Moving on...

I created this blog in September 2005 in Dallas, TX at a time when I needed to find my voice. I remember typing the first words as a young woman in the twinkle-lit loft of my condo. At first, it was simply an outlet to stay connected to friends near and far and share the tidbits of my newly-married life. Soon, it became so much more...a place for me to share my photography and art, regularly practice gratefulness, and process the way my life was moving to a simpler one day by day.

When we uprooted our lives from Dallas to Nashville in the fall of 2015, I had captured 10 years of our lives in words, photos, memories, details. This blog is a treasure, a time capsule of a very important decade of my life where we were young and married, owned our own businesses, and had two children. 

Now, after a long hiatus, I know it's time to close the door on Dreams of Simple Life and start fresh on my new website.

Here's a list of my favorite things I've written here over the years. Enjoy!

3 fave podcasts.

Well, it's happened.  I'm a podcast addict.  This is out of character for me, because I'm a visual learner.  I prefer to read the written word or watch people speak.  But there's something about podcasts that have drawn me in - perhaps it's the part of me that loves learning new things, or the social part of me that feels I'm meeting new people through spending time with them for 30 minutes.  And the inspiration is never-ending!  It's so neat to hear about the lives of others and think of ways I can incorporate their ideas into our new, simpler life.  

With homeschooling two little ones, I don't have a ton of time to listen to podcasts, but it's a welcome change of pace to pop in my earbuds and listen for 30 minutes during naptime, after bedtime, or occasionally at a coffee shop when my hubby is able to let me escape for a bit.  I always feel refreshed.

Apparently learning about new podcasts is still largely a word-of-mouth thing. I found out about several of these from my French-inspired and simple living pal, Ginny.   So I thought I'd share...

My 3 favorite podcasts right now:

The Simple Show just speaks my language, and it starts with happy music that draws you in.  I've enjoyed reading Tsh Oxenreider's books and blog, The Art of Simple, for several years now, and I love her definition of a simple life - "living holistically with your life's purpose."  Not everyone has to move to the country or sell all your things and live in a tiny house to "live simply."  This podcast shows how different simple living looks for women from all different stages and walks of life.

One of my favorite episodes is with Emily P. Freeman whose most recent book is Simply Tuesday.  Emily's voice is comforting and seems so familiar, like a close friend.  In this episode, Tsh and Emily talk about slowing life down and finding the beauty and enjoyment in those normal everyday moments, like what Tsh calls a "soupmaking day," the kind of day where you're just hanging around the house doing ordinary things (like laundry, or tending to a big pot of soup).  These ordinary moments are actually key to forming our memories and relationships.  I love how Emily talks about feeling like she's been taken "hostage by hustle."  Something rises within me with that phrase because it's absolutely what I don't want for my life, and I'll keep working towards eliminating busyness and hustle from our daily lives as much as possible.

I've also loved the Sarah Mackenzie episode, as she's a super positive homeschooling mom (of six!) who talks about not having it all together.  When posed with the question, "How do you do it all?"  she replies, "There are a ton of things I don't do that other people are doing."  Love that.   Reminds me of a list I wrote awhile back on the things I don't do. Being able to say a clear "no" to certain things that don't work for myself or my family has been really freeing (although I might have to change my mind on the canning/preserving thing!).

Speaking of Sarah Makenzie, Read Aloud Revival is her excellent podcast.  If reading to/with your kids is something you enjoy or aspire to, then you will love this!  After listening to RAR, I'm always inspired by new children's books and ways to help ensure that my children grow up to be lovers of the written word.

That Sounds Fun is the podcast of sweet and hilarious Annie F. Downs, a friend of mine in Nashville (we used to work together at The Mocha Club). This is a little bit of a shameless plug since some of the people she interviews I know personally - ha!  But if you want a light uplifting listen to discover new authors, musicians, fun places, and more, give this one a try.

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Other podcasts on my list to check out:

Your Morning Basket - "truth, goodness, and beauty for your homeschool day" - yes, please.

