Simple With Tsh Oxenreider Podcast Episode 178: Loving Our 40s

This was a super fun chat about Loving Our 40s! Tsh said it well in the podcast intro: “Growing older is a privilege denied to many people; it means we should celebrate the gift it is!” Join both of us 41-year-old gals as we talk about how to celebrate birthday milestones (particularly turning 40 since that was most recent for both of us), and hear about Tsh’s new skin and hair routine since turning 40.

What My 40s Are Teaching Me - for The Art of Simple

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My first post is up on The Art of Simple about What My 40s Are Teaching Me, and I’d love to hear what you think! It was so much fun writing this and truly processing how much has changed in the one short year I’ve been in my 40s. If you’re already there, I’d love to hear what your experience has been. If you’re not yet there, you have much to look forward to. Just make sure you grab a change of clothes. You’ll see what I mean when you read it

“I don’t believe 40 is a magic number that divides everything into before and after. But I do believe it can be the start of a second journey instead of the beginning of a downward slope “over the hill.” Entering our 40s can be met with negativity, or it can be met with tenacity and courage—and we get to decide. I’m only one year in, but I thought I’d share some things my 40s are already teaching me…”

Never Too Old To Color

Here’s one from the archives, originally posted on my previous blog in March 2009. I’ll be regularly sharing with my readers some of my favorites from the past that I feel are still a huge part of the overall story. Enjoy!

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On Saturday afternoon, I took one of those naps where you wake up and have no idea what day or time it is anymore, and you've slept on one side for so long that your hair is smushed into a conehead and, more than likely, there is a pool of drool on the pillow. You know that kind? It was so refreshing. And the first thought that occurred to me when my eyes peeked open was, "I am going to color now."

It was a strange thought, considering that up to that point, my Saturday had been filled with a very adult-like and responsible task: hauling compost back and forth, back and forth, between the huge mound in the driveway and each individual tree stump and veggie sprout and plant base in the front and back yard. It felt so "homeowner." It was great functional exercise though {all those squats and bicep curls with the shovel and wheelbarrow}...and I actually liked working with the compost. You might think it's smelly and full of flies, but compost actually feels fresh in an earthy kind of way. The only unfortunate fact is that it’s so powdery that with a light Texas wind, it seeps into any crack and crevice of your skin that is not covered with an article of clothing. I didn’t realize this until I heard Steven singing, “It’s A Hard Knock Life” from Annie, complete with flamboyant hand gestures, as I passed by with the wheel barrow for the umpteenth time.

Uh-oh. I went inside to check myself in the mirror, and it was not a pretty sight. The white tube socks that I had pulled up to my knees and over my workout pants were now black. My hair was frizzed almost to the point of no return, and dirt had caked on my face and formed so many visible lines and smudges that I looked like a coal miner...or perhaps a street sweeper from the movie Oliver...or, admittedly, one of the kids from Annie. Maybe compost-hauling doesn't have to be so adult-like after all.

I took a very welcome hot shower and scrubbed myself from head to toe with my honey-mango shower gel and then collapsed into bed for that perfect, drooly nap. I don’t know what happened in my dreams, but when I woke up, all I wanted to do was color. You're never too old to color, you know. In my craft room, painted “Rain Washed” by Behr, I found my box of Crayola State Collection Crayons and a butterfly coloring book that Steven got me as a surprise at the Mennonite grocery store. I set out for the back yard with my supplies tucked under my arm like a little girl on her way to kindergarten.

Outside, Steven’s phone rang. It was my dad calling from New Jersey. Steven answered it, they exchanged greetings, and then there was a pause on our end of the conversation - my dad must have asked what I was doing.

Steven answered nonchalantly, "Oh, she's coloring."

{"Coloring??" I imagine my dad must have asked in his brash Jersey accent.}

Steven answered again, "Yeah, she's coloring...with crayons."

I looked up at him and smiled. Then I went back to busily coloring my butterflies as the real-life ones hovered above the flourishing lavender bush.

"The Year of Saying Yes" - For Wild + Free

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“Something stirred in my heart at the Wild + Free conference in Franklin, TN this past September. During that whole weekend, I couldn’t shake the feeling that 2019 would be my ‘year of saying yes.’ Once I had some time to process, it all came clear: this year is about opening up myself and my family to deeper relationships, priceless opportunity, and more freedom…”

The Wild + Free homeschool community has been so inspiring to me, so I’m grateful to have written another piece called “The Year of Saying Yes” for their latest online bundle, SAVOR. Wild + Free is a beautiful homeschool community full of diverse yet like-minded mamas all across the world who want to provide the space and time for our children to explore, engage with the world, and have the freedom to become who they're meant to be as childhood is preserved and slowly unraveled.

