February–Full Circle

Those of you who have been here a long time might remember that back in the summer of 2011, a couple we met in Harrisville, Michigan captured our imagination:

(Me back then).

(Beanie and Megan back then).

That summer, Megan and Corey–both recent college graduates at the time–lived aboard for more than 4 months and sailed the Lakes, before ending the summer with a wedding aboard on Grand Traverse Bay.  While we ended that season early after running aground, we followed their adventures for a number of years.  After proceeding to a honeymoon in Thailand, their adventures were followed by a newlywed settling-down time, followed by another summer of cruising, followed by a new baby, followed by…wait for it…a motor home and a move from Michigan to Texas!

They moved to Austin, which is a few hour away from Houston, but we have been following their blog and waiting for the time to be right for a meet-up.  And that happened this weekend.  We spent our Valentine’s day having a lovely get-together with Megan, Corey, and their 6-month-0ld son, Danforth.  

Beanie by our new table.

Beanie by our new table.

Picnic on the island!

Picnic on the island!

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Us, now!

Us, now!

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Tall bike ride!

Tall bike ride!

I hope you spent this wonderful February weekend in the company of friends and family as well!

Simplifying the Season

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I used to describe the holidays as a “bucket of stress.”

I worked right up to the day before Christmas eve, I spent more powder than I could afford on plundering, I spent my week off marauding all over the state, from one gathering to another, and got scurvy from eating nothing but sugar. Me crew was feeling mutinous, and I couldn’t wait to get back to high seas!

Then, as I embraced simple living, I began to think, “There must be a better way.”

Of course, there was.  Over time, we began to stop trying to do it all and create a Norman Rockwell holiday.  Instead, we found traditions that worked for us.

And as I talked to other minimalists, I learned that I was certainly not alone in my efforts to rethink the holidays.  In hearing other people’s ideas, we were able to create a holiday season that was not just low-stress, but actually fun.

It is in that spirit that I am offering you our first Simplify the Season calendar.  From Black Friday until New Year’s Day, you will receive daily e-mail tips on:

  • Routines and Organization
  • Holiday Preparations
  • Family Fun
  • Minimalism/Decluttering
  • Mental Decluttering
  • Gratitude
  • Giving Back

A group of us have been working together to offer you a variety of ideas.  You will be receiving posts from me, but you will also be hearing from these bloggers:

Interested?  For only $1.50, you will receive the daily e-mail tips as well as a PDF version of the calendar with your last post.  The profits will all be donated to a charity, which will be unveiled later this week.

Let’s make this a simple, stress-free, and FUN season this year!

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How We’re Really Missing Out

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A few months ago, I made the decision to rejoin Facebook.

I loved reconnecting with my friends and family up north, as well as sharing ideas in a less in-depth venue, with the many blogging buddies I met during my time away from FB.  I had found the muse once again with blogging, and I found the three blogging groups I joined to be very helpful in my efforts to increase exposure.

It was great.  And then it slowly began to take  over.

First, I found myself playing catch-up after days when I didn’t log in.  I had to read everything in my newsfeed, and one day off could lead to a lot of time spent making up for it.  Because what if I missed big news from someone?

I (mostly) stayed true to my commitment not to discuss politics at all, but I clicked on everyone’s links, even when the articles they led me to were anything but uplifting.

I made sure to visit everyone’s blogs in my blogging groups, so that I could comment on their posts before it was “too late.”  I was spending a great deal of time reading about everyone’s adventures.

And of course I had to login on a daily basis, to be there for my online friends who were going through challenging times.

And then there was the drama.  Facebook has been a hotbed for that lately.  And watching it has been like watching a train wreck.

A couple of days ago, I caught myself rushing home to start up my computer and check in on the latest drama.  And I finally had to ask myself, what am I doing?  What am I getting out of this?  Aren’t there things I would rather be doing?

This moment of clarity really led me to think about the time I spend online and to rethink my use and perception of this tool.  I had fallen prey to Fear of Missing Out.  And in doing so, I was missing out on opportunities for joy and happiness that were right in front of my face.

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Here are a few of the lessons that I learned:

  • We don’t always need to be around “like-minded” people.  There is something wonderful about connecting with people who share ideas and are living in the same counter-cultural way that we are.  Before we moved to the marina, I knew very few “minimalists” in real life.  It was through my conversations with other bloggers that I learned how to live as simply as we do, and gained the courage to take the plunge and do it!  However, there is a danger in viewing ourselves as “separate.”  We are a part of humanity, not just a small subgroup.  Having friends who are different from ourselves adds some color to our day and allows us the chance to learn from each other and grow.
  • It’s okay to miss out on the details of someone’s life.  It is okay to not get caught up on your newsfeed.  It is fine to miss someone’s blog post.  If somebody has big news, they will contact you personally, if they need to!  There is no need to miss out on the world around us, because we are busy getting caught up on everyone else’s world.  And I won’t hate you if miss a post here–nobody else will, if you miss one of their posts, either!
  • Online “friendships” need to be kept in perspective.  It’s true that you never know everything about someone else, but we see a very limited picture of those we interact with online.  Even when we try to keep it “real,” it is a very censored version of ourselves that others see.  It is valuable to share ideas and gain support from people we meet online.  But these are not the same as friendships and relationships in “real life.”
  • There is no persona that we need to protect.  We become involved in drama, because we feel the need to defend the person that everyone online thinks we are.  The drama we see online is much more intense and prevalent than the drama we encounter in “real life.”  This could be because everyone works so hard to create a “face” for themselves online, and we feel the need to protect the way we appear.  There is nothing to defend though.  If a total stranger, on the other side of the globe, “judges” us, so what?  In the grand scheme of things, does that matter at all?

