Homestead: 1.) A house, especially a farmhouse, with adjoining buildings and land. 2.) The home and adjoining land occupied by a family. 3.) an ancestral home 4.) Where you lay your heart. Thanks for stopping by the homestead!

Closing Up the Homestead

Before my paid WordPress url expires and we don’t renew it, I wanted to close out my time here on my virtual homestead in the only way I know how… Write. It. Out. 

The above picture is of my little girl and I walking down the aisle for our cousin’s wedding back in June. I love this photo for so many reasons. 1.) it’s a silhouette style which looks gorgeous and can be used here without me worrying about splashing my daughter’s image all over the Internet. 2.) it’s the moment right before she grabbed my hand because she ended up feeling overwhelmed by the 300 plus wedding guests staring at her. 3.) Im newly pregnant and super puffy with her baby brother but this photo reminds me of my dancing days and makes my legs look slim  4.) the flower girl ensemble was off the hook -complete with perfect little girl cowboy boots and super tulle and 5.) I love how this image makes my little girl look like she has fairey wings. I think it is a good way to visually close my blogging experience the past 3 years. 

I started this blog in earnest and with the intention, research, and design to showcase my creative concepts, maybe finally getting my own event business off the ground, and chronicle my journey through motherhood. What it ended up becoming was a journal of our family’s experience and my education through lead poisoning, necessary homelessness, traveling for healthy homes & important work, loss of friendships, and resettlement back into the city that poisoned us. Which is fine, that’s life. You need to adapt, change, grow, move forward and all that. However, what I did not expect to get from this blog was a bunch of backlash, nasty comments, threats, and general anger thrown at me like shit flying from monkeys. I guess I should’ve expected that anything can happen in the great wild Wild West that is the internet blogosphere, because people suck and have nothing better to do, but some of the comments I moderated and obviously did not approve on here were ridiculous. It’s why I haven’t blogged at all since Spring. I’ve also been very busy growing another human, raising a pre-schooler, traveling to California and having a kick ass summer with my family. 

Let me be clear, I’m fully aware that I’ve “put myself out there in this way” thereby allowing for me to be critiqued, questioned, and criticized so I am not feeling like a victim in any of this. I do think it’s pretty dumb for random strangers to have read any of my blog pieces and told me that I was “long winded, whiny, and annoying,” “you deserve to loose friends cause you’re lame,” call me an “Environ-Nazaii” because I wrote about our very real experience with lead poisoning, or told me that “you’re not famous or anything, get over yourself.” Ha! Um okay. Cause everyone knows that “being famous” is the ultimate achievement in any human life. Those comments actually weren’t the ones that affected me in any way. It was the calls for me to “stop being just a parent and get a job” or the ones that called for me to “get mental help for the sake of my child,” or the person who told me that “the world doesn’t need anymore stupid mom bloggers, just go away already.” Usually I would let ridiculous comments from strangers (and more than likely fat trolls) just fall by the wayside. But I received these while I was newly pregnant again, sick -really sick all the time, and fighting for assistance for my family. So, I went away. I posted a picture of some pancakes I made for us (because I’ve really gotten into pancake art for my kiddo’s breakfast), I took the WordPress apps off my devices, and I went and lived life with my growing family. 

Which is the best and probably only thing any of us should be doing. Yes, I’m thankful that these platforms exist-especially for small businesses trying to promote themselves or artists who can use blogs to earn a living. For me though, I’m done wasting our money on something that’s basically a glorified online composition notebook for me. I thought I was clever using alliteration with my Hellos From the Homestead. It would have only been clever if I could’ve maybe turned this into what I originally set out for it to be. Now it’s just me writing stuff. Which has its place too, but not in my life and not right now. 

I still have dreams and goals of having my own event planning business, showcasing & selling my embroidery art, designing kids clothes, sharing my artistic self all while writing my way through motherhood. It will happen. Just because I’m considered “old” in our youth obsessed culture doesn’t mean I’m done for. For cry eye, I’m only 38. And I think that is one of  the tricks for my generation or like minded scenic-route living people like me: You cannot be consumed by what other people are doing, achieving, making, creating, growing. You can only focus on this one life that YOU have to LIVE. Or as Henry Rollins (who’s been my future husband since I was 12) says better than me:   

Straight up those are some good words to live by, provided you’re  not a POS capitalist asshole pig who doesn’t care about the world or other people and is only out to acquire wealth and “happiness” through greed and destruction. 

Which leads me to one last article I will link up here at the homestead, partly because I just read it this am and it’s got me all fired up like my 19 year old self when I was protesting and getting arrested with Jello Biafra and Bonnie Rait. Also because I really sincerely have no idea what the fuck we are supposed to do as citizens of this country when everything appears to be going to shit- case in point: a strong support of Donald Trump for President while we’ve had our most eloquent and humble president these last 7 years since Jimmy Carter.  Mostly though, I’m posting this link because this is how things get done here in our corporate controlled America. It’s not right and it’s not sustainable. Just because it’s been perceived as being successful for however many years, does not mean that in the long run and for our children’s lifetimes that it will be sustainable. Corporations and the people and offices that protect them and their “bottom line;” either out of fear, greed, ignorance, or just plain evilness do NOT CARE ABOUT OUR HEALTH AND WELL BEING. If you are too scared to think otherwise or challenge the status quo for the betterment of ALL of our people-not just our rich people- then I feel sorry for you. It like I wrote to my Bes Fren who lives in France, just had her first baby, and read this same article: There are times when I’m alone and with my thoughts and for a moment I will start to feel like a “failure” because I don’t have x,y,z or because I’m still in student loan debt and blah blah blah. I will get pissed at my father for abandoning me and my mother for being sick and making me grow up too fast so that I’ve been on my own since I was 10. I will momentarily be jealous of those who seem to “have more” or seem to be more comfortable than me. I will feel guilty for not having proper paid insurance for my children…. And then I read stuff like this. I see these idiots rally behind some terrible loud mouth pos for president all the while debuking any progress and change for our society and I think, “nah I’m good. I would rather be smart and struggle than either poor and scared of change or rich and evil.” 

