Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Vision, Identity, and Faith

Once upon a time there was a stay at home urban homesteading mom of two who dreamed of living an idealistic life on her .15 acre in the city.  She envisioned raising chickens and harvesting fresh veggies from her garden daily, then she would blog about it via her cool eco-groovy mama urban homesteading blog:

One day she heard about the trademarking of the terms "urban homestead"and "urban homesteading", and her dream was interrupted.  The rest is history my friends.  My idealistic image of being like Amanda Soule, crafty super mama hero of all crafters, disappeared into a fog of legal speak and a rapidly growing, and very wonderful urban homesteading facebook page.  Things took a turn shall we say, a major shift in direction, and I became the leader of a fast moving grassroots urban homesteading community almost over night.  It's been an exceptional ride, and I wouldn't change a moment of it, but lately I've become introspective and have been questioning who I am in all of this.

The questioning started when an interviewer asked me, "What is your life plan?" plan, what is that anyway?  That got me thinking about what my "plan" is, and truth be told I have none.  My vision up until this point has been to continue being a stay at home mom, growing my sewing and designing business, which I'm still doing slowly but surely when I'm not on facebook fighting the latest battle.  Honestly though, I'm just taking life as it comes and living in the present, following my heart, and trying to take the community I'm leading in the right direction in the mean time.  I'm sorting through the multitude of directions that are opening up to me, and that others are presenting me with.  Everyone has ideas, really great ideas, but if I were to implement every single idea presented to me I would lose vision, lose focus, and ultimately not get a darned thing done.  I get phone calls, e-mails, requests, etc. and for the first time in my life I have to sit back and evaluate each possible direction carefully before taking action.  There have been times when the direction I've gone has back fired, (and I've got the hate mail and letters to the editor to prove it!)  But, I've learned to get back up, shake the dust off, and continue on without dwelling on the past.

Lately I've been asking myself another question, "Who am I in the midst of all of this anyway?"  Writer?  Activist?  Leader?  At first I tried to fit into the mold of blogger as my main identity.  I tried, and there were days where I almost believed I could be an amazing one post a day urban homesteader blogger who would wow the crowds like Erica Strauss of Northwest Edible Life.  That woman can write like no other urban homesteading mama I've seen out there, seriously.  Just read one post and you'll see what I mean!  Then there's Deanna Duke of Crunchy Chicken.  She's another one I just can't hold a candle to, sigh.  Eco groovy chicken lovin' writer extraordinaire, that's what she is!  There are others out there who get all down into the psychology of homesteading and house holding and house this and that...I've lost track of all of the terms, I just can't keep up anymore.  Harriet Fasenfest, (amazing writer and woman in general), is one of them, as is Calamity Jane of Apron Stringz.  Just reading what that woman does on a daily basis makes my head spin.  Really?  She does all of that, really? Wow, just wow.  Talk about giving someone an inferiority complex!  Then there are the super hero gardening sorts like Rachel Hoff of Dog Island Farm. She's doing the "year without groceries challenge" and I just stand in awe of that kind of commitment.  There's lots more of the super hero gardener types, so please forgive me if I skipped over you!  But I love them all, they are truly wonderful and talented women....just not me.

Enter Julie Bass, of Oakparkhatesveggies - the gardening hero who has been all over the media for the audacious crime of growing veggies, (NO!), in her front yard in raised beds in Oak Park Michigan!  I first heard about her veggie "crime" via the Take Back Urban Home-steading(s) page.  Within a day of posting her story on the main TBUH feed Treehugger and Grist had articles up about her, and within a few more days her story had gone viral.  Then I checked her blog out, and I was sold.  This was a woman I could relate to, a woman I could hang my hat on.  Her tone resonated with me and I get her, or at least I think I do.  She's totally down to earth and human, but don't let that sweet voice deceive you - she's got got an iron fist under the velvet glove.  There will be no backing down until she gets what is rightfully hers let me tell you.  I guess I see a bit of myself in her and the more I think about it the more I see that I'm an activist at heart.  I sit down to write a blog, and I have a hard time finishing it because I'm too busy looking through news feeds, or blog posts to see what's happening.  I look for people to help, causes to fight, and although I wasn't initially looking for a cause when the urban homesteaders united, I do now.  I know the power of a unified voice, of people standing up in unison and refusing to accept the status quo.

