I recently watched a television show that I’m a fan of that follows the (fictional) lives of three young women. I enjoy the show because it doesn’t follow the typical storyline. The show is diverse, inclusive, progressive, and is not afraid to dive into very vulnerable, sensitive, real life topics. Like the decision to have a child. Or not to have a child. The latest episode that featured the latter is what spurred this post.
This particular episode moved me and I felt extremely understood. Definitely less alone. Later, when a snippet of the show containing the moment one of the characters tells her husband she does not want to have children was posted to social media, I was interested in the comments that followed. Most people wondered why the character and her husband hadn’t talked in depth about kids before they got married. The commenters’ viewpoints were valid and true to their beliefs and experiences. Of course, that is probably the “ideal” order of things for most people. But being a person who completely related to the character and the events that unfolded, I saw the situation very differently and wished I could have responded to everyone that choosing not to have children isn’t always a cut and dry decision for everyone.
I was raised with this saying on repeat:
“First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in a baby carriage.”
So many of us heard this, recited this, believed this. Especially as the words became real and we watched it happen to the people around us as we grew up. This order of events starts to feel like a given. A truth. The roadmap to becoming an adult and creating a family when you are younger. At least for me it was.
Joel and I honestly did not talk a lot about the things you’re supposed to talk about before getting married. We are very much a day-by-day couple. We were in love, we were creating a life we were happy in together, and that’s all that mattered before and after we tied the knot. I think both of us assumed that kids would become part of our story. Until they didn’t.
I thought I’d eventually get a feeling. A desire to have a child. It never came. Our nephews and nieces came along. I thought, “holding them will give me ‘that feeling.’” I instantly loved them each beyond words, and am in awe of their mothers, but I still didn’t want one of my own. I would take prenatal vitamins and buy baby books and start baby Pinterest boards and talk to my family about having a baby. Not once did it feel authentic. Not once. I felt like I was doing and saying things just because I was supposed to. I almost felt like a robot spewing off words that I was programmed to say.
When I began to honor my gut instincts is when things got really hard. Even though Joel and I hadn’t talked about it, so didn’t have any concrete plans about having a baby, the thing that weighed the most on me was letting him down. Because he is an AMAZING man who would make an AMAZING father. When I finally came to terms with how I felt and was confident kids weren’t in the cards for me, for us, I slowly started to let him know where I was at. I don’t think we’ve ever had more difficult conversations. Most ended with me saying, “I completely understand if this is a deal breaker for you. It’s just something I can’t compromise on.” I wanted him to be fulfilled and happy, because he truly deserves that. I didn’t want him to resent me for the rest of our life together.
I had to understand and accept that in making this decision for myself, the results could be devastating to my marriage. That is the honest truth. That’s when I knew that what I was feeling was what I really wanted. I was willing to risk the greatest love I’ve ever had over it.
Fortunately, we navigated our way through and came out on the other side still together, happier with each passing year. I’m beyond lucky to have a partner who loves me in a transcendent way. He was willing to sacrifice any desires he had to have a child to stay in the life the two of us were only beginning to build together.
The reasoning behind my choice is obviously multi-faceted. There is no one reason. The lack of interest in the entire thought of parenthood being the biggest. Along with not wanting to pass down inherited and genetic mental health issues and trauma coming in close second.
I must admit, it’s a strange thing to be a childless woman. Especially a woman who is physically able to have children, but chooses not to. I think it is really hard for a lot of people to understand, and that’s OK. Reactions from others vary. At the end of the day, this decision is one I know I made the right call on. I’m proud of myself for diving deep, facing the uncomfortable, and discovering what I truly wanted, as hard as it was to face.
Life, and marriage specifically, has no roadmap. There are most definitely “ideal” ideas of how things should go, but most times, they don’t go that way. We can’t cast stones at other peoples’ experience. We always need to remember we are all on different paths, going at our own pace, making the best decisions for ourselves as we can.