Keeping these lessons in mind, I am finding it much easier to be intentional with my time spent using social media, and my online time in general.  With a little practice, we can learn to use this tool to enrich our lives, rather than having it use us.

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Ebb and Flow

I’ve taken some time off, and slowed my posting, since we’ve moved to Houston.  And I’ve felt very torn, wondering if I want to start posting again on a regular basis.

The pictures are from our visit to Kiwi on Sunday!

The pictures are from our visit to Kiwi on Sunday!

Writing has been therapeutic for me, and I am glad I shared my journey with all of you, two winters ago.  I’ve made many friends through blogging, who I feel every bit as close to, as my real life friends.

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But there is an ebb and flow to every relationship, to every community, and to life in general.  A number of my closest friends within the community that developed around this blog, have said their goodbyes to the blogging world.  So many of us have told their story and are ready to move on and just live their lives.

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I couldn’t help but wonder if it was time for me to do the same.

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And for a time, it was.  While sharing my inner journey was helpful for a time, I found that I wanted it to be more and more private.  It’s my journey, and I need to learn to trust myself enough, to hear that voice within.  I needed a break to do just that.

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And to re-evaluate my current course and position.  I had boldly moved across the country.  Yet I had run away from nothing.  I needed to understand my current reality, and to clarify my next moves.

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The four walls of this apartment have become a gilded cage.  But I know that there is a place out there where I always feel truly alive.  There is a scent to the air, in that place, that fills my body with life.  That awakens my spirit, and my passion.

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And as I make my way back to that place, my hands itch to write.  Writing is life to me, as much as eating and breathing.  And as I move toward life, my words must once again fill the page.

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For many, writing was the means by which they moved toward a new life.  It was the vehicle that helped them to reach their dreams.  And once the dreams were realized, there was no longer any need for them to write.  Blogging was an important part of their journey, but the time for it came and went.

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It’s taken me awhile to realize that it is perfectly fine, that my journey is different.  Writing is something that I must continue to do.  I may take breaks, to regain my focus, and to adjust its role in my life, but in the end, I will always be writing.

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My purpose is what it always has been.  And there is still a community here, even if it has changed.  If you’ve been with us all along, we’re glad you’re still here.  If you are new, you are welcome.  

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Life has many more adventures in store for us.  And I look forward to sharing them all with you.

Falling in Love All Over Again

The past week, I have been visiting family in Michigan.  We had some great times, and it was nice to see everybody again.  As always, it was quite the party!

It was strange being back, however.  We found our way around our old hometown easily, because we know it like the back of our hands.  It seemed strangely small and quaint.  While we loved seeing our families, we found that we didn’t have the urge to visit all of the places we used to love.  Maybe it’s just too soon after our move for us to feel nostalgic, but up north just didn’t feel like home anymore.

So where is home?

I pondered this question as we drove through the endless (and–I’ll admit it–mindnumbingly boring) farm fields of the Grand Prairie.  I thought about it as we treated ourselves to a night at the Embassy Suites in Little Rock, after the 14 hours of driving that first day (I was so delighted to see the lights of downtown at night, as opposed to…grass…).  I thought about it as I made my descent down highway 59 in Texas–the only two-lane road I’ve ever seen, with a speed limit of 75 (I had to dodge a cow, which was a little scary).  And then, in the sixth hour of driving that second day, highway 59 went from two lanes to eight, and I got my answer.

This is home.

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Seeing downtown at night, as we returned, I knew that this wonderful city is where I belong right now.  We’re privileged to be here, with the lights and palm trees and water. 

With that in mind, I am going to be taking a blogging sabbatical for the month of January.  I knew already that it was time to find focus and establish some routines in my life.  I am January’s only fan–I love it because it begins a long period of stability, after the craziness of the holidays.  There is a reason we make New Year’s resolutions; it is during the post-Christmas winter that we have the time to be consistent and to work on them.

But now I also know that I need to take this time off to focus on the life that is in front of me.  I’ve been living here for four months, and I haven’t even adequately explored my own neighborhood, much less the entire city.  This is the new life that I yearned for so desperately last winter, and I am not going to spend it inside, in front of the computer.  So this break is a time for me to re-focus and to re-center my life on reality, not on the computer screen.  Surely my writing, and my online relationships have a place here.  I’ve discussed this shift so much in my blogging, but I am not walking the talk.

