Chapter Two: It’s Just a Blog

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I’ve been thinking a lot about this space over the last few months–what it is, why I’m here, do I continue, etc.

When I look back to what this blog was about in the beginning (intended to be a nature journal, essentially), I realize a lot has changed since those very first days of sharing my words and pictures.

There have been times when I had lots of readers and visitors and felt quite connected to people through blogging. And there have been times with hardly any visits, reads, or interactions. A lot of this has come down to me and my own investment in this space, I know.

After quite a long absence when my son was born, I’ve had trouble knowing how and when to pick back up over here—how to connect what this space was and now is into a coherent whole.

And as is often the case when I’m pondering and without answers, I pull in and keep quiet until I’m ready and know what I want to say. Thus the intermittent months of silence on all my social media.

I vacillate between being someone who startles people with my honesty about hard things on one hand and being deeply introverted and private on the other. I realize this sometimes leaves people not knowing where they stand with me—and leaves me not knowing what and how to share in a space like this.

So you want to know what my conclusion is after all these deep thoughts and said ponderings?

It’s just a blog. You should probably chill out.

I tend to over-think things sometimes and this blog is probably one of those cases—I’ve just been taking the whole thing way too seriously. It’s hard, because words matter to me. My words matter to me. And putting your heart and life on the page with written words can scare the fire out of you.

But…

Again, it’s just a blog. These are just blog posts and pretty pictures from one little person in one little corner of the world.

So I’ve decided to calm down and stop worrying. And instead, I’m just going to write and share pictures to my heart’s content without all the anxiety that comes with over-thinking and over-valuing every last word that comes out of my mouth.

That being said, you can expect to see me around here a lot more—like my goal is 3x a week a lot more. You may not like that, I know. You may get sick and tired of reading my words and seeing my face. And if you do, though I’d hate to see you leave, I understand if you decide to go. Kari Ann ain’t for everyone, that’s for dang sure…and that’s okay.

I’ve decided to view this space as a record and an online journal. It’s a place to hash out and write down what I’m thinking about and learning. It’s a place to rant a little and be silly. A place to share what I love and the pictures I’m taking along the way.

I hope you enjoy coming along for the ride.

And in closing, I realize many of the readers I had before are now gone and there are lots of new faces around here as well, so on Friday I’m going to re-introduce myself a little bit. This makes me feel profoundly silly, just so you know. It’s like taking selfies…not my thing looking at my own face close up. But I thought it might be helpful as we kick off with a bit of a fresh start.

And if you come back Friday and see nothing, it’s because I chickened out. So there’s that.

Until then, thanks for reading along ❤

—Kari

Not Capturing the Moment

IMG_20150514_181115413 editI didn’t have a cell phone until I went off to college and even then I hardly used it. We had a phone on the wall in our dorm room—you know, the kind with a curly cord and actual buttons to push–well, that’s what I always used to talk because my cell had horrible reception, I didn’t know how to text, and there was no camera, apps, or internet so the thing was fairly useless to me.  I’m not talking about a hundred years ago, this was like 2004.

Sometimes I like thinking back to the days when a phone was just a phone and I wasn’t always carrying it around with me scrolling through feeds like a media addict. Sometimes I get this image in my head of myself carrying around a corded phone and constantly looking at it to see if anyone is going to call me—it makes me laugh ;]

I like my fancy pants phone as much as anybody—with immediate access to the internet and lots of fun apps. But still, I think we all know sometimes we miss out on the actual living going on all around us by being so busy trying to keep up with all the virtual living going on via our phones.

I never realized this more until I had my son. There’s a part of me that feels like I need to capture every little thing he does because he’s changing so fast. And capturing everything he does isn’t hard with a cell always in hand—I take a million pics, record all his shenanigans, and scroll through countless feeds in between (you know, since I already have my phone out anyway).

But I’ve realized something in the process of trying to always capture the perfect picture of my little guy: Sometimes watching him through the lens of my phone takes away from just being present with him and watching him with nothing but my own eyes.

