March 2014

Sick Kids and Interrupted Plans

This has definitely been a winter to remember.  We’ve had more snow and more bitterly cold days than any winter that I’ve experienced in my adult life.  The kids have had more snow days (and ice days and dangerously cold days) than I can count.  Travel plans have been adjusted.  My work schedule has been pushed aside again and again.  Joe has missed so many hours of his day job because he is home snow blowing the driveway or the roads are impassible or one of us is too sick to work.  This past month has been particularly difficult because our entire family got walloped by a nasty stomach virus that was followed by a miserable cold.  As if that wasn’t enough, we were healthy for about a week when, one by one, we started to show symptoms of another bad cold, this time in our chest and sinuses.  So we are currently quarantined in our house together and taking turns lying on the sofa or napping in our beds and sipping honey and lemon tea or hot broth.  And I am tired.  Tired of cleaning germs from the many surfaces in the house.  Tired of adjusting our schedules, canceling plans, and not knowing what the next day may hold.  Tired of trying to maintain our homesteading lifestyle when that means that someone has to bundle up and go outside and take care of the animals no matter how cold it is or how sick you feel.  Tired of not sleeping at night because one of the three kids does not feel well and it’s my turn to get up and soothe them.  Just plain tired.

As I sit here writing this post, my parents and sister are driving across the state to move all of my parents’ belongings from the house where I grew up to a new, smaller house that is less than ten minutes away from our house.  I am incredibly saddened by the fact that we couldn’t welcome them into our home tonight for an emotional and long-awaited celebration.  This move has been years in the making and it’s still a little bit surreal that they will be so close to us and there won’t be a four hour drive involved with a visit to Grandmama and Pappy’s house.  But we won’t be able to welcome them tonight or tomorrow and maybe not even the next day.  We won’t be able to help with the initial phase of unpacking or bring them some home-cooked meals for those first few nights in their new home.  It just feels so unfair.

It’s been hard to stay positive but I am doing my best to see the good in everything and everyone around us.  Things like the sun shining outside today.  And that 60°F day in the forecast for next week.  And the extra snuggle time that I have been spending with my children as we lay on the sofa reading a book or watching yet another movie to take our minds off of being sick.  And the jar of homemade soup that our neighbors dropped off this morning when they heard that we weren’t feeling well.  And the homemade dinner that my in-laws promised to bring to us tomorrow night so that we don’t have to cook.  And the fact that, regardless of the moving day not going as I had planned, my parents will now be living just a short drive away from us.  There are so many things to be thankful for in this beautiful life.  If I can just take a moment each day to notice them.

Chopping Wood, the “5 Why’s”, and a Window to My Soul

While modern homesteading is becoming increasingly popular, this way of living is still fairly divergent from today’s norms.  As a result, we get asked a lot of questions about what our motivations are for doing it.  Our drivers for this choice are many, but one sticks out above the others…quite simply, we love it!!

I was reminded of that one night this fall while chopping wood (yeah, that’s not a mistype, I chop wood at night since there is not enough time after work before the kids go to bed, and weekend days are rare). As I “day”dreamed that night, I realized why it is that I enjoy homesteading so much and, in that, found a rare glimpse into the “window of my soul”.  I know, sounds corny, but it’s true.  While seemingly fleeting, I have found myself able to reproduce the experience a few times since, giving me deeper insight into what drives me, what makes me happy, and why I behave the way that I do.  The ability to understand and embrace what makes you truly happy seems to be very hard in today’s world and is, I believe, a major reason why we have so many “successful” people who are depressed and miserable.  They are good at what they do, but don’t enjoy it or find meaning in it, leading to many years lost pursuing someone else’s path.

Anyway, here is my story, and some thoughts on how you might do the same for yourself. One night, I was chopping wood by the glow of my Husky work spotlights.  It was getting cold, and I was tired.  I found myself asking “Why the hell AM I cutting wood at 10pm?  No one else that I know, nor anyone in their right mind, would be doing this.  Why don’t I just go in and kick on the electric heat?”. It didn’t make sense on the surface, but yet I didn’t stop and I didn’t go inside.  Why?  In addition to the wood heat being mostly free and evenings being the only time that I have to get anything done around the house during the week, I realized how much I just enjoyed splitting wood.  The mental exercise of setting the log up and positioning for the best strike.  The tension of raising that axe to take a swing at a big log.  The satisfaction of the head hitting the intended mark with precision.  That nearly musical crack of the log splitting in two (or three, my favorite!).  The fulfillment of seeing the wood piling up and knowing that it will bring heat to my house and my family.  The burn in my arms the next day after getting a good physical workout. Surely, these are all great reasons to split wood, but is that really all there is to it?  Or was there another, deeper reason that I was out there that night?  I found my thoughts drifting to my day job, and was reminded of a problem solving technique that we often apply called the “5 Why’s”.  At a very simple level, when you have a problem, you ask yourself why it is happening (Why #1).  Once you identify some potential causes, you ask yourself why those causes happened (Why #2), and so on and so forth until you reach the 5th level of why’s, with the answer to the last why being close to the “true” reason that the problem happened.  I started thinking about this in the context of my wood chopping, and found some pretty interesting things out about myself.

004 (3)

It went something like this…

  1. Why do I like chopping wood?  Because I like the way that it makes me feel.
  2. Why does it make me feel good?  Because it requires accuracy and makes me feel strong.
  3. Why do I like things that require accuracy?  Because it is a challenge to hit the right spot.
  4. Why do I like the challenge of hitting the right spot?  Because it reminds me of sports.
  5. Why do I like sports?  Because I am competitive.

So, one reason that I like to chop wood is that I am competitive.  Through this same technique (diagram below), I also found that I like to chop wood because I am:

  • family oriented
  • a provider
  • a tactile person
  • driven by order
  • goal oriented
  • a solitary thinker

I now understand why I enjoy so many of my other hobbies that align with these attributes, and why I don’t like some other things that do not align.  I have also tried this same techniques on other things that I like in order to expand the list of my core attributes.  With this increased self-understanding, I can now be much more selective about life decisions.  I can pick the things that I know will make me the happiest, even if they are not the typical things that I am told I should do.  Like homesteading!

So, what can your hobbies tell you about yourself?  You might be surprised how easy it is to find out, and how powerful knowing yourself can be.  After all, you can’t expect to find satisfaction if you don’t know what makes you happy in the first place!