31 Days

It’s October again – just like clockwork.  And that means it’s time for joining The Nester’s 31 Days writing challenge.  Writing for 31 days, with or without a topic, and being part of a community of writers sharing their lives and hearts every day through October.

I’m writing about my home this year.  I actually started this earlier in the year, and it’s still something dwelling deep in my heart, this desire to purposefully love where I live, every day.  So, I am.

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Ever since I first moved out of home when I was 17, I’ve longed to make my home my haven, my nest, the place where I feel, well, home.  I’ve had visions dancing of decor and renovating and the perfect kitchen and open plan living.  I’ve dreamed and planned and cut out pictures and spent hours reading home decorating magazines and browsing blogs and design sites.  Lots of thinking and not much doing.

21 years on from that first place of mine that wasn’t with my parents, I still feel like I’m in a holding pattern, waiting to start making my home.  I’ve been in my house for 5+ years and when I fist bought it, I thought I knew just how things were going to go.  I had been renting for 5 1/2 years after my husband and I separated and I was so happy to call this place mine.  I started planning, kept dreaming and wishing and over the last 5 years I have painted, pulled up carpets and sanded floorboards, planted a garden with fruit trees, pulled out a fireplace and filled in the hole and renovated a bathroom – all DIY.

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But I still feel like I’m waiting.

Not waiting to feel like I’m home, because I felt that the first night we moved in.

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Waiting to start, to really be living in this space.

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Waiting to be ready to decorate, to design, to make our space truly ours, a place that reflects us and who we are.

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I’ve collected artwork and frames and pretty things and furniture to make-over and paint samples and a thousand ideas of how I want to bring our home to life.

And I’m still waiting.

I’m still hovering in a holding pattern.

Exactly why, I don’t really know.  A large dose of fear, of I-want-to-be-ready-before-I-start, wanting to do it all at once, lack of confidence in my self, in knowing my style.

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Not knowing where to start.

Not having enough money.

Not having enough time.

Not having enough faith in my self.

I don’t want a perfect house.  That’s not who we are.  We live life out loud, with cats and dogs and chooks and mess and love and dust and dirt trekked in from the garden.  But that’s where the beauty of our life can be seen, and that’s what I want to capture in our home.

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So I’m going to stop waiting for the perfect time – because there isn’t one – and just start truly appreciating and loving where we are, right here, right now.

The funny thing is, after 5+ years of living here, we’ll likely be moving out in the next 6-12 months as our family changes.  I’ve had things packed away (rather than having to manage allthestuff) and haven’t done much in the way of prettying things up as I truly want to.

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But we’re still here.  We’re still living life within these walls and I want to fully love where I’m living at any point in time.

For now, that means fully settling in to where we are today and leaning into what’s around us, even if we won’t be here tomorrow.

31 days of loving where I live.  Some DIY, some inspiration, some questions and a whole lot of love.

Right where we are.

How about you?  What does it mean to you to love where you live?

You can follow me through this month via the links below:

Day 2 – The little things

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Eat well, live well, love well

Woolf Inked

This post is part of the Blue Bike Blog Tour, which I’m thrilled to be part of. To learn more and join us, head here.

Hoooo boy.

This is one of the biggies for me.

And probably the hardest, most challenging-every-day part of my life.

I believe in heating whole, clean, as-close-to-its’-natural-state-as-possible food, for me and my family.  I’m intolerant to gluten and sugar, dairy and grains in general don’t agree with me, and forget anything artificial.  I have an auto-immune disease that can be crippling, the symptoms of which are very much affected by my food choices.

Basically, the cleaner I eat, the better I feel.

Period.

You would think that would make the choice really easy for me, wouldn’t you?  Eat well = feel great.  Eat rubbish = feel like death warmed up.

I wish it were that easy.

I am so very blessed to live in a wonderful part of the world where I have very ready access to beautiful, wholesome food.  We have a small farmer’s market once a week that provides seasonal produce, and great fruit and veg shop sand butchers  that provide a range of local/organic/fresh produce and meat.  There’s really no excuse for not eating whole and clean, all the time.

