Hypocrite

I am going to head outdoors with my cup of coffee to listen to the night creep in over the stream. First, a confession.

I paused for a moment, considering the hypocrisy of writing about minimalism from my vacation home.  Hesitated, for a few months, because I am here while my first home is having a total kitchen renovation done.

How could I pretend having two homes is somehow justifiable? Hypocrite.

While I may work toward minimalism, I am not in a minimalist family.  Like any good business partnership, marriage works best when the pair head off in the same general direction- in this case, I am content with my husband taking the lead of our little family, and enjoy the projects we find ourselves in.

A tiny home is not in the cards for us- At 6′ tall, he has spent a good part of his career in small bunks on tugboats or work trailers- so when he is Home, it is not and cannot be a tiny place. Home is a place to stretch out comfortably in all directions.  A room for laundry, separate from the office, a distance from the kitchen; then down the stairs to exercise equipment, and so on.

The vacation home was my primary residence up until our marriage- a Cape Cod style on the banks of a creek, tucked away in some pines.  Not tiny as HGTV would have you think- but snug, cozy, in all ways “hygge”.

And so, in guilt, I was reluctant to write- because isn’t the Tenants of Minimalism to downsize in all things?

If I were single, in my 20’s, then yes- But the reality is I am a very happily remarried 39 year old mother of two- and part of that happiness is seeing my husband pleased with his surroundings.

I minimize the other parts of life.  I use 3 pairs of shoes instead of the old way of dozens kicking around the house.  My makeup bag (singular) has only what it can fit- if I purchase something new, something must get recycled or passed on to my sister.

Our daughter plays with an assortment of her brother’s recycled 7 year old toys that I kept (intuition and blind hope told me not to get rid of his things even after my divorce).

Summer vacation was at the vacation home this year. But the vacation was the experiences of sharing my corner of the world with my out of town husband, and our kids-  Little day trips to a butterfly garden, a local aquarium, out for pizza, or just playing ball in the yard- That was the priceless joy that Minimalism helps achieve, at fraction of the costs of an exotic (Disney) trip this year.

So I release my guilt now, and follow what parts of the minimalist movement I can- and look with a more gentle gaze on fellow Minimalists at whatever path they choose to walk.

Enough

I went through the steps to become an Amazon Prime seller after reading some articles on line about people reselling clearance items from Target or Walmart.  Seemed like an easy concept, buy low, sell high. After supplying Amazon with some basic information to prove who I was, I was a seller.

I picked up a few items on clearance at a local art and hobby store, added to my seller site and waited.

My husband noticed what was going on after our son started begging me not to sell the items, as Vince (our son) was hounding me to play with the toys.

I explained to my husband what I was doing with the items. The process is more time consuming than I thought- I actually don’t like shopping, even if its to resell for a profit.  And the amount of research involved to make sure you’re turning a profit is a time drain as well.

He laughed at my stressful efforts, said “Don’t we have enough?”

Why was I doing this?

Thank God, we are in a time where our bills are paid, we are fed, and can afford to get both Hulu on demand and Netflix.

I can remember times in my life where that was not the case- $10 an hour plus commission as a single mother with a mortgage and car payment found me getting very creative with how to stretch my budget.

And yet, it was enough.  My bills were paid, the car and home kept up, food on the table, and both Vince and I were extremely happy.  I hustled when I had to, and enjoyed the quiet times that came along with our time of “less than”.

I have forgotten how to be content.

I didn’t become a seller on Amazon primarily to make money.  It’s because I was not content with Who I am.

I am “just” the Mommy.

I have had many titles over the years- Manager, Artist, Airbnb Host, Account Executive, Market Manager, in addition to Wife and Mother.

After a particularly bumpy start to the year, all those have been scaled back to Mommy and Wife. There were too many illnesses, doctor appointments, and general running around that prevented me from doing anything other than Mommy or Wife.

One night, following a teary, self pity party I threw for myself, my husband reminded me that these jobs are the most important I have ever held.

So why wasn’t that enough?

There’s plenty of marketing going on now to women, in particular, to be More, do More, contribute More- Under the disguise of reaching for your own goals. If your budget and household need the extra money to survive- or to elevate your standard of living to benefit the members with a better school or neighborhood that is safer, by all means, it is necessary to put in whatever extra time and effort into securing more money for those things.

It’s another thing to feel less than because you aren’t selling enough thru social media of whatever product-of-the-month is hot.  Or if you aren’t juggling going back to school, a 40 hour a week job, and also raising 2 kids while also mopping your floors with homemade soap.

