Autumn Challenge; Creating the Life You Want

Life is really beautiful, isn’t it?

Ever since I was a small child, I always had the innate sense that time here on this earth is limited. That each day is anew with experiences and exhilarating breath. I feel like I blink and my husband is kissing me goodnight again. These days go fast. Better be living in a way that brings about joy! How do we balance living in the present, moving towards a future that we dream of, and learning from the past?

Let’s start with the past. Okay, great- now let that go. Seriously, the past is filled with learning lessons and decisions that got you where you are now, of bittersweet memories of when the children were little and of people past, and traumatic experiences. Tip your hat at it, close the door on it when things pop up, and then look around you in the here and now. Breathe. Look up. There is simply no time to waste on it.

Present. No time like the present. Several times today, just look up. Look around. Smile. No matter what is going on. Gratitude can get you through anything. It can fortify the best days. Notice the details. There is a breeze kicking up. The mountains look bright against the deep blue sky and the horse across the street is running circles around his house- all muscle and brilliance- to wake his dad, who has apparently forgotten breakfast. I am writing- my favorite occupation and pastime- and, I am afraid, I made my coffee too weak. The kittens are running around the house. All these moments make up a life here. Seemingly minute details of everyday life, each decision we make, moves us towards a life well lived, and affects the future of the next generations. How do you want to live?

In my lowest moments I have often wondered what is the point? If we are just going to be struck down dead at any given time, what is the point of pursuing a new career, or completing a dream, or dreaming at all? We are painting a picture of the new world to come, of life for future generations, for- depending on your beliefs- our own future when we come back to try again.

Each one of us are given a set of lessons to learn here. Every circumstance and coincidence in your life is a means of learning and mastering the lesson. Every passion, every talent, every dream is there on purpose to move you towards and through the lesson and gives you an opportunity to paint a brighter world and future. We are always one step into the future. Already, everything I just wrote is in the past. Let us live moving forward.

I tend to get stuck in the status quo, what always has been done, how things have always been, and figure they are the way to be. But we change, things change, our dreams change, we must morph with it. Even if it doesn’t make sense, or if it doesn’t seem possible, if you have it in your heart, and it feels right to you, then it is good. If you lead with kindness, and lead with love, you cannot go wrong.

My last post prompted me to reanalyze how I am living my life. I do that often, particularly this time of year, as Autumn always seems a good time for contemplating. Ask yourselves the same questions and see where they take you:

  1. How do you feel physically? How do you feel mentally/emotionally? How do you feel spiritually?
  2. Does your work bring you joy? How does it serve others? How does it serve you? (It has to go both ways.)
  3. What are your dreams right now? What are your goals? If you could do anything and not fail, and had ample money to do it, what would you do for work? What would you do for play? What experiences do you want?
  4. What is heavy on your heart?
  5. What are you passionate about?

I tend to look at the past to govern my future, but the things that made me happy before do not do so now. The ways I have lived in the past do not serve me now. So, even if it is difficult, not socially acceptable, or risky, answering these questions helped me paint in my mind what I do want my life to look like. When you paint that in your mind, the universe goes straight to work painting it with you. (So, watch your thoughts and words!)

Using bullet words helps it all come together. Animals. Farming. Herbs. Writing. Health. Homesteading. Family. Vitality. Life. Kindness. In my life now, I don’t feel the need to be a professional herbalist in the ways that I have been. I don’t feel the need to do a lot of things I used to do. My job and life desires have changed, as I have.

Create a new mantra. I do this every year and it really helps me make decisions and move myself to where I want to be. “Never make a decision based on fear” was one year’s. I think my new one will be, “Lead with love and promote life.”

My daughter and I are now working as Doulas. (http://SacredHeartbeatDoulas.com) A new way to use my herbs and my expertise but very different from what I have been doing. I have a great desire to farm, and I can visualize my herb gardens, my vegetables gardens, the orchard, the wild land left untouched so the wild life have a place to be and the wild herbs can flourish, and the animals. But the animals are not going to be for meat and milk. We will rescue some furry farm kids and allow them a life of fun and ease and love. That feels tremendously right to us. I will eat plant based, because I am spiritually, emotionally, and physically healthier when I do. I will continue to write to inspire. My family is the most important aspect of my life. Everything else will be filed under, the past. All of that matches my new year’s mantra;

“Lead with love and promote life.”

What will your mantra be?

5 Steps To Becoming a Homesteader (or just simplifying your life)

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1.Write down your goals. 

Do you want to quit your job?  Move to the country?  Have an urban farm?  Homestead on the weekends?  Live a more peaceful, mindful life? 

We have been on the path to simplicity and homesteading for about seven years now.  It started with reading books like “Animal, Vegetable, Mineral” by Barbara Kingsolver and wanting to learn to can and grow all of our own food.  I started canning (badly) and started a sad little garden in the city.  I got better!

