Thursday, March 29, 2012

10 Things Unemployment is Teaching Me

It's crazy how much you can learn from yourself when you really have time to stop and think about where you are headed and how you can get there. All these silly little life lessons suddenly make themselves available to you, out of the blue, right in front of your face that you may have missed before. Being unemployed, even though we are only in my second week (which is long enough, thanks universe, for the break), has taught me a few lessons about who I am, skills I need to learn to cultivate in myself and time to reflect on what is really important. Maybe you have already learned these things, and if so, great, but if not- here are some of the things you might take  for granted in how busy you can become every day when you are working.
1. I am not what I do for a living. We spend so much time as kids trying to decide what educational paths to pursue to have the type of job we think we will be happy at that it's easy to get caught up in this one. Guess what? My job is gone and I am still here, with all the things I love and enjoy and believe still wrapped up inside this mind and body. Just because we tend to identify ourselves to each other by our career choices, doesn't make that the sum and total of who we are. We are more than how we earn our money.
2. I need to work on my patience.  Not everything happens on the timeline I want it to and, as much as that sucks, it is probably a good thing. I should learn to let go and stop obsessing about things while waiting for them to happen. This is a hard one for me, because having a sense of urgency is a great thing to have on the job and one of the many things most of my employers have loved about me, but sometimes that needs to be tempered with patience, both for others and for my expectations of myself.
3. My most productive time as a writer is the late morning. Really, I can think clearly with my cup of coffee in my hand and almost complete silence around me. I had really missed this and have been enjoying every second of it that I get. Hopefully I will practice more and produce better quality posts than I do when I write out of a sense of frustration or obligation. In the mornings after seeing my family off, I can write from a place of love and peace. It is very calming and nice.
4. There is a difference between being honest and being an open book. This is the chief lesson I am taking from my experience at the bank I think, is that I don't have to practice full disclosure to have a sense of authenticity in my life. Some things are best shared with certain people and not with others, and the best way to tell the difference in who these people are is to follow your gut about how you feel about them, which is almost never wrong. Putting too much trust in some people can backfire horribly, which is a painful but important lesson I suppose I had to learn someday. (The universe used its own timeline for this one and seemed to say "how about now?" at a time I wouldn't have preferred but hey.)
5. There are more than enough hours in a day, but our motivation often makes the difference between what we consider a day wasted or a sense of accomplishment. I am a list person and if I don't have a plan for what I can get done in a day or what I expect to do, I tend to feel like I have accomplished little if nothing if I just were to "wing it" and attack my day without lists. It is easier for my to get started with a clear plan of where I want to go, and, although it is important to leave some unstructured time in your day, if you don't know where you are going, you will most likely not get there, at least not in a time frame that most of us would consider productive.
6. Things break all at once and when you have no money so you can see how resourceful you are and how good you are at prioritizing. This also lets you remember who your real friends are, see who loves you for who you are, even when you're not at your best, and learn the unique skill sets of your true friends and family. Sometimes you can even learn from your neighbors and help solve a mystery like where a fainting goat went and reunite it with its family. You never know till you reach out to others.
7. You still have to get up, brush your teeth and pretend you have someplace to be, otherwise it is easy to get depressed and wallow in self pity. And really, what's the point of that except to feel worse about yourself and your situation? You still have to actively participate in your life even when you don't feel like it. If you don't, you are only making things worse and risking having others resent you for increasing their workload. Crying in baseball is okay as long as you keep playing the damn game too.You have to at least try.
8.  Not everything has to happen right now.  This kind of goes back to patience, but when you have extra time you see all these projects you wanted to do when you had no time, and now you have plenty of time but no money. Guess what? The wallpaper isn't coming off the walls by itself and no one has died yet from it being up there so if it stays there until you get back on your feet, so be it. Give yourself a break and realize you have to live your life and not cram in all your backlogged projects to feel useful.
9. Just because you can, doesn't mean you should and just because you should, doesn't mean you have to. My dogs do not need walked all day and I certainly don't need more sleep then I get at night. It's okay to indulge yourself a little bit, but don't feel guilty about taking a nap. Allowing yourself to be flexible with yourself on the way to achieving your goals is important, but don't hold yourself to an ideal that is unrealistic. I could and should be baking my family's bread now that I have the time, but my heart's not in it and I am not a crappy homesteader if I buy a loaf or two. And my husband doesn't think me any less of a wife.
10. Family and your health are more important than money or things.  Being civil to each other and recognizing that you are blessed to be together and are all working toward a common goal is crucial~ it does no one any good to be resentful or angry or blaming. Don't give up and keep trying, but realizing you should be enjoying the really important things like each other, will make getting through lean times that much easier. I have to go back to work because we need to have things, and it'd be cool to get a good job so those things could maybe be nice too instead of crap, but it does no one any good for me to stress about my bank account balance every waking second, and it certainly doesn't improve matters. Learn to enjoy each other and make a game out of being frugal- walk in the park and enjoy the spring flowers together instead of going on a pick-me-up shopping spree and most importantly- believe and KNOW it will all work out.
Now I am off to make my list for the day and call my mother to do some errands and hanging out before I come home to pick up the house and wait for my child to get home from school. This is my new routine and although things aren't happening at the pace I'd necessarily be more comfortable with (come on, interview phone calls and job offers!), the world is turning and we are making it, one day at a time. Sending hope and good thoughts from the SemiFarm to each of your families and hope you are able to find the lessons in the manure piles of life too.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Small Pockets, Big Dreams

