The wild one

And just like that, we’re half way through summer.

A rejuvenating few days in the city: who would have thought I'd take away deep rest? But I did, and clarity, too.

We’ve been back to Windmill Island a number of times, as recent as just yesterday. It is my favorite place in Holland and right now, this week, is the best of the flowers in bloom. It’s wild, in the best way.

Some home improvement projects are underway (as I type our front door is being replaced, hallelujah!) and we are excited to work on the curb appeal of our little secret house. It’s been 5 years and we still get comments like “I had no idea your house looked like this” once people step in. Our street-side appearance is misleading, but in a good way. A simple, don’t think too much about it, way. She looks untouched from the front and when you step inside, she’s all the old wisdom with none of the baggage.

This room is discovering purpose. #inprogress

A little Sunday prep for the week ahead.

My kids have had a blast at sleep away camps and we took an eventful family trip out East over the 4th of July holiday. I had a job in Chicago in June that we stole away, just Aaron and I, to work and explore together.

Home is where ever she is. 💜

"Danger: KEEP OFF ROCKS" 👌 #challengeaccepted #lakeontario #hamlinbeach

A small bit or respite, a little bit of quiet.

We’ve had plenty of lazy days at a friends pool, the beach, day trip adventures and family visiting from out of town.

Lolo's!

I love this summer.

That summer time vibe ☀️⛱

Epic adventures with Oliver today.

Fogging for mosquitos, saving kittens, chasing cousins, karaoke in the rain, passing out extra dessert to neighbors, bonfires, and alllllllllll the laughter. 💙

And, as always, we’ve been busy in the kitchen with little delights.

Just making mini hand pies today. Delicious endeavors.

Michigan blueberries 💙

There’s a feeling to this summer: Settled. We are growing and dreaming and living and we’re safe. We are so excited for what’s next.

Dreams and apple trees.

I’ll leave you with something I posted on Facebook yesterday, it just rings true, and I want you to have it, too.

“I’ve had a moment of simple reminders today, where the fire deep inside is ablaze with unadulterated passion for living the life before me. Not the one prescribed to me by outside sources, or the one presented to me, on a platter, as if this next choice will cement the rest of all the choices. But the one I can’t stop dreaming about. The wild one. The exploration one. The one where I’m not afraid of making mistakes or seeing the world all over again. The one where I decide to try again. And again. And again.

The one where I stop making excuses for why I’m not living it yet and start saying yes instead of “later.” I AM ON FIRE.

We all are.

Can you see my smoke signals? They’re everywhere. This way! Over here!

Let go, Let’s go.”

Remind me of this when I forget, which might be often. Or just every January.

I want you to be ridiculous. I want you to say YES to the weird stuff. You’re not having any fun? Change that. We can absolutely be sojourners on this ride, and we can be missionaries to our neighbors – or we can pack up everything and move across the pond. Let’s do it all. Let’s not wait another day to start living. Your bank account might never be wide enough for the dreams you can dream but may your heart always be strong enough for the weight it will carry.

You can’t afford a trip to Europe? Do you know someone who’s been? Invite them over to tell their stories and ask to see their photographs. Make food you might taste over there and drink the drinks you envision yourself having. Sit outside in a garden. Call the visitors bureau and ask them about the city. If you can’t call: research, here I’ve done some for you … Travel ideas for Italy. Pinterest is a thing: use it.

Streets of Madrid

Go there, do it. Even if you can’t literally go any where. Enlist help from someone who loves hosting, ask them to show you or help you, invite friends (new and old) to enjoy a night on the canals.

You don’t have to own a boat, rent one; it doesn’t even have to have a motor. Or you can ask a friend or family member who owns one. Buy the hat for the captain, sit down, play the music, and watch the landscape pass-by as if you’re in Italy. DO IT. Why not?

Fathers Day 2015

When you feel ridiculous you should always have weird looks and stares from those around you who can’t see the beauty of dreaming just yet. They will soon, keep going. When they ask “why” your answer is always at the ready … “why not?!”

Dreaming isn’t an idea that you never realize. Dreaming is the opposite of fantasy, it’s your reality waiting to happen.