I wanted to write about this topic, as difficult as it was, so other women having the same thoughts and experiences feel less alone, like the show I watched did for me. I also want young women to know there is another track they can take if they don’t feel that children are something they want. That feelings of not wanting to be a mother are just as natural and important as wanting to be a mother – even if it doesn’t appear that way.
If you choose not to have a child, you are not selfish. You are not lesser than. You are strong, and you are enough. Be brave, own your decision, and share your truth with others. Most importantly, know you can still live a happy and fulfilling life without children. I'm living proof.
Big hugs to all.
Man, it has felt really heavy around here.
Our home has not felt like the sacred, safe space we have strived to create for ourselves. We have allowed a lot of negative energy into our hearts and our home. And it hasn't felt good. It has felt deep. It has felt painful. It has felt unsettling. As I mentioned before, it has felt heavy. So heavy.
I was really starting to feel hopeless. Because instead of choosing to lift ourselves out of it, we both kept spiraling deeper into it. Layering each negative feeling and experience on top of each other to the point where I didn't recognize who we were as individuals and as a team.
I finally got to a point where my body, mind, and heart literally could not take any more. Complete negativity overload. It started to fester, and I became angry. Anger is my least favorite emotion to experience. Because that is not who I want to be.
It all stops TODAY. For both Joel and I. The most wonderful part of our marriage is the open communication we have with each other. We knew the negativity we were experiencing and releasing into our home and onto each others' shoulders was primarily based on struggles we were having with other relationships and current situations in our lives. Instead of continuing to feed into the negativity, we agreed to cancel it out with positivity and rise above it.
He agreed to take part in a little ritual I created to help cleanse ourselves and our home of the loads we've been carrying. Below is what we did, and I have to say, we both felt lighter immediately. I truly hope we can carry this lightness into our week and beyond.
The Sires' Negativity Cleanse Ritual:
If you are going through something similar, you don't need to do everything or anything we did to feel better. I believe simply acknowledging any heaviness you might be feeling and releasing it with loving intention can also help get rid of icky energy. The key is acknowledgement and choosing to move forward. Don't allow yourself to drown if you can help it. Change your perspective on or remove the person/people or situation causing you to suffer on any level. And even better - don't let the person/people or situation get to you in the first place!
Here is an affirmation for you that is really helping me through this moment:
May I be happy. May I be peaceful. May I be free from suffering.
May they be happy. May they be peaceful. May they be free from suffering.
May all be happy. May all be peaceful. May all be free from suffering.
Remember who you are, what your heart beats for, and don't let anyone or anything from the outside get in the way of that!
As I was soaking in bath number three of the week (increased stress = more baths) and having a pity party of one as the flame of a candle illuminated my mason jar glass of pink wine on the edge of the tub, a single word broke through the madness, humbling me almost instantly. Home.
How lucky am I to have a home? To have a retreat. A bath tub I can drown my sorrows in after a bad day. A water heater to warm the water. Epsom salts to ease my aching body. Essential oils to ease my aching mind. A dog sitting dutifully just outside the bathroom door, on guard to protect me from anything that could put me in danger. A loving husband singing in the kitchen as he makes us dinner. Cooking food we are fortunate enough to have cupboards full of. Shielded from the elements by a house that is ours. That is warm. And dry. And safe.
I was grounded more and more as I thought about each piece of our life. From minute to major. We don’t have a lot by some peoples’ standards, but goodness, I feel like we have it all a lot of the time. Especially when I break everything down. To have our basic needs met is a blessing on its own. To have experiences and things we want is just the cherry on top.
There are a lot of people locally, even if you choose not to see or believe it, that don’t have a home and everything a home can bring. Or if they do, it might not feel like a refuge. Or be warm, or dry, or safe. Going to sleep with no blankets, empty stomachs, and little hope for tomorrow.
