunlight we gain each day, the more excitement I can feel spreading throughout my body. Bob has done our seed order and we should be receiving them in the next couple of weeks. Everything is going to change- like it always does- but like it never has before. I’ve been sitting at this computer for an hour now, hunched over, taking notes, writing down events to go to, planning on how to become a better farmer- fuck, not even a better farmer, but just a farmer. This isn’t something I have ever done…I’m just the farm hand, I just do what the farmer tells me to do. Now I’m making the decisions? Bob and I got into a small argument over who was going to do the crop planning this year. I said I couldn’t because I never have. This is essentially what I have quit my job for. So what if I’ve never done it. I need to do it now. I’ve never had to be responsible for anyone other than myself, and now suddenly, I am responsible for my husband, the 5 pets and 35 + birds I’ve adopted and my unborn-but-soon-to-be-born child. This is a lot going on people! But here’s why I am more excited than I am scared, more pumped than I am bogged down, more happy than I have ever been: commitment. I am committed to this life. I am committed to Bob- to supporting him and allowing him to support me, to us being the best of friends to each other, and for us to find our parts and do all of these things together. It is so easy to feel overwhelmed. It is so easy to shy away when we feel vulnerable. It is so easy to just stick to things we know we are good at. Its a lot harder to have hope, to have faith in yourself, or to put your trust in another person…but it is so damn worth it, because when you do these things, you see how magical life really is.

my best friend being my best friend and allowing me to be me

Homemade Granola:

Mix together:
4 cups oats
1 & 1/2 Cups nuts and seeds (I like I cup Cashews and 1/4 cup each sunflower and pumpkin seeds)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon

In a measuring glass mix:

1/2 C melted coconut oil
1/2 C raw local honey (or local syrup)
1 tsp Vanilla (substitue for other flavors if feeling playful)

Combine liquid to dry and spread out in a pan on parchment paper (this will help the honey stay on the oats and not get sucked out onto the pan. Bake for 21 minutes at 350. Halfway through I like to add in Coconut flakes by stirring it all around and patting it down to be nice and even and flat again. I also like to flip the pan. When it comes out it will still cook and it is SUPER hot. I like to put it out in the snow to cool and once its completely cooled I like to add chocolate chips and dried fruit. MMMMMMM

(I like to substitute the vanilla for orange extract, walnuts or pecans for cashews and add cranberries) I’d love to here other suggestions!

Here I am actually using the granola to make muffins- I’ll post that recipe another day!

Two Seek Counsel

When I was first falling in love with Savanna, she once said, “Being self-aware is a radical revolutionary act,” without even thinking about the words. The depth of this comment in such a light hearted fashion revealed the vast wisdom of her being, and she continues to teach me every day of our lives that being self-aware is truly radical! So how do we become self-aware?

In many cultures, a primary source of wisdom and self-awareness comes from observing and participating in nature by seeking silence and solitude in the forest. A form of meditation. This is a forest in Kansas, where we went to take a break while visiting family in Missouri.

The other night we had a tizzy. Not an all out fight with bad words and hurtful names thrown like throwing stars, but a heated conversation about crop planning, seed orders, feeling overwhelmed and supporting each other by doing tasks together instead of alone. It started, if I remember correctly, by me asking Savanna if she was going to work on creating a crop plan and she said, “I can’t do that, I’ve never done that, but I would be willing to help you and to learn.” Of course, I didn’t hear anything passed “I can’t do that, I’ve never done that…” And the large list of things I have never done but will do this season piled in my head and I got frustrated.

Sometimes I resort back to the airborne infantryman I was trained to be. And while there is a time and place to be a trained killer, when it comes to talking about seed planning with your wife, it’s really not the time.

On top of having a 40 hour a week job (47.5 including the drive), something I am really not used to, I plan to build a platform this summer for a yurt, an outhouse for bed and breakfast tenants, two wood sheds and a chicken coop; not to mention having a baby in June, nesting in preparation for the baby, feeding and tending fruit plants, promoting the health of native fruits, beekeeping, growing food in a 30 x 48 foot high tunnel, attending AA and 907 Vets meetings, fishing, canning, preserving, selling… To add to it all, we cleared out a large tract last summer with a friend’s tractor that we talked about turning into a beautiful sun shaped garden with a hedgerow of flowers and fruit.

Sometimes the things that happened in Iraq creep back in, and I become hyper aggressive, defensive, paranoid, and afraid. I also have a tendency to pile too many things onto my plate and carry the load without help until I collapse and retreat in embarrassment. Let’s just say the military didn’t teach me how to ask for help.

