Lately whenever I get the urge to sit down and write, I can never find my journal. It starts a cycle of searching that generally involves turning around in circles in my room while also trying to keep the 100+ pound dog from thinking I’m playing with her. By the time I find the journal (if I find it) I’m no longer interested in writing whatever it was that had me looking for it in the first place. Or, if I don’t find the journal, I’ll find it later in some obvious location and I’m too baffled and annoyed by its previous absence from that place to pick up a pen (which are abundant and everpresent in my house, at least.)

Fuck it. Today I fired up the computer at the first sign that my journal was missing. Avoided the string of expletives that always seems to waft in the air whenever I”m searching for something that should really never be lost because it literally never moves from this 12×12 room unless it’s in my backpack, which sits empty at my feet. Of course, this laptop is a piece of crap, and it took its usual few minutes to wake the mice in a wheel that seem to be its catalyst for operationability…but I don’t feel as put out as I would have searching for my journal.

I keep writing things down that I want to write about later, and now that I’m sitting here, it’s all a jumble in my head. I only have a few minutes to write before I’m expecting a friend to come over. I’ve promised to make breakfast tacos for all of my nearby loved ones. One breakfast at a time. Maybe some breakfasts will involve multiple loved ones – either people who know each other or people who I think SHOULD know each other. I’m relieving myself of the stress of large gatherings in the new year. I’ve always been a fan of the potluck. Forever. From the time I had my own space to organize them until, well, last year, apparently. Maybe I will be a potluck fan again in the future. But I have this cycle with parties. I get all excited about them, and then I sit down to make a list of people to invite and in the stress over leaving ANYONE out, I invite everyone. Then I stress that everyone will actually come, so I don’t tell or remind anyone. Then I stress that no one will show up…or, worse, that one person I barely know will show up and that person will think I’m the world’s biggest loser because no one shows up. This stress is compounded by facebook, where everyone can see that I’ve invited 600+ people, and there are only 3 people there. Meaning, I have 597 imaginary friends.

It’s really too much for me. The day of the party is spent cleaning and hoping that everyone will cancel and I can just stay in bed all day, having done all of my cleaning for the week. Then, when people start arriving, I inevitably feel like I’m not spending enough time talking to any one person. I can’t actually focus or concentrate on any one coversation, so I try to avoid all conversation until there are only a few people left.

This is me. Over and over again. So, this year I’m doing small gatherings of specifically-invited people. So far, I’ve been really pleased with the result.

So, I’ve learned a few things about myself this year.

I’ve not only learned to garden, but I’ve learned a have a definite preference for the fall/winter garden. I enjoy having green things growing that I can pluck and eat from and not destroy. At this point in my garden, I don’t have to buy any lettuces at the store. If I want a salad, I can just gather greens of various types from my back and side yard. I also have enough collards for our traditional new years greens this year, but I might buy more just in case people drop by.

I’ve learned how to bake some things. Pretzels. Focaccia. Things my old oven would have destroyed thrive in my new oven. Or, perhaps, my new oven inspired the confidence I needed to be able to bake things. Cooking is primarily an exercise in confidence. What else could explain master chefs who make food out of foam? You just have to make people believe that it’s tasty, and it is. Well, and there is some skill involved, to be sure, but the difference between a good cook and a great cook is mostly all talk.

Speaking of cooking, I’ve also perfected my homefries. Crispy crunchy and buttery soft. This is why I’m making breakfast tacos for everyone this year. Next year, maybe I’ll bake loaves of bread…or pretzels. I’ll take the year to perfect the recipe and feed everyone at the end of the year. The secret to good homefries, by the way, is small dice on the potatoes and lots and lots of patience. You gotta cook the SHIT out of those things. That’s how they get all caramelized and crispy.