My challenge to you this holiday season (and throughout the upcoming new year) has two parts:
Even if you don't have a lot to give, the smallest gestures of kindness can make a huge impact. You don't have to offer money or physical items. Look for ways to make people feel seen. Drop the word “stranger” from your vocabulary. We’re all in this together. Contribute to the comfort of those around you. Let the light from your heart make someone feel at home, feel at ease, just by being with you, even if it's a brief encounter. That moment matters. Especially to someone who needed someone like you in that moment.
If you are looking to support an organization that tirelessly helps others, we highly encourage The Salvation Army. I tell you why we love this organization in this post. This year marks the fifth year we have rang bells for the Red Kettle Campaign and we are looking for ways to do even more with this wonderful charity to support the people in our community who need to be lifted up.
Truly, home is wherever I’m with this guy. I wish you all the same kind of love and companionship in your lives.
One of the best things I've done for myself in this stage of my life is sign-up for the Master Gardener course through the Iowa State University Extension & Outreach Office in Black Hawk County.
Plug the word "garden" into the search bar of my blog and you will find that gardening has become a huge passion of mine. It has always been an interest, but until I had the space of our acreage, I didn't have a chance to explore it fully.
I wanted to start the Master Gardener journey now versus later (most members are 50+) because I thought having a formal education about gardening would benefit me tremendously as I continue to expand our little farm. Having "book knowledge" to combine with my practical knowledge and apply to my future experiences will be wonderful.
When signing up, I did not know what I was getting myself into. After taking the required pre-assessment before classes started, I REALLY didn't know what I was getting myself into. Essentially, the pre-assessment taught me that I knew NOTHING about gardening. I was a complete rookie. Which was humbling, motivating me even more to do well in this course.
Our classes were primarily in the classroom, watching educational video presentations by experts from Iowa State University. Sprinkled in were a few live classes ranging from private gardens of Master Gardeners to established greenhouses. Those classes were my favorite because hands-on experiences are the what my brain absorbs best. These trips were also the most inspiring to me, seeing how others were applying their knowledge about gardening in so many different ways.
Our trainings all led up to a hands-on class on the Iowa State University campus. Over 300 Master Gardener trainees from across the state came together to learn and share their knowledge. It was amazing! I got to know the people in the Black Hawk County group better (funny how we never talked in class but when put into a new situation we were inseparable!) which was very nice.
I loved every minute of the on-campus training. The dots started to connect for me when we were able to apply what we learned in a variety of different labs.
My favorite labs were Botany:
And surprisingly, Entomology:
I also really enjoyed Plant Pathology, identifying diseases in plants. I didn't snap a photo of that because we had to circulate through 10 stations really fast!
Overall, the experience was even better than I expected. It was nice to be with like-minded people who daydreamed about their gardens as much as I do.
I passed my post-assessment (WOO-HOO!):
So what this means is that I am now an official Master Gardener Intern. I'll complete 40 hours of volunteering and 10 hours of continuing education in 2019. In January of 2020 I'll officially be a Master Gardener. It will definitely be worth the work and the wait.
I will be honored to hold the title and share what I learn with others. I can already tell this is the beginning of a fulfilling journey! My heart feels full. Like I'm doing something I'm meant to do. And that's nice.
Hit me with your plant questions, I'd love to help you (probably learning a thing or two myself while I'm at it)!
Joel and I recently celebrated our NINTH wedding anniversary! We’ve been together almost thirteen years total. I have repeated this fact to myself over and over again the past few days. It seems surreal. Especially since I never thought I’d get married in the first place! But goodness, am I glad I did.
We always take time around our anniversary to stop and reflect. Escaping for a few days to explore, our favorite thing to do together.
This year was one of the best anniversary trips we’ve taken! We traveled around Iowa and Wisconsin over five days, our primary home base being my family’s cabin in Lansing, Iowa.
Before I dive into what we did, I want to tell you how the morning of our vacation started before we left because I think it’s important that some real life gets thrown into this shiny, happy post! We got water in our basement. A LOT of water. The dogs lost their minds at the vet, Madison had to get muzzled. I had a nail in my tire that needed to be fixed before we left. The dogs lost their minds again at home and pushed a glass platter down the stairs, breaking it. Something come up at work that they needed to contact me about. All before noon. After some big breaths and an undying will to continue on as planned, we made it out of the house!
