Archive for the Category ◊ General ◊

• Tuesday, February 03rd, 2015

imageIt happened again. Another woman came up to Willow at church, bemoaning the fact that her husband isn’t appreciating their new “ambient lighting” (read: candles she bought from Willow last month) or that he has to plug in the satellite TV box half an hour before any game because she keeps it unplugged to “avoid the intrusion of the world on our home.”  He likes the sports part of the world, thank-you-very-much, and is sick of being made to feel like he’s sub-par for it.

Their counters are covered with tomato and pepper seedlings.  From the sounds of it, they’ll have enough plants to feed half of Fairbury.

We won’t even talk about how unimpressed said husband was over his newly darned socks.  I believe Willow said his words were, “When I hear ‘darned socks’ I hear it as the euphemism it should be.”  Apparently he doesn’t like the lumpiness around his heel.  Imagine that.

I expected Willow to tell the woman to learn to do what made her happy without infringing on the rest of her family’s preferences.  I’ve heard her say that before.  She suggested to one woman that just because the TV is in the house, doesn’t mean she has to turn it on.  She told the same woman that it wasn’t wasteful to make her own bread–even if she’s the only one who wants it. “Roman Meal” for hubby and kids and artisan style breads for her–there’s nothing wrong with both.  So, that’s where I was expecting her to go with the conversation.

She didn’t.

I’ll never forget her words.  “Denise, why do you want to cut out the electricity and grow a garden?  Why do you want to darn socks?”

It seemed like kind of an obvious answer to me, but I waited to see if Denise would say something else–something I hadn’t thought of.  She didn’t.  She said, “I love the peace and joy you have in your home.  I love the purposefulness of your life.  I want that for my life–for our family’s life.”

I sat back and waited for the words I’d told myself a thousand times.  Waited to hear, “Live your life with purpose.  Don’t try to dictate the purpose of others’ lives.”

Again, she didn’t say it.  This time, her shoulders squared a little.  I saw her lips tense and her eyes narrow, and I admit, I had to swallow twice to choke down the lump that formed in my throat.  Denise was going to get what Josh and I call a “Willow switching.”

In those very calm, scary cool tones she can get when struggling to control her temper, Willow shook her head and said, “Don’t do it, Denise.  Don’t try to copy my life or anyone else’s in an attempt to find the perfect formula for yours.  I do what I do because I love it!  I am not joy-filled and purposeful because I don’t use electricity for everyday life.  It’s the other way around.  I’m joy-filled and purposeful, and as a result, I don’t choose to use it.”  When Denise started to protest–when she insisted that copying Willow was the only way she knew how to try, Willow dropped the final bomb.

“You, my friend, are guilty of lifestyle idolization.  I want no part of it.  Go home.  Throw away your holey socks.  Plug in your conveniences.  Go shopping online.  Then pull out your Bible and search it for what the Lord wants for your life.  If it is growing vegetables and writing by candlelight in the evenings, then add carrots to your garden and make an appointment with your optometrist and then go for it.  But you may find that it’s designing digital scrapbook elements or writing a travel blog.  Maybe it’s just being a wife and mother. Maybe it’s starting your own company.  Whatever it is–make it yours.  Stop trying to be someone you’re not.”

Yeah.  I went home from church that day and had a long talk with Josh.  I definitely am guilty of “lifestyle idolization” sometimes.  And because of it, sometimes I overlook how much my husband gives up of his own comfort and preferences to please me.  That’s got to stop.


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• Wednesday, January 21st, 2015

491243931Becca’s nesting.  It started in the barn.  I went out to oversee the trade-out of goats and wow.  That barn has never been that clean–even when Mother got so mad at me for refusing to give up my afternoon at the fishing hole to help her build a loom I didn’t want in the first place. She brushed down every wall in an attempt not to let me have it for my selfishness. As an aside, can I just say I’d give anything to be able to forgo fishing for Mother’s happiness?

The kitchen actually sparkled in the sunlight.  She polished every single surface.  then she went out and disinfected everything connected to the stalls.  Yes. Disinfected.  I had to make her leave the animals out all night so they could BREATHE.  *see, I already learned to use “all caps” to emphasize a word.*

Once she polished every hinge, knob, and latch (yes, she did), she went out to the family chicken coop.  Stop laughing.  She did.  While chicken hawks soared overhead and threatened the existence of my flock, Becca power sprayed (that thing is amazing!) the coop down and then took a steel wire brush to the more stubborn… deposits.

Then she painted it.

I can’t stop laughing just thinking about it.  Mid-painting, Josh arrived.  For those who haven’t met him, Josh is a very sensitive man.  He’s protective but not like Chad.  Chad would be concerned with me climbing the roof to shovel off snow.  He’d yell at me to get down and then get all quiet until he controlled his anger at me for being selfish.  Josh just walked over to that coop–rare enough in and of itself–and led her over to the porch.  He brought her a pillow to sit on, a glass of water, and a couple of cookies.  Then he went and finished painting the coop.  In case the significance of that action is not obvious, I’ll state it bluntly. Josh and house paint do not mix.  Josh and chicken yards do not mix.  Josh hates dirty work, smelly work, and “handyman” stuff.

But Josh loves Becca.  And that’s what made it so beautiful.

