Thursday, January 1, 2009

Battle Plan 2009

I don't make resolutions in January; I usually do that on my birthday. They tend to be short-term goals.

But this New Year, I am making some major life changes. There are a number of things happening in our lives that are leading me to change direction.
  1. My 80-year-old mother is physically healthy, but is getting forgetful and indecisive. I do not think it is Alzheimer's, but she shouldn't live alone anymore. We want her to be living with us within 2 years. Her house can be rented out, which provides income, and leaves it available as an asset if she ever needs nursing care. We gave long thought to living with her, but it creates too many family issues.

  2. My 39-year-old ex, my daughters' father, has now been formally diagnosed with a fatal incurable brain disorder that could strike my girls in their 30's. If you watch the TV show House, it is what the character 'Thirteen' has. I am not typing the name if it, because I don't want it to show up in Google searches. We have always known they were at-risk, but his diagnosis officially raises their risk to 50%. I want to be free to spend time being involved in their interests, like youth conferences and art exhibitions. I am also giving deep thought to planning for the future, which could include supervising my daughters' home care when I am in my 70's. I am no longer involved in my ex's care, but the girls will see his decline, and it will be hard to watch.

  3. I am 47 years old. Reality says I have 18-23 good years of productivity left. I think of the saying from Horace Mann: "Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity." I am drawn back toward urban planning, the discipline in which I have a Bachelor of Science, but have not practiced since about 1992. It is my food security concerns that are drawing me. I have been thinking about going back to grad school to revive my professional chops, and get involved in urban food policy. I will start with community involvement, to support future grad school applications.

  4. DH is looking for a professional path after he graduated with a degree in professional writing this past May. He went after a lot of government jobs, but there are hiring freezes at many levels now. He is interested in the Emergency Management field, which I think is a good application of his investigation and security background, his practical personality, and his writing strengths - there is a lot of report and plan-writing in most government jobs. He is going to pursue further education to increase his marketability.
For DH: He found a part-time job tutoring writing at the local community college. It's a very short commute. He also signed up for an EMT training course that will improve his chances of finding work in Emergency Planning. It only costs $125 and ends in certification. Between job and EMT class, he will be at RACC four days a week. So - his next 4 months are laid out. Job, class, work on freelance writing.

Then, we hope to send him to grad school. He is applying for a one-year intensive fellowship program that would get him a Master of Public Administration. He would have to leave us for most of that, which would be hard, but we have many ways to stay connected. It would start in May, and he would again seek a state or federal job in Philadelphia or Washington DC, where he has family.

For Me: First, I am closing my existing web hosting business. I will keep a few long-time clients who would have trouble moving; they will help offset the cost of keeping a server for myself. I spent a lot of time in doctor's offices and court rooms this past year, and I am too often out of touch to stay in a technology business. I have not had good luck finding reliable hired help. A recent offer to buy the business fell through when the buyer lost his business line of credit in the banking crash. It will be better for my clients, and for my family, for me to turn most of my clients over to another hosting firm. My technical experience will undoubtedly continue to be useful, no matter what I do next. I invested a lot of myself in that business, and it is hard to let go, even when it is well past time to do so.

What will I do for a living next? I have a big list of ideas. I am not going to try to plan for more than a year or two ahead - the economy is too unstable to make predictions. I want to be adaptable. My plan is to tie together all my volunteer, church, and professional work under the heading of "urban food security." We are city people, and our future lies in finding new ways to live in urban areas.

There are three areas that interest me most at the moment. I've picked a project for each:
  1. Supporting Urban Food Gardening

    Urban gardeners need many things - containers, plant starts, clean soil, community, etc. But free water is a big factor when the cost of water is so high in our city. Our monthly water bill is $85-100, without any summer watering. Free water is pouring off every roof. In January, I will start producing rain barrels and barrel conversion kits. I will sell complete rain barrels locally starting in February, and sell kits on the internet. I attended the first breakfast meeting of an entrepreneur support group New Year's Eve morning.

  2. Discovering Urban Foodsheds

    I've spent the past year finding local sources of various foodstuffs, and bulk sources of things we don't grow here. I am ready to start a bulk buying coop. I am shooting for a monthly order cycle, with the first delivery in March. I'll start a non-profit with a paid administrator position, so I can turn it over to someone else if I leave this area. It will need to break even out of the gate, but I don't expect it to pay much in the beginning.

