Two Seek Counsel

When I was first falling in love with Savanna, she once said, “Being self-aware is a radical revolutionary act,” without even thinking about the words. The depth of this comment in such a light hearted fashion revealed the vast wisdom of her being, and she continues to teach me every day of our lives that being self-aware is truly radical! So how do we become self-aware?

In many cultures, a primary source of wisdom and self-awareness comes from observing and participating in nature by seeking silence and solitude in the forest. A form of meditation. This is a forest in Kansas, where we went to take a break while visiting family in Missouri.

The other night we had a tizzy. Not an all out fight with bad words and hurtful names thrown like throwing stars, but a heated conversation about crop planning, seed orders, feeling overwhelmed and supporting each other by doing tasks together instead of alone. It started, if I remember correctly, by me asking Savanna if she was going to work on creating a crop plan and she said, “I can’t do that, I’ve never done that, but I would be willing to help you and to learn.” Of course, I didn’t hear anything passed “I can’t do that, I’ve never done that…” And the large list of things I have never done but will do this season piled in my head and I got frustrated.

Sometimes I resort back to the airborne infantryman I was trained to be. And while there is a time and place to be a trained killer, when it comes to talking about seed planning with your wife, it’s really not the time.

On top of having a 40 hour a week job (47.5 including the drive), something I am really not used to, I plan to build a platform this summer for a yurt, an outhouse for bed and breakfast tenants, two wood sheds and a chicken coop; not to mention having a baby in June, nesting in preparation for the baby, feeding and tending fruit plants, promoting the health of native fruits, beekeeping, growing food in a 30 x 48 foot high tunnel, attending AA and 907 Vets meetings, fishing, canning, preserving, selling… To add to it all, we cleared out a large tract last summer with a friend’s tractor that we talked about turning into a beautiful sun shaped garden with a hedgerow of flowers and fruit.

Sometimes the things that happened in Iraq creep back in, and I become hyper aggressive, defensive, paranoid, and afraid. I also have a tendency to pile too many things onto my plate and carry the load without help until I collapse and retreat in embarrassment. Let’s just say the military didn’t teach me how to ask for help.

In the middle of the multiple hour talk, which included multiple breaks, my guilt ridden/awaiting another abandonment mind wanted to pack my duffle bag with surf shorts, wallet, and tank top and fly away to India to act like some kind of holy person with everything figured out. But then I remembered, I am married; and that includes a long term commitment to provide and support my family. So I bit my tongue, rubbed my feet and waited for things to cool down, instead of doing what comes “naturally”– running away or pushing. Our conversation was resolved in bed on Saturday night at about 1 am, 4 hours after our normal bed time. I had tuned her out when she said, “I would be willing to help you and to learn,” regarding the crop plan. She reminded me that WE would do the building projects together. WE are having a baby this year and SHE will not physically be able to do the amount of farm work that she would hope. WE want to have fun and enjoy our summer as well as work to achieve our dreams. So in the end, WE won’t worry about the new garden space this year, instead we will pick the sticks and roots, rake out manure and soil, and plant a cover crop to build soil fertility. We fell asleep holding each other.

I am learning that marriage isn’t about being happy all the time, sometimes we get pissed, sad, disappointed or depressed. We have to accept each other and support each other through these emotional states instead of running away.

All of this is new to me. Tools I have learned in a recovery program, combined with years of counseling, dozens of books, thousands of pages of journal entries, mentors and heartbreak. About a month ago, Savanna and I started seeing a counselor together to talk about the good, the bad, and the difference between inspiration and control. Confessing to a stranger some of the awful things I have yelled at my best friend is embarrassing, shameful and humiliating. To see and feel her tears as she confessed some of the things she has said during rage made me realize how bad she feels about it too. Our counselor told us that it is totally unacceptable (in more intelligent words) to continue saying horrible things to each other, and that those boundaries need to stay firm and never be crossed. Never! He said that when people try to control others, such as partners, spouses, friends, it only lasts a short time as the person being controlled grows more and more resentful, eventually leading to divorce. To inspire is different. By being our best selves, people recognize the goodness in us and grow to truly love us; they want to honor our goodness and choose to do things that bring happiness to their loved ones instead of harming them.

