A Garden Party

by Leslie Godfrey in ,

The Spring of 2007 was spent gussying up our new place.  A nearby furniture store was offering a 0% interest sale on everything you could need. Digging our hole a little deeper, we bought a fridge, washer, dryer and furniture on their credit card.  “It’s 0% interest, though!”  

Next, we focused on growing our little oasis in the desert.  Andrew bought me a giant sketch pad, with grid lined paper.  After watching the pattern of the sun, we sketched and sketched options for our 50’ by 25’ “Courtyard Garden”.  “The key to a good Courtyard is creating ‘rooms’ using natural barriers.”  I read in one gardening book.  We thumbed through countless pages depicting perfect little flower gardens, reading nooks, and foot paths.  

Soon, we had a plan.  On paper, we placed the vegetable garden in the spot where the sun peeks in - even in the short days of winter.  We added a “sitting lounge” directly out of the back slider, with a hand built mosaic tiled fire pit to invite you out for a sit.  Divided by an herb garden and small tree, we planned a “dining room” just a few steps further. A “footpath” draws you out of the dining room and to the front yard.  Perfect.  

Now to get to work.  We hit garden store after garden store. We were very proud of ourselves when we spent an entire weekend pick-axing holes in the ground as hard as concrete for our rose bushes and bougainvillea.  We dug a giant hole for the vegetable garden, several drainage trenches, a trench to pour a cement platform for the planter box.  Andrew’s Dad came down for a visit, and we put him to work helping us tile the planter box.

One day, a big truck arrived and dumped several tons of sand and garden dirt on our driveway.  One wheelbarrow full at a time, Andrew and I took to moving the dirt from front yard to back.  Our neighbors began to feel sorry for us and offered their children as laborers.  My little sister came for a visit and we put her to work, too.  Pretty soon, we had a conveyor belt of dirt moving and it was all finished.  We paid our child laborors with ice cream. 

We hired help digging the big holes for the trees because it seemed like an impossible task to dig holes big enough for trees in the concrete.  But somehow, our landscapers did it, by hand, with shovels, a big metal rod, pick axes, and a lot of sweat.  

Next, we headed to the fireplace store….$4000 for a plain block tiled fire pit!?!?!?  We can do better than that.  So we turned around, went to home depot to buy more cinder blocks and concrete. I reviewed our garden books for instruction on how to lay down mosaic tile and only $400 later, we had our fire pit materials.  One by one, Andrew cut little leaves in green marble using our a leaf from our feijoa plant as a template. 

Then a truck delivered two giant pallets of slate rocks in our road. Seven tons of rock. Using a dolly, we wheeled the slate into the back yard a few at a time.  Since I am the Tetris-Packer in this family, I was in charge of arranging the rocks in place.  I would pick them up off the dolly, put them in place, only to find another piece fit the puzzle better.  We lifted seven tons of rock at least three times:  once to take it off the palate, once to take it off the dolly and put it down in the back yard, and at least once to fit it into place. 

In the end, our oasis turned out great.  We reserved a spot for Andrew's vegetable garden. The lemon tree, orange tree andjasmine vine add a beautiful smell to our “courtyard” when the Vegas sun warms their blossoms in March and April.  A fig tree, three fejoas, an artichoke bush, and every type of herb we could find were planted to puff up our gourmet food selection. Four bushes, two bougainvillea, several lantana, two desert bird of paradise and a bottle brush tree add a splash of color.  Our trees did grow into perfect hammock holders.  We spent countless evenings in the sitting lounge, enjoying the warmth of a fire fall, winter and spring. The dining area hosted a number of garden dinners with friends and family alike.  

But now, I'm sure you are saying: “Um, Leslie.  Where are you going with this?”    

If the Garden story feels a little off-focus in this topic about filling the Sail Kitty, that’s because it is off focus.  If our goal was to go sailing, it makes no sense to lay down roots, buy a house, build a garden, spend time, money and effort on other things.  We were off focus.  If our goal is to sail, then shouldn’t we be focusing everything on preparing to sail?  It was at this point we internalized Hard Fact #1.  

HARD FACT #1:  Anytime you spend money on something else (like your garden), you are not saving money toward your goal.  

As the Las Vegas evenings started to cool off in October of 2007, we would turn on our fire pit and discuss our day’s work.  We both felt a nagging sense that we were off focus. 

“We need to make a plan.”  I declare night after night over a cup of tea by the fire pit.  I could feel the tug of anxiety that we are off plan. “45 will sneak up on us faster than we think.”

Andrew agreed, but we still puzzled about it.  How do you balance efforts toward a long term goal and participate in life right now?  What if we sacrifice everything to leave on a sailing trip at 45, but I die at 44?  Hard Fact #2 hit us head on.

HARD FACT #2:  People die.  People get sick.  Money you save for a future goal is money you are not spending on experiences, things or people today.  You have to take a bit from today to give to tomorrow.   

Since we left Utah, we had invested very little time or money toward learning to sail (nothing).  We were spending money on a house and a garden.  And now we were sitting on a mortgage, school debt, and now consumer debt for a washer, dryer, fridge and furniture.  I just completed my first year of work as a lawyer, and the learning curve felt very steep.  I felt buried by our debt. Want to go sailing?  Want to have kids?  Want to reduce your hours to achieve a “work/life balance”? We couldn’t do any of these things until we figured out a way to reduce the obligations we agreed to before we realized what a 60-80 hour work week felt like.  It felt like the wants of today were naturally dragging us away from the big dreams we want for tomorrow.  We weren't giving tomorrow it's due.   And now for Hard Fact #3.

HARD FACT #3: Entering into debt is stealing money away from your future self without the value of wisdom your future self might have.  

No one ever has enough time, money and resources to do, see and be everything their hearts can conjure up.  If we want to achieve the things that are most important in our lives, we have to prioritize both our time and money and then spend it wisely.  When we used debt to buy what we wanted, our young and inexperienced selves made the purchase, then expected our wiser aged selves to pay for that decision. We knew we had to flip that equation on its head.  So, we committed going forward that if our younger selves wanted something bad enough, they were going to have to do the grunt labor to work, save and ultimately gather the resources for whatever it is we think we want, and then our older, wiser selves can determine whether that expenditure is a good idea after all.  This allowed us to establish a clear rule:


But then what?  What do we prioritize first of all those beautiful life options: career, family, sailing, vacations, cars, clothing, ritzy night life in Vegas....Figuring out our priorities seemed like a weighty task to me, but Andrew made it really simple.  

“If you were lying on your death bed right now, what do you want to look back and see?”  He asked.  “I will regret it if I don’t at least try to sail around the world.”  

That was enough for me.  If my Adventure Buddy says his life will be incomplete without doing this one thing, I know where I need to focus.  But what about me?  My vision is not so clear; I'm up for anything fun.

What do I want to look back and see from my death bed?  (1) That I maximized everything I'd been given; (2) That I appreciated nature and the best parts of humanity; (3) That I enjoyed a strong marriage with my husband, warm relationships with a variety of interesting people, and that I am good to my family and friends; and (4) That I have somehow been a strong contributor to society. Sailing seemed as good a way as any to accomplish most of these goals. 

So, in October of 2007 Oddgodfreys' path became focused on sailing, specifically the goal of a circumnavigation. We knew why we were working, saving, paying off debt, waking up early, going to bed late, and tracking a budget.  We had a raison d’etre.  It was fuel for our fire.