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I’ve been loving Anne Lamott lately. She lives just north of San Francisco, so she’s always walking around on the hills of Marin County. That is a lovely, sacred place up there. As Wimbo says, its smells like “sun-drenched eucalyptus.” She is so irreverent (Anne, not Wimbo), talking about her hatred, literally, of the Republican party. But its her honesty that makes her so easy to relate to and such a joy to read. She talks about her love/hate relationship with her body. She writes about trying to do well but failing most of the time. She is self-deprecating in a way that makes you, as the reader, feel normal. Grace is always the theme of her books.
Usually, she’s fairly light-hearted in her story-telling, even as she shares about God and her faith. Every now and then, though, she has this heavy wisdom that smacks you in between the eyes.
Last night, I read the second to last chapter in Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith. In it, she shares with the reader the advice she usually reserves for graduates when she is asked to give a commencement speech. Its not your typical, Go get ’em tigers, message. Instead of run in the rat race and shoot for your dreams and try your best to succeed, she says get to know yourself. She says that, as a successful writer, she’s reached her dreams, but that hole inside of her has not been suddenly filled up now that she has arrived. So, her advice is rest and pray and enjoy life. Okay, so you have to pay your bills. And, hopefully you can do that by working at a job that you love. But, her point is that getting that dream job is not what’s going to make you happy.
Her message is very applicable to us. Gregg sold his chickens. I was disappointing and sad about it, but he felt relieved. Day after day, he was watching their numbers decline due to the foxes and hawks and whatever else. He says that he was over-eager. He was so ready to get started working with animals, but he didn’t really have a plan. Oops. To his credit, he didn’t really know what the plan needed to be. So, what now? Quit? Go home? Pack up and move back to Knoxville? We’ve thought about it, but no. We’re sticking it out here. He’s got more to learn, A LOT more to learn. And, more and more, I think that learning is the point of all this. Making money is not the point. Hopefully that will come eventually, learning how to make money from farming. But, now, and maybe for awhile. The point is how to plan and care for animals and get something in return (eggs, wool, milk, meat, whatever).
So, we are (probably) moving, but not out of town. We are going to move to a farmhouse on the Eastern Shore. Ugh. Moving again. This makes house #4(!!) for us since we’ve been married. I can’t wait to show some pictures of the house. Its got wallpaper in the hallways which I kind of love, but then the carpet is just ridiculous. It has swirlies on it. And I think there’s hardwood under it! Oh well. The reason we are strongly considering the move has nothing to do with the wallpaper or carpet. Gregg needs to live with his animals. With the chickens, he had a fifteen minute drive every morning and evening, and then he wasn’t there with them during the day to protect them and all of that. About an acre or two of land comes with the farmhouse. On the land is a fence, a barn, a shed, a grain storage bin. All the things a farmless farmer needs to become an actual farmer. And all these things are already in place, ready for Gregg.
Last Sunday, we had finally decided on a church. We were a little reluctant about it. It was the one with all of the sweet old people that I mentioned several months ago. Its very traditional and liturgical, but similar in structure to our church in Knoxville. And it is close to our house. (I don’t know whether to talk about the church in past tense or present tense, so I’m doing a little bit of both.) We really liked the pastor. He was kind of our deciding factor. The other churches that we have visited all have their own strengths and struggles, and, since we could agree that we liked what this pastor had to say, we finally made a decision.
It started out kind of boring, which is to be expected. I’m not trying to be irreverent here, just honest. The service was boring at first. Then, the pastor gave his sermon. He had good things to say, which is typical for him. Communion came next, which I love. And we ended with a song that I both recognized and liked. Then, a gentleman made an announcement about a new organ that a church committee is thinking about purchasing. He also mentioned the pastor, who resigned last week, would be leaving at the beginning of July. Really? Seriously? I just had to laugh (on the inside). So, I know that the life of this church doesn’t revolve around us. I also know that the life and career decisions of this particular pastor don’t revolve around us. But, come on. We had finally made a decision of where we wanted to be and commit to. And the reason for our decision was leaving.
I don’t really know what’s next for us church-wise. It just seems like everything around us is slow moving, including our decision-making.
I’m becoming a books-on-tape fanatic. Actually, books-on-CD, but that doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, does it? Here’s the deal. You get a library card and go to your local library. Or, like in my case, if your library has a poor selection, you borrow someone else’s library card and go to the library close to work. This library is huge, has a great selection and is shaped like a gigantic silver wave. (I’m talking about the Virginia Beach library.) I love listening to chick lit where the girls talk about boys and fashion in a British accent. I’ve really been enjoying Sophie Kinsella. She doesn’t get as raunchy as some of the other authors of this genre, but she’s still light-hearted and mindless in a good way. Also, autobiographies written by female comedians are great post-work reads, er…I mean, listens. Mindy Kaling and Tina Fey are the only authors I know of that have written books in this genre. Both of their books are short, sweet, and laugh out loud funny, which is always a treat by yourself in your car.
