11 Things I Learned This Summer

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Being a lifelong learner is a good thing and one of my favorite things about being a grown-up. Think about it - we get to learn new things we actually choose and create the space to pursue things that interest us! I’m loving this quarterly practice inspired by Emily P. Freeman where I look back and reflect on things I learned in the season that just ended. So here’s my list of things I learned this summer - a final wave goodbye with gratitude to summer and welcoming of fall…

1) “Conflict is good news.”

This phrase hasn’t left my mind since I heard it this summer while listening to a podcast while watering seed trays in the greenhouse. It’s so utterly against how I operate that my ears perked up, I turned off the hose, and started quickly tapping notes into my phone. It’s from Roe Cummings’ interview on the Simple podcast, episode 203. This quote Roe shares is from a book by Diane Hamilton called Everything Is Workable. Roe says seeing conflict as “good news” helps us welcome conflict as an opportunity to expand and settle. She says the entire purpose is not to eliminate conflict with other people; the purpose is to transform it. “Instead of being reactive or resistant to it, we can ask a more powerful question - What is this moment calling me into? And what is this moment asking of our relationship? How does it want us to go deeper together?” So. Good. A really great episode all-around.

2) “Hard” doesn’t always mean “bad.”

This goes hand-in-hand with #1, but I had an epiphany moment this summer in an everyday conversation with a friend who is also a type 9 on the enneagram. Because I really dislike conflict, I tend to equate anything “hard” with “bad” and then immediately shift into the mode of running away from it or trying to fix it. The problem is, you can’t really “fix” other people. And life is just hard by default, so if I don’t stop doing this, I’ll be in a constant battle internally to fix and change everything around me. For example: my children are bouncing off the walls, bickering with each other all day, and turning their noses up at anything I ask them to do. My normal M.O. is to take it on as this huge burden and believe the lie that I’m failing as a mother, my family is falling apart, and my children are going to turn out badly. A much healthier perspective: realizing it’s just a hard day, these things are going to happen, and we all need extra heaps of grace and patience. I’m learning to lean into the hard, knowing it will pass, and learn what I can by being present in the moment rather than trying to quickly gloss over it and move on.

3) A two-day reset at the beach is LIFE.

Steven and I made a vow at the beginning of this year that we would take more breaks (unapologetically!) so we wouldn’t burn out come autumn, which is our most demanding time on the farm with so many dinners and events. As we enter autumn now, I have to say, I’m so proud of us. Because we did take more breaks, and they were restorative and multiplied our family time and united us so we could enter the fall together, stronger. In July, we were graciously given the opportunity to spend a few days at a friend’s beachfront condo in Rosemary Beach, FL. It was full of:

  • seashell hunting

  • wave riding

  • mermaid tail building

  • lounging in sculptured sand recliners

  • slow living

  • no dirt :)

  • bike rides at sunset

  • wine and iced lattés on the balcony

  • no sense of time

  • packing a whole suitcase and only wearing the same 2 things

  • Coconut La Croix

  • Hair drying into spiral salty curls

  • Being absolutely present with each other

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4) Body image struggles resonate with so many of us.

I wrote a pretty vulnerable post for Art of Simple this summer on my struggles with body image issues and also recorded a podcast episode with some really practical ways to foster a healthier body image. The feedback I got from these was staggering - all ages of women seem to be dealing with this on some level. Let’s cheer each other on in support of healthy bodies, remembering that being strong and healthy is more important than a certain weight or size. I know it’s hard, and our society doesn’t make it easier. But for me, this summer was much healthier and more positive than the last one since I decided to take some action to grow in this area. I’m with you in this, friend.

5) My 9-year-old is totally capable of handling more now.

It’s been freeing to realize we’re entering a slightly different stage of parenting, where it’s actually great to give my oldest daughter more responsibility, and she thrives in being able to manage some things on her own…like setting her watch alarm for 4pm everyday so she an go feed Rosy, our sourdough starter. Or putting her in complete control of setting up and managing the samples table every Saturday at our farm store. Or doing her own laundry and putting it away.

6) A lattice pie crust isn’t as hard as it looks.

Who knew? I for sure Googled a video on how to weave this lattice pie properly, but once I watched it, it was really easy - pinkie swear! This is the epitome of 4th of July food to me - a homemade peach pie with The Peach Truck peaches and a flaky crust from Steven’s pastry dough recipe. Side of vanilla ice cream, please, or whipped cream, or both!

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7) Apparently I do canning now.

