We Will All Be Together

This year definitely has a different feel to it. We're less rushed, less stressed and more peaceful. How is that, you say? TELL ME MORE. Okay, I will. Here goes. 

One major theme is that we've been better with managing our money. We have almost one year of You Need a Budget under our belts. This budgeting software has been life-changing. Instead of stressing about holiday expenses, we saved throughout the year for presents, the tree and even our Christmas cards. Yeah, baby!

We planned ahead to do some things that tend to be rushed or prone to kid meltdowns. For instance, we shopped for our live Christmas tree on a peaceful Sunday morning when the girls had full bellies and warm coats. (Yes, we skipped church for this at my suggestion. Jonathan almost fell down in shock since I am the Wake Up People and Get to Church on Sunday type of Mom.)

We also said no to some crazy-making things that we just didn't need to do because we were invited. I have been shopping online, too, with the budgeted present money (easier than shopping in a store!). I also reviewed the next six months of plans and dreams our family has and scratched out some quick dates and budgets (Go ahead and say it: I am a complete financial nerd.) This exercise (oddly) has made me realize that the month of December will be followed with the Rest of Our Lives. One month does not a Happy Family make. We still have to wake up and do it all again come January 1. 

We will also see my beloved brother and his family for Christmas, and this makes my heart sing. So, I've been thinking about that visit and how happy we will all be. Lots of wine and great dinners. Cousins playing and romping. It's going to be AWESOME. 

And I am grateful. Grateful for these small moments, like when my 3-year-old asks if TODAY is Christmas. She's always sure it is. Or when we light the Advent yule log and the older girls squeal because now we're lighting two candles...not just one...which means Christmas is SO close. Yeah, so I'm grateful in general. And I am grateful for the meaning of Christmas. 

Here are some snaps of the ole Homestead, below. Nothing is neat; nothing is perfect. It's okay. I need to go back and tell twenty-year-old Jen this. We figure everything out. Eventually. 

Happy Hanukkah to our Jewish friends! And a warm Merry Christmas to all. Thanks for stopping by our blog. 

How to Be Happy

My twenties went something like this: graduate college; try to write a novel in a cabin for a year, fail; go to graduate school in N.Y.; return to S.C. and fall crazy, crazy in love. Get married. Move a few times. Start real jobs, making real money. A man hikes to Mills River, RMNP

My thirties were a beautiful mix of career building, novel writing, national parks camping and then parenthood, something that I thought was waaaay too mundane for Jonathan and I. Turns out, it's awesome. And so we had two girls, and as I was inching into dried-up-egg territory, having just turned 40, we gorgeously, blessedly welcomed a third daughter. She eased into the world in a simple tub of water at Mountain Midwifery Center. She was almost ten pounds, and floated up in the water like a chunky, swollen little monkey, one eye cracked to meet me, and the world.

A woman walks through Bishop Castle CO

I think of the years I have been an adult, and by far the best is my 40's. I am just a year or so in, but a lot of things are coming together. I think, mostly, because I know how to be happy even when life isn't perfect.

Simply, I have learned how to be grateful.

A pot of succulents in Colorado

Grateful for what I have, and even for what I do not have, because it teaches me patience, peace and contentedness. For an amazing book on the subject, check out Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts. The subtitle of the book is "A dare to live fully right where you are." I met Ann a few years ago when I was newly pregnant with that fat, gorgeous baby mentioned above and roiling with ante-partum depression, working a job that provided for us but was not my true calling, and desperate to see my husband's talents finally recognized. Yep, it was the right book for me and I took it and ran with it. To say that her dare to live fully even when life is grinding on your back resonated with me would be an understatement. I panted for the message she brought on paper.

A picture of a blooming chive

And so, in my 40's, I am thankful for so much. My gratitude for this imperfect life is messy and frequently uneven. I have been known to have temper tantrums with God. But happiness? It's the joy in the smallest of the small.