Food For Victory!

Borrowed from flikeflu.com

I received an exceptionally terrific gift this weekend: my great-grandmother’s canning book from 1942.  I knew that my aunt would be sending it to me and I was so excited to forge a relationship with the great-grandmother I never knew by following the same recipes that she had used so many years ago.  What is even more wonderful about this gift is that each generation since the original purchase has followed this book.  I have a direct line to the women who came before me through this book.  For me, that is powerful.

I made even more connections as I perused this book.  Although I didn’t realize it when my aunt was describing the book to me, when I had it in my hands I realized that this book was designed as war-time promotional material (I don’t want to use the term “propaganda” because it conjures up images of Nazi Germany when I hear it.).  The very first page reads as follows:

Borrowed from worthpoint.com

Food For Victory

The Need of the Hour

In the recent NATIONAL NUTRITION CONFERENCE, a challenge was given to every one of the 28 million homemakers of America in the following recommendation:

“It is VITAL for the UNITED STATES to make IMMEDIATE USE of the newer knowledge of NUTRITION in the present NATIONAL EMERGENCY.  To neglect this would be as hazardous as to neglect military preparedness.”

What YOU Can Do

It is the sacred duty of every AMERICAN woman to see that her family is properly fed – to make Americans the strongest, healthiest people in the world…

Those are some powerful words!  Although this particular page can lead us down the road of debating about the experience of women throughout history, I want to focus on the main message of nutrition.  In ALL my life I have never come across such a powerful message about the need for the primary caregiver to assure the health of the family.  This book frames good nutrition akin to NATIONAL SECURITY.  Essentially, “if you don’t feed your family well, they will be weak and the commies will take over.”  There is some truth in that completely outlandish statement, but it is mostly inaccurate.  However, I am especially interested in the idea that personal good nutrition is a benefit to the entire nation.  That’s a BIG idea.

Today, we hear a wide variety of messages in regard to nutrition that speak almost completely to the individual: Don’t over-eat because you will be fat and drastically shorten your lifespan.  That is an oversimplification, but you get my drift.  I can honestly say that I have not heard one PSA that focuses on your individual nutrition effecting the well-being of the broader nation.  Although I tend not to be as alarmist as all of that, I do believe there is some truth there.  For instance, if I have good nutrition that results in good health, I am able to care for my family well and have energy and vigor left over to volunteer in my community, thus caring for my nation at large.  The message is different from during WWII, but the IDEA is still the same.

So, is the proper nutrition of my family my “sacred duty as an American woman”?

Borrowed from ideasforcash.co.uk

Perhaps.  At this point in history, I would say that this is the sacred duty of any person who has a family to care for.  Though the words are different, you can find this message in the movements of urban farmers, survivalists, homesteaders, community gardeners, and those just learning to garden and to preserve food.  There is something incredible about being part of your food from seed to table.  This is the HEART of good nutrition.  We all lose when there is no connection to nature that fuels our bodies, minds, and spirits.

We might be seven decades removed from this message, but we still can “Dig for Victory.”  Maybe our digging won’t help to end a war, but it will help to provide a healthy future for our children and ourselves.

Lastly, I leave you with an entry from page 51:

Today our government is stressing Food Production and Food Conservation as the patriotic duty of every American citizen. “Plant a Garden” has become a nation-wide slogan, and with it is associated a larger HOME CANNING program. Protect your family’s health with filled shelves of home-canned fruits, vegetables, and meats – – – your assurance for healthful, nourishing, year ’round meals. YOU CAN HELP in this vast Victory program – – – plant, can and eat – – – this is your part!

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Two Months Down and 400 Pounds of Tuna To Go!

Canning.  A topic that is near and dear to my heart.  I am so very close to being done with this season’s round of canning: just 400 pounds of tuna and a few more pints of tomatoes to go.  I have been working on this for nearly two months now.  I love canning, but I am so looking forward to sitting back and enjoying my home-canned bounty.  Mmm. Mmm.

I believe home canning to be an essential part of my nutritional lifestyle.  It keeps me connected to my homesteading background and connected to where my food comes from.  I can food I grow, food my family grows, and food from local farmers and fisherman.  There really is nothing more satisfying for me than to see my food go from the land to my table (especially when the whole process is by my own hand).  My child is too young now (although he does point to the stove and say “cook”), but this is a skill that I fully intend to pass on to all my children because I believe that this is an essential skill and brings a smile to so many faces; particularly when sharing.

