Grownup Book Reports: Notes from a Blue Bike

My thoughts on Notes from a Blue Bike: The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World. Or, why we are not getting a new car. (Yet.)

Overall this book didn’t contain any earth-shattering ideas for us on how to live more intentionally. However, it was an encouragement to read of someone who is also attempting to live a life of intentionality and simplicity-especially in our fast-paced and busy American culture.

And while I admire this family’s deep need to maintain flexibility so they can travel and experience the world, that’s not a value our family shares. Well, not that intensely anyway. Certainly we desire to travel and experience different cultures and we most definitely want to expose our children to those that live differently than us. But I wouldn’t say it is the central theme of our family.

We are actually still working through how to articulate what it is our family values are. But a rough version would be that we desire to live a life that allows us to help others change the world. We don’t necessarily have a need deep in our souls to be front and center to changing the world. But we do feel we have a role to play in helping others use their gifts, skills, talents, resources to make big and small differences in the lives of people right here and across the globe.

But back to the book…

One of the most inspiring parts to read was where she talks about how they were able to pay off a significant amount of debt.I think what really struck me was that they were able to pay off an amount of debt that is more than we owe, while making less than we make. It’s not that we have to be making so much more money each month. It’s that you have to prioritize and sacrifice now for reaping the benefits later. And the sooner you tackle the debt (or whatever hard thing it may be), the sooner you can live free of that burden.

While reading this we had been talking about purchasing a new car. We have one car for our family. One that is quite well-worn and needs some significant work. By many people’s standards we would be well justified in replacing this car. And we do want to replace this car. We even test-drove a vehicle and were approved to take out a loan.

But then I encouraged Ben to read this book too. And one night he said he thought we needed to hold off on getting a new car. And deep down I knew he was right. Because even as I was reading about their mantra that “Debt is not a tool,” I knew that this was a better decision for us. Taking out a loan to get a new vehicle is not necessarily a bad decision. And for us, right now, it isn’t necessarily that it is a bad or unwise decision. But paying off some other debt, saving some money, and making this vehicle work for a little longer just seemed like a better fit for us right now.

So we aren’t getting a new car. Yet. But we have a plan and a system to help us get to that point. And so we are choosing to put this desire on a back burner. Which, honestly, isn’t fun. I was really looking forward to a newer vehicle with power windows and locks. And doors that all opened from the outside. But I have peace about waiting on this one.

We Need a New Couch. But Not Yet.

I’m tired.

I’m tired of piles and stacks of things.

I’m tired of feeling overwhelmed when I walk through the house.

I’m tired of seeing piles of things everywhere and just adding to them daily because that’s easier than taking the effort to find a place to put something. It’s easier and faster to just set it down on the already growing piles. And really, there’s an art to stacking things, right? I mean, there’s some skill in adding the next piece to the pile without it coming crashing down.

There’s a quote that I cut out of a magazine probably 3 years ago. My intention was to have it posted somewhere I could see it on a regular basis. Like so many other things, it got buried in the bottom of a pile. I found it recently and put it on my weekly planner, where I’ll see it frequently throughout the day and week.

But we never make it pass the quote to cleaning up the clutter. A few weeks ago Ben and I decided that we needed a way to keep track of all the things that need to be done, not just the piles that need to be cleaned, but the projects and tasks, and budget items. So, we wrote down every to-do we could think of on post it notes, gave each one of them a priority and stuck them on the wall. It’s not exactly a great looking decoration that blends well with our Dining Room decor, but it is a system for setting priorities.

We need to this because I’m tired. And I’m ready to feel like we are making decisions on how to use our time, instead of feeling overwhelmed by a growing “to-do” list.

And already, I have felt a freedom and a sense of release by just using our new system for a matter of days.

For example, I want a new couch. Ours is a hand-me-down that has served us quite well for the past 14 years, but it’s tired. It’s saggy and uncomfortable. So, when we started all this, I wrote on one of my post-its that in 10 years I don’t want to be sitting on this same worn out couch anymore. And there is a feeling of freedom and release that I have found by writing on a post-it. It is something that is important to me. And together we can determine when the time is right to buy a new couch. But putting it on a post it helps me. It is out there & won’t be forgotten. And I am ok with prioritizing things like fixing the back deck, and preschool tuition because I know that my desire for a new couch is not being ignored or forgotten. It’s been made known and we agree that replacing the couch should happen. But it’s no longer an emotional decision to replace the couch because I found a good deal on one online that I really like and ‘a deal like this just won’t come around again.’ (That’s not true.) When the time is right, and we have the funds, we will be able to find a suitable couch in our price range. (That’s the truth.)

