Saturday, February 18, 2012

Making a Dream a Reality

"A dream is a wish your heart makes . . ."
from Cinderella by Walt Disney Pictures

It's easy to dream.  For years I dreamed about my dream house, on my dream farm, becoming fabulously wealthy from writing my dream books while being a genteel farmer. 
 I dreamed away my time in my suburban home until the children were away at college, we had a little extra money with both of us working, and so on.  But then, the time for dreaming became the time for planning, active planning, and reality began to reshape my dream.  I created my five-year plan:  in five years, we'd be living on the farm, and it would be self- (and us-) supporting.

I spent nearly a year looking for house plans we could afford, and both of us liked.  I was looking for a bungalow, but he wanted a Victorian farmhouse (no gingerbread, though).  We finally settled on a plan that was slightly smaller than our city house, but had room to expand.  This was, after all, going to be my "grandbaby" house!  Like many things, the house ended up 1.5 times as big as we expected (but we really love the finished upstairs playroom/guest room/craft room!), but (enter first reality check) with the attendant increase in mortgage.

We'd counted on the proceeds from our house in town to finance the startup costs on the farm, and reduce the mortgage principle sizably.  We put our house on the market about the time the stock (and housing) market cratered in 2008.  For nearly a year, we carried both notes until we were fortunate to sell the city house for a modest profit--but not enough to finance the farm, like we'd hoped.  Reality check number two.

Just about the time we actually moved to the farm, my husband's position was "right-sized" after 30 years with the company.  He was 50 at the time and, like many others, it took him over a year to find another position--with entry-level pay for expert-level responsibilities.  Reality check number three.  The dream began to lose its luster a bit.

We were able to buy a used tractor, a bushhog, tiller, and finish mower, but the thing we wanted, we did not have:  time.  Every day we drive an hour into the city for work.  During the winter, we leave before dawn and return after sunset.  Even with both incomes, things are tight.  And I'm behind on my five year plan:

  • I'd hoped to fence in a ten-acre pasture two years ago.  Not done.
  • I'd expected the vegetable garden to be a substantial contributor for the past two summers.  Hasn't happened.
  • I'd hoped to plant new trees in the hardwood stand at the back of the property.  No new trees yet.
  • I'd hoped to have a hoop house for winter plants.  Still no hoop house.
  • I'd hoped to put the remaining land in vegetables.  Still fallow.
I'm behind.  The plan isn't working.  My dream is fading away.

And that's good, because a dream is a wish--but just a wish.

I want a life--and that takes work.

So, I have a new plan (no time frame attached):

  • Write.  (See, I'm doing it now!)  Take time to hone my craft.  Most of all, write, write, write.  Then submit.  If I'm never published, who cares?  The writing is what feeds my soul.
  • Work in town for a while longer to bankroll the farm.  I still need a fence.  I still want a hoop house.  I want to pay down the mortgage as quickly as possible.  Until the cash flow of the farm improves . . .
  • Keep working on the vegetable garden.  It's improved every year; keep it up!  While I did not produce enough to sell last year, I did produce enough to share, and people are already asking what I'll be growing this year!  And I'm thinking about taking the master gardener class in the fall.
  • Develop multiple income streams:  this past year we earned money from my husband's jewelry designs, my Watkins sales, and the products of my inherited knitting machine!  It finally occurred to me that my parents' generation was the only one who relied solely on their "jobs" for income.  My grandparents, who raised families during the Great Depression, expected to have multiple sources of income.  Why didn't I realize that sooner?  Could that be a strategy for surviving the Great Recession?
  • Take pride in moving forward (even slightly) in a recession that has crushed the dreams of many others.
  • Stop and smell the roses.  Actually, I need to stop and trim the roses because they are creeping dangerously close to the front door!
  • Live today.  I've always been a person with a plan.  I always have to be moving toward something.  At times, however, I've been so focused on the future, that I neglect the present.  That's all we're promised and I cannot waste it wishing for tomorrow.
So, there.  My dream may be fading, but my life is just beginning.  And I'm ready to get to work!

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