Tuesday, September 22, 2015

"Sara who never cried.”

“Perhaps I have not really a good temper at all, but if you have everything you want and everyone is kind to you, how can you help but be good-tempered? Perhaps I'm a HIDEOUS child, and no one will ever know, just because I never have any trials. (Sara Crewe, A Little Princess)” 

We require different things at different times in our lives. Funny, how such a simple concept can be so mind blowing. When I first started writing 2 years ago, I craved the bustle of a well lit coffee shop. I loved the people, the smells, the sounds. In that environment I thrived.  In that environment, I was creative. 3 weeks ago, when I started writing again, I went back to the same coffee shop enviroment. I wanted the same smells, the same lighting, the same sounds and even the same tasting coffee. I found I could barely work. Even the writing I was able to do, I later discovered it to be riddled with extra words, typos and at times, complete nonsense.

So I went home. The silence when I first walked into my empty house was so lovely I got tears in my eyes.  I have changed in the last couple of years, I no longer needed the bustle, What I needed to be creative, was the silence.

The last two years have taken their toll on me.  Most days I am old, so very old. I fear my posts are more stoic than they used to be. The humor no longer bubbles out effortlessly, I second guess myself far more than I used to. I am more awkward, angrier, far more confused, not nearly so confidant and most days more than a little depressed. But there is purpose in it all, there is beauty, I KNOW there is. My job as a writer, is to find it, against the odds - without dismissing the pain.  Because pain has purpose. Pain has it's own kind of deep beauty, a deeply creative beauty that is not to be dismissed because it is not as entertaining.  But this frustrates me, because feelings are not tangible, they are un-reliable, they change, they can be caused by hormones and environment.  They do not speak truth. What I can touch, what I can see, what I can explain.  That is what I cling to, that is what I base my perception of reality on, otherwise I may go completely insane!

Of course, then the question must be asked...what is insanity? Insanity cannot be measured by any scale I have ever seen, so how do we know when we get there?  How do we know if we have avoided it? How do we know we want to avoid it...

I used to be a better parent than I am now, though I feel it falls somewhere in the category of how everyone is an excellent parent...until they have kids.  I just took it a step further.

I am stubborn to a fault.  That means I am a very good parent to toddlers/pre-schoolers.  Ages 1-5?  I got this. Want me to teach your three-nager to behave?  Bring it on. I never met a toddler I could not handle, and I have met lots and lots of toddlers. Trust me. Yours is not special...well, they are special. But not in that way.

Toddlers I get. Toddlers, even preschoolers and into early elementary I can handle - not always gracefully, but when it comes down to it, after 9 years of trial and error, I know what I am doing.

And then without warning and without my permission, my responsibility has suddenly gotten wider: Tween-dom. Pre-teen hormones, emotional breakdowns and elementary school drama. Tween-dom has scary things I am not emotionally prepared to deal with!

I have absolutely no idea what I am doing.

I have one major character flaw, (ok, maybe I have a few more than that...but one that stands out in this particular situation)  I am not naturally empathetic. So that makes navigating the world of pre-teen emotions feel close to impossible.

Do I smile wisely and tell her "everything will be ok."  Do I offer advice? Do I intervene? Do I give her space? Do I make a cup of tea and sit us both down to go over every detail and talk about what it all could mean? Do I tell her that "this too shall pass" and dismiss it all? Do I tell her to "toughen up!" and show her picture of children in Africa that have no clothes and no smart phones?

Perhaps the best strategy would simply be to throw chocolate at her and run away...because I can do that!

I am genuinely asking for advice here. I feel so entirely clueless as to how to parent a pre-teen girl. I don't remember being 9.  What happened when I was 9? My baby brother was born...no, I was 8 1/2 when he was born.  What happened when I was 9? No clue. No memories....that is either a really good sign, or a really bad one.

How on earth do I handle a highly emotional, extremely creative, high-strung, very inventive, beautifully imaginative but insanely disorganized, intuitive, artistic 9 1/2 year old girl? Anyone? Because I am at a loss, and prayer and chocolate are coming up short.

We had a very challenging afternoon yesterday, we have had a lot of those lately. The task was simple, clean the front yard of all the bits and pieces of items you have brought out there with you, only to abandon instead of taking them back inside where they belong.

Simple yes? She had a break after school to  rest, she had a snack - she got to work.

