Wednesday, September 29, 2010


two years later

I suppose these two girls of mine are made out of the same clay, after all. Above: Lily, this morning. Below: Zosia, two years ago, almost to the day. Looking at these pictures makes me wish that we could have these two little girls, both venturing into independence, play with one another for just one afternoon.

But perhaps it's better as we have it: a big sister leading the way and a little one happily following.

Thursday, September 23, 2010


Zosia tucked two walnuts in a nest we found in the backyard. Ben found the nest, "eggs" and all, when he was tidying up the deck after the babies were asleep-- a little remnant of our eldest's creative play-- and I couldn't stop smiling at the discovery. It's just perfect, isn't it?

And here we find ourselves, each member of our little family, flying from our nest in our own different ways.

Ben, with his new job.

Zosia, running into her preschool class fearlessly with a smile on her face ("your daughter is very delightful to talk to," her teacher informed me. And I smiled, because I do know that to be true).

Me, standing in front of a room of forty elementary children who call me "teacher," struggling to remember the words of the creed and having to really think about what it means for the first time in my life (and realizing, for all of those "we believe"'s, there sure isn't a lot about the life of Jesus... why is that?).

And Lily, delighting in time with just her mama when she can cook and walk by herself on walks around the block, and do funny little things. She put a sock puppet on her hand this morning and ran at me making a unidentifiable animal noise, and just couldn't stop laughing. She was delighted at herself, and the idea, and her execution of it. It was this hilarious little play she put on. Oh, the two of us laughed for what was easily 15 minutes, it was that good.

And two months ago, I couldn't have imagined any of this-- the jobs, the independence, the play. So many journeys, transformations, flights.

I am only left wondering, what nests will we fly from in the future?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


A little glimpse of our life inside and outside each Tuesday of the week. Once Upon a Parent and Unearthing This Life participated last week. Let me know in the comments if you're joining in today!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Simple Living Manifesto: Your Words

It's been wonderful to hear back from many of you about what it means to you to live simply. Here are some bits of wisdom taken straight from your comments

16. Being real, being honest with yourself and then with others is, for me, part of living simply. I so often muddle my mind and therefore my relationships with things that don't really matter, it makes things more complicated. Being honest with myself is an important step in living a simple life. -Emily

17. I throw all the change I find in the washing machine in a jar, plus we do the same in the bedroom. Then I take it over to the Coinstar machine. -Mom2fur

18 Slow down and enjoy the little SIMPLE things: the sunrise, sunset. Watching the deer in the backyard. Taking a walk. Lunch in a park (to get me out of the office and not in a fast food joint). Another is I am really enjoying making random photos. Makes me slow down and really appreciate what I am looking at through the lens. -Sherri

19. Someone told me the other day that the world wants and does love you. Another part of understanding how to live simply is to let the world love you. I was talking down the path to my office the other day and there were some bushes that were a bit over grown. As the branches reached into the space of the sidewalk and gently touched the fabric of my pants I tried to concretely feel that this was the world reaching out her loving arms to get me through yet another day in an office. -the eloquent Emily again!

20. Buy nothing. Do nothing. -my sister Irene.
This was said in jest when I asked her how she manages to live so incredibly simply. And for her, it's sort of true... she manages to get by without buying much of anything or paying to do anything. She enjoys life's free pleasures; nature, family and friends. And she accepts hand-me-downs happily. So no, don't buy nothing and do nothing, but do think twice before you do!

Thank you for your thoughts! Are there any other ideas or suggestions out there?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Seasons Turning Supper

We truly are in that in-between time. It's crisp in the mornings, but warm in the sunshine. Some leaves are falling, but flowers are still in bloom. I find my own spirit turning inwards and my energies turning towards our home: sorting autumn clothes, going through blankets, tucking away summer dresses. But in reality, every day is a gamble, some feeling like a warm summer day, others ushering in the cool winds of autumn.

Yesterday as I looked at our dinner plates, I realized that our meal was a perfect reflection of the seasonal ambiguity. Late harvest heirloom tomatoes, still in bounty, a slice of homemade whole wheat bread, and some beef stew, a harbinger of the cooler months ahead.

This is the in-between time, a time of liminality. It's a time of energy and wonder, of looking back and forward at once.

Are the seasons turning where you are?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


Presenting a little glimpse of our life inside and out each Tuesday of the week. Leave a note if you're joining in!


Friday, September 10, 2010

A Few Words, No Picture

I have enjoyed observing, and sometimes participating in this lovely little tradition of posting just a picture, no words, on a Friday. Well, this week I have so many words swirling around in my mind and no pictures. A mind full of exciting images: visits to an imaginative place for my eldest to spend a few mornings each week; time spent in my faith community, which is now also my place of employment, listening to people who I delight in calling my brothers and sisters in Christ; the homecoming of a dear relative who was far away. And a camera that is empty.

And so I return, no image, just a few words, to the contemplative practice I began last week of naming the things that have become the building blocks of our journey towards a simple life. I really enjoyed hearing from you all, so please keep chiming in!

11. Surround yourself with others that support and inspire you. I have found this to be of utmost importance. Because interdependence is at the core of what it means to be human. And when we surround ourselves with people who love and affirm the best within us, then we expand and blossom. Find others who search for value in people and not things. Find a friend to go to the thrift store with. Find someone who has small daily practices that inspire and challenge your own practices.

