My mother raised three girls all by herself. Even when our father was a small part of our lives, he was a chronic alcoholic military man who was seldom home and when he was, he was not available; that’s being kind.
She did a wonderful job, sacrificing everything for us. She worked at the military base, about 5 miles from our house. The three of us were about a year and a half apart in ages, give or take. I was in the middle. We lived in this little “cracker box house”, (our mother called it) from the time I was about 5 until I was 13 and then we moved up to a much larger, ‘farmhouse’ on the main street where people of better means owned homes. We rented. There was a lot of land around it that had been a farm and most of it had long been sold off, but we just rented the house. It had been vacant for years, but somehow it became available and our mother lived in it until the day she died, about 30 years. She loved it; it was her American dream come true.
Whenever I go through California, I always make sure to visit certain old stomping grounds and home. This image was from a trip I made about 5 years ago. The house used to be white with yellow trim.
We thought we had moved into a mansion. It was so much bigger than our little cracker box and had so many more amenities; forced air heating, a basement, two big bedrooms, lot and lots of cupboards and closets, a laundry room, breakfast nook, a real dining room, and a detached two car garage. It came furnished with antiques. It had a fireplace too, but our mother would never use it.
When I finally was able to buy my own home, it was a two-story with a fireplace, which was definitely used. The thinking of the time was to buy as big as one could afford. It really did feel like living in a mansion, especially rambling around mostly by myself. It had 4 bedrooms, a family room, living room, 2 1/2 baths and plenty of planting opportunities.
I started immediately, tearing things apart. The big ball in the middle of the front yard was a massive olive tree that had been groomed with pom poms that were completely unmanageable, so I cut it down to a stump and let it grow out until it could be groomed into this ball.
Working at Home Depot at the time, originally as their “Design Homer” (store-wide decorating consultant for customers) and eventually in the hardware and garden departments (when I finally got fed up enough with the abuses), every extra dollar was spent on plants and tools so that I could become as independent as possible.
The neighbor behind the ball and to the left was an extended family who had every available piece of their property, including the sloped parkway you can see, planted in food bearing things. I was in awe and wanted to someday accomplish the same. It was my first encounter with permaculture/food forest thinking. The other three neighbors, the one directly in front of me and the ones on either side of me were unfriendly to all of my endeavors. This was a little bit of an upper-crusty area and they all seemed to think that they lived in Beverly Hills. They were inclined to call the City to complain whenever I had garden amendments sitting in the driveway longer than they wanted them to be.
When I went back that same time I visited my mother’s house, the new owners had taken out everything tall, green and long-lived and put in sod; including an avocado tree, a giant fig tree, many many drought tolerant shrubs, 20 year old tall, tall wax leaf privet shrubs lining the biggest part of three sides, a beautiful Jacaranda tree and so on. They tried to groom the stump back into pom poms. I guess what they all wanted was to be able to have the local ‘landscaper’ come do all their homes on the same day and for it to just be blowing and mowing.
That house set me free, in more ways than one. It was a great investment. I managed to live there for six years, 3 of which were unemployed. It freed me in my thinking and gave me a platform from which to launch my entrepreneurial tendencies.
I was clever enough to get out just far enough ahead of the bubble bursting, but a little sooner than I might should have; but you do what you have to do.
That house was The American Dream realized for me, but I had to leave it.
It’s very hard to know what is to come with the changing of the guards of this once thought of as great, America. I have an optimistic attitude in spite of a worrying nature; I can always, always see a light at the end of the tunnel. I think it is the worrying nature that bodes well for that as it forces me to analyze continually and in so doing, I really am forming a bigger picture and not a narrow perspective. There is always hope in a bigger picture.
That’s not to say that the worrying doesn’t take its tole on my body and soul. But thanks to Gavin and Stacey and Elf the movie I can escape into oblivion every once in awhile.
And, kind of like Goldilocks, I’m finally where everything is “just right”; a house that is a good size for me and my fur family, enough land around it to plant food, neighbors who support my endeavors, a City that doesn’t complain and even lets me work from my home doing sewing for the community, and amenities close enough to walk to.
Even with the challenges of home ownership, it’s all worth it. Lately, I’ve had to finally resolve a long standing plumbing issue and it’s all unfolding nicely, just like things always do. It has made me realize more of what it means to practice #VoluntaryRadicalSimplicity, thinking more wisely about water and waste processing, how important human relationships are and the value of living in the moment.
The City workers were great to help me and recommended the young man who will be solving my plumbing troubles.
I make a habit of not spending change, but rather putting it away for a ‘rainy day’. It has saved me many a time. This time it turns out to be almost exactly what I need to get this plumbing job taken care of. Intelligent design.
This ‘trouble’ has also made me remember that I have a great deal more sway over how my life turns out than sometimes I believe I do. Several years ago when I was still trying to create income, I returned to my training as a decorator/designer and placed an ad to work on Craigslist. It resulted in doing work for a wonderful lady whom I referred to later as The Star Client in a post I wrote about the experience.
When this plumbing trouble arrived, I realized that I still have that to depend on and that nothing is ever as gloomy as it appears. I placed the ad again.
Being a worrier by nature, but also having an optimistic bent, I am listening to everything about these new changes in our world with renewed intensity and am going to choose to believe that as bad as it seems, we really do have a lot more control over things than we might think and it can end up having a beneficial effect.
One thing is for sure, I think it has caused a huge ripple that is forcing more of us to wake up and we are definitely talking about things in a more meaningful way.
That can’t be bad.
If you haven’t seen Gavin and Stacey, I recommend you check out the series from the library and watch it from the start. It’s hilarious and all about people finding a way to get along, in spite of, or even because of, all of their very obvious differences. You may think you need captions at first. It seems that they are speaking a foreign language. You’ll get in the hang of it if you stick with it.
“Oh, what’s occurin?”
That’s Welsh for “Hey, what’s up?”