Documenting Long Days & Short Years

Documenting the Long Days and Short Years | Frock Files

If someone asked me to choose one adult truth I’ve learned in the past year, it would be that time really does begin to speed up at some point. This week, as I head to Alt Summit for the second time, I’m in disbelief that it’s already time to go back, while at the same time I’m stunned by the ways my life has changed in these twelve months.

Nothing has illustrated this feeling more succinctly than this post on a family that took an annual photo in the same pose, in front of the same wall, at the same time of day, for twenty-two years. In the span of just a few seconds, you can scroll down the page and watch this family go through the kind of changes that extend beyond clothes or age.

I love how their expressions are so vastly different from year to year. Maybe that’s just indicative of the day, or maybe it tells a story of what the whole year was like. But there’s more to it than just a snapshot. In fact, in some of the photos it’s almost as though the parents are aging backwards because they look so much happier than in the previous year’s photos. Just like Roald Dahl said, the good thoughts are shining out of their faces like sunbeams.

Documenting the Long Days and Short Years | Frock FilesDocumenting the Long Days and Short Years | Frock Files

As you know, my favorite takeaway from Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project is the quote, “The days are long, but the years are short.” I’ve always been fascinated by diaries of any type — daily journals, photographs, blogs. In fact, people like to call Facebook “fake-book”, but in reality, people have been molding their own truths for years. I think that the important thing is to document these long days, because it’s in that act of recording that we can look back and find ourselves.

Five Simple Truths for a Happier Life

Janae is the founder of the health and lifestyle blog Bring Joy. There, she develops fabulous vegan and gluten-free recipes, exercise videos, and posts about her life as an Air Force wife and mother of four young children. She’s currently living in Washington State as a temporary single parent while her husband completes JAG training; the family will soon be moving to Texas.

Janae is one of those inspiring, deeply honest women who I know could run the world if she chose too. Here, she’s sharing five truths she’s discovered to live a simpler and more fulfilling life.

This summer my husband and I took our four kids on a road trip. It was a time of family, of being completely disconnected from our routines.  In three weeks, we traveled over 3,000 miles and passed through five states.  You could say it was our time to just be.

While my husband has been away on active duty military training, I have had time and space to think about what it means to live simply. For the past six months, I have had none of my personal belongings, other than a few sets of clothes and pairs of shoes.  My kids only have some of their books and clothing.  We’re living in my parent’s basement.  It’s odd, once you have separation from things, what that does to you.

On our road trip, one of our favorite places was the beach in southern Oregon.  We had come from the crowded beaches in California.  In Oregon, at least where we were, there was no one in sight.  It was just us, with the sand and water stretching into the horizon.  My boys could have spent the whole day there, playing tag with the waves, digging holes, running along the shore.

I’ve thought about that place often.  How that simplicity brought us so much joy, and how nature has a way of smoothing out the roughness of life.  And how I have filled my day to day life with things that only add clutter and chaos, when what I desire is simplicity.

I guess you could say I’ve been forced to scale back.  Without a home to care for and classes to teach (I used to teach a dozen fitness classes a week), my world has become open and rather simple.  I’ll admit that it’s taken a few months to get my bearings.  I’m a bit like a fish out of water, learning, discovering the answers to these questions: what do I really want out of life?  What is most important?

Here are five of things I’m discovering:

1.  Time is a finite commodity & my most precious resource.  Can I do something in a more efficient way?  If yes, will it be at the expense of my relationships?  If no, I know I need to do it.  I love social media (Twitter is my fave) and blogs.  But I’ve realized that the people and blogs that are important to me — the stuff I really care about — will rise to the top.  The other, non-essential stuff I’m not really all that passionate about will fall by the wayside.  Spending time online, unlike most other forms of media, have no end.  There is no end on the internet.  If you are an adult, there are no parental controls or limits on how much time you can spend blog hopping, tweeting, and facebooking.

2.  Real face time trumps all.  Eye connection, a person’s warmth, a handshake, or hug —  these things are far more valuable than a text, email, or tweet.  I strive to get as much face time as much as possible with the people who matter most.  That physical contact is a key component to happiness and security, which is missing in our modern lives.

3.  Free is free is free.  Did you know there are so many free, good things?  My faves:  the library, Pandora, parks, going for a walk, cuddling with my kids, doing my personal yoga practice at home.  And breathing deeply.  That’s free too, and that fresh air is good stuff.

4.  It’s much easier to reduce expenses than it is to earn more.  Readers of my blog know of my journey towards a debt-free life.  I’m realizing, in a very real, acute way, just how true this principle is.  I’m squeezing the life out of every penny that crosses my path.  And by golly, it’s making a huge difference.

