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Editing Our Life- Part 2: A Time to Learn & DO

What I did not realize during these crazy times of loss and growth, was that I was asking for the wrong things. I didn’t need to ask, “Why am I not happy?” I needed to ask myself, “What will make me happy?” I think at some point in everyone’s life..even multiple times, we have to stop and think about what we really want. Things change. Goals Change. Hobbies Change. Wants Change. Life just happens sometimes. I thought because I was “Living the American Dream”, good paying corporate job, great family, paid off cars, and great house I would be happy. I was. To an extent. There was always that stress of losing my job, feeling like I was not spending enough time with our kids or Crab, and just being a slave to the dollar for someone else’s dream?? That is their dream. Why am I killing myself for them? I was miserable..and did not even know it. I honestly needed a push out of the door of my job because I would have stayed until it came crashing down..probably:)

After I lost my job, I had a lot of time to think. To practice. To do everything I wanted to do that I always thought about doing when I was stuck in my cubicle at work. I took an online class with Algae Labs and learned to grow my own spirulina as a replacement super food. We learned to garden in soil and aquaponics. We learned we were not good at raising rabbits where we lived in Texas. We learned how to incubate chickens, one turkey, and how to raise them well. We learned to process the meat, can it, freeze it, and even get chicken broth to can out of all of the bones too. I learned to make soy candles, and even started a small business, Escapes Candles, LLC. I attended my first trade show that Christmas of 2013 too, and many more the next year. I learned to dry spices, how to store food, how to homeschool in Texas, and so many more things I can’t wrap my mind around it!!

My Attempt at Growing Spirulina:) 2012-2013
My Attempt at Growing Spirulina:) 2012-2013
My first Garden Outside 2012!
My first Garden Outside 2012!
Helping Time PAss During Rebuild...Building Fences....lots of fences
Helping Time PAss During Rebuild…Building Fences….lots of fences
First Bazaar for My Candles! December 2012
First Bazaar for My Candles! December 2012

Crab and I learned to work better together on our projects. All we ever wanted to do was be together..but we had to learn how to do that again:). Between his Infantry job in the Army the first 5 years of our marriage of being gone all of the time on deployments, Training Exercises, schools, etc, and his one year working off shore as a Cement Supervisor, and then my job where I never felt like I had any time to do anything before or after work…it had been a while since we were together 24/7. It was tough. We grew during this time as a couple in ways I never knew. Our girls watched us, and absorbed the change. They learned from us and even grew closer to each other, and us.

By April 2014 (this year), we watched a documentary and TED talks videos that changed my life forever. And I watched these videos like 20 times each. “Tiny: A Story of Living Small” on Netflix, was the first one. Learning to live with less. Everyone seemed so free. They were doing what I wanted to do. Whatever the hell they wanted to do!

They owned their homes, most worked part time, and for themselves, and were financially and material free. I watched Ted Talks by The Minimalists and other people who inspired me to do what they did. Start selling and getting rid of the crap you don’t need. We were all in. We finally found a path that we were both totally excited about. Like I had not been this excited about something in a long time. Like since I had our youngest daughter, excited. “Like” am I in High school again? lol. I sometimes type how I talk..sorry:)

After all of the bull crap we had to deal with during our rebuild process with our mortgage company, we hated banks. I hated that I owed them money. I hated their greed and cold heartedness. I hated the vacation and sick days I had to claim WHILE AT WORK just so I could sit on hold for 3 hours while I waited to talk to someone so we could have our money from them that the insurance company already released. So, without getting all pissed off writing this, it was just hell. Maybe first world problems…but still HELL.

I love my house. Don’t get me wrong. But I miss our smaller homes we had lived in. I miss the land I grew up on with my horses in Mississippi. I miss not having so much crap tying me down. Maybe I sound like a hippy now:) But Crab and I are in a a very unique and blessed situation. I always looked at the fire as a negative obstacle, which I felt we handled a lot better than most. Now, I think of it as a blessing in disguise.

Our New Goal: Edit Our Life

We want to live with less so we can have more time and experiences with our kids and each other. We want more land. We want to be north again. Maybe we won’t head back to Alaska just yet, but Colorado will do. 100% on renewable energy, 100% our land, 100% our home that we build ourselves or contract out different work that we are not comfortable completing ourselves. 100% working for ourselves, for our family, and a business of multiple things. Synergy. We were so successful with selling fertile and non fertile eggs, chicks, chickens, turkeys, teaching a workshop on processing poultry,and much more. No, we didn’t make a fortune, but we made enough cash to cover feed costs finally! We can do this for a living and love it, when we get rid of our debts and own our stuff.