I get very excited when people ask me questions about canning.  I think everyone should know how to do this.  It is truly not all that complicated, and once you do it, is no longer intimidating.  I know some people have a tremendous fear of pressure canning because of possible explosion (which is highly unlikely), but you can start off doing foods that require only boiling-water bath to cut back on the fear.  I tend to do very large batches of whatever I am canning to get me through to the next season, but a person can do small batches just to have a little fun.  Think pickled mixed veggies, mango salsa, and jams.  You can really do small batches of anything, but those would be the most fun.

Home canning can also be fairly inexpensive.  You can find supplies at the local Bi-Mart, on Craig’s List, and even re-sale shops.  There is really no need to buy brand new jars because they last FOREVER.  Just make sure you have no chips or cracks and you are good to go.

Right now is a pretty good time to try your hand at some home canning as the growing season is ending and you may find produce at lower prices.  I recommend getting your hands on Putting Food By.  This is my canning Bible.  I learned to can from my grandmother and mother, but I’m on my own now so I need a reference once in a while!  This book is chock full of information and great recipes.

By trying out new recipes, you are opening yourself up to a wider range of nutritious foods that you might not otherwise eat.  Having canned goods in the pantry inspires us to try new meals rather than stick with our regular weekly menu.  Canning is a great activity for kids, too and you can very easily turn it into a lesson in nutrition without them even knowing 🙂

Share your questions.  I have many lessons that I have learned the hard way and would be happy to share.  I love canning many different things, but have a very severe hatred of applesauce…8 hours of work for 7 pints of applesauce.  I may or may not have flung applesauce across the room that day.  Also, share your experiences.  I still have a lot of learning to do as well.

I hope this post has inspired someone to venture out into the wide world of home canning!  Here’s to summer’s goodness all winter long!

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Anxiety and Fluffy Bunnies

I cannot think of any person that has ever reached a goal without some form of partnership along the way.  Partnership is an essential piece of everyday life and nothing would happen without it.  I grew up in a small, rural community on a cattle ranch and learned the value and necessity of partnership at a very young age.  My community would never have survived if it were not for the way that people would pitch in to make sure that their neighbors had what the needed.

Partnership is reciprocal and symbiotic.  It is not simply one person helping another, but each member of the partnership providing something beneficial to the other.

Now that we are through the fluffy bunny portion of my post, let’s get down to brass tacks.

Partnership is TOUGH.  Even the sweetest, most easy-going person in the world has odd little quirks and eccentricities that can get under a person’s skin.  The trick to a good partnership is being able to accept these quirks and eccentricities, while understanding that we have them too and working to improve on those that are detrimental to the process of partnership.

The main partnership in my life is that with my husband who is also the father of our child.  There is A LOT of give-and-take that happens in our partnership on a day-to-day basis, and we both realize this.  However, we both have aspects of our personality that clash, and they can clash hard.

My husband can be an anxious person.  I try to be sensitive to this, but sometimes my “pull-yourself-up-by-your-boostraps” self comes screaming to the surface and I am not as helpful or caring as I should be.  When he is having anxiety and having a hard time getting things done because of that, it can be very easy to fall into a space of, “I need you to be X,Y, or Z for me right now” rather than thinking of ways to alleviate his stress.  This is the point where any partnership will begin to suffer: it’s the “I-don’t-care-how-you-are-feeling-focus-on-me” point.

Everyone can benefit from learning to cultivate the skill that allows us to recognize when the other person needs more from us than we do from them.  Sure, my husband being anxious about something I feel is no big deal can be frustrating, but his emotional state is very real and can have long-term effects on his well-being.  Instead of viewing my husband’s anxiety as slowing down a plan I have made, I can consciously choose to view it as an opportunity for our partnership to grow.  Instead of becoming frustrated, I can ask, “what do you need from me?”

When faced with a problem in a partnership, the only person we can control is ourselves.  I cannot make my husband stop being anxious.  That is a skill he will have to learn and master for himself.  However, I can control my response to his behaviors.  If I am not the support he needs when he needs it most (and vice versa), we no longer having a functioning partnership.

Goals and dreams will remain unfulfilled if we do not have the support of others, but we also have to remember that our supports need us as well.

Do you have a frustration in a partnership that you are unsure how to handle?

