Monday, October 26, 2015

Why Do Chicks Cry so Much?

I have this problem. See, I have two daughters who, despite their feminist upbringing, love to watch princess movies. And as they're watching these movies, (Frozen, Tangled, Cinderella, Ariel, repeat), their mama, little ol' me, is sitting there either typing away, stirring something, or scrolling through my phone.

And then, without rhyme or reason, it happens. That specific part of the movie (Elsa draping herself over her frozen sister, Rapunzel's dad shedding a tear as his queen wipes it away, Cinderella saying "but you see, I have the other slipper," and Ariel's dad with his fingertips on her chin as they say goodbye) will happen, and my eyes will start to prick, my nose tickle, and sure enough, no matter how many times I've freaking seen these freaking movies, I will have tears in my eyes.

Happens constantly.

The Budweiser commercials with the Clydesdale and the puppy.

Soldier homecomings.

Culling my chickens.

Timelapse videos.

Violence or illnesses against children.

When a shy person dances.

Getting put on the spot.

Witcher 3 cutscenes.

Witcher 3 graphics.

Witcher 3.

Carrie Underwood singing "How Great Thou Art"

When dudes I care about (either in real life or on TV) cry.

When my corn doesn't grow properly.

While singing my toddler a lullaby.

Anytime someone asks if I'm ok.

When a leaf falls off a tree.

I mean the list goes on, people. Most of my friends know this about me because when I was younger, it was worse. I had a high school biology teacher ask me a question once after class and I just stood there, crying. I don't know why. She wasn't scary. She was nice. My friend Jen (we're Jens, squared, get it?) just looked at me and was like, "It's alright, she does this sometimes." Those friends of mine, They get it.

My spouse hates it. I mean hates it. Pretty sure he's told me he can't stand that I cry everyday - which is SO not true. I mean, I don't cry every day. Not every single day. That'd just be crazy, right? not me. Not me. No. Maybe.

Even I get frustrated by my lack of control in this department. When I was in the Army I learned how to hold it in pretty well by just getting pissed. I would get angry as shit. The Army handles angry. The Army does not handle crying. But I've been out of the Army for years. Many years. I'm back to my wily, crying ways.

I decided to check into it. This is the end of October, after all, and as some of you remember, I participate in National Novel Writing Month every November. 30 days of getting straight-up locked in the basement, type, type, typing away. There will be crying, oh yes, there will be crying. So like I warned you last year, this will be my last perfectly-coherent (well, coherent for me, Jen) post for a while. I'll still write on Mondays, of course. It might just look like alien speak. But I digress.

Chicks and crying is a real thing. I have friends, female friends, who will cry with me when I cry. And if they don't, they cry pretty consistently on their own. We're a giant gender of crying. And I want to know why. ***fingers crossed it's not just because I am insane***

Apparently it's a combination of things.

Chicks cry because of our biological makeup. That's right. I can't always control it, you hear? My hormones, apparently a specific hormone named prolactin, are vastly different than that of a man. Us chickies have about 60% more prolactin than men do. And men of course have more testosterone, which is said to work against emotional crying. Plus, one article I read said female tearducts are smaller....which I guess means they cry more because they can't hold as much? Weird. But biological! Can't change it!

Chicks cry because of our social environment. We're kinda socially allowed to cry more than dudes are. I hate to say it, but if I walked into my old office and hugged a coworker and then cried a little everyone would laugh and hug me harder. If my old boss (dude) walked into the office and cried a little when he saw me, everyone would be freaked the f out. We're getting better at allowing dudes to show their more sensitive (read - not angry) emotions but they're so not on the same level as us chicks. It's also a running joke in every movie ever that chicks who cry get what they want from dudes who don't want them to cry. That is not the case in my personal situation - I just get ignored - but if I had a man who didn't want me to cry so badly that he'd do anything to make it stop, you bet your ass I'd use that to every now and then get what I want. Flaws, forgiven, people.

Chicks cry because of our personality. Just like dudes, some chicks are just more prone to emotional outbursts. I, for one, am an overly-anxious, somewhat-extroverted, highly-empathetic person. This is part of the reason why I cry when I see the elderly holding hands. And why I can't watch the news. My internal person, the very essence of who I am, transports me into the lives and feelings of those around me and my head gets filled with the thoughts and concerns of others. And so when they cry, or they are happy, or they are sad, or they are scared, I feel it with them. For the most part.

