A Sno-Ball’s Chance

Another Tuesday conference call. Another round of head shaking and vowing to make some serious life changes. Another day drawing to a close without any attempt at putting together a plan.

That was how my week was going. Heck, that was how my life was going!

We had spent days talking about what life would look like if I were to leave my job, alternating between excitement and immobilizing fear. We poured our heart and soul into doing the suggested exercises in Tanja Hester’s book, Work Optional. We even drew our graphics. See:

Our ideal post-retirement life

Then we looked at our budget to see what the daily cost of our current lifestyle (including all our living expenses, entertainment, travel, and savings goals) came out to be. It’s $75/day, by the way.

But something was off. Was it our calculations? Our ideal retirement scenario? Did we even want to retire? Or was the real goal to just do what we wanted to do with our time? Sketching out what we wanted our days to look like when work wasn’t a factor should have illuminated the path we needed to take to get there. Expect it didn’t. Something just wasn’t making sense.

So, we shelved our discussion (once again) and left to go to the garden, stopping by the produce stand on the way. The first thing I noticed was the sno-ball truck parked in the lot. It was 96 degrees and I was mentally exhausted. A cold, syrupy sno-ball sounded like the perfect remedy. Little did I know; it would be way more than that.

Sarah is an acquaintance. For a long time, she worked at the pharmacy where my mom got her prescriptions filled. Each time we would stop in to pick one up, Sarah would talk to us for a good bit. She was never in a hurry to get to the next customer. She was always happy. Both Angie and I looked forward to seeing her at the pick-up window; but then, one day she stopped being there and no one told us where she went.

As I studied the menu at the sno-ball truck, I heard a familiar voice call out to us. It was Sarah. She was standing in the window grinning from ear to ear, just like always. As we stood there and chatted, Sarah told us about how she had quit the pharmacy to follow her dream of opening a food truck. She had even entered our city’s version of “Shark Tank” and won! Best of all – she accomplished all of this on the cheap, spending just $2,000 for her truck and $600 for equipment. As she talked so passionately about the benefits of being frugal, doing what you love, and having more time with family (she has 5 kids!), I suddenly saw what was missing from our own plan.

Commitment.

I have a dozen ideas a day and at least that many unfinished projects. I’ve been working on an e-course to help small non-profits train their volunteers to write effective grant proposals for more than a year now. I’ve dabbled at writing a book. I’ve toyed with making videos. I sew produce bags and make useful stuff out of our recycling. And Angie…don’t even get me started on her passion projects. She has a shed full of woodworking projects and I don’t know how many handcrafted hemp necklaces just sitting in a box in the closet. Plus, there’s the small fact that she’s an amazing cook and baker.

In short, we have an unlimited number of things to do with our time – a lot of which could produce an income, if we would just commit to seeing one (or more) of them through.

The happiest day of our week is always Saturday. Why? Because it’s the day that we get to hang out at the Farmer’s Market. Over the past few years, we’ve made friends with almost everyone there. We know their families, their pets, their goals, and in some cases, even their favorite (and not-so-favorite) foods. One of the things that Sarah stressed in her dialogue with us was making use of venues like the Farmer’s Market. It’s a super cheap and easy way to try out some of the ideas we have.

So…here’s the big reveal (thank you for waiting so patiently):

  • We signed another year’s lease on our apartment. No homestead or tiny house for us this year, but don’t rule it out for late 2020.
  • I’ve set a quit date for leaving my job in early 2020. Sorry, I can’t divulge the exact date yet just in case my new boss is reading this. (Hi, Linda!)
  • I’ve given myself a deadline to finish the e-course and created a plan to market it. I’ve also decided to keep my current freelance contracts and source at least 2-3 more. I do enjoy grant writing.
  • We are going to get a booth at our community’s Christmas Craft Show this year and try selling some of our handmade zero-waste products (produce bags, reusable trash can liners, pot scrubbies, etc) and Angie’s jewelry. Our niche will be that all of our zero-waste products are made from items that would have actually gone to waste – like clothing we find in the dumpster, cloth remnants from other crafters, stuff by the side of the road, etc.).
  • If the craft show is successful, we’re going to get a booth at the Farmer’s Market next year. We also have plans to sell a few types of produce that are easy for us to grow in our space and are missing from the market (like garlic) and maybe a baked good or two.
  • I also have ideas for chronicling our journey on this blog and our social media accounts. Which, by the way, if you aren’t following us on Instagram, you’re really missing out. 😊

Will we make the equivalent of $75/day from these activities? Who knows! It may turn out that working a “real job” was holding us back from earning a “real income”. That would be nice! But if not, we’re still going to be okay. Life is an adventure. You can either dream about what your life should look like or you can go out and live it.


PS – for anyone wondering how our fishing trip went, we didn’t catch one single trout! We did, however, come home with half a bushel of free apples and a quart of wild blackberries. You can read all about it here: Meandering Around Murphy (NC)

Life’s Better in the Garden

I had the greatest of intentions this week. I even spent 2 days working on what I hoped would be a really stellar post about our progress through the exercises in Tanja Hester’s book, Work Optional. Since finishing the book a few weeks back, we’ve been nothing but excited about the prospect of creating an even more fulfilling life than the one we already enjoy. We made all the lists, we drew our interlocking circles, and we came up with a mission statement for our work optional project, and, then it happened…

I was on our weekly “team meeting” conference call with the draft of my blog post in front of me. I felt like something still needed work but it was hard to pinpoint what it was. Yes, I was writing while conferencing. Anyone who has ever attended a remote meeting knows that these are the most boring parts of any job. So I say my part, then I tune out. The rest is just background noise to me anyway – the planning of events I will never attend by people I will never meet, in an office I haven’t stepped foot in in nearly 8 years.

Somewhere amid the drone of voices, I think it hit me. Angie and I had crafted the perfect work-optional “vision” but our actual plan to get there was as weak as my mom’s decaf coffee. I had given us a year to “figure things out” and “get better prepared” while still maintaining status quo at a job that stopped being fun a long time ago. Don’t get me wrong, I love my work. I just don’t like all the other stuff that comes with having a job. Every Tuesday I get off the phone and say the same thing – “I don’t know how much longer I can do this” and every Thursday, I get up and do it all again. Not anymore. We need a better plan.

So… I wadded up the draft of that other post and threw it in the trash. Maybe in a few weeks (when we return from our first-ever trout fishing trip), I’ll dazzle you with the pretty charts we made (a newly updated version of them, of course). Right now though, we need to rethink our strategy and give it some real teeth.

In the meantime, we’re going to take you to our happy place – the garden. Enjoy!

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