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Craigslist buyer beware

Dear potential Craigslist buyer,

When I list my food processor or beloved camera equipment on Craigslist, I’m looking for more than just sending you home with a sweet deal.  Deep down I’m hoping for more from you.  Don’t worry, I’m not a rapist or a murderer…just a stay at home mom with very limited adult conversations in my life.

So when you email me, I’ll “Facebook” your name first to check and make sure you are indeed a real person.  Then, I’ll get a little background on you so I can prepare for our meeting.  You won’t know this though, because I don’t want you to know I creeped on your page. If I can’t find you on Facebook, which I usually can’t since people are smart only leaving their first names for these transactions, it’s ok.  I’ll just be more surprised when I see you, because I imagine what you might look like based on our emails or phone calls. And I’m never right.

When we settle on a time and place and I finally meet you, I might look a little too excited to see you.  (Little adult interaction, remember?) I’ll ask why you’re interested in my items to get you talking, but these quick exchanges really aren’t long enough for me.  I’d prefer to sit down to coffee and listen to your story. Afterall, you just moved here from Alaska you said, or you drove 40 minutes to get here.  Let’s talk about your move, let’s make that drive worth it. Let’s chat.

You see, it’s gets lonely being around my children all day.  And although I’m an introvert, I still long for an uninterrupted adult conversation, even with a stranger. But once we chat for awhile, we won’t be strangers anymore.

This may all seem a bit bizarre, I get that. But you have to understand where I’m coming from. I used to meet families and engaged couples just to hear their stories for my photography business.  So for me meeting a stranger and hearing all about them is normal.  I also used to teach a class where I required the students to come tell me their stories.  That’s right.  They got a grade to meet with me.  They always thought it was weird too. But in the end most of them said they enjoyed that meeting.  Just someone listening to their stories, learning about their families and  how they ended up at the university.  So I know you’ll like it too. Right? Right.

So stick around, won’t you? Just to tell your story.

Maybe I like stories a little too much.

Is that weird?

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Living the dream

This winter was rough.  REALLY rough.  And not just here in Minnesota.  It was cruel to the whole country.  It took it’s toll on me mentally.  In January I was starting to look for new states to live in.  Where could we live without -45 degree weather? Where could we live without snow?

My most common Google searches during that time were: “average temperature in [insert big city name]” and “number of sunny days in [city]”

I was also looking for cities where I could live out my dream life.  The one Nick and I talked about when we were first married.  A big city where we’d live in a condo.  I’d shop at the market every day for our fresh food and we wouldn’t need cars because the public transit was all we needed.  We’d have “neighborhood culture” and countless restaurants to choose from when dining out. And of course…mild or no winters.

After searching way too many cities, I decided Barcelona fit the bill – and had beaches too! But I wasn’t sure I wanted to move that far and work so hard to remember my Spanish.  So New York came in second.  Where I could still speak English and still get snow for Christmas.

Once I’d settled on moving to NYC (I’d even looked at neighborhoods on urbancompass.com - awesome site!) I started reading Notes From a Blue Bike by Tsh Oxenreider.  She and her husband started their marriage living the dream life I’ve been wanting.  They were living in Turkey with a daily market below their apartment, had fresh milk delivered every morning, walked and rode public transit everywhere, stayed at their friend’s houses for meals and long afternoons. But they ended up needing to come back to the US and settle here for a variety of reasons.  After a few years of longing for their life back in Turkey, Tsh realized she could make conscious choices to live out some of her ideals right where she was.

Her book covers the areas of food, work, education, travel and entertainment in her life and tells the story of how they’ve carved out a simplified life for themselves in each of these areas.  While what works for her family won’t always work for mine, the book got me thinking about how I could actually live that “dream life” right here where I am. I also started to see how we’re already living some of the goals we’d had in mind before.

 

We don’t live in a condo downtown, but we are in a townhome. So our goal of never mowing grass or shoveling snow has been achieved.

We don’t have a backyard to send the girls out freely during the day, but that was a desire that came last year when I shifted from my original goals.  I’d forgotten how fortunate we are to have a pond with a dock in our backyard, three playgrounds we can walk to, and a swimming beach only a 5 minute drive from our house. Granted, there’s not a lot of grass like a backyard would have, but Mariah breaks out from grass anyway.

