My children are all away at school now.

I have no goats to milk, rabbits to groom, or chickens to keep alive (as my once-necessary source of eggs-that-don’t-give-me-migraines).

I have read over 180 books this year, since I quit feeling embarrassed for my high-consumption of novels, and for the first time in forever I can sit still and feel a sense of choice and options in how I will spend my time.

Years ago, when Jay was traveling, and I had rabbits/goats/chickens (and rats, God-help-me) in the depressive dark of winter, along with three beautiful children who looked to me for all things good, I was much more limited in my choices.

One funny part, in a quirked way, was that I couldn’t choose to write. Writing wasn’t optional if I wanted to be sane, kind, and have any energy at all. Writing was essential like showers were essential: maybe not to life, but without question to quality of life.

I remember the moment when I realized that I was perpetually falling into “crisis mode,” that lifestyle where nothing mattered but staying warm fed and sane. Trouble with that, was the niggling part of my mind that insisted healthy also needed to be in the equation somewhere, especially since this looked to be my lifestyle for a while.

This resulted in a life-changing awareness:

If I’m going to spend this much time in crisis mode, I need a way more efficient crisis mode!

And you could say that’s what I’ve spent the last three years learning.

We’ve gradually removed stressors from our lives — first the rabbits, then the goats, then the little house, then the chickens…

We’ve added margin: Jay travels less, we have more physical space, we live closer to Jay’s work, so we have more time-space, and now the children are all off being taught by somebody else.

One of the intriguing things about being on Facebook is watching trends within my own news-feed. A kindergarten mom shared her tear-red face on day-one, and asked the next day if she’d ever get used to giving up her boy.

I’ve never been particularly sentimental, but I’ve also been particularly good at treating whatever it is I want to do as simply normal. I never considered sending my kids away for kindergarten. I didn’t seen the point, really. Natasha’s first day of school looked a lot like every other day of her 5/6-year-old existence, with reading, songs and a bit of colored-bear mathish games thrown in.

The main difference was that I mentioned her neighbor friend was going to his first day of school. Natasha froze, then, very carefully said, “I’m not ready to be away from you all day. I’m not big enough.”

This, I loved.

And I also loved how everyone was ready this year.

So now we’re on day-three, and I have the option of sitting quietly. Having learned and lived a sustainable “crisis mode,” having become familiar with the absolute minimum that will keep a home together while those in them are at their weakest, I am reminding me to pace myself.

Usually I do my best work when I’m alone in the house, so the last two days have been a bit tense while I find a balance between maximizing my alone time (so I will be able to focus better on the kids once they’re back), and doing it in a way that doesn’t leave me physically exhausted.

The thing is, all this margin and reading and rest has been *wonderful,* but in a way it’s underscored how much the last five years have sucked out of me. I tried to be active and productive and go maximize my empty house (clean! organize! exercise!) and I was reminded that I am still low on stamina and strength.

So I’m still playing things by ear. My one big goal this semester is to finish the second part of my lindorm story, with the smaller (as in quieter, less-forceful) goal of recovering health is working in the background.


August 2013 (Facebook Compilation)

August 7: So Much YES!

chainsIt’s not the Rules That Are the Problem

August 9:

You don’t have to see these two romantically paired to see the sweetness of this video.

August 19: I found her observation about “nonchalance” fabulous.

[Article:] Why Women Can’t Have it All

Amy Jane Helmericks has written a brilliant article (again) for Wyn this week: Sadness– Grieving Through Fiction.
August 21:
Wired and excited.
Just sent a round of requests for “short order” recommendation letters. I was handed a deadline last night.I’m participating in the Fairbanks Arts Association Artists-in-Schools class/training.

There’s an appropriate number of hoops to jump through before I can be hired by a school, but if I get all my boxes checked by the end of the month I could have my offerings (storytelling and noveling– two different workshops) in the current school-year’s “catalog.”

Soooo if you’re the parent of a student 5th-grade and older, and your child is interested in (and/or needs help with) public speaking or structuring stories, you could mention my name…

August 26:
So, I know I should encourage Melody to go back and actually follow the directions…But I kinda like this version.

