The Years of Making Magic

28 February 2019

Ever since I completed up my 60 Before 30 project, I’ve been considering options for a new iteration. My experience with longer-term goal sets has been overwhelmingly positive; I love allowing them to shape and mark a chunk of my life!

But how to theme it? 65 Before 35 just didn’t sound as jazzy. As I pruned and shaped my collection of ideas for a potential next list, and considered what our life is likely to look like for the next few years, an idea began to take shape.

The driving force in our family right now is paying off our mortgage*. We expect this to happen in the next three to six years, depending on the market’s performance, and until then, we will be making some aggressive trade-offs and sacrifices – forgoing vacations, reducing our grocery budget, delaying clothing purchases, cooking at home, (almost) never going to the movies, not purchasing alcohol, and more.

We believe the freedom of owning our home will be more than worth it, but we’re also not willing to put our young family’s life on hold for the next five years, eating PB&J every night and spending only the absolute minimum.

And here’s the thing: we’re convinced we don’t need to. The fact is, there are amazing amounts of fun and memories to be had for very few dollars. In fact, I’d argue that this list gets at the very best parts of life, the ones we’ll continue to chase long after we’ve put our mortgage to rest: the patience to move slowly, the softness to be delighted, rich and agile minds, deep relationships, confidence in our own ingenuity, a deepening bench of skills, and – above all – golden-hued memories. If these things aren’t luxury, I don’t know what is.

Each item below was carefully chosen, for reasons that may not be immediately clear. Some are unusual, some are pedestrian, and many you might never think to raise to the level of being put “on a list.” You might find it amusing that I included them at all, or worse, Not Fun.

Am I “flattening things that should be enjoyable into tasks“? Am I not fun??

Perhaps not. I am a creature of habit, and despite my best intentions, it’s easy for life to become routine. So, just like we put extra mortgage payments into our budget instead of hoping to stumble upon “extra” sums of money, I am intentionally setting out to create the conditions for delight instead of hoping delight will somehow shoehorn its way into my full life, with the financial constraints we are voluntarily putting on it. What we prioritize, happens. It’s always taken someone’s effort to plan the picnic, organize the lake day, or flip bunny-shaped pancakes. Just because something has been considered and planned doesn’t make it any less magical.

Alright. After that very lengthy preamble, I present to you…

Start: February 28, 2019
End: ??? (Somewhere between 2022 and 2025!)
Items completed: 16
Last updated: July 2022

1. Host a croquet tournament
2. Make potstickers with Mama Jean (December 2021)
3. Teach June the Lord’s Prayer (March 2019)
4. Make a month-by-month landscape tending list
5. Go trail riding at the farm with my family
6. Visit Hammocks Beach State Park (June 2022)
7. Camp at Grayson Highlands
8. Take June to a local high school’s musical (April 2022)
9. Complete a month of thank you notes
10. Host Chinese New Year fun for friends
11. Dance at a ceili
12. Go to BINGO as a family (July 2019)
13. Undertake a nature scavenger hunt for each season (spring 2020)
14. Spend two weeks in a row at the Island
15. Update our Advent calendar with our home’s colors
16. Eat at Waffle House (epic late-night visit with some of my dear coworkers in August 2019!)
17. Go swimming in a mountain lake
18. Host a book swap party (July 2019)
19. Work on a Habitat build
20. Take June to tea at the Carolina Inn or Fearrington (May 2021)
21. Order historical photo albums to get us up to date (2005-2009, 2010-2014, 2015-2019)
22. Enter something in the State Fair
23. Square dance at our town’s arts center
24. Lake day with the Rays
25. Buy bunting to hang on our home for patriotic holidays
26. Listen to all of the Harry Potter books
27. Finish my EFM guide to the Triangle
28. Host a pie party
29. Become an expert at French braiding June’s hair (officially given up on my own)
30. Lead another service at the Island (July 2022)
31. Watch a review at the CGA and go to lunch at the Officers’ Club
32. Take another family on an outdoor souffle adventure
33. Do a home swap with a friend or acquaintance in a place we want to visit
34. Make a new neighborhood BFF couple
35. Put together an ice cream sundae bar, just for us (August 2019)
36. Commission a special art print and give one copy to each family member
37. Take June to her first outdoor movie and pack excellent snacks
38. Organize another Great Island Race
39. Do something with the upstairs bathroom (shared February 2021!)
40. Host a chocolate chip cookie taste-off
41. Touch up the paint throughout our home
42. Teach June to sing patriotic songs
43. Go to rooftop yoga at The Durham with friends (April 2019, with Lisa)
44. Make “For God so loved ____” art for June and Shep
45. Golf as a family at Knight’s Play
46. Take the train somewhere (May 2019 – to Charlotte with June!)
47. Hike another bald
48. Have a full family sleepover with the Rays
49. Teach June to jump rope, trace her body with chalk, and play hopscotch and Spud
50. Finish the path in our alley
51. Plant lots of daffodil bulbs in our backyard
52. Memorize a favorite poem
53. Learn to cut June’s hair (and John’s and Shep’s – May 2020!)
54. Borrow a canoe and go on an adventure
55. Get back in a regular rhythm of playing tennis with the Terhunes
56. Party it up in a glow stick bath
57. Make a better display for my jewelry
58. Real estalk and visit the playground in Trinity Park
59. Explore Morehead Planetarium
60. Introduce June to the art of painted toe nails (May 2019!)