The biggest problem is what goes on in my head.

I struggle constantly with want vs need, and I give in to the wants way too often.  Sugar, anything baked, creamy cheeses, carby goodness, and my brain is satisfied – for all of about 30 seconds.  It doesn’t take very long for my stomach to start processing.

When I don’t eat well, I get tired, grumpy, foggy in the head and simply just don’t function well.  I certainly don’t love well, that’s for sure.

Reducing the amount of processed rubbish and replacing it with wholesome, home-cooked food is important to me, as it is one way in which I can love well.

Love my family by taking the time to think about what will nourish their bodies and meals they’ll enjoy, and to prepare them and share in them together.

Love my community by supporting local farmers and producers.

Love this planet God has blessed us with by choosing food that hasn’t been modified or tampered with, or required being shipped thousands of kilometres (that is not to say that I don’t buy out-of-season or non-local food, because I do, I try to keep that to a minimum).

Love the people I do life with by encouraging them to do the same, and walking alongside them in their own journeys to eating well.

Loving myself and my body, being grateful for this amazing creation I am thanks to God, by making choices that only enhance my health and well-being.

The choice to live like this isn’t hard.  Resisting the temptation to give in to temporary, fleeting satisfaction in lieu of being intentional about what I eat because it is good for me, not just because I want it, is the challenge.

My choices haven’t been great of late – I could blame the ongoing tooth infection and resulting pain I’m living with, losing my job this week, or any number of other life stressors, but here’s the thing:

There’s always going to be something.

There’s always going to be something that will make me want to turn to comfort food, to seek out instant gratification, to feel like it’s too hard to fight the resistance.

So I’m simply going to make a choice.  To eat well, and to love well.

It really is that easy.

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When enough is enough

Norris Inked

This post is part of the Blue Bike Blog Tour, which I’m thrilled to be part of. To learn more and join us, head here.

It’s a funny thing, life.

Just when you think you’ve got it all worked out, there’s often a great big reminder that actually, no, we don’t.

I was made redundant from my job today, so it seems like a very appropriate day to talk about work – only I’ll be writing from a completely different perspective than when I read Notes From A Blue Bike a few weeks ago.  A perspective that changed in a few moments, with a few words spoken by my boss who has the responsibility of delivering the news.

I’ve run the gamut of definitions when it comes to work – I’ve volunteered, worked full-time/part-time/shift work, studied whilst working, worked before I had kids and as a parent, worked as a full-time mum and in the workforce as a single parent.  Now, for the first time, I find myself unemployed.

Funnily enough, I actually asked for this.

Not in the sense that I asked to be made redundant, or wished that I wold lose my job, but last year, I awakened to the true desire of my heart to work more at home as a wife (to-be) and mum, more than in the workplace, but felt that I wasn’t in a position to be able to make that happen.

In the 3 years and 2 months I worked in my job, my working hours ranged from full-time, to 4 days a week, back to full-time, until I finally settled on working 3 days a week as the best balance for our family.

It took constant assessing, experimenting, give and take and just being intentional to find my rhythm – not just when it came to work, but to life in general, because paid employment is just one aspect of work in our lives.

2013 presented many learning opportunities for me to work out what does and doesn’t work in my life, in our family, and I had a rude awakening as to just how much I struggled with saying ‘no’, for fear of disappointing people – and the impact that had on all of us.  I had to eventually say ‘no’ to some things that I should never have said ‘yes’ to, and it was a painful experience.

But they were some of the best, most enlightening experiences I have ever had.  They were lessons in saying brave yes-es and strong nos, and working out what it takes to keep the rhythms of life more gentle than discordant.

They helped me define what work – paid or unpaid –  is important, and what isn’t.  And you know what?

Most of it isn’t.

Working to provide an income is important.  Working to please other people isn’t.

