Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Six Expenses We Choose to Have

In my previous post, I talked about expenses we avoid. Today, I’m talking about things that we’re happy to put our money toward!

You’ll note that these are expenses, which are different from charitable giving, savings, and investments (all of which are financial commitments that we highly prioritize). We don’t have to spend money on any of these items— but we choose to because they’re important to us.

1. High-quality eggs, dairy, and meat. We have ethical concerns with all three industries, so we’re trying to move away from conventional animal products as much as possible. We spend a good chunk of money buying humanely-raised eggs from the farmers’ market and our neighbor (although obviously we’re hoping to start collecting eggs from our chickens this spring!). We get a biweekly deliver of Oberweis’s whole milk and butter. (This is the best dairy option we’ve found so far, but if anyone knows a good source of local small-farm dairy in the St. Louis area, please let me know!) We buy almost no meat (we eat it probably once every three weeks, if that), but when we do, we try to invest in pastured meat and use up every scrap.

2. Local food. I go out of my way to visit the farmer’s market for fruits and veggies. This is more an expense of time and convenience than money, since in-season produce bought directly from a farmer is often comparable to what you can buy at Walmart. The problem is that farmers’ market season is almost over! I’m still trying to figure out how to buy local food in the winter— I’d appreciate any tips on this matter.

3. Quality athletic shoes. I don’t know if you know this, but Zach and I walk. A lot. As a result, we wear through shoes quicker than anyone else I know. We figured out a long time ago that buying $30 pairs of shoes every two months was not worth it. We now wear Asics and Solomon brand. Not cheap, but so worth it.

4. Bike accessories. Zach recently bought an electric bike trailer that gives him the extra speed boost he needed to bike the 20-miles round-trip to work. Although his fluctuating schedule makes it difficult to do this on a regular basis, we’re hoping this is part of a long-term plan to get off car transportation as much as possible.

5. Chickens. Getting everything set up for the chickens has been expensive! From the henhouse to the coop materials, we’ve been dishing out some cash. However, it’ll be worth it to grow eggs right in our own backyard. (If you’re wondering, feeding chickens and collecting their eggs is not cheaper than buying the battery-cage eggs at the grocery store. But eggs from happy chickens and eggs from chickens crammed into cages are two completely different things.)

6. Travel. Although we always try to travel as cheaply as possible (see my tips on this), it’s still a big expense— but one that we’re happy to invest in. From backpacking in Olympic National Forest to visiting family in Pennsylvania, I wouldn’t trade our travel experiences for any of the “normal” expenses that we’ve avoided. 


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Seven Expenses We Choose to Avoid

Homemade fondue dinner: best date EVER.

One day at work, Zach passed by a display in the electronics department featuring the newest toy: a set of drones that will battle each other mid-air. One of his co-workers asked if Zach was going to buy it, and when Zach said he couldn’t afford it, the co-worker laughed.

“What do you mean, you can’t afford it?” he asked. “Didn’t you guys just take a three-month vacation?” 

Zach answered, “The reason we could afford a three-month vacation is because we don’t buy random stuff like this!” 

Spending money is one of the most effective ways to show our priorities in life, and these priorities can be intentional or unintentional. Many people, if presented with a clear-cut choice, would take a vacation to Hawaii over a pile of random gadgets from Amazon— but in reality, they spend their money on the latter rather than the former.  A lot of people wish they had enough money to travel (or learn a new skill or just take some time off), but also sleepwalk through life without considering that the money they’re spending might be better placed somewhere else. 

One of Zach’s and my ongoing goals is to be intentional in the way we spend our money. That means spending less money in some areas and more money in others (see part two, coming soon!). I write this list not to brag, but to give an example of what we’ve chosen and how it’s working for us. For some people, these expenses are very important, and that’s fine— they’re just not important to us.

First of all, three expenses we’ve never chosen to have: 

1. Television service. If you’re about my age, this is probably a no-brainer for you— who watches regular TV anymore when there’s Netflix? News shows and sports games are online (not that I watched them to begin with), and the library has a massive bookshelf of interesting documentaries. 

2. Drinks out. I don’t drink to begin with, and Zach would rather mix his own drinks at home or buy a nice craft brew to enjoy while watching TV or reading books. He also makes coffee every morning before work so he’s not relying on Starbucks. 

3. A second car. I work from home (or at the historic district a mile from our house), so functioning on one car is quite easy for us. However, other friends in different situations have still made alternate transportation work for them.

