Friday, December 5, 2008

Home-centric Ramblings

I know there are people who juggle a heavy job schedule with all their home duties and projects every day, with great success. My hat's off to each of them!

I've done both at times, and when there were children in the picture, it was a wrenching set of decisions how to do justice to the privilege of motherhood (and in this case also fosterparenthood) and doing what it takes outside of the home to bring in a necessary income to meet the bills. The decisions difficult and personal, and I don't believe one solution fits all. No matter how far afield my responsibilities take me, inside of me is always the longing for home. For being at home.

Home is the ones I love. It's especially my husband, and a place for my child or children to always be welcome and understood. If I flop at other things, I hope I won't flop at those.

For myself, I know I'm not one of the wonderwomen. Not as a mother, friend, project-doer, volunteer, and employee. I do try to do well at each of these.

My personality does not feed on drama to maintain equilibrium, and I crave quiet movement and a more natural flow to days and doings. This has made me seem quite boring to a lot of folks, and it's the difference between my youth and my middle age now (I'm 42). Not that I've not risen to the occasion of life events and crises as they've come along...hopefully, I'm steady in those. But I don't crave them as my energy source or for meaning.

As a youth, my parents relocated on average every two years, and there was an excess of drama and time fact, it was nearly constant. The up side is that I learned to adapt and be flexible, and saw a lot of different places and situations. I nearly always hated school, though, especially when I was very young. I chafed at the long days spent in uninspiring schools, staring out the windows (if they had them) from my desk at the day passing by, so discontent. I wanted so much to be out There, having finished my work long since, and simply just doing busywork much of the rest of the classes. I love being outdoors, or fashioning a house to be a place of welcome. (I do better with that some times than house is often TOO relaxed and not renowned for its ability to excel at white glove tests, ha!) When later I homeschooled my daughter a few of her younger years, it was interesting to see just how little time it took for her to learn the day's lessons, and how much free time was left for her to explore and extend her learning to all of her day, in a natural instead of contrived way, when there was not busywork to have to sit through.

Anyway, back to the topic -- As a young person, I didn't see myself wanting family and stability and doing anything but getting out there and seeing the whole world, being in constant motion, and changing the world. The flip side of this is that I quickly found that I had been in a sort of isolation much of my childhood, and that part of me craved quietness, room to think and sort things out, and stable friends who were not destructive.

I did get to travel the world, and what I found was that I most loved being with their homes. I loved the roads off the beaten path, and would look at the people and their houses and wonder just how they lived their daily lives. The happiest memories I have of those travels are of the hospitality shown me on so many levels, and of getting to share the simplicity of a cup of tea and conversation in the heart of someone's home. Years later, a family of friends in Northern Ireland showed me that a sort of hospitality that exceeded my ability to comprehend when they had me over for two weeks. I'm so lousy with long distance correspondence, but I hope to return that hospitality to them someday. Those very real home moments and friendships were better than any tourist destination in a travel flyer.

I love other cultures, and traveling. I love learning about history. As an adult, there is still a part of me that loves new things, discoveries, some times of a lot of activity and excitement. But a greater part of me prefers that Home be at the heart of these, and that it be a quiet refuge and place of peace rather than stress. I'm not sure how exciting my own history has been or will be, but it has been and will continue to be Home-centric. My husband also shares this preference, and we both are slowly working to exchange the demands of an outside work schedule for being our own bosses, namely doing the business of keeping ourselves afloat from our efforts right here in our own backyard.

We're not yet there. It's our goal, though. I'm delighted to say that God has been gracious to us in allowing us a lot of forward movement, and the debt reduction continues. For those in the same circumstances of paying off debt before tackling further goals, it can seem an interminable journey, and the waiting can seem really long. Longterm friends of mine are probably sick of hearing about my dreams of living in the country and doing "country things"'s an old song and I'm stuck on Repeat. The difference now is that Jack and I both want the same thing.