First, there were tears because she thought I had asked her to only clean the grass, not the pavement...or brick wall...or bench...or dirt. The world fell apart when she learned that "cleaning the front yard" requires more than just clearing the grass. And when her world falls apart, everything falls apart...she gets a headache, she feels like she is going to throw up and she is sure she has a fever. Her friends have not been playing with her, so she is crying because of that...not because of the work. She suddenly remembers that she forgot some homework and her teacher is going to be mad. She remembers her pet mouse that passed away, and that starts everything all over again and she really wants to go hold her hamster so she can feel better and then she stubs her toes trying to get up off of the ground and everything is really really hard today!

When my tween falls apart the result is she CAN'T do it. She is sad, she is lonely, she is not strong enough, she is hurt, She becomes awkward, angry, confused, not nearly so confidant and more than a little depressed...and I start to get this nagging feeling like I have seen this before.

For my emotional tween, her world fell apart when the surface area she was responsible for suddenly grew wider without her permission. She felt she could handle the grass, she knew what she was doing. And then without warning, she also had to deal with the dirt. The dirt has spiders, and cat pee. The dirt has scary things she was not emotionally prepared to deal with.

I have one major character flaw.  I am not naturally an empathetic person. Because you see, feelings are not tangible, they are un-reliable, they change, they can be caused by hormones and environment. They do not speak truth. What I can touch, what I can see, what I can explain...That is what I trust.

“She looked into the staring glass eyes and complacent face, and suddenly a sort of heartbroken rage seized her. She lifted her little savage hand and knocked Emily off the chair, bursting into a passion of sobbing- Sara who never cried.” 

But this isn't working...I have no idea how to deal with this.  And I have this sinking feeling that it is only going to get scarier, dirtier.

First I listened, I tried my very best to understand. I took a deep breath and told her:

"I KNOW you can do it. I will not do it for you. Use the tools you have around you to get the job done. Think logically, don't let Scared be boss - use the feelings as motivation to get it done quickly, channel them. Breath...and do the task in front of you. Because if you do not, the benefits you receive for being responsible will be taken away. But in the end, it is your choice. What is more important? Your fear and anger, or your freedoms."

It took an hour. One measly hour, in the grand scheme of things, that is a very short time.  It took one hour of talking, crying, being angry, sad, scared, confused. It took her an hour. But she did it! She did it all by herself!  And the joy, oh the joy on that little girls face when she beat her fear?  When she got dirty, when she used her fear and her anger not as a roadblock, but as motivation to complete the task in front of her was contagious and lasting.  The rest of her day was rimmed with gold, she was giddy, she was empowered.

I fear I am not so entertaining an author as I used to be. The humor no longer bubbles out effortlessly, I second guess myself far more than I used to. This becomes a problem as I write to seek representation and ultimately, publication.  But you know what?  This is a season, and this season has purpose. One lovely thing about living with consistently hard days?  The beautiful moments are brighter, you don't take them for granted. Perhaps that is the beauty I am supposed to find.

In the end, even when there is no motivation, when it all feels too big. When I am not sure I can do this, when all I can see is the anger because I am tired, because I hurt, because I feel so very old.  I have a choice. I KNOW I can do this. No one is going to do it for me. I must find tools to get the job done. I must think logically and not let Scared be boss.

Me, just me - I alone get to choose what is more important. I have to remember to breath...and do the task in front of me. Today, right now, I get to choose,  My fear and anger? Or the freedom to follow my dreams. I can channel all of those scary thoughts into motivation and watch my world change to gold before my very eyes,  

“You see, now that trials have come, they have shown that I am NOT a nice child. I was afraid they would. Perhaps... that is what they were sent for... I suppose there MIGHT be good in things, even if we don't see it.” 

Thursday, August 20, 2015


“Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. Capable of both inflicting injury, and remedying it.”

Words.  Words carry a magic that cannot be defined.  Many have tried, and given a valiant effort no doubt.  But it cannot be done, should not be done.  

I feel so very fortunate that I get to play with words.  

Two years ago, almost to the day, I started on a journey to become a "Real Author."  I grabbed about 2.7 hours, twice a week and felt something wake up in me.  Something that had been sleeping.  It was glorious, the greatest form of therapy I have ever experienced.  A wild excitement would take hold - often I did not entirely feel like I was in control. I could write for hours in a row, never get tired and then - at the end of it all I could go back and truly not remember writing everything that was written in the page in front of me.  

For the first time in my life I knew, that this was what I had been created to do - and even if no one ever read my ramblings. Even if I never ever make any money at this, THIS is what I would do for the rest of my life.   

And then 8 months later I got to stop.  Life took over, good life.  Wonderful life.  I like life, life is GOOD.  But life, does not allow for writing.  Not the writing I was doing anyhow.  Life is full of little girls and laundry.  Life is not friendly to hours of un-interrupted writing time...because it does have to be un-interrupted - or I get angry and that is not good for anyone.  