The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey - I have several friends who love this one. Jamie Ivey interviews her girlfriends about topics like "marriage, faith, children, parenting, sorrow, grief, joy, justice, books, and what they are loving."  Sounds pretty awesome.

The Slow Home - This podcast was started by a gal named Brooke who lives a slow, intentional life with her family in the mountains of Australia.  The description says, "We live life in the fast lane.  We race to keep up with The Joneses.  We are over-worked, over-committed and over-stressed, and we compete on how busy and important and sleep-deprived we are.  But we don't need to."   (raising hand emoji) Sign me up.

Sorta Awesome - I've actually heard a bit o' this awesomeness and read Megan Tietz's blog in the past but would love to get into it more.

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What are your fave podcasts right now?  Please share below in the comments!

Abide.

"Release brings with it the gift of peace.  When we release in peace, we signal we're now ready to receive.  Receive what's next.  Receive what's best.  Receive what's meant for this season, right now." 
~ Lysa Terkeurst // The Best Yes

God really gave me a gift by leading us, releasing us, to move from Dallas to the rolling hills of Tennessee.  So, this is what it means to have a "gentle and quiet spirit."  My soul feels quiet within me.  I can only explain it as true presence. At this moment, I'm perched in my new favorite peaceful spot - in the living room chair reading by the twinkle-lighted branches I found in our backyard woods.  The intimacy of our home allows me to hear all three of my people breathing in their sleep about 10 feet away.  

The biggest gifts have been those of time and less distractions.  When we first arrived here in mid-November, it felt like my heart was soaring everyday with excitement and possibility.  After the initial giddy excitement wore off and we finally settled into our home south of Nashville, I hit the wall about 2 months later feeling isolated and regretful, like I needed to scramble to fill my time with activities and friends old and new and that maybe, just maybe, this whole thing was a big mistake.  Although I have so many dear, close friends here, it was still difficult starting over in a new place and living in a rural setting for the first time in my life.  This social introvert wanted to know, How would I fill our days?  Who would be our everyday "people"?  

But through much seeking to hear the Lord's voice, He spoke loudly and clearly: my real purpose right now is here under my roof - this little 1200 square foot rental house roof.  I've always seen it as a gift (and my choice) to be able to be home with my daughters.  Now, I see the difference in being truly present vs. just being around.  Time to myself and connecting with friends are still greatly needed, of course, and I drink them up.  But those things are bonuses now, not distractions.  

See, in the light of a new perspective, things change. Loneliness becomes the gift of time and presence with my husband and daughters. Isolation becomes space to breathe, to move more slowly and savor my surroundings. Even when I complained and doubted, God was gracious and kept bestowing these good gifts.  He didn't give up on me.

After this renewed viewpoint, I felt such peace.  And I started to cry.  Because the gift was in front of me the entire time since we've moved, but I didn't see it.

We may not own a home right now, and this one may not look exactly like the one we dearly loved and sold in Dallas, but this little home surrounded by stunning woods and meadows will always be where Norah was two and spirited and hilarious.  This home will always be where Luci Belle was 5-going-on-6 and becoming a "bigger little girl" every day.  There's already a spot on the kitchen floor where they love to show me their made up dances to vintage Disney songs on the record player.  And because of the smallness and closeness of this home, I can hear and see their imaginations take flight - playing "family" or restaurant or making a fort and cafe in my closet.  They'll only be 2 and 5 once, and good gracious, I get to be a part of it.  

These really are the days.

So here we are, and we are content.  For now, we're living in a season of abundance that's not about money or things but gifts much more difficult to measure.  We explore our yard and drive the rolling hills.  We homeschool and fly kites.  We draw and bake and pretend.  We're in closer quarters than ever, and sometimes we don't know what to do with ourselves when Steven arrives home from his new farming job at 3:30pm.

