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

Minimalism as a Single Mom

Today, a post on a Minimalist Facebook Group got me thinking about my time as a Single Mom.

At the time, there were some drastic changes that had to be made- I was downsized out of work due to a corporate merger, and at the same time became a single Mom to a two year old- while still managing a mortgage and car payment.

Some of the items on my list I have reinstated in life as my circumstances have changed- but I do remember that those few years as a Single Mom were some of the most stressful and joyful of any I have ever had.

  • Dropped cable television: I replaced with slower internet and a Netflix account so I could still job hunt and have some entertainment for my son.
  • Text Only Prepaid Phone: This one I sometimes wish I had stuck with. Once my income dropped, I switched to a $25 a month prepaid plan with a text only phone.  It is amazing to be free of the constant notifications of email, but still just a phone call away.
  • Sold Items on Ebay:  Once my corporate job was done, I was able to sell off a collection of gently used tech products (old phones, tablets) and ‘career wear’ clothing or purses- In one month I ‘made’ around $1100 on these items.  You would be amazed what people will buy on Ebay.
  • Bought and Sold at Consignment Shops: The good and the bad of small children is they are constantly moving up in clothing sizes. We almost exclusively shopped at consignment stores, and I was able to sell back an amazing amount of clothing once my son outgrew them.
  • Donated nearly 100 Books:  A splurge during those times was a book on Kon-Marie; and part of it was dealing with the volume of ‘stuff’ I had collected.  Namely, my precious library. But after sorting it, I found multiple copies of books, and in the end, donated about 100 to local charity.  While I didn’t have a ton of money to donate to favorite causes, I felt better being able to give back something during this time.
  • Dined In- Gardened Out:  To save money, my dining out budget was slashed to- zero.  During the summer, my son and I planted a small garden- enough to keep both of us busy and to provide fresh tomatoes, pumpkins, onion, and carrots. He enjoyed the benefits of nature and fresh air, and I saved money on fresh veggies while having quality time with him.

I have a very supportive family and circle of friends who helped me navigate all the changes in my life during that time.  But even with the stress of it all, we survived and thrived- and once we were back on our feet, I could look back and be happy with all that we accomplished then.

Minimalism as a Single Mom

Simplify the Season

I felt out of place yesterday at Preschool drop-off.  The parents were in line waiting and discussing their gift-giving issues: namely, that Santa has left sooo many packages from Amazon, they are running out of places in the house to hide the gifts for their kids.  Another Mom moaned that she hasn’t even started shopping and the lists keep growing.  More complained that they will never get the gifts wrapped in time.IMG_1597

So much stress.

I didn’t offer my own experience this year, I stood quietly and listened, thankful that my gifts are here, and wrapped – all in a single cardboard box on my dining room table.   We had 11 people to purchase for this year (more than most years).  We didn’t “minimize” the gift giving- it seemed as though most gift ideas for people we were given were for food related items, or things that can be used nearly year round.

My son, who is 5, only requested a copy of Minecraft, which we did purchase for him.  I also got him a set of Tinker Toys since he enjoys building things. For stocking stuffers, I got him a few new toothbrushes, some glitter glue and craft items, and a checker board from Dollar General.   I think because we don’t have cable, and what tv he does watch is on Netflix, he wasn’t exposed to as many commercials for toys.  His list was short and true to what he really loves.

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Gingerbread House Mission Complete

Thanks to shorter lists, and the use of online shopping, instead of stress from rushing from store to store, desperate for the latest item, I spent more time baking cookies and building gingerbread houses with Vince.   Our family spent an hour or so wrapping gifts.   It has been one of the few holiday seasons I did not feel completely overwhelmed and burnt out.  I was able to make memories with my son and husband that I hope to remember for a lifetime.

It’s not to say this season will be picture perfect-  My husband will be working on the actual holiday.  My son will be at his father’s house the entire Christmas weekend.  My parents are over an hour away, and my sister and brother in law will be working and live out of town as well.   We have real logistical issues for even celebrating together this season.

Had I faced that, and also the stress of crazy shopping, I would not be able to calmly sit and enjoy what time we do have together– And the time we spend together is the most precious gift I’ve been given this year.

 

 

Simplify the Season

Smashed

I was decorating with some handmade coffee cups and was reminded of a lesson I learned while making them.  I had spent the summer at an art camp in Erie Pennsylvania, and was a little bitter that instead of getting to paint all day, my concentration was ceramics.

Part of this was that I wasn’t good at it- anyone who has tried to center clay on a potter’s wheel can attest that it is a hard learned skill.  I have a habit of giving up on tasks that I can’t master in the first or second try; and this class tested my patience at all levels.  There are more steps to creating a simple vase than one can image-  You must spend time kneading all the air bubbles out of your lump of clay.  Then after arm numbing kneading, you attempt to throw the lump of clay at a spinning wheel, aiming for as close to center as possible and with enough force that you ensure there is no air pocket separating that clay from the metal, wet wheel.

Back to the grind, you then use your upper body strength to force the clay down and in on itself; one move the wrong way, and the clay may fly off the wheel, or go off center, and your clay needs to be removed, re-kneaded, and thrown again.

BackIMG_1135 at the wheel, if you are successful, and have “pulled” the clay upwards in a semblance of a vase shape, there is the cleaning of the excess clay, and removing the spinning vase from the wheel by using  a steel wire.

That’s just the throwing.  That’s nothing of the hours of drying; ‘firing’ in the kiln; glazing; re-firing; praying-  and maybe, just maybe, that lump of clay has become a fine piece of art.  The process, start to finish, can take days- sometimes weeks depending on the drying times involved.

After all that- My Professor then had us smash the pieces.

I fail to find the words to fully express the sickening feeling of watching my own work destroyed beneath a hammer swung by my own hand.   The hours, the frustration of the process, the joy at seeing the work finally finished- gone- back to the dust that it had come from originally.

What did I learn?  Don’t be afraid to lose everything you work for.  Don’t be afraid to start over.  Don’t get too attached to material things- they can all be lost in a moment, and you will need to be able to move on.   There is always more art to be made in this life.

 

Smashed