Monday, September 26, 2016

10 Things Nobody Told Me About Divorce

Hello my lovely readers. Oh how I've missed you so! I was overwhelmed and uninspired these past few weeks. I was able to clean, cook, and work, but that's about it. That was as far as my head was letting me go.

You know why?

My date in front of the divorce judge is this Thursday. This Thursday. I am doing this without an attorney and drafted all the legal documents myself, did I tell you that? I prolly didn't. I prolly was trying to avoid the onslaught of "Are you joking! Don't be an idiot! He'll take everything!" comments. But it's true, he and I are both representing ourselves. That paperwork is horrendous, and I'm a girl who loves paperwork. I can understand why attorneys charge so much.....kinda.

So I hesitated this morning, feeling nauseous after another night of restlessness and lying in my bed going over and over my various areas of brokenness. I thought, "Who the hell wants to hear from a whiner? Nobody likes to read about divorce. It's depressing. It makes single people not want to get married. It makes married people anxious. It makes struggling wives and husbands scared they might end up there some day. Best if I just keep quiet another week and hope something new and positive comes along next week."

But then I thought to myself, "Jen, what in the actual f@#$ is wrong with you? This blog is called Flaws, Forgiven. This is your space, your place. If you can't be ugly, sad, truthful, and real here, then where?"

This is my messy place. My place to connect to other messy people and raise my hand alongside you and voluntarily join up together in our own little messy, messy world. I'm truckin on today, readers. I'm writing because I feel like I might die if I don't and I'm drawing inspiration from real life. And real life for me, at least this week, is all about divorce.



1. Everyone has an opinion.
I assumed, perhaps stupidly, that my decision to divorce would be taken with a unanimous and resounding "Yes! I support you! I am here for you, feel all the feels!" You don't realize how different the people in your life are until you struggle with something immense, like divorce. Some tell me I made a great decision, it's time to move on, chin up, be strong. Others think I'm being a little dramatic, should've stayed put, needed to think about the long-term implications of my decision a little more. I will say the first group heavily outweighs the second group in my situation, particularly because I was left with the choice to divorce or remain with a repeatedly unfaithful man, but those few random people who are saddened by my decision still poke at me.

It hurts to think my decision causes others pain....but what hurts even more is facing those who cannot sympathize with me and understand divorce is something I never wanted. Despite the Facebook pictures showing me smiling and happy, I am mourning my marriage. I am purposely throwing myself into the happiest possible surroundings I can because if I stay put, stay inactive, I will fixate on the loss of years and years of hard work. My marriage was an investment gone bad, Jen's Black Tuesday. It's devastatingly difficult to be around people who cannot understand that, especially when I was so sure I wouldn't need to defend myself.

Similarly, I have very sweet, supportive friends who say things like, "It could be so much worse." They mean well, they love me, and I love them for trying to make me feel better. But it could always be so much worse. Telling someone it could be so much worse while they are at their worst is the emotional equivalent of threatening to cut off a one-legged woman's good leg. It undermines the struggle and fails to acknowledge that sorrow, anger, complaining, and generally being upset is allowed during divorce, regardless of specifics. It leaves me wanting to scream, "Let me be a whiny bitch for a minute! Promise when something terrible happens to you I will stand by your side and let you feel every last piece of it without rushing you along!"

Bottom line, don't expect anyone to fully understand what you're dealing with unless they've been there themselves...and even then, be prepared for the comparisons and the "you are so lucky" (yes someone actually said that to me while I shared the details of my divorce) comments. If you do find someone or a group of people who can simply stand there and hold you, judgement-free, lean on them and hug them to you with all your might. They are the right people to be around in this season of your life.

2. I judge myself every single day. 
Sometimes I judge my parenting. Sometimes I judge my ability to be a good friend. Sometimes I judge my looks, my character, my strength, my drive, my skills, my dedication, my heart. And yes, sometimes I even stand back and judge my decision to get divorced. I do not regret it, oh no. That ship has sailed. But I do look back at the events leading to my divorce and wonder if I couldn't of done something different. Been better. Tried harder.

Am I being a good mom? Am I being a good friend? Am I doing enough to maintain the relationships in my life? Did I make the right choice staying quiet? Do I really have any right to be sad? I'm constantly on the stand in my own courtroom, evaluating my progress through this maze of crazy paperwork, single parenting, and new routines. I overthink the crap out of my decisions....and it's because I don't trust myself. I don't trust myself to make the right choices, to be the support my kids need, to achieve my goals. There's a little light within me that grows by the day, telling me to push forward and for the most part, I listen and do. But I also doubt and judge myself constantly.

As time goes by and you develop a feel for your new routine, your new life, your new standards, your days in front of your internal judge will get easier. This is all about gaining confidence and learning to trust yourself again. It will happen. Be as gentle as you can with your self-critique until that day arrives.

3. My left hand is a flashing billboard.
So most of you prolly know by now that I love driving and flirting. I love the fleeting, absolutely no-strings-attached way you can ride alongside someone and give them smiles. I love when I'm deep in thought about something trivial and mundane and some dude rides up and winks at me. I love when I'm singing at the top of my lungs at a red light and the person in front of me is staring in their rear-view. I love it. And when I first separated from my ex, I flirted like a maniac. I rolled down my window on purpose to drag my hand through the air so all the dudes on the road knew I didn't have a wedding band. I felt free and it was lovely.

On the flipside, I find myself extremely self-conscious when I'm up in front of the church singing with the choir on a Sunday morning. Do they see I'm not wearing a ring? Have they noticed it's no longer there? I get self-conscious showing up at school events for my little ones. Do the other parents notice the tan line where my ring once sat? Should I wear long sleeves so I can cover my hand if need be? I wish I could say I was above worrying what strangers think, but we all know by now that is obviously absolutely not true.

The truth? Chances are nobody notices or cares what's on your left hand....and if they do, you'll never know what they're thinking anyways. Best to put that newly-naked left hand in the air with positive flirtatious vibes and let any negativity about your null-and-void ring roll right off.

4. Friends and family choose sides.
This one will blow you away when it happens to you. Fair warning.

As I mentioned earlier, I was pretty confidant those who know me and my ex would understand why I chose to get a divorce. I didn't adequately prepare myself for the very painful experience of getting left off a what I thought was a mutual friend's party invite. Or a family dinner. Or a holiday celebration. Every friend and family member who was his before the marriage falls into muddled, hazy territory that is tricky to navigate. Dinner with family members you love sounds like a no-brainer, right? Well, not when your ex doesn't want you there. Doesn't matter how much you love them, that's his family and you're out. Plain and simple.

