The Thankful Post

Happy Thanksgiving Eve, everybody! Things have finally died down here, with the Book Fair complete for another year and a few days off to enjoy the holiday. I get to hang out with the little guy today while Dave works one more day, then tomorrow it’s time to watch the parade (one of my favorite parts of the day! Especially the Broadway performances), eat a big breakfast, then head off to eat with our families for the “big meal” and dessert.

We’ve talked to Monkey about what this special holiday means, and it’s been a great opportunity to open his mind to the idea that we’ve super lucky (and some people aren’t). It looked like I nearly blew his mind when I explained to him that we’re so very lucky to have a house and food, and that some people, even little two-year-old boys, DON’T. *kerpow*

I thought it’d be fun to share a couple of simple, last-minute ideas for the holiday to help friends and family get hands-on sharing their thankfulness this Thanksgiving. This year, we’ll just be having a family talk or two about the things that we’re lucky and happy about, but I can’t wait to try some of these out in the future!


Some of these are simple enough to throw together in less than fifteen minutes, and will help you and your guests remember – amid the craziness of getting a meal together and trying to pull everything together – that the day is about more than perfecting your recipes and using your best china. And feel free to use these as jumping off points; do whatchya can!



Thankful Tree

Brown Paper Thankfulness

 
Gratitude Jar (and Chains)
(With free printable! Couldn’t be easier, really.)



Thankful Chalkboard Wall
(Could also be brown paper on the wall, easy peasy!
And I’d suggest using an old chalkboard if you have one, but that depends on if you’re cooking a turkey and have the time to make one from scratch. ;-))


Thanksgiving Light
(You could also do this on a white paper bag half-filled with sand. Just insert a candle and light. Luminaries always make me cry, but that’s another story!)



Frame of Blessings


Or, after discussing your blessings, have a “did you know” session about the history of Thanksgiving. Watch this brief video for a bit of the background. (They didn’t have pumpkin pie or sweetened cranberries due to the lack of sugar in the “new land.”) It’s also a good reminder of the original natives who were trusting enough to help the Puritans settle and successfully plant in their new, treacherous conditions. Anyhoo, we’re weird; we watch a different, lengthier documentary every year (sometimes twice) about Thanksgiving (and Halloween and Christmas, for that matter.) You could turn it into a Trivial Pursuit type game, if your guests are into it!

However you celebrate, whether you’re giving thanks openly (saying “grace” always made me terribly nervous as a kid!) or just using the holiday as an excuse to enjoy a great meal with your favorite people, my family and I wish you the happiest of days!

Will You Wear My Friendship Bracelet?

For some, this post may apply to you at age 26. For others, maybe age 39. Still others, it may not apply at all. In which case, read away and enjoy being a totally well-adjusted, sociable person. You’re winning at life, and I salute you, my friend. Text me? No? Oh. Okay.

Friends. Buddies. Pals. Besties. Homegirls (or boys). BFFs. Whatever term you use, it seems that there’s a weird shift that happens after a certain age. It tends to happen post-quarterlife crisis (which may last different durations depending on the person and their situation), when finding all the settling-down trappings of life — a sweet spouse, a pet or two (or three), maybe even babies.

When you settle into living with your best friend (the one you want to grow old with; you know the one), your schedules intertwine, your to-dos rely upon the other’s availability (or willingness to watch the munchkin for you while you do your own thing), and you come to find more value in watching your favorite black-and-white movies together in PJs than you do hitting up a local bar.

Or maybe your local bars are overrun by college kids and an environment that simply doesn’t appeal. Or maybe it’s too loud to talk over the noise. Or maybe you gave up that scene long ago. All of the above, please.

So, anyhoo, life takes over. Not an excuse. It just does.

On top of this, socializing is equal parts emotion, sport, entertainment, and game, especially when you first know someone. Playing the game (“When are you free?” That’s half the battle), doing so skillfully while supporting your friend and still enjoying yourself simultaneously? It all needs to be balanced. And it becomes more of a challenge as you grow older and have less time to devote to properly maintaining a friendship, especially while maintaining a career, a happy, fulfilling marriage, a happy, well-adjusted child, and a relatively happy (if not disorderly) home. Toss in hopes and dreams and one’s cup runneth over…and not always in the best of ways.

For some of us, developing new friendships is tough in the first place. We’re not in college anymore, where you could bump into someone from one of your classes in the cafeteria and strike up a pleasant conversation about the tacos. We’re not in high school, where you most likely knew 90% of the people in highly intimate ways (“Remember Angela Farfigneugan who showed her purple polka dotted undies in 2nd grade?”) and felt like you were all kind of related in the first place. Or even the first day of kindergarten where the girl you shared the yummy paste green crayon with would be your BFF for the next ten years.

Making. New. Friends. Sucks. (Generally.) And in the Mom World, first impressions are everything. What can I say? Lots of moms seem…um…judgy. So, yeah. If I’m out at the playground with a particularly hysterical 2-year-old and make eye contact with a possible future BFF, will my parenting/aka personality/aka whole being be questioned? Plus, I’m not great at connecting. 

If you know me in “real life”, you’re probably aware that I’m pretty awkward. Okay, very awkward. I have a hard time not weirding people out during a conversation. I try to look into their eyes but end up doing it too long, then stare at the floor. I do listen well, but I probably give off the impression that I’m not. Or maybe that I’m psychotic. Either/or. I’ve also lost all ability to select appropriate conversational topics. Poop! Let’s talk about poop. Cat poop, baby poop, husband poop; it’s all the same. Aaaand I’ve gone too far.

Now that you know all of my social flaws (hug me), let’s just say that the friendships that I do have are pretty damn important to me. 

