What I Did on My Summer Vacation

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So, the first part of summer kind of kicked my tail.

I had big plans – truly – to finish a bunch of projects and to write often because of ALL THE TIME that would magically appear without school or sports or other extra curriculars. BIG. PLANS.

I was also the mom at the beginning of summer rejoicing at the thought of long, unstructured days, singing the praises of getting bored and open-ended play. Who needs summer camps, I said. We have a backyard, I said.

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About the middle of July, dark clouds started forming. I felt that we (I) had accomplished nothing, we were all starting to get on each other’s nerves (even in the backyard), and the prospects of my mom’s visit, week-long church camp, and our family trip to Southern California were still too far in the distance. I started planning camps for Summer 2016. I started organizing play dates with reckless abandon. I gritted my teeth and survived.

And then, after family visits, camp, and vacation, we got back into town, cleaned our clothes and our rooms, swept away the pine needles and the sand, and had a summer restart. And it’s been pretty great.

I started embracing the slow moments and the unscheduled time and, instead of trying to fill them with errands or projects or crossing things off the to-do list (or feeling guilty about not doing them), I just let them be.

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And so, on the last Tuesday before heading back to school, I found myself reading a book on the daybed while the kids played in the backyard. I found myself drawing in my journal while BB and BG drew in theirs. I found myself browsing books at the library, following their whims (books on costume-making and papercrafts and dragons and masks and doll houses).

I found myself writing.

Honestly, these are all the things I aspired for our summer to be. And they are mostly the same things we were doing at the beginning of the summer, but with more joy and peace in these last few weeks. What was different?

We changed our perspective.

Or maybe it was just me. I changed my perspective.

I saw what was most important in my day. I let go of my agenda for what we should be doing and embraced theirs. And, amazingly, I accomplished what I needed and wanted as well – the dishes and the errands, and also the reading and the writing and the creating.

Ideally, all these “One Little Word” lessons would stick with me – purposeful, slow, refine – but in reality, I have to keep learning them over and over and over again.

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But I think that’s what LIFE is about – about seeking a restart daily, about adjusting our perspective to a bigger one, about new mercies every morning and every moment.

And while I’m sure we’ll be doing a couple of organized camps next summer (I’m not crazy), I hope that the unstructured time we do have will be more like these last few weeks of summer instead of the first.

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Sorry for the long, unintended blogging break (see above)! How has your summer been? What are you learning in this season of life right now (big or small, simple or profound, serious or funny)? I’d love to hear. And thanks for reading!

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One Little Word 2015: An Update

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I’m reading a book that I’m having a hard time putting down.

Actually I’m reading two books I can’t put down because, a few months ago, I developed a habit of reading a non-fiction book during the day and a fiction book at bedtime. I didn’t create this system – I’ve heard about it lots of places – but I have found it to be a great practice. I use my more awake and alert hours to read books for knowledge, and I use the quieter evening hours for books that help me wind down, relax, escape.

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While my fiction book is by my bed, my non-fiction book is always in my bag. I read it at the gym, I read it during naptime, I read it during spare minutes I find during the day.

I took it to the park over the weekend to read while my kids played. (Moms of young kids, take heart. Your day is coming. I remember taking my kids to the park just a few years ago and seeing a mom sitting on a bench reading US Weekly, and even though I’m more of a House Beautiful girl myself, I was overwhelmed with envy. But here I am, a blink of an eye later, being that mom. There is hope!)

As I was taking turns reading and watching BB and BG play, another parent, noticing my book, struck up a conversation, asking if I was thinking of starting a business. My response? “Uh, yeah, maybe.”

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The truth is, I HAVE a business. It’s tiny, it’s not profitable by any stretch of the imagination, and I’ve been treating it very much like a hobby. But making jewelry is a business I have, and it’s one I hope to grow.

I find tremendous joy in making jewelry. I love making new things from old things. I love imagining what these items were before and what they could be with a little attention and creativity.

And at the center of that is my true passion – finding beauty in the possibilities.