I have faith that I can make a difference in this world somehow.  I believe that my position in the urban homesteading community was more than simply fate.  I don't speak much about my personal faith beliefs publicly, because honestly I hate the idea of anyone feeling I'm shoving my religion faith down their throats.  Deep breath...I quit church a few years back because I was done with other people telling me what God's plan for my life was, so very done.  I'm still sorting through all of that and trying to figure out what my faith means, how to implement it, and where to go from here.  (Did you hear that God?)  The past few months I've come to realize that the planet and nature itself are more important to God, (yes, I believe He (they) exist), than I ever knew before.  I don't think any of my life happens by accident, and I think God puts people in places at specific times for specific reasons.  (Disclaimer:  I'm not saying you must believe this.  I'm not saying if you don't believe this you will go to hell.  I'm not accusing or judging you in any way.)  This is what I believe at my core, and if I'm going to stay true to myself I need to follow my own path, and this is it.

So, to conclude, thank you Julie Bass, Erica Strauss, Harriet Fasenfest, and the rest of you wonderful, talented and intelligent women for helping me figure out who I am in all of this. We're in this together, so keep writing, blogging, house holding, and I'll be right beside you fighting the fight.


  1. Ok, seriously I'm not sure if I should laugh or hug you or say thank you or cry.

    I am reminded of how *I* felt when I met Harriet, who looked me straight up and said, "Don't make me your idol. Seriously, I'm no ones role model." :) I almost feel compelled to tell you the same, girl! I'm just a chick with a shovel and a mild case of obsessive-compulsiveness when I decide to do something.

    But thank you, because yours were generous and kind words like no other. Much appreciated, seriously.

    Second, just so you know, I have a post half written called "Being Everybody" or something like that which very much mirrors what you alude to here. Namely: we have to do our thing. The world and the internet is SO ful of shiney amazing things and shiney amazing lives we just want to bundle them all up and BE all of them.

    We can't. I'm so much less green than Crunchy. I'm so much less profound than Harriet. I'm so much less authentic than Calamity. I care a good deal less about the important stuff than you do.

    I loved this post, and not because it was like written masturbation to read, but because it's about YOU, finding your way through this tangle of life and the position you've found yourself in with TBUH. I know (because I was your 4th like or something) that the position of leadership that you found yourself in with that group was sudden and surprising. That kind of thing might require a bit of reflection, and I'm glad you're reflecting.

    There is a musical, Evita, and in it there is a song called High Flying Adored. (It's wonderful if you can get the Mandy Petinkin version) There's a line, "So famous so easily so soon is not the wisest thing to be...all the young who've made it would agree." I think the line, though not Eva's character as portrayed by Che in that song, is apropos.

    Thanks again for the kudos, and best wishes as you continue to refine your path for yourself.

  2. Rachel - You're welcome! :)

    Erica - Thank you heaps for the kind wise words! I completely agree, the internet is so full of amazing people and things and that can be totally overwhelming at times. I'm glad you've stayed true to who you are and that's the inspiration people see and want to mirror. Thanks for being so accepting of the real "me." I had second thoughts about being so open here, but then I thought oh, what the heck, what do I have to lose really?! I need to listen to that song by Mandy Petinkin, thank you for mentioning that. Oh, and thanks for the high compliment on my writing abilities here, wowzers and *blush! :)

  3. wow, what company you put me in, yikes. thanks for thinking i really get lots done! not sure of the validity on that, but, we'll go with it.
    good for you for sticking to your guns and not getting too sucked down the image hole. and good for you for being an activist. i have never been. my man is the activist for both of us. i always saw it that he takes care of the far things, and i take care of the close things.
    you have to have a high capacity for self-indulgence to sit around writing about yourself all the time. don't feel like you're falling short if you'd rather think about other people and things!!!

  4. Good to hear from you Calamity! You run circles around me, seriously. :) I think my husband is the keeper of the close things, and I take care of the far things. Thanks for the words of wisdom, it helps me keep things in perspective. I'm learning to accept myself the way I am while appreciating others like yourself and not wasting my time trying to be something I'm not! If that makes sense. :) I really enjoy your blog, and love the tip jar idea! Keep up the amazing work.