Monday, December 31, 2012

Still Learning and Yearning

Ahh, a day off...Happy new year to you and yours!

I'm holed up in a toasty corner of the house enjoying actually BEING at home and with my hubby.  I rarely have these moments any more, and the internal Me yearns for more of them, more frequently.  I'm grateful for the increased hours at my job because they're a means to an end.  Towards that end, I long.  And in the meantime I'll soak up every bit of time marked in moments I want to hold and put in my pocket and take out and turn over and over with gratitude and appreciation.  I want to find a way to verbalize a thousand thank-yous heavenward for the perfection of being loved and being allowed to love my husband, my daughter, my friends, having a warm place to call home, having enough to eat and health enough to be present in the whole process.

I am happy.  I have to cultivate happiness when we are under what I feel deep inside myself is a huge, years-in-the-working-for, and time-sensitive overarching goal of getting to a more secure place in general.  There is a niggling anxiety pushing me harder as the goal is more in sight, a deep and visceral thread of gut-level survival instinct that tells me all is not well in the big picture until we reposition ourselves in a different setting where our choices and way of life is a much better fit.  I'm anxious to be there because it will be a place we are less vulnerable to factors that repetitively use up our time, resources, and often our heart.

The delays have been at times so very discouraging I couldn't bring myself to write about them here, to expose and name them.  But I have had to name the lessons, at least to myself in private, and learn to trust God's wisdom and timing in it all, or there won't have been a fruitfulness in all this waiting, working, planning, planting, negotiating, surrendering, and starting over. 

I was not born a patient person, and my impatience is still ever with me even though I've matured and learned to lean into the waiting and the living of life in those times that seemed so slow they crept, or were so rapid-fire it was hard to just breathe.  Life is multi-faceted, so I can say that I cultivate contentment and being present in the Now just as honestly as I can also say I crave a place to strike roots.

I've moved over 24 times in my life, seldom because of any longing to dislodge myself from a particular location.  My father was a salesman, and my adult life had some pauses in a couple of locations that I might call more of a hometown.  But deep in my core I feel the need to have roots with more permanence.  And yes, I'm willing to continue this path whichever way God deems...His way is always best. 

Now that we have the land that we believe we can use and one day make our little farm, I want that One Day.  I don't want to rush God's timing.  Somehow I need to square that with the urge, since having paid the land off, of a horse bursting from the starting gate towards a final push to the finish line in this one big area.  I feel the "finish line" will be a new beginning with all that entails.  And it will have its own timeframe and storyline.  I just want to "Git 'er DONE."  ENOUGH of the WAITING!  (see my patience problem??? ha)

We are on a pay-with-cash-as-you-earn-it time schedule.  And the usual things come up as we are still in the suburbs, still having commutes to work and vehicles that must remain working, blah blah blah.  All the things that add up to $$ that must be expected in the normal flow.

I had an interesting conversation with an older client the other day in which she asked me how I like my aged Jeep and why I don't upgrade to something newer and "more reliable."  I think she meant something with a warranty that needs less routine maintenance and so on.  With better gas mileage, newer tires, and maybe a working AC.  I told her we paid $2,000 for it and it would not get much in a trade-in, we've put money into it to prolong its usefulness, and for the little upkeep it requires we would not come out ahead starting over with something newer and more expensive.  She still could not understand why I would not simply go to a dealership and finance the purchase of a newer vehicle.  And when I explained to her we don't borrow money as a rule, we don't think in terms of financing something, she drew a complete blank, and I realized this is why so many people we know just can't relate to us.

In our budgeting, in our plans to build VERY small and economically once we're on the land, and in only planning the development of the land based on what we can manage to come up with cash-in-hand as we go, and how we plan to actually budget to live on a miniscule budget thereafter, I think we're bucking a thoroughly monolithic modern rationale.  We WON'T have expensive equipment or expensive tools or work trucks, we might have a near-shed for living space, we will have to know our neighbors and work as a group on things, and our wardrobes will be as simple as a few days' worth of clothing kept in good working condition.

And this is what I WANT.  I feel the world is in a daze of unreality about how to adjust to the most basic components of life.  As others worry about a fiscal cliff or bewail the outcomes of elections or votes and are stuck on a Wheel of Blaming The Other Guy, real life goes on.  All those gadgets and technologies that were supposed to offer a higher quality of life have eaten away at people's logic until there really seems to be less engagement and just one long run of distractions after the another.

