Thursday, October 23, 2014

finding balance {amy's story}...

my friend, amy, is sharing her finding balance story today.
amy has a cute little online shop and can be found on instagram at @amyboliba.
amy's instagram feed is constantly inspiring me to downsize, to simplify, to enjoy the "little pleasures" of life.
her radiant smile never fails to brighten my day.
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I've thought and thought and prayed about writing this piece about balance and I've got nothin! 
Let's look at the definition of balance, "a condition in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions". Hmmm, that would mean all aspects of my life I treat equally so as to not rock the boat so to speak. Oh my! Fail! 
Or as a verb, "keep or put something in a steady position so that it does not fall". Yikes! Sounds like a juggling act to me! 

Here's my little secret, drumroll please... My life isn't balanced at all and I'm not trying to get it balanced. And here's why. I am not good at everything, big shocker, I know! I have some things under control like I feel pretty competent in the cooking department now, even though it took years to get there! I have a pretty good grasp on keeping the house in order and clean, most days! 
But, y'all there's a lot I can't do and a lot I don't want to do. I don't like to be busy just for busy sake! I don't have a full calendar of events to go to. Heck, I don't even have a calendar! I'm a professional homebody and I'm okay with that! My main focus right now is within the home, my family and the needs of my family and trying my best to live through Gods will and His plan for me! To some, my life might seem a little boring but to me it's not. 

There is great joy in going into the garden and picking the first squash of the season, seriously, we are gardening nerds over here! Or, sitting outside after supper and watching my boys catch lightning bugs. I love when we all walk down to the goat barn and the boys run ahead because they can't wait to get down there. And we can here them giggling with each other and teasing each other to see who will get there first. 
 So, right now, my life is out of balance and I'm okay with that because it's leaning toward the people I love the most and our God who gives us everything! Because He is in the details, He is in my little boy's smile, He is in a sunset over a cornfield, He is in the first daffodil in the spring, He is in the smell of fresh cut hay, and He is where I want to be.



{the other posts in this series can be found here.}

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

living room tour {autumn 2014}

i'm so excited to invite you into my house today.
i should start this visit off with a few disclaimers...
first of all, this is a long post.  
you may want to grab a cup of coffee and curl up in your favorite armchair for this one.  
or wait until your kiddos go to bed later tonight.
second, i included a ton of photos in this post.
yes, it's only one {little} room of my {little} house...
but i know that when i see home tour photos on other blogs,
i'm always wanting a closer look at the little details...
what's that book? what does that hoop say?  what kind of plant is that?
so, if detail isn't your thing, scroll on past the smaller photos...
the larger ones will give you the overview you want.
you detail-seekers...have fun.  i think you'll find all you need here.
in addition to the copious amount of photos, i included too many little tidbits about where i found particular items, what certain things mean to me, and other related minutia.
also, i feel it necessary to point out {although it's glaringly obvious} that i am not a photographer.
all of my blog photos are taken with my phone.
i'm currently working toward a more thorough understanding of shooting with a camera in manual mode...which will give me greater quality and higher definition in my photos.
however, for now, i'm working with what i've got.
please excuse the graininess, lack of sharpness, and general amateur photography skills {or lack thereof}.
and lastly, i want you to know that this is just about the most un-staged room tour ever.
never fear, you won't leave this post feeling like your house is a shambles...
but you may think that my house is!

with all that in mind, come on in and enjoy!


we'll start off facing the fireplace...
since that's the focal point of the living room.
when i take a virtual tour of a room, i like to get my bearings.
if you were standing, facing the fireplace, you'd be facing north.
for the rest of the post, we'll move in a clockwise direction...
turning east, then south, then west.
just turn on your gps if you get lost☺

i love decorating my mantel for the seasons.
my mantel decor gets changed 8-9 times a year...
but that's pretty much the extent of my seasonal/holiday decorating {other than at christmastime}.

the "pallet" background is actually made of old, weathered barn wood.
one night when my hubby got home from work, i presented him with a rudimentary drawing...
"do you think you could build this? really quickly?"
a couple hours later it was hanging on my wall.