We started out in Madison, Wisconsin. We both love Madison. Great city. College town. Pretty hip. Lots to do. We didn’t have much time to wander around this time because we were in town to see Jeff Tweedy from Wilco perform at an art museum. I had been to a Wilco show before and Joel is constantly listening to them so I had a good idea of what we were getting into. But wow. What a show. I was in tears several times. Jeff is a king lyricist. And for as serious as his lyrics are, he’s actually a pretty funny guy. Time flew and neither of us wanted it to end!
We had to venture home after staying the night in Madison because Twins had a show in Des Moines. So on our way back we hit up Chris Farley’s childhood home in Madison and then the Field of Dreams in Dyersville! I had never been to either, so it was pretty neat.
The following day we traveled to La Crosse, Wisconsin – our favorite Wisconsin city hands down. We hit up our regular haunts, napped in the park (beyond relaxing), and then ended the day taking a walk with “Mark Twain” as he told us about the Mississippi River. This one man, outdoor play was wonderful. I never realized that Mark Twain was a humorist. For a humorist, he was quite an insightful man. Some of the lines spoken were extremely moving and very relevant in our current political state.
We finished the trek where three different rivers intersect at the end of the La Crosse river walk. Mark Twain said this is a sign of a sacred space according to Native Americans. We were in a hidden garden. The sun was setting over the water. Ducks were peacefully swimming nearby. I was with Joel. Mark Twain was standing in front of us. A sacred space indeed.
On our last day before packing up to go home, we went south into Wisconsin. We checked out some spots just outside of and in Prairie du Chien. We stopped by an apple orchard/pumpkin patch, walking away without any fresh fruit, but with a bag of fresh bakery items instead! Then we ventured into an area that we hadn’t been before, off the beaten path. I’ll let the pictures do the talking but essentially we found a large equipment graveyard. I may have broken a couple of rules and committed a minor crime while we were there, but I made it out without being arrested!
We were also excited to find an antique shop we hadn’t seen before. If you are in that area and like reasonably priced antiques, check out Checkers Antiques! Nice people, amazing selection, open for 50 years – so they know what’s up.
Overall, it was a very relaxing trip. In between adventures we made sure to reaffirm our commitment to one another, celebrate victories, learn from challenges (like the five in a row we experienced before leaving!), and look into the future.
I’m lucky for this man and all he brings to my life. We seem to feel happier each year we are together, which I am immensely grateful for. Being by his side is my favorite part of living. We’ve built a simple yet incredible life together that only keeps getting better. Here’s to staying aligned and in love for many more years, J! Glad you’re on my team.
I’m giving the project addict in me a tiny bit of a break for the rest of the Summer.
We resumed outdoor projects on our acreage the moment the weather felt the slightest bit like Spring this year. Since then, we’ve been busting our butts in the limited spare time we have had to continue our progress on fixing up our almost 100-year-old home. And you know what? We’re tired. Our minds and bodies and budget need a break. So we’re taking it!
As we’ve slowed our pace a bit, we’ve actually been able to step back and appreciate all that we have done in a little over two years. I wanted to share some of our outdoor progress with you in the form of some before and after shots!
Front of House
Back of House
Around the House Paint & Landscaping
I’ve also spruced up some awkward spaces on our property with vignettes and flowers:
Hope you enjoyed a little look into the work we’ve been doing! I think I’ll pull together a post that shows before and afters of the interior of our home as well, since that has evolved so much in two years as well. And even though I said we’re taking a break…I have a few DIY projects that I want to complete and share soon.
Have a wonderful and relaxing rest of the Summer!
Becoming a gardener has been one of the most rewarding hobbies I’ve ever stumbled upon.
Flowers have always been my favorite. I worked really hard in the yard and flower beds of our first home to establish landscaping that made me smile each time I was outside (while adding charm to the exterior of course). When we moved to our second, and potentially forever, home on two acres of land my head started swimming with ideas of what I could do with so much space.