I believe that all of us – ALL OF US – have beauty. We all have been created with possibilities – we have skills and talents and passions that have been given to us to share with the world because they are good and they are helpful and they serve a purpose. They serve other people. They somehow weave together to help us love other people, and to love them well.

And while I’m flipping and flopping along on this journey of discovering what exactly I’m made to do and who exactly I am supposed to be, when I dig deep inside, I see that there is a theme.

That I am a glass half-full kind of gal who sees possibility in things that others look beyond. That there is beauty to be found in unexpected places. That there is potential in a discarded necklace, a donated dress, a free chair on the side of the road.

And there is beauty and possibility in us, too. Something greater than the sum of our parts. A spark, a light, a special something that only we – YOU – have that is meant to be shared with the world.

I believe we are all called to do extraordinary things, even in our ordinary lives.

Lately, I’ve been filling my life with lots of ordinary things – some of them necessary, lots of them good, and some, to be honest, a complete waste of time.

So, as I’ve been reading my book this week, a couple of words keep appearing – simplify and refine.

Funny how these things come back to you.

I see that there are many good things to choose from in my life.

I’m trying to dig through all the things I “love” to find what is real and true and abiding.

I am still refining. And I think I will continue to refine for the duration of my days.

And for today, refining looks like doing what I really love to do, so I’m making a necklace.

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I’m collecting loose pieces from old, broken, discarded things and using them to create new, beautiful objects.

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Five Things

Hello! Happy Friday!

I’m back. It’s been a strange season – wrapping up our first school year experience, finding our summer rhythm, tying up lots of loose ends. I don’t think I have used my sewing machine in over a month, and I haven’t made jewelry either. But this week, I made time for a little of both, and it brought me so much joy.

What have we been up to? It’s hard to really say why we have been so busy. We’ve been immersed in house stuff – finishing up the outdoor projects (reveal coming soon!), painting walls and doors, rearranging furniture, and cleaning out.

Remember I was reading this book? (I talked more about it here.) I thought I would need to reread it monthly, but it seems that it took a few months to fully sink in. I am now completely entrenched in decluttering our house. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m no pack rat, but something in the last few weeks really clicked, and I’ve committed to getting rid of ALL the excess. I have never been more enthusiastic about cleaning in my life.

Here are some other things that have been on my mind lately:

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1. Instagram. I finally jumped on the bandwagon. Just like blogging, I followed other people for a while before posting myself. And I’m loving it! (I’m @beautifulobjs if you want to follow along.) I think it is making me a little more mindful and attentive to what’s going on around me during the moment. (And my obsession with rainbow color order lives on!)

2. This made me surprisingly emotional. I have thought of it often over the last few weeks. Beautiful.

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3. The Forest Feast. I have seen reviews of this book on various blogs, so when I stumbled on it at my library, I added it to my overflowing bag. (Do you do this, too? I probably check out 10 books at a time. I know I will never read all of them, but in the moment, I just can’t choose. It still makes me giddy that I get to take them home with me. FOR FREE!) After reading only a handful of pages of this book, I knew I needed a copy for my own bookshelf. I want to live in its pages. Erin Gleeson’s photography and hand lettering are beautiful, and every recipe looks simple and wonderful. (Her blog, The Forest Feast, is lovely as well.) Reading it made me long for fall (even though we’ve just dived into summer) and to throw a party. It’s definitely time to throw a party.

4. This was fun. I saw this months ago, and put in Nicole (the name I have always gone by but which is actually my middle name – I’m from the South, we do that a lot), and the description that came up was not super accurate. It came across my path again, and this time I tried my actual first name. WHOA! Ridiculously accurate. Have you tried this? If you do, I’m curious about your results. Leave me a comment and let me know what you think.

5. Speaking of parties, this made me laugh. (I’m an ENFP. You?)

What are you up to this weekend? It’s going to be hot, so there will be trips to the pool, afternoon movies and popcorn, and house painting. Always more painting. I’m also in the middle of three books right now, so I’m hoping to finish one of them. So I can take it back to the library and get some more books, of course. Hope you have a great one!

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