 All of that= Happiness. 🙂 To some it = Craziness 🙂 But we have never been people to flow with normal anyway.

How do we start this crazy journey? By selling crap.

This past summer Crab and I sold and gave away about 50% of what was in our home. Thanks to ebay and consignment shops, we received money for things we didn’t use. Like our 300+DVD collection, Old Toys. Old clothes. Furniture that does not fit the lifestyle we want to move towards. Dishes and gadgets I had not used. It took us 2 months, and slowly but surely our list of items came down to nearly nothing. The fire incident forced an edit of about 10 years worth of crap for us, so we did not even have much in our attic.

It felt like we were being guided into this new chapter. I say that not because we lost everything, but because every time I sold something or got rid of something, I felt about 5 pounds of stress be lifted from my shoulders. Even something as small as a dvd. Poof, stress gone. Stress I did not even know that I had. It really felt “Freeing”. I finally understood what all of the people in the Tiny movie were talking about. What The Minimalists were talking about. I became obsessed.

Once our list of crap was gone, next on the list was our houses. Our rental home, (our very first home) was about to be vacated, and it must go. Still working on it, but I think it will be kind of stale until February. That month keeps sticking in my head for some reason, so we will go with that one 🙂 We also listed our current home. May the best one win. LOL. I packed most of our stuff and shoved it in the attic so we are show ready 24/7!! I am ready to keep our money. I am also tired of cleaning this house! Not that I am dirty I just get tired of polishing stone floors, scrubbing crown molding, and all of the other 2500sqft responsibilities. I feel like I have wasted so much time of my life cleaning this house. LOL. It is even worse since it has to be show ready all the time..but having less CRAP helps a lot!So they will have to go! I keep imagining us selling one, and then both, and how ultimately great I will feel. Sending positive thoughts into the Universe!! The offers have came and went, but we know when it feels right, it will be the right time.

So, What Will Make Me Happy? Spending 40+ hours a week at a job? Not being with my family? Driving through traffic every morning and afternoon? Missing my girls grow up? Not being there for my veteran when he needs me? On my death bed, will I say…OH I wish I would have made more money at my job?

Nope.

Being my own boss. Watching my girls grow and learn. Being here for everyone. Being outside. Gardening. Having my chickens. Turkeys. Ducks. Watching my chicks hatch and experiencing new life with my family. On my death bed, will I say…I am so happy I had all of those memories and experiences with my family.

ABSO-FREAKING-LUTELY.

“Everything is energy and that’s all there is to it. Match the frequency of the reality you want and you cannot help but get that reality. It can be no other way. This is not philosophy. This is physics.”

Albert Einstein

Here is a list of the videos anyone who is considering living a self reliant life with less crap and more time should start with.

Netflix- Tiny: A Story of Living Small

Youtube:

The Minimalists: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GgBpyNsS-jU

Sell Your Crap: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9XRPbFIN4lk

Living Tiny: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M7VCb-2h8Yc

The Secret:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y-ep31_tYok

For more parts to the Series, Our Reasons for Editing Our Life:

Back to Part 1

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Forward to Part 3: Idea

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Tiny House/Skoolie Project

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Editing Our Life-Part 1: The Fire

Our
Our “Before the Fire” Home Feb-Nov 2011.

Do you ever stop and think “I can’t wait to sell all of my crap for cash and move somewhere my family and I can live more simply and free,”? Not so many people do. The Idea of Living Simply is fascinating to me. The idea that you really do not need all that you actually have is a luxury that our ancestors worked hard to make a reality.

Humans have always worked and invented things to make living “easy”. Making Life more than surviving. The average American has a lot of stuff, lives in a home/apartment/etc., has the convenience of modern day electricity and water, even access to all seasons of produce year around and only a few minutes away. How can you not be living the life of a King or Queen? Instead, we want more. The newest gadget, the coolest toy, the best vacation, and more is just beyond our reach. So….we charge it. Keeping up with Jones’ just got really expensive, stressful, and down right ugly. You are unhappy, your spouse is unhappy, your kids feel the stress, and even the dogs are stressed out!