And four expenses we’re choosing to cut out or minimize now:

4. “Just ‘cause” shopping trips. I almost never buy new clothes to begin with, but I had gotten into a habit of perusing thrift stores for clothes, household goods, and records. Although I’m not planning to cut these out entirely, I want to be more intentional about what I buy and focus on using and enjoying what I already have, rather than accumulating more.

5. Wi-Fi. We had gone Wi-Fi free before, but got Internet when Francis was living with us. Yes, watching Netflix was really nice, but Internet service is freakin’ expensive, so cutting this expense was an easy decision. That said, my job is completely online, so how do I manage? My smartphone (a basic Windows phone model) can function as a Wi-Fi hotspot, with 9G of high-speed data per month (check out “Internet Sharing” under “Settings”). This is plenty of data for surfing the web, working my online job, and watching the occasional YouTube video. I would miss Netflix, but our library owns all seven seasons of Parks and Rec, so the withdrawal hasn’t kicked in yet.

6. Pets. My neighbors tried to give me a free kitten, and although my heartstrings were tugged, I was firm in refusing. Pets aren’t really free— there’s the neutering/spaying, shots, vet visits, food, care if they get sick, etc. With our current priorities, it’s just not worth it to us. (That said, I fully support my friends getting pets so that I can visit them without the commitment!) And yes, chickens are sort of like pets, but they give you eggs and you can eat them when they get old, so they don’t count.

7. Eating out. We have a habit of going out for fast food once a week with our church friends, but these days we just pack ourselves sandwiches and order some fries, if anything. We had already started moving away from eating out in general since we started avoiding factory-farmed meat— vegetarian food at restaurants is generally either bland or grossly overpriced. (Cooking a nice dinner together, packing a picnic lunch, or making homemade ice cream are all great dates!)

Like I said, I don’t want this to come off as arrogance, only information. Now it’s your turn! What kind of “normal” expenses do you say “no” to in order to say “yes” to something more important to you?


Monday, October 9, 2017

What I've Been Reading: Late Summer 2017

To be honest, I didn’t read much when we were out west— I was too focused on experiencing things rather than reading about them. However, since we’ve gotten home, I’ve been devouring book after book. Here’s a sampling of my favorites:

Organic Mushroom Farming and Mycoremediation: Simple to Advanced and Experimental Techniques for Indoor and Outdoor Cultivation by Tradd Cotter

We bought Cotter’s book after seeing two of his presentations at the Mother Earth News Fair. His passion and creativity are clear to see, both in person and in this jam-packed manual/manifesto. He covers the basic growing techniques for different mushrooms, and profiles the varieties with ratings of how easy or hard they are to grow. There’s a lot of good basic information in it, but he also addresses sophisticated scientific growing techniques that made my head spin, and delves a lot into different uses for mushrooms beyond food. Definitely worth the read if you’re interested in growing mushrooms, or simply want to learn about how mushrooms can save the world.

Practical Permaculture: for Home Landscapes, Your Community, and the Whole Earth by Jessi Bloom and David Boehnlein

This book gives a clear overview of permaculture concepts and how they affect our everyday lives, particularly in the way we design our surroundings, grow food and animals, and engage in commerce. It’s designed mostly for people with larger plots of land, although there was a lot of value for me as a small landholder, too. This would be a good follow-up to Gaia’s Garden in a deeper study of permaculture.

Free-Range Chicken Gardens: How to Create a Beautiful, Chicken-Friendly Yard by Jessi Bloom

This book discusses how to keep chickens in a garden without them destroying everything. With beautiful photography and a lot of practical tips, it was well worth the read, although sometimes I wished she would elaborate more on her points. 

Gardening with Less Water: Low-Tech, Low-Cost Techniques by David Bainbridge

This is a pithy, no-nonsense guide to cutting your garden water usage by a significant amount, no fancy mechanisms required! Each chapter discusses a different methods, from clay pots to porous capsules and hoses to deep pipes and swales. I know I’ll definitely check it out from the library again as we continue to design our yard.

Homemade for Sale: How to Set Up and Market a Food Business from Your Home Kitchen by John Ivanko and Lisa Kivirist

What is cottage food, and how do you sell it? This book is a definitive guide to getting started with a small-scale food business. Although reading this book convinced me that Zach and I are not in a place to run a viable cottage-food enterprise, it’s good information to keep tucked away for future reference. And if you have any interest in selling your homemade jam, fresh tomatoes, or specialty cakes from your home, this is a must-read.

