Monday, January 10, 2011

I'm Thinking...

...about a few changes around here. Not only here at the little farm, but also HERE, on this little corner of the e-mosphere.

It was when I was pulling on a quilted denim jacket to take the kids to school this morning in our big red truck that I had another one of those moments when I realized how dramatically our life has changed over the past few years. And that I'm as comfortable in this new life as I am in this quilted jacket.

In our old life, I was dressed in "career clothes" most days - or I was making a mad dash to Macy's just before a meeting to buy new career clothes to frantically change into before a meeting. Because my life was so chaotic, I didn't think of these as "new" clothes so much as "clean" clothes, because I never seemed to get around to taking any of my other perfectly suitable clothes to the drycleaners. This is a very expensive form of wardrobe management that I do not recommend to others.

Most days, I was off to meetings and off-site offices, and could go days without seeing my four sweet kiddos. I'd leave before they awoke and get home long after they'd gone to bed - if I came home at all. I'm embarrassed to admit, I'd pull all-nighters sometimes because I was so unable to figure out a balance between a busy PR/marketing career and a young, growing, ever-changing family. I entrusted the care and raising of my children to my sweet husband and a fantastic nanny, and I squeezed in cherished moments where I could.

I also made myself good and sick, missed out on moments I'll never retrieve, likely left gaps in my children's experiences that only a mother could adequately fill, and was jealous of every moment I could eke out with my family. We were making a good living, but our life was out of control and we felt almost frantic to change it.

If life was a movie, then the rare moments when I was in my kitchen on a Sunday morning before church, donning my apron and pulling out the wheat grinder to make steaming loaves of homemade bread would have been a prime example of foreshadowing. You know, those little scenes in a book or movie that tip you off to a major plot line still to come?There was something magical about putting on that apron, and seeing my little ones' excitement as they'd peer into the noisy grinder, watching the wheat kernels rumble their way down the chute. I felt more like a mother at those moments than at any other. I felt grounded and like I was doing something right, though I didn't know why.

I've since discovered why.

It's because I was meant to live a simpler life. Don't get me wrong - I enjoyed the city and the good people who I dearly loved and worked with. I enjoyed my work, I was good at it. But, truth be told, I became less and less able to get it done well or dependably as the years went on. My life in the city and in a demanding but sometimes glamorous or intensely important career, slowly ground to a halt. I had known for years that I wasn't living the real life for me and my family, and eventually, I couldn't force the two opposing identites to keep going any longer.

Now, I wasn't thinking all of these things at the time - these are realizations I made as time has passed. At the time, I only knew things weren't whole or complete and that I was getting more ill, and we weren't reaping the rewards of all of our hard work. And if we didn't make a change soon, our family would suffer in sad, small, half-life ways.

So, things fell into place in odd little inspired ways and we took off to a rural setting. We live just outside the city limits on a back county road. We have nearly 3 acres of what used to be a larger homestead. We live in a hodge-podge home originally built in 1927, and it needs a LOT of work. The property has a weathered old barn that I find beautiful, beat up outbuildings and bays, and appliances dotting the landscape that span the decades that have passed since the house was built.

Since we've been here, our fortunes have changed. Our youngest boy fell dramatically ill with a kidney disease that knocked me out of the 9-to-5 world at about the same time the U.S. economy REALLY crashed in 2008, taking most of my clients with it. My husband left a great job that made use of his incredible skills for one that would offer the substantial health benefits we'd need to cover our son's medical requirements. We had already ripped up all of the old carpet in the house and were looking forward to digging in and turning this place into a beautiful little farmstead in the country when we found ourselves suddenly trying to get by on 1/5 of our previous income.

So, two years later, we still have a concrete slab (complete with a crack) in our front room, and plywood flooring in the living room, and few noticeable improvements to the property. (Although, we have made a very handsome chicken yard, if I do say so myself.) I chuckle when I think about the budget I drew up when we first bought this place. I included a monthly home improvement line item of $3,000, which we figured we'd easily accommodate at the time. Well, that was then, and this is now.

I love now.

I love that I've learned to be thrifty and frugal in ways I never imagined I could. I love that I am drawing on the example of cheerful hard work that my Grandma Potts modeled when I was a young girl working by her side. I love that I am making a home instead of visiting one in the wee hours. I love that I'm with my kids throughout the days and running a flute to the school when it was forgotten, and smoothing a brow when it needs smoothed, rather than calling a much-loved nanny to make sure she does it for me. I love that I can't wait for school to get out for summer, so I can soak up even more time with my kids.

We didn't anticipate our stars would change so dramatically when we made this move, but we are in exactly the right place to make the best of this new alignment and I'm grateful for our new circumstances.

After more than 2 years of adjusting, learning, paring down, doing without, humbling ourselves and being humbled, I think we're ready to begin building up again. Not moving up, but enhancing this place that we love, even in all its dilapidated glory.

Here is where we'll share what we're doing and the progress we're making. We're going to be working on many fronts: becoming expert gardeners, turning this house into a home, doing what we can to improve the health of family members, getting a better handle on the animal part of farming (the local coyote population will miss their fast-food offerings from our little farm), and making our property beautiful and abundant. I'll continue this thrifty and frugal lifestyle, continue to emphasize homemade, from-scratch cooking, expand my preserving and "putting by", and do what I can to promote buying local.

I'll tell tales of Pottsville and Gertie the Goat as we go along, I'm sure, because all of those experiences color the life we have here.

All this means I'll have to get busy with the camera, so you can expect more than just reams of words (do I hear a great big hallelujah?!?).

I love our life. I love that after more than 2 years of intense learning and concern and some sorrow over the sorry lot our sweet boy has been handed, I feel a weight lifted that signals we've learned how to embrace this new dynamic in our family and find joy not only in spite of it, but also because of it - for the wisdom and blessings and increased appreciation for small moments that has been part of this unexpected and cumbersome package.

I love the promise of spring and new birth and growth that refreshes the world and our senses, if we'll let it. I'm ready to let it and I know this place, and our family, is going continue to be renewed.

Now, I'm going to go figure out how to use our camera then we'll get going.

Love from the farm,

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