Thursday, October 31, 2013

When I Grow Up....

So I am, in theory at least, a grown up.  Thing is I don't especially feel grown up.  I still don't know what I want to do when I grow up.  The last few years in Malawi were busy ones.  I ended up homeschooling 2 of the 3 years.  If you have ever home-schooled then you know it is a labor of love that can simply eat your life.  I am soooo glad that I did it and if circumstances demanded it I would do it again in a heartbeat, but I think it's good that the boys are back in school.  The school here is wonderful and the boys are getting to do things academically, socially, and artistically that are far out of my teaching abilities. But now that I have all this free time I am finding I have a bit too much time to think.

I have had many dreams of what I want to be over the years.  Some of those dreams were discarded as I grew and changed, and some, a few, have come true.  For instance I've always wanted to be a mom, and I am, four times over.  And once I thought I wanted to be a teacher. I managed to get a degree and then a paying job doing exactly that for 7 years or so.  I took a break after having a couple of kids because day care costs were outstripping my income.  Teachers don't get rich, they should, but they don't. Dave and I agreed that I would go back to teaching after the youngest started Kinder, and if we had stayed in the states I'm sure finances would have forced me back into the classroom even before then.  Now after being overseas for 7 years, and and out of the classroom for more than a decade,  I can't imagine teaching again, I don't even want to be room mom.  That dream is the dream of a past me, a me that doesn't really exist anymore.

Some days I think I want to write, to be a writer.  To have an answer when asked what do you do?  I want to be able to say, "I'm a writer." but then I really don't seem to have the self discipline or possibly confidence it takes to write for hours a day, every day, and we won't even talk about the evil that is revision and proofreading. And I'm not really all that keen on somebody reading the stories I write.  Stories are different than a blog post. Stories are spun only out of my caffeine fueled imagination, so they feel more personal, more private.  I still write, not just the blog, but actual stories, so maybe someday this dream will become something more than a dream, maybe someday I will say "I am a writer" or maybe not. In the mean time it will continue to be something I do for me, because I enjoy it.

Somedays I think I should just go get a job at the embassy as a security escort or something, to contribute to the family income.  We don't need me to work, and that is such a blessing, but sometimes I feel a bit guilty about spending and not earning money.  (My husband is rolling his eyes as he reads this!) Yes, if I went to work full or part time outside of the house it would upset the balance of the house.  I am currently the chief maid, cook and bottle washer.  The boys (all of them including my husband) come home expecting a clean house and dinner ready.  I (usually) provide that service.  I actually like being a house wife, and I am good at it. Somehow these days that doesn't seem to be an acceptable occupation and I don't so much like people who ask me "What DO you do all day?"  I have noticed most of those people have a maid, possibly a nanny, and spend most of their time volunteering someplace or meeting with like minded people to "do lunch" and are shocked that anyone would ever consider cleaning their own toilets.  My husband has been known to refer to them as "Ladies who lunch" which is a little mean and condescending but then their question "What DO you do all day?" and it's implication I should be doing something more is a little mean and condescending too.

A long time ago, so long ago it seems like another life, I talked a lot about doing something with plants.  Maybe a small farm, possibly herbs, or maybe landscape design.  At the time I was drowning in dirty diapers, so it was just a fond dream for someday.  I did spend a lot lot of time playing in my own yard and even did some landscape work for friends. In fact one of those jobs ultimately led to us moving overseas.  I wouldn't take any money because she paid for all the supplies and I was having so much fun.  But the friend insisted on giving us something for our work, so she gave us a gift certificate to a local chinese place knowing we hardly ever got a chance to go out to eat.  When we went we were  the only people speaking English and the food was amazing.  Now my husband is an army brat who grew up mostly overseas in Korea and Japan.  Somehow after that dinner, listening to others chatter away in another language and eating great Asian food, it became imperative that Dave make it back overseas. That his children have a childhood filled with travel and international experiences.  It took a few years but we made it and the rest is history. That was Dave's dream and he found a way to make it come true.

Which brings me back to what I want to be when I grow up.  Plants are still my passion.  I love plants of all kinds, but most especially those which smell good, and taste good, and look pretty.  I thought I had left behind my dreams of farming or landscape design, after all those are not exactly portable careers.  I began to remember how much I love playing in the dirt in Malawi where I had a huge yard with a massive vegetable and herb garden.  I also had two gardeners who had been with the house through a few rounds of embassy families.  They were slightly baffled at my wanting to play in the dirt.  They often drove me absolute batty by trying to help, like the time they "weeded" my herb garden pulling up and throwing onto the compost all the "weeds" including my oregano, curry plant, tarragon and sage.  I was never able to replace the curry plant or sage.  All the same I enjoyed spending hours weeding and planning, composting and harvesting.  It went a long way towards making Malawi home.  It also re-awakened long forgotten dreams.