And despite what they say, people will choose sides. They may do it gently, and continue to hang with you both while the other is not around, but there will always be a situation where only one of you can attend. The host will need to make that hard decision and chances are, it will hurt.

The only way around this is to accept your divorce signifies a completely new life.....your daily life for sure, your parenting and financial life, obviously, but also the way you spend your free time and how the people of your "married life" play a role in your "divorced life." Those relationships will change and sometimes will, yes, end. The sooner you work past that and accept such things are just a part of divorce, the better equipped you will be during your recovery process. Remember the good times and cherish your memories and move on. You have new places to be now.

5. I am happier.
My divorce isn't final yet. I'm only 9 months into this new, separated life. I am sad about it every day. But even in this walking-dead, bleary-eyed state, I realize I am happier. I am happier than I was when I snuck around checking phone records. I am happier than I was when I argued over how many beers were in the fridge. I am happier than I was when I wondered if I was too fat to be sexy. I am happier, even though I am not very happy.

Sometimes the pain of the moment causes perspective to warp and creates a sense of longing for something that was never really there in the first place. The good times stand out and my stomach lurches and I feel nothing but failure, remorse, and sadness. It's important, at times like these, to think back on the past with a clear head. I kept notes in my phone from those days, the real bad ones, so I could talk to my therapist about them back when we did marriage counseling. Sometimes I will pull those notes up to remind myself of just how bad it was and how much growth I've encountered already.

This whole situation is extremely difficult and painful and makes my head spin. But I am happier than I have been in 10 years. And you will be, too.

6. I can reach crap all by myself.
I had this silly image all through my marriage that if I got divorced I wouldn't be able to reach stuff up high. Like, I'd get divorced and I'd need to grab a dish from the top shelf of the pantry and instead of having him there to help me, I'd try and get it myself and would end up bumping the shelf somehow and everything would come crashing down on top of me and I'd die under a mountain of canned olives and cake platters.

But you know what's shocking? Now that I'm living the single woman life, there's not much I can't do myself. I can reach stuff up high. I can lift heavy stuff. I can build firepit brush piles. I can fix stuff. I can do those things. I'm not some wamby-pamby little mouse who flinches and tears up at the thought of her ex-husband's swift ability to unclog a drain. Reality is I've got a naked 4 year old who's crapped her pants and I need to get that drain unclogged now and get her poo-butt in the bathtub and cleaned up immediately because I start work in 4 minutes. So I do it.

You can do the stuff he did, or she did. Maybe not the same way. Maybe not with the same efficiency. Hell maybe you hire someone to do it. But you can get it done. You can reach crap all by yourself. The ideas in your head, the visions you had of your life post-divorce, they are not reality. Imagination is beautiful and terrifying and also simply that....imagined thoughts. Ground yourself in the reality that your life can function beautifully without anyone else around to help or watch or praise you.

7. I do not recognize my ex 99.9% of the time.
I know. By now you may think I am some kinda moron. I mean, c'mon, you're getting divorced, it's obviously not what you thought it was going to be. But I mean it when I say this element of divorce stunned me. I thought after ten years of marriage, I knew my ex inside and out. Turns out I was wrong and that scares the living crap out of me. My head is consistently humming with thoughts of, "Did he ever love you? Why does he hate you? Was he always like this? What if he changes his mind about giving you money? What if he takes off? What if he has a breakdown like those crazy shooters on the news? Who is this person? Has he really seen you naked and afraid? Is this really the same guy who dried your tears? How could you ever think you knew him, truly? What is wrong with you? Who else behaves like this? Will you ever find someone who doesn't change his mind about you every day? What if it's not him, it's you?"

Those thoughts go on and on and on, dear readers. When someone you love turns into someone you don't recognize, as I've mentioned in previous posts, it's the most jarring, unforgiving, horrific experience a person can have. Betrayal doesn't encompass it. Painful doesn't come close to describing it. You doubt the other person but even worse than that, you doubt yourself. How could your heart and mind and judgement be so wrong?

The only way up from here is to make a conscious decision. You really have only two choices - harden your heart and refuse to risk the pain of poor judgement again, or chalk your failed marriage up to a rare and horrible experience that will not define you. I am trying very hard to holdfast to my dedication to the second option and to remain hopeful about love and faith.

8. Reading and visiting the county's legal self help office was the single most helpful action I took.
Nobody told me to do my divorce alone. Everyone told me to go the opposite way, actually. Who knows, I may still end up hiring an attorney (Thursday will decided that). But despite the long hours I put into this paperwork, and the horrific legaleze I was forced to decipher over and over, I am glad I've done this on my own. I've learned my rights, I've learned his rights, I've read typical court outcomes, I've read what to avoid, I've read what to strive toward.

Perhaps it's my control freak nature. I feel I have no control over my failed marriage...but hell if I won't have control over the paperwork that seals my fate. Either way I feel better knowing and understanding these things. I'm informed and knowledge is power.

Take a minute to look at the divorce laws in your state. Go to the self-help area of your county's courthouse. Familiarize yourself with the paperwork and expectations. Even if you hire an attorney, it behooves you to understand the basics of your divorce case. You might need to understand these things later if something in your agreement is breached or changes need to be made.

9. The truth comes out.
Remember how everyone has an opinion about your divorce? Well, turns out everyone has an opinion about your ex, too. Once those around me understood my marriage was permanently over, the truth came out. They told me what they really thought about my marriage and my ex. They let it alllllll go. And in some ways, it was reassuring, and supportive, but in other ways it was very sad and hard to listen to.

I don't want to listen to someone completely bash the crap out of my kids' father. It's ok to call him a name here or there, I do that sometimes too. But tearing him apart in front of me does not help me. He is still a part of my life. He will always be a part of my life. I need to deal with that and keep some semblance of positivity in my interactions with him when possible.

People throwing too much shade? Is the truth hurting too much? It's ok to tell them to hush. They will. And then they will likely feel bad and apologize for getting caught up in their moment of anger. When you really step back and look at it, such displays are almost endearing. Your ranting friends are mad this happened to you. They want to let loose potentially years worth of opinion that's been bottled up and brewing. They are hurting too. But it's ok to tell them to hush.

Likewise, it's ok to tell your ex to hush. He might want to talk about his new love interest. He may want to divulge what really made him cheat. He may start talking about what he was really doing that night you thought he was somewhere else. Tell him (or her) to hush. You're dealing with enough truth right now. The truth within others' hearts doesn't need to be hashed out right now.

10. Doing things on my own is more healing than wine and chocolate. 
I know. This seems impossible, Jen. What are you saying. It's true, dear readers. I could very easily drown in bad food and beer and Netflix. Sometimes I allow myself to do just that. But can I please tell you, in all honesty, nothing feels as good as doing things on my own. Going to the library alone. Taking the kids on a "family-friendly" outing alone. Hosting a party alone.