You hear that?? Half of that stuff I can't even control. Like the biology. And the social environment. And even the personality traits, kinda. I can't really change who I am in the blink of an eye, you know? Yeah, I may sprout tears like a hydro-chia pet but you know what? I get some great stuff in return.

Like friends who aren't afraid to cry in front of me because they know I'm a crier.

Kids who know emotions are ok.

Problems that get resolved instead of swept under the rug.

Stress relief.

Clean tear ducts.

Stock in Kleenex.

In fact, although it gets annoying at times, I am kinda proud of my ability to place my emotions, trace them back to a root cause, and then communicate the whole process to another person. That is a pretty bomb-ass gift, if you ask me. It allows me to explain myself. Explain things for others. Help others explain themselves. It's pretty rad.

In fact, the only part of this whole "crying like a wee lil baby" thing that I don't like is the blotchy face. And the perception of others, specifically, those who don't understand emotions or are afraid of them. Like dudes. Specific dudes. Dudes with emotional barriers that sit there like logs when a woman is crying.

So how 'bout this, dudes. How about you make like a movie and hug the crying girl. Get over yourselves for two measly seconds and hug the crying chick because you know what, she prolly needs it. And if you hug her, maybe she'll stop crying sooner. And maybe she'll feel closer to you. And maybe she won't feel terrible about something that simply is part of who she is, who most women are, at the core of our very beings.

Cuz I betcha what - I betcha next time you're real upset, and you feel so down you can't find your way back up, that chick will be sitting right there, ready to wrap you up in every wonderful, soft, caring, empathetic part of her.

Sources for research:

And that does it for me, dear readers! I will be back next week with (hopefully) a semi-legible post for your reading pleasure. How many criers do I have out there? Are you ashamed of it? Proud of it? How do you handle your emotional prowess? I'd love to hear about it in the comments down below and as always, thank you so much for reading :)


Monday, October 19, 2015

What I Learned One Year After Quitting My Job

I quit my corporate job back in August of last year. I was tired of the commute. Tired of not getting paid what I was worth. Tired of not seeing my kiddos. Tired of being tired.

So by the time the spouse had a decent paying job with health insurance, I was rearing to go. Buckin' bronco. So excited my pants almost flew off. 

And now? Was it worth it? What did I learn? Would I do it again, or am I ready to rejoin the workforce?

1. Not needing to work in an office is awesome.
I do not miss that commute. I do not miss standing in the rain, the wind, the heat, with a random gaggle of strangers, waiting for the train to come. I am happy my belongings now sit nicely in my home instead of shoved in bags thrown over my shoulder or stuck in metal drawers that don't open or half-pinned/half-taped onto a carpeted wall with a little bit of foam in it. I really enjoy the freedom to blow my nose, cough, and sing loudly if I want to. I don't need to ride wonky elevators. I don't need to go into the office. And that is awesome.

2. I wish I had an office.
I know. I make no sense. Now see, I built a beautiful little office space beneath my stairs in my basement. It's gorgeous and comfortable and all Jen. But you know what I am trying to do for a living these days? Write. And you know what I can't do when I hear little feet and then big feet and then screaming and yelling and eerie silence and then more yelling? Write. I am officially one of those jerks who wants a trailer outside in the backyard so I can leave the house in my pj's and be isolated and alone in my own little space. When I worked in an office, this was one thing they kinda had going for them. If I needed to work, I'd toss in those earbuds and away I'd go, no kids to worry about, no husband to worry about, just me and my office and the snack cart right in front of my desk. Here at home, it's not the same. I worry more. I see more laundry. And earbuds don't drown out kids.

3. You don't have more time.
I am embarrassed and appalled to report I do not have more time now that I'm not working. I've found a plethora of volunteer work. Some of you may have read my Food Shed Co-op post last week. If you haven't please do. Food co-ops are awesome. And see that's the problem. Everything really is awesome. There are so many beautiful places for me to spend my time. So instead of chillin' and writing in a cave wrapped in 50 blankets, I find my days full of shuffling back and forth to my church for mom's groups and preschool and choir and festivals. I find myself schlepping to the next town over to meet with the food co-op people or to visit a friend who had a new baby or visit another friend who I just never see or visit a store that sells pine shavings for my chickens. I spend hours emailing parents about classroom parties. I spend hours crafting things to win free tuition at my kid's preschool. I spend hours just trying to keep my house clean. Sure, there's less time spent working for dollars, but I've filled every minute of that time working for nothing. Nice job, Jen! Literally!