Darren and I took Roman to the park recently and he was so cute crawling around exploring in the grass. He picked dandelions and looked them over with a kind of wonder I think you only have when you see something for the very first time. The sun was beginning to drift down below the horizon and the breeze was crisp with leftover remembrances of winter still grasping at spring. Darren held Roman’s little hands in his and helped him walk around…really, Roman mostly danced being so very proud of himself and this newfound use of his legs. I sat there in the cool grass watching my boys, watching the sun set, watching the life of our little one unfold right before me…and I left my phone in my pocket.

I just wanted to live that moment and soak up as much of it in my memory as I possibly could. I wanted to always remember how Darren was as a young father of his first child and how Roman was discovering the world at his daddy’s side. I knew in my heart that trying to capture this moment would actually rob me of it. So I sat and I watched and I lived and the best documentation of these sweet memories is held in my heart instead of my phone.

Since then, I’ve tried to allow more of these sweet moments to unfold all on their own rather than trying to force, pose, and capture them. Yes, I love photos and of course photos help us hold onto memories in their own way. But there’s a part of me that knows I need not capture any moment with a camera that I miss with my own heart and mind by being distracted.

Sometimes, some moments just need to be lived and remembered in our hearts rather than captured and shared on social media.

Inspiration vs. Jealousy

If all goes as planned {and it never does}, we’re supposed to be moving into our house this summer. After years of looking for the right place, saving money, and now two years of rebuilding and remodeling–we’re finally almost there.

IMG_20150310_195322{“Um guys, this house doesn’t look super done.”}

But as I think about moving, I’ve been thinking too about how much I should share here and elsewhere on social media when it comes to the details of our new home. There’s a big part of me that wants to take lots of pictures and include people in this journey {especially those of you who’ve already been following the bits and pieces I’ve shared along the way}. But there’s an equal part of me that’s unsure if sharing is really the right thing to do.

Here’s why:

We’ve all heard about and dealt with the jealousy that comes with watching someone else’s life via social media. We talk about it, read articles about it, complain about it, and deal with it in our own lives–jealousy. People’s lives can look so perfect and put together on Facebook when the mess has been cropped out of the background and the right filter makes everyone look tan. You’ve done, I’ve done it, and we all kind of know everyone else is doing it too–but still, we see those pictures sometimes and think, “They get everything. My life sucks.”

I remember feeling this way on Valentine’s Day when Darren was helping our new renters move into the apartment we had just remodeled {unexpectedly, right in the middle of our house remodel} and so I didn’t get any roses or get to go out to dinner and spent that whole day feeling very, very, VERY sorry for myself. And rather than be a grownup and stay away from social media for the day, I instead scrolled through Facebook and Instagram and envied all the pictures of flowers, and date night, and all those freaking people who were so stupidly in love… ;]

So I worry that by sharing pictures of our home, people are only going to see the end product of years of work and envy us or think we get everything handed to us while they struggle along. People don’t see the work and stress and everything that’s gone into making this dream of ours come true–I know that because I know I look at other people’s lives and pictures the same way–I see one picture and one moment and don’t know or consider the rest of the story leading up to that one happy, enviable moment.

So, is it right to share only the pretty bits and pieces of a much bigger story and perhaps by doing so create feelings of envy along the way? I realize I can’t control how other people react–someone else’s jealousy is ultimately, their problem. But still, I don’t want to be one of those people on social media who overshares.

And then there’s privacy. My home is where I live, where my baby lives, it’s the most intimate space I inhabit. So should it then be shared publicly? Though I’ve blogged for years, I’ve felt much more private and unsure of sharing ever since Roman was born. There is something about knowing you are totally responsible for another person’s life that makes you stop and think a little bit harder about everything you do–including how much you share about them on social media. So I wonder now if it’s safe or smart to share our home in a space like this or if it’s better left off the internet and kept private just for us.