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To me, this is the beauty of the post-it system.

There is also freedom in looking at the wall and choosing to spend my 15 minutes of free time while both kids are napping to put some work in on something we have collectively decided is a priority. And that means it is ok for me to ignore some of the other things I feel a need to be doing.

So, I can spend 15 minutes searching Craigslist and AutoTrader for a new car. I don’t have to feel guilty for doing that. (Even though there are lots of other things that could be done…sorting the books that don’t all fit on the bookshelf…so instead, they get piled in stacks next to the bookshelf.) And many days, part of me really wants to just sit and sort through the piles of books and get rid of what doesn’t fit on the shelves, because I really LOVE doing tasks like that. But that fire isn’t the one that needs to be put out right now, so it is better to just let it burn (or simmer, as it were) and we will get to the books when some of the other, more pressing things have been tackled.

I’m still tired. But we are already making progress on things and throwing post-its away because we are accomplishing some of what we have set out to do.

I stay at home with a toddler and an infant. I might feel tired for the foreseeable future. But I have a renewed hope that I won’t be sitting in this saggy, worn out sofa forever. One day I’ll rest these weary bones on a new sofa, and I will enjoy it all the more because we worked hard to get to that post-it.

Ten years!

We’ve been married for 10 years today.

Ten years!

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We’ve had an incredibly blessed 10 years. Lots of adventures, lots of friendships, lots of love from our families. Very little hardship.

We’ve lived in campus housing that was so close to the radio station that anytime someone called our land line before 5pm, the AM radio station coming over the phone was louder than our conversation.

We’ve lived among a community tucked back in the woods where we learned to be married. And we were loved on so well there.

We’ve lived in the heart of the city and are part of a community that loves us so well. To the extent that they know just how much a gift like this speaks to our hearts.

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We’ve spent time in the mountains of Colorado, walking along the cobblestone streets of Europe, experienced the joy in a Ugandan smile.

We have many adventures ahead, and though we don’t know what those might be, I am grateful for such a perfect partner to go through life with.

“In the presence of God, and before our friends and family, I thank God for you. I thank Him for entrusting you, his beautiful creation, to me as my wife/husband. I promise to be your best friend, to honor you and to respect you. I promise to help you become the person God wants you to be. I will count it joy when we experience trials, knowing that through the struggle God will draw us closer to Him and build us up. I will strive to love you as Christ does. This is my vow and promise to you that will not be broken-in good times or bad-as long as we both shall live,or our Lord should return.”

Celebrating a decade.

It seems sort of amazing to me that Ben & I have something to celebrate that happened 10 years ago.

 

10 years ago, on St. Patrick’s Day, I came home from work & was sent on a random scavenger hunt that led me to Ben, a fondue dinner out in the woods, a Big question, and a sparkly ring.

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We usually celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with a fondue dinner. Here’s our current favorite fondue recipe. (Getting the gruyere cheese at Sam’s is usually a better deal than getting at the local grocery store-it’s a little pricey.)

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This year our dessert was Reese’s s’mores in the toaster oven. YUM!

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Our Home

About 6 months ago we entered into something that is undeniably “adult.” We bought a house!

And I have to say, after 9 years & 8 homes, it feels really good to be in a place that we can call our own. A place that allows us the freedom to make significant changes to walls & room colors & the yard.

We have lived in some really great houses & apartments. And most all of them really felt like ours. But this is different. This is our home. The one we searched for & the one that best fits the way we want to live. And the part of town we want to live in.

There is a deep-rooted peace I’ve felt about this home since we first moved in. We don’t know what life will bring us in the next years, but I feel like for the first time, I’m able to settle in & get attached to this place in a way that I haven’t before. And we love that we get to be a part of the history of this home that has been home to many other families through the past 89 years.

So, how about a tour! [WARNING: some of these are not-so-great camera pics]

2012-09-15_1347743123[a fabulous front porch, just waiting for some big, comfy chairs & a swing]

1-IMAG0016[kitchen organization]

1-IMAG0017[Where the coffee magic happens. (Thanks, Klendas!)]

