Transient Lifestyle

I must have itchy feet.  The longest I’ve lived in one house/apartment/dorm since high school was our apartment in Sydney – 1 1/2 years.

We bought this house with the full intention of only living in it for a year, then renting it out and moving back to Australia. The decisions we make for a year time-frame are a lot different than for a three years plus time-frame.  We don’t want to invest too much, particularly in things that can’t travel with us, like furniture, landscaping beyond the basics, and tools.  So we buy cheap plastic Adirondack chairs, and make raised garden beds out of fencing instead of proper lumber. Things that are consumables. Not really a ‘green’ ethos.  And sometimes it feels way to consumer-oriented.

But on the other hand, when I look at design sites like Apartment Therapy, and lust after people’s perfect-looking homes, I think about how much time and money it took to get their homes looking just so, filled with SO MUCH STUFF. Maybe my lean, transient lifestyle isn’t that bad after all.

And my feet are itching again, I’m ready to get moving.


Thousands of Moments with My Father and Grandfather

When my grandfather died a little over three months ago, the grandkids elected my sister to write a speech to give at the funeral on behalf of all of us.  She had been struggling with not being able to get home and say goodbye before he died. The outcome of this struggle was this speech (with some input from the rest of us):

We have said goodbye to our grandfather thousands of times throughout our lives: when parting after Sunday lunch, or birthday dinners, or lake trip weekends.

We said goodbye to PawPaw thousands of times because we had that many opportunities to know him.  Thousands of opportunities to take in his history, his wit, his good naturedness, his simple heart and complex mind.  We had thousands of moments for him to help shape who we have become as individuals.

Moments such as:

PawPaw growing okra amongst his irises.

PawPaw taping a picture of his tallest banana plant’s best harvest to the smaller banana plant beside it as inspiration.

PawPaw explaining the divine nature of the ant and peony relationship.

PawPaw explaining how many birthday cake candles we should have if we used a base-ten system.

PawPaw calling us to eat with ‘comida comida ahora!’

Through these moments we have come to understand the legacy that our grandfather has left us and our family: generosity, loyalty, sincerity, hard work, reflection, and humor.

We are thankful that we had so many opportunities to say goodbye.  Now, as we say goodbye for the last time, we know that there is no final goodbye so perfect it fills the loss that follows.  However, in our case, with our PawPaw, there is also no need for a perfect goodbye to make up for a lack of relationship.  All these moments of cherished shared history mean we can say goodbye to a grandfather that we love without regrets of time lost or words unspoken.

We are filled by the legacy that he has left.  We were created out of that legacy and will continue to be created from having known him and remembering.

My sister put into words exactly how I felt about my grandfather, as well as how I feel about my relationship with my father – that our relationship has been filled with thousands of opportunities to know each other.  I’m grateful for both my father and my grandfather, and the influence they both have had in my life.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad!  I love you!

(And thanks to Keli for writing such a great speech.)

Reflection on a Year Off

I suppose my neglect of this blog means that I am too busy living life to be able to update that.  It’s really a bit lazy to think that, and my lack of posting may just be about not prioritizing the blog, but this is where we are now.

It’s been exactly a year since I moved back to the US (in another week I will have been blogging for a year).  I had high hopes for both my year off and this blog last April.  I wanted to have big adventures and do some deep thinking and studying.  I haven’t bicycled across Kansas, or gone on a road trip across the whole US visiting all my friends.  I haven’t done hardly any reflection.

But I have driven to Rochester, NY, gone to Chicago a couple of times, and stayed at a lakehouse in the North Woods of Minnesota.  We went to Israel for Jacob’s brother’s wedding, and experienced a different way of life that challenged my own value system. Jacob got a job in the architecture field, when we thought he wouldn’t be able to, and was offered a job in IT at the library. Jacob and I did buy a house.  I started a business.  I got to spend 10 months with my grandfather, and be with him (and my grandmother) when he died.

This blog, on the other hand, has been a bit of a wash. I planned on posting several times a week, creating an interesting and dynamic blog design, and developing up a body of work in different thematic streams (synthesizing what we’ve been doing over the past several years, urban design, graphic design and entrepreneurship were the main ones).  I haven’t really given any of these topics a hard thought on this blog, just painted around the edges.  And that’s a shame.

