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Can you learn to love hard work?

Amy left this comment a few days ago:
Can you do a post or point me to resources about how to love hard work? I'm finding that being a wife, mother, and grown up is frankly a lot harder than I thought it would be! I keep trying to look for solutions (usually via some gadget/ something convenient to buy) but I'm realizing it's just plain hard. Need some help "digging in" and expecting/ enjoying the work...even the small stuff.

Amy, I doubt you can be taught how to love hard work. You either love it or you don't. I think the real point of this post will be to work out how you get to the point where you want to do the work. I know nothing of your circumstances but I do know this. If you want to live in a clean house you have to clean it, if you want to get into a comfy bed at night, you have to make it in the morning, if you want clean clothes, you have to do the laundry, if you want to eat nourishing food, you have to grow or buy it and learn how to store and cook it. And when you've finished cooking, you have to clean up. Unless you're wealthy and can pay others to look after you, the time has come for you to step up, work out what you want for yourself and your family, and then do the work to make it happen.

From what I can see, you have two choices. Either decide it's all too hard and stay as you are, or think about the kind of life you want, decide on what values are important to you and start changing.  The first option will be easy now and become more difficult later, the second option will be difficult now but will become easier as you learn more. Being a grown up is hard, being a mother is the toughest thing I've ever done, but the rewards are significant and beautiful. If I can do it, you can too.  So sit down with your partner and work out your priorities.

The main things you'll need to focus on are living on a budget, saving for a home and creating a sustainable and thrifty home and lifestyle. And within that framework, you'll simplify your mindset, live a slower life and show your child, by example, that you don't have to work until you drop to pay for products, produced in their millions, which end up in landfill. You don't say if you're going out to work but if you are, the housework is something you should share with your partner.  If you're at home looking after your child, make that and your home your career. Run your home like a small business, with your partner earning the money and you using that money to build the life you both want. There are many ways you can move away from the mainstream model of what "normal" life is nowadays. You'll be able to make things you used to buy, use fewer chemicals in your home, cook from scratch, mend and recycle. By doing those things, slowly but surely, you'll create a new life.

As you do all those things, you'll develop routines and become more organised.  If you read through my blog and a few others, you'll learn how to make shortcuts that will make you more efficient. You'll develop a new strategy for your grocery shopping, set spending targets that are lower than what you're used to and then use the money you'll save for a home deposit or to pay off debt you may already have. It's all within your reach but you'll have to have a clear vision of the life you want to live and you'll have to change your attitude. I've listed a few of my older posts below to help you get started but there are a lot of other posts there that are exactly what all this is about. I hope you take the time to read some of them and then put your plan in action.  It won't be easy but it will get easier and I think you'll grow to love your new life. Good luck and keep in touch.


Last week Donna commented that she and her husband will soon be first time grandparents and wondered if I had any tips to pass on.  Of course I'm happy to share my own experience of being a grandma but I think that every grandmother-grandchild relationship is unique and even though there are many similarities, there are just as many differences. Children are wildly different too. What works with one grandchild, won't work on another, so you tear up the guide book and reinvent the strategy for each child. It's also worth remembering that times have changed since we raised our children and while that doesn't mean that everything is different, most things are and you'll need to be guided by the parents and do a bit of reading yourself.

These are my boys at age four and five.

It's a wonderful thing to live long enough to be able to hold your grandbaby in your arms. You get a sense of pleasure and duty but it also gives you an extremely clear perspective on your place within your family, both living and dead. I started researching my genealogy 37 years ago when my children were born but I didn't understand my significance in my family's story until my grandchildren came along. It's good for your grandchildren to know how they fit in their family history too.

Becoming a grandmother is overwhelming, mysterious, thrilling, exciting, terrifying, the most unimaginable thing and the most natural thing all at the same time. Everyone has their own take on it but no one forgets that first look on the day it all starts. I think it's my responsibility to love each of my three grandchildren, to show them respect, kindness, strength, intelligence and unconditional acceptance and love. I try harder and walk taller when they're here with me. I try to show them that I'm a hard worker, that I do what I can for myself, that I'm optimistic and content and that they make me happy. I help them solve problems, I show them how to do practical things and I teach by example.

