5 Ingredients for a Big, ExtraOrdinary life

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I found this ad as I was looking through a glossy at the dentist.

It was for a car. A big car.

According to the people at Suburban, BIG car = BIG life.

Hmmmm….this got me thinking of the definition of a big life. By America’s standards it may appear that big life means: A packed scheduled, huge home (maybe even a second home), many vehicles and lots of lots of stuff.

I choose to define a big life as an existence full of relationships, faith, good health, adventures, contentment, margins for down-time, and purpose within a career.

These are all parts that move the needle on my Happiness Barometer.

As a family we still have so far to go in the way of taking the big out of the material and putting more emphasis on my list above. That’s a true statement on the car ad: There is so much more to life, but of course I’m going in the opposite direction from the thinking of our friends at Suburban. So much more exists on the other side of making big purchases to fill up our big lives…according to one of my favorite minimalists and authors, You can buy happiness (and it’s cheap). The good news is you don’t have to pare down to 200 square feet of dwelling space or live out of a backpack to feel the thrill of a BIG LIFE.

I put the word ExtraOrdinary in my blog title because I’ve always felt the pull to live differently in this conventional world…or should I say conventional U.S., because I do feel people in other parts of the world seem to get it a lot more than we do. Stuff clouds our collective American view and creates the disconnect so many people complain about. I’m a proud U.S. citizen, no doubt about that, but I do wish as a country we could re-prioritize our lives to maximize inner & outer happiness. I believe that a Big ExtraOrdinary life comes from making intentional choices. Along the way I’ve identified a few that have made all the difference.

 

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1) Invest time in your marriage/relationship.

What’s that quote from H. Jackson Brown? “Marry the right person. This one decision will determine 90% of your happiness or misery.” I tend to believe this. I was fortunate enough to get it right with husband-picking the first time around (I know lots of people figure it out later in life) and so much of the climate in our home is determined by how the hub and I navigate this vida loca. Over the last 18 years it’s been a team effort and I feel the reason it’s been a solid team is because we invest in date nights, vacations sans offspring, and the weekly check-in. When kids came on the scene, I craved time with him minus the crying and airborne peas and carrots.These days I yearn for peaceful couple time in the absence of teen drama. He’s my first choice every time when it comes to adventure partners….it was a joint decision to make this life ExtraOrdinary.

2) Choose work that fills you up.

It’s very hard to head in the direction of a Big, ExtraOrdinary life when you don’t want to get up and face the day. There are a lot of people out there who see the 30++ hours a week as a break in pursuing ExtraOrdinary-ness (if I can create a new word)..it’s a weekend thing. It can’t be! Big lives happen each any every day of the week. Yes, we have to do the laundry, go to the dentist and write checks to the cable company, BUT an unpleasant job that sucks the very humanity out of a you is always going to get in the way of living the life you know you are worthy of. There might be major financial sacrifice or a change of location in choosing work you love, but ExtraOrdinary is waiting and it will be worth it.

3) Put family before career.

It is a wonderful thing to love your job. I’m finally there in my 3rd grade classroom, but I’m very careful about creating boundaries between work and the clan at home. That old cliche’ about “it all goes by so fast” and “you’ll turn around and your kids will be all grown up”—both true. I’m looking at my high school-bound child #1 and can’t believe that in five short years two unused rooms will be collecting dust. These days, family adventure has never been so important. Luckily, child #2 is extremely skilled at getting us out in the world, whether it’s the park for a evening picnic or a weekend hike in the mountains. We are also intentional about dinners together at the table (with a napkin!) to catch up and make plans. The Airstream purchase manifested from our desire to travel as a family and explore the U.S. together.

4)  Recognize your talents and put them to use in everything you do.