Those are the cons, but I see some pros too…

I get so much inspiration and enjoyment from seeing how and where other people live. My favorite blogs are by people who share their homes and lives and invite you in. Yes, sometimes on a bad day, I’ll see someone else’s home or life on a blog and envy them. But for the most part, I just enjoy reading stories and seeing pictures of how other people live. I’ve gotten so much inspiration for our own home by seeing the ideas of others and I would be really disappointed if these people decided to stop sharing. This makes me want to share pictures of my own home and life {even if it’s just a fragment of the whole story} and invite people in {even if it’s just through a word or picture}.

So I’m asking you sincerely, what do you think? Do you think it’s right to share put together pictures of our not-so-put together lives? Is it safe or smart to share a place as intimate and private as my home on the internet when I can’t control who will then know where I live? Do you like seeing other people’s homes and lives or does it just lead to envy and frustration?

Setting the Tone at Home

Roman in windowcrop

The other day I lay on the couch with my baby boy asleep on my chest. I have watched the seasons change and the world go by my living room window holding Roman there while he naps. The hot, sticky summer yielded to fall. Fall shed her gold and red robe of leaves and bowed to winter. Winter yields to no one. Spring is in hiding and I’m afraid, may never have the courage to stand in winter’s stubborn way.
Winter can be beautiful too, occasionally. That day the wind was blowing hard and the clouds were light and billowy and rolling end over end on their way out of town. The sky was deep-sea blue and the sun broke through. But still the snow fell—fell out of nowhere, fell in the sunshine and looked like glittering rain flitting through the light. It was magical, the sunlight and snow and fluffy fast clouds.

That day I drank my coffee hot and foamy instead of cold and dense. I sat and read and jotted some thoughts down on paper. I looked at my son and noticed his one-toothed smile and perfect little giggle.
I tell you all this because I’ve realized something lately: I’m usually too busy and distracted to notice the beauty all around me. Often, I have the living room blinds closed to keep the glare of the sun off the TV and I sit on the couch looking in at Netflix and housework instead of out at nature.

But that day was different. That day I decided to be still and quiet. I turned the TV off and put my phone down. I held my boy and lay there consciously watching the snow and clouds dance outside my window. I realized that I, more than anyone or anything else, set the tone in my home. I stay home full-time which means all day every day I am the one who determines how much TV, media, and noise is allowed in our house. And with that decision, I determine what my son is exposed to in the way of noise and distractions.

Already I’m an example to him and when I sit holding him with the TV on in the background while I scroll through endless feeds on my phone, I’m teaching him the art of distraction rather than of mindful concentration. I’m teaching him to fill his life with noise and motion rather than stillness and silence. What I do now is what I’m teaching him to do later.

If I want him to know how to sit still and play quietly, I need to show him by my actions how those things are done. If I want him to read and love stories, I need to read books myself and read to him. If I want him to love nature and spending more time playing outside than in, then I need to take him outside and show him what a beautifully intriguing world we live in. Just like I can’t eat junk food in front of him all day and expect him to love healthy food, so I can’t fill his environment with noise and distractions and expect him to want anything else.

10967813_10152645679501517_1705059145_n{Reading Anne of Green Gables together}

Sometimes the quiet drives me crazy when I’m home alone all day but I’m learning to be careful about my own need for noise and accidentally instilling that same need in my son. As a mom it’s my responsibility to teach and lead by example and that often means working on my own bad habits and growing myself into the same kind of person I would like my children to be; I can’t have expectations for them that I don’t live up to myself.

This is not just for my baby either; it’s benefited me as well. I’m enjoying the quiet and the peaceful feel our home has when it’s not filled with all the flashing lights and sounds of TV. I’m enjoying the things I notice and can concentrate on when I look away from my phone and at the world and people around me instead. I by no means think all TV and social media are bad, I’m just starting to recognize the ways I’m abusing good things and setting a bad example in the process. I’m learning to love the quiet and to live in that quiet rather than automatically drowning out my thoughts with background noise.

