Checking In: Autumn

autumn familyHi folks! I’m just writing in to say that I’ve been wandering through these last few days with my head lost in autumn, and I only just realized it today.

I’ve been enjoying myself — having coffee with friends; making DIY Christmas gifts with my mom; pillaging thrift shops; learning how to make Lydia laugh until she cries — and also occasionally moping around, complaining about the gray skies and Lydia’s nighttime escapades.

I’ve just been living life.

Which means I’ve been forgetting about the Internet. Whoops.

I’ll be back soon. In the meantime, I hope you’re all doing well and getting geared up for the holidays. This is the first year in many that I’m actually feeling excited about Christmas.

I hope to talk to you all soon. Thanks so much for the delightfully engaging conversation last week. You guys seriously rock. I have the best readers ever.

Lots of love.


P.S. I got new glasses.  I feel like I now have permission to be as nerdy as the Spirit leads me to be. Everyone will be like, “Well, she’s wearing wayfarers . . . “

Harvest Season

It’s still harvest season around here. Which means I’m BUSY.

I love it. I’ve always wanted to live in harmony with the seasons. I’ve always loved the thought of planting in the spring, tending in the summer, harvesting and preserving in the fall, and turning inward in the winter. It’s how our ancestors have lived since the beginning of time.

I recently read (and LOVED) Sharon Astyk’s Independence Days: A Guide to Sustainable Food Storage & Preservation, which got me really revved up for preserving this autumn. (Seriously: read this book. She’s a wonderful writer and so full of wisdom. I loved her Jewish faith-infused perspective on the Welcome Table as well). But my enthusiasm for food storage and preservation has meant putting my art on the back burner for a bit (And never before has the back burner been a more apt metaphor).

In the last week or so, I’ve canned diced tomatoes, tomato sauce and pasta sauce. I’ve chopped and frozen sweet peppers and grated more zucchini for the freezer, too.

I helped butcher three pigs with my parents, my sister, my aunt and my uncle. We made smoked sausage, bacon, ham, liverwurst, and an assortment of Mennonite breakfast delicacies I don’t know the English words for. (Do you remember the “cracklings” described in one of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books? We call it griven, and eat it for breakfast with homemade bread and strawberry jam. It’s kind of like ground-up bacon, except instead of being cured with smoke, is made through a process of slow simmering and stirring in a big cauldron of bubbling lard. It’s to die for.) We also cut pork chops and loin roasts and stew pieces.

After all the cutting, grinding, stuffing, smoking, frying and packaging, which took an entire day, I then had to spend an evening organizing and inventorying my freezers. Which was sorely needed after all the fruits and veggies I recently started storing in there.

In the upcoming weeks, I plan to do more tomato-canning with my mom, before taking care of the squash and the rest of the peppers in the garden. I’m probably forgetting something. Oh, I also want to dry and store all my fresh herbs.

I want so badly to be a farmer as well as a writer and a present parent. But it’s HARD to do it all.

I mentioned on Facebook that all the tomato-canning was making me an impatient mother, and I hate that. And my writing life is almost nonexistent right now.

I’m trying to make peace with the fact that different seasons will require different emphases on these different aspects of my life.

Right now, my time must be devoted primarily to the garden and the kitchen. It will change yet.

I’ll get back to writing more frequently soon.

Are you doing any harvesting or preserving this fall?

Image courtesy of photon_de.


mother baby beach swimming

It’s been a busy week around here, with harvest and preserving season in full swing. Peaches, tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, potatoes, onions and squash. I’ve been butchering chickens with my mom, freezing and dehydrating and fermenting fruits and vegetables. Next week I plan to devote a day to tomato canning. It’s also our anniversary this weekend, followed quickly by Lydia’s first birthday.

And then there’s the matter of getting to the beach as many times as possible before the summer is completely over.

So I’m pressing pause on the blog for just a moment.

Be back soon, with my final thoughts on Unconditional Parenting!

What are you doing with your last weeks of summer? (If indeed you are in the northern hemisphere, enjoying the last weeks of summer)

Blogging with a Mobile Baby (A Quick Update)

baby girl dress

Tuesdays and Thursdays are Kick Over Furniture Days here at the Quiring household.

[If you’re curious, Mondays are Meal-Planning/Grocery/Food-Prep Days; Wednesdays are Gardening and Preserving Days; Fridays are Organizing and Targeted Deep-Cleaning Days; and Saturdays are Housecleaning Days.]

Well, officially, Tuesdays and Thursdays are supposed to be Writing Days, but that’s not quite how they’ve been turning out lately. Lately, I spend so much time pulling gross things out of Lydia’s mouth, prying sharp objects out of her hands, whisking garbage cans away from her searching hands, rescuing her from the edge of the stairs, holding her over the potty, comforting her after tumbles and head-bumps, changing wet diapers, wiping down high chairs, washing my hands, and begging her to sleep so I can get some writing done, that at some point I end up wildly frustrated and start kicking over chairs and throwing notebooks.

