Personal Update: The Mess & Magic Of The Middle

“Day two, or whatever that middle space is for your own process, is when you’re ‘in the dark’ – the door has closed behind you. You’re too far in to turn around and not close enough to the end to see the light…the shine of a new undertaking and the sparkle of possibility have dulled, leaving behind a dense fog or uncertainty…Experience doesn’t create even a single spark of light in the darkness of the middle space. It only instills in you a little bit of faith in your ability to navigate the dark. The middle is messy, but it’s also where the magic happens.” – Brene Brown, Rising Strong

Those of you who have followed our roadschooling journey might remember that we have decided to stay stationary for a season to focus on saving, and build a tiny homestead. We want to establish a “home base” for the kids that allows us to grow roots and foster self-sufficiency, all while living well below our means so we can make travel a regular part of our lives. Our goal is to build on a budget of $70,000 or less, and since we have chosen an area with low land costs and few (if any) building restrictions, we believe this is very achievable.

The dream is a good one. But it requires patience.

For now, we are living in our paid-for 5th wheel so we can powersave. Unconventional? Yes. But we love our home-on-wheels, and are in no way uncomfortable. 

Here’s the thing. Being “in-between dreams” is making me a little squirrelly at the moment. I want to DO things, SEE things and EXPERIENCE things. I want to either marvel at mountains, or watch the walls of my house being erected. The monotony of life in the middle is causing impatience and frustration to seep out of my every pore. Just let me be immersed in something exciting, instead of this daily rat-on-a-wheel, same ole, same ole! Anybody else?

And while I profess to be a minimalist, during this season of insipid, colorless days, I confess there are times when I fantasize about going to the mall and throwing our savings around until my eyeballs pop out. The spending compulsions from my past try to resurrect themselves with the promise of the joy and sparkle of a new pair of shoes. Or ten. My eyes start to spin around in circles like in the cartoons, and I have to talk myself down from the ledge.

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Living a minimalist life in a consumerist world is a daily struggle. The temptation is never completely squelched, especially since I have been immersed in it for so long.  It requires consistent effort to look past the sparkle of the shiny new things and focus on a life of greater meaning and fulfillment. The “stuff” will always be in my face, so it is up to me to look the other way on a daily basis.

So this is the state of things. A daily back-and-forth between the big hairy dream, and the gratification of the moment. During these days of drudgery, I am thankful for my past failures. Having followed my whims for a season and suffered the long-term consequences of debt and uncertainty, I can vividly recall the feeling of being trapped by my own bad choices. The more I spent, the smaller my circle of options became. The fear of returning to this sort of existence shakes me from my self-pity and places my feet firmly on the path of my dreams once again.

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The proof in a story like ours is in the proverbial pudding. I suppose there is no way around that. There is a vast ocean between having a dream, and living it. So we work for that moment when we can gaze across the land we own, do dishes in our paid-for sink, and teach our children to live a self-sufficient life unchained from the bonds of consumerism. That will be the day when our naysayers can eat their proverbial words and suck the proverbial egg. But for now, in this middle space, their judgment and doubt cannot be disproven with flowery words.  And it hangs in the air like a thick fog, threatening to obscure our vision.

Yes, the middle is messy.

But here’s what else it is. Time and time again, the middle is where my greatest growth happens. It’s where I encounter the big temptations, and learn to either forge ahead or fall flat. Either way, at the end of it, I learn and grow, and end up a better version of myself. When I succeed at saying NO to momentary impulses that threaten my goals, it does something to my self-esteem that is worth far more than any sparkly object or stranger’s approval. So for now, I will choose to celebrate the middle, and all that it has to teach me!

Thanks to Money Saving Mom for recommending a book that is helping me along the way! In the coming months, we will be looking at property, and sharing more of the nuts-and-bolts of our journey to self-sufficiency. In the meantime, you can follow our adventures on Instagram.

Travel Update & New Goals for our Family!

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It’s been awhile since I’ve shared a personal update, so I thought I’d let y’all know what is up with us! We had an amazing year of exploration and travel, and we still have so much we want to see, but we have changed our focus a little bit. We will now be traveling 3-5 months out of the year, and staying stationary for the rest of the time. We are very excited about this new chapter in our lives, and can’t wait to have more to share with you.

If you’re new to the blog, here’s the back story.

It all started a few years ago.  We had been working 7 days a week for years to pay for therapy for our youngest (autistic) son so he might have a chance at a productive, independent life.  We were spent.  Our other four children had seen very little of us over the past several years, and our marriage was seriously neglected.  We resolved to continue working and giving him as much therapy as we could afford until he reached kindergarten, then resume a more normal work schedule.

When that day finally arrived, we decided to reevaluate our goals and decide what was next for our family.  It was around this time we first heard of roadschooling.  We realized that it would be possible for us to work/travel full-time if we were willing to invest a couple of years into debt payoff and saving.  Our son’s therapist agreed that it would be an amazing opportunity for him to adjust to change and see the world, while retaining the comfort and security of bringing our “home” along for the ride.  So we went for it.