Post 40th birthday, I finally stopped wishing for skills I didn’t have. I had confidence in the contributions I knew I could make in the world starting with my own house. I’m an extremely creative person with no left brain (luckily, I married a left-brainer—together we make a whole brain!) and if a project requires imagination, I’m your girl. It’s been so fun to create in every area of my life: our home, charity fundraisers, birthday parties, holiday gifts, Airstream interior…the list is long of the various things I’ve taken on, but I have to say there would be no ExtraOrdinary if I didn’t own the gifts I’ve been given and use them. Some of you—God bless ya—are left brained people who can organize, establish and regulate for yourselves and others. How amazing that we can make the world better by the specific gifts we’ve been given! And in turn, create an ExtraOrdinary life for ourselves.

5) Travel as much as you can to as many different places as you can.

I always come back from a trip amazed by how much is out there beyond my own little world. I love, love, love getting off a plane in a new city ready to explore. My 6’6″ spouse is not as willing to head to places like Australia (Melbourne, I need to visit you!), but I will get to the far ends of the earth at some point in my life. I did the Eurail thing after college by myself and I can honestly say it shaped me more than 4 years of college did. My AFS exchange experience in Tunisia in ’88 played a huge part in forming the person I was to become. My biggest dreams involve plane tickets & a small backpack and/or an Airstream and U.S. map. I have the same dreams for my girls because I know for a fact that it invites ExtraOrdinary in.

There are some great posts out there about being ExtraOrdinary. This one is great and of course, Courtney rocked this subject with clarity, as usual. I think it’s something we all want more of. Who wants to be conventional when you can squeeze every last ounce of amazing (and yes, I’m using it as a noun) out of your well-lived life.

What makes your life ExtraOrdinary, friends?

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Small house, Big Style ~ Part One

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via. Minimallisimo

Part One: Dreaming about it.

I’m obsessed with small dwellings that exhibit extremely good design. I’m not talking good design in terms of efficiency & good use of space. That’s a given.  I’m talking beautiful lines, lotsa light, simple & sleek finishes, minimalist furniture and a few eclectic pieces original to the designer. No plywood here…just tons of thought put into a space unique to its owner.

I have my favorites.

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via Sunset.

I have my Pinterest image arsenal that fuels my desire for small and lovely.

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Via. Urlaubsarchitektur

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via. Olson Kundig

I have my small dwelling dreams in place.

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* * * *

I believe I could live in a 800 square foot space if it had high ceiling and tall windows.

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via Jose Campos

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via. HighestHeels

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Via ArchDaily

It’s always been about the light for me. Being a Northwest girl, I crave sunshine most of the year, but will settle for gray window light. I like viewing the world outside as a part of the inside world. That connection is happiness to me. I used to think I needed the space to twirl (you know…flailing about to Earth, Wind & Fire while dusting), but now I think I could live in a small space if it was designed with light in mind.

I also love landscaping that doesn’t require a lot of upkeep.

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via Boutique homes.

Currently, the hub spends countless hours mowing acreage at the Blair Abode and I’ve groused more than once about it eating up the few sunny days we have for fun & frolic. Not to mention the fact that he is looks like a sci-fi character with his huge goggles, bunny suit and face mask (he’s an allergy nightmare). It’s that whole own your space, don’t let it own you deal. My dream of a high desert lot in Bend, Oregon lives on (above). Pretty, but easy.

It’s true that we fill the space we live in.

Smaller space, fewer spots for Crap We Don’t Need. The small space in our Airstream, The Twinkie, is so fun to navigate when we travel. I really love having everything within arm’s reach.  I even like how the small closet forces me to choose a few favorite clothing items for a trip. ‘Simple living at its best.  It has me daydreaming about cross country road trips in retirement. Being a teacher, I realize that for now these trips will be summer excursions…practice runs for when we’re gone months at a time. It has me wondering why we didn’t do this as a family before the kids went to high school. I know the rational answers, of course, but there were days when it could’ve happened and practicality won out.

That’s a whole other post for another day….Part Two comin’ at ya soon.

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P.S. Dan Hayes, from Simple Life Together, recommended a great Youtube vlogger for some small dwelling entertainment. Good stuff!