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.
I’ve written recently about “going through instead of around.” This has become my primary mantra for a variety of different reasons.
But you know what? As necessary as it is, going through is TOUGH. My feet have been dragging when I get to the point of having to go through, and because of this, I have a lot of ickiness going on inside. I don’t like it, but I also don’t want to start reflecting out of fear that I’ll hate what I uncover. Along with being tough, going through isn’t always much fun, either.
A lot of my current physical and mental struggles have to do with being way too busy, but not knowing what I can weed out for the personal time I need. Everything seems equally important and the people pleaser in me is out in full force. Social events that I continue to deeply struggle with keep crashing into me, non-stop, forcing me to be “on” all the time (if I can muster the brain energy – sometimes all people get is my physical body in the same space as them, nodding and smiling along). Breathing exercises during car rides to and from commitments are “my time.” And that’s not enough.
My marriage is feeling it. My work is feeling it. My relationships are feeling it.
I need to start going through. UUUGGGHHH! But I don’t want to. But I want to. But I really don’t want to…But I should.
I have a precious five hours to myself one morning this weekend that I’m hoping to take advantage of for a good ol’ self-check-in – reevaluation of my current priorities, and dissection of my physical and mental state. (All while I try to get my garden planted.) I’ve let things go a little too long. I’ve avoided going through one day, one week, one month (or more) too many.
Life is something, isn’t it? Sometimes no amount of gratitude for what we have can relieve the pressure it puts on us. With or without our permission.
It’s the journey through that counts. If you can put things into perspective, the trenches are some of the best places to trudge through because that's where the true strength that each and every one of us possess comes out. Takes care of us. Gets us back on track. Maybe even onto a better track that we didn’t even know we were looking for. Bring it on – let’s go through!
“It’s about building a life you don’t need to regularly escape from. It’s about truly living the way you want, not what’s expected of you. There’s a difference between enjoying life and escaping life. Build a life you want to BE in.”
Yes, yes, yes, a thousand times, YES! Although salt baths and chocolate cake can be part of the life you want to BE in – we shouldn’t depend on them to act as periodic band aids for “getting through” life.
The phrase “self-care” has been thrown around a lot lately. Including by yours truly. I think it’s extremely important. I also think it’s extremely complex.
Self-care is so personal to each of us. Many times it is marketed to us as one-stop-shop remedies like salt baths and chocolate cake, when really, it is deeper than that. Or should be deeper than that.
We normally cry, “I need time for self-care!” when we’ve reached our limit, something has pushed us too far – when we need to escape. Not always, but many times. And in my opinion, true self-care means diving deep, feeling those things I don’t necessarily want to feel, and figuring out how to fix or change the root of why I’m feeling that way. Going through instead of around. Pinpointing the reason why I’m trying to escape the situation or thoughts while in my salt bath eating chocolate cake (or truly, drinking wine or a Coors Light…I’m real classy).
This is tough though. Really tough. Mainly because it’s not where our mind goes first. To feel or “sit with” uncomfortable feelings. But you know what, that’s where the good stuff lies. So we have to start training ourselves to feel life. The good right alongside the bad. Listen to it. Ask ourselves the difficult questions. And then do the work to build that life we don’t want to escape from.
In order to continue building a life I’m proud of, I’ve been trying to dig into the tough stuff more and more lately, especially regarding the things in my life that will most likely be there forever. The constants. The things that make me cry, “Tap the brakes. I need time for self-care!” A few that have bugged me for years, continue to bother me to this day, and will fester within me for the rest of my life if I don’t do the uncomfortable work of figuring out why, and then how to come to terms with them. They are things I can’t bow out of – so how do I repair and prepare myself to see these out of my control situations in a way that fits into my big picture?
This leads me into my other thought about a big part of self-care being what we tell ourselves. Perspective. If we can’t fix or change something, how can we look at it differently so that it doesn’t send us running for the hills? What can we say to ourselves to make the situation feel OK? Make ourselves feel OK? Allow it to exist inside our life peacefully vs. trying to escape from it every time it presents itself? Using perspective to protect ourselves in a way that allows us to reshape the “unsavory” parts of our journey into something that doesn’t necessarily fill us up in a genuine way, but doesn’t drain us either.
