There’s No Place Like Home

Wendover

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There’s just something about those mountains. Every time I go they get to me. The woods are deep and dark and lovely. They speak to something deep in my soul – something of who I truly am. I treasure my childhood. It was simple in the way that a childhood should be. My sister and I could explore the hills as long as we could hear when our mom yelled for us to come home. My daddy plowed our gardens with a horse and plow. They tended the land. We ate from it. Though I’m pretty sure I was lazy and not helpful, watching them has given me an appreciation and love of the earth that has come back to me now. One of my favorite smells in the world is a tomato vine.

The hollow (“holler”) where we lived was small – just a one lane dirt road up the mountain. Behind our house was another smaller hollow. This was what I loved the most. The mountainside was covered in ferns. The creek running through made its way slowly over a solid rock with moss lining each side. The forest was a mix of poplars, hemlock, sassafras and others. There were two moss covered logs that had fallen who knows when. It was there that I would retreat to when I was happy or sad. It’s where I envisioned traveling to faraway lands and falling in love. It’s also where I knew without a doubt that there is a God even before I had met Jesus. The sound of the creek trickling and the smell of the woods was so perfect and unspoiled and I knew what I had there was special. It was and still is “my happy place” though I haven’t been there in years. I miss it so much. Especially on hot summer days when wading in the cool water and even cupping my hands for a drink would be so refreshing.

I’ve been out west and see the splendor of the Rockies. I’ve seen two oceans – each so magnificent, but there is no place that gets to me like home. I’m sure I’ve romanticized it a bit since I’ve lived elsewhere for so long, but maybe not. I know living there is not easy. There’s statistics and articles to prove it. Here is one. But I cannot deny the place in my heart for the place I grew up.

Its such a part of me that I sometimes feel like my kids are missing out. Yes I have a case of FOMO. How can I give my kids the same love and appreciation of the Earth? Will they have such a connection to the place we now live? Being in a neighborhood in a city? I love Lexington and we try to explore the city and really be Lexingtonians. Maybe some of you life long city dwellers can enlighten me. Or others who loved their childhood home and have moved away. How do you create that same thing for your children? Or if you left the place your grew up but it never left you, I’d love to hear about it.

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Simple Packing for Vacation

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It has been three years since we went on a vacation. Last summer we had a staycation. Andrei was off work for a week and we were very intentional about enjoying those days. We went to a water park, celebrated 4th of July and some other family events. It was actually really fun and for the most part relaxing for Andrei. But we missed getting away. A few months ago we asked my parents to join us and seeing as they hadn’t had a vacation in some years, they agreed to join us. So two weeks ago, the six of us went to Surfside Beach, SC, near Murrell’s Inlet. It was a great week! Going into this, I knew that I wanted it to be simple. I didn’t want to over-pack, I didn’t want to over-plan. I wanted to lie on the beach, play with my kids and have coffee in the mornings with my dad and go out once or twice. Oh and let Andrei fish until his heart was content (fi that’s possible). I have a long history of taking everything but the kitchen sink with me everywhere I go. I’ve tried to change that in the past year. I knew for our first vacation since becoming a minimalist, I would really need to think through this and plan what I was taking. If I didn’t, I would, in a panic on Saturday night, throw way too many things into our bags and add more bags. Andrei set the bar by saying he wanted us to take the medium sized suitcase and a bag for the bath stuff. It sounded a little challenging, but possible, so I went for it. And honestly, I could have packed even less! I will say having a washer and dryer in the condo helped and is the main reason I could have packed less. Here is what I took for myself:
• Two dresses (one of which I wore on the way down)
• Chambray shirt which was my one “warm” item…I always get cold.
• One pair of shorts to wear out
• One pair of athletic shorts
• Two t-shirts
• PJs
• Two swimsuits
• Flip flops
• Sandals
• Toms classic slip ons
I really could have gone without the athletic shorts. I ended up not running on the beach like I had envisioned. Why run when you can swim? Easier on the joints. I also could have really gotten by with only the two dresses. Also, just the sandals would have sufficed for footwear though I did wear the TOMS.
Honestly, I was really proud of myself and it proved once again, that I don’t have to have choices and a bazillion things to have a good time. I really liked the clothing I took. I always feel good in it. Not having choices made it so easy when going out. It felt freer and it was one less thing to worry about.
As for the kids, I also didn’t take many items of clothing. I took a little more than I did for myself. But knowing that most of our days would be spent on the beach, I only took several changes of clothes. Again, since we had the washer and dryer, I could have packed less for them as well.