We don’t have a huge playroom where toys can be out all the time, but when we share play space with living space, we’re better at cleaning it up each night and keeping things organized.  I’ve also been better at paring down toys and limiting what we purchase.

 

Knowing we were already on track with a few things gave me momentum to look at other areas we could get back to our goals from long ago.

 

The daily market.  It’s my biggest dream.  Seriously.  And you know what?  Since December, I’d been sitting half a block from the Saint Paul Farmer’s Market for an hour every Saturday. During Mariah’s ballet class I’d sit and read and try to make small talk with other moms, when my dream life was just around the corner.  Even in the winter! After deciding purchasing local, grass fed, free range meat  and eggs was indeed one of my goals (I’ve mocked it for years, and come to decide it’s truly the right choice for our family) I began to shop there each week for our meats.  Next month the full market will be in swing so we can buy our fruits and veggies too. I’m sure I’ll end up blogging more about the switch to this type of eating, but let me just say for now – grass fed beef is like WOAH!

Sure, I want to support my local farmers, but I also want my girls to see how food grows. Which is why one of my most recent goals has been to garden in a backyard.  So this year I’m stepping up my game for our balcony growing and I’ve purchased a community garden plot 5 minutes from my house.  I have no idea how it will go, but hey – my girls will see how food really grows. And I will too.

In August, when I’m at my old/future job, we might end up going down to one car.  Saving money, yes, but also just making things simple.  We also have the option to ride the bus if needed even if it is a little bit of a pain to make the transfer. And Nick rides his bike in the summer months when I’ll be home and needing a car with the girls.

 

The list could go on, but MAN this post is getting long.  The point in all of this is this:  You might be surprised at how a few small changes or shifts in thinking could lead to a much more fulfilling life. You might not be in a place right now where you could make a big move or change in order to live out your dream, but it is possible to live a life of purpose and focus on some key areas.

And I highly recommend Tsh’s book Notes from a Blue Bike.  It’s good to get the wheels turning on where you might want to make some adjustments and find a simpler life.

notes-from-a-blue-bike-by-tsh-oxenreider

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The story of a tattoo

Last month someone asked me about the meaning behind my tattoo.  And when he asked, it threw me off.  I realized the only other person who’s ever asked about the heart on my wrist was my mother.

It’s funny because when I was choosing exactly what would be permanently inked into my skin, I had the meaning down to a nice little explanation.  Kind of like an “elevator pitch” for a business. I also had the long version I could offer up if someone asked for more.  I assumed my tattoo artist would ask me about it while the needle buzzed into my skin.  (I’d probably just watched too many episodes of LA Ink to set that expectation). That didn’t happen.

I was prepared to tell everyone who saw the tattoo what it meant and why it was there.

But no one asked.

No one really even commented on it.

On the rare occasion someone talked about it, they’d say “I didn’t know you had a tattoo.” or “Cool. When did you get that?”  or usually just “Cool tat.” or “I love your tat.” (Alright, I don’t think anyone actually called it a tat. It was always tattoo. I don’t even say tat.)

The more I thought about this, the more I realized I’ve never asked anyone else about their tattoo – before or after I got mine.

I wonder why this is.

Why don’t we ask about something that obviously has a deep and special meaning.  That’s why we get them.  I mean, even if it was a “mistake” it’s still a good story, right?  I want to hear the stories behind the tattoos. (Which is probably why I watched too much LA Ink)

Anyway….

Want to hear about my tattoo? I’ll tell you about mine, you tell me about yours.

wrist tattoo heart

I’ve wanted a tattoo since I got married.  I never really wanted one as a teenager.  But every summer since I’ve been married, I’d get this “itch” to have a tattoo.  I thought for the longest time it would be a butterfly on my foot.  I’m SO glad I waited.

When my 30th birthday was approaching I decided that was the year I’d take the plunge.  I knew I wanted something small-ish.  I knew I wanted to be able to see it daily.  I figured the wrist would be perfect.  I was still in my dark days and trying to live with more joy, so I planned on having “JOY” tattooed in some scripty font.  But then I drew  a little heart on my right wrist.  A TEENY heart. It was perfect.

