Sunday, November 13, 2011

Making Life Rich

I've undertaken a project this week.  A week-long photographic documentation of our lives, that will be put together in scrapbook form, sometime in the near future.  I was inspired by the very inspiring Ali Edwards, and in this case I've taken her idea and tweaked it a bit.  My book will be 100% digital.  I find the process of creating a digital book to be more streamlined and simple for me.  It's also significantly less expensive than traditional scrapbooking.  Instead of bits of daily ephemera I've decided to supplement my good-camera photos with camera phone snaps, and photos that the kids took with our old point and shoot camera to give the finished product a more homey, eclectic feel.

So that's what I'm doing, and since it's my last day of full-time camera toting, and tomorrow I'll be icing my sore wrist (that thing is heavy!) I've been reminiscing.  Through this week I've had a chance to observe myself and learn about how I live now - and how I can live in the future.  This opportunity to learn came partially because full-time life documentation causes you to kick bad habits to the curb, stop sweating the small stuff, and just make life a little more interesting.  In this case it started because this week will be permanently remembered in a book - but it ended up shining a light on things for me. 


We can go to the children's museum for an hour, before running harried afternoon errands. 
We can bake cookies after dinner and eat them while they're still warm. 
I can let the kids assemble their own pizzas, rather than doing it my way. 
We can rent a 99cent movie and have more fun together watching it than we would have had at the movie theater. 
We can have tea together and let the day's noise just fade into the background.
Monday - Favorite Mug

Thursday, November 3, 2011

How did things get so bad?

The kids are playing chess, we've just returned from an evening grocery run on a cold, but cozy night.  It's times like this that I am able to look at our life and feel grateful for what we have.   Blankets for miles, more board games than logic would typically permit, a sweet puppy dog, and lots of other great things.  It's times like this that I feel like ME.  The mom, wife and woman I'm meant to be. 

I started out as a rougher version of this woman, too.  When my husband and I were first married I was a lot like I am now, with more knee-jerk reactions and less patience.  I would have liked to have kept all the good and gotten rid of the bad, but instead I had to get far away from this place so that I could see how great it really is.  I had to walk to the edge of reason to understand my own longing for a simpler life.  I have often wondered how I went from a creative, crafty, memory-keeping, let's-do-something-fun kind of girl; to a busy, tired, burdened, unavailable woman.  I think that one benefit of sharing my story in a public format like this is the chance to figure that out.  WHAT HAPPENED TO ME?

My husband and I were married when we were ridiculously young, we were lovestruck teenagers with flowery-at-best ideas about what kind of life was in store for us.  When I became pregnant within mere days of our wedding, we suddenly had to get serious about life. 

In those first years, we tried to do it all.  We planned to stay in college, and keep working, and raise our kids (yes, we had another barely more than a year after the first one was born!)  It was too much for our young marriage, though.  After a few failed experiments in partial downsizing, my husband ultimately quit both school and his small children's ministry job at our church to focus solely on his budding career.  He had a full scholarship and endless possibilities, but ultimately we had to prioritize our marriage and young babies.  It wasn't what we planned, but even then we knew that there wasn't much to be done to save our plans. All this left me home alone, day in and day out, with two babies.  We even sold our second car to pay our co-pay for my daughter's birth. 

My plan to pitch in was simple, while staying home with the kids full-time I'd make money in any simple way I could.  I sold my handicrafts and many of our belongings on eBay.  I eventually got a part-time job near my husband's, scheduling my shifts so we'd need as little babysitting as possible, and carpooling to work.

Along the way I grew my childhood hobby of photography into a passion, and by 2004 I was prepared to leave my part-time job and start my own business.  It wasn't scary, because in my mind, it all seemed so simple.  And in the early days, it was.  I started out being elated at every phone call.  I felt such immense pride every time I was paid for my work.  I literally could not believe I was driving home with a check in my hand, with my name on it.  The sense of accomplishment I felt was overwhelming.

Over time my photographic work ballooned into something I never could have envisioned for myself.  I was working every single day, taking business related phone calls while we were on vacation, and working at the computer until 3am on a regular basis.  Of course, all this hard work did open up some amazing opportunities and for a time it all seemed like the sacrifices were justifying the rewards.

But I was struggling.  My patience with my husband, children and people in general, was fading.  I was sacrificing months-upon-months of my year to complete busyness, then when the slow season came again, I was depressed because my entire sense of self-worth was wrapped up in being busy all the time.  When I thought about taking a step back and giving myself a break, I talked myself out of it.  Instead I hired consultants who pushed me to work more, do more, be more.  And so I dove deeper.

Of course, throughout this time, much of the money I earned was spent on conveniences that made it possible for me to work constantly.  Things like restaurant meals, help with office tasks, and lots of I'm-working-too-hard-and-I-deserve-a-new-thing purchases, were bought before I even noticed how much there really was to spend.

It wasn't until I was sitting at the computer one night, considering how much more work I should take on, so I could afford a full-time nanny for my kids that

it hit me. 


I was going to work MORE! So I could spend MORE money? So I could pay someone to care for my kids?

It didn't make sense.  It didn't make sense for me and for our family.  It hit me that I'll never be able to go anywhere, I'll never be able to relax, I'll never be able to enjoy my life, while I'm working this way. 

I applaud women who can work full-time or run their own businesses and still find time to love their life, but as it turned out, I just wasn't one of those people.  Maybe I could have made it work through more self-discipline and better strategies.  In fact, I'm sure I could have.  But when I laid out the pros and cons it just didn't make sense anymore.

Of course the time between realizing that things had gotten out of hand, and actually changing the way things were, wasn't so easy.  I had wrapped so much of my identity up in being a business owner, I had given my entire sense of personal worth over to it, and it wasn't (still isn't!) easy to give up.  I still have days where I start making a little mental plan on how to relaunch my business. 

But I truly feel that this is where God has me.  This is what my kids, my husband and I needed.  We needed a simple life.  Today, I am more grateful than I can even say for the change in our day-to-day routine, and I hope to open myself up to more opportunities to grow, each day.