Each time I do something I typically did with my ex, I gain a kernel of independence and confidence back. Every time I achieve a new goal, or try something new, or venture out on my own, I learn a little more about myself. It's incredibly empowering and definitely makes me feel better than wine and chocolate.....I really am telling the truth. 

It's tricky because a lot of the time I want to curl up and make good use of use various mindless crutches, like sleep, books, or Facebook....but I'm finding when I push myself to make plans, get busy, jump outside my comfort zone, I feel accomplished in ways I haven't felt in years.

Don't let your traditions end with your marriage. Tweak them if you need to but do them anyways. Make them your own. And realize you can do this, this thing called life, after divorce. Matter of fact, you can do it better. And you will.

Have you been divorced? What shocked you about the process? This goes out to non-marriage breakups, too....any tips to share? How did you find yourself again? I would love to hear about your experiences in the comments down below. As always, dear readers, thank you so much for reading :)

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Jen

Monday, September 12, 2016

Best, Easiest Zucchini Bread Ever

I know I say this every time the seasons change...but I am so, so excited for fall this year. I had a record-breaking roller coaster of a summer, reaching some of my highest highs and lowest lows and let me tell you, I am ready for change and blankets and the end of the insanity that is my lawn these days. I've lost animals in that lawn. Children. My children disappear into that lawn. But I digress.

One of the craziest, most interesting things about autumn is the ironic pull this feminist single mama feels toward her kitchen. Oh yep, I said it. I love female power and challenging stereotypes and teaching my girls they can be warriors and anything else they want to be....but I also love, love, love being barefoot in my kitchen. It's true. I love cranking up the oven, sprinkling flour on my counter, and baking the crap out of my garden harvest. I love smell of my crockpot as it melts chicken bones into broth and I love pulling out my huge old-school pressure canner and listening to lids pop. I love rinsing off heirloom tomatoes and looking out the big kitchen window and watching my chickens bobble across my yard. I love, really love, being in my kitchen, especially after visiting my garden. And with autumn around the corner, my trips to the garden are becoming more and more frequent.

Now normally I have zucchini up the yim-yam by now, but some of you may remember I had an epic battle of ungodly proportions this year with massive amounts of teeny, sneaky little chipmunks. Everything went in late and as a result, my zucchini just started blooming a few weeks ago. You know. In August. My summer squash, zone 5, typically comes in ready to harvest by June. Juuuust a bit late, yes Jen?

I had all but given up hope and resigned to learn from my mistakes and try again next year when one day, I went out there one day to grab some Moonglow 'maters and noticed a stretch of dark green peeking up at me from under those huge, giant zucchini leaves. Sure enough, when I swept them back, I found this.


Blessed be thy giant zucchini. The kiddos were so excited we took pictures with the thing. And then we promptly decided it was time to make bread.

This recipe is adapted from Iron Oak Farm, a delightful little blog I follow on Pinterest and Etsy. 

Ingredients:
3 cups of flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
3 eggs
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup honey
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups zucchini (see below on how to prep it)
1 cup raisins (optional)

Zucchini Prep: Now once upon a time I read you needed to shred your zucchini by hand with a cheese grater. This, dear readers, is about as fun as shredding 5 blocks of cheese or 4 bars of soap. Anything that requires me to use a cheese grater automatically makes me want to punch myself in the face. So here is how I do it instead:
1. Cut the zucchini in half longways


2. Scoop out the seeds (you can save these for planting next year if you grow heirloom!)
3. Cut the zucchini into smaller pieces
4. Throw the pieces into a blender and/or food processor and pulse, pulse, baby


That's it. I don't add water, I just pulse away. I tamp stubborn chunks down between pulses so they get good and shredded. If I have more than 2 1/2 cups of zucchini, I toss the extra in a baggie, write how much is in there on the baggie (this helps later, trust me), and freeze it for the winter. Taa-daa! :)

Directions:
1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and move your oven rack to the highest position possible. The higher you bake in your oven the more even your stuff bakes!
2. Grease two bread loaf pans - I use butter but you can use anything slick. *heh heh heh*
3. Mix up all your wet ingredients - this includes the eggs, olive oil, coconut oil, honey, vanilla, and zucchini.
4. In a bigger bowl mix up all your dry ingredients - so your flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, baking soda, and baking powder.
5. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until well blended. If you like raisins in your bread, add them now. It'll look pretty liquidy and that's perfectly ok....great, even.


6. Pour half your batter into one loaf pan and the other half into the other loaf pan.
7. Bake for 60-75 minutes. You'll know it's done if you can shove a toothpick in there and have it come out clean. I like to live dangerously and go based on color and smell alone - a nice, deep, golden color combined with that perfect "not quite burned but soon to be" smell means it's ready. Or, you know, toothpicks n' stuff.
8. Let the bread rest in their pans for a little while then turn the pans over onto a cooling rack or clean towel and let everything cool down. You can eat some now and burn yourself like I always do - yes, it's worth it.


This bread freezes really, really well so if you think it'll stick around long enough, go ahead and put that second loaf into the freezer or gift it away like the angel you are. In my 3-girl-household we usually eat an entire loaf in about 2 days. Yep. Not even a little ashamed.





print recipe

Best, Easiest Zucchini Bread Ever


Ingredients
3 cups Flour
1 cup Sugar
1 tsp Salt
2 tsp Cinnamon
1 tsp Baking soda
1/2 tsp Baking powder
3 Eggs
1/2 cup Olive oil
1/2 cup Coconut oil
1/2 cup Honey
1 tsp Vanilla
2 1/2 cups Zucchini
1 cup Raisins (optional)

Instructions
1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees2. Grease two bread loaf pans3. Mix up all your wet ingredients4. In a bigger bowl mix up all your dry ingredients 5. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until well blended. If you like raisins in your bread, add them now.6. Pour half your batter into one loaf pan and the other half into the other loaf pan.7. Bake for 60-75 minutes.

Found on Flaws, Forgiven: http://flawsforgiven.blogspot.com/2016/09/best-easiest-zucchini-bread-ever.html



What are some of your favorite fall recipes, dear readers? I'd love to hear them in the comments down below and as always, thank you so very much for reading :)

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Jen

Monday, August 22, 2016

Be Too Busy to Be Busy

So I pull up to the preschool drop off line this morning and the little one, all of four years old now, starts squirming. She remembers this moment from last year......this is the moment Mama drops the charade and allows her baby girl to do what every young kid was designed to do and craves to do with every fiber of her little being....