{edited to also note: those incredible, fabulous, nearly-one-of-a-kind antique cast iron owl andirons
 were my last-christmas's gift from my baby brother.  
he read this post and called immediately to let me know
 i'd left out that very valuable piece of credit information.
he'd probably also want me to tell you that he's my very favorite of all three of my brothers.  
but i can neither confirm nor deny that.}

somewhere along the way, this cast iron squirrel nutcracker was given to my parents as a christmas gift.
when i was a child, he always came out every year with the christmas decorations.
since he's become mine, though, i bring him out during the fall.
i think this season just becomes him more, don't you?

several weeks ago, i got a wild hair and decided that i wanted a wreath for the focal point of my fall mantel.
i knew that i wanted it to be ultra-natural, kind of wild and wooly and nothing tame about it.
i gathered a few goods at the madison, wi, farmer's market, and the rest of the elements were found growing with abandon in our back field.
it took me three or four hours to put together...
and i completely enjoyed every minute of it.
there is something incredibly cathartic about doing a craft that 
you just can't even possibly mess up.
{nutcracker--family treasure; toolbox, antlers, binoculars, cameras, toy truck, paint-by-number--very inexpensive thrifting/antiquing finds; ceramic pumpkin--gift from mom; acorn--once mom's, now mine♥}
this old yellow dresser is one of my very favorite pieces of furniture.
paul and i bought it when we were first married, during the brief time we lived in michigan.
i remember finding it at a garage sale...
it was late on a saturday afternoon, the sale about to close for good.
the lady had it marked for $25...i tried desperately to get her to go down to $10 
{this was over 10 years ago, mind you} and really questioned whether i'd eventually regret paying her the $15 she insisted upon.
i have never, ever, ever regretted it.
the yellow dresser used to sit kitty-corner over here, but recently it started bugging me that it was taking up so much room.
i put it flush against the wall {on the same wall as the fireplace} and now it holds our my library books.
{cookie jar--vintage Ransburg pottery--found at an antique shop for $5! 
someone didn't know what they had!}
this old ladder just recently came to live inside the house.  it had been out in my shed forever...
many of my houseplants were looking rather forlorn, not getting quite enough sunlight.
this ladder was the perfect solution...nice and narrow, for a room that didn't have a lot of space to spare.
{bobwhite--gift from my dear friend, denise; happy flags--from sweet natalie at natalie creates}
a tip i've shared more than once, but one that still bears repeating.
while i love our white ikea sofa, washing that slipcover on a regular basis can be quite a chore.
i've found two vintage white coverlets--one chenille {pictured here}, one hobnail--and they buy me a good deal of time between slipcover washes.
simply fold the coverlet in half lengthwise and tuck the ends tightly under your cushions.  the best part is, you can turn the coverlet over and get two uses out of it!
work smarter, not harder, friends!
my book pile--bibles {mom's and mine}, bel canto by ann patchett {i'm about to give up on this one}, devotion journal, thankfulness journal, and mom's thick devotional book {those are all her little colored post-it note tabs, still peeking out of the top♥}.
{pillows--small gold and green--thrifted for a song; aqua with pom-poms--from @salvage517 on IG; chenille coverlet--thrifted; sawtooth quilt--has several large, light stains--perfect so that i don't have to be uptight about it--$15 at an antique store!}
that's our front door...just in case you're wondering.
you don't get to come in that door.  no way.
"back door friends are best!" that's what my hubby always says.

speaking of my hubby, he found that enamel-topped green rolling cart for me on the side of the road.
no joke.
in the condition you see here.  on the side of the road.
peeps are crazy, i tell ya.
and it's a hoosier.  bonafide. scroll down, you'll see the pic.
i died.  well, not really.  obviously.
but almost.
the green.  
it's so perfect.