4. Judgement will happen.
I hate to say it, but people judge me constantly. I don't blame them - I was the same way when I worked in an office. I judged the crap out of stay-at-home-moms and honestly thought moms who stayed home had all the time in the world, so they had no excuse to be late, or disheveled, or irritated about their situations. I was ignorant. And so are the people who judge me today...the ones who think they are busier, smarter, more successful, more put-together, more organized, working harder, in a tougher spot, more sacrificial. I mean really, the list goes on. People judge what you do with your time....but take my word for it, people only judge what you do with your time because they are insecure about what they are doing with theirs

5. Kids are ungrateful assholes 99% of the time. 
When I worked at the office, I didn't get heaps of praise. I was thanked every so often by my coworkers, but my boss was not one for delivering positive feedback. He was more like, "If I don't say anything, you're doing good." So I wasn't accustomed to getting that pat on the head or hip-hip hooray. No big deal. But every year, at least once a year, he was forced to remark on my progress. I clung to the things he said, especially the good things, and it sustained me throughout the year. You wanna know a secret? Kids don't do that crap. I'm a parent. I'm not an employee. They didn't ask to be born. I made them. So while it's nice to get hugs and coupon books, there is a certain part of my heart that aches for that positive review. The "Mom, this is fantastic," instead of, "I don't like veggie rice skillet!!" I find myself trying to recreate those occasional moments of positivity by planning fun, family-centered things for us to do, but they epic fail each and every time. Trunk or treat? Screaming toddler. Fun, family-only weekend? Grumpy, tired, sick kids. Fun time taking my older kid on a fall drive? Attitude and a "don't care" mentality. I miss the solid, reliable moments of positive feedback. You don't get that from kids. They just aren't wired that way.

6. Your house is always dirty.
Seriously. You think that by cleaning it on a schedule, regularly, with good products, that your house would be nice and neat. It's not. It's dirty. I'm seriously considering purging everything and living with nothing in my house so I don't feel so grossed out by the mess. 

7. People will push for more, more, more. 
Now that I don't have the excuse of "working," for 12 hours a day, I've noticed people like to ask for more of my time. It seems like every time I try to do something good for myself, I end up getting roped into a volunteer position I didn't want anything to do with. Don't get me wrong, I like helping out, but for some reason, having that "working mom" title protected me from the rather demanding aspects of daytime motherhood. I've never realized just how many opportunities a person has to serve someone else...especially for free.

8. I'd rather sleep than interact with other people.
This one shocked me. I thought I'd be starving for adult time. I am not. I want sleep. I want alone time. I am around other people, primarily my kids, 24/7. I want to be in a room, a nice, quiet room, maybe my garden, with nothing else but a book, some gardening gloves, and maybe my laptop so I can write. I don't want to go out. I don't want to plan big things. I want to be alone, in a quiet place of rest and relaxation, renewing my soul. 

9. I am not in control.
I thought not having a boss man in front of me would allow me certain freedoms, like eating, sleeping, and using the bathroom whenever I felt like it. Now, however, I have to answer to the schedule of a pint-sized person with a larger-than-life attitude. After preschool today, for example, I received a call from a woman I'd met this weekend during my attempted mother-and-daughter-bonding-fall-drive. She had bales of straw and was selling for $3 a piece. I wanted them, but by the time I received her voicemail, it was 11:30 and I needed to feed my kid lunch, get her down for a nap, and then get this blog post done so I could then call my MOPS moms, write my big girl's teacher, hand-make a card for a dear friend, and login to a new client's website. But those straw bales....$3 each? That's a wonderful price for straw. I couldn't pass that up. So I drove 30 minutes in the opposite direction of home, scanning the side of the road for a bank so I could withdrawal some cash. And true to form, I couldn't find a bank. I ended up needing to drive 20 minutes past my straw destination into the next town over to grab my cash. Meanwhile, it's past noon and my kid is hungry and tired and sitting in the sunny side of the truck and very, very unhappy. By the time I finally made it home with the straw, it was 1:30 and something had snapped inside of my toddler and there was no recovering from it and she is still crying right now as I type this. I thought working for yourself made you immune to someone else's schedule, but that only holds true if you don't have children. 