I'm not saying this with pessimism, I'm saying it with realism.  If I could go NOW to our land and use a bucket for a toilet and a rain barrel as our washing water, yes, I would.  My determination to outlast THESE DISTRACTIONS is very....determined!  I know there's a right timing to this, so I will plug on along.

But as this old year concludes and the new one commences, hear ye hear ye....I will learn these lessons, continue to allow them to empower me and maybe others to a more ACTUAL reality, and embroider this dream with all that joy that comes when even a single step forward is realized.  Maybe the disappointments point us to a less romanticized and clearer picture of what we're building, and maybe it is leaner and has more substance.  And of course a greater appreciation of things we may have otherwise taken for granted.

And the ability, when some modern wisdom around us fails to arrive at expected outcomes, to know there are still real answers and a simpler way well worth the work.

I don't dare re-read this post, or I know I will delete it.  It's one of the reasons I don't post here as often because it comes out like a rambling rant all too often.  I guess I'm just catching my breath today hoping this year ahead is full of actual steps forward and that the working and exhaustion part of this journey is not without an end in sight.  Because in my mind's eye, it's worthwhile, and necessary, and I just hope that God opens doors in ways we ourselves may not be able, and gives us favor.  I'm hopeful, I'm realistic, I'm tired, and I'm grateful.  I thank God for this journey and the stories He gives us along the way, the lessons, the encouragement, the opportunities, and yes even the limitations.  Oh how I love His beautiful world, especially nature, and how much I want to be closer to it.

I want to be there on our land to see the night sky, hear actual leaves move in actual trees and insects humming from blossom to blossom, smell sun and soil and wild growing things and trade some toil and sweat for returns of food and sunburnt skin and more memories together side by side with my beloved--and fashion a haven not just for ourselves but others as well.

What's your dream for this year, what did this past year teach you?  How do you keep your hope sustained?

Monday, December 24, 2012

End of Year Overview, Our Love to You and Yours

Though the temps here in Florida have finally dipped into the Chill Zone and the papaya trees are wilted in frustration at the slight but persistent morning frosts, I'm warm and cozy behind these stuccoed cement walls.  We've graduated from sleeveless knockabout shirts and shorts in the house to actual clothing along the lines of jeans and things with sleeves.

Tomorrow I head to my clients' house early to hang stockings...somewhere...and hopefully see them enjoy a few treats and then a later holiday buffet.  Jewish caregiver meets eight decades of Christmas traditions, times two.  I figure my job is to help happiness abound, so I'll keep to kosher choices while still helping the two ladies with some of the few enjoyments left to them.  I have this anxious feeling the years for them are counted now more in days and moments now, so we have to make our celebrations at every available chance.

Jack and I do not celebrate christmas, but we're happy to work the holiday so others can.  That doesn't mean we don't still take time out for fun with family.  My daughter and I have started what I hope is a tradition-in-the-making by catching some time together despite our opposite work schedules (funny how our days tend to be marked off by our work schedules, arggghh) by grabbing time together to see a movie at the cinema.  A few weeks ago it was Life of Pi, which we both remembered from a book she read in high school and shared with me.  This Wednesday, if all goes well, it will be the much-anticipated Les Mis...hoorayyyy!!!!  This is the very cool part of enjoying the young adult years of my daughter when we can actually go somewhere and really have fun...liking the same thing...ha :)

Here's a rundown of an update...and overview of the year.  It's a poor substitute for daily posts or regular articles here.  Maybe as I list them, it will become clear why my computer time is more occasional.  But writing here is no less enjoyable :)

Things That Happened This no particular order necessarily:

1.  2012 Began with my being employed as a CNA through an agency, but scheduled for very few hours per week, mainly because of the necessity of sharing our one vehicle with my husband, whose job is our primary income.  VERY difficult to share what with our location and the long commute and the different locations of our two jobs..and the changeability of my job assignments on any given week.  However, we worked with it and were thankful for what we had.

2.  I had saved all of 2011 for the enrollment fee for tuition to study to become an herbalist.  I shopped and researched and compared a lot of different teachers and schools/programs.  I intend to continue studying for the long term even after completing this program...the one I settled on, and am enrolled in, is the East West School of Herbology, Michael and Lesley Tierra's program in Santa Cruz, CA.  It is the distance learning Professional Herbalist program, and I consider the culmination of this HUGE DREAM...beginning this path of herbalism...a profound blessing!  I enrolled and received my coursework and books in May and have been busy studying it ever since.  And every time I get a chance to study and complete more, it just renews some inner source of joy.  Wherever it leads and whatever it will come to mean, it is immensely fulfilling, and I thank God often for it!

