Equinox

Look at me writing a post two days in a row…who knew I had it in me ;]

It’s spring today everybody! Not that the weather agrees here in New England but I’ll take the end of winter either way. I decided to celebrate by wearing a springy little sundress…and am compensating for the cold with a cardigan, long socks, and riding boots so I don’t freeze to death. I can at least pretend spring is here even if freezing in a sundress is a poor way to do it.

I wore this dress in Italy when we explored Naples, the Amalfi Coast, and Pompeii by foot and train. That was a magical day in a magical country and this bright little dress always reminds me of those sweet, warm memories.

Today, on the first day of spring, I’m dreaming of the Italian sun, of lemon groves and street vendors selling bright flowers, and of taking a long walk in the sunshine…either here or there, anywhere so long as I’m warm :]

catKatniss is helping me celebrate…all snuggled up in my lap while I write this post.

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Walking the streets of Pompeii in my little sundress

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Flowers for sale on the streets in France

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A sunshiny day on the Adriactic

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Birds sunbathing in Croatia

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Poppies growing up out of the rocks in France; I think they love they sun as much as I do.

Happy spring, everyone :]

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Overflowing.

I haven’t thought a thing about resolutions this year because I feel there is nothing in the whole world I could possibly want right now. I feel full to the brim and overflowing. I feel like my heart will burst and to want anything more than what I already have is just plain greedy.

2013 was a bright, beautiful year for me and Darren. Not every year is of course. Actually, the last two or three years before it have been pretty tiring and blah and perhaps that is part of why this past year stood out as such a happy one for us.

Sometimes I’m afraid to talk about the good things in my life—the things I’m most thankful for—because I don’t want to sound like a braggart or someone who has absolutely everything. No one I know enjoys being around someone like that so instead I tend to focus on the hard things in order to be real and relatable, in order to let others know that our lives aren’t perfect and we do truly understand what others are going through. But right now I feel that not being thankful and mentioning the good things would be the exact opposite of real and relatable—we have much to be thankful for and to pretend otherwise would be a little dishonest.

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Before this year, I had gotten to a place where I knew certain things in my life needed to change but I couldn’t see any end in sight to the way things were. It was quite depressing, actually—struggling through each day as it rolled in exactly the same as the one before and wondering if there would ever be any way out. I was exhausted and lonely and struggling along but didn’t know how to make any real changes. I felt like the way things were was just exactly how they had to be and how they would always remain.

I started reading about the children of Israel wandering through the wilderness, hoping I would find something to encourage and carry me through what felt like a private wilderness experience. I felt parched, dried up and alone in the desert.

But this year some light broke through and things started to change. I know that real change needs to be internal not circumstantial. But sometimes when you’re drowning, all you really need is to be pulled to shore before you sink completely. This year anchored me and pulled my head above water—it feels really good to breathe again.

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First of all, in April Darren and I bought an old colonial house needing a little love. The most important thing about this house is its location—in the country, close to the woods, wrapped around by trees. Both Darren and I grew up in the country and I don’t think either of us realized how much we would miss the land and the woods. We’ve lived in town ever since we moved to Massachusetts five years ago but have been hoping ever since then that we would be able to buy a home of our own in the country.

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{Wild flowers Darren picked for me in our new yard}

I grew up in a place that was a little bit magical—though I didn’t know it at the time. In the country, in the woods, close to the land…that is where I was shaped and made into who I am. I left the woods behind and took off as fast as I could for Massachusetts and all the excitement of the coast and the cities out east. I like it here in New England; it’s a lovely place to live.

But I miss the woods. I miss the wheat fields—the golden stalks turned pink and orange in the late afternoon sun. I miss the vastness, the endless rolling hills of crops. I miss the grass and dirt beneath my bare feet. I miss the rhythm of life lived close to the land. I miss having enough time and attention to notice the palette of colors used by the sun in painting the earth awake and asleep each day. I miss how bright and clear the stars were over the fields at night, unobstructed by the lights down here, enchanted by the lights up there.

All these things got into my blood and my soul, and though I left them behind, they won’t leave me alone. I can’t find my place, my peace, my sense of balance without them.

I don’t know that I’ll ever make it back to the plains or the prairies where I’m from but I’ve known for a long time now that I absolutely must find my way back to the woods. And this shabby colonial of ours is just exactly what we’ve needed to do that.

Knowing that soon our days spent sharing a duplex and yard right on the road will end and we’ll be able to settle into our first single family home with our own private back yard is just about too much…I. Am. So. Excited. and so, so thankful. When I get frustrated and discouraged about where we are I’m encouraged by knowing there’s end in sight and soon we’ll be back in the woods where we belong.

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{Still waters found on a walk through the woods near our new house}

Here we will have a place to plant a garden and a yard to walk around in. We’ll be able to raise our kids close to the land which is so very important to both of us. We’ll be able to see the stars at night and watch the sun cast its brilliant rays across the fields at sunset. I think we’ll both breathe again and feel like we’re really living the way we’re meant to, just the way our souls were put together and intended to get along. It’s a huge gift and I’m so thankful.

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In June we went to Europe—Europe! This was not just a fancy vacation for us—it was a giant adventure we had both hoped for since our teens. We wanted to see the world, experience different cultures and see what people so different from us are like.

From Spain to France, Italy to Croatia and on to England we were able journey and explore. We rode trains and ferries and shared a taxi with strangers from other countries. We jumped in the Mediterranean and Adriatic and wound in a bus up the Amalfi Coast past lemon groves and rooftop gardens.