So I put that away, again.  But this time, instead of putting away several ideas and one partially started story - I was putting away 5 completed stories, 3 partial stories, a few short poems, 4 rejection letters from agents and a half dozen more ideas.  It was sad, but I knew that was what was needed for the time being - and I was so very proud of the progress I had managed to make in 5 short hours per week for 8 months! 

Today - today marks another achievement,  Today my littlest started preschool.  Today I woke up again! Today I blew the dust off of my lost manuscripts.  Today I renewed my contacts and started making some new ones in my new city.  Today I start being me again! Not that I wasn't me before, but there was a part of me that was sleeping.  It needed to sleep - to protect the rest of me.  But oh it gets to wake up again! And this time I get almost 8 whole hours per week!

Real life is good.  Really good, but I need to write. 

I get to write! I feel like singing...not that that is unusual, ask my girls.  I sing a lot...I may actually need to work on that one.  I get stares from strangers quite regularly.  

But that is beside the point...   

Of course now, I need some help.  I will be putting together another "feedback team" to read my work and give me your thoughts.  I need people willing to be honest about content - while at the same time ignoring my spelling and grammar mistakes (I have others to help with that, but it rarely happens until the manuscript is in a "finished" mode, because before that really, what is the point?  And it can take a very long time to get to "finished" content-wise.  

So if you want to be a part of my "team" then send me an email at TheBottomRail  (that would be @gmail.com) and I'll add you to my list.   

My adventure is re-awakening.  I am so very excited! And who knows where this adventure will lead...

“There are no safe paths in this part of the world. Remember you are over the Edge of the Wild now, and in for all sorts of fun wherever you go.” 

Thursday, May 28, 2015

You must throw yourself in. There is no other way.

“Then the Old Man of the Earth stooped over the floor of the cave, raised a huge stone from it, and left it leaning. It disclosed a great hole that went plumb-down.

"That is the way," he said. 
"But there are no stairs." 
"You must throw yourself in. There is no other way.” 
    ― George MacDonald, The Golden Key

Ah but how often in life are we required to throw ourselves in, not knowing clearly what is at the bottom?  How often are we clutching onto the sides of our caves, holding onto what is dank, dark, slimy - yet familiar. We are terrified, so wholly of the mysterious below - a world with no comforts promised, and yet it has been created entirely for us, We are the puzzle piece, designed to fit perfectly...but to be entirely enveloped is a scary thing.  There is no out, no wiggle room.  No "Exit" sign to bypass the rollar-coaster.

"You must throw yourself in.  There is no other way."

Perhaps it is the seasons changing, perhaps it is because I celebrated both a birthday and an anniversary this month - getting older always makes me look inward. Perhaps it is because this weekend makes one year since we moved, and time has flown far faster then I ever imagined possible.  Perhaps it is because just in the last month, my youngest no longer needed pull-ups at night, my middling started reading effortlessly and my oldest asked to buy her first training bra...and along with these changes, I am entering into a whole new realm of parenting that is un-known, exciting and truly terrifying.

But...but...I had just gotten good at this!  This parenting young kids thing, I had it down! We had learned to master the tantrums - even the ones where you are unsure whether the child needs more 1-on-1 attention, a firmer hand...or an exorcist (You know the ones moms, and no, it is not just your kid. We have all been there. You are not alone!)

I had FINALLY learned to let go of so many things I used to stress about. Like whether my kids had eaten enough dinner, whether their shoes were on the right feet, tattling, arguments, noise levels, whining, etc. I have worked through the compulsion to nag, I had (mostly) gotten a handle on yelling. I had gotten really good at stepping aside and simply letting life be the teacher - and trust me, life is a far harsher and more effective teacher than I could ever hope to be. It took me 9 years to learn, but I just started getting good at this!

And now I am buying training bras...and I don't know what the hell I am doing.  And this is only the beginning.  New adventures are ahead, I can feel it. I am excited, truly.  Well, that and horribly afraid. But isn't that how the world works?

My world just got bigger. Again.

My daily devotions have been an unusual mix of late.  In my own quite time I have been reading the book of Job. A truly eye opening book, if you will allow it to be. And in my shared Bible reading with my kids, we have been reading Proverbs. Along with these truly challenging books of the Bible, I have been engulfed in health issues again.  Most of you know my struggle with the auto-immune disease Hashimoto's Thyroiditis.

I have dealt with this officially for almost 4 years, but looking back I think I have had it on and off for a good portion of my adult life. It affects just about every body system both physical and emotional. I am on medication everyday, have changed my diet dramatically - deal with a good number of the 300 symptoms listed in the link above and I just discovered this last month that despite everything I have done to make it better, both natural treatments as well as medical intervention - my numbers are still WAY off of where they should be (or in my doctors words: "Your thyroid is very not-happy" I am told that is the technical term.) This means drastically upping my medication and the process of adjusting to that, which is not easy on a body.