I have been learning how to take deep breaths when anger, rage, sadness and discomfort come forth. It’s a lot better than saying hurtful things to my best friend and self, words that can never be taken back. Learning how to say what is on our mind and in our heart in a tender way instead of acting like everything is cool all the time or being mean takes hard work, surrender, acceptance and guidance.

Since we started seeing a counselor, we have been able to talk through difficult topics like sex, money, child raising, travel, and purpose with breaks, breaths and kisses instead of harshness and defensiveness. It is incredible!

Who is my wife and best friend? Not only a tender, loving, nurturing woman; she is also a fierce, tough, powerful warrior. When one side shows more than the other, I try to remember that the other side will shine through soon, and I choose to be accepting and understanding. The infantryman/American Boy/lover of novels and Hollywood was trained to think that women are supposed to be permanently sweet and kind, how wrong that is!!!

Transitions can be tough. Savanna recently quit her job after 9 months of working us together. And while we agreed it was the best thing for her, us, our farm and family, it is difficult to say goodbye every morning instead of car pooling to the office to work together. It is not something I want to get used to, but it is necessary to achieve our common dreams and goals of making a living from our home. She takes care of our animals, our home, our baby; I take care of our money… or so it seems. But in reality, by her taking care of the animals, home and baby she is also saving us money, making us money, and taking care of the money. Just like I am taking care of the animals, home, and baby by going to work to make money. Sometimes it can be difficult to see other sides, so it’s really nice to be reminded by Savanna as I leave for work how grateful she is for me going to work. Do I need consistent validation and approval? Yes. Either way, I never thought I would be with somebody who I enjoyed spending every hour of the day with until I met Savanna. So to drive away from her every morning at 8:15 and not return until around 6 is painful, but it is not permanent. Nothing is.

Savanna is a nurturer and farmer of thoughts, animals, and creative ideas. Here she cleans chicken eggs while playing with our new bunnies and growing a baby. She is .

Being self-aware isn’t easy. Making amends for hurtful things I have said and done doesn’t feel good in the moment, but it certainly makes me not want to continue being hurtful. As a man, being forced by culture to be straight faced and emotionless caused more damage than good. And when I expect my wife to be smiley and chipper all the time, it causes both of us more harm than healing. I know a few of my biases and stereotypes, and I am working on changing them. I just hope that my warrior wife will be patient as I continue to grow into a better me.

Published by secretgardenalaska

Family of four living off-grid in Happy Valley, Alaska. We grow food, write stories, make jewelry, and live a sober life.

11 thoughts on “Two Seek Counsel

  1. Every relationship has its storms. It’s so great that the two of you are aware, mature and brave enough to realise yours and to take the steps to overcome them. Your positivity and love are an absolute inspiration and i am so pleased to have come across your blog. I look forward to seeing your journey progress and learning along the way with you. Brightest blessings, waving madly from Australia 🙂

  2. Every relationship has its storms. It’s so great that the two of you are aware, mature and brave enough to realise yours and take the steps to overcome them. Your positivity and love are an absolute inspiration and i am so pleased to have come across your blog. I look forward to seeing your journey progress and learning along the way with you. Brightest blessings, waving madly from Australia 🙂

  3. Hello,

    Really enjoyed reading your blog. I can relate in many ways, being a Veteran and having gone through counseling with my wife and just having had a baby as well. I understand many of the things you said as I also thought these to be true as well when it comes to expecting “my wife to be smiley and chipper all the time.” Having spent 10+ years in the Army also created some walls for me, as your not trained to talk about your feelings and emotions in the Army.

    I have been trying to convince my wife for us to move from Seattle for Alaska 🙂

    You guys should start a YT channel!!

    God bless and Happy Holidays.


    1. Dear Andres,

      Thank you so much for the comment! It means a lot to know that our experiences are felt by others. It sounds like our families are walking similar paths?! How rad is that!?

