I cannot overstate how alienating  and distressing  Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder  (OCD) can be.  By definition, OCD is an anxiety disorder that produces intrusive thoughts that lead to excessive feelings of uneasiness and apprehension.  These feelings are so intolerable, that sufferers  are compelled to act on certain behaviors or rituals to help mitigate their torturous thoughts.

The hell of it is, the majority of us can recognize that our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are irrational and often inappropriate, but we feel powerless to stop them.  We know that it’s irrational but can’t seem to help ourselves.  

I know I certainly can’t.  

Like any Black & White thinker, I’m notorious for struggling with completing projects because I fear my work will be interpreted as less than perfect. My intense fear of making the “wrong decision” has often rendered me paralyzed.  Everything I do needs to be ‘done right’ or ‘perfect’ to my standards, and I always set the bar too high for myself.  

Thus, I set myself up for failure.  

I am in the half of OCD adults with a childhood onset of the disorder.   Around the age of 6 years old, I recall becoming unnaturally concerned with symmetry.  Objects in my childhood home had to be lined up perfectly straight, facing the same direction, or equidistant from each other.  I became especially meticulous with the state of my bedroom.  Any deviation from the “perfect placement” of objects caused me extreme distress.

In middle school, I would often avoid having friends over because they would “mess up” the perfect organization in my room.  I was appalled at their carelessness; how they would casually pick up an object and then put it down in a different location or condition.   They would sit on my perfectly made bed and rumple the covers.  I couldn’t cope.  To avoid the torture of seeing my perfect organization torn asunder, I would usually arrange playdates or sleepovers to take place at my friends’ houses, rather than my own.  Frequently, I wouldn’t even allow myself to sleep in my bed in order to avoid the anxiety of having to go through the bed-making process the next morning.

In high school, things got progressively worse.  My clothes closet held  garments which  I had painstakingly arranged in order of color and category.   Each hanger faced the same direction and was evenly spaced.   Visiting girlfriends would naturally be inclined to browse through the closet; wanting to see if there was anything they might like to borrow.    As an insecure teenager, I was very concerned with appearing normal, so I endured the destruction and disruptions, telling myself it would be okay; I would “fix” everything when they had left.

Around this time, my desperate need for Perfection  turned inward, and the focus became having a Perfect Body at Any Cost.  Anorexia Nervosa and then later, Bulimia Nervosa took over and, as most of you reading know,  the urges control me at varying degrees on any given day.

Besides the daily battle with eating disordered behaviors, my Obsessive Compulsive nature dictates that my schedule must be rigidly followed, my workouts must be executed without deviation,  my bed must be made perfectly, my refrigerator must be stocked with labels facing out,  and that I meet plenty of other time-consuming, irrational and humiliating “requirements”.

My gardening has been the one area of my life that exists outside the Perfectionistic bubble.  There is so much work to be done and tending to do, I simply don’t have the time or energy to fuss over whether rows of crops are symmetrical.  Nature positively defies me by growing my plants to varying heights and widths.  I have no control over it, and there’s a sense of peace and freedom in knowing and accepting that.

Yesterday, while chatting on the phone with my mom and somewhat distractedly pulling weeds from my Front Yard Garden,  I came face to face with Perfection:



The tallest sunflower’s bloom had finally opened, revealing the most Perfect Sunflower I’ve yet encountered.    But even though the bloom is perfect, it is a different height from all the other sunflowers.  It doesn’t match with the others and the row is uneven.  Right now, the pouring rain is most likely causing some petals to fall to the ground.  The Perfect Sunflower is, in fact, Imperfect.   NOTHING is perfect in my garden.  Not one thing in the whole of my Front, Side or Back yards is perfect.

And that is Perfection.




Work & Play Weekend #1: Expansion


Earlier this week, I was confronted with the dilemma of having exhausted the planting real estate in my Front Yard.  So what’s a girl to do? Well, move to the Side Yard of course!   The front yard has ideal sunlight, but the side’s exposure is not too shabby (or shady) either.


When I originally cleared the Front Yard, I used a Rototiller, rented from a local Equipment Supply Company.  The tiller was gas-powered, but handling it is no joke.  If I did not have quadzilla legs and my dad splitting the labor with me,  I may not have made it!

Recommended:  Unless you have Babe the Blue Ox on your payroll,  you will want to:

1.) Eat your Wheaties and 2.) Have a Dad-Type Person helping you


  Dad-Type Person Using a Tiller:  Alys Clancy’s Garden Guide, 1988

Today’s project  was approached with sheer will and brute strength while yielding a garden hoe.  Tilling by hand is much more labor-intensive and time consuming, but quite feasible if the area is reasonably sized.

In progress:

 Tilling up Silly Grass


Creating Rows


        Utilizing Organic Mulch

While looking at my Side Yard,  I have to remind myself that the Front Yard once looked equally desolate after tilling, and that my plants will be sprouting up soon.  the Side Yard is now mainly devoted to  Fall Crops, Perennials,  Herbs and Fruit Trees.  The seedlings that are expected to mature in the fall include Brussels Sprouts, Cauliflower and Squash.


Here are some fun things I am enjoying this weekend:



Strawberries in a Fruit Salad!

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Gardening Books and Fresh Cut flowers!


Rennie’s valiant attempts to stay awake!