Don't be mistaken in thinking we're living a charmed life, though.  There are daily sacrifices required to live on a cash system, to be frugal with our purchases, to figure out how to feed our family healthy food on a tight budget when we no longer own a produce co-op, and to say "no" to things we wish we could do in order to say "yes" to the ultimate life we want.  Many people want to live more simply but don't want to give up what it takes to get there.  We knew we were going to have to give up a lot, and as scary as it was, we did it - we sold our family business and beloved home of 9 years and said tearful goodbyes to dear friends in Dallas.  Those things were so hard, but the release has indeed brought peace.   

This - the true simple life - is what I always wanted, everything I've asked God for, and what I thought I had it in Dallas.  I didn't realize - until now - how by uprooting our lives and moving to this place, He was giving me everything I've asked for.  

Yes, it was a series of difficult decisions that have led us to this place, and now it's time to just abide.  

Inspiring things lately.

I was so inspired after watching video after video of Farm To Table Family tonight that I had to write this and share with you.  Here's a smattering of things that have been inspiring me lately to be more free, more healthy, more who I am.  Maybe they will inspire you too...

First, Farm To Table Family on PBS.  The light...the fun...the beautiful food...the simplicity and joy of cooking simple, healthy food for your family.  I'm in love with this little Asian family, and you don't even hear them talk.  Watching these videos has inspired me so much.  I tend to keep my kids busy while I'm cooking so I can just be a busybody and have that time to myself.  I'm not saying there's anything wrong with that, but something resonated with me deeply to see how much her children are involved in growing, foraging, and cooking and baking in the kitchen.  Not only licking spoons but scooping avocados, icing the cakes, kneading the dough.  We do let our oldest cook a bit, but I tend to get stressed when she's helping me.  A great pointer in this video - prep ingredients ahead of time in little bowls, then invite your child in to help.  So.  Much.  Smoother.  And Norah is old enough now to sit on the counter with me and be more involved, but until these videos, I still had her on the floor playing with Tupperware. 

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There are just too many good magazines out there, and I want to read all of them!

First, Organic Gardening is now Organic Life Magazine, and the first issue comes out soon.  We already subscribe to Organic Gardening, which has been so beautiful and always included so much more than gardening.  I'm excited to see the direction they take it now that it's changed.  Organic Life, get in my mailbox!

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Next, Taproot.  Gorgeous, just gorgeous.  I could frame the covers.  "Taproot celebrates farm, food, family and craft through writing, photography and the arts, both fine and domestic."  Um, yes, please.

Deeply Rooted is another beautiful, artistic magazine I've become acquainted with that I simply must read.   You purchase each issue separately, and it's more like a book.  "Deeply Rooted Magazine serves to be a light in the midst of the things that work overtime to steal our attention and affection away from God. Through our publication, we deliver incredibly rich content, written and created by published authors, pastors, real women, and talented artists."

And finally, Bella Grace.  I saw this magazine on someone's Instagram and went to the magazine's website to investigate.  I bought the current issue for a friend for her birthday and I'll admit, I wanted to keep it when I was flipping through the pages!  The magazine was a work of art.  "Bella Grace is a special publication devoted to discovering magic in the ordinary.  Our aim is to touch the souls of our readers through beautifully penned stories and striking photographs that capture life's beautiful journey."  Swoon.

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Be inspired today!

Just a perfect day.

We all have those days when you just want to go inside a closet and scream at the top of your lungs.  I've had several lately - my almost 4-year-old has been going through a big emotional change and has entered a new stage of ear-shattering tantrums. 

But this day we had recently...it was just one of those perfect days.  Everyone had great attitudes, there was an abundance of sunshine, and it was warm, but not too warm (dare I say, fallish?).  My moments were filled with work caring and providing for my family balanced with just "being."

It began with my morning drink, slightly revised for Whole30: hot Yerba maté, warmed coconut milk, 1 date, and unsweetened cocoa powder whipped in the blender until frothy.  I added a sprinkle with pumpkin pie spice on top. So yum. 

