The Simple Life – Stepping Away from the Herd

Photo by M.A.D.

Sometimes, the desire to live a simpler life leads to the pathway less traveled, and it may require stepping away from the herd a little bit or completely. Sometimes, it means a change in lifestyle, leaving things behind or relationships that might not understand your vision. Stepping away from it might not be the most popular or celebrated decision, but it might be the smart thing to do. It might seem like swimming against the current, and not only will you have to deal with your feelings, but the feelings of other people that are in your close circle. In the end, stepping away will mean doing what’s best for you/family.

Stepping away from a lifetime is never easy, no matter how strong a conviction or how eager for change one might be. Sometimes, the ties that bind you are the ones that must be loosen up, not necessarily broken. Whether the barn is too big or the stall too tight, it is not the right fit anymore.

Simple Beauty

The simple and pure beauty of flowers. A few pictures of what’s in bloom right now.

Photo by M.A.D.
Photo by M.A.D.
Photo by M.A.D.
Photo by M.A.D.
Photo by M.A.D.
Photo by M.A.D. I have no clue what this plant is, but I like it. If anyone knows please let me know in the comments. It started as one and it keeps fanning out.
Photo by M.A.D.
Even the recently trimmed old tree is starting to show signs of life. It was trimmed about a month ago. (Photo by M.A.D.)
The grape vine is growing beautifully. The idea is for it to wrap around the veggie garden. (Photo by M.A.D.)
My favorite shade of blue (Photo by M.A.D.)

Love and Light.

The Simple Life – Simple Abundance and Prosperity

“Just living is not enough,” said the butterfly, “one must have sunshine, freedom, and a little flower.”

Hans Christian Andersen

I love the above quote. It is the opposite to “own nothing, be happier.” However, sometimes we flutter more around the pursuit of too many flowers and forget about the freedom we have to enjoy the sunshine.

In the pursuit of a simple life, I’ve realized that the accumulation of flowers is not the most important aspect for me anymore. There was a time it took center placement. Losing a lifetime’s lush garden all at once taught me that my focus was off centered and gave me the freedom to pursue a life full of sunshine. The sunshine after the storm is usually the most beautiful. With countless sunny days ahead, the heart can only rejoice about the simple abundance that surrounds me. I have learned to count my blessings, and there are oh so many. Prosperity takes the form of more than the material, those blessings that were missed when the “little flower” was ignored, in pursuit of an entire field. Like the caterpillar, I was transformed, and like the butterfly, I find delight in the offerings of every new day. Sometimes, sprouting wings is painful, but without them one cannot appreciate the beauty of that single flower up close.

Prosperity comes in many forms, an integral part of simple abundance. We tend to think of prosperity from the material/financial point of view only, but there is so much more to it than money or things. These two are important, but not most important. Simple living involves the realization that there is much more abundance around us that what we perceive in the material/monetary realms. These riches are unlimited, countless, and continuous. The true meaning of prosperity can be found in a single flower.

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.”

Ecclesiastes 3:1 KJV
Photo by M.A.D.

The Simple Life – Balance

Sometimes, living simply requires certain balance, and the simple acknowledgement that too much of something wrecks equilibrium. Dealing with the sense that what’s on the right does not equal what’s on the left, in whatever circumstance or area in our life, puts us off, and it reflects in everything we do. The past two years left me off balance, and I have been trying to find that golden nugget that will get the scale back in equilibrium, and it hasn’t been easy. It has reflected in my writing, especially on the current novel that I am still trying to write but have put aside. Faith has been my comfort blanket, and counting blessings always seem to put things into perspective. Simple living has been a source of joy and contentment. Gardening an escape that offers many delights, especially when everything around seems to be screaming silently – new beginnings. I have found refuge in such things, meaningless to many, therapeutic for others. Sometimes, balance can be pursued in the simplest of things, and found in the least expected places. For me, I have found it in God’s word, in the garden, and even in the mundane chores of daily living. Where there’s a constant, there’s peace of mind, and peace of mind is the closest thing to that golden nugget.

I have been working in the garden and setting up new areas, planning other areas, and just enjoying the good weather, but in the back of my mind there is always that untouched novel, like a ghostly thought that lingers in the crevices of the brain and the depths of the soul. When? Who knows? One day I will wake up with a little golden nugget on my hand.

Here’s a new area I started in the fairy garden.

This is a shade area, and it has been hard to plant anything, even hostas. It is part of the faerie garden and is covered in moss. Right now, moss is starting to change color to green; I love when it turns thick and green, like nature’s carpet. We have been invaded by moth caterpillars; they are everywhere. Can you spot three of them in the tree trunk at the left?

