Well… Where to begin? First, keep in mind that we are talking about the world prior to 2014 (you will see below that some of these issues and concerns have only worsened since).
At work, we looked around us and could not find one senior employee within our place of employment whose later lives we wanted to emulate, and we saw many–oh so many–who never achieved any semblance of their retirement dream due to illness, death of a spouse, crushing debt in the form of mortgages and college tuition, or other circumstance of life. Many who “retired” came back on contract out of financial need or because the job had become their life. We knew superiors–the type who practically live in the office–whose kids had developed substance abuse problems, had gone suicidal, who had run off to work in strip clubs… In our final year, one senior female leader, in an address to an organization-wide group of junior women employees that was supposed to help the young ones get ahead, explained how she paid someone else to raise her kids so that she could focus on career–actually phrased it that way. We wanted something very different for ourselves and our kids.
At the same time, at our kids’ schools, we saw an increasing emphasis on memorization and regurgitation (sometimes of the most banal material and no real effort to teach them how to think or communicate effectively). Efforts to “leave no child behind” were often defined by measures to keep many kids from moving forward (we had to step in and ask for more advanced reading material to be assigned on several occasions). Inculcation of policy-driven values seemed to take precedence over the teaching of a solid academic curriculum, and then there were the unhelpful social pressures (from secular humanism to technology addiction to grade school “romance” and sex). Meanwhile, back in the office, we were managing the new generation work force that this educational system was producing–the “everyone must get a trophy,” “snowflake” crowd. We witnessed, through daily counseling sessions with these self-entitled wonders, how societal institutions and social conventions of the day had grossly modified the concept of the whole person and inculcated a young, unsuspecting generation with a disturbing distortion of reality. (We did not want our kids thinking (or, more often, not thinking) and acting like the vast majority of those we saw moving into the workforce at that time.)
Then, Esther inexplicably fell ill with a life threatening condition, and I stayed in the hospital with her for one week. She recovered fully, but those types of developments tend to make anyone rethink things. (For further perspective on the career front, during this critical time, my boss called once to inquire about how long I’d be gone and none of my 120 subordinates were even notified about the reasons behind my absence…when I returned, they thought I had gone on a last minute vacation.) That same year, we attended several funerals, listened to several eulogies…those can shake your mindset too.
All of this was occurring against a backdrop of dramatic change in our lives. The area where we had grown up was no longer recognizable, from demographics to skyline. Members of the extended families passed, moved towards greater dependence, or slipped into dementia. Kids were becoming teens and teens were becoming young adults. We both were showing signs of age too. Change like this is inevitable, but can also inspire reflection and make it easier to take a new direction, no?
Finally, our increased interaction with the homesteading and farming communities and literature had given us serious pause about our nation’s food system. We began producing more and more of our own victuals simply because we couldn’t afford to always buy organic and we could no longer trust the safety or nutritional value of the other produce and meat that was available. As we inched toward the right of the consumer-producer continuum, we found great satisfaction in selling our products–like local, organic, raw honey comb and heirloom varieties of garlic–to consumers who really appreciated their value. We wanted to stroll down this path a bit more.
And there you have it…