                                      So Sleepy

What are you enjoying this weekend?


Dads & Dinnertime


Also featured on The Good Men Project and BlogHer:

I recall some of my happiest childhood memories taking place on weeknights between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. That magical hour before dinnertime equaled anticipation, joy, silliness, laughter, love, and happiness.

As soon as the kitchen clock indicated 5 p.m., I started looking forward to my father’s arrival home from work. My mother would be at the stove preparing dinner while my younger brother played nearby. Their proximity soothed me. I felt good and safe and calm. The fact that my mom’s attention was divided between watching my brother, cooking dinner and dad’s imminent arrival created an ideal environment for which to enjoy myself. Mom wasn’t inquiring about my school performance or extra-curricular activities. She wasn’t lecturing me about being nicer to my brother or telling me to ask my teacher for extra credit assignments. She was otherwise occupied and, for the moment, this little girl was off the hook.

Then dad got home and it was time to play! My dad invented all sorts of silly games for my brother and I but one of my favorites was an EPIC sporting event called “Muscle Fighting”. It entailed my dad crawling around on the floor pretending to be a wrestler-ape-type character who would toss us around (gently and) playfully the moment either of us dared “challenge” him.

It was incredibly silly fun. Muscle Fighting even had its own theme music, which I can demonstrate to this very day, should the need, for whatever reason, arise. So the three of us would play in the living room while mom finished up dinner, calling to us and laughing at our rowdy antics. Then dinner would be ready and we would sit down together to eat. I wanted very much to like the same things that my dad liked to eat so we could consume them together.  

Treats like fresh artichokes and pomegranates were quite special because they were considered a “splurge” on my parents’ modest budget.

I loved eating artichokes with my dad as it secured his attention for as long as it took to consume the vegetable, which was a fairly involved process. The artichoke would be steamed and then placed in a bowl on the table where we would pull off the leaves, dip them into red wine vinegar and then scrape the “meat” off the leaves with our bottom teeth. We worked on the exterior leaves until we got to the tender artichoke heart, which we split.  

In the space of time between 5 p.m. and the end of dinner, life was perfect; our family was perfect. I had everything I needed and was content.

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I am an organic gardener by way of hobby and sunflowers are an annual planting tradition for me. Delving further into the research on Sunflower Care and Maintenance has caused me to wax nostalgic for those happy memories as I learned that not only can you eat the seeds, leaves, and sprouts of the plant, but you can also eat the entire flower while it is still in its bud stage.  

Steaming the bud and serving it with vinegar results in a very similar culinary experience as enjoying a steamed artichoke!


It is universally understood that food and emotions are interconnected. Undeniably,  I associate happy memories with certain foods.  

I also associate happy memories with the hour prior to dinnertime, but not necessarily dinnertime itself.  

How do emotions and memories impact your food choices?



Kristen M. Polito aims for brutal candor in regard to her own struggle with anorexia, bulimia, and bipolar disorder. Besides writing, she loves running, reading, organic gardening, and dogs.

Follow her on at or visit her author page   



The Art of Bartering


Neighbors have a unique connection not replicated in any other relationship.  The associations that develop are a sort of hybrid between friends and acquaintances.

Unlike friends, we don’t choose them.  Unlike acquaintances, they are privy to one’s habits, schedules and oftentimes embarrassing personal information.

Aside from the Code-enforcement-calling wet blanket, I am rather fond of my neighbors.  The homes directly surrounding mine contain families that look after me, in a way.  Rebecca from next-door lets me know when Rennie has strayed from the yard or if I forgot to close the trunk of my car.   Brian, on the other side of the house, can be counted on to collect mail and water the plants in my absence.  David and Matt, in the houses across the street, are familiar with my schedule and which cars to expect in my driveway.  The fact that they  would be alerted to anything unusual is pleasantly reassuring.

I have become partial to Matt, in particular.    Our rapport is based on our mutual obsession with tiny dogs (he owns two Dachshunds), ongoing sarcastic banter and hollering “bitch please” ironically at each other.  Matt and I have developed a bartering system which is continuously evolving.  Try it with your own neighbors, it is great fun!

Yesterday, I was working in the front yard pulling weeds and wound up with a small harvest as pictured below:


Does anyone know where I can get a Cornucopia???


I traded Matt one of these lovely organic tomatoes….


…for an Veggie Spring Roll still hot from his China Garden take-out order. 

All in all, not a bad transaction, eh?






Gardening has been an intrinsic part of my Active Battle with Eating Disordered Behaviors.  Connecting with the earth soothes me and contributes significantly to my self-worth.  When I moved into my house, this is what the front yard looked like:

My House Before I Moved In


The front yard gets a great deal of sunlight, ideal for a growing my own food in a Front Yard Garden. 

104_0160 Continue reading »



Welcome to Saltandpepperthearth! My name is Kristen and I am learning how to become a modern homesteader.

I’m new to blogging, but I am excited to share what I learn as I go.

Inquiring minds may want to know what I mean by “homesteading”.  The term homesteading basically refers to a lifestyle of self-sufficiency.  It means growing your own food and preserving it, for example.   It can also include raising livestock and producing textiles for the benefit of one’s household.  As of late, “getting back to basics” and “living off the land” has regained popularity and become a social movement. Continue reading »