- Posts for family and friends tag

This weekend, my daughter played with one of her classmates and liked the tie-dye shirt he was wearing. She asked if she could buy one and I explained that it’s even better to make your own, so guess what we ended up doing on Sunday morning?

The stores here don’t carry Rit Dye, which was the one brand I remember using as a teenager. But we did find a Tulip Tie Dye kit – one in the entire store! – and bought that, along with a pack of 5 boys white t-shirts. Rowan chose the patterns, so I did the rolling, bunching, and rubber banding, and she applied the dye. Here are the results:

Tie Dye | Our Prairie Nest

Tie Dye | Our Prairie Nest

Tie Dye | Our Prairie Nest

Her favorite color is blue, so she went pretty crazy with it. In fact, we ran out of that color before we ran out of the green and pink. She had a lot of fun doing this, so I’m sure this is a project we’ll repeat in the future, once she outgrows these shirts.

Enough for Me | Our Prairie Nest
Enough for Me

I don’t have it all and being among other moms kind of drives that point home for me. Today, especially, I felt the weight of judgment that’s probably just a figment of my imagination.

It all started Friday night, spending time with people I’m aware are far better off than I am. Actually, it started before that when someone very graciously picked up the tab for an event I’m interested in attending, after I mentioned needing to put off spending money on until closer to the date. While I appreciate the gesture, it injures my pride a little bit. Now I have to figure out how to repay that person without it seeming awkward. Of course, I realize a true friend won’t be weird about it, but I still hardly know most of the people around me.

As it is, I have a hard time getting comfortable with people. I’m always waiting for their judgment, because it’s loomed over me since I was a kid: I’m weird. I don’t fit in.

With motherhood, it’s even more acute. First, when I had my son, I had That Mom Friend who did everything with her kids that “normal” moms do: took them to the Picture People for monthly photos, had the perfect house with a finished basement playroom, and strong opinions about the things we “should” be doing. I couldn’t keep up and, frankly, I didn’t want to.

More than ten years later, that feeling is still there with my youngest. It doesn’t help that my fellow mothers are now millennials, instead of Gen Xers. Of course, we can still relate to each other as parents, but there’s an age gap that makes it obvious we are coming from very different places.

The big difference, though, is how much effort I put into entertaining my little one. I’m comfortable with her finding her own way, so I don’t provide much by way of activities. She has enough (I believe) toys, books, and more, not to mention nature all around her. Every Monday, we bake together. Tuesday through Friday, the kids are at school. To me, that’s plenty. Her weekends should be free for exploration.

Where I live, there are a ton of fun, kid-centric places to bring little ones up in the city, about 45 minutes north of here – museums and zoos, and do I ever do it? No, unless it’s a school field trip. It’s too expensive, too much gas, and I just don’t want to run my child up to the activities constantly. Our one weekly activity during the summer was a visit to the library, then we’d hit the local playground or beach/pool on days that seemed good for it. Running up to the city for everything there seems like such a waste of time, energy, and money. Do I begrudge the moms who do this? Of course not. That’s their choice. But when they’re surprised we’ve visited the zoo once (about, um, 2015 or 2016?), it hurts a little.

Sometimes, people act as though I’m a stay-at-home-mom, which also has me grinding my teeth a little bit. I’m a work-from-home-mom and my husband doesn’t bring in an income… so what does that mean? How do people perceive us, exactly? Then there’s the fact that we grow a lot of our own food, bake homemade goodies, don’t stock up at Costco and Sam’s Club (because, again, that means going out of my way to do those things, spending money on gas to save money on food). And so on and so on.

What drove the point home and sent me in kind of a blah spiral was babysitting today. Spending time in a mom friend’s enormous house, while she graciously brought my daughter up to one of those special kid places with her kids for some fun, was a bit of a happiness killer. I know what I have is enough for me. I know it’s not enough for most people. And, honestly, I would like more. Who wouldn’t?

But I’m at a point where what I have is enough for me, and it’s up to me to continue to stand by that. I guess what I need is to “find my tribe,” the people who are happily living with less, while still striving for what they do want and need. Just somewhere a little to the left of the rat race, maybe?

On Pen Names & Summer | Our Prairie Nest
On Pen Names & Summer

What a weird combination, right? But, first of all, I’m back to writing regular posts.

