Crafting a Life Less Ordinary

Today’s Thursday so I’m Crafting my Life! This month, I’m hard at work on the Crafting my Life e-course. Early bird registration ends this weekend, drop by my Sign Up! page to find out more about that. While I work on that, I’m shaking things up over here. December’s theme is “crafting your life”, in which I welcome guest contributors to share their journey with you. This week, it’s the amazing Alison.

I have a dream.

This dream began as a talk about what my husband Aaron and I envisioned for our retirement; then it morphed to include what we hope to provide for our kids as they grow up. A random conversation evolved into an elaborate picture of what we want our life to be like and I’m serious when I say elaborate. This isn’t just a list of specs for our dream house or the name of our ideal jobs. This is almost a mission or manifesto. It involves how we earn our income, where our food comes from, what our house will be like, what kind of community we want to live in. It prioritizes family and community and includes hopes of gathering multiple generations together in the same place.

One of the problems is that our vision is so elaborate that it sometimes feels like it will always be just a dream. We aren’t sure where to start, we don’t know if it’s too outrageous to be realistic, and we often feel like total weirdos because we aren’t doing what everyone else is doing. In the here and now, prioritizing our family has meant a much lower income. We drive a beat up old mini-van and we are still renting, but the flip side is that I chose to stay home with my kids while they are young and we started our own business so that Aaron could do work that was meaningful to him and set his own hours.

On the days when we wish we had a house to make our own (with a workshop, a greenhouse, and a sewing room); or when our friends take vacations to tropical beaches; or when I’m going stir crazy as a stay-at-home homeschooling mom, it’s easy to feel like we’re doing something wrong and that our dream will never be realized.

Here’s the funny part: I’ve actually done this dream building thing before—I should understand the process. One summer, we rather impulsively got married and bought a 40′ school bus to convert and live in (in the middle of Vancouver no less). We spent five years there, living in my sister’s backyard. Over that time, we were able to pay off our student loans, learn the value of community, develop a deeper relationship with my sister and her children, understand the difference between a house and a home (particularly hand built shelter), and appreciate living with less. In short, it was a transformative experience. We had a vision of a life less ordinary and we were able to craft exactly that. Our little sprout of a dream materialized in a way that was exactly what we needed even though we could never have foreseen the end result or the magical way it all came together.

I have this rather stunning example of a time when we went out on a limb in a big way and had it work out. This should be all I need for positive encouragement that we are capable, that we know how to do this, that crafting our lives is an achievable feat. Sometimes that is how it works. Sometimes this example gets me through my doubt and uncertainty.

Other times it isn’t enough.

The reality is that it doesn’t seem to matter how many times you do it or how capable you are, crafting your life is a big scary deal. Crafting your life doesn’t mean following everybody else and doing nice safe things. Crafting the life that you want means acknowledging your individuality. You have specific values and dreams and they may not fall in line with what society tells you is the right thing to do. Putting those thoughts out in the open and admitting that you’re willing to go for it (and even risk failing) also means embracing your vulnerability. While it takes a lot of courage, most of the time being vulnerable makes you feel anything but brave.

My past experience informs my present journey to create the life we want for our family and I draw on it for courage and inspiration. I also draw on it to remind me that this process isn’t about knowing what I’m doing. I expect to feel doubtful and scared and uncertain at times. I expect that creating a life that is meaningful to me won’t always feel comfortable. After all, learning and growing rarely does. So go ahead—embrace your fear. It will be OK.

Alison spends most of her time with a 2 year old and a 5 year old and is currently gestating a surprise third baby who will be joining the family in February. She and her husband traded in Big City bus dwelling life for a small town and the freedom of self-employment in the shape of GROW tree care. She blogs at BluebirdMama, knits, dabbles in web design and spends one morning a week running the office of a midwifery clinic (to keep herself sane). She is also one of the fabulous interviewees for Crafting my Life!

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  1. I think realizing what your individual dream is and know that crafting your life will look different than anyone else is a huge thing! It can be so easy to want to simply follow in another’s footsteps. It is so much harder to do it yourself, for yourself. And I think the best dreams come from the scariest and most difficult decisions.

    I think we would all be better off if we had such a transformative experience. No matter what or where that might be. I had mine in inner-city Oakland. Everyone needs perspective.

    Good luck with your surprise third baby! Mine is almost 2.5 and is a surprise nearly every day still. 😉

    • Thank you – we’re still a little scared about what our adventure with 3 kids but only 2 hands/2 parents holds. 🙂

      I’m so glad that you were able to get that transformative experience too. Have you ever written about it?

      • The two hands, two parents thing gets easier (and harder!). I am sure you will be needing that courage and inspiration, but you will be fine. 🙂

        And no I haven’t, but the experiences I had there have been on my mind quite a bit lately so maybe I should…

  2. Wow. Amazing. Can’t wait to hear the interview.
    harriet Fancott’s last post … Top ten things I learned about adoption in 2010My Profile

  3. beautiful, inspiring guest post!
    Wendy Irene (Give Love Create Happiness)’s last post … Farewell 2010!My Profile

  4. You live in a school bus? I’m fascinated and intrigued. Do you have pictures? How did you fit it up for living? How insulated is it? Vancouver must be warmer than Ontario. How expensive was it?

    I’m so nosy, I know, but I’m completely intrigued. Perhaps you have a blog post where you’ve already told people all of this – I just found your site through your comment on Beth’s changing Fake Plastic Fish to My Plastic-Free Life.

    I’m looking forward to reading more. 🙂
    Canadian Doomer’s last post … Announcement- Fake Plastic Fish becomes My Plastic-Free LifeMy Profile

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  1. […] after spending years living in a converted bus in East Vancouver. She shared some of her story in a guest post here on Since recording the podcast her family has moved back into the bus in a rural area, and built an […]

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