Everyone knows about Stephanie Queen’s Myron. Sometimes I wish I had such a male in my life…well, maybe not Myron. I’d wind up killing him or at least firing him. (And if he reads this, I’ll be in so much trouble.) But he has one of those life-right & glued positions. So Stephanie and Myron are stuck with each other forever! If you have a drop of royal blood in your veins, you totally understand.
My life is far from glamorous. I opted for my dream and I continue to stand on my head to catch that elusive butterfly. But what I’ve discovered along the way is that my life really has never changed. When my girls were little, I gardened. I grew vegetables. I searched for fruit and knew every neighbor with a fruit tree or bush in their yard.
When I discovered my one neighbor had what they called a Damsel tree, I asked if I could have the fruit. To them, it was just a pretty flowering tree, but too messy with that fruit dropping. No problem, I relieved them of a ton of fruit. I later discovered it was actually a damson plum tree. But a plum is a plum, and it made delicious jelly and preserves. Another neighbor had crab apples and when mixed with mint, it was another great jelly. I started scouting. Homemade jams and jellies sound delicious, right? They were, but it was also hard work. So many times I was on my feet into the wee morning hours, processing fruit and knowing I had to get my husband off for work in a few more hours.
Yet I did it. I did it because I could, and it stretched the family budget, providing healthy food for them. Want to debate jelly as being healthy? It was about as healthy as a chocolate chip cookie. But I’m assuming that no one is feeding the family cookies instead of meal. A smear of jelly on a peanut butter sandwich is delicious. Fruit tucked into a bar cookie is even better! Mixed with a homemade granola, it makes the perfect afternoon snack. And these little treats kept the meals from becoming ho-hum. But they had one more thing, no pesticides.
When it came to my garden, there were years when I had too many beans, not enough peas, the tomato crop failed, and there more blueberries than we could eat in twenty years. Somehow life balances out. I got through it, and I learned as I went.
Turkey is my least favorite meat, but it tends to be cheap. So when those birds went on sale, I bought several for my freezer! I took advantage of any sale I could.
But one day my hubby came home and told me the guys with whom he worked were going fishing in the Chesapeake Bay. They were chartering a boat, and he wanted to do it. The cost back then was $20 for him. He might as well have asked for $2000. He never asked for anything frivolous, and he wasn’t the kind of guy to run off with his pals. I pulled out my budget and checked it carefully. Okay. The entire time I’m thinking do you know how much fish I could buy with $20? I thought you got seasick?
Oh fairy dust, fairy dust, sprinkle it my way! He came home from that outing with almost the entire catch. He had six of the largest coolers I ever saw, and they had to be returned on Monday morning. A few guys grabbed a couple of big fish but left behind 99% of the catch. I don’t clean fish! GAG! My hubby spent the next day cleaning fish. He filleted and I packed for freezing until the freezer was filled with fish. We still had one cooler left with at least another 50 pounds of fish. I called a friend and her hubby was at our doorstep that night. Happy to relieve us of that last cooler of fish. My hubby never asked to go again, maybe he never wanted to clean that many fish again. Or maybe he was more seasick then he wanted anyone to know.
And then there was the time that a friend called and asked if I wanted what the movers wouldn’t take. She told me to bring some brown paper bags. They packed her for overseas and no food item was allowed, no aerosol, no cleaning products, etc. Lady Luck had sprinkled her dust! Pickles, olives, you name it, and she had it. She had boxes of individually packaged treats. Bags of potato chips, a huge box of frozen hamburgers, several packages of hot dogs along with bags of rolls, and a dozen other items often seen at a picnic including the paper products. She had two un-opened half gallons of ice cream in her freezer! A few days before, she had thrown a big party for her children and their friends. It’s actually amazing when you see what other people eat or maybe don’t eat. There was shampoo, hairspray, hand lotion, laundry detergent, bleach, and bathroom, kitchen, and window cleaning products. That stuff is expensive! Not to mention all the paper products such as paper towels and toilet paper, and dozens of items from the medicine cabinet that every family can use. There was stuff in there that I had never used, and several products that were a different brand from what I used, but free made them precious freebies. I thanked her profusely and found several new brands that I liked. It took me three trips to bring it all home. And her fancy wooden box that held her potatoes and onions – she gave me the box and the contents.
A few years ago, another friend moved and this time she only had some cleaning products. I think I still have a few of her things. But there’s no point in wasting things, and stretching the family budget in those days took serious dedication and hard work. It’s not much different from what I do today.
Today I work to create successful books. Back then I worked to create a healthy wonderful meals for my family. The difference? There’s not many because both are done from scratch, both require learning from books, and from trial and error. Rodale became my friend just as Betty Crocker had. There was no Internet, so my garden books matched my cookbooks in numbers. Experience is a great teacher! Just as I learned not to pick okra and then jump in the car and drive for 40 minutes without washing in the heat of summer, I learned not to leave proofing yeast on the counter overnight. “Mommy what’s that ugly slimy stuff on the counters and floor?” You don’t what to know how far yeast can go! Or what it’s like to remove it from the dinning room rug. Yeast is a living organism. It must be killed first!
Just as the women who lived 100 or more years ago, they wanted their food to be the best. They had nothing else worth the strife. And in some ways being a stay at home mom put me in that category. I was home because I didn’t have the ability to earn enough money to pay for babysitting, my gas, etc. For the few pennies I’d bring in, I was worth more at home. My job was to stretch the money that my husband made. And stretch it I did!
I learned skills out of necessity and out of curiosity. I took my children to the library and also brought home books on things that interested me, such as recipes of the women in wagon trains. Read few of those recipes. I promise, I wouldn’t make some of that for my family. Little did I know that I was training to one day write about those times and period in history.
I opted to stay at home and write. Today I strive to stretch my meager budget while producing the finest quality books. That’s no different than what I did to produce the finest possible meals for my family.
I’ve spent the last few weeks on a reading binge and I’ve been surprised at the lack of quality in books that outsell me. It has shocked and saddened me. I could have bought cheap white bread when my girls were little, but I didn’t. I made delicious homemade breads for my family using the finest ingredients I could manage to find. To me, it was a matter of pride. And so it is with my books.
I’m proud of what I did back then, and I’m proud of my books. Maybe every book I produce will never be a million dollar seller, but as long as I can look at them with a sense of dignity, then I have accomplished something important.