.....run amok in a moving vehicle without a seat belt on.

This careless, reckless behavior is our little tradition. We pull up, I unbuckle her, she jumps out of her seat, and she wanders around the truck free from restraints and dictatorship and discipline as we crawl closer and closer to the front of the line. Sometimes I'll tap the breaks and she'll giggle her butt off as she slides back and forth on the seat. Sometimes she'll sit on my lap and steer. Sometimes I let her play with the radio and she'll always end up on a song she knows and she'll look at me with wide, happy eyes and start shakin her little tush. This is her wild child time, guaranteed, every morning before preschool.

Today was particularly exciting because it was the first day of preschool. She was peering out the back window and waving at all of her friends, almost unhinged at the idea that yes, Rosie really still does exist after all this time. Once her buddies got bored and stopped waving back, my little one occupied herself by waving at everyone and anyone who passed by. Some parents. A pastor. The gardener guy. And one man carrying a folder and moving at a purposeful speed.

"Mama," my baby said. "Mama, that man didn't wave at me."

I just looked at her, wanting to see what her reaction would be. Would she cry? Would she smile anyways? Had she become so emotionally developed that her feelings were now capable of being hurt by strangers? I held my commentary, waiting.

Her big blue eyes follow him into the building and she pressed her little lips together. "He's just too busy," she said with a frustrating sigh.

She immediately began hopping up and down on one foot and asking me for chapstick, unfazed, the man already forgotten...but I fixated on her comment. I looked toward the door the man had disappeared into and couldn't help but wonder how many waves I'd missed in my years and years of being busy.

I think all too often we tell ourselves, "Smell the roses? I'll get to it." We let our responsibilities rule our lives and our obligations take up our free time. I still behave as if I'm invincible, walking around with all the time in the world, decades away from my deathbed and that pivotal moment when it's all gonna come down to how many roses I actually stopped to smell.

The balancing act of me time and free time and her time and his time and work time and play time is so exhausting and overwhelming I end up dedicating myself to the most pressing need at the moment...and more often than not, that's making money. I can't tell you how many times this summer I've told my beautiful babies I cannot lay down with them, or read more books, or talk, or play, because Mommy has to work. Or clean. Or cook. Sometimes I feel validated. We all need money, right? My job allows them to have a good, stable, secure life. They need a clean home. They deserve fresh, healthy meals. But I'd be a liar if I didn't tell you I sometimes get horribly stuck on the question, "If this was the last day of my life, would I be happy with how I chose to live it?"

Now, I get it. It's not realistic to live every day like I'm dying because if I did it would be liquor-laced ice cream, dolphin rides, and living out of a van while driving cross-country and singing along to the Moulin Rouge soundtrack.

But I do believe there are ways to improve our current mentality of being "too busy" to be happy. Being busy doing things you don't enjoy is quite literally the definition of busywork. Busywork isn't as productive as we think it is and at the end we're left feeling like we've wasted so much precious time. I am fairly certain we'd all rather be smelling pretty flowers and waving at children than working and washing clothes and being submerged in the mundane and impossibly trivial parts of our lives...but how do we make that happen? How do we reverse the dynamic? How can we become too busy doing the things we love to be busy doing the things we hate?


Like any good procrastinator and/or slacker, I have to schedule new habits into existence. That's right. If I want to start a new physical fitness program, or write more, or even, yes, spend time with my kids and chickens, I have to place it on my calendar. That's what makes it official, you see. Not my deep desire to make those things happen. Not some otherworldly support or push in the right direction. Nope. For me, new habits only truly begin to take shape when they've got their own little color-coded square on my Google calendar.

You might not like calendars. You might like journaling. You might like refrigerator poetry magnets. You might like affirmations. You might like phone apps. You might be one of those insane highly-regarded internal thinkers who can just make their mind up about something and then whammo, it's your new reality. Whatever your flavor, reversing a habit and creating a new way of interacting with your life requires reminders. Lots and lots of reminders. So get your Tumbler feed ready and your motivational pictures printed and on your wall...you'll need them.

Sometimes (and by sometimes I mean every single time) I try and change everything too quickly. Instead of delicately maneuvering myself into a better future, I cannonball into it from 3,000 feet above. I want to spend more time with my kids? No problem. I'll just plan 10 to 50 activities for us to do over Christmas Break and volunteer for every single position available at their schools and spend hours yelling at myself when I don't hit every item on the kid-friendly summertime bucket list. That's the way to do it, Jen. Be a better mom by lighting yourself on fire.

The better way? Think big-picture, act small scale. Realize that the little things, even something as simple as a three-minute conversation with your pre-pre-teen before she goes to bed, can drastically change how connected you feel. You don't need to go crazy making all the changes for all the things all the time....start slowly, with small things, little by little. Take five minutes away from work to make yourself tea or eat a banana without looking at a screen. Actually sit down and focus on your food instead of trying to schedule appointments and check email and check Facebook. Leave your phone in your purse while you pump gas. Let yourself do one thing at a time every now and then. Give yourself permission to let your mind wander. Give yourself permission to become completely engrossed in one simple thing at a time...and let that thing be the thought, person, or activity that means the most to you at that moment. Get busy being simple.


Of course, old habits die hard. I can't even tell you how many times I've revamped my goals and tried to be a better mom, a better gardener, a better friend. I am constantly needing to bring myself back to the roots of who I am and reevaluate what it is that makes me happy. I kinda feel like this is normal....I mean, as we change, we grow, right? And as we grow, our needs evolve....I no longer need to marry Leonardo DiCaprio to die a happy woman, for example. Things change. Things change, Leo. 

Don't stress if you fall back into old habits. When you find yourself again tied down for all the wrong reasons, take it as a sign that it's time to check in with yourself and identify what makes you happy. Maybe you're falling back into old habits because you're sad, or bored, or simply not paying attention. Whatever the reason, forgive yourself, get back on the Busy Living wagon, and roll on.


This little dance called Work-Life Balance is a tough one to learn and an even harder one to practice. We're surrounded by compromised ideals and a slew of propaganda specifically tailored to make us feel bad for not doing it all, all the time. The result? We fight to do it all, all the time, and we miss the important stuff...you know. Like blue-eyed kid waves. And hott boys at traffic lights. And roses that need sniffing. But hope is not lost. We simply need to teach ourselves how to dance in a world designed for dying. We need to be too busy living to be busy wasting time on things we can't extract joy from. We need to fill our lives with moments where we just take our seat belts off and dance.

