This is how you do a staycation

This past weekend we experienced something new – a staycation. After nearly 18 years together (!!!!!), it’s always surprising to find something new to explore together. But thanks to COVID, winter weather, and frugality, we suited up a three-day weekend with PTO, video games, coffee, delivery pizza, and so many couch cuddles with the dog.

The whole work-from-home but also live-at-home paradox was a struggle for me at first. I’ve always physically separated my work life from my home life, though mental separation is at best an amateur effort on my end. I had no idea at the beginning of this (you know what I mean) how I was going to get the rest I needed from work when my work location was the same as my mailing address.

Relaxation is the precursor of being aware and present.

paraphrased from a yoga practice with Esther Ekhart, Ekhart Yoga

However, after a couple weeks, I found ways to separate the two. The first thing was to set up a space just for work, as many have done. Some weeks I worked downstairs at the dining room table. Other days I would work at my tiny desk in a makeshift office upstairs. As it became clear that a new school year would not see me driving off into the sunrise every morning, I took a few more steps to make my “office” my office.

Largely I found that the key factor with successfully working and playing and living at home was my mindset. Imagine, the thing I’d been working on for several years through the avenues of therapy and yoga. Making physical space in my calendar is important, but mental space is importanter. Just kidding; mental space is the top priority.

I took my newfound ability to compartmentalize and applied it to our staycation. Our tag line for the weekend was “no adulting”. This meant no discussion of house projects, no talk about work, no seeking out chores that need to get done (except for dishes because, well, we cooked a lot). It involved limited time on phones, lots of time cuddling and watching movies, and time just chatting as we drove down the highway to check out another location in our new-ish state of residence.

We gave ourselves space and room to breathe. We loosened the belt of capitalism and stressful jobs and expectations of adulthood, only for a few days. But I slept so much better (8.5 hours of actual good sleep versus 7 hours of so-so). I ate really delicious food. We had novel conversations and confided in each other. It was what we needed.

I think building up time spent in this mode of vacation is necessary. I needed to try it out, flex my mental muscles to see if a staycation was a good fit. Turns out it was. I can’t wait for the next one.

The Year of No Zero Days – Garden Edition

Disclaimer: This is not a tutorial. There are no “here are 5 steps to gardening.” Nope.

I came home one day from work (well, from actually being in the school building) and found a little green bean peeking out from the chicken wire I tried to nicely place around the garden bed. I felt such a childlike elation it made me think that I shouldn’t have waited so long to have a garden.

After all, we’ve been able to live in a single-family house for almost 10 years (“This is my own private domicile and I will not be harassed”). I’ve told myself I don’t have a green thumb, I can’t grow anything, etc etc. The truth is I’ve never made the time to have a garden.

I’ve been religiously, I mean religiously, following homesteading and gardening channels on YouTube (Garden Answer, Planterina, Simple Living Alaska, Elliot Homestead). It wasn’t until I actually made the decision to build a garden bed and tend to some late summer-early fall veggies that I realized that farming/homesteading is neither cheap nor not time-consuming.

After we built our patio, I used many reclaimed bricks left over to build a simple but rustic-looking garden bed, kind of raised, kind of built into a hill. I used two simple items – bricks and construction adhesive. Plus some leftover sand from the patio leveling adventure to put under the bottom layer. With ten bags of top soil later and a few trips to Home Depot, I ended up with this:

I knew I had to get this done no later than the first of August so I could plant a few veggies & herbs before it got too late. I think I finally planted everything the first full week of August.

This I considered the “soft opening” of my garden. I didn’t want to put too much pressure on myself, and I had waited too long for spring/summer crops.

Today I harvested the first green beans, organic Blue Lake variety. I vaguely remember picking beans when we had a small garden growing up, and I know how to snap them. We probably canned them.

I’m pumped. And I love this one-handled yellow colander I found at the thrift store. Like, it made my day to get in there and harvest the ones that were ready. I’m pretty sure I planted the seeds too close together because it’s a veritable jungle. But I have food that I grew myself.

