A Simple Life

I frequently watch HGTV’s House Hunters International. It’s a terrific way to see the world on a budget. One thing I’ve noticed is that many of the prospective home buyers have one thing in common: they’re searching for a simpler life.

Personally, I think they could look in their own backyard. As much as I would love to travel around the world or live in exotic places, I’ve learned that enjoying a simple life is more about choice than location. While some people thrive on keeping overloaded schedules, nothing stresses me more.

Over time I’ve developed a handful of skills that help keep the stressors to a minimum.

Prioritize Who/What’s Important – My faith and family should always come first. When my schedule gets so crowded that there’s little room for either, then I know it’s time to cut back. When I start many things but finish few, then projects have to go. I’d rather take on a few projects and do them well rather than take on many and do them poorly. Think about what you would rather sacrifice: your faith and family or the project?

Keep A List – I begin every day with a To-Do list and prioritize the items on the list. (I’m even writing this blog off a list.) It’s a visual way to see not only what needs to be done, but what’s been accomplished. When I don’t make a list, even if I’ve been busy the entire day, I’ll feel like I’ve wasted my time.

Prepare by Pre-Planning – My oldest son graduates from high school one year from now. Already I’m planning his graduation party. Throughout the year I’ll purchase what I need for his party, and store it in a large Rubbermaid container. When his party day arrives, I’ll be ready. Also, I’m also spreading the cost over months so it’s much gentler on my checkbook.

Learn to Say NO – It’s hard to say No, especially when someone asks you to help with a project you know is worthwhile. But, if you can give only scraps of time to that project, who are you benefiting? If you’re stealing time away from your priorities, who are you benefiting? When asked to help with something, don’t give  a quick, un-thought-out yes. Pray about it. Look at your schedule–will this new project fit in so you can give your all? If the answer is No, then don’t be afraid to say No out loud. In the end you’ll be thankful, as will the person who asked you for help.

Take a Vacation – I just spent a week in Branson, Missouri with my daughter. We didn’t over-schedule the week, but rather chose a couple activities we wanted to do. We kept busy, but we also took much time to relax. On the way home, I even had breakfast with three other Inkspys! That couldn’t have happened if I’d over-scheduled. If traveling is out of the budget, become a tourist in your home area. I love discovering what Minnesota has to offer!

So, no, I won’t be moving overseas to find the simpler life. I’ve found it right here at home.

The Summers of a Military Brat

I didn’t have typical summers growing up.  Most of my summers before high school were spent on a military installation somewhere overseas.  But, while I did’t have “typical” summer vacations, my summers held some seriously interesting locations.

For a couple of summers we were stationed in Reykjavik, Iceland.  Probably the coolest part of that tour was that during the summer there are very few hours where the sun isn’t shining.  That meant that on the weekends, when all of our parents got together to play cards until two in the morning, us kids got to play out on the playground behind the housing unit that we lived in.  It was pretty cool be the out there in the middle of the night and it felt like the middle of the day.

Being in Iceland also meant that I got to see neat things during the summer. One summer camp that I went to was actually a week-long trip spent sleeping in a lava cave that had been converted to an inn, of sorts.  We had bunks and a full kitchen. And during the daytime hours we got to explore caves, check out hot springs and water falls, and go to a whaling factory to see what happens to a whale once it’s been brought in for processing.

A few more summers were spent in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. That was pretty cool too.  We camped on the beach, spent entire weekends sleeping on and fishing from a pontoon boat in the Mangrove swamps, and spent endless hours as the swimming pool.  I was lifeguard certified that year (but never again since).

Summers in Cuba were a little less “exciting” because we couldn’t leave the post.  But that’s where I first figured out that I wanted to write.  One summer, I wrote several plays, casted the actors, and helped build the sets. We’d put the plays on for whomever wanted to come see them for a few days at time.  Then we’d grow bored with them and start on something new.

If I had a choose a favorite summer activity from our time in Cuba, though, it would be the outdoor movies. Because it’s such a temperate climate there, indoor movie theaters didn’t exist.  They were all outside, built like amphitheaters.  And every weekend of the summer there were movies playing.  My friends and I saw countless movies, though I couldn’t tell you what a single one of them was.  All I remember is laying on the concrete, on a blanket, with the movie on the big screen and more stars in the sky than you could every think of counting.

I’m a little saddened that my kids never got to experience the summers that I did.  Because although we never went on trips or took “vacations” I have memories from summer that are different from what most people have.  Memories that make me wish for summer again, and for the experiences that only a military brat can appreciate.