There’s water in my basement but everything’s ok.

I rushed home this afternoon after a workout to shower and get to a 1pm lunch appointment. I was cutting it close but I love the race against the clock and I would make it. Until I ran downstairs to change the laundry and find something clean to throw on and run out the door …

There was a sound of water running and the wash machine wasn’t on .. and then I stepped on our rug and it was soaking wet, and now so were my feet, and then I looked around more intently and yes; our water heater must be leaking. Must have BEEN leaking – there’s standing water in my basement. Coming up through our Hickory hardwood floors, just dancing around the grooves of the wood as water might do, when it has nothing else to do.

Raindrops: spring rain

I thought if I could figure out how to stop the leak and clean it up, I could still make it to my lunch a little late. I had been daydreaming about what I was going to order. I was so excited. A frantic call to Aaron, an email off to our insurance agent. I thought I would just have to wait … so why not wait over lunch?

But then the phone started ringing. The insurance agent, then the clean up crew, then the plumber. Everyone could come right away, or shortly. And all of a sudden I wasn’t going to be ordering lunch. Or washing my dishes, or finishing the laundry, or cooking.

I was (am) literally stuck here.

——–

Aaron and I had just talked about our plans for this summer. We need to replace a roof on a portion of the garage, we need a new door and the cement steps are giving way. It’s time to refinish our main-floor flooring. We are slowly and surely making our way towards a replacement car for our van. All the things, right? All. The. Things. Clearly we should have been planning to replace a water heater, too. Possibly a furnace. This is an old house, and while we remodeled her and gave her a new dress, she is still standing on the same 80 year old bones.

And sometimes I forget that doing something once doesn’t mean we’ll never have to do it again. Buying a car once doesn’t mean that in 230,000 miles you won’t need to buy another. Replacing floors doesn’t mean you won’t have to refinish them. Taking hot showers and doing your dishes doesn’t mean you won’t wear out the mechanics that deliver that hot water to you.

Northern Michigan

———

A couple weeks ago at church there was a young man who got up at the end with a word for the congregation. This happens in our church – people listen for the Holy Spirit and often get images, dreams, or words of encouragement to share with everyone else – and he shared something about tithing. He had felt God convicting him to tithe $60 but all he had to give was $30 and he kind of went back and forth with himself for a while trying to justify his need vs conviction. After a bit he drove to the bank and got the amount he felt he was supposed to give and experienced overwhelming peace in that obedience.

That same morning I said to Aaron, a little off the cuff, I think we should be tithing. We haven’t for a while, and at the time that felt like what we were supposed to be doing. There’s obedience in all kinds of different ways with our time and our resources. But for some reason, that morning, I just felt like we needed to start again. Aaron said to add it to the list of things to discuss and then we kind of dropped it and went on with our morning. But as soon as the pastor called up the volunteers to take the offering, I whipped out our checkbook, wrote a check and dropped it in the bucket. Not knowing any of this young mans own conviction over tithe that same morning.

Weekend up north with Penelope

——–

Earlier this month I felt God hammering me with the word “Provision” – defined as “the action of providing or supplying something for use // An amount or thing supplied or provided” and I tend to think of provision as strictly financial.

I’ve chronicled our financial story on this blog for a long time. Becoming debt free and selling and buying homes, how we budget and even most recently – how we plan, financially, for vacations. Provision is a large part of our daily life, belief in God or not.

But when I started looking for more what that word really means, in a spiritual sense, I found some amazing things. In Philipeans 4:9 It talks about God supplying (providing) all our needs according to His riches in glory. In Matthew 6:26 it talks about the birds of the air – how God feeds them without their sowing or reaping … and aren’t we worth more than the birds?

Around the house and in the garden

I learned that Provision, in the sense that I felt God was hammering me with it, is a word for His economy. There’s an all encompassing feeling to being “provided for” rather than just putting money in the bank.

God wants to provide me with love, rest, assurance, knowledge, intimacy, joy, purpose, and satisfaction. He wants to care for my hunger, fill my emptiness, call me “daughter, sow seeds of intimacy into my life, save my marriage, equip me daily to parent and instruct me to steward my gifts well.