The Simple Life _ Healthy Living

In learning to live a simpler life, I had to become a bit more mindful about my health, physical, mental, and even spiritual. A switch in lifestyle required me to do more physical work than what I was accustomed to, and to realize what things I could not perform as well anymore due to age and a lifetime of 9-5 and beyond workdays, little time for physical development, along with my dislike of exercise routines and doctor appointments (dislike the term wellness visits). I realized that peaking 60 meant a need for creating a simpler health routine that I could keep. It is as simple as eating as healthy as I can, take vitamins and supplements, and keep on moving, along with my yearly checkup.

A far as what I do, I cook 95 percent of my meals but also, I don’t deprive myself of something I would like that does not fall under my regular nutrition. I don’t pay attention to brands, organic or not; I just cook balanced meals and don’t overeat. Exercise takes the form of chores, some heavier than others, walking, stretching every morning, and staring at a stationary bike when I don’t feel like using it. I am up early, at 5 am and that works well for me. Part of simplifying my way of thinking about exercise was to accept my dislike of it and stop blaming myself and feeling guilty for not liking it. How freeing. My most hated class as a kid in school was physical education; truly hated it. That mental switch made a difference because the battle was over. As a Christian, understanding that our bodies are a temple for the Holy Spirit, also made a difference, hence respect it and treat it as well as you can, so I take care of myself as best as I can.

You can eat well and exercise till’ the cows come home but if you do not take care of your mental health the rest is wasted time and calories. Mentally, I try to keep myself healthy by being aware of what’s going on, reading, making art, taking on projects and learning new things. I don’t welcome negativity in my life, whether in the form of news, people, or propaganda … I don’t like gossip and will stop it at once. That doesn’t make for making many friends. I don’t watch trash on TV anymore; I rather do something else, but still enjoy some TV time (sad that most of it is trash these days). I don’t play the politically correct game and do not compromise my values. I also accept and admit when I am wrong. It keeps my peace of mind. I try to be true to myself and others, but mostly to operate from a place of love and understanding, even when that may seem very hard to do. Understanding to give it all to God when I can’t has made a big difference in my life. I live by Christian values, and in my case (I need to make the distinction) I had to learn to separate Christianity from religious indoctrination/history in order to understand the way – Jesus. In my opinion, if you want to know him better, go straight to the pages of the Bible and read in between the lines as well. It answers the question What would Jesus do? and the answer is always the right one.

It has not happened instantly, but slowly I have made better changes and adjustments in my life in order to live a simpler healthy life. Today, I try to balance those three aspects, but it wasn’t always that way, and it definitely took some time. Living in a healthier way is part of living a simple life, as long as there is a balance of what one likes, believes, cares for, as it honors one’s value system while being respectful of other people who might not think like you.

Simplicity comes in many shapes and form.

The Simple Life – Learning and Discovery

The past couple of posts under The Simple Life series have been about my experience in learning to live a much simpler life. Today, I want to write about learning and discovery. These posts are not in any particular order; it just relates to what I have experienced and the many changes I have made in my lifestyle, along with my husband.

Moving from the Jersey shore area to live in the country in Southern Virginia certainly feels very different. It is a different lifestyle but also a different culture and ways to approach and do things. People interact different with each other. There are degrees/rules of politeness in comparison to the open and fast friendly approach of the Jersey shore. Things around here move much relaxed, and also formal in certain circumstances. Overall, people are friendly, welcoming, and very polite. It is not uncommon for people to show up at your home to introduce themselves and know who you are, followed by friendly conversation. Learning to read people and customs has become part of our simple living.

In our effort to fix up the old farmhouse, we’ve had to learn many skills, although my husband has always been very handy with tools and fixing things. I have become his sidekick thus having to learn in order to assist. We fixed up 95% of the place ourselves. If you are interested in reading about it, those posts are under Restoring an Old Farmhouse. We have learned about gardening here, and plants respond very different to the weather and soil here than the sandy soil and cooler temperatures of the Jersey Shore. I had a lovely garden which did not require much upkeep, and I think that gardening is a bit more challenging in this area. There are quick temperature changes as well as weather changes. Spring is bouts of hot and cold with gusts of wind. In general, I have to be more weather alert here. Summer is very humid and hot or humid and wet, and it takes a toll on the garden. Frequent watering becomes a chore sometimes. Surprisingly, I find winters here wet and cold.