3.  Sold our property.  We had 5 acres in Central Florida a few hours away that we had hoped and tried to prepare as our future farm site for the past several years.  During 2011 it became clear to us that we could not gain access to the property as we had anticipated, without going through the process of gaining an easement through existing neighbors' property.  It was a heart-wrenching and discouraging and lengthy process, but we were out of money to complete the necessary steps to take it to court and gain an easement on the landlocked property.  Whether the law states it's everyone's right to access their property, you still have to have the money and legal people in place to gain it, and we just did not at that point.  So in 2012 we swallowed the bitter pill of selling it at a fraction of what we'd one of the very neighbors who delighted in denying us access in the first place.  We had to step away from the emotion of the thing and just act in our own best interests.  That's easier for Jack to do than for me, I'm afraid.  But in the end we did walk away with a small token amount of money after selling it at a huge loss.  And that token amount became our (again...) nest egg.

4.  Looked for property.  In 2011 through the spring of 2012, we would take occasional afternoon drives as work allowed and cover a lot of distance every direction within about an hour's drive of where we now live.  We were looking for cheap land.  In Florida, there is almost no such thing as cheap land unless you're willing to buy swampland that can't be built on.  Not only did we need cheap, we needed buildable, agricultural, unencumbered by environmental restrictions (there are lots of those in rural FL), and my own personal list included some infrastructure already in place...we did not have enough money to be putting in long miles of electric or investing in a huge outlay of solar panels, and so on.  Oh yeah, and of course we needed actual ACCESS.  We put offers of properties...regularly...and prayed for the right one.  We bid low because we had to.  And the offers kept falling through.  Regularly.

5.  The Jeep.  I think it was February, and we were driving back from just one such road trip of looking for cheap land.  And we saw a vehicle for sale.  We had a ridiculously low budget for a second vehicle purchase, and we kept being disappointed in what was available at that price.  But the old Jeep we saw had been practically rebuilt from the inside out and after some deliberation, we took it on, for the sole reason that it would allow me to work a schedule independent of sharing my husband's truck...and allow my schedule to accommodate a wider range of hours and days.  I had underestimated how joyful I would be in having my own vehicle again.  It was with much hesitation that we took on the second vehicle, knowing the increase in the monthly budget for gas and maintenance and car insurance had to be exceeded by ACTUAL income increase.  I have no intention of increasing our budget burden for the sake of having a car.  So our fallback plan was that if we only broke even after a couple months of seeing what the ACTUAL expense of the car was in that time, we would simply call the insurance company and park it in the garage and stop driving it/insuring altogether, and have it only as a backup vehicle in case Jack's truck ever had to go in for repairs, which time we'd reinstate the insurance, blah blah blah.  Long and short so far...the Jeep was paid for with a little cash, repaired with a little cash, and has been getting me from point A to point B reliably enough for me to be available for a very long work week, and so far has been worth it.  I highly recommend driving reliable clunkers, paying cash for them, and not taking them for granted.  We will be glad for the hopeful day we plan to be on the farm and not need more than one working vehicle again.  Till then, I love my dented little Jeep I call Ding...for the dings, of course, ha :)

6. Work.  Work.  And More Work.  I work a LOT MORE.  At present, often 10 hour shifts, and there have been a few 24 hour ones, but my body really won't hang with that sort so the 10 hour sort are about my limit.  I appreciate ANY time I have with Jack, as it's very limited.  We grab time together whenever we can, even if I'm half-baked for lack of sleep, or if we nap together.  Jack cooks for himself some, I do some of it, and we find our way to a cheap buffet now and then.  I keep telling myself this is all for the goal of Getting There Quicker.  Getting where??

7.  THE FARM.  I'll cut to the chase.  In April we put an offer on a property.  We bid cheap, of course.  This time the stopping point in negotiations was in our cheapness range.  We finalized things.  And finalized.  And finalized.  For FOUR MONTHS, even while dealing through a reliable set of realtors, that blinkin' contract kept being rewritten in a process we now can refer to as Fun Buying Land From Your Local Power Company.  But in the end, it got "done did."  And in August, the deal was signed and the land was ours!!!  Five acres in rural Florida, buildable, agricultural, with ROAD ACCESS and....ELECTRICITY, woo!!  High and dry (not wetlands) and still within a driveable distance for us.  We have been dancing, falling down on our knees, jumping up and down, lying still and experiencing wonder, with thanks and gratefulness to God for allowing us to FINALLY have land.  This blog was started in (I think) 2007 with the expectation that we'd already be ON some land within a year of that.  So it's been a longggggg process.  And I often thought it would not happen.  But it did!!!