Here’s the article:Welcome to Beautiful Parkersburg Virgina 

Just take the time to read the whole piece. Don’t scoff at it because it’s from the Huffington Post, because trust me I understand that Huff Post is not always the best source of news. Just think about what it means that in our country we currently only have 4 chemicals that have been properly regulated and ultimately found to be outlawed because of their ill effects on us humans and on our environment. Yet, everything around is being manufactured and sold to us with every kind of chemical made because “convenience” and “progress” and “prosperity.” Prosperity for who? The workers who make this shit for us the consumers? The residents who live near the factories where all this stuff is processed and produced? Or the large corporations and the Executives who sit on their high thrones,  living their good lives, protecting their families and offspring with their wealth and access to those things the rest of us only dream about or wish to have. 

But what do I know. 

I’m just a middle class, college educated, artsy mom living over here in a major US city that can barely gets it act together for the betterment of the public education of our children. I know that I read pieces like the one I linked up here and I’m disgusted, angry, fed up, and thankful to those who at least exposed the lies and atrocities of companies like DuPont.

So on that feisty note, I bid my virtual Homestead adieu and say hello to continued focusing on my real homestead, world, growing family, friends, life, art, environment, city, community, and politics. 

Be Well.

Jess McCloud 

And Now For Something Completely Different…

Well goodness gracious, oh me oh my, it was brought toy attention that my blog has been a bit ho hum humdrum as of late. What can I say, life isn’t always unicorns farting out rainbows or kittens in wicker baskets resting in a field of daisies…. You write what you know, right? It just so happens that a significant amount of what I’ve “known” has been a lot of loss, fighting the system as my daughter’s advocate, and working through some deep personal pain re. old family ties that have always binded me. 

When I started this Hellos from the Homestead blog, my true intention was to create an online community and creative business. I thought my degree & education in theater communications teamed up with my natural skills and long time work experience in events management/planning along with my never ending well of creativity would naturally lead to a successful blog and online business….. I did NOT think it would lead to writing about lead poisoning, homelessness, and all the trials & tribulations of our past two years. I also didn’t expect to be writing about all the loss and grief that 2014 delivered upon me. But as they say that’s life and if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my 38 awesome years, it’s that you absolutely must roll with the punches-go with the flow-adapt and change and grow. 

I still have dreams and desires of finally kicking off my creative business, maybe even get back into event planning again, cause I’m really really good at it. Who knows what this blog will morph into over the next year or so. For now though, I’m very much okay and just fine with it being what it is: a place of expression for me and a source of sharing and connecting. That’s not so bad and to me that’s a great level of “success” for right now. 

I’m fine with people contacting me and asking questions about why I’m posting this or that or sharing such personal heart wrenching stories, like the post just previous to this one titled “Cowards.” I’ve made a point to protect my daughter and have always been purposeful in my writing, so I feel no shame when it comes to what I’ve shared or how I’ve shared aspects of my daughter’s still very young life. I have signed a public social contract with this blog, not my daughter and I take this very seriously. 

What I don’t take seriously is breakfast. So when Lil S begged for Peppa Pig Pancakes, I happily obliged: 

I just made sure to pack in as many healthy nutrients as possible. My quick recipe is to use the only boxed pancake mix I will pay the overpriced cost to make: Immaculate brand Organic Pancake & Waffle mix. This is my go to when I’m not making a mix from scratch and using all different types of flours to keep things interesting ;) With today’s pancake batch though, I used:

1 c of Immaculate p&w mix, 1 egg, 1 sm cup of whole milk Stoneyfield Farms blueberry yogurt, 1/2 c (homemade) white bean-butternut squash-pear-purple carrot purée, 1/2 c (homemade) banana-beet-blueberry purée, 2tbls whole milk. Blend and pour into a pancake drawing container (they look like clear ketchup or mustard containers you use at restaurants. Grab your griddle (350 degrees) and draw away! 

To make these Peppa pig ones I used butter on the griddle so I would get nice dark colors (and good butter flavor!). I drew the big outer outline first, then the snout, then the mouth and cheek, then the eyes, then the ears. I waited 1.5-2 mins for those to really cook and brown up, then filled in with the rest of the batter. Waited another 1.5-2 mins then flipped and allowed the pancake to cook and rise. *Note these pancakes don’t rise too much because of all the puréed “wet” ingredients* 

They’re so flavorful you don’t even need syrup so we just ate ours with fresh berries :-) 

Have fun and Happy Eating Everyone! 🍴🍴🍴🍴🍴🍴🍴🍴🍴🍴🍴🍴🍴

Hellos from our happy and well fed Homestead.



About two weeks ago I needed a safe space to vent because something hurt me to my deepest self. I didn’t  want it to- so I turned to my private FB group of fierce, badass, diverse, amazing women and shared the following piece. I got the support, love, and encouragement I sought -so why share this here in a broader viewing space? Because I need to close this screen door I’ve allowed to remain open for almost 20 years. Because I never want to care anything about these people (I’m going to speak about) at all one bit. Because I am an amazing mother to my beautiful little girl who has never known-nor will ever know any of the pain I suffered….except through exposition and discussion when she’s old enough. Because I am a woman with a wolf in my chest and I need to howl. 

Warning: if strong language or writings of physical abuse are hard for you to digest- please move on. And now, back to 


I have no time in my life for them. 

For the most part and over half of my young 38 years of life I’ve only given a secondary thought about these two people. I  have my own beautiful wonderful life with my amazing family and other-worldly awesome friends to focus on after all. 

In early March 1996, at 5:30am I woke up to my father pounding my face with his fists. He destroyed my room. He beat my head against my daybed. He called me horrible things. I was 19. My father is a short man with a Napoleon complex. He always had to intimidate other people to cover up for his own lack of eloquence. I would simply say that he is just a dumb man, but he’s not. He’s actually quite smart and he is where I get my interest and love of mathematics and excellent chess playing skills.