I am not who I used to be before I learned to deal with all this.  I am older, wiser, slower, more introverted. I complain more about the little things and less about the big ones. I am less reliable, more inclined to crazy outbursts and far more likely to cry at Wells Fargo commercials than I ever was before. I am also a lot more careful how I treat people.  After all, we don't know what silent battles they are fighting.

You see, regardless of how high my TSH numbers are - It Is Well With My Soul.

It is not well with my body, it is not well with my hormones, my emotions are a wreck and I am pretty sure I am failing in this whole stay-at-home wife/mother thing.

But it is well with my soul.

“Well, perhaps; but I begin to think there are better things than being comfortable.” 

Tuesday morning my oldest managed to somehow injure her neck.  She tweaked it funny and suddenly she couldn't move. The Doctor assures us that it is muscular and will heal, but in the meantime, she is living with a whole new realm of chronic pain she has never experienced before. For her, life has been full of comfort, the physical world has been easy.  This pain feels like a betrayal of her cozy world.  It has been interesting to observe her process of handling it - and she has handled it.  Far better than she thinks she has.  It has grown her, her world has gotten bigger.  She will do wonderful things in her life, she is becoming a truly spectacular person and this, this debilitating pain is part of her journey. In the grand scheme of things it may seem like a small part, but right now it engulfs her. There is no out, no wiggle room.  No "Exit" sign to bypass the rollar-coaster.

"You must throw yourself in.  There is no other way."

Right now, on a fully 9 year old level her body feels broken.  She cannot play with friends, she cannot read her books. She keeps telling me "mama, I am not handling this very well!" But oh she is! Right now she feels broken.  But her soul, it is ok.  She is learning how to be well beyond being comfortable. And I am so proud of her.

You see - if Job has taught me anything, it is that this life has purpose beyond our comfort. Beyond our Here and Now.  In fact, I would go so far as to say that our comfort is very VERY low on the list of what is truly important.

There are no stairs, the way is not clear. It is dark, it is scary and often it feels very, very lonely.

Sometimes I think I am completely failing at this whole stay-at-home mom/wife thing. But you know what?  That's ok.  Because I was handpicked to be mom to these exact kids, by someone who knows a lot better than I do exactly what they need in order to be the people they were designed to be.

There is peace in that thought.  My job is not to be perfect, but to help my girls grow to be as spectacular as God meant them to be when those souls first sparked into being.  My job is to be there to shout "Jump!"  You can do it, oh it is scary, but there is a world designed just for you waiting below. You are the missing puzzle piece.  You have been trained for this, you have been prepared. You may feel alone sometimes, but there is purpose in the pain and I promise you - to the core of my being that you will be ok.

You must throw yourself in, there is no other way.

“It was a profound pleasure to her not to know what was coming next, provided some one whom she loved did.” 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Giant Booger is ALIVE! My Kombucha Journey...

Kombucha -, is a lightly effervescent fermented drink of sweetened black and/or green tea that is used as a functional food. It is produced by fermenting the tea using a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast, or "SCOBY".

Most of you who know me well, know that I tend to get excited about weird things.  My obsession with cloth diapers lasted for several years, I got way into baby led weaning.  The sourdough at least had practical purposes, the essential oil thing feels like it will never run it's course and now, this whole fermented tea thing seems to be icing on the cake of "Sarah's weird obsessions!" 

To be perfectly honest, kombucha would make terrible icing. I don't recommend that at all.

But as a replacement for sugary, carbonated drinks that are horrible for you - and to add B vitamins, antioxidants, healthy bacteria, and glucaric acid to your diet, this stuff is amazing...and kind of addictive.   

So having heard good things about it (can allegedly help to heal leaky gut and stop candida, reduce arthritis and inflammation, heal IBS, give you energy and of course - cure cancer.  You know, much the same as all those other "health fad/crazy hippie things" promise). I tried it at Target one day on a whim, loved it and soon became more than a little obsessed about making it myself - primarily because it is almost $4 a bottle if you buy it in the store (and I was soon buying myself a bottle 2-3 times a week, which when I added up the monthly cost made me feel a little weak in the knees. But I knew it was fairly easy to make at home, so I started my VERY extensive research process.  And when I say I am researching something, that means that I am spending hours a day, sometime for weeks at a time, online looking up every blog, article, and scientific journal I can find on it. I am talking to those that have been through the process, browsing bookstores and learning about the risks, the benefits and the exact steps I need to take in order to be successful at this.  

