Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Meet My Sisters - Mom & Farm Life vs. Travel & Van Life

It's rare I get to see both of my half sisters at the same time, so when I found out my sister Tiffany would be traveling to TN, my mom and I jumped on the opportunity to see them both. I guess upon thinking of our little reunion, this blog post idea came to me in a dream, and needless to say, I ran with it. My half sisters live completely different lifestyles, both of which I find equally intriguing, so it brought on the idea of interviewing each of them on their view on life and comparing the two.

Not only was it a joy to see my sisters at the same time, but to learn more about who they are and what their life means to them was so much fun for me. I hope you enjoy this post as much as I enjoyed creating it.

Brief background on Tambrey: My sister and her family live in Henderson, Tennessee. Tambrey married her husband, Clint, when she was 20 and they will celebrate 20 years of marriage on November 7th of this year. Additionally, they have seven children as well as one grandchild together. I've given some info about her and the fam on two previous blog entries about vacations spent there, you can read them here and here

Without further do, let's get to the interview!

When you were growing up, was this the type of life you expected? Pastor's wife, seven children, and farm life? If not, what type of life did you picture when you were younger?
I assumed I would be married and have kids, but I'm one of those people that I'm not a "dreamer," I never thought about what I wanted to do when I grew up, which is a good thing because I didn't do anything (career wise). I didn't care anything about going to college, and didn't have any dreams; I guess I just took it day by day. Which is probably a good thing, because I didn't have any expectations, so I don't have any disappointments. Seven kids, unexpected yes, but I'm very content with how it's turned out. But I'm glad I didn't waste my time and money going to college to end up working at a store in town. And with the way Clint was in the beginning of our relationship, no, I would have never expected to be a Pastor's wife.

What is your favorite part about being a mom?

Well other than the obvious reasons of I love them, I love having a big family, and I love that they can all play with each other; I do like the shock factor when you tell someone you have seven kids - that's fun! And because we don't have a ton of family around here, we are all we have. I'm glad that I get to hopefully do that with my kids - that I get to be there for them, that we have the big family and it's going to start with us, and hopefully be passed down for generations, and that they will be there for each other. 

What is/has been your biggest challenge being a mom of seven? 

Oh lordy! Well, being a mom of seven. And you have to be very organized. You have to be very conscious of what's going on all the time; who's got soccer, who's got this, we need to have dinner at this time so we can be here at this time, etc. Obviously I wasn't dumped with seven kids at once; I went from one to two to three, etc., so you adapt as far as cooking more and doing more laundry, but being organized is still a challenge. And not being able to pick up and go. That has become easier as they've become older but it was hard when they were little. Then not having tons of help from family. Clint and I don't get to go on dates very often, and you don't really have time for each other, and that's something you do need. You have to be able to have that connection and just be with each other.

What does a day in your life look like?
So I wake up at 5:15 am, I sometimes hit snooze, but I get up at 5:30 at the latest. I get up, wash my face, brush my teeth, put my makeup on, typically get my clothes out, come in the kitchen and start the coffee and I'm typically sitting down doing my devotion by 6.  I try to give myself 30 minutes. Clint sometimes wakes up, sometimes he doesn't, but he tries his best to get up with me. We don't do our devotion together but we do sit together and do our own thing. At 6:30, we get the kids up, and make them cereal, then I'll typically go back to the bedroom to finish getting ready while they are eating. Then they get dressed and we're usually out the door by 7:15. I have to drop them off at four schools, then I will either go to work, or do what I have planned for that day. It could be a doctor's appointment, maybe I'm meeting a friend for coffee, or running errands, or sometimes I just come home and clean and do laundry. Every once in a while, Clint will have the day off, so we try to coordinate, so that's nice when we get a day-date from time to time. Then I'll pick up the three little ones (others ride the bus home), then usually I'm either going to mow, be outside cleaning up, help the kids feed the animals, or taking the kids to practices, checking homework, and cook if I'm cooking that night. If I am, I try to have it ready by 5:30, then more homework, and baths will follow. It seems like there's always something to do. Clint and I don't really watch tv, sometimes we'll put on a family movie, but it's rare. Usually at 8, we start getting the kids ready for bed, and our goal is to get them in bed by 8:30, but sometimes it can be later. But I've always said my "mom clock" shuts off at 8:30, so after that, Clint and I shower and we're usually in bed around 9ish.

How do you balance being a working mom and wife?