What about you, dear readers? How do you find balance? What areas are you trying to work on? I'd love to hear about it in the comments down below and as always, thank you for reading :)


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Jen

Sunday, August 14, 2016

How to Deal with Painful People

She talked you down after your first heartbreak. He made you smile in the kitchen that one Christmas when you were so stressed out and sick all you wanted to do was cry. She gave you her cucumbers each and every time because she knew you loved them so much. He listened to your worst, darkest confessions and kissed you anyways. She gently ran her nails up and down your arm for hours and gave you the very best goosebumps. He held your hand and whispered praise while you birthed his children.

And then these people, these moments you once cherished and can still recall with such clarity, they become bathed in red and confusion. The metamorphosis of someone you love becoming someone you do not recognize, someone who would so easily tear at your happiness in a way only they would know to do, that reality tosses you into a place you don't recognize. Sometimes the change is instant, jarring, like a stab wound, deep and wide and open. Sometimes the change is slow, gradual, like an infection that started with something small and seemingly insignificant but then spreads and eats its way through your flesh. Either way, the pain is indescribable. Such betrayal leaves you breathless. Such hate leaves you searching for answers. Such insanity leaves you questioning your judgement.

But you're not crazy. I promise. The presence of painful people in your life does not render you incapable, or weak, or worthless, or disgusting, or stupid, or any of the things you might say to yourself, or the painful people in your life might say with their actions and words.


Painful people, I am realizing, are simply a part of life. They will find you no matter what you do. They could be a stranger. They could be a sibling. They could be someone you married. The random, terrifying ability of someone to change on a dime and become capable of inflicting inexplicable harm is not something we can predict, I don't care how fancy your tarot deck is.

So that's the first step in dealing with painful people: Know that the harm they cause is not your fault. You do not deserve to feel pain. You do not deserve hate. And most importantly, there is nothing you could've done to prevent the painful people in your life from causing harm.

Do you remember when Nancy Kerrigan got whammied by that stupid blonde chick's hitman or whatever? I was a little girl when I watched her on tv screaming again and again, "why, why..." I've done a fantastic impression of that very moment, real-time, way more than I care to admit. It's human nature to want to know why. I want to know why. I want answers.

But there are no answers. Step two: Accept that there are no answers. The painful people in your life made up their mind to act exactly how they are acting and you'll get no help from playing the why and what if game. And if you're anything like me what I just wrote won't stop you from asking those questions anyways so here you go - here are the only answers to be had:

Why are people painful? Because they are miserable.

Why are they miserable? Because they allow themselves to be.

These painful people are not reflections of your abilities. They are not reflections of your judgement. They are not reflections of you. 

Every broken relationship was once whole. And the shattered pieces of every relationship, if you look closely, are speckled with the remnants and hopes and dreams that take us so high, make us think we are invincible, lead us to believe real, lasting destruction is impossible and love will always overcome. And there's only one truth in all of that....love will always overcome. Just very likely not in the way you expect it to.

This is the time to keep your eyes wide open and search for the love. Remember that juxtaposition I talked about a few weeks ago? Every time there's dark, there's light. Find the light. Step three: Seek out the light. Before you even start to think about how you're going to deal with the painful people in your life, hold fast to your light. Find your confidence. Seriously, reread that confidence post. Get back to standing on your own two sexy feet. You're going to need it.

Painful people thrive on inflicting pain. Sometimes they are outwardly proud of it, sometimes they are in denial, sometimes they don't even realize how much they enjoy repeating behaviors that suffocate, stifle, and strangle those around them. Sometimes they are otherwise good people that truly just for whatever reason want to harm you. Whatever their modus operandi, you've gotta realize the results, regardless of the reasons, are always the same: you are in pain, they are thriving off it. Excuses cannot work here. Step four is to cast out your excuses for that person. He may be great at math. She may donate regularly to your favorite charity. You may love his parents. She may be a good person, deep, deep down. Irrelevant. What matters right now is that he is harming you and consequently, is no better than a common criminal (who, in all fairness, would at least outwardly admit he wants to cause you pain).

That's one of the hardest parts, I think....setting fire to those memories and moving past what once was so you can fully accept what actually is. What's actually happening is someone is trying to tear you apart. What's actually happening is you are being threatened and will be eaten alive unless you act defensively. And, dear readers, painful people do not play fair. The more they know you, the deeper they will cut you. The more vulnerable you allowed yourself to be with them, the more open and exposed and trusting you were of them, the quicker they are capable of gutting you. This is a dirty, dirty game that often results in simply cutting the infected person out of your life forever. In some cases, however, cutting the painful people out of your life isn't possible. Game plans are key.

There's a stack of bricks waiting within each of us, piled up in the corners of our heart, patiently holding out for the day we need them for protection. Slowly, surely, these bricks become our internal fortress against those who seek to harm us, tear us down, make us feel like we are nothing. Slowly, surely, one by one, we need to slam these bricks down and knock the dust off our self-worth. The wall doesn't need to exist all the time, or be impenetrable to everybody, but to the painful people in your life, the wall needs to become a reality. No more letting the painful people in and out of your life at their whim. No more answering their cries of change and commitment with love and understanding. Step five is to build your wall. It's a sad step but it needs to be done, lovely readers. You are not this person's friend. They are purposely harming you. Write down your boundaries. Write down topics you will and will not share. Write down what they are and are not allowed to know about you. Create your boundaries and be prepared to defend them. If there's one thing a painful person doesn't like, it's learning they actually really did lose access to you in every way imaginable. It will be game on once they realize what they lost.

And this is where the best step comes into play. What is the most beautiful, serene way to communicate with another person? It's your smile, gorgeous. Your smile lights up the room. It stops hearts. It forces people to pause and wonder. Your smile conveys your strength, your ability to see beyond this trivial, momentary blip on the radar of life. Your smile communicates that these painful people cannot defeat you. You are unstoppable. You are unbreakable. And this person, this person who wishes to see you cry, who wishes to see you fall, will only see you smile as you rise. Step six is to smile. Smile at the painful people in your life and know that despite them and the pain they choose to inflict, you are protected and you are loved and they will never conquer you.

Now, I'm no fool. I know what it means to cry into my pillow and I know that need to call someone you love just to take a few deep breaths. I know what it's like to lose countless hours of sleep and I know what it's like to despise yourself for all the wrong reasons. I know what it's like to smile even though you are literally breaking inside.

But the point is they'll never know one way or another. The painful people in your life don't get that power anymore...the ability to control when you're happy and when you're sad. They don't get to see the results of their efforts; whether executed out of tenderness or spite, their actions will always end with the same reaction - indifference. They cannot phase you. They cannot beat you. Cuz let's face it......you've already won. 




