when you have to decide what (or who) goes.

IMG_6513
during our three weeks out in july, I thought about chickens.  odd for vacation?  maybe.

we did the loop, 2,000 miles from here to ND to MI to here again, & though I laid on a sandy beach in the hot sun along lake superior, though we camped & all four kids had high fevers & every single one of the in-laws got along (did they?  is that possible?) my mind kept coming back to the sweet little ladies & their sir cooped up back at the ranch.  (didya like that trail of sorry imagery?  I obviously haven’t been on the blog in awhile. . . .sigh.)

what I was trying to figure out, admittedly ahead of time, is how to proceed with the rest of my life.  you’re chuckling, aren’t you. . . ?  I KNOW.  but when you add a big life thing like suddenly hosting livestock, sometimes a little buyer’s remorse comes in.  what the what did we just do to our (otherwise sort-of-adjusted) life?

I read a post this morning about simplicity.  I read a post every morning about simplicity, who are we kidding.  but what marc & angel said this morning is that one of the wrecking balls of a simple life is being unable to say NO.  mostly they were talking about schedule-y stuff, overcommitting, but obviously the NO applies to any overrun area of life:  schedules, relationships, physical things & clutter.  marc’s suggestion was not to think about what to take off your plate, but to scrape all the crud off your plate & then decide what to put back on (my paraphrase).

so I made an Ideal Day page with a sharpie this afternoon, which reminds me that how you live your days is how you live your life (if you know who said this, please comment.  I can’t place it.  moving on.)  & as I wrote down “snuggle” & “read” & “cook dinner slowly,” I realized that most of what i’m doing already is more or less what I want to be doing.  i’m living in a way that feels authentic to me, that i believe honors who God made me to be.  before we started this minimalizing venture 5 years ago, I couldn’t have said the same.  I didn’t have time.  I was managing too. much. crap.  ahem.

back to the chickens.

what occurred to me after we got home from our trip, after long stretches of remote highway spent trying to rectify my incongruous love of both travel & keeping chickens (do NOT suggest putting chickens in a bus.  we’ve already had that very short  conversation.) is that I can do both.  for us, the fun we have keeping a yard full of hens all the days we’re home is enough to justify accommodating them when we’re not.
also, this boy likes his pallies, & you can’t take the posse away from the guy.

so, there it is, the place we’re in now.  wanderlust weds keeping chickens.
it works for us.

how ’bout you, friendies?
it’s been a long while since we’ve chatted!
i’d love to know what you’re brewing these days, if you’re
laying out your life in a way that works for you, if it’s peaceful where you are, if there’s anything I can do to help.
I don’t know much, but I know I love you. . . oo, ooooo. . . .

keep tweaking the machine, friends.
over & out.
XO,
~jill.

the beautiful people.


do you ever feel like one of the beautiful people?  they are around us everywhere, at every turn of a page, flip of a channel.  it’s seldom that i align myself with those glorious ones, but i did, a few weeks ago, for about  10 minutes.  it wasn’t bad.

it was an upper-80’s kind of day, so i’d corralled beach towels & goggles & children, piled them all into the minivan & headed to the waterpark.  you maybe didn’t know this, but a waterpark can be a dangerous place. i mean, water is something, but the people.  there are beautiful people everywhere.  it’s disconcerting if you are anything but. . .(fill in your own comparisons that bleed into inadequacies.).

but the sun was hitting the water just right that afternoon, & for a holy 10 minutes, i felt like i belonged.  like i was one of the beautiful people.  the lovelies on movie screens, the sweet faces on t.v., the fab glam in the grocery store magazine rack.  i glowed in that sunshine, balancing tot on my knee, eagle eye out for the boys thrashing in far waters.  i owned it.

it was a glorious 10 minutes, i tell you.

until i remembered i was still wearing my winter whites, that i slouch, that my swimsuit is a hundred years old & counting.  then i felt myself sink down a bit, & the sun shone a little dimmer.

but it was a glorious 10 minutes.

if you’ve ever forgotten yourself, fallen instead deep into your purpose, hit your “flow,” then you know how that feels.  you are beautiful because you ARE.  you are not “anything but”.

you are you, the one & only, & that is a gift.  you are beautiful.

i was listening to a song last night, as i snuggled in under an open window, & these lyrics spiraled out.