The biggest thing I needed to start was a SCOBY (Symbiotic Colony Of Bacteria and Yeast) or what I lovingly call, my Giant Booger. I wanted a good one, so I called my local health-food store, and was so excited when they said they had starter kits!  I gathered children up and stuffed them into the car, full of excitement to finally be making some of my own kombucha!  I bought the starter kit for way to much money, and a bottle of pre-made kombucha so I could enjoy it as I created.  

I had a large glass jar, as well as small ones for portioning it all out, I cleaned everything in HOT water and just a small amount of soap, rinsed it really well and soaked everything in a water/vinegar mixture to sanitize.  This step is VERY important. Since I started I have discovered just how important it is, I now go through a half gallon of vinegar per week just rinsing everything that touches my tea...I'll tell you why in a moment.  

Ah, tea!  I chose black tea, though you can also make kombucha with green. NO flavored or herbal teas though.  A full pot of water, 10 tea bags, 1 1/2 cups of white sugar. 

I find the process of fermentation fascinating. Purposefully taking part in creating something fermented always makes me feel powerful. I really have no idea why, I think it makes me feel like I know a secret that others seem to somehow be missing - maybe it is just that we as Americans are missing fermented foods so terribly in our diet.  The process of fermentation is tricky because what you are working with is alive and must be cared for accordingly.  I will admit, I get a little over-confidant sometimes in my abilities....and unfortunately this was one of those times.  

I let my tea cool to between 80-85F and added it to my jar along with the piece of a scoby and starter liquid that came in the kit, covered it with cheese-cloth and tucked it into a corner of my kitchen.

Then, I waited....and waited...and waited...SO HARD! I imagined that fizzy, glorious kombucha I would get to taste, 2 weeks is how long I figured it would take since I didn't have a fully developed scoby.  At the end of two weeks my kombucha was not very strong.  But I wanted to try it anyway.  I scooped out my newly developing scoby:

See how cute? The chunk you see was the piece I started out with and the thin film was the new, baby scoby.

I bottled my kombucha - half with juice and half plain and set it out to ferment a second time.  This is what adds the bubbles. I gave that 3-4 days, but still was not happy with the taste.  It was not very fizzy nor did it have much of the tartness I had grown to love. I figured this would take a bit of training to get it right, so I re-started the process, putting all my jars into the frig and re-brewing more tea, adding back my scoby and starter and putting the jar away again, figuring that this time it shouldn't take as long.

I checked it two days later and was horrified to see...MOLD! Oh no! Mold is the enemy of the kombucha brewer...where had I gone wrong? I started crazy research into how and why batches get mold, what you can do to avoid it and what must be done once you have it.

I was truly heartbroken when I discovered that once you get mold, there is nothing that can be done but starting over.  My beautiful baby scoby, down the drain. All my hard work!  But what about my brewed jars in the frig?   I had already had one of them - but decided not to have any more for the time being.  My scoby was gone, but I did have jars of plain kombucha still.  So I re-sanitized everything.  I brewed more tea and used my pre-brewed tea to start again.  A week later...I had mold again.

Devastated (Yeah, I get way to into this!) I threw out all my small jars.  I don't know how the contamination got into it.  I do live about 5 miles from a VERY large body of water...so I think that as a general rule, there is more mold in the air here than you would find inland. But oh, it saddened me so!

Since I had had success growing a scoby from simply using my liquid, and I did not want to spend the money on a starter kit again (And still being un-sure of where the contamination came from) I decided to try again using a bottle of store bought kombucha.  So I brewed my tea, added my sugar, let it cool and put it into my jar with a whole bottle of store bought, unflavored kombucha. A week later, I checked on my jar only to discover that the cheesecloth had somehow slid off of it...and my fuzzy nemesis was rearing it's ugly head AGAIN.

Cue pathetic pity party. I honestly felt like crying.

I took a break, sure that I simply did not have the touch. About a month later, mason jars were on sale at Target.  So I bought a half gallon size, and a bottle of green tea kombucha, figuring a smaller surface area might help - and I may as well try out the green stuff as my starter.

This time I used full strength vinegar to wash EVERYTHING, from the jar it was going into, to the thermometer I used to make sure my tea had cooled all the way, to my hands every time I touched anything that could cause a contaminate.

This time? It worked! It tasted amazing and I had a healthy scoby and NO MOLD!!

 I bottled it up, added mandarin orange slices and candied ginger for flavor and fizz and put it back on the shelf:

                       **I do not recommend storing kombucha where the sun can see it. I just thought it looked pretty in the window for the picture. It usually resides in my pantry or my frig once it has been fully fermented.