We then packed up the car, double stroller, and all the random thingamajigs that Luci Belle puts in her purse and headed to Klyde Warren Park in downtown Dallas - an unbelievably beautiful place that's part of the Arts District.  It's privately operated so it's always super clean and safe - there are even employees walking around and an outdoor library where you can grab books and games to read on-site and return.  It was a gorgeous morning, and we seemed to have the entire children's area to ourselves.  Klyde Warren really has made Dallas way cooler - it's the perfect city park.  Reminds me so much of Hudson River Park in TriBeCa, NYC.

Then, we headed across the street to the Dallas Museum of Art which is totally free now!  The "Center for Creative Connection" had all kinds of play/art activities for children.  We sifted through buckets of tissue paper, buttons, wire, and tape and made some paper flowers.

There was an interesting exhibit there created by mothers for mothers, asking the question below.  Tiny pieces of tile were available where you could write your answer with pencil and then place it on a scale on the "others" or "self" side, or right in the middle.  I placed mine in the middle as I thought about how to find more balance.

Seems fitting that we ended up spending the rest of our afternoon doing just that...we found a spot in the sun to rest, play, and soak up some Vitamin D.  No matter what our day looks like, it always goes better if we spend time outside.

By the way, my creative, adventurous Luci Belle had another wardrobe change - seems that happens about five times a day lately!

I can't be thankful enough that we have a small grassy area in our backyard now where we can sit and play.  It's surrounded by perennials that are friendly to bees and butterflies, like the pair of Monarchs that visits us several times a day.

This girl loves collecting flowers and reminding me the importance of being wild and free.  I learn a lot from her.

As we sat in the grass together with our toes touching, she surprised me by saying, "I'm just thinking of all the good things I get to do with you."  My heart welled up, because so many days I feel completely inadequate, but I'm glad she remembers the good things.

This little ray of sunshine just sat in the grass happily for awhile, discovering a leaf.  What joy she brings to our family!  I don't want this baby stage to go away.  I'm afraid of not appreciating it enough and it passing me by when I'm not looking. 

The evening was filled with all the ordinary every day things that I love - the smells of dinner cooking, the hum of the TV from the living room as my husband was finally home from work and cuddled up with the girls on the couch.  After they were in bed (at least for a little bit), I had some quiet time on the back deck under the twinkle lights with a hot cup of tea and was able to finally finish Love Does by Bob Goff.  My heart was so stirred by this book - I can't wait to share some thoughts...

Not all days feel this "perfect" ~ that's for sure.  But I'm thankful for those that peek through, full of life-giving moments to fuel me for the ones that are more challenging.  Now more than ever, I feel that this season of life can be so difficult but so very lovely. 

It's all in my perspective how the day will turn out, because we're guaranteed nothing.  "There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle." (Albert Einstein)

This day, I chose everything.

#MindBodyMat and "things I don't do."

Do you want to become stronger and learn better self-care?  I do.  I recently discovered The Balanced Life website and online Pilates classes with Robin Long, and they've helped me so muchI first heard about Robin through one of my favorite authors, Shauna Niequist, and then I recently starting following Robin's Instagram feed and doing her free, short (8-10 minutes) Pilates videos regularly.  Now I'm participating in her current challenge - 21 days of free Pilates and self-care called #MindBodyMat.   Especially after growing and birthing two humans from my body, I need to be encouraged with a healthy perspective, not one that focuses on being a certain size or weight.  What matters is taking care of myself so I can better serve others, becoming stronger and healthier, living life to the fullest.  It's my faith that drives this - life is a gift, and I want to treat it that way.

Week 1 of the #MindBodyMat challenge is over, but it's not too late to join in!  All the past workouts are available on Robin's website or you can just start with week 2.  The great thing is they're super short yet intense.  In fact, I was completely exhausted on day 2 of last week and in the craziness of the day didn't get to the workout.  So I took 20 minutes the next day and knocked out both workouts at once, and then my arms were trembling - ha!  But I didn't want to get too far behind and am glad I stayed on track. 