  3. Relearning Traditional Food Skills

    I want to organize a series of events that provide opportunities for people to learn about cooking, food storage, seasonal eating, kitchen gardening, and preserving. I already have a list of films and a local film distributor, and a list of potential speakers and demonstrators.
I am organizing my activity by quarters. The barrel business will be my primary livelihood - it comes first, gets the most daily attention. In the first quarter of 2009:
  • Attend weekly entrepreneur group for start-up support
  • Rent barrel storage, shoot demo video, launch website
  • Networking: PA Farm Show - Jan 14
  • Present youth workshop about sustainable eating - Jan 23
  • Networking: PASA conference - Feb 5-7
  • Lead a monthly church discussion group about Ethical Eating
  • Start a simple monthly bulk buying group - first delivery March
In March, we will know if DH is leaving, and the rest of my year might look like this:
  • promote rain barrel business
  • prepare to single-parent for a year
  • help my mother clean out her house
  • continue monthly bulk buying group
  • present workshops at more youth conferences
  • lead monthly discussions about food security
  • plan a film/speaker/demo series
For DD12 and DD15: Both are happy in the school. Both are old enough to be left alone periodically, and to take responsibility for chores. DD15 wants to quit her job and go back to her internship at the community art center. It's good for her youth programming resume, and it reduces my taxi-driving. DD12 just wants to work on her computer graphics, and play spring soccer. They are ready for me to be home less, and it may surprise them to see what I can get done outside our household.

For my mother: She and I had a long talk over the holidays. She doesn't want to stay here over the winter. We agreed that she needs to check in with me daily, visit weekly, and I will be more involved in her doctor appointments. We will start getting rid of stuff at her house, at an increased pace in in the spring. She is worried about being poor, and I showed her that she would not be if she were not trying to support a 4BR house. If she lived with us, even if she contributed to food, she would have her Social Security, her small pension, and rental income from her house. Her new motto is, "I've got to get out of here." She is concerned about being a burden, and I explained that trying to help her maintain her in her own home was a far bigger burden that having an extra bedroom for her.

Beyond 2009: If this all goes well, when DH comes back from his fellowship, we will move to a larger city in 2010. We want a city with universities and good hospitals, that has a smooth tax sale process, so we can buy property. We will start looking for a site to start our city compound - like a warehouse with a lot or parking area. DD15 will soon be ready for college, and DD12 will be in junior high school, and my mother should be living and gardening with us. Somewhere in the future lies grad school for me.

To get all this stuff done, I am going to have to be more disciplined about several things:
  • reduce my news reading
  • reduce my TV watching
  • better sleep routine
  • avoid interesting time wasters
  • stick to my daily action plan
  • DH and kids do more chores
  • engage everyone in decluttering
Interestingly, this Chinese New Year will start the Year of the Ox at the end of January. I was born in an Ox year, so maybe that is auspicious. I am not superstitious, but I enjoy the rituals of Chinese New Year - cleaning, paying debts, bribing the household gods, thinking of ancestors, gathering to celebrate family unity. I better make a bigger offering to the Kitchen God this year.


stefe said...

Your plan sounds so rich and fulfilling! I am excited for you and your family as you embark on this new path. I look forward to following your progress into the new year and hope to share some of my own along the way. Having a plan is just a step in the battle to reach our goals. It sounds much better than resolutions for some reason. Good luck in the new year!

fullfreezer said...

Whoa! And I thought my life was complicated. Good luck with the battle! It sounds like you have made great plans (with contingencies)- you'll be fine.
I like the bit about avoiding interesting time wasters: I frequently find that computer time- while building relationships and learning lots- is also a way to avoid things I need to be doing. For example, right now, I have about 6 loads of laundry to do and the house is a mess but here I am, typing away....
Have a great new year- it will be an adventure for us all

fullfreezer said...

Another thought. My MIL and SIL are both in the Reading area and another SIL in Philly. One SIL in particular may be interested in your buying coop. I'll have to ask her.
I also wonder if you went to high school with my V who is also 47. Probably not a lot of Vernon's out there.

MeadowLark said...

Emergency Management is an interesting field, albeit a bit in-bred as far as jobs. Make sure DH takes all of the FEMA courses and gets registered with the different journals, agencies, etc etc. A foot in the door is really important, at least in our area. Not a lot of turnover and frequently (out this way) jobs go to the local Guardsman/Reservist who did this as a career. Total fun though! Just my two cents.