I try not to work very much. There's no way I could work full-time. You have to have time to clean the house, do the laundry, and it's much easier to do when the kids aren't home. Otherwise it's like that saying, "It's like brushing your teeth while you're eating oreos," it's pointless. My work schedule is very forgiving and accommodating. I pretty much tell them when I'm coming in. I have a certain job, and as long as I get my stuff done, it's okay. I'm not there to wait on customers or anything so it gives me a lot of flexibility. I try to go in three days a week and I just work 8-3 while the kids are in school.

What advice would you offer to other moms, whether first timers or moms of many? Or what advice would have helped you when you were first starting out?

Well, I think when you're young you're probably not going to listen to people. But I wouldn't suggest you have seven children (or many) unless you have lots of family help. That's one of my biggest pieces of advice for people that say they want to have a large family. Just to have people to give you a break every once in a while. Just a little extra help or to have an extra body to be dependable on would be nice. To have patience is another thing. I used to lose my temper, and I hated that about myself. So maybe that's not advice for everyone, but that's advice I'd be telling my younger self. 

How is your sister's lifestyle different from yours and what is your perspective on it?

It is 100% completely the opposite of me. She's a liberal and I'm conservative, and I'd say our religious views differ. She likes to completely 100% travel and I like to travel occasionally but I like something to come home to. Of course I had seven kids and she had none, and she married a lot later in life than I did. She has a very good career and I have a mom career. So she's made a good living for herself. I think her lifestyle is great, but being selfish, I do wish she had a kid, so I could have had the bond that she has with my kids, so chop-chop for you. I think she's got a great lifestyle but I, like most of our family, I don't really approve of them going into Mexico, and I selfishly wish she could come here even more, but again that's just selfish reasons. I know she's got a great and fun life and I'm sure she enjoys it and appreciates it.  

Now moving on to my sister, Tiffany, as she answers similar questions regarding her lifestyle. 

Brief background on Tiffany: My sister Tiffany currently resides in a travel van with her husband, Andrew, of eight years. They took time off back in 2014 to bike across country from Florida to California for two months. And then after three years of saving their money, they ultimately decided to commit to a 2+ year journey to travel up to Alaska and down to Tierra Del Fuego and back. They left in May of this year, but you can follow along here with their online journal & podcast to virtually travel with them as they experience more of the Van Life as they continue their journey to South America!

When you were growing up, was this the type of life you expected? Becoming a travel nurse, to one day be biking across the country with your husband, then now taking 2+ years off to travel? If not, what type of life did you picture when you were younger?
No. I mean I think as a little kid I wanted to do something with animals, but then in high school, I thought I was going to do hair because I took cosmetology classes. And then I thought I wasn't that creative, so I probably wouldn't be good at that. I never ever thought about nursing until I was 22 and trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. And my mom suggested nursing and I thought that would be great. I do have to give her props, she totally made it happen. She looked up the school, she looked up what I needed to do - she did everything for me, I didn't do anything. She enrolled me, told me when I needed to go, what I needed to do, and she made it all happen. And she let me move in with her for free and not work while I went to school - so she made my career happen. 

When did you discover your love for traveling?
That's a good question. I don't know - I mean, I think one of the things that attracted me into nursing school was that I could travel with it. So I guess it was somewhere around there, in my early twenties that I was really wanting to get out and see different places and do different things. Then when I did take my first job assignment, it was a whole new sense of freedom. 

What does a day in your life look like?
-Tiffany chuckled then turned to Tambrey and said, "I don't know if you want to hear this. You may not want to be in here because it's pretty leisurely." Hearing this play back on the recorder totally made me chuckle to myself.-
Well, we now set our alarm because we use to just get up whenever, and it was like 8:30 or 9. It was very late, but we didn't have anything to do necessarily, but we started setting our alarm because that's just ridiculous. So we usually get up about 7, sometimes 6, because I'm trying to incorporate exercise back into my routine. It's best for me to do it first thing in the morning, because otherwise I won't do it. We're trying to get into the habit of meditating after working out, so we try to meditate for at least ten minutes. It kind of just sets a quiet mode for the day for me, and then we make coffee, then we might eat something, it just depends on where we are. If we like where we are then we'll make coffee and breakfast, hang out, and probably hike. Or we'll drive to some where we want to be, and have breakfast there and hike. We either drive to another destination or if we're going to stay there for the day, we'll go check out the sites somewhere or we may just have a day where we work. Where Andrew does all of the computer stuff with the website and everything and I'll either journal or read. Most of the time we only stay one or two nights somewhere then we go somewhere else. Some days we drive two hours, some days it's six - it really just depends. As far as dinner goes, it varies. Sometimes we will cook dinner in the van, sometimes we grill so it's over a fire outside, and sometimes we eat out. Usually we eat no later than five, then if it's just us and we aren't camping with anybody then we are usually in bed by 10. But if we're camping with people then we usually stay up and talk, so it could be midnight or something like that. 