that "give us this day our daily bread" stitchery you see up top there?
all while i was growing up, my mom had the twin to that one hanging in our dining room.
it's been long gone, but i found this one at a garage sale in michigan a year or two ago and may have squealed out loud.
really, really loud.
{quilts--made by mom and aunt colette; hoosier--found on the roadside; vintage aqua typewriter--thrifted; cattails stitchery--gift from @piecesofmeegs; mirror--old medicine cabinet we found in a barn--we ripped the cabinet part off and hung it sideways.}
i told you this was unstaged.
all those coffee cans aren't sitting there now, i promise.
i took these photos during the one, ten-minute peek of sun we've had in the past two weeks.
it just so happens that those coffee cans were sitting there, waiting to be shipped.  they're gone to their new homes now...and yes, the antlers, too.

this photo doesn't show it off very well, but that little green rolling cart that paul found almost identically matches my "computer desk"...
which is just a retro-fitted old hoosier cabinet for a kitchen.
my friend, denise, and i were garage saling, and i found this cabinet, disassembled, tucked far away in the back of a guy's garage.
it was loaded down with engine parts, transmission fluid, and motor oil.
but i saw the enamel work surface.  and chippy green paint on the side.
chippy paint is my love language.
and green just makes it all that much better.
i asked if it was for sale...
he said i'd have to give him a couple days to get it cleaned out...
but that if i really wanted it, i could have it for $50.
i've never handed over a Grant so fast in my life.
it's another one of those "furniture" purchases i've never, ever regretted.
the "matching" office chair {extremely sturdy, surprising given its age} was found at a garage sale this summer for $5.

{blue cabinet--gift from dad; light-up globe--from @chrissiegrace on IG; mini bunting from sand and starfish; white canister--vintage Ransburg from eBay; vintage golden guides--eBay; 2015 mini desk calendar--recipe for crazy}
as soon as my oldest daughter found out what my "one word" for 2014 was, she stitched this hoop for me.
i'd say i definitely chose the right word.
{relationship}
{large stick star and giant Dresden plate hoop--handmade/hand-stitched by me; dried flowers leftover from my wreath projects--no, they don't "go" up there, i just haven't put them away yet--from madison farmer's market; old toy trucks and license plate--cheapo antiquing finds; pair of theeeee greatest paint-by-numbers ever--found in an antique mall on my road trip with @contentedsparrowmegan...don't ask her...she still insists they should have been hers.}

this may be my favorite shot of the entire post.  
i love how you can see the color of the autumn trees in the window reflection.  just.love.it.
{wreath--handmade by my friend denise; cat halloween decor--ages old from hobby lobby}
snoozing sherlock, left-out clue game, misplace awana book...
not.staged.
oh, vintage school map, how i do love thee!
really and truly, if you can ever get your hands on one of these, do it.  it's one of my most favoritest things ever, ever, ever.
{school map--from an old school; perfect green-ish-blue-ish crackly table--garbage-picked by my hubby; antlers--amish junk store; aqua crate--dug four of them out of the free pile at a garage sale!  can you even believe?!?!}

so, i lied.
this right here may be my most favorite shot of the post.
i can't decide.

how about you?
what were your favorite parts?

i hope you were able to wade through the grainy photos and incessant babbling to find a little bit of inspiration for your home.
i'd love to see what ideas you come up with!


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Monday, October 20, 2014

little steps for walking slowly through your busy life

"this is literally theee first time i've sat down today."

how many times have you found yourself saying that?
i catch myself saying that to friends on the phone...saying that to my husband when he texts that he's on his way home from work...saying that to my kids when they come to me with yet another random request.