Learning about some of the wildlife was a necessity that I honestly did not think about until we had move here. Poisonous spiders, snakes, critters … all of that and more. Right now, I am having to deal with a moth caterpillar invasion; they are just everywhere as if they would fall from the sky, and although I found them cute, I don’t do well with cuteness in numbers. This week I learned that the hair in these caterpillars contain histamine which might give people a rash when in contact with the skin. The falling from the sky part is that they actually fall from trees and the wind carries them via their silk thread. Who knew? Down the shore I only had to worry about the occasional wasps and tons of mosquitoes. We had a mosquito man who drove a truck fumigating the area every year.

Black Widow under the bird bath.

The first two years felt like I was in learning mode 24/7 – people, customs, places, wildlife, housework … a bit overwhelming at times but exciting too. The most important point about all this is disposition, our attitude for learning and working together at a different pace and environment. There is much to learn and discover yet but knowing where we stand and having survived the first year of change, gives way to balance, and that is always good.

Simple living is about balance but also, the openness and readiness to welcome life’s lessons, and discover simple, good, and lovely things.

Love and light.

The Simple Life – Back to Basics

Part of living a simple life is making room for the things that are truly important. By simplifying one’s surroundings, stuff, schedule … and focusing on the basics of living, one learns to appreciate what truly matters in everyday life. In general, life becomes simpler but more enjoyable. Energy as well as resources are freed to serve us and others better. By adapting my lifestyle to embrace only the basic needs and free myself of all the unnecessary, a sense of freedom and control emerged slowly. That change started reflecting on everything else – finances, material possessions, social commitments, health, fitness, nutrition, household management … (each a topic on its own).

In learning to live a simpler life, I have made changes in all these areas. I will give a few examples. I keep my finances as simple as I can. In two words, spending and saving. It works for me and my husband, and it eliminates the need to worry or keeping track of the “extras.” I operate from the belief that all we have has been given as a blessing by God, and he owns it all, so we just take care of it, enjoy it, and use it well. He is the provider of it all and we are the caretakers. If I was to give you an example of how I have simplified every aspect of my life this post would be too long, instead, I will give a few examples of how I simplified some areas. My point is that once you start simplifying in the more material and less important areas, it continues to areas of more significance.

Another example is how I have reduced my possessions considerably, to only what I love and use, and in the case of clothing, what fits well now, according to my lifestyle. I dress and live for the person I am now, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have any dreams, plans, or aspirations (not to be confused). Another area is nutrition. I keep it as simple as I can. I take vitamins, cook 95 percent of my meals, which are basic, and not premade or prepackaged. On the health and fitness area, I don’t like exercise (never have) so my exercise is limited to chores, walks, and a stationary bike that I should use more often. I go to the doctor once a year, even if they want to see me more often. I don’t have any major health issues that might require constant monitoring.

As far as keeping a home, my routines have been simplified to everyday 1/2-hour cleaning, early in the morning (around 6:30), which maintains the house always clean. I keep a household management system that I tailored to my needs (and husband), which covers all areas of home, personal, work, and includes sections for all the important areas – calendar, notes, to do lists, shopping lists and other lists, planning area, goal area, finances …. you get the idea. It is all in one place, I operate from it, and we can refer to it as needed. It is very easy to refer to each simplified area as I need to. As an example, a simple change I made in the area of cleaning was to realize that I don’t need all the products that are advertised to clean a home. I dumped that idea and only use white vinegar, baking soda, ivory soap (or Castille, pure soap) and laundry detergent. For wood polishing I use butcher block conditioner, made of food grade mineral oil and waxes, which I also use to preserve the wood countertops in the kitchen. I realized that a bar of Ivory soap washes dishes better than dish liquid detergent, so I only buy pure soap for many uses. I keep a mason jar with water next to the kitchen sink and every time a bar of soap is almost finished, I dump it in the jar; when it melts, it makes liquid soap. I don’t own a dishwasher and do not need one; I like doing dishes. My husband likes to use Simple Green for outdoor cleaning. My point to all this rambling is that you don’t need most of the things they sell you, unless you love them in your life. Most areas of our lives can be simplified to just the basics. I don’t miss any of the things or systems, services that I discarded. In the process, I found more time and money, and a sense of relief and peace, less things to manage buy or worry about. “Just the basics” work for me and my husband.

“My dishwashing system”

As a writer, I have simplified routines as well. Mostly, in the areas of freelancing, and the way I approach a new story. I still write the first draft on paper, and I don’t belong to social media platforms anymore. I have a simple green metal box for ideas, and an old rolodex. I don’t lose sleep over the latest best-sellers, or the latest software for organizing my work, tech gadgets …. I hate to use this overused phrase, but in my case, I keep it simple stupid.

