I apologize that I haven't posted anything for a couple of weeks. This time of year is hard on me between the emotions of the holidays and the short winter days. The words just haven't been coming. I finally got a few Christmas decorations up, for some reason that also was causing me mental frustration, so glad I was able to break through that and I'm glad I did and thankful to my husband who was appreciative for getting it done. We live in a small (not tiny) house so not room for lots of decorations, but those I do put up have significance.
It seems many times deaths happen around the holidays as well and so people struggle silently many times or it comes out in anger or depression. Reach out to those around you that may be struggling this time of year with memories or seasonal affective disorder. My son that passed away 21 years ago at age 5, birthday is November 26 and we always have a birthday cake and play Joyful Joyful We Adore Thee to honor his memory. When the girls were younger we would decorate the tree on that day as well. However, for some reason the last couple of years it has been hard for me to decorate, living far away from family and no one coming home, it was like what was the point.
I read an article on Facebook recently about missionaries not being able to go home and it set me off. It isn't just missionaries that have a hard time going home. It is also those of us that have left where we were born and raised and moved around the country. When we go back we realize that we have learned and had experiences that are different from those still there. It is particularly bad during the holidays especially in a small town, when you are the odd one in town, not from there and not related to people there. During the rest of the year people will talk to you and be nice and maybe invite you over or include you in activities, but come the holidays you are forgotten. Maybe it is hard to go home every year or your children are living far away and it is either their turn to visit the in-laws or they can't afford to come to visit you. You have to really work to make those traditions for yourselves and not get depressed, during that time. However, this year we are in a different house and a new town so my goal is, how can I make some new traditions and memories?
I have not liked winter for most of my life. This is something I have in common with my mother who is almost 91. She has watched the rising and setting of the sun all those years and knows exactly where the furthest location it will go down. Over the years she has seen just by observation that the sun starts to come back north in the evening, where she lives, sometime between Thanksgiving and the first part of December. In the mornings the sun is still coming up later until sometime in January. For me getting past that day when the sun starts coming back north is significant. As my Dad always said, "one day closer to spring."
If you are one that struggles with SAD (seasonal affective disorder) here are a few things that have helped me. I try to get outside, weather permitting, every day. Now I have to, since we have Max our dog and we live in town. Thankfully my house has lots of windows and I make sure that I open up all the curtains on the east, south and west, to let what sun there is in, this also helps.
The use of lists also helps me. I write what I want to accomplish on the white board, even the very small insignificant things. I had been erasing the items on the list as I was getting them done, but then at the end of the day I couldn't always remember what all I had accomplished, so I started marking through what was on the list and then at the end of the day I feel much better about what has been accomplished. This helps with the SAD feeling. By making a list of the things I want to work on or accomplish each day helps me stay focused.
So today on this "gray' winter day I leave you with a question. What are some things you do to help you cope with SAD or the difficulties of the holidays? Answer here or on Facebook and thanks. I hope you all have as positive time of year as possible. Make it simple and focused on family whether near or far.
When we finally knew the day we were going to close on our house in Oklahoma, we both made the decision to quit work on the same day. August 11 was the fateful day.
I had made arrangements to continue working for the company I was working for on a contract basis. I am a graphic designer so that was going to work well, but my husband was quitting his job of fourteen years.
This journey we were on is one that we had talked about and dreamed of ever since my husband and I came together, but the timeline changed due to me getting fired in January 2013, so when the day came for him to quit my husband “fired the company” he was working for, for what they had done to us, because you know “it is just business”. (We were both working at the same company when I got fired.)
Those last few days we were trying to get all the loose ends wrapped up and finish the packing. We were getting really tired and bogged down. However, we had one friend come a couple days to help us load the truck and then on Friday afternoon, after we closed on the house, some dear friends came to help finish loadthe truck. This guy was a packing machine. We all worked until after midnight and then they came back the next morning and helped us finish. At first we thought we were going to have to come back for another load, but he managed to get everything in the truck, the car and the back of the pickup, leaving room for the driver of the truck, the pickup and a place for the dog.
We pulled out of the driveway at 7:15 pm Saturday, August 16, 2014 closing the door on one chapter of our lives and opening the door to another. Technically we had closed on one home and weren’t completely sure as to when we were going to close on our next home.
We went to bed sometime after 1:00 am Friday night, after we aired up our camping air mattress, since our bed was on the truck already. We were exhausted, but up bright and early to finish the race that had been set before us. Our dear friends came back again before lunch to help. We stopped somewhere mid-afternoon for a to-go meal from Greazy Steves. Hubby and I also took a quick shower because we didn’t know when we would be able to take another one, it also helped us get our second wind. The packing was done, the house was clean, we took final pictures, shared a last good-bye and hugs and pulled out of the driveway. Yes we were exhausted, but the adrenaline was pumping, we were on our way.
