Inspired and Striving and Taking Notice.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Quiet Time here in our home, and Pandora is playing the Alison Krauss mix... by FAR my favorite Pandora station to turn to, especially when I want mellow... when I want calm.. when I want to tap into some authenticity. 

It suits the moment today because I want to blog. I want to ponder a bit in my typical rambling writing. I have a few little photos to share, and a few meandering thoughts... and tapping into authenticity via music really helps me feel able to write authentically. 

I love finding those small guideposts to my soul.... especially when life is so noisy and busy and fraught with outside demands and influences, it become a daily struggle to find my true way. It becomes a daily quest to get back to the quiet center of ME. And it's a HARD quest when multiple small children are about, it turns out.

So. Pandora Alison Krauss helps. 


I don't think I've mentioned it here (how could I? I've barely blogged!) but I've been following the blogger/photographer Joy Prouty/Wildflowers Photography for awhile now, and have lately had her on my mind a LOT.

Actually, I had been following her photography blog for a couple of years and had only recently decided to unfollow her in my Google Reader... I was "cleaning house" and I didn't feel 100% invested in her style or her sessions, and didn't need to keep her around for inspiration. I didn't "KNOW" her, so it wasn't like I felt I was letting her down by "breaking up with her." I was just cleaning out my feeds, ya know?

But then I ended up seeing her around Instagram this spring, and there was something different about her iPhone photos, her life presented in iPhonography, that reeled me back in. Before, she'd just been this popular photographer with a boho-backlit vintage vibe and some innovative ideas... Just this blog Wildflowers Photography. But now.... well, now she was Joy. One person. A real person. With real photos of her real life. Stripped of marketing and flash and "coolness" (nah, okay, she was still TOTALLY cool-seeming. Intimidatingly so.).. She had had a fourth baby just after I'd had my third, and I peeped into her Instagram life with total fascination at how she could manage this life of 4 kids with flair when I could barely manage my three with NO flair... So I peeped. And clicked "follow." And got hooked. 

And then, a month or so after I added her to my Instagram feed, she made a bold and daring announcement. She, her husband, and their 4 children under the age of six, were going to sell their house and most of their stuff, pack up a 1950's trailer, and travel the country in it for a year before settling down again.

She blogged about how they held a bona fide ESTATE SALE to ditch most of their (amazing, so so cool, drool-worthy, like a tiny compact Gypsy Caravan in one yard) stuff.

And throughout the upheaval of this woman's life, she instagrammed. And she still somehow seemed larger than life, uber-cool, able to "do it all", all while staying cute and hip.... And then it was time for them to really leave. Really do this crazy thing. Their first day, the babies screamed for three hours straight. She admitted to frazzled nerves. And confessed this wasn't IDYLLIC. And she posted this:

"the mornings come so very early. these tiny faces are so beautiful and help me remember why we made this choice although inside I feel like I'm flailing. so hard to stay positive on so little sleep, it's been an emotional few days/week/month. but I am clinging to God's faithfulness and his promise to make all things new and that he can pull me out of these temporary feelings of uncertainty."

And goodness, WHY am I talking so much about this woman and her family that I don't even KNOW?? Okay, I'll make a long story short ("Too late!")....

This woman's wild, loud, hard, challenging adventures hit close to my heart in an incredible number of deeply personal ways RIGHT NOW. This summer. THIS MOMENT. Her transparency and truthfulness strike a nerve every time, and I find I am truly grateful for her pioneering spirit and courage in her own adventure, because her story is proving to be another guidepost for me on my own path. 

For one thing, this woman and her husband made the courageous choice to SELL NEARLY ALL THEY OWNED. I thought about this again and again as I was packing up my own house. Sifting and trying not to let go, and remembering that it is OKAY to unburden my life of THINGS. I'd pack and sort and purge and ponder:

Could I let go of 85% of my earthly possessions? 
Could I manage to downsize enough that all that was left fit into a moving POD

It was a meditation in WHY we accumulate and save and keep things. Why *I* do. And what might really be deemed important enough to make that kind of cut. And it helped me get rid of far more than I might have if I'd not been thinking about this family and their journey. 

And then I was on that wild one-week road trip across MILES to Arizona with my three kids and no Joe to help... only my long-suffering parents and older sister (and other sister and my sweet brother while we were actually there in AZ). And the ENTIRE roadtrip, I thought about the Joy Prouty mama. And how her kids were the SAME AGES and she had one MORE than me... and yet they had courage and perseverance and they were pushing through the hard times and the crying... and they were trying to LIVE and LOVE it throughout. I confess- it helped me laugh at the intensity of stress I was feeling at times during that trip. The absurdity of parenting small children in general. Helped me laugh before I gave up and cried. And then, when  I DID cry, helped me feel less of a failure and much more like I was NORMAL and this was destined to be hard... but could also maybe, just maybe be GOOD sometimes, too. 

And so it was. Somehow, with the help of this family I didn't even know, (and a HUGE dose of help from my own amazing family), we, the kids and I, managed to have some really spectacular moments on this wild short, whirlwind roadtrip to Arizona in the middle of our home-life-upheaval. A healthy dose of STRESS... but also some real joy. 