I think to do this takes consistent practice and strength. But ultimately, this type of internal work is the best type of self-care you can give yourself. It’s yours to protect. You can’t allow external forces to have a voice. You have to be fiercely persistent.
Make the baths and cake – or exercise, oils, movies, travel, animals, nature, whatever your heart desires – part of the life you want to be in, just don’t use them as crutches to help you hobble away from or around the real life stuff that is at hand.
Make it right with your soul. Self-care at the soul level. Soul-care. Get your soul-care on!
If you haven’t seen The Greatest Showman yet, you need to. I’m completely consumed with it right now. The soundtrack is on replay at work, in my car, and at home. I feel swept away. And I like the places my mind is being taken.
There’s one song in particular that I can’t get enough of: A Million Dreams.
I can’t get through it without crying. It speaks to me on the deepest level.
I’ve always been a person that goes my own way. My mom never misses a chance to profess that I never listen(ed). I have to do things on my own. Experience life my own way. See everything with my own eyes. Even if the outcome would have been better if I had listened to those around me.
I take pride in this characteristic. What fun is there in living a life based on the experiences others have had? I need the lows to appreciate the highs. My mistakes have brought some of the best learning experiences. I’m a better and wiser person because of what I’ve been through. There’s more to me because of it.
A lot of why I am this way can be attributed to my dreamer mentality. My head is in the clouds a majority of the time. Huge portions of my days are filled with daydreaming. I have list after list, sketch after sketch of the plans and projects I want to accomplish. I have my own agenda laid out. Always have, always will. If what you’re telling me doesn’t jive with how I have things aligned in my mind, it’s probably not making the cut.
Some may call this being stubborn. And I suppose I’d agree with that to a certain point. I mostly look at it as being an independent person. Someone who knows themselves, what they want, and the direction they’re going in. We shouldn’t be apologetic about that.
When we “veer off the beaten path,” follow our instincts in spite of others’ opinions, experience things on our own with open eyes, hearts, and arms – people sometimes think that is crazy. Because what we’re doing doesn’t match up with the agenda they have laid out. And that’s something we should rarely concern ourselves with. Which is hard to do. So that’s why we should strive to create and nurture our own “world” to retreat to. A world that fills us up, reaffirms our heart’s desires, and allows us to get lost in our own joy.
What’s even better is if we can find someone to build that world with. A spouse, a friend, a family member, a child - even a pet. You choose who and what is allowed in your world. People who share your dreams, or are inspired by them. Hobbies and projects that make you feel capable and unstoppable. A place that only you can see and feel.
My world includes my little family. Joel, our pups, our home. In our world we forgive quickly, strive to make each other smile - even better, laugh - daily, support each other's goals, work as hard as we play, hug big, breathe together, and take moments to feel grateful for all of it. We create, we dance while we clean, we find treasures that make us smile, we look for contentment in the things we are fortunate to have.
By starting to think about my life as the world I create for myself has changed the way I see everything. It makes life feel more manageable somehow. Maybe because it takes the time limit out of the equation. Breaking my experience on this Earth down to the bubble I create, the experience I choose live, makes me feel more ownership over the small corner of the big world we inhabit. It makes each decision I make feel personal and purposeful.
How is your world taking shape? Who do you want to share your dreams with? Let them in. What makes you feel like you're in a world all your own? Do more of that. Let's build the best worlds for ourselves. In the end, it's all we have.
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.
I tear up every single time I read this quote. This is what centering ourselves is all about. We should perform this action not once, but multiple times daily. Constant recentering.
There have been many moments over time when I have asked myself, "How did I get here?" It has felt like I arrived at a particular point in my life without a conscious thought about it. Like I was asleep during the days, months, years that led up to that moment.
When I catch myself thinking this way, I say to myself, "I need to take control. I can't let life get in the way, going through the motions - doing things to avoid conflict, defaulting to what I think I should be doing at this point in my life."
But then my days continue as they always do. Full speed ahead. Making decisions on the fly minute by minute to ensure at the very least my basic needs are being met and I am pointing myself in a direction that is moving toward a state of contentment.
