2. A friend called and is giving us her Champion Juicer. WOW!!!! It's just sitting in a closet not being used. Well, watch out, I can't wait to get my hands on it :)
3. Job Changes. Backing up, for the past few years since losing my previous job in another industry, I began moonlighting as a security officer on the side to help with keeping our income steady. Sometimes moonlighting takes on a life of its own, and I worked nights and kept doing so for...years now. This year, as I was considering other options in the spring and was also considering the impact night shifts were having on my health, I asked God for guidance as far as timing and opportunities in different fields. I love being at home, but working night shifts made my time off at home feel as if I were in continual jet lag instead of being productive. My present job began drastically becoming less ideal (many factors) and about the month of May, my daughter offered to pay for me to be a challenger to the state CNA exam via a test prep course offered here locally...and the commute and gasoline, as well as being down to one vehicle shared between two working adults became an issue with my job. So...uncharacteristically of me...I gave notice in time to take the course. This was all with Jack's blessing, even though it may have felt a little scary for him, too. But it turns out with the money I saved being home and cooking everything here and doing it even more frugally than before AND minus the expense of gasoline I'd been using...it came out about even. WOW. So anyway, this bullet point should read LEFT MY JOB.
3. Saying it while I can....life is so short, and this has been underlined as some friends have died in recent months and years, and we've also lost Jack's mom a couple years back. It makes you consider all those things you wish you'd said while the person was still alive to feel appreciated. As I no longer want to have any regrets in that department, I said Thank You to people I've been remiss to thank throughout the years. I began writing retroactive thank yous to people who have really been there for me in the past, whether I'm still in touch with them today or not, especially those people who came to mind and I felt I'd not adequately told I appreciated, or some folks I've lost touch with. The divorce years were dark and not pretty, and a lot of people fell off my radar for reasons of my own withdrawal, not for lack of contact on their part. Privacy and isolation were part of my grieving process but there are so many things for which I am thankful before, during, and after that time. So I took the time to say some of those things, and am SO glad to have made this a more deliberate practice this year. I hope to continue to do it. I do feel caught up on many dear people I'd been remiss to thank, and now one of them is no longer alive. It underlines how important this needs to continue being as a focus for me rather than something I intend to do but procrastinate.
4. Some major cleaning and organization in the house got done. Certain areas were overwhelming for me...why, I don't know, but as they got tackled one square foot or box at a time, the momentum increased and it got finished. This impacts all the daily small things even if it's not a really big accomplishment...things are easier to find, less cluttered, prioritized and used or given away. A really GOOD feeling.
5. I've spent a lot less time on the computer. It just happened. There were other things I wanted to do not requiring being in an office chair. :) My blog may have suffered for it, but I gained a lot of involvement in things that needed to happen or be experienced in the moment. Yay!
6. And along that same vein, in the late winter and spring of early this year, I wanted to read read read books of all kinds and I don't think it's an exaggeration to say those may be up into the three digits in count by now. I had a voracious reader's appetite that needed to be filled, especially when I was working nights and had pockets of time with no mental stimulation that needed to be filled. History, fiction, Florida history, author series (I like to choose one I've never read and read several of theirs in sequence to get a good feel for their writing, suspense, espionage, biographies, gardening, cooking, writing, etc etc) I've slowed it down moreso since June. But I needed the recharge books give me that no amount of "screen time" can equal.
7. I've made Jack's health and schedule consistency a priority. Mine is, too, but with my being at home since June, I try to always send him off to work having had a really good hot meal, his supplements, early morning fruit/snack, etc etc. I try to keep the house quiet so he can sleep days...and so on and so on. Living around night work schedules is backwards and I know from having done it, too, that it's so hard on our bodies. There are certain supplements we take that radically help our bone and joint comfort and protects them from injury, so I make sure we have those. Jack is the partner/husband/soulmate/bestfriend of my dreams and prayers. Our goal is to get beyond debt so that neither of us has to ever work a night shift out of necessity again. The goal is close. In the meantime, I help keep his routine from having any complications other than the ones that are inevitable. And I really really like that. He does the same for me.
8. I de-stressed and slowed things wayyy down. I'm burnt out of being burnt out. I concentrated on fewer projects and did them better. I deliberately took the CNA practice time between the course and the test date, etc, at a very slow and relaxed pace because there have been SO many times I DIDNT have a choice other than rush rush rush and push push push before, that when it's not crucial I just simply refuse to fall into my Overachiever mode...it just comes at too great a cost. I have a tendency to be all-or-nothing, so this is sort of coming to center for me. I can't stand to having nothing in the works and feel unproductive. But I am so glad I took things a bit slower and didnt remain in the stress of driving myself faster in this area this time.