8.  Land Goals.  We had all but about that last thousand dollars of the cost of the land paid off.  We save week-to-week, in very very small increments from our incomes.  Sometimes we just have nothing left over.  But we started inching along our Goal of paying this final amount off.  About the time we prayed for extra money, I was given the 10 hour days, unexpectedly, at my work.  It makes me tired.  It makes me lonely for my husband and my home.  It is sometimes rewarding, sometimes frustrating, sometimes I'm too tired to be either.  BUT, it was an answer to prayer and...this past Friday, December 21, it may have been the end of the Mayan calendar, but it was also the end of our land debt...Paid In Full, hooray!!!  Oh man, are we ever grateful to God!!

9.  All our further goals for the land are all directed towards Getting There.  We've had years and months to come up with Plans A through Z, so at least we are not starting at zero and scrambling for a plan.  Our plans are simply being honed to more clarity and having the cobwebs dusted off, for a change. Yay!!   The plan now is a set of steps necessary to get the land ready for us to live there very minimally.  Meaning the most streamlined way to set up a raw property to be inhabited.  I won't elaborate all the steps here, but in 2013 the blog will show what we're doing to get there.  Right now, we need to put a culvert in so that we can actually get ONTO the land.  We save incrementally, weekly, as able.  So you can imagine the further steps and how monumental they seem at this snail's pace.  But when looking at all that has happened in this past year, these past blessings I'd have never expected and still have no idea how God enabled us to accomplish, I know we'll just go forward, work very hard, and continue to ask for God to be with us and bless these efforts.  We want Him to be in all of them and to use what we have and the land for things He delights in.  We can't help but think that we can greatly reduce our monetary burden once we are finally living there...God willing...and also be a refuge and resource for others who need and want the same thing.  Let's see how things go.  Every time we drive to the land, I never want to leave.  It's a physical hurt, almost a grieving, when we have to turn and head back to town knowing it may be weeks before we're back out there.  Having small achieveable goals is helping me a lot in feeling a forward momentum.  We pray, we pray, we pray.  And we enjoy the moments we have together amid this busy-ness in the meantime.  I'm so grateful for Jack, and that is constant.  Constantly grateful.

10.  Health.  We had a rough summer as far as health.  All I can say is that the extreme heat here is especially hard on my body, and I don't see that changing, so I'll adapt.  Our doctors want us to change some things, get better lab readings, lose weight, etc.  We've become more deliberate.  We're mostly limiting our sugars and starches.  I've added in some herbs beneficial to lowering blood sugar and in the past two months have experienced results that exceeded my expectations.  I feel our health is a constant fight due to our work demands, especially when there are night shifts.  We pray for protection, and I feel when (please God) we're on the land, we can be on a natural schedule of our own where we work for ourselves for our own survival in a much more direct way, hands-on, and with the relief of not being removed from nature.  The farther removed I get from being IN nature, the bigger a disconnect I feel.  And the closer we get to it, the greater joy we experience.

We pray to God that we GET THERE.  And yet we shall live life and its moments IN the moment along the way.  And we ask for protection and blessing, and we want that for others.  Thank you if you pray that for is our desire for you.

11.  In 2012 we also lost.  I lost a friend from the past and another friend I'd anticipated having more time with in the future for years to come, the first to a heart attack, the second to colon cancer.  They were both about my own age.  And they just can't be replaced. My heart is heavy at their loss.  That's all I can say...there's an empty place that's theirs alone and I'm richer for knowing them, but poorer by far that they are no longer here. There always seem to be tears amid the good.  Each day is so very precious and not to be taken for granted.  That may be one of the only sure things in life.

12.  Friends. We also have been so impressed with the kindness of friends both far and near.  How rich we are in the times we can grab to spend with those of you, and you know who you are, in person, through an email, by phone, however.  Our friends enrich our lives...that's you.  THANK you for your time and graciousness, your ideas, your advice, and commiserating, being here, being available, being new friends or old ones.  We are grateful for you!  We are deliberately trying to be there more for our friends.  If there is some way we can improve that, please drop us a line.  We care.

We hope your year in 2012 is completed knowing that God is good, and having loved ones near you and carried in your hearts.  If it is a happy time for you, we are so glad! If it is a sad time for you, as it is for many, please reach out and be encircled by others who want to welcome you.  We all need each other so very much. We are grateful to God for each moment, and thank Him for you.

With much love from our household to yours,

Robbyn and Jack at TheBackForty