An important focus of our home is God. This blog is not a vehicle for writing about the specifics of our faith, but I'm also not going to "hesh up" about the centrality of it at the core of all we do and hope to do in the future. My husband is a Jew by birth and practice, and I'm one by choice, and we both have christian pasts that overlap into our presentday in ways we appreciate rather than not. I have a lot to learn, but we're a pretty pared down couple beliefwise. We believe in the written Torah and other scriptures contained in the Tanak (the OT, to christians), and do not have a heavy emphasis on tradition, though we have a reverence for wise men (and women) and their insights. We strive for a simplicity and straightforwardness in our faith rather than the esoteric, or any tendency to follow gnostic or mystical things, or any thing or person propounding "a higher knowledge" or "special revelation." We are convinced of the necessity for ourselves to not add to or take away from the simplicity we read straight up in the pages of the scriptures, and that puts us in an interesting No Man's Land where we don't exactly "fit." Nevertheless, we are delighted to be took us a long time to pare it down to this. We love that Judaism allows for us to ask questions and quest in this way.

That's probably more than I've ever written on this blog about our faith. The only reason I'm writing about it now is because of its importance in determining our decisions daily and in the future. Our desire to love God and live according to His instructions figures into every area of our lives. Our attitude towards these things also is the same we have in other areas. We don't strive and find some relief in achieving things through work. We don't "earn" happiness or a right relationship, but that's not to say that in every area of our lives there's not an investment of time, focus, and elbow grease. The grace part is that we've been granted the fullness of life no matter how bumpy the process of living it gets. With us, there's no dichotomy of grace vs "works" because we do what we choose to do, and not against our will. This for us has been our process of growing up. Our choices don't always entail the easy road, but the journey is not alone. Frankly, I don't care where it leads, as long as we're praying for direction along the way and doing the best in each decision we can to follow the path God lays out for us.

Boy is this post rambling. Don't get the impression we have our act together. We don't. And don't mistake our willingness to walk this way as some religious thing. To us, separating life into categories that make "religion" something apart from the our everyday lives is contrived. Our heroes are not religious, they are godly...and flawed, and real.

Again, I digress. I'm just trying to clarify somewhat. The subject of the post is about whether to stay at home or go work at a different location for someone else regularly. We're at that transitional point of discomfort, both desiring to put our energies into our little homestead, right here at home. Running a household with a strong priorities of conserving resources, self-sufficiency, experimentation and constant learning, and producing what we need right here as much as possible really requires home. It doesnt mean we can't work elsewhere, but our Elsewhere has been the biggest chunk of time and energy in the past, and we are transitioning it here.

I love being at home. I'm not a driven person, and I'm very relaxed (too relaxed many times) when I'm at home. There are times when we'll just have to discipline ourselves to a different set of tasks here, but evenso, I feel such a sense of fulfillment when we can actually SEE fruition of our attempts close at hand. I long for plantings and the tending of plants and animals, with all their joys and frustrations, and the final harvest that must then be put up in ways that extend our enjoyment of the fruits. I LIKE learning to be more self-sufficient and not having to depend solely on others. I LIKE paring down what we consider to be necessities to the fundamentals, and being very selective, and creative, about the "extras." This simplicity has infused all the areas of our lives. We enjoy this choice, this elbow grease...and the ability to work with our limitations. There will always be more to do, but we're not driven. I'm so grateful that simplicity can be inspiring rather than a deprivation. We enjoy our less, more.

I just returned to work after a long hiatus for most of the summer and fall. Initially, I was off work to be in hospice with Jack's mom in her last weeks, and I'm so glad we were able to do that. I'm enjoying getting back to a schedule at work...for a time. We don't know how long that will be, but we know the goal...the rest of our debt being paid off. There haven't been any bailouts for our family, and so we work :)