12. Wait to buy it. I have this little problem with searching craigslist. There's always a short list-- things that I am hoping to buy in the next few months (right now it's something like: a wooden play kitchen for the girls, a rug for our playroom, a balance bike). And here's the problem: when I find that particular thing for a good price on craigslist I become convinced that I was meant to purchase it. The stars have aligned, that rare and weird item is available, therefore I should buy it. I suppose some people feel this way with a sale at a store. But here's the revelation: if I wait for a couple of days, maybe a week, I have often forgotten about the item. If I haven't, then perhaps it's something that truly is necessary. But usually it's just consumerism sneaking into my life under the guise of resourcefulness.

13. Indulge in ways that provide a deep satisfaction. Our family has found that we really enjoy eating out from time to time-- nothing fancy, usually just a dinner at the local pizza joint, but we really look forward to it, enjoy the time with one another, and make the most of it. Eating out has become a sacred time. Make a list of the things you "splurge" on and cross out the things that aren't really important. Next time you are in a position to splurge, choose from one of the items that remain.

14. Keep your money in a jar. We did this during a particularly lean time while I was in graduate school and Ben had just started his first job; it was perfect. Every Sunday I took out $20 in cash in one dollar bills at the grocery store and put it in a jar in our kitchen. If Ben or I wanted to spend money (to get some coffee, go out to lunch, whatever) we dipped into the jar. And when the jar was empty, that was it. It's a discipline that we have fallen away from, but are eager to re-instate because it truly keeps your spending in check.

15. Humbly accept help. I had a huge realization last Advent that receiving is actually much more difficult than giving (thank you, William, Willimon!). Receiving a gift requires humility, a lack of control, an admission that we can't do it all. Giving leaves us in control, makes us feel good, makes others indebted to us. And receiving, not giving, is at the heart of the spiritual life. Perhaps appropriately, receiving is also at the heart of the simple life. Accept hand-me-downs, an offer by a good friend to watch your children, or a volunteer that will help you move your furniture. It makes you vulnerable, uncomfortable, and indebted, but also builds trust, avoids consumerism, and sets the stage for you to help in the future.

This list is growing, slowly but surely! Perhaps next week I could make a post entirely out of your suggestions. How have you been living simply?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


It feels like Tuesday, doesn't it? Presenting a little glimpse of our life inside and outside, every Tuesday of the week. Leave a link in the comments if you would like to join in!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Simple Living Manifesto, Week 1

Someone asked me the other week what I mean when I say that I am called to simple living. And you know what? I had to stop and think. What does that really mean? So I thought I might use this notebook, my sounding board and contemplative space, to start meditating on what this means to me. I hope to continue this weekly until I sort of feel I've fleshed out the topic. We'll see where it takes me, and I am, as always, very curious to know your thoughts! What is your simple living manifesto?

1. Love God. When I live my life not as a to-do list, or as ladder that needs to be climbed, but as a relationship with Love, then everything else falls into place. I'm not saying I do this all the time or even that I do it well, but just that when I do, life starts to make so much sense.

2. Love people. That's sort of the heart of simple living. Loving those around you above loving your things. Love your children, your family, your friends, and even total strangers. If something is conflicting with your ability to do this, then change that thing.

3. Celebrate creation. Spend time outside. Cultivate a love for natural beauty. The other things; getting rid of a car, learning to live with no more than what you need, eating food that is healthy and natural; those will follow.

4. Take a deep breath and realize, "I have what I need." There will always be something else that you want, that you believe you "need." Always. Get the new bedroom set and you will someday want a different one. Or maybe it will break. So just develop joy with what you have and realize that ultimately, beauty can be found everywhere. And once you have developed that joy, then you can decide if you need something new.

5. Give generously. I have learned not to compliment my mother: if I tell her I like her shirt, she will take it off and insist that I take it. Such generosity is the heart of simple living. It's telling people that you value them over things. It means not getting upset when someone messes up your stuff (boy has this one come in handy having small children!). It means learning that anything that you own-- even that favorite painting, the treasured keepsake, the fragile dish-- can be destroyed and it will be okay. Which leads me to my next point,

6. Don't buy stuff that you love too much. Ben taught me this one, and it sort of turned my life upside down. He always says, "I don't want to get nice stuff, because then I'll start worrying about it." What wisdom.

7. Slow down. There's such a bounty right here. Right in this moment. So why rush ahead to the next thing? Laugh with your children, make something from scratch. At the end of the day, you won't regret it.

8. Recognize "stuff" for what it is. I will never stop singing praise for the dishwasher. Having lived many years without one (including when I was pregnant), I give thanks for the service it offers me. Stuff can be useful, it can enable you to live more fully, but sometimes it can also take center stage. See #6.

9. Purge your possessions very slowly and very thoughtfully. In our consumeristic society, getting rid of stuff is often just the first step in acquiring new stuff. I know because I fall for this all the time! We give away our old clothes so we can go out and buy new ones. We drop off bags full to salvation army to replace the bags full of new things we purchased. I have to remind myself that this is missing the point. So if you think you might use something in the future, store it away safely and neatly. Don't throw it out just assuming, "Oh, I'll buy another one later."

10. Prayerfully limit your media consumption. Advertising works. Even for tough cookies like myself who believe they are immune to it. Skip commercial television, choose movies and shows that enrich your life. My life was changed when I canceled our newspaper subscription-- so much negativity was removed from my home. And somehow, whenever there is a big story, I still manage to get wind of it.

Recently our family went to the National Arboretum with some dear friends. There was a beautiful bonsai garden, and under one tree there was a plaque that read, "In training since 1987" I realized after a moment that the plaque was referring to the tree. The tree had been in training.

It left me wondering, what am I training myself to do? And how will this training shape my body, my spirit, in the future? Ultimately, simple living is such a training. It is a discipline that, when undertaken with joy and not legalism, can cultivate beauty and freedom.

How are you living simply?