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”.

 

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.

 

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.

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.

Why I wrote a To-Do List for 2018

Resolution setting has always made me feel like I need to fundamentally change myself- which was intimidating. I normally fail at sticking with the resolution, somewhere near the end of January.  Sometimes a change must happen quickly- such as a change in lifestyle due to a medical issue, or perhaps a job change.  Typically though, life moves along smoothly enough that any radical changes (such as the ones resolutions bring) makes me cringe. 

Instead of resolutions this year, I have decided to write a  2018 To-Do List.  I have more success writing a daily list of items to accomplish.  I enjoy crossing them off at the end of the day when I review my journal before bed.

I am going on the assumption that if a To-Do list is working for me on a daily basis, it may translate well to a Yearly To-Do.  Again, years of management kicking in here- if you

IMG_0727
Hoping 2018 brings a bright start to you.

want employees to reach a target, it had to be one that was easy to achieve, relevant, and measurable- (some blend of George T. Doran’s S.M.A.R.T. goal setting system).  So I make my To-Do list items ones that match this system.

 

Part of my personal “2018 To-Do” list:

  • Once a Day painting for 30 days
  • Once a month shipment of donations to charity
  • Twice a month digital scan of paperwork and dispose of hard copies
  • Drink 40 ounces of water per day

Each of these items I can set a reminder on a calendar as a “To-Do”- keeping in mind I can be flexible enough to move the date if it overlaps something I can’t move, lets say a doctor appointment for my son.  At the end of the month, I can then see if the item has been accomplished; and if it hasn’t, set a new date and adjust my thinking as to why I wasn’t able to do it.

Follow up is key- You can set as many goals or targets as you like, but if you forget to measure them along the way, or track your success it makes it impossible to know when or if you have reached these goals.

Here’s to a brand new start with a New Year, and a new way to track my progress on this journey.