10. Happiness lies in the soul, not the surroundings.
I often walked by apartment buildings in the city and wondered how people could be happy living among so much noise and so little green. I wondered about the little old lady walking her dog down the road as gangster rap blared down the street and a Metra train flew into the station, whistle blaring wildly. I often scanned the sky, thinking the jet I was hearing was obviously in peril, when in actuality it was just flying low, coming into the airport. I wondered how these people were happy living there, in the land of smoke and smog and loud noises. I thought being home, in my own world, would fill up my soul and make me happy beyond words. And while I am joyous at least once a day, I've realized it has little to do with my surroundings and everything to do with how I am feeling in my heart and my head and my body. Perspective, while hard to hold onto, is key to a happy life. And that holds true no matter where you're standing.

Bottom line: I never want to go back. Never in a million years. I've learned more about myself in this past year than I did in all the years combined at the office. This is where I'm supposed to be.

What about you, dear readers? Ever done something drastic, a real life change, and then looked back and been surprised about what you'd learned along the way? I'd love to hear about it in the comments down below and as always, thank you so much for reading :)

Monday, October 12, 2015

Why Food Co-Ops Are Better Than Grocery Stores

I mean it. Better than Trader Joes. Better than Whole Foods. Better than the new Fresh Thyme "Farmers Market" that's going up in the old Dominick's location (yes, I'm talking to you, local readers).

But Jen! Fresh Thyme is an organic store selling local foods! They have "farmers market" in their name! They are helping your cause by getting good food on our tables! How can you talk down about a store that sells the stuff you're always ragging on us to buy??

Because conventional grocery stores, even the organic healthy trendy ones, just. Can't. Compare.

I have good reasons to support co-ops. And so do you.

But let's start at the beginning.

What the heck is a food co-op? In simple terms, it's a food cooperative, or a community-owned grocery store. It is a place to buy truly local, responsibly-grown food, owned and run by members of the community.

A food co-op is democratic. Owners cast votes to make decisions and each owner, regardless of amount of money donated, shares purchased, positions held, or longevity within the organization, may only cast one vote. Food co-ops are held to internationally-recognized principles and revitalize the area around them. They permeate the fibers of the community and weave new bonds, new relationships, and better health into the regions they touch.

The co-op we are trying to build is based on a fairly straightforward set of ideals. We want out of the corporate mess that's become America's food system (Gogurt, anyone?) and in to the fair, body-and-soul nourishing system of truly local foods, education, and participation in our food chain. Our goals include:

Promoting food justice 
Jen Translation: Healthy food is a human right. Our schools should be serving it. Our poor should be able to afford it. The people who provide healthy food for us should be able to provide for themselves. 
Why grocery stores just can't: Ever seen a Whole Foods, Mariano's, or Trader Joes in a poor neighborhood? Me either. Why? It doesn't make business sense. These grocery stores are created for one reason and one reason only - profit. Don't let the flashing "fresh! local! organic! farmers market!" fool you. They want your money. Nothing more. 

Increasing access to healthy food
Jen Translation: Suburban white girl problems: driving to 4 stores and ordering my meat from another state because there's no one-stop shop for the healthy food I want to serve to my family. Reality for thousands living in food deserts across America: it's easier to buy a Coke than an apple. 
Why grocery stores just can't: See above. If they wanted to increase access to healthy food they would build in areas where healthy food is needed the most, not in areas thought to fare best according to sales projections.

Collaborate with local farmers and suppliers
Jen Translation: Plunge money into our local farms so our aging farmers don't get kicked out on their asses and the farmland isn't swept up by Monsanto. Realign the balance between supply and demand so local organic carrots can be as affordable as a Big Mac. Reduce destruction on our planet by reducing the petroleum footprint of our dinner table.
Why grocery stores just can't: Let's say I'm the General Manager of Fresh Thyme. I can either get strawberries from a local (within 25 miles) farm for $3/lb or I can buy strawberries from a local (within 100 miles) farm for $1.50/lb. Which "local" am I going to choose? And what happens in the winter when Mama Caramel Latte wants her organic oranges? Florida is at least in the same country, right?

