Do Cubicles Equal CAFO’s?

on February 1 | in Our Family | by | with 32 Comments

Daddypotamus Bought Me A Cactus For My 21st Birthday

I named him Frank. Now, if you’re not immediately thinking what a total keeper he is, it’s only because you don’t know the story.

See, eight months earlier I’d fallen in love over the sneeze guard of a salad bar. Oh yes! An unfamiliar voice called my name, so I looked up and there – just past the iceberg lettuce  - stood a smiling stranger with gorgeous blue eyes. And then I saw stars. Seriously, stars. Like the ones in cartoons when someone gets whacked with a frying pan.

Okay, he wasn’t a stranger, he was my fifth grade crush all grown up. The two foot height difference is what threw me for a loop (and of course those stars!).  I’ll tell you this, though: All my agnosticism about “the one” evaporated that day. He was real, and he was standing 5 feet away in the Crowley Hall Cafeteria.

But, Uh, There Was A Glitch

My college nickname was Femi-Nazi. It’s not pretty – university kids are not known for their tact – but it was basically accurate.  After my dad died I determined not to be “that girl” who looks for love in all the wrong places. Unfortunately, my poker face got so good it became hard to express things even when I wanted to. So what did I do when I met the love of my life? I bluffed, of course! It went like this:

“Okay, Imagine A Cactus”

Daniel continued this odd request with an equally strange follow up: “Now split the screen and imagine the best looking guy you’ve ever seen. Which do you prefer? If it’s the guy, the single life is not for you.”

I leaned back, cradling the phone while staring out my second story dorm room window.”I don’t know. I really like cactus.”

Ugh, can you BELIEVE ME? Fortunately Daddypotamus is not easily provoked to jealousy when it comes to, uh, succulents, so he gave me Fred and insisted I could have both.

The Thing Is . . .

By the end of my 21st year of life I would have slept on a dirt floor if it meant being with this man. But now that I’m, um, NOT 21, I’m kind of used to being pampered. Oh sure, the purse I’ve been carrying around for three years was a $3 Goodwill purchase, but in exchange I have a fresh oysters every week, real butter and pastured eggs. I just might choke if I have  to eat MSG-laden Ramen Noodles ever again and – let’s be real – I cannot imagine life without raw cheese.

It’s been a struggle at times, but not for the reasons you’d think. There is this quote from Eat, Pray, Love (Which I do not fully endorse. She got this right, though!), and it goes like this:

People think a soul mate is your perfect fit, and that’s what everyone wants. But a true soul mate is a mirror, the person who shows you everything that is holding you back, the person who brings you to your own attention so you can change your life.

A true soul mate is probably the most important person you’ll ever meet, because they tear down your walls and smack you awake.”

The more I learned about CAFOs and factory farms, the more I saw that it isn’t just our animals and land that we mistreat. As a culture we do far worse to ourselves . . . and breadwinners often take the brunt of it. A few years ago, when Daddypotamus was at a different job, seeing his life in terms of  cubicles, 60 hour workweeks and gridlock commutes smacked me awake.

And It Got Me Thinking . . .

Is there a human equivalent of a CAFO? I think so. At least, a few years ago when Daniel and I looked at our life that’s what we saw. We were sleep deprived. We felt guilty for taking vacations because it’s not “productive.” We almost never went outside to breathe fresh air, or smile at the sun, or walk in the moonlight. We never held hands anymore. Our lifestyle was becoming the very definition of unsustainable.

I’m not categorically against cubicles or commutes. This discussion is not meant to criticize the choices (and sometimes sacrifices) people make for those they love. But you are changing the food system everyday by how you vote with your dollars, so I figured you are the kind of person that might care about this, too. Who might see opportunities to improve the way things work. So I’m bringing this to you not as an expert. I’m just someone who wonders if we can do better.

Some things you know instantly while standing over a sneeze guard, but most revelations take time. For us, three years have gone into trying to define our desires (which ultimately turned out to be rolling hills, a half-day drive to the beach, and optimal gardening conditions). We’re finally ready to take our first baby step. And that, friends, is why I packed up my entire house in the last 10 days. The details and timeline are still sketchy, but we hope that as we get close to the big day you locals will join us for a sayonara soiree (with paper plates and wooden benches, ha!).

I wonder what Frank would say. Due to an unfortunate incident with a car door we’ll never know, but I imagine it would be something wise like “If you are not willing to risk the unusual, you will have to settle for the ordinary.”

Or maybe just “WAHOOO!”

What do you think? Is the the typical American lifestyle sustainable? What can we do to make it more so?

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32 Responses to Do Cubicles Equal CAFO’s?

  1. Yes. And my husband just left for his CAFO cubicle.

  2. Kathryn Lindenberger Nordyke via FB says:

    Love this! Definite not settling for ordinary!