2012-10-06_1349543649[One of the first home improvement projects-and we LOVE it!
It’s so great to have everything out & in easy reach of the stove.]

[What our room looked like before we moved in.]

1-IMAG0010[And after. The color isn’t quite a dark as it looks in this pic.
But it is a deep, gorgeous shade of teal & I absolutely love it.
Fun things to point out: nightstand made of old encyclopedias (Thanks, Deedra!),
& a duvet cover I made from a $17 sheet set from Target.]

1-IMAG0018[And one of my favorite parts…we’re only about a mile from downtown.
And we have some great views of the city from the back of the house.]

 

So come visit-we have an extra room & everything!

 

 

The Stockings Were Hung by the Chimney With Care…

We have had an ongoing dilemma in our house every Christmas since we got married.

 

Ben displays the stocking he has had since he was little.

 

But my childhood stocking is still with my parents. And I sort of want it to stay there for now. I guess I just always imagined that when I had my own family we would have matching stockings like I had while growing up.

 

Ben has been reluctant to trade in his stocking for a newer one, so that we could have matching stockings.

 

And so this year (9 years later), we have finally have matching stockings!

 

Because I made one for myself, to match Ben’s. I used a scarf that was a beautiful blue knit fabric, but the scarf itself was a bit too short. So I re-purposed it into the base for my stocking. I used fabric scraps that I have had for a long time for the rest of the stocking.

 

My favorite part is the gold ribbon along the top. This fabric scrap was nestled in the sewing kit I inherited from my great grandmother. I have loved it since I found it (about 15 years now!) & have been saving it for just the right project to come along.

 

I’ve been in a bit of a funk lately, and stretching that creative ability I mentioned yesterday has been good for my soul.

 

I’m really happy with the way it turned out. And that we now have matching stockings. 🙂

Creativity

“Every child is an artist, the problem is staying an artist when you grow up” – Pablo Picasso
 

I don’t really see myself as a naturally creative person. I think at some level we are probably all creative in some aspect. It seems that I have to work at it a little to find my natural creative outlets. And I’ve found ways to let my natural creativity come out. (making cards, seeing the beauty that still lies in old, discarded things.)

I recently came across some old artwork I created in elementary school. Some of these made me laugh really hard. And some of them seem to have come from a completely unfamiliar creative brain.

 {That’s a brontosaurus w/ a freakishly long tongue. Standing next to a tar pit.}

{You’re missing a lot of 3-D detail here, like layered construction paper hills, and cardboard behind the big balloon, making it just “pop out” from the page, and red yarn tying the basket to the balloon. You can, however, see my signature “m” birds.}

 

Because looking at these, it seems that maybe somewhere along the way, I fell into a trap of thinking too much. As Ray Bradbury said, “Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy of creativity. It’s self-conscious, and anything self-conscious is lousy. You can’t try to do things. You simply must do things.”

{I call this one “Root Trapper”}

And I’ve tried figuring out the logistics of this story. Can you read it? Here, I’ll transcribe it for you.

“This Plant is called a Root Trapper. It is purple and green. It has a wheel that goes around and eats the roots. On the leaves of it, it has the plants food to attract the roots. The neat thing about it is that it is it only grows by green hills on its right.”
The right side of the picture is my rendition of The Root Trapper. It says, “This is a root trapper. With a wheele that goes eight miles per hour. and eats the roots.”

But I think the beauty of this story & creation is in just celebrating it for what it is. Not trying to figure out the logistics of how in the world this “World’s Scariest Plant” would ever survive.

I’ll leave you with some deep thoughts by Calvin & Hobbes.

“As my artist’s statement explains, my work is utterly incomprehensible and is therefore full of deep significance”-Calvin
 
 

The elephant incident.

One of the things we were able to do at the end of our trip was go on Safari. We rented a van & driver/guide who drove us around the park. Ojok was our driver & we really had a great time with him. He was able to take us right to where the lions were on our first drive & we saw lions again on our second drive. (Murchison Fall National Park has tons of animals & we were easily able to see giraffes, elephants, hippos, SO many species of birds, etc. But the lions tend to be a bit more mysterious, and harder to find. Having a driver or guide who talks to the other drivers & guides & can get you to the precise location in the very large park (over 1,000 square miles!) is really valuable.

I mentioned the elephant incident briefly in my last post, and have since learned that his company was really concerned after hearing about the “incident.” Now I’m thinking that maybe we were experiencing more of an adventure than we even knew at the time!

Here’s what I remember…There was an elephant sort of behind a tree on the left side of the road that we were able to get pretty close to in the van. We knew there were other elephants just around the corner on the right side of the road. But as we advanced, the elephant walked toward us, and out into the road facing the van. That’s when Ojok started beating his arm on the side of the van & told us to do the same. We did that for a little bit & then slowly started backing up the van, making sure the elephant wasn’t going to see that as us retreating & just start coming after us. Then Ojok navigated a pretty amazing 8-point about face turn in the road & we drove off in the other direction.

Well here, watch for yourself…

An adventure for sure! 🙂

Thoughts on our trip

One of our teammates from last year’s trip recently asked us these questions. Spending 10 days in a completely different place is sort of hard to sum up nicely in a normal “How was your trip” conversation. So in an attempt to share about our trip, I’m going to answer Jo’s questions. I know what you really want are pictures, but this will have to do as a start…. 🙂

 

What were the key moments when you had opportunities to minister to others? (Ugandans, Candice and Bobby and team members) 

This is surprisingly hard to answer. I suppose that this time, we were able to minister to Bobby & Candice (Americans living in Jinja, working with Kibo) by bringing them some “comforts of home” like crushed red pepper flakes & contact solution. When you’re living somewhere like Jinja you might only get one or two options on the kind of contact solution you can pick up at the corner store. And if it’s not the kind that you prefer, then when someone is coming from “the land of plenty” where you can find 15 different types of contact solution in every corner store, then that might be something you’d request too. We also brought things like good, quality scissors & dry erase markers for the Kibo employees to use in their offices. You can find these things there…but they might not last as long, or they might be really expensive.  Bobby & Candice also ordered some things online & had them shipped to us. Us packing them in our luggage was much cheaper than shipping something from target.com to Uganda. So we were able to minister to Bobby & Candice in that way, by bringing them some “comforts of home”.

We also really saw our role this time as facilitators for the rest of our team. We helped coordinate the pre-trip meetings, we kept track of the group money & paid for meals, etc. It was fun to see the change the group went through from first impressions & being a bit overwhelmed by the smells & sights & sounds, to falling in love with this place, in the same way we have.

Is it strange that I am having the hardest time knowing when I might have ministered to Ugandans?  I feel like they did much more ministering to me than the other way around.

 

What were the key moments when others ministered to you? 

Bobby & Candice (& Rachel!-another Kibo staffer) took care of so many details for our trip that it made it easy for us to just show up & go where they had arranged for us to go. And Ida (one of the Ugandan Kibo staff) was very transparent about parts of her life & marriage. Hearing part of her story & seeing redemption there & seeing the way she gives & gives to others was really encouraging to me.

 

What went unexpectedly wrong? 

Hardly anything! When we arrived back in Tulsa, one of our trunks of coffee wasn’t on the baggage carousel with all the others…but we were able to find it before we left the airport. Most of the rest of the team had flight delays on the way back & got home much later than planned…but we all got home.

One afternoon a few of the girls were sort of stranded by the driver at an orphanage. There was some miscommunication & the driver thought he was supposed to wait for them somewhere else. They ended up having to find their own transportation (personal taxi motor bikes) back to meet up with the rest of the group. It was a bit more of an adventure than they had planned for that afternoon, but I think they all actually enjoyed it!

 

What went surprisingly right?

Lives were changed! And we made it through the Murchison part of our trip “on our own”, just Ben & I in charge-no Bobby & Candice to help us navigate things. This means that we successfully got the group to the game park (a several hour drive), into the park (with fees), across the ferry at the appropriate times, to the lodge, and back to the airport. AND along the way, I did not lose any of the group money, we had no vehicle issues, and we saw 4 lions & experienced a minor confrontation with a rather large elephant & lived to tell about it. Success in my book! (Big Thanks to our driver, Ojok, who was really, really helpful with all of those things.)

 

What are some things you learned about yourself?

I was reminded that I am naturally a “rescuer”. I want everyone to have very low anxiety & be happy. So it was stretching for me to not have all the answers. Or even if I did have some information about what was coming up next, to not share that all the time & allow people to work through some of their anxieties.