Maybe blogging isn’t for me.  I’m not a writer. (That would be my sister.  I wish she would blog again.  But she is very busy.)  However, for something else, I tried to reconstruct what I was doing in my life at different points over the last 6 years, and how events affected me.  I realised my recollection of events, and particularly what I was thinking at the time, has gotten rather hazy. Having a blog where I record what has happened in my life and what I am feeling could be very useful.  But does it have to be public?

I’ve often read the Age of the Internet has beget the Me Generation, or the Age of Narcissism.  Apparently we’re all too focused on ourselves.  That didn’t sit comfortably with me, and nagged at me whenever I thought about posting something to my blog that is about my life and my thoughts for all the world to see.  But then I think of my journals from high school and college- so overwrought and embarrassing.  Granted, they were written by a much more immature version of me, but I think writing for a public stage helps me to focus and maybe temper my emotions a bit. So public it is!  Onwards, Carolyn!

I’ve blogged about it before, but it bears repeating – having discipline in your life makes such a difference.  So back on track we go!

And I finally got rid of that horrible brown theme.  I think this theme will be better suited to developing different thematic streams of posts.  But it looks like I do need to include a photo with every post, otherwise the homepage is really boring and texty.

Time will tell, and it’s all up to whether or not I stick with it.

When I Grow Up

When I grow up I want to be a graphic designer, property developer, wedding planner, restaurateur, website developer, farmer, event planner, brewmaster, viticulturist, landlord, and internet service provider.  And maybe just maybe do some urban design, since I am trained and experienced in that, as opposed to the rest of this list…

I’m a bit in dreamer mode.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again (and my sister has said it to me multiple times) I need to FOCUS.  I can’t do it all, at least not all at the same time.

There’s also the issue of labels.  I hated it when I was called a housewife, and now that I want to redefine what I do, I feel uncomfortable wearing a different label.  It’s like I am posing as a graphic designer or wedding planner, since I have no formal training in both.  So I guess I am posing a bit.

Though I’m a bit disdainful of credentialing, right now may be a good time for me to take a course or two.

What you want to be when you grow up?  Are you doing it?

Going Home Again

You know what they say – you can’t go home again.  Well, I did.  So technically I can go home again.  It’s just filled with layers of junk from childhood, high school, college, and early adulthood that I’ve all but forgotten about and mostly no longer really want (I’m looking at you, Walkman).

I’ve been cleaning my childhood room out to make space for my husband to move in.  (Let that sentence sink in for a bit.)  Since graduating high school, I have pretty much treated this room as a shrine to, and protector of, my childhood.  (Hey!  I’m not the only one, you should see my sister’s room.)  We’re a sentimental family of hoarders and collectors;  the result is a room- heck, a house- filled with 30 years of varying degrees of detritus.  I see this as a really good opportunity to work on letting go of things, to simplify my life.

It’s just really hard when I come across something like my old calendars from college and grad school.  I love looking through them and seeing notes for class assignments, dinners, birthdays, trips, etc.  It helps me remember different parts of my life.  And this is where I derail.  I’ve been cleaning my room for over a month now.

The Name of the Game

What’s the name of the game? Well, I’ll tell you what it should be: discipline.  Setting a plan for my day and accomplishing tasks.  Focusing on a few goals that I have instead of giving a bit of energy to tons of dreams.  Posting every day…

Right now, though, the name of the game is fear. In my head I knew that moving back home without a job was going to be hard, but I had no idea the emotional toll it was going to take on me.  And the things I want to do are outside of my comfort zone, requiring a lot of self-confidence.  Difficult Emotional Time and Need for Self-Confidence do not go together.  At all.

I’m trying to work through it and be more disciplined, so that I can get out of this fear valley I’m in.  So here’s the deal I am making with myself:

  1. Post one thing either here or on Gingercycle every weekday.
  2. Do one thing for my forthcoming graphic design project every weekday.
  3. Take my multi-vitamin every day.

Let’s just start with these.


I went to the bank today to change some info, move some money, (OK! OK!  and get overdraft protection because sometimes I’m a flake!).  While we were filling out the application for overdraft protection, the customer service person asked me about my job.  My job.  I told him I left my job in Australia to move back to Kansas City, but that my husband was still working.  His response? ‘Oh I’ll just put you down as a housewife then.’ Housewife. But I’m an Urban Designer!  I had a career!  I made money!  Now what am I?

One of the (many) reasons for quitting my job was getting away from defining myself through my job.  And my first experience with a new label?  I didn’t take it so well.  I have a long way to go.

Oh, and the customer service guy said the alternative in the system was ‘domestic engineer.’ Nope.  Not helping.