you are an artist.  you’re heart is your masterpiece.
–sleeping at last “i’ll keep you safe”

isn’t that the lovely truth?  you may not see it, & most days you can’t even begin to know how to feel it.  but it’s true, friends.

so scarily true, it hurts me to think you may not know it about yourself.  but you are art because you were assembled by the Creator.  & if you glance around you, well. He’s come up with some pretty dynamic stuff.

so believe it.  you are art, you were created for beauty.
your heart is your masterpiece, so take care of it.
you are one of the beautiful people.

much love.
XO,
~jill.

p.s. — i’m working on liking photos of myself.  i don’t need you to tell me you think i’m beautiful.  that’s nice of you, but it’s okay.  i know it now.  when all my hair fell out, when i was chubby, when i was anywhere between 14 & 25, i didn’t believe it, though it was just as true then as it is now.  but when all my hair fell out, Jesus started to speak, or i started to listen, & i began to understand that beauty had nothing to do with appearance.  every day, as my body moves toward its finality, i understand a little more wholly what truest beauty is.

we’re getting there, friends.  we’re getting there.

hide.


i guess i’ve developed a mild fascination.  i wrote an honest post, & then the sparks flew.  some people around me slid a little out of their skins, pushing their hearts out into the open.  it was beautiful;  i loved it.

other people around me picked up a hammer & nailed the door of themselves shut.  & then they threw the hammer deep into the woods.

turns out, not everyone is into transparency.  in fact, once you begin to let your guard down & flex your authenticity muscles, once your heart begins to beat at a truer pace, someone will walk up to you & suggest you kindly stop talking.  now.  before you embarrass us all.

we can’t tell people who we are, they will say to you.  they will mean it.

because, the thing is, authenticity, vulnerability, truth-telling isn’t what we’re good at.  we are super at saying what we’d like people to think, or nuzzling ourselves into a kind-of truth.  i do this.  we were sitting around a bonfire with friends the other day, newish friends we were just getting to know, & i heard myself recall part of my mothering story over marshmallows roasting & kids cramming in between us with sharp sticks.  but what i heard myself say startled me.  here i was, new authenticity-flag waver, paring down the details of how long i nursed my babies.  because, really, i didn’t want my new friends to think i’m some hippie freak with attachment issues.  (both of which are true, but completely beside the point.)

telling our truth can be hella scary, right?

but there is freedom there, in that wide-open space after the real us steps out into the open meadow.  after the scary truth is spoken.  the sky is brighter, the flowers more beautiful.  trust me, i’ve caught a whiff.  i’m going to try really hard to not go back into hiding.

i’ve said this before, but when i was younger, my biggest, scariest fear was losing all my hair.  which happened.  & maybe, just maybe, that was the best thing that could’ve happened to me.  it cracked a fissure for me to come out.

so, are you in?
we’re made to be pretty darn outstanding, you & i.
taking the polish off really does let us shine.

love to you as you tell your truth.
i’m with you.
XO.

~jill.

 

dangerous.

the danger of writing a post about being authentic is then people will see you.  & that is terrifying.  before i pushed “publish” on my last post, i thought about what certain people would think.  i mashed it around in my head, wondered if it was worth the risk.  but i’m so tired of holding up a self that doesn’t mesh with my own soul.  so i published.

what i didn’t anticipate was how much more myself i could be if only i’d be honest & straight-up with myself in the first place.  all day after i wrote about food stamps, i felt lighter.  i felt more confident, which is counterintuitive.  how could i be more confident when i just told you we’d failed?  but maybe the succeeding is in the telling.  i don’t know.  i have fewer answers lately.

but what i completely failed to anticipate was you.  i don’t know that i’ve ever felt so loved, so surrounded, so a part.  a part, instead of apart.  i’ve gone such long years feeling apart.  what i’m realizing is that much of that is my own making.  i’ve missed out on so much deep connection because i was afraid you’d see me.  but i didn’t realize if you saw me, when we see each other, we are free to move into the beauty of who we were meant to be.  you spoke so many thoughtful, heartfelt words into the dark, terrified places in me.  you brought light & chased away darkness.

& that’s where the danger is.  when we see each other, when we connect & move toward each other instead of away, we become dangerous.  suddenly we are empowered to be who we’re supposed to be.  & that sets off a fantastical chain response:  our significant others, our children, our friends & parents & second cousins & maybe even our dogs are freed up just a little bit, taking a step out of the tangle that mires them.  where we can get down to the business of being ourselves.  seen & seeing.

a sweet friend of mine fashions beautiful signs out of old wood, & she posted this the day after i last wrote.  it is my new banner.

it takes courage to grow up & become who you really are.

