Tag-Archive for ◊ simple living ◊

Author:
• 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.

beccasiggy

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Author:
• Saturday, January 17th, 2015

Living so close to Willow for so long has been kind of an immersion project–a chance to experience raw, day-to-day life “her way.”   It’s been beautiful.  But one lesson I had trouble adjusting to was the guilt I felt when I couldn’t recreate things the same way she does because I didn’t have a lifetime of practice in creating beauty out of raw materials.  I was used to craft kits, lessons, and tutorials.  Willow has learned to see everyday items in new ways.

Josh has been good for me in that respect.  He has taught me that imitating her results isn’t wrong. It’s not “cheating” but using what skills and materials I do have in ways that I find pleasing–even if it means I buy those materials.

She’s been making thank-you cards since Christmas–for obvious reasons.  She told me that she and her mother always spent a lot of time creating beautiful cards for after birthdays and Christmases.  It seems strange to do that for someone in your own home, but it’s beautiful too. So, I got the “thank you card” bug and decided to take her design and create it “my way.”    But first, I want to share what she did–just because the work she puts into something as simple as a thank-you card is truly remarkable.

I came into the kitchen a few days after Christmas and she had piles of stuff all over the table. A couple of brown paper bags, cardstock, a piece of burlap I remember from a bag that she used to have hanging in the barn.  It held small garden tools, if I recall correctly.  It tore a while back and then it disappeared.  I assumed that she’d burned it.  Apparently not.  It was all washed and ready to use.  Then there was a little dress that Kari had torn and stained.  I couldn’t imagine what she was doing, so I asked.

“Making thank-you cards.”

Yes my mind did immediately think, Of course you are.  So, I poured myself a cup of coffee and began watching.  Her cardstock was white–plain and boring. She cut each piece in half with a x-acto knife and folded it.  Then she opened them flat again and cut pieces from the brown paper bags–just a bit bigger than the card base on each side, but the same height.  I started to ask why when she pulled out rubber cement and began slathering it on the cardstock.  Then I saw why.  It would have shown a tiny bit of white if she hadn’t made it a little bigger.  She trimmed it up and voila–a “kraft” paper card base.  I would have (and eventually did) just bought kraft cardstock.

The next thing she did was to take another piece of cardstock and wash it with a robins egg blue.  This she pinned to the mini clothesline she has hanging on the wall over the stove.  I’m used to seeing dish cloths or towels drying there.  Paper–who knew?

While it dried, she folded a scrap of the grocery bag and began cutting.  It took a few tries, but eventually she managed to cut the shape of a butterfly that satisfied her.  With that, she traced it onto white paper and cut out a dozen or so butterflies.  Let’s just say it took forever.  Chad and the children arrived home from their visit to the park in the middle of this, so she had to put it all away.

The next afternoon, at nap time, she started again.  She cut the sheet of paper into eight equal pieces and then cut a notch out of the bottom of each one to create a flag.  She said, “I saw one like it on the Pinterest that Mom uses–just that little notch, but isn’t it cute?”

“The Pinterest.”  Only Willow.

Then the assembly began.  She wrapped each flag with a strip of burlap, and then ripped the lace from the upper ruffle of Kari’s little dress.  I thought she’d pull out the iron, but she didn’t.  She just used the edge of the table as a sort of iron, and pulled the lace back and forth across it until it laid flat.

Once the flags were assembled, she began writing.  A simple “thank you” on each card front bottom is all she used.  Just the kraft card base with the word written in brown was enough.  But once those were done, she glued her flags to each one.  Then she pulled out the butterflies again.  On each one, she’d hand sewed–through the paper–white seed pearls.  She said they were leftover from a bracelet that broke when she was a little girl.  I was afraid to ask if they were real pearls.  I thought she might actually say yes.

tycardIn the end, the cards were lovely.  I wanted to make my own.

So… I bought the following:

Kraft cardstock-  (4 sheets at .50 per sheet from the paper store)
Blue cardstock- (1 sheet at .50 per sheet from the paper store)
Spool of burlap- “ribbon” from Christmas clearance at Walmart (1.00)
Glue-backed pearls- (6.00 for enough to make 50 cards!)
Pink printed paper- (1.00 from the paper store)
Glue runner- (3.00 from Walmart)

And I borrowed a friend’s butterfly paper punch.

Sure… it wasn’t “free” like half of Willow’s stuff was.  But it’s mine.  and I love them.  And I love knowing that the card tucked into my husband’s lunch today, thanking him for taking such good care of me on days I’m too worn out to even look at the stove, shows the love I feel for him in the work I put into it.  And that’s the most beautiful thing about Willow’s ways… they reflect her heart.  For some people, it would be a handwritten note on notebook paper.  For others a phone call “just for nothing.”  Others might do it by baking muffins or sending a note on Facebook.  But for Willow, it’s sharing her creativity with the person she wants to honor.  And we all know that as she works, she prays for us.  Isn’t that the best part of all?

beccasiggy

 

Author:
• 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:)