This is Max the day after his surgery. He’s depressed. This photo shows his Fentanyl patch, the tape that was used to keep his catheter in place, and his shaved leg with freshly inserted staples. Poor baby. The photo was taken a month ago, and he’s doing so much better now. He’s bounding around the house with pent up energy and going on short walks per the Vet’s orders.
Gregg nursed his puppy back to health. He did not take seeing post-op Max very well. (Those pink house shoes in the background are my mother-in-laws. She bought them so that she would have a pair to wear when she was visiting us. I was borrowing them because my feet were cold, even though they are about 4 sizes too big for me.)
She didn’t have surgery. She’s just being a happy beach dog. I thought some of you might like seeing these green sunglasses that I just can’t bear to part with even though everyone hates them. 🙂
I realize that this is an awkward angle. That’s what I get for taking picture while swinging on a hammock. Very cute though, right? She just jumps into the hammock when I first get into it. She doesn’t stay long.
Me and posting pictures do not get along. But, Brenna asked to see pictures. So…here you go.
Living out here in the country has been like a retreat for Gregg and me. Its been like a long but intense therapy session. It started out H.A.R.D. Gregg was frustrated with work, I was frustrated with non-work. It was like we had just gotten married. Every little thing seemed to cause friction between us.
And now, its bliss.
Just kidding. Seriously though, we are doing so much better than we were when we were first moved here. This is partly because Gregg’s less frustrated, and I’m working. Its also because we’ve gotten to know each other better. We’ve become a self-contained unit. Some couples always function like this, relying only on each other, not reaching out too much when things go wrong or get hard. For us, I don’t think this is our natural inclination. We thrive with friends and community. With girlfriends and guy friends and couple friends to do life with. But now, we’re all we’ve got. We’ve met people here and there, but for the most part its us. And being just the two of us, has forced us to be just the two of us. Redundant.
We’ve learned about each other. I’ve learned that when Gregg isn’t complaining about his day, that means he’s had a good day. I like to share the good and the bad. He mostly shares the bad. So, when he’s quiet, things are usually good. What else?
I’m not sure what he’s learned about me, I’ll have to ask.
I guess I’ve learned some things about myself, too. I like the quiet country life. I love and need and want people and friends. But slow-paced non-city living is good for the soul. The soul can settle nicely in the country’s back pocket and rest for awhile. I guess that’s what we’re doing. Resting. Being on an extended retreat. Together.
We talk a lot. We’ve got no internet. We do have a tv, which I have a love-hate relationship with. We’re having a beach day tomorrow. I’m reading the second book of Harry Potter. I’m not sure why I resisted for so long.
When we told our pre-marriage/marriage counselor that we were moving, he said that a good friend of his recommends that every married couple move away. Some place that’s new and foreign and just the two of them.
I miss my friends. I miss my family. I’ve gotten homesick out here. That feeling has been lost on me ever since I stopped going to Girl Scout camp. Home is definitely with Gregg. But it’s also people that know and love you. Me.
I know that we’re not in our forever house or our forever jobs. Do those even exist any more? Gregg says that the next place we move, he wants us to be there for twenty years. Yes, says part of me. Twenty years??!!, says another part. At 28 years old, its really hard to imagine being somewhere for a little less than how old I am. (Does that make sense? I’m 28 and we’re going to move somewhere for 20 years.) In my 28 years, I’ve lived in two houses in Roanoke. Two in Knoxville. Four in Clemson. One in Australia. Another in Nicaragua. A bo-go-zillion in Europe. Two in SF. Two in Knoxville again. One here. 16 homes in 28 years. My pastor in Knoxville loves talking about place. He talks about the importance of sticking it out and digging into one place. You can imagine how guilty I felt when we told him that we were moving. He’s on to something. Its just hard for people our age in a not-so-good economy to get settled for the long haul when they don’t have kids and a mortgage. And, let’s face it, we’re all commitment-phobes.
So, for now, we’re here. Retreating. Trying to make this our home.
I think I’m removed enough from my lengthy interview process to post this. This advise could be very helpful to anyone out there that is in the position of hiring and interviewing. All of this advise, unfortunately, is from experience.
1. In an interview, ask questions. And, get this, listen to the answers.
2. Listen. (Already mentioned, but still important.) Let your listening be more frequent than your talking.
3. Talk about money. Don’t make your interviewee bring up the subject of wages. Be up front, let them know how much you are going to pay them. They want to know, you know they do.
4. Call. When you say that you are going to call the interviewee/future employee, give them a time frame. And, then, call them within that time frame.
5. Make up your mind. If you say something, stick to it. Don’t make promises in an interview that you won’t be able to keep later.
6. Don’t give false hope. If you say “maybe you can take over this company one day,” make sure you actually hire the person.