Summer kicked my butt. Not that it was an unforeseen thing. Really, it’s in the parenting job description. Have school-aged children? Is it summer? Welcome to No Rest for the Wicked. Fortunately, I was pretty smart about how I planned things. Or unplanned, rather. There were times I simply gave in. To what? Random get-togethers with friends, trying to remember how to hula hoop, drawing hopscotch courts, and rediscovering Golden Girls.

Did I write? Definitely. From May to August, I put out two novels, a bajillion short stories, and kept up with administrative work. Because, summer or not, writing is my job and I can’t drop everything just because the lightning bugs flash their butts at me in their oh-so-sassy way.

If you keep up with my Instagram feed, you know what I write. If you don’t, you can just take a peek down at the bottom of the page here to see. It’s not that it’s a secret, per se. In fact, it’s probably the worst-kept secret ever. But I do like to keep it separate from this blog and my personal life for various reasons. That’s the second reason I have pen names.

The first reason is, as many aspiring authors might understand, fear. Not fear about myself or anything like that. It was fear that I would fail and my name would be attached to that failure. With a pen name, you can experiment. If it bombs, you can drop the project and start fresh with what you’ve learned. It’s a lovely thing.

I really wanted to write what I’m writing now, so I took a chance, but the pen name gave me a degree of “separation” between the first few books and personal attachment. Once I found out I wasn’t going to fail, I felt comfortable putting more of my heart and soul into the name I was building. The stories became more personal, as well.

And, at that point, maintaining a pen name became about equal parts branding and compartmentalization. Branding is a smart idea no matter what name you’re using. But also being able to have a boundary between yourself and your day job is healthy, even if it’s your dream job.

Writing is a part of who I am. No doubt about that. I do it every day and I love it with all my heart, especially the genres I write. However, it’s nice to be able to set those boundaries, to decide what belongs where. I’d like to keep my real name is attached to genealogy and Paganism, and maybe someday I will write a book under it again. But maybe not.

Anyway, there’s an indirect tip from one writer: if you’re going to venture into writing, start off with a pen name. It allows you to try something without taking it too personally if things don’t work out.

And, as far the kids wanting attention all summer long? Do take that personally, because someday that precious 5-year-old is going to be 16-years-old and screaming, “I hate you! You’re ruining my life!” while slamming her bedroom door.

Nobska Point Lighthouse | Our Prairie Nest
Vacation Memories

Until last week, it’d been anywhere from 4 to 10 years since I last saw family. That was because I ended up in Korea and then England, and then in Nebraska, none of which are anywhere near my family. The closest family when we returned to the U.S. was my sister, brother-in-law, nephews, and nieces, so we did enjoy some brief visits after we got back to the states. But there were so many other family members and friends I hadn’t seen for a long time prior to that.

Fortunately, my sister provided the perfect opportunity for a visit by renewing her vows with my brother-in-law, so off we went to Massachusetts! 

We drove, which was exhausting, to say the least. And we camped, which doesn’t exactly offer restful sleep, but my husband and kids had never gone camping. My daughter was too keyed up to sleep, so we got to listen to her sleeping bag rustling all night long. Yay. But at least my husband made the most delicious campfire dinner and breakfast!

Once we arrived in Berlin, New York, the fun really started. First, we stayed with my grandfather’s first cousin. The one and only time I saw her, I was maybe six or so, and I certainly don’t remember meeting her. So seeing her now that I’m in my 40s and she’s in her 90s was really a treat. It was such a privilege to meet her and her husband, to sit and talk, and get to know them. They are lovely people and were such gracious hosts. 

My kids loved meeting them, too, and exploring the land their home is situated on. We got to see plenty of fun wildlife on the mountain where they live, and the sugar house where they make their own syrup! 

Vacation Memories | Our Prairie Nest

Meanwhile, driving through New York allowed us to see the Great Annual Traffic Barrel Migration. We also encountered this phenomenon in Indiana. Those little guys sure do get around!

Getting on the Mass Pike made me happy and I started pointing out various towns to my husband, telling him all about them as I drove. I was in for a strangely rude awakening when I realized toll booths were gone! I spent so much time building up the transition from the Mass Pike to 495, that I felt a little cheated out of the massive line of toll booths that used to be there.

Once we crossed the Bourne Bridge, though, it didn’t bother me so much anymore. Because I got to see my paternal aunt and uncle, whom I hadn’t seen in far too long. Once again, it was a wonderful visit, my concerns for my aunt’s health notwithstanding. My uncle was very generous with fun Cape Cod souvenirs for the kids.