M's worksheet
August 26:
Two lovely, encouraging letters of reference turned in.I’m growing convinced these should be a regular part of relationships.

August 27:
Elisha kinda-almost got hit by a car yesterday.The horror of it is just sorta growing on me, and I’m still in awe of the perfection of his escape.

A driver turning right looked to the left before pulling into traffic, and connected with Elisha.

The girls were already past and didn’t see a thing, my mom was bringing up the tail of the train and shouted STOP! at the driver. Poor Elisha thought she was shouting at him (“I put on my brakes but they didn’t work!”) before he ran into the car.

That was the version I understood when I showed up to give the official, “He’s fine, Ambulance, you can go” signature. And he really was: no scrapes or anything from falling off his bike (and the woman was someone whose name I knew from some interaction in the past. Looking shook up herself, and like she expected to be chewed out). They took his vitals, agreed they were fine, took my signature and left.

The State Trooper took statements from my mom, the driver and the taxi driver who saw it all and called 911.

Thing was, when we got back down the road to my folks’ house, I saw the bike. It was damaged and not in a cute, boy-ran-into-a-car way. The chain-guard and the fork of the back wheel had pinched the back tire, and the side of the bike seat was scraped through the cover.

“*What* happened again?!” I asked, starting to wonder if I should be traumatized.
Elisha did fall off his bike, and then the bike had a car vs. vehicle incident.

The driver was at fault, but, ultimately, no one was hurt.
Makes me glad I didn’t know when I was face-to-face with her, because I don’t know if I would have wigged out on her.

/ / /
Jay’s photo: Yea. Step 2 done, now it can rain. Next up: sides.
Roof on
August 29:
Ultimate homeschooling threat: “Next ‘reminder’ [to stay focused on your work while sitting on the couch] will put you at the table!”
August 30:
I’ve been making my GF pancakes with pumpkin lately (“punkin pie” pancakes), to add variety to their nutritional profile. This morning Elisha asked if I’d made “puncakes” again.I hope it sticks.

/ / /

Just hit *go* on my first grant application.
Connie Boochever Artist Fellowship
11 minutes before deadline.

I am *not* going to choke went through my head at about 9:24.
And I didn’t.

The joke/entertaining (not-really) part: I just learned about it last night, at my last Artists-in-Schools class. I stayed up till 2+ in the morning pulling pieces together, homeschooled my kids today (Thank God for my new Homeschool Helper app that I assembled two days ago) and finished compiling/proofreading writing samples tonight.

Sent a chapter from my novel, a short folktale I tell, two blogposts and two Wyn articles. (They say you can have “up to” 20 pages. So I took them all.)

The end was that I didn’t get it, but it was good practice, anyway ;)

July 2013 (Facebook compilation)

July 2: Jay is building me a new workspace for this corner!


July 3:

“This doesn’t make Sense!” is Melody’s cry for help with schoolwork.

I’ve been asking her to use the phrase “I don’t understand,” but I think she’s resisting taking ownership of her problems.

After the latest one I finally snapped, “There are lots of things in this world that do not make sense. 3rd grade math is not one of them. Don’t waste your ‘Doesn’t make sense’ on this.”

Mitzi Barber:  Don’t you think “this doesn’t make sense TO ME” is just as valid “I don’t understand”?

Amy Jane Helmericks: Yes! I tried to get her to add that, too. Just as much resistance.

Making progress. Clamping/gluing/screwing on the bits to make the countertop level.



victory A victory B

July 4: Cat-friend vs. Dog-friend videos (part 1) (part 2)

July 16: Shared one of my fav YouTube Sherlock vids with a friend.

So, I stayed up way too late last night, was taking a ‘nap’ this afternoon (trans.: lying still, appreciating my children’s respecting my tiredness and watching my consciousness come and go).

M runs from the back of the house: “Natasha! The bathroom sink is overflowing!”

N runs after her and I. don’t. move.