Last night the temps here soared into the high sixties and I couldn’t let the day go by without taking a
walk in the park. My father, daughter and I hiked what seemed like 5 miles and I realized how sedentary
I have been this winter, how much the depression wore on me and made me lethargic. I am out of
shape, surely, weighing the most I have ever weighed in my life save for when I was pregnant. It’s time
to get my workout on. We walked all the way around the lake by the time we were done, getting a good
stretch into my tired muscles that I am feeling today for certain.

They are calling for today to be even warmer than yesterday was, highs near 75, which is unusual for us
here in March. Last winter we were plowing this time of year; this year my husband took the plow off
the tractor to prepare to roll out the hills, valleys and cow footprints in our yard. I’m planning out an
herb garden and eagerly eyeing the pots on the back porch into which I have already sowed seeds for
lettuce, leeks, broccoli and cauliflower. Who knows if any of them will germinate, but I might as well try
and see if something can happen yet in this bizarre weather.

Tonight I am going to start to sketch out a plan for the cold frame for the back of the herb garden. I
got some used glass shower doors from my aunt last year that have been waiting for me to build a
box to set them on. I don’t know yet what I will plant in them, but it should be interesting to test my
rudimentary carpentry skills out with our circular saw and drill. It’s just a rectangle; how hard can it be?

Work today, as always, is slow. It’s great to write and meditate on things I want to change about my
life or do, a great time for the seeds of my future projects to germinate in my head and heart. Today
is a little challenging as I write this because I fear I’ve had a TAD too much coffee, so my hands are
shaking a bit and my heart is racing as I think about being outside in jeans and a t-shirt, doing work I
love. This work here, it just pays the bills, but there is nothing remotely exciting in processing deposits
and withdrawals for customers, except interacting with the people themselves. Some of my customers
are also gardeners and as the weather warms up and things begin to bloom and grow, so too do my
conversations with them about things that interest me. No more chats about just the weather- now I
am learning to grow potatoes in tires and how to trellis tomatoes the way the Amish do so they grow
larger. It’s fascinating to hear about things like this from financial analysts and doctors (our clientele is
rather well-to-do). This common interest, which stemmed from my reading The $64 Tomato at work,
has helped me break down communication barriers with people I find slightly unnerving and feel a bit
uncomfortable around, those with lots of money.

People with big bank accounts have always intimidated me a bit. Those that can (and do) enjoy the finer
things in life I think I have always felt looked down their noses a bit at me in my thrift store jeans and
$7 haircut. I don’t care about designer labels but being around people for whom that determines your
worth makes me a little queasy. Fortunately my clients here are not the snobbish type for the most part,
but I still feel uncomfortable wearing dress clothes and pretending to be professional, when inside I am
dying to be digging in dirt and writing in my journal about the size I hope this year’s strawberries will
be. It’s weird territory for me, being a grown up, and in many ways I don’t really care for it. I’d rather be
going to camp next week with my kid than earning a living this way, or making money stringing together
words for this blog or for freelance clients about things that matter. Being an adult is such a strange
thing, this land of responsibilities and schedules and fear. I’d rather have the carefree spirit of a child to

explore and interact with the world, to learn new things than be tied down like this.

A fellow blogger who is building her dream of farming and writing has a Paypal donation button on her
page and people send her money sometimes just to help the cause of her finding her dream. I don’t
know that I’d feel right about accepting donations, but I do need more freelance work to make my
writer/farmer dreams come true. If my blog readers would help out by telling people about my writing,
about my blog, that’d be a tremendous help to this little girl who doesn’t want to grow up.

If anyone you know needs help with their resume or some web copy for their business, article writing
for print or the web, tell them to send me an email at lexirain2001(at) and explain what they
need. I’ll be more than happy to help however I can.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Let's Get It Started In Here

I spent the better part of my morning at work dreaming of this kitchen herb garden I started to put in last year. So far all that exists of it is some black landscape fabric over dead weeds, a few circular pavers and some concrete edging that wasn’t too ugly. We haven’t spent much more than a few dollars on it at this point and honestly it is an eyesore more than anything else, but I am dreaming of a little raised bed garden full of creeping thyme, chamomile and a little cold frame at the back where I can raise lettuce through the winter. I’m dreaming of a place where I can stick this rosemary bush my last boss gave me as a parting gift that is just suffering through the winter in my living room. I want lush and green and earthy and I wish I could get started on it right now. The temperature outside is climbing over 60, which is unusual for March here and it’s not storming so I am itching to get started gardening.

