Saturday, September 22, 2012

Willing to work for food

There are many nice things about living in Oregon and one of them begins to happen this time of the year and is welcomed for those who work for food.  It's what brings us the long winter and the short growing season: rain.

The end of the growing season prompts a fire drill every year as summer turns into fall.  Hours spent harvesting, cleaning, preserving and storing for the winter months leaves us with a lot less energy than we started with. 

Four cords of wood sit waiting to be stacked and everywhere we look, we see work.  The three hours we spent coring, peeling and cutting up apples for drying this past week will be a nice snack this winter while sitting in front of a warm fire with a cup of tea.

All the effort we put forth to secure what sustains us helps to make life easier especially in the winter when the power goes out and food is just a jar away.  Most items we grow cost the same amount of work for us year after year as long as we're both healthy enough to work for it.  Compared to the prices at the grocery store, our costs are little for the wholesome food we get. 

We even made a little money to add to our coffer this harvest when an ad on Craigslist solicited a phone call within 30 minutes of posting our surplus garlic.  We were hoping to barter for storage onions and/or potatoes but selling it paid for our seeds this season and hopefully next year we won’t have to buy as many as I’ve been saving what I can. 

One of the tables we normally eat at is covered with bowls of seeds and beautifully colored drying beans as well as bright orange Calendula blossoms that will be infused in oil when they dry.

Tiger Eye Beans
You’ll always find gallon size jugs of Kombucha brewing on the kitchen counters but now they keep company with other glass jars appearing as science experiments gone bad. 

Lovely jars with red colored floating masses in them are labeled with the names Hillbilly Potato, Hungarian Heart and Brandywine, (stayed tune as next week the names will change). 

Anyone that knows us and ventures to visit this time of the year will walk from room to room smelling a six course dinner ranging from kraut and tomato sauce to dried apples and strawberries while the sourdough bread is baking in the oven.
Three Brandywine of the same vine

The smells never let us forget the amount of work we’ve done or the rewards of growing most of what we eat and being able to go to the window to see where it comes from.

Filderkraut Cabbage
Looking down at the main garden below I watch as our Ancona ducks pace back and forth with babies in tow waiting for the day they’ll be free to roam beyond the fenced area where we contain them for the growing season. 

I’m sure they can feel the slime of snails go down as they dream of banana slugs that they eat bit by bit, though I haven’t seen many of these creatures yet this year in the garden.

The babies were born the end of August and are suited up in their uniforms of yellow, black and brown; even their feet are striped. 
Mama with her babies
Early on they managed to escape through the field fencing with mama following, squeezing through.  They quickly found the low hanging fruit.  We scurried down to the garden and discovered mama with a red chest thinking she had cut herself on the fence, but instead she was enjoying the medicinal qualities of the elderberries.  They have to be the healthiest ducks as we supplement their foraging with shredded zucchini, tomato pulp from the juicer and apple peels.

The chickens too have been caught in the compost like dumpster divers digging for treats.  They are so fussy this time of year and can afford to turn their beaks up to anything that isn't sweet.

Sweet to me will be the sound of rain falling outside as I'm curled up inside with a good book on a soft sofa or a nice chair behind a spinning wheel where the feel of fleece will pass through my fingers before I get the pleasure of feeling it’s warmth as it covers me.

Before then the oak leaves need to be raked, as they will serve as blankets to the blueberries that were picked so long ago.  I remember the enthusiasm I started with at the beginning of the season compared to the way I feel now and it serves as a measure of how willing I am to work for food.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Believers

Marshmallow in bloom
Was thinking as I worked in the garden watering the Marshmallow and admiring its first bloom.  Why is it that many of the climate change deniers in our country believe in some form of organized religion and probably God?  Some of the older folks we know have always worked hard, been responsible and believed in the American dream…retirement.  When the subject of climate change, economic “downturn” (what a joke) and mostly anything to do with the collapse of our current system, they only respond with “it’s a shame we can’t do anything about it”.  Fact is they truly believe that there isn’t a damn thing to be done so they go on living the same way hoping for different results.