But in those first few months, it's not only the new baby that needs nurturing; it's the parents too. They're learning how to be parents, they have the bulk of the work and they usually don't get much sleep. If you can offer practical help in the form of babysitting so they can have some time together, catch up on sleep, or just do the housework, those gestures help develop better relationships while providing practical help.

You don't need to keep much at your place but I've found it's wise to have a spare baby bottle and sippy cup in the cupboard. Buy a couple of books to read and a little teddy bear and if you have a quiet space where baby can sleep in those first few months, it will help. Take the lead from the parents on nappies - it's quite common for parents to use disposable nappies so don't lecture them if you'd prefer they used cloth nappies. Remember, this is not your baby. Think back to how you would have felt if you mother or mother-in-law told you you should be doing X when all you could manage was Y. New parents need support and help, not confrontation.

But having said that, don't be a doormat for your children either. If you're asked to babysit and you can't do it, or don't want to do it, let them know. We have a really good relationship with our kids and even now, after six years of babysitting when we're needed, our kids still ring and ask if we can look after our grandkids. They never take it for granted, and they always thank us when they leave.

I guess to sum it up, give as much as you can in the form of practical help without feeling miserable about it.  Remember that generally the more time you spend with your grandchildren the closer you'll be. Don't expect them to feel instant love, they'll have to get used to you, they'll have to spend time with you and if you can develop a strong bond with them without it involving toys and gifts, you'll be on the right track. But most of all just enjoy those new babies as they arrive and be the kind of help you'd wished for when you were a new mum. Congratulations new grandma. You're in for the ride of your life.

I wonder what the other grandmothers here will tell you.

One year old!

This photo was taken yesterday afternoon as Gracie was posing on the verandah.

Happy birthday to our dear Gracie who is one year old today.  We're taking her to the beach for lunch and a run around. Despite her outbursts of craziness, we both love her dearly. She's unlike any other dog we've had before and we're looking forward to many years of Gracie antics ahead.

==  ❤️ ==

If I had to name this dish I'd probably call it chicken fricassee but it's not the traditional recipe for fricassee.  This is, however, a lightish, delicious and easy to cook chicken stew which makes its own stock as it cooks.  It's popular with children as well as adults, it's a good winter all rounder.

You can use either chicken pieces with the bone in or a whole chicken. I use a whole chicken because it's cheaper; I always use free range chicken. If you have a whole chicken, using a sharp knife and chicken shears, cut along both sides of the spine, then snip it along the cut to remove the spine. Don't discard it, it goes in the stew to help develop flavour in the stock. If you have boneless chicken pieces, use them with a good homemade chicken stock.

1 whole chicken cut into portions, or 8 chicken pieces with bone in. After removing the spine, cut off the wings, cut each of the breasts in half, cut the legs from the thighs. This will give you 8 portions plus the wings.

1 cup plain/all purpose flour
salt and pepper to taste (about 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper)
1 tablespoon paprika
Olive oil for cooking
1 large onion, diced
2 medium carrots, chopped
2 celery sticks, chopped
4 medium potatoes, cut in quarters
½ cup parsley, finely chopped
3 sprigs thyme
2 bay leaves

Mix the flour, salt, pepper and paprika together and coat each chicken piece. Place olive oil in frying pan and brown each coated chicken piece. Add the chopped vegetables and all the bones removed when you portioned the chicken. Add a litre of water and mix. Add the herbs.

Put the lid on, bring to the boil, and then place in the oven to cook slowly (about 150C/300F) for two hours. About an hour later, add some potatoes.  Yes, you can use the slow cooker instead of the oven.

As it cooks the sauce will thicken. Make sure you cook this slowly to retain the moisture. A fast cook will dry out the meat.  Serve with a green vegetable.