It won’t give you permission and the first step into Ridiculous is chilly. You might feel foolish and childish. You might fain mocking from the crowds but here’s a secret: they all wish they could wade into this water too. So keep going. Start swimming.

Lakeshore, showing them the beach

They will know who I am by your love for each other. (Paraphrased from John 13:35) Love is so many, many things. Mowing someone’s lawn, visiting the sick in your hospitals, making meals for young mothers, lending your hands, giving to causes with time, money or talent. But love isn’t a chore. Love is also being first in line at the roller coaster with your wide-eyed 9 year old for the first coaster ride of their life. It’s the sheer volume of happiness they eek out as you ascend and then rip down the rafters. Love is showing up to the dance recitals and hosting the sleepovers, it’s making the pancakes or warming up leftovers. Love is beneath the sheets, but also in the backyard. It’s touching your loved ones gently and ushering them closer for an embrace. It’s always an offering, never an obligation.

You guys!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Love is the high five and the posters on the sidelines when your people run the race they never thought they could finish. It’s the Holiday dinners and traditions for some of us, it’s the stockings and wrapping paper for others. It can be too much and not enough all at once. Love is overwhelming, like standing in a field of wild poppies for the first time and noticing that if you had never taken the wrong turn you would have gone the rest of your life not knowing that this existed. And it would continue to exist, without your permission or need for interference whatsoever. It’s there because the seed was planted and the clouds broke open and sang them into the air, a duet with the sun. It’s there, we just have to see it.

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Love is so contagious. Be ridiculous. And then pass it on.

Adventures: This one in Arizona

December 2015 we surprised the kids with a trip to Arizona. This was a working trip for Aaron but with both of his brothers and both of mine living in the Grand Canyon state it was a nice trip to tag along with.

Arizona 2015

Arizona 2015

Arizona 2015

Arizona 2015

We did plenty of hiking, a day trip to Sedona, sightseeing, off-roading, and visiting close by parks and state parks.

Arizona 2015

Arizona 2015

Arizona 2015

Arizona 2015

Arizona 2015

Arizona 2015

Arizona 2015

Arizona 2015

Arizona 2015

Arizona 2015

I’m feeling a little but of the wanderlust this season … ready for another adventure. A flight, an open road, a few minutes beneath the sun. With our kids being the ages they are (12 and 8) we’re starting to think about some different destinations. Where have you been (with or without kids) and what should we do/see/experience? I grew up globe trotting so over-seas itineraries don’t bother me at all. I have my eye on London, but weirdly also Ireland and Sweden. Or closer to home trips are fine too. I’m not really bothered by distance or lack thereof. Let’s just get going.

Where have you been?

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.

Red light, Green light

I have .7345 minutes to get this out of my head and onto paper. So this will be quick.

Lately I feel as though all the anxiety I could experience about any given situation has woken up. As in, HI. I HAVE COME BACK, REMEMBER ME? The stuff of crippling ineptitude to move in any direction. I can’t even slenk backwards, I’m paralyzed with indecision so I stand still. And it’s not an active stop, where waiting is the active searching for the next step – it’s literally the halt.

Right there.

In your tracks.

No moving.

Freeze!

I find it interesting that this is where I am, no longer looking for certain purpose in my work or my time but instead divided by how to use my time WITH my purpose. I’m aware of distractions and oftentimes I’m trying to either quiet them or dislodge them so I can stay focused except for now. Right now. Now I can’t decide.

Have you ever felt this way? It’s not even a crossroads – it’s inevitable. Change, movement – it’s all coming. It is going to happen and I am aware of the shift but I can’t keep my feet on both sides of the fault line. I have to step firmly into the unknown. I have to let go of the comfort, embrace the out of control, and often awkwardness of the search within the journey, and I have to feel like an adolescent who hasn’t grown into their limbs just yet. Proof that I will one day be able to use them to their full potential.

It’s just the in-between of learning how to run while clumsily shuffling through the hallways seems to be the only way to cross said line. And I keep looking down to make sure my shoes are tied so I won’t trip.

Learning to tie.

But I keep falling anyways.