Our messy, beautiful world

Our world is not a neat and tidy place.

If you’ve been in my family room, you know.

But outside of my little home, it isn’t neat and tidy there either.  There are not baskets and bins to separate emotions and beliefs and, most importantly, people.

We all live here together, doing the best we can.

Our world is full of love, hope, anger, pride, fear…men, women, children…everyone has their way of dealing with the differences.  Some love it, some don’t, and most of us want to make it neat and tidy.

I know my brain can’t function well when there is a ton of clutter around.  Of course, it’s adapted over time with 2 kids and a husband who likes woodworking tools and camping gear and jackets…I know, I don’t get the jacket one either, but he’s got a thing.  Anyway…I literally just had to step away to clean up spilled nail polish all over my kitchen floor.  It happens.  Like I said, a mess.

It is human to want to understand the world and make it straightforward.  We study, we have a scientific method, we have a control and a variable.  And as we go through life, we see the world around us and get used to its images.  But then, we see something we’ve never seen before and our brains can’t process it immediately.  We try to figure it out.  And if we can’t figure out, a few things can happen.  We either:

– ignore it

– investigate it and try to understand it

– feel threatened by it and make it known that we think it’s unacceptable.

It’s so simple and clean when you can look at an image, and you can see it’s blue.  We understand that.  It’s blue.  But then 5 other people come along and say, no, it’s green.  You keep looking at the image and you don’t understand how someone else can be looking at the exact same picture and see something else.  We feel uncomfortable.  We want to know why we see blue when others are seeing green. I mean, take that whole internet dress color thing for example.  It was just a dress and people all over the world were flipping out.  Is the dress white or is the dress blue?  What is it?!  We need to put a label on it!

What I actually loved most about the dress color internet phenomenon was that an article was posted about the eye’s cones and rods reading color differently and whichever you have most of, that is what determines the color.  And then it said, the dress is actually white.  Um, what?  Why can’t it be both? You see it as white, I see it as blue.  It is a dress all the same.

My daughter, Maddie, has always been into boys’ clothing.  It’s what she loves and what she feels comfortable in.  She also has short hair.  With the two combined, she looks like a boy to most people.  When meeting someone for the first time, be it a new friend or the person helping her try shoes on at the store, they may refer to her as ‘him’.  I used to correct them.  I would say, “She’s a girl.”  And they would apologize.  And of course, I would say it’s fine, no problem.


Then one day, I asked Maddie how she felt about them calling her “him”.  And she said, “I don’t really care.”  And with that, my 8 year old taught me something that changed my outlook forever – it’s okay to live in a world of not knowing.  Our society’s need to put a label on everything – to plant ourselves firmly as a Republican or Democrat, as a Methodist or Baptist, a boy or a girl.  I don’t care anymore if she’s mistaken for a boy and I no longer say anything when someone refers to her as “him”.  Our world is a free-flowing mess of light and energy.  It’s okay for it to not be neat all the time.

But that’s life, isn’t it?  It’s messy.  And you can consider all of us being different…men, women, white, black, gay, straight, ..we all live here together.  We can’t put each other into an organized Ikea shelving system with labels on each bin.  And that is what makes it beautiful.

A Good Place

There are always going to be the naysayers.

It’s difficult not to listen to them, especially when one of them is the voice in your head.

What did we know about owning land?  I grew up on 10 acres, but we didn’t have any animals, other than a couple of mutts with Serbian names.  I would help my mom in the garden occasionally, but it wasn’t like I spent my summers in the corn fields.  Joe wasn’t any wiser.

But we had the desire.

And when you have desire, a true desire…one from the bottom of your gut, one that when you think about it, it feels…right…magical things happen.

I didn’t believe this in my younger years.  In my younger years, I actually wanted to be a dentist.  When I was 24, I went back to school after already finishing a business degree, to take my prerequisites for dental school.  Then one day it dawned on me – if I continue with this, I won’t be a dentist until I am thirty.  Thirty.  Thirty, as I know now, is young.  But when I was twenty four, thirty is…well, thirty is a minivan-driving, suit-wearing, bill-paying thirty year old.  I knew one day I’d be that age, but that idea was enough to stop me.  The naysayer in my head, and a couple outside of my head, did a good enough job of saying, “Thirty?!  You already have a degree!  Are you even going to like being a dentist?  You didn’t like science in high school. You’re going to be studying while your friends are out living their lives!”  What they said really doesn’t matter now.  All that matters is the naysayers won, good or bad.

Or did they?

I don’t think they won, really.

I don’t think I really wanted it.

