Conscious Uncoupling

In the last few weeks, I have made an effort to monitor my social media habits and my ability to accomplish what I want to each day. Like many people, I am sure, I find that my smartphone- rather than being a tool- has become a mindless source of entertainment for me.  If it was a relationship status with social media- mine would be “It’s Complicated”

Under the guise of productivity and constant connection, I found that I had a set pattern of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, various forums, news outlets and then back again to the

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It’s not You, It’s Me- I just need a break.

beginning.  Standing in line at the store? Scroll thru some feeds.  Stuck on an art project? Turn to Instagram to see other artists and how my work measured up to theirs.  Time to write on my blog? I’d rather buzz thru Twitter to see the hot topics of the day.

 

Meanwhile, I bemoaned not having enough time.  My focus was out the window-  I had specific goals in mind the last few months for my family time, writing, and painting- and I was always too busy.  Yet there was always time for social media.

I’m able to admit my will power wasn’t strong enough to keep off it; I also acknowledge that the purpose of the smartphone and all apps, it to make it easy (and possibly addicting) to connect and share 24/7.   I won’t blame the technology, but I can see how it was easy to slide into using it all the time.

Instead of pulling the plug, I decided to do a “Conscious Uncoupling”,  in the spirit of a former Hollywood Power Couple.  I acknowledge I want social media in my life- but I want better control of it.   A blog post from the Minimalists reminded me of how taking a break every now and then can help you refocus on what you want to get out of social media.  It’s available Here , “How the Minimalists are Using Social Media in 2018” for anyone looking for motivation or encouragement on taking a break from the newsfeeds.

My first step was to remove my social media apps from my smartphone- all but Facebook Messenger (which my family uses rather than texting).  I did it one at a time, first Twitter, then Instagram, then Facebook.   I do need these programs to conduct business and stay connected- I am growing my art business, and how else will my blog get shared?  But I have found that there hasn’t been a message yet that needed my immediate attention- so they can wait until designated times of the day that I log into my tablet for updates.

Today is Day 1.  In the past I was able to go 40 days without any social media.   Now my goal is just to schedule it, like I would other household chores or projects– and get my focus back on productivity in the studio.   I would love to hear in the comments how others are backing away from smartphones, or how restricting your time on social media has improved the quality of your day to day life.

Conscious Uncoupling

A Pug, A Yorkie, and the Fear of Missing Out

Most mornings, at 5:15, one or both of our dogs starts to whimper from the kitchen.  If the whimpering doesn’t stir us, the Yorkie goes out the dog door and announces to the world in plaintive howls that he is hungry and would like his breakfast.   Mind you, they aren’t starving, they eat twice a day- but they are on a strict schedule which doesn’t allow for humans to sleep in occasionally.

I will go downstairs to prepare a coffee for me, and get their meals ready as well.   Ony

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Ony. Also know as “Smudge” or “Onsie”

the Pug is diabetic, and has a special formula from the vet to keep her blood sugar in check.  Mojo, the Yorkie, has lost many of his teeth, and now enjoys a shredded, refrigerated dog food that’s easy on his gums.

 

Neither dog food is inexpensive.  Both dogs love their respective meals.

I separate them so that Ony doesn’t get in to Mojo’s dish- they eat in separate rooms.  With Ony’s diabetes, we have to be very careful about what she can eat.   They greedily chomp thru their meals, faster than I can even get the bowls filled.

And every morning, without fail, they clean their own bowl- then race, each to the other’s dish, to lick what crumbs may be left.  It’s as if they fear they have missed an even better meal, one superior to the high-end food they each currently receive.  Some days, they nearly knock each other over on the way to the other dish- convinced they didn’t get as much or as good a treat as the other has.

Fear of Missing Out. Jealousy.  I recognize the behavior because I see it in myself every time I scroll thru Facebook, or read an article on Pinterest.  Constant reminders that I don’t have enough, or I don’t measure up.  Powerful emotions that can drive us to spend more money on things we may not need; or at the least, make us ‘green with envy’.

Even with Minimalism- there’s the fear of not being “Minimal” enough.  I should ‘only’ own 2 pairs of shoes.  10 items of clothing. Live in yurt with no running water.  But each person has to find their own way in life. On this journey, the end product will look different for each person.  Maybe its ok to still have a book case with books on it; perhaps still owning a home and a car is not a disqualifier to be labeled “Minimal”.    The constant comparing to each other that tears at our souls and twists our emotions- There’s a fine line between being able to compare oneself to others to improve yourself- or to compare and let yourself sink into bitterness.

Every morning, when I feed the dogs, I thank them for their behavior.  I have a reminder that when I compare myself to others not to let jealousy rule my thoughts. Not to think what others have is better than what I have been dealt; and not to feel that I am less than what I should be. These pups have taught me a valuable lesson, simply by filling their dishes with food.

A Pug, A Yorkie, and the Fear of Missing Out

Home is Where the Heart Is

Home is where the heart is.  So I thought, until I sat and remembered my ‘stuff’ left at my old house after my move to my new life with my new husband.

