Have Your Cake and Eat it Too: Live a Happy Life

What is with that saying, “You can’t have your cake and eat it too?”

I love cake.  It’s true, there is no denying it.  Cake is yummy.  So, so yummy.

Can you imagine celebrating your birthday with cake and then being told you couldn’t eat it?  Or ordering cake for dessert and having it arrive with an impenetrable cover?  The agony, the frustration, the anger, that would ensue, wouldn’t be pretty!

It’s the same with life.  I mean, what the heck good is a life if you don’t set out to make it the best it can be?  God gave us free will, He doesn’t want us to sit and suffer at dead end jobs, or rot away in the hood, or live lonely, segregated lives.

Instead, God expects us to charge life, to seek the positive in everything, to inspire others, to evangelize, to support our churches, our communities, our families and, when it’s applicable, yes, to suffer well.

But, what so many people do is suffer unnecessarily and then complain incessantly.  We get caught in ruts of boredom and unhappiness, stress and despair and we lash out at God and the very people we love.  We forget that our lives are our lives.  We can make any changes, we can do whatever we want.  We are truly FREE people.  We aren’t trapped, we aren’t strapped down.  If we hate our jobs, we can seek new ones.  If we hate our neighbors, we can move.  If we need more money, we can make more money — we can start our own businesses, we can take second jobs, we can go back to school to increase our marketability.  Anything we want, we can do … we just have to figure out how to make our desires reality.

And while all this is true, all this is absolute fact, people fight it, they buck at the idea of change, risk, and hard work.   And when someone decides to jump ship from all the things they were told and taught, the push-back is extreme.

When Dan and I set out to not only live our life, but to enjoy it too, we were met with enormous resistance.   Change of any magnitude is something the 99% will tell you isn’t possible, it’s not feasible.  If you try to tell them otherwise, they’ll shake their heads exasperatingly.

“When you live in the real world, you’ll understand,” they insist.

“When are you and Dan going to grow up?” they ask.

“When is all this going to end?” parental units inquire.

“What about socialization?” the unenlightened will prod.

“Are you done having kids?” family seeths.

Our response is and always has been the same.  We enthusiastically explain that happiness is not our goal, it is our way of life.  We flat out deny everyone elses “real world” from ever infiltrating our lives. People have thought we were crazy from the get-go.  Dan and I were married uber young, Kerry was born when I was equally as young and we were well below the poverty level, believe me — Dan was barely making a double digit income and I was a stay-at-home mom.

Most people we knew, if not all, were certain we’d never see our first anniversary.  We gave people a lot of reasons to gossip, that’s for sure.  We kept having babies, we took giant leaps of faith without really comparing the pros and cons, Dan quit his stable job and started a consulting business, we up and moved across the country within 30 days of deciding to move, we bought a house we really couldn’t afford.

We were living a dream life and to our family and friends, we were crazy immature and the bubble was certainly going to break!  When we finally made that proverbial leap and decided to travel in an RV extensively, in most people’s minds, we lost the last bit of what kept us semi-normal.  We were lost, no way to get into our kids heads, our heads, we were gone!

What has always puzzled me about the way the 99% live is that they are content to be unhappy, at least that’s the impression when you read people’s Facebook pages!  But that’s the “real world” guys.  That’s following the road fully traveled, the road everyone ventures down, it’s tried and true.  You know where it leads and what you’re getting.

The real world consists of 40+/hr work weeks, day care, educational systems, political bureaucracy, peer pressure, shuffling the kids in all different directions, stress, anxiety, Xanax popping parents, Ritalin infused children, broken families.

As young kids we are told our path. Go to school, go to college, get a job, get married, buy a house, have a child or two, work some more, take a vacation once per year, retire and maybe, if you’re lucky, you might have a few free years to enjoy your life.  Oh my gosh, this was never going to work for me or for Dan.

Our society has somehow bought into the idea that every person must go to college if they are to be successful. In high school, at freshman orientation students are told, college graduates, on average, make 1 million dollars more than those who don’t.  What they fail to tell you is those kids would probably make 1 million more anyway.  They are the hard workers, the good students, the driven kids with goals and ambitions.  What they also fail to tell you is that life isn’t about how much money you make, or about how big your house is, or how nice your car is, or how many electronic devices you can amass, or dressing “to the nines” or any of the other myriad of lies we are fed.