I know now, if you really want something in life, and you focus on it, it will happen.  You may actually not even know you’re focusing on it until later.  Here’s what I mean.

I was at Bed Bath & Beyond one day, right after Joe and I bought our first house in 2004.  I saw this picture hanging near the checkout wall.  And I walked over and bought it.  I didn’t intend to buy any artwork that day.  But I saw it.  And that was it.


I didn’t know what I loved about this picture.  But I loved how it made me feel when I looked at it.  And I knew I wanted to be able to look at it whenever I wanted.  So I took it home with me and it hanged at the end of the only hallway in our home.  I saw it every day when I would walk to my bedroom.

Then one day, 6 years ago, I was driving while working near Greencastle, Indiana and passed this property.  I drove this road at least once every couple of weeks, but never really noticed this piece of property.  When I did, it was enough for me to to turn around and take a picture of it.


Again, I don’t even know why I did it. I loved it, of course, but I had passed other properties similar to this one.  I was drawn to this one so much so that just in case I didn’t drive by it again – our work territories changed all the time – I wanted to be able to preserve this sight.

These wants, these desires I experienced, I knew they came from deep inside.  I was drawn to it and it came from an authentic place – not to please anyone else or to ask someone else if they liked it too.  I knew I loved it.  And that was all.

And then we found our land.

And I saw this…


My tree at the end of my hallway was standing in front of me.  Except it was real.  I could touch it and climb it.

And now I see this…


The white house at the end of the gravel road – I call it home now.

I didn’t even know then how much I desired this when I had those images in my life.  I knew i didn’t second guess them when I saw them the first time –  just pictures then.  But I knew I Ioved the way they made me feel when I saw them and I knew I wanted that feeling all the time. And that was enough.  That feeling was strong and true enough to pull it into my life and make it real.  And I follow that feeling now.  And I find it always leads me to a good place.


“My dad says your house is on wheels.”

One of our first guests after we moved into our new home was Eva, one of Maia’s good friends.  She looked up at me with those big black eyes, and uttered those words completely straight-faced, like she was telling me two plus two equals four.

“Yes, Eva,” I said with a smile and a little laughter, “your dad is right.”

That night, I told Joe about our interaction.  He sat on the edge of the bed and laughed, “I actually took the wheels off, but she’s right.”

Eva was six at the time.  And that age, there’s no judgment.   There were no beliefs about our home being too small or being too impermanent.  No comments about it not being a real house.  Just, “…your house is on wheels.”  It was factual.  And that was all.

The desires had been there, but the beliefs, the judgments about how life is supposed to go play their part.

I remember Joe and I meeting with our first mortgage broker.  After going over our paperwork, she told us how much house we could afford, and concluded with, “…and you’re both educated and gainfully employed, so we can believe your incomes will continue to rise.”  We can believe.  That is how it works.  You graduate, you get the job, your income continues to rise.  And the belief that will make us happy.

It can be scary when you realize what you want doesn’t fit in the algorithm.  It can be scary to know that if you follow your heart, your income may not continue to rise.  The figuring out of how to live on less to gain more of what you want.  To give up 2000 square feet.  To give up the company car.  To give up the belief and judgment about what that will be like.  How will we live?  Can we afford it?  Can we do it?

The story plays out in your mind.  All of the what if’s and how can’s –  and then comes the realization.  The story in your mind is just that – a story.  We can decide.  We can create our own algorithm.  And what was in the space where the story was is now just room.  Room to fill with whatever we desire.  As my cousin told me, “Now the Universe can fill that space with whatever you desire. Be creative, dream big.”

I learned a lot from Eva that day.  That our trailer was just that – a trailer.  We could make it, and our life out here, whatever we wanted.  And we made it our home.


A New Beginning – 2

I thought, I can do anything for a couple of years.  In the scale of a lifetime, a couple of years is a blip, especially when you have 2 small kids.  Time seems to move so fast, so a couple of years, no problem.  I can do this.  I can live anywhere for a couple of years.

When trying to find a shelter to live in while we make our new home – and that’s what we considered it, a shelter – we had lots of ideas.  We initially wanted a trailer/mobile home, just because that seemed the most comfortable on the list of options, but one was hard to find.  We didn’t want a new one – $50,000 for a temporary home wasn’t an option.  That was the number I heard from various mobile home dealers I called.  Used ones in the paper were suspect.  Descriptions like “haz-mat clean-up” and “salvageable” were used in several descriptions.  So we discussed, in no particular order:


– building the barn first and living there while we build the house

– trying to somehow fix up the trailer that came with the property

– a camper (Joe read an article about a family of 6 that lived in a camper off the grid for 5 years.  I drew the line.)