Enable wise choices with clear labeling and full product disclosure
Jen Translation: Give consumers like me what we need to make truly informed decisions. GMO? Need to know. Truly local? Tell me what farm it came from. Grass-fed? Explain for how long, where they ate, what they ate in the winter, and if they were grain-finished. And motivate those who still think 100% vegetarian-fed chickens are good things to get edjumicated. 
Why grocery stores just can't: Wouldn't want customers to know the "local" berries they're selling are actually from a farm 5 hours away, right? That wouldn't fare well. Can you imagine what would happen if they told us where they got those local oranges in January? Or if they pulled their very best vegetarian-fed eggs from shelves??

Bring sustainable products, services, and education to our community
Jen Translation: A co-op is more than just a store. It's a place to take cooking classes. A place to have pumpkin growing contests. A place to grab a healthy, fast lunch while you're dodging around. A place to learn how to grow your own food, prepare dishes made with in-season produce, a place for single moms to learn how to meal plan, a place for single dads to flirt with hot chicks named Jen...
Why grocery stores just can't: Aside from a super adorable turtle that occasionally entertains our kids while we shop, what do organic food stores give us besides, well, food? When was the last time you walked into a grocery store and learned how to cook a healthy meal....with ingredients you could read......from places you can visit? No? Anybody? 

Strengthen our local economy
Jen Translation: Take co-op profits and put them back into the co-op or the community. One or the other. That's it. 
Why grocery stores just can't: HAHAHAHAHAHA *ahem* sorry. Sorry. Ok so seriously now. Grocery stores are around to make money. They may be owned by honest people. They may be run by men who were once poor immigrants. They may be founded on excellent principles. But they are profit-driven. And every corporate organization has one - a little fat man sitting behind a huge desk somewhere plucking a thread from his $1k tie and checking his stocks online before staring at his secretary's bum and the profits from your recent trip to *insert natural, organic grocery store here* are helping pay for his extramarital affair. You think I'm making this up. I've worked in corporate environments before, people. This is real life. Even the "philanthropic" stores out Fresh Thyme, which will have a "board showing all the organizations we donate to in the local area!" not shoot 100% of profits back into the community. Kudos for them giving a percentage of profits to the community they're in. I'll take their money. But there's a better way to support the community. It's not they way they work. It's the way food co-ops work. 

Pay our workers a living wage
Jen Translation: If you have a full time job, you should be able to afford to keep a roof over your head, clothes on your back, and good food in your mouth. Here's a handy-dandy chart designed by the powers-that-be in our local elected office. And I betcha they didn't include getting Tommy that new power wheel for Christmas. 

Living Wage Calculation for McHenry County, Illinois
Hourly Wages1 Adult1 Adult 1 Child
Living Wage$11.66$23.53
Poverty Wage$5.00$7.00
Minimum Wage$8.25$8.25
Why grocery stores just can't: Go ahead and google average salaries for employees at your favorite grocery store. Go ahead. I'll wait..... *elevator music*........Back? Good. Did you see what I saw? They makin' $11.66/hour? Don't think so. Likely they're closer to minimum wage, yes? Think profit-driven entities will ever choose to pay more when they can get help for less? 

See what I'm getting at? I love that people are shifting toward organic eating. It's healthier and I believe in supporting it. It's obvious Big Ag has caught on and wants a piece of the all-natural, organic pie. They're enticing the public with words like "farmers market" and "organic" and "local," and our people are falling for it. Hard. My lovely readers, there is a better way to do this. Yes, natural food stores that support our local farmers even minimally are a step in the right direction. But when given a choice between taking a single step and flying half a mile in the right direction, why would we ever choose a single step?

Because it's easier. It's easier to understand a traditional grocery store, with its aisles and aisles of shelves and familiar options. It's easier to justify the cost of food when it's perceived as a "good" bargain with any sort of beneficial undertone, no matter how false or misrepresented. It's easier to treat a grocery store as simply an outlet to buy food.

Let's make the grocery store what it once was - a place for people to buy what they need, the staples, the seasonal produce from the farm next door, pies made in a kitchen, not a factory. A place for people to meet and share stories. A place for people to learn from those who've done it before them. Co-ops do this. They create environments, not grocery stores. They become a part of the community, not just another building absorbing cash from its patrons. And for these reasons, co-ops will always tower over grocery stores. They will always be a better way to purchase what we need. They will always be a worthy investment.

