Thursday, April 23, 2015

T is for Trade-off

T is for Trade-off on today's A to Z Blogging Challenge. Whether we realize it or not, most of our lives consist of one series of trade-offs after the next. We may trade a nicer house for less debt, or maybe more debt for a nicer house, but the nicer house rarely comes with less debt unless moving to a new area, which is then simply another trade.

The trick is in choosing wisely, because you can't have everything and stay sane. I learned this the hard way when I was a young mother.

When the twins were toddlers I wanted to expose them to music and heard about a popular children's music program, but we were not able to afford it. However, I had a degree in music that included some excellent training in children's music, so if I wanted to have them in a class, I was going to have to train to teach the class and start a business. Thankfully, I loved that business and would teach children's music of one form or another for the next decade.

However, when they were in preschool I found I missed singing, so I joined an opera company in Denver, which met once a week during the off season, which I timed my evening children's programs around, and up to 4-5 times a week before a production, which was during the summer break for the music programs. However, this still meant at least 3 evenings a week where I would be gone from home.

When I needed money to justify the additional private music lessons to compete, I started teaching a bell choir at a local church because it fit in on a free day, so I was gone 4 evenings a week. I taught 2-3 morning classes a week, one with the twins at their Montessori school, and one at the local recreation center while they were in class.

I attempted to do all of this while raising a couple of preschoolers.
One day, a week before a program I felt terribly unprepared to give, I looked down and noticed the stress in the twins' eyes and the emotional strain that was on them. Something snapped in me.

Within 2 weeks I had quit the voice lessons and the opera company, (with a big scolding by the director...)When summer vacation was over I then quit the bell choir, partnered with another teacher to take the morning classes, and changed my position about not having time for more children, because I was no longer going to be too busy. I kept the Montessori school for just one more year and by the time Sean was born, I had only a couple of children's classes at the Recreation Center so he could join me in classes like his sisters had, and I started homeschooling the twins. 

I traded all of that and never looked back, other than to remind myself of the lessons I learned.

Years later the band sort of fell in our lap and little by little that started to build. Initially we would trade having a better vehicle for the kids' music lessons. Later we traded 4-H weekends and scouting for band performances.

Then we had a crazy idea to hit the road, not so much because we were performance driven, but because we wanted to do something very different while we could, which was travel as a family. Eventually we traded everything else in our lives, including our house, to live in a bus. 

Years later, this view of the dock near our campsite is why I traded all of that. This and hundreds of other views just as lovely.

There are times when I wonder if the trade was worth it. Financial uncertainty has always been there, but it's much worse when you are hoping people will like your music enough to let you eat next month. Remember how you should never worry about what others think? That doesn't work in the entertainment business.

Yes, there are down sides. 
If you want people to like you enough to pay you, there are several hours of practice involved, and kids are not always as keen on practice as one would wish they were. Long evenings of practice turn into hectic performance schedules, with some good shows and some really lousy ones. 
Oh, and you've seen my kitchen, right? 
That's the whole thing, right there. Six people, three meals a day, 24/7 and 365/year. In this kitchen I have to plan meals that are lower carb for a husband who has metabolic issues and for a daughter who cannot easily digest milk, eggs, gluten, or soy. These dietary restrictions plus the cost means we do not eat out, so no grabbing fast food on the way to a show. Meals have to be cooked and packed along with us. In this kitchen I make bone broth soups and every one-pot-wonder under the sun. Then we do the dishes in this little sink. 

The other day I discussed the problems when it rains, too. 

No privacy or as we call it, "compartmentalized living" where you can get away, so the twins hide out in the minivan in the evenings or we take turns hiding in there for morning quite time. 

Limited space for books limits homeschooling choices to smaller, light-weight options only, and the constant changes in schedule require year-round school at any nearby campground clubhouse or local library. One twin will need to do her college courses online, and then she will be scrambling for privacy to concentrate.

So, what's the trade off to such restrictions?

Mary gets a personal visit from
Hope, one of the Dolphins in
"A DolphinTale"
Easy. Though finances may at time be limited, we still get to see things like this, simply because we're there in the area, so half the challenge is no longer a concern.
Disney 2012
Busking from Colorado to Madison, WI, to South Carolina helped the kids see Disney World on our first trip to Florida, which we only could afford because we were already there.

San Diego Zoo 2014
Free tickets to the San Diego Zoo are not a very good deal unless you're already in Southern California.
You can only see the California Redwoods if you're in Northern California.

Perhaps you have friends who have a boat near Seattle, but to see the Space Needle from that boat, you have to go to them.

Friends may have a beach house, but it doesn't do you much good if you're in Colorado. But even if you're dirt broke in Washington, you can just go be dirt broke and stay in a beach house.

I remember 2 summers ago when we wanted to go to New York City and we were told the best way to visit the city is on one of the double decker bus tours. Around that time everyone needed new shoes. So, we had to decide if we wanted shoes or a bus tour of NYC. 
Everyone used flip-flops for months after that, but we saw some wonderful sights! 

Oh, my. Honestly, I could post so many more pictures. 

Like the picture of Mary catching a bonnethead shark off Port Isabel

 Or Sean fishing at Poche's in Louisiana

 The lovely view of the ocean near Fernandina Beach, FL

Carolina Balloon Festival near Statesville, NC

Washington DC

The Liberty Bell

Old Montréal, QC

Trade-offs. I got it right this time.

Soon we'll be deciding when to trade all of this back for that compartmentalized living and a real kitchen, but until then, we'll go visit Historic Jamestown this week and later this summer, since we already bought new shoes, we may have to walk NYC this time, but that's a fair trade.

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