Lately it seems the universe is refusing to let those dreams return to long forgotten status. A few weeks ago one of my favorite author blogs Jill Shalvis linked to a friend's blog Chickens in the Road, a writer turned farmer, turned writer again. I read her blog and thought "That's what I want to do! I want a little farm"  Then I spent the better part of the day blog stalking her, reading every blog post about her farm.  I thought, "Isn't that lovely? Someone is living my dream." Actually her farm and life is far beyond what I previously thought to dream of, but now it has expanded my dreams, and isn't that why we read? Then I put away my computer and my blog inspired day dreams and went back to unpacking boxes, cleaning, cooking, and creating a home here in Oman.

Recently  I have discovered a TV series on Hulu Plus called Chefs a Field where chefs who are committed to cooking organically and sustainably visit the local organic farms that supply their produce.  Some of those farms are as small as half an acre.  Others are huge.  Most are in-between. None of them are getting rich farming.  It's kinda like teaching that way.  But all of them are finding a way to  make their farms work, often in unusual ways. I think that in the future it will be those farmers that think outside the box that are able to continue to exist, perhaps prosper, and supply our food needs.

A few weeks ago I tuned into Ted Radio Hour podcast while cooking and heard an amazing talk by Ron Finley about the food desert in his South Central LA neighborhood and how he planted a food forest to supply fresh produce.  Amazing!  I first learned about food forests while taking a permaculture course in Malawi.  At the time I thought how much could we alleviate hunger if we could just get more people to plant a sustainable food forest instead of sweeping the dirt away or planting a lawn.  And here is a self-styled guerrilla gardener using the same principals to fight hunger in LA.

Even my cooking shows seem to all be doing special segments on the farms that supply the produce. It seems like everywhere I look someone is taking a little plot of land and turning it into a place to grow something.  Bees, or chickens, or beets, or goat cheese, or Romanesco broccoli.

So now I think someday I might want to be a farmer, of sorts. Not when I grow up, I think I am safely past that stage, but maybe when Dave retires. Not next week, or next month, or even next year, because there are a lot of years between now and retirement, and a lot or research and work if this is a dream I really want to pursue.  Not growing rows and rows of corn and soybean in rotation, but maybe more a hobby farm with a couple of acres of organic gardens and produce sold at farmers markets or maybe the local CSA (community supported agriculture).  When Dave envisions this dream it has a B&B or possibly self-catering vacation cottages on part of the property, and I think there is room in this dream for that too, as long as HE cleans the rooms, not me. I'll be out back turning the compost to aerate it and keep it hot and picking my micro-greens and heirloom vegetables.

16 comments:

Sara said...

I loved this post! Such great thoughts and it was nice to understand how your ideas have evolved. My thoughts on what I want to be when I grown up have significantly changed since moving to Ethiopia and I think in a lot of ways the hardest posts create the most personal growth. I felt that doubly since two of our young daughters are off at school now and I can see the littlest one off to preschool next year. I am a personal chef of sorts-to my family and to those who order my catering/baking. I want to do that full time and I too want to have a big garden where I can plant and grow and harvest the things I cook with. Some day! After this adventure over seas.

Eve Josar said...

Thanks for this. I think many of us feel this way- as evidenced by our FS blogosphere peppered with some version or another. Nice to know we are all in this together in so many, far reaching, unanticipated ways! I've been especially contemplative as I edge toward a new personal decade come mid november. And funny you should mention the menial embassy job. Escort, secretary, etc. I consider it all the time. Such a simple answer to the burning question and a great way to contribute. My husband always says, "That's like putting a race horse behind a plow. Your talents are far greater." Maybe the nicest thing I've ever heard!!
We always talk about a little farm too, once we retire. There will be time for plowing then.

David said...

This is why I love my wife! ...and yes I did roll my eyes. We are a fiscally conservative family that really enjoys our life the service has given us... ceating memories and dreams. Some dreams have come true and others have gone by the way as our experiences have changed us. I have seen so much growth in my wife and family. I love dreaming with my wife and perhaps there will be a B&B...or I will have the Doghouse..

Shannon said...

For those wondering The Doghouse is not where Dave goes when he is in trouble. It's his imaginary Hot Dog restaurant he has been talking about for at least a decade. It's his retirement dream.

wellthatwasdifferent said...

