apropos of our trip to the western slope last weekend, i’m delighted to have a guest post by my dear friend, jill, who lives in glenwood springs, a town you couldn’t miss if you’re traveling to the western slope or aspen. jill is a dear friend of mine from […]
apropos of our trip to the western slope last weekend, i’m delighted to have a guest post by my dear friend, jill, who lives in glenwood springs, a town you couldn’t miss if you’re traveling to the western slope or aspen. jill is a dear friend of mine from college, my roommate at my first apartment in the city, the lady who showed me all the treasures there are to explore in chicago, and the one who taught me how to navigate public transportation gracefully and safely while inebriated. i’m also honored to have had her as one of the amazing women who stood up as a bridesmaid at our wedding. in her post today, jill explains her transition from a big city to a small mountain town. it is an extremely interesting read, even to me, because this girl, as she explains, loves chicago more than anyone i know.
Two years ago, my husband and I came plummeting over Vail Pass in an 18-foot moving truck, towing our Jeep behind us. Two weeks prior, I had been offered my dream job after what felt like an eternity of searching. The catch: said dream job was located in Glenwood Springs, Colorado (population 9,614), literally a thousand miles away from anything I considered to be, well, normal.
A self-professed city girl, I had spent the past six years of my life living and breathing everything CHICAGO. My passion for that city literally had no limits – my husband will not-so-gladly tell you that I basically refused to get married until he was able to move in to the city from the suburbs, because I simply wouldn’t budge. The diversity, the opportunity, the music, the architecture, the FOOD, the cacophony… good god, it was glorious! Every last bit of it. Over those six years of city living, I had lived in nine apartments – all in different neighborhoods – constantly moving and experiencing different corners of the city that I loved.
And then came the day for my friends to help us pack up the last moving truck that would carry us West, into an unknown, and an entirely new adventure.
There are a lot of adjustments one has to make when moving from a city of 2.7 million people to a town of less than 10,000. For example, there are no amazing Puerto Rican salons that can actually deal with my untamable hair. I can count the number of decent restaurants in this whole valley on two hands – maybe one. Want to find a home to rent? You pretty much have two options… in the whole town. You generally don’t have to worry about your bike being lifted or you car broken into… unless you’re car camping, and a bear wants to get at your cooler. Don’t even think about going to the grocery store and not running into someone you know. One day running errands, I ran into the same friend four times at four different locations. Anonymity is just not an option here.
It took about a year for me to notice that this place was changing me. When you don’t have thousands of options of where to shop, where to eat, where to drink, who to meet, life becomes a lot more… simple. Instead of rushing out to try “the next big hot spot” (because those don’t exist), my husband and I spend our weekends charting out new trails to hoof in these amazing mountains. We learn to cook our favorite ethnic dishes and invite friends over to eat with us. Fashion trends literally do not exist in this town, so I’ve essentially let that part of my life go and regularly rotate about five outfits. I can bike to work in 10 minutes flat, and so much of my life has been reclaimed by not having to sit in traffic to go anywhere.
I must confess that on my last trip to Chicago, when out to a very fancy meal in one of the city’s hottest neighborhoods, I felt a bit like a bumpkin. I had borrowed one of my best friend’s dresses to wear out that night, because I had packed the same dress from Target that I have owned for (at least) the past four years. I didn’t know that this restaurant had been featured in Bon Appetit Magazine as one of the most important restaurants in America – information I seriously prided myself on knowing in my Chicago days. On the cab ride to the restaurant, I couldn’t stop staring up like a tourist at the towering buildings – and gasping every time the driver cut someone off in traffic. I’m accustomed to moving at a much slower pace now.