Each month, they release online bundles chock full of articles and tutorials to inspire homeschool mamas, or really anyone who wants to parent more slowly and intentionally. The monthly subscription includes a gorgeous print magazine as well. You can subscribe to the monthly bundles here

Joining The Art of Simple Team

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So this is fun…my new side gig for 2019 is as a Contributing Writer on The Art of Simple & Co-Host for the Simple Podcast! I’ll be contributing monthly on the site and podcast, in addition to writing more regularly here and for other publications, farming and homeschooling. Whew! It’s all things I enjoy though, so bring it, 2019.

How did the new side gig come to be? I’ve enjoyed following Tsh Oxenreider’s online and offline work for many years (I still make her homemade deodorant recipe from Organized Simplicity, and I’m here to testify that it is the only thing that works for these smelly farmer pits), and her writings and podcast have always helped me love my actual real life more vs. envying someone else’s life. In today’s world flooded with social media comparison, that’s so refreshing. Then, this past year I had the opportunity to connect with Tsh and record two podcast episodes - a work episode about becoming a farmer (ep. 140), and My Good List (ep. 169). I quickly realized how much I love the podcast medium in addition to the creative writing I’ve done for many years. So I’m grateful to get to do both on the Art of Simple team.

Speaking of the team, here are other inspiring co-hosts and contributors. We all have such different daily lives, which I love! But what we have in common is that we want to live better and live well, and we’re open to learning from others and sharing our stories.

I’d love it if you’d follow along! Join my email list to stay in the loop on what I’m sharing here as well as on AoS.

December-ing

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2018 is almost over. How is that possible?

This is the first December we’ve truly celebrated advent, after so many years of wanting to make it a yearly practice. I also finished my Christmas shopping a solid week before Christmas, which is really saying something. We stretched out the holiday season as long as possible, and it was a sweet time. Here are some things I’ve been engaging in this December…what about you?

READING

Well, I still haven’t finished many of the books from my November list. Here’s my current reading list…

  • All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

  • Almost Everything: Notes on Hope by Anne Lamott

  • Boundaries With Kids by Henry Cloud & John Townsend

  • Book Girl by Sarah Clarkson

  • The Complete Guide to Fasting by Jason Fung

WATCHING

  • Here are some favorite Christmas movies we watched this month - Emmet Otter’s Jugband Christmas (if you know about this movie, we can be friends), Holiday Inn, White Christmas, It’s A Wonderful Life, All I Want for Christmas, Home Alone, Miracle on 34th Street (new one), Elf.

  • My life is so complete since they put Bob Ross on Netflix. Both my girls watch it too, enamored. Right after an episode is over, someone inevitably asks, “Oh pleaaaaase can we watch him paint just one more winter landscape?” We’re an artistic family, we can’t help it.

  • Mary Poppins Returns. We had a little family fun night a few days before Christmas and surprised our girls with dinner and a movie. Any Mary Poppins fan was understandably nervous at how the sequel would hold up, but I had a permagrin the entire time. It was delightful. The ending gave me the same wonderful, buoyant feeling as at the end of the original. So many creative parallels & cameos in the story as well. Dying to see it again!

LISTENING

  • I loved the Advent playlist from Tsh Oxenreider’s Simple Advent Guide.

  • The Mary Poppins Returns soundtrack. Again, delightful.

  • Andy Gullahorn’s album, Everything As It Should Be. The song “Different Now” could be my own words. I love this whole album.

COOKING

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DISCOVERING

  • How much I love power tools. I made the above advent candleholder using some salvaged driftwood and a spade drill bit, and now I want to make holes in everything. I’ve always left the drilling for my husband (translation: begged him to fix things for me) but there’s so much freedom and fun in learning to do it myself.

  • How much I love and need winter. Maybe it’s just a break from bugs and sweat and a chance to have smooth hair for a change. But the more I live by the seasons, the more I realize how much I need them. There’s absolutely a beauty to winter that I don’t want to miss.