I so hear you. My plan is to have a little urban garden--you know, the kind HOAs hate. I want to turn my entire front lawn into a vegetable patch. I honestly think it's in the blood. I come from a long, long line of farmers and the older I get, the more that shows up.

Daniela said...

That was a lovely post! Amen for dreams, 'cause what would we be without them, right? I don't really want to be a farmer. My family did farming when I was growing up, most of it quite manually and I had to help - I hated it with a passion. But what I do want is a small fruit and vegetable garden. I have been trying and failing miserably here in India. There's always hope for next post though...

Shannon said...

Wellthatwasdifferent I think it IS in the blood, we always had a veggie patch growing up and canned/froze tons of produce to eat through the winter, and once we moved from out to the country we also raised most of our own meat. In our little 'hood Dave and I managed to "sneak" lots of herbs and a few veggies in to the front landscape but kept enough grass and flowers to keep the HOA mostly happy. I really really love potager gardens with their mix of flowers, herbs and vegetables, so pretty. That kind of garden would actually work really well with Dave's vision of having a B&B or vacation stay houses on the property. Someday.

Shannon said...

Sara I just watched some cooking show, can't remember the name (darn it!!) but it was on Hulu plus the featured chef had a dedicated garden for his restaurant and had gone so far as to hire a gardener to manage his micro-farm. They worked together as a team her in the garden he in the kitchen. Want to team up?

Sara said...

Awesome idea! We're looking forward to life in quiet Loudoun County come 2017! An old house, an acre of land. Sounds nice huh!

Shannon said...

Eve I really hadn't mean this to be another post about the limited career/job opportunities that are available to the FS spouse, although clearly that is a huge part of it and certainly affects the time scale of when I could move forward with my dreams. I actually meant it more as a hopeful post about dreams, how they change and morph and sometimes come back around. And perhaps since I turn 45 this month I am feeling contemplative about my life and what I am doing about it. I am really excited to research the possibilities of having a micro-farm producing organically for the local market. I can't imagine either Dave or I just sitting around all day watching TV once he retires and we are both planners/dreamers. Since we can't really control where we will be living 3 years from now it helps to plan what we will possibly be doing when we retire.

Shannon said...

Daniela Dreams are what makes life worth living, without them we would simply exist. And each person's dream is different. That's what makes the world such and exciting place. As for farms I don't want a traditional farm, and as a kid I often hated it too! But a micro farm or hobby farm might be right up my ally for a retirement project.

Eve Josar said...

Shannon,
I really did love this post and didn't think of it as a trailing spouse job opportunity lament. It made me want to invite myself over with a bottle of wine in one hand and my sketch pad in the other. So few people talk about their dreams. I've always loved the Eleanor Roosevelt quote, "Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people."
Maybe I'm still off target, but regardless, it made me feel like we are kindred spirits!

Shannon said...

Eve, glad the post made you feel that way. You are welcome to stop by for a visit where ever we may be, with or without a bottle of wine.

Connie said...

My father, with less than half an acre suburban lot, always managed to grow enough vegetables to supply us year-round AND provide bags and bags of extras to the neighbors. At one point he was selling specialty hot peppers to the local grocery store, and the bottled sauces and chilis that he put up were in high demand amongst friends. He would also trade some of his goods with friends who had cows or pigs, and then we had 'free' fresh meats too. He also had flowers everywhere. Especially gladiolas, my mom's favorite. That sort of gardening takes time and stability... one day, I would like to have such a garden too. :) I may not ever live up to my dad's abilities, but I'd love to try.

btw - I agree with your husband and the 'ladies who lunch'. That's not the same as ladies who make time for lunches, sometimes, it's a different breed. Those who have everything done for them, and have no concept that some of us take our family raising a lot more seriously! You can generally tell the type as soon as you mention that you can't get away a certain day because of (whatever)...they get a 'look' in their eyes. Actually had one dingbat tell me to "Don't be such a such a bum! Get a maid!" I wonder if she even knew what 'bum' means? Lazy and shiftless is not what I do. I just told her that my priorities concerning my family were vastly different than hers. She didn't like me after that for some reason...

Monica said...

I read chickens in the road recently, too AND I heard that TED show! (it did NOT make me want to farm ;o) It DID make me admire greatly all of the people who did. love this post! first a dream - then a reality! xoxo

Jody said...

Beautiful post Shannon - I hope your dream comes true and I'm so glad to hear the boys are enjoying their new school. How are you adjusting to your new home?