My enemies. Shade. Wind. Squirrels. And now our very own chickens. My garden is failing. I’m thinking about moving it to my neighbors’ porch. It would be safer there. I had all but given up on my cluster of pots last week, when I looked out onto our porch and saw 2 of the 4 chickens that we keep at the house. They were eating my soon-to-be flowers and the oh-so-skinny chives. I just laughed. I was already over it at that point.
I think instead of completely giving up, I’ll transition my porch garden into a porch herb garden. You’ve got to start somewhere, right? I think I read somewhere that herbs are the easiest kind of plant to grow. In my case, they have to be easy, sturdy enough to sustain the weather, and inedible to any animal besides a human.
When I was growing up, the question was always: What do you want to be when you grow up? My answers ranged from an actress, a teacher, a doctor, a nurse. I’m really enjoying what I’m doing now. I finally got my nurse practitioner job, and I get to talk to women about their life and their health. I get to give them advise when the ask for it and answer their questions when asked. I had a feeling of fulfillment coupled with sadness yesterday, with one patient in particular on my mind. It was a good sad. Do I dare say that I felt satisfied?
After leaving work, I decided to take advantage of being across the bridge where there is civilization and Trader Joe’s. We needed some groceries, and I wanted to start my work-clothes shopping spree. I took a moment to notice the other shoppers. Most of them were women. Many of them had scrubs on actually. Most of them looked like they had had a long day of work. Some of them had a baby or several small children following them around. They looked tired. Maybe they had even felt satisfied after their day of work, but they had more work ahead of them after getting off at 5:00 or whenever.
My thoughts started wandering. When I was growing up, dreaming about what I wanted to be, no one ever told me about this. That I was going to have to go to the grocery store at least once a week, and that I would almost fall asleep at the cash register. Clean out my refrigerator, wash my bathroom, pay for a dog’s ACl surgery. No one ever told me that doing laundry and cleaning the kitchen are never-ever-ending tasks. I’m not trying to be negative here, I am just realizing why I have a hard time with these kinds of life-tasks. They caught me by surprise. I’m finally what I want to be when I grow up, but I still have chores. And I have a hard time with all of it. When I’m not working, I want to sit and read or write or go outside. I want to rest. But more work has to be done after work.
Right now, the work is just taking care of Gregg, me, and two dogs. Somebody warn me what I’m in for when there are more people in a house to take care of.
I know that there’s a different perspective that I could take on these life-chores. The famous monk, Brother Lawrence, said he felt as connected to God washing dishes as he did taking communion. I think he’s onto something. There’s virtue and value and growth that happens in these life tasks. Its stretching to love people in action even where you’re dead tired. Gregg refers to washing dishes as building character. I think he’s onto something, too. But I wasn’t warned. About the value of these things or that they even existed at all. I just thought my dreams would get fulfilled and that would be that. I didn’t know how much work would still be ahead of me afterwards.
I think I’m changing, or maybe just getting older. Or both. Maybe its just that I finally have a job where I have to dress up and where professional clothes. I was talking to a lady that’s about 25 years older than me. She says that she keeps threatening to give up. As in, stop caring about what she looks like and just wear sweatpants and sweatshirts every day. When she said this, my response was that I have been wanting to take it up a notch. As in, I want to start dressing nice and caring about my appearance. Not in an obsessive way, but in an I feel good about myself way.
In college, I wore a t-shirt and denim skirt pretty much every day of the summer. I loved it. Then, after graduation and in Europe, I would layer tank tops and cotton tees on top of each other. This made for a different look without having to buy new clothes. (I’m going somewhere with this, I promise.) I’m getting to the point where I want to wear clothes that I didn’t find on the street (yep, in San Francisco people unload their stuff on the street, and I loved rummaging through what they tossed out) or receive from a friend after they decided they didn’t like it any more. Seriously about 75% of my clothes were acquired in one of these two ways.
I’ve been reading this book off and on about living as royalty. The book explains that God is the king and we are His children and, therefore part of his kingdom. According to the author, we should live confidently, with the knowledge that we are royalty. There’s a quiz at the end of the book that evaluates how you live. Do you live like a princess or do you live like a pauper? One of the questions is “do you shop a discount stores and do you always look for bargains?” Answering “always” or “very often” put you in the pauper category. Hmm. What about being “a good steward” of God’s money? I guess from the author’s perspective, not shopping for expensive clothing and other nice items means that you view yourself as unworthy to have these types of things.
My mom and I both suffer from guilt (she calls it buyer’s remorse) after going shopping, so all of this over-thinking is part of the preparation for the big shop I’m about to have. I’m about to get my first paycheck since December. I’m going to spend it in on nice clothes for work. I’m not going to spend all of it. I’m going to buy these clothes and wear them, so that I don’t feel frumpy every day that I go to work. I’m growing up. Maybe I’ll eventually, I’ll actually feel like a professional princess. But, for now, I’ll just dress like one.