–e. e. cummings.

yes.  i want to become more & more who i really am, & i want you to be who you really are, too.  we are art, the both of us.  &, if we can see each other, we can connect.  & that is one of the most important things in the universe.  we were created for beauty, to be the art we were meant to be, & we were created to connect.

check this out.
“where no man is an island.  it’s where you’re supposed to be.”

we were created for each other.
thank you for showing me a side of myself i didn’t know was there.

& thank you for giving me bits of your heart:  in your generous words, in your generous spirit, in your generous help.

with much love & tremendous gratitude,
~jill.
XO.

taking the polish off.


it may have been a low point.

i was riding my bike to the mechanic, where i’d dropped off our van an hour before.  the van was acting up, but our other vehicle, a sweet old pick-up a friend gave us, was sitting in the drive-up with a broken heart & a dead battery.  andy wouldn’t be picking me up with her.  so, to get back from the mechanic after dropping off the van, i threw my bike with an old plastic baby seat strapped to it under the hatch & drove off.

why was i riding back to the mechanic, then?  well, what happened is when i got home the first time, andy walked into the kitchen, a pokemon cartoon still playing in the background, holding his eye.  he’d had a tension headache for the last many days, & it had started to affect the vision in his left eye.  so when i got home, he figured he should probably call nurse triage & see if the faceless voice on the other hand could help.

she could.  she said “come in right away.”

so, i was riding back to the mechanic on my old bike, which i may have forgotten to mention andy picked up at the dump & fixed.  except for the parts that had since stopped working, like most of the gears.  occasionally, even, just for fun, the chain launches up into the gears themselves & makes an atrocious grinding noise, threatening to seize the whole vehicle up & leave me pushing her home.  i said an honest-to-goodness prayer this wouldn’t happen before i got the mile & a half to pritchard’s.  also, i’m not good at bikes or hills, & my pant leg kept catching in the gears.  until i rolled them up, which was adorable.

as i was riding, wondering if this was a low point, i ticked off some of the other foibles as of late.  the thermostat had blown on our water heater months ago, which meant the water either scalded or ran cold, depending upon how recently it had been reset.  this adventure kicked off with draining one late night before a roadtrip.  this is fixable, sure.  we are diy-ers, we-meaning-andy.  but, really. who has time.

this water adventure goes nicely with the leaking drain under the kitchen sink.  for some mysterious reason, the sink basin won’t hold water & fills the bucket i use for catching puke.  this gets scummy, too, which is nice.

there are more, if you’ve got time:  the outdoor spigot the kids broke, the clothesline the kids broke hanging clothes “energetically.”  these happened on the same day.

then there are the less humorous discrepancies.  i have half a head of hair.  usually this is uncoincidental to me, but occasionly when i am walking out of a woman’s bathroom & meet another woman who backs up to make sure she’s going in the women’s & not the men’s, well, i guess that makes me a little wobbly.

i have a little one who has had teeth pulled because they were literally rotting out of his mouth.  i was supposed to be taking care of my kids, & i couldn’t get this one right.  two of my kids had dental surgery before the age of 4.  how much of a fail is that, when you do everything to be healthy & you still aren’t?  it isn’t my fault, but truth is pretty irrelevant sometimes.

we are on food stamps, a fact i am so remarkably ashamed of, i tear up writing this.  when i am in the checkout line at the grocery store, sometimes i have to force myself to not look around, wondering who is watching me swipe my green card.  truthfully, in the 3 years i’ve been writing here, i’ve always felt like a liar somehow by not telling you our fullest story.  we’ve always believed God would take care of us, & when andy lost his last church job, well, there wasn’t much money anymore.  i always swore i’d never lower myself to take a handout, but, well.  pride is an awful thing.  every year the amount the government gives us goes down, which means that andy’s income has gone up.  i am humbled, & i am different.

i think these shreds, these bits i’d rather shove under the couch cushions & forget about, are the threads that were meant to connect us.  i don’t think, anymore, that we’re only to show our polished selves.  it’s our brokenness, our vulnerability that connects us to each other.