In the middle of the multiple hour talk, which included multiple breaks, my guilt ridden/awaiting another abandonment mind wanted to pack my duffle bag with surf shorts, wallet, and tank top and fly away to India to act like some kind of holy person with everything figured out. But then I remembered, I am married; and that includes a long term commitment to provide and support my family. So I bit my tongue, rubbed my feet and waited for things to cool down, instead of doing what comes “naturally”– running away or pushing. Our conversation was resolved in bed on Saturday night at about 1 am, 4 hours after our normal bed time. I had tuned her out when she said, “I would be willing to help you and to learn,” regarding the crop plan. She reminded me that WE would do the building projects together. WE are having a baby this year and SHE will not physically be able to do the amount of farm work that she would hope. WE want to have fun and enjoy our summer as well as work to achieve our dreams. So in the end, WE won’t worry about the new garden space this year, instead we will pick the sticks and roots, rake out manure and soil, and plant a cover crop to build soil fertility. We fell asleep holding each other.

I am learning that marriage isn’t about being happy all the time, sometimes we get pissed, sad, disappointed or depressed. We have to accept each other and support each other through these emotional states instead of running away.

All of this is new to me. Tools I have learned in a recovery program, combined with years of counseling, dozens of books, thousands of pages of journal entries, mentors and heartbreak. About a month ago, Savanna and I started seeing a counselor together to talk about the good, the bad, and the difference between inspiration and control. Confessing to a stranger some of the awful things I have yelled at my best friend is embarrassing, shameful and humiliating. To see and feel her tears as she confessed some of the things she has said during rage made me realize how bad she feels about it too. Our counselor told us that it is totally unacceptable (in more intelligent words) to continue saying horrible things to each other, and that those boundaries need to stay firm and never be crossed. Never! He said that when people try to control others, such as partners, spouses, friends, it only lasts a short time as the person being controlled grows more and more resentful, eventually leading to divorce. To inspire is different. By being our best selves, people recognize the goodness in us and grow to truly love us; they want to honor our goodness and choose to do things that bring happiness to their loved ones instead of harming them.

I have been learning how to take deep breaths when anger, rage, sadness and discomfort come forth. It’s a lot better than saying hurtful things to my best friend and self, words that can never be taken back. Learning how to say what is on our mind and in our heart in a tender way instead of acting like everything is cool all the time or being mean takes hard work, surrender, acceptance and guidance.

Since we started seeing a counselor, we have been able to talk through difficult topics like sex, money, child raising, travel, and purpose with breaks, breaths and kisses instead of harshness and defensiveness. It is incredible!

Who is my wife and best friend? Not only a tender, loving, nurturing woman; she is also a fierce, tough, powerful warrior. When one side shows more than the other, I try to remember that the other side will shine through soon, and I choose to be accepting and understanding. The infantryman/American Boy/lover of novels and Hollywood was trained to think that women are supposed to be permanently sweet and kind, how wrong that is!!!

Transitions can be tough. Savanna recently quit her job after 9 months of working us together. And while we agreed it was the best thing for her, us, our farm and family, it is difficult to say goodbye every morning instead of car pooling to the office to work together. It is not something I want to get used to, but it is necessary to achieve our common dreams and goals of making a living from our home. She takes care of our animals, our home, our baby; I take care of our money… or so it seems. But in reality, by her taking care of the animals, home and baby she is also saving us money, making us money, and taking care of the money. Just like I am taking care of the animals, home, and baby by going to work to make money. Sometimes it can be difficult to see other sides, so it’s really nice to be reminded by Savanna as I leave for work how grateful she is for me going to work. Do I need consistent validation and approval? Yes. Either way, I never thought I would be with somebody who I enjoyed spending every hour of the day with until I met Savanna. So to drive away from her every morning at 8:15 and not return until around 6 is painful, but it is not permanent. Nothing is.

Savanna is a nurturer and farmer of thoughts, animals, and creative ideas. Here she cleans chicken eggs while playing with our new bunnies and growing a baby. She is .

Being self-aware isn’t easy. Making amends for hurtful things I have said and done doesn’t feel good in the moment, but it certainly makes me not want to continue being hurtful. As a man, being forced by culture to be straight faced and emotionless caused more damage than good. And when I expect my wife to be smiley and chipper all the time, it causes both of us more harm than healing. I know a few of my biases and stereotypes, and I am working on changing them. I just hope that my warrior wife will be patient as I continue to grow into a better me.

What the Hay?!

