Saturday, November 22, 2014

Who Said Money Doesn't Make You Happy?

If you follow Mystic Mud on Facebook you already know that something good happened.  You already know that I am feeling awesome, and positive and so optimistic I'm almost giddy.  What a tease, right?  I didn't mean to be, I just had to say something because sometimes it's hard not to, and really...why should we keep in that kind of joy?  But going into details is maybe more than a Facebook post, so I kept it short and caused people to naturally wonder - what's the scoop!?!?! 

So, there is that saying: money can't buy you happiness.  We've all heard it a million times in our life, and maybe we've tried to take it to heart, or we've questioned it over and over again trying to figure out what exactly it means, because to some of us it is an oversimplification to a complex issue.  Not having enough of anything sure seems to make me unhappy, including money, so how is it possible that having more money wouldn't make me happy? I've wondered that very thing time and time again.  And I've felt shallow, and even greedy, for wanting more.  Like if I was a good person I would just be happy with what I have.  

But isn't there more to it than that?  Isn't there a certain reality in this statement:
And this one, too, but most of the people I know aren't actually dreaming of a yacht - they would be happy with just a lifeboat, but kudos to Johnny for at least being honest.

But what happens when what you have isn't really enough?  What happens when all you have is just enough money to get by?  

I reduced...e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g.  We moved to a smaller house, we went semi off-grid, we sold and donated and threw away until we had the essentials pared down and a few extras...we made our life less, so that there would be less to manage, upkeep, or replace.  And less really did become more.  We needed less money for the smaller house, less money for bills, less for holidays and birthdays, less to organize, clean and trip over.  And I'm still happier with less. But after a while - even less wasn't enough.

I've robbed my own piggy bank to buy a birthday present for a child.  I still vividly remember the first time we got down to our last literal twenty dollars.  I remember the fear and I remember thinking that it had taken almost an entire lifetime to hit that kind of low and that I wouldn't soon be revisiting it.  But we did, several times.  I've made the choice between buying food and paying a bill and I've sold things I wouldn't have otherwise sold to have the money for food and bills.  Once, I even sold jewelry to a pawn shop.  About the only thing I haven't done is one of those payday/title loans.  

I've been desperate, on the edge and hanging by my last thread, sometimes all at the same time - and I can admit it because I know I'm not the only one.  The internet is a beautiful thing and we open up and tell each other things we wouldn't normally tell the people in our everyday lives.  So I know I am not alone in this, I just might be one of the few people willing to say it out loud.  

My husband works hard.  He works all.the.time.  He works harder than I could ever dream of working.  He keeps going when I think I would have given up.  He works long into the night after the rest of us have watched a movie and gone to bed.  He works in the cold of an un or minimally heated office to the point that when he comes home I can actually feel the cold radiate off of him.  He works to the point that I've felt like a single mom.  And still - he works more, so for anyone thinking maybe he should get a real job...he already has one, and he'd be hard pressed to find one that pays any better.

The thing is this: being stuck sucks.  Starting over with next to nothing sucks.  Picking yourself up the first time or two is one thing, but when you've lost count of how many times you've picked yourself up, dusted off and gone back for starts to get old.  It starts to beat you down.  I've come to the conclusion that there is nothing worse in this life than hopelessness.  The mountain taught me that, taught it well, and even continues to teach it.  When we lose hope - we lose everything.  We lose our will to fight and continue.  We lose our vision of ourselves and our future.  Without hope the world goes dark and pushes us into a corner to slowly wither away.  It's ugly and painful. It's soul crushing.  And it doesn't always feel like a choice.

David hit a goldmine.  The last few months we've been trying, really trying, to get out of our hole.  And we started to, twice, but it didn't last.  We were too far behind, we needed more.  Always with the needing more.  Four days ago he came to me, again, with news of another auction that looked good. It was in a small town in Kentucky, on a Thursday, so maybe there would be less people there and less competition.  I really wasn't all that impressed.  I'd heard it all before.  How good could it be?  Maybe I had given up, or maybe I had gone numb - but what's the difference between the two?  I was kind, I didn't make him ask; I just volunteered to call my dad and ask him for a loan if he wanted. I heard both the relief and the shame in his voice when he said that would be great.

I did call my dad, and we talked, and talked, and talked.  And I didn't ask, and didn't ask, and didn't ask.  Everything that I would be silently admitting by asking stuck in my throat.  Loser.  Not good enough.  Stupid.  Incapable.  I wanted to throw up.  I hate asking - for anything.  The conversation wound down to the end and I thought: I can't do it.  I just can't. and I imagined getting off the phone and going out to David and telling him the same thing.  I just couldn't.  But the window of opportunity was swifty closing and I finally just swallowed and asked.  He said yes.  It wasn't that I thought he would say no - it was that I didn't want to even have a need to ask.

The next day David, Einstein and Dawsy left for Kentucky before the sun was even up.  A few hours later David called to check in and I could tell by the sound of his voice that it was good.  Really good.  We've been doing this ebay thing for 15 years now, so I can tell more by how he says it than what he says.  

He cleaned up.  Competition was low, as he predicted, but what he didn't know until he got there was just how cream of the crop the auction goods would be.  And when I say cream of the crop I mean we've had deals like this before, but they are few and far between, and it's been seven long years since our last one.  In the world of ebay - David hit a goldmine.  