The second fermentation only took 2 days this time, and the result was AMAZING! Fizzy, tart, perfectly flavored.  I felt victorious!

I have now added a second jar to brew two batches at once - since my husband has started drinking it as well and it was only lasting me 2 days.  I have brewed 5 successful batches now, trying out several flavors (orange ginger and mango are my favorite. Strawberry and kiwi...not so much.) I have noticed adding real fruit instead of juice creates a better fizz.

Prepped and ready for bottling

Top view of a healthy Scoby.  See the bubbles?  It's alive! BAD is when round, fuzzy, blue and white mold appears on top there.  BAD!

My two giant boogers. Aren't they pretty? No? Maybe it is just me...?  Because I started with a green tea base I still have green flecks in my scoby, It adds to the whole booger look. I now let them rest in full strength vinegar between batches.  It helps to keep them clean and doesn't affect their brewing at all.

I do a continuous brew to help keep out contaminates.  I leave about 2 cups of tea at the bottom of each jar so the scoby goes back into strong tea before the new "food" tea is added.

Before I add the tea, I boil the (filtered) water with the lid on for 10 minutes to fully kill anything that could have been on the pot or in the water.  I then turn off the fire, add the tea and let it steep covered for another 10 minutes.  Then I remove the bags, add the cup-and-a-half of white sugar, cover it again to keep it safe and let it cool for several hours.

Altogether, the process takes about an hour a week (minus cooling time) but it costs only pennies and it is soooo much better than the store bought stuff.  And look how pretty!  Marshall's is by far the cheapest place to buy nice bottles at $2-$4 a piece. Or I also have a cleaned out wine bottle with a silicon cork.  

It was certainly a process to learn how this finicky tea wanted to be brewed. But I am so glad I stuck with it!  And while I am not sure about the whole "curing cancer thing" - I LOVE how the tea makes me feel. I drink about 4-8oz a day, and it has completely taken away any temptation to drink soda or juice of any kind. 

Please let me know if you have any Kombucha questions at all, If you would like some starter liquid (or a baby scoby) feel free to ask.  If I cannot answer questions myself, I should be able to find the answer for you or send you in the right researching direction.  

A few tips I have learned in the process - and please feel free to share your own as well.  I love learning new things, I still feel pretty new at this!

1. Mold = BAD. If you see anything fuzzy, toss the whole thing. You don't want to risk it. 
2. Patience = GOOD. It will happen. Give it time.
3. Always use glass to store your kombucha. Never ceramic, plastic or metal. It can leech chemicals from whatever it is in, you don't want to be drinking that! 
4. Sanitize EVERYTHING as you brew (with white vinegar or heat. Not bleach or soap). 
5. Always leave space at the top when you are doing a second fermentation (not necessary, just fun to add bubbles) or you could have an explosive situation! 
6. Use only black or green tea, plain white sugar and filtered, boiled water. 
7. Cover with coffee filters secured with a band of some sort. Cheese cloth and dishtowels both equaled mold for me. 
8. Start slow! No more than 4oz a day until you get used to it. Kombucha will detox your body so expect to pee constantly the first few days of drinking it (and make sure you are also drinking plenty of water). Don't drink Kombucha if you are pregnant or if you have a compromised immune system (or any liver issues). 
9. Kombucha and sourdough starter do NOT get along. Keep them far away from one another! 
10. RESEARCH! Know the Why's, the How's and the Why Not's. If you don't have it in you to truly study and learn what you are doing, stick to paying the $4 a bottle. You are drinking something that is un-filtered, un-pasterized, alive and raw. Know what you are doing, be 100% confidant it is safe! 

11. (Because did you really expect me to end on a nice, organized and round number?) HAVE FUN! Ok - so this may sound weird.  But truly, enjoy creating.  This process is amazing, what it can do for your body is amazing.  There is art and beauty to the be had in this.  Be present, be a part of the process. 

Happy Brewing!

* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Stop Telling My Girls That They Are Pretty!

Diana: "Gilbert told Charlie Sloan that you were the smartest girl in school, right in front of Josie."
Anne: "He did?"
Diana: "He told Charlie being smart was better than being good looking."
Anne: "I should have known he meant to insult me.” 
                                                                                  - Anne of Green Gables: L.M. Montgomery

I am not sure if you have noticed - but I am the mother of three wonderful, smart, imaginative, strong, clever, brave, ambitious, proud, creative, loyal, empathetic, stubborn, kind, and beautiful girls.  

And I have a bone to pick with you - yes, all of you.  Well, most of you - and just to be fair, I'll include myself in the mix as well. 