It served as a reminder for whatever I needed that day.  To live with joy, to speak gently to my girls, to speak Nick’s love language, to show compassion…. In a way, it was like a ribbon on the finger for matters of the heart and mind.

So the day I turned 30, I stepped into a little suburban tattoo parlor.  $50 and 20 minutes later I had a permanent heart on my wrist.

At first I freaked out.  It was HUGE compared to the teeny heart I’d been drawing on myself.  What if I didn’t like it forever?  What was I thinking?  Maybe I should’ve waited.

But the more I saw it.  The more it grew on me. And now I know it was perfect.

Nick and I joked the day I got it and he told me “Now you have a heart.” because up until that point, he was the compassionate one with the bleeding heart.  Not much moved me or brought tears to my eyes.

Little did I know that a few weeks later my heart would change.  Over the course of the year I turned 30, I found joy, compassion, and a heart for the Lord.  I get teary at everything now.  I do indeed have a heart.

So now, this little heart on my wrist is a symbol for the change that took place this past year.  It couldn’t be more perfect.

I’m actually thinking about adding some watercolor splash to my heart now that I not only have a heart, but one that’s come alive again.

So I don’t quite have the elevator pitch down for what it really means …. I guess if anyone asks, they’ll have to get the long version.

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The Bigger Announcement

Remember that time I made a big announcement and everyone thought I was pregnant?  Well, now I have another one to make. Aaaand…..well, still not preggo. We’re taking care of that for good next month actually.

I keep saying big changes are coming for our family this year.  Finally it’s official and I can talk about it.

The news this time:  I’m returning to work full time in August. And not just to any old job I find between now and then, I’m returning to my old job.  The job I had before I started staying home with my girls.

The official title is Assistant Director of the Student Success Center at North Central University. What I’ll do with that title is teach an academic success class for at risk students, run the tutoring program on campus, do some one on one academic coaching, advise students who haven’t chosen a major yet, teach workshops on time management and study skills, and help provide accommodations for students with disabilities.  In short, I’ll help people set goals and achieve them. Dream job I tell you.

While I don’t need to justify my personal decision to anyone, I want to write about it because maybe there’s a working mom out there who feels she needs to be home with her kids in order to be a good mom. Or maybe there’s a stay at home mom who feels guilty about wanting to go back to work. This post is for those mamas to know they’re not alone.  And of course it’s for others of you who read and are just curious why I’d make this choice.

Before Mariah was born, I thought I’d stay home with her right away. But we had lots of debt piled up, and with the way my maternity leave and summer vacation fell, I got 4 months with her before returning to work which was perfect. We had her at a daycare center where she hardly slept and the bill took half my salary. We made the switch to an in-home daycare at half the cost when she was 1 1/2 and paid off most of our debt so I could start staying home with her. My reasons for wanting to stay home?  I wanted to be the one teaching her.  I felt like I was missing out on watching her learn and discover the world.  I also wanted to be able to control her sleep. I blamed daycare for her many night wakings. I never hated my job, I just wanted to stay home.

I thought staying home would mean my house would be clean all the time, I’d have beautiful healthy meals on the table when my husband walked in the door every night, my laundry would be clean and folded in a timely manner, and my days would be filled with learning and crafts.  That’s what I’d seen on all the blogs and Pinterest, so of course it was achievable. Oh how naive I was.

I started my stay at home mom journey in May of 2011. And for the most part, my picture perfect mom life was coming true. I really enjoyed my time with Mariah. There was lots of learning and crafting and my house was pretty clean.

Then Lana  arrived and postpartum depression hit. It took me quite awhile to get out of the desperate funk I was in. You can read more about that HERE.

Whenever Nick and I got a date night, or had some time to talk about goals and the future, we’d talk about where and when I’d go back to work. I was desperate to get out and away. The conversation always came back to me saying, “But the only job I ever want is the job I had. Maybe I can have it back someday.”