After being beaten while my stepmother tried to stop it once- then just stood in the doorway and watched crying herself- I was ordered to go directly to school (a big suburban community college) and quit the speech & debate team. I was told “there will be nothing art or extra curricular related in this house,” so I had to drop out of the play I was cast in at the time. I was ordered to quit my extra job as a French translator for a French Canadian company. I was ordered to do this, then go to work, then come directly home and bevprepared for a meeting because “Things are going to change around here in a big, big, way missy.”

*whats important to note here is that I had only been living with my father and stepmother for 3 years by this point. He did rescue me from the affects of My Mother’s Disease- Paranoid Szichophrenia- and quite literally saved my life. I was and will always be grateful for that*

Back in March of 1996 though I wanted to get as far away from him and that house as my high school education and job at Chili’s could take me….Instead I got dressed through tears. I did my best makeup job ever- thank you theater for giving me the skill of being able to cover up fresh cuts and bruises. I went to school. I didn’t talk to anyone. I quit the speech and debate team. I dropped out of the play. I quit my French translating job. I went to work after. Then I went home. 

We had our “meeting” where I was basically being grounded at 19 (no theater, no friends, no phone, no extra jobs, no speech and debate) when I was a good kid responsible kid…I just stayed out late one night and that was enough to be receiving all of this nonsense. Now, did my dad know that I had been out doing mushrooms while working on speech&debate stuff? No. Because I waited till I was sober to drive home because I’m not a fucking idiot. Had we had a couple (like literally 2) other times in my 3 years of living there where I *gasp* may have been a little weed high? Yes, we did. But I was always always always the responsible one because I had already lived a life out in California where alcohol and like real real drugs were my coping mechanism. And look, I get it, he was pissed I was out so late on a school night. We didn’t have cell phones back in that day where I could’ve kept in complete and total touch at all hours of the day. I DID use a landline to let them know I would be later because “our speech and debate prepping is going to be longer than expected.” So I get the impetus for anger as a father. But for fucks sake, you don’t beat up your 19 year old child just cause they came home late one night… I was told “you are going to be an active part of this family whether you like it or not. You are going to cook and eat meals with us. As long as you continue to live here for free, you’re going to make an effort.” Um. Okay dude. 

During our meeting the phone rang. It was my beautiful soulful friend Kira, whom I’d just met while doing Camelot with her. My father answered the phone, then handed it to me saying “Make this a good call cause it will be your last for a long time.” (SIDENOTE: really bro? You’re grounding me from a fucking landline phone at 19. Um okay.) I got on the phone and before I could finish saying hello I heard, “Give me one good reason why you need to stay in that house. One.” I started shaking and crying but couldn’t let them see me reacting. My friend went on, “Have all your stuff on the side of the house by 3 am. Don’t take anything that can be deemed as ‘Theirs.’ Make sure to grab all your important documents. We are coming to get you out of there.” All I could respond with was a soft “I love you” because I didn’t want them to hear me. My friend said, “we love you too and we are coming to get you out of that house.” 

And they did. There were my two friends who would become my new roommates while we shared a large one-bedroom apartment for a too short of time till I flew back to Ca. And there were other strangers there to help because they heard about my situation and “just needed to help.” There is a beautiful story that involves me seeing and saying “I just can’t live like this anymore,” to my stepmother as I took my final decent down their big pretty winding staircase. And I’ve never seen nor talked to either my father nor stepmother again. That was 19 years ago…..

Today I’m sitting here in southern Indiana with my daughter snoring sweetie on my lap and my lady family members asleep on either side of us. We are just beginning our family celebration of my beautiful cousin who is getting married in June. So why tell this horribly beautiful retelling about the First Day of the Rest of  my Life

Because she and him are kinda-sorta-not really-on the periphery of my world again. You see, I am (thankfully) close again with my uncle and his wife and their children- my cousins. My uncle is my dad’s younger brother whom I quite literally grew up with as he was very young when I was born. I ached to be close with my uncle and his family all those 15 years after I left my dad’s house; but am BEYOND GRATEFUL that silly little big FB brought us back together right before my daughter was born in 2011. My aunt and uncle and cousins are absolutely the best salt-of-the-earth, kind, caring, down home folks. I love them and will be eternally grateful for their presence in our lives. They love my daughter and are giving and caring in ways that go beyond material gifts. They are also close with my dad and stepmother again. 

When I learned my girl cousin was getting married I was nervous this meant that a “reunion with those two” was on the horizon. Then my cousin asked for Lil S to be her flower girl and any trace of nervousness went away. Because Life Really Does Move On in beautiful and amazing ways. I absolutely knew that any reunion would be what it was and I would just go with the flow, because the wedding day is not about me and my past but about my cousin and her future. A beautiful future that thankfully includes us in it :-) 

Then I heard that they would not be coming to the wedding. Um okay. That’s just fucking rude when their niece is their god child. Then I heard that my stepmother was asking about me and us and my heart got a tiny flutter because if I’m going to reconnect with anyone it would be her. Then I heard she was going to be at my cousin’s wedding shower and I got just about downright giddy at the possibility of introducing her to our sweet little girl. I know she would just love her and I know lil S would beam right back at her because my daughter loves people, especially family. And then…like the backwards clockwork that seems to be my path with these two people, I heard that my stepmother would not be attending my cousin’s shower. 

Fucking cowards. 

Both of them. 

They can sit in their childless made up world in the middle of nowhere, with their nice big house and beautiful property deciding who and how to be close with people only on their terms. They absolutely have every right to continue to be heartless, unfeeling, shameless cunts. 

Pardon me. Please excuse my foul mouth as it is the only way I know how to get this ickyness out of my soul. It’s the only way I know how to process such ugliness and continue to move on with my beautiful, amazing, wonderful, love-filled life. 


That was where I ended my original piece. Like I said, I received amazing feedback, support, and love. Then today happened and the obvious absence of the she at the shower hit me harder than I expected. As I watched my little beauty charm the various generations of women by simply being her wonderful 3 year old smart-witty-funny-sassy self; I kept trying to clear a lump out of my throat.  

