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”.

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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.

 

 

Show and Tell Day

I had a comment from a reader asking how my scheduled time on and off social media was going.

The short answer:  Not very well.

I managed to delete the apps from my phone. I found myself on the web versions instead.

I meant to only use Facebook during breakfast hours- I secretly scroll thru at 2 am when I can’t sleep.

Rationally, I know this is unhealthy. I don’t know if it’s the fear of missing out combined with the happiness of a “like” on a post or picture.  It also doesn’t help that many people are suggesting that I can draw more business to my artwork, or Avon, or whatever thru the ‘magic’ of social media.

 

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I can remember the days Pre-Social Media.

None of this is true.   I listened to a podcast from the Minimalists yesterday, and they discussed their renewed and revamped use of social media for 2018.  During the conversation they made a great point about the actual “work” they do is their books and lectures- that social media should simply support announcing it. Social Media should not be the ‘work’ itself.

 

Eye opening for me- Especially when I read online multiple blogs about tips and tricks to getting savvy with social media. How to craft a twitter post that will attract followers; or how many hashtags to use on Instagram to direct traffic.

What am I directing them to if I spend all my time tweaking social media? I have crafted nothing, painted nothing- nothing to show at all for all this time.

I deactivated Twitter this morning.  I thought long and hard about my decision (total of ten minutes while brewing some coffee).  Over a year on Twitter and I had a amassed a newsfeed that included random store announcements from wireless carriers;  Bill Shatner’s ranting; and some Women in Art feeds.  The art feed I will miss, but I’m sure I can find the same information on Facebook or Instagram.

When I would scroll thru Twitter, I would find myself angry- either from something I read, or feeling not ‘cool’ enough for the Twitter scene.  There’s enough bitterness in this world, so I hit the deactivate button without a second thought.

Instagram was up next- most of what is on there I already see on Facebook thanks to the share button my friends use.  However, unlike Facebook where I have to “friend request” other artists who may not know me at all, or don’t remember me from years ago- I can simply follow them and their work on Instagram.  I get a lot of joy from seeing their paintings and inspiration to get me back to the canvas so, childlike, I can also post a painting on Show and Tell.

Maybe that’s the allure of social media in general-  What kid didn’t like to bring in something for Show and Tell day at school?  All eyes on you while you showed your prize possession- mandated quiet from the class so that you are heard.  Applause at the end of the presentation.

We are just big kids looking for the applause in the form of a “Like” or a “Heart” or a new “Follower”.

 

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

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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.

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.

 

 

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.” 

 

 

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.