Canning and preserving is something I once said “I don’t do.” Well, things change, honey. This season on the farm, we’ve been honing in more and more on “our lane,” what we’re truly best at that utilizes our passions and gifts successfully. We feel that bringing together the culinary with the farming is getting closer and closer to it. Growing produce in order to make unique artisan jams for our farm store has definitely been a success this season, so that’s good! We started with Strawberry Serrano and Strawberry Balsamic Thyme in the spring, moving on to Peach Chipotle and Peach Bourbon Vanilla, then mid-summer to Blueberry Basil and Blueberry Lavender, and finishing the summer season with three tomato jams: Sicilian Tomato, Tomato Bacon, and Heirloom Tomato Gochujang. We love bringing together our unique cultures to the flavors and opening people’s minds to new combinations. The Heirloom Tomato Gochujang was my favorite tomato jam - at the very last minute, Steven tasted it and said it needed some “umami.” He added some Korean red pepper paste (gochujang) and it was just the thing to take it over the edge from “a good tomato jam” to bombshell.

Peach Bourbon Vanilla Jam. Summer in a jar.

Peach Bourbon Vanilla Jam. Summer in a jar.

8) Sunflowers are my spirit flower.

Let’s be honest - we’ve known this since freshman year of college, haven’t we? Sunflower perfume, sunflower posters on the walls, sunflower comforter, sunflower sheets, sunflower necklace, sunflower everything (ya with me, all of you who started college in the 90s?!). But growing sunflowers is a whole other story. We planted two 100-foot rows of them this year, and I literally feel a spark fly within me when I harvest my own sunflowers at golden hour. Such a joy.

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9) Music can still move me to tears.

The absolutely brilliant songwriter Ryan O’Neal of the band Sleeping At Last has written an album called Atlas with a song for each Enneagram type. Each song is its own work of art, with every note and phrase carefully crafted to reflect the nuances of each Enneagram type. The Nine song brought tears, especially this lyric:

Choked up, I realize / I've been less than half myself / For more than half my life

Oh man.

If you know your type, definitely look up the lyrics and listen to the Sleeping At Last podcast episode about each number. Here’s something songwriter Ryan O’Neal said in the Nine episode that struck me: “There are times when the waters aren’t supposed to be calm. And that’s okay too.”

10) DUMBO is even better than I remembered.

Um, hello, this part of NYC has exploded! For those of you who don’t know, DUMBO is a section of Brooklyn right on the water - it stands for Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass. This summer, my girls and I (while Steven held down the fort back home) visited family in Queens, and we spent an entire morning and afternoon playing and exploring in DUMBO. The last time I visited this area, maybe 7 years ago, there were some little boutiques and coffee shops, but that’s all I really remember. Now, there are amazing play areas and gorgeous parks on the water (including the magical Jane’s Carousel!), art exhibits, so many artisan ice cream shops you can hardly choose, and the brand-new Time Out Market indoor food hall with everything from Michelin-star ramen to barbecue to an entire restaurant built around the avocado. It was the best day getting my city fix. I’m sold, DUMBO.

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11) Sometimes it takes being with old, faithful friends to find yourself again.

Some of our dearest friends, Chris and Julie Bennett, visited us for a few days last month, and it’s been over 7 years since we’ve all been together. Do you have friends like that who you’ve known for almost 25 years and have walked with you through so many struggles and different versions of yourself? With Julie, I feel like I came home to myself again, remembering who I am. I’m actually funny. I’m silly. I’m joyful. I wear unicorn glitter makeup to Target. I’m not bogged down by fearing the “what-ifs” of life and I’m reveling in the present and looking to the future with hope. The fact that they put aside a few days to come and be with us meant the world to me. It was utterly lifegiving. We also got to record an episode together of their weekly web series, AT HOME. Check it out!

Here’s me and the fearless Julie on the farm, and on my wedding day…

Baileys and Bennetts

Baileys and Bennetts

YOUR TURN! What are some things you learned this summer? I’d love to hear!

How To Nourish Your Body and Soul This Fall - For The Art of Simple

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All the seasonal farming metaphors are true. Perhaps cliché, but true. A seed is doing a lot of work underneath the soil before you actually see it sprouting. Weeds really should be pulled when they’re tiny sprouts and before they’re huge burdens that throw your back out. And the fresh canvas we get in the fall is an absolute necessity.

This week on Art of Simple, I’m sharing some of my favorite recipes, candles, shoes, clothes, and ideas for self-care to usher in the fall season. I’d love to know your thoughts and ideas of what means fall self-care to you!