Life is about love and family and relationships and personal growth and God!

We’ve always told our kids, when the subject arises, that we think college is a waste of time and money.  I’m a college graduate, the proud owner of an English and Poli Sci Major.  I wasted $40,000 of my own money that could have been used to start my own business or travel or something other than earn two completely worthless degrees.  Dan’s a self made man.  He learned everything he knows himself.  Spent money on books, not on college.  Unless you are going to be a doctor or a lawyer or something like that, a professional, you don’t need to spend what now equates to $100,000 on an education that will nine times out of ten lead to more education and more education.  Life is the best education, living outside the box is THE BEST education you can ever give yourself.

We’ve done pretty well for ourselves, really, when you look at our life as an entire story.  Dan’s a self-employed software engineer.  He supports his entire family.  I’m a mom.  It’s what I do.  That might not sound very prestigious for someone with two degrees, but it’s the most prestigious thing I’ve ever wanted to do.

Together, we’re raising 12 of the most diverse, amazing, talented, kind, smart, generous, loving, children ever.  They understand the meaning of life, their goals don’t consist of all things monetary.  Their goals are more simple.  They actually enjoy and want to spend time with their siblings and their parents and they want to have fun … every day.  We are each others best friends, confidants, teachers, and cheerleaders.

Our youngest kids will never spend one minute in a formal classroom … the world is their classroom!  Kerry is an amazing artist and musician.  Grady has launched his own production company called 14k Studios, he’s designing his own website.  He’s already made two promo videos, one for KOA and another for Bowflex.  He and Brody are working on a screenplay and will be casting and then filming their debut film in the coming months.   Kady is studying photography and has a unique eye and perspective.  The world is their oyster.

We aren’t spectators in our children’s lives, we are participants.  We experience the same challenges, the same fears, the same emotions, the same exhilaration and we experience it together.  We push each other and challenge each other in everyday life to be better people, stronger people.

Now I’m not for one second implying our life is all perfect and our kids are perfect and our marriage is perfect and our bank account is perfect and our parenting is perfect.  I’m saying just the opposite.  Nothing is perfect, nothing will ever be perfect, but we choose happiness.  We choose it.  When all hell is breaking loose around us, we, as hard as it is, we praise God.  We look for the silver lining, that’s all anyone can do.

Gratitude is a huge factor in our life, without it peace and content will never be yours.  Not ever.  If you are always comparing yourself to others you will never find peace.  If you are always wanting more you will never be content.

I’ll leave you with this …

It should come as no surprise that I was a bit down when we swapped back to our Georgie Boy from the Newmar Dutch Star.  The latter was luxurious and spacious, perfect for a family of 14 who travel fulltime.  But, so was the Georgie Boy prior to the Newmar.  We loved it, it was a symbol of freedom for us.  It was the means to adventure, it was the means to family bonding, it was the means to education, to learning perseverance and gaining resolve.

I came across this gem the other day … it was the first blog after purchasing the Georgie Boy …

And now, God has blessed us with the realization of a dream!  In the last few days we finalized the last piece of the puzzle in our quest to become nomads, travelling gypsies.  We purchased an RV!  It’s our first big purchase since buying our house in 2001.   It’s something we’ve been dreaming about for years and finally all the stars aligned and made it possible.  It’s huge, a 36′ Georgie Boy, Diesel Pusher and big enough to cart our rather large family from one river to another.  We’ll be nomads this summer, just travelling from one kayaking spot to the next.  It will be an unbelievable summer filled with family bonding, and extreme fun!  Who knows, maybe it’s the beginning of something life altering?  The thing about the road untravelled is that you don’t know where it’s going to take you, it’s exciting and new every single day.  Sure, there are lots of bumps along the way, probably, possibly bigger bumps than those encountered by the droves of people on the other paths, but those bumps define you, they make you who you are.  

I think it’s brilliant.  Such promise, such foreshadowing so much hope and joy.  Life is about change.  Change is good.  Change is exciting and sometimes a little scary, but don’t let fear hold you down.  Go after your dreams, teach your kids by example.

I don’t want the cake if I can’t eat it, and you shouldn’t settle for any less either!

“Indeed, man wishes to be happy even when he so lives as to make happiness impossible.”  ~St. Augustine

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