      Were you able to learn how to talk about your feelings and emotions after the Army? If so, how did you do it? And how do you combine the training from the Army with the training after? I’m still trying to figure all that out…

      My wife and I have been reflecting lately on our short time spent in Seattle. We sure loved drinking Bubble Tea in the International District and eating breakfast at Biscuit Bitch. We’re not able to do things like that out here…

      We’ve thought about starting a YT channel but neither one of us are taking the lead on the video/editing aspect of it… So until then, we’ll just keep living one day at a time.

      God bless your family as well.


      1. Hi Bob,

        Yeap sounds like we have similar paths. We just had a baby boy in November.

        Yeah after the Army I got counseling for PTSD and I became open to counseling in general, before that my walls were up and I did not really believe in seeking help, did not think I needed it but I was wrong.

        It was also a challenge when I got married to not be so “military” and regimented, feeling the need to always be in charge and as my wife says “bark orders” at her. Although I mean well, counseling showed that my approach or messaging needed to be toned down and highly improved. Marriage counseling did help me open up to my wife and to trust her when I shared my deep feelings about everything really, before counseling my walls were up and that caused issues as communication is so important in a marriage.

        The military is kind of its own society and culture so after 10+ years of that lifestyle it took some time to adjust for me, even longer as after the military I worked for the fed gov in an environment where everyone was former military and the mission was also very militarized. Now I work in the civilian sector/corporate environment and that was an adjustment but I took it one day at a time and doing great! Very grateful!

        Yeah Seattle has been fun but things have changed since we moved here from NYC 5 years ago, and it has also become so expensive here. Trying to convince my wife on Anchorage but she wants Florida haha, maybe we can compromise on Juneau lol. I would love to live more self sustaining with some land, it is my dream 🙂

        Oh I think you could make some amazing content on YT with your farm and beautiful Alaska but I hear ya it is additional things to add to the plate.

        I see you were with the 101st Screaming Eagles, thank you for your service Bob!

        Warm regards,

      2. Hi Andres,
        Thanks for the response!
        To go from NYC to Seattle sounds like quite a change, but then to go from Seattle to Alaska would be even more so. I imagine that it was significantly cheaper to go from NYC to Seattle? I can’t even imagine living in one of those big cities! My wife and I barely make any money, and our bills are quite limited, I don’t think I could deal with the stresses of having to work so much just to pay the bills… Okay, maybe I could… but I wouldn’t want to… I hope you and your wife can come to a common agreement soon, being in limbo can be a difficult time.

        Florida is pretty nice… besides there being so many people…. too many for this Alaskan guy. But there’s probably some nice country places where you could find a little plot of land and limited people… Juneau is a beautiful place! Have you and her ever been to Alaska? Would you guys be able to buy land in Florida so you could also be a little more self sustaining? Yeah, we are certainly blessed to have a piece of land to work. Especially with all that’s going on in the world, we feel so dang rich to have a small seed bank, the skills to grow food and the willingness to work the land. Do you and your family have experience growing food?

        Yeah, I was with 101st, but I was also with 173rd. That was the unit I went to Iraq with in 2003. That’s the unit I really represent. I loved being stationed in Italy and being close with those guys during the invasion.

        What was your military experience like? Job, duty station, deployments? Were you married during the military?

        What made you go from the military into Federal Government? And what exactly do you do now?

        Okay, I’m going to run for now. Thanks again for the letter. A few years ago a man asked me to come out to the property to film what I was doing… I allowed him to, and he made a few videos that are on YouTube. Here is a URL to one of them, it’s super long… I haven’t watched a second of it… and a heck of a lot has changed since then.

        Take care,

      3. Hi Bob,

        Oh the move from NYC to Seattle was a big change, I am originally from NYC but had not lived there for a long time. I only went back after grad school while I looked for work and stayed with family there. That is where I met my wife who is actually Canadian and was living and working in NYC at the time.

        We moved from NYC to Seattle because we wanted to start a family and NYC was not where we wanted to do that for many reasons (expensive, lots of crime, too crowded) and yeah it is very expensive but Seattle is not far behind on high cost of living. I work from home so we are flexible about where we can move, which is a great plus.