Us, on the other hand do not believe in any form of organized religion but believe in humans.  Wow, did I just say that?  What’s up with that?  How can we believe that people are capable of doing something different when we don’t have many personal examples to choose from?  Instead we part ways with family and friends disagreeing about many things including our negativity (as they call it) and who will be the next president (as if that makes a difference), I know hope is on the way.  Have to admit though, I did buy into the Clinton’s when Billy Bob won, remember that song?  Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow, it will soon be here, yesterday’s gone.  Yep, sure is.
Hopefully Fleetwood Mac made money on that, at least someone other than the Clinton's.

It’s fun, as George Carlin would say to ponder thoughts such as: I wonder if things would have been different had John, Bobby and Martin lived?  Hell throw in Gandhi, John Lennon and for that matter how about Jesus?  I certainly would have more faith and belief if these were some of the people in charge today.  How about you? 

We’ve had some say that it’s just our destination to destroy and die, but what if we’re reborn?  Just a thought, it’s fun to do this.  What if we have to get it right or go to hell?  If we stick around long enough we won’t even have to leave to get there. 

Seriously though, why can’t people look at the Vandana Shiva’s of the world or Arundhati Roy’s?  Now there are two women that will put a spark to a burned out fire.  How would they handle Monsanto?  Or even Coca-Cola for that matter.  How about Vandana Shiva as the Chief of Agriculture or maybe John Perkins as the head of Homeland Security or The Ambassador to the United Nations?

I’m sure there are many others who believe as we do; that humans are capable of changing.  Call me a namedropper, but another favorite of mine, Daniel Quinn.  Ever read “If they give you lined paper, write sideways”?  Hope you didn’t stop at Ishmael, there is much more to being an anthropologist, it’s fun too.
In Living Color

Sarcasm is good for the soul, it helps to poke fun at ridiculous things and laugh while you’re doing it.  Have to continue to laugh or at least smile.  See, doesn’t it feel great?

So I wonder what it is with these people not thinking that we may be able to “turn the table” (another thing Daniel Quinn likes to do)?  I wonder if they’ve ever read, “Snakes in Suits”?  A great read about psychopaths and their behavior.  Connect the dots; the picture is great even without the 3D glasses.
Not many want to believe some of the best ones are in charge.  Who wants to believe that we have psychopaths running things?  Kind of scary, huh?  I’d rather be controlled by aliens; at least it would be like boarding a ride at Disneyworld.  Weeeee… what a trip!  Better than this one, I guarantee you.

I find it strange that we tried building community for over eight years and we still believe that humans are capable of playing a different game.  Ask for a re-deal, they’re cheating. 

Even friends of ours, yes we do have a few tell us we’re crazy to think people can share living arrangements and resources.  They laugh when we tell them that generally speaking (though that’s stretching it) that people are lazy, they lack motivation and belief.  OMG, there’s that word again, “belief”, maybe we need to reexamine what we do believe in.  There’s many to choose from let’s see, the tooth fairy, the Easter bunny, (is that with a capital E?).  I think the “guy” in V is for Vendetta is a believable character and the mask was a cool idea.

How could so many buy into the propaganda (lies)?  Seriously, how could they?

How many of you remember Clove gum?  How did we get from Clove to Juicy Fruit, I want to know.  I loved Juicy Fruit.  The bright yellow packet made me “believe” it was packed full of sun ripened fruit, really?  I’m sure glad I gave up the gum habit years ago. For a long time though I was on the “sugarless” kick, it was great never mind the phenylalanine and aspartame.
Seeing is believing

So many things we can all believe in and we do.  I believe that we can grow food here as we’ve done so over and over again but it doesn’t mean that it will happen all the time.   