Another hard part was packing for the time in the car. Its about a 10 hour drive. We were planning to leave early morning and have the kids sleep a few hours on the way. I think I fought harder against this than the clothing, but I packed one backpack for both. They each had their lovies, a few books to share that they love and I brought some cars for little man, because if you know him, he usually has a car in each hand. The books were the best. They looked out a lot and just talked to each other. I had stories on disc that didn’t really go over too well. They did not play the ipad or our phones. We just set that standard up front that we wouldn’t have enough battery life for the trip. They had a leapster, but no one even played with it. I did have Frozen on the iPad and they watched it mid day around their usual rest time.
All in all, I loved packing light. From now on, it is the only way to go. I could have gone even lighter. I truly see the value of it! We have a midsize car and we had space in the trunk to bring home the fish and crabs caught by Andrei. I think it is safe to say that I am a fully rehabilitated from my over packing.

Never Say Never

Last July I did something I NEVER thought I would and am pretty sure that I even said I would NEVER do. I know, I know. Never say Never! So, what was it? I started selling jewelry with Noonday Collection. If you saw me prior to the first week of August (when my samples arrived), I always wore my wedding band and ring, which I actually hadn’t done in 2 months because they were cut off my finger when I broke it, and a year later, they’re still not fixed, ahem, Andrei. I occasionally wore a necklace, usually a simple silver cross that had belonged to my grandmother. Every now and then a bracelet would end up on my wrist or a strand of pearls if I was feeling fancy. But now, I can layer necklaces, talk about the awesomeness of statement pieces and mix and match metals and colors with the best of them!

Of course hindsight is 20/20. I see it beginning now with the birth of my oh-so girlie girl. As most of you know I am a bit tomboyish. I love my jeans, t-shirts, and cowboy boots. I love sports. I love outdoors. I see now that those things can coincide with beauty and femininity. As my daughter hit 2 years old, so began her love of all things princess. We didn’t exactly encourage or discourage it. It just happened. She is now 7 and every bit as much of a princess and all-things-fancy lover. When she was 3 or 4 I was in a small mentoring group with some wonderful ladies. I had an epiphany during that time, brought on by reading Paul Miller’s book, A Praying Life. I had begun to pray very specifically and daily for my daughter. For a while, I had felt a bit of tension in my heart. I was easily annoyed with her persistence on me playing princess and dress up and painting nails. And the pink, for heaven’s sake, there are so many other colors in this world, but that was the ONLY color she wanted anything to do with. God forbid a guest child ask for the pink cup! As happens when we pray, the Lord began to work on ME and not HER. I saw that I needed to embrace her girliness and maybe even my own feminity. I think in some ways I had always wanted to be a boy. Yes, I know, I probably need to go to counseling for that statement. But I just felt like being a boy was more fun. They got to do more things, have more freedom. Sometimes I would get complimented, but I didn’t know what to do with that. I began to see that deep down, there it was staring me in the face. I WANT to be beautiful! I WANT to be desired and complimented. I WANT to enjoy being a girl and know what to do with that! And that is ok. I can be beautiful and smart and brave and even tough (I completed the Warrior Dash last year!) and still be a woman and embrace my femininity. I began to see that in Esther, and Ruth, and some of my girl friends. All of that to say, I started playing dress up and painting our nails with my girl and I even started playing a bit myself. I began to see that I did like beautiful things.