There are things about my Chicago-ness that I will never let go of, and are very un-bumpkin. I will forever celebrate diversity and remain open-minded. I will always favor walking or taking public transportation over driving a car. And, should a new restaurant ever open in Glenwood Springs, you can be certain I’ll still be the first to review it on Yelp. But the parts of me that have turned bumpkin, those which I embrace: not caring about trends, not feeling pressured to be in a rat race over my career, not spending every last dime on fancy food and drink, staying in more than going out, favoring the outdoors, growing my own food, enjoying an unspoiled landscape that stretches for miles, having conversations in quiet and uninterrupted spaces. It’s peaceful here, and this has allowed my husband and I the time and space to get to know ourselves better, and grow. We hope to continue to grow into this mountain lifestyle for many, many years to come. I guess I really am a city girl, converted.
Thank you, Emily, for allowing me the space on your blog to process some of these ponderings and sharing some thoughts from over the mountain.
That was then. Chicago winters were real rough.
This is now. Free to roam in the wide open spaces.
ramona and i jetted off to minneapolis on the fourth of july (see her holiday-appropriate dress photographed above). we were there to spend some time w my family and celebrate my mother’s birthday (does anyone else have a mother that looks much younger than her age? mine does and i’m hoping those genes are passed on to me. looking good, mama!). we spent the days w my brother, and sister-in-law, and their three amazing kids. though we ventured out to the public mini-pool at wabun park at minnehaha, most of our time was spent in my parents’ home, which is perfectly situated for grandkids. there’s a huge yard w a blacktop perfect for practicing riding a bike and pushing baby cousin (ramona) around in doll-sized buggies. they have a tree where there’s a door that leads to the home of a magical pixie who leaves candies and seashells for the little ones. and a playhouse. and a tetherball pole. and a vintage air plane spring ride. and raspberry bushes in the rear. it’s amazing, really. the adults just get to sit on the screened porch and watch the little ones bike and spin and toddle and run around. life is slow-paced and easy.
and you know what? it took some adjusting to. bc as much as we love our home, we don’t have the space to spend quite as much time in there comfortably so we’re often out and about. and so being w my parents, in their cozy space w their large L-shaped couches that are just always calling my name to sink into and soak in the beautiful day, really was an exercise in letting the day happen. i’m not arguing for big spaces and homes — bc our family living in a small space is as much intentional as it is just a matter of what we have at this moment — but i am arguing that it’s nice to slow down once in a while. ramona and i are a bit more go-go-go than my parents on a day-to-day basis. which is neither better nor worse. it’s what works for her and i. but i certainly appreciate being put into situations that give me reason to pause just a tad more.
(this store is called the foundry and has nothing to do w slowing down while traveling except that it took my breath away while i shopped there and i wanted to give it a shout-out. online shop coming soon. otherwise, if you live in minneapolis, go there now. i spent a small fortune there and will never regret it.)
and then today ramona and i flew to nashville where jp joined us. we’re here to spend some quality time w some of our dear friends and explore this city, which from all we’ve heard only has good things to offer. and this is where i realized this was the post i wanted to write. bc after a stop at barista parlor w our friends for some iced coffee and cappuccinos, tessa and dorian and their cute little guy, august, dropped us off at their house (our home for the week!) and left us so both families could get some quiet time. ramona took a three hour nap, which was much needed after our 4:15 wake-up call. tessa did some work somewhere. dorian napped. jp napped. i napped. i washed dishes. read some of the book i’m reading. and then found myself in a quiet dining room and decided to blog about the wonders of traveling w family. nap time, to us, is sacred. it is not to be messed w if we want a happy child. and so instead of hitting the town and going all out right away, we soaked up our friends’ beautiful, simple, small, cozy home and regrouped. and i imagine our four days here will be a lot like this (w the addition of some splash pads, and good restaurants, and visiting other old friends).
don’t get me wrong. i love those trips to san francisco where it’s just jp and me and we can galavant off for the day and cram a lot in (we’re hoping to do NYC this year too and oh my! the hustle and bustle of that place!). but there’s something extraordinarily lovely about being across the country in a new town and still just taking it slow and experiencing it w locals, and pretending we live and maybe even belong here. i’m not opposed to the touristy thing, but i sure do love the make-yourselves-at-home and settle in feeling as well.