——–

It’s not that I’ve felt a lacking in provision, but I’ve been missing the point. Mostly in my personal life. I’ve felt the need to continue to work harder for relationships, for success. I’ve felt the pressure to perform and rush and run. I’ve felt guilty for the time available to me in order to pour into women, children, our family. I’ve measured myself against the world with a yard stick that is always only too short. But by centimeters. So the recognition was just in front of me, almost there. Just a little more. A little longer.

And I failed. Every time.

Windmill Island

But this word provision brought with it an understanding that God will provide my comfort. Not Aaron, or success, or recognition, or financial gain, or even being debt free, not my plans or expectations or need for control. None of the labels I want for myself or seek in this life are ever going to provide me lasting comfort.

When I have unmet needs, God reminds me to turn towards him. When I’m dying for connection, God reminds me to take my disappointments and unmet expectations to him. He is the giver of all good things.

——-

So we had our hot water heater replaced, floors are ripped up and broken into pieces in our basement, tomorrow the washer and dryer get moved to assess any damage underneath. We might need new floors. All things. All temporary things, fixable things.

A wrench in anyone’s plans for sure. And still a mountain of unknown ahead. But the sun is shining and everyone who’s been in our home helping this afternoon has been kind and friendly, professional and quick and most important, understanding.

I feel completely at ease in all of this. No rushing or fretting. No amount of planning can undo the surprises and no amount of planning can keep the surprises away, either. We’ll do what we’re able, when we’re able. And not just financially, because if I’ve learned anything here it’s that provision is far deeper than creature comfort.

Cherry blossoms

——–

As I was wrestling through this idea of Provision over the last few weeks, God kept asking me this question:

“Are you more worried about what people think of you, or what I can do through you?”

And I’d have to say that mostly I’m more worried about people, but slowly I’m learning to swim.

South Haven Pier and Lighthouse in the fog 2014

Housekeeping: Throw a party

Our pastor described his daughter as a “Party waiting to happen” once when I was in middle school and I’ve never forgotten that phrase. I decided; to be known as anything – a “party waiting to happen” was probably top of the line and I wanted in. I liked the connotation of the description. It didn’t mean she was a partier, on the “wrong side of those illusive tracks”, or someone to beware of. It meant she was fun, happy. It meant anything could be a party, a good time. It meant she was joyful.

There’s some great resources out there to get your creative juices going about how to host people in your space. Use them!

Pinterest
Picmonkey (How I make my invites)
Amazon
Your friends – borrow, borrow, borrow. Their cupboards are full of unused crockpots, platters, and napkins. Ask. And you will hopefully, probably receive.
Magazines. (My favorites are Midwest Living, Southern Living, This Old House)

Today's the day! First peer-group birthday party. #picmonkeyinvites #DIY #OliverWayne

I grew up in a house with a lot of people. Sunday’s were packed, our table was full but there was always room for more. My mom fed us our favorites every week and we’d sit around drinking coffee or hot chocolate reading the Sunday ad’s or watching football. Sometimes we’d sit around the piano and pluck away together. Everyone would smoke in the garage and laugh. My brothers would tell stories of “back then” or when my sister and I were younger and all the pranks they’d pull on us. It was so happy. Even though we had our problems, and still do, these are some of my favorite memories. Sunday dinner. The tension could be tight, or we could be holding babies, or plotting our black friday wish lists, or talking about buying houses, or broken hearts, or family trips.

When I moved out of my parents house and into my own – I got the biggest table I could fit in my dining room. I couldn’t wait to host dinners, parties, friends, and my family.

So maybe I come by this honestly. But I love a good cook out. I love to feed people, I love to play games, I love to try new recipes and drinks, I LOVE TO HOST.

I will rearrange my entire house to fit everyone around a table. And I’m always looking for a reason to throw a party.

Here’s my rules:

Have an idea.
Do it.