After I get up, this is what I find in the bathroom.

towel pile

Not bad. Worth staying in bed.

July 18: “Smells like Grandma Teena’s house!” Natasha said this morning

N's bacon

Jennifer: “Well, I read Pride and Prejudice.”
Me: “Good for you, I still haven’t.”
“Do you have the movie?”
“I have two of them.”
“Great. I want to watch the movie. I’m not sure I got the gist of Elizabeth fully from the book.”
“Ooo that’s heresy. I’m totally putting it up on Facebook.”

July 19: Finished my proof-reads on Lindorm 13.1 (the version I sent out the end of May).

Celebrated by writing next month’s “Life & Fiction” column for Wyn.

Mama’s tired, now. But content.

July 20: The room progress: floor clear/vacuumed, and individually owned stuff on the beds of their owners.

I wouldn’t let them watch the initial sorting (which I did) and have offered to finish the job with similar oversight.

They are currently moving forward, on their own. Slowly.

Room A Room B

July 23: Got praised tonight (by someone I’d known ~5 minutes) as being very well-spoken and articulate. (I’d jumped into a debate before I knew the people, just the topic– and my fierceness could have alienated my listener, but it didn’t. And that felt a whole lot like love.)

Still feels wonderful to have my strengths noticed.

Also at that get-together, was asked to share “as much of [my] story (context of what I was fighting for) as [I] was comfortable sharing.”

Started by saying, “My parents were in leadership at basically every church they’ve ever been in, so I was one of those kids/ teenagers whose ‘fishbowl complex’ was actually grounded in reality.

“I’ve spent much of my life expecting to be seen, and often making choices within that context. It made the jump to blogging very natural…”

I laugh, now, because I’d never thought of that context before tonight, but it makes perfect sense.

July 26: Finishing up some writing tasks while my girls learn how to find letters on their keyboards (aka, write down their own stories).

Melody was w.i.g.g.i.n.g. out about formatting (where the words fall on the page) and I said, “The important part now is to build up a nest of words that we will then make tidy once all the materials are collected.”

And she said in a little voice, “okay.”

Melody: “I want my book to have a hard cover. Not be the kind you buy on facebook. How do I make sure of that?”

Me: “You start by finishing your book.”

June 2013 (Facebook Compilation)

June 5: Our new in-house OCD test:
Real-life picture layout on our welcome-wall (first wall you see walking into house).

welcome wall

June 8: The newest member of our crew at Willow Rock Farm: flew her home from the Palmer airport.

Plane ride home

June 13: My work over the last week: organizing (and thinning) the books in my library.

A job I haven’t done since before we moved here.

It was fabulous to discover/recognize the pattern of my “collecting.”

books 1 books 2 books 3 books 4 books 5

June 15: Got all three freezers emptied/defrosted/inventoried this afternoon. A few people commented on the soggy ice cream. (It all took about as long as you’d expect…)

Still in awe of the accomplishment, and figuring out the best way to meal-plan with the new information.

June 18: Pleased to announce that ‘that magazine project’ I’ve been talking about for months is now live.

Wyn ( is an online magazine focused on providing resources and hope for mental and emotional healing. Each month’s issue has a specific theme that runs through all the articles.

I am so excited to be a part of this project with amazing women from around the globe.

Please stop by and join the conversation on the blog.

June 19: Wheee 2a.m. and a gentle tiredness on top of a feeling of productivity. Got some good writing done and kids are at Gma’s so I can sleep in.

June 21:

Dunno if you can tell from these pix, but this is Griffin scratching himself six ways from Sunday.

Can’t tie him out b/c he’s helpless against the bugs, and now I can’t even walk him, because we’re both *mobbed* instantly.

Finally just turned him loosen out the front door (which I *never* do on purpose). He was back five minutes later: more itchy, but less whining. Took care of business, I assume.

griffin itch A griffin itch B griffin itch C

June 27: Vamp bucket. The mosquito magnet catches them, but this model at least has trouble getting them into the collection plate.