I think I crushed my husband a bit when I childishly complained  yesterday  that I missed half of my life because it’s in boxes back North.  He gently reminded me that I was a Minimalist, or at least supposed to be one, and that he has also left behind parts of his life in boxes across the country as he has moved over the years.

I cling to that house because, again, childishly- it’s “Mine”.  I bought the house. I bought all the furniture. I bought all the decorations.  I inherited various decorations and antiques. Mine. Mine. Mine.

But it also represents a not so great time in my life- it was Mine, and my ex’s first purchased home.  Those memories there are best left behind in those boxes.

I am keeping the house, partially for my son, and partially for a cozy place in the country to stay at when I visit my parents.  Truth be told, I keep it mostly for “mine“- as a reminder of what I accomplished- As if my memory wouldn’t be enough to remind me of all I have done in this life.  I am scared to let it go, as if selling it erases the things I had done. I keep the house like a trophy in a case- dust it off occasionally to pat myself on the back for what I have done.

I am reminded that we can’t take any of this with us in the end.  And what investment is an empty 88 year old home to a 5 year old?  There are, I am sure, better investments made than property that needs to be kept up with.  I am tempted to rent it out- but then I struggle with the idea of someone other than myself being there.  Again, it’s “mine”.

Around and around in my mind I make my case for and against selling it.  At some point a decision will need to be made- finally settling that chapter of my life- and moving fully forward with the rest of my story.

 

 

Home is Where the Heart Is

Getting Used to the New Normal

A man lives sort of, well, in jerks. Baby’s born or somebody dies and that’s a jerk.  He gets a farm or loses it and that’s a jerk.  With a woman, it’s all in one flow like a stream, little eddies and waterfalls. But the river, it goes right on. Woman looks at it that way.” –The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck

I haven’t read this novel since high school, and I won’t explain how many years ago that was.  This quote stuck with me all these years, and came to mind again recently after hearing of health issues from friends and family members to start off this new year.

I can’t say that I always look at life’s changes as a flow in a stream- there were some thingsIMG_1849 that happened in life that shook me to my core; times where I wasn’t sure there was a way out, or the path was hidden from me.  Could I be so stoic as to accept the ‘slings and arrows of outrageous fortune’ (Hamlet, Shakespeare).  Some events we can weather, knowing it’s a passing storm- Some events, we can’t see the end of. Sometimes, there is no end.

My Grandmother would say “I am trying to get used to the new normal”, after the death of my Grandfather.  How can you lose a life partner? Before it happens, do you think of what life is like without them? Or do you shut it out, pray you are not the one left behind.

33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”. John 16:33 NIV

Remembering these passages remind me to expect the world to have trouble- there will be sickness, there will be loss, there will be pain, there will be death.  But by understanding these things will happen because it is the way the world Is somehow takes some of the sting out of the hurts we endure.   Letting go of expectations of a smooth ride in life releases me to enjoy the pleasant times, and look forward to the good times that do come after the hurts.

One foot in front of the other.  One small change each day.  A smile at a memory to get you thru the tears.  And remember, life– “it’s all in one flow like a stream, little eddies and waterfalls.” 

 

 

Getting Used to the New Normal

Small Steps

Two months until our family expands by one- and from what I remember from having my son 5 years ago- our time management will need to radically adjust. From late night feeding, to extra loads of laundry- and even time for simple luxuries like showering- all will now revolve around the needs of a little one who cannot articulate in a spoken language what she wants.

I am taking a step back and thinking about how I can survive those first few time crunched, penny-pinching,  sleep deprived months- and my journey in Minimalism can help me.

Some small steps to sanity I am taking now:

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  • Pre-cooking meals:  I like to have a hot breakfast for my son.  It’s something I’ve done for him ever since he’s had solid foods; a Continental breakfast of sorts. But let’s face it, who has time for that?  Today is Saturday- so I spent some time cooking waffles ahead that I can portion and freeze for the week ahead.  Same thing for bacon (if you are the meat-eating kind).  During the week I can then re-heat, add some fresh fruit, or quickly scramble an egg and he can have a warm breakfast to start his day.  I could buy these things in the frozen food section; but I prefer to make my own and add his favorite touches to it (fresh blueberries or strawberries) and it does end up being a little less expensive for me.
  • Refillable Foaming Soap Bottles:  Something my Mother always did while growing up, before being frugal or Minimalist was trendy.  I purchased empty foaming soap bottles- and from there you can fill with whatever variety soap meets your needs or budget.  I currently use a bulk soap from an essential oil company (which I then also dilute with some water to stretch out the value of).  But you can use any brand you choose. I figure besides saving $3-5 every time I need a hand-soap, I reduce some waste by reusing the soap bottles.
  • Speaking of Bottles: My husband is the King of repurposing plastic containers.  Sometimes too well, so some end up in recycling once I have done some cleaning.  Some now hold small toys, others hardware or supplies in our tool area.  The point is, we at least try to think of a use before we throw away empty containers- but I won’t allow hoarding of empty ones “just in case”.
  • Furniture Polish: I was tired of commercial polish for our dining room table not cleaning and leaving behind a streaky mess.  I found some different recipes online- my favorite at the moment is Olive Oil on a cloth with a drop or two of Orange Essential Oil.  We had some minor surface scratches that this mixture sealed up quite nicely, and the shine has held for two weeks now.  Wipe down with mixture, and then buff off excess with a microfiber, lint free cloth.
  •  Mirror Cleaner: My days working at a cosmetics counter at a department store taught me many things.  My favorite tip was to use 93% rubbing alcohol to clean mirrors- it was less expensive than the blue stuff, and left a streak free shine behind.