I should mention that we are ordinary, middle class folks.  I earn a modest living blogging and writing, and my husband is in construction.  We don’t have a wealthy family, or any financial advantages.  But when we crunched the numbers, we knew that if we could manage to get out from under our debt, pay cash for a 5th wheel, and focus our heart and soul on this goal, we could work as we traveled and make this dream happen!  So that is what we did!

It wasn’t easy, but we managed to find a 5th wheel in our price range that needed a little work.  After several more months of renovating and saving, we hit the road in May of 2014, and spent the next 15 months creating memories with our kids.  While it has not always been rainbows and roses, it has certainly been the most fulfilling and joyful year of our entire lives.  We were able to shake off distractions, and focus on what matters most.  Family bonds.  Gratitude.  Spirituality.  Courage.  Simplicity.  We resolved to continue traveling until we felt called to go a different direction.  Which leads me to where we are today…

As I mentioned last time, we’ve been growing our savings as we travel, in order to build a tiny house! The idea is to have an affordable, debt-free home base that will allow room in our budget to continue adventuring without breaking the bank. We have settled on the area around Lubbock, Texas for a few reasons:

1) Our oldest son is already living here while attending Texas Tech University.
2) There is cheap land with decent soil for homesteading!
3) The people are friendly (very important).
4) There is a community college for my children to take advantage of dual enrollment, and possibly get their associate’s degree by the time they graduate high school.
5) There are work opportunities for my husband.
6) The city is a one-day drive from Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Kansas.  That means we have an easy, central location from which to resume our travels!
7) We are just a few hours from Dylan’s ABA therapist, so we can consult with her several times per year to keep his program on track (he is an 8 YO with autism who is homeschooled, and has a very specialized program to help him reach his maximum potential).

We have been prayerful about the next direction of our family for awhile now, and were convinced this was the next chapter for us. So we acted on faith, and made plans to head over. Only after we committed ourselves to this direction did we find some awesome doors of opportunity open for my husband. I am always amazed at how faithful God is to open doors when we earnestly seek to make the best decisions for our family.

So here’s where we are. We have at least another year of saving before we will be able to pay cash for 5-10 acres and begin building a 1,000 sq. ft. house. We have decided that the best thing to do is to continue living in the 5th wheel at a local campground in order to keep our expenses low. We expect to be able to travel for at least 3 months per year once our home is built, and that means lots of memories and fun to be had!  This will all be possible because we decided to live well below our means, and exchange stuff for experiences.  This was a total paradigm shift for us, but it has been so worth it!  If we can do this, anybody can!

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In the meantime, we have had fun exploring our local area, taking short weekend trips and enjoying the simple life. That includes a trip to Cadillac Ranch to do some spray painting…

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Palo Duro Canyon, the second largest canyon in the country…

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And a little apple picking!

Some time next year, I’ll be blogging as we look for land, build and move in to our tiny house. For now, if you’d like to hear a family update every month or so, leave me a comment and let me know!

Travel Update

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We are enjoying some time back near our hometown of San Antonio for the next few week, visiting with old friends, gorging ourselves with Tex-Mex food, and planning our next year. It is so nice to walk into a grocery store and know exactly where everything is! I don’t even need my Google Maps to find the local Walgreens 🙂

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In addition to doing some RV and truck maintenance while we’re in town, we are taking time for some small Texas road trips, like this one.  This is the famous Post Office in Luckenbach, located just about an hour outside San Antonio. It is one of the oldest general stores in continuous operation, and once contained a post office and saloon under the same roof. Back in the day, there was a white line on the floor to separate beer drinkers from letter senders. An old newspaper ad claimed it sold everything “from coffins to cowbells”, but today it is filled with t-shirts, hats and all manner of tourist paraphernalia.  This town that time forgot has inspired more than a few country songs!

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More good news: we arrived just in time for peach season! If you’re ever in this neck of the woods, be sure to stop by Marburger Orchard in Fredricksburg for some of the best peaches you will ever taste!

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A couple weeks ago, I met up with a fellow blogger and Instagram friend who is just starting out on a full-time RV journey of her own with her family of seven! Nothing like spending an afternoon with a kindred spirit to brighten your week!  You can go see her at Sunshine and Sea Salt, where she blogs about healthy eating, and shares all her favorite recipes.

Well that’s about it for now.  I hope your summer is finding you among family, friends, peaches and sunshine too!

There’s No Place Like Home (Especially When There Is A Cyclone Chasing You)

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May was the wettest month in recorded history for the city of Houston, and we were there to witness it. Flash floods, lightning, highways underwater.  It was all part of our nightly news reports. Surviving two tornado warnings during this time, and the worst thunderstorm I’d ever seen, had me set against the idea of rain clouds on the horizon. Even harmless ones.

But this one did not look so harmless.

I have shared my struggles with fear often on this blog. It has been debilitating at times. But part of the purpose of this trip was to learn to live with this struggle without being ruled by it. I had come a long way.

