Tumult

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The mind of a two-year old is a tumultuous place, going from the highest of highs to the lowest of sorrows in a single breath. Sometimes I wonder if my mind is much different. I fear that our highest highs get numbed, while our lowest lows get more morbid with time. Death is always ever closer. We feel not simply the sorrow of not getting one’s way, but the sorrow of knowing that every moment gets more and more valuable. To watch a young child get frustrated with circumstances one is convicted that one is nothing more than a young child all grown up. As we get older we are still frustrated, but our frustration is directed at different objects. Life never cooperates. By the time one figures that out, life performs its last frustrating act: it ends.

I am terribly resistant to change. I want everything to stay the same. I will go to great lengths to ensure nothing ever changes. I take pictures. Lots of pictures. Not because I will ever look at them, but because they preserve every present moment. No one changes in a picture. No one grows up. No one ages. No one dies. That moment is perfectly captured. Frozen. Still. I resist change and attempt to live my life in a series of these frames. But life is never still. Life is never frozen. I can’t hold a single moment in a frame and be there forever.
Perhaps I am subconsciously preoccupied with death. Not a fear of death. Just a fascination with its inevitability. It is the one thing we all experience. It is the destination of all of our changes. Good changes, bad changes, all changes end with the one final change.
I don’t think God wants us to be morbidly occupied with our death. We should be acutely aware of it, but we should not allow it to dominate our lives. We were made to glorify and enjoy Him forever and “forever” begins in this mortal life.  If I am to truly enjoy Him I should enjoy His gifts in my life. I should enjoy my children and my wife. I should enjoy good food and drink. I should enjoy music and friends and knowledge. I should embrace the world around me with unabashed joy.
If I am to glorify Him I should show the agnostic and atheist world around me that there is joy in knowing the Creator. There is pleasure in His creation. Death is inevitable but it is not to be feared. It comes at precisely the moment God decides in His wisdom to bring it. And those that know Him and His salvation have even less to fear, because while that enjoyment begins in this mortal season it gets better in the eternal season.
I want to learn contentment this year.  Part of contentment is accepting change. Part of accepting change is accepting the inevitable. To accept the inevitable one, has to accept the ultimate inevitable: death. Only when I accept death and place it in its proper place in my mind will I be able to enjoy life with contentment and without tumult.

Lessons From The Other Side

Early in our marriage we decided that we wanted to homeschool our children. Even before our lurch into libertarianism we were convicted that public schools are no place for the minds of our children. We were further convinced that one parent should always be present in the lives of our children. This means we made a conscious choice to live in a single income family.

For ten years our single income came from me. During this time our family expanded from two young lovers into two lovers and five crazy loinfruits.

(The loinfruits hate photos (and shoes), except for the eldest)

Two months ago when my seasonal employment ended we decided to do something outlandish (for conservative folks like us) and let Nicole work while I stay home with the kids.

After ten years of telling her what I think she ought to do in her home I am now the one running the show. And I am drowning in it. I used to think “that’s an easy job”, not as a comparison with my job, just as a mindless judgment. I used to give her all kinds of hints and tips that I thought were soooo helpful. “Why don’t you try doing this?” I would say, empathetically and sincerely. In reality, I had no idea what I was saying.

I am now the one who is one twitch away from snapping at the kids for running through the house like wild banshee after being told not to 59 times. I am now the one wondering why the laundry never ends or why the kids insist on using 5,000 forks in one day.

I am also the one watching a weary, exhausted spouse come home and turn off. The one hoping to have one decent conversation in the day because all they have dealt with is childish conversation with little people who can’t empathize at their ages. I’m the one knocking the children off of their beleaguered parent, telling them “Mommy is tired, be kind, leave her alone for a while and let her breathe.” All the while wishing that maybe Mommy could just take them away for a few minutes and give me some rest.

Being on this side of the stay-at-home parent dynamic has been one of the most humbling experiences since I broke my collarbone, two ribs, and a shoulder blade last year. I was laid up for almost two months, physically unable to move much due to the pain. I had to learn to swallow my pride and accept the help of others. While that was a physically humbling experience being a SAHP is an emotionally and mentally humbling one.

There is so much one hopes to accomplish in one day, and so many obstacles getting right in the way, that the day never seems complete enough. One drops into bed feeling like nothing was done and tomorrow nothing more will happen. While physically capable of accomplishing the goals, one never feels emotionally like the goals were met (even if they were physically met, which they never are actually.)

Thus there is a desire for empathy from the other parent who quite frankly has no clue what’s going on.  He or she has spent all day outside of the home and away from the children, oblivious to the chaos that has been occurring all day. While one may be physically fine, the enormous amount of emotional and mental support needed at the end of the day is staggering. There is an excellent reason God made parenting a two person job. Even if a single person can physically accomplish all of the tasks of parenting, housekeeping, and bringing in a family income, they often do so at the expense of their emotional and mental health. Super kudos to those that do by the way. Y’all are some special people.