After the last suggestion, desperation mode hit and I dove head first into finding us a place to live.  Luckily, it didn’t take long.

I pulled up my laptop and went to CraigsList.  I typed “mobile home” into the search bar, hit enter, and the first line read:  “Like New Mobile Home, 1995, 900 sq ft, Judah.”  Judah, Indiana.  Not far away at all.  Twenty minutes south of Bloomington.  1995 – did you know a trailer is classified like a car, with a year?  Anyway, I called right away and spoke to one of the owners, a twenty-something woman who lived in the trailer with her husband on her family’s property.  She was desperate to have her mother out of her business, we were desperate for somewhere to live.  Win-win.  Joe and I went to look at it the next day.

Our new home

Honestly, when I walked in, it was a life changing moment.  Not only did it widen my narrow-minded viewpoint on trailer living, it was like taking that first deep breath of air after swimming underwater.  It was exactly what we needed and no more.   Bring our possessions that were both beautiful and useful and leave everything else behind. It would be a chance to design our life from the ground up.

A new life was beginning.  A life of less inside and more outside, less stuff and more doing.  A life of less leading to a life of more.

A New Beginning

Our first hike
Maia on our first hike on the land, the day after we closed.

I’d been waiting for the doctor to sign for about 15 minutes.  That’s typical in the life of a drug rep, standing in the back of the office hallway, waiting for the doctor to sign for samples.  That’s when I heard her voice: “You’re the drug rep that bought the Richardson farm, aren’t you?”  My head turned to the side – I saw a redhead in scrubs, a nurse I hadn’t met before.  I was confused for a couple of different reasons:  1) How does this stranger know we just “bought the Richardson farm”? and 2) see number one.   A handful of people knew we purchased the property.   It had been a total of 3 days since we’d closed.   “Um, yes, we did buy the Richardson farm.  How’d you know that?”, I responded.  The answer told me a lot about the place we were about to make our new life.

Continue reading “A New Beginning”

A Day in May

I remember thinking, I’ll turn off here and drive Mt. Gilead home.  There was really no reason to do so.  I was in Brown County for work and Mt. Gilead was not on the way home. At the time, we lived in a sweet, little bi-level in a subdivision on the south side of Bloomington, Indiana.  But something was pulling me that way.  So I turned right off of Highway 46 on to Gettys Creek and steered up toward Mt. Gilead, not really sure why.

We had looked at a house for sale on Mt. Gilead once before.  It was a fixer-upper on 5 acres and we were excited.  A life in the country to raise our little girl – Maddie was just a few months old at the time.  My husband Joe, being the carpenter, was ready to take it on.  But when he and his contractor buddy, Lee, climbed underneath to scope out the foundation, it instantly went from a cosmetic renovation to a “this is going to be major construction” renovation.  Joe explained what it meant – more money than we thought and more dust than a baby should experience.  We walked away.

So 2 houses and another little girl later, Joe and I started to get the itch again.  Joe spent time in Montana during college, I spent most of my childhood on 10 acres.  We knew our long term goal was to be on a larger piece of land – to raise our girls, to grow some food, to possibly raise some animals.  Still to this day, I’m not sure why I chose to drive down Mt. Gilead.  But I did.  And there was the For Sale sign.  I called when I got home.

It was 85 acres that had been split into 3 parcels.  The 5 acres with the house had an accepted offer.  The 20 acres across the street was under contract.  And then these words on the other end of the line: “But ma’am, there is still 55 acres for sale adjacent to the house.  Would you like me to send you some information?”  More than we had ever considered.  More than we needed.  More than we thought we could handle.  I spoke to Joe.  Could we do this?  Maybe.  We have to at least go look at it.  So we did.  We fell in love.  Pasture, woods, ravine. But there were still questions….Can we afford it?  There’s no house on this land.  Where will we live?

We went home and talked about it.  I called the bank. I actually called several.  Hearing words like “fifty percent down on land purchases” and “liquid assets” and “net worth”, I started to think, this may not be the time.  I made one more call – a small, hometown bank.  Come in, let’s talk, is what they said.  Oh, you have a piece of land you already own?  We can use that as collateral, they said.  Joe and I talked.  And prayed.  And looked at our girls sleeping soundly in their beds.  And we made an offer.

And here we are.  Four years later.  A lot has happened in those four years.  A lot more, I hope, will continue to happen.   I am going to share it with you here.  I hope you stay and keep me company.