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SEEING

  • My home through different eyes since reading Cozy Minimalist Home by Myquillyn Smith last month. We did a huge purge in my girls’ room, and there’s breathing room now, with much more space for doing the things they actually love: playing dolls and Lego’s and crafting. I’m about to tackle the mud room next, which is currently piled up with coats and dirty farm boots and completelydrivingmeinsane. The biggest thing I took away from that book is that I don’t have to wait for things to be perfect in my home to love my space now. There are plenty of things I can do with limited funds to make each room one we truly love being in.

    What did your December look like? Anything to share? I’d love to hear!

If I Have Another Chance to Meet Anne Lamott

“So many of us can be soothed by writing: think of how many times you have opened a book, read one line, and said, 'Yes!'  And I want to give people that feeling too, of connection, communion...It is one of the greatest feelings known to humans, the feeling of being the host, of hosting people, of being the person to whom they come for food and drink and company.  This is what the writer has to offer." ~Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird, p. 204

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It was Good Friday, 2009. I was spending the afternoon at a friend's backyard pool in an opulently wealthy neighborhood in Dallas where shade trees are 100 years old and sparkles of light are cast through their branches onto expansive bi-weekly manicured lawns. The pool was a natural deep blue, with flagstones surrounding the edge, so it felt more like a natural swimming hole carved out of a mountain. I dipped my toes into the water and then reclined on a small strip of flagstone until I was nestled between the ornamental grass landscaping and the edge of the pool. The late afternoon sun shone on my face, forcing new freckles to pop out across my nose. In that spot, I finished Anne Lamott's Traveling Mercies and knew that the book had changed me forever. Toward the end of the book, Anne reminisces about her own mother as she looks over old photographs from her imperfect childhood. And something was sparked deep in my soul at that moment, so much that I had to pause, and put the book face-down on my chest. I surprised myself when I said aloud, "I know for sure now that I want to be a mother" - right there, on Good Friday, laying on my back in someone else's backyard.

By September of that same year, there was a new life growing in me, and I was soon to become a mother.

In Spring 2011, when I had heard Anne Lamott Herself was going to be speaking at a nearby Barnes & Noble, I started counting down the days. I still had an infant baby girl who didn’t want to leave my side, so when the day finally came, I strapped my daughter into the Boba carrier on my chest and rode the escalator to the second floor of the massive bookstore in the heart of Dallas. When I got off the escalator, there was Anne, in all her dreadlocked glory. After reading so many of her books, I couldn't believe how impossibly simple it was that she was here, just standing casually at the podium talking with a few people who had already gathered. It was a small crowd, almost ridiculously small considering her widespread influence as an author and the size of the city we were in.

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I intentionally stood in the back with a few friends, the only woman who had brought a child with her. Right before her talk officially started, Anne (perhaps channeling her Operating Instructions self) looked directly at me and asked, "Would the mother with the baby in the back like to have a chair?" I looked from side-to-side as if to ask, “Me?!” and then blushed and answered shyly, "That's okay, I'm fine." She smiled and began her talk.

Anne’s talk was lovely, as if her written words had come to life before me. I wish I’d taken notes, but my arms were full that day. Afterwards, the attendees started to gather for the autograph line, and I began to really feel nervous. This was my chance to meet the author I felt I knew personally from all her writings, to tell her how her iconic spiritual memoir had quite literally changed my life.

But when it was my turn, I transformed into a shy, giggly 12-year-old who could barely make coherent sentences. I thrust a crumpled piece of notebook paper in front of Anne’s face, barely muttered "thank you," watched her sign it, and then surrendered my spot to the person behind me. That's it. How about expressing the words I'd planned to say like, “Your writing helped me realize I wanted to be a mother"...or… "Your voice showed me that there are many ways to genuinely follow Christ, that not all believers have to fit into a cookie cutter conservative mold." But no, I couldn't muster the courage. All of us attendees took a group photo with Anne, and then my friend asked if I wanted to get my photo taken with her alone. I downright refused and shuffled us all out of there as quickly as possible.

That night in Barnes & Noble, I had dissolved into an embarrassing puddle of shyness, my most introverted self. And I wasn't sure why. Anne Lamott is just a person like you and me. My behavior is ironic considering the personal insecurities Anne speaks openly and repeatedly about in her writings.

Maybe one day I'll have another chance to tell Anne how much her writing has meant to me without losing myself. Until then, my copy of her autograph with the little unconnected heart after her last name is a little treasure to remind me of that strange but eye-opening experience.

