When Wanderlust Calls

I have always lived within earshot of train tracks.

From the slice of suburban life that I called my childhood home, to the dilapidated balcony of my younger self’s great leap into independence; from the teeny tiny Californian apartment rubbing elbows with a new husband and a new name, to the solid brick ranch nestled in the vibrant green that is Tennessee’s cloak…

…the wail of a train’s whistle has penetrated the walls of every abode-and every stage-of my life.

“Come, see where I may lead you.”

I am inherently a homebody. My favorite personal accounts and sections of books are not the wild excitement of far off places and daring escapades, but the details and tender moments of daily life. Of people growing and learning together. Of the intimacy and beauty of life planted.

I’m the one who wishes the montage of Belle and the Beast getting to know one another was 30 minutes longer.

And though I have been fortunate to have visited a great portion of this vast country (more than I ever thought I would), my heart has been, and always will be, filled with visions of cool roots and familiar routines, warm hearth and a place of my own to rest my bones at the end of each day.

The itch of wanderlust rarely touches my skin.

But sometimes….the haunting cry of a train will rise with the morning mist, beckoning to me despite my flat feet planted in terra firma, and the life grown there.

And I am bitten once more.

Traveling by flight is an incredible thing; quick, efficient, and terrifyingly high. Between the pressure changes pulling and pushing your body, and the booming whirl of the engines filling your ears, the experience will overload your senses.

But as amazing as flying across the country is, it lacks the experience of transition. You miss the subtle shifts of land and people, scents and accents.

Travel by vehicle is better, in the sense that the slower pace enables you to truly view the world passing by. But driving requires focus in order to preserve life and limb, often robbing you of a thousand tiny glimpses and opportunities around you.

Most of all, the very sounds of planes and cars, with their various earth shaking thunder and shrieking horns, cause you to cringe or stiffen in unconscious defense.

But not a train.

It whistles to you, sings to you a melody of steel and steam, promising an unknown destination with a hundred sights before you reach it. Cradled within its metal womb, you can watch the world shift and change, see where iron and earth intertwine, where plains grow into mountains, or the ocean adjusts its hue.

Even the people around you change with the landscape. Commuters heading home with anticipation, small children gazing out windows in wonder, even lonely travelers silently wishing to be known by a stranger. Their faces are as diverse and emotional as the creation outside, there to teach you of a vast world full of vivid history.

All this while being swept along by something more powerful then yourself, lulled by the rhythmic clickity-clack of the tracks beneath. It breathes a sigh of magic with each mile, and promises adventure.

So as I wash my dishes, and sip my tea, bathe wiggly children, and fold laundry, I am thankful for the solid life that is mine. Both the mundane and extraordinary can live within the same four walls. Both wonder and routine can grow in a backyard garden.

But once in a while, the pull of unknown places and far off lands builds within me.

The wind has changed, and I hear the train.

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What calls to you? How does wanderlust grab hold of you?

4 Things I Learned From My No Spending Month

February was my very first, officially titled, No Spending Month. I had never taken on this specific challenge before, and on Feb 1st, was excited to tackle it and see what I would learn.

I had given myself the following guidelines:

  • The spending ban would apply to extras, not regular bills or necessities (groceries, gas, utilities, rent, etc..)
  • This spending ban did NOT apply to my husband (he may not even be aware that I did it until he reads this!). It was a challenge for myself alone, and did not feel the need to ask him to join me this time. So he was free to buy his extras as he liked, but I challenged myself to not ask him to buy something for me. 
  • I purposely chose a month with no family birthdays, travel, or gift centered holidays. For my first attempt at this, I really didn’t want to set myself up for failure.
  • My children are all little (four under four), so I did extend the challenge to them indirectly. No new toys or clothes. Only diapers if we ran out. I don’t think they even noticed…

So 28 days later (and no, I didn’t purposely choose the shortest month of the year…), during which there were no runs to Starbucks for lattes, no movie rentals, no browsing through Target, and no late night online purchases, I had made it through an entire month.