Here’s how:

I might see, read, experience or think of something that sounds like a good time to me. I make a note, pin the idea, gather the information needed and then I tell someone. Usually Aaron or some of my girlfriends. I’ve done this in almost every one of my jobs as well – I create experiences for a living and then I tell those stories to the masses so they can recreate the experience on their own.

Then I make a list (we know I love lists) of what might be needed for said idea, what the menu might look like, and the timing.

If I’m roping some of my friends into the hosting, we divide and conquer.

I don’t believe in having a spotless house in order to open your doors to friends or family, I really like feeling comfortable in my space. We built this house to be lived in, but my general rule is that the sinks are clean, the toilets fresh and the dirt is off my floor to start the evening. By the end of the night, my sinks are full, the toilet’s are used, and there’s a new layer of dust and dirt and fun to sweep off the floor. I’m also a huge fan of laundry baskets. They’re always full and I can shove them in a closet that no one generally is bold enough to go hunting for. If they are: surprise! I stuff dirty crap in my closets. That’s called Monday in this house.

So, for example: Oliver’s 6th birthday we threw a food fight party.

Happy little DIY thank you's for Oliver's party favor tomorrow. #someoneis6 #birthdayparty #picmonkeyinvites #DIY

DSC_6303

Oliver's 6th birthday (party!)

How did you come up with the idea??

So glad you asked. Oliver had been hinting that he really wanted to have a food fight. In our house. In our just-finished-brand-new-newly-remodeled-home-with-white-walls. I said, you’re cute but, um, no. He started saying “Are you thinking what I’m thinking??” at the dinner table every night and we would yell in unison “NO!!!!!!”. This was a fun game and since it didn’t go away I thought, well ok. We’re going to give him his food fight.

I enlisted my mom for some back up help and to bounce ideas off of. We came up with pasta being the easiest way to host a food fight since I could batch make it in advance, cool it, and oil it up so it wouldn’t stick together. We already own two 6-foot tables that we store in our garage and bring out when we’re hosting something. We set them up in the driveway, dressed all the little kids in garbage bags and told them to keep their eyes closed. We plopped so many pounds of cooked spaghetti pasta on the table and then we yelled “Hey Oliver!!! ARE YOU THINKING WHAT I’M THINKING???!!!? …… FOOD FIIIIIIGHT!!!”. The kids all opened their eyes and hilarity ensued. We also had cool whip out for them to grab and throw and the laughing and screaming and exclaiming was just the best.

Turns out Oliver doesn’t like food fights. He didn’t think you’d get dirty … so, we got that out of his system. It was awesome.

A few other parties I’ve hosted in our home have been:

A champagne toast to the Tiny House with friends!

TinyHouse

What we needed:

Champagne
Friends

A 3rd Grade Rocked My Socks Party for Jessica and friends!

picmonkey invite

What we needed:

I borrowed a popcorn maker
Enlisted help from my mom
Qued up some music, there was dancing
Snacks!
Jessica taught us how to make Italian Soda’s
Gift bags with little notebooks so we could all exchange numbers to keep in touch through the summer

Pumpkin Fest with 6th Grade Girls Youth Group

Pumpkin Fest 2016
Pumpkin Fest 2016

What we needed:

Chili & S’more stuff
Pumpkins
Music
Spoons

Decorations 101

I’m a fan of simple. Streamers and balloons are about as festive as I get. Just know what you can do. Are you going to have more fun decorating with lights and party themed items or are you going to enjoy cooking a meal or making a cheese plate or cocktail? I think you have to pick what you want the focus to be and then just focus on that. The food IS part of the decoration. If you have empty bowls and lots of fruit or veggies in your fridge or pantry – those can be decorations. Pick a color theme but don’t marry it. For starters if you feel super overwhelmed with this part of hosting, copy something you’ve seen before. Out of a magazine, at your friends house. Just copy it. Think to yourself “What did I like about that? Where were the glasses, what was on the table/bar/island? What did I see first? What made me think it was memorable?”