i’ve sinced moved to their front porch and it’s starting to rain lightly and i hope, my dear friends, that you too are soaking in wherever you’re at and enjoying the moment of whatever it is you’re doing. for whatever reason i think these words from someone i follow on instagram is apt for what i’m feeling: be kind. be joyful. be a force of nature.
p.s. these photos are from instagram. do you instagram? follow me here!
p.p.s. congratulations to holly, the winner of the tentiko giveaway!
this week’s contributor is from mama from the fearse family. she lives in melbourne and her and her family (big poppa and little fearse) have committed to buying nothing new for the year of 2013. her blog was new to me when she reached out and i’m so glad she did as i’ve been inspired reading about what challenges her and her family are working to overcome and what they’re getting out of being mindful about where their money goes for 365 days. in her post today, she talks about how they decided to buy nothing new and what it’s done for them.
In 2013, my family of three–Big Poppa, Little Fearse (who’s just turned one) and myself, Mama–decided to attempt to buy nothing new for a year. Here is how it all began…
Sometimes the more significant moments in your life can slip by without you even realising. When we stumbled onto the idea of having one family day a week screen free, we had no idea that we were taking our first step along the pathway to a life-changing adventure.
In September in Melbourne the spring has just begun. It often starts off sunny and cool. The air is light and fresh with anticipation. The flowers haven’t started budding yet but there are clues if you look for them. Last September I didn’t notice any of these things. I had a new baby who I adored and doted on, but I had begun to notice that she was often competing for both of her parents’ attention. In the past twelve months Big Poppa and I had both purchased laptops. Now, instead of having a room in which we had to actively retreat to in order to spend time on our PCs, we had incorporated our laptops into our living space and therefore into our daily lives.
Big Poppa and I were both becoming annoyed with Little Fearse for banging on our keyboards as we tried to type or for pulling our screens back until they made ominous cracking sounds. We soon realised that she was begging for attention. Our addictions to social media were interfering with the time we had set aside to spend with our baby. It wasn’t so much the amount of time we spent on the laptops, it was the regularity with which we checked in with our social media pages.
Ironically, it was on my social media feed that the idea of having a day off from all screens popped up. A page dedicated to Switch Off Sunday appeared. Curious, I clicked on it. The idea of having a day a week with no TV, games, or computers was appealing and seemed perfect for our cause. I discussed the idea with BP, who tentatively said yes. Initially not allowing vegging in front of TV or the Playstation on his days off was a little off-putting. But he agreed to give it a go.
Those Sundays were filled with adventures together! People who heard what we were doing started coming to visit on those Sundays. We saw people we hadn’t seen in months. We visited local parks and started to notice the flowers budding and the air turn warmer. We discovered new places to visit in our community that Little Fearse enjoyed, too.
It wasn’t all wonderful. It made it difficult to do my weekly cook-up without access to recipes online. Some friends or family members thought what we were doing was silly and would wait until I was out of the room to convince BP to turn on the TV, or have him check something on the computer. It was sometimes frustrating, but we knew that as a family we were largely benefitting.
Through the Switched Off Sunday Internet resources I found reference to the idea of buying nothing new (BNN) for a year. Since BP had signed up to study full time for 2013 and I was only planning on working half time it seemed like a good economic decision. Both of us felt positive about the idea of being more conscious of our impact on the environment. We weren’t 100% convinced we could achieve it, but in the end, we decided it couldn’t hurt to try.
Neither of us had any idea the world we were opening up by beginning our BNN year. We quickly discovered a world of simple living blogs and online communities of people embarking on challenges to reduce their consumption. In the beginning we didn’t even realise that the choice we had made was an act of simplifying. Neither of us had much knowledge of the philosophies behind minimalism and we really just wanted to find a unique way of getting through a year with less money. The act of buying nothing new grew into the idea of buying nothing at all, if possible.