The total truth is that the lump is 19 years old and it’s not going to clear out in a single afternoon. The lump is ugly and full of tangled hair and teeth. It also has a tiny speck of hope working from gross follicle to weird cavity. Years of therapy didn’t get rid of the lump, it only made me a better person and an even greater mother. 

The lump though. The lump is still there. While I hear that the “reason” given for lack of participation by she is because of me, the lump turns and settles into the back of my throat. I cough “fuck you worthless assholes!” hoping to shoot that disgusting piece of nastiness out….and nothing happens. 

Yep, just checked. It’s still there. And it will be till one day when it isn’t anymore. One day those two people will be nothing more than “just two people I knew once who helped me out in a major way and then did the exact opposite of that.”

 One day that little speck of hope I’ve had for a dad will work through the gnarled tangled mess and turn into something else. Perhaps today is that day. As I continue to choose love-family-presence and honesty VS anger, fear, absence and pride I clear my throat a little bit more and tick away at that speck. 

Maybe that’s what I need to call them, HIM, in order to move forward and be free finally…. The speck. They are a speck, a blip of an experience on a beautiful lifetime, MY LIFETIME.

They will never know my beautiful little family. They will never experience my amazing little girl. They will never know me. They are the cowards. They are the losers. They deserve nothing but pity. What a sad soulless existence you have to live, to knowingly continue to abandon your only child and grandchild. They are but a speck of an experience on MY LIFETIME of love, accomplishment, and strength. 



I think I just released years of phlegm.

Insurance or PreSchool


Man I have tried to write this piece about our preschool quest a number of times and a few different ways. I thought I was being witty by coming up with a Preschool or Bust blog title. Then I googled it and of course there have already been like a thousandumpteenmillion other mahm blaghers out there who have written about this most harrowing of modern parenting subjects…. The Hunt and Capture of the Elusive Perfect Preschool.

I’ve had good friends from all over the country contact me to add their voices to this piece because of their own trials and tribulations. We are all around the same age-ish: mid to late 30’s. Mostly artists and teachers and working middle class. I did have a couple of fancy friends with high-profile/high paying jobs who lent their unique perspective beyond just a “why can’t you just pay for it?” attitude. We are all different races and ethnicities living in mostly urban & suburban neighborhoods. Some of us stay home to raise our young littles, men and women. Some of us are a full two working parent household. All of us hold at least bachelor degrees (hi fives to all of us for going into debt together!) and a few have Master’s and PHDs. (See, I told you I knew some fancy people). We all have different upbringings, though 98% of us come from either lower middle class or just what used to be a solid middle class background. I personally grew up pretty poor and have worked hard my whole life for everything, but that’s a different story and is something I am proud of at this age.

What I’m getting at here; is that my life and choices have thankfully given me good exposure and experience with people from all over the world and through every walk of life. My social media upkeep has kept me in touch and at least semi-present with a lot of these people. Those of us who either by choice or chance became parents, are faced with what feels like many more nonsensical and nuanced barriers when it comes to just providing the basics for our children- than our previous generations or parents had. So when I take to my social media platform and present the question “What, how, who, why, where do you find a preschool?” I am greeted with wonderful retorts, great suggestions, thoughtful articles to read, private messages to ponder, and a feeling of solidarity.

This helps. This feeling of solidarity from others helps me. It helps me continue to be a great parent to my daughter and makes me feel less alone in this ocean of parenting pitfalls. So to my fellow parentals out there doing the good hard work of raising good hard-working little people: I see you. I stand with you. I support you. I got you. Also; how did you choose a preschool, health plan, neighborhood school, college, dietary restrictions, technology or not, unschool or not, vaccinations, cosleeping, breastfeeding till college or not, stay at home or work full-time, trying to conceive another or not etc…… Okay, that last little italicized bit there is my wink and nod to the myriad of parenting points in most online conversations on any given day that always seem to bring out the worst in people. It’s so ridiculous, I don’t even understand how anyone with small children has any time or brain space left to give a shit what some other parent is choosing to do for their family….

My Parenting Motto is and always will be: Love Them and Keep Them Alive.

Just so we’re all on the same page here (my blog Hellos from the Homestead-ja ja) I’m not here to tell anyone else how to parent their child. I am here to share my unique experience and voice through what is an interesting ride on this latest round of the parenting carousel. I respect that we all have our most unique perspectives, experiences, lifestyles, and choices which obviously guides our parenting narrative.

For the purpose of this specific piece I feel it worthy to note a few things lest I be judged as someone or something I am not:

1.) I’m the product of two young dummies having sex on prom night for their first time back in 1976, and thinking they couldn’t get pregnant. High fives to sex ed for those guys! My parents didn’t make it long as a couple (surprise) and divorced by the time I was 3.5. My mother was a beautiful woman, like stunning, so I grew up in So California while she pursued her acting and modeling dreams. I was not close to my father growing up, but I was very close with his family (nanny, aunts uncles etc). When I was 10 my mother’s mental illness  began its ugly assault on our lives (she would later be diagnosed Paranoid Schizophrenic). I only stayed with her till I was 16, when I then moved in with my father and stepmother so that I could actually live and not die.
2.) I left my father’s house just a month after turning 19. It’s a beautiful heart breaking story for another time about my dear theater friends and some people I didn’t know coming to “rescue me” in the middle of the night with all of my belongings. That was in Feb of 1996. I have never had contact with my father and stepmother again. I have “been on my own” really since I was 10- it feels like but for serious since I was 19. I am now 38. College educated. I’ve held a number of crap jobs, jobs I loved, high-profile jobs, high paying jobs, volunteer work, and activist work. I’m also a mother to a beautiful little sprite of a child we call Scuttlebutt.
3.) In summer of 2012, when my daughter was just 8/9 months old, I made the very hard decision to leave my most perfect job with my most perfect boss and what I thought was the most perfect workplace. Hardest. Choice. Of my. Life. As it turned out it was the Best. Choice. Of my. Life. Not because I freaking just luuuuuvvvveee being a stay-at-home-mom (though props to all you SAH parents cause this shit is hard). It turned out it was the best choice ever because just a few months after leaving my most beloved job we found out our daughter had been lead poisoned from our home. Which leads me to….
4.) We have been homeless as a family. We traveled to stay in healthy homes to get our daughter healthy. We left other jobs and lost all societal constructed ideas of security and safety in order to keep our daughter/our family healthy and safe. We lost some close friendships during this time. We almost lost each other as a family dynamic because of the stress and strain that this kind of situation can place on a human being. We found a healthy home after a year of wanderlust back in our old trusty city Chicago. It was not easy and I’ve written about our progress and process through Lead Poisoning here on this blog. We did not have any more children…yet. I have not returned to any work full time…yet. But our daughter is healthy, happy, thriving, living, growing, and we are all learning and loving our way through this life together.

