one of the skills i am trying to work on is managing. not in the sense of being a manager, which my family will tell you i am already waaaaaaaaay too good at. rather, i am trying to see how well i can manage on things that fall short.

some people manage well because they have a “can do” attitude. i see this time and time again with homesteaders- they don’t have a certain tool, so they improvise. they are out of a key recipe ingredient and the closest store is a 45 minute drive, so they make a substitution. they create what they need from scraps of other things, and they are able to formulate workable solutions.

my good friend in canada has managed to crank out several gourmet meals without a working oven. she modified her crock pot to be able to bake in it, and she somehow conjured up magic for the rest. i didn’t eat these particular meals with her, but i know how good her cooking is, and i’m sure these feasts did not disappoint.

i am trying to manage in a different way. i want to prove to myself that we don’t truly need what we think we need. while i am not what you would call a “high maintainance” girl, there are things i like to have around to make life more comfortable. i NEED a mug big enough for morning coffee. i NEED dryer sheets to make my clothes clean and static free. i NEED adequate refrigerator space and pantry space and bathrooms with locks on the doors. currently, i NEED really warm socks in seattle. but what is silly is that none of us really NEEDS any of those things.

yes, they make my days smoother. the make my life more comfortable. they make me less stressed out. but if i had to be without any of that stuff, i’m sure i could do it.

i just hope it wouldn’t be for a long time 😉

the real challenge is, though, to manage and feel like a hero, rather than to do without and feel like a martyr.

a few days ago my oven was fatigued. this has become somewhat of a pattern, albeit an unpredictable one so far. my oven will work-sometimes-.  i can’t bake on the bottom shelf, because things burn on the bottom before they cook all the way through. ok, so i bake on the top rack. yes, the burners sometimes don’t really heat up. so, i covered the pot that refused to boil, and i got it to boil in just under an hour. not great, but certainly not a tragedy. we haven’t had to eat raw food or go without meals or even do emergency carry-out pizza yet. but sometimes it looms large on the radar.

the day after the great non-boiling event of 2011, the burners were back with a vengeance. they heated right up, and although it took them a long long time to cool down, at least we were able to cook.

thus ensued a lengthy discussion between me and *h about how bad the oven would have to be before i would consider getting a new one. it’s not that i have anything against a new oven. it’s just that i feel like i should be able to manage. if my friend can make meals for her family of 6 using a crock pot and hand tools, shouldn’t i at least be happy i have an oven?

things are so skewed here in america that the line between want and need is often a blur. we have so much and we see others with so much and we are surrounded by so much that it is hard to know how much is too much and how much is just enough.

also, here on reality island, i have a family. it is one things to proverbially pound my chest and proclaim my heroism about managing with so little. it is quite another to tell the kids that we will no longer have boxed cereal or grease-cutting dish liquid or socks without patched up holes. there’s a razor-thin line between my feelings of accomplishment and their feelings of deprivation.

so, we didn’t yet get a new stove. i proposed cooking in the fireplace, but that was quickly vetoed. we have plenty of back-ups if our stove should fake its own death again, so we are not living on the edge of panic that i would be if our stove was my only option.

if we could turn back the clock, we could all be just a little less spoiled.

but, in the here and now, i know my oversized mugs are a luxury, and i will confess that i really really enjoy them.

now if only i could live without warm socks…