  3. Angela Campany says:

    Hmmmm… Sustainable? Maybe for some. Able to provide real lasting happiness on the other hand? For my husband and baby girl and I, I think not so much. It might work for some people, but we’ve spent the last few years also realizing that it’s not what we’re made for. I don’t think we’re meant to be stuck in cubicles all day staring at computer screens longing for fresh air and real interactions. We’re made to enjoy productivity, but not the kind that is so often peddled to us. I lost my job over 3 years ago, and while I thought it was the end of the world at the time, it was really the beginning of my real life.

    My journey since then has included lots of realizations about the way my family eats, lives and, yes, works. We are now in the process of working to build a very low-cost, low-impact home on inexpensive land so that we can get out of the mortgage hamster wheel. It won’t be Buckingham Palace when we’re done, but it will serve our shelter needs and give us a new kind of freedom. We want to be free to work at things we love and care about. It was hard to admit for a while that we had come to enjoy and take for granted a lot of things that we really didn’t need, and that we have become dependent on my husband’s “CAFO” job to have them. It stings a little to realize that we have been a part of the machine and that we were poised to continue to pass this style of living and thinking on to our daughter. I’m sending you a virtual high-five and pat on the back Mommypotamus for bringing up this sensitive but so important topic. Good for you guys for making these tough life changes. They are hard but so worth it. And to other crunchy folks out there, if you haven’t already, consider the mortgage-free road. It’s a little tricky to work it out in the beginning and you may have to make serious cuts for a while, but like other difficult things in life, the end sooooooo justifies the means. You can do it!! :)

    - This comment is not intended to judge anyone for whom the cubicle lifestyle seems to be working out for. My intent is only to share our personal experience and to challenge and encourage others with similar hopes and dreams.

    • Heather says:

      “We’re made to enjoy productivity, but not the kind that is so often peddled to us. I lost my job over 3 years ago, and while I thought it was the end of the world at the time, it was really the beginning of my real life.”

      Angela, that gave me chills. Exactly what I have been feeling!

  4. Sarah says:

    So right on target with what we have been thinking, wrestling, and praying over for the past few years. We are getting closer to making our move too, I think. Taking the jump into what our hearts long for. We’re in the waiting stage still – for that ever-important nod from heaven to our timing and the specifics of our jump – but it’s closer than it’s ever been! Thanks for posting this; I’m going to share it with my hubby.

    • Heather says:

      Ahhh, so glad to hear from someone else who has had this stirring in their heart! I’ll admit I didn’t like or understand the VAST waiting “wasteland” of the first couple of years we planned, but it has so refined our vision I’m actually grateful for it now. Would love to hear more as your adventure unfolds!

  5. Suzanne says:

    What an adorable post. I think people have to be willing to eat a whole food, sustainable diet. It takes work and most people just don’t want to make kefir and kombucha, etc.

    • Heather says:

      Thanks, Suzanne! I think culturing foods is still the easiest thing to let slide with real food, but it’s sooooo worth it. And when there’s no time there’s always Bubbies :)

  6. Amanda says:

    Encouraging to those of us on the other end of things – still stuck in our cubicles (well – mine is an office with a humble window, but it feels just as restricting) – and longing for a day when there will be gardens and quilts and a half a day’s drive to a beach that wasn’t made by a human being. Good luck!

    • Heather says:

      I am SO GLAD to hear from you today, Amanda! Wasn’t sure if ya’ll would find this post encouraging or disheartening. Chalk one up for encouraging, yay!

  7. Heather G says:

    My husband has never worked in a cubicle. He is a physical therapist. Previous to his current employment he worked in an independent outpatient clinic. On the surface it seems great, physical work that helps people, lots of face to face interaction, interesting and challenging work, no cube. The downside for us was the hours. While patients were seen from 8 am to 6 pm he was often stuck doing paper work until 8, 9 or 10 pm. Given the kids go to bed at 7 he spent so little time with them. It was crushing his soul. He loved his employers, who are truly great people, but eventually he realized he had to leave. When the opportunity to work at the hospital, 7 am to 3 pm never later than 4 opened up he jumped on it. While it’s still physical work that helps people it’s not as interesting or challenging as what he had before and he misses his old employers and colleagues. Still to sacrifice that to spend more time with his family was more than worth it. And he’s even learning to find the work more interesting.

    • Heather says:

      The first year of Katie’s life was what did it for us too, Heather. Daniel’s commute took over an hour and he barely made it home each night to see her before bed. Since then he changed jobs and cut his commute in half, but that experience was a huge part of what set this change in motion. Like your husband, Daniel is not going to be doing his “dream job,” but we’re taking a step toward living our priorities in hopes that it will lead to the next step. Thanks for sharing!