Good living takes discipline. It takes discipline and forethought to eat healthy meals. It takes discipline to sit down and read or to tap out words. It takes discipline to build strong, happy, healthy relationships. And I’m learning too that it takes discipline to manage the noise and distractions that come with our modern way of life, with cell phones and social media.

Every day I have a choice and an opportunity with the way I live, the home I build, the example I set. Each day is a new chance and building block but eventually those blocks add up from a foundation to a structure—so I must ask, what am I building today with this block? What will this house look like and how will I build and grow the people in it? It’s up to me, every day, one day at a time…and every single day and block counts towards the final structure.

Don’t Look Back

Sometimes I look back at who I was a year ago or five years ago and I’m embarrassed by some of the things I said or did. The advent of social media doesn’t help either because now if my memory fails me, Facebook and even this blog will be here to remind me of my less than stellar self. Super.

Sometimes I want to gather up everyone who knew me before right now and apologize for all the stupid thing I ever said or did. I feel this urgency to explain to people that I’m different now, that I’m sorry and I’ve changed.

This is great except I’ll probably look back ten years from now at the person I am today and want to apologize all over again.

You see, if I’m moving in the right direction then hopefully I’m always growing and changing from who I am today into a more loving, mature person tomorrow. That’s a good thing. The bad thing is looking back and remembering who I was at a different place in the story. But what I’m trying to remember is this: There’s no need to be ashamed of who you were yesterday if you are becoming a better person today.

Yes, I’m sorry for some of the things I said or did in the past and I do hope people know that. But at the same time I’m glad to be aware of what I did wrong because hopefully that means I’ve learned and grown and am not still making the same mistakes today.

So don’t be ashamed of who you were; be proud of who you are becoming. If you can’t be proud of who you are becoming, then worry about that instead of the past.

“…But this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14

Our Real Lives

Sometimes, as much as I love blogging, the whole thing feels a little less than genuine to me. I obviously only share parts of myself here with you. I try to be open and honest in this space but you can only get so much of the whole picture from the occasional words and pictures I share.

I also try to be positive on my blog because honestly, who wants to read about someone else’s problems all day? I want this space to be beautiful and inspiring so I only share those things that I hope you will connect with and be inspired by. But in so doing I leave out a lot of the truth and always feel like a little bit of a fraud.

This is challenging because I find myself reading my favorite blogs and sometimes I get a little discouraged thinking other people have so much more going for them than I ever will. I look at all their pretty pictures and eat up stories of their adventures and I start to think I must be a complete loser compared to them.

But the truth is these people I admire are only sharing a part of themselves with me—just like I only share a part of myself with you. However beautiful anyone’s life may look, we all have problems, hurts, discouragements, and a whole world of history that has made us who we are.

I have to remind myself of that when I read about other people’s lives online.

I enjoy social media—Facebook, blogs, Pinterest… It’s all good in its place but it’s important to remember how much more there is behind all the pretty pictures and words. There is a lot more going on in my life than I can ever share with you here. But I still want to share with you what I can. I want to tell you my stories and show you my pictures—even if these stories and pictures only give you a glimpse and not the whole story.

There are lots of good things going on in my life right now. As I shared with you not long ago, Darren and I just bought an old house we are remodeling and we are so excited about moving out into the country.

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Earlier this week we planted a big vegetable garden and the other night we pulled an old piano bench outside and sat under the stars planning and dreaming of life in this new place. While we were sitting there the most incredible shooting star I have ever seen zipped by with a trail of flame behind it…I actually gasped out loud—it was that amazing.

In just a few days we leave for Europe. Europe! We have been saving for years and now we finally get to take off and see Spain, France, Italy, Croatia, and England! Holy moly kids…I can’t even tell you how excited I am.

I look forward to sharing all these little adventures with you here over the summer. But in doing so I just wanted to remind you (and myself) that these are just pieces of our lives. The rest of my life involves sitting at a desk doing paperwork, cleaning the house, cooking, grocery shopping, bill paying, blah blah blah. I don’t sit here and tell you about the day-to-day because that would bore me to tears and I don’t want to do the same to you. But the laundry and the paperwork…that is very much my real life whether I share it here or not.