Do you have painful people in your life, dear readers? How do you deal with them? I'd love to hear about it in the comments down below and as always, thank you so very much for reading :)



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Jen


Monday, August 1, 2016

Best Ever Homemade Blueberry Muffins

It's blueberry season. This is a good thing because it is also back-to-school season, aka the mysterious and unavoidable Month of Target Shopping Rage. Everyone needs the same crayons, people. Let's be friends. Blueberry season helps to counterbalance the horror of deciphering supply lists...the little blue orbs are adorable and deliciously healthy. They are great in smoothies, on pancakes, or as I'm about to show you, in these muffins.

Now when I tell you this is the best ever homemade blueberry muffin recipe, I mean this is quite literally the best homemade muffin recipe ever recorded, ever. I've tried many, many recipes, dear readers, and this one takes the cupcake (meheh heh). Bonus - these muffins are very easy, require very little time to make, and store so well. The storage factor is important because I'm no saint in the breakfast department; I rarely make my kids a special breakfast because I am typically wanting to jump off my roof pretty sleepy in the morning. I shouldn't be operating things like skillets and gas stovetops before I've had my tea. These muffins allow me to give my kiddos something special without actually cooking anything. I can practically feel the Mom of the Year award in my hands!

***Quick note about blueberries***
I have some lovely, young blueberry bushes in my backyard. We ate all the berries right right off the bush long before we could gather enough for this recipe. I could buy fresh berries from the grocery store but those buggers are super expensive, especially the organic ones I insist on getting....so I buy frozen. The tricky thing about frozen blueberries is that they are all wet and juicy - so I use a little less than 1 cup of them for this recipe. If I used fresh berries I could use up to 1 1/2 cups of them if I wanted, it just depends on berry size and wetness factor (giggity). You don't want your batter too wet or it won't bake right.

Ingredients
(makes 12)

6 Tbsp butter
1 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup whole milk
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1-ish cup blueberries


How to Make 'Em

1. Grease your muffin tins or pop those paper babies in there.


2. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Adjust your oven racks so you have one kinda high up - bake higher in the oven to get a more even bake on your stuff. I swear it works. 


3. Melt the butter in a small pan until it is barely melted, then remove the pan from the heat and let it cool a little teeny bit.


4. Combine your dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt) and whisk until fully blended.


5. Add melted butter, milk, eggs, and vanilla and mix gently until combined. This stuff gets stuck to my whisk so sometimes I use a fork or a spoon. Don't overmix or else!

6. Gently fold in blueberries. Stop and admire your blue fingers for a minute, then continue. 


7. Spoon into muffin tins and wipe off any spills. I fill 'em up until they're almost full because I don't like doing half batches with leftover batter because I am lazy. Also, purple batter rules. 


8. This is prime lick time, so if that's as much your thing as it is mine, go to town. 


9. Bake for 18-20 minutes until brown. If you have purple batter like me just poke em a little and pay close attention to the edges, they will show the nice brown color you're looking for. 


10. You can try not to eat them all at once or you can accept that this is heaven in muffin form and just allow yourself to fall into the deliciousness. Feeling competitive? My record is 12 in 2 hours. Bring it. 



Pin this recipe for later:
Recipe adapted from Santa's North Pole Cookbook by Jeff Guinn

I would love to hear your favorite blueberry recipes in the comments down below, dear readers, and as always, thank you so much for reading :)

Monday, July 25, 2016

Creating the Best Summer of Your Life

Best summer of our lives, he said. I hadn't spoken to him in over ten years. Our reunion came via Facebook, of course, the almighty finder of long lost friends and faded memories. The little red notification popped up last winter and I thumbed my way through the menu, fully prepared to ignore yet another request from yet another person I didn't really know or want to explain my life to. But then there he was. Hi, Jen. How are you? I saw his picture and memories flittered into my mind like butterfly wings.

I worked on the ranch during summer break from college. I'd just completed freshman year and I wanted the money and I wanted to ride horses and I wanted all the fame and fortune that went with being a wrangler at a summer camp and vacation lodge in small-town Missouri. It was the first time I was bucked off a horse. It was the first time I rode on the back of a flatbed truck, my legs dangling off the edge and my borrowed paddock boots dragging in the dirt. I ate cheesy potatoes for breakfast every morning. I woke up before dawn with a scratchy throat and would walk down the dew-slicked road yawning and rubbing my eyes. I fed horses, saddled horses, rode horses, kept little kids from falling off horses, but mostly I sweat a lot. Eventually the sun would fall and I'd slowly haul myself back up to my cabin, the sound of crickets and frogs cheering me on, or laughing at me, I could never tell which. I'd get there, climb into the shower stall we had tucked into a closet, check for ticks, wash, rinse, and repeat it all the next day.


That was the best summer of our lives, he said.

You know how a manual car feels when you stall out? That neck-breaking jerking motion, back and forth, back and forth? His comment hit me kinda like that.

Best summer of my life? I mean yes, I rode around pretty hills and sang around campfires with pretty people and ran through wildflowers on the backs of beautiful animals....but I also rode around drunk in cars with boys I didn't know and was a free-falling passenger in a camaro that ramped a guardrail and flipped over 3 times before hitting a tree outside a meth trailer in the middle of nowhere. I backtalked my boss and went 110 mph in a 45 and ruined a friendship and got involved with a bad guy and went to work still drunk from the night before and by the time that summer was over, I was glad to be rid of it all. The sludge of a few bad experiences coated my memory of the place and turned it bitter and black.

But to him, it was the best summer of our lives.

He was there, too, he experienced all those things I mentioned above. It was his car that carried everyone from the totaled camaro to the hospital 45 minutes away. It was his smart comebacks I stole to tell my boss off and his foot on the petal that took us to 110 and his girlfriend I hurt so badly and his best friend who treated me like dirt and his ID that bought the beer. He experienced all the things that stained my perspective. But he didn't see black. His memories of that time shone bright, not a smudge in sight. He chose to accept the bad and celebrate the good.


Every element of life has this jarring juxtaposition of light and dark, love and death, peace and anxiety. They turn on each other and cycle around you and can spin you around so badly that you sometimes don't know which way is up. The contrasts in life are everywhere, from the trivial stuff to big time life events.

Eating: Fresh, organic food vs ice cream and beer
You eat healthy to stay strong but then eating healthy becomes deprivation and deprivation overpowers your strength.

Exercise: Strong, healthy body vs finally sitting down
You work out to feel better but then working out becomes a chore and you resent your own health.

Children: Chubby cheek kisses vs freedom
You love holding little hands and kissing boo-boos but there's more to life than playdates and crumbs on your feet and when, oh when, are they ever going to stop screaming.