"this is the first time i've sat down all day.  i've been go-go-going and i'm finally sitting down and resting.  i'm exhausted.  i'm worn out."

a few weeks ago, i found myself sitting down mid-day, catching a rare, brief moment of respite.  as i sat and just thought through my day, i came to the realization that i live my life in a constant state of hurry.
i am always go-go-going.
always rushing.
as i contemplated this, i wondered, "why? why am i always hurrying?"
and try as i might, i couldn't come up with a single good reason.

i rush because it is my "default mode."
get done with this so that i can start that.
do this tonight so that i can do that tomorrow.
hurry and get out of bed so that i can fix breakfast.
hurry and clean up after breakfast so that we can do school.
hurry and finish school so we can go to the library, or to the farmstand, or to the grocery store.
hurry and pay for the groceries so i can get home and cook dinner.
hurry and wrap up dinner so i can spend some time with paul.
hurry and fall asleep so that i can get up tomorrow and start this whole cycle all over again.

once i unraveled the spiraling of this vicious cycle, i began to see small triggers, patterns that seemed innocent enough but that led toward my daily rushing ruin.
fortunately, as offensive as these bothersome impulses are, they're almost equally easy to curb.
in fact, in my personal experience, just the heightened awareness of actually seeing this as a concern was enough to help me walk through my busy days just a bit more slowly.

i've implemented a few basic, practical strategies that have really made a difference.  i think, sometimes, the change may be more of a mental thing for me, an imperceptible shift that an outsider wouldn't even notice.  but, as all of us know, little changes can equal big results, and visible or not, increased peace of mind is result enough for me.

1. lower your voice.
this is a classic example of "fake it 'til you make it."
there are a lot of times that i don't feel calm.
i want everyone to hurry...we have things to do and we need to get them done now
but lowering my voice {and thus denying the natural instinct to raise it} instantly has a quieting effect on those around me.  and for the most part, in reality, things happen more smoothly--and therefore, more quickly--when calm prevails.

2. decrease caffeine consumption.
wait! wait!
don't let me lose you already!
i'm sure most normal people can handle copious amounts of caffeine.  but, just in case you're a weirdo like me, you may want to consider switching to half-caf or decaf partway through the morning.
i'm extremely sensitive to caffeine and have had to limit my consumption of even decaf!  the caffeine gives me deep pangs of anxiety and a general chicken-running-around-with-its-head-cut-off feeling.
if you're experiencing a frantic thrum of go-go-go-do-do-do, maybe, just maybe, try staying off the joe for a day or two.  
i've been off it completely for a week now {other than one decaf latte on saturday} and have noticed a considerable difference.

3. if you do decide to stick with your coffee, try drinking it with two hands.  
hey, even we tea and smoothie drinkers can implement this slow-down method.

4. silence your phone.
i can't tell you how many times i've thought, "if my phone rings one more time {or 'if i get one more text'}, i'm going to throw it through the window."
i'm sure your thoughts have never ranged to that extreme.
there are some days, though, where it truly feels like every single family member and friend and those who belong in neither group feel like they need a piece of me.
the truth is, if someone truly needs us, they'll know how to reach us, even through the impediment of a silent phone.
i've been silencing my phone during the day for the past two months now.  i check it at my will, usually once an hour or so.
just removing that constant, somewhat-unexpected chiming and dinging and buzzing for my attention takes away a factor of "must-do-now-ness."

5. while you're silencing your phone, go ahead and turn off your phone's automatic email "pushing" and silence the email notifications on your computer.  see reasons in paragraph above.

6. when you're driving and you come to a stop sign, always come to a complete halt.
yes, this is the law.
no, most of us don't do it.
but we should.  i find i drive considerably more in-control when i consciously come to a complete stop at every stop sign.
it also must have some sort of subconscious effect, because i find that i just don't feel like i'm in as much of a hurry when i do so.
added benefit: avoid expensive tickets! win-win!

7. eat only while sitting down.
how often i've found myself standing at the counter, fisting a half-empty bag of chips, wondering how i could have possibly eaten all of them!
i'm trying to force myself to take the time to plate a small meal and eat it at the table.  
many days it means that i eat my lunch around 2:00 in the afternoon, simply because i prefer the peace and quiet of lunch alone {we eat dinner as a family, and i am in the kitchen with the kiddos for both breakfast and lunch}.
grabbing on-the-go snacks and meal replacements not only adds to our waistline, but also to indigestion.
when at all possible, fix yourself a small meal--a half sandwich, a small bowl of leftover soup, a simple salad, an egg or two fried with some greens and veggies, an apple with a bit of peanut butter and granola for dipping, whatever--put some thought into your food and make the time to sit down and eat.