It's time for the Third Grade Rocked My Socks Off kick off to summer party! #thisiswhatialwaysimagineditwouldbeliketobeamom

Set up!

paper airplanes

Jessica's 11th birthday party

The Farmhouse Deli // Oz is Event March 8 2015

June 20th Oz Event

I will always focus on flowers. They’re beautiful, they bring life to my home, and they’re the gift that keeps on giving. I’d rather spend $15 on a beautiful bouquet that will last past the party (so many fun memories to be reminded of) than on a specific center-piece I might only use once a year (but forget next year all-together). I almost always have flowers in my home – plants work too. You don’t have to constantly spend your dollars on stems. Carrots with their tops look like a bouquet when stuck in a clear case. Use your garden, your trees in your yard, the sticks from the side of the road.

Lighting is also important. I’m a huge fan of low lighting. Lamps and natural light are my favorite. Candles are fun but they’re always meant to be the background. They offer scent more than illumination and a good candle in your bathroom goes a long way. Trust me. Outdoor lighting is probably my favorite. Twinkly lights around the Tiny house or over the deck, around the porch … who doesn’t have twinkly lights from Christmas time? REUSE THEM. Get them out – plug them in. Create a canopy of magic above your head. Everything tastes better under twinkly lights.

Here’s what I don’t do: I don’t stress out about this. The most important thing, for me, when I’m hosting is that people fill my space. So I make sure it’s not full of extras. I don’t shop to decorate for parties. I will thrift items if I know what I’m looking for and have time to wait and find it. Usually with serving dishes or bowls. I like having a variety of sizes, heights, and finishes. Wood, marble, slate, white, dark, small bowls, little plates.

If you’re still with me at this point, you get a gold sticker. And an invitation to my house.

The last thing I’ll say is this: Before you execute ask yourself, How can I make this easier?

You’ll be surprised, there’s always an option for less which leaves the rest of the event/evening/party up for more connection and conversation. Host the kind of party or dinner you’d like to attend.

Just do it, you already have everything you need.

House Keeping: On a roll

Here’s another snap-shot of the bigger picture of our “what-works-for-us” routines. Today, Imma get chatty about grocery shopping and menu planning.

housekeeping

Grain of salt, please. This is not a soap box, this is the sharing circle. And today I have the speaking stick and I want to talk about lists.

(This is where I start singing and dancing. It happens in real life all. the. time.)

On an ongoing basis …

I make lists. Usually of the groceries we’re out of, the recipes I plan to make for the next week or two, the events we have going on or the dinners we already plan to eat away from home and the some-what daily list of the things I need to, or want to, accomplish in any given day.

Back to school

Where we live we have access to some great grocery options. Aldi and Meijer are the stores I shop the most. On the weekend I look at the ad’s online for each store and build my menu plan off of what’s on sale. The front and very back page of these circulars are called their “loss leaders” which means the store generally looses money on the “sale” but gets you in the door to buy everything else. So I know those items are going to be the cheapest. If something we use a lot of is on sale, I buy more than I need for the week and stick it in the freezer. This happens with meat usually.

I always go to Aldi first and whatever I can’t find or get there – I buy at Meijer with anything else that I planned on getting from their ad as well.

We have favorite meals that I try to rotate in regularly so I can stay in the good graces of my children if I flop more than once during the week. Right now I know that we have busy evenings with soccer practice and youth group so I plan my menu based on being able to make something quick, in the crock pot, or pull it from the freezer on the days I know we’ll be here, there, and every where. On the rare evenings we have time to sit at the table and do more than eat and go, I love trying new things or having friends or family over.

After I shop for our groceries, I chop. I call it the Shop and Chop day of the weekend. I’m basically a sous chef for myself. I wash and prep my veggies for the week, anything I can – I make ahead (or double so I can freeze). This means I make pancakes, cookies or bars, freezable dinners, and lunch items or breakfast items in one huge push so the rest of the week is fairly easy.

still life

Back to school

The kids are doing a kid craft fair at the local library today. Oliver made and is selling paper airplanes while Jessica (with some help) made and is selling cookies, mini sweet breads, and scones. We've been busy.