Relationships: Partnership vs independence
You love your partner and can't do without them but then sometimes, often suddenly, you're forced to do without them and you're angry you ever allowed yourself to need them that badly in the first place.

People: Hatred vs love
You watch towers fall and hear shots ring out and smell the fire of disgust burning but then watch entire nations rally around the fallen and inspire change.

We experience these cycles of good and bad all the time....the outcomes of our day are tossed into the air at random intervals, flipping our lives around with little to no explanation. It is easy to get sucked into the sometimes overwhelming sadness of our routines and surroundings. Same day, same job, same frustration. Same terrorism, same politics, same dying planet.

It's easy to find the darkness. Every time something looks up, something comes crashing down. We finally have a black president but racism is more rampant than ever. We've finally learned that monocropping is killing our nation but our farmers are financially powerless to stop it. My kids can finally talk to me and tell me what they need but now they won't be quiet. That's a lotta sludge leaking onto my perspective, wouldn't you say?

The key is to find the light. Every time something comes crashing down, something looks up. Racism is more rampant than ever but we are finally publicizing, acknowledging, and talking about its existence. Farmers are financially powerless to stop monocropping but communities are noticing this and setting up local, cooperatively-owned grocery stores to allow farmers to save themselves and our food system. My kids won't be quiet but they have voices and healthy bodies and are strong enough to speak and be heard and sing songs and tell me I look pretty when I wake up.

When darkness surrounds the people and places around us, we need to consciously seek out the light.


Accept
Allow yourself to feel as much as you need to feel. It's ok to sit in the dark for a little if you want. Embrace it, allow it to envelop you, and then realize to move forward, you need to accept that there will always be darkness to battle. Darkness is what makes the light shine so brightly. We need it.

Redirect
Find a talisman. It could be a song, a person, a book, a place...hell it could even be one of those "25 Pics That Will Restore Your Faith in Humanity" links. Find something or someone that you can embrace and will remind you that pain is temporary, laughter heals everything, and light can always be found. Go to them during moments of darkness.

Practice
The more you practice a positive perspective, the easier it becomes. I get swamped by emotion when I feel things....I mean swamped. I get into that accept stage and I just let the feelings wash over my head and I sit there, submerged, for sometimes too long. This is where having a practiced routine helps to pull you out of the blackness. It's easier to find the light switch at night when you've been in the room ahead of time and made a point to look for it. Keep your happy thoughts close by....written down, pinned, frozen in the freezer, or saved on speed dial....and add to them each and every day.

Follow  
If you look, and I mean really look, you'll see that nature never fights the cycle. Night breaks to dawn. Prey feeds the predator. Life lost is life gained. The cycle never stops, not even when we, as flawed humans, get stuck. Nature follows the rhythm and sets the perfect example for us...there is both comfort and pain in knowing life continues with or without you. Strive to realize that your participation will only make things better, especially for those around you.

Courage
Fearing the inevitable is about as wasteful as a Donald Trump cue card. The only certainty in life is that at some point, everyone will return to the earth. So we have a choice......spend our entire lives fearing that the worst will happen until the worst finally does happen, or live each day refusing to be scared of the inevitable and feel the rich, full pleasure of a mind that is freed up and allowed to feel true joy. Might be the easiest choice you have to make all day.

Find
Do like Mister Rogers and look for the helpers. I promise you will find them. Sometimes it's really easy to spot the people who are helping, other times you need to seek them out of the peaceful places they've stashed themselves. Read their books, participate in their conversations, visit with them often, and ask how you can help.

Act
Start a conversation about change. Climb the side of a mountain. Go to a movie. Be someone's kind moment. Leave the house (seriously, get out of the house). Realize that just by being you, you might be making someone's summer the best summer of his life....and consequently, perhaps even the best summer of your own. Be determined to live as if you had only days left to do so...because in all actuality, that's all we're really given. Balance your responsibilities with the gravity of our temporary existence and don't be afraid to take risks and jump every now and then.

I'll end by saying this one last little piece.......when you find your true moments of joy, when you get that crystal-clear perspective that all is going to be ok, relish it without abandon. This eyes-wide-open, big-picture attitude doesn't last long and before you know it, you'll be angry that some guy cut you off and worrying about what to make for dinner again. And that's ok, that's the way it should be. That is life...life that emerges, as always, from darkness.

What do you do to combat despair, dear readers? When you find yourself feeling run down and pushed to the edge by the sadness in our world, where do you go? Who do you talk to? What is your escape and how do you find your light again? I'd love to hear about it in the comments down below and as always, thank you so very much for reading. 


This post is dedicated to the most balanced seat I've ever seen....Bo, you were taken too soon. To me you'll always be riding the hills of Potosi, singing Rascal Flatts harmonies and making me go first so I catch all the cobwebs. Enjoy your ride in the clouds, darling friend. 


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Jen

Monday, July 18, 2016

How to Spot a Rooster...and What to Do With Him

It's that time of year again, lovely readers. The time of year when spring chicks start.....showing their true colors. This spring I purchased 10 beautiful pullets, or females, of various winter-hearty breeds and color variations. I knew I had a 10% chance of getting a rooster instead of a hen and I did not care. It wasn't gonna happen to me this year. I just knew it wouldn't.

You see, as some of you may remember, I had this problem last year. The beautiful white rock pullet I bought turned out to be a white rock rooster, complete with crowing and aggressive behavior. Poor Gandalf the White became a most magical stew.



So it couldn't happen to me this year, right? I mean, pssssh, I got that crazy risk of roo realized and over with last year. This year was going to be different.

 Meet Conan, my Easter Egger....rooster.


I had a sneaking suspicion about Conan from the very beginning. I mean, with a name like Conan, how can you fight the power of manliness. He was doomed from the start.

But then today, as I let my babies free range under the glorious July sun, I took a good look at Tater, my Buff Orpington.


 Hmm, I thought. Lookin a little masculine there, Tater. Sure enough, the longer I looked, the longer I realized.....I didn't just get one rooster this year. I got two roosters this year.

I had to formulate a plan....and if you raise chickens, you should have a plan, too. Because roosters happen. 


Let's start with making sure you have a rooster. One of the trickiest things about poultry is that as babies, they all look the same. Chicken sexers (real job, real job title) are incredibly rare and the job is difficult, hence the 10% failure rate in determining boy from girl. Chickens don't really start exhibiting gender-identifying traits until they start getting their feathers...and even then, it can be extremely hard to tell the difference.