The short workouts are totally doable, but it's still a little comical with two little ones at home.  Here's a photo of day 1 - my baby crawling all over me and 4-year-old trying to do the video next to me on a bunch of towels and later using my mat as a cape. But I got it done and that's all that matters!

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The other aspect of the #MindBodyMat challenge is self-care - so each day, Robin includes a simple, practical self-care challenge to go along with the workout.  This was my favorite one from the first week...

I actually first heard the idea of making a list of "things I don't do" from Shauna Niequist in her book Bittersweet, which is one of my favorites.  Since reading it, I've always wanted to make the list for myself, and this was a great chance.  So here we go...

Things I don't do:

  • I don't run.  At times in my life, I've thought about jumping on the running bandwagon, but it's just not me.   I'd much rather take power walks, do yoga, Pilates, or swim.
  • I don't do drama.  Want to see me head for the hills?  Then start stirring up confrontation and conflict and dissension that creates problems for myself and others.  Genuine disagreements can be worked through, but constant drama is another story, and I just can't handle it.
  • I don't do canning & preserving.  Maybe it's too technical and overwhelming for me, but I'm perfectly happy to cheer on my husband and our close friends who love to do it...and then enjoy eating the fruits of their labor 6 months down the line!
  • I don't diet.  I did Nutrisystem in high school, ate all their fake food, and lost a ton of weight.  Then I gained it all back once I started eating "real" food again.  Nothing has brought me more freedom than making a decision to never diet again and just eat and enjoy real, whole foods in their purest form the way God intended
  • I don't do competitive sports or follow sports teams.   My history in following sports teams can be summed up in a NY Yankees and Philadelphia Flyers obsession in 1993 when I knew every single player and his stats.  And trust me, you don't want me on your team. 
  • I don't do white walls.  A white wall is just a blank canvas to me!  I've painted almost every wall in my house a different color and must live surrounded by color - it just makes me happy.
  • I don't do water-skiing.  The thought of being pulled by a boat just makes me shudder.   But I'll jump off a boat or a cliff with no problem.  I just don't want to be attached to something - ha!
  • I don't make beds {very often}.  Yeah, there's the day once in a blue moon when I feel like making the bed look lovely, but in reality, this is a bed-sharing house and half the time a child is in our bed, or we're in Luci Belle's bed reading books.  So I don't put pressure on myself to make beds.  I do, however, have a wide selection of decorative pillows, and those are staying!
  • I don't do chaos.  I've embraced the fact that I'm a social introvert, and I love going here and there all week long, getting together with friends.  But there's a fine line between that lovely kind of fullness and the kind that sucks the life out of you - chaos.  When it crosses over into chaos, I start to break down.  The kitchen being a disaster is also chaos.   Peace, peace, peace...this is what I want to fill my life and home.

Well, that felt good.  Saying no to these things creates room for me to say yes to...

Things that bring me life:

I live a simple life with my husband and daughters.  I treasure my children.  I homeschool.  I nourish my body with real food and feed everyone well who enters my home.   I walk, I hike, I love the outdoors.  I do yoga and Pilates.  I drink lots of tea and read lots of books at one time and stay up late.  I breastfeed my children for much longer than the "norm."  I try to do my part to fight for justice and care about children in places like Iraq, India, and Africa.  I write and take photos.  I paint and color and draw and do crafts and make things for people.  I strive to live a life of gratefulness, and "I want my everyday to make God belly laugh, glad that he gave life to someone who loves the gift."

If you're doing the #MindBodyMat challenge, let me know in the comments and we can keep each other accountable.

Here's to being stronger, healthier, and more vibrant every day.  Life is a gift, my friends.

August: getting back to simple living.