Why yes, I have read these books approximately eight bazillion times. No, I am still not tired of them. If you haven’t read them, you should (just be sure to start with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, no matter what Harper Collins tell you)!


Saturday, October 7, 2017

This Week: Chickens, Larvae, and Other Things That Make Us Happy

Although autumn is still refusing to arrive, Zach and I are making the best of it. We eat salad, keep the fans running, note the yellowed cottonwood leaves (despite everything else being green), and pretend that it’s a month earlier than it is. 

In other news, our chicks are growing up! Their downy feathers are being replaced by strong grown-up pinions, and they grow so much that it’s noticeable from day to day. They’re starting to be shaped less like fluffy balls and more like chickens, including tiny little combs on the Buffys’ and Mayfeathers’ heads. Bobbie Dylan is still terrified of people, but the others are quite friendly, especially one of the Buffys who will hop up on your hand and even sit on your shoulder like a parrot (as my brother’s brother-in-law discovered).

Meanwhile, Zach and I (well, mostly Zach) have been working in fits and starts on getting their outdoor accommodations ready. After much debate we bought a prefab henhouse from My Pet Chicken, but have been building a run from scratch. We’ve connected PVC pipes into a 10’x10’x4’ structure, and are working on attaching hardware cloth to the sides. We have taken the chickens out in it a few times, with supervision, and they love it. They poke around in the grass, chase gnats, flutter and flap and jump around, have little dominance battles where they size each other up, nibble on plantain and dandelion, and sound warning cries whenever a plane flies overhead. Once we get the run completed I’ll let them out more often, even though they won’t live outside full time for another several weeks.

Another rather geeky triumph this week was the discovery of a certain kind of larvae in our compost pile. I hadn’t turned the pile for a while, and when I did, I was met by the sight of a literal swarming pile of maggot-looking things. It was pretty disturbing until we learned that they are actually soliderfly larvae. When Zach properly identified them, he was so happy I thought he was going to dance. Why, you ask? Soldierflies are harmless creatures whose larvae have a voracious appetite— they can liquify a compost pile in a few days if there’s enough of them. Once they grow to full size, they crawl out of the pile as easy-to-harvest protein-packed chicken snacks. So the chain goes like this: you feed your scraps to the larvae, the larvae feed the chickens, the chickens eat less feed, you save money. Circle of life. Zach put some of the larvae into a separate bin, and I feed them our kitchen waste directly, rather than mixing it into straw or leaves.

Well, that’s enough geeky homesteading stuff for one post. Have a great week! Autumn can’t be far away!


Thursday, October 5, 2017

How I Care

“You won’t rescue the Shire just by being shocked and sad, my dear Frodo.”
~Merry Brandybuck, Return of the King

A couple days ago I was sitting at my desk, taking a break from editing papers to see what my friends were up to on Facebook. As soon as I looked at the newsfeed, I plunged into a world of darkness. Images of weeping people at the Vegas shooting, memes about gun control and lack thereof, arguments, condolences, news articles with catchy titles. I found myself falling down the rabbit hole until I couldn’t breathe anymore, and yet here I was, scrolling, scrolling, always mechanically scrolling.

Finally I paused and looked up. The sky was cloudy through my window and I could see the henhouse that Zach and I had just painted. “Why am I scrolling through these articles?” I asked myself. After a few moments, I answered, “Because I want to help, and I don’t know how.”

I shut my computer. I stood up and shook myself off. I folded some laundry, and did some dishes, and cleared my head. When I returned to editing papers, I critiqued a student on her run-on sentences while being fully aware that she lives in Puerto Rico and does her schoolwork by generator power these days. (She had written me, “The beautiful colors of my country are gone and all that’s left is wreckage.”) 

Feeling shocked and sad felt more like caring than teaching a student how to construct a sentence. But was it really?

The pressure to stay informed is higher than ever, and with a shrinking world and instantaneous technology, there’s more than ever to keep track of. If I don’t know the details of the Las Vegas shooting or the latest police brutality case or the fallout of Hurricane Irma, I feel out of the loop, uninformed— maybe I just don’t even care?— but I do care! I want to care, I must care, because these are things are horrible or unjust and worth caring about! And so I reassure myself that I obviously do care because look at all these articles I’m anonymously skimming through. Look at how bad and sad and shocked I feel. Keep scrolling, keep scrolling, keep scrolling.