Even working on dynamic firelines where one has to be concerned about getting burned up has not prepared me for the mental taxation of several tiny voices all demanding equal time and treatment. The overwhelming number of details one must keep in one’s head is staggering even when compared to the number of variables on a fire line.

This job is not the most difficult job physically, there are jobs far more physically demanding. This job is not the most difficult mentally, brain surgery is probably much more mental. I’d even be willing to bet that this isn’t even the most emotionally draining job out there. But cumulatively SAHP is the most difficult job I have ever encountered.

Much grace should be given to the stay at home parent. More humility needs to be exhibited by the breadwinners of the house. These people are doing a difficult task, and probably the most important one as well. Cut them a little slack if you run across them out in the world and their kids are orbiting them loudly and perhaps a bit chaotically.

Which brings me to another point. 

If you see a father with his horde of children, don’t assume that he is incompetent or unable to handle them. Don’t assume that he was conned into “babysitting” his kids or that he is miserable (even if he is, it’s not likely to be because he is a dad.) Don’t look at him with pity or call him “brave” or “strong” (unless of course you would also do the same for mothers).

Men are capable of parenting. If you assume that the men you know are not up to the task, perhaps you should hold them to a higher standard. If you do see them struggling (as any parent does at times), don’t draw attention to their failures. Don’t make them feel like maybe they aren’t doing well by suggesting that they must be worn out or using the well meaning but much overused phrase “you look like you have a handful!” Give them some grace and maybe even a helping hand, as you should do for anyone you witness struggling through life.

Above all else, don’t give them a pass when they are genuinely being negligent. Don’t play the “poor incompetent dad, I hope his wife is coming back soon.” routine. If he’s slacking, call him out. If he’s spending most of his time staring at a screen or a magazine or book, while his kids are climbing the walls or destroying displays at the store, call him out on his lack of discipline. He can and should step up to the plate and at least try to engage his children in play or conversation.

Encourage fathers to hold their children to high standards in behavior and respect of others. Encourage fathers to discipline children and raise them in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Encourage fathers to be vulnerable with their kids, play with them, empathize with them, let them know their father loves them and has feelings about them and about the world around him. The encouragement we need to give to fathers is part of the encouragement we need to give to all men, but I’ll touch on that another time. For now I’ll leave it at this:

Becoming a stay at home dad for this season has been an eye opening and humbling experience. All the folks who do this full time for years on end have my utmost respect. All of them need grace and patience as they navigate the hardest job in the world. Please give it.

Some Birthday Resolutions

Today is my 32nd birthday. When your birthday falls this close to Christmas and new years it tends to get lost in the stress of one and the excitement of the other. Because it is so close to the new year anyway, I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. Instead I try to make some resolutions for my own next trip around the sun.

Before I start on the resolutions for this year, let me count this past year’s blessings. This year I finally got my full time fire job. I was blessed to travel through 15 states and live in 4. I gained incredible experience in firefighting and friendship. I gained at least five new friends. I got to watch my children frolic and explore nature in the mountains and the deserts and the ocean. I grew closer to my wife and watched her grow in incredible ways. I learned to pace myself and trust in the Lord’s Providence. I saw many beautiful parts of creation. There are probably many more that I will remember after writing this.

This year was also a painful year. With blessings come the crucible fires of sanctification. We started off the year treating the depression that has plagued Nicole for as long as I have known her. This meant the trials of antidepressants and the struggles of adjusting to a wife that I had never known. Follow this up with a job offer in February almost all the way across the country. After accepting the job I made perhaps one of the worst decisions that I have ever made by buying an old rv from a squirrely redneck in western Florida. This choice led to thousands of dollars of debt and two months of beating my head against the wall trying to get the thing to run, not knowing if I should just turn down the job to stay with my family.

Given the stagnation of our lives and my career for the previous five or more years we decided to take the job and trust the Lord to reunite us when He saw fit. This meant driving alone to Utahzona and leaving Nicole and the five kids back in Florida. She worked on the RV as much as she could before one of her worst nightmares came true.

A report was made to the session of our church and they were bound by law to call the Department of Children and Families (CPS) to investigate. I got the call from Nicole while in training, followed by a call from our pastor explaining how it had all come to that. They tried to ensure they would be with her when the agent came, but the CPS lady knocked on the door before they could get there. In five minutes the focus shifted from reunion to preservation.

Nicole spent the hardest week of her life cleaning and disposing all of the clutter that had filled our home and our lives for the past ten years. Our church family sprung to action and acted with the most love and generosity that we have ever known. By the time the investigator returned our home was the best it had ever been. But the pain was deep and it left me feeling like I had abandoned my family and Nicole feeling much bitterness towards me and my hoarding habits.