We walked and walked…through Pompeii, Sicily, Venice, Marseilles, Rome…on and on until we collapsed in bed each night…exhausted but happy.

We drank the best coffee in Barcelona and ate scrumptious pizza while we sat on the curb waiting for the train in Pisa. We found that people all over the world are kind and friendly and willing to help when you are lost and confused and don’t speak the language.

It was magic and I’ll never ever forget what it felt like to be lost and found at the same time stomping around the globe and seeing the world with my own two eyes.

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Finally, in the fall my sneaking suspicion that a baby was on the way was confirmed. I’ve known for a long time that I wanted to stay home and raise a family. Though I’ve enjoyed the years I’ve spent working outside the home and am thankful for the skills and experience I’ve gained, I’ve always looked forward to the day when I could wholly focus on raising a family instead.

Maybe some people will think less of me for choosing housework and a baby on my hip over a career at a growing company—that’s fine—we don’t all have to be the same or want the same things. I want to stay home, cook meals from my garden, and raise a houseful of munchkins and I’m thankful we’re finally on the road to starting a family of our own.

I’m sure there will be days when I wonder what on earth I was thinking and will wish for high heels and the office. But ultimately, I know my heart and soul are most settled at home—this is the place where I’m most gifted and centered and I’m ready to make the trade for this new life—however difficult and exhausting it may sometimes be.

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{Moments from our year}

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;

a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;

a time to kill, and a time to heal;

a time to break down, and a time to build up;

a time to weep, and a time to laugh;

a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;

a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;

a time to seek, and a time to lose;

a time to keep, and a time to cast away;

a time to tear, and a time to sew;

a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;

a time to love, and a time to hate;

a time for war, and a time for peace

He has made everything beautiful in its time.”

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 & 11

I’m thankful for a year of much-needed change that helped refresh our spirits and renew our focus. I’m thankful too that life is all about seasons and that nothing is forever. I’ve enjoyed this season of our lives and look forward to the seasons to come. Thank you for sharing the past year with us; I’m looking forward to sharing this new year with you too :]

Marseilles, France

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We spent one day in France exploring the port city of Marseilles. We got there early when the shops were just starting to open.  We walked along the water and watched a fresh flower market pop up all around us as people sat up tents and stands filled with bright, fragrant blooms. People in America don’t really buy fresh flowers unless it’s a special occasion like an anniversary or birthday and even then they are given as a gift and not just used for ornamentation. Flowers in America are expensive so buying a bouquet that will only last a few days doesn’t seem practical. But I noticed throughout Europe that people buy bundles of fresh flowers in the market for a good price and take them home with their regular groceries. I love that. This fall I’m hoping to plant lots of flower bulbs in our yard and garden that way we’ll have lots of blooms to bring inside next spring.

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We decided to take a ferry to the Château d’If. Trying to buy tickets took some work since we don’t speak French but we found that people are very kind and helpful when you ask questions and don’t understand how everything works. The woman working the ticket office for the ferry helped us figure out what tickets to buy and what ferry to take.

We waited in line for a long time before the ferry was ready to go…our first lesson in patience when it came to public transit. Everybody in America has a car, or more likely, two cars. Here we get around by getting behind the wheel and going where we want to go; that is not how life works in Europe.

Because Europe has such extensive public transit the best way to get around is by bus, train, or boat. But when lots of people need to go to lots of different places all using the same system, you don’t get to just climb behind the wheel and go when and wherever you want to–so you learn to wait :]

We stood in line listening to the musical sound of French float all around us and breathed in the smell of salt water and tobacco. I think I might be addicted to nicotine after breathing it in so much over seas. America is pretty restrictive about smoking in public so you almost never breathe in smoke unless you are actually smoking. But the people we came across in Europe smoke a lot, everywhere, all the time…and after a while you start to miss the sweet, tangy smell of the smoke whirling around in the air.

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Eventually the boat did come and we made our way across the cold, choppy water to Château d’If –the setting of Alexander Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo.

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Bold red poppies and wild flowers dotted the scrubby landscape of the island. I picked a poppy and dried it between the pages of my journal. After an hour or two of exploring the pretty little white rock island we took the ferry back and started walking the streets and alleys of the old city–Vieux Port.

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It only seems right in France to make sure you eat a nice, warm baguette. So we found a bakery filled with fresh breads and pastries and bought both a baguette and a fruit pastry. We walked the streets munching on our treats and I can’t think of a better way to see the city than on foot with chunks of warm bread in your hand :]

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It seems any time Darren and I go anywhere, Darren has to go out of his way to find the highest point possible and make me climb up to it. So, you see that tiny gold statue on the top of the hill? That is Notre Dame and Darren made me walk up there, because as it turns out, he hates me ;]

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But this is the view from the top so he’s forgiven (as usual).

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The walk back down the hill was delightful because, well, we were going down…and I got to meet a couple little French cats. This cat was curled up asleep on a bench and didn’t want to talk to me after I took his picture. Another cat came over and put a show on for us by rolling around on his back and being very funny ;]

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By the time we got back to Vieux Port it was raining. We huddled under an umbrella and walked through a couple of outdoor markets looking for lavender soap (which I found) before we were on our way. Next we were on to Pisa and Florence, Italy…I can’t wait to show you our first steps in my favorite place come Monday :] Thanks for reading!