Freakiest part: we’re still chewed on in the length of time it takes to cross the yard, and the dog continues to be scared to go outside.

vamp bucket

Elisha [getting ready for a camping trip]: “But what do we need to bring *toothbrushes* for?!”

May 2013 (Facebook Compilation)

May 2: EEP.

So I’m slowly and in a not-actively-marketing way growing my business (Untangling Tales: Professional Bios and Story Coaching), basically praying about it, staying “available” but not pushing anything because my life is full-enough, and I’m sort of being asked for the next level.

That would be being paid for my talk/workshop on writing professional bios.

In other (big) news, my Lindorm novel is now officially long enough to be two books, and part of knowing that is announcing Book-One is *finished.*

70,000 words. (Approximately.)

Next step is proof-reading the and writing a query letter. (But you can get as many details as you want at Just search Lindorm for the latest.

May 7: Okay, how much of a story-geek does it make me that I’m reading the Sparknotes summary of “The Importance of Being Earnest” and cracking up multiple times?

Never saw or read the play before. Just had it referenced *again* and decided I needed to know what’s going on.

Anyway, totally worth the read. Just the *summary* got me belly-laughing. Can’t know if the whole play would be worth wading through, but this I loved.



I’m editing my novel, right?
Which means I’m entering other skins and descriptions.

Here’s what I’d just. finished. reading:

**For some reason it made me remember my revulsion in the lambing pen when large spiders, drawn by the warmth of new life, skittered across the straw and, three different times, onto the face of the new lamb itself.**

And something was skittering on my wrist under the desk.
I whacked it automatically and it *crunched* under my fingers. An ant as long as my fingernail.


May 10: And to celebrate (the previous post), I’m… scrubbing out our oddly-discolored dishwasher.


If it goes squicky again before next year, we’ll just keep suffering through. (Aaand it finally died. 11/13)

Also: Something that made me *wail* with much-needed-cathartic-laughter–

Dogs don’t understand basic concepts like moving.
Pretty much the whole time.
Every next-line started me over again.

I did not know how much I needed to laugh.
Or remember how good laugh-tired feels.

May 14: My subconscious is so *cute.*

The way things can layer and still make sense.

My dream this morning included a note from a “friend” in New York (someone I knew in the dreamworld) I’d apparently given a guinea pig to.

She (the human) was both true to her own beliefs (agnostic/atheist– no afterlife) and either very kind or “socially discrete.”

She had a note sent to me in my (1800s era) hotel room with a the item, “[Guinea pig name] went to China.”

Once I understood the animal was dead, it made sense: into-the-ground=traveling to China.

I thought it made a surprising amount of sense for a dream.

May 16: 2nd goat went into labor today, and I got all James-Harriot up-past-my-elbow in her uterus for two hours trying to straighten out the kid’s head. It was snaked back behind his shoulder, blocking progress.

I was keenly reminded of my own weakness this morning. Kept feeling as though greater endurance could have won the day.

Finally my hands were just too painful to try any more (the dizziness and weak arms were also contributing factors).

Thankfully we found a vet answering the phone (I called four numbers, left messages and kept calling back to catch the person I did).

She got a C-section.

There was only one kid, already dead. A buck, so I felt less disappointed than otherwise. But also the vet said he was probably too big to get out anyway, and that assuaged my self-disappointment.

Thing is, the adventure/ emergency forced me to cancel the dr. appt where I hoped to ask what is up with this persistent weakness.

Now I have to start over again.

Praying for a full recovery and good milk supply from our bereaved doe.

And strength for me. I’m still a bit wobbly here at the end of the day.

May 21: Words often say more than what they say: “A Fate worse than Death.”

May 31:

Girls walking through: Ow! Ow. OW.
Me (noting the fairy wings): Are those pretend ‘Ows?’
N: Yes.


So I seem to have a habit of giving people more than they’re [really] asking for.

Gerald, my Toastmasters mentor, called up over his lunch hour and opened with some species of “How’s it going?”