Anonymous said...

Those are some seriously lofty goals. I look forward to watching you progress and learning along with you. May 2009 be blessed!

Anonymous said...

I agree, these sound like goals that make one give a big sigh of satisfaction, even if not achieved 100%, even a bit is so much that it gives that warm feeling of accomplishment.

Urban food policy/foodsheds/gardening/planning is something that I have been musing over for the past week or so - can't get it out of my head, for many of the same reasons you mentioned. I would love to read more about your experiences and how you are carrying on this part of your year. Though I don't know if it is possible for an attorney to do anything like this, I hope I can become involved around here even in a small way. Can you suggest resources? You are a wealth of knowledge, and I admire how much you can jump into what you believe in with concrete action - both for yourself and for your community.

Anonymous said...

Reality says I have 18-23 good years of productivity left?? Good lord woman, you could have 30-40 LOL

Seriously, I have met some wonderfully productive 90 year olds. Perhaps not as physically productive but they still did volunteer work for their community in libraries, one delivering meals to the aged LOL

You have some great goals I am sure you will achieve, remember, the fun is in the journey, not always the destination:)

Gracie said...

Just wanted to let you know I have passed on the Premio Dardos award to you for your blog content. I read your blog all the time. It took me a long while to pass it on, as I really wanted to take the time to decide which 15 blogs I felt had the most relevant content for our times. You can get this little award by simply copying and pasting from my blog to yours, and then when you have time, pass it on to another 15.


eunice said...

i admire your strength, fortitude and sense of creative spirit. you're always making something. i'm amazed at all the things you've accomplished against odds that mere mortals would crack under and am in awe. i haven't checked your blog for a long time. became kinda' crazy towards the end of 2008. but i wish you the heartiest, bestest of everything for you and yours.


Matriarchy said...

Thank you, everyone, for your supportive comments. I've fallen behind on my blogging over the holidays, so I am a bit late with responses.

I'm not thinking of my goals as lofty, so much as a possible practical solution to my often-conflicting needs to help my mom, be present for the my kids, and produce more income for us. I am thinking, "Hm, the current economy is going to hell. How can I be positioned to not get the short end of that stick?" I want to be in the right place, at the right time, for once in my life.

Being born in 1961, I have spent my life trailing after the baby boom. Too young to be a real Boomer, too old for GenX, my age range is sometimes called "Generation Jones". But we may finally be coming into our own - Obama is MY age!

I am trying to find that magical intersection of my skills/interests, and what the world is willing to PAY for. And I really do have only about 20 years to count on - I will be 67 in 20 years, and I will have arthritis. My daughters may need full-time personal care if they become ill later in life. I *could* be in better shape, but I won't count on it. I need to have found my permanent place in the world by then. DH has more time, lucky boy.

I figure that people will always need to eat, and frugal living will will continue to grow in popularity. I am predicting that government programs will be created to promote things I am interested in doing, and both DH and I could be in a position to get public sector jobs that might give us the health benefits that would make our lives run more smoothly.

So, before everyone raises me too high on a pedestal of lofty goals and superhuman accomplishment - I am still just trying to get my piece of the pie. Ooooo, pie!

FF, I will contact you off-blog to see if I know any of V's family.

Gracie, thanks for the award! I will work on making list of my favorite blogs, although I suspect many of them are already on your list.

Anonymous said...

Wow! That is a monumental list. I understand the need to divest of web clients; I did the same a year or two ago.

I have some like-minded friends who have a current web design/hosting business. If you are interested in talking with them to see if they might be a good "fit" for your existing clients, drop me a line. Having some more steady customers would help them toward more self-sufficiency, let them keep up their CSA membership, continue to organize the co-op in their town, and so on. Mail me from or my Eat Close to Home blog.


LisaZ said...

Wow! I am amazed again at your goals and can-do attitude. I am such a spur-of-the-moment, take life as it is person and that is why you amaze me.

I am sorry you will have the worry of your daughter's possible illness in the future. What a heavy load. I think you will use it to live life even more to the fullest, though, if I know you well enough from your blog.

It sounds like your mom also knows her mind. Best wishes with her in the future, too.

Take care of yourself in all this!