And lastly... here's what has been the most significant stream of thought from all of these "WWJPD?"  (lol kidding) thoughts and ponderings... I keep thinking about this move of ours. How Joe and I are settling into a home that we will be in for at least three years. And how this is NOT our "forever home". Still. Not yet. This is not my farmhouse.
But when we knew we'd be moving, my number one priority was to move to this home WITH INTENTION. To move in and make this house as much of a true home as we possibly could without it actually being OURS. To live here as if it was the last place we'd ever live. And that is exciting in many ways... and a bit wistful in many other ways. 

How many people have that DREAM--- and it never happens? Life gets in the way, suburbia takes hold, habits, patterns, "safe" living takes precedence over leaps of faith...

What if WE ended up in that position? Twenty years later, and no farmhouse? 

THIS is the number one thing that I cling to when I follow Joy Prouty's journey. That she is living proof that a person CAN seize their dream and make it happen. Is my dream to take my three kids on a year-long camper trip? A THOUSAND hearty NOs. Yikes!!!! But. Ya know what? That couple had a pretty dramatic dream. And with some pretty dramatic leaps of faith, they are making it happen. 

And it's not pretty, a lot of the time. 

But when it IS pretty, it is BREATHTAKING. Their dream, manifest in such exquisite moments that there are no words. 


I move into my NOW home with FOREVER intention, but when the day comes that we need to take a deep breath and leap into the scary "maybe" of our forever farmhouse.... well... I think I've been given the courage to reapply my commitment to making it happen. It IS still possible. It CAN still happen. And I am going to live life in that direction. That's a gift I have gotten from following the Prouty story.

But in the meantime, I am going to live life here, in the NOW, with intention. And that is another gift from the Prouty story: life is messy and even dreams have some crying and some major stresses. So I gotta keep living as if this is all there will ever be. And find the sweet spots in THIS DAY, this week, this current version of life. 

And I am truly excited to be here, in this new version of "home". Already, less than a month here, there are things that feel so good. The littlest things that make my heart sing with gratitude. 

The other evening, I took the "big camera" (funny how that term has become pretty common among photographers who also have iPhones. We take so many snaps with the phone these days... and have to remind ourselves to break out the "big camera"... ) and just slowly walked around my still-in-progress home and snapped some photos of those "littlest things that make my heart sing". There's a LOT left to do to shape this house into my vision of HOME... but one month in, I have a lot to be grateful for. 

1. Farm tomatoes in a turquoise bowl. And these sweet potholders made by my friend's two daughters, given to me just a week before I moved into this house. These two potholders are like my "center" of this home. They symbolize what I want to do with this home, decor-wise: I want color. I want handmade. I want simple, and fun. I love them.  look at them every day and think about what they represent to me.

2. Alison Krauss Pandora. Right in the kitchen. It is HEAVEN to have music playing in our kitchen during many stretches of the day. Tuned to whatever mood we need to have: Elizabeth Mitchell kids music in the mornings, a playlist of upbeat dancing music in the afternoon, Alison Krauss or piano music when I'm feeling frazzled or spread thin... And Joe will put on Beatles or ELO or Mumford and Sons (or even a Baroque mix!) when it's his watch. I love that he does music here, too.

3. This seems silly... but I am passionately in love with my silverware drawer. If you ever had to get a fork or knife or whatever from our former Kate's House silverware drawer, you'll especially understand this. This new one is huge. It glides quietly to full-open, and has no issues. There is room for everything. And it is right where I need it to be. I just love this thing. I know. I'm weird.

4. Though I managed to purge a LOT of stuff prior to the move, it has been kind of fun to get just a FEW new things to celebrate the new space. The egg towel and the toast towel from Target are two of these things. They are SO cheerful. Happy housewarming to me from me.

5. Lucy. Anywhere, everywhere, Lucy. All my kiddos. The source of my biggest stresses, but also the source of my most poignant joys. Here, she's a scruffy ruffian fresh from a nap, and crabby-ish and dodging the camera as usual. BunnyBunny and "Daddy" in her arms. Just making my heart swell. She has embraced this new house fully, and didn't skip a beat. Lucky us!

6.  Quinn--- this happy happy baby of ours who loves his new exersaucer and loves to watch his siblings, and loves to smile... and now loves a binkie, after six months of not ever ever ever taking one except the first two days of his life while he was still at the hospital. After that, he was over it. Until on a whim, I popped one in his mouth a couple of weeks ago. We'd gotten him one on the AZ trip on the off chance he'd take one and not be so unhappy when he got overtired. No dice. But a couple of weeks later, and here we are. Sometimes I give him a binkie. And he kinda likes it. So random. And Quinn-- so cute. (And his little chicken legs dancing while in the exersaucer)...