Smile So Hard Your Face Hurts

I’m feeling particularly joyful today and want to talk about successes.  There have been some small and large successes in my life lately and it has gotten me to thinking about how people celebrate successes.  Celebration of success is so very important, even when we are talking about little wins like saving a few bucks at the grocery store.  I believe that is it imperative that we find something to celebrate every day.

Now, I’m not talking an open-a-bottle-of-champagne celebration, but rather small celebrations like calling your best friend to share the news, having a sweet treat, or putting a post-it up on the fridge.  We have to feel comfortable congratulating ourselves on good things that happen in our lives if we are truly going to be successful.   Really big wins like landing a big promotion, graduating, getting married, opening a new business, and etcetera don’t happen every day.  Those things take years of planning, preparation, and hard work.  It will sometimes feel like the ultimate goal is so far off that you can’t even visualize what it will be like when you reach your destination.  By celebrating the small wins on the way to the big one, we can get a taste of what we will be feeling at the end.  It is part of our motivation and inspiration to keep plugging away so we can finally throw a big party and spend all day smiling so hard our faces hurt.

If you are having a hard time finding ways to celebrate your small wins, try celebrating another person’s win.  If your partner comes home and has had a great day at work, say , “congratulations!”  Or if your child scores well on a test at school, tack it up on the fridge.  This will start to help you see how to celebrate yourself and can start building a culture of celebration in your family.

Don’t be shy, share a win with us!  What are you celebrating today?

How to Cure The Hiccups

I made it to yoga class today.  After a hiccup on Monday, it was nice to have everything fall into place and wake up my sleeping body.  I haven’t done any yoga in over a year, but it is just like riding a bicycle: once you are standing on that yoga mat, your muscles know what to do!  The instructor added a couple new poses to the flow and they were completely new to me.  At the end, she suggested taking home the ideas of flexibility and trying new things also mentioning how the two go together.  That got the gears turning in my head and connected up with my planned topic of “set-backs.”

Whenever there is a goal to be reached, the generally accepted practice is to make a plan to reach said goal.  For every long-term goal there are short-term goals and smaller steps that are part of the short-term goals.  The idea is that by mapping out all of these steps, a plan will be born that can be followed as a road map to the overall goal.  This is absolutely the way to go, but we so often forget that a lot can happen between Point A and Point B.  There are a lot of ways to describe what might happen on the journey (I used the term “hiccup” at the beginning of this post), but I’m going to use the term “set-back.”  Typically, if your work toward your goal does not go quite to plan, it is because something has gone awry.  We don’t dwell on occurrences outside of our plan that had a positive effect, but rather on those that slow us down or send us backwards.  We can choose to view set-backs in one of three ways: (1) negative (2) positive or (3) neutral.  It is VERY easy to go the negative route and become frustrated and discouraged.  It is more difficult to view them as neutral and just let the set-back go and move on.  It can be tough to turn the set-back into something positive, but this is where a person is going to experience the most growth and reap the most reward.

I have said this before: life is about enjoying the day-to-day experience of being alive.  This can be extremely difficult when faced with tragic or sad events, but there is always something to be learned.  If we never experience set-backs, we would never grow emotionally, socially, intellectually or culturally.  Set-backs often force us to be flexible and provide opportunities for us to try something that we never have or hadn’t thought of in the first place.  Set-backs also provide an excellent opportunity for you to reach out to your support system and seek out new ideas.  I experience set-backs on a fairly regular basis as a parent of a toddler, and this calls for much flexibility in my approach and a lot of calling on others for ideas.

I would like to call upon my readers to stop thinking of set-backs as simply negative experiences that make reaching a goal difficult.  Let’s begin thinking of set-backs as reminders: reminders that flexibility and openness can lead to creative new solutions.

Have any of you experienced a “reminder” that lead to something unexpected?

 

The Experimental Parent

Most everyone that is a parent wants to be a “good” parent.  Well, what in the hell does that even mean and who gets to decide?  In my years working with youth and families, I have definitely seen some bad parenting, but mostly, I’ve experienced parents doing their best and not always getting the results they want.  That’s the thing about parenting: if all the variables could be controlled, then you could very well control the outcome.  However, parenting involves A LOT of different people (usually more than you would like) and thus, A LOT of different variables.