You have your job, maybe you hate it. Maybe you love it. Is your spouse feeling the same? Maybe you love your job, but aren’t getting paid enough. You shut up (or complain non stop to anyone who will listen), put your head down, and do your job. Make someone else money, for someone else’s dream, for another one to be happy. When did life get so lame? When did you stop spending as much time with your family? When did our ancestors say, please have an easy life as a slave to someone? Said No One………Ever.

What if, one day, all of your crap was gone? All of it. Even that old funky sweater you have been toting around since you were 7 because your Grandma made it for you. Well, let me tell you about a small moment in my life that would help to mold me into a different type of thinker.

On the night of November 26, 2011, two days after Thanksgiving; one day after we went Christmas shopping and stored everything upstairs in the attic; and the same day my parents left to go home from visiting; My family and I were technically homeless. All we had was a truck, a car, a plastic tote of 12 baby chickens, our two 8 year old large dogs, my purse, and most importantly, each other. Our home tragically burned down, with 99% of our Crap inside.

We were all awake, having a fire in the fireplace of our 9 month old home, and reading a story to the girls on the couch. All of a sudden, I saw embers flying by our back Living Room windows (We did not have blinds up there yet. Living in the country has its luxuries :)). I walked outside and saw the chimney was on fire. We ran around the house. Crab was putting out the fire in the fireplace, and I was trying to get our safe open while on the phone with 911. Unfortunately, I was too frantic and could not enter the code correct. All I managed to grab was our two bug out bags, baby chickens, my dogs, and my purse. It took the fire department over 20 minutes to get there, and found the fire hydrant was not operating correctly. All we could do was watch it burn. My mother had just brought me my wedding dress (after sit sat her house for 8 years) and a number of items from my deceased grandmother. You know, that stuff we have to have because it Means a great deal to us.

Life Changing
Life Changing

At about midnight, after watching a majority of our house being overtaken by flames, in our pajamas, muddy feet and flip flops (because that is what Crab could grab when he ran back into the house), and coats, we ended up at Walmart. What do you buy when you literally have nothing? Whatever you can afford and whatever you NEED. Thankfully, we believe in having some sort of a savings. We started in the bathroom. We had to wash our muddy feet in the sinks. Another woman is in there. I didn’t even cry when I told her “I’m sorry, I don’t normally use Walmart to wash my feet, my house just burned down.” I don’t know why I felt the need to tell this total stranger that. TMI? I was embarrassed for the way we must’ve appeared. I felt like a bad mom with my dirty kids in PJs in the winter. With my two young daughters (7 & 4 at the time) next to me. But then I was suddenly sad for my girls. But I stayed strong. No tears (I had to focus on my military wife strength:)). It was time to “Charlie Mike” (continue mission) right now, as Sgt. Crab would say. Of course the woman expressed her sympathy and we parted ways. My oldest daughter looked at me as we walked out the bathroom and said, “Mommy, but we are in our pajamas.” Clearly she hadn’t seen “The People of Walmart” emails :). I told her something motherly and supportive, as we continued to meet up with her dad.

We started in the hygiene aisle (toothbrushes, paste, body wash, hair stuff, Deodorant), then to clothes (Ryon only bought a few things, he made sure me and the girls had plenty, Bc he is a great dad and husband:)), then to the dog aisle (bowls, food, leashes, and collars) then I believe we ended up in the toy section. I felt if we had a few extra dollars, the girls could get a set of barbies or something. Frankly, we were lost and running through our minds “What do you need when you have nothing?” And trying to not think about what we just lost so we can stay focused. We finally made it to checkout and our immediate needs were piled up on the register. Back at the cars with our chickens dogs, we packed up and headed to a hotel my mother called around and found for us that accepted dogs (they didn’t know about our chicks in our 30 gallon tote lol). There, we tried our best to explain to the kids what happened, and what will happen. We stayed positive, strong. We had the saying, “It is just stuff. It is all replaceable. At least we have each other.” “It could always be worse.” Because really, that was the truth. That was the only truth we knew right then. Then we finally passed out asleep.