  8. Tina Loving – Did this morning’s post come across as critical at all? I really hope I communicated that we’re just beginning the process toward a more balanced life but I’m not sure I did.

  9. love this! seeking out the happiest of happy is a worthy goal!

  10. Jennifer says:

    I CANNOT wait to hear more about your upcoming adventure!! good luck!!!

    • Heather says:

      Thanks, Jen! Maybe I’ll get to tell you about it in person – we’d love to visit Boston again!

      • Jennifer says:

        that would be great!! hey, will you be gone before March 1? I’m headed to TX and I’d love to get together if you guys will still be there.

        • Heather says:

          We just talked to a leasing agent for our house and are trying to decide if we want to offer a March 1 or March 15 move-in date. If it’s March 1 we’ll probably move out the week before and head on up to the place that shall not yet be named :) Now I’m kinda hoping we won’t, though, cause I’d love to see you!

          • Jennifer says:

            I’d love to see you too but I can imagine that you all are very anxious to start your new adventure!! I’ll be there March 1-10. just keep me posted. I think you already have my cell number but here it is again 617-669-7295. truly can’t wait to see what wonderful things you have in store!!

  11. Kathryn Lindenberger Nordyke – That’s right, ma’am! Definitely not! Can’t wait to see what unfolds for ya’ll in this next year!

  12. Julie Lucas Enlow – Thanks! We’re excited (and a little nervous)

  13. Kathryn Lindenberger Nordyke via FB says:

    likewise!

  14. Thank you, Kristina Hippman!

  15. Jolee Burger says:

    Heather, I am dying to know where you chose… probably b/c Andy and I have driven over a lot of this country, looking for a place that speaks to us (well not a LOT, but a lot for us – more than a dozen different potential places)… It is so hard to define desire and wants in order to manifest your life. I truly believe you have to pursue your happiness and passions – DEFINING them is the hard part, so I am so happy you are excited about this… and I can’t wait to hear the details (as much as you will share) on if your mother is coming, what support you will have there, etc. It is inspiring to hear others on their journey… which is why I read your blog!!

    • Heather says:

      You’re so right, Jolee! Three years ago we traveled to Costa Rica thinking we wanted to buy an old coffee farm and convert it to an organic CSA. It was not the right fit AT ALL. Since then we seriously considered a suburban farm in Keller and a few other ventures. I started to wonder if every road was a dead end after awhile, but all these false starts were actually an opportunity to further define what it is we are looking for. Have we found it? I don’t think so, at least not in it’s complete form. But oh it feels good to take the first step!

      Thank you for the kind words, Jolee. I’m look forward to keeping up with you and Jay from my new home :)

  16. Tana says:

    We are SO going to miss you around here. It’s bittersweet, knowing that you are going to a better place, lol, but you won’t be popping in to Moms group anymore. This is our dream, too, but we DO take lots of little vacations to all kinds of places, partly because of the rejuvenation it always give us, but part of which is to search for the place that calls to us, too. We wait to see what God has in store for us, but we are preparing, preparing for then, if it comes, and living here and now where He has us, too, in case it never comes. God bless you guys and your dreams, Heather!

  17. Jenni Schuessler says:

    Please be NH, please be NH…no, not likely. Maine can be nice….sometimes…
    I really am happy for your step forward…just praying it might be a step closer to New England.

  18. Emily says:

    I think this post is interesting, and thought provoking and should make people stop and reassess if they are where they want to be in life. We started in on the real food thing over a year ago and appreciate access to local organic farms. But I’m in no way interested in having a farm of my own, a beehive, or too much land for that matter. For me it feels like too much upkeep, I’d love to be able to have a garden, but I’ve never been terribly successful at it. But I love supporting those who love working the land…if that makes sense, and I’m grateful those people exist. My husband just got a job that involves a lot of travel and the other days working in a little cubicle. And he’s ecstatic about it. Really is his dream job and we’ve both worked really hard for him to get there (yes I take half of the credit for all his accomplishments:) He won’t be outside everyday but he’s passionate about the work. Is it the cubicle or the job that’s really the issue? Just as you said you would have slept on a dirt floor if it meant begin with your hubby, I think it’s about finding something you’re so passionate about that you look forward to your “cubicle” or whatever your cubicle may be. Life really is about loving what you do. Isn’t that the beauty of “modern” farming practices (not factory farming, but supporting local farms). Farmers can do what they love, the rest of us can pursue what we love, and the whole community benefits from each other? Like bartering our trades in a more high-tech way?

    • Heather says:

      Thank you for this very thought provoking comment, Emily! Cubicles are not the real issue for me – they were just a symbol of confinement for most people I suppose. I don’t want to be a farmer either (at least not at this point, though I’d like some chickens), so the idea you set forth sounds just lovely. I want my husband to feel the same excitement about his job that your husband does. That’s really all :)

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