5.  Ockham’s Razor just may be the answer.  Ockham was a mathematician who theorized:  “Entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily.”  In other words, when applied to science or math, if two competing theories make the same exact predictions, the simpler one is better.  I see these bizarre, complicated fad diets; ways to get rich quick; detailed and complicated parenting books — it seems as if we want to believe that the more complicated a process is, the more likely it is to work.  But experience has shown me, whether it be with weight loss, finances, or relationships, things are very simple.  It’s the simplicity of principles, not rigid, complicated rules, that set us free.

See more of Janae’s thoughts over at Bring Joy

More posts to love by Janae:
Pumpkin Caramel Blondie Bars
Workout Video: 5 Minute Abs
Get on the Debt Free Boat

You can also find Bring Joy on Facebook, Twitter, & Pinterest.  You can read more about Janae, here, & more about her family, here.

Words, Words, Words: Sharing in the Extra Ordinary

MJ is the author of Pars Caeli (“Little Piece of Heaven”), as well as a graphic designer and mother of three. At her blog, you’ll find all kinds of ways to discover good humor, thoughtfulness, and fun in the everyday. MJ is a fantastic writer, and I’m so glad that she’s agreed to share this story of simplicity with us. Thank you, MJ, for being a great friend, and for being a source of inspiration in happy living.

One year ago, we embarked on the journey of home renovation, and it was definitely an experience as much as an end product. It began as an effort to extend the laundry/mini-mudroom leading to the garage. The overflow of shoes, backpacks, and laundry baskets was becoming a fire hazard and an unwelcome greeting to our every entrance.

When we reviewed the plans, my husband and I realized we were beginning a domino fall. Move the laundry? Well, that means we should finish off more of the basement. Take down that wall? Move that stud? Well, you get the idea. In order to complete all that needed to be done, we packed up the playroom (you know that space that has every small toy, party favor, and leftover artwork in it?), and the contents of the entire first floor of our house. All of the stuff of our lives was distributed and stored upstairs in our bedrooms and bathroom, or the small storage space remaining in our basement. I’m not sure how many boxes it took, but I know that we made at least three trips to our local grocery store to snatch the last of the sturdy egg boxes. Those egg boxes filled up quickly.

My children, then 6, 4, and 2 were excited about all the change and new people entering their home. They were not delighted to pack up their toys or see them stacked to the ceiling in Mommy and Daddy’s bathroom, unusable until further notice. I was also more than slightly concerned with how this upheaval was going to affect the kiddos. How long would they peacefully go without a space to hang out? How long would we go without appliances and home cooked meals?

In my efforts to design more space and more openness and more, more, more, I discovered that what we needed was a little less and a smattering of simplicity.

One year later, what do my children remember from the renovation experience?: “Mommy, I wish we could all eat dinner on your bed like we did when our house was changed.”

Reworking spaces had us without a kitchen or the usability of our first floor so we all camped out together in the master bedroom, eating pizza on our comforter and giggling over the funny noises and strange new smells in our house. Polyurethane on hardwood floors moved us out of our house and into a local hotel for a few days, and my children love to talk about the time we spent swimming in the middle of winter and the silly trips on the luggage cart in their slippers before school.

Those toys we packed up in box after box? Most of them remain in the boxes a year later. They’re now ready for charity as my children have learned they didn’t really need (or want) all that stuff back in their shared play space. The playroom is brighter and bigger than it was before, and it’s also more empty, or rather more full of dancing space and room to create.

I have more storage space than ever, but we buy less now. We keep less. I think we’ve all learned that making fun moments together beats any mound of toys or books or craft supplies (ahem) that we might gather. Simplifying has created a renewed sense of peace and purpose in our home.

As the holidays approach, I remind myself of the laughter we shared skipping on cement floors and throwing picnics in the hallway. Our Christmas lists this year will include intentional moments together, sharing in the extra-ordinary. The requests for toys will be simplified–and the plans for holiday adventures will be amplified.

How has simplicity impacted the relationships in your life?

Check out MJ’s blog, Pars Caeli, for a daily dose of her happiness philosophies. And check out her Pinterest boards for inspiration of all kinds, including a thoughtfully curated typography board (my favorite!)