Many of these cost no money. Some cost more than that. More importantly, they all require our attention, capacity for delight, and thoughtfulness. I hope to get to tell many of these stories over the next few years, but if you’re particularly curious about one, by all means – ask away!

*As you may have gathered, we have changed our approach to paying off our mortgage. A Marvelous Money post addressing the topic is coming soon! :)

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February 28, 2019 8:18 am

I laughed out loud at “real estalk” — I can SO relate to this, as we do this every weekend on long walks in pretty neighborhoods nearby! This list sounds so enjoyable, and is definitely inspiring me to make one with my husband.

February 28, 2019 8:51 am

I love your list! I am almost done paying off my student loan debt and will be completely debt free next year. I might make a similar list.

Also, for teaching June the Lord’s Prayer, I volunteer in the kid’s ministry at my church and we have a Lord’s prayer song for our pre-schoolers and it has helped them a lot. I would search Spotify or Youtube as there are a lot of wonderful kids ministry songs for verses like 1 John (Walk in the Light) that our kids love.

February 28, 2019 9:01 am

I love this as a concept. With small children, the magic of the every day is everything.

On 33, I have wanted to do a house swap for forever – trip to London?!

March 3, 2019 2:20 pm
Reply to  Em

YES!!! Gives us time to save too. And think about how to fly long haul with a small person. You truly would be welcome.

February 28, 2019 12:48 pm

Um if you want a date for the Trinity Park adventure email me! I’ll meet you at the park with Maeve and her scooter in tow and a picnic basket any day. Around Easter or Halloween is the best!

March 1, 2019 11:01 am

I’m curious about why you added “Eat at Waffle House” to this list haha
I could never make a list like this, but it is inspiring, especially since this month (March) is our “trade-offs” month. We’re trying to save some extra money. You said you are reducing your grocery budget, which we’re doing this month too. But I also noticed you have a number of hosting events on your list. Now, maybe I am doing it wrong, but when I hosted a discussion club at my house for two years I ALWAYS blew my grocery budget. And not just discussion club: Pumpkin Carving Party, New Year’s party, Cinco de Mayo, Oscars Watch party, etc. We like hosting. And I’ve gotten better about letting guests contribute but in my mind that just translates into being able to splurge on something else (like Moet for the Oscars or several pounds of organic steak for carne asada) with the extra money LOL

Mattye Woodcock
March 6, 2019 1:27 am
Reply to  Em

If y’all end up in Birmingham for work or play, I’m just saying that the Woodcocks would LOVE to treat you to your first Waffle House experience! We have LOTS of WH experience under our belts!

March 1, 2019 4:26 pm

I truly admire your intentionality. Thank you for sharing!

Bethany Howe
March 2, 2019 12:20 pm

I am all about “Listen to all the Harry Potter books,” HA! Love your list!

March 2, 2019 4:15 pm

This is delightful and I can’t wait to follow along!! I would also like to request an invite to the chocolate chip cookie taste-off, as I’m currently testing a bunch of recipes in search of my “signature” chocolate chip cookie :)

We took the Amtrak train from Raleigh to Durham a few weeks ago and it was so much fun!! Charlie was completely thrilled, and they have a really cute goodie bag for kids on their first train rides. Highly recommend!

Finally, if you’re not already, I suggest saying the Lord’s Prayer out loud with June every single day–I’m sure she’ll pick it up in no time without much additional effort! There are 4-5 prayers we say regularly between our meal blessings and Charlie’s bedtime routine, and we happily realized a few months ago that he knows all of them by heart!

March 3, 2019 9:54 am

What a great way of focusing on the joy and delight in everyday things (that, like you said so well, don’t „just“ happen if you’re not being intentional about it). Thanks for sharing! I might „steal“ a couple ;-)
As for the house swap: if Savannah is on your list of places y‘all want to visit, let’s do it :-)

April 5, 2019 9:53 pm
Reply to  Em

Yes! That would be so fun!!

March 4, 2019 3:38 am

This is absolutely amazing – love this list and a great way to save! x

March 5, 2019 1:26 pm

As a graduate of Apex high school back in the day I would suggest taking June to a musical there! I was in many a musical and I think they have a great theater and music department. Not sure when the new building will be done, maybe it’s done already? The big production is usually around March.

March 20, 2019 4:09 pm

I love these ideas! So much fun and magic! I’m curious about your “For God so loved ____” art. Can you explain a bit?