9. Thanks to the commisseration of one of my dearest friends and a great series of surprise packages in the mail, filled with spices galore from international markets she frequents in her area, I learned to cook some Indian food dishes on a regular basis (a few good dishes I have no names for but Jack LOVES). They begin with spice packets whose ingredients are not simply dry spices but are ground and packaged airtight and still moist with oils, and you roast them a couple minutes in a skillet and then add in your own ingredients...and so on. I played with spices, and even if it didn't turn out excellent every time, it did enough times to keep on having fun with it. The house smells delicious with the spices, so that is a winner EVERY time :) Now I have some tried-n-trues enough that I can fix a big batch of a masala to keep in the fridge and Jack can have it as his "fast food" when I'm not home, so all he has to do is reheat an individual portion...and it's better after a few days, anyway. So INDIAN FOOD is in the house!
10. We learned to eat our moringa and chaya. WHY it takes us so long to acclimate to the wonderful alternative plants that grow as perrenials (we have no garden this year), I do not know, but we did make an effort to begin learning with the moringa and chaya. They are delicious greens! We need more greens in our meals, period. Not only do they provide that but their nutrition content is higher than anything else we could grow. We'll expand our experimentation, but as fresh greens for half the year or longer, these rock!
11. I only sustained a weight loss of 10 pounds this year...up and down and up and down but now the set point is ten pounds less. While I'd like this to have been wayyyyyyyyy farther downwards, anything downwards is appreciated.
12. Prayer. I've been more deliberate about paying attention to praying for others and actively asking for prayer for things that arise with us. I feel very insular here, as we don't have schedules that encourage much interaction with people beyond the workplace or running errands. But I have dear friends elsewhere and online, and have tried to be more consistent about participating with them in the ups and downs of their own lives. There have been so many wonderful answers to prayer, and its' always encouraging! I'm also grateful for those who've prayed specifically for some of our concerns...and have shared in our joys and some of our disappointments. I'm so grateful! Anytime you have a prayer request, we are HAPPY to join with you it in...it is a joy to, and always brings us back to such a gratefulness for the goodness of God.
13. Hopes and Disappointments about land. This is the area I can't talk about, but suffice it to say that there has been a consistent process afoot to conclude a couple possibilities related to land, once and for all. It has required weekly correspondence and so on, an ongoing process. This has run on like a bad sitcom, with apparent 'breakthroughs" followed by sucker punches, all of which are just " a part of the process" but have so much of our planning and expectation attached that every reposition FEELS like a big shift back and forth. I've had bitter periods and ecstatic ones, but right now my focus is the things I do have some control over, whether any of these others materialize or not.
14. Paid off half our remaining debt!!! Thank you, God, and all who were praying! A couple properties (undeveloped lots, residential) that Jack had had for sale for a long time finally sold, for pennies on the dollar. But those pennies paid off half our debt...so we have the other half to go, but the amount it depressurized in our monthly budget is HUGE. THANK YOU to God and those of you who prayed for us!!
15. Have a Lap Top. This was something we deliberately acquired earlier in the year so that I could have a way to write and do communications away from home, since many of my hours at the first of the year through midyear were spent away from home. I have hoped to chip away at some personal writing projects and now am delighted to have files where I was able to jot copious jumbled notes in the moment instead of forever losing them. I hope someday to turn some of those into a book or two...we'll see. Still, for someone who loves to write, having a great tool handy is such a blessing. Thank you to Jack and my daughter for their contributions (birthday presents, etc) that made this possible for me! It will be a great tool for going back to school in what I hope is a not too distant future!
16. Aunt Jessie. Named for a dear friend's elderly aunt who was full of spunk and old-fashioned independence and kept her firearms handy and her pistol strapped to her leg beneath her ladylike skirt, I have a handgun for the first time in my life. Ever. This was big, as I was afraid of firearms. Jack helped me with a trip to the gun range and safety instruction, the internet and copious youtube watching helped me with some basic familiarity, and a book called the Boston's Gun Bible helped me learn terms and see comparisons and categories so that I was not totally illiterate and could find some recommendations, etc. I still have a healthy respect/fear of anything that can blow a person away. But we feel the times we are in necessitate responsible exercise of our freedoms and I'd rather be knowledgeable rather than ignorant. So WE bought ME a pistol. I still need a lot of practice. But this was a huge step for me, and a positive one. I do not feel like a sitting target on nights when there have been prowlers.