I also have some Sumter cucumbers, carrots, and cilantro growing. I’m proud of the fact that I know my cilantro is now taking off because it’s getting cooler outside. And that it’s good to harvest a lot of things right before the frost because they’ll store more sugars. It’s a heck of a lot more than I knew a few weeks ago.

But then again, I’ve been wondering as I’ve taken so well to plants and gardening and working outside, how much of this inclination is genetic. After all, on my dad’s side of the family, we were farmers going all the way back to when my ancestors came across the ocean and settled in New York. Maybe it explains why I look lovingly on tall yellowing corn, or appreciate how the wind blows over the soybeans at the height of summer. Or how I get so damn excited to realize that even I can grow simple vegetables.

The Gift of Enough

Sometimes I do the torturous math and think that if we had had a child soon after we started trying, he/she would be a preschooler. And sometimes I think that maybe we’d have had another one by now, too. I guess I aspired to be a mom with kids close in age, and voluntarily participate in the (observed) crazy that goes along with that, especially on Christmas morning.

More children, more gifts, bigger house, more shoes, more socks, more laundry, more…

But my life years not just later but apart from those possibilities is, from a bird’s eye view, empty.

Our Christmas table has four place settings, two more than it usually does. Actually, four more than it usually does since Aaron and I generally sit at the counter on stools to eat almost every meal.

After our Christmas Eve meal and time with friends yesterday, our sink was full of coffee mugs and wine glasses… with more than there usually are. After opening gifts from each other and then with friends, our tree stands alone in its simple glory: white lights, red ribbon, and matching ornaments, not to be outshone by a plethora of gifts below.

It can be anxiety- or depression-inducing to think of all the ways that our life is not enough, but I’m here to tell you (and most importantly myself) after years of infertility and a whole (blessed) year of therapy (thank God), this is all enough.

My one now-dirty coffee mug lovingly embracing my second cup of coffee is enough. Our house, quiet though it is on Christmas morning, is enough. My artificial pre-lit tree enthroned by a beautiful sunrise is enough. Our small Christmas Eve and Christmas Day gatherings are enough. Our simple yet rich meal today will be enough. My husband and I are enough. I (and my empty womb) are enough.

Last night at the candlelight service, our pastor preached on how Jesus met people where they were. That Jesus’ birth in a manger was announced to the shepherds because they would know to find a manger in a stable. That the wisemen were given a star because with their knowledge and wisdom of the cosmos they would be able to find Jesus.

And on this quiet Christmas morning with just my sleeping husband and dog upstairs, Jesus has met me where I’m at, and that’s enough.

March 3 | Seeds


In my Bible I used to have several mustard seeds folded into a little piece of wax paper, as a reminder of the verse where Jesus talks about how our faith can be as tiny as a mustard seed.

It was a good reminder after awhile when I opened my Bible, but I ended up being annoyed with it and throwing it away. I was always confused by the ‘mustard seed’ thing. Maybe it was a cultural thing back then to refer to a mustard seed, but I’d surely seen smaller seeds.

I also am horrible at tending to anything plant-like. I’ve killed a cactus, I’ve killed perfectly good (and supposedly hardy) petunias and begonias. I’ve tried to grow things from seeds and then plant them. I failed at it all. It was hard for me to imagine a tiny seed actually growing into something that would produce tomatoes, or peppers, or flowers. It seemed preposterous, really.

So I gave up and blamed it on the desert. I had better things to do with my time than get up super early to water everything, and weed everything at other times. Eventually my pots with dirt sat out in the sun, rain, wind, whatever. And we left them all at the house in El Paso when we moved.

Here in Maryland we have a deck, and I’ve talked to my husband about getting a few pots to plant things. He laughs because he knows my track record. I say, ‘No, it’ll be different this time. I think things could live here, you know?’


