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!

My Swiss pen pal. (30 days of thankfulness - day 14)

In a small village in the canton of Argovia in Switzerland, there lives a woman named Monica.  One day, I received an email from her through my blog, out of the blue, in which she introduced herself. She found me by researching Jeremy Casella's music, then made her way to Kierstin Casella's blog, then to mine.  I'm so glad she did! 

In that first email, Monica said, "I decided to follow Jesus in 1994, and sisters like you inspire me to love my Lord more every day and to explore the beauty and adventure of faith, life, friendship, nature and art."

Although her native tongue is German, I knew right away that we spoke the same language.  Monica is a creative, artistic, sensitive soul who loves reading, writing, music, poetry, painting, her garden, and her husband Ralph, who she's been married to since 1999.  She works as a copy editor for a big Swiss newspaper.

I love hearing about Monica's faith through the perspective of her unique European culture and traditions.  Our lives are so different, yet we understand each other so well.  Her words have encouraged me time and time again.   You should hear how poetically and eloquently she writes...and she translates every email into English!

Monica and I have never met in person, but you can be sure that when we do, it will be a sweet day.  There will surely be lots of shared cappuccinos and laughter and walks through the city and countryside.  Until then, we'll continue being kindred spirits across the miles. 

I thank God for you, Monica!

Here are a few of my favorite photos from Monica's world. 

A lovely Swiss cottage in the snow...

One of her glorious cappuccinos, "served with strawberries au gratin and much love on a Saturday afternoon"...

Her lovely flower garden...

Her parents' Christmas tree...with real lit candles on it.  Below is a stable handmade by her father many years ago...

The view from one of her boating trips...

And just another breathtaking winter day in Switzerland...

You know you want a Swiss pen pal now.  But mine's taken!

~ ~ ~

During the month of November, I'm practicing "30 days of thankfulness" - will you join me?  Use your blog, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram to voice your thankfulness for something every day in November.  My hope is that this daily routine will create in me a heart of thankfulness and gratitude, no matter the day or month or situation.

Ode to Lauren.

Lauren & I at her home in 2006

Today is my dear friend Lauren's birthday.  Lauren is a fellow Jersey girl, but we first met back in '99 when we were both working for Grassroots Music in Houston.  We both soon moved to Nashville and then she returned to the South Jersey area when she got married.  Lauren is a gifted writer, photographer, creative soul, mother, and wife, and I'm thankful to have the opportunity to learn from her.

The last time I saw Lauren was in 2006 when I visited her home on a quiet suburban street in New Jersey just outside Philly.  I still vividly remember the moments we spent together that bright April spring day, sipping strong French press coffee on her screened-in front porch while her toddler daughter Ella played contentedly. 

I had the opportunity to make amends for my failings in our friendship, things that had been weighing heavily on me for years.  Of course, she accepted it graciously, and we started anew. 

When I later wrote about our time together, I said, "Lauren and I also talked a lot about her method of natural mothering, which I would like to model one day."  And I have.  As Lauren shared with me her thoughts on motherhood that day, I felt her words resonate deep in my soul.  It was the first time I had heard of the attachment parenting style and a more natural way of mothering.  What I remember is the respect and love in Lauren's voice as she spoke about parenting her daughter - trusting her gut instincts, seeing her child not as an inconvenience that needed to quickly adjust to her and her husband's world, but as a unique human being who was to be welcomed and celebrated and adjusted to.  Big changes came with motherhood, I could tell, both difficult and wonderful.  Talking with her made me excited about having children one day.  Little did I know how much the Lord would use this conversation in my life, how much I would draw upon it when I actually became a mother four years later.

So this August, I will pack myself and my daughter in my dad's Honda CRV and make the 2-hour-drive to Chester County, PA to be reunited with this sweet friend.  Lauren promises to give me a tour of the Waldorf school where she works and where her daughter attends, which is set on acres and acres of sustainable farmland.  Yes, please.  I'm sure there's also a hot French press and deep mugs of coffee in our near future, and plenty of time to mull over the joys and struggles of this imperfect life as our daughters play together. 

So on her birthday, I can think of no better way to celebrate Lauren than to say, "You have inspired me, my friend. And I love you."

Things I want to do in New Jersey this summer...

It's official ~ the tickets are booked!  Luci Belle and I will be spending the entire month of August in New Jersey, and Steven will be joining us for two weeks in the middle.  Bye bye, horrific Texas heat!

So I've been making a list...

Things I want to do in New Jersey this summer:
All photos from last August 2011

* Spend lots of time with these zany folks.

* Meet up with long-lost friends such as Lauren and Allison.  The last time I saw Lauren was in 2006 in Philly when I was on tour with Matt Wertz for Mocha Club.  Unacceptable.

* Go to lots of local Farmer's Markets - Madison, Chatham, and Morristown, to name a few. 

* Go hiking again at Jockey Hollow.

* Swim at the Madison Pool.  Of course.

* Visit my favorite Jersey Shore town - Point Pleasant - for the day, so we can swim and play in the sand and walk barefoot on the boardwalk and eat vinegar fries at Jenkinson's Pavilion.

* Perhaps also visit Cape May - I've always wanted to go and see those Victorian houses.

* Eat again at Fresh in Basking Ridge.  I've been waiting approximately 297 days to have this ice cream sandwich.

* New York City trip, take 2.  Last summer's trip was...interesting.  Let's just say that quick daytrips to the City are quite different now with a small child in tow!  Poor Luci Belle was teething badly that day and developed a 102 degree fever while we were there.  She threw up on me and Steven at the Union Square Farmer's Market, and he and my cousin Colleen had to buy all of us new clothes at Filene's Basement. 