Compassion for other people is essential, as is prayer if you’re a Christian. And I do believe it’s crucial to be informed about important issues.

But here’s the thing: there are so many important issues. 

And you cannot possibly care about them all.

We are human. We have limited time, energy, focus, and money. If I try to commit myself to every single bad thing that happens, every injustice in the world, I will crash and burn and spend my time numbly scrolling through articles, substituting feeling bad for any sort of meaningful action.

The more I focus on the latest tragedy, the less energy I have for nurturing my students, listening to people with different perspectives, encouraging friends who are going through a tough time, and gaining a thorough understanding of just a few issues. The point is not to bury your head in the sand or lack empathy— it’s to use your time wisely for the greatest good.

Some people have committed themselves to politics— they call their representatives, get involved in local government, march in protests, vote at every election. Some people are committed to education— they teach or support teachers or homeschool, lobby for school funding, volunteer at fundraisers, spend time tutoring children who need a little extra help. Some are committed to welcoming refugees or learning more about issues of race or providing programs for homeless people. 

I’ve chosen to focus on food issues. I support local farmers, grow some veggies, and raise chickens. I try to keep up on news and articles about the troubles of the industrial food system, the economics of small-scale farming, the ethical problems of concentrated animal feeding operations, and creative methods for building resilience and food security in a community. These topics are much less dramatic than, say, Nazis marching in the streets, but they are tied to a web of issues that affect the health and well-being of everyone in the country, especially the poor and urban. Food issues are vitally important, and they’re important to me— but not everyone can choose to care about them, and that’s okay.

In the end, random spurts of action based on the latest outrage are not going to create lasting change. Instead, I think it’s better to find your “thing”— the issues that you can put the force of your focus behind. Be informed about that thing. Devote a consistent stream of money, time, study, and physical and emotional energy to it. 

Don’t feel bad about shutting off the news if it means opening yourself to meaningful, focused action.


Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Am I Crazy?

I’ve written about the idea of “normal” before, and I’d like to revisit it because it continues to be a theme in my life. 

Most of my generation has rejected the idea of normal, and especially as a homeschooled kid in the early 2000’s, I wore the phrase “I’m so weird” as a badge of honor. (Let’s be honest, every Myspace page back then featured some variation of the self-descriptor “LOL I’M SO CRAZY.”) 

I had a brief stint in the boundaries of “normal” last year, then ruined my track record by leaving town for three months to gallivant around the west. Now I’m back, and my life is shifting back to normal again. However, Zach and I are making habits of things that aren’t normal— we’ve cancelled our Internet service (our phones have limited Wi-Fi), cut out almost all fast and junk food, and bought some chickens; Zach occasionally bikes the 10 miles to work and we spend a lot of our time feeding various conglomerations of bacteria and yeast that provide us with food (sourdough, sauerkraut, kombucha, kefir). 

With this “I’m weird enough to make people call me a hippie” list in my back pocket, it’s tempting for me to whip them out in conversation (or on this blog) for an adrenaline rush. Somewhere not very far under the surface, I’m still the lol-I’m-so-crazy Myspace kid. 

However, there are several problems with drawing a sense of purpose from how “crazy” or “alternative” you are. 

First of all, the sense of arrogance that comes along with it is not pretty, and this quickly descends into an elitism that looks down on and judges “normal” people as being less important than yourself.

Secondly, there’s no point in being crazy for craziness’s sake. If you really believe that what you’re doing is great— that you’re not doing it for some sort of weird alternative status, but honestly because you think it’s good and right— you won’t care about how other people perceive you. (Heck, if you’re confident enough, you won’t feel nervous about wrecking your image by drinking soda or liking the latest Disney movie.)

Thirdly, if there is a moral, ethical, and/or practical reason underlying your alternative decisions, this “craziness” mindset might get in the way of trying to show other people how great these decisions can be. Good choices shouldn’t be for an elite alternative group— they should be for everyone!

In the future, I hope that it’s perfectly normal to ride the bus everywhere, grow veggies instead of a lawn, compost all table scraps and eat a mostly vegetarian diet. I hope that supporting local farms, not being in credit card debt, fermenting vegetables and spending within your means becomes the mainstream way of life. 

In the end, I don’t want to be crazy— I want to be normal. And I want “normal” to be as satisfying, freeing, peaceful, ethical, and full of justice as it can be.


