Need Hope? Take a Walk

Something amazing happened yesterday. I didn’t feel that cloud that has been hanging over me for the last year. It was there, a little, in the morning but by the afternoon it was gone. I’ve got a few ideas about why this happened, and I’ll get into that later this week, but for now I want to focus on the healing nature of the thaw we’re experiencing.

Yesterday was heavy sweater and hat weather, and after a long commute home (working on Sunday, yikes!) I bundled up the kidlets who were all too happy for another opportunity to abandon chores and enjoy their rip sticks. We parents took the opportunity to enjoy a leisurely stroll down our secluded road, breathing in the fresh country air and I was amazed at how this brief, simple departure from our typical Sunday routine filled me with wonder and hope.

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A mouse house, like the ones we found in the melting snow

 

Here’s a little list of some of the early spring wonder I witnessed through the eyes of my children, particularly our toddler who is two and a half and in love with everything:

Puddles for jumping and splashing in

Mud for squishing under rubber-booted feet

Slushy, crunchy snow

Bubbly streams

Red-winged black birds who have returned

Mouse houses! We discovered these perfect little spheres of dried grass revealed by the melted snow and deduced that they must be little houses woven together by the mice. They were little wonders of architecture

Lambs at the farm next door. We couldn’t see them because the dirt road is currently a small river, but we could hear them bleating away in the barn

The squishy wonder of our melted snow saturated lawn

The endless joy of throwing stones into puddles

Silly walking competitions

The moist, healing smell of fresh spring air

The healthy dinner time appetite and deep, blissful sleep after time outside

If you’ve had the winter blues, treat yourself to a walk outside, in whatever green space you can find. Try to take it all in through the eyes of a child, and keep open to any discoveries that await you. Even in the most sprawling urban centers, change is happening and we can look forward to the return of warmth. What are the signs of spring in your neck of the world?

 

Things I Learned Escaping to the Real World

You should try this: step away from your computer for a good, long time. Like two months. Use your screen of choice as little as humanly possible. Put your phone away when you don’t absolutely need it to communicate. That’s where I’ve been. I walked away from my computer sometime in November, and I’ve been communing in the real world, even working at a real job in the retail sector during the holiday season. It’s been… illuminating.

This year, I wanted to own Christmas. I used my craft store employee discount as an excuse to go entirely overboard for. I was hell-bent on reclaiming the holiday as a joyous occasion for me and for mine, and this meant spending too much money, buying too much stuff, and making lots of presents in addition to all of those purchased. Christmas morning was an explosion of excess, I fell way off the debt repayment plan, and yesterday I walked away from the retail job.

Regrets, I have a few. I’ve learned some remarkable things though. It’s kind of inevitable when you shake up your routine. Perhaps you’ve missed me enough to indulge some ruminating on that, which will also serve as an ad hoc attempt at a meaningful post to ring in the New Year.

Things I Learned by Escaping to the Real World

1. People love to complain a lot. I’ve been a big complainer for most of my life, and I can’t imagine real happiness ever being possible until the complaining stops. Countless numbers of people who came through my cash register had so many things to be miserable about. No matter how cheerful and friendly I was, they just wanted to keep griping about inane, unchangeable realities like the weather or long holiday lineups. It made me feel a bit sick, actually. How can people with such privilege find so much misery, while craft shopping of all things? Go on a No-Complaints diet, like James Altucher suggests, and watch the misery fall away.

2. Stuff is stupid. The accumulation of lots of presents did not make my kids have a happier holiday. In fact, half of their presents now lay untouched, and will be altogether forgotten if we don’t engage them in play with these things. The highlight of the entire season was five completely unplugged days at the empty home of my in-laws to the north. We just spent time together playing board games, creating scrapbooks, coloring, crafting. That’s what made them happiest. That’s what made us happiest. I made a few smart moves by gifting gently used toys and wrapping up the girls’ old Ikea Kitchen and play food for our little guy who had never seen these treasures before. Did I have lots of fun shopping like a maniac and wrapping the mountains of stuff? Absolutely. Do I feel sick about it all now, thinking of how we could have spent that money DOING things instead of BUYING things? You bet your ass I do. Next year Santa is bringing one toy, and the rest of the budget will be spent on shared experiences and a sizeable family donation to the Aga Khan Foundation.

3. Volunteering as a family was on par with the unplugged mini-vacay in terms of deeply satisfying experiences. We didn’t get to do as much of this as I would have liked, but the day we had sorting for the local food bank was amazing. The girls were troupers and I was so impressed with their cheerful attitudes and work ethic. My goal is to find more of these opportunities in 2015, and help my eight year old daughter reflect on this time as something greater than time when she “was forced to give up phone time.” Sigh.

4. If I stop writing, I will never be a writer. Maybe it was like an “If you love something, set it free” scenario, but I just had to step away, from all of it. That doesn’t mean I haven’t been thinking about it. It doesn’t mean that I haven’t been reading about the craft and plotting more interesting plot ideas. I’ve even enrolled in my next creative writing class. It’s happening, but it’s happening too slowly. I need to write every single day. It makes me happy. I feel like more of myself. I deserve to see this through as far as it can go, and I have to stop putting myself in the way. More writing in 2015.

5. I miss my friends. Text messages and Facebook updates cannot replace real life human connection. I need more real life time with my peeps. You know who you are, let’s make some plans, or at least speak on the phone once a month. Crazy, right?

6. It doesn’t make sense to work for anyone else, when we need to work hard for ourselves. I can’t slide into a decent paying full time job. I’m going to be a bit selfish and insist on having as much time with my toddler son as we can afford me to. I also don’t have the work background or skills to obtain a decent paying job in the traditional job force. I’m going to really set my sights on growing our new businesses, and become our social media manager. I was born to be an entrepreneur.

