County Fairs + Life Shifts

Myles + a sheep at the fair // LIfe In Beta

I love fair season. When I was in school, I remember being jealous of my classmates who got to leave early to take their 4H livestock to the county fair. I wanted to BE one of those kids. Unfortunately, I grew up in the suburbs and my parents weren’t about to let me have a pony.

As autumn approaches, there are at least four sizable county fairs held within driving distance. We try to make it to at least one each year to enjoy the food, games and sightseeing.

Ben in a Tank // Life In Beta

Mike and Ben much prefer the midway and the rides, but you’ll find me in the barns with the livestock. I’ve been that way since I was a kid. Even if all the cows and pigs start to look the same after a while, I still like to “meet” them all. This year, I was so excited for Myles to see the animals too! Lucky for me, he seems to take after his mama, being just as enamored with all the critters.

I’ve talked about having a hobby farm for years. I have stacks of books on the topic and love reading about farming and homesteading. I’ve just never lived somewhere that I could make it work. I plant a few tomatoes or peas from time to time, but it never felt like much.

Myles + a horse at the fair // Life In Beta

Seeing Myles’ face when he saw horses, cows and chickens for the first time and petted a sheep … that sealed it for me. He was SO happy.

I know kids love animals, especially approachable, friendly farm animals. It goes deeper than that. When I saw the delight in Myles’ eyes as we wandered through the barns, it made me think about the type of childhood I want him to have.

I’m sure it’s a romanticized notion, but I feel like growing up a “farm kid” has a lot of positives:

  • A priority placed on home and family
  • Learning the values of hard work and responsibility
  • Understanding of where food comes from
  • Appreciating homemade things and not being as caught up in “consumer culture”
  • Taking time to make your own fun at home instead of being constantly on-the-go

Ben playing at the fair // LIfe In Beta

That’s the childhood I want Myles to have and remember. That’s the childhood I hope will shape him into a strong, hardworking, caring, and gentle man someday. I want him to love his home and his family, and not be afraid to get his hands dirty. I want him to take pride in a hard day’s work. I want him to take pleasure in the simple things, and use his imagination and creativity to have fun.

Building a chicken coop so we can have hens and fresh eggs next year isn’t just a whim; it’s about the life I want to craft for my family. It’s the beginning of something much, much bigger.

Chickens // Life In Beta

It is the beginning of disciplining myself to slow down and unplug too. Hungry livestock can’t wait. Gardens need tending or the harvest is lost. It’s a commitment to myself, to my family, and to the living things that depend on us to unplug and engage with Mother Earth.

It’s love.

10 Ideas to Keep You Running

10 Ideas To Keep You Running // Life In Beta

  1. Change up your tunes.
    Make a new playlist of songs. If you’re tired of music, try listening to stand up comedy albums. Spotify has lots you can stream on your phone. (My favorites are Jim Gaffigan, Kathy Griffin and Hal Sparks.) If those don’t appeal to you, try podcasts or the NPR app. If you always run with headphones, try a quiet run without any music at all.
  2. Get new shoes.
    There’s nothing like a shiny new pair of shoes to break in! Especially if your shoes are worn or bothering your feet, treat yourself to a new pair. Splurge and go to a local running shop where they can analyze your stride and fit your feet. Having a new pair of shoes to break in should get you out the door, and having better-fitting shoes should keep you moving!
  3. Turn off the trackers.
    If you’re obsessed with your Garmin or run-tracking app on your phone, scrutinizing your splits and distances… maybe it’s time to turn it off for a while. Try taking an “unplugged”, free run.
  4. Run with friends.
    I’m typically a solo-runner, but there is something to be said for running with friends. Having a buddy or joining a running club makes you accountable to get out there and put in those miles! It also gives you people to commiserate with when you’re having a bad day…
  5. Read running blogs and/or start your own running blog.
    If you don’t have friends that are interested in running, finding a running community online can be the next best thing! Reading running blogs has been a huge motivator for me, and blogging to share your own running successes and failures makes you accountable to keep going!
  6. Change your scenery.
    Instead of running your same old route, seek out a new place to run. If you’re usually a road-runner, try a trail run to change things up.
  7. Sign up for a race.
    Put down the money and commit to a race, then commit to a training schedule to prepare!
  8. Try mind tricks.
    If you’re not in the mood to run, make yourself at least go for a 10 or 20 minute walk, then decide if you want to keep going or quit. Once you’re dressed and out the door, it’s much easier to talk yourself into going just a few more minutes or miles.
  9. Take care of any injuries.
    Don’t delay a trip to the doctor if something is bothering you. The fastest way to halt your running career is with an injury.
  10. Go easy on yourself.
    It’s not all-or-nothing. Even a short walk/run is better than not going out at all!

What keeps you running? Share your tips in the comments!

2,000 Square Feet of Baggage

Time to Simplify // Life In Beta

Back when I lived in Nashville, my ex-husband and I lived in a 2,000 square foot, three bedroom, two bath house. It also had a two car garage, a large fenced yard, and an enormous, easily-accessible attic storage area. I collected furniture and belongings accordingly to fill up all that space. I didn’t worry about getting rid of things, or storing “off-season” things, because we had vast amounts of storage.

My sentimentality runs deep, so a lot of the things were family-related. Others were leftovers from various craft projects or hobbies that I’d picked up in passing over the years. Just… stuff.