It turns out our year has been, so far, about living with a lot less in general. Yes, we have less money. We also have fewer things, as we’re not only trying to reduce the amount of stuff we bring into the house, but also increase the amount that goes out. We are simplifying our environment, giving ourselves more space to meditate on the blessings in our lives. Our house is growing less cluttered as we realise how little we actually need to have a good life and a happy life.
Simplifying this year has given us the space to really assess what is important. The realisation that we all value the time we spend together over anything else has made it easier to say “no” to obligations that get in the way of that, and of course, say “YES!” to all the multitude of opportunities that come our way offering us more quality time together.
People want to talk to us now about what it means to have a simpler life. Often they tell us they admire our choice, but don’t feel they can do it. Anyone can do this. Having a simpler life is different for everyone. It depends where you start. Not everyone wants to stop buying new things. Maybe to you “simple” means going out less, or having a better play area in your back yard, or adopting an animal, or eating better food, or making a career change. The real first step in having a simpler life is looking at what makes your life complex now.
We’re still trying to deal with the challenge of how technology and social media can negatively affect our family life. Hopefully somewhere along the way in our simple journey those issues will become easier to deal with. Or perhaps we will need to throw ourselves another challenge that requires more commitment in that area. This is our journey.
There is this movement out there – one that we were oblivious to. People are thirsting for something simpler and healthier. We are proud to be a part of that movement. We no longer accumulate things, we accumulate memories.
All it took was being willing to say “yes” to something different, something truly challenging, and maybe a bit bizarre.
thanks, mama fearse, for sharing about this journey your family is going on. jp and i tried something like that and it stuck for, oh, about a month. so i’m encouraged to take it up again! you can follow the fearse family at their blog or on facebook.
if you are interested in contributing to A Denver Home Companion, please submit original writing (or ideas!) to emily [at] adenverhomecompanion [dot] com. though i may not be able to publish everything, i certainly consider all of them.
recently, i have found myself easily irritated by the way other people act: the way they drive, they way they treat me in customer service, the way they treat our employees. the apparent lack of respect some people have for other people is bothersome.
my frustration with these things comes as much from these actions actually existing (and me witnessing them) as i see them in myself: quick to judge, critical of others, slow to admit fault, impatient, stubborn, and selfish.
i can get grumpy (my husband knows this). i am most certainly impatient. i get easily annoyed, as it is. perhaps it’s my fault and my blinders for good are on. but, at least recently, i’ve been aware of how we, as society, certainly have a knack for living for ourselves.
however, on my way to work one friday evening, i was listening to NPR and there was a story on about martha mullen. she’s a woman who has nothing in common with tamerlan tsarnaev (the older brother of the two boston bombers) but who went out of her way to find a burial spot for him. convicted by her faith and the belief that all people –regardless of actions, background, religion, etc– deserve a final resting place –to be returned to the earth from where we came– sought to find someone that would provide a plot of ground for the terrorist.
listening to the interview, i was suddenly struck w how selfless her act was. she did this for a man who is most certainly despised by what i can easily imagine is the far majority of the united states of america. she wasn’t condoning or excusing his acts. but, feeling it necessary to give him one last gesture of love as we all would hope to receive in our death, put her name and reputation on the line.
i’m crying listening to this, certain i would not do the same she did. and then a bunch of cars slowed down in front of me on a very busy thoroughfare into denver. as i neared, it became apparent that at least two or three cars had stopped to help a (very) old woman whose car had broken down (or run out of gas). they were either pushing her car or using their cars to help redirect fast traffic so that everyone involved could get themselves and this old woman to a safe spot.
then i wept.
for in my cynicism — which perhaps came from being too tired and having to juggle too many things and feeling a bit isolated– these people on the radio and in the cars popped up into my hearing and vision and demonstrated two very brave and selfless acts. they demonstrated that while life is not perfect and awful things happen (and always will) and people are grumpy (including me), the world is good.