I spent six weeks living as a bachelor in AZ before she finally gave up on the RV and bought a trailer. Ten days after that purchase and one very long trip with five kids, two cats, one dog, and one bearded dragon (who sadly did not survive the trip) we were searching for a place to park in Kanab, Utah at around midnight. We spent our first night together in a dirt pull off north of town.

The following day we moved to the Kaibab and began dealing with the problems of trailer life, namely lack of water supply, dump sites, or steady electricity. In time all of these problems were solved, and new ones came to light.
I dealt with difficult people at work and probably made my first enemy in life. She dealt with loneliness and fear that someone might attack her in the woods. There were some hairy moments in our marriage out there on that mountain.

Then came the unexpected death of Nicole’s granddad and the unsuccessful attempt to get her to VA for the funeral. I have never had to help her mourn for any family member and I am still not sure I did the best I could have.

Six and a half months of work and life on the Kaibab ended in October and for the first time since graduating college I found myself unemployed. Driving to VA with practically no money was a trip in itself. We made it in ten days.

Now I find myself a full-time stay at home dad while Nicole is (happily) working two jobs. This has been the most trying two months of this year as I learn a completely new job managing five hooligans while living in two houses and a trailer.

Money is tight and the mortgage is late, but for the first time this year we feel somewhat hopeful for what the next few months will bring.

My biggest resolution this year is to learn contentment. For as long as I can remember my focus has been on the negatives of life. I have always seen all of the wrongs and never the rights. I apologize for enjoying anything and feel like I should be ashamed of good feelings. I push down all the good and instead focus on all of the “shoulds” of life. Far too often my response to a blessing is “This should be____” or “I wish this was more____”.

This year I want to learn how to enjoy my blessings and be content with all that God has given me. I resolve to play with my children more. I resolve to love my wife more passionately and with more abandon. I resolve to take every day as a gift and work to glorify God in each one. I resolve to live life according to what is, and not according to what I wish it was. I resolve not to take for granted my work, my talents, my family, my friends, or my days here on Earth. I intend to stop saying “I’m sorry” when I enjoy my blessings and instead say “thank you.”

By the Grace of God I will do all of these things and whatever else He intends to teach me to do this year.

My Journey

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If that first post wasn’t enough of an introduction, here’s a better one! This is pretty much a repost from my previous blog “D” Naturel Farm (http://dnaturelfarm.blogspot.com/). After each paragraph I’ve done a bit of an update.

“After reading the blogs of several others who share our passions for an self-reliant, agrarian, Spirit-filled life we felt it was high time to put our journey into a blog.”

We’re still self-reliant, still Spirit-filled, but not so much agrarian at this point. We raised our fair number of chickens and rabbits and grew multiple gardens and have decided now to change lifestyles again (for the short term at least).

“I’m Jon, just shy of 26, and I’m married to my high school love, Nicole, who’s not too much younger. We’ve been blessed with three beautiful daughters, L 4, B 2, and K 6 weeks. While they take up most of our time we hope to occasionally find time to post on here.”

I’m now just shy of 32, still married, and we’ve added two sons to our horde.

“I developed a love for the outdoors in my days in Scouts. During those days I dreamed of being a chef and owning a restaurant. My love for the outdoors was not considered “profitable” so it was placed in the “hobbies” category of my life. I started college fully intent on a degree in business management.  Once I discovered the short-sightedness of my classmates and after taking dendrology as an elective (who does that?) Providence, and prodding from Nicole, led me to a new career path in forestry. Land management combined my love of the outdoors with my desire to control my surroundings. That and I was making an impact on the world that lasts far longer than the next quarter.”

I still love the outdoors, but I’ve veered off from my land management job and went in to full time wildland firefighting. I just completed my first season with the Forest Service on the North Kaibab National Forest. And with my prodding and her own gumption Nicole has also started looking for work as a wildland firefighter.

“Upon graduation, I, the young idealist, went to work for state government in a state 4 states to the south of my roots. The outdoors became my office, I was at the bottom of the totem pole, and all that mattered was pushing out next year’s timber sales. So much for long term thinking and being my own boss. Pine plantations were a foreign outdoors to me, so my love was replaced with a semi-apathy.”

After staring at these plantations for nine years I finally got enough fireline days under my belt to switch careers.

“Youthful ambition can lead to a dangerous disappointment when reality replaces its idealism. In my shock I settled down into the normal American lifestyle. I was already married, with one child, and a career, so I took the next plunge and bought a house. We took on a mortgage with gusto (and a little help from the government), a car payment, and a few credit card debts. We ate hamburger helper, store-baked bread, and far more fast-food than any small country could handle. I went to my job, 8-5, Monday to Friday. After work, there was four hours with the now two children and one very frazzled wife, some tv, a bit of internet, bed, and repeat. Thus was our modern American life.”

