7.21.2014

Your Hobby Isn't Worthy of #Pinterest? It Might Be Real Life.

I've had some time to think lately, and came to the realization that there are some things I will never be

I will never be a world-class knitter. Should someone be in need of a simple hat or scarf, I have the skills (rusty as they are) to help them out, but that's as far as it goes, and I'm okay with that. It's a hobby I tried and retired.

I will never be a power blogger. I have no skills for self-promotion (that's the "I" part of INTJ shining through), and no blogging plan or specific niche (which, from what I've read, is a must if you want to hit the big time). And I'm okay with that too. I'm happy to support bloggers who resonate with me.

I will never be a master chef (no patience) or a much sought-after editor (I enjoy it, but the mistakes I miss annoy me too much). I will never be a linguist (though the idea of speaking a second language appeals to me), an award winning photographer (good pictures are an accident in my world), or a best-selling author (we tried - again with the self-promotion roadblock). And I'm okay with all of that.

What I know is this: I'm a raving fan of the good food others fix, I'll happily proof-read for friends, I appreciate my bi-lingual husband, respect my successful brother, and write honest book reviews on Amazon & Goodreads. In short, I am a great cheerleader. Introvert surprise!

While updating my bio earlier this year, I realized that I could not pinpoint the non-essential (read: non-eternal) things that really made me tick. Although I had attempted to emulate the interests and talents of various friends and family members over the years, editing was as close as I got to something that fit my natural skills. And even that lost its bloom over time.

Last week I stopped trying to figure out what I was good at, and instead paid attention to what made me want to do the {happy dance}. I looked specifically at the people I followed on Twitter, the blogs I read, the books I bought, and the tasks I enjoyed in my free-time.

Here's what I discovered...

I like to eat. I like to eat really well-made food, ethnic food, unique food. Though I will never be a great chef, my own cooking skills have improved in the last few years, and with that, my confidence. My husband, on the other hand, loves to cook. It's a hobby he has embraced, and I am an enthusiastic fan of his growing skills. If you recall, I almost had my gallbladder removed in honor of his butter sauce! When presented with a menu at a fine restaurant, I get downright giddy. If you're looking for a raving fan to cheer you on in food prep, I'm your woman.

I love to travel & I adore culture. Start talking international, and I'm there, pulling out suitcases, passport in hand. For 4.5 years we had the amazing opportunity to live and work in east Africa, southern Africa, various ports of call in southeast Asia, and the United States - from North Carolina to Idaho to Alaska and back. And I miss it. I miss living out of a suitcase. I miss the flavors of new foods, the sights, sounds, and smells of a new country, the culture of a new-to-me people group. I like stretching my dollar and splurging on occasion. I like trying to "blend in" and pay attention to reducing the American side of me. The idea of living outside of the U.S. again is not outside the realm of possibility, and fortunately, I married someone who loves it as much as I do. 

I like to find ways to save a dollar, but have a life. I'm not one of those budget bloggers who can feed a family of 20 on $3 a day, but I do have a little financial savvy, plus the experience of paying off our 30-year mortgage in 11+ years, most of that within one 9-month period of time. I wrote about it here (and no, I never wrote that e-book). I know each couple, family, and individual is unique, with various levels of income, interests, goals, self-control, and yes, even hobbies, and there is no one-size-fits-all plan. But I like to share our story in the hopes that something might resonate with someone who is ready for a change. {P.S. I loved this post from Tsh about their choices}

I enjoy planning and executing home improvement projects. When it comes to renovation ideas, seeing the big picture and visualizing the final result would be listed in the category of "fun" for me. For whatever reason, perhaps something to do with our INTJ personalities, both my husband and I can look at a worn out house and see the potential within. Within minutes of walking through a space or looking at pictures online, we have come up with a plan to revitalize it - with very few surprises about what the finished product will look like. And though we have the skills to do much of the work ourselves, we've learned the hard way what we are willing to do, and what it's better to hire out. If we can work our way up to having disposable income, I could easily see this becoming our self-supporting career.  

I am a reader. I have been since my mother placed a book in my hand as a 5 year old and taught me to sound out "Little House in the Big Woods". If I find myself with 5 minutes to spare in a waiting room, I'm pulling out my phone for the Kindle app. I have two, never-shrinking stacks of books on my nightstand, and love used book stores, Amazon gift cards, and Goodreads giveaways. Books are my Achilles heel. I still pinch myself when I get paid to read for work (a little more rare these days, but it still happens), and love it when I stumble upon a series of books that sucks me in. It's more than just a hobby, reading is part of my DNA.