>> How To Nourish Your Body and Soul This Fall

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Simple With Tsh Oxenreider Podcast Episode 211: Rhythms + Community

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In this episode, I share some rhythms Steven and I have created that help us gather people together more easily - I hope it inspires you and makes it more doable for you to have simple gatherings at home, no matter where you live!

In Tsh’s segment, she shares some rituals that are helping keep her sane during really busy days lately - so helpful.

Listen in on iTunes or at The Art of Simple, and let us know your thoughts!

You can also read my post, Finding Community In An Unexpected Place, which inspired this episode.

Finding Community In An Unexpected Place - For The Art of Simple

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If you’ve ever struggled to find community in a new place, or wondered how to build a deeper community where you live, I wrote this post for you! Today on Art of Simple, I’m sharing some fears I had about moving to the country, and how God showed me how much beauty there is on the other side of bravery. I also share some ways to connect more with your community, wherever you live.

We talked about having our own farm one day, and when it actually became a reality shortly after we moved to Tennessee, I resisted it wholeheartedly, fearing the potential remoteness of living in the country and its high contrast to city life. The one big thing I was worried about was feeling isolated. What would I do without sidewalks? Where would my kids learn to ride a bike? Would anyone ever come to our house? Would we have a close community again? Continue reading…

Sunday Funday: A Different Kind of Sabbath - For The Art of Simple

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If you know me personally, you know that Sunday afternoons with my family are often filled with chasing as many Tennessee waterfalls as possible. Sunday Funday has become quite the event and tradition, and I’ve learned a few things along the way. In this post on Art of Simple, I’m sharing our “why,” ideas of where to go (not just waterfalls!), what to pack, some playlists you can download, and other ideas for how you can try a Sunday Funday adventure of your own.

“Whenever we can, we go on a little excursion away from home on Sundays, because the combination of Sabbath + adventure seems to work well for us. I personally feel more connected to the heart of God when I’m getting out in wild places often and being surprised by new discoveries in creation.” Continue reading…

Thoughts on Returning Home

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I’ve been here in New Jersey, having cups of morning mushroom coffee barefoot with the Black Eyed Susans in my parents’ backyard while Steven holds down the fort back home at the farm. I so wish he could be here with me and the girls, because life is generally just more wonderful and exciting with him around, and my girls sorely miss their daddy.

But we decided to come anyway, because we haven’t been here in three years, and I wanted my youngest little gal to make some real, lasting memories in this place like her older sister has. I wanted her to know more about her heritage and have a visual of where her NJ grandparents live when they’re not visiting us. And, of course, to meet all of Mimi’s crazy, pampered cats - Brandon, Suzannah, and Melanie.

Returning to your childhood home is surreal. It can be great, and it can be weird. I notice how some things never change - like the collage frame of my yearly school photos from K-12 and the macrame plant hangers that have been in the living room window my whole life.

Yet, so much has changed. I’m not even close to the same person who took her first steps in this backyard, who played badminton under the oak trees so high you can no longer see the tops. At times, I feel like I can reach out and touch scenes from childhood and adolescence in this grass and driveway and along these neighborhood streets - a first bee sting on my foot at my best friend’s house, a first time jumping off the high dive, a first kiss in Summerhill Park. But really? Even though those things are all a part of me, they happened so long ago.

It’s okay. I know who I am now. I also know distinctly who I’m not. This trip has been low-key and freeing to know I can go back to my childhood home now and not expect it to fill me or complete me as a human being.

This quote by one of my favorite authors has inspired me so much over the last few years, and it continues to gently prod me as I face each day:

“The world will tell you how to live, if you let it. Don’t let it. Take up your space. Raise your voice. Sing your song. This is your chance to make or remake a life that thrills you.”
~ Shauna Niequist

Yes, I’m so thankful for the girl who began here on this New Jersey soil and for the faith and love of learning, beauty and simplicity it rooted in me.

And I’m thankful for where life has led me away, by way of Nashville and Houston and Dallas and back to Tennessee again to Kindred Farm where I belong. Where, finally, I feel completely and fully myself.

Summer Favorites

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I was inspired by this post to share some of my summer favorites with you. I love hearing what other people are into right now, so share yours too, pretty please!

Here are a few of my summer favorites:

  • Rainbow colored zinnias. Yes, I’ve taken approximately 8,000 photos of my zinnias this summer. Can’t stop, won’t stop.