Perhaps I am being too sensitive.  But the more I read up on goal setting, and achieving more, the more disappointed in myself I become.  In protest, the more I retreat away from the noise that results in me measuring myself against a standard that has nothing to do with me.  Personal achievement, and “How to Accomplish More” has become another sales pitch to people, who like myself, feel lacking- and happily spend money on the latest book or blog to fill that gaping hole that can’t be filled in our heart.

What is Enough?

For me, at this moment, Enough must be enjoying a cup of coffee while my baby takes her over-due nap.  It will be a dinner on the table for us tonight, and a book before bed with the kids.  Right now, that is enough.

“11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength” Philippians 4:11-13 NIV

 

 

 

 

Minimizing Me

My hiatus from some of social media freed up some time to work on new projects- but I apologize for being gone so long. Sometimes inspiration for writing doesn’t appear as on schedule as I would like.

In the spirit of downsizing- a brief update on what I have been doing.

I had a major painting project due- a commissioned piece that I had to re-paint 3 times before I got the image I wanted. I couldn’t shake the feeling that the first 2 attempts were just not what the painting should be.  But the third time was a charm, and I got it closer to the mental image I envisioned.

I also worked thru a Bible study regarding diet and eating.  After steadily losing weight post-baby, I found my weight creeping in the wrong direction. I also felt terrible most of the time- achy, grumpy, and tired.

I have done half-hearted attempts at weight loss in the past.  My most successful was with Beachbody a few years ago.  This time around, I didn’t have the motivation to even try that.  Like I said, I felt pretty lousy.

My husband was looking to shed some pounds too, and after a couple weeks of us discussing what our efforts should look like, we settled on ‘old fashioned’ counting calories.   I added the Bible study portion, which had daily readings and Scripture discussing how taking care of our body was important to God.

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“Date Night” Yes, we still have a splurge every now and then..  

In addition to minimizing my weight, it has minimized our grocery budget.  The difference in the amount of food I cook and serve myself now at 1400 calories, versus what I consumed before is massive.  The digital scale and measuring portion sizes has been unbelievably eye-opening.  Did you know salads at restaurants can start at 500 calories a piece and that’s without dressing?  All the time I thought I was ‘watching what I ate’, I was blindly eating triple the amount of food I needed in a day.

I can’t/won’t give up things I adore- like pizza, an occasional cookie, or a good steak- but it’s all been portion controlled and fit neatly into my calorie bucket for the day.  More fruits and vegetables have found their way on the plate because you can eat a ton of them and its not a lot of calories.

How does it all fit in to Minimalism? Minimalism to me is about removing the clutter that distracts us from ‘real’ life- and in my case, my overall health had been suffering, and food took up way too much time obsessing about what the next yummy treat would be.  In minimizing my calories for the day, I was given the added benefit of time back for other pursuits; less weight as I stepped on the scale; and an overall better feeling of health to take care of my family.  So far, all wins in my book.

50 days later- with the help of a digital scale, Myfitnesspal app, “I Deserve A Donut” by Barb Raveling, and a lot of praying- I have lost 8 pounds, and my husband probably 12 or more.   Cheers to on the going journey.

 

 

Waiting

It’s 2 a.m., and my 6 week old daughter is flailing her little arms and legs in the air as I try to wrangle her into a fresh diaper.

It’s her usual wake up time- a diaper first, then a cuddle and a warm bottle to settle her back down for the rest of the night.

Tonight, the bottle warmer doesn’t seem to be going fast enough for her; her eyes well up with sad tears, and she starts to wail.  Her arms pump in frustration- even offering a pacifier brings no comfort to her.  I gently whisper, “Wait just a moment more, little one, the bottle is almost ready”.   She doesn’t understand me, or know that a warm bottle will be better for her than the chilly one from the refrigerator.  All she knows is her hungry tummy, and the anger of not being listened to or answered.

It makes me wonder if that’s how we look to God sometimes-  like little children, with our pouting and crying when we ask for things.  We don’t think he is listening, or answering quickly enough, or at all.  How often have I prayed for something I wanted, and tearfully beg God for relief, only to be made to wait a little longer.  I remember Psalm 27:14, “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord”.

It’s difficult to do that in this society that values immediate gratification.  Even in situations that are heart wrenching, I wonder sometimes why doesn’t God deliver me immediately? Doesn’t he care for my pains?  Matthew 7:11 “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”  

But like my daughter- crying in the night- sometimes I can’t see that the thing I want most may not be ready for me. But, by waiting, it will be exactly what I need, in the exact time that I need it.

The bottle finally heated, my baby drinks quietly and drifts back to sleep.  I imagine God whispering to me “Wait a moment more, little one”.

 

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

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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.

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.

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.