You see - as mother to the three aforementioned girls (hmm...I had no idea "aforementioned" was all one word.  For no apparent reason, that entirely delights me!), it is my job to nurture every single one, of the qualities listed above. As well as the many more that pop up as they grow and become more and more the women they were created to be.  It is my job to make sure they are thankful, polite, kind and that they grow up with a good solid sense of self, and of what is truly important in life. It is my job to make sure they understand that it matters the most how people are on the inside, and not what is seen on the outside.  It is my job to teach them that they are responsible for their actions, their words, the thoughts they allow into their minds.  That they can choose, every single day what kind of attitude they will have - how they will face their day.  Whether or not they will let life's difficulties defeat them, or challenge them to try harder.  They get to choose what kind of person they will become, what their priorities in life will be. Who they are in relation to others - Whether it will be a kind, loving, empathetic, strong, brave and ambitious person, someone who advocates for the hurting, builds up those around them. Or not... 

This is my job as their mom, and I do not take it lightly.

I want their imaginations to run wild with the delight of growing up, of working hard, and making their dreams come true.  I want them to know they can work hard now to make their dreams come true, and they will! I never want them to feel that they must hold back for any reason.  Not because they are young, because of race, social status, sexual orientation and certainly not because they are female or because something is just plain hard. I want them to always have the confidence they need in order to try, fail and try again.  I also want them to care about the dreams of others - and never, ever be callous, derogatory, insulting, lazy, entitled, or cruel at the expense of others.

I want my girls never to accept 'no' for an answer when it comes to what they believe to be right and good. I want them always to know they can stand up for themselves and fight to make their opinions heard - even if it differs from my own. I want them to be wholly their own person, not little mini-me's - not a picture of what they feel they somehow should be.  

I want my girls to never, ever doubt that if they work hard, they can change the world.  Because they can. Oh they can!

My girls can achieve anything they set their minds to.  I know this, I hope they know this. I hope all little girls know this...but you see, I don't think that they all do.  

And this is partially our fault . Yes, us, the grown-ups. 

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You see - when it comes to empowering our girls, we are really good talkers.  We like to watch the commercials, read the blogs, rant and rave for or against your own brand of gender equality (Whatever bend you would like to give it) - but very little seems to be changing.  Why?  

I will admit - in many ways I have been puzzled, I still am to a point.  I can see very clearly that something is not adding up.  But I am having trouble finding something solid to grab onto in my quest to instill these things fully into my kids.  I can spout what I believe until I am blue in the face, but that wont change anything. I feel like the problem goes deeper, starts sooner.  I have been focusing lots of my attention on this for almost 9 years now, ever since I became mom to a girl. And now, as my kids are starting to make that transition from little-kids to "tweens" I am starting to notice some patterns.  You see - I truly believe that the problem starts with us, with the grown-ups.  We want our girls to feel like they can do anything - but we are shooting ourselves in the foot, we are building our own barriers. We are doing this wrong, making it far more difficult than it should be and we don't even realize it....and it is time to stop.

This picture has been floating around Pinterest, I am not entirely sure where it came from.  But I shudder every single time I see it: 

Ah - looks like you can buy the shirt here

Yeah, that is not going to happen.  Am I the only one that doesn't think this is cute?  This is where I feel much of our “issues” (no pun intended) begin.

I have one simple request, to start this change of thinking - It starts with the greeting that almost every single adult gives my children almost every single time they see them. Think for a moment - you meet a young girl and you are given the opportunity to have a conversation with her, just the two of you and expected to fill the next 2-3 minutes with small talk.  What do you start with? What do 90% of adults start with?

"That is a very pretty dress," "I love your curly hair!" "Those sparkly shoes are very cute," "I love your boots!" Or as simple as "You are such a pretty girl!" or "You look just like a princess!" Little girls hear it over and over and over again, all day, every day. I've done it, we all have. Some adults even take it a step further - like the doctor that recently saw my youngest when we weren't sure if she needed stitches - and I quote:  "Now the big question is, what princess are you going to be for Halloween?"  Complete assumption. Little girl = pretty, pretty princess. His question was met with complete confusion on the part of my daughter (was she supposed to be a princess? Was she doing it wrong because she wanted to be a tiger?) and a quick "we are not hugely into princesses in our house, note the rocket-ship PJ's," from me. and an embarrassed change of subject from the pediatrician who apparently had never before met a 3 year old girl that was not obsessed with princesses – this is not ok people! Am I the only one that thinks this way? Am I somehow off? Have I missed something here?