I’m often very good at giving the standard flippant response, but I’ve been mulling over that same question all morning, so instead I said, “Well, I’m a little traumatized right now, actually.”

“Ah,” he said, still in convo-lite mode. “That snow coming down.”

“No,” I said, suddenly realizing I’ve been surprised by it all four times I’ve walked out the door since it started. “I had a trauma yesterday– The goat went into labor, I spent two hours with my arm inside her trying to straighten out a baby that was too big to get out anyway. We ended up getting her a C-section and the baby was born dead. So, yeah, traumatized is a good word for ‘how I am’ right now.” Then I rushed on, recognizing there’s probably no way for him to recover from that statement. “But that’s not why you called, how can I help you…?”

More trouble is that the surgery cost twice as much as the goat did, and she’s still not voluntarily walking around, she’s shivering in the warm barn, and too many things look swollen that shouldn’t be, so I am still concerned for her life/health, and the whole thing doesn’t feel over yet.

I had two appointments Thursday morning, because usually I take the kids to school and it’s a good day to get stuff done.

I had to cancel the doctor appointment, but it looked like I could make the consultation at the IDEA (homeschooling) office, so I pressed into that.  I felt really shaky, and every time I told the next person (four people over five hours) what I was doing/looking for and why, I got teary and self-conscious.

But I kept pressing because I wanted answers. I wanted something solid and concrete so I could wipe this question off the front of my mind.

The result is that I came home shaking and exhausted (I hadn’t brought any food or eaten lunch) but I had all the pieces I needed to loop the loose ends together and make a coherent whole.

Winterdust wasn’t then and still isn’t now seeming better as I’d hoped, and I’ve fallen back on my old standby (denial?) just staying inside and moving slowly forward on some small projects, like getting that broth canned, so it’s not wasted, and running the dishwasher.

One sad thing is that being the time of year it is I can’t even de-stress by catching up on TV shows, because they’re all finales, so my whole reason for watching shows right now (closure) is unlikely to be fulfilled.

Along the same line I’ve been delaying the dive-in to the next novel (Shadow Swan, NaNo 2010), because I dipped my toe earlier this week and all my intensity jacked up, full-throttle. That is, I usually feel the tension/stress of my stories until they’re completely written– which explains why I haven’t had the emotional energy to do a lot of work sometimes.

NaNo has been the exception– the pace of writing (and the legitimization of making the Story almost my main world of occupation…) it seems to work out.

There’s a *lot* that needs to be fixed and added to finish it from “just” 50,000 words, and I need to treat this like a marathon, not a sprint. But that looks like it’s going to take some rewiring.

April update 2013 (Facebook compilation)

April 6: Down to one row of rabbits! (Californians went to their new home today.) So thankful for the increased breathing room.

April 7: Melody cried, complained, delayed and “forgot” enough.  She wanted a low-maintenance haircut, Jay gave her one before church.

Shaved Melody 3

Sibling reactions (M came out of the bathroom, griShaved Melody 2nning to sShaved Melody 1plit her face).

Sib reaction 1 Sib reaction 2 Sib reaction 3

April 8: Person of Interest is now my favorite show. On so many levels. I don’t gush, but if you asked me to, I could make a starter list below.

  • Short list (since Becky asked), in no particular order (except #1 is #1)
    • 1. huge value placed on the individual– every life is worth protecting, even when you don’t know who they are or what they contribute to society. They are human: one of us, and therefore worth protecting.
    • The style of humor
    • Nobody yells
    • opportunities for “sexy” visuals are minimized or skipped completely (at least compared to the other shows I’ve seen).
      • I just learned the actor who plays John Reese is a practicing Catholic who refused to do a bedroom scene in an earlier movie because of his beliefs. That’s big-points in my book, makes me glad I’m supporting his work.
    • Smart writing
    • Layered, multi-strand stories
    • Things change almost every episode (i.e., no “Status quo is god” stuff. Even core characters appear to grow)
    • core characters are established, then stretched (i.e., “the brain” and “the brawn” have to swap or at least share roles at times.
    • “No one has to walk alone.”