7. I feel better when I look better. I’ve cut way back on sugars (of all kinds, not just the refined ones) and only indulge in gluten rich foods on special occasions. Nobody has asked me when I’m due in a long-ass time and all of my pants are saggy. I’m also hiking, and walking, and counting my steps with my new brilliant Christmas presents. My sister-in-law’s awesome boyfriend hacked some trails through our forest (major brownie points scored there, one of the best presents I’ve ever received!) and my loves got me a Misfit Shine. I’m even standing at the bar in Second Cup as I type this, because sitting will kill you, people! I am unashamed of how cliché it is to declare fitness as a personal goal for the New Year.

8. Love, Love, Love. I have a new mantra: Empathy and Vulnerability. My heart needs to open more than ever because that’s the next big step in my ongoing journey in growing. This feels like a good time for that to kick into higher gear. I’m not good at being vulnerable, and hence could be way better at being empathetic. If I can’t be okay with feeling things, it’s hard to be okay with other people’s feelings. Self compassion is the next big thing kids. Check it out!

9. Discipline and routine check ins are the only way to climb the big mountain we are trying to conquer to set ourselves free from debt and embrace real freedom. We three grownups need a monthly pub date to enjoy some alone time together and check in on the state of our Union. It’s a fun way to talk about not-so-fun subjects, and it feels so great to be on top of things. I have vowed to stop getting so hung up on worrying about money, and instead just keep plugging away with a healthy sense of where we are at financially. Spend very little, create a whole lot.

10. I love making things. I so enjoyed making cards and gifts this season, I am flirting with creating a line of my own to sell alongside Tall Earth products at local artisan shows. This may be insane, but I’m going to experiment a little and see where it goes. Best case for me is a fun and creative way to earn some extra cash, worst case is that I just commit to making awesome presents for everyone as I move through the ludicrous amount of craft supplies we own.

And because I believe in the power of manifesting things by putting them out there, here’s my biggest dream to begin hacking away at in 2015:

Building Our Own Living Space

Right now, we’re thinking tiny house guest bunkie cum studio on the property. We can use it for some privacy and for guests. Eventually, when we have the means, I’d love to see us build our own house, modestly and creatively using space that allows for entertaining and play, plus a kick-ass photography/crafting/writing studio. A real pie-in-the-sky dream would be to have a small village of bunkies with a yoga/aerial studio where I can facilitate retreats and workshops. It’s a good one, isn’t it? If you think we should try to crowd fund this, drop me a line!

Okay, your turn. What did you learn over the holidays?

 

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A Day of Rest

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Happy Sunday! Was it a fun weekend?

Why not take a page from Ayla and spend the day in your pjs writing in your journal or working on your scrapbook? Or just curl up with a good book and a cold drink!

Whatever you do, remember to take some quiet time to be grateful for the simple, wonderful blessings in your life.

The Landing Page

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Three days after our moving date, we’ve completely moved in. The contents of our four bedroom house in the city would not fit in the 26’ moving truck we hired, so Daddy and Chacha had to make several trips back and forth with our van to complete the job. What an epic task it’s been! Those guys deserve a relaxing Saturday here, for sure.

Mama S and I held down the fort here, first unpacking the girls’ room, and then tackling our own rooms. I’m one of those maniacs who will stay up all night unpacking because I cannot stand to live in chaos and boxes. Alas, I am prevented from such ideas by the amount of energy required to tend an eight-month old. I managed to unpack all of my clothes, Noah’s things, and Mama S’ clothes yesterday despite this. Daddy’s mum, our Amma worked away at consolidating food and kitchen items while cooking some amazing food. She’s a tour de force that lady! I think I should feature some of her recipes here because her cooking really is out of this world.

It feels good to be here. I don’t feel any of the strange displacement that I was expecting, and maybe that’s because I’ve grown so familiar with this house. Daddy’s family is so wonderful and warm, it’s hardly an adjustment to be sharing space with them.

The girls love their new room. It’s big and bright and they have a working fireplace! I picked up some new big-girl bedding for them at Ikea and they spent the entire day in there yesterday reading Archie comics. I actually thought they were outside because they were so quiet.

We’ve talked a lot with them about how settling into a new home is a process, even if that home is a familiar place. Hannu in particular has been stressed by all of the boxes and mess because she shares my love of neatness and order. We’re working like ants, just a little at a time, to set up our home and merge our households.

Daddy was a bit disgusted by the volume of our stuff. I think the move had inspired him to reduce more clutter, which is wonderful. It’s really astonishing how we amass so much and tell ourselves we need all of these things. My weakness is my sentimentality – I have a lot of keepsakes that I can’t bear to part with, but I’ve managed to fill two huge bags of stuff to donate while unpacking, and I swear this is not just an excuse to visit the local thrift shop!

We’ll get it all done, and likely most of it will be done this week. Meanwhile, my morning coffee is calling me, and I can’t wait to sit at the picture window in the kitchen and stare out at the fields and forest. It feels so right to wake up in the morning and see so much green. I love this place. Yesterday we were treated to a huge young deer and a coyote frolicking in the field. It seemed like they were pals, they were so comfortable with each other, and the girls were thrilled to have the binoculars out, watching the action.

Today is our first day home all together, but Mama S and I are heading back to the city this evening for dinner and a show. I never imagined the move in would take so long, and I got us tickets to the latest Boylesque T.O. show. It will be nice to take a little break from the boxes, and she and I rarely get to hang out just the two of us. There will be many evenings to spend as a family in our new place, eating lively meals around the big table in the kitchen, and chasing the kids up and down the huge driveway.

So far, this country life suits me well.