So when I write about having a unique perspective here, I am not throwing around a bunch of bullshit. I am thankful for every day that all three of us wake up with terrible morning breath and cranky faces. I’m thankful my toddler is picky with her food because “No I only want that toast with the orange jelly and butter but I can’t see you put the butter on there otherwise I won’t eat it!” I’m thankful for our quiet healthy home on a busy Chicago street in a truly awesomely diverse neighborhood. I’m thankful I got to help plan my best friend’s engagement party and had enough energy and time to ship her off to Paris to start her new life and family with her husband. I’m thankful I’m not an asshole who doesn’t understand the world around her or what the word community means. I’m thankful I’m not some rich prick who lives over in Gold Coast/Lincoln Park/Wrigleyville  and can just write a check so my child can __________(no offense but those neighborhoods suck). Call me a hater if you must, but I’ve been and have loved Chicago long enough to know that the wealthiest neighborhoods do NOT a Chicago make. I’m thankful for all the relationships and friendships that have helped shape the person I am today and the mother I will continue to be tomorrow. I’m thankful I know that life is too short and precious to waste even a single moment worrying about people-places-things-scenarios-situations you have no control over right now. So stop. Lastly, I’m thankful for ME and my growth through motherhood. It continues to challenge, astound, confuse, and fill me every day with hope for our future on this planet.

Okay. Now that we got all that touchy, feely, nice-to-meet-you stuff out-of-the-way. Let’s move on to the crux of my post:

Insurance or Preschool

Today is Wednesday, Feb 25 2015.
Just yesterday; after a full year of multiple appointments, 50 office hours, so much paperwork, blood-sweat-tears, 20 hours on multiple phone calls, and usually with my trusty sidekick Scuttlebutt by my side…our family was finally ruled against receiving state assisted health insurance. Not for me, I’m covered under Medicaid because of the ACA and because my partner and I are not married. *note* I am neither ashamed nor embarrassed to be currently on Medicaid. I have been working and paying into the Illinois tax system since I was 16 and started working at Portillo’s in the suburbs. I find it reprehensible that the “only plan” I could receive from my partner’s work would cost our family $475/m. In what world does that make any sense for a very healthy and active 38-year-old woman? America, that’s where.

Due to our unique experience with the lead poisoning of our child, litigation with our previous landlords, homelessness etc. We have been eligible to receive benefits under the supposed “insurance for all children in Illinois” called All Kids. We were looking into the Premium Paid Program because after all we are a family of three living on one decent income, but not an income that could afford the $350/m cost for adding our THREE YEAR OLD to my partner’s insurance plan. Again, I ask you in what world does it make any sense that a very healthy three-year old child should cost $350/m for insurance? And before anyone asks, the whole previous two years of her life we were paying out-of-pocket for all wellness visits, shots, blood tests because of lead poisoning, ER visits, medications and so on. So this cost of $350 is not based on some preexisting issue kind of bs- which was supposed to be made illegal by the ACA anyway. No this cost is just what is deemed acceptable by an insurance company to charge a family for an additional family member to a plan. Disgusting.

You can see why I have worked so hard, because it’s been my full-time job to work on this while also taking some freelancing work-nanny work- acclimation back to Chicago-breaking my ankle-then birthdays and holidays. And that’s fine. I am NOT complaining about doing what is necessary to take care of my child/my family. I will walk through all the hot Legos in the world if it means protecting and properly caring for my family. But at a certain point it’s kind of like- come on already here, please give my family a little break…..

The reality is…for most if not all truly Middle Class Working Families in America….There. Are. No. Breaks. To. Be. Given. You’re told you’re either “not poor enough” or “you should have another child, that will help your case” or “well go back to work if it’s so hard to live on one income” or “stop being such a terrible parent then, go get a job” or “well in my day we had to _________.” I have a word document with all the things I’ve been told over the past couple of years from random people, government workers, family members, ex-friends, online assholes; and it’s not pretty. If I were a weaker person, it could lead me down a dark dark road of feeling: less than, not worthy, inhuman, waste-of-skinworried that I’m just like my mom, like a failure, or any number of things that your darkest self tells yourself when you are feeling shitty.

Thankfully, a lifetime of struggle and working hard for everything I have and have achieved along with great support from family and friends gives me the confidence and strength to KNOW ABSOLUTELY 1000% that I am not any of those things my darkest self wants me to believe. We are our own worst critics, especially when it comes to anything Parenting related. If I would’ve gotten paid for all the volunteer online support I gave to other new mothers…It actually would’ve paid me better than my DREAM JOB did and it would’ve come with full benefits.

Which brings me again back to this whole insurance mess and what this has to do with Preschool. 

Simply put: We cannot afford both insurance and paid Preschool for our child while residing within the city of Chicago. I’m not going to be embarrassed by this fact. We are not terrible parents nor are we terrible people because we have to set a budget for our family. If money were not in this equation at all, I would have my daughter in the finest Montessori French Immersion Spanish Chinese Waldorf school in all the land. But, We. Are. Middle class. So we budget. And we sacrifice. And we scrimp and save and thank goodness we are resourceful smart people who can DIY the shit out of anything. So we will not be embarrassed by our “current economic status.” Mostly because my grandfather’s generation was able to build a decent life and have at least 3 children on less than what our little family is trying to scrape by with every month. What does that tell you? That we are broken as a family and that there is something wrong with us? Or that there is something broken with the system?