Saturday, September 23, 2017

Picking Up Chicks

Say hello to our newest arrivals!

After literal years of discussing and debating, agonizing over whether to break the law (then finding out the law had recently changed), and spending too much time gallivanting around to commit, Zach and I finally bought some chickens! 

They are two Buff Orpingtons (the yellowish ones), both named Buffy; two Barred Plymouth Rocks (the black ones), both named Mayfeather; and an Ameraucana named Bobbie Dylan. We bought them a week and a half ago at the Fenton Feed Mill for a few bucks a piece, toted them home in a cardboard container that strongly resembled a Happy Meal box, and unloaded them into a large plastic bin under a heat lamp, where they’ll live until they’re ready to face the outdoors.

The chicks, 2-3 days old. Look how tiny Bobbie's wing is!

In that time, they’ve grown up a lot, from fluffy little balls of down into somewhat scraggly balls of down with fledging wings and longer legs. They’re a ton of fun to watch as they run pell-mell around the bin, fluttering and flapping and trying to jump out of the box (even though I put chicken wire on top). Then they’ll abruptly stop, fluff up into spheres, and face-plant into the wood shavings for a few minutes, their little sides expanding and contracting with deep sleep. Then they’ll snap awake as if from a scary chicken dream, stretch expansively, and continue running around like crazy.

This Buffy is pretty adventuresome— she'll hop onto your finger and let you life her out of the brooder

Our new favorite activity is feeding them small crickets from our yard. One of the Mayfeathers immediately caught on and has snatched up so many crickets that we had to take her out of the bin to give the others a fighting chance. One of the Orpingtons finally managed to grab a cricket, then ran around with it for two minutes looking utterly confused before she figured out how to swallow it. Bobbie Dylan remains terrified of the bugs.

I’m so excited for this newest addition to our homestead! Here’s hoping we can help them grow strong and healthy through the winter, with the promise of delicious backyard eggs in the spring.


Wednesday, September 13, 2017

This Week: I Am Home

Flowers from my garden: black-eyed susans and bachelor's buttons

My favorite view of the Missouri River
When Zach and I returned to our home church a few weeks ago, several people asked us, “So how long are you in town for?” Apparently we had given the impression that we were either permanent nomads or else planning to move out west. All day long we were telling people, “Oh, we’re here for good. We live here.” Some people seemed confused that we still wanted to live in St. Charles after all the beautiful places we’d visited. I find it hard to convey that the dramatic scenery of the west makes me happier than ever to live in the midwest. 

To many, the thought of returning from a trip to the realities of jobs, mortgage, and bills sounds horrible. But after having been away from everyday life for three months, I appreciate it much more than I did before.

Cooking black-eyed peas for soup
I loved our Grand Gallivant. But I love our home in St. Charles, too. My life here is full of simple joys, long-term projects, and time spent with people I love.

My teaching job started up this week, so the past few weeks gave me plenty of time to readjust to life at home. I thawed our frozen food, bought vegetables, and began making and stockpiling soup (including this awesome recipe). I weeded the garden (morning glories had nearly eaten half our porch), mowed the yard, and trimmed back the wildflower garden. I discovered an army of creepy-looking bugs on my asparagus and almost tried to kill them before learning that they were ladybug larvae— one of the most beneficial carnivores you can find in a garden— and I was so happy to see my integrated pest management working that I literally laughed for joy. 

Cherry tomatoes from the farmers market
The river is here, higher than usual but not flooding. We saw two or three fireflies before the cooler weather set in. I’ve had the windows open, and I can hear trains rumbling by in the distance. I passed out flyers to the Frenchtown businesses. Zach has started making sourdough bread again. We’ve played a lot of Rock Band and I’ve gotten to the “Hard” setting on the bass (except for Rush songs because Geddy Lee is a maniac). We’ve been studying Deuteronomy and the Ten Commandments in church. I’ve started working on a piece of piano music. My houseplants are back, making me smile every time I see them. I’ve been listening to Kansas and Simon and Garfunkel on my record player. Zach and I have started biking more, dodging butterflies along the trail, seeing how little we can use our car.
Aloe, peace lily, and snake plant

Yes, real life is less dramatic than visiting a national park. But real life brings me a kind of quiet joy that can’t be found on a trip. And for the moment, having returned from a grand adventure, I’m ready to settle down and continue making this house into a haven.