I’ve learned how to train a dog. I’m still learning. And I’ve had plenty of dogs before, but I always inherited or adopted dogs that had seemingly insurmountable obstacles to trainability, and/or I didn’t care to spend the time to train out the bad habits so I just worked around them. The dogs who suddenly decided they hated each other were always kept separate. The dog who randomly disliked certain people in a biting way was muzzled when the detested person was over. The dog who was deaf and leash aggressive was always walked late at night so we didn’t encounter other dogs. The dishes were all moved to the back of the counters when the dog who liked to swipe everything onto the floor was left alone in the house. Lulu, my current dog, is both a challenge and a refreshing change. She listens. She usually responds to praise and correction. She learns. All my life, through all of these dogs, all I’ve wanted was a dog who would be pleasant around other people and other dogs. I’ve reached the point now with Lulu where I can join the community of dog owners who hang out at off-leash parks. It’s a community I’ve never been a part of, and I always enjoy participating in new communities. It’s a whole other level of dog ownership that has eluded me, and I love it. It’s sort of like parenting. I mean…it’s not, but I get it now when people say their dogs are like their children. In my opinion, it’s the community that makes it so. It reminds me of sitting at a park on a blanket with other moms and snacks while children orbit around us all like unmapped stars. We talk about our worlds in a language that only other parents/dog owners really understand. Our fears, anxieties, and hopes – as well as the day-to-day maintenance of these creatures whose lives have been entrusted to us. It’s pretty special.

I continue to learn and be inspired by the people around me. My activist friends who tirelessly work towards change by any means necessary. My children who continue to adjust and adapt to the vicissitudes of life. My mama friends who deal with the ever-changing moods of their children. My artist friends who find ways to turn all of this into something beautiful and/or distilled into a palatable form. My gardening friends who make something from almost nothing…and then you eat it and it turns into nothing again only to continue to become something. I’m a huge fan of naturally-occurring metaphors, and growing things is inspirational.

I’m also learning to think about my future. As a parent, so much time is spent in the present. As a single parent, especially, dealing with all of the logistical challenges and barriers. I’ve often had a difficult time thinking 2 weeks in advance. I struggle to make plans and commitments while at the same time insisting on scheduling things to be sure I at least have time for them until I end up having to cancel at the last minute because I’m needed elsewhere. These responsibilities have tapered off through the years, and I’m slowly learning to envision what my life will be like when I no longer have the responsibilities that come from day-to-day parenting. I’m glad this is a slow tapering rather than a sudden adjustment I need to make, though it’s still somewhat alarming to find myself thinking of “the last birthday party”…”the last winter solstice”…etc with two kids in the house.

This year, I’ve come full circle in my relationship with relationships and/or sex. I’ve been sort of relationship/sex agnostic since my last relationship. For awhile, I thought I might try polyamory, but who the fuck has time for that? Polyamory is not “relationship light” – it’s more like “extreme relationshipping.” My problem is that I don’t want to spend any extra time worrying about one particular person in my life. Historically, I tend to focus way too much on that one person, and neglect others in my community I should be giving my time to. And, as far as sex is concerned…I was much wiser in my youth when I felt like sex just gets in the way of everything. I can’t seem to make good decisions about it. Too often, the person I want to have sex with is not the person who is best for me to spend my time with. And anyway – sex is cool and fun and everything, but from this distance it feels like a really stupid thing to form a lifetime commitment around. Much more important is having someone you can grow with and be yourself around. Maybe I’m a bit of a narcissist, but I just haven’t found very many people I enjoy being around for extended periods of time more than myself. Certainly I’ve had points in my life where having lots of sex seemed like a good idea, and I’m glad I indulged myself during those times. Now…I feel sated just having a good conversation. It’s not like I NEVER have sexual feelings, but it’s like how I feel about getting drunk. It seems like a fun idea, but then I get bored with it before I’m able to drink enough to get drunk. hahaha.

So, that’s where I am. As of now. I’m excited to see what I learn next year. Here are my goals as of now, but they are completely mutable based on whatever circumstances I find myself overcoming and/or needing to overcome:

1. Successfully grow and harvest a bumper crop of tomatoes and cucumbers and LEARN TO PICKLE AND CAN.

2. At least one more issue of the zine…hopefully 2-3.

3. Convert the garage to a plant nursery.

4. Get 4 more chickens

5. Keep moving, moving, moving. More hikes, more gardening, more cooking.

6. Step up the writing.

7. Organize photos, videos, and audio recordings

Peace and love to all in the New Year. ❤ ❤