I apologize for my absence as of late. Life kind of threw up all over us this last week. Running a thousand miles an hour, every day, for going on two years now finally hit Jules and I in the face. Coupled with the stress of this last quarter of the school year, our cup of endurance ranneth over. ::sigh:: But life as a way of helping us out when we need it and a few late night baths while eating Pop-Tarts (there are just some things that can't be as good when homemade!), the arrival of a new book ordered from Powells, and much sleeping it off has given us back some light at the end of the tunnel.
This past year's food shift has taken quite an unexpected turn. When this all began, I thought that if I began to remove processed foods from our life in favor of foods I personally created our family would somehow become healthier. What I now realize is that what I really wanted was for our family to become healthier in more than just the physical sense. I've been addressing our physical chemistry with the removal of food additives, but not the culture with which we eat our food.
Homesteading, or Voluntary Simplicity, or whatever you want to call this lifestyle, causes you to shift the way you look at the surrounding culture because, for the first time, you are removed from it. As Micheal Pollen writes, "To reclaim this much control over one's own food, to take it back from industry and science, is no small thing; indeed, in our time cooking from scratch and growing any of your own food qualify as subversive acts." With this removal from current cultural trends, I now find myself looking about at our lives and finding large empty holes where I might never have seen them.
For the last two years, Jules and I have been juggling a life which includes one full-time (and then some) teaching job; one part-time, semi-erratic restaurant job; a precocious child who is too young for school; me in school; and a fairly small household budget. What this all boils down to is that we don't every really see each other. When Jules goes to work, I take care of the Barracuda; Jules comes home and takes care of the Barracuda while I go to work. It is emotionally exhausting.
This job/childcare juggling is becoming a mainstay in our society when more and more people are becoming two person working families, but I don't know how they do it. Perhaps they don't, and that is why divorce rates are so high. Even though both Jules and I are reaching breaking points (this mornings stressful bickering included the lines "I don't like my existence" and my retort "My world isn't filled with joy either!" both of which now make me laugh) we realize there is no one else we would be struggling through with. The end of the school year is near and in less than 10 days and we will have our family back. However, some major changes are coming from this realization of yet another hole created by the mainstream cultural juggle of work/childcare: family intimacy.
It has become apparent that our family doesn't dialog well. We have fun together; we work well together; we love each other and can be silly, but not much talking about substance. Perhaps this comes from a lack of modeling (though that seems way to easy a blame). Growing up, communication wasn't a strong point among members of my family. Dinner centered around eating as fast as possible so that none of us had to speak to one another.
As much as our family dialogs well in one on one situations, the act of community conversation is lacking. I find myself wondering, "What would we discuss around a dinner table?" or thinking of the agonizing, forced conversation we are all dreading when we come to the table. But this summer, the adventure begins a new with family dinners and conversation.
Secondly, our TV is dying. We are not switching over to digital. Here in the States, if you are not a cable subscriber, you will need to purchase a converter box for your television set to work. We're not buying in; we are unplugging. Though much of our television is now present on the Internet or checked out of the local library, the ease of flipping a switch and turning off interaction will be gone.
Third, music will be coming back into our house. The Barracuda has always loved music. He can dance far better than either Jules or I, mystifying both of us and other onlookers as we all wonder "where did he learn to do that?" His musical repertoire includes everything from The Beastie Boys and Andre 3000 to The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan to Solomon Burke and The Band. The Barracuda (so named after the Heart song) has a drum circle drum that he enjoys playing incredible rhythms on, writes and sings his own songs, and finds the rhyme schemes on the classic poetry we use when homeschooling him only to beat out the words on his drum when reciting the lines. It is something that is apparently in his blood.
As much as Jules and I enjoy it, we haven't done all that much (other than dance parties) to foster it. This next year that will be changing. I have purchased a guitar and am one again teaching myself to play. Jules wants to learn how to play the banjo something awful. And, just the other day, a childrens' guitar was found at the local Goodwill for $20. Last year's Solistic present was Guadalupe, this year's will be music.
So, for now, I am left looking within for patience and personal solace. I read in an old National Geographic that the primary task of a farmer's wife was that of patience. At the time I thought it was dramatically underestimating the efforts of farm women, but now I understand. The hardest part of all is reminding yourself this too shall pass, spring will come again, the rains haven't left forever, and soon the snow will be melting.