We have everything we need just outside our own front door. Farmers to support. Land to cultivate. Kids to educate. And good food to eat. We just need to be willing to embrace it, support it, and share it.

The food co-op I support is called the Food Shed. You can find more information at We're in the beginning stages but growing fast! Support, share, and be healthy!

Have you ever shopped at a co-op? What did you think? I'd love to hear about your food co-op experiences (or local food sourcing experiences) in the comments down below and as always, thank you so much for reading!


Monday, October 5, 2015

So You Want to Quit Your Job: Backyard Homesteader Edition

I quit my corporate job over a year ago. Walked away from good pay, good benefits, good coworkers, and a good boss. Why? Sometimes, like days when I feel like my contribution to the planet is zip to nothing, I really don't know. I sometimes forget what life was like driving to work each day and then fighting traffic on my way home. I forget what life was like when I woke up at 4AM and catered to the agendas of everyone else instead of the passions that slink around in my own heart. I forget the stinging sensation of missing yet another school event, another volunteer opportunity, another chance to spend an afternoon with my kids.

Life's like that sometimes. It's funny. It likes to laugh in your face. When I was working I couldn't stop thinking about anything other than getting home and creating a life I didn't want a vacation from. And now that I'm not working in an office, on a set schedule, with an insurance card listing my name as the subscriber, I can't stop thinking about how I want to make more money so I can feel that sense of self-worth and independence. It's like I tipped the see-saw and instead of hovering nicely in that precious space surrounded by nothing but air and carefree bliss and balance, I'm clunking down on the other side, rapping my rear so hard on the ground it makes my teeth hurt.

I thought maybe opening my own business would solve that problem. A little part-time work, with a schedule I create, helping others. But I lost my biggest client at the end of August and instead of feeling free, I feel frantic. And yet I have zero motivation to secure new clients. I had a business plan all drawn up, did research on potential clients in my area...I even designed a set of discounted packages and proposals to offer my new customers.

But I can't seem to get out there. I feel like my feet are stuck in two giant cement blocks. My brain is telling me to move forward, make money, secure your future, but my heart is holding me back.

The thing is, I have a unique opportunity here. My financial situation is iffy, but fairly secure due to the steady contributions of my spouse. If he takes a hike tomorrow, I'd be done for. But if I use this time to learn and hone into what my heart is telling me to do, maybe it'll be worth the risk. It doesn't make me comfortable by any stretch of the imagination, but what risk does?

The question I keep asking myself is do I continue picking up one heavy foot after another in the name of financial gain, or do I turn my head in the direction of my heart and choose to fill my time with things that shoot me into the stars? Light my imagination so it's brimming with literary goodness? Push myself to learn and cross limits I never knew I had?

Is this chance of a lifetime? Can I feasibly quit working in the traditional sense of the word and find a way to survive selling only the talents and gifts I'm so eager to share?

I want to revamp my chicken hoop house. Get my gardens prepped for the winter. Turn my front yard into an herbal sanctuary. Convert the laundry room into a food cellar. Teach my children how to grow and cook a meal all by themselves. Take a permaculture course. Teach new moms how to make their own herbal remedies. Write more.

This is how I want to spend my life. This is who I least for today.

But truth be told, bills need to be paid. I didn't know about tiny houses or cob cottages when I bought my house. I owe the bank over $135k. My electricity is tops! But only because I'm paying for it. I'm still paying for an education I was never actually compensated for in the working world. And my home is warm because I have a gas furnace that runs strong and steady from October to May. Kids are expensive. Chicken food is expensive. Hardware cloth is expensive. My garden was an almost epic fail this year - even canning my own food is turning out to be expensive.

So I've paid close attention to the homesteading forums. I've taken notes on how other, more experienced homesteaders, or people who share my passions, make ends meet. And the responses are incredible. And creative. And a pure representation of what it means to live with what you've got. Prolly woulda helped had I looked into this prior to leaving my corporate job, but people, this is flaws, forgiven, and I change my mind more than I change clothes.