The last couple of summers here in the PNW have been non-existent.   Seems like we have two seasons either spring and winter or spring and fall.  This year if we see the sun it’s usually 2 in the afternoon or later.  The Weather Channel says the high temps are 80 degrees or more but if the sun doesn’t come out until 2 or later and the high temp isn’t reached before 4, then the moisture we wake up with takes longer to dissolve creating the perfect environment for mold.  Believe me, we know, as we’ve already had to pull tomato plants up.  Our beliefs in growing food lessen and we begin to see the dependencies we have on many things including light and sun. 
Oh well, if I don’t believe I’ll wake up in the morning, maybe I'll just stay awake and when the sun comes up, I’ll believe I’m here to welcome a new day.  Isn't it fun to believe in what happens.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Bringing Home the Honey

During one of my weekly visits to town and while reading to sleep a hospice patient, my husband was running around the property here at home frantically trying to capture a swarm of bees.  Funny how I told him that morning it’s not fair that I have to go to town every time and we should share the abuse, but in his determined way he stated, “no, I have too much to do”.  Even my attempt to do the weeding didn’t prevail and good thing it didn’t.  Had he not been here, I don’t believe I would of made the catch alone.  I probably would of been so involved in the moment that they would of disappeared as quickly as they appeared.

I looked out on the deck to see if I could see him in the garden below and noticed his bee hat and winter gloves sitting on a table on the deck.  I  proceeded to unpack the car and put the groceries away thinking it was a good possibility we had bees again.   

When he approached the back door, all I could see was his sparkling blue eyes and his white teeth.  It’s been a long time since I saw him smile like that, I knew then he had caught a swarm. 

The excitement he expressed was contagious as he proceeded to tell me how he had never seen anything like it.  He said it appeared like a string of dots about 6 feet from the soil stretching almost the entire width of the garden and the sound was deafening.

He worked quickly by himself and noticed that 5 feet separated 2 good size elongated shapes in the Dappled Willow that borders the one side of the garden.  By the time he ran up from the garden to gather a wooden box there was only one swarm left and it hung on a branch that he clipped into the box which he quickly covered with a screen.  Later he lifted the box into the garden cart and left them to settle down overnight.

Our good friend who has more beekeeping knowledge than us showed up bright and early the next morning (good friends like this are hard to find) and they were able to transfer them into our Top Bar hive where they now reside happily building comb and hopefully before long…brood.  It’s good to have them close again as they are so entertaining to watch, hence the name, "busybee".  Occasionally you’ll see the pollen attached to their bodies before they enter the hive and I always wonder what flavor the honey will be. 

Transferring the swarm

Nice Catch
I remember when we purchased our first 3 lb box of Italian bees from the Glorybee Factory Retail Store in Eugene in April 2011.  The workers all wore tee shirts that stated, "I work for the Queen."   We fed them for a short while until they became busy and were able to bring in their own food.  The hive was healthy and quite large before winter and we never took any honey from it.  We lifted it on one side to make sure it was heavy and never thought we would have to feed them again.  By the time we checked they had all starved and I picked bodies out of the comb one by one with tweezers.  It was heartbreaking but the pain was ours to bear as even the sad lessons in life need to be felt. 

My husband blamed himself for quite some time knowing that he starved them, and we didn’t talk much about it until the time came again for purchasing.   

We started seeing ads for swarm removal and my husband and friend kept their eyes open for anything they could possibly catch.  We decided that we didn’t want to purchase bees from California when we could capture a swarm on our own property or nearby.  We contacted everyone we could to keep his or her eyes and ears open.   

It makes it so much sweeter not to have to purchase bees with something so unnatural as money, especially when nature allows us another opportunity to learn from our mistakes.  Once again the smell of honey surrounds the homestead and the bees are in the clover, how sweet it is.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Three E's of Community Living

I think Chris Martenson did a great job with the Three E’s (Economy, Energy, and Environment) in his DVD, Crash Course, and it made me think of words to describe what is needed in community living.

Enthusiasm is a great word that not only describes what is welcomed but needed as we all get burned out from what sometimes seems like “Groundhog Day.”  I think enthusiasm is a word that makes one smile and when shared is contagious.  I certainly don’t enjoy being around those who are mostly miserable and complain when work needs to be done.  Enthusiasm is the spark that keeps the motor going when you sometimes feel like stalling.  It’s the bounce in the step that never trips us and keeps us moving in the direction we need to go.

