The Secret to a Life Well Lived

fb_img_1462285735413.jpgLast week, I went on vacation.

To others, it may not have been anything to “write home about”.  After all, our destination was domestic and nowhere exotic or even exciting, but it was exactly what I needed.

See, it had been nearly 5 years since I’ve gone anywhere for an extended period of time and the purpose of having fun and relaxing.

And, though, it was a whirlwind trip, I did have quite a bit of time to do just that.

Relax!

We stayed with Hubby’s mom and her husband.

love spending time with them. I always feel so welcome and the energy is always so… grounded.

My MIL’s husband is – born and raised – French. So, their household has a very “european” feel to it. (It quite reminds me of the energies we experienced when we lived and traveled in Europe.)

Since returning home (and after I’d had an opportunity to recuperate from the actual traveling part), I’ve spent time looking at the time we spent with my in-laws.

What was it that helped to recharge my Spirit?

It wasn’t the house. Though, it was beautiful and “closer to nature”.

Their house is situated on multiple acres, and the deck overlooks a very large pond.

It was surrounded by trees, other greenery, and was the temporary home to a flock Canadian geese. A LARGE flock of Canadian geese.

In the mornings, I would sit, drinking my coffee, enjoying the quiet and watching the pond spring to life for the day.

My goal has become to create a degree of the warmth and peace I felt there here in our own home.

But… how?

There, they (nearly) always music playing in the background. Usually instrumental and quite often classical.

Check! We often have Sirius playing at our house. Really nothing different than before our trip. Though, we have begun listening to more instrumentals.

Then, during one of our conversations – when I told my MIL how I marveled at the fact that their home was always so warm and inviting, no matter where they were living at the time (because they move… A LOT) – she told me… When you fill your house with things you love, you can go anywhere and make it feel like home. (Though, I am paraphrasing here a bit.)

Again, check! Since moving here, we paired our “things” down quite a bit. We had to, given the limitation of space we have here compared to the past houses in which we’ve lived. The things I chose to keep out of storage (we’ve had to do this in stages) have been those things that I love, that have meaning to myself and my family.

The real “secret” to their “success”, though, is one she shared with us long, long ago.

“The best times in life come with family and friends – enjoying love, conversation, good food and good drinks.”

And that is what I’m consciously seeking to emulate more in my own house and life these days.

It’s the normal, every day things in life, when enjoyed with family and friends, that become magical.

Slow and Easy Wins the Race: It Is Time

fb_img_1462372353915.jpgFor over a year and a half, I worked at a thankless, soul sucking retail job.

At first, it wasn’t all that bad. I had been a stay-at-home-mom or over a decade while Hubby was in the military. When he retired and our older kids neared adulthood, we decided it was time.

It did invoke within me a sense of accomplishment at first. I was someone other than “wife” and “mom”, and I was contributing to my family’s financial wellbeing. Something that I had not done for a very long time.

Over time, though, the darker clouds of thanklessness began to obscure the bright rays of accomplishment and financial abundance. Eventually, it began to suck my energy, and in some instances – it seemed – my very soul.

I was not the only one.

Prior to giving my two week’s notice, I heard through the grapevine there were others who had left. (It almost felt like I was a part of a mass exodus.) And others, still, admitted to me that they wished they could go as well.

My heart went out to them. I wish I could have wrapped everyone in a hug and brought them with me.

This past week was my last.

It is akin to waking up from a bad dream. I find myself slightly disoriented, wondering where to start first.

While working (at least as of late), it seemed as thought my off time was spent recouping the energy I expended while at work or conserving my energy in preparation for the work week ahead. As a result, Idid not do as much around the house or the property as I would have otherwise liked.

It is time, though.

It is time to reclaim our spaces, for my family as well as our energetic wellbeing.

I must remind mysel, though… One step at a time. Things did not get this way overnight, nor will it be righted overnight.

It will not do to run myself into the ground. That would not solve a thing.

Slow and easy wins “the race”.

 

A Bit of Turbulence: Challenges of Life

fb_img_1462285735413.jpgLife has had its share of challenges

It’s been quite sometime since I’ve blogged. Even the blog over at Innisfree Farms has been neglected. It was a bit of a wake up call to me the other day when I received a comment on the blog from “Betty”…

I used to be able to find good advice from your content.

Now, it may have been spam. After all, it has been quite some time since I’ve been active here and there was never really a lot of traffic to begin with.

Or maybe it was a comment from one of you folks, who genuinely missed my presence here.

Whatever the case may be…

Over the years, I’ve come to believe that there are no coincidences, and given the changes that my life currently is going through at the moment. Someone… whether a reader or the Universe/Spirit/God… is telling me that it’s time to put my butt in the chair and get to writing again.