photo by @frankiebushell
the fine people behind the denver bloggers’ association asked me to speak at their most recent meet-up about how my blog has gotten to where it is since i first started it in 2009. it was interesting for me to reflect on my little space on the interwebs and rather exciting to speak in front of an audience (i haven’t done that since college!).
below is the gist of what i spoke about.
my blog has always been a space for documenting personal experiences and thoughts — it started out as a place to dump photos and update family members who didn’t live close by. as i got to know the blogosphere, i discovered a whole other world and realized that the sky was the limit as far as what i could write about, what blogs i could read, how i could make my space unique, and who i could connect with online. not everyone knows my blog, obviously. it’s a little thing i have going on over here. but i’ve seen my readership steadily grow, had some great opportunities come my way, met really wonderful people halfway across the world, and have even made a little bit of beer money — all while still being able to continue documenting my personal experiences and writing what i want to write.
here’s how i think you can do it too:
1. invest in a website you’re proud of.
- your website homepage is the first impression you give to people who visit. when people land on your site they get an immediate idea of who you are and what you are trying to convey. make sure that your website is showing and telling people who YOU are. because, especially in personal blogs, your personality IS YOUR BRAND.
- i wrote for the longest time on a basic, free wordpress theme (and on blogspot before that). this was when i was writing for myself and family members. but as my audience grew and i realized i could be doing lots more with my claimed space, i started to understand that i could actually lose readers due to the blah-ness of my site. it wasn’t me and it gave people no reason to want to get to know me. sure, i was proud of my content. but attention spans are short and people, quite frankly, want to dwell only in beautiful places.
- you can learn code and personalize a website yourself or you can hire someone to do it. i went the latter route and contracted the kin collective to make me something well-designed, intuitive, and distinctly me. together we went over what i loved about blogs i enjoyed reading and what turned me off on various websites. they put these things together, added their expertise, we all tweaked some things and, voila!, my new space was born.
2. find your voice.
- people come to your blog bc they want to hear what YOU have to say bc they most likely like the way you say things. so speak honestly, write what you want to write about, have confidence in what you have to say, and stop trying to please people.
- on that note: you cannot be something for everyone. so don’t write to please the masses. write w one specific reader in mind and you’ll likely capture the attention of lots naturally.
- i write about my daughter, my husband’s and my businesses, denver, bragging rights, our backyard farm, places i’ve eaten, my favorite products, whatever the hell i want to write about. i write about these things bc they are interesting to me and what i want to fill my blog with — otherwise i wouldn’t want to blog. but i know full well that there are lots of people who don’t want to read about this stuff and couldn’t care less about my life. but then the fun part is that there are some people that do care! and they keep coming back and reading and affirming me in what i’m writing about. and that is really cool.
- not everyone will love you and that’s ok! it’s more important that your space is your space and it’s a place you like contributing to.
- do not be afraid to promote promote promote yourself.
3. make internet friends
- don’t be anonymous! comment on blog posts you enjoy. reach out to bloggers you admire. make some friends.
- give shout-outs: favorite products, places you enjoyed, props to people doing cool things, a well-curated blog roll of must-read blogs.
- guest posts: offer to do them and ask people to write them for you. a nice exchange happens wherein both blogs plug the other and people get introduced to new sites worth reading.
- broaden your reach by utilizing other social networking platforms such as twitter, instagram, pinterest, and facebook. but a rule of thumb? stick w just three and do them well. in addition to my blog, i use twitter and instagram. reach out!: like people’s photos, leave comments, respond to comments/questions left on yours. engage w other people in a genuine manner.
- attend local blogger events and get to know some people in real life. who knows what best friend you might make or what collaboration you might discover!
any suggestions or inputs you’d like to share on ways you’ve grown your blog?