        I agree with you about the stress that comes with working a stressful job. I do like what I do but it does come with some stressful times. I would love to have my own business someday doing something that involves being outside or in nature or to be able to retire early.

        Florida is nice but I love 4 seasons and my wife does as well. I love where the ocean meets the mountains and Alaska has plenty of that. We do go to Vancouver CA, well before Covid, as it is a beautiful place, the city and the surrounding areas. As well as Vancouver Island, I highly recommend that as a place to visit.

        We have not been to Alaska yet 🙂 I have watched so many YT vids about Alaska and many of the different homesteaders, off grid living or just people who move there for the love of adventure and the outdoors. I will definitely check out the video you linked.

        We do not have experience growing food but it is something I have started to research. Living in a big city when the pandemic first started was stressful and the anxiety kicked up. We did not want to go anywhere for fear of getting Covid, you could not find certain essential items in the outset of Covid, plus my wife was pregnant at the time, was really stressful times.

        That’s when we really started talking about moving from here and have been taking steps to prepare to move next year. We have been doing many renovations to the house to get it ready to list it on the market next year. Another reason for living more sustainable is also the freedom it provides. We want to live a simpler life with less stress, less bills and more love and enjoyment of life, being more present and more aware about the things that we feel truly matter in life, family and your loved ones, friends and your health and being kind to your fellow humans. Being former military and having lots of interests and hobbies brings lots of gear and being a gear head brings lots of consumption and consumerism and my hobbies do bring joy but I would like to cut down on the gear and do more with less.

        Ah ok the 173rd, I visited Vicenza back in 2001 when I was stationed in Germany. I started out as an MP and did most of my time in Germany as a CID agent, then in Northern VA. I deployed to Kosovo in 99 when the Army first deployed there as an MP, was supposed to go in the initial Iraq invasion in 2003 as an MP but got a slot to CID school, but eventually deployed to Iraq in 2004 with CID to provide protection for the UN Ambassador to Iraq in a joint mission with NCIS and Air Force OSI, as I was in the CID protection unit (this unit provides protection for the Secdef and other top Pentagon officials). I worked out of the embassy in the green zone but We did many red zone moves, almost daily but what really messed with me was the incoming mortars into the green zone because you cannot see them coming and the shacks we slept in would be a big can of shrapnel if hit. These mortars took a toll on my mind.

        As far as the fed gov job, I worked for one of those 3 letter agencies. That job is a whole other story but the grass is not always greener…

        Now I work for a cyber security company doing malware related research. It is really interesting and no day is the same with all these new and highly sophisticated cyber attacks.

        I am sure you being with the infantry you went through some stuff. How was the deployment to Iraq for you? How long where you in Italy? What made you decide to leave the Army? What do you do now? Are you originally from Alaska?

        Oh wow this has been a long post, sorry if I bored you haha.

        Warm regards,

      4. Hi Andres,
        I apologize for the delayed response, life is nice and busy up here in the North Land.
        How are you?
        You certainly did not bore me!!! Quite the contrary!
        I can’t imagine what your day to day life is as a cyber security company worker…? What the heck is going on with all of that?

        I understand the fear of incoming mortars, no doubt. I can understand why it would take a toll on your mind. It seems like you would have to be abnormal if it didn’t.

        Germany must have been a nice place to be stationed? Where were you there? How did you enjoy CID/MP work?

        Any leads on where you will move? How is the house coming along to sell? Are you finding time between being a parent, worker, and husband to do all of that work?

        I have never been to Vancouver, CA… but I certainly love parts of California. I could see myself living down there, somewhere on the east side of the Sierra Nevadas. What gorgeous country! And actually warm!

        The weather here has been warm and rainy. Quite abnormal for this time of year. I’m hoping it assures us a decent summer, but who really knows. I love talking weather! I think that is part of my PTSD, I would rather talk weather, God, philosophy and basically anything rather than politics and war.