I hope you enjoy it.

I'm not ready now, or ever, to be non-productive

I fear there is a dumbing down battle going on. It's there in food - why would we want to cook for ourselves when there are constantly changing, easy products to buy and heat up? It's there in clothes - most of us have lost the dressmaking and mending skills our great grandmothers had. It's there in general daily life where there is a constant buzz from the social media peanut gallery made up of criticism, self-rightiousness, inane comments and fake concern for, well, you name it, just about everything.  Busyness and distractions are highly prized, shopping is an entertainment rather than a necessity and there is constant pressure to follow instead of lead. Gone are the days when we were encouraged by our elders, friends, politicians and neighbours to do our best, help out, create community, cherish uniqueness and try to do better and be better. We are now learning you are what you own.

A torrential downpour on Sunday afternoon.

I think simple life is a safe haven for those of us who refuse to be dumbed down and who want to continue learning and developing ourselves all through life. School and university are the launching pads for learning but it certainly doesn't stop there. Once we have our basic education, then we have the abilities and reason to learn about the things we want in our lives. That might be home skills, traditonal skills, craft skills, developing creativity and productivity or nurturing a family, but it could also be a career with an emphasis on calmness and sustainability at home. There are always choices along the way and it is only through building your skills and knowledge that you'll be able to make the best choices for you and your family. If you take learning and self-development seriously and if you use it to enrich your home and career then you're well on your way to living the kind of splendid life that we dream about in our younger years.

The choices are key here. Instead of following a straight and monotonous "normal" path, we can step away from that to embrace learning, independence, daily contemplation, critical thinking and individual choice. Sometimes we take the easy path, sometimes the difficult one, and each day, small step by small step, we move through life. There are times when we stop and reevaluate what we're doing, sometimes small adjustments or huge leaps are made but if we resist the noise of modern life and stay focused on our own life being a work in progress, then these periods of adjustment help us continue along the road less travelled.

Having lived through six decades I'm about to move into the most challenging one. It's not easy growing old but it's certainly better than dying young. I don't want to live a fake life where I buy everything I need and take the path of least resistance. That kind of life is always partnered by the work it takes to pay for it and a huge amount of waste. I want a life that is challenging and interesting. I want to work for what I get. I want to sit in the sun when I feel like it, grow food, take cuttings, mend the things I love and do as much for myself as is possible. I'm slowing down now because of my age but I'm not ready now, or ever, to be non-productive. 

What stage of life are you at?  What are you doing with your days? Remind me of that exhilarating phase, that lasted many years for me, when I went to bed thinking about tomorrow's plans and wanting the hours to pass quickly so I could be catapulted out of bed to face the new day. I miss that.

Weekend reading

 Who?  Me!

Hanno's been been hit with a bad cold this week so things have been quietly busy here.  I'm hoping  I don't get sick too, so far it's looking good. We're still having trouble with Gracie at night when we're asleep. Most nights are good but then she'll go crazy and destroy whatever she can find. She's now sleeping in the kitchen in her dog box and she's tethered to the wall. Luckily she loves her new bed so we'll just have to keep our fingers crossed and hope she settles down.

This week I'm delighted to give you the blog addresses of a group of women who did an online blog workshop with me recently.  I think they've all started off well and present interesting blogs, which show us, yet again, how different we all are while being very similar. Please visit these new blogs and take the time to leave a comment. Comments encourage bloggers to continue writing and help build online communities of like-minded people. The list is below, I hope you enjoy these blogs and add them to your daily reads.

A Simple Living Journey
A Truly Content Life
Fig Tree Creek Permaculture
Life after 50, Fitness, Leisure
Diva Farm Days
Home is my Haven
The Awakened Soul
Sock Knitting Mama
Creativity Grows Here

Regular news links ...
The 13 step digital declutter
Life skills all school kids should learn
What are you really getting if you buy "free-range"?
Turmeric pickled eggs
How many times can you reheat leftovers?
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