There was only one exception: we bought a new couch. Though, to be fair, this did fall under the guideline applying to my husband. I had promised him that this was the year we could replace our old couch. One sunny Sunday afternoon, he made a fun family outing of looking at couches, and was so excited that I didn’t have the heart to ask him to wait any longer (the poor man has been waiting 8 years..). I felt that that one exception was justified. You know the saying, “Happy husband, more grilled food”! …

Anyway, not only was I proud of myself for making it to the end of the month, a few thoughts struck me along the way:

  1. 9 times out of 10, you really don’t need that thing. Throughout the month, I would still save items to wishlists, but found myself returning to those lists again to diminish said items. Having gone a month without them, I found I didn’t really need them in the first place.
  2. No more thoughtless purchasing. By removing the quick buy trigger, I was forced to consider each possible purchase, both current (groceries) and future (wish lists). Do I really want this? Do I really need this? Will this actually bring value to our lives, or simply become a burden in a short time?
  3. I don’t need to own everything. There is a simple beauty in borrowing something. A ladder from a neighbor, a book from the library, walking to the neighborhood park instead of buying outdoor play items for the kids…I was once again reminding that there is freedom in enjoying an item for a time, then returning it. No need to always buy, always own, always keep. There can be beauty in the temporary.
  4. I want to set a new example for my children. My children may be quite young, but they do observe how I live, speak, interact, and….shop. By showing them that not every trip to the store deserves a treat, I can display not only self control, but contentment. I hope and pray that they learn to value each other more than things.

It was a good month. A reflective month….and I plan to challenge myself to another no spending month again in the future.

Have you taken on such a challenge before? What did you take away from it? –besides extra purchases 🙂 

What You Can See…When the Clutter Is Gone

 

A row of tiny, shiny rubber rain boots. The lyrics of a song that bring back memories of anticipation and romance. The way light pours through old, decrepit windows. A gallery wall of creativity. A hallway, that, although not decorated or changed at all, happens to be one of my favorite rooms in this rental.

And three little fuzzy heads nestled together on the couch, giggling at cartoons.

These are a few of the landmarks within our home that repeatedly bring a smile to my lips.

For when the clutter is gone…you can finally see what makes you smile.

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Simple Project-Back Patio

Remember my list of simple, achievable goals for our little rental? I have finally taken care of updating our back patio!

Here is what it looked like a short while ago:

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A little messy, right? And that lovely strip of dirt (that never grew any grass!), would become a lovely strip of mud every time it rained (which of course, always seemed to fall on grocery day…)

Something had to be done.

This was the first time we have ever had a patio, and I was excited to make it into a more livable, fun space! So after a couple months of subtle changes (gifted patio furniture from the parents, found a temporary shed in which to place all the lawn equipment/toys, moved the grill, and rounded up some new + used stepping stones to fix the mud path issue) and scrubbing the vinyl siding clean…..

Here is now how it all looks:

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The kids have far more space to play, and enjoy the backyard, and the seating area makes it feel more grown up (it’s amazing how “adult” you can feel setting up patio furniture…), and a bit more….well….OURS.

I’m excited for autumn weather, leaf piles, walnut gathering, and more opportunities to relax in our little outdoor nook with mugs of tea, watching the leaves gracefully fall.

And….I’m also excited for next year’s changes that I’m already planning: more potted plants on the patio, pillows, and maybe a chalkboard hanging on the fence for the kiddos.

Simple, subtle changes. Sometimes, they’re the best ones.

 

DIY Project-Touchable Wall Art

Here’s the deal: I finally hung frames and canvases in our living to create a gallery wall and LOVE it (even though I have yet to paint one of the canvases….)! Here’s the before:

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Frames and canvases hung-before any changes

 

BUT……a frame and one of the canvases hangs low enough for our little ones to touch.

That’s right fellow moms, I purposely hung something low enough that three kiddos ages three and under would be tempted to touch.

And we both know that no matter how many times I tell them not to, THEY WILL TOUCH THEM!!!

Fine then, I had two choices. I could move the frames, but that would change the entire look……OR I could give them something “cool” to touch.

The frame was inexpensive so I wasn’t too worried about that one, but what would I put on the canvas that would be fun for little hands?

Rocks. BOOM!