Working to give my family what they need is important.  Working to get more stuff that they want isn’t.

Checking Facebook/ Instagram/ Pinterest/e-mail a hundred times a day on my iPhone isn’t important.  Checking in with my kids and my love every day is.

Cooking basic, clean, healthy food for my family is important.  Stewing over any number of things that I *could* worry about isn’t.

Boundaries are important.  Constantly wanting more isn’t.

Enough is an ongoing, constant evaluation, when it comes to working.  Sometimes the balance requires less effort and more intention, sometimes it’s simply knuckling down to just do what needs doing right then and there.  Sometimes it’s more giving and less taking, and vice versa.

My working life looks very different right now, and I don’t know what enough will be.  I love Kat Lee’s personal motto, ‘Do as little as possible, as well as possible’.

Define.

Refine.

Assess.

Put boundaries in place.

And when you work out what the minimum is that is required for your life, do it to the best of your ability.

Work out what the essentials are for you to live a truly authentic life, and live them well.  With passion and joy.

Get rid of everything else – stuff, the yes-es that should have been nos, worry and fear, expectations.

This is how we find our definition of enough.

I have no idea what makes up enough for me right now.  And that’s ok.  It an ongoing process for life, sometimes requiring more focus than at other times.  I do know quiet, contemplative time is needed, and that I need to find it amidst the everyday of my life (that generally involves *a lot* of noise).

I also know that right now requires coffee, books, knitting and conversations – for now, that is part of my work.  That is a big part of enough.

There will also be walking, and baking (gluten-free) bread, and doing laundry.  And the dishes.  And cleaning the toilet.

And it will be enough.

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Time to hit the road

Augustine Inked

This post is part of the Blue Bike Blog Tour, which I’m thrilled to be part of. To learn more and join us, head here.

I feel completely unqualified to write about travel.  Simply because I haven’t travelled much in my adult life.

I have had the great fortune of travelling around a lot of Australia (and it’s a reaaallllyyy big place!!!), most of my holidays occurring when I was a kid and my mum and dad were still married.  So basically, before I was 16.

20+ years later, and my family and I have stayed closer to home.  We have had some wonderful trips across the country, but have been very limited by a lack of funds to be able to do this more often.

Well, that’s always been my thinking.  No money for holidays and travelling, either within Australia or anywhere requiring a passport.

I’m starting to realise what a lie that is.

Yes, you need money to travel.  But my perception of never having enough money has always been because I’ve never made it a priority.

I don’t need anything fancy for a holiday.  Give me a tent, a fire and some food, and I’m a happy girl.  Really, I’m that easily pleased.

But I still haven’t made that a priority, for a whole variety of reasons.  That right now seem really lame.

My eldest son is 16, and in the last few months it has struck me with stunning clarity just how little time we have left as a complete unit under one roof full-time, this little family of mine.  In a few years, he will be finished school and off to live out his adventures in the world.

All of a sudden, going places as a family seems reaaallllyyyy important.

I don’t care where, just as long as we’re together.  Somewhere.  Anywhere.

In the ongoing, beautiful process of putting our family back together, I want us to see new things together.  To have new experiences together.  To make memories together.

I don’t care where that is.  I just want us to do it together.

I am admitting my smallness in the enormity of the world.  To quote Tsh, I want to experience ‘the best way to understand our smallness is to leave our comfort zones and start exploring, one foot in front of the other‘.

There’s a whole world out there.  I’d better get started.

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Let’s take a ride

Since January 1, I’ve been writing about how I want to live life differently, how I plan for 2014 to be The Best Year Yet.

So far, it’s working.

I know it probably sounds a bit presumptuous to be saying this on the 3rd of February, but given that fact that my good intentions and yes, resolutions, have always gone out the window by now, I’d say that doing things differently is working out for me.

So to have the opportunity to review Notes From a Blue Bike at this time has been incredibly fortuitous, as this beautiful book – part memoir, part travelogue, part practical guide – has encouraged and affirmed so much of what I’ve been thinking about and implementing in my life.