We drove on and on into the night. I was driving the truck with the car on a trailer and my husband was driving the loaded pickup with the dog as his companion. We had our phones, but we also had purchased radios to communicate with because on part of this journey there was absolutely no phone signal. Most of the way I took the lead with (hubby) running interference and keeping eyes on the traffic. We left the turnpike around 1ish in the morning and headed east on a two lane highway and that is when the tiredness set in. About twenty miles outside of Broken Bow, Oklahoma I started to lose it, so I called on the radio. “Talk to me so we can make it to the next town.” We talked back and forth on the radios for the next 20 miles. Thankfully there was a Walmart parking lot in Broken Bow. We pulled over to the side of the parking lot near McDonalds shut things off and I pulled a couple of pillows out of a bag that was in the cab of the truck, leaned against the door, propped my legs up on the stuff that was in the passenger seat and crashed at exactly 3:00 am. Come to find out later that Mitch (hubby) was so glad I was ready to stop, but he didn’t really sleep because of the dog and keeping watch for our safety. I woke up at 6:00 am and went next door to McDonalds to get us something to eat. (Please don’t say anything, I never eat at McDonalds, but in dire situations you do what you have to do.) We only had about another hour to hour and a half to drive, but we had not been capable of going one mile further.
We pulled into our new town around 8:30 am. We had to find our friends that had come down from Oklahoma to help us unload, find our storage unit and meet up with family, another long day.
We got everything unloaded, it took two storage units to hold it all, but since we weren’t moving into the house for at least two weeks or more everything but our camping gear was going into storage. Our friends were headed back to Oklahoma after we got through unloading so we had to keep pushing. Once they hit the road we went out to the lake and set up our camp. Our tent was to be our home for the next three weeks.
Through all the steps we had to take, selling the house, quitting our jobs, packing, moving, being homeless and finally getting moved into our house, we had peace that we were on the right path. However, it is never easy starting over in a new location even if you are on the right track.
When we made the decision of where we were going to move, there was another decision, when were we going to move? My daughter and grandchildren visited us this summer so we decided to list the house right after they went back home. I met with our realtor, who also is a good friend and one I work for on our 2nd wedding anniversary, July 7, 2014. This was a Monday. On Wednesday July 9, she called while I was making supper and said I’m bringing a couple out to look at your house. My response was “we are just getting ready to sit down for supper.” Her quick reply was, “That’s ok, they don’t mind.”
We sat down to supper and when they came the realtor showed them the acreage and then the house. They promptly fell in love with the place. They gave a verbal offer that evening on the way home and negotiations went on for the next couple of days even though we left for a trip to Arkansas to look at houses in the town we had chosen. We came to a mutual agreement long distance and made an offer on a house in Arkansas. The offer we made was the exact bottom dollar the owner was willing to go. No negotiations there. The “For Sale” sign never went up in our yard; technically it sold in 1-1/2 days. There were some up and down days through the next month as there always are when selling or buying a house. We were both still working. My husband was working two jobs one Monday through Friday and one on the weekends. He had been working the extra job since February to help make ends meet and to build up a reserve for the move. I was working my regular job, my side job and trying to keep up with the mowing on our 5 acres and packing.
At first it looked like we weren’t going to close on the house within the one month time period because of buyer financing, but then all of a sudden things started to move fast. The house we were buying was a much smaller house, less than half the size of what we were living in and less storage outside as well. I think every trip I made to town I had boxes in the car to take to the thrift store or the second hand store to sell. Part of this journey we are on is to simplify our lives and get rid of things.
Simplifying is a hard process. I love the idea of living small, but paring down is HARD! I have moved twelve times in the last twenty-two years. Some of those times have been across town and for only a few months in a location and other times it was to another state. Every time I moved there was less to move, but it seems you always collect more.
I have watched other people move and it seems like they are able to just pick up, throw everything into a few boxes and head down the road over a weekend. Our family has always had boxes and boxes of books, craft materials and lots tools in the kitchen and garage, as well as one or two freezers and refrigerators. These are all items that are difficult to just “get rid of”. Sometimes it is the mentality we might need those things someday and sometimes there are sentimental feelings.
Since our last move we had inherited a lot of things from my mother-in-law that we hadn’t had time to go through. In the months before we moved I did go through a number of the boxes and did the sort: keep, sell, thrift, burn. However, I ran out of time and I have a number of boxes still to go through. In addition I have a number of boxes of school papers and mementos from my children that I have schlepped from one house to another. There are also a few things to take to daughter number 2 that has children, things that are to be handed down. Thankfully over the years I have got rid of a lot of the VHS tapes, wow those really do take up a lot of room. So over the next few months, I have a job to do. Finish going through all the boxes and made some hard decisions.