Yes, it’s a lot of work. And I get tired. And usually at the end of that day I want to crawl in blanket with a glass of wine and watch hours of tv. But I do have time during the week as well to bake and cook. I have time on busy days to prep dinner if I didn’t get to it on the weekend. There’s always something else to make or do or fix. We might run out of baked goods for lunches on Thursday so I make more on Friday.

Um, you guys. It’s not that easy to get into this habit. 11 years of being a stay at home mom who contracts creative talents outside of the home has taught me this one thing: if it’s working for you, don’t change it. Don’t try to be Martha Stewart if you are not. Don’t try to be Rachel Ray if you are not. Don’t try to be your favorite blogger in the kitchen or your closet with their awesome photos and target themed baskets if you are not. Take what you can from whatever source inspires you and implement the small things. Or don’t! You do you, you’re good at that.

Onward: Now that I’m in the habit of running my kitchen like this, it has made a huge difference in our evenings and my ability to function past 4pm. I post our dinner menu plan on our chalkboard wall every week (and the full one on the fridge for me) and it’s been one of Jessica’s go-to check points for her week.

Turns out I gave birth to someone who needs structure and expectations. She needs a goal in order to accomplish things and when she has to worry about what might be for dinner (if she’ll like it or if I’ve even thought ahead that far yet) she freaks out. I mean it. She flips a lid. This is oddly one of the ways I love her every week – planning not only our dinners but I plan Breakfast, Lunch, Snack, and Dinner every day. She can check in and if I’m not around to help or guide she can help herself. This has saved us in the mornings when she’s tired or not feeling like herself (read, hormones. Also, 11) and after school when she has a lot on her mind and is unwinding from her day. Not having to think about what she’s hungry for and having to ask or make it for herself is a small way I can help her transition from school to home.

And yes, you lovely little freaks: I do plan out our Breakfasts, Lunches, Snacks and Dinners for every day of the week for a rotating 7 day basis. Say it with me: WHO IS SHE?!

Here’s what I write in my notebook – one page will be the weekly menu plan while the opposite page is my grocery list:

MON
B: Smoothies
L: Home lunch (mini pancakes, carrots, strawberries, cookie)
S: Chips and Salsa/apple slices
D: Taco salad and quinoa

TUE
B: Eggs, Bacon, Toast
L: Home lunch (muffin, protein and cheese, apple, granola bar)
S: Rice krispie treat/banana
D: Curry with rice, green salad

WED
B: Breakfast burritos/yogurt parfait
L: Hot lunch
S: Carrots/sugar snaps and dips
D: Roast chicken with sweet potato fries

And so on … While the opposite side of my notebook will read like this:

ALDI

butter
rice krispies
marshmallows
grapes
lettuce
cheese
turkey
frozen veggies
canned tomatoes
tortilla chips
cheese crackers

MEIJER

pears
milk
toilet paper
avocados
kale
gr. beef
whole roasting chicken
ground mustard
paprika
cinnamon

TO MAKE

Muffins
Rice krispie treats
breakfast burritos
Ham chowder for freezer
banana bread
cinnamon sugar bread

Scenes from my kitchen

What did I miss? I feel like I’m telling on myself just a little bit because this sounds like a tried and true formula and although it’s what works for us, this is a system designed solely based on the way I think. I’m a little bit forgetful. Ask the kids how many times we end up using kleenex because although I noticed we were low on toilet paper – that’s the one thing I routinely forget at the grocery store EVERY TIME. But I buy Rice Vinegar almost every trip.

I read recently that you should have a dinner emergency fund in your house – which basically means always have a box of pasta and can of sauce in your pantry because there will be the night that nothing got done and you still have to feed people or you hired a sitter for the night on a whim and expecting them to make your planned pork loin with sides is asking just a little too much. I don’t eat pasta but we have it in the house for these reasons, I’m never out of lettuce or rice, coconut milk, the oils I cook with, eggs or butter.