It’s not pretty.

I do all of those other things with Lydia every other day of the week as well, but somehow things don’t end up quite as ugly on those days. None of those other activities — cleaning, cooking, etc — require the uninterrupted concentration that writing requires.

Constant interruptions are just part of life with a mobile baby, I’m learning. And I can deal with that on an ordinary day. But on a day when I’m trying to create? I don’t handle it so well.

Lydia at ten months is easily double the work she was at three months. She barely naps, is drawn to all the grossest and most dangerous objects in the house, can crawl with lightning speed, can open drawers and cabinets, and (most annoyingly) can reach the computer mouse and keyboard while I try to type.

She can also reach into the toilet (yay, splashing!) and can climb into the open dishwasher (yay, knives!). She loves to eat dog food and paper.

I hate that on Tuesdays and Thursdays I can’t be fully present to my baby. I’m irritable and distracted.

At the same time, I hate that I have close to thirty drafts of blog posts in my notebooks, and not enough uninterrupted time to turn them into complete posts. The way things currently run, a single post takes up to five hours to complete. I just can’t manage it these days.

All this is to say: blogging might be a little spotty for a while until I can figure something out with the munchkin. I’m hoping to make arrangements with the grandmas a few times a week so I can keep my butt in the chair and actually do some writing.

I must add that Lydia is also double the fun she was at three months. When I take her to the grocery store, she makes so many people smile that I feel like I’m doing an act of community service by taking her with me. And at the end of every trip I feel kind of bad that I’m the one who gets to take her home for unlimited kisses and snuggles. Why should I get her all to myself all day?

Anyhow, thanks for sticking with me, and I hope to be around more in the near future!

If you do creative work and have had a mobile baby, how did you manage? Please, tell me! I’m begging you!

Amendment to Posting Schedule

So I  KNOW that there must have been readers across the globe who sat aghast before their computers this last Friday and went, “Nothing new from Becoming Peculiar? But it’s Friday!”

Alas, I’m making an amendment to my posting schedule. Instead of three posts a week, like I originally promised, I’m going down to two a week (Tuesdays and Thursdays).

Making time to write three quality posts a week turned out to be a little more challenging than I’d anticipated.

I know you’re supposed to post at least five times a week if you ever want to “build an audience,” but like I explained in my last post, I’m letting go of the notion that I need to be wildly influential.

And blogging is a lot of work, you guys! Not only is there writing (which involves coming up with topics, writing, editing, etc), but also finding images that then have to be edited and sized. This takes longer than you’d imagine, if you’re not a blogger yourself.

I have handwritten outlines for about thirty posts already, and ideas for at least another thirty, but I’m struggling to find time to actually write them all.

It’s especially hard to get to it all when you’re trying to make everything yourself — from mayonnaise to hair conditioner — and you have a baby who’s learning to crawl.

I know that there are mom bloggers out there with six kids who home school. They also knit everybody’s sweaters and make their own cheeses and are working on their second book, and they manage to crank out five quality blog posts a week.

I don’t know how these women do it.

I’m not one of those bloggers, though I admire them immensely.

So in order to give myself some breathing space, I’m taking it down a notch. I’ll be seeing your twice a week instead of three times.

Thanks for your patience and your graciousness!

A Brief History of Becoming Peculiar

Before I go too much further, I thought I’d provide some background on how Becoming Peculiar came to be.

The book that first inspired Becoming Peculiar was Shane Claiborne’s Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical,  followed by Jesus for President, which Claiborne co-wrote with Chris Haw. (If you’ve read these books, the blog’s name was probably a dead giveaway, since both use the word “peculiar” quite liberally). These books assailed my brain with radical, exhilarating new ideas about love and peace and life.

From there I became interested in the New Monastic movement in general.

This new expression of Christianity was all about living amongst people who were different from you. It was all about sharing resources and making peace and listening to other people’s stories. It emphasized reconciliation between people, between species, and with the land. These all made my heart leap up and say “Yes, yes, yes . . . that’s what Jesus was talking about!”  I loved how the new monastics were all about inspiring people to join them rather than convincing people to agree with them. And they lived the way they did not in order to be saved, but because they were saved. Instead of guilt, they were filled with joy and celebration.

This movement was all about really living out the things we’d learned about in Sunday school – but when they were lived out, they became exciting, miraculous, intoxicating . . . so unlike Sunday school.

These folks that I was reading made Christianity seem hard, but in a good way: a way that made life meaningful, stunning, vibrant. They provided concrete ways to be like Jesus rather than just to talk about him. I was attracted to the idea of real relationships, fostered by hospitality, and not just the sterile relationships of Sunday-morning services.

These books had so much to offer in regards to life right now, not just some distant eternity, and I loved that. They provided me with a way to live, not just more dogma to believe.

It was so counter-intuitive that it actually made sense.

I was excited by these ideas, but I ran into some problems.

The thing was, I still didn’t exactly know how to embody them with my life.