I’m still an idealist, I couldn’t escape that! However, I wrote that paragraph as a bit of a condemnation of that lifestyle, and in my agrarian days I was definitely a cage-stage snob. As an Ancap I cannot condemn people who choose that life, there is a place for them in the world. Personally, I can’t do it. It’s just not for me.

“Now, about 80% of that is still true. I still have my mortgage, my car payment, my credit card debt; I still spend the vast majority of my time away from my family, and we still eat far more fast-food than we should. But something changed in the last year or so. A desire to avoid the materialist debt trap of my fellow countrymen developed. The desire to be my own employer reared its head again. A new idealism took form in my mind.”

See? Still an idealist! Unfortunately, even idealism can’t save one from the inevitable debts that come with a low salary and a large family. While we escaped the materialism that led to deeper debt, we are still trapped in a mortgage and we still have the credit card debt, though it’s getting smaller and not larger. While in those days I was completely opposed to debt I now see times and places where debt can be necessary. Debt should be leveraged for productivity, not simply short term gratification.  Our modern use of credit cards and fractional reserve banking is NOT a good example of good debt.

“Back in college I invited my wife on a class tour that would have far more of an effect on me than I ever imagined. My Forest Operations class routinely visited logging sites to teach us about the various methods of logging. This time is was horse-logging. I figured she like horses, so why not invite her. The impact was not known then, but this tour would plant a seed that would only germinate after several seasons of scarification. I plotted in my head the path to a horse-logger career: I would graduate and while she finished up her last year of school I would take the apprenticeship and learn the trade, then we would face the great unknown, hand-in-hand. God had other ideas.

Two weeks after the tour she woke me up with the news that we were expecting our first child. ”

Now we have five and we are jumping into another unknown, this time the life of a seasonal firefighter and full time travel in an RV.

“My mind quickly changed gears, I would not go the unknown route, I would take the safe route. I would do the standard “get a degree, get a career, buy a house, settle for security” route. Only after two years of taking this route would I realize the liberty I had sacrificed. I was now tied to a house, tied to my debts, fully reliant on others for my subsistence, and at the whim of any financial disaster brought about by the embrace of Keynesian economics.”

Realizing that Keynesian economics were a lie led me on my path to anarcho-capitalism. I took an odd route to get there though. I started reading blogs like the North Country Farmer (https://northcountryfarmer.wordpress.com/) and the Deliberate Agrarian (http://thedeliberateagrarian.blogspot.com/). I began to think of agrarianism, self-sufficiency, and individualism as the highest ideals.

I read Locke, Smith, Hobbes, Mill, and John Talyor Gatto. All of these philosophers and thinkers got me thinking capitalist thoughts, and my neocon mind became more minarchist. At one point I began reading Gary North and Rushdoony and became a Reconstructionist Theonomist, this was very close to agrarianism and made a ton of sense to me.

In my late 20’s I was introduced to Tom Woods, Fredric Bastiat, and the Non-Aggression Principle. I learned about Mises and Austrian Economics and found that while all of my previous positions on economics were reasonable, none of them were completely consistent. I had to abandon pure agrarianism and pure individualism because they weren’t completely capitalist. Theonomy was a blatant violation of the NAP. Minarchism was completely inconsistent with the NAP. I became an Anarch0-capitalist in the mold of Tom Woods and others.

“The dream to be a horse-logger came back to life, and along with it a desire to do for ourselves all that we are able. We started cooking from scratch, planted a garden, bought chickens, read more about off-grid living than anyone should, and a variety of other things. There are still debts to be paid, skills to be learned, character to be developed, and tons of logistics to figure. Thus, we are somewhere in the middle of our transformation from suburbanite consumer to rural producer.”

And now we are in the transformation from rural producer to on-the-road producer. Some time around 2013 I decided that I wanted to fight fires full time instead of staring at pine trees full time. This would mean six months a year working away from home. Given our dedication to parenting and keeping a more family-centered economy we decided that the only way to have both a full time fire career and a family would be to take the family on the road. So our plan became “buy an old bus, make it an RV, and follow my career wherever it goes”.

This year were finally able to get the job, but the RV part wasn’t so easy. We ended up with a 27′ travel trailer instead. Five months later we have learned much and decided this is a good short term solution. Long-term we still want the Skoolie. If we ever go back to rural production it won’t be in FL. Our current desire is to find property in the Idaho Redoubt and build a self-sufficient homestead. But for now the call of the open road beckons.

“This is our story of the rest of that journey, if God wills it.”

This is a continuation of that journey, but this is a little different. Not only will this blog have biographical posts, it will have opinions and commentary. And Nicole is not much of a writer so this one will be all me.

As the good folks at Monty Python like to say “Get on with it!”