Almost a year

July 8th will be a year since we moved to El Paso. I can’t believe everything that’s transpired in a year….

We rented our first house. It still doesn’t feel 100% like home. Maybe it’s because the furniture doesn’t match, or that the carpet is an awful poop brown color. Maybe we’re just still settling in. I’m glad we decided to not go with an apartment. While I’d prefer to live on the west side or even in NM, this house’ll do for awhile. [[JULY]]

We found Harvest! I love being a part of such a vibrant and diverse body of believers. We found a small group and it’s been a godsend! [[JULY]]

We bought our first car with cash money. Straight up. We ended up owning Aaron’s first car, and we own mine now, but the Honda we have now was our first automobile purchase sans financing. Of course… we have put some cash into it… [[AUGUST]]

We bought our first washer/dryer set, on Craigslist. I love that site. [[AUGUST]]

Our nephew was born! [[OCTOBER]]

We started teaching the junior high students at church. It was tough at first, earning their trust, but we really enjoy this age and our funny conversations with them. [[OCTOBER]]

We ran our first half-marathon.  [[JANUARY]]

We went “home” and spent two whole weeks together with no work. I’m visiting again in September for Megan’s wedding and needless to say I’ve had a hankering for corn fields and thunderstorms! Sometimes I get so homesick it hurts. I know, I know, I said I’d love living far away for once, in a new place. Yes, it’s great, but I have a love/hate relationship with El Paso. One day I’m cursing the heat and dust and the next I’m enamored by the mountains and sunsets. [[FEBRUARY]]

We adopted Missy. She’s taught us patience, perseverance, and unconditional love. She’s a great companion when Aaron’s gone, though a cover-stealer. (Guess I know what it feels like now!) I’m more of a dog person than I ever imagined. [[MARCH]]

We did Bataan. One word: Epic. [[MARCH]]

I’ve worked two different jobs, in two different states. In the four years since I graduated Bradley, I’ve had five jobs. Hellloooooo resume killer. I never would have expected that from myself, but you know what? I’m happy where I’m at now and for once not going crazy perusing school district websites and I haven’t felt that way since Midland. I really loved my job at Tremont, but it was obvious that I wasn’t going to be there longer than last summer. [[MARCH/APRIL]]

My littlest sister got married! [[APRIL]]

I started some grad classes. I’m glad I didn’t commit to a full Master’s degree; I’ve learned just from the few weeks I’ve been taking these ESL/linguistics classes that I have no interest in becoming an expert in linguistics. I mean, what purpose does it serve? Sure, I learn some grammar, and stuff, but  how does that really help people? These 12 hours of grad-level courses will be enough for me, I think, and help me in a future career. [[MAY]]

Well, this hasn’t happened yet, but MY BESTIE IS COMING TO VISIT!!!! Yay! My first visitor! My first real chance to show the Midwest that El Paso doesn’t suck (usually)! [[JUNE]]

So…. who knows what this next year will hold? I’ve learned to just let go of any worry about when/if we’ll move somewhere else. It could definitely happen, but no telling when. There are days when I want to get out of here so badly, and others where I wish we could stay until 2016, and some days, beyond that.

I’d say this year has been more good things than bad, for sure. I have to say the best part is the “we…..” 🙂

Home improvement resolutions for 2012

I don’t know about you, but I get the post-Christmas blues. All the work of cooking, decorating, gift-giving is over and it just bums me out. What better to lift my spirits than to dream of crafting?!

Last year around this time I started planning out gifts for next Christmas. I’ve actually already made my list for birthdays, Christmas, and BABIES. I know of several babies who will make their debut in 2012. (Sorry, no babies are on our personal project list for the next year ;)) As far as projects for myself and around the house, I have a mental list (and it’s on Pinterest….) If you want to see pictures of all these (yes, feeling lazy this morning), check out my Pinterest.