Finally I have my list. And while none of these things pay the bills (with the occasional exception of the book thing), and they may not be "pinnable" or even cause me to suddenly find my place in the blogging world, they are solidly mine. A direct result of the personal experiences of my life; bringing with them not just fun for the present, but positive memories from the past, and big dreams for the future.

What makes you tick?

6.24.2014

#HouseToHome2014 - A Project Update

On May 29th, I posted this picture to my Busy Nothings Facebook page...


On May 19th, we (and by "we" I mean the college kids we hired) started ripping out all of the walls in the front half of the house, removing the lath and plaster from 1940 with a plan to go back with insulation (what a novel idea!), and Sheetrock. When this picture was taken and shared on the 29th, we had come a long way from the mess of the previous week, so that smile is genuine. I figured that in a month's time, I'd be taking a similar photo with new walls behind me. It's like I've never lived through a 5 year house project before (that's a story for another day). 

This morning, almost a month later, I took this photo. Can you see the differences? I promise, there are some if you look hard enough. And I'm not talking about all the junk tools on the floor. The smile is still genuine, if a little less enthusiastic (and slightly more out of focus - I was in a hurry).


Differences include newly framed doors (we moved the hall door about 8" to the left to make room for a new door in the hallway, and we moved the bathroom door about 2' to the right), and way more blue electrical boxes and yellow wire. We haven't had whole-house air conditioning in over a month, so needless to say, both Peter and I are ready for this to be done. If I were still doing my Friday thankfulness posts, I would include our free window A/C unit that allows us to sleep at night, and the fact that our basement is a place of refuge thanks to it's cool, underground location. Oh, and the fact that I am always cold, so for 98% of the day, I'm a happy camper. In a sweater. Yes, Peter thinks I'm nuts too.

While it feels like things are going slowly (Peter even has a count-UP timer on his phone to keep track of how long the project is taking us - yep, we're INTJ nerds) I have to give a huge shout out to the Hubs for his dedication to this project. After working all day, he comes home and labors on the house until it's time to go to bed. The weekends are taken up with trips to home improvement stores and coming up with new ideas and ways to fix old problems. He has single-handedly framed up a new loft over the front bedroom (including installing a window where there wasn't one before), and figured out electrical grids and structural issues like a pro. 

Together, we make a good team. I offer the occasional hand at lifting 4 x 8 sheets of flooring 9' up to the loft (thanks to a pulley system he rigged - he's all about smarter, not harder), and stuffing wires into electrical boxes. But the majority of the time that he toils on the physical side of things, I man the online shopping world, finding ways to get products for the project for cheaper. I pin ideas to pull up for him later, and save our Amazon points to buy light fixtures and mail slots. I dream big, but watch the budget. Between the two of us, we make projects happen, and 99% of the time, we even have fun while we're doing it. 

Celebrating our 14th wedding anniversary in the midst of construction chaos.

Home projects - DIY or Call in the Professionals?

6.17.2014

We're Just Getting Started...

Fourteen years ago, two young people (one a wee bit younger than the other...), stood before a minister, wedding party, and a small crowd of friends and family, and made their vows to God to love, honor, and cherish each other, until death did them part. The theme song from Indiana Jones ushered them down the grass aisle and into a life that has certainly been anything but dull. For this couple in the "getaway car" - life was just about to get interesting.


From the coast of New England to the hills of East Tennessee and the frozen tundra of Alaska, from the plains and deserts and mountains of Africa to the jungles of Indonesia - together we have traveled and explored, experienced frustration and faced the dissolution of expectations. For fourteen years we have done our best to listen to the Holy Spirit and follow the Lord's leading, and while most people would look at our lives and say we've already done so much, I'm betting that the next fourteen years are going to be some of the busiest and most interesting yet. As the Lord leads us into unknown territory, there is absolutely no one I would rather do life with than the man that I wake up next to each and every day.


Happy Anniversary to Us.
New to the blog? Read Our Story.

6.14.2014

For the Love of Butter

In late April, I had a major gallbladder attack. And when I say "attack" I'm not exaggerating. It felt like my gallbladder was attacking me from the inside with a tiny hatchet. I had barely made it through a dinner with friends when the thing started kicking. I tried to smile and choke down a slice of the homemade cake our guests had brought, but all I wanted to do was curl up in a ball and moan. By the time they left, it was all I could to do crawl into the bathroom and lay on the floor... writhing. I have never writhed before, so when Peter walked into the bathroom and saw me, he inquired if I needed to go to the hospital. Since I'd never writhed on the floor out of pain before, I did something else new - I said, "Maybe."