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  • High rise button-front denim shorts from GAP. Yay for 40% off sales so I can replenish my jorts stash after my old ones were surrendered to “farm clothes” status. I got these button-front denim shorts in the vintage black color, and I’ve worn them almost every day. They’re perfect for tucking in shirts and are just the right length for me with the cuffs unrolled.

  • Birkenstock Gizeh EVA sandals. These pretty much haven’t left my feet since I got them in early spring. They cost less than regular Birkenstocks but are still great, thick quality. Mine are metallic bronze, and they’re waterproof but nice enough to wear with skirts. I slip them on to go swimming, or to check on things on the farm when I don’t need boots, or just whenever. They’re the only thing I wear besides my red Saltwater sandals.

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  • Harvesting calendula to make my own calendula salve. This is the one thing that helps my dry, cracked farmer hands. These bright orange blooms are currently bathing in Extra Virgin Olive Oil and will be made into salves at the end of summer.

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  • Against All Grain Almond Flour Zucchini Bread. For when you harvest zucchini as big as your leg (oops!). I added some Enjoy Life mini chocolate chips, and everyone in our family loved it.

  • The perfect summer smoothie = bananas + peanut butter + almond or coconut milk + hemp seeds + stevia (or honey or maple syrup) + kale + 1 drop doTerra peppermint oil. The secret is making sure the frozen fruit sticks out a little above the liquid - this makes for the best consistency. I can’t think of anything that tastes more nourishing after I’ve been working outside all morning. My girls love it too, with a little twist…I sprinkle some Enjoy Life mini chocolate chips in the bottom of the glass for when they get to the bottom. :)

  • Blasting my “Top 40 Songs of All Time” playlist while singing at the top of my lungs and driving country roads. “Galileo” by Indigo Girls, “Hold On” by Wilson Phillips, and “Sky Full of Stars” by Coldplay are a few on my list. Have you ever tried to whittle down your favorite songs into a Top 40? It’s so hard but so delightfully nostalgic.

  • Swimming in waterfalls + lakes + creeks more than pools. Rock Island State Park has been a favorite this summer with its multiple waterfalls, rock jumping, and magical swimming holes. P.S. It’s made our lives so much easier to have a swim bag packed at all times, for either pool or state park. It always has shampoo, conditioner, hairbrush, towels, clean swimsuits, bug spray, sunscreen, goggles, sunglasses, and a wet bag to store wet things until we get home. Gamechanger.

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There’s still so much summer left - let’s soak it up while we can without trying to look ahead too quickly to fall. What are some of your summer favorites?

I Love This Place: Columbia, Tennessee - For The Art of Simple

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Today on The Art of Simple I’m sharing all the things I love about Columbia, TN, our closest major town just 15 minutes down the road. Well, not all the things - I could have included about 50 more places and businesses I love, but I had to stop somewhere! I’m so thankful to be a part of this growing community full fo so many entrepreneurs, artists, creatives, artisans, and just generally kind people who care.

“I’m writing this from the square in downtown Columbia, Tennessee on a park bench that says above it: “Welcome to our beautiful downtown. Sit down and enjoy yourself.” To me, those two sentences accurately capture the endearing, welcoming, connective nature of this town, one I’ve grown to increasingly love over the last three years we’ve lived nearby.” Continue reading…

Have you been to Columbia? What are some of your favorite places?

Be More Scrappy

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From the Urban Dictionary:

Scrappy:

Someone or something that appears dwarfed by a challenge, but more than compensates for seeming inadequacies through will, persistence and heart.

Have you read Chip Gaines’ book, Capital Gaines: Smart Things I Learned Doing Stupid Stuff? I read it last year and expected a funny, lighthearted read. And it totally was. But it was so much more. What I didn’t expect was for it to completely change my life perspective. I didn’t realize this book would shake me awake out of fear, into freedom and bravery, and…scrappiness.

By “scrappy,” I don’t mean argumentative, or in a constant stage of being ready to punch someone in the face. I mean exactly what the above definition says, because “appearing dwarfed by a challenge” is the story of pretty much my entire life.

Time and again, I’ve shrunken down from challenges, or I’ve walked away from them altogether saying, “It’s just too hard.” I wasn’t good at hitting in softball? I’m done with that. I’m slow at running track? Bye bye. I even quit a job as a hostess at Houston’s Restaurant one summer during college because it was just too stinkin’ hard AND PEOPLE WERE YELLING IN MY FACE ALL NIGHT. After the final straw when a lady chewed me out during the busiest dinner rush one evening, I lied and told them I was going back to college sooner than I thought and then got a job folding clothes at Old Navy instead. True story.

