Giving Thanks

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It is Thanksgiving Day.  My favorite holiday of the year.  Not only is it a day to eat large quantities of delicious food, it is a day to simply be.  A day to enjoy the company of family and friends and to reflect on the many blessings in our lives.

Alan, Van, and I have a new-ish ritual of saying one thing we are thankful for before eating dinner.  Van’s answer almost always relates to food  on his plate in front of him (he’s three, he lives in the moment – though there was the one day he said he was thankful for the library).  I so recommend something like this if you are not already doing it.  Though it can sometimes feel silly or trite, taking a moment to think of something I am thankful for grounds me.  Sometimes I even begin anticipating the evening’s ritual during the day, thereby enriching my day with good thoughts.

And so, on this Thanksgiving Day, I would like to thank the many, many friends and family who have provided love, support, and friendship over this past year.  My family and friends are the most important part of my life.  Without you, I would only have the wilderness.

As you all know from reading my past posts, this past year has not been without its challenges.  There are four individuals in my life who have provided tremendous support and love over this past year who deserve to be thanked publicly.  I am honored to be your daughter (Mom and Dad) and your friend (Shannon and Cathy).  From the bottom of my heart, thank you for listening, for being there, for loving me, and for providing a real home to the three of us.  Or, in the case of my parents, for providing a home for the four of us.  We are so lucky that you love Hickory as much as we do.

I hope that you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving and that you have much to be thankful for.  I know that the holidays can be hard for some people.  If this is you, please know that you do not need to force a smile because it is the season of “merriment,” and please do not feel afraid to reach out if you need a hand, an ear, or a cup of warm tea.  Much love from our family to yours…

Move Over Harold, I Have My Own Purple Crayon

Van is a reader.  Cue the applause!  I couldn’t be happier about this, even when I’m reading the same book for the seventh time in a day.  His latest book on repeat is Harold and the Purple Crayon.  Since I’ve been reading it again and again, I’ve been trying to read it with different eyes.  Last night, a few parts hit me.

Harold, with the moon in tow, goes out on an adventure when “he didn’t seem to be getting anywhere on the long straight path.”  He winds up in one-tree forest, in the water, on a boat, on a mountain, and in a hot-air balloon before trying to find his home.  He spends a long time looking until he realizes that he was doing it wrong all along.  “He remembered where his bedroom window was, when there was a moon.  It was always right around the moon.”  Upon remembering that he could make his home anywhere, he drew the window for himself and his bed so that he could crawl in and be at home.

While there are many clear parallels to my life at the moment (even down to his obsession with the moon), isn’t this true for us all?  Very few, if any, of us take the long, straight path.  Instead, we alternate between a stride with purpose and a wander that leads us down new paths that we may have missed if we were too focused on the goal.

When we planned to leave our lives of comfort and convenience for a journey on four wheels, we had two intentions, to have adventures and to find a new home.  What I failed to realize was that the latter goal would have more to do with how I would change over the course of our travels and less to do with the places themselves.  Yes, we found places that we loved that surprised us (central Kentucky, anyone?), and we added places to our list of dream towns (Bozeman, Bend, Crested Butte…), but ultimately, our priorities for a place to call home changed in some significant ways.

Proximity to wilderness is still a top priority, but living in the middle of it is no longer something we’d prefer in this season of life.  A sense of community is still important, but what that means to us has shifted.  I’m less concerned with the specific interests and make-up of a community and more interested in general community traits like kindness, generosity, self-sufficiency, and a lack of self-centeredness.  Snow is still at the top of our list, but less because we like snow (we do) and more because I like what snow does to people.  It forces us to check any misguided notions that we are the center of the universe.  Snow makes us contend with forces greater than ourselves and helps to deflate the ego, even if just a little bit.

All this adventure has brought me a lot of introspection.  I’m different now than I was two years ago.  But as my friend Saskia recently reminded me, home is something that I’ve had with me all along.

 

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (Book Review)

Simplify, simplify, simplify.  Simplify possessions, simplify wants, simplify commitments.  But how in the world do you go about this?

Before we left on our adventure, we spent months and months planning and reading to figure out how to approach a trip of this sort, what we would need, and where we would like to go.  We also spent years preparing financially, even before we made the final decision to travel.  Over the past two years, folks have asked me about how we’re able to do this, and I plan to get into this in later posts.  But this post deals with what we did not do before we left, which was simplify possessions.

Sure, we simplified to a certain extent by necessity.  We had to choose a limited number of things that would fit into our car.  After about a week on the road in our Eurovan, we already had a list of things we would be jettisoning.  When forced to reckon with the smaller space of our car after the death of our Eurovan (R.I.P. Bobby), we purged quite a bit, but still felt as if we had more than we needed.  And yet, we continue to have an entire storage unit in rural Pennsylvania sitting full of items from our former three bedroom townhouse.  I do not miss 99% of these items.  Most of the time, if I’m thinking about missing something, it’s my crock pot.  Strange – whatever!  Sure, we will need some of these not-missed possessions when we have a home.  And there are others that I cherish.  But there are many, many items that we can do without.

As we have been focusing more on finding a home, I have been giving a lot of thought (some would say an unhealthy level of thought) to how we are going to simplify and minimize.  I have begun following several minimalist and simple living bloggers hoping to get inspiration and insight into the process I look forward to going through.   And I am planning on writing about why I am heeding the siren’s call of simplicity and why it may be something for you to consider, as well.

