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.

 

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

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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.

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.

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.