We live in the suburbs of Madison, WI with our three daughters. While living the typical suburban life, we are challenging the norms by living outside the box and creating the freedom we desire.
Life Before We Started to Create Our Freedom
We met in the Fall of 2004 in the dorms of the UW-Madison campus via a mutual friend. Chris was a fifth year senior at the time, Jaime a sophomore. Within weeks, we went on our first date and have been together ever since.
We married in the summer of 2008, welcomed our first daughter N in 2010 and our family became complete with twin girls A & B in 2012. These early years were full of work, sleepless nights, and living in survival mode. Our goal was to just get through each day.
Jaime was diagnosed with postpartum depression a month after our twins were born. To say that life was full is an understatement. A was newly home after a month in the NICU after having surgery, and figuring out how to care for three children under the age of 2 was beyond overwhelming. We hired a wonderful nanny for the first year to help Jaime as a stay-at-home momma.
Survival mode is great, until it isn’t. You can lose yourself, your marriage, and your dreams. We found ourselves out of sync, unhappy, and defeated. We poured our love into our girls as best we could, but we were depleted, stuck in an downward spiral. This wasn’t the life we had wanted for our family. We wanted so much more, but we couldn’t find the path to get there.
Discovering Our Freedom Dreams
We leaned on our faith and our pastor in the beginning for support in our marriage. Jaime found an amazing therapist who helps her through the darkness of depression. We started talking to each other and listening. We began to share our dreams again, but this time we also started supporting each other’s dreams.
We discovered that our dreams not only complimented each other, but helped each other. We found we were an amazing team. Jaime’s desire for a simple life and a smaller home complimented Chris’s desire to decrease our cost of living and provide some freedom in pursuing another career path. Together, we discovered freedom and joy in living a more minimalist lifestyle.
We wanted to have more time as a family, not just evenings and weekends. Weekday hikes at Devil’s Lake State Park and family vacations were on our dream list, but vacation days were limited and so were our finances. Eventually, we didn’t let these obstacles stop us anymore. We started challenging our thinking, looking for solutions outside the box, and started accomplishing amazing things.
Our First Freedom Dream - Visiting all 50 States
We hadn’t traveled much in the past - other than our honeymoon to the Dominican Republic and an anniversary trip to Las Vegas in 2011.
We had dreams of traveling more, but they always seemed out of reach - too expensive, too stressful, no vacation time.
Then Jaime’s sister decided to get married in Phoenix, AZ and fate would push us to figure out how to travel with a three year old and twin two year olds.
We ended up creating an epic 12 day road trip with a wedding in the middle. Planning this trip together and making it a reality healed our marriage in so many ways. We found that when we had a shared vision that we were unstoppable. And the trip was a blast. We were having so much fun together and with our kids. It was on this trip that we decided to create the goal of visiting all 50 States with our girls.
We’ve now visited 47 states:
- Out to Arizona for a wedding
- Down to Florida to meet Disney princesses
- Out West to visit some National Parks and the Pacific coast
- Southeast to Hilton Head Island, SC to vacation with family in the winter
- To the East Coast, from driving in Manhattan to hiking in New Hampshire
- To Hawaii, experiencing the aloha spirit
We just have California, Nevada, and Alaska left to visit! It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you set your mind to it.
Our Second Freedom Dream - Taking a Mini-Retirement
With our marriage healed we continued to dream. We talked about how we wished our day to day life were different. We dreamed of a more laid back life - one where we could walk our kids to school together, pick them up together, and enjoy summer weekdays hiking has a family.
We were itching for a life change but every direction we looked, all we saw were roadblocks. We had been talking about downsizing for a while. We had experimented with living in half our home and knew that we could make it work. The only problem was that we couldn’t find a smaller home in our town for sale. Chris wanted to take a chance with starting his own business, but with our mortgage and other living expenses, we couldn’t afford him leaving his job.
We were frustrated and felt we were ready to take a leap. Jaime suggested we sell our home, move into an apartment (another experiment in tiny living) and live off our equity so Chris could take a step away from his current career. All the puzzle pieces fit. Every change supported the other.
Chris looked at the numbers and confirmed this was all possible. Within a few months of making that decision, we wrapped up some remodeling projects, sold our home, Chris left corporate America, and we moved into our apartment July 1, 2017.
Our mini-retirement was amazing - we worked side by side on Keep Thrifty during the day, volunteered at our girls’ school, and took the opportunity to visit new, exciting places.
It was a year of self-discovery. We found answers about what was really important in our work lives and home lives. While it wasn’t always easy, the challenges brought us closer together as we built a vision for our future. The mini-retirement was worth every penny for the experiences we shared, the lessons we learned, and the faith we built in God and each other.
Our Third Freedom Dream - The Little White Shack
When Jaime was a little girl, she dreamed of living in a little white shack. When we sold our home, we didn’t know where we would end up or if we would be able to make this dream a reality. But one month after selling our home, land in the middle of our town came up for sale.
It was a unique piece of property that had been owned by the village and there were no building restrictions!! This was huge for us because if we were to build, we wanted to build smaller and all the subdivisions had minimum square footage requirements.
We ended up purchasing the land in August of 2017 and are planning on building in 2019. In the meantime, Jaime is working on an awesome home design.
Most likely, we will need to take out a home mortgage to build our house. We are hoping to make a sizable downpayment and then work on paying off the mortgage as fast as possible. Ultimately, we want to be mortgage free so we can keep our options open for new dreams as they come up.