Life is good but it isn’t good every second of every day and it isn’t just pretty pictures and big adventures. Life is beautiful and messy and so much more than the individual parts we share. That’s it. That’s all. Love Kari :]

Why Do You Read the Blogs You Do?

What is it about a particular blog that draws you in and makes you want to read more? I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately: Why do I read some blogs and skip over others?

For me it comes down to whether or not I’m interested in and inspired by the person behind the blog.

My favorite blog is by a girl named Aura and I can’t get enough of her writing and photography—but why? She’s just a person telling stories and sharing snap shots of her life so why do I care what this stranger does with her days?

I care because I’m fascinated and inspired by her. I’m inspired by all the beauty she creates in her life and fascinated by the way she lives. Watching her life through the stories and pictures shared on her blog inspire me to go out and do more with myself—and I like that.

Another one of my favorite bloggers/artists is Katie Daisy. Katie is my favorite artist because what she creates fascinates and inspires me—just like Aura’s words and photos do. I love the way Katie combines colors and textures into whimsical little paintings and her work makes me want to transform everything around me into something dripping with color and beauty.

I also read blogs that resonate with me and the way I live.

Blogs about nature and the outdoors, photography and art, faith and family—these are just a few of the things that speak deeply to me and draw me into the writing of others with similar interest.

Both Aura and Katie are Midwest girls who grew up in the prairies of Oklahoma and Illinois. The words they write and the art they create resound deeply with my love for the prairies. I feel connected to these artists in a way because we each share a deep love of this one common thing—the flatlands, the woods, the birds and trees…the places and things that speak to us about where we are from and who we have become.

Both of these artists inspire me to create more beauty in my life. They inspire me to live better, write better, and create from a place deep inside my soul that is genuine and true.

There are very few bloggers who reach me in this way but whenever I come across someone who does, I can’t get enough of their words and stories. I want to dive into their world and understand everything that makes them who they are. I want to go away from their words and pictures and create something just as beautiful and inspiring with my own words and stories.

What draws you into a blog? What determines who your favorite writers and artists are?

Find Yourself

The best of me comes from within not from without. My most inspired, creative work happens when I work from within myself rather than looking for inspiration from others. Other people do inspire me, but when I try to follow after them and do what they do, I always lose myself along the way and lose any authentic inspiration too. I admire people but that does not mean I need follow them. We are each our own and when we are not, we lose ourselves in each other.

I struggle with this in the realm of social media. There are so many beautiful blogs and pictures and ideas. There are so many ways to share ourselves with each other using Pinterest, Etsy, blogs, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc., etc.

Social media isn’t necessarily a bad thing—I’m sharing these very thoughts with you right now using social media—but sometimes I find it eats me alive. Sometimes I lose my own inspiration in the inspiration of others and nothing I do rings true for a time.

My best work happens when I am quiet and alone, when I look within instead of without, when I walk away from the internet and into the woods, when I feel the world pulsing around me in all my senses—tasting, smelling, touching, hearing, feeling the world for myself in my own living senses.

I am never more inspired to garden and nurture life than when I go outside and feel the cool spring air on my skin, smell the dirt as it’s dug up and prepared for planting—nobody, however inspiring, can replace the inspiration that comes from living your own life in awareness of yourself and your own surroundings.

Sometimes I forget to be inspired in myself, outside of others. But I am finding the best way to live happily, peacefully, fully, is to live truly to myself and outside of others. To live within my senses and live out my own inspiration. Nothing is more inspiring than a person who has found themselves and is living authentically from within, not from without.

I don’t think being creative is so much about being original as it is about being authentic—being true to your own inspiration and living out of your own senses and awareness. Sometimes I have to step away from the people who inspire me to actually find any inspiration of my own.

“Maybe you are searching among the branches for what only appears in the roots.” -Rumi