Sell what you grow. This is an obvious one. Sell your extra kale. Your extra chamomile. Heck, some of the echinachea I have in my yard is wild and free, planted years ago by the birds of the prairie. Selling the root costs me nothing and gives me a few extra dollars in my pocket....and since purple coneflower is easy to grow, I can depend on it for a little income each year. There's this website called justfreshy - it's new, and free, and no, they're not sponsoring this post - I'm just trying to spread the word about them because they allow people like me, who want to sell what we grow, to create listings for free. It's like a free Etsy for growers/makers and people who wish to purchase locally.

Sell what you raise. No, sorry, your kids don't count. But other animal babies and animal output sell for a premium these days, especially if you're in a non-agricultural area filled with people who have little access to farm-raised products. Got a roo you don't like? Take advantage by hatching chicks and selling them. No roo? No problem, sell your eggs. I kid you not, in my area farm-raised, fresh heirloom-breed eggs sell for up to $7 a dozen. Got cows? Sell milk (I'd be your first customer!). Grass-fed cow manure is great for gardens. People love gardens. Did you know a Nigerian Dwarf Goat (next on my must-have list) kid can sell for anywhere from $200 to $500 each? Sometimes more. I'm not kidding (see what I did there).

Sell what you make. This is a huge one. I make a special salve - I call it my Triple B Balm - and sell it for $10 a jar. Can you knit? Crochet? Sew? I bought a roll of unpaper towels off Etsy and, with shipping, the dang things were well over $45. For two pieces of fabric sewn together with a couple of snaps. I was too lazy to make them myself and guess what, so are a million other people. Cha-CHING! Are you good at scrapbooking? Throw a holiday special. Offer to gather holiday photos and give back a scrapbook full of all the cute little designs and stickers they have for scrapbooks these days. Can you cook? Create your own line of homemade sauce, jam, or liquor.

Sell what you know. Figured out how to grow a boatload of tomatoes using only a few square feet of gardening space? Apply to give a class at the local park district. Know how to grow an organic victory garden? See if your library has a space for you to set up shop. If you have a food co-op in your area, go ahead and set up an opportunity for women in your community to come learn about creating healthy meals for kids, or the elderly, or vegetarians, or those with immune disorders. What's your passion? What do you know about? How can you take advantage of current trends (like organics, self-sufficiency, living with more, for less, being happy)? What have you learned that changed your life? Share it with someone else! Create a course and change the life of someone else while making some cash.

Sell what is making you crazy. I hate clutter. When my kids grow out of something I want it gone and I want it gone right away. I typically donate everything as soon as possible, but when money is tight, selling some of the big-ticket items can certainly pay off. Cribs, strollers, baby clothes, high chairs, pack-n-plays, diaper bags....babies are so temporary....people love scoring a good deal on a high chair because kids grow so fast. I tend to accumulate holiday decorations, too, and it makes my head spin when I go downstairs and see a bunch of stuff lining my shelves. So sell it, Jen. Make a holiday bundle on Craigslist and say something like "$10 takes all." Sell the old lumber you have in your backyard. I'm willing to pay up to $25 for a hunk of good lumber (heh heh) so sell it, people. I, and many others, will buy. Tear down that old shed. Sell parts off that old car. Sell your boxes and boxes of old textbooks. Even if you get 1/100th the original value, that's 1/100th more than you had when that stuff was just sitting inside your house collecting dust.

Sell your skills. Now this one is a tricky one. This entire post is about how I'm moving away from selling my administrative ninja skills. I don't want to work for strangers. Friends, sure. Family, absolutely. Small businesses who've helped me in the past, you betcha. But marketing myself and cold-calling clients? Don't want to. There are people out there who work and make money doing things they adore, though. My mama is fantastic with the elderly and decides to get up every day to help her clients enjoy their last few years on this earth. I have a dear friend who loves children and her job teaching them. I also know someone who stuck to her passion and now spends her days teaching others how to dance. Maybe someday I will find my calling, my true calling, and figure out a way to sell my skills without feeling like I'm selling myself short.

If your heart is telling you to head in another direction, though, take heed. You owe it to yourself to check it out. You can come up with a million reasons why you can't do it. But excuses get us nowhere. Believe me. I've got plenty of them. And the weird thing is, I know I won't care about many, if any, of those reasons once I've reached the end of my journey on earth. We only have one journey, after all. Perhaps it's worth the risk.

What are your favorite ways of making money? Anything you've always wanted to do, but never have? What's holding you back? I'd love to hear about it in the comments down below and as always, thank you so much for reading :)