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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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 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