The Changes

About a year and a half ago, I started back to work. Hubby retired from the Army (finally), and it was my opportunity to return to the workforce while giving him sometime to enjoy life as a “man of leisure”. (Honestly? I don’t know whether he’d actually know how to pull that “job” off. He’d get entirely bored with it in the first week or two.)

Given my lack of recent job experience and the narrow scope of employment opportunties in our town… I ended up back in retail. The first time since I was in high school.

It’s been… an experience.

That’s all I’ll say about that at the moment. Especially given that I gave my two week notice the other day and still have a little over a week to go until my last shift.

After that?

I’m not making any promises.

The Toll

The pay started out… not so much… when I first started. I had a job and was able to supplement Hubby’s retirement pay. That was enough.

Since that point, though, Hubby started getting VA benefits, and I received pay increases and remained long enough that I started receiving a quarterly bonus.

Great! Our family was being drenched in financial abundance, and for that I was/am exceedingly grateful.

I have realized over time, though, that – sometimes – good pay does not a “good job” make.

Respect is a BIG plus.

Appreciation.

Just to name a couple…

I began to dread work days.

I began to feel… almost trapped, which for a freedom loving spirit was/has been near to claustrophobic.

I missed the ability to do fun things with my family as a whole.

I would see my youngest daughter, briefly, in the morning and the evening before heading into work.

I’d work day shift during the weekends and get to spend a few hours in the evening with my family before being so tired that I just had to head to bed.

Switching between nights and days is a killer, especially the instances when I would only have 10 hours in between to recouperate.

Twenty years ago, I wouldn’t have had a problem doing it. These days, though… It’s much more difficult.

At some point, I felt as though I stopped being MySelf.

My creativity suffered as did my enthusiasm. Including my inspiration and desire to write.

I was becoming someone I didn’t much like.

Cranky. Overly judgmental.

In other words, my Ego took firm hold of my life. Something that I’ve consciously worked very hard to reign in the past 5 years.

And it’s not that I didn’t always put my spiritual practices to work.

I don’t know if it’s the energy or what, but like a rock weathering a brutal storm, I was worn down until I felt as though I could fight no more.

Reflection

Part of me feels as though I failed the tests that I was given.

At the time I returned to the workforce, I felt as though I had put the spiritual practices I had been taught to use and I had reached the “top of the mountain”, so to speak.

The mountain crumbled beneath me, though, only to reveal that it was a summit and there was another, more steep climb yet ahead of me.

I never made it to the top of this one.

At least not the same person I was at the bottom.

Maybe I’ve come to something of a detour…

Maybe there’s another lesson awaiting me…

I guess I won’t know until I get moving on the next leg of the journey.

That’s the thing about life…

It always keeps us guessing. Even when we think we’ve got it figured out.

At least for a time.

Just a Bunch of Foodies, Here: Sharing Recipes

12509087_10154018761739396_2393351812953918534_nOurs is a family of foodies.

Not the nose-up-in-the-air sort that seek out food presented on plates 10x bigger than the non-descript and over garnished mini-morsels they are served.

No. We are lovers of good (usually simple, aka “peasant”) food.

It’s a quality that we’ve developed over the years, but one that was originally spurred on by my in-laws.

They were also the ones that taught us to enjoy cooking and baking.

The past few years have been peppered with challenges for my family. And somewhere along the way, we lost sight of these loves.

Oh, that is not to say that we haven’t had good meals shared around the table in that time. It just hasn’t been as much of a staple in our lives as it once had been.

Since the move, though, I have felt my own focus going back to such things.

Hubby and I have been sharing the meal-making duties again, and we’ve already had some awesome meals.

This one was really easy, but definitely a step in the right direction for our happy tummies.

Slow Cooker Cranberry Pork Roast from New Leaf Wellness

In addition, I’ve begun baking once again.

Tried this recipe shared by Foodgasmsrecipes.com, which I came across on Facebook.

I did half the recipe, though. Since I was only able (at the time) to find one of my loaf pans.

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AMISH CINNAMON BREAD–will make 2 loaves

No kneading, you just mix it up and bake it!

Batter:
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2 cups buttermilk or homemade buttermilk— 2 cups milk plus 2 tablespoons vinegar or lemon juice
4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda

Cinnamon/sugar mixture:
2/3 cups sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon

Directions
Cream together butter, 2 cups of sugar, and eggs. Add milk, flour, and baking soda. Put 1/2 of batter (or a little less) into greased loaf pans (1/4 in each pan). Mix in separate bowl the 2/3 c sugar and cinnamon.

Sprinkle 3/4 of cinnamon mixture on top of the 1/2 batter in each pan. Add remaining batter to pans; sprinkle with last of cinnamon topping. Swirl with a knife. Bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 min. or until toothpick tester come clean.
Cool in pan for 20 minutes before removing from pan.