ONE MORE THING: We’re members at Costco so we buy a few things (in bulk) a few times a year. Like the oils I cook with 😉 and the wine we drink. I love some of their meats, cheeses, and frozen food options. And I always buy flowers.

There’ve been stints in the last (almost) 12 years where I’ve worked full time outside of my home and having a dinner menu plan has made that possible. I know it’s the cliche thing to say that being “just a mom” isn’t a job and sure, I’ve claimed it and struggled with it for years but you know what? I love this job. And I’m good at it.

I don’t get paid to plan meals and custom make them to our families needs, no one calls me a chef.

I don’t get paid to clean our house and do our laundry so our family has what they need to live outside of the walls of our home, no one calls me a maid.

I don’t get paid to grocery shop or shop for clothes or shoes or to keep my home stocked with the necessities, no one calls me their personal assistant.

I don’t get paid to balance a budget or pay accounts payable or be the operating accountant for our several goals, dreams, and responsibilities, no one calls me their CPA.

I don’t get paid to decorate and renovate our spaces, no one calls me their designer.

I don’t get paid to mow our lawn or keep our flower beds weed free or to plant, consider and keep a garden, no one calls me their landscaper.

I don’t get paid to plan our social life or dinner events, or to host our parties or beautiful evenings under the stars, no one calls me their events planner.

I don’t get paid to do a lot of things and I’m not called a lot of titles: I get paid to take photographs, to write. I call myself an artist and a writer.

My family calls me Jodi, my children get to call me mom.

Somehow it all works out, and I love my life. Lists and all.

xoxo
Jodi

House Keeping: Building a life

** It’s a little weird to publish this, I know I was the one who said she wanted to talk about budgets but now that I’ve been sitting on this and revising this for the past couple weeks, it’s hard to not sound like a know-it-all or just a princess. Which there will be a number of you who come to that conclusion and thats ok. The three things you’re not supposed to talk about; money, sex and religion, are basically what I eat for breakfast so here’s where we call a truce. In relationship these topics are met with vulnerability and understanding. They’re fragile and solid, invisible and fully formed. They’re complex, and I love discussing them. Which is hard to do as a one-sided digital essay. I don’t know it all. I’m not the person you want to ask for stock tips or investment opportunities (unless you’re talking real estate and then I’m your girl) and I’ve screwed up many times with our budget and finances. This essay is an over all snap shot of the bigger picture and not a soap box for me to stand on and complain (there is NO complaining). We have everything we need and we value resourcefulness over resources. Want to skip this one entirely? I don’t blame you, here’s a sleeping kitten.

If you’re new here you might not know that 6 years ago we sold a house, started building another one, sold that one, tried to buy two more homes over the course of two more years in 2 different rentals and finally, four years ago, bought the house we currently live in. Over the last 3 years we’ve gutted this home and made it our (hopefully) forever space.

There’s a specific reason for this run-on sentence of a decision.

We wanted to be debt free, yes. But with Aaron’s job there’s a lot of personal risk involved. If Aaron would have gotten into an accident or died unexpectedly our income would have stopped with those tragedies and I wouldn’t have been able to afford our house payment. The decision to move and lessen our monthly output was a very tactile decision for our future.

putting the sign up

There isn’t a ladder for Aaron to climb as a business owner. He doesn’t work at a company where someone else just hands out raises or promotes him based on his performance. That’s his job, he’s the ceiling. So if our life requires more cash, we can’t knock on a bosses door and ask for it. Yes, there are perks to owning our own business and yes, sometimes there are good years of plenty and there might be profit sharing, other years we lose everything and start all over. Not only do we live a debt free life, personally, but also professionally. Aaron is the sole owner of his companies and it’s a core value for us to operate them without debt, partners, or venture capital.

Office of Elevator Up

Now, here’s my disclaimer. Please take this with a grain of salt. We started out very differently than so many of other business owners/professionals. Neither Aaron nor myself had any debt of any kind when we got engaged (We didn’t go to college, ergo no school loans). We bought our first house together before we were married and I “rented” it from Aaron until after the wedding.