In a little over two years’ time, my plants have been the best teachers. As I’ve sweated over landscaping around the entire house, planted a huge vegetable and wildflower garden, and made plans to fill in spots begging for the chance to host perennials – nature has spoken to me.
There is so much to learn from the simplicity of the outdoors. It exists. If you allow it the basic necessities to live – off it goes. No pomp and circumstance. In its own time and at its own pace, it grows.
I spent a few hours in my vegetable and wild flower garden last night since I haven’t been able to be as hands on with it as I was last year. I was missing it. And you know what I realized? Even though I wasn’t there to pluck every single weed, prune every little tomato shoot, or thoroughly water every one of the plants – there they were – growing stronger before my eyes. The control freak inside of me softened. There were weeds, the tomato plants were out of control, and it could have used a watering – but it was my garden and my tiny seedlings were well on their way to bearing their fruit without any handholding from me.
In their own time, they will bloom.
And sometimes…they won’t. Enter – the humbling part of being a gardener.
I tried starting seedlings this year. I was off to a great start – everything was sprouting. And then it wasn’t. I tried more water and less water. Airing them out. Time outside. Every combination I could think of. Unfortunately, only six green bean seedlings were the sole survivors out of 54 pods of seedlings. The seedlings that once showed promise shriveled away and the egg shells I started them in were worked into the dirt around the seedlings I was forced to buy. Ouch. My mighty green thumb wasn’t as mighty after all. Turns out I’m not naturally good at everything. Sometimes, even if you use all of your charm and try all you can, you fail. Fall right down on your face. Into a pile of dried up seedlings.
In addition to pride, humility, and more patience – my plants have given me a feeling of purpose and contentment.
If you have read my blog, you know I’m my worst critic. I beat myself up a lot. But since becoming a gardener, especially at our new home, one of the most comforting things I can say to myself is, “You may not be good at everything. You might not do everything perfectly. But you are good at something. And after you’re done with X, Y, Z – you can come back here, to your garden, and you’ll be OK.”
Having something in my life that makes me feel that way is truly priceless. I suppose you could say I’ve found my happy place in the garden. The place you can close your eyes and visualize and smile about.
I hope you’ve found your happy place, too. And if you haven’t – take time to reflect on what makes you feel and keeps you grounded. Run towards it. Throw everything you’ve got into it. I promise the lessons it teaches you along the way will be worth it.
We had a pretty nice holiday at the Sires' household. We soaked in the glow of our Christmas tree, watched lots of holiday movies, snuggled in with our pups, and indulged in too many treats!
To balance out the peaceful calm, we threw some chaos of our own making into the mix. As usual, we were the people out shopping for ALL of our gifts the week before (up to the day before) Christmas. Never fails. We never mean to wait so long and we're not unthoughtful people, it has truly just become a laughable tradition of ours. At least we're experiencing the madness together!
This year was a little different for us because some of our normal traditions with family shifted slightly. The shift meant that we had Christmas Eve completely open, no commitments. (!!!) We tried to be intentional about what we chose to do in hopes of creating one or two new traditions that we could carry into the future.
It was a pretty laid back day. We slept in, rose slowly, had brunch, wrapped the last of our gifts, napped, took a walk, and went to church in the evening. The pace was dreamy. It felt so strange to have such a leisurely day in the middle of the busiest few days of our year, but I think we both welcomed and needed it.
My absolute favorite part of our Christmas Eve together was our walk. We took a walk around our property, taking time to stop, look around, and breathe in the crisp air. We fell in love with our acreage in the winter, so winter always feels an extra kind of special around here. Our dreams for this place took shape in the quiet, cold, and snowy months before we made it our home.
This type of reflection as a couple is undoubtedly the best new tradition that sprouted from our extra eight hours together during the holidays. My love for him, who we've become as individuals and as a couple, and the life we've built together has never felt stronger than in those stolen hours.