Our goals were to leave our corporate world and busy suburban lifestyle.  When Doug had a nervous breakdown our timeline sped up.  Our goals constantly change and morph each year.  We have a pretty extreme list of homesteading goals right now.  I have no way of knowing if they will work, but I have written them down and am working towards them.  Ask and you shall receive!

  • Find a place with a small house that has a wood stove.  Wood cook stove?  Even better.  Said house should be around $850 a month.  Don’t laugh, it could happen.
  • Small house would be on a bit of land.  I need a full acre of garden.  A quarter acre at the moment provides us with 90% of our vegetables during the summer and early fall, and 80% of the medicinal herbs I use.  Another quarter acre could be the remaining herbs I need to grow, and additional fresh eating vegetables, plus a pond.  A green house and hoop houses could inhabit part of the remaining half acre and a large preservation garden (everything I need to can) and a spice garden (Lord, do I spend a lot on spices!) could round out this menagerie of growing Eden.  An orchard would be added as well and then of course we need room to walk about, have our goats, chickens, and ducks, and be able to ride our bikes to town.
  • A composting toilet and gray water systems could be in place.  We will use as little electricity as possible.
  • This will be a haven for our friends, children, grandchildren, and wildlife.

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2. Learn two skills. 

There was a vast amount of information about homesteading lost with our past generations.  We just don’t know how to do many of the basic skills and farmstead chores anymore.  Find a mentor or a class or a great book and make a goal to learn two things.  Two things a month, or two things a year, whatever works for you.   

A few years ago on this homestead I wanted chickens and to preserve almost all of our food for winter.  The next year I wanted goats and alpacas and to learn to spin.  I learned to spin, didn’t like it, didn’t care for the alpacas, gave away the alpacas, fell in love with goats, got more chickens, and canned over 500 items.  Homesteading is constant rearranging of goals.  This year we got bees and ducks and started growing almost all of our medicinal herbs.  We dug up the driveway to make more space to garden.  Last year we dug up the front and side yards.  Last year I learned to make soft cheese, this year hard cheese.  Doug has learned fencing methods and how to milk a goat.

We have learned what we enjoy, what we don’t, what’s a waste of time, what’s imperative to our homesteading journey.  Learning everything at once is not possible and would be overwhelming.  Just pick two skills.  What do you want to learn?

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3. Get Money Savvy    

Rethink your finances.  Get out of debt.  Stay out of debt.  But don’t wait for pristine credit before you make the jump.

Our BIGGEST mistake that will continue to haunt us for years to come was getting into debt.  We had fourteen credit cards, owned our house (or the bank did), had two car payments and had amazing, perfect credit.  Ironic, isn’t it?  We took the Dave Ramsey program at our church six years ago and it changed our lives.  We paid off and cut up all of our credit cards.  We do not have any still.  We paid off a lot of debt.  We then lost our house and one of our cars in the crash and our credit went to crap.  Which didn’t matter at the time because we were content renting for half the price of our house in Parker.  We have everything we need but there is the little matter of $50 grand from the second mortgage that still says it is an open account and $25,000 for the student loans we still owe.  There should be a money back guarantee.  If you don’t use your degree you should get a refund.  I do not see, with the interest rates the way they are, how we would ever in this lifetime pay these off.  If you are in debt, get out.  If you are not, do not venture into that pitfall.

Save a hundred dollars a month.  Pay yourself first.  Put it in a coffee can or the bank.

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4.  Simplify.  REALLY Simplify!

Every hour you work is money spent on something.  How many hours do you have to work to make enough to pay for the car?  Gas?  The house?  Cable?  Cell phones?  Restaurants?  Is it worth it?  What do you need?  How much time would you like?

It goes against every grain of our society to make less.  The mantra is make more, spend more, the more you make the more you can give, the more you can have, the more secure you will be.  Wrong.  I highly recommend you read “Radical Simplicity” by Jim Merkel.  It outlines our footprint on this planet as well as radically simplifying your life.  If you work less, you leave more work for others.  If you consume less, you leave more for others.  If you have less, you have to work less (this does not include the good kind of work on your own time on a farmstead).  The less you consume, the less resources you take from the planet, less pollution, less animal habitat loss, less unfairness.  Do you need a huge house?  Do you need to buy all of that packaged stuff?  Does it really bring happiness?

My goals are to lessen even more.  We are stressing over bills still and have too much stuff.  What is it with the seven sets of (gorgeous) antique dishes in my cupboards?  All the clothes I don’t wear?  The jewelry I don’t wear?  Where is our money going?  I am now writing it all down, the spending for each day.  See where the leaks are.  See what we don’t need.  What we don’t need to buy.  How much is everything really costing us?