I know he would like to think that was the end of her “nesting.”  It was only the beginning.

The trailer came next.  I admit, I went over there and just sat to watch.  I’ve never seen anything more fascinating.  And before you ask me how I could let a VERY pregnant woman do all that work by herself, just remember that she’s pregnant–and bossy.  I don’t think even I was that bossy with the boys.  For the record, she is delightfully charming about it.  She gives orders that she follows up with apologies and offers to do nice things for you.   So she ordered me to sit, practically begged me to forgive her for being rude, and offered me tea and cookies.

Then she went on a rampage.  It was quiet, methodical, and gently done, but it was still a rampage.  She reminded me of that woman I met at the ladies’ conference–the one who is all about de-cluttering.  I think Becca bagged up half their possessions.  Josh says that he took it all to a storage unit.  He said I could publish this as a gentle way to let her know that it’s not gone yet.  I’ve never seen that trailer so clean, and Becca and Josh both keep a very clean house.

But by far the sweetest thing has been the diligence with which she has devoted every free moment to preparing clothing for this child.  She designed and sewed diapers in three separate sizes.  Then she sewed, knitted, and quilted several blankets.  She  sewed her own socks!  For the baby, I mean. She’s made sleepers, toys, and attempted to make new nursing bras–and failed.

But she did all of this in the space of three weeks and while keeping up her regular work.  If she was quite a bit bigger, I’d be confident that she is carrying twins.

I can’t stop laughing.  I’ve retyped this sentence a dozen times, trying to write it without mistakes, but laughing makes it difficult.  Just as I wrote about her layette for the baby, she came in and asked for the laptop.  Apparently it needs to be cleaned up. She mentioned emptying trash and “de-fragging.”

So, I’ll go work in the greenhouse–the one that she’s swept out daily for weeks now–and let her finish her de-cluttering projects.  It is my contention that she will not go into labor until she’s done, and her idea is to get done with everything so she can have the baby early.


• Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

People often ask me if I project myself into my work–if I write my story, albeit fictionalized.  While I can’t say that I never do that, it’s not usually an overt decision when it happens.  Sometimes I write what I need to learn, and Willow’s story became that.  I never intended to write about a young woman so very different from people around her.  I assumed, as I typed the first paragraphs of Past Forward that I would show just how similar we all are at the foundation.

I was wrong.

Something about Willow’s personality and philosophy of life kept pushing its way to the forefront of her story.  It became like a theme song, one I finally named “Live Life Deliberately.”

It’s so easy to get caught up in life–to allow it to propel you in random directions without regard for how you want to live. I think that’s why people resonate so strongly with Willow.  One could say she chose to carpe vita–seize life.

I’ve received more emails about Willow than any of my other characters.  People write to tell me about their balcony container gardens, the Christmas cards they made last year, or their first attempts at making soap or candles. People have taken up knitting, sewing, painting, drawing, rug hooking and braiding, and I can’t remember what all.  There are communities where a single hen or two lay eggs every day in suburban backyards–because a fictional character inspired their owners to step out of modern American culture and live a dream.

candles11Even as I sit here, I’ve got one of the tallow candles I made last year burning next to me. I don’t need the light.  I didn’t need the candle.  I made them because I wanted to see just what kind of work went into the process.  It’s one thing to research and do the math to figure out hours and total yield.  It’s another to render tallow three and four times before deciding it’s clean enough to burn.

When I did it, a friend asked why people were so drawn to things that are hard, smelly, uncomfortable work.  It made me uncomfortable because I didn’t know the answer.  I am, by nature, a very lazy person.  I don’t want to live Willow’s life.  I want the fruits of it, but I don’t want to do hard, physical labor making soap or candles just so I can then have a way to clean up after making those candles or have light by which to make that soap.  I don’t want to garden, can, raise animals, hang clothes on the line, or a million other things that Willow has to do. Would I like it if it “just happened”?  Sure!  But unlike the delightful stories I get from readers who have “turned off electricity” for the day or week (leaving on essentials like refrigerators etc.), I like my electricity. I want it.  So why am I sitting here beside a flickering mason jar candle with lights on in the kitchen behind me and the corner of this room?

It’s a reminder.

See, while I don’t want to replicate Willow’s exact life in mine, I do want that purposeful living she embraces.  She chooses to make her soap, make her own “light”, and grow her own food.  That is how she chooses to live deliberately.  This candle, with its occasional snaps and crackles, glows brightly beside me, giving much more light than you’d expect from half a cup of tallow.

And it gives me inspiration.

I’m working on a non-fiction book whenever time allows (which isn’t often).  It’s an exploration of how a life lived deliberately looks from the perspectives of people who live very different lives.  I want to focus on the principle of living deliberately, not the method. Willow’s method is hers.  It might be perfect for you or your sister or your neighbor.  It’s not perfect for me or for everyone. So, as I struggle to find that perfect balance in my life (even if I’ll never achieve it), I wonder about others.

How do you live deliberately?  What do you do to ensure that you are making purposeful decisions that direct your life in the path you desire most?  How is your life different than it was before you made that decision?

If you’d like to be part of this book and are willing to be interviewed, I would love to know more. I would love to learn with you and from you just what it means to live deliberate, purposeful lives.  Please Email Me.  🙂