Where the flip has the first of the year gone? Truly? It has been such a whirlwind, so allow me to backtrack and start from the beginning.

New Years Eve celebrations haven’t been “my thing” since getting sober 6+ years ago and getting out of the bar scene. I am usually well asleep by midnight…however, this year, Bob and I stayed up well into the night. He had made me a castle of pillows as I had heartburn so bad, I couldn’t sleep, and I wouldn’t allow him to either. I have fallen behind on my New Years tradition of reading through my gratitude jar, but hey, we’ve been busy.

We were able to “sneak” into this beautiful church in downtown Kansas City, Missouri

We went in mid January to Missouri to visit my family for a couple of weeks. It was a nonstop party after party after party. We did SO MUCH SOCIALIZING. We celebrated 4 birthdays and my family threw Bob and I a sweet baby shower where we received more gifts and hand-me-downs then I could have imagined. Despite myself having a serious meltdown, it was such quality time with family. And what a good reminder what it is to be family. I am so thankful for Bob and the way he is able to support me, regardless of the circumstances, the tempers and fits I may be throwing, and the unconditional love he chooses to give to me. It is such a hard and tiring task to consistently put the needs of someone else above your own and I just can’t stop wondering how the heck I ended up being The Luckiest Lady in All the Lands. I am absolutely sure that no one has ever had it better than me.

Our Baby Shower

Fast forward into now, because you know the weeks after getting back from a trip are always a blur…..our house was a frozen ice cube with crystal balls in the toilet and ice on the windows…but no burst pipes, nothing amiss but one full bottle of apple cider vinegar exploded- the expensive kind too…BUT here we are now.

We took a hike in Kansas. Bob was saying this lake must be man made.
How am I so lucky?

Bob has been working away, working away, working away. Boy do I keep that man busy. On top of his full time job he is building shelves, and fixing cars, and making me food and smoothies, chopping wood and keeping fires, taking the dogs out and feeding the chickens. One of his love languages is service. So aside from working and serving the peers there and serving me, he is also serving in his community and he is serving as a member of the 907 VETS which is booming like crazy. This group is picking up so much speed and doing so well and helping so many people in the community, I can’t wait for him to be able to take some time out and write on here himself about all these endeavors and the others he is doing.

Dream Boat

I have left my day job with the traditional council, retiring to……..a whole lot. Bob and I bought our business license yesterday, so it’s official people! We are business owners on paper, now we can be all legal and pay taxes and….what else does having a license do? Beets me. So our farm Secret Garden Alaska is legit, we bought a yurt and are doing my lifelong dream of having a Bed and Breakfast. I know Homer and this area is pretty “blown out”, as people say, for B&B but thats because everyone is doing this new agey airBnB- which don’t get me wrong, we will advertise on there, but I am a traditional woman (are you raising your eyebrows….BOB?!…) with traditional likings and I want to have the ol’ fashioned type where, “HELLO! GOOD MORNING! I cooked you breakfast from our fresh eggs, fresh produce and here’s a fresh mashed berry drink. Oh, would you like me to make you lunch and/or dinner as well? Won’t you join my family and I?” [Apron always on].

So along with needing the extra time to keep up with the farm and the B&B, Bob came home with a very special present for me last week. I am now the proud Mama of a baby bunny. “It’s a BLACK bunny!!!!!” and I couldn’t be more excited. I have named him/her Unchi, which in Japanese means poop, because well….yes, I am being pooped on 24/7. We will start litter training this week, but seeing how the babies eyes have only been open for less than a week, it seems like the best route was to take it slow and introduce Unchi into our family very gradually and peacefully. Nala is so excited that there is a baby in the house and she is just drooling and staring and she can’t give enough loving, longing looks.

I thought Bob was going to give me a doughnut

Onto the Mama and baby front, we saw our lil nug this last week in an ultrasound. We I had decided I did not want an ultrasound but knowing how much it would mean to Bob, I surprised him and myself. What an incredible experience. We saw our perfect baby yawning, and grabbing their feet, and being dramatic and squiggly and squirming. If I hadn’t felt pregnant I sure do now and it brings so much more connection into our lives than before. Everyday I’m able to feel this tiny person inside of me and know that I am housing and comforting them by just simply being me. Talk about life changing, mind altering, mood enhancing, heart opening spirituality. This is something I’ve never experienced in such an intense, yet peaceful way. I am so lucky to be one of those people who just absolutely, undeniably, full heartedly LOVE being pregnant.

I’ve been away from Unchi too long, I must go and hold the bunny while making dinner for my dream boat to come home from work. I’ve really missed him.