Instead, I got myself into bed and he called my dad and brother (both physicians) who made a special, late night house call. OFF TOPIC: Why in the world did we ever move away from the time when doctors made house calls? I mean, let's be honest, when we feel horrible and really shouldn't be out in public anyway (especially when you sound like you're hacking up a lung), doesn't it make more sense for them to come to you in the comfort of your home? I have never been more attune to this fact as I was the night my literal family doctors came to check me out. It was glorious and I would totally pay for that kind of service.

After my dad noticed I was rubbing my right shoulder every time another spasm  hit, he diagnosed gallstones and recommended I get an ultrasound. The good news was that my family saved me a trip to the ER. The bad news was that the ultrasound confirmed that I did, indeed, have a gallstone mass. Not a big one, but large enough to make its presence known. Surgery was scheduled, and fees were added up. I had another attack... not a gallstone this time, but my wallet and my budget experienced a searing pain when I realized how much it was going to cost us out of pocket. More talk ensued after we realized I could narrow this issue down to one thing: Peter's amazingly delicious butter sauce.

He had been perfecting it since February. A mixture of butter (and lots of it), even more cream, a pan of steak drippings, some shallots, and the occasional dash of red wine - this sauce was "smack yo' mama good" and I gobbled it up, week after week. The first time he made it, I suffered no ill effects. A couple of weeks later, we had friends over and he made it for them - and later that night, I told him I was feeling a little "full", rubbing a spot about half-way down my torso. Two days later, he made it again (more company), and that time I felt the effects for about 24 hours, no pain, just discomfort. I ate a lot of Tums. This went on each time he made the sauce, but I never made a connection until the night when my gallbladder said, "Hey, YOU! I've been trying to talk to you for a while now, but you're clearly dense, so I'll spell it out for you!"

And so, with surgery looming, I had a heart-to-heart with my gallbladder. I expressed sadness that it couldn't make its peace with the butter sauce (for I have cautiously eaten everything else, and experienced no spasms of any kind). I told it that I would rather it stay where it was, if possible, and promised to take it easy on the butter, if it would only behave itself. So far, we have a truce. The surgery was cancelled, the gallbladder remains, the butter sauce hasn't been made again, and I am spasm-free.

Last week, my husband asked me if it was worth it... eating the sauce. The pain was pretty bad, and for three or four days after the attack, I was sore - like I'd been kicked in the gut repeatedly. But time makes one forget pain, while the memory of the sauce remains. You know, our 14th wedding anniversary is next week... maybe just a little taste...

Quote from Julia Child, Original Graphic Source

6.09.2014

Do You Ever Feel Like Mighty Mouse?

Do you ever wake up thinking you are Mighty Mouse, only to have life remind you that you're not mighty at all... you're just a mouse? This weekend was filled with painful reminders of some of my worst personal failings. My temper was tested (it got the better of me - multiple times), and my excessive pride showed a gaping humility deficit. When I wondered aloud to my husband why I was having such a difficult time of it lately, he put his finger directly on the one weak spot that I had done my best to ignore and avoid thinking about.

We have a lot going on in our lives these days. Work is keeping us busy, we've ripped our house apart, and a major, life-changing event is ever on the horizon, yet never within a measurable distance. There's a lot on my mind to be sure, but at some point in the last few weeks, I took my eyes off of the One writing my story, and started trying to do it all under my own power. It's no wonder I snapped at my loved ones over dinner, or got hurt falling from my own pedestal of importance I had erected. When we try to do things in our own way, under our own strength, we will eventually start to fall apart. I am human, and when my eyes were on myself instead of the One who made me, I lost my balance and fell. Hard.

Seeing your own shortcomings is never as easy as pointing out the shortcomings of others. Last weekend, I was reminded of the fact that I am quick to judge - which is not necessarily a bad thing - and to share that judgement with others - which is a bad thing. I tend to be negative in my outlook - which I like to call being "realistic" - but when I constantly rebut other's ideas and comments with my "realism", eventually I come across as a Negative Nancy; and let's be honest, no one wants to be around her. As I told my husband this weekend, I don't enjoy being around myself when I'm like that, so I'm taking steps to change. Again.

As a Christian, I will never have it all figured out. There are aspects of my personality that will give me grief throughout my life here on earth, but that doesn't mean that I give in to them. I will always struggle with stubbornness and pride and anger, sputtering over being treated unjustly and fighting to keep my alter ego in check; but the hope is that I have fewer weekends like the one I just survived, and more days where people see Christ's fingerprint on my life. Admitting that you were wrong is hard, but acknowledging that you screwed up is necessary for growth. This weekend, I experienced one blunder after another (usually involving words flying from my mouth with little to no censoring), but yesterday I experienced forgiveness, and today I enjoyed renewed fellowship. Growing is Christ is a beautiful thing.

Also beautiful... PUMPKIN plants coming up in my side yard. Can't wait for autumn!

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