So, when the opportunity to sell jewelry came up, I went for it. I didn’t wear much at that time, and even on my application I wrote “minimalist” for my “style.” But I embraced it. I felt ok venturing into this new arena of being a woman and it has been SO MUCH FUN!! I’ve learned a lot and I’ve gained confidence as well. At trunk shows I love to encourage my guests to step out of their comfort zone and try on a piece that they might NEVER normally choose and to help their girl friends do the same. As women, we work and give so many hours of our days to others that I love encouraging my guests and customers to take a few minutes to feel beautiful and embrace that.

The Reluctant Minimalist

I claim to be a minimalist and this is how it all began. I was very reluctant to look into minimalism.  It began around Christmas 2012.  Andrei and I had an argument for the millionth time about “stuff.”  It always followed the same tune.  Life and stuff would be hectic and cluttered and he would tolerate until he couldn’t anymore.  He would explain how he doesn’t even know where most of it came from and wished our house would burn down and we could start over.  Seriously.  And then I would agree that it was crazy.  I completely understood his point of view (I did not agree about the house burning down).  Intellectually I understood, but I just didn’t know where or how to start.  I even remember dreaming of being a missionary in a jungle and living with nothing but the essentials – a minimalist was hiding inside the whole time!  After that tiff in December of 2012, I started very reluctantly and timidly exploring minimalism.  

I believe it was my good friend Heather who shared something on Facebook from Joshua Becker of becomingminimalist.com.  I returned to his blog occasionally and every time, I could have sworn that it was Andrei ghost writing.  By April of 2013 I was in.  I had known for months that something HAD TO CHANGE.  I should also admit that part of my reluctance was due to feeling that we didn’t have enough and here these people are trying to convince me to get rid of most of what I own. Yes we had clutter, yes we had things I didn’t know where it came from, but there was always something we needed or didn’t have and were doing without.  It was this mind set of “doing without” that made me reluctant.  

I was ready to begin becoming a minimalist but wasn’t sure where to start and that was when I read The Joy of Less by Francine Jay.   She basically helped me wrap my head around how to begin and lays out a pretty detailed method of minimalizing your possessions.  So, I jumped in.  I don’t remember the very first thing I minimalized, but I do remember a little bit of release and freedom.  I let go of things that I had been hesitant to let go and it was glorious.  As days went on I went drawer by drawer, area by area and room by room.  By summer I had gone through most of the house. 

A few weeks in I showed Andrei the massive pile of “stuff” in the garage that I had minimalized and was waiting to either take to Goodwill or put in a yard sale.  He said, “I don’t even know what’s in there but I don’t miss any of it.”  That’s not even counting the trash I had thrown out. 

That first initial purge ushered in quite a bit of peace in our home.  It just felt lighter.  We had always had a rule of the kids cleaning up in the evenings and now that was much quicker and easier. 

Speaking of kids, I’ve always tried to include and talk to them matter of factly about family things and did the same with this.  Nolan, 3 at the time, really didn’t seem to get what was going on or care.  Nadya on the other hand had more questions and we talked about it and she began participating.  When it came to toys I included them in the process.  I may have snuck out a few items, mainly which were broken and/or knew they were garbage.  But overall, the kids were in on the whole process and even enjoyed it.  I’ll post more in depth about toys later.

A few big take aways from that initial jump into minimalism.  Early on I realized it was more than just clutter and junk.  There is clutter in our schedules.  There is clutter in my heart.  It became an journey to simplify our whole lives, which meant saying “no” to some good or fun things for the sake of sanity.  It is also a spiritual journey.  I also realized the beauty of a clear surface.  I keep as much off the kitchen counters and bathroom sinks as possible.  I keep as much off the floor as possible-no more stacks or piles. Both of those make for much easier evening sweeps.  “A place for everything and everything in its place.”  I could share much more, but lastly this really stuck with me, I don’t want anything in my home that isn’t meaningful, beautiful or useful.