It wasn’t the sort of “bread” I initially thought of. It was more of the desserty ala zucchini bread variety, but definitely a “keeper” according to my family.

If you, too, are a lover of the food… Stay tuned because I’m certain I’ll share more in the future.

I’m always looking to try new ones. What are your favorite “comfort” and “peasant” food recipes? I would love for you to share them, either here in the comments or on my Facebook page!

Surrender: My Word for the Year

2016wordIn the past year or so I’ve known of folks who have had a word for the year. It’s usually an idea upon which they desire to focus for 365 days.

It’s a trend I’ve noticed has persisted into this year as well, which I think is a pretty good idea.

Peace. Flourish. Abundance.

These are some of those I’ve come across this week.

Me?

My word is ‘surrender’.

Unlike some, this was not a word I chose for myself.

Why would I? After all, there are much better ones from which to choose.

Surrender, after all, possesses a rather negative connotation.

Wouldn’t you agree?

In my mind’s eye, I picture a white flag dangling from a stick, waving furiously through the air.

“Please stop the bombardment. I give up.”

To my way of thinking, though, this is not the case.

You see, I tend to find comfort in having “the upper hand”, in controlling my situation (ie planning it all out) so I know what to expect.

The past couple of months, though, have been completely out of my control.

Nearly everything, which I thought I had planned ahead, down to the last detail, has veered away from what I had intended. Very little has gone “as it should” to my way of thinking.

In addition to being something of a “control freak”, I’m a “recovering people pleaser”.

Mix the two together with “surprising outcomes”, and you can find me hiding in the corner, curled up in a ball, drenched in adrenaline and cortisol.

So, for me, learning to “surrender”, to be okay with those things I have no control over actually denotes my moving into a state of sanity. Learning to flow with the inevitable changes, rather than fighting them.

What is YOUR word for 2016? Do you have one? If so, how did you come by it?

Purging: These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

1919327_10154009472519396_8013968771820920815_nAs I have mentioned previously, my family recently moved. This time, to smaller quarters.

Now, as a retired military family, we’ve gotten pretty good at such an endeavor over the years.

Truth be told, even before we became parents, Hubby and I made our share of moves together.

This latest move? It was #15 for us.

That doesn’t even take into consideration all the times I moved as a kid with my parents.

I suppose you could say that I’m something of a “moving expert”.

One of the things we’re in the habit of doing when we face a move is…

Purging!

We’ll go through and get rid of all those things that no longer serve us in one form or another, but which we’ve inevitably accumulated since the previous move.

Given the drastic reduction from our previous residence to this latest one, it was an even more necessary act.

Even knowing this, though, I was ill prepared. (We ended up renting a storage unit. For a few months, at least.)

As the brief time we’ve been here has passed there is one thing I’ve realized from those things I did end up retaining after the purge I did do…

I’m in love with them!

A smaller place – of course – means less wall space. That meant I had to sort through all the pictures and decorations I had up in the old, more spacious house and decide what I truly wanted to keep and display.

The picture above shows one such conglomeration. Everything is significant for me in one way or another.

  • The shelf was made with Hubby’s grandpa’s own two hands. He is gone from this world now, but he was/is a man I adored!
  • The dragon collection is what is left of those my mom (through her love of dragons) accumulated over the years. She, too, is gone from this world.
  • The poodle statue was my Great Grandmother’s.
  • The purple owl, blue duck, and wolf were each painted by one of my kids.
  • The bee… Well, that has its own story behind it.
  • The flowered pottery, I bought on a trip I took to Poland while we lived in Germany.
  • The pottery below it, Hubby bought for me on the trip we took to Ireland after he returned from Iraq.
  • Last, but certainly not least, are the pottery mugs made by a dear friend of ours, which was gifted to us this past holiday season.

Every time I look at the shelf and its contents, though, I get warm fuzzies that bubble up within me and a smile rises to my face.

That, I believe, is what our “possessions” should do for us. Why would we desire anything less?

In the past, purging possessions has always been a necessary act for our family. With 4-5 of us, it had to be. After all, we were only given a certain amount of weight that the military would move for us. Everything else we would have to pay for out of our own pocked, which – as I understand – could have been rather costly.

These days, though, I realize the purge; the simplifying of possessions, only helps to put more of an emphasis on those things I/we truly love and that which truly brings joy to our lives.

The New (Calendar) Year is a great time to start anew, to purge and leave the old behind. What can you purge in order to simplify and get to the Heart of your possessions? If you don’t love it, why keep it around? Life is too short for anything less. 

Welcome to My (New, Budding) World

12342538_10153942123049396_7806122972732785765_nPlease excuse the construction dust.

I had started this version of my blog a few months ago, and I had intended to return to pick up right where I had left off, but… I discovered this morning that I didn’t set it up in the way I prefer.