I witnessed this a few months ago when my husband and I visited a cohousing development in Corvallis, Oregon (  While enrolled in a computer class at the community college in Eugene, my teacher announced that he lived in a cohousing development (sometimes we cohorts find each other in the most unusual places).  During a break I introduced myself telling him our story and he invited us to attend Coho's Open House/Tour that was soon coming up and we accepted graciously. 

It was our first visit to a cohousing development and we thought it might be advantageous to show up early to help with their work party, and in return we were invited to stay for lunch which was a plethora of good food including Sunflower sprouts from their garden and homemade juice. 

Our enthusiasm was well received as we dove into a different kind of work building a bark mulch trail off the main path.  It was great to accomplish something with people whom we just met and it wasn’t long before our enthusiasm sparked conversations of sharing and caring for each other. 

Generally speaking when one talks about having enthusiasm, it’s usually backed up with energy in order to accomplish the task at hand.  Whether it’s reaching consensus or shoveling manure, energy fits hand in glove with enthusiasm and not much work gets done without it. 

It’s especially hard sometimes to have the energy needed to move forward when we know the odds are against us.  As we’ve said before, living in denial of collapse is much easier than facing the fact that we are losing ground, literally as well as figuratively.  It’s like going to work every day and wondering if you’ll get a paycheck at the end of the week, month or season. 

Efficient is the third E and hopefully the end result after using our enthusiasm and energy in the most productive and least wasteful way.  Learning what is the most efficient way of doing things can take a long time so bringing together people who share different fields of knowledge will help in shortening the time that we’re running out of.

I’m sure most members of shared living/cohousing would agree that these three E’s are very important in the success of community living, and would welcome those who have these traits.

Again this weekend I felt the Energy and Enthusiasm that was shared by our small micro community knowing we could kick ass when the sun shined.  Our daughter and partner came over to help and it was refreshing for us to see these two E’s in someone other then ourselves.  Our daughter even noticed how good it made her feel to see the before and after of what we did together.

Because of the unusual amount of rain we’re having late into the season, the hand weeding hasn’t been completed and the ground is too wet to plant leaving us behind in our growing season, which is already short to begin with.
Winter Storm March 2012
While us girls weeded, cooked and cleaned the boys roofed the upper part of the barn and placed our new duck house in the garden.

Though we were all very tired by the end of the day rubbing our muscles with arnica and comfrey oil, we still managed to share pleasant conversation while enjoying a good meal together and the next morning we stood above the garden and below the roof of the barn admiring the work that got done.

Nasturtium in the greenhouse 2012
I haven’t enjoyed something so much as watching our granddaughter exploring nature in the garden.  At one point she sat by our garden gate facing the sun in a Buddha like position and we wondered if she had eaten some medicinal herbs.  Each morning when she woke, she grabbed her boots and headed for the door.  It’s great to remember the enthusiasm and energy we all had in our youth and for her we need to keep it going.

I watched as she followed the ducks, dug in the soil and picked dandelions that she later gave to Nana.  She watched Nature on a big screen that was better than 3D. 

I hope to always have a bit of enthusiasm and energy to share with others and I hope I can depend on others when I need it.  If you’re ever looking to share your living space with others, think about the three E’s, Enthusiasm, Energy and Efficiency, they make a big difference.

We recently launched our new website and appreciate all the hard work that went into the professional job well done by our latest community member.  We’re happy to announce it here:

Friday, March 2, 2012

What needs to be felt

Emotional waves leaning like grain in the breeze bending to the pressure, I beckon my strength to stand tall and face the challenge of shortsightedness.  Being called “judgmental” no longer hurts as it once did.  I know I’m not always right but I also know that some things are just wrong and the many documentaries proving fact over fiction are out there if you care to watch them.

Have you ever watched something that inflicted immediate changes to your body, such as hearing your own heartbeat?  Have you ever thought about where your tears come from, and how you manage to swallow when the lump in your throat is so big?  All of this and more I felt while watching Michael Ruppert’s documentary, Collapse.