I want to say we had all our ducks in a row, but we didn’t and don’t, but we just had felt very strongly that we were to do what we were doing. That life is too short to work 80 hours a week, for what? Who were we working for, ourselves or the bank, to make payments on a house that we didn’t have time to enjoy.
I have got a little bogged down with all the unpacking of boxes and remodeling that has been going on around me while I am trying to work. The unpacking is going very slowly, because this house is less than half the size of the house we had been in and less storage. This is something we wanted to do and paring down is very important but it is a process. It isn’t something that happens overnight.
We remodeled the kitchen completely down to the walls. We didn’t gut the walls out, but the only thing left from the original is the ceiling, flooring and walls. The original kitchen only had a few cabinets on one wall and they were custom made for the original owner who must not have been but about five foot tall. They were two inches shorter than standard height and the distance between the lower and upper cabinets was only eleven inches and standard is more like eighteen inches. They were solid wood cabinets, but in the last several years they had been abused and were “sad”. The cabinets themselves had to come out in pieces, but the drawers were in good condition, just quite grimy and dirty with several layers of chipping paint. I just didn’t want to send all those solid wooden drawers to the landfill.
I like doing unique things to re-purpose/recycle what I can.
I had seen something on Pinterest that tweaked my interest and thought, we need more bookshelves and what a great way to reuse those solid drawers.
As a part of this “taking things slow and steady” we make decisions and those decisions are based on the information available. Two and a half years ago based on the research we did and where we were financially we made a decision to purchase some rural property. We made money on the sale of the house we were living in and things were going well until I was fired from my job due to no fault of mine.
This event shook me to the core in many ways. It was and still is on some days very difficult to find it in my heart to be forgiving. What has been the hardest to overcome is that the people that did this to me loudly claimed to be Christian. They were not honest with me at all during the firing, until the truth came out later. It involved jealousy, bullying and pettiness, but when the owner of the company’s daughter wants you out what can be done? “It is only business right?” I always put my heart and soul into everything I do and when you are fired it is like a death of who you are. What you do isn’t who you are, but many times it expresses who you are. It validates you.
I was so hurt, devastated and in shock that people who call themselves “Christian” would do something like this and have the guts to say “it’s business, our hands are tied.” Any self-worth and value I had was shredded and even now 21 months later I still have moments. Unless you have ever been fired unjustly you have no idea what it is like. When your spouse leaves for work you feel like you are not carrying your share. You feel like a failure because of what happened. When I went to town even to buy groceries, the feelings would so overwhelm me at times that I wasn’t a good enough person to be in town and any money I spent even on necessities made me feel guilty. My husband didn’t make me feel guilty, I made myself feel guilty.
Unbeknownst to me, while I was getting fired my husband came close to getting let go as well, because he was married to me. His supervisor was trying his hardest to make that happen. However, the Vice-President and CEO of the company said “No” he is too valuable. This shook him to the core as well. From that day forward he never felt that he was trusted and he always felt that he could be fired at any time. He was always on edge at work never knowing if the shoe would fall, so to speak. This puts a strain on a person and any relationship they are in.
My husband picked up the pace as much as he could, working as many hours of overtime as he was allowed to help with the income, for which I am very thankful. This however, left me home alone too many hours each day and then when I wanted to talk about it when he came home it was an emotional drain on him. I had only lived in this geographical area for three years and had not made many close friends other than the acquaintances through work. In addition, due to some personal reasons we do not attend church.
During this five month period of unemployment I worked hard to stay busy each day. That was my biggest salvation. I would start my week out looking for job openings and going through the application process and following up on the applications I had already submitted. I also spent time developing local contacts and doing what I could to expand my side business, PrairieRose Consulting. I am a graphic designer by trade and it is something I enjoy doing. I reached out to local city and county governments and some of the local businesses and was able to gain several new clients that required regular maintenance on their websites. I enjoyed the feeling of working for myself and getting involved in the local community. I also got to know myself better during this time even though it was very painful.
I also had time to work in the yard and garden and even got some chickens, which are a whole other story.
It was through this time I kept repeating two scriptures to help me get some peace.
Psalm 71:24 (NIV) My tongue will tell of your righteous acts all day long, for those who wanted to harm me have been put to shame and confusion
Genesis 50: 19-20 (ERV) . . . “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? 20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good . .
It is has been over a year and half since that life event and during the last year we started exploring different options of what we wanted to do in the future.