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Notes From a Blue Bike is written by Tsh Oxenreider, founder and main voice of The Art of Simple.   She says ‘It doesn’t always feel like it, but we DO have the freedom to creatively change the everyday little things in our lives so that our path better aligns with our values and passions.’ 

Yes, we do.  We have the freedom to make the choice to live slower, with intention, thinking about the choices we make and making decisions that mean we are living in harmony with our core values and beliefs, as opposed to continually striking a discord.

For the next week, I and other bloggers around the world will be writing about various aspects of life as Tsh focuses on in the book – food, education, travel, entertainment and work.  Come on over here to join in the fun, and as of Tuesday 4th of February (US time), you can grab a copy of the book here (I’ll update local Australian sources as I find them).

In the meantime, watch the trailer below.  You won’t be able to help but start asking yourself questions that might just change your life.

About the book

Life is chaotic.  But we can choose to live it differently.

It doesn’t always feel like it, but we do have the freedom to creatively change the everyday little things in our lives so that our path better aligns with our values and passions.

The popular blogger and founder of the internationally recognized The Art of Simple (formerly known as Simple Mom) online community tells the story of her family’s ongoing quest to live more simply, fully, and intentionally.

Part memoir, part travelogue, part practical guide, Notes from a Blue Bike takes you from a hillside in Kosovo to a Turkish high-rise to the congested city of Austin to a small town in Oregon. It chronicles schooling quandaries and dinnertime dilemmas, as well as entrepreneurial adventures and family excursions via plane, train, automobile, and blue cruiser bike.

Entertaining and compelling—but never shrill or dogmatic—Notes from a Blue Bike invites you to climb on your own bike, pay attention to who you are and what your family needs, and make some important choices.

It’s a risky ride, but it’s worth it—living your life according to who you really are simply takes a little intention. It’s never too late.

About the author

Tsh Oxenreider is the founder of TheArtofSimple.net (previously Simple Mom), a community blog dedicated to the art and science of simple living. She’s the author of Organized Simplicity and One Bite at a Time, a regular contributor to (in)courage, an advocate for Compassion International, and a top-ranked podcaster. A graduate of the University of Texas, Tsh currently lives in Bend, Oregon, with her family. Learn more at TshOxenreider.com.

 

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One down

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Did you hear that?

Whoooosh.

That was the first month of 2014.

I’m struggling to wrap my head around the fact that it’s the end of January already.

I know that the older we get, the more quickly time passes, but seriously?

The speed with which this month has passed has served as a reminder that time is finite, and we are to use our time well.  I came into January planning to take the time to think about my goals and intentions for 2014 and beyond, and to really look at how I would implement all this into my life.

Just like I have for the last I-don’t-know-how-many years.

But for the first time, I’ve actually done what I set out to do – the difference this time was that in being intentional, I’ve realised this wasn’t an activity that would take a few hours and I’d be on my merry way.  So far, it’s taken all of January to sort through allthethings in my  head and to get them on paper, to see them take form in a way that makes me think ‘this can actually happen’.

It’s all still a work in progress, but I’m learning that that’s the point – it’s always a work in progress.  It’s taken me all of January to sort and tease out and plan and listen for God’s words to see what this year is going to look like, what changes need to be made and what goals will be made real.

I’m nowhere near ‘there’ yet (finishing planning) and it’s a step forward, a step back in implementing changes and new habits, acting on my intentions.

But it’s still progress, because even when I stumble, I’m falling forward.  I’m learning to breathe in grace and breathe out love when it doesn’t go to plan.  I’m learning that the unknown doesn’t have to be known now, and that whatever fills the space I can’t see clearly will be ok, because God can see what I can’t.

So tomorrow is a bit like January 1 for me, figuratively speaking.  Some new things to come, and old things to put away.  Onward and upward, keep falling forward.

