Sunday, December 19, 2010

Things That Happened This Year

1.  News!  Passed CNA Test!!   I took the Exam Prep course in early oops July, went through the application and screening process, practiced at the facility several days a week with a practice partner (shout out to Ann Marie!) and plied my instructor with baked treats in exchange for his continued pointers and patience.  It has been a FUN time :)  This past Monday, and with sooooo much gratefulness to ALL who have been diligently backing my efforts with their heartfelt prayers, I took the 2 part CNA state test and passed both parts........YAYYYY!!!   This is a huge relief!  It's also an open door, a new step forward, and a world of possibility as far as employment and paying the rest of our debts off.  I'm so thankful to God to paving the way for this goal to be realized!

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 came out about even.  WOW.   So anyway, this bullet point should read LEFT MY JOB.

3.   Saying it while I 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 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 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 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 :)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Spam Prose

Running together some subject lines in my current Junk Mail folder.

Spam Prose, Chapter One:

YOUR URGENT ATTENTION IS HIGHLY NEEDED. WITH TEARS!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Hey. LET'S BE NEW BUSINESS PARTNER!  Free ground shipping on orders over $75 PRIVATE AND CONFIDENTIAL Gold bar/dust offer for sale From Princess Josephine.

You have one new alert Message from Mrs. Gladys Kala: Dear one,.. you're cold? these will warm you up...YOUR LIFE IS IN DANGER! CONGRATULATIONS YOU WON ATM CARD.

FROM THE DESK OF MRS SAMATA GAMBO. Hello, featured resource.  Where have you been, (no subject)? Reply Immediately WITH TEARS!!!!! Donation inquiry. Please read careffully (sic).  ASSIT SO I COULD FULFILL MY Hannukah overstock sale.  Switch to a 15 year fixed mortgage.

Not sure I understand the new genre, but obviously it's a tear-jerker...

Walking. In a Winter. Wonder. Land.


Jack's boss just told him last night that his security rounds must be continual all night, with no periods of rest.  Is this legal?   Whether or not it is, it's being made a condition of employment.  We need the paycheck.  He is resting right now before his next shift, tryin to sleep.  His legs are  having painful cramps.


We've had dips down to the mid-30s some evenings, so our two newer dwarf cavendish bananas were the first to wave a brown-and-wilted-leaf farewell.  The more mature moringas are soldiering on,  pods still on two of them and still growing.  Some of the cranberry hibiscus are on the decline.  Papayas still holding out.   The gynura are ridiculously loving the temps and are downright lush, but I  know from past years that come anything below 32F, they'll be toast.   But I can walk outside and feel the sun on my face, some days in the 80s, right now in the 70s.  As much as I have twinges in missing the briskness of a more northerly winter, and REALLY miss the joys of a wood fire, these Florida climes do have their up sides.


I wonder if I'll pass my upcoming state exam on the 13th.

I wonder if my husband's legs will hold out till better days mean he can enjoy a more suitable way of  making an income.

I wonder if I'll be good at being a CNA.

I wonder how fast we can get finish getting out of debt when I get a CNA job.

I wonder if I'll ever stop wanting to have another child, even at my age now.

I wonder if I did ever have another child, if I'd wonder if I had been slap crazy in wanting that.

I wonder at what a different world this is than my grandparents' world, and miss them.

I wonder if I'm a good mother, always assessing that balance between non-interference and asking about the personal things.

I wonder why I am drawn to really great first lines in books, especially fiction, and what's the greatest first line ever written.

I wonder if I will ever get to be a creative writing teacher again, and if I could ever go to college and be in writing workshops...or if I'd blank ...and...blank some more.

I wonder what my dog is thinking when he gazes at me with such devotion.  Is it devotion?  Is he thinking "I'm crazy about my person!" or "My Food Source seems to be moving a little closer to the kitchen, hooray!"

I wonder when I'll be able to write about the backstory that has eaten up our days and hopes and a lot of our time, but has to remain private till it's resolved.  It does involve land.

I wonder at the healing nature of laughter, and love love love to find the quirkiness that makes human folly less sinister and simply meriting a hearty chuckle.

I wonder at how quickly time passes.

I wonder what life will be like a year from now.

I wonder if I'll have back my waistline in this lifetime.

I wonder at the amazing love my husband has for me.

I wonder at the person my husband is, and how we are such a good fit, and how miraculous it was that we ever met in the first place.

I wonder at God's continued goodness, and wonder why He always gets the blame for anything man does wrong in this world.

I wonder when the citizens of our nation will stop handing over their personal rights in exchange for promises of protection.

I wonder how cheaply I could eat if we had rationing or much less money to live on presently.  I wonder if I could be really grateful for eating beans every single day if it came to that, or if it would become apparent  how spoiled I am and how much I still take for granted.

I wonder if I could sew if I HAD TO.  I mean the kind of sewing where any attempts at making clothing would produce an actual wearable item ;-)

I wonder if I can write a really great novel.

I wonder if I wrote about my life, what genre it would be and if it would be even remotely believable.

I wonder why part of me craves living in complete austerity, and the other part of me loves beauty so much and feathering my nest.

I wonder why food tastes so good, and why I have trouble controlling how much I eat, but not what or how much I drink.

I wonder why I listened in the past to people I didn't respect and bothered to care what their opinion was.

I wonder when the era of political correctness will run its course before there are no words left to say without pressure of conformity.

I wonder why I have such a visceral revulsion to Pres Obama and Sarah Palin alike, even though they're on polar opposite sides of the fence.

I wonder why I'm so happy not having TV, but can't seem to go a week without wanting to see another tantrum by Gordon Ramsay in HK on Hulu.

I wonder how the copious quantities of dog hair making dust bunnies in every corner of my house never seem quite equal to the modest amounts of hair removed when I brush the dog.

I wonder why the greater bulk of English literature considered classic reading made it to the list.  Jane Austen is the exception, of course.

I wonder why I want to eat out even when the food I cook most of the time tastes better, always is more economical to make, and is so much better for me.

I wonder at the power of being cherished and how it sustains me through the ordinary and the extraordinary and makes so many bumps in the road seem just inconsequential.  Thank you Jack.  Thank you, God.

I wonder if my dog knows how happy I am because he's always near.

I wonder if my husband realizes how his laughter makes my whole world lighter.


Um,  yeah...that.  Ever in our minds, in our efforts, in our working and waiting.  Completely in God's control and timing, be it yea or nay...or stay.

That's the update...what's going on with your winter, wonder, or corner of the world?