I hope you embraced new traditions along with the old this holiday season and were able to be present in both. Wishing you a wonderful holiday and happy new year!
Here are some “family photos” we attempted on Christmas Eve! Attempted being the key word. No amount of treats can persuade our dogs to take a photo!
I recently turned 33. I'd love to share an upbeat story about what a beautiful day I had and how wonderful I felt, but that would be a lie. I spent the first day of my 33rd year in the midst of a swirling mix of emotions. Mostly anxiety, some sadness, with an undercurrent of feeling special and overwhelmingly grateful. I cried. Hard. One of those deep down cries that catches you off guard and ends up being a welcome release of emotion.
I couldn't put my feelings into words. I'm not normally a person who is bothered by birthdays. I actually look forward to them as times for reflection, looking back and setting personal goals for the future. Wanting to be a better version of myself year after year. But this year was different. I'm hoping for good reason.
Over the past few months I have felt a major shift inside myself. I've been faced with messages of overcoming fears, embracing change, the importance of connection, of showing up. All things I'm admittedly not very good at. Actually, I would identify all of these things as my top weaknesses. But over and over again, I'm hit with truths about how in order to live in a full and authentic way I should embrace these things. And I believe this is true.
There will always be characteristics about ourselves that will be hard to face, but need to be faced in order to grow.
I don't want to make any declarations about what I'd like to see from myself over the next year, but I do have some thoughts:
Whew. That was much more of a download than I was expecting.
Even though I recognize there's still work to do - I also have to appreciate the good things that have occurred within me this past year. Limitless patience, recognizing the impact and power of my reactions and words, finding outlets for my anxiety, being present, finding the best in everyone and leading with the positive when referring to them, showing love without expecting love back. Good things. Good strides. Good vibes.
Two things in closing:
The first - I felt so very loved on my birthday due to the calls, texts, messages and hugs I received from my friends and family, both near and far. I also got some of the most thoughtful gifts I've ever gotten - which made me cry even harder.
And second - I've covered a lot in this post, but I feel the quote below best captures who I think I am at this time in my life. This is my 33.
We have been frantically trying to wrap up some big projects before winter arrives. I had high hopes for this summer in terms of our landscaping and I have to say - we did good! We didn't have time to get to the fire pit, but the space will be there waiting for us next year!
Here's a little peek at our landscaping. There was nothing around the house before, so what we did was a huge upgrade!
We also did major work on the trees all around our property. The wind did a number on them last year - tops broke off, full trees fell over, large branches partially fell but were still hanging on...I acquired a fear of wind after awhile...
With the help of a family friend who owns a tree trimming business, Joel and I were able to get everything cleaned up! It was A LOT of work, but everything looks so much nicer.
I had a bit of a hard time losing a few of the trees, but when a tree's dead, it's dead, and it's got to go.
We also had help from my uncle, Joe, who came over and ground all of our stumps for us! My goodness we are so lucky to be surrounded by family and friends who take good care of us.
Joel did most of the work cleaning up the aftermath of the stump grinding, including removal of the final tree we'll cut down this year.
Last weekend, I spent a lot of time cleaning out the gardens. I started tearing out everything except for our strawberries. Those I covered with hay, they'll come back next year.
I had the most fun harvesting our sweet potatoes! They vine out and take up so much space, so I didn't know what to expect. We had a good crop from four plants. Most went to my sister for baby food, but I kept the rest to enjoy myself. I love sweet potatoes!
My hydrangea bush did really well this year and had several blooms left before the frost, so I cut them off to use as decor indoors.
You are supposed to put them in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight to dry. I chose to hang ours upside down, and so far they're doing really great. They have a beautiful burgundy color and go really well with our decor.
Although I'm really, really going to miss spending time outdoors - especially in my gardens - over the winter, I suppose winter happens for a reason. We all need a chance to hibernate and rest so we can come back as a better, stronger version of ourselves when the snow begins to melt. I'll try my best to welcome this slower pace and take in the beauty of country living in its next season.