For starters, everything they talked about seemed to involve moving to the city. This troubled me, first as an introvert, and second as a country girl. Did you really have to be around people constantly to be a good disciple of Jesus? I thought that might kill me.

Furthermore, the city makes me heart-sick. I can only walk on concrete and look at billboards and listen to the sound of garbage trucks and sirens for so long before I start longing for dirt and grass and wind and silence. I didn’t think I could ever thrive in an urban setting, and I felt Jesus would want me to thrive. I wondered if there was more than one way to live communally, that didn’t involve constant, debilitating exposure to urban clamor and bustle. Couldn’t one embody the ways of Jesus in a rural setting, amongst trees and fields?

So I set out to explore that very issue in this blog: whether there were other ways of living out Jesus’ radical way without living in an urban commune. Someone has to grow vegetables and milk cows and tend chickens, right? Could that possibly be me?

I also noticed, when learning about the new monastic movement, that I was hearing mostly male voices. I wondered if I might be able to contribute to the conversation from a female perspective, and especially from a mother’s point of view. Can you be a mother and a monastic? (I’ve already begun reading the eloquent Mama Monk, who clearly thinks you can).

So that’s where I am right now: wondering and hoping.

* * *

Shane Claiborne and the New Monastics felt it was indisputable that followers of Christ must live differently from the rest of the world. Jesus came to establish a new Kingdom that was completely counter to the kingdoms of the world. Followers of Jesus can’t look like those whose allegiances are to earthly kingdoms.

Reflecting on my own life, I realized that the way I lived was essentially no different from anyone else’s. You couldn’t tell from the way I lived my life that I followed the Rabbi who teaches that we have to die in order to live.

I want to be the kind of person who invites people into her home, who engages in conversation with people different from herself. I want to be the kind of person who participates in rituals and liturgy and prayer and festivals, who fasts and meditates. I want to be the kind of woman who visits lonely people and makes casseroles for families going through difficult times. I want to be the kind of person who makes sacrifices to protect the environment and to who shares with her neighbours.

I’m not that kind of person.

But I’m hoping that by sharing my desires and goals with other people, and hearing their stories, I might start to become that kind of person.

Will you join me in discovering how one can become peculiar?

Image courtesy of chiptape.

Beginnings: Welcome!

funny welcome

Welcome to Becoming Peculiar!

I want to thank you for stopping by and checking out this here blog. I hope you’ll stick around and make yourself comfortable as I get settled in. Please don’t mind if a few things are still out of place or if a box or two are still unpacked . . . I’m still getting organized.

Well, if you’re here, it’s probably because you already know me, either from Real Life or Project M; but if not: Hi! I’m Kathleen! I like you already. You can check out my “Meet Kathleen” page if you want to know more about me. I’m so pleased to make your online acquaintance! Please, introduce yourself in the comments if you feel so inclined!

I explain what Becoming Peculiar is all about in my About Page, but if you don’t feel like clicking, here’s a brief summary:

Becoming Peculiar chronicles a journey of living out Jesus’ radical, counter-cultural, counter-intuitive Way.

It’s inspired by 1 Peter 2:9 which says: “Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”

(I like the old-timey sound of the King James Version every once in a while. I’m a former student of English Renaissance literature, with a special interest in early modern sermons and religious poetry).

I want to live out a life that is so peculiar that it causes people to catch glimpses of that “marvelous light.” I’m on a quest to be strange in the ways that Jesus was strange:  dying to self, and joining the ranks of the poor, the uncool, and the weird.

I have so much to learn, so much sin to slough off, and I want your help. I want for us to learn and grow together.

My plan is to post something three times a week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday) though this may go down during the summer months while I’m busy with the garden. I want to cover such topics as creation care, Christ-inspired parenting, non-violence, and simple living.

Once a week — every Friday, I hope — I plan to devote a post to confessing ways that I’m still a hypocrite. There are two reasons for this: first, because I know people will sometimes see me acting and living in ways that don’t jive with what I claim to value. I might as well beat them to pointing it out. Second, I want to do this to keep myself from getting proud, lest I start to believe that simply writing about good things makes me a good person.

My primary motivation for starting this blog was to get me to start taking action on the things I believe in. After all, faith without works is dead (James 2:17).

I will probably occasionally write about and show pictures of my baby and my dog, too, even though they’re completely irrelevant to the blog’s topic, just because I won’t be able to help myself. Because seriously, look at these guys.

baby six months

small dog

I’m also passionate about such topics as natural childbirth, breastfeeding, and motherhood, so you can expect plenty of posts on those topics as well.

Thanks again for stopping by! Click around and get comfortable!

P.S. — if you’re ever looking for someone to help you set up a blog, consider working with the brilliant Vina of A Nourishing Home. I could NOT have created Becoming Peculiar without her technical skills, design skills, social media savvy, and general brilliant advice.

Now that I’ve told you a little about this blog, what would you be interested in seeing? Also: what you think are some characteristics of “a peculiar people” in the biblical sense?

Welcome Mat Image courtesy of alborzshawn.
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