1. We realized that we wanted to be out from under the burden of debt.
2. We wanted to slow down our lives from working 50-80 hours a week just to make ends meet.
3. We wanted to be involved in the community.
4. We wanted to work towards living a self-sufficient/self-reliant lifestyle.
We started searching for the right location. This required a lot of research, some travel, and lots of time online. We weighed many options and made the choice to move to another state. Yes, a few houses came on the market where we were living that had potential and we could have kept our jobs and have been out of debt in a very short time. In the new location we don’t have jobs and it means starting all over, house, jobs, and friends. However the one difference was extended family in this location.
We want to live a simple life, with the time to enjoy life without the pressures of debts overwhelming us even the simple debts of large utility bills and house payments. That has put such a strain on us. We traveled a lot the year before we moved out to the acreage and we are looking forward to doing more of that.
There are those that have wondered why we chose the path we are on. To us it is an adventure, a journey. We did not start down this path quickly or lightly and the way is still rough and rocky, however, we know we are headed in the right direction.
I have known for a long time that I am different and on a journey, I just didn’t know where I was going and at first didn’t know who I was going with. My side of the story starts long before the five years my husband and I have been together. It starts when I was a child. It wasn’t that I heard voices or something like that I just knew what I was passionate about. Writing was one of those passions, barns, homesteading, and crafting. I wanted to learn the skills it would take to be self-sufficient.
I was an unusual child in that I enjoyed my grade school and junior high years. School was good and I had good friends. Even though it was public school I liked it, because it was something I was good at and that made me feel good about myself. At this point I changed schools and went to a private high school. This school is based on good principals and though it was a “Christian” school I struggled on personal and emotional levels. I didn’t fit in and struggled to find friends especially in my own class. I find it interesting that the people I still feel close to from high school are mostly from the two grades ahead of me.
I ended up getting married right out of high school to a farmer. In some ways, I thought this was my opportunity to get back to the land and work towards self-reliance. But somewhere along the way we fell into the same trap that society said was the road to success; debt, stress and turmoil.
We left the farm after 16 years and 3 children to go back to school, but we were still on the same road, a house, a mortgage, school now and work.
As I look back, some of the happiest times, were the times the power was out, or the water was shut off and we had to “make do.” Another activity I enjoyed was when we would go spend the day in the woods cutting firewood for our woodstove. We were on land that was miles from anyone and we would have a fire and I could easily imagine going back in time, living a very simple life. It always left me feeling peaceful and wistful.
Fast forward in time to another time and place. We had moved several more times and were living in a town that to me wasn’t very friendly and Y2K was looming in the near future. At that time I had some supplies saved up, I remember storing water and treating it with drops of Clorox, but still had no direction on what we had to do to get back to the land and in tune with nature and self-reliance. Yes I knew quite a few of the skills needed to be self-reliant, but was still in the rat-race. This would continue for a number of years.
There was also period of time we lived in a RV. This is a very doable situation, if you are with the right person. It does help if you have a storage shed or unit for the things you still use and don’t want to get rid of, seasonal items/clothes/tools/books. Living in a small place was not unpleasant, however one must always remember, “a place for everything and everything in its place.” Having a storage place is also very important.
One thing to keep in mind, small spaces can bring personal issues to a head. At the time I didn’t really have any personal space unless I left the house or went in the bedroom and closed the door. This is something people moving into small houses need to acknowledge and think through, how to deal with this need for personal space.
Let me jump ahead to the current time. After leaving the RV, there were three houses, one apartment, one divorce and one remarriage.
I have studied about self-sufficiency for years, but in the last 4 years I have focused on this subject almost exclusively other than keeping up with work, bills and life.
In August of 2013 I read an article online about a woman that had purchased some land in the Ozarks, but had done nothing with it. Then through a series of life events decided that she was going to walk away from her life in the “rat race” and see what she could do with the land she had bought. She sold off or gave away most of her possessions and bought a storage building and converted it into a home on her property. She had a small income so was able to live simply on her property. I don’t know if this story was just a “sales ploy” to get people to buy property from this broker in the Ozarks, but it spoke to me with such intensity that I struggled to refocus my energy and emotion on the real world where I lived and worked.
My husband is very good about reminding me to take things slow and steady so we don’t rush out and do something foolishly or too quickly so that we don’t have to deal with regret or a situation we didn’t plan for.
I had a blog more than a year ago, but I didn’t promote it and so hardly anyone saw it. However, even from childhood I have had the itch to write. It is though the words want to burst forth from me. It is like an artesian well of words flowing out. If I don’t get them written down they just keep going around and around in my head and heart.
These are my thoughts and experiences. I have had a varied, yet at times a sheltered life when comparing it to someone else, but hopefully you can read about my experiences and the lessons I’ve learned and take them to heart.
Be kind because words can inflict even longer lasting pain than a fist, knife or gun.
I will try to be regular with my posts, but no promises.