What about you?  How is 2014 panning out so far?  How is your dreaming and planning and goal-setting progressing?

The beginning of the beginning.

10 years ago today, I made a decision that changed the course of the life of our family forever.

I decided to leave my husband.

And the crazy thing is, if I hadn’t, we wouldn’t be where we are today.

It took the complete breakdown of our marriage for us to learn just what it means to love someone, to learn what marriage is really all about, and for us each to find out who we are as individuals.

If we hadn’t gone through the breaking, the threshing, the refining, we wouldn’t have been ready for the rebuilding.  We wouldn’t have been ready or available for new foundations to be laid, for the construction of our new relationship to be built out of hope and faith and love.

Now, just to clarify, I am not an advocate of divorce.  I believe in fighting for a marriage with every ounce of your being, even when it feels like you’re being turned inside out and dragged along the ground, if that’s what it takes to save what you vowed and declared you would commit to forever, that day it all began for you and your spouse.

I believe that as a society, we give up on marriage too easily – we give up when it gets too hard, when it doesn’t feel like we think it should, when we feel like we’re not getting what we deserve, when we feel like our needs aren’t being met, when we’re wounded and hurt and feeling like our spouse isn’t living up to our expectations.  And we collectively give each other permission to do the same.

It’s no wonder the divorce rate is as high as it is, because all of us feel like that in every relationship we have, not just the ones with our spouses – family, friends, work colleagues, but our spouses are the only ones we can legally dissolve a relationship with.

When we say ‘I do’, they’re not just two little words.  They are a seal on a contract that binds us together for life – not just for today, and tomorrow, and maybe in ten years time, but forever.

That’s why I left my husband.  For all the reasons above, and more.  There was no specific ‘incident’, or ‘problem’ as such, just a collection of wounds and hurts and bitterness accumulated over time, each of us constantly wishing the other would change, but not realising that it was ourselves that had to change.

The moment of truth came quietly – it was the day before our youngest child’s first birthday, and we got into a fight over the proposed birthday celebration.  As it always did, the argument turned to ‘you always, you never, I wish you would….’ etc, etc, etc – an argument I could have scripted, we had had it so many times.  But that time, something shifted, and in a moment of stunning clarity, the thought came – ‘I can’t change him’.

I was never going to be able to make him change into who I thought I wanted him to be.

But I couldn’t keep living the way we were, none of us could.

So a couple of weeks later, I left.

And it was the beginning of who we were always meant to be.

It took a long haul through court, a divorce, years of healing before we could speak to each other again, and more years of learning to communicate and trust, for us to rebuild our relationship as co-parents and eventually as friends.  We were laying the foundations of our new relationship, or more to the point, God was laying anew the foundations of the relationship He has always planned for us to have.

And now here we are.

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Living a real-life mosaic, building something beautiful out of the broken pieces of our lives.

10 years later, what feels like a lifetime wiser and with a whole lot of life lessons under our belts , we are both very different people to who we were when we really didn’t understand what marriage what supposed to be.

That it’s putting someone before yourself every. single. day.

That it’s knowing that the whole deal is messy and complicated and frustrating, and that there are going to be times we just don’t like being where we have to be.

That it’s working out what someone needs and doing what we can to give it to them.

That’s it’s simply doing things we don’t feel like doing.

That it’s beautiful, and wondrous, and amazing that two people can make the choice to keep turning up day after day and facing life together.

That in committing to for better or worse, there’s always someone to walk through the pain and difficulties of life with.

That it is always, always worth it.

We are building our relationship based on what we’ve learned through our experience, and what we want our marriage to be.  It looks very different now to what it did so many years ago, and I thank-God every day for that.

10 years ago, as a young mum with 3 little kids and my world falling down around me, I had no idea what the future held in store.    Thankfully, my God did, and because He is in the business of making all things new, we now get to live out the story written for us.

We’re living proof that there are always new beginnings, sometimes it just takes getting through the endings to see what they are.

And it is always, always worth it.