As I've been at home these past few months, I've thoroughly enjoyed it, and my productivity around here really picked up. My sleep schedule balanced itself, my health picked up, I slowly began losing weight without doing anything else differently. I was able to make better meals, made everything possible from scratch, learned a lot of new recipes and did some experimentation. I saw Jack thorough a lot of testing, driving here and there, and was available to my daughter and Jack for their uneven workdays. I got to be with my husband a lot more, and help him more (we help each other, and I love being with him). It was even nice knocking off whatever I was doing and just being with him as ran errands together...often that's the best "date" around. We did a lot of planning, organizing. We scrapped a houseplan that took us months to agree on...scrapped it in a day. Redrew one that we're now fleshing out the details of, and we're happier with. I'll write more about that soon. We got a lot of health things sorted. Saw our daughter through a lot of transitions...she's graduated the LPN program, begun the new fulltime job, enrolled in college for the first time, taken on meeting her own expenses and contributing to the household a bit, and recently has moved into her own digs. She's made good decisions and bad, and as her mom I'm the first Go-To in a lot of that. It hasn't been a boring year :)

Jack's knee is better right now, and we just got a call from the neighbor that he's going to drop off another load of horse manure for us...he's worried he's giving us more than we need, but we keep telling him bring it on!

There is news to report on the land search, but we're waiting till everything aligns and we're sure of what to report. When we do, you'll hear the whole enchilada.

Happy freezer update! We bought the small freezer not too long ago, and got about a dozen frozen turkeys for $.79/lb. The turkeys are small, about 8-10 lbs each. We ate on the first one for a week because we didn't amend meals with a whole lot more. I don't think we'll ever get tired of soup made from the turkey stock! We've since run across a few deals on other meats, and have slowly tucked a few buys into the deepfreeze as well...a couple of chuck roasts, some grouper, a couple of briskets.

I had no idea how wonderful it would be to have a freezer. I underestimated how less dependent on the grocery store it helps us be, now that I have all I need to make things from scratch at home. There's not much in the way of instant-presto food, but there are all the ingredients for whatever I need to fix (we still have some fresh veggies in the fridge...and of course a bottle of root beer. What's up with my craving root beer so much lately?) When I'm set up for pressure canning and can have more time at home, I'll be putting up a lot of meat that way, too, especially stock and soups. But for now, this step in buying the freezer is such a blessing! We're so grateful God has provided some more workdays for us both so we can afford to get a jumpstart on it. We're not eating into our debt-reduction this way...we're just finessing the grocery budget, and so far so good.

We were blessed with a modest windfall from an unexpected source this week (an endeavor, not a person), and it couldn't have come at a better time! This will take care of our property taxes and I got a pair of work shoes I was needing and a few other necessities. We are SO thankful to God for this, and for the added work days.

We go to work elsewhere in order to be here faster. I crave being at home. I've had a wonderful time being here the past few months! The faster we pay off the debt, the faster I can be here, and now it's gone from years to hopefully a countdown of months. I hope we do it fast!

We need to sell one property (we have vacant residential lots that are not moving at all, a handful total). If we can do this, we will be out of debt instantly, and can move forward with some totally new and exciting efforts. For now, we're in the countdown.

A year and a half ago when I started blogging our journey, if anyone had told me it would be this much later and we'd still not be out of debt yet, I'd have been really deflated and blue about it. Journaling here has helped me have a more realistic view of all that goes into the daily living of moving a certain direction. It's allowed me to compare my supposed wish lists against the realities of other homesteaders already "living the life" and seeing where I need to hone our expectations considerably. Other homesteaders (however that term is defined) have been our very real teachers, as we feel privileged to have a window into your lifestyles, preferences, and what works for you. We're so thankful for you! Many times, I even get intimidated. We're slower, aren't supremely driven, and our ambition stops short of what it would have been 20 years ago. But the changes have been real, if sometimes "real slow."

I'm already missing being at home as much. But my heart never leaves here. That includes my's not a house. Having Jack as kindred spirit and partner in crime (ha), and as a great strength in areas in which I'm not as strong is perhaps the greatest gift God's given to me besides my daughter (they are in separate categories, not competing ones) :) I stop all day, every day, to thank God for Jack. Sure, sometimes we need a break from each other, but only for a very little bit. I'm so glad our worlds came together into one. Someday I might write about how God brought us together, but for now, I'm just grateful. I'm slightly apprehensive about leaving my snug home and returning to a work schedule elsewhere, but I'm not less grateful for that opportunity, since it's not an end in itself.