We were a dual income household when we bought our second house (the house we sold in the beginning paragraph). I was pregnant with Jessica but working full time with health insurance and Aaron was employed full time as well. On paper we could afford the house but 6 years later with two kids (one of which we ended up paying for the prenatal care and delivery to the tune of almost $30,000 out of pocket), a start-up business and only one income; we were selling everything and then some to keep our house above water.

We took a substantial loss when we sold the house, twenty-thousand to be exact. Rolled that into our new build loan but when it sold before it was finished it sold for an appreciated cost and cut our initial debt in half. We rented for 2 years to save money and pay-off the remaining debt from the sale of our house. We had sold cars to pay our hospital bills and somewhere in there bought our minivan with a small loan and paid that off in those two years of renting as well. (Are we still on the same page?? Anyone??) We saved everything and our goal was to buy another house but with 20% down this time, no questions asked.

SO. You guys – we did. We bought our house that we live in now with 20% down and our mortgage is under $300 a month. This is why we did this. We can also now (and only now) afford to send our kids to private school.

Kitchen AfterKitchen After

We live differently on purpose. Now if catastrophe hits the fan, our family won’t crumble. We finally have better health insurance and this is the first year in the last eleven that we haven’t ended the year paying out of pocket almost double what we’re allowed to contribute to our HSA. This might be the year we actually carry a balance to be able to save up for emergencies where insurance is concerned.

I really like to budget, I love numbers. I get jazzed about this stuff and yes, with our low monthly output and no debt (aside from the mortgage) to our name – we can do more with our income. This is how we’ve given ourselves “raises” through the years. We reduce the amount going out so the amount coming in looks like it’s growing even though it isn’t.

But it’s still hard because money is still money and it buys really fun things and we still have to say no and save and work and have goals.

My eyes are a little bonkers. I realize this is either really interesting or completely irrelevant to you, I get it. I wish more people would talk about this because it fascinates me.

As a teenager I set myself up on a budget based on percentages. So, when I got a paycheck (or cash from babysitting) I would automatically calculate 30% of what I earned for savings, 10% towards gifts/tithes, 15% towards gas/car maintenance, 30% towards spending and the other 15% went into a slush fund of sorts to build up for things like insurance or my eventual cell phone bill. I changed the percentages when needed (like every 6 months if my expenses changed) but I was pretty strict with my self and how I managed my (very little) income.

Alllllllllllll these years later I’m still doing a version of this. Only it’s not based on percentages and instead of me calculating the amounts for our categories, our direct deposit does it for us.

EASIEST THING IN THE WHOLE WORLD.

I wanted to talk about this for a few reasons, one because I’m a geek and setting up budgets for automatic saving or spending (automatic bill pay anyone? Oh my gosh, now we’re talking. You’re so naughty) is one of my secret powers that I want to share with you but also, as it turns out, not a lot of people think the way we do about this kind of stuff.

I realize that if you find yourself in a similar situation to where we were six years ago your train of thought might not lead you to the hop-scotch selling and building and renting as it did us but I guess I’m weird? It’s like walking into a house and seeing the walls come down. I can just see it.

Aaron took some convincing, he sort of just expected to have a car payment and house payment and credit cards. Not to abuse, just because thats what he thought it took. Only, I don’t know … I disagree. We don’t have to have it all, I’m not interested in more stuff. Experiences? Yes, lets do that. Let’s travel and see and taste and explore. Let’s put our dollars to work in our kitchen, on our table, and in our hearts with our memories. Lets build a life worth more than counting numbers.

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So I guess a budget is like really good boundaries, if we want to bring it from tactile to emotional because this girl loves a good metaphor. I love boundaries. There’s more freedom within them than outside of them. If I have absolutely no boundaries then I have no direction. Wide open spaces are only fun for so long and then you start wondering where you can put things. Where does this go? And what if I had a place for that?

I’d argue that I am not Type A. I’m creative and messy and full of feelings and I cry easily and laugh loudly and I like to giggle whenever it bubbles up and I love surprises and adventure and being a free spirit … who also can get down with a budget, a repeatable file system, grocery shopping and menu planning. I’m kind of different.