  • DIY Ottoman. My friend Jess and I found a great table for this yesterday at Savers (like a Goodwill, except their clothes are way overpriced). It was only $4! Maybe after payday I’ll venture over there again to see if it’s still there.
  • Different living room curtains. I think they need to be longer. I might use the fabric in the curtains I have now for the ottoman… hmmm.
  • Slipcover for the couch. I found a decent one that fits tightly on for around $50. I thought of making one myself, but to buy all the fabric and supplies would be around $200. That’s silly; I could find a different couch for that!
  • We have a baker’s rack that’s set up as you walk in. It’s always so messy with jackets, gloves, running gear and shoes. Lord, we both have like three pairs of running shoes! I’d like to take it apart and paint it, and get a coat rack. Guess they don’t believe in coat closets in the desert. 😉


  • Spice shelf, DONE. I did this one several weeks ago. So far it’s been helpful to have all my spices/herbs out where I can see them. I just have to reorganize every now and then. (I put this completed project on my list to reassure myself that at least something got done! Ha!)
  • Refinishing the kitchen chairs. After one of them broke, we actually only have three! I’ll be on the lookout for some free or cheap ones on Craigslist or the Bliss Online Garage Sales. It’d be smart to make easily removable chair covers to throw in the wash when they get dirty. I’d like to do each chair slightly differently.
  • Finding or thrifting some serving dishes. I looooove the Rachael Ray ones, but if I could find some antique-y looking ones, that’d be great too.
  • Completing my set of green 1950’s dishes. I tried looking online, and my dishes are few and far between. If I could find some of these serving dishes, that’d kill two birds with one stone.


  • I’d love to get a new light fixture, but that’s not really realistic since we’re renting.
  • Getting the family tree framed. It’s actually a printed photo that my grandpa took of the original.
  • Runners in the hallway. My grandpa has made so many rugs with his loom. I wish we had one of the looms (he had three at one point) but I was afraid it’d get damaged when moving and I wasn’t sure we’d have room for it. Now I know that it’d fit in my craft room perfectly! Anyway, I need to find an efficient way to make some rugs for this nasty brown carpet.
  • Aaron’s computer is still set up in the second bedroom, where all my sewing stuff used to be. We’ll probably try to find a futon or cheap twin bed to put in there for guests. (Ahem… GUESTS. Come visit! El Paso won’t disappoint, you, I promise!)


  • I’d like to get a cheap desk or table for doing homework. That will go under the window.


  • We need a couple red rugs in the guest bathroom. Just waiting for a Kohl’s coupon or something. 😉


  • I like our bathroom pretty well. We have a ton of storage as we have a built-in shelving unit in the wall. Just need to get fabric of some sort to hang to cover it; it’s definitely not organized at this point… maybe that needs to go on my list.


  • The curtains made a huge difference in our bedroom. Love them! The walls are still pretty bare, and I’d love a vanity. I actually saw an awesome one at Goodwill that had a flower design made from pieces of colored glass, but it was missing the chair and drawers and they still wanted $50 for it. So that was a no-go.
  • We’re saving our Christmas tree to cut firewood this year, to use for either camping or a bonfire in our fire pit out back. It’d be so fun to have friends over and grill out, especially with the semi-cool nights we’ll have in the spring.
  • I want to try growing tomatoes, peppers and herbs in pots. The soil is, well, sand, and I’m no green thumb.
  • Hanging some lights would also be a good move! Maybe some tiki torches…
I think most of these projects are definitely doable on our tight budget. This list is more for me than for you, but if you have suggestions, I’m open to it!
We’ve discussed moving into an apartment or a cheaper place this coming summer when our lease is up, but for the price we pay this house is within our budget, and even more so as our housing allowance will go up this next year. Not to mention the trouble of moving. The Army only pays for it when you have orders. We love this part of town; it’s close to our jobs and the interstate. An apartment with two bedrooms/two bathrooms would run us only about $100 less per month. To me, it’s just not worth moving. This house is perfect for us.