Here's what I look for:

1. Size: This is the biggest hint in my experience (see what I did there...). All 3 roosters I've landed were big as chicks; they grew faster and were larger than the other babies born on/around the same day. This trick isn't as helpful when you have a mixed flock...Buff Orpingtons, for example, are almost always larger than Wyandottes. My Easter Egger chicks were huge compared to the Rocks and Wyandottes. That being said, one of my Easter Egger chicks (guess which one!) was larger than the other...and they hatched on the same day. Bigger doesn't always mean roo, but in my case, all of my roosters were larger chicks.

2. Strut: This is another one you just kinda notice. Absolutely nothing scientific about a strut, I get it, but it's a real thing, I swear. Gandalf, my white rock (pictured in crock pot, above, and below, as a chick), held himself above the other chicks from the moment I brought him home. His neck was always high, his chest out. He looked proud 24/7. Conan wasn't as "proud looking" but was noticeably statuesque compared to the other chicks. I mean, look at him (second picture below) at 8 weeks. Proud little struttin boys.




3. Feet: My roosters have enormous feet. In the next picture I circled Conan's foot and the foot of a hen standing directly behind him. Rooster feet are thick and huge and again, when you compare them to the feet of other birds born on/around the same day, they are typically larger.

4. Combs: This one is tricky. I have hens with huge combs. My roosters, however, develop their combs quicker. If you have a rose-comb breed, like Wyandottes or Easter Eggers, a rooster typically has a 3-row-rose comb (see giant, ironically-pink arrow in picture below). Single combs (one line right down the center) are harder to really peg as rooster or hen, but again, my roosters all developed their combs at a faster pace.


5. Saddle Feathers: That area of a chicken's back, right before the tail and a little behind the wings, is where a saddle would sit. Roosters develop saddle feathers that waterfall down and end in points instead of curves. Check it out -  see how Taters feathers are starting to fall down and away from his body? See how they are pointy? Hens have saddle feathers too but they don't do that cascade-thing and they are curved on the edges.


6. Tail feathers: This was the second clue Conan gave me...he developed these gorgeous green feathers that started to fall downward, pointing to the ground. A hen can have long tail feathers, too, but they typically do not arc away from her body all dramatic-like. Conan's tail feathers are huge and long and beautiful, while Triss, the Partridge Rock behind him, has tail feathers that end rather abruptly.


7. Crow: This is the only surefire, 100% accurate way to know you've got a roo. All the other tricks mentioned above are just that...tricks. Sometimes hens have feathers that look pointy. Sometimes roosters are smaller as babies. You will never truly know for sure what gender your bird is until you step back and look at the whole bird....if 4 out of 6 clues point to rooster, then you likely have a roo....but there's always a chance she ends up being a hen. Unless it crows. If it crows, you're done. Rootown.

Let's say you're an Overconfident Jen and you've got a rooster. What can you do with him?

Cook Him
This is my first choice. I love my birds, but it's my job as a responsible chicken owner to provide them with a good, happy, natural life in exchange for their eggs and eventual sacrifice. They work for me, not the other way around. Hens die and roosters happen and I refuse to let that life go to waste.

Gandalf was delicious. He was the first bird I processed myself and it was not pretty or easy. There are lots of YouTube videos and tutorials out there. They are helpful but I can almost guarantee the first time you do it, you'll take a minute to get it done. I've since found a couple places nearby that will process my birds for me, one at a time if needed, for about $5 a bird. I will gladly pay $5 to get the job done quickly and proficiently. If you don't process many birds, this might be a great option for you. Don't know where to start? Ask the farmers selling meat at you local farmer's market where they process their birds. I had two farmers help me find a local processor and one farmer even offered to take my birds along with hers during her monthly run. 

Now before you go throwing your fresh-plucked boy into the oven, understand you can't just cook a rooster like any other chicken. They are big and muscular birds and if you feed them well, they don't typically develop very much fat....so their meat is tough. Low and slow is the key to making the meat tender enough to eat. I let my rooster sit for at least 2 days in the fridge before tossing him in the crock pot. Roo meat is perfect for soup and sandwiches. Rest, low temp, slow cooking...these are the keys to a yummy rooster dinner.

Give Him Up
I am a member of about 10 Facebook groups, 2 of which are local chicken groups. People post roosters on the group feeds all the time and depending on your breed, this might be a really great option with a significant number of interested chicken breeders. Posting your "purebred" roosters is also a great way to keep our heritage breeds alive and well. Sometimes 4-H kids need roosters for shows or to start their own flock. Sometimes a farmer needs a rooster because hers kicked the bucket and she needs protection for her remaining flock members. If you aren't looking to butcher your bird, consider finding a local chicken group and offering him up to a good home.

As with any online transaction with strangers, do your homework and try to make sure you're not giving up a good, healthy animal to illegal, immoral, inhumane gambling operations. I would kill a rooster with my bare hands before I sent him into a fighting ring to die a slow and painful death in the name of money. 

Keep Him
Little secret....I am going to try and keep Conan. He is so gorgeous and I would love to breed him with my other Easter Egger and make more Easter Egger babies. His life is in his own hands, however, as I can't keep an aggressive boy around. I also need to figure out a solution for that pesky crowing problem...my neighbors are not fans of rooster crows at 4AM. Perhaps some blue eggs would soothe them, hmm? We shall see.

Roosters are fantastic protectors. They are great at telling the hens where to eat and when to hide. Roosters are also very beautiful and can be kind, welcome additions to a flock. They complete a natural hierarchy that operates the way it would in the jungles our lovely chickens originated from. 

But if you want to keep your rooster, be prepared for crowing 24/7, not just in the morning. Be prepared for a potentially aggressive animal that may attack kiddos and other animals. Be prepared for your hens to be mated with - roosters can be selective and hens do show physical signs of wear and tear. You can prevent babies by collecting eggs each day but if you free range, consider the sneaky, sneaky ways a hen can hide her eggs. Keeping a rooster isn't that difficult but it requires some additional planning to keep things running smoothly.

Finding out your rooster is a hen can make you feel like your egg dreams are dashed and your idealistic backyard flock of well-behaved, sweet girls is impossible....but roosters are not all horrible. Some can be very sweet, docile little gentleman who work hard to ensure your girls stay safe and happy. Other roosters....well. They can be damn delicious. 

Do you have chickens? What is your rooster plan? If you don't have birds....tell me....about how many eggs would it take to keep you quiet about a rooster next door? I'd love to hear what you think in the comments down below and as always, thank you so much for reading!

**Can't get enough homesteading? Check out the Homestead Blog Hop, hosted by some of the best and most beautiful bloggers in the self-sufficiency world. This post, and many of my others, are shared on the Homestead Blog Hop each week. From breadmaking to seed selection, home-grown recipes to herbal health, the Homestead Blog Hop has it all! Enjoy! :)

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Jen