I think we all know the answer. And I have to tell you that if your answer is: Stop complaining and go get a job you pinko commie socialist. Then stop reading this blog post and please go see a therapist because you have some serious mental issues and need help finding your compassion for other human beings.

I am not expecting other people to pay for my life. We are not on welfare, although technically I could be because I’m not married to my daughter’s dad and am currently not working. But, I won’t do that. Why? Because it’s not necessary for me to pull from a system that needs to help out those who truly need it. I technically could get SNAP benefits in order to continue to provide the best food for my family to keep us healthy and out of the doctor’s office; but I don’t because….well, actually why don’t I do that again? The taxes are so incredibly high in Chicago and the environment is so incredibly taxing to live here, why shouldn’t we all get some sort of support to make the best food choices for ALL OUR FAMILIES? There I go again with my pinko commie ways…

What are our choices though? My choices as a college educated, well read, self motivating, creative, compassionate, thoughtful, hard working, dedicated, woman is to either make things work with what we have. Or just suck it up and go find a FT job with benefits that (we all know) will only just barely take care of preschool/daycare for my child here in Chicago. Seriously, this IS the reality for most middle-class families I know. And before anyone says, “Well, we didn’t force you to have a family, why should we be responsible to help you raise them?” Oh I don’t know, because ALL CHILDREN ARE THE FUCKING FUTURE and we should all be invested in the advance of everyone, not just the wealthy.

I didn’t ask for my child to be lead poisoned. I didn’t ask to have a mother with severe mental illness and a selfish prick for a father. I didn’t ask to be abandoned and abused for a good portion of my childhood. I didn’t ask to be sexually assaulted by a therapist when I was 14. I didn’t ask for any of the bullshit I had to work through in my life. And guess what? I’m not an asshole because of all the things I went through in my life. No, instead it made me want to help others. It made me become an activist at 18. It made me leave the security and comfort in a terribly unhealthy home when I was 19. It made me put myself through college even though I knew I would probably never be able to fully pay back my student loans. It made me break off an engagement even though that seemed like the scariest thing for my heart. And it made me become the AMAZING mother I am today. It’s also why I’m wasting precious time I could be playing outdoors in the freshly fallen midwest snow with my wee lady so that I can write this.

I feel its important for all of us to share our stories. Again, not because I am looking for pity or sympathy. I’m looking for some solidarity here. For a high-five or an “I got you,” or a “You’re not alone,” or maybe even a “Good Job.” Mostly I’m looking to share because we are the stories we tell and we are all important. Because maybe there is someone else out there on a similar road who feels alone- you’re not. Because I have the privilege to be able to sit on this computer and type these words out when I know there are others who can’t even do this. I’ve been seeing most of them a lot this past year in the DHS offices and wandering my streets. I’ve tried to help where and when I can, because that’s what you should do for your fellow humans, but I also have to focus on my family.

I honestly don’t know what the answer is for our society. I know that right now we have to sit down and come up with a game plan to give the best to our child within our capabilities. I know we have to decide between paying a pricey insurance premium for our healthy three-year old (OR) invest in her educational and social future by putting her in this Co-Op Preschool that even at a sliding scale is still financially challenging for our family. I know that if neither of those things “work” right now, I will either find or make 3rd and 4th options (like Park District classes), because I will not give up on providing the best for my child.  And that, THAT is what makes me a GOOD mother.

Thanks for reading, if you actually took the time to read all this. I know it’s a lot to ingest. I had to get all this out because an entire year of my life has been consumed with trying to work within the constructed systems set up in Chicago. Turns out, they don’t really work, but at least I tried. I tried. I fought. I petitioned. I argued, albeit gracefully.  I spent hours on the phone. I spent days in offices. I explored every option till everyone involved was exhausted. And now I guess it’s time maybe to just go enjoy some life with my beautiful, healthy, happy, energetic, funny, witty, mischievous, spunky, hilarious little three-year old. Maybe we will go out in that fresh Midwestern snow and build our first snowman of the season….

Hellos from the Homestead,


To the Gaggle of “Professional” Women Judging Us When They Should’ve Just Stayed Focused on Their Lunch….

In the snarky-passive aggressive-sometimes thought provoking-hey we’re all human- spirit of the “To the ______” open letters, I’d like to throw my own at the large table of women who were lunching near my dear friend and I with our two toddler girls and quiet newborn the other day…..

I see you.
With your attempt at wearing nice clothes for work, way too strong of perfume, and cheap jewelry.
I used to be you.
Only way better dressed, because I’m resourceful and have a keen eye for fashion. My perfume never assaulted anyone. And jewelry – well I’m very thankful for all my artist friends supplying me with either pieces themselves or good ideas.

I saw your eye rolls as our two girls were laughing and playing around our table.
I heard your quips about my “terrible mom hair.”
I heard one of you say “See now THAT is why I don’t ever want to be a mom. Gross”
I saw you watch me as I corralled two (for the most part) well behaved little girls.
I saw one of you drop a huge glop of SC on your shirt and not even notice. Gross.
I watched each and every one of you look at us, come up with some conclusion as to who we are, then snear-laugh-chortle-cackle…whatever it is that you hens do.

And you know what?
F*%K. You.
You don’t know us nor our “situation.”
But I know yours.
I can smell it in the way your cheap perfume mixes with the 3rd margarita you had.

If you’d taken a moment to even ask me about my “terrible mom hair.” You would’ve found out that my father-in-law had a stroke. Therefore my partner had to be gone and take our only car to manage everything out in the suburbs, on top of going to the hospital to just be with his father. You’d find out I hadn’t slept well in days, that I’ve been on FT childcare without any break at all for over a week, and that my partner and I need a vacation. If you’d taken a moment to roll those over painted eyes to a place of humanity; you would’ve found out that my little family has had a pretty rough couple of weeks with the death of a grandparent, unexpected last minute cross country traveling, sickness, being apart for the family holiday, and now this stroke. If you would’ve put down that taquito you really don’t need to eat and offered a helping hand -instead of a judgmental eye- you could’ve learned that my dear friend braved the cold with her new infant and toddler, drove a half hour to pick us up, then ran us around to do important errands, and treated us to lunch.