when i was a little girl & my hair started falling out, i made my mom swear she wouldn’t tell anyone.  & i didn’t tell anyone, either.  not my teachers, my friends, no one.  not in elementary school or jr. high or high school.  i was so deeply terrified of someone discovering i had bald patches.  & because i wouldn’t let anyone in, i kept everyone out.  i knew my truest self was irreversibly flawed & i wouldn’t be accepted.  so i never gave anyone a chance.

i remember when andy first saw the bald spots i had in college.  i decided one night while we were hanging out in my apartment i wanted him to know.  there is something so sacred about being known.  i started to tell him, & he said he already knew.  he’d noticed once, when i was doing somersaults or something.  & he didn’t care.  he told me i was beautiful.  i cried.  of course.

so, anyway.  i’m listening to jars of clay tonight, & they always crack me open.  i just didn’t want you to feel you were alone, that in any way you were less than.  because that’s not possible.  you were created for beauty, & you are.  we are all in the same boat.

hopefully, though, we are not on the same bicycle.
because that would be ridiculous.

p.s. –after some steroids, andy is just fine.

unfinishing the lawn.

“just crawl up into the hay wagon & throw the bales down.  then put ’em in your car.”

i imagined the pause in my brain, the “um, what?  by myself?” to be audible. but the friend i was with didn’t blanch, so maybe i was the only one that heard the hesitation. i mean, i grew up on a farm, but i don’t know a blame thing about hay or hay wagons, & just shimmying up into one. . . well.  i felt the uncertainty, about hay, about gardening, about all of it in the way i remember feeling, standing in front of the big double doors at the hospital with a newborn in my arms.  only less life-threatening.

i did the climbing up, the throwing down, the loading, & no one said i didn’t belong in the hay wagon.  in fact, on the way home, i kept hearing bruno mars/mark ronson’s song, “uptown funk” with the catchy “don’t believe me, just watch” line.  i sang it at the top of my lungs rolling down the highway between all-kindsa farm country while the toddler slept in the back.

stripes & plaid, baby.

this, as you know, is plan B.  we had planned, in our master plan of britz life, to move to a homestead-ish place, erect a small living quarters, & begin tilling up the land.  we aimed to grow things.  to become a little more self-sustaining & self-sufficient.

andy has felt this way a long, long time about sustainability & self-sufficiency.  me, i’m later to the party.  but about a month before my hay wagon debut, i’d been grocery shopping at wal-mart when i was struck with the sad desperation that without a store, i couldn’t produce one iota of food for my family.  this has always been true, besides a sideline of kale that grows like a weed in my tiny garden.  for some reason, though, this bothers me now.  me & wal-mart, we just got personal.  i don’t appreciate your ease anymore, store.  you are stealing from me a self-sufficiency common to my grandmother.  but no more.  or, at least, i hope no more.

don’t believe me, well, we’ll just wait & see.

so, since we still live here, in a decidedly developed neighborhood, we are taking out the lawn.  unfinishing it.  food not lawns, as they say.  i’ve been working my arms out with a claw-like tool, shredding grass into shaggy orbs that get discarded in the ravine behind our house, while andy is the mastermind behind the design & layout, & all the hardest labor.  i’ve been planting seeds. some days with help, some days solo.

this happened for ten minutes one day.

we’re expecting, too.  chicks.  (come, now.  the newborn reference was not a lead-in).  fifteen little ladies on schedule to arrive next week in a box at the post office.  which is super exciting, except that we know nothing about poultry.  maybe less than nothing, if that’s possible.  these will be chickens for eggs, as opposed to chickens for meat.  eventually they’ll probably be in my stew pot, but here’s hoping that’s a long while off.

so, that’s where we’ve been.  in the yard, at the library for backyard homesteading books, bent over pencil-and-paper charts at the kitchen table to keep track of this newness.  cutting down trees, dragging limbs (tree, not child.  well, sometimes child.), sitting around a bonfire roasting hotdogs cuz mama ain’t got no dinna plan.



we’re giving square-foot gardening a try.

thal even put together this from the small living part of the treehouse tree that came down.it’s a heckuva lot of fun.  work, smashingly harder work than i’ve done in a long while, but fun.