Eventually I made my way out of the fog and started to gain a healthier perspective on what being a stay at home mom of two littles looked like for me.  I threw out the idea of a “perfect mom” and started to accept who I am as a mama.  I gave myself more grace. I was less desperate to get back to the working world. I was content.

 

Then in August my phone rang.

My former boss called to tell me my old job would be open next August. He just wanted to let me know so I could think about it.

And it was all I could think about for about for that first month. Constantly it was on my mind.

Eventually it didn’t consume my every thought. After much prayer and thought and discussions, we decided it was the right move.

 

For me it’s the right move for lots of reasons:

Because Mariah will start full day Kindergarten next fall and Lana would benefit from daycare/preschool in so many ways.

Because the work I did at North Central was so fulfilling.  I had a great boss and was able to use my strengths and gifts every day.

Because daily office time and a commute sounds heavenly to this introvert.

Because I love taking on a big project. Starting with nothing, dreaming and planning and then executing.  I don’t get much of that at home with all the interruptions.

Because when does your dream job open up to you a second time?

 

And because my original reasons for being home were to be the perfect mom and do what I thought I was supposed to do to create the best life for my children. I don’t hate it by any means, but I don’t think being at home quite lines up with who I’m created and called to be. I know now I can still be a wonderful mother and have influence in my girls’ lives even if I work outside of the home.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m so thankful for the time I’ve had at home with my girls and if anything it brought me closer to the Lord and gave me more clarity than I’ve ever had in my life before.  I’m grateful we could afford to live this way and I could have these 3 years with them. Now that I’ve made the decision to return to work, it’s changed my perspective on being home and I’m soaking up the sweet moments as much as I can. Heading back into the working world with a great appreciation for my time at home is much better than returning as an escape from my children.

I realize it won’t be all fluffy bunnies and unicorns when I go back.  I clearly remember the commuting, rush to get dinner on the table, evening exhaustion and the few hours before bedtime I’ll have each night with my girls. But this time?  This time my expectations are more realistic.  This time around I’ve learned to handle the stress and let go of the guilt.

This time I’m not comparing my life to anyone else’s. This change is just right for our family and I can’t wait!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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2014 Goals: Update #1

We’re a quarter of the way through 2014 and I just celebrated my birthday, which means it’s the time of year when I typically do some extra reflecting and evaluating.

This year I didn’t set super specific goals – which is new for me.  I simply took some time to evaluate what I wanted more of this year and set a theme to focus on.

Rooted is my word.

rooted 2014 goals

 

I planned on setting monthly goals, and maybe I should.  It’s fun for me to see measurable progress and to hold myself accountable for what I didn’t accomplish.  Instead I’ve just kept this over arching theme in mind.  Not every day, but often enough.  And here’s a little update:

Part of my reason for choosing Rooted as my word, was because we have big changes coming this year.  So I want to establish some family rhythms now that will hopefully carry over  and keep us grounded when the change comes.

We’ve started a Saturday night pizza and a movie night.  We make the dough after lunch, let it rise for a few hours and then roll it out, load it up and bake it around 5.  We eat while we watch the movie – well, the girls are still learning how to do that.  The movie is usually more entertaining than the food. Nick had this tradition growing up – his was on Fridays.  I like the idea of having a weekly “thing” .  And pizza every week seems like a perfect thing.

We also light candles during almost every weekday meal.  A simple thing to add some warmth to the table.  Although now that the sun stays out longer and streams in on our table, I keep forgetting to light them.

I’m hoping to improve our bedtime routine in the next few months.  I want to find a way to make it more enjoyable.  Right now there are a lot of orders being barked, children whining and running, and we rush through stories and prayers.  I want to work to change that.  Any suggestions would be helpful.

 

As for my personal goal to be more rooted in Christ, that’s always a work in progress.  I’ll never achieve any sort of perfection in that area here on Earth, but I can spend more time learning about God and studying the Bible in order to continue to grow deeper in my relationship with him.  I’m walking through the plan to read the Bible in a year as well as a Lent plan until Easter. I’d like to journal more again – making myself sit and write out my thoughts and prayers really helps me focus.

