Sunday, January 02, 2011

Annual Report 2010

This post won't have pictures; I'm going to have to use links instead. While outside taking pictures for his nature journal The Barracuda killed our memory card and lost almost 2000 non-archived pictures. He is still alive. There was a moment there that I was on the fence about it, but I decided (after many deep breathes) he was cute enough to keep around. We will soon own many, many thumb drives to put pictures on so this doesn't happen again.

When 2010 started, we still didn't want to talk too much about the things we were doing at home. We didn't want to alienate people, or feel weird, or have to explain ourselves. We knew what we wanted to do, but we also recognized the fact that main stream America didn't live this way.

In all the readings I'd bury myself in, I kept seeing the ideas of self sufficiency being called subversive. I wasn't ready to go there yet. In my mind, we were just trying to eat healthier, educate our son, lower our bills, and gain a bit more transparency to the everyday actions of our lives. Subversive sounded so crazy survivalist. I'm definitely not ready to call us crazy survivalists! Micheal Pollen, Paul Hawkin, Robert Heinlein, Shannon Hayes, John Muir, Thoreau and the like were quite adamant however. The personal was political and our decisions, regardless of the motive, were making a statement. It made me want to talk about our "other lives" even less.

As the feelings of isolation increased, my desire to spend more time at home did as well. You can only live in two worlds for so long before it starts to really eat at you. As Woody Harrelson says, it was time to "nut up or shut up." We decided to stop focusing on the thoughts of others and really define our lifestyle the way we wanted it.

2010 was mainly spent working on putting the mental foundations under our actions. Here's a rundown on some of the things we did to get our heads on straight:

Rioting 4 Austerity: Our family decided to Riot 4 Austerity at the beginning of 2010 as a way to really quantify if we were achieving what we thought we were. We had no real knowledge of how much we were actually conserving other than the fact our bills were decreasing. The idea with rioting is that wealthy nations would need to have their people voluntarily cut back to 10 percent of American consumption in order to save the planet. It took us about 6 months to really fine tune many of our actions, but we made it. Transportation is still too high, but in all the other categories, we're good. Being a numbers person this action really helped give me an idea of how much others use and how much was really needed on our part. At this point, I don't like the taste of tap water, the feel of electric heat, or the cost of most store purchased goods. Oddly enough, it didn't really feel like much of a sacrifice. I would definitely recommend this to others.

Working at Home:
In April, I began working from home. This was weird. There is no other word than weird. Being home has required a re-evaluation of mindsets and a hard look at many cultural norms that I didn't realize existed. Much of my self concept came from the job I did outside the house. Without a boss or supervisor to give you "atta-boys" you are left only receiving them from yourself or your spouse. This took a little time to recognize and an even harder time to articulate. I also didn't realize just how much my resources were being pulled in a thousand directions even with a part time job. When all my energies were placed in to really schooling our son, really working on our house, really figuring out ways to achieve our goals it is amazing how much more depth can be obtained. Lastly, it also meant that Jules and I had to be completely all-in with this whole committed to each other thing. As difficult as it is to constantly be faced with being odd, it is even weirder to then leave everything and not have anyone else in your life. I now don't really have credit history (no checking account, no paycheck, all direct transfer), any employer to vouch for me (I'm all telecommuting and all digital), or any real separation of our lives. All money is our money. I hadn't been this nervous since we started a shared minute plan on our cell phones.

Homeschooling: We decided to take on a second year of homeschooling, joined a homeschool group, and really got to explore what The Barracuda wanted to learn and we wanted to teach him. This year it has been much more learning as a family and choosing to grow together. The Barracuda not going to school in favor of being at home had much the same emotional impacts that my leaving work did. Though the freedom of not being in a classroom exists, I am the one who needs to realize those atta-boys are necessary. It is also very apparent I need to frequently explain to him we are learning together. Long past is the time of treating our son like a child, but I need to get better about connecting with him as an equal.

He is currently watching Cinderella in his room singing Gin and Juice by Snoop Doggy Dogg. He's a kid, but not a kid at the same time. That is hard for me to negotiate.

Roadtripping the US:
Driving across the country was pretty great. Jules and I learned a lot about being stuck together, a lot about our personal routines, and a lot about how differently we arrive in the same place when it comes to ideas. We also got to share some rather incredible stuff together that neither of us had ever seen before. There were also some not so fabulous times (He threw a shoe at me in Zion Canyon; I went postal about not being able to use the stove in a hotel in Kansas), but I wouldn't really trade it for much and now it is kinda funny. Being trapped in a car with your child while disagreeing is a really great form of counseling even if it does mean total silence through the entire state of Idaho. This really opened our eyes about how much can be done when the family has a digital commute (me-work/The Barracuda-school) and definitely means more time with The Barracuda and I venturing off ourselves. Due to the time limitations, we only spent a day or so in each incredible place, next time we are probably going to do more like a minimum of a week in each place instead.

Getting Outside: Though we have always liked to be outside, it was really the road trip which showed us how much we needed to be outside. As stressful as moments of the trip were, being out of the city took such a weight off of our lives. Jules and I also greatly underestimated our son (again) and what he can do. The trip gave us the confidence to move forward in weekend hikes of 5+ miles a day. After even more surprising feats by our son, we have now made 8+ hours a day and are planning decent sized trips. After coming home it didn't take too long for us to begin seeing how much the city just didn't make sense anymore.

Redefining Family:
Being home with my son all day and taking on learning together has meant a distinct level of connection we didn't have before. With the new year and us venturing out together on backpacking trips this bond will only continue to grow. I'm having to really step back and evaluate being able to be a mentor more than distinctly a mom.

Jules and I are quite quickly trudging into a place where the security of our household depends on each of us trusting the other explicitly. That may sound a bit like a 'well duh!' but post traumatic stress makes this rather difficult for both of us. Working this out, and actually admitting it, have been a process of personal development for both of us. Dare I say we might be getting the hang of it.

Jules has had to come to terms with the loss of his mother this year. She is in late stages of Alzheimers. With each visit the reality sunk in deeper and for all intents and purposes she is no longer Mom. At this point, he is the last survivor of his family and holder of his entire family's memories. Such a difficult time for him has meant much leaning on those who are not biological related, but family none the less.

The redefining of relationships and much sole searching about how we fit into the mix seemed to keep reappearing this year. Before, family meant living in a house together and loving each other. This year has shown us that in reality it means way, way more than that. It means falling apart and completely losing it; feeling emotionally exhausted; being stressed out and not knowing if you can make it all work; screwing up repeatedly; admitting when you hurt, when you need help, when you're scared, when you don't understand; and most importantly knowing it doesn't matter to us because we will be here and it will all be okay. This year we decided to become a family, together.

Goodbye 2010. You've been good to us.

3 thoughts:

Mel said...

You have had quite a year. Writing an annual report seems like a great way to take stock and plan for the next year. It has been a pleasure following your journey.

Mr. H. said...

Welcome to 2011, I think it is going to be a fine year. I really like what you said - "We decided to stop focusing on the thoughts of others and really define our lifestyle the way we wanted it." - Us too.:)

Granola Girl said...

Mel~ The annual report thing works out well for me to try and find some kind of trend rather than just looking at individual events. So much of the time the days just run together and then the week/month/year is over.

Mr. H ~ Good to see you've gotten your Internet back. It is rather nice to be all in now, getting there was a bit toilsome. Isn't that the way it is with everything? :)

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