Maybe it’s the timing as I’m pulled towards the force of the full moon or maybe it’s the fact that another of my hospice patients passed recently and I long for more reading time with her, though I don’t know what she heard.  I know I find myself contemplating death more these days, though I seldom think of others dying as even hospice is about living and making the most of your time here on earth.
Last night and even now while typing this, I tap my foot to the rhythm of my heart nervously waiting for this too, to pass.  I hear the words again about the Titanic and remember how we got started building our lifeboat and how every day we attempt to find ways to accommodate others who haven’t started building theirs yet.

I remember when the blockbuster Avatar came out and how some saw it more than once because they said, “it moved them.”  I wondered if a Hollywood blockbuster could wake people up enough for them to feel something that would allow them to take action towards doing something good for Mother Earth and all her inhabitants.  It would be interesting to know if anyone did one thing differently after seeing it. 
Many sit motionless watching on the big screen the demise of their home yet move with little force to change their own behavior.  Only when we allow ourselves to feel something that is so wrong can we push ahead to act in favor of change. 

Seeing Michael Ruppert speak in 2005 and now seeing him in the documentary Collapse makes me hurt to think I can do little more than what I’m already doing.  The anger and intensity that I once heard in Ruppert’s voice has changed to heartbreak and dismiss.  As he is seen smoking cigarette after cigarette in the documentary, I can relate to his dismay and I feel anxious anticipating the outcome of collapse.

Here in my region, I watch Oregon Duck fans drive around in oversized SUV’s with green and yellow flags clinging onto both sides of the vehicle and I begin to imagine another parade… how many more before we realize those ducks will never offer us what real ducks can.  I watch my Ancona ducks as they inch their way alongside of me eating worms while I weed.  I’m flooded with thoughts of pink flamingo’s perched in my parents backyard by the birdbath and I laugh out loud at the silliness though silently I cry.

What a bill of goods we’ve been sold and some keep buying more searching for that happiness that comes quickly at a moments notice and last for seconds longer. 

Until my heart stops beating, I’ll continue to hear it’s beat and take time to feel what needs to be healed.  There are some of us who appreciate what Ruppert and others have conveyed and are living differently because of it. 

Thank you Michael and all who have tried to make us feel what we need to in order for us to change the way we live.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Off the sidelines and in the game: peak oil preparedness

My husband wrote this essay that appeared on in 2008.  We think it serves as good reminder to those preparing.  While many still remain stuck and in denial, valuable time is wasting away.
When we embarked on this journey six years ago, I never would have believed how difficult it has been to network with people considering the amount of resources we have to work with. We have tried for the last five years to work with people in our community, well over 100 and the list is growing.

When we talk to people about peak oil/peak resources, climate and ecosystems collapsing, collapse of the financial system and our infrastructure, we find people think we’re nuts. Some are aware of these things, but they’re not concerned because they think they won’t be around to see it happen. Others know it but just won’t do anything and are too lazy, and then there are those who are in it for the money (capitalism with a smile).

It is strange to me if I was to preach hatred and bigotry I would be a valuable commodity and have people flocking to my doorstep. However, offering people a chance to live self sufficiently, responsibly, peacefully in a sustainable manner is more difficult to accomplish. The latter requires hard, physical work -- something most people don't know how to do.

Even though we expected this to be our last move, now after retirement at ages 52 and 50, we are once again thinking the unimaginable, relocating. We know that with our skills and dedication we would be a welcomed addition to someone who is trying to accomplish what we have failed to do. We must begin to build avenues to connect people with certain skills and assets; trying to educate people is not enough. Like the documentary Power of Community states, what happened in Cuba in the ‘90s was not so much technological change as it was human. Sharing responsibilities and costs will be very important in our future, as well as utilizing our resources wisely.