As a family, we've decided to take the month of August to simplify our lives even further, to cut back on spending and get back to the simple, wonderful things that make life worth living. We've already been eating cleaner thanks to our first completed Whole30, which we're both continuing to do for the most part.  But now we're feeling led to tackle other areas like TV/movie consumption, financial spending, and just how we spend our time in general. 

Technology is helpful, but I don't want our family to be defined by it.  There are so many other things that are important to us: embracing time outside in nature, savoring the simple gifts of childhood like reading books together, making crafts, digging in the dirt, and running through a sprinkler.  I want my children to be able to find ways to play on their own (or with us) without a TV, phone, or Kindle being involved.

Here's what we've committed to for the month of August:

No TV/movie/Netflix watching at all.  Let's be honest, this is probably going to be the hardest on mama, not because I like to watch TV (I rarely do), but because I absolutely use TV/Netflix as a crutch to keep my 4-year-old busy when I need a break.  I'm pretty stringent about her only watching shows like those on PBS Kids or other classics like Richard Scarry's Busytown, Little Bear, and Strawberry Shortcake.  And I'm not some kind of supermom who thinks I should be able to parent 100% of the time without using media, but I do think we need to cut it out for a month just to take a step back and re-evaluate.  This will open the door back up to more creative play, more often.  For instance, our babysitter Rachel who comes twice a week has a strict no-TV-watching policy while she's with any kids she's babysitting.  You wouldn't believe the creations she and Luci Belle come up with - a "dollhouse" made of cardboard and recycling scraps, a secret hideaway made from a carseat box, and a super hero tissue paper cape.

No technology while eating, nursing, or bathing.  We've gotten into the bad habit of answering texts while at the dinner table and allowing our oldest daughter to eat her lunch while watching a show.  I've picked up my phone to check Instagram while nursing as my precious wide-eyed 6-month old is looking up at me playing with my hair.   And the other night, I took my phone with me to take a bath.  Seriously?  This is not okay.

Cook and share meals at home.  We haven't been eating out much since Whole30, but this will also eliminate the several-times-weekly trips to Whole Foods to get my daughter pepperoni pizza from the hot bar.  We know how to make an awesome homemade crust ourselves, so instead we're going to have a fun pizza-making fest here at home and freeze them for later.  Or spend some time on the patio at our own business, Urban Acres, and eat some of our awesome artisan pizza.

Be outside. Yes, August is absolutely sweltering in Texas, pretty unbearable unless you're near water.  So we're either going to find water, just sweat it out, or hunker down inside.  I'd like to see more family walks this month, then a run through the sprinkler when we get home.

Read more books.  After the children are in bed, Steven tends to veg out watching a movie on Netflix, and I join him mindlessly or work on some writing/creative stuff.   At the same time, I have, like, 6 books going and can't seem to finish any of them.  I hope to fix that in the month of August!  And I know my husband will benefit from getting back to reading more.

So here are the books I'm currently reading that I'd like to finish:

Um yeah, so 7 books.

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We've already started preparing Luci Belle for a month without TV and have been talking about all the things that are better than it, anyway.  Tonight, we're making a list of all the things we're going to do in August instead of watch shows.  I can only imagine the ways this is going to change our family.

And I don't know if this is weird, but I actually feel giddy about this.  Probably because it stirs what's deep in my soul, what I want my life and family to be about, and what I know is healthiest for us. 

They say that "transparency creates accountability," so now that it's out there, there's no turning back.  August, let's do this!

She Reads Truth.

So happy to finally be doing my first She Reads Truth study - The Sermon on the Mount. Isn't the study pack beautiful? Hoping this will revive some of my Bible Study Fellowship lessons from Matthew this past spring - I'm pretty embarrassed by how much I had to unearth my Bible to start this study. But His mercies are new every morning, and I'm starting anew.

She Reads Truth is simply an online community of women studying God's Word together.  Their site provides a daily devotional (and they have an app coming soon to make it even easier!) plus beautiful quotes and scriptures to memorize on their Instagram feed.

Join me?  Click below.