7. And Noah--- clever, kind, rowdy, emotional, and always my baby. It is so strange to look at photos of him from even two years ago--- because in my memory he's always been exactly like he is right now: talkative and full of crazy imaginative talk and ideas and it is so strange to me to think he was ever Lucy's age--- not as verbal, unable to tell me exactly what he wants or how he feels... So it creates this odd timelessness about him. Always exactly the same, while always changing before my very eyes. I'm not sure what the truth of him is... I just know I love him fiercely. Noah loves: sharing a room with Lucy ("I get a roommate! I never have to feel alone!"), loves our backyard and loves having a new friend in the neighborhood just down the street. Loves the trampoline. Loves helping with Quinn and checking the mail.

And still loves Old Mai. Completely. 

8. My love, my Joe: He worked tirelessly to get us moved while I was away in AZ with the kids. He made sure to have all of our beds assembled and made up with fresh sheets for when we returned... so we'd feel "home" from the moment we walked in. He is the happiest spot in our day--- when he comes home from work, we each break into a huge smile--- mama and all the babies. 
I love him here, taking a minute to relax after a long day at work... and Lucy has given him a book to keep for her. Good readin', eh Joe?

9. July in my cute calendar: perfect. We sing this song every day anyway, and it's just been a good and cheerful thing to see in my laundry nook every day. July has been a LOT of work. But it's all been good, satisfying, productive work. 

10. Case in point: Look at my garage! It seems a weird thing to make my heart happy, but I've worked my TAIL off in this garage--- sorting and purging further, organizing... making two family's things fit in such a way that we can still fully use the garage. (We will keep much of my in-laws things here, since they've been so kind to let us rent the home. We can help them save so much by closing their storage units and keeping things here.) I can't believe I'm saying this, but some my happiest hours in July have been spent making order out of disorder in this garage, in our basement, and in the nooks of our new house.

11. Still thankful for braids and bandannas and a husband who loves me just the way I am, even when I pick and poke and see so much room for improvement. Thankful that when I get my hair tied up like this, I feel like "me" and feel less hard on myself. 

12. Thankful for skirts and flip flops. Especially THIS skirt, a beloved relic I love as much this very moment as I did when I first saw it on a hanger at the Gap 12 years ago and had to let it go because I couldn't afford it. And then one day, two years later, there it was: at a local resale shop. In my size. Somehow, like the loaves and fishes, it seems to always be my size, though my size has definitely changed over the years. I don't care what anyone else thinks of it: it is a "me" skirt and that brings me joy.

13. This girl always wanting to wear this hat... and for just a couple of minutes giving me some eye-contact for some photos. And the glowy evening light coming in from the back door... and the fun of slowly getting to know this house and the "good light" and the bad spots.... And her EYES...

14. And thankful that Lucy wanted me to take a photo of me, because I actually really like this shot. More good light.

And that's it for the moment... I could've snapped a shot of my bed-- Joe set up the canopy frame for the first time in three years and it's just really fun to have again. I could've snapped a shot of my sewing corner in our bedroom... it's slowly coming together... Or I could've taken a photo of the comfy, lovely guest room I am so happy to have. But all of these rooms are still coming together... and I find myself waiting to "reveal" them until they are "ready"... probably silly. 

But anyway... for now. there it is. This meandering post is at its end:

Inspired: by another mama photographer blogger who is embodying "carpe diem" and inspiring me in so many ways.

Striving: Striving daily to get back to center, to tap into authenticity, and to make this house a true home. 

Taking Notice: trying to remember to just appreciate the gifts and details of the everyday, to be grateful for NOW, and to be mindful and purposeful. 

There it is... The end. Tomorrow's August. I wonder what August has in store for us?


(Yahoo did a tiny featurette of the Proutys that aired this week. If you're at ALL curious about them, you can view it here.)


  1. Reading your blog about the stresses of moving helped me think back to my own move...across the country...on a Greyhound bus. I had a fully furnished one-bedroom apartment filled to the gills that I had to sort and give away. With the help of many friends from my ward, that move was possible. I gave away so many things, some I still miss, but kept thinking, "If I get in an accident on the bus, this will end up at a Goodwill anyway."

    And here I am, ten years later, still acquiring more stuff. "Stuff" just makes life a little more comfortable!

    Good luck with making your home a "forever home" for now!

  2. Love the post! So refreshing.

  3. This is going to sound very random, but my daughter has a dress that is the same fabric on your daughter's hat. It is a size 4 I think, so it would be too large for your little but I would still love to pass it on once mine has outgrown it if you like.

  4. Jim and Mandy--how cute! I got it from J.Crew as well as some bermuda shorts in the same print, and Lucy rocks it! Is that where the dress comes from?

  5. Yes it is from J. Crew. A clearance special. My daughter loves that it has pockets.

  6. what a nice post. Thanks for taking the time to write your thoughts.

  7. Mandy!

    You're so kind! I am not sure you'll even get this comment since it's taking me so long to reply... I'd love to have your sweet dress if you are offering! :)

    Email me: southerlandgirl@ yahoo . com

    and I can share my address, etc. :) I love emailing new friends. :)

  8. i couldn't find the canopy post you were trying to link, but it did take me back to a Noah-focused Christmas post, age 15 months-ish. And I wanted to say that i think you look more like "yourself" with the long hair and bandanas and three kids than you did then, with short hair and one kiddo. ;)


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