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Looking back on that spring night in a Dallas bookstore, I realize how much I've grown. Eight years of motherhood under my belt, I’ve sacrificed myself and found it again in new ways. I’ve gained confidence as a writer and started unearthing my unique voice to share.

If I had another chance to meet Anne Lamott, I would do things differently. I would wait peacefully, confidently, for my turn in line. I would walk up to her, crouch down and look in her eyes with the respect she deserves, and tell her the story of the first time we met. She’d probably laugh it off and make some joke about herself. And then I'd relate what I really wanted to say last time: “Thank you for turning the lights on for me. Your vulnerability is a gift that helped me see the truth in my own life.” I’d take a selfie with her to commemorate the moment and walk away knowing that I’m a writer too, and I can also impart that gift to someone.

~ ~ ~

Read my review of Traveling Mercies.

Read my review of Bird By Bird.

Simple With Tsh Oxenreider Podcast Episode 169: My Good List

I’m grateful to be back on the Simple podcast today sharing My Good List - 4 things (big or small) that are making my life better right now. The idea behind My Good List (formerly called What’s Saving My Life Right Now) comes from this quote by Barbara Brown Taylor from her book, An Altar In The World:

“What is saving my life now is the conviction that there is no spiritual treasure to be found apart from the bodily experiences of human life on earth. My life depends on engaging the most ordinary physical activities with the most exquisite attention I can give them. My life depends on ignoring all touted distinctions between the secular and the sacred, the physical and the spiritual, the body and the soul. What is saving my life now is becoming more fully human, trusting that there is no way to God apart from real life in the real world.”

Sharing good things in our lives keeps us focused on gratefulness, plus it’s just plain fun to hear what other people are into right now. You can listen here or in iTunes…enjoy!

November-ing

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I’m typing this from a lovely cabin in the mountains of North Carolina near Asheville, where our little family of four has been enjoying some much-needed rest. It’s our one vacation for the year, so we’ve been livin’ it up, and by that I mean taking naps, cozying up by the fire, drinking copious amounts of coffee with heavy cream, and playing fairy board games. Perfect.

It’s recently come to my attention (see here and here) that people are still reading blogs, which makes my vintage 2008 blogging heart so very happy. I blogged for 10 years and miss that medium of free-flow writing, sharing more detail and thoughts than can be captured in an Instagram post. So in celebration of the new era of blogging, I thought I’d share some fun things I’ve been engaging in this November….

READING

I’m a chronic reader-of-too-many-books-at-once, so here ya go:

  • All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

  • Cozy Minimalist Home by Myquillyn Smith

  • Never Say No by Mark & Jan Foreman

  • Boundaries With Kids by Henry Cloud & John Townsend

  • Book Girl by Sarah Clarkson

WATCHING

  • Salt Fat Acid Heat, a four-part Netflix series, over and over. Spoiler: I share more about this on episode 169 of the Simple podcast. Let’s just say I’m enamored and basically want to be Samin Nosrat’s best friend and sidekick.

  • The Greatest Showman. Call me a late bloomer, but we finally just watched it over Thanksgiving break, and I was subsequently so obsessed with the Wikipedia page on P.T. Barnum that I scrolled it until my fingers cramped up. Whether or not this movie is an accurate depiction of his life, our whole family is enamored with the cinematography and the soundtrack. Along with the rest of America.

  • We also watched Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium for the first time on vacation - what a sweet little movie! “Life is an occasion. Rise to it.” —> words to live by. Well done, Dustin Hoffman.

LISTENING

A few podcasts that have stirred my heart lately…

  • My dear friends were on Esther Perel’s podcast, Arc of Love. It was intimate, raw, and so brave of them to share about their journey. You’ll just have to listen for yourself. It’s on Audible - season 3, chapter 5.

  • Another sweet friend, Tara Leigh Cobble, was recently on The Happy Hour With Jamie Ivey (episode 220). TLC and I have been friends since the early 2000s in Nashville, I traveled on the road with her once, I’ve fed her multiple times in my home, and she was in my wedding. The way she talks about the Bible is always so refreshing and encouraging. Tara Leigh has had a traumatic last few years, yet she doesn’t turn away from God in the midst of struggle. I love learning from her.

COOKING

  • Lots of loaves of my No-Knead Bread that they say is “so easy, a 4-year-old could make it." Except I do knead it a little, because it’s so addicting. Try it - I promise if a 4-year-old can do it, so can you!