When my ex and I split up, he took some things of course, but there was enough to pack a 25-foot moving truck FULL (plus 2 cars and an SUV) when I moved back to Pennsylvania. I had to rent a 10’x25′ storage unit to hold it all while I stayed with my parents for a few months. When Mike and I rented our first house, it was only about 850 square feet, so only the necessities came out of storage. Then we moved to our current rental home, which has only slightly more living space, but has lots of storage in the basement and garage. I was able to clean out my storage unit, but so much of that STUFF remained in boxes.

Fast forward three years. Ever notice how after you live somewhere a while, you start to REALLY accumulate stuff? We’ve been in our current rental home for about three years, which is the longest I’ve ever lived in one place since I’ve been an adult out on my own. Lots of boxes are still packed, untouched in our garage. I have Christmas decorations and craft supplies in the basement that haven’t been touched in years.

It’s not a hoarding situation by any means, but enough is enough.

Our new home is about 960 square feet with no basement. There’s an outbuilding for storage, but it’s not in good condition and at some point we’ll need to tear it down and rebuild some sort of shed or pole barn. (Needless to say, I want to avoid filling it up then emptying it again to rebuild.) The original plan was to add on and almost double the square footage. Through a series of issues with time and money, we’ve ultimately decided to move into the house with the floor plan as-is, and make it work. That means some major downsizing and simplifying.

How are we going to fit our family of four (plus a dog and a cat) into that tiny house? Where will everything go? Not to mention, Mike is a BIG guy — tiny furniture is not an option for his 6’4″ frame. It’s a little scary and something I’ve been stressing about quite a lot …

But I also see it as a huge opportunity. I feel like this is the “kick in the pants” necessary to force me into making more deliberate decisions about the belongings that are given space in our home. They have to be truly loved or serve a real purpose to be there. But the rewards are huge: we’ll live a more clutter-free life; we’ll consume less and appreciate more; we’ll be able to spend money on higher-quality belongings instead of quantity.

I’m looking forward to being much more choosy about furniture and appliances. In my old house, it felt so cavernous that I felt like I had to buy furniture to fill every inch of it. That got expensive, so I settled for things that I could afford. While I still love a good Craigslist or thrift shop deal, I just don’t have the space to waste for something that’s not ideal. It makes much more sense to take the time and spend the money to find the perfect piece that really functions best.

I’m also excited about the utilities and living expenses being lesser in our little home. While we do just fine, I have debt that I’d like to pay off. Living a little more simply will help me pay off that debt and start saving. In my dream world, it will enable me to get to a point where I can turn my freelance work into a full time job. (It’s far off now, but a girl has to dream.)

So in the midst of our remodel at the new house, we’re also downsizing the old house in preparation to move. It’s an exciting, exhausting time!

Tiny Documentary // Life In Beta

I’ve gotten a lot of inspiration lately from Apartment Therapy and watching the documentary Tiny: A Documentary About Living Small. If the people in that movie can live in under 200 square feet, we should certainly be able to make 960 work for us!

It all comes down to what’s important. We could be all warm and fuzzy and say “Family and friends are what’s most important!” — which is very true — but it is still fair to say that all of us have material objects that are important to us too. But HOW MUCH? Or HOW MANY? I’ve realized for me, if I have my camera, computer, and some basic clothing, I am pretty happy. If I can stretch it further, I like having a fair amount of nice kitchenware and gadgets for cooking and a bit of yarn for knitting projects. Do I need mountains of craft supplies? No. Do I need a Bed Bath and Beyond’s worth of culinary tools? Not even.

It’s striking that balance of what you really need. (And then when I think I’ve found the balance, paring it down just a little more for good measure…)

Happy 16-months, Myles!

Baby boy turned 16 months old on Sunday. We’ve been very busy working on the new house all weekend, but I took some time away  to snap a few photos of him playing in the back yard.

Myles, 16 months // Life In Beta

Myles is still a man of very few words: kitty-cat, Da-da, Ma-ma, ball, and most recently, “more!” In other areas, he’s unstoppable though. He runs everywhere and climbs everything. (I’m not going to lie. It gets pretty exhausting some days!) He insists upon having silverware to eat with and drinks very well with a cup or a straw. His favorite toys are cars and trucks that he drives around the room saying, “brrroooommmm!” His favorite show is Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood and the first stuffed animal we’ve seen him show much interest in his his stuffed Daniel. Myles has taken a big interest in brushing his teeth lately; he follows me into the bathroom, steals a toothbrush, and brushes his teeth (with water only!) side by side with me in the mirror. Never too early to start good habits, I guess!

Myles, 16 months // Life In Beta

I love the back yard at our new house, and I think Myles does too! It still smells like it did when I was a kid and spent seemingly endless summer days playing there. It’s a sweet, damp smell that equates to so many happy, magical summer evenings in my mind. Watching Myles delightfully play under the same trees I swung from as a kid makes me teary-eyed with joy. I hope my grandmother’s spirit is looking down and smiling to see another generation of our family growing up in her old house.

Myles, 16 months // Life In Beta

Shark Tee, Crazy 8 • Skinny Jeans, Crazy 8 • Cardigan, Truly Scrumptious by Heidi Klum (thanks, Melanie & Chrissy!)