8. make yourself "pay" for using "bad words."
no, i'm not talking about cussing here.  although, if that's your weakness, maybe this does apply.
what i'm talking about is this: listen to yourself.  what are your code words, the phrases you over-use especially when you're trying to get people to hurry?
that same day that i had this little talk with myself on the couch, i observed that i repeatedly use the phrase "hurry up" and the word "quickly" {just that word, all alone, as a command}.  i determined to eradicate those from my daily vocabulary.  i simply forced myself to make a tally mark on our big chalkboard either time i slipped and said either of those or any variation thereof.
the first week, i think i had six tallies.  the second week three.  and now, four weeks out, i've quit keeping score, but i know i'm down to just one or two slip-ups a week.
i'm not saying that it's bad to occasionally ask your people to light a fire under it, but if you find that you are constantly harping on people to "move it! hurry up! quickly! now! get going! come on! faster! hurry! let's go!" you may need to enforce a small consequence to train yourself out of that verbal pattern.
all of us are different, i know that.  but of all these small changes, this is the one that has made the biggest impact on me.

9. remind yourself as often as needed that life is not an emergency.
emergencies will arise.  but nine times out of ten...no, ninety-nine times out of one hundred, that text or that phone call or that email that you missed because your phone was silenced was not in any way related to a bonafide emergency.



i'll be the first to admit, i still stumble and fall into the old, troublesome routines of urgency on a regular basis.
i'm human...aren't we all?
but if i...if we can take small steps on a daily basis that help us to be more calm, to walk more slowly, with more intention through these busy lives that we lead...if we can all do that, even those little steps promise to accrue to a great big change.

i love practical little tips like this...small things that i can start doing today to make a difference in my life, in my home, in my relationships.
do you have any proven techniques that you use to center yourself?  to calm the inner "noise?" to slow yourself down?  please share.
i'm willing to say that this is an area i struggle with...always have...probably always will.  but i'd love to know what has worked for you.
thanks!

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

finding balance {kim's story}...


my friend, kim, is sharing her finding balance story today.
kim doesn't blog.  and she really doesn't instagram.
but kim is one of my longest-standing, very best friends in the world.
kim and i met in our very first class on our very first day of college, and were roommates for our junior year. 
she was the "lady of honor" in my wedding...
since she was already married and we both thought "matron of honor" was just too...well...matronly.
i value kim's opinion {and regularly ask for it} on everything from homeschooling curriculum 
to cleaning out closets to fish tacos.
yes.  fish tacos.

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For years, I wanted to be balanced.  I tried.  Really hard.  I tried so hard that I think that some people thought I lived a balanced life.  But inside, I was a wreck.  I was the “I’m so broken I can’t even cry”, “wonder if my life was always going to be so hard”, “fake it…though you’ll never make it” kind of girl.  I was in a marriage where I was measured on a moment by moment basis.  I had to do everything right, look right, clean right, and perform right.  To me, balance was exactly as we all envision it  – as we teach our kids.  Put a crayon in one side, then balance it with an eraser.  Put a penny in one side, then balance it with an m&m.  That was my life.  Laundry on the left.  Exercise on the right.  Cooking on the left.  Cleaning on the right.  Socialize on the left.  Homeschool on the right.  And the list goes on.  All day.  Every day.  I could never get it right and I could never be enough.
 
Then, my world fell apart and looked just like I felt on the inside.  A disaster.  The whole balance toppled and spilled the discarded contents of my life.

Infidelity.

Abuse.

The loss of my own moral compass.

Divorce.

Not a great list, I know.  And you’re probably wondering what that has to do with balance.  For me?  It meant everything because there was no more hiding behind the fa├žade of “okay”. The real me was spilled out for everyone to see.  I had to reevaluate everything:  what I do, why I do it, and who I’m trying to please.  Those are really big questions, that in the life of a believer – which I am – should all point to the Creator and to my Savior.  But, they didn’t.