There is so much information out in the world about parenting and child development.  I love gaining knowledge about development through research, but I think sometimes this amazing body of knowledge tends to make parents lose their heads a bit.  If it isn’t a new recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics, its 30 year-old advice from your mother-in-law: “Well, I did X, Y, or Z and my kids turned out fine.”  After a time of taking in all of this research and unsolicited advice, a parent could start to feel like they are just the absolute worst at raising their children.

It is so easy to become discouraged when you are parenting, at all stages of development.  It seems that once you get the hang of a stage, the next one pops up out of nowhere with a whole new set of challenges to master.  And it doesn’t really matter if you have had numerous children or not.  Each child will be different so techniques that ended up working phenomenally with your first, may crash and burn with your third.

What is a parent to do when faced with that feeling of, “good grief I suck at this”?  In the moment, just try to be nice to yourself.  I would never tell another parent that they suck so why am I saying it to myself?  Over the long run, I think we should all stop trying to be “good” parents.  When I hear the words “good parent” it always conjures up images of the apron-ed mother baking cookies with her three well-dressed, evenly spaced children all reading quietly or making “I love Mommy” art at the designated art table in the play room.  This is odd because my ideal parenting and family experience absolutely does NOT look like that.  I fully rebel against the idea of the “good” parent and instead strive to be an Experimental Parent.

“Good” tends to be black and white, but “experimental” cannot be black and white.  If you go at something in an experimental manner, you do not know what the outcome will be.  You may have an expected or desired outcome, but by nature of experimentation, there is an understanding that you may get completely unexpected results.  Also, experimental results are not good or bad, they are simply results.  This mindset can certainly help parents to be easier on themselves and their children.  By adopting this approach, we, as parents, can take information that we find to be worthy of our attention and give it the ‘ol college try without feeling like a failure if things don’t work out.

Certainly, there will always be days that are not the best and that feeling of self-doubt begins to creep in.  This is when you lean on your support system and let them build you back up.  If you are going the experimental parent route, be clear with those that are involved with you on this parenting journey (i.e. grandparents, aunts and uncles, friends with children) what that means for you and that you need a support system that doesn’t place value judgements on your parenting decisions.  Unless you are being abusive, their roles are to support and empower you as a parent, not to tell you what you should and should not be doing.

Parenting is something to be enjoyed and something to bring fullness to your life.  Take pleasure in the lessons you learn from your experiments and learn to see your “failures” as an invitation to try something new.

Patience

I plan to post just once a week, but this topic is weighing on my mind today.  Most everyone has heard the phrase, “patience is a virtue,” at some point in their life.  Some more than others if they have a particular struggle with this particular virtue.  I have heard this many times, and I think it might actually be the only virtue.  Why is it that our culture puts so much value on patience?  It seems rather odd to even ask such a question in a world filled with smart phones, diet drugs, and fast food restaurants.  However, there must be some value to patience if that colloquialism is so prevalent.

Perhaps patience is so important because we have forgotten how to be patient.  It is so easy to become aggravated when something isn’t happening as quickly or in the manner that you would like.  We’ve been conditioned to expect things yesterday and customized to our exact preference.  I find patience to be a major reoccurring theme in my life.  I become impatient with my husband, my son, and myself.  It often seems that after the moment of impatience passes, that I am able to see with clarity that events would have gone much more smoothly if I had just let things unfold as they needed to, rather than trying to bend them to my will.  Now, in general, I am a pretty easy-going individual and am able to take life as it comes, but just like many of you, when I’m in a hurry, in the middle of my own project, tired, hungry, etcetera, my easy-going nature can go on a brief vacation.

Lately, I have been reflecting on how practicing extra patience can make one’s life much more enjoyable.  It can be difficult at times, but I DO NOT enjoy being frustrated, aggravated, or angry.  Those three emotions do not bring me any closer to my goals and often set me back (granted, reacting to them in a proactive manner does help).  I am working on taking a moment to pause when I begin to feel impatience creeping into my consciousness.  In that pause I can ask myself, “What’s the rush?  Does this change in plans really matter?  Is my impatience doing harm to someone else?  What can I find to be joyful about in this moment?”

If I am a true believer that life is a journey and that true joy in life is to be found in our daily living, why be impatient?  It is the times that plans fall apart, your day gets interrupted, and the instruction booklet goes missing that we are truly living and likely making memories we will never forget.  Approaching life with the attitude that there is always knowledge to be gained or a lesson to be learned can help turn impatience into something that, at the very least, doesn’t make you want to poke your eyes out.