My husband's company has had a huge conference this week, bringing in all the employees from around the world to meet together. He was telling me last night about all the fascinating people he has met. Off hand he mentioned that all the software developers in the company are male. Not unusual, but oh it made my heart ache when I heard it. All I could think of was my brilliant, mechanically-minded 8-year-old-girl, who would have to fight tooth and nail to make it in an industry like that, if she chose to go that route. And how there was a far bigger chance that someone would comment on how pretty her red hair is today, than tell her that her quick math skills could open worlds to her if she keeps working hard.

So this, my beloved readers, is a call to arms.  I challenge you to change how you interact with young girls. I'm not saying that it will fix everything, but it feels like a start. Something tangible we can do to help stop this trend.  Is your brain spinning a bit? We need to wake up a little, you see - us parents can rant and rave all we like. Blog posts can be written, articles read.  But until we truly take steps in real life, nothing is going to change.  I can't do this alone.  I need your help.

Now - I understand that this is how we have been trained. I am not faulting anyone for trying to compliment my daughters - I am also not anti-princess.  My girls enjoy them alright, they also enjoy super-heroes, spies, hot wheels, dinosaurs, pirates, tea parties, mine craft, wizards, star wars, reading, dress-up, and arts and crafts (so much paper and tape!)  Their play is in no way princess centered, nor have they ever told me that they are, or ever want to be a princess (though my littlest did tell me recently that she wanted to be king...) We also don't call them "princess". I am not saying it's wrong to call your daughter a princess, to each their own. But we have made the choice not to in this family.  

I know that calling little girls "cute or pretty" all the time is a social norm that adults simply fall back on when they don't know what else to say - but do you realize how learning to expect a compliment every time they meet someone new, associating the high we as human naturally get when we are admired always with what we are wearing? How we look? Think how often girls hear this. REALLY think.  It is all the time.  And then in the same breath that we just used to compliment those mini UGG boots, we say "it doesn't matter how you look on the outside."  Is it any wonder that the messages are getting skewed? It goes entirely against what I am trying to instill in my daughters.  We love to preach about gender equality, about empowerment, about "being the real you no matter what anyone says."  But by flippantly giving out compliments as if they are candy, we are training our girls from such a young age to value things that simply don't matter.  

The other day, my oldest daughter (8) asked me a question.  She said "Mom - why is it that it's a good thing when kids get bigger and gain weight - but all adult girls seem to want to lose weight? It is very confusing!" 

I was floored, speechless (for a moment anyway). I took a deep breath, said a quick prayer - and told her that it is all about being healthy, and that as a kid, it is a healthy thing to grow and get bigger.  But when you are an adult, sometimes it can be a challenge to get good exercise since we don't have things like recess, so adults talk sometimes about needing to be healthier and often, losing weight is a part of being healthy.  I hope I did ok, she seemed satisfied. 

These kids hear us. They are smarter than we give them credit for, they know, they see. We say things about ourselves that would be considered verbal abuse if we were to say it to someone else...and yet we spout penny compliments to our girls without even looking up from our cell-phones. How are they supposed to understand this? 

So my call to change is this.  Let us be honest with our girls, because let's face it - they can tell the difference anyway.  Compliment the ambition, instead of the boots, tell them they look like an adventurer instead of a princess, ask what their favorite knock, knock joke is (trust me, they have one) and tell them yours. (if you don't have one, get one. Everyone should have a favorite knock, knock joke!) Be genuinely amazed when they show you a project they are currently working on, or what books they have read, or what they have recently accomplished that was challenging - because trust me, these kids are amazing! Ask them what they want to be when they grow up, ask them why? Tell them when you were a kid, you wanted to be a dragon and listen to them laugh...or laugh when they give you an "do you expect me to believe that?" look and tell them they are pretty quick and can't be fooled.  

Do you still feel the need to tell my girls they are pretty?  Tell them they are pretty when you catch them being kind to someone.  Tell them they look beautiful when they are running, jumping, playing. Tell them you love their smile, that it makes you want to smile too. . Tell them stories about other kids you have read/heard/seen that were activists for change around the world and ask them what kinds of things they like to do to help others. Or, give them a genuine compliment. 
Compliments are important, we all need them. But they need to be REAL, not automatic, don't let it be filler. Don't let it be what you say to my girls just because you can't think of anything else to say.  Be more creative than that!  
Because I am not sure if you have noticed - but I am the mother of three wonderful, smart, imaginative, strong, clever, brave, ambitious, proud, creative, loyal, empathetic, stubborn and kind girls that are all beautiful both inside and out.  They are continually learning to be the women they were created to be, and I feel so blessed I get to watch it all happen!  

I can't wait to see what each and every one of them does with her life, I cannot wait to see them change the world.