        But with that being said, I do now and then…
        I loved being stationed in Italy. What a dream! The only problem was that I was a young alcoholic, so I wasn’t able to really travel around and get to know the country without being blacked out. MPs didn’t like me. But either way, I have wonderful memories from there.
        We certainly saw a few things that stuck with me. But more than anything was the fear of every day being surrounded by potential enemies. I was a door kicker, search the house type guy. So yeah, I feel pretty guilty about all of that, but what do you do? Move forward, forgive myself and be good to people.

        I am originally from Alaska. I joined the Army because I didn’t see any other option at the time. I currently work full time as an unpaid farm worker, writer, father, husband. My wife and I were working as Peer Recovery Support Specialists for a Native Tribe in the area until we were too stressed working with people in active addiction, so we decided to pay off our home and start a business. Covid affected our home business, for sure. We bought a yurt to put up and it didn’t arrive until much later than expected, so we weren’t able to rent it out last year as a B & B, but we plan to this next year.

        I moved out here to the country to pursue my dreams of being a paid writer and farmer. So I am still working on both, and I believe that in time they will pay off. Although they already have in ways that are much more worthy than money.

        And of course, since I receive 70 percent compensation, my wife and I are comfortable on that money at this time.

        Okay, I’m going to read the next one and write to that.

        I hope you are well, thanks for the message!

      5. Hi Bob,

        I am great how are you?

        Yeah so working in cyber security is a lot of fun as there is something new almost everyday and I get to do it all from home. Although sometimes it can be stressful with deadlines and urgent matters that require immediate attention regardless if weekend or holiday.

        I was in Heidelbrg while in Germany. I enjoyed being an MP but it is not really law enforcement per se, it is more combat support and in some cases assigned to combat front line units. CID was lots of fun because I spent most of my time in the Protection Unit, working personal security for SECDEF and other top pentagon officials, lots of travel and experiences.

        I really want to move to Alaska for many reasons but my wife says she would be willing to visit there but not live there. We are at a conflict as we cannot agree where we want to move to next.

        The house Renos are going great, only a few things left to do. Oh I wish I had the skill to do the Renos but I have a contractor who is completing the Renos, I have done them in phases as I could not afford to do it all at once. Homes are so expensive here and the only way I was able to buy this home was because it needed a complete update/reno done. I did use the VA home loan as well.

        Oh I meant Vancouver, Canada. California is nice but the politics are not for me lol and I am not that political really but Seattle is hugely political, I was not expecting that when I moved here and wow was I surprised.

        I hear ya man on war. So glad we have not had any new wars in a few years and hope it stays that way. I do love good war movies that have a great story to it besides the harsh realities of war, like the film 1917, When Trumpets Fade, and The English Patient to name a few. I am really into films and love the Ernest Hemingway books from the WWI-WWII era. I have an indescribable feeling that I fought and died in every war in previous lives but not this lifetime, which I feel more when I watch war movies from WWI-Vietnam or read books from that era or maybe it is just a Soldier-connection thing.

        So you enjoy writing? What do like to write about?

        I hear ya man about being surrounded by enemies. I have some stories there too but with it being an open forum you know.

        Yeah I loved living in Europe and traveling all over to so many different countries and seeing so many different cultures.

        Sounds like you have some experience in addiction counseling but I can definitely see how that can be stressful for sure.

        Do you think business will pick up as the COVID vaccines start to roll out more and more over time?

        Yurts are really interesting and have become very popular.

        That is really brave to follow your dreams but I think it also provides a sense of freedom and less stress to not be dependent on having to make huge amounts of money in order to live happily. That is one of my goals is to live more and work less.

        Have you seen Simple Living Alaska channel on YT? They have a nice garden and film lots of interesting content as well.

        I hope you have a great rest of the week!

  4. Happy New Year to you and the fam!

    I watched the video and loved it! You’re attitude is so positive and full of energy and life! The property is amazing, you’re blessed to have such a beautiful home and family!

    You know a lot about growing food and about the land.


    1. Happy New Year and Christmas to you as well!
      I am learning more every day about growing food, thankful to all of the people who have grown food before me.
      Just yesterday we participated in a Zoom call with a focus on seed saving. We’re getting more into that side of food security, it’s a rabbit hole that keeps going deeper and deeper. I love it!
      Hope you are well!

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