Sunday, March 22, 2009

A Different Kind of Farm

Out in Walton County where we live the land is zoned for agriculture. All around us are farms of one kind or another. Even the five acres where we built our home was once a farm. We knew it must have been, although it is now southern pine forest, and has been for many years. We suspected that our land was once farmland because of a series of terraces spanning from one end of our acreage to the other. We learned recently that this was once a cotton plantation, which explains the mystery terraces. One of our neighbors says that he can still find cotton plants on his property that are now growing wild.

From our house, one can see a hayfield that is mowed and baled several times during the summer, and across the road to the side of our place is a farm where black angus cattle are raised. We can hear peacocks crying at times during the day, although we don’t know for sure where the peacock farm is. Not far from us is a buffalo farm, and all around us are beautiful horse farms. During the summer, we also see vegetable farms everywhere. Goats are also popular, and several goat farms grace the countryside. A few miles down our road is a commercial nursery, with rows and rows of ornamental trees and shrubs. Yes, this is rural Georgia, and farms of all kinds abound.

One farm nearby puzzles me, however. I’m not sure about its purpose, and I’ve never seen much activity there. The herd seems to always be hanging around the long drive to the farmhouse, appearing to be fairly domesticated, and I never see any grazing out in the pasture. It is a porta-potty farm, and from the looks of it, it is a healthy operation. There is always a line of porta-potties along the driveway, and the herd changes size from time to time. I never see any baby porta-potties, however, and I’m not sure how the herd grows or sustains itself. Occasionally I witness a round-up, where porta-potties are loaded onto a flatbed truck and hauled away. But it isn’t long before the herd is back to its original size, and lately it appears to be growing.

They must not be very good to eat.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Settling In with At-Homeness

I woke up at 2:00 am again this morning, as I have done almost every morning since I've been without a job. However, this morning a cold sweat and anxiety attack didn't awaken me, but the noise of Kitty Rocky playing in the livingroom. I lay awake for a little while before drifting back to sleep, but I made a mental note that I wasn't harboring thoughts of panic about my jobless status and didn't begin creating scenarios in my mind of what the future will be like if I don't find a job soon.

I take this as a good sign. This week has been a very good one, and I have completely enjoyed my at-homeness. While I have been exploring opportunities and reviewing the DOL and other career websites, I haven't been obsessing over my job search. I've put out feelers in many directions, and have contacted several of my professional peers alerting them to my availability for employment. As a result, I even landed an interview yesterday and have started the ball rolling toward a potential consulting job with a second organization. The interview was most interesting. While I don't feel that I was the right person for the job, I hit it off well with the company owner, and it looks like he may have some special projects for me that can be done on contract. The groundwork is being laid and I feel confident that the right doors will open at the right time.

On the homefront, the week has been wonderful! My tomato and pepper seeds have sprouted, and my strawberry plants are healthy and beginning to bloom. I planted Bibb lettuce seeds in the garden, and will soon plant a second row. I can already taste my early summer salads! Diamond and I have enjoyed long walks, and Kitty Rocky is getting accustomed to my being at home and showing me a tad of feline affection. I have gotten back to my bread baking, and I have begun a granny-square afghan that I bought the yarn for months ago. Phil has work coming in, and he is also going to make some prototypes of the lazy susans he made for Christmas gifts for us to try our hand at selling online. We are brainstorming to try to find out-of-the-box ways to earn extra money, and we have hopes that our big garden will help out our grocery bill this summer. I have even lost two pounds - without thinking about dieting! I had an appointment with my oncologist this week, which resulted in a good report for my eight year anniversary.

My days now are most definitely different than they have ever been in my life. My collection of days has taken on a new dimension.

I like it.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Reinventing Jennie

Now that it’s been two weeks since I was laid off from my job, I have licked my wounds, done a little grieving, and I’m ready for the next chapter in my life. Phil’s words of wisdom are now speaking to me, “There can’t be an end without a beginning, and there can’t be a beginning without an end.” I am putting an ending behind me and beginning something new.

I spent a few days with some cousins in North Carolina this week, and they are encouraging me to re-invent myself. This sounds intriguing to me. One of the things that hit me after losing my job was that I was getting bored with a lot of what I was doing, which was no longer creative, but routine. I loved what I thought was the security of my job, and the steady paycheck was very nice. I also loved the subject matter of the information that I was classifying and cataloging for the online knowledge center, and it held my interest at peak as I went through the tasks at hand. I was also very proud of my “baby”, and nurtured it as if it were my own. The truth of it was- it wasn’t mine. The Knowledge Center and the information in it belong to the users- I was only the person who created it and made the information in it accessible. I’d do it again in a heartbeat if I had the chance, but if I don’t, then let’s reinvent Jennie and see what else she can do.

As I re-wrote my resume, and learned how to write a curriculum vitae, I realized that there is a lot of stuff that I know how to do, and have done very well in my professional career. One of my cousins noted that I have a valuable skill set, and I only need to find a way to market myself to those who are looking for someone like me. It was great being with this group of relatives this week, because not only did I receive the love and support of family, but I also benefitted from learning of their experiences and using them as sounding boards as we brainstormed about different directions I might take in my new beginning.

Brian is also encouraging me to get off my duff and see if I can get the book I wrote published. I’ve also begun writing a novel, and now that I have more time that I can call my own, he is nudging me to get back to it. He is my unofficial literary advisor, and I count on him to steer me in the right direction in this part of my life.

Whatever I do, I’m going to have to make a living, so my main concern is finding something that will help pay the bills. In the meantime, I’ll be collecting my weekly unemployment check with great gratitude, and focusing my energy on the reinvention of Jennie.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

A Tribute to Johnny

Today, March 1, is my brother, Johnny’s, birthday. I’m not sure how old he would be today, but I’m thinking that he would be 69. I never knew my brother- he died of pneumonia when I was ten months old- but I’ve always felt very close to him, and I give him all the credit for my appearance on this earth.

Johnny was a Downs Syndrome child- a Mongoloid- as I was told as a child. Johnny never knew his baby sister. When I think about the family dynamics in play at the time, in the 1940s, and the decisions my parents had to make about their handicapped son, I feel a deep pain in my heart for them and for my family. A decision had to be made about my special brother as he became school age. At that time, there were no public school programs or government assistance for special needs children and their families. It was even unacceptable for my parents to take Johnny out in public. But there was Gracewood, an institution in Georgia for the mentally retarded. This is where Johnny went to live. I am sure my parents’ hearts were torn to shreds with having to do this, but they had three healthy children at the time who needed their love and attention, and I’m sure Johnny and his needs were draining them physically and emotionally. I still remember my mother telling me stories about taking Johnny to Gracewood, and my brothers and sister have filled in some of the gaps for me in revealing to me what life was like for them as children with Johnny in their midst.

After Johnny left our home to live at Gracewood when he was seven years old, there was a void and sadness in our home, I’m sure. This was when my parents decided that another baby in the family might help fill the void and ease the pain. They also wanted my sister, Molly, who was a little over a year younger than Johnny, to have a normal baby sister or brother. This was when Mama became pregnant with me. I believe that it must have been a huge relief to them when I entered the world a healthy baby girl. I didn’t replace Johnny in the family, but I know that I must have brought joy into our home. And, when Johnny died during my first year, I'm sure the baby in the family was a comfort to my parents and siblings.

Many times over the years, I’ve wondered what my purpose in life is, and I’ve searched for meaning in my life. When I think about my brother, Johnny, I begin to see that my purpose was simply to be born, and I thank my special brother for the gift of my life.

Everything else in my life is a bonus.