Until a few days ago.

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When the storm now known as Tropical Storm Bill first appeared on my weather app, I was beside myself.

More storms! Noooo!!!

At that time, the only thing we knew about it was that it was huge, wet, and headed our way. The experts were at odds as to whether or not this would end up being a tropical storm, but they were all in agreement that it would be a flood-invoking monster.  Long story short, we decided not to weather this one, hitched up our home-on-wheels and moved to a town about 30 minutes west of San Antonio…a 4+ hour drive.

I wish I could say I utilized my newly discovered fear-management skills to slide through this ordeal unscathed. But if you want to know the truth, when I saw that storm headed for us, I freaked out a little! All the progress I have made in conquering my fear went temporarily out the window for a solid day.  It was a lesson in how far I have to go to have this whole fear thing whipped. Perhaps it is something I will always struggle with, and I’m okay with that.  As long as I can see progress, I will not give up the fight!

So here we are at our new home.

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Inspired by my friend and mentor Crystal from Money Saving Mom, I’m sharing Five Things You Should Know About This Photo:

1) This is our new spot in the Texas Hill Country – safe and dry!

2) We like to travel off-season, so we can enjoy nearly-empty campgrounds all year long. Camping in Texas in the summer has been just the ticket! We have a huge pool, playground and activity center almost all to ourselves here!

3) Being near our hometown has its advantages. The kids are happy to be about 30 minutes from friends, and I can touch base with Dylan’s ABA therapist for help writing his homeschool goals for next year.

4) The reason I haven’t blogged much this week, was because we had this unexpected move. Normally, we won’t be running from a tropical cyclone, so I don’t anticipate any further disruptions in your feed!

5) We forgot how much we miss authentic Tex-Mex food. If you ever come to San Antonio, be sure to eat as many tacos as humanly possible.

Roadschooling: A Year In Review (& What’s Next For Us)

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A couple years ago on this blog, I announced a crazy idea. My family and I were saving to pay cash for a 5th wheel so we could roadschool our way across the country. We shared our vision with you, and let you see inside our finances, as we saved and paid off debt. We even brought you along for the ride as we went to pick up our fifth wheel.

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We got a heckuva a bargain on a high-quality brand!  It was 9 years old, and we paid $9000 cash for it (around 25% of NADA value)…

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…because it needed a lot of work.

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So we spent a few months on renovations

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…all the while plotting the ultimate adventure.

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Then the day finally arrived. Our first day living full-time in our camper was exactly one year ago!

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We got our feet wet by camping locally, and taking some weekend trips to see the great state of Texas.

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Then we went for it, heading straight for the Pacific Northwest, and all it’s natural splendor. What an amazing inaugural trip! It was an experience beyond words to witness my children seeing mountains for the first time, or dipping their feet into the Pacific Ocean.

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As the weather got cold, we headed for San Diego, where we completely fell in love with the warm beaches, and friendly people.

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Next we visited Nevada, where we renewed our vows with an Elvis preacher…He sang Viva Las Vegas at the end.  It was EPIC!

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We went hiking in the breathtaking deserts of Arizona…

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Slid down sand hills in New Mexico…

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Before returning to Texas to work for the summer. Which brings me to where we are today.

What We Have Learned
Being free from distractions for a whole year has given us a better perspective on life. There is something magical about simplicity and stillness. It clears away the fog of the world, and allows you to hear your own voice, free from the burden of expectations.  It has helped us solidify our future plans, and attack our next big dream: building a tiny homestead!

So here’s the plan: we will continue to live full-time in our 5th wheel, spending 2/3 of our time at a “home base” campground near my oldest child in Texas. The remaining 4+ months will be spent traveling, so we can see the states we have yet to visit! Since the campground we have chosen is only $300/month, we can do some more power saving! It will be nice for the kids to have a place to join in sports and music activities, go to the same church every week, and get into a rhythm.  On the flipside, we will still be “free” enough to travel and explore to our hearts content.  That’s what I call win-win!

For now, we are online every night searching for the perfect property.  We were surprised to learn that when you are not limited geographically, you can find 5 farmable acres (sometimes with a fixer-upper house) for under $10K!  Woo-Hoo!  Since my husband is handy, we can live in our 5th wheel while doing renovations if necessary.  Sure, this is not-your-typical path to home ownership, but I love that fact that we can do it all debt-free!

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I came across this tiny house on Pinterest, and am using it as my inspiration for our future goals. It’s exactly what I envision my house looking like: bright, cheerful, tiny and mortgage-free! It is the screensaver on my phone, so I see it often to remind me what I’m working for. A debt-free house will allow us the freedom to continue exploring this great country, while also having a place for our travel-weary feet to rest.

I look forward to sharing the process of the land search, acquisition, and construction with you here on Moms by Heart. We will also share the ups and downs of homesteading for beginners like ourselves!

You are welcomed to join us on our journey via Instagram!