This post is part of the Blue Bike Blog Tour, which I’m thrilled to be part of. To learn more and join us, head here.
I have this dream of waking up and sitting on the front porch holding a cup of strong coffee with a splash of goats milk, from our goats. After I finished my cup, I would go inside to make breakfast while the kids get dressed and the oldest ones help Daniel with some morning chores on our very own small farm. I dream of homeschooling with the windows open while Daniel tends to farmy things like growing produce for a CSA (community supported agriculture). Then, after a big lunch made from what we raise and grow: eggs from our chickens, pork from our pigs, veggies from our garden, and honey from our bees, the kids would settle in for rest time and I could write for an hour before taking a van load of veggies in to the farmer’s market or dropping the girls off at ballet while Daniel works on some homeschool projects with our oldest.
I dream of living off the land, growing things that nourish our family and others, and writing in the early morning and after the kids go to sleep. I dream of our whole family being centered around the home with Daniel getting to do work that he’s passionate about–not just because it provides for us, but because it is good in and of itself. I dream of him getting to jump in and be part of the homeschooling effort, teaching biology and other sciency things that make my head spin. I dream of space for the kids to run off and explore the land that is theirs.
I dream of a couple of other Catholic families farming land nearby and getting together for prayer and feasting and fun. And the dream feels so close.
But then there’s that unexpected car payment after our paid-off car was totaled. And there’s pediatric dental bills. And there’s that whole matter of just paying the mortgage on our sweet little three bedroom, one bath house in the city that I share with the four people I love most in the world. And how will we ever save enough to buy a farm? Sometimes it just feels safer to forget the whole thing and permanently settle in for desk jobs and city life. Because our life now isn’t bad. I get to work from home part-time writing and homeschool our little ones and life is very sweet.
It’s easy to feel almost greedy to want something beyond the conventional American life. Other families, even making the same financial sacrifices we are, can’t always make ends meet with one income. The idea that Daniel and I could both be doing work we love seems naive. And someone will say, “But most people have to work jobs they don’t like. As long as you can put food on the table, you shouldn’t complain.” And they’re right. We have so much to be thankful for. And I don’t mean to complain, I really don’t.
But I also don’t think it’s wrong to want something more than the fragmented modern life and to pursue that dream, as long as it doesn’t breed discontent with life as it is today and keep us from finding joy in the now. Because let’s be honest, getting up before sunrise to milk goats so that I can enjoy that splash of milk in my coffee isn’t going to be a piece of cake. If we can’t be happy now, we never will be. Contentment and joy have more to do with how we live the life we have than with creating the perfect life. Because even our dream won’t be perfect. It will be hard.
I want to keep pursuing that dream of home, where our food comes from our farm to our table and our kids have space to breath. And in the mean time, we’ll try to do everything we can to live our dream life right here. The six backyard chickens and the raised beds of veggies that comprise our urban frontyard are a step in the right direction. But the truth is…I’ve been feeling discouraged and worn out. It’s hard to live slow and be intentional when the craziness of life tries to sweep you away.
But I’m reading a book that’s putting the wind back in my sails, reminding me why slowing down and living intentionally is valuable. It’s encouraging me that other families have gone against the grain and have made it work. Tsh Oxenreider’s new book, Notes from a Blue Bike, is a memoir of Tsh’s pursuit of the simple life: food, work, education, travel, and entertainment. It reminds me of one of my favorite reads, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. And, like Kingsolver’s memoir, it gets the wheels turning as I wonder, how can I take these ideas and use them to pursue our family’s dream? It’s not a step-by-step how-to, it’s thoughtful inspiration. And it’s a delightful read. Tsh’s blog, The Art of Simple (formerly Simple Mom) was one of the first handful of blogs I started reading when I was 22, just graduated from college, working in publications, and unexpectedly pregnant with our first child wondering (slightly terrified), “what is this whole motherhood thing going to look like?” Reading Tsh was like a breath of fresh air, saying, “You can do this. It doesn’t have to be complicated. It just has to be intentional.”
Reading Notes from a Blue Bike, I feel like I really know the heart of one of my favorite blogger/writers because she so openly and vividly shares her story in this book. It’s a splendid read for anyone considering how to make their family’s life reflect the values and passions dear to them. And you can grab your copy here.
And be sure to check out the super cool book trailer! I had the pleasure of meeting Tsh at Allume in October and she’s just as delightful in person as she appears in the video.