But wait, it gets even better.  This was an estate auction, and the man that passed away still had a house and its contents to be auctioned off the next day!  David and the boys still had to go back to Kentucky on Friday to get the rest of what he had bought the day before, because it was more than a van load.  So they got up before the sun again on Friday and went to the auction at the house.  David called with that tell-tale tone of voice again - the second day was even better than the first!

It's not so much about the money as it is about choices.  About freedom.  About not feeling like there is such a heavy load that you can't catch your breath.  It's about standing back for a moment and (finally) being able to say - I don't have to worry about every.single.little.thing! 

That septic tank that we need - not really worried about it now.  Monthly bills - won't be a problem for a while.  Heat for the office - put that at the top of the list!! Mothership?  Oh, I think so.  We can't go nuts, but we can move forward.  We can make choices, and plans, and see progress...and that's what money is about.  Call me shallow, but I think money just made me a little bit happier.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Fall Family Pictures

It's well past that traditional time of year called "back to school pictures," but better late than never. 

Columbus, 19

Cleo, 17

Einstein, 15

Sassy, 13

Sugar King, 13

The Wonder Twins

Dawsy, 11

Rose, 8

JoJo, 7

G-man, 7

The Former Feral Five Year Olds

Baby Man, 3

My "little people"

The girls

The boys

Little monkeys 

Just the silly kids

All of us

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

They're Rock Stars

Because they got the nasty, stinky job of expanding the grey water drain and they're still smiling. 

Our temporary grey water drain isn't holding up to our demand, and even before the inspector comes back out to check on it, we decided to make it bigger. With rain saturating the ground the grey water isn't absorbing properly and we would rather get this job done before the freezing temps of winter come to only make it more miserable. 

David and Columbus just came home with a load of gravel and David will be putting on his work boots to finish digging, as these two medium sized boys are getting tired. With a possibility of snow on Friday night there are plenty of jobs we are scrambling to get done. 

Hello winter....

And you two boys...I love you and you're both studs. Because you work hard. Because you know how to set aside yourselves for the greater good of your family. And because you still smile when standing in feet of muddy, stinky black water. 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

OH MY!! Avocado Hummus!

I'm on a total dry bean kick. I have been for a while, actually, I'm just expanding myself and my cooking into the large world of beans more than before. 

You know how they say "store what you eat and eat what you store?" I totally agree with that statement and always have. And I've always stored dry beans because they are cheap and nutritious. In the past I used beans in our diet on a limited bases, but over the last several months I've been incorporating them into our diet more and more. Some of the kids are more receptive to this change than others, but historically these kinds of diet changes take time, lots and lots of time. I'm not the kind of mom to say "eat it or starve" and I value peaceful meal times, so I don't push new foods hard because I refuse to turn the dinner table into a war zone. I believe that as kids (and their tastebuds) grow up watching the people around them enjoying new and/or different foods that they will follow...and so far that has proven to be (mostly) true.  

I've also been exploring no/low meat, plant based diets for both health reasons and because the cost of meat just keeps going up...and up...and up.  Don't get me wrong, none of us are about to become vegan, but honestly, most Americans consume more meat than their bodies actually require.  We don't need that much meat - it's actually not even good for us, and there are other more healthful, less expensive sources of protein....beans. I'm not looking to replace meat with beans 100%, but I am looking to supplement our diet with a tasty way that we all love.

David and I have actually discussed growing more of our own meat: trying the meat chickens again and maybe even getting a pig, but in the meantime I am experimenting with dry beans.  I picked dry beans because they are cheaper than canned beans and generally speaking I avoid all store canned foods.  There are a few staples that I always have on hand, but as the years go on there are less and less of them.  

Today I tried making avocado hummus out of chickpeas.  I found the recipe while I was searching for a regular hummus recipe and am I ever glad that I stumbled across it!  It.was.SO.good.  So far, I am not the hugest hummus fan in the world, but the avocado hummus I can totally get onboard with!

First, I cooked the dry chickpeas.  Buy a bag ($1.37 for a!!) and follow the directions on the package - don't be afriad of cooking dry beans.  If you can simmer water (who can't!?) you can cook dry beans!!!  Just keep an eye on them and make sure that they are always covered with water, otherwise you could end up with a pot of burnt beans :(

After the beans were cool I threw all of the following into my food processor:

2 cups of cooked chickpeas (if you cooked the whole one pound bag you will have lots of beans left over - find a recipe for plain hummus or put them in a fresh green salad or soup to use them up!)

1 avocado

1/3 cup fresh parsley

2 Tablespoons lemon juice (I actually used a few drops of lemon essential oil)

1 clove of garlic

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

2 Tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil (I used a less expensive mix of olive and canoloa oil that I like better than straight olive oil.) 

Then whip all of that stuff together on high until it gets creamy.  Halfway through maybe scrap the side of your bowl because some chunky stuff will get pushed that way and not get mixed in good.

I served mine on some day-old homemade bread that I sliced up and broiled on both sides until it got crispy and brown, and I also topped the hummus with a little sprinkling of fresh cilantro.  It tasted a lot like guacamole, but better because I knew it was made with two cups of beans rather than a cup of high-fat mayo!