Taking the fun out of it

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For several years I thought my cheap-o digital point and shoot did not offer any way to adjust the exposure. Then one day I stumbled across the option buried many menus deep.

And you know what? The camera instantly became less-fun. I kid you not. Now instead of just enjoying myself and snapping photos, the thought is constantly in the back of my mind, “should I add or take away some exposure here?”

I wish I’d never found it.

Recently I purchased my hunting and fishing license for the year and I was reminded of a similar experience.

Back when I picked up fishing again as an adult I spent a pretty decent sum on a fancy rod and reel from one of the big name outdoor stores.

And you know what? I spent more time untangling the fishing line than I did actually fishing. I am fully willing to admit the problem might have been more me than the rod, but it was a decidedly un-fun activity.

But one day, after about the bazillionth bird’s nest. I hopped in the car and went to Wal-Mart where I picked up a Zebco 202 spin casting rod and reel for about $10.

And I love it! I have not bought any other rod and reel since. I catch tons of fish. This photo was after fishing a little farm pond at a friend’s place.

If I wear it out, I buy a new one. But I don’t think I’ve worn one out yet. In fact, I tend to give them away. I like to share! And the price allows me to do that without a second thought.

Anyway, thinking about these memories has really re-enforced my idea that more complicated things make for less enjoyable times.

Not that there isn’t a time and place for complicated equipment, but when you’re just out trying to have some fun it really rather detracts from it.

Welfare

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I write a lot about how little money we live on. But it occurred to me the other day I have never really touched on the subject of welfare, and I began to wonder how many folks think we’re only able to live this way because we rely on it.

So I wanted to make this unequivocal statement:

Noel and I do not take any form of welfare whatsoever.

It’s not that we are too proud to ask for assistance, or that we think getting help when you need it is wrong. We’ve asked for and gotten help in the past (though never from the government).

The government programs are broken, there are too many abuses of the system. I’ve seen too many folks using their EBT cards to buy food, then immediately turning around to purchase expensive clothing, booze or cigarettes with cash.

It has long been our goal to learn to live well on very little income, but one of the primary requirements in that journey has been to do it on our own two feet. And — thank God — we are.

Life update 2010

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I cannot adequately describe the utter, over-riding joy I feel in regards to life right now. My Beloved and I have long been working at having a specific kind of life, and I believe we really are there. Not almost there — there!

I’ve been thinking about our recent past tonight and I thought I’d jot down some notes.

We came to Missouri in 2003. I got a job at the daily paper as an “editorial assistant” (translation: do everything guy). In 2004 we bought a house in a tiny rural village about 8 miles outside of town. And we were mostly happy, we were on the road to the life we wanted.

In 2005 I decided I wanted to pursue photography more than I had been. I planned on getting an old film camera or two and make photographs for myself (much like I’m doing now).  But … two weeks after I’d made that decision, the daily paper in Independence, KS, called me up and offered me their head photographer position.

And I took it. And it was one of the worst decisions I’ve ever made. The day we moved there I turned to Noel and told her we’d made a mistake. I was never truly happy there. It ate at me. And it led me to make many more mistakes.

Even now, a year-and-a-half later, I can’t put my finger on exactly why I was so unhappy there. All I know is that I was deeply unhappy, and it drove me crazy.

In 2008 I quit the paper there. I enrolled in a college class, took a job at the Walgreens. Neither lasted long. Got a job at the public library. I was the janitor, it was one of the greatest jobs I’ve ever had. Still wasn’t happy. And my life was falling apart around me.

Then in 2009 we finished paying off the property in Missouri. In July we sold or gave away almost every single possession and left Kansas. It was crazy and drastic, it was foolhardy, stupid even. And it was the second best thing I’ve ever done in my life (the first was marrying my Beloved, which coincidentally was also stupid, foolhardy, drastic and crazy).

When we made the jump, everyone warned I’d never find a job. In three weeks time I had three jobs and was turning others down. There will always be work for folks who want to work.

From July until early fall we lived in a tent in our backyard — the house has been uninhabitable for a while now — until we found the fifth wheel camper we live in now.

The first day back I felt what I’d been missing all those years in Kansas … peace.

This past year hasn’t been easy by any means. Last winter I was subbing on the school bus and working 30+ hours at WalMart, I was never caught up on my sleep. We were constantly behind on the bills. But I never doubted I had made the right choice and we were on the right path.

Now here we are at the end of 2010. I have my own regular school bus route. I have a good part-time job which dovetails with the bus driving perfectly.

The majority of my time is my time. All the bills are paid. My Beloved and I get to do just about everything together. I can pursue my photography at my own pace in my own way. I’m relearning to play guitar. We are slowly tearing the old house down and looking at plans of what we want to build in the future. We’re getting ready to plant a garden this spring. I’m thinking about a small chicken house.

I am over-flowing with peace, love and joy!

Life is GOOD!

Oh, as an aside … when we left Kansas. Our original plan was to head back to Florida and follow the tourist trade around working where ever we could. Eventually living aboard a boat again. I’m not really sure what that was all about. When we got to Missouri, I was getting job offers. We realized we had the property here free and clear. So we just stayed here. I don’t regret it.

Income discrimination

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We’ve been trying to buy a car. Our bank approved us to spend a certain amount of money, but we have yet to find a car they approve of. What we find is either too high mileage or too old.

Actually, we did find a couple that were approved, but one sold before we could even start the paperwork and the other turned out to have some mechanical issues I didn’t want to deal with.

But those were exceptions to the rule, I think my banker might have a slightly inflated idea of what kind of car you can get for certain prices these days. So I’ve been asking around at some dealerships to see what kind of financing they offer.

I got to talking figures with one of the local dealers yesterday and I came away a bit miffed. See, Noel and I make very little money, under $10,000 per year. Not that we’re complaining, we’ve worked very hard learning to live well at this income level. And we do live well.

Our budget takes up only about 25-30 percent of that income. And the vast majority of that is our camper loan which will be paid off soon. What it boils down to is that we have several hundred dollars of discretionary income each month with which to purchase a car.

Turns out the dealer’s bank won’t even consider us for a loan because we make so little money. It apparently doesn’t matter that 70 percent of my money goes straight into our pockets. Our income is below a certain magic number, so we are unworthy.

It irks me, but that’s okay. I don’t really want more debt anyway. Being debt-free is one major key to living on so little money.

Riches

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1st shift work Saturday MANDATORY!

He knocked lightly on the door of the manager’s office.

“Yes?” the manager said.

“I’m not going to be in on Saturday.”

“Why not?”

“I have plans.”

“Like what?”

“Like not being here.”

“It must be nice not having to worry about keeping a job.”

“It is, everyone should live this way.”

“So, what … are you ridiculously rich or something?”

“Yes.”

“Then why work at all?”

“Because money is nice sometimes too.”

“But I thought you said you were rich?”

“I am. Not all riches are dollars.”

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