April 9: (Me- shouting to be heard over the girls’ arguing:)

“Natasha and Melody! May I remind you that you will be living together for the next TEN. YEARS. You need to find a way to get along and communicate without yelling at one another.”


*Quiet conversation.* [Bless God.]

Also April 9: E [gasping in the midst of his story]: I barely got away. Had to kill them with my rubber band. They were *really* hard to kill.

April 10: Had my first business presentation tonight. Well-received, and good feedback from my TM mentor.

This is feeling more real by the day.

Next step might be to rework the UT site to be a more-fitting landing page for a business. (ETA: business website is now instead of UT)

Surreal as well as real. I’m excited and getting into something I’m also good at.

April 13: Cleaned the girls’ room today– by putting each kid’s stuff on her bed.

Stuff always gets left on the floor b/c no one wants to take responsibility. Now that I’ve got the floor clear & vacuumed it’s pretty clear who needs to deal with what.

(Now to see if they finish the aways before bedtime.)

April 17: Anybody else– Okay, any other WOMEN– tired of the “modesty” talks females are repeatedly subjected to? Anybody think it’s time men had their turn? Please enjoy.

April 18: I love this. Especially the bit about finding something that gives you the energy to put the hours in– so true.

April 19: Melody got a new, pre-named toy.

M: Chalky [new toy] doesn’t make me feel ‘safe and cared for’ [the words in his description tag]. *You* make me feel ‘safe and cared for.’”

April 24: Woohoo! Jay got me the first season of Person of Interest for my Bday!

SO fun. Watched the fist two eps tonight.

Only downside is that J likes it too, now, so I can’t just binge my way through the season. :} Have to wait for him.

April 30: “Human beings are the only creatures who are allowed to fail. If an ant fails, it’s dead. But we’re allowed to learn from our mistakes and from our failures. And that’s how I learn, by falling flat on my face and picking myself up and starting all over again.”
? Madeleine L’Engle


So I’m walking by the Living room and hear the word zombies, so I stop and listen.

Melody is telling Elisha how only the one Playmobile figure is human and all the rest are zombies.

So I ask, “What’s a zombie?”
And she says, “A person back from the dead.”
So I say, “Oh, like Lazarus?” and she says, “No. They’re different. If you shake them, bits fall off.”
And I say, “That’s very interesting. Where did you learn about zombies?”

And she said, “From Morgan. In 2nd grade.”
I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry. I love that she’s not afraid, but, Really? Zombies?

August Update 2012

Okay, school’s in session.

Jay asked me to spend the the first day of school on-site, in case the sudden change was too much of a shock for any of the children.

I camped in a workroom one wall from Melody and Elisha’s 1st & 2nd (combined) class and heard their first interactions with their teacher (Elisha’s spontaneous and musical, Melody’s called-on, but confident). The teacher kept going no matter what, continued her lesson without hiccup, and I began to realize how very different this rhythm was than anything I could do.

Before the end of the morning I was pretty agitated, actually. The hum and energy and metronome-steady press so close to me was nearly overwhelming.

I went into their classroom at lunch, and read to Melody after she finished eating.

She’d seen an illustrated version of Heidi in the book basket, one she remembered reading at home, and asked for it. For the next few minutes she lay in my arms and just soaked up Mama. While the rest of the class thrummed by their desks waiting to be released to recess.

The next morning (and every morning the rest of the week) Melody made it clear she was not interested in going away to school anymore, but we emphasized this was not a decision she got to make.

At the same time, I understood.  The clip and the rhythm and the push of an experienced teacher is very different that what any of us are used to, and it was nothing that I would be comfortable with myself.  I wrestled briefly with whether I could make my kids do something I wouldn’t do myself.

My conclusion was two-fold:

  1. I already had done this. I wasn’t asking her to do something I never endured.
  2. I think all children need both structure and the opposite in their lives. If my kids can get the structure side of things from someone else, that means that I don’t have to make it happen. And that. is awesome.

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