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.
I'm a natural leader who has no desire whatsoever to be a leader. Does this sound familiar to you? Tell me I'm not alone.
I've been looked to as a leader all my life. If no one else is stepping up, I will. It's a sickness, really. I can't help myself. Need a President of a council? You got it. Chair of an event? I'm there. Group leader for a project? My spreadsheet is already laid out.
It just happens. Over and over again. But the craziest thing about it is that I don't want to be doing it at all! Playing the leader is something I accept as my fate, not something I seek out. And I get mad at myself about that. I've been given the tools to be a leader. Somewhere in my DNA a leadership gene is embedded in me. There are people out there who would love that type of gift and here I am wanting to drop it from my hands like a hot potato. To me, it feels less like a gift and more like a curse.
I'm happy as a worker bee, flying under the radar, with little weight tied to the tasks I accomplish. I'm not a negotiator or a presenter or a manager of people. I'm a writer and a designer and a manager of projects.
There's no ladder to climb in my 10-year plan. I think that's what bugs me the most about being seen as a leader and not wanting to be one. I'm happy here. As I am. But others see potential in me. They tell me over and over again that I could do it...and that's when I dig my heels in, "yank my hand back," and remind myself that even though I can do it - doesn't mean I have to or should.
To me, it's not worth it. The extra work, planning, dealing with drama, ANXIETY, etc. Not interested.
Dealing with this "issue" has been a continued learning experience for me. But as of late, I've been paying more and more attention to it, trying to figure out how to move forward. In most cases, I land on:
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 have a love/hate relationship with social media. I've removed myself from it (RIP Facebook and Twitter accounts). I've stayed in step with it (Hi Instagram and Snapchat accounts). And amid all of this, I've constantly struggled to figure out its relevance and value in my life, fearing that it is a necessary evil I can't fully pull away from.
My mind has gone a lot of different places regarding social media and its role in all of our lives (except for my dad's and grandma's - bless them for staying out of it), but today I want to write about the tricks we let social media play on us.
Our social media accounts are a reflection of our "personal brand." Carefully crafted (whether we realize it or not) profiles that present "who we are" to the world. We endorse what we like, criticize what we don't. Show all that is good, with a little bit of the bad (immediately followed by all that is good - can't show major cracks in the facade). Experiences that make our heart beat fast. Beautiful views. Perfect homes. Yummy food. Smiles, smiles, smiles.
It's hard not to compare yourself and your life to others' after taking in all of the posts and images and videos and stories that reflect "the good stuff" 99% of the time. And it's easy to forget that behind the curated scenes is a person, just like you, with the same ups and downs, messes and misses. They are, again, just like you (if you partake in social media), presenting their personal brand. Sharing a collection of moments, mostly good, to the world in order to add some form of "normalcy" to a life that a lot of times feels out of our control.
I'm beginning to truly appreciate and respect the social media "rebels" that drop the perfect personas and shine a light on what is real. Monotony. Disarray. Tears. Posting images of dirty laundry and stories of struggles takes guts when shared alongside an overwhelming amount of "good news."
I'm not strong enough to be a social media rebel yet, but I thought about it last week. My depression was getting the best of me and I could not. stop. crying. Among the tears, this briefly ran across my mind: "Maybe I should post this. Maybe I should show that I'm human. That sometimes it's hard to be alive. That not every day is good, and that's OK." But I didn't do it. I couldn't. Why? I don't know, I just couldn't. Instead, I made a happy post about happy things.
Although I couldn't find it in myself to do it, you want to know who chose to be a rebel last week? Another person that I follow on social media. Same exact situation. Feeling depressed, tears on overdrive, and she shared it.
All I could think was 1) sending so many hugs to her, because I know what she's going through, and 2) how f***ing brave. It made me like and respect her even more than I already did. There was no veil of happiness. She was being real and in the moment, and as much as I preach that, I wish I could pull the trigger and do it more. In life and on social media.
I'm going to try to more honest with what I post, and I hope you'll do the same. But if that's not something you're into, that's totally OK. Let's see the good in this world and share it. Just don't get stuck comparing yourself to the mirages you scroll through. Remember, with the good always comes some bad, so don't be fooled!
I don't know if it's the increased meditation and added daily reflections, but I've been thinking a lot about a lot lately. Including our "paths" in life.
I catch myself pondering about (and sometimes yearning for) what my life would be like in an alternate universe. Something I think we all do. Daydreaming about "if we could do anything" what that would be. But lately, when I start thinking about what I'd include in my "grass is greener on the other side" scenario, I wonder why I'm not doing the things I'm dreaming about. They're not that unrealistic (I'm not daydreaming about becoming an astronaut, although that would be cool). Why do these desires feel so out of reach and only permissible inside my head?
I know these thoughts exist for a reason, are normal, and aren't necessarily always meant to come true. But what if some of them did? I'm into that part of the thought process right now.
Here's a passage from my daily reflection book that inspired me to take these ponderings even further:
"It is about the true vitality that waits beneath all occupations for us to tap into, if we can discover what we love. If you feel energy and excitement and a sense that life is happening for the first time, you are probably near your God-given nature. Joy in what we do is not an added feature; it is a sign of deep health."