Some of these are time-savers, some money-savers. All help me stay focused on what’s important these days- Spending the bulk of my time with my family and enjoying their company.

Small Steps

Have It All

“Mommy, what are you writing?”

“I am writing about what I want to be when I grow up”

“But you are already grown up. You can be anything”

“What should I be?”

“You can work around the house on chores.  And then you should be an artist.  That would be good.”

I’ve been awake since 4 am, mindlessly scrolling thru Facebook and Instagram posts- back and forth, looking for what? Today, it seems like affirmation that I am not ‘enough’.

Some examples of my feed: “Bossbabe” Memes and Quotes.  “Dream it and you can Achieve it”.  “MLM” is the same as working for a company. “Don’t let a man take care of you, earn your own money” “Buy your own Chanel Bag, don’t let a man do it for you”. “You can have it all- travel a few months a year, take your son to school, download my e-book”.  “I replaced my income with (Fill in the blank MLM of the week).

To top it all off, instead of feeling empowered, these and other posts, made me feel sick to my stomach.  I have failed, I have not been able to work a full time job,  have a few side hustles, clean a house, raise a child, be a wife, a writer, an artist.  Why can’t I do it all? Not enough positive affirmations each morning? Did I forget to write in my goal orientated planner all I want to accomplish?

Some days, I am thrilled to manage a hot breakfast for Vince, feed the dogs, and get two cups of coffee (decaf these days, baby is on the way).  Other days, I feel like I can take on the world.

Why the guilt? From what I can remember, my girlfriends are all very successful career women raising wonderful families.  We were raised by Mothers with high standards, who told us to have our own money, and go to college for what we wanted before settling down with a family.  They were probably raised by Mothers who were housewives, limited to careers that were in education or nursing- and when the 60’s and 70’s rolled around, told our Mothers to break free and be independent.

For the bulk of my life, that’s the route I went.  A great education, a fantastic career before and during marriage before starting a family.  My ‘own’ money (which led to fights with my ex about his ‘own’ money, and what was a fair way to pay bills).   And bought with my “own” money- a house, two cars, piles of electronics and expensive makeup.

And with that career, I lost track of being a Mother to my son. He spent a large chunk of his first 4 years at my parents home while I worked (out of necessity for several years as a single mother).  I can remember telling him to be quiet when I needed to run a conference call.  I remember taking him to Mcdonald’s drive thru and running a conference call from my car while he sat in his car seat munching chicken nuggets.  Who knows what little gems I missed by shushing him and telling him to go to another room when I had ‘an important call’. I am glad he saw me working hard; In other ways, I can’t forgive myself for the teary eyes he would get when I hustled him to a spot in front of the tv while I worked.  I spent an hour or so with him in the morning before I dropped him off at my Mom’s; then another hour or so at night for bath and bedtime-  what did I miss? I will never know.   I was a single Mother- and those who have spent time as one know the struggle to balance putting food on the table and giving attention to the one you are working to feed.

“Mommy! Look at this!”

These days, I can stop what I am doing and truly look at what he is showing me. I am blessed just for the precious ability to stop and put down whatever I am doing to really listen to my child, and give him my full attention.

What will I teach my daughter? I hope to have enough self confidence to be secure in whatever dream she decides to chase- whether it is a high power, high paying career; or a stay at home mother to her children, or some combination of that.  I just hope to teach her not to listen to the constant stream of what the world thinks she should be- and to some extent, what I would want her to be.  She will have plenty of role models to choose from as she makes her way in this world- but I want her path to be one she chooses- not one that a Facebook Feed tells her to take.

Have It All

New Year Cleaning

Many people save a full house cleaning for Spring or Fall.  I will do that as well, but my favorite time to clean is immediately after New Year’s Day.

I know that in a perfect Minimalist home, there would be no need for a full house cleaning- but I am in training here, so there’s always something to work on.

I feel like the cleaning of the home after New Year helps to wash away any bad vibes or leftover hard feelings from the previous year. It truly makes the New Year a clean start- mentally and physically.

Paperwork gets scanned and shredded.  Clothing gets sorted and donated. Floors get a second wash (in this case, we may have to hire a pro to tackle the tile floor that the previous owners neglected).  Corners are dusted, decorations are put away.  I run a diffuser with citrus to freshen the air.  Toys are recycled, new ones stay, old ones donated.

Here’s to fresh starts, new beginnings, and cleaner home to face 2018.

New Year Cleaning