But thats what I hope to bring to you in this mini-series of “House Keeping”. My slightly bent, what-works-for-us routines. One last thing? There aren’t short cuts. It’s a lot of work to stay on top of menu planning and budgeting, there isn’t a quick fix, that I’ve found, that lasts. There’s just doing the next right thing. And then the next thing, and then the next. If ordering take out is the budget saving solution to eating at home, then do that. Next month maybe you’ll go to the grocery store on the weekend, and the next maybe you’ll menu plan too … 3 months into small changes you might be cooking your own food from your kitchen and adding up the savings towards a vacation. Or maybe towards the debt you might carry, or the eventual car replacement headed your way.

Whatever it is, doing nothing is actually doing something.

With that little nugget of gold, brought to you by inspirational posters every where, I’m out. Peace.

The summer of the popup adventure

We’ve been in our house for just over 4 years now.

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As many times as I drive in and out of the drive way: today it hit me. How amazing this little slice is. I didn’t grow up in a neighborhood, I wasn’t part of a rat-pack of friends from my backyard, I couldn’t ride my bike to school, or walk to my library. We didn’t camp when I was a little girl, I lived a very different (often dual) life than my children are experiencing. And the popup in our driveway with the blooming window boxes and the basketball hoop with a neighborhood playground only a block away … It just makes me thankful for this life. The one I almost missed. The one I sometimes wish away. Today isn’t one of those days.

We’ve had some turnover in our neighborhood recently and as exciting as possibility is, I find myself being completely rooted to this house. A year ago I would have told you that once our renovations were finally done I would want to move. Collect the equity and run away.

I don’t know where I’m always going but I haven’t wanted to stop. Until now.

Summer is almost here and we’re preparing for an extended trip, which is why we bought a pop-up camper a few weeks ago. We ripped out carpet and cleaned it up and we’re shaving minutes off the set-up every time we practice. We spent our first nights in the camper this past weekend – the first night was chilly and we didn’t have enough blankets so we all huddled in together and fought off bug bites and woke to a downpour storm. We stayed dry! And we all woke up smiling, giddy almost.

I remember going to Shipshewana with my parents and buying my first tent with my babysitting money when I was 11 or 12. We lived in a subdivision where everyone’s backyards pooled into one big, uninterrupted green space; divided only by landscaping rocks and invisible lines etched out with mowers and ownership. I set up my green tent in the backyard and slept outside every night I was allowed to that summer. I spent days laying under the green tarp listening to the birds, writing in my journal, pretending I was in the middle of a great big field with mountain views and rushing water nearby. Only when I poked my head out from my miniature universe did I realize I was in the middle of a suburban sprawl, no mature trees as far as the eye could see; in the middle of empty lots and chemically induced grassy lawns.

When I was seventeen I camped on the beach with Aaron. I wrote a note to my parents saying I’d be back in the morning (pro-tip: not recommended) and we hiked out to the beach, set up a tent and watched the stars. It was that innocent, actually, and it was perfect. We wrote in each-others journals that night, instead of our own, as if we were writing a memory for the other person. That no matter what came of us, we’d always have this. A night underneath the stars, a night with the waves and the moon. I woke up next to Aaron for the first time on that rebellious little adventure and thats when I knew, I wanted to do this forever. Soon after waking up my parents found our tent on the beach and sternly told me to … ehum … come home. (True story.)

Waking up in our popup to the sound of rain pelting our vinyl roof with bleary eyed genetic clones of each of us staring up from underneath blankets, huddled in with their stuffed animals, I realized that this is my forever.

I love houses and I hope I always will. But I love sleeping underneath the stars more. I love watching the water, and feeling so small it’s actually painful in the grand scheme of things. I love running on the shore and spending time counting grains of sand. I love living in close quarters with the people I can’t get enough of. Picking roadside flowers and sipping muddy coffee under the awning while the dust dances at my feet in a furry with the rain.

It’s that innocent, actually, and it’s perfect.