But enough on that, how do I (or you) get started?  I kept seeing the same advice that I have tried in the past in many different places.  And then I had the opportunity to read “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo.  It changed everything.  Is it a book for everyone?  No.  Was it a book for me and may it be a book for you if you are interested in learning how to simplify your possessions to increase peace, time, and contentment?  Most certainly, yes!

9781607747307

The book can get a little cheesy from time-to-time.  The author seems to have an unhealthy obsession with tidying and has been doing it since she was a small child.  Her unhealthy obsession, however, is our gain.  The book provides a number of specifics for decluttering, but not for organizing, since she believes this is unnecessary once you have pared down your belongings.  The most important take-away points are:

  • Do not tidy section-by-section.  Do it all at once, and if you do it well, you only have to do it once.  She estimates the average person’s “all at once” will take six months.
  • Do not ask if you have used this item in the past six months to a year or if you need this item.  Instead, pick up every single item that you own and ask about each item, “Does it bring me joy?”  This, my friends was the magic formula for me.  Of course!  All these years I have been collecting things and holding onto items that I may need one day.  But in the interim, I have to store the item, clean around the item, put away the item, and think about the item.  If it doesn’t bring me joy, why am I doing it?

You may wonder how I will be transitioning to life off the road.  If you listen closely enough, I will be somewhere in the distance, speaking to my things, donating a whole lot, and becoming freer in the process.

 

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review; however, I am completely honest in my reviews.  If I didn’t like the book, you would hear about it.

 

 

Weekend Roundup: Ithaka, Vandalism, and the Holidays

Things I’m digging lately:

  • The Lies Your Mind Tells You to Prevent Life Changes – A post from Zenhabits that we should all revisit from time to time.
  • Why the Creepytings National Park Vandalism is a Big Deal – If you have not heard about this “artist’s” vandalism, it is worth reading about.  She has vandalized precious, beautiful locations that belong to us all.  Some may say that this is not that big of a deal (I am not one of those), but seeing where she painted turned my stomach.  I only hope that this can be used as a lesson to many about the importance of respecting our wild, beautiful, and public lands.  Unfortunately, we saw our share of vandalism in parks, most notably in Joshua Tree and in Petroglyph National Monument in Albuquerque, but nothing quite so widespread or brazen as this.
  • Holiday Calendar from Center for a New American Dream – Looking for some alternatives to a holiday season filled with shopping and last-minute errands?  The Center for a New American Dream has put together a great holiday calendar with ideas to celebrate the season away from the malls and the online retailers.
  • And finally, I leave you with the last two stanzas of Ithaka by the Greek poet C.P. Cavafy.  Click here to check out the entire poem that speaks so loudly to me right now.  Does this resonate with you?  What is yourIthaka right now?
    .   .   .

    “Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey. Without her you would not have set out. She has nothing left to give you now.

    And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you. Wise as you will have become, so full of experience, you will have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.”

 

Have a beautiful weekend, friends…

Nomads in Search of a Home

No one ever told me that this was going to be easy.  The first nine or ten months of living on the road, traveling as we pleased, and living out of a backpacking tent were, more or less, amazing.  Yes, we left our van on the side of the road in Memphis, but overall, our trip had many more ups than downs.  But what we didn’t have was an exit plan.  Well, we sort of did.  Our exit plan was to travel, find a place we loved, move there, and then find jobs and figure it out.

We did part one – travel – but the rest has not been nearly as straightforward.  We found lots of places that we liked, but no one place called to us and whispered “I am home” as we drifted off to sleep.  Lesson learned – there is no perfect place.  There are really great places and really lousy places, and you make one of those really great places your perfect (or as close to perfect as you can get) home over the course of time.  So, back to the drawing board.  We made lots of lists (we’ve been doing that for years), weighed the pros and cons, and thought we had come up with a location – Western Massachusetts.  Okay, so now part two was checked off, or so we thought.

Now it was time to move there, find jobs, and figure it out.  And this is when things got real.  Or rather, when we really began digging deep and figuring out what we really want out of this short time we have in this beautiful, ragged world.  We spent several months in Western Massachusetts trying to figure it out – half of which was spent in an artist’s unfinished, musty basement that leaked when it rained.  If that wasn’t motivation to figure something out, I don’t know what would be.

We figured out a lot.  We realized that we didn’t just want to find any job, we wanted to do something that was meaningful and that we were good at.  And I wanted to stay home for a few years until the little guy is in school.  And so we began anew on a journey for Alan to focus on his talents and his passions.  And so, the last year has found us bouncing around from place to place while we figure things out and while Alan completes coursework and studies to pass a certification exam for his new career.

This past year has been one of the hardest of my life.  Which, when I look at it in perspective, means that I’ve been an inordinately lucky lady.  Yes, the past year has seen more than my fair share of tears.  It has been hard to not have a home for so long.  It has been hard to feel unmoored and to deal with drama that is unnecessary and defeating.  But we have our health, we have each other, we have amazing people in our lives, and we have learned more about ourselves than we ever would have if we had not decided to jump into certain adventure.  But the challenges have made it difficult to share openly on this blog, which is why posts for the past year have been sparse.  I’ve been struggling with what to share and what to keep close.  By not sharing, I realize that I have become guilty of airbrushing this nomadic lifestyle. And so, with renewed attention, I plan to begin sharing again.

We have decisions to be made over this next month or so.  Big decisions.  Decisions that will hopefully allow me to announce that we found a place to call our (for now) home.  And I have so many plans.  Plans for us, for the little guy, and for continuing to share our adventures as we gulp down the moonlight.  Bear with me as I dip back into the blogging world and try to wipe off any veneers of perfection.