After college I started to hone in on my gifts just a little bit, and I took initiative to go after my goals and dreams of working in the music industry, but I still struggled with being in leadership roles or pushing through hard times. I didn’t know then that God had already begun leading me on a journey to becoming more brave, as He’s called me to be.

I was soon paired with a headstrong, forward-moving, autonomous, inspiring, visionary man for a husband. We couldn’t be more different, and that’s wonderful, because we each have our own unique gifts. We stretch and balance each other in good ways. Steven (enneagram 8w7, “The Maverick”) will always be an entrepreneur at heart who’s extremely driven, fast-paced, optimistic, living life full-tilt. As an enneagram 9w1 (“The Dreamer”), I’ll always be the calmer, slower-paced, more grounded force, considering the details and others’ perspectives.

Steven is honestly my biggest cheerleader, believing in me as a writer and podcaster and farmer and homeschooling mom. And over the last few years particularly (becoming a farmer and turning 40 helped!), I’m learning how to actually be brave and face challenges on my own, not just because someone is prodding me. I’m finding my own voice and learning to be a fighter in the best possible way.

I’m learning to be more scrappy.

Admittedly, will and perseverance just don’t come naturally to me. But I desperately want - and need - more of it in my life. Here are some parts I underlined in Chip’s book…

“Life isn’t safe, remember. But life can be wonderful if you choose adventure rather than fear.”

“When others bail from challenges, we’re just getting warmed up.”

“When something seems insurmountable to most, we shrug, because we eat ‘insurmountable’ for breakfast.”

Hmm, that sounds familiar. Just a few days ago when we were moving our chickens to new pasture and I was worried about ticks in the tall grass, Steven said, “Whatever. I eat ticks for breakfast.” Meanwhile, I was obsessively dousing myself with essential oil spray.

Seriously though? On the farm, without scrappiness, you just don’t survive for very long.

Yes, this whole 17 acres of land might seem too much for two people to handle.

We might sound crazy to sell tickets for 150 people (5 times now!) to come eat dinner on our land.

It might be insane to get up every Saturday morning at 5:30am and sweat down to our underwear by 7:30am, planting 100 feet of lettuce while most people are still sleeping.

The blisters, aching muscles, the multitude of bug bites and mounds of not just dirty, but muddy laundry - all of it sounds TOO HARD, right?

But we’ve made a firm choice to do it together and to rise to the challenges, and we’re not going back. We’re not going to let them dwarf us. I’m not going to let them dwarf me.

And at the end of the day, I’m rewarded with pockets full of tomatoes, armfuls of zinnias, children catching fireflies and harvesting bouquets barefoot. There’s no lovely without the contrast of the hard. There just isn’t.

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This morning was a true test. I found myself in the position of having to lift an enormous, bulky 50 lb bag of pelleted chicken fertilizer, which, I promise, you don’t want spilling on your clothes. Steven had left for work to cook for one of his clients, and no one else was around except for my 8-year-old and 5-year-old daughters, and we know they weren’t going to be much help when it comes to heavy lifting. This was a crucial step in laying a new lettuce row, so I had to get it done.

So you know what I did? I dug deep, I channeled “scrappy,” grunting louder than was probably necessary, and I lifted that sucker.

I propped the unopened end of the colossal bag on a bucket which helped brace it while I used every muscle in my arms and abs to slowly position the opening to pour the fertilizer into another bucket.

My arms were trembling when it was done, but it worked! And I actually yelled, “HECK YEAH! GIRL POWER!” really loudly in the middle of our produce field, although no one heard it but me.

And that action that I overcame will make all the difference in the way the lettuce grows.

Will. Persistence. Heart.

Three things I really want more of in my life. What about you?

~ ~ ~

P.S. Here’s Chip’s book on Amazon - this is an affiliate link, so if you purchase it, I get a small commission. :)

Simple With Tsh Oxenreider Podcast Episode 198: Body Image & Sabbaticals

In this episode, I get to share my heart on body image issues and some practical ways that we can foster a healthy body image. I really hope this speaks to you!

In Tsh’s segment, she shares her heart on why she’s taking a sabbatical this July, and I think it’s brave and genius. Major goals to be able to do this with Steven in the next five years. Listen in on iTunes or at The Art of Simple, and let us know your thoughts!

You can also read my post, The Liberation of Lake Life (A Body Image Manifesto), which inspired this episode.