This year I am going to make this little section of earth my priority, my project that hopefully the dogs will leave alone once I get started on it, as it is in the fenced section of the backyard. I’m going to bring this one bed to life in addition to the vegetable garden and the window boxes. They’ll be color in the backyard.

The warm weather has me dreaming of last summer when I was off of work on leave. I spent the whole summer blissfully pulling weeds and working on my chicken coop on weekends while battling my inner demons and getting used to my medications. It was a nice respite from work and this year I face spending most of the summer indoors inside the bank I work at, where you can’t exactly throw open the windows to let in the breeze. It is going to be an adjustment for sure, but I will have every evening free to pull weeds in the garden and make sure my plants are doing just fine. Plus I will have all the time at the bank for writing, which is what I do in between customers. There should be no reason with all this free time why I can’t be posting to my own blog, something I care deeply about and haven’t made enough time for lately.

It’s sad how we can make ourselves so busy with the routines of our daily lives that we often miss, like I do with the blog, making time for what is really important to us. I have been working on a ghostwriting project for pay for nearly a year for which I write once a week and I always find time to fit that into my busy schedule but never make the time for my own work and promotion, which I realized a few weeks ago is crucial if I want to continue to market myself here on the blog as a writer. My advice to you if you are struggling to get something started, whether it’s a small herb garden two years in the making or a 500 word post about the smell of fresh tomatoes (which I can’t WAIT for I might add), is just to do it. Get started, even if it isn’t perfect.

I put a lot of things off, including this blog, because I want everything I include or do to be representative of my best efforts. I procrastinate until the "time is right" or I "have a good idea", which often means I do nothing at all because the right moment or ideas never seem to materialize. Then I get caught up in a funk where nothing really happens at all, so, in an effort to only show my best work, I end up showing nothing at all. Silly, right? How many times do we let fear of failure or not doing great work keep us from doing any work at all?

I resolved before to let this blog be a reflection of me as a grow and learn to cope with my disorder and establish my homestead at the same time. Right now it is a reflection of me waiting for things to be better, of not taking chances for fear of failure. Instead, right now, this blog is going to become something I update every day with something- even if it isn’t my best work, at least it will be place to practice writing, promote myself and get started again with the tale of our homesteading adventures, slow as they may be.

That’s one part of my BP I am having the hardest time adjusting to- the change in motivation (or, more appropriately, the complete lack thereof). I used to bounce of the walls in my manic states and write all night and have plenty to say even when depressed. I had plenty of energy to make my own bread, clean my house all the time and do extra projects like the chicken coop. Now that I am more leveled out on the meds I don’t feel as crazy but getting started on things is sometimes very hard to do. That first step and initial focus is hard to rally sometimes, even for the smallest things.

So let’s make a date then every day for me to come here and post something- a song, poem, post or rant. If you don’t start you can’t expect to finish and I have a lot of things that can’t be left undone.

Thanks for your patience!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Sowing the Seeds of Change

Last week it was near 60 degrees outside one day so I took some old seeds from last year we hadn't used all of and planted them in the planters full of dirt on the back porch. I planted things that were cool season crops- broccoli, califlower, leeks and lettuce. Then, as is true to form in Ohio, in snowed the most snow we've seen all season at once, a full 3 inches to top the pots off and along the edges of the porch railing. I'm not sure if the seeds will survive the frigid temps or do anything at all, but I had a need to dig in the dirt, for some change in the routine, so I gardened. This week it's supposed to be 65 by tomorrow, so they have ample opportunity. Let's see if we yield any results.
Things in life have been changing as well. My doctor made some modifications to my medication routine and it has proved to really drastically increase my motivation and make me sleep a lot better. I wake up rested now instead of exhausted and I am excited to get on with the day instead of dreading it. What a world of difference that has made for me. I finally want to do things I love again like read and write and grow things. I am even thinking of what queries I can send to magazines again as well as working on a few YA projects- one fiction and one non-fiction. All in all I am finally happy and busy again.
Usually I am one who Shirley from change but as the seasons turn again I am relieved to feel my life returning with it. I am looking forward to a summer full of gardening and geocaching and letterboxing and just lounging around my yard with the chickens. Speaking of which, I am going to start with a flock of 5 or 6 and have arranged to buy some older birds from my chicken friend and her husband. Do you have a chicken friend? Every homesteader needs one- someone who has chickens who you can talk with about chicken related things and general homesteading topics. Someone who gets it and doesn't look at you weird. I met my chicken friend at the office, which is unusual given I worked in retail at the time, but she is amazing and I am so glad I thought to share my chicken dreams with the world and began to realize how similar we really are.

Thank you Teresa, for being such an amazing friend!

Here's to hoping spring brings many new and wonderful changes to the SemiFarm.