I’m so glad I got to see them. Even though it’s clear my aunt has dementia-related memory loss, as my grandmother/her mother did, I’m still happy we made the visit. My aunt and uncle were always a fixture in our lives, often visiting for Christmas or summer break with my three cousins. I have fond memories and am grateful we remain in touch, even if it’s via Facebook these days. It would have been even nicer to see my cousins, but this is the year we’re all ending up in Massachusetts at various times of the summer. 

The next morning, I brought my husband to see Nobska Point Lighthouse at Wood’s Hole. As far as he was concerned, it wasn’t a proper Cape Cod visit without seeing a lighthouse. He’d never been to New England before, so I was more than happy to oblige him.

We enjoyed a walk along the beach in Falmouth and picked up a few shells, something my daughter couldn’t wait to do. Of course, I took plenty of photos and pointed out various sights to my husband. This also brought up our ongoing debate about where we want to spend the rest of our lives (he says Cancun, which I complain is too hot; I say Martha’s Vineyard, which he complains is too cold… and expensive).

Our action-packed week wasn’t anywhere near done, because then it was off to my sister and brother-in-law’s house to prepare for their vow renewal. I had the honor of officiating, while my daughter served as flower girl. My mother, aunt, and Nana were all there, as well, making it yet another reunion. There were other folks there I was happy to see, of course, like my best friend from high school and my sister’s best friend since they were in elementary school together. We had a great time, my daughter enjoyed wearing a fancy dress, and it was wonderful to see my sister and brother-in-law get the party they deserved. Their love story is pretty darn epic. <3

The next day, all of us managed to get up bright and and early, and visit the stables where my sister, brother-in-law, and niece all ride. They own a lovely horse, so we met him and then my daughter got a pony ride. After that, I saddled up and it was great. I get on horses whenever I can, something I’ve done since childhood. Even my husband was convinced to get on and try a walk!

Vacation Memories | Our Prairie Nest

Back in my sister’s neighborhood, we visited their private beach. My husband, daughter, and niece spent their time catching fiddler and hermit crabs. Being the old ladies we are, my sister and I had more fun watching a loon swimming, diving, and catching something to eat.

We were out of there the very next day, since we gave ourselves 2 1/2 days of driving each way. Oh yes, just not long enough to really spend time with people, but we had our moments. I asked my husband what he thought about Massachusetts and he summed up his impression of it in one word: traffic.

Where we live in Nebraska, there’s very little traffic. For example, a “highway” bisects our neighborhood from the town where the kids’ school district is. We could come to the intersection and sit there, waiting for 5 cars to pass, while my husband complains about “traffic.” Time and again, I told him, “Oh honey, you ain’t seen nothing yet.” Well, he’s seen it now! And the worst of it was the Bourne Bridge. We didn’t even go anywhere near Boston. But from Wood’s Hole to Lee, Massachusetts, it was definitely wall to wall traffic. That’s just the nature of things where I grew up.

The first night traveling back home, we camped just outside of Erie, Pennsylvania. It would have been a less eventful night overall, than our first one camping, if not for the tornado that hit our town back home! 

It started with an email showing I’d been tagged on Facebook. Since I don’t have Facebook on my phone (and refuse to use it, thank you very much!), I didn’t really get any context. The friend who tagged me also texted to ask if I was okay. Of course I was okay – I was in Pennsylvania! So I responded and asked about her concerns. She explained that there was a tornado hitting our little town. I told my husband and we waited a long, nail-biting hour to hear from our pet/house sitter after communicating with her about it. Thank goodness she was able to tell us everything was okay after the storm hit!

Well, that freaked us out so much that we decided to head straight home the next day, instead of stopping in Iowa for another night of camping. So there we were, weary, beyond exhausted, and pushing onward to Nebraska from Erie, Pennsylvania. We did about 15 hours of driving in a single day. It was worth it to get home, though, and it came with a priceless realization.

As much as I love Massachusetts, the state where I was born and raised, and where all my little quirks (like saying “wicked”) comes from, I’m absolutely in love with Nebraska’s wide open spaces, endless skies, amber waves of grain, and rolling prairies. Will I go back to visit Massachusetts any time soon? The answer is that it depends on my time, money, and energy.

But I’m not pining for it the way I once did. Massachusetts is in my heart, but I’m in Nebraska to stay.