 

And as I’ve been reading this past month – I’m now up to 5 books in less than a month and I don’t know what’s taken over me –  I have a new area where I’m working to become rooted.  My neighborhood.  I’ve spent the last few years wishing we could move. Dreaming about a back yard.  Thinking if we got out of this place I’d be happier.  But I’ve readjusted my thinking. Yes,  bought this house in a rush (we didn’t even sleep on it – put a deposit down the day we saw it), and we expected to be moved out by Nick’s company after a year or two, AND of course we couldn’t predict the market crash.  So all this time I kept looking at being here as being “stuck”. But maybe we need to shift our view.  We’re here to stay for quite some time, so let’s make the best of it.

We always said we didn’t want a yard to maintain (read: shovel and mow grass).  We have a grocery store and bank we can walk to. We have a pond in “our backyard” and a big lake with a swimming beach we can walk to. There are tons of restaurants we haven’t explored yet. We need to open our eyes to where we’ve been placed and make the best of it.  Grow where we’re planted.

Mariah will go to school a half a mile from our house – at a school we would never have considered if we didn’t live here. I’m hoping we can connect with families in our area to avoid the 30 minute drive to playdates.  Just another way to be rooted in our community.

 

So there’s a little update on how I’m becoming more rooted.  Still lots of room for growth in the coming months, but some steady progress for this first part of the year.

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Officially IN my 30′s

So much has changed in this last year. Woah.

It was just a few days after I turned 30, that my life really turned around.  My 20′s were covered by a rain cloud and I fumbled around in the darkness and fog trying to see glimpses of light. I’d spent so much time trying to do everything myself and felt guilty for not measuring up to the unrealistic standards I’d set for myself.  I rebelled and fought against letting God take care of me. I thought I had to get myself in perfect shape before I could have a close relationship with God again.

Last April I found the exact opposite to be true.  Once I admitted I couldn’t do it alone and that I needed him, I started to see through the clouds above my head.  Little glimpses of sunshine peeked through.  And little by little, as I let go of my need for control and trusted God, that heavy fog lifted.  I can feel again. I can breathe again. It’s wonderful. I still have days when I settle into a bit of a funk, but it doesn’t last too long.

So today I turn 31. I’m having a harder time with 31 than I did with 30.  30 is a fun milestone to conquer.  31 means I’m IN my 30′s.  Yikes!

But I have a bit of a theme song for this time in my life.

For the First Time by John Legend.

This man is FULL of soul.  I don’t know about you, but I can’t help to close my eyes and tilt my head slowly from side to side when I listen to him.  (Think Stevie Wonder – it’s how I feel it, ok?) His voice, the swell of the music, or the booty-shaking rhythm.  I love everything about John Legend’s music.

When he’s not singing about making love to his lady, his songs usually “take me to church” (an odd combination I realize).  Lots of times the lyrics talk about changing the world, showing love…lots of Biblical principles in there.

Anyway.  Back to my current theme song. For the First Time. It’s about being awake, breathing and loving for the first time after a long darkness.  The lyrics are below, but you really have to listen to it to fully experience it.

 

Is that music in my ear?
It’s like I heard nothing for a thousand years
My eyes were closed, locking in my tears

I was so surrounded but still all alone
A great big house but so far from home
How’d you breathe life in this heart of soul

It’s like I can feel, it’s like I can breathe
It’s like I can live, it’s like I can love
For the first time, for the first time
For the first time, for the first time

I’m electric, finally exposed
You see through me, strip off all my clothes
If this is falling, then let me go, oh

***

I’m finally awake and I can feel my heart
It’s beating like a drum when I’m right here where you are
I can feel it, I can feel it, oh
Can you feel it

It’s like I can feel, it’s like I can breathe
It’s like I can live, it’s like I can love
For the first time, for the first time
For the first time, for the first time

So today, as I start life IN my 30′s, I’m going to close my eyes and listen to John. I’m going think about how this past year has unfolded.  How grateful I am for being awakened to my beautiful life.  I’m going to be thankful for God’s grace and how much he’s taught me in this past year and continues to teach me.

I’m also going to eat Chick-fil-a and spend time with my family and be really lazy just like you should be on your birthday. :)