I will continue with my Simple Abundance group, but I am taking a break from all other online activities during the month of January.  Tomorrow, I will add some pictures from our Christmas adventures, at the end of this post.

I invite you, also, to use this time of stability to establish some positive routines, look deeply at yourself and your life, and to spend some time enjoying the world around you.  It’s all real, and it’s all there for the taking!

 

Time and Understanding

Throughout this move, I have learned a wealth of information.  And I have shared it all with you.

Thank you for accepting my honesty, and for seeing what lies beneath the masks and behind the walls.

I hope I have inspired all of you to live more authentically, and I hope that you are taking off your masks and tearing down the walls as well.

I appreciate all of your kind words, as I have struggled with the direction my writing should take.  Your encouragement has meant a lot to me.

So much to me, in fact, that I have been seeking it out, rather than breaking forth into the “real” world, as I have said I would.  I have been hiding in this safe community, desperately seeking what it can no longer give me.

It’s time for the praise, the kind words, and the encouragement to come from within.

Recently, I had a wake-up call when I developed a ridiculous amount of skin hives all over my body.  I was diagnosed with an unexplainable, likely stress-related inflammatory condition, and the doctor was recommending oral steroids.  I negotiated down to a cream, but I do realize that by not managing stress, not taking care of myself, and not dealing with what needs to be dealt with, I am harming my body, as well as my mind.  I know that stress can do much worse than this, and that my physical and mental health depend on my restoring the balance.

I will keep writing.  I’m working on my book, albeit a bit behind schedule.  And I will go forward with the Advent Calendar.  I will continue to give two away each day, to subscribers (selected using a random number generator), until November 17.  Then, they will continue to be for sale, for $1.99.

But I am going to take a break from blogging and (most) e-mail, probably until Black Friday.  I have talked about such breaks, frequently, but now I see the seriousness of my situation.  I see how being constantly plugged in has increased, rather than decreased, my stress level.  I see how I have been seeking approval for myself, rather than truly sharing my life lessons.

I will be back, and I will have a lot to share with all of you.  Don’t worry about that.

But, in the meantime, please spend most of your days away from that screen. The answers are not online.

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Why Are We Here?

Lately, I’ve been feeling like my head is spinning.

In realizing what I’ve realized about selfishness, and looking for assurance and approval from the wrong places, I’ve been rethinking the time that I spend online.

What am I doing here?

I’ve developed a tight-knit group of friends, in the other bloggers I have been corresponding with. And yet, I’ve noticed that I have been relying on many of these friends to provide me with a sense of worth. I’ve spent far more time involved with the online blogging community, because it is a place where I feel safe and accepted.

Safety and acceptance were not going to happen, in my old situation. I needed the escape, and I desperately needed the support. I needed help getting on the right path.

But now, clinging to the old ways is preventing me from jumping out there and embracing my new reality. I spend time online, rather than interacting with the people around me. The online community has become my primary reality.

When I am experiencing life in the “real world,” I am thinking about how I will write about it, whom I will e-mail about it, and whether it will make a nice blog post. I am experiencing everything with a reality show-style narrative running through my head.

Being online is not even a “guilty pleasure.” It’s a crutch and an escape that I have outgrown. In the way that I used to use it, it no longer serves me well.

So why AM I here?

I tell myself that I am here to establish writing as an income source, so that I will have that when we leave port. In order to do that, I have been working very hard, spending many hours, trying to increase my readership here. I have become involved in social networking once again, and most of my evenings are spent in front of the computer.

I have found, that this new goal has made writing less rewarding for me. I am not enjoying the blogging community, in the way that I used to. I’ve found that it has become very high-pressure, and my mind is feeling cluttered. I find that I visit many blogs, but there are so many, that I don’t have time to actually read them all. I skim through the posts, so that I can leave my all-important comment (and linK!!!).

But I do it, because I want to be successful self-publishing. I need to get readership up, so that more people will actually buy my book.

In other words, I was in the process of selling out.

It’s time to refocus on my purpose, and my ideals. I am writing the book to share, and we’ll see if anyone finds it. I do not want to waste any more of my life, in front of the computer screen. If I am spending time here, I will be doing things that matter.

I will become even more of an e-mail slacker, touching base with my friends once a week, unless there is something more pressing. I will visit only the blogs I love, once a week. And I will post once a week, because I don’t think that you should visit a blog more often than that.

My page rank and Alexa score will go down. I will not be linked to from any of the larger blogs.

I will hide my stats, because I am not here for stats. I will quit all social networking sites (again).

I am here to learn from and share ideas with all of you. And I will continue to do that. I’m just getting rid of all the clutter.

Because, folks, there is a real world out there. It’s time to stop saying that we should spend less time online. It’s time to do it.

Look at the community we’ve created here. Look at all the great things you’ve done on your blogs. What if we brought that kind of love, that kind of unconditional support, and that kind of creativity out into our communities?

It’s time to go out there and change the world.

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