This was taken when we arrived first thing in the morning, fresh and clean and non-thrown-up-on:

The following photo sums up the 15 minutes we spent in Central Park.  I was so excited to show her the park, one of my favorite places on earth and where her mommy and daddy got engaged, and as soon as I put her down on the grass she burst into tears. So sad.

So let's hope for a better trip this time!  We're planning on staying overnight in the City so that should help.

* Feed the ducks at Loantaka Pond, one of my favorite places growing up. 

* Go to Alstede Farms in Chester.

* Do a lot of walking around the neighborhood and sitting in this grass, enjoying summer outside, as it should be.

Can't wait!  And I can't believe how wittle my Jersey girl was last summer.

Hamilton Pool.

Oh my.  I just recently found out about Hamilton Pool, a swimming hole in Dripping Springs near Austin that is reputed to be "one of the most beautiful sights in Central Texas."  

"A steep path leads down Hamilton Creek, which winds its way between the pool and the Pedernales River along rocky ledges and over the roots of massive cypress trees." ~ from

Yes, PLEASE.  I'll be recruiting Dallas-dwellers to make this trip with us soon!

The gift of nature.

New Mexico open road ~ 2006Apparently I'm on a Donald Miller kick I'm reading Through Painted Deserts (originally titled Prayer and the Art of Volkswagen Maintenance), an older book about his cross-country road-trip from Texas to Oregon with his friend Paul in an old Volkswagen van.  Each page absolutely teems with description of this beautiful land in which we live, a land I so desire to cross one day in my own van or RV, like the Happy Janssens.  I guess I become a little more hippie everyday.

It's timely that I'm reading this now, as Donald and Paul are at the Grand Canyon, about to make a descent all the way to its cavernous bottom on Easter Sunday.  As our own Easter approaches with all the symbols of spring and new life and potential it brings, I feel the anticipation of being right there with them, wishing I could see the myriad of stars they are going to see camping at the bottom of that magnificent place, and remembering the first wondrous time I saw the Grand Canyon myself in 2001 and how it made me fall in love with the west.

Paul is an interesting companion for Donald, who grew up in the big, blaring, concrete city of Houston, where I, too, lived for three scorching summers.  I am right alongside Donald as he describes the sheer vastness of a city where you can no longer see the stars, and everything is the color tan because it's too hot to use blacktop.

Donald's friend Paul, on the other hand, grew up in Oregon amidst rivers and mirrored lakes and dense forests of pine.  He seems to have a supernatural disconnnect from the commercialized world, and a special connection with nature.  Donald says about Paul,

"And maybe this is why he seems so different to me, because he has become a human who no longer believes the commercials are true, which, perhaps is what a human was designed to be." (p. 76)

As the two vagabond friends are passing through the town of Flagstaff, Arizona on their way to the Grand Canyon, there's this incredible narrative...

"We stood out in the desert this morning, and the chemicals in my brain poured soothingly through the gray matter, as if to massage with fingers the most tender part of my mind, as if to say, this is what a human is supposed to feel.   This is what we were made for, to watch the beauty of light fill up the earth's canvas, to make dirt come alive; like fairy dust, making trees and cacti and humans from the magic of its propulsion.  It makes me wonder, now, how easily the brain can be tricked out of what it was supposed to feel, how easily the brain can be tricked by somebody who has a used car to sell, a new perfume, whatever.  You will feel what you were made to feel if you buy this thing I am selling.  But could the thing you and I were supposed to feel, the thing you and I were supposed to be, cost nothing?" (p. 77)

When I read this, my heart said, Yes!  This is what I have wanted my writings on this blog to be about, and this is what I have wanted my life to be about.  This is why I love being in nature because it forces me to come back to this focus; it shows me how much of my everyday life is propelling me further into the current of the status quo rather than pushing against it.

"And maybe when a person doesn't buy the lies anymore, when a human stops long enough to realize the stuff people say to get us to part with our money often isn't true, we can finally see the sunrise, smell the wetness in a Gulf breeze, stand in awe at a downpour no less magnificent than a twenty-thousand-foot waterfall, ten square miles wide, wonder at the physics of a duck paddling itself across the surface of a pond, enjoy the reflection of the sun on the face of the moon, and know, This is what I was made to do.  This is who I was made to be, that life is being given to me as a gift, that light is a metaphor, and God is doing these things to dazzle us." (p. 77)

And then my mind jumps to a question in the Westminster Shorter Catechism:

Q. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man's chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

When I'm in nature, I see how that's so much easier to do. When I am without distraction, a timeline or schedule or too much "stuff" weighing me down, I can see God's purpose in surrounding us with so much beauty - simply to enjoy it.

I have definitely felt it...

  • sitting on a rock in a stream in New Mexico
  • dangling my legs over the edge of the Grand Canyon
  • inhaling the mountain air from a train window in Colorado
  • burying sandy toes into the California coastline
  • digging my fingers in the dirt of my own back yard

We can still enjoy God in cities or in the middle of suburbia.  But I don't know - for me, there still has to be some natural beauty.  It's why people create container gardens on urban patios and why they flock to Central Park's Sheep Meadow on a warm spring day in New York City.  The natural world shows us something we cannot see otherwise.  

"I pull a bit of pine needle off a tree and roll it in my palms and smell the mint-like scent of creation as I let the green shards spill from my palms to the path along the rim.  And I think to myself...

(Through Painted Deserts, p. 91)

Off to Colorado...

I'm leaving today for a weekend trip with my mom to first time to visit! Oh, how I need to breath the cool mountain air. I'll be back next week with a fun book giveaway that I'm excited to tell you about!

In the meantime, we'll be visiting...

Durango, CO

Silverton, CO

Ouray, CO - including the hot springs pool!

I'll be back with tons of photos!