It’s a new year, though!

So, I started over. A clean slate on which to share my many musings.

What will you find here?

Well, A LOT has happened in my life the past few months. I could say I’ve “turned over a new leaf”, but – in truth – it’s probably more akin to having turned over a whole new tree.

See, Hubby finally retired in December of 2012, after 20+ years of service in the military. Our plan was to move here (to Missouri), set up our own homestead, and live a (mostly) self-sufficient lifestyle.

Things didn’t exactly go to plan.

Over the years since we arrived there have been MANY changes that have occurred in our family.

  • I returned to work outside the home (after 10+ of being a stay-at-home-mom).
  • BB (our now 22 year old son) graduated and moved out to start a life of his own.
  • PB (our now 18 year old daughter) graduated, moved out, and started a family of her own.

That leaves LB (our 9 year old daughter), Hubby, and I (as well as our menagerie of furry children) here at home.

The 3 bedroom (+ loft and partially finished basement) house we moved into upon our arrival? It just became entirely too much for three of us to keep up with. Just way too much empty and unused space. We’d seriously begun to rattle around in it.

As luck would have it, though, a couple of friends of ours had a two bedroom house (on 6 acres) come available this past fall.

It was in bad shape and took a great deal of work before it was a livable space again. Once we were done with the cleaning and repairs… We found ourselves facing a move at the worst possible time of the year.

The holidays.

A time made even more difficult given the fact that I work retail.

It was a HUGE challenge, but I’m happy to say – at the time of this writing – we’re in our new home.

There is still some settling in to be done, but we’re in a place where our spirits have room to grow and soar.

This year (and every year after) will be all about making the dream of establishing a homestead and immersing ourselves in a creative, hands-on, older, more “simple” way of BE-ing a reality.

I hope you will join me for the adventure!

 

Exploring Other Cultures Through Food

I love exploring new (to me) cultures. It’s a passion I first discovered when we lived in Germany.

I especially like experiencing cultures through the foods and drinks their people consume, and Hubby enjoys cooking. It’s a hobby of his, which I’m slowly coming around to share.

It was from that perspective we decided to undertake something of a project.

Each month we’re planning to choose a single culture and explore the food and drink of its people through weekly meals.

This month it’s Mexican food simply because we had already planned to have carnitas this week.

Last night we had:

We had other things to accompany these, but that was what we made from scratch.

It was all so tasty! (I’ve included the recipes from which we adapted our own end dishes in case you want to try them for yourself. Just click the links above.)

The churros came out better than I had hoped.

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I promise to take more pictures of future meals to share.

Do you have a favorite type of food that you would like to see us explore in the future? Let me know in the comments below.

Replenishing the Energetic Reserves

The Wild Wind has been blowing through life more strongly the past couple of weeks. Between family visiting from out of town and work, the days have gone quickly by, and while our family has made some amazing memories in that time, I haven’t had a lot of time in which to create.

I’very made sure to take time out. Reading has been high on my list of soul-feeding activities as of late.

I read quite a bit from Jude Deveraux and am currently in the process of catching up on the Outlander series from Diana Gabaldon. (I read Outlander when it first came out many, many years ago, but never ended up reading the books that followed.) Figure, since we’really in the midst of “Droughtlander”, now would be as good a time as any.

Despite the time I’ve taken out for myself, though, I’m feeling rather low on spiritual energy, and the problem lies in the fact that it’s been sometime since I’ve taken time out to create.

Throughout the years, I’ve learned that it is through creation that my soul is fed, and failure to do… Well, the energetic reservoirs begin to run low. Something my dear friend and mentor, Lady Diannia, reminded me of today.

So, as much as I’m curious to know what happens next for Claire and Jamie, I’m off to make a bit of art.

Return to the Roots

By this time I have blogged – on and off – for five years or more, and in that time I have learned a great deal.

I learned all the “right” things to do if one desires to become a “success”.

I’ve shared, Tweeted, and “Hopped” with others.

I’ve hosted and built many a site, learning my way around the WordPress platform.

Yet, here I am. Right back where I started on the free WordPress site.

“How can you possibly be serious about blogging or ever hope to become successful?”

Quite honestly, by the accepted prescriptions of “success” for blogging? I’m done aspiring to such things.

It is my desire to blog, to share, and connect. I’m called to these things. In the deepest reaches of my being I Know this, and my faith that those who will relate to and connect with my message – that which I have to offer – will be drawn here and connect as well.

This is me and my space in all our splendid glory.

Edit: Synchronicity never ceases to amaze me. After publishing this post this morning, I came across Annie over at Ethical Thinker, who had thoughts and perspectives on the matter that resonated with my own. If this isn’t about genuine connection, then – I can only wonder – what is the point?