How wonderful is that? Yes. Yes. Yes! Here's where this passage led me: If we pay attention to what shows up in our daydreams, and our dreams align with at least some of the actions (however big or small) we're already performing in life that bring us JOY - there's got to be something to that. When these two things line up - maybe it's a sign to take our actions to the next level. To make our dreams a reality. To follow our path.
This whole concept is so exciting to me. Particularly because this is happening to me right now - the alignment. Some things that were seemingly far fetched dreams at one time are now within reach - not without hard work, sacrifice, and some serious strategizing - but I could get there.
I feel like I watch and read about so many others living out their dreams. They follow their path. Their joy. Take risks, blaze trails, don't care about what others think. It's beautiful and empowering. Their success in doing this proves that it's possible for anyone. So why not me?
If you've been thinking about this, too, and are really wanting to follow a dream or dreams that you have - do it - or at least start taking steps towards them. Don't feel selfish, or insecure, or foolish. Remember this, "Joy in what we do is not an added feature; it is a sign of deep health." Follow your path, nurture your soul.
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.
Our family has grown by one member! Meet Homer:
Homer is a one-year-old Australian Terrier that we adopted from the Cedar Bend Humane Society on Friday, August 4. We originally went in intending to get another German Shepherd, Tango, who was a male version of our current shepherd and favorite girl, Madison. But after seeing Homer (previously known as Joker) and taking him outside for a walk, we were immediately smitten! The good news is, Tango got adopted the same exact night so we got to see him going to a new home as we walked out with Homer in our arms.
All I can say is we got LUCKY. So lucky. Madison was our first adoption nine years ago and she was an angel. We feel just as spoiled with Homer. House trained, social, quiet, playful - and get this - he doesn't need to be on a leash. He sticks right by us at all times. He's our new little buddy that we love very much. A little ray of sunshine that we didn't know was missing from our family.
Here's a few more photos of his cuteness since I can't seem to stop taking them...also pictured in a couple shots is our beauty girl, Madison. She's slowly taking to her little brother. Some things just take time!
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!
We love when we get to spend one-on-one time with our nephew, Max. He makes us so happy just being himself. Energetic, talkative, smart, musical, loving and quite the cutie (as evident in the photos below).
Recently, we took Max to Adventureland in Altoona, Iowa. Joel and I hadn't been to Adventureland since we were younger and were looking forward to seeing the park through Max's eyes.
Max was eagerly awaiting us when we arrived to pick him up. Bags packed, he was ready to go! He's a good road-tripper as long as you have good music, drumsticks and snacks on hand.
We got checked into Adventureland Inn (which was very nice, highly recommend) and hopped on "Molly the Trolly" to head to the park. Max's excitement was contagious and we both felt childlike anticipation for what the day had in store. Holding each of our hands, Max led the way, taking in everything as we entered.
Max is four, so I had a little concern that there wouldn't be a lot for him to do. I was completely wrong! On most of the rides, if an adult is along, little ones can hop on. We didn't do any crazy roller coasters or anything like that, but there were a few rides that freaked us out while Max was beside us laughing hysterically! Like the two pictured below:
The thing Max was looking forward to the most was the Adventureland Bay waterpark. It was pretty impressive and Max had a blast! He wore a little life jacket so Joel and I showed him how to kick his feet to swim back and forth between us. He also learned a valuable lesson about closing your mouth before jumping in the water!
When we were done at the waterpark, we were all pretty beat. We finished up on some rides he mentioned he wanted to try on the road trip down, had some treats and enjoyed a juggling show before we headed back to the hotel.
Our hotel room was poolside so we took one last dip to end the day. When we asked Max what his favorite part of the trip was he replied, "Two pools!" And the first thing he said upon waking up the next day was, "That was a really fun day." My heart swelled up to about 10 times its regular size!
Needless to say, it was a fantastic little weekend getaway with our favorite little guy! Joel and I actually want to go back again soon because although there is a lot to do with kids, there's much fun to be had by adults as well!
Joel and I have been so busy lately. Running from place to place, event to event for the past few months. We normally land at around 8:30 p.m. each evening, exhausted, but together.
We had a single weekend that was open in June, so we took full advantage! We hopped in the car and took a quick overnight trip to Chicago.
Chicago is one of our favorite playgrounds. Our country hearts still have a little city edge to them! On this trip, we spent all of our time at Navy Pier for "The Rolling Stones Exhibitionism." We are both huge Stones fans (I recently expressed my love for them in this blog post) so it was hard for us to contain our excitement in the weeks leading up to our visit!
There are no words for how wonderful the exhibit was. I'll let the pictures do the talking and just say, if you are a Stones fan like us, make the time to go. It is in Chicago until July 30, 2017. The experience is very personal and you'll leave feeling deeply connected to this band of magnificent men. Here's a sneak peek:
On our way back, we decided to "ooze" and took the scenic route. We stopped by Antique Archaeology in LeClaire, Iowa - home of the American Pickers: