Last Light On

turned on pendant lamp
Photo by Burak Kebapci on Pexels.com

A habit of mine, left over from years in sales and management, is following trending articles and posts on LinkedIn.  I have a few reasons for still doing it, although it’s been a year since I left the corporate world.

I enjoy seeing the accomplishments of friends I used to have lunches with- those who have put in the hours and years and finally got to the rung of the ladder they’ve always wanted.

I grumble about the CEOs bragging about increased margins (all the while I cringe knowing it came from layoffs that affected some friends).

Part of me keeps reading thinking that if I ever go back, I’ll still be in the loop.

Then there are articles that make me sad- remembering the time I spent chasing paper.  One article I saw today showed a photo of a single light on in an office.  The caption read “That’s my office light on because I’m the last one to leave the entire office building.  The money isn’t going to come to you. You have to put in the work to get that money” (C. Sanders)

The humble brag.  Or the mantra to make yourself justify the time spent away from children, family, friends.  The Badge of Honor of the sales professional- I work the hardest, I get the biggest paycheck.

I did it too.  I bragged about sending emails and working spreadsheets at 3 am.  I had conference calls in McDonald’s parking lots with my son in the back seat with a Happy Meal while I coached a sales team over the phone.  I skipped funerals. I missed parties.  I showed up late or not at all to friend’s weddings.

I was the one with the last light on in the office.

At many points in my life, my hustle meant keeping a roof over my son and my head.   At other points in life, I did it just for the bragging rights- the look at me, I’m a “real” sales professional.  I wanted to impress bosses. I wanted to impress family and friends.   Maybe I had a complex that I ‘only’ had a degree in fine art, and somehow getting a paycheck with benefits validated my existence.

Instead of crucifying myself and rehashing the guilt from leaving my crying son at home for 2 weeks while I attended a sales training- I try to remember that in every season of life certain things will have to be done.  Those hours I poured into work- the company has long forgotten- but the paychecks kept food on the table.

I just hope that when those times come again, I work the hours for the right reasons and not just for bragging rights on LinkedIn.

Minimalist Confessions

Shower
Perhaps I can start by Kon Marie-ing here

My fellow Minimalists- I am here for confession.  I have sinned against all tenants of Minimalism- Behold, my shower stall.  How many adults do you think live here?  The answer- 2.  And in total, 8 shampoos, 2 conditioners, 2 face washes, and 2 Body washes.

How did this happen? I’ve been so careful to downsize the rest of my life.  Clothing gets sorted once a month for donation.  Old books taken out. Magazines removed.  My digital detox where I removed my news feed from Facebook and turned off email notifications.

The fact is, Minimalism is a journey, not an end result.  Something that needs constant monitoring so not to fall back into old habits.

This mess of a collection began by me highlighting my hair.  I tend to go brassy, so I needed a toning shampoo.  Then my usual shampoos dried out my hair, so I purchased (on sale) two others. They also left my hair dry.  My husband ran out of his usual, and I couldn’t find it at the store, so I grabbed the next best one.  Then a few days later, I found the actual one he wanted so I got that too.

So here we are, faced with the cold hard truth staring at me every time I take a shower. Instead of enjoying my tub time, I am wracked with guilt at the waste of product and money.  And that is just one tiny corner of my life.

The good news is, it will all be used or donated to my sister- I am loathe to throw away perfectly good product.

It was eye opening, and a good reminder for me to be diligent with how I spend my money, and what thought process I take before I make purchases.

So while my digital detox is going smoothly, I will need to move on to the physical items around me.  Again, I am Minimalist in Training….

Best In Life

“Conan! What is best in life?”

The movie line wandered thru my head early one evening.  For years and years, my answer would have been- “To climb to the next promotion, score the biggest commission check, win the trip to California– Get the admiration of my peers and congratulations from my managers”.

ford-mustang-auto-vehicle-80465.jpeg
Not my ride. But close to what I had.

I would have thought a new Coach bag.  New mufflers for the Mustang.  Two cell phones, because who can have just one number?

Chanel perfume.  Dior mascara. Gel manicures and weekly pedicures.  $300 haircuts and highlights.

Big screen tvs. Latest Xbox. Blue Ray collection before Blue Ray was a thing.  GPS units. Fit-bit trackers.

These things in themselves are fine, and many are high quality well working products.

What was wrong in my mind was the relentless pursuit of them, then the acquisition of them, and finally the disappointment soon after when the “Next Best Thing” was announced.

What also was wrong was the 70 hour work weeks.  Being 30 pounds overweight. Blowing off family events for manager meetings no one would remember two weeks later.   Email and chats with co workers at 3 am about spreadsheets as if it were government policy we were writing.  Only to have the big project scrapped just over a year later, all that time and stress amounting to nothing– and the big paychecks spent and forgotten.

I’d be a hypocrite if I said I still don’t enjoy nice electronics.  Or reading up on the newest phone features.   Scrolling thru Pinterest for the latest hair styles, or shopping on Amazon for little things for the kids.

On the evening I remembered the line from Conan the Barbarian, I no longer thought of these things.

What’s best in life? Listening to my son make-believe stories with his Legos.   Watching my baby girl smile in her sleep after a warm bottle.  Coming down the stairs in the morning and seeing my husband’s slippers next to mine.  A cup of fresh coffee, and some sunshine thru the trees as the birds sing their good mornings.

I wish I could tell my 20 year old self to be careful what you sell your time and soul for.  That the things I chased would be shadows and memories nearly as soon as I grasped them in my hand.  And that all I was looking for would be the most simple, peaceful things this world can offer.

 

 

9 Simple Things That Bring Me Joy

Some simple things I enjoy that cost little to nothing. Prior to finding Minimalism, my list would have been more along the lines of what expensive handbag or cell phone I could purchase.

In no particular order–

-My morning coffee.  I have a Keurig that I will be retiring soon, and my Dad donated a French IMG_1135Press to me.  I love grinding beans before I brew- I have yet to find a more soothing morning routine and a better cup of coffee anywhere.

-Listening to the birds in the hedges.  I am up early enough with the pups and my son so I can listen to their music rather than turn on a station on Alexa.  It’s sweet, and pure and good for the soul.  Plus there are no commercials.

-Painting.  Something I do not do enough. In all fairness, I am two weeks from delivering baby, so it’s sort of uncomfortable to sit at the canvas for hours as before.   I enjoy interpreting the world around me however I want to- If you’ve never painted before, it’s great for focus and also relaxing.

-Reading. Or being read to- I have an Audible subscription I use on long trips, and I make use of the Kindle app on my phone and tablet.  Sometimes I get nostalgic for a good ‘real’ book in my hand, and I don’t feel guilty picking one up at the book store.

-Listening to my son play.  He has a big imagination, as most kids do, and likes to tell stories aloud as he creates things with Legos.  I would never be able to record all of the stories he’s spun- I hope my memory holds so that I can replay them when I am old.

-Baking bread.  I cheat. I use a Breadman machine I got several years ago at a yard sale for $2.  I’m not the best baker, but this lets me feel like I could be- and the smell of fresh bread baking makes any day better.  I also like that I control how much sugar is in it, and there’s no weird preservatives.  One of the best $2 investments I have ever made.

-Doing my own manicures.  Blame it on my years in ‘corporate’ life- I do like a fresh polish.  I do refuse to pay the money that I used to spend on one.  I make my own hand scrub with olive oil and sugar; use almond oil for a hand lotion, then file and paint.  It took me several months to get competent in painting them.  Well worth the effort, though.  And I find good quality polish on sale at grocery stores- last one I picked up was $.75.

-Gardening.  Although this year it may be scaled back to some planters of tomatoes and peppers, I like the process of watching seeds grow.  It also gets me some Vitamin D time in the sun and a yummy harvest at the end of the season.

-Hot foot bath.  I don’t have time in the day for a full bath, but I sneak 10 minutes in here and there for a warm Epson Salt and essential oil foot bath.  No essential oils on hand? No problem, some sliced lemon or orange, or vanilla to scent it works just as well.  Perfect for unwinding before bedtime.

If I sit a little longer, I’m sure I’d think of more simple things to bring me joy- Feel free to share yours in the comments section.

 

Two Weeks

Just under two weeks until we welcome our daughter to this world.  She is my second, so there is the anticipation of the joy of meeting her;  and the anticipation of the chaos of adding a new (hungry and crying) member to our family.

In a change from my first, I passed on having a baby shower when it was offered.  Partly, because I felt we made the decision to bring a little one here- it’s not fair to ask people to come to a party and furnish supplies for her.  The other, remembering the volume of ‘stuff’ I got for my son, I wanted to purchase only the Essentials for baby.  So many things went unused, or only used 1 time, it made me sad to see things leave the house brand new with tags on it.

I feel prepared, but there are still the unknowns- Not being sure her exact size at birth makes it a challenge for buying both clothes and diapers.  To satisfy my panic, I bought two small packs of diapers one in Newborn, one in Size 1.  Clothing is at a minimum as well- Some one size sleepy time bags (I remember the challenge of changing a diaper at 2 am and not wanting to stir a little one).  We were blessed by a family friend who donated two large boxes of beautiful newborn and infant clothing to get us started as well.

My son’s crib and changing table I hung onto for 5 years. I was too sentimental to let it go- sad that he may be my only baby, especially after my divorce, I had nearly given up hop

IMG_2275 (Edited)
2 Weeks till it’s the 4 of us

e.  But something in the back of my mind made me keep that, and a diaper Genie and other various necessities.  I tucked everything out of sight in the basement, and waited.  Thank God for Hope, or women’s intuition- saving those items literally saved us hundreds of dollars when we found out we were expecting.

 

I am glad my son will not be an only child- although I will miss the ‘just the two of us’ time we had.  He may never remember it, but I remember the several years as a Single Mom and how we grew together thru the experience.   He is now blessed with love from many people-  my favorite new mIMG_0826emories are watching my husband play guitar for him and having Vince laugh and dance and sing; or the three of us going to the local hockey arena and cheering for ‘Our’ team at the top of our lungs.

I can’t wait to meet Baby, and looking forward to the memories our family will be making.

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

pexels-photo-607812.jpeg
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.

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

IMG_1896
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.