Kids and rocks. You can’t go wrong, right? So I gathered up a few supplies and tried my hand at this:

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Supplies gathered (pardon the glare…)

 

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Gluing madness! (I burned my fingers several times..)

 

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A few coats of flat white spray paint

 

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Annnnddddd voila! Crazy, touchable wall art!

 

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Gallery wall with current updates

To be honest, I’m not yet sure how I like it. I don’t dislike it, but I’m not sure if it is quite right….

 

I still have the other canvas to mess with, so perhaps that will bring it all together!

First, let’s see how long this one lasts on the wall…..I’ll keep you updated!

Simple Project-Master Closet

This is our master bedroom closet.

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Well…..this was our master bedroom closet. (Ahhh, the beauty of that tiny little word).

As you can see, it had become a wreck-a catch all area for donation items, papers, boxes I couldn’t remember what they held, random items for sale-as well as housing our regular clothing and shoes as a closet should.

And-though I don’t have a picture to show you-our bedroom was showing similar treatment with little random piles here and there.

I was really really tired of it.

So a couple days ago, I finally tackled what I knew had to be done. It took me one afternoon and all of $0 to accomplish, and thankfully all the kiddos napped well so I could.

Here is the “finished” product.

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  • IMG_20160817_170616661donation, sale, and project items moved to empty guest room (to hopefully be disposed of or used within the next few weeks)
  • box contents reviewed and sorted (some into donation pile, others for sale) two of those white boxes are empty now!!!!
  • clothes shifted for better placement within the closet
  • diaper bag hung for easier access
  • regularly accessed boxes moved for easier reaching

Better, right? Even the Bear noticed (yay!). Amazing what a little time, a chair, and my strange little minimalist mind can accomplish when our own space becomes a priority again. Our bedroom/bathroom/closet is ours (the Bear’s and mine), for conversation, connection, and rest. Our little haven shouldn’t be clutter with the leftovers our of days and weeks; it should feel welcoming.

I’ll keep working on that. Little baby steps. Simple steps.

Permission to Say “YES”

Let me set the scene.

It’s one pm-lunch is finished, and all the munchkins are down for their naps. I have some decent energy for once, so I stare at the blank wall in the living room. I’ve been longing to hang pictures on it since we moved in this March.  My brain commences to formulate placements, colors, arrangements, etc…

And then….

“I really should wash another load of laundry.”

“The bookkeeping needs updating.”

“The sink is full of dishes from both breakfast AND lunch.”

“The entire yard needs cleaning up and mowing.”

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Odds are, if you’re a mom of little munchkins (or children of any age), you too have dealt with the mental battle of duty vs desire. And when you have a VERY TEENY TINY bit of time to handle anything alone, more often than not, duty wins.

Now don’t get me wrong, household chores, meal prep, caring for your husband and children need to be and should be done. It’s one way we show our family that we love them dearly, a way to serve and grow. But they also need us to be…well….US.

I realized recently that I had stopped giving myself permission to do things that I loved to do! Obviously no one had asked me to do so (I did it all by myself..) God has given me passions and loves, and expects me to use them for His glory as well as enjoy those gifts. And I had suppressed them under the guise of caring for my family, when ultimately, my family needs me to be me, not a robot version of what I thought I should be.

They don’t need a wilted Natashya.

So I decided to start giving myself permission to say, “yes”.

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Do not attempt while toddlers are awake….

 

“Yes” to hanging the picture frames.

“Yes” to planning and researching how to decorate this house, even though we may not be in it long.

“Yes” to reorganizing closets (because I LOVE to organize, whether it really needs it or not)

“Yes” to setting aside the chores for a while so I can sit and marvel at the life moving within me.

“Yes” to turning up some Sia and getting my preggo samba on for ten minutes.

“Yes”

And surprisingly, since then, I have found it easier to say yes to the kids.  Jump on the bed for a while? Yes! Drink your morning cup of milk using the play tea set? Yes! Wear your princess dress and dance to Disney music? Yes! Drag out all the beach towels and name them? YES!

Can I tell you something? It feels good to say “Yes”.

Give yourself permission today, fellow mama. Permission to do something you love, no matter how simple, silly, or unproductive it may seem. It will produce more than you know.