Minimalism and Service: Be a Light

Lately, I’ve realized there is only a thin line between the increasingly popular minimalism movement and selfishness.

We are told to get rid of the things that don’t bring us joy, “say no”, “do only what matters”. Yes, I agree with it all. Simplicity so often brings peace. It is a badge of honor to edit our lives.

After all, we say, there are only 24 hours in a day. We need to prioritize – there is only so much space.

But I need to remember what the simple things are, and they aren’t always exactly  I want to do. After all, this time, this space, isn’t completely my own. It was given to me by Someone Else.

On one hand, I’m good at


Letting my budding four-year-old photographer take a million pictures of me and then edit them so I look like a zombie – after all it keeps him entertained for a long time so I can check things off my list. (This was the only decent picture out of about 100)img_20160918_160502

And letting my son make his very own origami bow tie to wear to church- one of my sisters thinks I’m a little too laid back in the child fashion department.

I make space for my kids… my husband…. and myself. It’s that season of life.

But I haven’t been a great friend or neighbor. There are times when I need to say yes when I’d rather say no. Times when a yes creates more space when I think I have none.

Yes I’ll watch your kids

Yes I’ll answer the phone and listen 

Yes I’ll feed someone dinner.

Yes I’ll play pretend.

Yes I can help you with that.

Yes we can go watch the rain.

And, of course, there are other times when the answer to all those questions can and should be no. The trick is evaluating which is which. When a no will bring simplicity and peace and when a yes will create space in your life and heart that you didn’t know existed.

I am generally quite content alone.  Lately, I’ve become even more hermit like.

When people ask me how I’m feeling these days. I reply Well I went from sick to crazy – Justin loves it (lots of sarcasm). I feel a frantic need to paint, build, organize and finish writing projects before this baby arrives – all while still being present for my family. My focus has been inward.20160903_132744


That’s okay in moderation. But recently I went to Park City for the weekend with my sisters and my Mom. We shopped, talked and chatted. It was refreshing, it was eye-opening. As I learned in a deeper way what was going on in their lives I felt guilty. We talk for at least a couple of minutes several times a week. How did I not know these things?

I resolved to be better.

I decided to say yes more.  To pray about more than my own goals. To be more of a light.

After thinking about it for a couple of weeks we decided to shift our family focus. To focus on being a light.

When I asked the kids what they thought that meant they said:

Be a friend

Look for people who need a friend

Work hard with a good attitude

Serve others with time and money

No excuses

Be respectful

Be grateful

Give stuff to people who need it/share

These are the things that should matter, should bring me joy, and that should rarely warrant a no.20160927_104041

We decided to try and do these things on a daily basis and also to pick some bigger more organized ways to serve. After listing some options off of we decided that first, we would help a local church organize and distribute food.

They were all super excited about it. Then I looked at our calendar and realized that we couldn’t actually do it until November…. it’s a good thing that we get points for trying in life.


Yes, I need to keep life simple. But simple looks different every day.


Ghost Town- Grafton Utah

20160919_143824 I have a thing for old places. Places where other people have lived, loved, cried… History soaks into the ground and it feels almost sacred.

Yesterday, the kids had a half day – which meant we had a sliver of time before soccer and football practice to go on an “adventure”. Josh rolls his eyes when I ask if they want to go on

Josh now rolls his eyes when I ask if they want to go on an adventure – but the word still makes me excited, and I can be cheesy if I want to.

When I suggested trekking out to Grafton to explore the ghost town, Josh was thrilled – he’s my fellow history lover. Anna was skeptical and Max just kept saying, “but I’m tired, can’t we watch a show?”.

I loaded the BFG to listen to and brought Anna’s kindle to play games as a special treat and we were on our way.
20160919_143843 20160919_144208 Josh and Anna were disappointed that the school and one of the houses were locked and tried their best to break in – no dice. 20160919_144240 We explored, swung on the swing and tried to imagine what it would have been like to live here. Anna thought it would have been great to go to school with only six other kids – Josh and Max not so much.20160919_144517 20160919_144653 20160919_144902 20160919_145159 Max was quite proud that he caught a lizard, but he hung onto it just a little too tightly. When I made him let it go, it didn’t move.

Buddy, I think he’s dead. We need to be so careful when we catch animals. We don’t want to hurt them.

I know Mom, but it wasn’t me, I think he must have gotten stung by a spider.