What has been your favorite part about traveling?
Well, I would have to say meeting people. Meeting people and asking them these kinds of questions; like 'what is your life like,' 'how do you live here,' because a lot of the people we met in Alaska, I was just fascinated with. It's like 'how do you live here,' because it is so wild. When you're so limited on some resources because everything has to be brought into you for the most part. It's amazingly different. So meeting people for sure because I like learning about how other people live and how they do things. And then you know, I've never seen a glacier before and that was cool to see. So seeing things for the first time too.

What is/has been your biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge that I didn't anticipate was how hard it would be for me to not work. I didn't even think about that. I didn't realize how much work gave me a sense of purpose and accomplishment - because you're doing things for people. I'm using my brain, I'm using my skills, I'm moving around, I'm thinking, and now it's like I don't do any of that. And that never even crossed my mind that I would miss it. Before it was like, 'oh I'm not going to have to work, how great,' but now it's like, I miss working. I miss having that schedule, I didn't realize how dependent on a schedule I was. That's been the hardest part, and trying to figure out how to find some middle ground in there - how do I compromise. I may not be able to work, but what else can I do to give me that sense of purpose. I haven't really figured that out yet.
-I asked if she had any ideas on how to do so-
Well, I should probably get more involved in our podcast. [Insert chuckles] That might be something more I can do, but I prefer to observe, be in the background, and listen. 

What advice would you offer to other travelers, whether newbies or well experienced travelers? Or what advice would have helped when you first started out?
Well, what works best for me is that I need some type of routine. I need to maintain some type of routine or else I just won't get anything done. That helps me get through to obtain some sort of accomplishment. For other travelers, I would say to keep an open mind, but I guess that kind of goes with being a traveler. [haha]

How is your sister's lifestyle different from yours and what is your perspective on it?
My sister's lifestyle is completely 100% different than mine. And we've said multiple times, if we weren't sisters - we would not be friends because we are totally opposite in every way. She has multiple children, I have zero. She lives in the country, and typically most of the places I've lived have not been in the country. I'm interested in traveling and seeing the world, she's not so much. Well, she is, but she can't right now, and this is my life. You know, people say, 'oh you're going on vacation,' and you can look at it that way, but this is my life. You go to work, you go to school - and that's your life, but this is my life and this is how I'm living right now and it's different than just saying we're on vacation. I would definitely like to have something similar to her, but this is how I want to do it and how she would never do it: I would like to find a place with some space where we could either buy a chunk of land somewhere, and either people buy parcels around us, or buy into that land and it would be some sort of communal living situation. 
[The look on my face was probably not the best one because then she went on to say]
Yeah, exactly. There's such a negative connotation on communal living, but when you think about it, you're living with people for a greater good. The way I want to do it is to have two or three other couples max, you share some land, and you're spaced out. So you're not living together - you have your own home and your own space, but you have a communal space separate. Communal as in a garden, where the animals are, or where the pool is - that is shared but your home is separate and it's your own. I want to have those things - a garden, animals, and some land with some space to have a peaceful spot in the world, but I also want to travel. And you can't have that and travel, because who's going to take care of all of that. So you have to go into it with some like-minded people who want the same thing. So you can say you want to take off six months, and they stay and take care of everything. Then they can say they want to take off six months, and we'll stay and watch everything. So that's how I would love to live and have my space, but you have to find the right people who want the same thing, who are responsible, and who you can trust to take care of everything while you're gone. So that would be the ultimate goal if everything in my life could go the way I plan it. 

That last question had me chuckling while I interviewed Tiffany, because BOTH of them said almost the exact same thing initially to answer the question. I think from the title of this post alone, it was clear how different their lives are. I just found it so intriguing that they were raised primarily together, and yet lead two incredibly contrasting lifestyles.

This post truly has to be one of my favorite blog entries to date. Learning more about my sisters and hearing their perspectives on their day-to-day lives, as well as their personal viewpoint on the other and their life, has absolutely been a joy to be a part of. Maybe one day I'll compare my life to each of theirs - I suspect I'll end up somewhere in the middle, haha! 

For participating in this as I sprung it on both of you after I arrived to Tennessee and being willing to take the time to openly and honestly answer my questions. I love you both very much and am so thankful to have such great role models to look up to. 

Can you believe these two were raised together majority of their lives?! Who's lifestyle do you relate with?!

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