We have not been farmers all of our lives; we are somewhat new to this. Our lives have been nothing like the stereotypical American way. We were married at the ages of 21 and 19, not out of necessity, just young and in love. We had our two daughters five years later, and our roles have been reversed most of the time. I was “Mister Mom.” We lived on one meager income because childcare in this country is deplorable. It was our responsibility and no one else's to raise our children.

While at home I grew some of our food, did fundraising for kids activities and field trips at school, volunteered in the classrooms as well as coaching boys and girls basketball and girls soccer. Because of living on one income, I learned to barter with men 25-30 years my senior in Rogue River, Oregon where we lived at the time. One example: I roofed and painted my friend’s house and he and I built a 20’ by 24’ recreation room from start to finish. No money changed hands, just good times and friendship.

Up until six years ago, most of my life I was what one would consider a “Jock.” I loved sports, mostly hockey, football and basketball. I knew all of the stats and trades, I watched for over 40 years of how championships were won. I saw many types of styles and philosophies of play come and go. They were always in the context that you are only as strong as your weakest link. The teams' success depended on each individual player giving his or her maximum effort, and no one player regardless of how great can win by him/herself.

After 911 something changed in me and I gave up my addiction to sports. In the past seven years I have read hundreds of books by authors such as Vandana Shiva, David Korten, Arundhati Roy, Kevin Phillips, Michael Ruppert, Eckhart Tolle, George Monbiot, James Lovelock, Richard Heinberg, Matthew Simmons, James Howard Kunstler, Wendell Barry, Barbara Kingsolver, Howard Zinn, Daniel Quinn and Kurt Vonnegut.

I realize now that we were lied to. As George Carlin said, they call it the American Dream because you have to be asleep to believe it. All this and more caused me to take direct action.

We downsized to one car, paid off our mortgage, turned off the “idiot box,” installed an indoor clothes dryer (made by a local artisan that works with iron), and our garden that started out for fun and food became much more of a purpose and a way of life. We have hauled in tons of manure and organic compost to build up the soil creating a working system based on raised beds, crop rotation and cover cropping. We now have fifty 4’ x 26’ raised beds and a 10’ x 15’ greenhouse allowing us to do starts and grow more than enough food for three or four families, plus rows of berries as well as fruit trees. Currently we grow and process 60% of our food.

We knew all along that we would never be able to learn everything that was needed as well as do all the work ourselves. That’s why we have tried to partner up or find other like-minded people to begin together the hard work ahead of us.

I remember Richard Heinberg saying that some figured there was 1% of the population who was woken up and they had hoped to wake up to 5%. He also stated that we needed 50 million farmers for the long slog ahead.

I feel blessed that my wife of 31 years and I are on the same page. We had always planned to work together after her retirement knowing that we needed to have some income. We enjoy being around each other. We believe that in this day and age when people are losing their homes, in debt, bankrupt and pensions disappearing, we can and should be able to find partners that are hard working, in good health and have some valuable skills/resources that would help us become a complete team together. There is so much to learn and adjust to, as climate change alone is already affecting the way we grow food in Oregon.

Last year at this time, I processed well over 500 lbs of tomatoes, drying and canning. As I sit and write on this Labor Day, I have not canned one quart of tomatoes -- not many in the area to be found. This is one of the main staples in our diet.

We would like to have partners living on the property that can help make this work into a functioning way of living, saving resources and growing food for five or six families. We would also like to incorporate livestock, and renewable energy. But attracting willing partners has been most difficult, to the point that we despair and might move away. Neither of us wants to leave what we have built thus far, but if we can't find others who can help, then maybe it's time for a different arena with some new players who wants this team.

As life as we know it begins to collapse, we need a prototype system that can be easily duplicated to show others how to grow, process and store food. People will begin to act irrationally when they or their families have little to no food, so I would like to give them a choice on how to feed themselves without the violence.

In all of my years of watching and playing sports, I have never felt the sheer joy and fulfillment that I do while working in the garden. Watching a butterfly as it lands on me or feeling a hummingbird zing past my ear. The great wins I chalk up now in the CHAMPIONSHIP column are at the end of fall when cupboards are jammed to capacity, standing room only with filled canning jars, the garage walls draped with garlic and onions, and the freezer stuffed full with berries and nuts. What a SWEET VICTORY! It is time for us all to give up our additions, and live the life we were meant to live.