17. Refine, refine, refine. We are constantly refining things such as our longterm goals, our budget, our eating, the way we spend our time, and so on. The changes that have occurred in conjuction of where we see our goal to get to our "farm" are that we (I should say "I") really want to keep it simple and straightforward. Where before we felt we had years to finetune situations that could unfold mutiple ways over time slowly, now I simply want to Get There Without Complications. I do not want building or environmental restrictions, legalities that have to be solved, bargains that have things left unsolved or undone, timeframes with no definite dates, second parties who may or may not take their sweet time in making decisions or changing their minds. We are considering 4 season areas not in Florida, which is also a big change, but we're not leaning towards the colder climates as a permanent location. We are looking at the sustainability financially, too, and for different goals as far as location and siting. Our "dream" house now is very small...I have notebooks filled with drawings of houses that now are scrapped because our needs determine our expectations more and more. We feel empowered the simpler we think, because the smaller scale we can keep things the more freedom we have in other areas, and that's becoming more and more important to us, especially as the economy is looking dire for the longterm. I'm talking in generalties, but the specifics are too many to go into except to say we're running to try to get "set up" while there is still opportunity to. We do not see further economic downturns as "ifs" but as "whens." We've refined our eating towards nutrition and with an eye for learning to enjoy things that could be grown by us or kept in long term storage inexpensively. We've challenged our weekly food budget to see "how low can we go" while still staying free of processed food. We have a goal amount for our ideal lowest monthly overhead, and it's LOW :) We are ditching excess belongings and trading them for things we most need. We are researching what few tools can later help us without our feeling we have to acquire an array of technology, while also determining those few tools that will be crucial to staying productive without wearing our bodies out or making extra work.
18. We have found we want to be connected to people longterm who love the Almighty. We love privacy but still need to be part of a community, whether that's looseknit or family-like. We like to be a part of something bigger than ourselves, so whatever we do in the years to come, it will involve using our talents to further "the repair of the world"...something worthwhile that can help others, be a part of community in some way. We are seeing more and more that there is an inherent respect for people and for Creation that some people who really care about the Almighty share, whether they have much else in common or not, and others who have no interior values other than what are superimposed on them externally just do not have that. It's a paradigm that has everything to do with how sound a community will be...the basic recognition and respect for life and the Almighty....and how they will be able to rely interdependently on each other. Even if we are far afield and loosely-knit with such a community, while at the same time really valuing our privacy and autonomy, we do not want to be without our community at large. So we'll be aware of this in the midst of the other goals we have, and deliberate in cultivating it, and it will never be far from all the other considerations.
19. We didn't put in a garden. We did use multi-purpose "perennials." We de-bucketed Bucketville. What began a few years ago as an assumption we'd be moving soon to land, and thereby resulted in planting a wide array of plants in five gallon buckets, continued to expand and expand, while our available time to maintain them did not. And we never moved and those buckets...kept collecting. Since we're in a neighborhood where curb appeal will sell a home faster than will the sight of five gallon buckets as far as the eye can see, we stopped growing seasonal test plots on our vacant lot next door and only kept enough buckets as we need for Jack to continue experimenting with the best ways of keeping our perennial plants (chaya, cranberry hibiscus, gynura, papayas) and moringa trees productive. Those, and some trees, are all we have left at present of the Bucketville collection, and most of those are planted in-ground now...something we had waited on a long while as we wondered if we'd be able to carry them to our "final" land for transplant, but had to keep waiting, and finally decided they'd croak if we didn't go ahead and just plant them here. It's HARD resisting the urge to go ahead and do more with a garden, but there is a purpose...we're so near getting out of our debt and we don't need time distractions. We need to ready the house for sale so when the time comes we can immediately stick a sign in the yard and know nearly everything's done. And how we hope that day is soon! :) It's all good. But when we CAN finally have the garden and order those seed...WOO !
20. We're down to one car. This is huge, since we both commuted an hour to work on differing schedules. But we're adapting and one of the big considerations in my wanting this CNA job is that there are openings much closer to home, requiring less gas and meaning the probability of continuing to share the same vehicle is much more likely. This is something we're figuring into our choice of a permanent acreage, too...the distance to a reliable area for parttime employment. We figure saving on fuel is crucial to our budget...we no longer can justify working longer and harder just to afford the gas and same standard of living, and have no desire to do so. We're HAPPY being frugal because it's freeing us, not constricting :) Have a single vehicle for two jobs is worrisome on other levels. We're working to be debt free so that there is a cushion in the event we need to get even more creative later down the road.
That's about it...what were the main events of your year? What do you hope to include for the next one? what would you hope to do better and what were the "keepers"?
Thank you for being such an encouraging part of our lives with your comments here and the great sense of sharing and community that is very very real. We hope your year had some really positive lessons and your year ahead is your best one yet :)