I recently wrote about "following our path." I think in order to do that, the message I'm writing about right now is so very important. It takes strength and persistence and constant recentering to ensure you are staying true to your authentic self. Listening to that inner voice. Avoiding arrival in a moment a year from now wondering how the heck you got there.
I'd love for you to think about this concept and the areas of your life where you can (or should) yank your hand back to remind yourself of what's important - the path you intentionally want to follow.
I'm making it my goal to think hard about this over the weekend and keep this quote in mind as I begin next week. Taking a deep breath and smiling as I literally put my hand on my heart to remind myself who I am, and who I want to be.
I talk a lot about being present, being mindful. But a lot of times, that's much easier said than done.
Joel and I have been on opposite schedules lately - job changes, working long hours, a lot of personal commitments - all in addition to adding a new puppy to our family. I could feel myself starting to break down and the consistent calm that I can normally connect to in some way, shape, or form was nowhere in sight.
I let myself get to the point where I was near rock bottom. I know when I'm reaching this point very clearly - I'm angry. Very, very angry. At everyone and everything. And I can't hide it - THAT'S the biggest giveaway.
I'm always the person to say, "If you don't like something, change it." I'm not a complainer and I don't like complainers. So I had to get tough with myself and take my own advice. I had to change something to get myself back on track. I knew I had the tools to dig myself out - I was just allowing everything that was going on and the anger I was feeling to cloud my normally mindful thoughts.
A good outlet for me when I'm feeling this way is to write it out. Sometimes I write everything out feeling by feeling. A lot of times I write out a plan that will get me into a better head space. For me, plans are calming! So that's what I did. Here's what my plan said:
Morning - Rise at 6 a.m.
That's it. Nothing more, nothing less, no teardrops on the pages. Just a plan. A plan incorporating the tools I know I have in my toolbox, so it was a realistic plan for me to run with. I haven't missed a day since I started, and I hope I never do.
Incorporating these practices into my daily schedule have allowed me to feel present in the midst of fast pace surroundings and unpredictable circumstances. I try not to simply look, hear, smell, touch - I aim to see, listen, inhale, feel - be HERE (I share an example of this with the image below). That alone in itself is so important. My thoughts and actions feel more intentional. I feel happier, and lighter, and love myself a little bit more than I did before - which was needed.
What tools do you reach for when you're at a breaking point? What items are part of your routine that keep you grounded? I'd love to know!
I spotted this bright yellow moth on the door of our garage before leaving for work. I was running behind and had already started backing out of the driveway. But I stopped. This brilliant, florescent moth against our red door was just stunning. I took a deep breath, told myself that it was OK to take the time to fully be present in that moment, got out, and took time to enjoy watching the moth warm its wings in the sun. It was peaceful and beautiful. And guess what? The world kept turning while I paused. I don't regret that brief moment of extra time I took to enjoy that moment.
It's a very exciting time on The Farm - our gardens are blooming and producing! The flowers are settling into their new homes and veggies are starting to appear.
Pictured above is our fruit/vegetable garden in front and wildflower garden in back. I planted the following in our fruit/vegetable garden this year:
The cucumber trellis I created out of an old baby crib is working really great, so I plan to use it again next year!
Our wildflower garden has a large selection of items in it. I don't know what most of them are because I just dumped a bunch of seed packets into a bowl, spread them out and raked them into the soil. Along with the seeds, I did plant a few established plants - butterfly bush, lavender, cone flowers, columbine, queen anne's lace and some other unidentified flowering "ditch weeds." There's a fair share of weeds in this garden as well, but it's intended to be a "wild" garden, so I'm letting it be!
In other areas of the yard, my hydrangea (which I planted last year) finally bloomed and milkweed sprouted up, making my Monarch butterfly friends happy.
We also planted some herbs in the vertical herb garden I built earlier this year! We've enjoyed one round of mint, basil and rosemary, and it's about time for me to clip them all back another time very soon.
I'm really happy with how everything has come together outdoors this year! It has taken A LOT of time and energy, but has been so worth it.
If you have any questions or tips about gardening, I'd love to hear them!