God speed the day we can be on our land, out of debt, working hard at home and making it a place of welcome to others!

Sorry...this post was all over the place! I hope you have a relaxing weekend. We're now headed into another shabbat, and this time I'm lighting the stand menorah Jack had made years ago. I need to start us our own traditions for our weekly shabbat...someday I'll learn some other things to make it special, hopefully from observant folks who have been doing that a lot longer than we have. But whatever it looks like down the road to us, it'll always be a time of rest, refocus, family, homespun worship and gratefulness to God. It's to us weekly what christmas is to others once a year, minus the shopping frenzy :)

I'm so grateful for everyone who comes here, and always love reading your comments. Thank you for sharing yourselves and your perspectives so generously with us!

Shabbat shalom :)


MeadowLark said...

I appreciate your sharing. It got me to thinking. And one day I might think out loud. But not today.

Peace to you, my friend.

fullfreezer said...

Thank you for including us on your journey.

Michelle at Boulderneigh said...

I think your description of your faith was well put, and I enjoyed reading it. We have so much in common....

Sorry I haven't responded to your email; it's still in my inbox, waiting time for a thoughtful response. Life has been too hectic lately -- and I work from home!

Farmgirl_dk: said...

I enjoyed reading your thoughts, Robbyn. And I loved how you described your joy in Jack. I, too, feel so blessed to have met my friend, my husband, my boyfriend, my pal, Jim. :-)
Special congrats to your daughter on all her successes and growth over the last year. My 20 year old son is being challenged a lot right now by the demands of "growing up". :-)

Lilla said...

Wow, Robbyn, this post gave me chills! You and I are like kindred spirits. I, too, have found I love being a homebody and discovering what new things I can create and do to make our little nest more homey and our lives more fulfilled. I have a LONG way to go to catch up with some of the "homesteaders" out there, but for the timebeing I am enjoying the pace I'm keeping. Funny you should mention the rootbeer....yesterday we bought the ingredients and will be making our own batch soon! Best of luck to you in all your endeavors. I have no doubt you and Jack will be right where you want to be very soon!

Robbyn said...

Meadowlark, I so love when you think out loud :)

Fullfreezer, isn't this a great community of kindred spirits...I love our similar journeys, and am glad to be among friends! :)

Michelle, thanks, my friend :) I can relate to hectic...hope your days are full of good things!

Danni, thanks :) Oh how I love my Jack, and how refreshing it is to see you've got such a treasure in your Jim. My daughter has made a lot of mistakes, and there's been some drama alongthe way, but I keep telling myself that the transition to "adulthood" (whenever that begins?? lol)isn't always smooth. But she knows where home is and I hope she has some great skills as tools to build her own life and someday her own sense of home and all that entails. I'm proud of her successes and that she hasn't folded in adversity. And whew does it keep a mom praying when your ONLY child is out there in the big ol' world! LOVE that girl...I know you know what I mean :)

Lilla, I think I'm having more fun not knowing what I'm doing and being on the bottom end of the Experience Barrel, ha! I've found SUCH a wealth of wisdom and practical experience among this wonderful "homesteader" community and there's no way I can keep up. I've madechanges, though, and maybe that's one of the nice things about can see the contrast between one year and the next as far things that have been tried, what's worked, what hasn't. SO nice to find others with home firmly rooted in their hearts and a Can Do attitude...these are my mentors :) So glad to have you as a kindred spirit, Lilla :)

farm mom said...

Beautiful post robbyn. I love rambles!! :) I really enjoyed reading more on your faith, your choices and your deep love and connection with your husband. I've really been lucky in love as well, and I cannot imagine trying to live this lifestyle without him. Great post robbyn, as always! :)