But you’re not going to do that are you?
No, you’re going to sit high upon whatever horse can hold your massive weight of ignorance and just judgey, judge, judge, judge, judge, judge.

I don’t know what it is about our modern world, or Chicago, or winter time, or America, or modern parenting; but a significant amount of people are assholes. Like for real. Like most of the time. Like it’s their fucking job. I seriously do not understand how anyone has the mental capacity or time to even come up with judgements against others. Especially about things so nuanced as a lunch interaction at a Mexican restaurant in a family centric part of the city. It was 1pm on a cold snowy Thursday at Garcias, not an 8pm reservation at Next or Alinea…get real girls.

So again, To the Gaggle of “Professional” Women Judging Us When They Should’ve Just Focused on Their Lunch:

I see you.
With my terrible mom hair, and same clothes I’ve been in for four days, and tired eyes, and nervous hungry belly, and active happy kiddo, and uncertainty about the next few days-weeks-months, and my own anxieties about being a working class parent in a big city that doesn’t help it’s people, and my own judgements about myself as a human-woman-mother.
I see you.
And I’m better than you.
Because while I may have been able to easily spot your crappy clothes, cheap perfume, and tacky jewelry…I don’t know your story and so therefor I’m not going to judge you. I don’t have time for that. And quite honestly, neither should you….

Entering year THREE now as an awesome, dedicated, hip, fun, real mom living here in Chicago, I’m always so perplexed by these destructive and kinda hateful interactions with other women. What happened to the sisterhood? Where did all my sisters go? Where’s our village? Did it really burn down as others have alluded?

Look, I get it. Interacting with children in public can be challenging, especially if you’re not a parent or have never been around a human child like ever. But it’s how we all got here. You wouldn’t be a professional judgey adult, if you hadn’t been some kind of child first (or still kinda like a child in my opinion).

As the parent of a really well behaved three year old who says “Yes Please, No Thank You, It’s Nice To Meet You” while simultaneously being a hose beast and screaming for her iPad games….I am acutely aware of our public presence. I don’t cow tow to others nor shame my child into behaving. I also don’t let her get away with thinking the whole public world is her oyster to throw around and let people slip on. I’m teaching her that our public life is a give-and-take and our interactions with others can have consequences or bring about great joy and entertainment. It is not merely about her being “seen and not heard,” cause get real people that is NOT TRUE LIFE. It also isn’t about her running willy nilly and not acknowledging others. It’s about ALL OF US BEING IN THIS TOGETHER. Maybe my No Cal internal hippie ways aren’t good enough for this Windy City On The Move of Broad Shouldered carb loving people, but I’m trying as best I can to raise a good human being here.

Trust me when I say that I am having great success in this area of parenting. Our daughter is not only way way way empathetic to others, she listens and responds, and even comes up with great problem solving suggestions I can’t see myself. So if on a Thursday afternoon at 1pm at a big loud Mexican restaurant in Lincoln Square, my daughter wants to laugh and play…fucken go for it kid. It has been a rough couple weeks and a particularly trying few days for our family. So please my little human: refuse that cold food-play with your friend-laugh-have fun. I will handle the adults, because that’s my job not yours.

Some have suggested to me that maybe it’s time for me to get back to doing a “real job” again because it seems like I’m just another bored SAHM….. They’ve said that my basic mom blog here is evidence of this. While I agree there are times I do wish to be back in the adult workplace, mostly just for money so that I can afford insurance or school for my child. I very much honor and appreciate the hard-hard-hard very REAL work of full time parenting. Not everyone can do this. Not the way I am. Not the way our family is right now. I know this and I take pride in taking “time off” to raise a good and decent human being.

We all make our choices and our sacrifices to get the most out of this one life we live. As someone said to me, ” No one gets out of this alive.” Which is true. Which is why when I have a lame interaction, like the one the other day, it only makes me more tenacious in my parenting of my young child. I do not want to raise a daughter who will grow up to sit in weird, pseudo, under-the-breath, side eye judgement of others. Instead she will offering a helping hand if she sees a need or just focus on her own plate…which will be full and overflowing.

Hellos from a Very Cold Chicago Homestead,

365 Days of Gratitude, A Personal Photo Journey

Maybe it’s because 2014 was filled with so much loss and grief for my heart, that I’m still working through every day. Maybe it’s because 2015 is quickly becoming the Year of the Baby for close friends, family members, and a lot of my mid-late 30’s peers….FINALLY! Maybe it’s because I’m tired of comparing myself to other moms, other bloggers, other families who appear to be so happy and successful through social media. Maybe it’s because my daughter is absolutely stunning and has a smile brighter than a thousand suns. Maybe it’s because we know how to have fun and I’m a really great got damn mom.

Maybe it’s because I used to “do” photography many many moons ago and miss having a set project. Maybe it’s because I need to set a limit for myself on how much I post on my private Instagram account. Maybe it’s because I’m making awesome books through ChatBooks so that we can have some tangible- non digital- proof that we exist in this world and that some people love us.
Maybe it’s becoming increasingly obvious to me that I’m not really going to have the time I so desperately crave and desire to write. It’s just not going to happen right now with the way my partner’s intense work schedule is- no matter how much I will it to. I’m accepting that now. I’m not giving up, I’m just accepting that we don’t have the kind of familial structure, nor continuous support, nor monetary availability that will allow me time away to work on my writing. I think that’s painfully obvious seeing as I haven’t even kept up with this blog (that I pay to keep up) since early September. And the world keeps spinning doesn’t it? Nothing has come to a halt because I haven’t lugged out my (no lie) 1970’s Samsonite suitcase with journal upon journal upon paper upon notebooks of writing work I wish to complete someday. Everyone keeps on keeping on…and so do I ;-)

Which is why, when it maybe kinda sorta feels like I am bored, tired, stressed, frustrated, and dragged down in our day-to-days….I seek and search for something that I need to do for me. Imagine that, doing something for myself…..