And despite the stressing of leaching money, I want to make less.  No, I have not lost my mind.  I want to stay beneath the poverty line.  I have all the food I need, I am looking at lessening my rent, getting rid of my water bill and most of the electric bill, driving less, less gas money and wear and tear.  High taxes?  Don’t have them.  Where is your money going?

I am ready to simplify even more.  Make less money.  Offer medicines on a donation basis so that everyone can afford them.  Does cable television make us happy?  We don’t really watch it, so no.  That glass of wine in the evenings?  Yes, I don’t have to give that up.  By freeing up your money and where you spend it, you have only what you need and love.  And lots of time to watch the sunset and play with baby goats.

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5. Just Do It!

No more five year plan, maybe next year, only if he gets a raise, or when the kids move out.  There are no guarantees you will live long enough to live the life you really want.  Now is the time to act!

What can I say?  I have friends my age in their forties heading on to the Great Beyond and ones in their eighties who are too tired to do any more.  What is the best time to pursue your goals, cut your spending drastically, move to the place of your dreams, and start living self sufficiently?  Now is a real good time.  And if you cannot move yet or don’t want to, if you don’t want to quit your job or change much at all, just learn a few skills.  Cheese making?  Crocheting?  And urban garden?  Simplifying and homesteading can be done on many levels.

 

 

 

From Model to Farmgirl (where’s my dang coffee?!)

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I landed my first modeling contract when I was eighteen years old.  I was so excited.  I found out I was pregnant, but shortly after I had my son I landed another one.  I started teaching at a modeling school and was quite busy with modeling jobs.  It was a fun time.  I was tall and thin.  Not all models are anorexic.  In fact, I never knew anyone that was.  Many of the girls had been teased over the years for being too skinny in school and modeling was a natural place for us.  It could be hard on the self esteem at times but it was also a very empowering industry.  In six inch heals (which placed me at 6’4″) and dressed in flattering clothes, I felt powerful and was in a unique place to really make a positive impact on younger girls.

The modeling schools accept anyone that has the money.  This is true, but what you get through the process is priceless.  I worked with them on posture, eye contact, auditioning, speaking, walking, personal care, and these girls felt beautiful and could show themselves as strong, confident young women by the end.

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I loved the photo shoots.  I was able to take my children with me when a shoot was out of town.  I was a working-stay-at-home mom and it was just what I needed.  I would take a break when I was three months pregnant with my daughters then return again to do more work.

My favorite was Runway modeling.  To walk sensually, yet confidently down the runway, lights shining,  music swinging, wearing amazing new fashions was really a great way to spend a weekend night.  The entire day was spent in a hair stylist’s chair.  What one’s hair would look like in the end was anyone’s guess.  At one show my hair was chopped off, dyed bright red, and spiked.  Another time, when I had long hair again, it was teased and wrapped around grapevines (I kid you not) and stood three feet in the air!  It was fabulous.  My fellow models and I always headed out on the town after these shows, full wild makeup and hair, just to get the different looks.

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After Emily was born I went to work as the Executive Director of an acting and modeling agency.  I was able to try my hand as a floor director for a pilot television show, was the villain’s girlfriend in a movie, and enjoyed finding new talent as well as staying busy with my own career.  Eek, looking back I was a diva.  Now the only time I get to be a diva is at karaoke.  For three minutes at a time.

After that company folded (the owner disappeared), I quickly opened my own.  Armed with new boobs and money from selling my house, I opened Supermodels Talent and after being in the paper, was able to find plenty of great models.  (Incidentally most of them were from the county we now live in!)  I was well known in the industry and it seemed it could go on forever.

I had my own assistant.  God love him.  I would simply put my arm out and he would be there to place another cup of hot Starbucks coffee in my hand.  Now, I will be out in the gardens weeding, put my arm out, and…Darn it!  Where’s my dang coffee?!  Poor Doug.  He stays out of my way when I get like that.

I put on a huge runway show downtown.  All of my models were in it.  My favorite designer and hair stylists and cosmetologists were apart of it.  Broncos players and other local celebrities were in attendance.  It was a fabulous final party.  I was burned out.

The fashion show last year at the fair.

The fashion show last year at the fair.

Fast forward fifteen years and I am standing in a field with six goats watching the baby ducks waddling by.  My overalls have chicken poop on them and my hair is under a handkerchief.  Mucking boots replace six inch heels (though the heels might aerate well).  I still do one runway show a year for my friend, Mindy, at the Douglas County Fair.  Now, I am a farmgirl.

Sporting my new fashion look.

Sporting my new fashion look.

I know several friends and neighbors that have recently been laid off.  They wonder if they should get another job.  They wonder what they should do?  Is it possible to reinvent yourself after doing the same thing for so long?  Of course!  What is it that you have always wanted to do?  Sound scary?  It’s not.  Worst case scenario you have to get a part time job to support it.  Time to lower costs of living and start living.  It’s a perfect time to reinvent oneself!

I guess I’ll go get my own coffee.  From the kitchen.