I have no illusions about saving the world. I would just like to be able to have a chance of living in peace and sharing before Mother Nature kicks our ass.
- - - - -
Ideas to ponder
Connecting people that have different assets:
1) Resumé Bank of people's assets, skills, knowledge and ideas.
2) Such as:
- Land, money, water, resources
With people that don't have this but have technical knowledge
- Such as:
Knowledge on farming, solar, sustainable building
3) People moving from one area of the country/state
- Such as:
A person moving from metropolitan area wanting to relocate to an area that's more sustainable, trading work for his or her stay.
4) Sharing tools/resources
5) Sharing skills such as:
- Preserving of food, cooking, sewing, repairs (home), survival skills
1) Such as:
- Someone with money that they would like to get out of the stock market/retirement funds and invest in local businesses, someone starting a business, solar energy, alternative energy and farming and manufacturing.
2) People with money who want to set up old style mercantile involving local farms and artisans for manufactured goods, clothing, etc.
3) Advising people on how best to utilize their land/resources.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

On the Same Page, For Better or Worse

Recently my husband and I celebrated our 34th wedding anniversary and realized how important it is to be on the same page or at least in the same book.

The first chapter in our lives happened as we met at the youthful ages of 18 and 20.  Smitten at first sight, we spent every moment we could together and within nine months we married.

We realized then that some thought we would present a baby shortly after wedlock but the responsibility that both of us learned at an even younger age cut short the idea of presenting a child to the world while we were still growing ourselves.

Married at 19 and 21 and still “in love” today, we both feel we have much to offer in the marriage counseling field though neither of us hold a degree.  Our relationship has not existed without the bump n grind of daily living. 

We are different people and we usually like it that way.  Like strong characters in a good book, we rely on our differences to make the story interesting.  Together we tackle conflict and advance the plot.

Today couples are finding out how strong their relationships are as they struggle to hold onto their money driven lives while watching their resources dwindle. Most of us resist forming a new path when the road we’re on is already paved for us.  We depend on others to make life easy for us instead of challenging ourselves to find another way. 

We learned early to pick and choose what we depended on and little of it was controlled by others than ourselves.  This made it easier for us to back further out of the system that is so dependent on growth.

Growing stronger together is still our greatest strength.  The gaps between paragraphs in our book get closer as we focus on the necessity of the subject and how important it is in our daily lives.

We choose not to dwell on the story as much as the lessons to be learned.  Over the years our arguments are few and disagreements vanish as we listen carefully to each other and to reason which we both offer just not necessarily on the same subjects.

Sometimes we teach each other new dance steps and together we tango at times supporting each other through the falls.  I often ask myself what signifies a “ soul mate”, though neither of us look to be an example of what real love is; the compliments we’ve been given sometimes shock us both and I find myself blushing like the young bride all over again.

The young girl who was concentrating on what I wanted to be when I grew up embraced the idea that my life would never be the same as I now shared it with someone else.  Even as difficult as it was at times, knowing how much of my youth I was losing, I now know that I gained so much more.

Facing a life of uncertainty can feed anxiety and fuel denial and we need to find others who will understand our angst and listen to us as we express our worries and fear.  Once we accept that our future will be different, we can begin to overcome these by learning that we’re not the only ones concerned. 

I sometimes go to sleep wondering what I may wake up to but I realize that my mind is working overtime and think about what I can do with what I know not what I can’t do with what I don’t know.

The New Year brings us entertainment in the form of bowl games as millions of dollars are spent on supporting events that advance athletes to their next destination, one with roses.  I don’t question our ability to coach others and I wonder what could be accomplished together in our quest to help others understand the game they're playing.

Unlike other games, there are no trophies to be won or bill boards to light us up.  Ours is not a game on paper drawn out in play actions, ours is a life well written in a non-fiction book and even though we’re different characters, we usually appear on the same page for better or worse.