  • My favorite raw macaroons with a drop or two of doTerra peppermint oil to make them festive (dare you to eat just one…).

  • Cinnamon Bun Muffins from Comfy Belly - so good for breakfast with a coconut milk latté.

  • I’ll definitely be making Julia Child’s Boeuf Bourguignon on Christmas - a new tradition for us. Serve with a wooden spoon straight out of the dutch oven with crusty no-knead bread and a huge side salad, and you have winter comfort food at its finest.

DISCOVERING

  • The benefits of fasting. Many of us have heard about intermittent and extended day fasting lately and all the medical research about how giving our digestive system a break helps heal so many things. I plan to venture into this world in January as both a physical and spiritual practice, so I’m reading this book in preparation of the physical part of it.

SEEING

  • Vacation through my children’s eyes. They don’t really care about doing big, expensive things. They just want to sit with us by the fire. To cuddle and listen to a book. To have our full attention while playing a game. And I’m so thankful for time to do just that.

Ode to Dirty Fingernails

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Everyday, here on Kindred Farm, we witness the circle of life in all its beauty and brutality: orderly rows of lettuce heads resembling giant green and purple roses, the excitement of new baby chicks arriving, the sweet smell of dirt-covered rainbow carrots straight from the ground. Then there are dead chicks, dead chickens, dead mice and chipmunks left at our doorstep. One morning, we spent hours trying to reunite tiny baby mice with their mother, who still had one attached to her nursing. We’ve had 4/5 of a litter of kittens lost to predators and a beloved farm cat buried after being hit by a car. My body has been pushed to its physical limits by using muscles I didn’t even know existed to lift soil with the broadfork, hammer stakes, and use “the farmer walk” to haul full buckets of water on each arm up a hill. Second to naturally birthing a baby, this is the hardest I’ve ever worked.

But by making this new life and pushing through my fears, I’ve truly found my unique self and clarified what I have to offer the world. God is healing the wounded part of me that said my voice wasn’t important enough to be heard. It’s not a perfectly polished platform, but it’s mine...it’s my voice.

I can also laugh at myself now when I completely fail at something, because seriously? Life is just too short to try to be perfect anymore. Here’s a favorite story from my first month of farming last April - go ahead and laugh at me!

We had gotten our first batch of chicks in the winter and now they were big enough to be moved out of the shed into their new “Henstream” (the mobile chicken trailer where they would lay, roost, and sleep at night). My husband Steven was gone for the evening at his personal chef job. So I was in charge of checking on the girls at dusk to make sure they all made it inside the automatic chicken door. No big deal. I strutted out there. At first glance, all looked fine. Then a lone chicken caught my eye who was still roaming around. I chased it around until I finally caught it and stared at the door of the Henstream to figure out how to unlock it in the dark with one hand and without disturbing the freaking biggest spider you’ve ever seen. I took a deep breath, wrangled the door open, squealed like a 12-year-old girl, and shoved the chicken inside as it squawked. Phew. But it wasn’t over yet…as I was leaving I noticed something looked strange at the chicken door. Oh no…is it? It couldn’t be… Yes, there was a chicken head/neck hanging completely limp out the chicken door while the rest of its body was inside. I frantically called Steven and told him that one of our chickens got decapitated and it was all my fault. I told him that HE was going to handle it when he got home. Fast forward an hour…he went to take care of the dead chicken and came back inside laughing, “Um, it wasn’t dead! It was just frozen in shock. I opened the door and nudged it a little and it popped its head up and walked away.”

You’re welcome.

We’re privileged to be in a community with so many hard-working and inspiring farmers, both male and female, who are out there everyday in the elements, doing hard and valuable work - caring for animals, growing beautiful and healthy food, advocating for sustainability, stewarding the earth. Here’s to you! Here's to the bug bite scars, the sore muscles, the constant need for a shower, the frustrating moments when you can't figure out why something isn't working. The self-doubt and the victories and the breathtaking moments at sunset when you can't imagine doing anything else - those are all a part of the journey. Those dirty nails aren't going away anytime soon, are they? Good. Because in sifting the soil through our fingers, we become more connected to our roots, to who we are as humans.

Farmers or not, we can all do our part in redeeming the earth, little by little. Because once you've held that privilege and joy in our hands, you can never go back. In the best possible way.