Cancer sucked. What's next?
A brief timeline
I remember when Andrea and I first got married in 2008 and had dreams for our future family. We were almost 30 and wanted to build a family in a non-traditional way. We didn't want to accept the status quo. We started various businesses in areas we had some passion about. Ideas would come and we would execute on them, then life would take a turn and we would try something else. Ainsley came along in 2009 and we tried to continue on the "different path". Adventures in cloth diapering, breast feeding (Andrea not me), natural home made foods. We cut Walmart out for an entire year to explore local options. We didn't have a lot but we were blessed with family close by to support us. I was trying to build websites for people and doing some contract Apple training at schools.
Then when we found out George was coming we realized we needed healthcare. Andrea wanted to have George at home and that doesn't make child birth cheaper. So, I returned to Apple in OKC knowing they had great health insurance options. George came in 2011 and Andrea wanted to start a Montessori school here in Stillwater. In 2012 Mrs. Peters Montessori was alive and kicking. I had found a great job here at OSU that would provide income and insurance. Things were going good. We were falling more into the traditional family. Not that it's bad but in a way I felt like we weren't dreaming anymore. The last dream was Andrea's Montessori school. Cancer crushed that dream.
Ainsley's battle against leukemia was obviously devastating. All energy focused on her and rightfully so. When something like cancer comes into your life you just have to deal with it and keep moving forward. Any ideals we had got set aside.
Helping our child fight cancer gave us more focused goals. During that time Andrea and I drew closer together in some ways. But in other ways the added stress, especially on Andrea being at home with Ainsley and George, was wearing down our relationship. It's like for the last 2 years we've been "butter scraped over too much bread."
I'll be honest and say that we considered separating. We were not on the brink of divorce but we were really rethinking our family. I think ultimately we were tired of the hand life had dealt us and something needed to change.
Then Andrea and I had a moment. While on a long car trip home from seeing family with screaming kids in the back needing to stop every hour we began to dream. I brought up the thought of, "what if we just packed the family up in an RV and went away?" Andrea got a little excited. We started imagining the places we've never been and wanted to see. Things we wanted to do, but couldn't afford. Experiences we wanted our kids to have, but we couldn't because of jobs and cancer. That little bit of dreaming then got bigger. Google searches like; moving your family into an RV, living on the road, types of RV's, etc started. We found some great resources and inspirations, like Devoes on the Road, Technomadia, Gone with the Wynns.
I feel like we need to get back to the basics and strip away all the cruft and stuff we have accumulated over the years. Physically and emotionally. Maybe selling and giving away all of our stuff is the way to do this?
Education through experience
When Ainsley was an infant we told each other we wanted to homeschool our kids. Not that Stillwater public schools were bad, but we both felt like we wanted to be more involved in our kids education. When Andrea had discovered the Montessori method we got excited to make it a part of how we wanted our kids to learn.
I wasn't a very good student in school. I was your average C student in Math, English, Sciences, etc. But the areas I excelled or enjoyed were; band, vocational technical school, sports. Those were all very experiential learning. I wasn't interested in reading textbooks and listening to lectures. But put something in my hands and allow me to create and I was in.
Field trips were also a great way to learn and have an experience. So that is why "road schooling" the kids sounds appealing. Instead of just learning from a book we can actually use our travels to learn about the world. I mean what better way to learn to read than watching road signs fly by? This will be a huge challenge. I think we can do it.
Keep it simple and sustainable
We have been extremely blessed to live in our house rent free. But this house has been way too big for us. In the beginning we literally only used half of the house and tried to close half off to save on heating and cooling. It was nice when Andrea had her Montessori school on one half. But since all of that has been shut down we have just accumulated more stuff to fill this large house.
I have always dreamed of simple living. Like the tiny house trend, everything you own must have one or more purposes. Do we really need 20 forks and spoons for 4 people? Do we need 10 towels for each of us? How do we have 4-6 loads of laundry going at all times? Now we are not hoarders but our stuff is beginning to affect our mental health.
Remember how we used to use reusable paper cloth instead of paper towels and we never bought paper plates? We want to get back to that. Imagine living with restraints. We can't have a million towels because we don't have any room? Or having only 1 fork, spoon, knife, and cup per person? Not being able to let the laundry go for a couples days because you will run out of clean clothes to wear. Simplifying everything down to necessity.
We also want to be sustainable and leave no trace of environmental impact during our travels. We may not be able to start out super green. But we really want to think through everything we are doing and how it impacts the environment and other's around us. Waste equals wasted $$$.
One big way we are going to do this is to exclusively travel by bicycle. This will require research and planning our locations but once we park we will not have another vehicle to run to town for supplies. If the town is 10-15 miles aways (maybe more) then we have to ride our bikes to get there. Considering we don't know what kind of road conditions we will run into I decided FAT bikes will be our go anywhere and do anything methods of travel. We can pull the kids in our trailer or use it to haul supplies. Not only will it sustainable and good for our fitness we can also explore the world by bike. Which since getting into cycling I have always wanted to do. We just need to get our other bikes sold so we can get Andrea's gently used FAT bike.
What? You're crazy!
Maybe we are. It's a risk but I only feel like we would be risking this opportunity to find out what's next for the Peter's family. Maybe this lasts 6 months, maybe it lasts 6 years, we don't know, but we at least want to try.
After reading Chris' post I felt chills.
I watched Bilbo and cried.
Why? Because I have been stretched so thin and have put on a happy face for so long that I am extremely tired. Yesterday, after being at a family event George asked me if Ainsley was done with chemo. I had to tell my sweet baby boy (age three) that she will be done soon but we didn't have to go to the doctors or take chemo meds today.
Cancer has affected our family as a WE. My poor baby Ainsley has had to; be poisoned, poked, relearn everything, overcome everything, and she is still functioning as a pretty amazing six year old. Throughout this whole event Chris always tells me we have to sacrifice. We have to just get through it. But I am like Bilbo Baggins in a way, the ring (CANCER) has worn me out. It's frazzled my spirit and taken it's toll on me. And then I feel guilty for thinking of the ways it's affected ME. I mean what about Ainsley and George and Chris and my parents and his family and on and on...
When your daughter asks "why her ears are wet" and you have to tell her "she was crying during her spinal tap and tears got in her ears." Then she asks "did they give me Versed to not remember?"
" Yes, baby girl they did, I am so sorry this happened." SAD Stories. Sad depressing things that we talk about to heal. We talk about to help others. We talk about and need to write down for her and for us. For WE.
When we talked about this ginormous idea I wanted to really connect the dots. Getting an RV, Leaving my parents/family, Money, Jobs (working from the road?), Insurance, Homeschool, Health concerns, and of course Emergencies. Then I thought about WHY. Why would I do this? Here is what I came up with "if" all the dots just kind of fell into place.
WHY: I need to reconnect with my family of four away from the distractions of everyday stress. I would like to be free from materialistic addictions and gain more insight into our world and my children. I would like to be able to educate my children without the distractions of cancer events. I want to reconnect and appreciate my husband again. I want to show my children a loving marriage. I want to find more joy. I want to learn about nature. I want to interview people around the states (and eventually the world) about cancer. I would write a book and also make videos online to help educate and promote awareness. I would like to JUMP head first into a HUGE risky adventure. I may sink, but I have a family and community of life savers that would always dive in and help us crawl out. I want to breathe and smile again for real. (and maybe my parents can join us part time!)
To Andrea from Chris: