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Simplicity

“Simplify your life”, one of those calls to action that inevitably becomes a hollywood ethos. Years ago I dabbled in the concepts but our life at the time didn’t seem conducive to the full idea or I wasn’t ready for the real work involved.

Our house in Mass. was big for us which we knew when we purchased it. It had what I’ll call a large boundary. The size felt daunting but we loved the open space and the woods that surrounded us, our retreat from the world. In seven years we still had not filled all the rooms with furniture. We called one room the green room and tinkered with the idea of turning it into a massive closet or sitting room but it just sat in its empty state. Over those years we purchased all sorts of furniture, decorations and closet organizers to help fill our space (you don’t want to mention the words “Elfa closet system” to Scott). Many of the purchases happened in the winter when, tired of being in our empty house, we would trudge out to stores for a change of scenery and  find something to fill the void. The point being we had a lot of space and a lot of stuff, purchases fostered by sultry Pottery Barn catalogs and Restoration Hardware tomes. Coming to California offered a unique opportunity to simplify. Not an easy or terribly fun task but the outcome is becoming a deep sigh of contentment. Here it is in summary…our move into simplicity, a work in progress.

Leaving our home in Massachusetts caused us to look at our belongings with discrimination and in stages we have backwards waded through the sea of accumulation. It started with our drive across the country when somehow we managed to reduce our necessary belongings to a car full, albeit a very full car, and rack on top. The boundary was small. We lived with just these things for a month and it felt good like a burden lifted. A sweet thought but not sustainable. We would eventually need more stuff, but which stuff?

We moved into our first rental and went about measuring and deciding which items to fill our bigger, very small space with. A slightly larger boundary but still with distinct size limitations. We chose items that felt more necessary for the year ahead, beds, linens, chairs, a table and kitchen gear. We tried to be intentional about our decisions realizing that we were adding more stuff into the mix. Still we left most behind in MA. The outcome was comfortable. We liked the simplicity of less clothes, less furniture, less sheets, less dishes and less things to wash, repair and replace. Our focus began to shift to consumables that we bring into our lives but that don’t stay, good food, a nice bottle of wine, experiences with our family and the growing realization that less stuff meant more time, a commodity we seem to pursue relentlessly. This worked but there was still the nagging issue of what to do with all the things back in MA. Sometimes the only way to the other side is right through the middle.

Selling our house back east brought it all to a head. The months of living with less and of not seeing daily the contents of our house in MA made us wonder what was there and did we still need it? The answer is coming in stages. We still had stuff, lots of stuff, and even after Scott and I went through and donated much of it there was still stuff and it was on a truck and headed our way. Our most recent house in CA is a bit more spacious, has a larger boundary than the last rental and this is where we really noticed the tension in our decisions. We now had space to bring more items back into our lives but we had also grown fond of the simplicity. The morning the truck was scheduled to arrive Scott and I stayed in bed questioning whether we were excited or terrified. Some of both I guess. The truck came and things started pouring out. Our garage filled with boxes floor to ceiling and arm chair after arm chair filled every corner of our house. Who needs this many chairs? The boxes of kitchen gadgets were opened and I took out and looked at each item like an object from an archeological dig trying to recall exactly what I used it for and when. Every box opened is examined closely for its contents. I listen so carefully to myself and that first reaction. Does it bring me joy or is it something I have to find a place for or feel obligated to keep? The task continues even though most of the boxes are empty now.

There’s more to this story. As with all motion there is pulling and pushing. The pendulum always swings. I sat faced with a box of my dad’s stuff. A box I have been conveniently avoiding since 1998 when he died. Every single item that emerged brought back a wave of memories, emotions and longing. It took me days to get through it. Some of these things I can’t “simplify” because their weight in memories feels more important than the convenience of less space occupied. Ethan and Alex are enamored with my dad’s fountain pens and spend hours writing and drawing with these mysterious inks and paper. Simplifying is not just about removing items and making space. For me it feels like a movement into focusing and finding the simple things in life that bring us much joy. As the saying goes…Less is More, and I’ll add that it’s not just about quantities or cleanliness but about continually learning, being adaptable and keeping a shelf empty for opportunity.

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Where do we go from here?

The westward adventure I’ve written about in this blog is coming to an end, not the adventure part just the westward part. It’s logistical mostly, from San Jose you can’t go much more west without a boat. The plans we made in October, 2012, felt etched in stone at the time. Drive across the country, spend a year in California, return to Massachusetts. Apparently plans held too tightly don’t allow room for life’s unexpected detours.

Our house in MA sold quickly, we are finishing up the details right now. I’m thankful for this as prolonging the sting of change doesn’t make it go away. And so we continue on day after day making the decisions faced at us in the moment. This hasn’t been easy, the whole experience, but Scott and I have been thoughtful in our decisions and have faith in a future we can’t readily see. For me the question nags, “where do we go from here?”. We’re still waiting for the answer. I will continue to write because I’ve come to love it and it feels like a connection to those of you we don’t get to see often enough. I’ll write about the things that interest me and Scott and our family and maybe some piece of us will resonate with a part of you. Family, food, art, faith, homeschool, travel…they’re all galavants of one kind or another.

I know for some of you it’s hard to understand our decision to stay. I wish there were a way to show you in detail the trail of decisions, opportunities, coincidences and remarkable experiences that we have encountered these past 15 months. Some of it is in these posts. We believe there is a plan in all of this that is so much larger than Scott, Ethan, Alex, Evan and me. I have faith, complete and total, and know that whatever is thrown at our family we will make it through. Thank you for being a part of our adventure, we hope you’ll continue along with us. Onward we go!

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Surfacing

A year ago today we locked the door to our house in Hopkinton and headed west on our Jarr adventure. It was our thought at that time that we would be headed back toward Massachusetts right about now. It seems most of the problems we stumble over in life have to do with setting expectations and then not meeting them. Clearly we are not in the Jarr car headed east. The expectation has changed.

Since returning from our trip to MA this summer we have been on some kind of crazy ride involving our second move in less than a year. We are finally surfacing, settling in to California house #2 and life is still spinning. Our pastor recently gave a thoughtful sermon on the space between where you are in your life and where you want to be. It felt clearly directed at us. The space in between he called “wandering”. We call it “galavanting” and, whatever the name, it is apparently where we learn most about ourselves. Here we are one year later learning much and realizing that our journey isn’t ending, the galavant is just changing direction.

What direction is that? Well, it begins with the big decision to put our house in Hopkinton up for sale, maybe some of you felt this coming. This has all come about rather abruptly for us, like in the past week, and we are moving forward quickly to take advantage of the current market. I’m sorry for the rather impersonal delivery but I didn’t want any of our friends in MA to go driving by our house and see a for sale sign without any notice before I could speak with you. We don’t know what will happen or if it will happen but this feels like the right decision given the information we have right now.

And what is that information? Scott’s work continues to do very well here and to leave now would seem premature. The house we have recently rented came with a lengthy 18 month lease, we know we’re here for a while. The kids and I have taken advantage of what California has to offer yet we still have much more to go see and do. I honestly don’t know more. Spending too much time focused on the far future seems a waste of energy. Constantly I am reminded that this is the day we have.

I will be in touch on a more personal level soon. 

Much love from Cali!

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Home

A liminal state of being, a place of transition and uncertainty. This is part of the life Scott and I lead, the life we love, the one we chose. Scott is a serial entrepreneur. His job description embodies the liminal state. Challenging and rewarding at intense proportions. I am a life long galavanter. The reality of our decisions hits me somewhere flying between our house in Massachusetts and our house in California. Where is home?

There is on occasion the desire to just be in one place for long periods of time, to live in and know only that place. An alluring idea albeit stricken with mind numbing boredom. It’s typically the knee jerk reaction accompanied with the first news of change and uncertainty. Like a puzzle suddenly scattered on the ground my mind tries to arrange all the frenzied pieces back into place, but they no longer fit where they were and when I stop trying a new picture begins to form. As a child my mom and dad gave me and my sisters a gift, the ability to roam and not be lost. I think God creates different types of families. He creates some that live in the same place for a lifetime and some that, well, don’t and there is a reason and a need for both.

Then what is home? For some it’s where their stuff is, where the car is parked, the structure that keeps out the rain. Home for me feels more like a moment that strikes a deep chord. We may be at the Jersey shore, lying on a hammock in California with palm tree views or enjoying a relaxed meal with our children and in that moment there is a comfort, a happiness and a belonging. Our sense of home right now seems less about proximity to a structure and more about people we love, to experiences that conjure all our senses and to a deep knowing that we are here together and for one another.

As I was writing this post we heard from our landlord that they want to sell the property we rent, and quickly. How timely. Writing about complex ideas in a short blog is challenging. Having those ideas tested in realtime is sobering. Thank you Mom and Dad for the internal compass. Who knows what this life brings and what we will be called to tomorrow? It’s all an adventure and wherever I am, I am home.

Rogue Waves

First off, thank you for the many heartfelt responses to my last post. Honestly, it was written from a humorous point of view. My humor is dry and tinged with sarcasm which apparently didn’t come through so well. I’m not panicked about our trip and actually very much look foward to it. The very situations that I wrote about are those that will give the trip richness and moments to remember. Sorry that you worried. Moving on.

Rogue Waves

I need to come to peace with the ocean here and my love/fear relationship with it. It’s a healthy fear I think but maybe a bit hypersensitive. Occasionally we get alerts about pacific storms, high wind advisory, rogue waves. My mind never gets past “Rogue Wave” and the visual is plastered there (see images below). Scott, my swimmer hubby, gets a big chuckle out of this but it really does happen. Really it does! When a storm comes in from across the pacific it can pick up a good bit of steam. The waves can come in at 20 or more feet and slam the shore. Many of the beaches here are nestled up against cliffs and so when these waves come in they hit the cliffs and pretty much wipe the beach clean. If you happen to be standing on that beach well you can guess what happens.  “Never turn your back to the ocean here” a lifeguard tells us one day. “The water seems calm and placid but big waves sneak up and can pull you out”. Scott and the kids assimilate that information like they read it on the back of a cereal box and move on. Again, I’m left with the visual of some monstrous wave coming in and sucking one of my precious kiddies out to sea. I did say I was a bit sensitive to it.

Evan, Ethan and Alex love the water, I can hardly keep them out of it. While at the beach recently they were running in and out of the chilly waves, dipping and dodging the big ones. I have to hold myself back while I watch them and realize this is a job better suited to Scott. Mom has wave issues but I am getting better. So we were at the beach and Evan was playing in the waves where they break and the sets were coming pretty quietly and at decent intervals, all was well. Evan stood up and turned his back to the ocean (not a good thing to do) and the next wave that broke was larger and stronger. The water consumed him, broke right over him and sent him tumbling through the froth. Head, foot, arm was all I saw. When he emerged he was crying and if his mouth hadn’t been full of sand he would’ve said something like “what was that?”. His face said it all. Ah yes, the learning moment.

The kids want to surf and I need to let them and not hover in fear. They need a good mentor, good equipment, a wetsuit and probably need their dad to take them to the beach without me while they learn. Here I am again trying to move out of my own way, a reoccuring theme. The thought brings me to a book called A Million Miles In A Thousand Years by Donald Miller. In the book Miller writes about how each of us is living a story and that we get to decide the role we play in it. Certainly our time here is a story and I suppose there is a big decision to make. Will I be cast as the ocean fearing mom or the 40 something surfing mom? I prefer the latter in my head, it certainly sounds cooler, if only I can dodge the rogue waves and keep letting California happen.

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We’re coming. Please pray.

Yay, we’re headed east in just a couple weeks for a visit. The offensively high priced tickets are purchased and now I have just a couple prayers.

Please pray for our trip back east. Pray in particular for the men and women who, due to the high price of airplane tickets, will be sitting next to my children on the flights out while mom is seated five or more rows away. Pray for abundant patience for the unknowing business man who is imagining how productive he will be on this flight as he becomes the constrained five hour audience for my very social little Evan who will engage him in a dissertation on beyblades, homeschooling, commutative actions and the Fibonacci sequence. Please pray for humor for the passengers as Evan stands on the seat and screams back to me that he needs to go potty, a blanket, can’t work the TV and is dying of thirst.

Pray for Ethan as he gets the first glimpse of the bright neon green speck with the minuscule back seat we’ll rent to drive because the big cars are crazy expensive. He will be sitting in between Alex and Evan. May our recent studies of geometry, area and acute angles reassure him as I explain how much room there really is back there. Keep my purse swelling with starburst and my mind with happy thoughts. Pray that the woman at the rental counter shows grace and mercy and upgrades us to a large, lush minivan with air conditioning and electric doors.

Pray for Alex that the lack of internet connection back home will be only a temporary inconvenience to her kindle reading. May she find joy in the library and renewed interest in the books and toys back east. May I have restraint and patience as she asks to bring every single item she owns back to California and pray that she remember how little room we have in the wee little house.

And please pray for our air conditioner back in Massachusetts that it will work flawlessly when we arrive in the heat of June even though every year it zonks out the first week of summer. Pray for our continued joy of adventure and fun nine months in as we “camp” in our own home. Please pray that I have an everflowing source of creative ideas about living without much furniture, any silverware, pots and pans, internet connection and cable.

And while we’re at it please pray for me in that moment when something inadvertently goes wrong, breaks, gets lost or is left at home or in an airplane. Pray that I will move beyond that initial reaction and find peace and thankfullness with our time back east. Give me grace beyond measure and a large glass of prosecco.

Prayerfully, Kelly

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Jello

This blog post has been in the works for weeks. Blogger’s block I suppose. Many little bits of things that just finally conjealed into a whole. It reminds me of the jello my nana would make with bits of fruit suspended in it. This is my jello 🙂

“We come to beginnings only at the ends.” William Bridges

I cut my hair short. It’s hard to help solder small circuit boards or use a dremel tool when you have hair in your face, at least for me. Drastic changes in hair style have been a part of my life. A few I’d like to forget but mostly it’s an act of freedom. Long hair falling to the ground to reveal a bouncier, lighter Kelly. Plus, I prefer shower and go ease or risk the permanent ponytail fixture. It’s a form follows function kind of decision, guess I’m just utilitarian that way.

It’s a change and sometimes change is good. Cleary we don’t all share that perspective and there’s probably a nature vs. nurture discussion in there. Within the multitude of experiences of the past 6 months a hair cut is a small change, a welcome change. All these decisions move us in a direction and one that looks somewhat different from our life in Massachusetts. Let’s face it, even if we were to pack up the Jarr Car and head home today we are returning changed from the experience. It is an ending and a beginning.

I don’t fear change but the lengthy process of finding a new normal has its challenges. Inherent  in change is the inevitable ending of something known like the predictable comfort and ease that comes from living in one place for years. In some ways I took for granted the moments of seeing familiar faces. The closeness that builds over many cups of coffee, bible studies, trips to the gym, impromptu dinners, playdates and support in lifes difficult moments. Friendship is happening here but it’s a process, one that can’t be rushed no matter how much I might long for community. I’d like to fast forward and make a tshirt to help. It would look something like this…

Hi, I’m Kelly

From: Massachusetts, and yes we are enjoying the weather here
When: October
Why: Technology, but not Google or Apple
Where: Saratoga
House: Rent, yes ours is small too
School: Homeschool

Maybe then we could get to the knowing eachother phase quicker. Less small talk and more getting to the real life day-to-day living part. Sometimes the song from Cheers pops in my head, not the “I love you Kelly, Kelly, Kelly, Kelly, Kelly” one, the other one “I wanna go where everyboby knows my name”. I want to be in that place. Each time we moved growing up I assumed that place existed where everyone knew eachother and I just didn’t know the secret hand shake yet. I spent so much time trying to figure out what it feels like to be normal in a new place. I see now that normal is something we hold inside ourselves not something we move into. The more  we just live our lives being who we really are the more friends we seem to meet. No special hand shake required.

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The sweet spot

The weather app on my phone rings daily with news of winter storms headed for the Northeast. It pains me to write about how beautiful it is here. I wish for a way to send some to you.
The trees are bursting open with blooms. It never really turned grey and wintery here. Mostly it rained and before I could say “kids, put your winter jackets on” it started to warm up. The evenings are chilly and that’s the norm, when the sun goes down so does the barometer but in the sun of the day it is sublime.
California produces 80% of the fruits and vegetables in the U.S. Abundance is an understatement. It still amazes me to drive down any old road and see trees packed with fruit, so much that their owners don’t know what to do with them. I want to knock on doors and ask if I can pick them all. In our own yard we have two pomegranate trees, a lemon, a lime and an orange tree. They’re young but we do get some fruit. It all makes me giggle. Picking fruit right off the tree, peeling and eating it right there is a glorious experience.
We are in the sweet spot of our time here. It allows us to just live our days without too much thought of settling in or packing the car. We had a BBQ with friends and neighbors and it reminded me that a year is a curious amount of time. Too long to be called a vacation and too short for a move. I’m trying not to over think it or put up that protective guard, still working on moving into people.
Finding a church, the right church, became the focus for a while. Finally, the stinging realization that there isn’t a Faith Community Church here. This was hard but I let go the white knuckled intentions of finding “comfortable” and instead accepted that there is much to learn and find in “different” if only I remain willing to try. Pray. Pray. Pray. Sunday’s service felt better, I knew the songs and sang with all my heart, an opportunity to serve in the children’s ministry appeared and I jumped, the kids led us to the playground after service and there we met a wonderful family.
This journey is one of the most difficult and rewarding I’ve had yet. I am thankful everyday, even the hardest of them. When I feel I’ve had enough with transition and uncertainty I look outside at the blue sky and palm trees. We drive over the Santa Cruz mountains and, every time, the first sight of the ocean catches my breath. It could be so much worse.

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Life without guardrails

Sorry for the shortage of posts these past weeks. It has not been for a lack of content. It’s the exact opposite really, too much to comment on and not knowing where to begin.

Have you ever noticed the abundance of Hollwood movies where a car screeches around a hairpin turn to go careening off the side of a cliff? Finally, I understand. California has no guardrails. I’m not sure why, maybe lack of state funding or possibly a deeper metaphor for life out here. Either way it serves the movie industry well. There are some guardrails but not where you expect them and certainly not in those dangerous spots. It’s a little scary and oddly invigorating to be driving along knowing there is nothing but space between you and the edge. The lack of a physical boundary causes me to create my own and that feels good. I feel my edges here.

It isn’t all hairpin turns and wild galavants but life full of many new experiences. “We don’t remember days, we remember moments.” – Cesare Pavese. So true! Over the years Scott and I have spent a lot of time, effort and brain power creating “predictable”, that feeling of knowing what to expect in our home life. Thanks to all that establishing of rituals and schedules there is, in this time, freedom to find our edges. No worries, I’m not dying my hair and changing my name to Sunflower though it has a nice ring to it.  We are fully enjoying the wealth of experiences California is offering up and living, quite acutely, in the moment. From hikes out to the beach to find Elephant Seals to watching the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, drives up curvy mountain roads and along seaside cliffs, working on the organic farm and baking ancient Einkorn bread from scratch (including the 5+ hours and hand grinding the wheat), treking 160 feet underground into dark caverns and tubing in the Sierra mountains, building structures out of driftwood on the beach and spending hours and hours biking and rollerblading. There are also lazy walks, movie nights and quiet mornings. On Sunday we stop, go to church, refuel, spend time just sitting and being together, shop at the farmers market for dinner and enjoy the process. There are edges and there is balance.

At this moment Evan is in his room deeply involved in play. He’s singing which is one of his gifts and not about anything in particular, part jumbled words and part humming. I’m holding back the desire to go investigate knowing that an unexpected entrance will change his cadence. So I just sit and listen and am reminded that these moments are fleeting. This whole experience is fleeting but I have this moment and am thankful for it.

All the adventures aside we deeply miss you all. Please keep us in your prayers. Our wee little house doesn’t boast of guest rooms or a quiet oasis but we have enough room and lots of hugs waiting. If your journeys bring you west please let us know.

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Christmas

Thank you for your Christmas cards. We love seeing all your smiling faces. We had a simple Christmas focused more on experiences than purchases. Christmas Eve was full of church and singing, a drive to see Christmas lights then back home for snacky dinner under the tree, watching Miracle on 34th Street and opening one gift each. Christmas morning came with fewer but thoughtful presents and a laid back day with Aunt Lee and Uncle Bill. They may be tired of us by next fall but we just love them. The only thing missing for the kids was the snow. It took a little more effort to get into the Christmas spirit this year in shorts and sweatshirts

The greatest gift came Saturday morning when Scott woke with a plan. Jackets were thrown into the car along with lunch and the camera and we headed out on a serious galavant, a galavant to find SNOW!  We drove for hours over hills and through valleys, across farmland and up into the foothills of the Sierras. With the recent chilly weather surely we’d see some of the white stuff but not a speck and it was getting late and we were far from home. We approached the border of Yosemite and the hills grew steep as the sun was beginning to set. We agreed to scale one more hill, driven by the excitement of discovery. There, just over the summit we found snow. Just a bit along the side of the road but we found it. Ethan, Alex and Evan shot out of the car before we could get the emergency break on. Snowmen were made, snowballs were flung, kids were smiling…all four of them. To the kids this small patch of snow was a winter wonderland. It’s true that the greatest gifts can’t be wrapped and Scott continues to be the most favoritest daddy in the world. Personally I love snow I can visit. It’s the best kind.

Usually the quiet after Christmas is a reminder that the season is over and we have a long haul ’til spring. I don’t feel that here. I’m excited about what 2013 will bring and to have more time to explore. This year will fly by, we already feel it. Before we know it we’ll be planning our drive back East. I want to savor it all, bask in the Californianess and continue to watch our family grow to fill the space around us.

To wax poetic here will get me nowhere so I’m off. Places to go, things to learn. Happy New Year.

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