Photo by MJ of Pars Caeli

Words, Words, Words: Hibernation

Since I started my gift guide at the end of September, it’s probably a little obvious that I’m excited about the holidays. The truth of the matter is this: I haven’t looked forward to this time of year for a very long while. I thought that it might be the kind of magic that slowly evaporated as I got older. But as the days go by, as the packages of Christmas gifts we’ve purchased arrive, I’m coming to the realization that what I thought was gone inside of me was really just dormant. Hibernating like an old bear.

The holiday magic has never disappeared for my dad, who loves Christmas more than anyone I know despite living his whole life in a place that never sees snow. Now that Halloween is over, he’ll begin pulling his Department 56 houses from the dusty attic space in the garage. If any of the neighbors put their lights up before he does, they chide him about it. By the time we get home in a couple of weeks, the CD player will be stocked with Christmas albums. Several by Johnny Mathis. (Did you even know there were that many carols?)

When we were younger, my sister and I devised plans for how to rid the house of those albums. Every year, my parents have a Christmas party with our family friends. One year, my parents asked each guest to bring a white elephant gift. On the sly, Julie and I wrapped up one of the Johnny Mathis holiday albums and put it in the pile.

“Hey!” my dad exclaimed when one of the guests opened it. “How’d that get in there?!”

“It was a duplicate!” we shouted in our own defense. “You had two!”

Of course, there will be plenty of Johnny Mathis when we visit in two weeks. And even that’s okay with me now that my Christmas spirit is back. Through the past decade, despite my lethargy and inability to be sufficiently enthusiastic about them, my dad has kept up our Christmas traditions.

Every year, he and I watch the Muppet Christmas Carol (last year we did it with my nephew, who turned to my dad twenty minutes in and said, “Is it almost over?”). He puts up colorful lights so that it looks like we’re approaching a gingerbread house as we drive up to their cul-de-sac. He does it for my sister, brother-in-law, and me, as much as he does it for my niece and nephew. And this year, especially, he’s doing it for James as well.

There’s a congruence between the fact that this past year has brought me a kind of permanence, and the comfort that these traditions bring at the end of each year. James, my work, our home, our friends — these are the simple things that I wasn’t sure of a year ago, which I am very sure of now, in the same way that I’ve never had to wonder about the way we’ll celebrate the holidays at home. These are the gifts I’ve been given.

{ Photo Credit }

Aloha Spirit

In just three weeks, we’re heading back to Hawaii to visit my family. James likes to say, “Yeahhh, we’re fulfilling our familial duties,” in a tone filled with fake dread because he’s really excited about his first trip to my home state. Over the years, there have definitely been times in which I’ve wished that “home” wasn’t so far away. In graduate school, when everyone flew a few hours or drove home for the holidays, I was preparing for a day of being stuffed into a tiny airplane seat to cross the entire continent and an ocean. But no one feels sorry for you when you’re from Hawaii, nor should they. My birthplace has been a blessing to me my entire life, not just because of its beauty and great weather, but because of the intersection of cultures that I grew up within and because, no matter where I am, the fact that I’m from Hawaii is a doorway to conversation with the unlikeliest of people.

When we came back from Vermont last week, I realized that I was friendlier than I had been in the months prior. At the hotel, everyone we passed smiled and said hello. It was such a simple thing, but it opened up something inside me, and when a woman pushed her cart into me at the grocery store on Monday, I found myself laughing and chatting with her for a minute rather than awkwardly huffing and darting away down the bread aisle. That thing that happened — that lighting up and warmth — that’s what we call the spirit of aloha. Funny to have found it in Vermont.

I can’t wait to see my parents, with whom we’ll go to the farmer’s market before the sun is even up to buy papayas and Manoa lettuce and guava jam so fresh that the jars are warm. And then there’s my niece, who may still be wearing her Thor costume from Halloween, and my nephew, who will tell us all about the new games he’s playing (James is very excited for that part). We’ll chow down with my sister and her husband, listen to lots of island music, and lie on the beach long enough that in the depths of winter we’ll remember what sun on bare skin feels like.

A large part of why Massachusetts feels like home to me is because James has shown me all the things he loves about it. We never needed to go on the Freedom Trail together or on the Salem witch tour for me to fall in love with the things that make this place so completely individual. In the same way, the Hawaii he sees won’t be within the confines of the Waikiki strip. My Hawaii is my family, my friends, the rainforest, all those foods I dream about when I’m out here, sandy floored shops on the North Shore, and afternoon rainbows arching over the Ko’olau mountain range. It doesn’t have a thing to do with hula dancers or tiki torches or, really, roasted pigs. I’m determined to show James the real Hawaii.

But it is his first time. So just this once, we’re going to a luau. How could I say no? “No” isn’t a word that exists within the language of aloha.

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