It is a process that I am still working on. It doesn’t happen in a week or months. In a way, it is a journey of knowing and finding oneself better, and of knowing to compromise when more than one person lives under the same roof. Generations are conditioned to do things a certain way, to use certain products for certain things, and all this is passed along from generation to generation. There is nothing wrong with that, it keeps continuity and a sense of belonging, ancestry, culture … Breaking with some of those patterns and routines that we learned takes time, but most important, it is voluntary and meaningful to the person who wants the change. By keeping only those things and systems that are meaningful, important, make sense, and fit into one’s lifestyle, our existence becomes more productive, enjoyable, happier, simpler … and it feels good.

Hope you enjoyed this post.

The Simple Life – Welcoming Spring One Day at a Time

We had very nice weather over the weekend, so we decided to clean up the garden and set up a few things for planting season. We are surrounded by trees and no matter how much leaf raking we do during autumn and winter, we always end up with tons of leaves to clean up, especially now, when a few windy days come up during March and April. We’ve had a few days of very strong winds, one of which truly shook me a bit, and there are many down branches as well. We had plenty of chores, which we enjoyed thanks to the good weather. For some reason, here in Virginia, I find myself wishing for the start of spring, and I find winters long and cold. Having lived most of my life in Jersey, I find that odd, but my husband feels the same way. My favorite season used to be Autumn, but now, I am starting to love and crave for Spring. There is plenty to be thankful for during the seasons.

Little birds are starting to show up in numbers. My husband made the pumpkin for the veggie garden out of scrap wood. We hung up a birdhouse that my sister gave me. They had a 5K on their farm (Barn on the Hill), and they gifted birdhouses to participants; she saved one for me. It looks lovely next to the Faerie Garden.

We cleaned up flower beds, removed old stumps, planted some flower seeds, repotted plants that needed more space, and became a bit creative. We started a new planting area near the entrance of the property, an area that we need to develop much more in the future. An old tree trunk is now a planter, and an old magazine rack will become full of hot pink flowers at one point. Our goal is to add at least one thing every year.

White farmhouses get very dirty during the year. My husband and I cleaned up the house twice a year during spring and before Christmas. It takes a bit of work in some areas. Power washing will be something to consider in the future. We are still saving for a new roof (cash only is part of the simple life), and that one needs to be repainted, hopefully over the summer. We took everything out of the porch, and I cleaned the chairs, tables …. while he worked on the siding. Once we finished, we decided to change things a bit (decor wise) from last year.

With most of the garden ready, our next item on the list will be preparing the veggie garden for planting, and some repainting here and there. We are setting things up for an upcoming yard sale as well, and there are some farmhouse projects lined up for the year. With everything that is going on in the world these days, chores are helping me a lot in dealing with the great sadness that it causes. Keeping busy helps my mental sanity. During this time, my novels have been put to the side, and being in the present, doing chores, helps me deal with all this. I hope you enjoyed this post.

The Simple Life – Simplicity and Beauty

As I have slowly learned to embrace a much simpler life, I have also learned to find simplicity and beauty in the everyday flow. Easier said than done at times. When we are presented with good and rosy days, a lot easier, but more challenging when what we perceive is the not so nice or the ugly. Embracing a simple life taught me to find beauty and simplicity even in those circumstances. Never easy at the start, but willing, the focus and vision became clear, and I realized that even in less than perfect or idyllic circumstances, one can find something good, even beauty, and learn appreciation for what truly is. It is through challenges that we grow the most, although I believe that one can experience growth looking at a beautiful sunset or watching a fire, more so when in the midst of it. In both circumstances there is beauty and simplicity, that is, if we care to see in humility. I have experienced both extremes and can honestly say that from both there is much to learn and appreciate. I’ve found that simplicity and beauty are always present, inviting us to learn a life’s lesson. Maybe not so easy to recognize when we are in the midst of a challenge, when things don’t seem too pretty, when anger and bitterness dominate our thoughts and hearts, but much later on, when we have surrendered our will to God, and experienced a shift in disposition, acceptance, the beginning of clarity.

A clouded vision cannot see beauty, even when in front of it. A heavy heart cannot experience simplicity because it is burdened at the moment, in a complicated state, far away from simplicity. Only when we let go and open our mind and heart to receive a new beginning can we see the new dawn. In learning to live a simple life, I had to let go, but I received so much more.

Photo by M.A.D.