But even in my brokenness, I was not alone.  God saw me.  God loves me.  God wants me to be whole.  And, God gave me a gift.  Perspective.  Honesty. Truth. Self Control. Unselfish. Good. Pure. Love.  All wrapped up in one handsome package – my husband, Seth.  (Don’t worry – this is not going to be a love story… I’m truly getting to the balance part!)  Seth and I were friends when we were kids…the best of friends.  And he knew me.  He also knew that when we renewed our friendship almost 20 years later, that I was not the girl he once knew.  One time, I remember him saying, “Who are you…where is my Kimmy?”     So began the hours, days, weeks, and months of introspection.  This led to conversations about what is really important and what it really means to be balanced.

Here is the heart of what I learned and what I TRY to live every day.


When Seth and I started talking marriage, he gave me a list:  Relationship (ideals), Fitness, Diet, MAKING time for each other, Doing Right, Budget, Family, and Church Involvement.  He asked me to number them 1-8 in order of how I view them in light of our relationship.  Try it – it’s hard!  But I did it and so did he.  Then, we compared our lists and saved our results.  It was a way to prioritize what we believe is the most important.  It gives value to what is important.  For example – we have SIX kids.  If one wants to play hockey, we need to look at that in light of the things “above” it on the list – Does it fit into the budget? Does it take too much sacrifice of our time together? etc.  And if it fits, then we say yes.  

Another example – On Tuesday, I was supposed to go to Bible Study.  I REALLY like the Bible Study and the group of women who go.  BUT, we just finished a REALLY hectic, busy vacation week with all of the kids SO, Seth cancelled on his golf league and asked me if he could take me out to dinner and spend the evening with just ME.  The Kim of old would have felt so much guilt and would have gone to Bible Study because *gasp* we can’t go on a date instead of Bible Study!  But, according to our list, Church involvement comes after MAKING time for each other so the decision was an easy one.  And there was no guilt.  (Disclaimer:  Church involvement does not equal my personal walk of Faith, but how I view that is another story for another day!)



I was and AM clumsy.  Not coordinated.  AT ALL.  I can barely walk across a balance beam without falling off.  Truly.  I wobble. Now, picture balance in this way…like a balance beam.  We are walking a line through this life.  What that line looks like is up to us. Our line could be as thin as a balance beam and we could wobble and fall and get back on and wobble and fall and get back on…  Or, we can build a foundation that is wider.  Firmer.  Stronger.  One that even I, in my uncoordinated state (and don’t we all feel a little uncoordinated as we navigate our lives?) could skip and hop and dance across!   We do this by determining the right priorities and living by them.  By living a life firmly established on Biblical principles.  I truly believe that life – that balance -  shouldn’t be so tricky.  Your list of what is important to you won’t be the same as ours.  Yours might include bed times, kid activities, alone time, work, etc.  Think back to the other blogs on balance that you’ve read in this series:  it’s not about comparison to the specifics of how I found balance.  It’s about you building your own platform on which to walk…on which to balance.  It’s critical that we look inward for balance – not at the ever changing landscape of “style”, social situations, neighbors, and friends.

 

My previous, broken life was that way because there was no foundation on which to walk.  There was no choosing to do right and turn from evil.  There was no value placed on what is important.  That left me – clutzy me! – trying to walk a tightrope.  We need to DISCRIMINATE (Yes…I used that word!) against the things that threaten what is important, truly important, in our lives. 
I end with this thought:  Some of you are struggling with balance and you would like me to tell you HOW or WHAT to do…  If that is what you’re thinking, please go back through and read this post again.  It’s not about a formula or about getting everything right.  It’s about BEING right.  About being consistent in your choices.  About building a foundation of solid thinking based on your priorities.  Consistently CHOOSE to live your life CHOOSING what is important.


Balance comes from a strong platform on which to walk. 


{the rest of the posts in this series can be found here.} 



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