Tuesday, September 12, 2017

The Grand Gallivant, an Epilogue: The End of the World

First of all: you need to check out this album. Created by my friends Tyler, Adrienne and Amanda (with contributions from several other people, including me), it is the perfect encapsulation of how I feel about the west and the apocalypse.


It’s easier to believe in the end of the world when you’re out west.

Whether you’re staring into a pit of boiling mud so alkaline that it could melt your skin off Raiders of the Lost Ark-style if you fell in, or hiking underneath a 6-million-pound boulder perched on a slender neck of sandstone you can scratch with your finger, or coughing through the smoke of several million acres of forest up in flames, or simply riding along the empty hills— miles upon miles of scrub and sand and stone— with no food or water in sight, it’s easy for your mind to wander toward thoughts of destruction and chaos and the end of all things.

You see a pronghorn antelope trotting through the sagebrush; all the giant predators that hunted it during the ice age are extinct. You see a mountain meadow; a mile-deep glacier scraped over it eons ago, scalping the landscape down to bedrock. You see an interesting rock formation along the beach; a volcano spewed them here and heated them into jelly. The earth has been through so much violence, so much upheaval. What makes us think that we, with our little human inventions, could be safe from something at the scale of nature? All of Yellowstone is a sleeping supervolcano, and it won’t sleep forever. 

“When Yellowstone blows up,” Kate told me at the farm in Idaho, “Billy and I are getting in our truck and driving toward the light.” 

It doesn’t sound like a bad way to go.

Right now, much of the country is on fire, and some of it is underwater, or soon to be underwater. I look at the pictures wide-eyed: as much as I love the idea of resilience and self-reliance, all the canned goods and garden systems in the world can be swept away in a moment and smashed.

Yet here I am at my home in Missouri, balanced on top of a fault line, my house protected from the longest river in North America by a six-foot wall of dirt, and I put black-eyed susans into a mason jar because I think it looks pretty. The familiarity of Missouri keeps my mind safe from the apocalypse of the west. The cornfields protect me from the end of the world even as they cause it.

The sky is full of smoke, the earth is full of water, and I’m caught in between, trying to live life as best I can.

If I knew the world would end tomorrow, I would plant a tree today.

Keep planting trees, everyone. 


Friday, September 8, 2017

The Grand Gallivant: In Summary

When we returned home, people asked us the Question: “How was your trip?”

“Good,” I would blurt out. “Fun. We learned a lot. There were goats.” Goats are relatable. Most people are content with this answer, and we can move on with our conversation.

As usual, I have a laundry list of places we went— national parks, farms, visits with family— and things that we learned— basic spinning with cashmere, beekeeping, farm management, cherry-juicing, wine-making, four-wheeling, basic acro-yoga, raising meat chickens, plus all the workshop topics at the Mother Earth News Fair— but these are merely elements. They don’t sum up what our trip was like. But sometimes they’re the best I can do. 

This trip was certainly one of the most unusual, involving so many different elements and experiences. Some of the best moments weren’t particularly blog-worthy, such as eating freshly-grilled corn at Gary’s house while cheering on Chris Froome in the Tour de France, or walking through the neighborhoods in Vancouver talking and dreaming about what we wanted life to be like when we got home. It was beautiful, and sometimes boring, and often very intense.

I wrote this in my diary as we were headed back from our Utah trip: 

You always think trips will change you. How could they not? When you’re in the middle of picking raspberries for the first time, or toasting marshmallows with fifteen German guys, or trekking with iron legs up your hundredth mountain in a month, or holding a thousand bees on a frame in your hands, you think, this is going to change me. There’s no way I can go back to the way things were before.

Then you come home. And the house is the same, the city is the same, the people are the same (although some of them have longer hair than you remember). And in a day or two you realize that you are the same too, and it’s alarming but it’s also a relief.

When people ask you, “How did you change?”, if you’re honest with them you say, “I learned that if you push down on the tip of a banana it breaks into three even pieces, and now I will think about that every time I eat a banana.” Because it’s one of the only tangible things that you hold onto once you are home.

And you sigh, and you stop noticing that you’re still the same, and months or years slip by.

Then one day, you plant raspberries in your yard, and when the first berry ripens and you tuck it into your cheek, your memory bursts open and you’re back to where you began, and you remember who you were then and who you are now, and you see that they are the same— but as a seed and an apple tree are the same.

Coming home from a trip is a lot to process, and I feel like I’m still finding my feet. But in short, I’m so glad we went... and I’m so glad we’re home.