We’re working on accountability and being gentle. I was a little traumatized.

20160919_151846 The best part was the graveyard. So many lives, so many stories that we’ll never know. Sacred ground. Josh discovered a boy with his same name that died at his same age. There were a lot of children there which led to a discussion on how lucky we are to live when and where we do.20160919_152157  I would love to know the story of these three Piute Indians buried in the back. They died over one hundred years ago, and there were still flowers on their graves.20160919_152557

You don’t have to travel far to allow your kids to see a life different from their own, to shift perspective and to go home with gratitude – only ten minutes late for soccer practice and car sick from playing the kindle on the way back.

Mom Guilt


*A get-away with my Mom and sisters to Park City sans kids.

Every mom has their own brand of guilt. Mine is not spending enough time with my kids the way they want to spend it.

I have no problem saying no to chairing a PTO committee, to an invitation to a party, to any number of things that I am asked to do daily and constantly. But, when any of my children look at me with their big brown eyes and say, “Mom will you play chutes and ladders/hide and seek/dolls/____ with me?” If I don’t agree, I am instantly crushed with guilt.  Luckily Josh has stopped asking me to play catch with him – we’ve both realized it’s not my talent.

These years go by so fast, what could be more important than spending time with them? Then I agree, leaving things undone.

I know all the poems. I even have this one hanging by my bed. It’s true and I love it but…..

As I mentioned in my snapshot of life post, I have been using my precious one to two hours a day alone, on me, my own goals and dreams. Which means that I don’t get random housework done during that time, which means that there is more to do when the kids are around, which means less time to play with them, which means guilt.

But if I do agree to their fairly constant requests, the house suffers, which makes everyone crabby and means…. more guilt.

I’ve been seeking this elusive balance between being a deliberate mother, available and connected to each child and being a human with interests and goals outside of motherhood.

Then I realized that allowing my children to see me work toward a goal is a gift in and of itself. Being completely available to my kids isn’t the ultimate goal.  Helping them become is.

I realized that while  we spend more time together doing chores and less time playing, it is still time together and can be used to talk, connect, dance, and flat out learn how to run a household.

I realized that working together is largely about my attitude. If I get frustrated by dawdling or am overly critical of how a job is done everyone is unhappy and I feel like a terrible mother –  guilt. But if I am patient and cheerful, even if it means going into the bathroom and taking deep breathes, we generally come out okay and even make some memories.

Today, the kids “helped me” paint the nursery after school while we listened to Harry Potter.  Josh ended up with a huge ball of painters tape, Max ended up building lego towers and then throwing a screwdriver at them to try and knock them down and Anna painted for awhile and then built a two story house out of legos. It wasn’t relaxing (after an hour I told them to go watch TV), but I made some progress and laughed with my kids.

There are days when I let the house go and play and there are days when I don’t. As with everything in life, there is an and. What is important on any given day, may not be important on the next.

I can be both a mother who adores her kids and a human with other interests – the balance will just change from day to day,

My wise mother constantly tells me that everyone has the same twenty-four hours in a day. It’s not possible to do everything every day, and the people who look like they are, really aren’t, they are skipping something somewhere. That used to make me feel better until I realized that it’s sleep, those amazing people who can have a sparkling house, a delicious dinner, own their own business, constantly serve others, and have regular date nights with their kids and their spouse probably just don’t need very much sleep. But me, I need sleep – so I can let go of the guilt.



Josh’s Birthday Weekend

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” A mother discovers with great delight that one does not love one’s children just because they are one’s children, but because of the friendship formed while raising them” – Gabriel García Márquez

As my children grow I have been struck by how much I not only love them but genuinely like to be with them. Now that Josh is older he can hold his own in pickleball and monopoly, can discuss world events, and can help me so much more with…everything.

Because his birthday falls in August, he’s managed to celebrate in California three of the last six years. We left Friday afternoon and drove straight to an awesome hotel that we had Pricelined. They wanted to charge us $10/night for sheets for the pullout couch in our room. It was memorable.
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Here he is opening an early present at the start of our trip. He “forgot”/was too lazy to pack anything to read in the car. He was with me when I bought it, and I hid it so well in my cart I accidently shoplifted it – awesome. ( I went back and paid for it later).use this one We spent the day before his birthday at Newport beach with cousins and grandparents.Continue Reading