Whatever my deep dark or just silly light hearted reasons may be, I’ve decided to embark on a 365 Days of Gratitude photo journey and post the results (only taken with my iPhone 5s) on my Instagram account: Scoutsmama. I know I’m not creating world peace, ending global warming, stopping police brutality, ending violence against women, helping our fractured health care system, or solving our country’s hunger crisis by doing this. But I am a human being who needs to connect with others and reconnect with my creative self after a really fucking difficult year.

It’s funny to look at where we were last year at this time; having just moved into our new place and still reeling and dealing with all the after effects of lead poisoning and becoming Lead Conscious through our vagabond traveling lifestyle? If someone would’ve told me how things would’ve gone down in the coming year (as in 2014), I might of er-uh-em packed my bags and headed back for the beautiful hills in North Carolina!! But probably not really, because I’m all into that “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, every moment is a gift, remain present, blah blah blah stuff.” I’m no dummy. I know how all this life stuff works, or at least my experience through it. You have the good and he bad, the ups and the downs, the years of crazy homlessness and lead poisoning teamed with new babies and friendships and jobs and awesomeness. I’m gonna be 38 soon, so trust me when I say “I get it.”

Which is why, when I found myself beaten down by the holidays again, because the holidays are a very hard time for me no matter how much I mask myself with my daughter’s excitement for the stupid season. When I found myself feeling ALL THE LOSSES of the previous couple years (actual physical deaths and lost friendships), wishing for some freaking understanding when it comes to my “father” and his lack of anything, and becoming increasingly angry with my partner’s family….

I decided “Fuck it. I’m going to spend this coming year letting go of all that nonsense and I’m going to dedicate this year to taking at least one moment of every day to be grateful!” I’m going to breathe in and out with purpose and teach my child to do the same. I’m going to smile more and cry less (I’m a crier with stress, I am). I’m going to stop wishing and do. I have absolutely no control over how others behave, react, treat me and/or my child. I can only do my best now, in the moment, and create my own happiness.

My steps to creating my own happiness include this photo challenge. I don’t have a fancy DSLR camera. Im only moderately photoshop savvy. I’m not even moderately middle class to travel and take amazing photos of luscious scenaries from around the world. I’m not a famous blogger. I’m not even working a “real job” right now. Im not seeking to “go viral” with anything, which seems to be the world we all kinda live in now. And because that sounds like a mess I don’t want to clean up later. I am seeking out genuine experiences with genuine people to help me further along on my life’s quest of creating happiness. I’m a creative mom, artist, organizer, party planning, activist, designer, teacher-friend-lady-human being- on a mission.

Won’t you come join me?

Cheers to all for a healthy, happy, and prosperous Twenty Fifteen!!!


Don’t Wait Till Tomorrow


Someone else probably wrote a more eloquent and smarter version of what I’m going to write here. They probably used those lovely long “look how intelligent I am!” vocab words and made profound connections to life, love, the universe, and our human form. That’s okay because that’s for them and this is for me. And for you if you read this:

Do not wait till tomorrow to tell someone you love, that you love them.
Don’t wait to make that phone call to an old friend to “make plans for later.” Make them now.
Don’t not do that thing because you’re scared, do it because it’s scary and will make you grow.
Don’t waste time in relationships or jobs or relationships that feel like jobs because “you’re supposed to be doing those things at that age and this is what you should do.”
Don’t wait to move to Paris and fall in love, or vice versa.
Don’t not eat that really terrible food for you, if that’s what you want. Fucken eat that got damn double bacon cheeseburger with the fries and that shake…and then go do yoga if you want. Or don’t.
Don’t wait to start your own business, go online-go to the library-go talk to people and start your business today.
Don’t wait to adopt that dog, or cat, or iguana. Go get them today, they need you and they need a hug…and so do you.
Don’t wait to learn to ride a horse, or build a bike, or start a garden.
Don’t wait to be a good person, be one today. Help others, lend a hand, give a hug. This life can be way too short to not do good for others and yourself.
Don’t wait to have a family, make one now- whatever that looks like to you.
Don’t wait till tomorrow to go to that park, or read that book, or meet that new friend. Do it now.
Don’t wait to move to that one place in that one city over there. Pack it up and hit the road today.
Don’t wait to take that pottery class, or learn to cook French cuisine or finish that project or snuggle under blankets in the rain- just cause.
Don’t wait to go out to a fancy restaurant.
Don’t wait to get on the floor and play that one game that you hate playing with your child, but they absolutely LOVE IT AND HAVE TO PLAY IT ALL THE TIME!! Go play it with them…now!
Don’t wait to eat a bowl of buttered popcorn while watching that one movie with your sweetheart, or maybe future sweetheart.
Don’t wait to eat bacon, it’s really good.
Don’t wait to try a negroni slushie, it’s a taste sensation.
Don’t wait to get up for someone on the bus, get up now…right now!
Don’t not marry that person because _________. Take them in your arms and run off into the sunset (Plus sunset silhouettes look really pretty).
Don’t wait to donate that stuff you haven’t touched in your 15 years moving around the same city. Give it away to a needy family, today.
Don’t wait to show your children the world, even if you can’t physically travel.
Don’t wait to use your imagination.
Don’t wait to reach out to someone who is hurting and needs you but is too scared to ask. Go over, help them. They will be thankful, I promise.

Don’t wait till tomorrow to be the best version of YOU you can be.
Don’t wait till tomorrow to climb that mountain, they’re all mountains.
Don’t wait till tomorrow to live and love. Do it now.

Right now.
Tell someone, call someone, bicycle to someone, take a boat, fly an airplane, yell through tin cans connected by all the strings of your years… Tell them you love them.
Don’t wait till tomorrow.

Hellos from a Heavy Hearted Homestead. Love and Light to all who are suffering.


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