Thankfully, my mother drove the 5 hours again and picked up the girls (So thankful for my Mom:)) so we could meet with the insurance inspector, find a place, furniture, and get back to a some what normal life. After the girls left, it felt like my heart was ripped in half. I didn’t want them to see the house. Crab and I needed to rummage to see what we could find worth keeping (my wedding rings and college ring was on my mind, I never took them off until that day!! I can’t believe that! Crab wanted to find something sentimental to him from the Army, and maybe that AR he just built, and our safe!). We needed to get to “normal” so the girls could process this too. My awesome mother brought some stuffed toys she knew the girls just lost, and a couple of toys. I sent them off with their stuff in tied Walmart bags..and she took the baby chicks too. Lol. She had nowhere for them though, but she took them for us. I love her:)

It was classified a Total Loss, “An Act of God” in the end after all of the inspections. I found one of my rings after digging for two days, in a tin can(?) where my sink counter used to be. All of my rings were together so it is weird how I found it like that. It was the one Crab gave me on our first anniversary in 2004. Crab found the safe, but his guns were all melted:/. We even found our external hard drive with all of our 10 years worth of pics (daughters births, moves, Alaska, Iraq, vacations, all of it!) on the kitchen counter where I left it Bc it was broken. And I never got around to taking it to Geek Squad. Yay procrastination! That was the only room standing..sort of. No roof, most cabinets fell down, but not the ones above the hard drive:) the wind blew the fire away from that room, so I was thankful. And the only picture left hanging was our wedding picture on what was left of a wall. We reveled in the small victories for the next couple of days as we dug through the ashes. I could not wait to take a shower each day as the smell of burnt crap was stuck in my nose and clothes.

After the fire November 2011
After the fire November 2011
Living Room
Living Room
Garage
Garage
Laundry Room
Laundry Room
The only photo left on the wall :)
The only photo left on the wall 🙂
I found one of my rings!
I found one of my rings!

We found a nice, 1600 sqft apt in a nice area, on the San Gabriel River (thanks USAA insurance for taking care of your service members). We rented furniture from Aaron’s for about $200 or so a month (looking back, I wonder if I should’ve just bought cheap stuff from Walmart), got the girls bedding, a Christmas tree, and dishes, etc. After 3 days of being apart, we were finally reunited. The girls probably felt like it was Christmas as my family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors around our small town gathered new and second hand toys/clothes for them. The response to our tragedy was overwhelming, and I had to ask people to not send us anything. I felt bad, but there will surely be some family out there with no insurance and no savings that need all that stuff way more than us.

All of Our Crap After Demo
All of Our Crap After Demo

8 months later on the weekend of July 4th, 2012 (through blood, sweat, yelling, and tears), we finally moved back into our house. We were given a fresh start. We were able to open up our floor plan, add solar panels, a fence around the property….we designed the house of our dreams. The wait was over, the stress was over, we could finally get back to “normal”. What is normal though? Why is it, even though I was able to replace our necessities, and start over in this beautiful home, did I feel lost still? The whole time we were living in our apartment I couldn’t wait to get in our home and fill it with crap. Crap that was mine. Understandable right? Surely after that I will feel better. But I didn’t.

Our Rebuilt Home:) July 2012
Our Rebuilt Home:) July 2012

We had only lived in our “before the fire” home for 9 months before it burned down. That was when we first started homesteading. It felt like we were on pause with our plans for a long time while we waited to move back home. We planted 50 fruit and nut trees and shrubs, Crab would stop by every other day to water them and take care of the animals. I hated not being there with our animals.

Helping Time Pass During the Rebuild...planting lots of trees and shrubs
Helping Time Pass During the Rebuild…planting lots of trees and shrubs
Planting Fruit Trees and Shrubs
Planting Fruit Trees and Shrubs

So that was a lesson I learned in being humble, thankful, patient, and less materialistic. Crap does not make you happy. Maybe I did not fully embrace that last sentence though. Because all I wanted was to fill my new home with more crap. But nicer crap that would last a long time. I knew being with my family is the only thing that made me happy. Despite some of our dysfunction…you know being “normal”.

A few months later, November 2012, I was fired from my job. What a blow….again. Thankfully we had plenty of food, and hygiene products stored for hard times, so it was an adjustment but definitely do-able. For a year I applied to over 500 jobs and had only 3 interviews. I was definitely overqualified for all three, would be willing to get underpaid, and happy that my commute would have been way closer than my 56 mile journey to work I had to make at my previous job. I wanted to be home more. To see my kids. To give my car a break. To pay less in gas…to do something I loved. To be closer to home. To be paid a decent wage so I could pay my student loans. To be paid for the education I worked so hard far. To be HAPPY with what I did as a job.

That is not so much to ask… right?

Editing Our Life-Part 2: A Time to Learn & Do

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Tiny House/Skoolie Series