& the bruno mars song, then.  you may as well watch, whether you believe this can work or not.  by myself, i’m trepidatious.  we’ve planted potatos upside down, tilled up already-planted peas.  i’m working around the schedule of four children (really?  didn’t i just feed you?).  andy suddenly has oodles of work.  but God pointedly has us here.  so, we’re not solo, whether we feel like it or not.

halle-freaking-lujah.felled tree for an outdoor table in the garden.  or smallish boy platform.  

unfinishing the basement.


it was the tall, four-legged orange tool-thing he set on the table that made me laugh.  the bottom third of an orange giraffe.  what it does?  i still don’t know.  I was sitting on the couch reading, balancing a toddler holding a knitting needle, while the huz walked a steady stream of tools out of the garage & into the house, across the kitchen, & down the stairs.

you see, we live in a house too big for us.  we had planned to move, to downsize so we could spend our time on more important things than a big house.  but Jesus is crazy, & here we are.

our main level is where we live, where we do all our art & cooking & reading & running around.  we would be fine if this were all we had.  but.

we have an entire second floor beneath us, with another entire living room, another bathroom, & so on.  it feels just that:  & so on.  to our family of six, it is superfluous.

so, we decided to unfinish our basement.  to move andy’s t-shirt room out in the main living area, scootch what was there upstairs or out the door, & then bring down armloads of tools & set up a maker’s space.  we had wanted to build a workshop outside, but we built it inside instead.  (work in progress. always, right?)
we never could’ve done this five years ago.  at that time, before we stuck our toes in the waters of minimalism, we had a houseful, with books stumbling out of bookshelves & teetering stacks creeping up the living room walls like literature ivy.  we had large & antique pieces of furniture, plenty of them heirlooms.  we had toys tumbling out of every crevice, never having thought to release anything into the beyond.

& then, one evening, sitting among stacks in our office with a toddler, a 4-year-old, & a 7-year-old in & out knocking all this important-ness over, i said,

“this is enough.”

we started just with that office, with one small stack in the corner, decluttering one file folder of manuals to appliances we no longer owned.  carload after carload filtered out the door.  garage sales were set up & torn down, again & again & again.  good homes were found for many heirlooms on craigslist.  the ten or twelve bins of kids’ clothes were siphoned down to one.

we brought the kids in on this, too.  i’ll never forget the day i took out their toy boxes, stored heaps in the basement, & set up just a few most-loved toys on a small bookshelf.  i did it at night & expected to wake up to their disappointment with their possessions having been stripped away.

what happened was the utter opposite:  the kids walked around their room, eyeing their toys as though they were in a toy store gazing on brand new things.  to them, they sort of were, having been hiding at the bottom of bins & boxes, the whole myriad of what they’d accumulated on display at all times, until that morning.  suddenly, they could see their favorite things without being bogged down with hoards (literally) of superfluity.

instead of tears, i got glee.
(& eventually they whittled the stored toys down themselves.)

the other bounty i harvested from our going minimalist was a truckload less picking up & putting away.  with less mugs in the cupboard, there are fewer dishes to wash.  with fewer toys, there is less mess (not less creativity or imagination.  truth!).  with a streamlined closet there are streamlined bodies.  just kidding.  (but fewer clothes means far less decision-making every morning.)

which brings us to now, when we’ve essentially given away our basement to the business.  do we miss it?  nope.  andy has room to breathe for t-shirt printing, & i have half the house to clean.  maybe someday, when the house is full of gangly teenagers (OY. VEY.), we’ll repurpose this space again.  but for now, this is the tweak that works.

plus, we saved ourselves thousands  of dollars by converting the basement into a t-shirt shop & a maker’s space instead of building two additional outbuildings.


but what, really, does this matter to you?  maybe nothing, but maybe you’ve been frustrated with the volume of things you have to manage.  maybe you’ve been rethinking the layout of your home but are afraid to do something different because it’s unconventional.  (unconventional can be scary;  i get it.  i came home once with a hoop in my nose.  that was a little scary.)

but our spaces should be like our lives, full of intention.

minimalism only means removing the things in your life, whether it’s possessions or commitments or whatever, so there is more room for the most important things.  like this guy.
so, give it a whirl.  you don’t have to cancel whole floors in your house.  but you could repurpose a drawer or throw out all the mangled twisty ties that get tangled in the scissors in the junk drawer.  you could donate those jeans that don’t fit & haven’t for years.  it’s okay.  you’re fantastic just the way you are, & you don’t need old jeans telling you otherwise.

& if you need a little inspiration, i’ve had this song on repeat all week:

because the truth is, we are all enough, & neither our stuff nor our homes define us.

keep tweaking the machine, friends.
it’s getting good.

XO.
~jill.