This doesn’t mean that I don’t inadvertently, completely unintentionally neglect those highly cherished friends. Might months go by until I call or text? Absolutely. Do we rarely get together? Sure. But, when we do, a simple cup of coffee or meal together recharges me and fills me with such joy — and hopefully my friends feel the same.

So, naturally, I hope to find more connections like these. A little support sharing, back-and-forth, from a like-minded person with a few similarities. Befriending mamas is the easiest way for the other person to realize that, yes, schedule wrangling might be a little tough and, no, we won’t always be available to each other. But, guess what. We have other built-in support to get us through those times. Those husbands for venting and crying (and laughing) with. Those babies for distracting us with heightened levels of awesomeness. Those furbabies for the sincerest form of cuddling known to man. We make it work.

Non-mama friends sometimes get this — and those are truly some of my best friends. But, the older I get, the harder it seems to make those friends. Sometimes it’s even difficult to keep the old ones. I’m not a fan of it, but I can face the grim reality; it does happen. Here you get married and you never think you’ll be dealing with a break-up ever again, and…bam…you find out that there’s a whole other type of break-up that you forgot all about, and it hurts just as much.

I only wish I knew how to juggle it all – work, marriage, motherhood, responsibilities to all of that while also paying bills and maintaining a house. Somewhere in there I try to carve out a little bit of life and time for myself (like this blog). But, I’m not 16 anymore, or 21, or even 27. Those were completely different lifetimes. Now, everything (including friendships) takes more work, more time, and it doesn’t always go the way I’d like. A new person might care less about what I have to say and I never hear or see them again. I may lose touch with an old friend and before I know it, weeks become months become years. It can downright suck when I stop for a moment to come up for air and realize I’ve lost a person who’s been part of my cast since elementary school.

I know I’m not alone, not the first to go through this, but it doesn’t make it any easier to handle or plow through on those days when it hits me, when I reflect on the past, and I see how much has changed. There is no magic answer, no magic word that can make it so. I wish there was. But sometimes I just don’t know. However, the best part of growing older is learning the ability to cope. One can bitch for only so long before recognizing that it doesn’t help the situation and, really, it’s time to find perspective. The life that I have is the one that I chose, and I couldn’t be happier with the family we’ve built and the journey that we’re carving out.  

All this said, I still long for friendships. To know a variety of people. To do fun things. To have people who can come over, understand the messiness of three cats and three people living in less than 1,000 square feet and not care. To have a Millie to my Laura (or vice versa, depending on whether I’m the “wacky friend” or not). To laugh with abandon and say things without fear of it being used against me in the future or to share feelings sans judgment. To be able to check in with funny texts from time to time to ensure that the other’s still alive, or to share a funny “doesn’t matter in the grand scheme” moment. 

I’m not asking for a vast amount of friends, or for friends who can all get together and get along, or for those take-all-afternoon phone calls of junior high. I’m not necessary looking for a fellow mother, but I am looking for someone who understands that my first priority, above all else, is that role (followed closely by the happiness of my husband; I subscribe to “Happy husband, happy life.” Luckily, he’s an easy one to please). And I’m not greedy. Just one, two, three…a dozen BFFs. Too much to ask? 

Really, I just want someone to wear my friendship bracelet. Their choice of color.

Is that too much to ask?

* I’d like to thank Dave for helping me find the words to write this post. As with all things in life, I couldn’t do it without you.

I Blame Louisa, Laura, and Lucy

Lately, I’ve been noticing that a lot of bloggers I casually enjoy seem to have a small running theme. A similarity. A coincidence, perhaps, but a common thread, regardless.

Sure, some blogs share a pioneering spirit, raising chickens and baking their own bread and growing what they eat. Others like getting their hands dirty and DIYing their hearts out. Lots share a life-simplifying philosophy. Many chat about living an earth-friendly life. Most ultimately focus on giving their all to their families.

Just drop the name “Anne” (with an “e”) on Facebook and the chatter starts. The same can be said for Laura and, to a lesser extent, Jo.

I blame the ladies. Those independent lady authors who came before us and created such true-to-life characters (characters who often reflected their own independent streaks) that still resonate with readers and fans a hundred plus years later.

Like many who grew up in the late ’70s and ’80s, I watched quite a bit of “Little House on the Prairie” and then, after watching my sister read the crap out of the series, swiped them from her book shelf when I was old enough to read a chapter book. During a time that could be construed as a bit terrifying (high child mortality rate, taking huge risks traveling to a new, dangerous territory to raise one’s family, relying on one’s own hands to provide food and shelter), Laura and her family faced challenges but grew together with warmth and even some fun. “Half-Pint” was allowed to be her own individualistic, at-times outspoken self.

I still think of her when I smell lemon verbena or see it at Bath & Body Works.

Laura was my gateway girl. Sweet and readable, I longed to eat biscuits with jam, grow my own garden, pull taffy, wear calico dresses with braids, and pretty much build a time machine to go join Laura in any one of her family’s cabins. It was definitely one of the things that sparked my history obsession.

Next, thanks to the impeccably-produced “Avonlea” TV series, which my mother and I watched religiously each week, I became interested in the books of Lucy Maud Montgomery. I took one or two of her original Chronicles of Avonlea books from the library, but got absolutely hooked when I met Anne.

I loved Lucy’s Sarah Stanley, but Anne was timeless. Between Megan Follows’ performance in the miniseries and finally reading a handful of the Anne books (namely, Anne of Green Gables) when I was old enough to comprehend the flowery language (very Victorian), I lurved her. Anne (with an “e”) Shirley was handed a pretty unlucky hand. Orphaned. Passed from one unfriendly family to the next. She finally landed in Prince Edward Island with strict, sensible Marilla Cuthbert and her silent, sweet brother, Matthew.

Her spunk, spirit, independence, and intelligence always inspired me. Aside from her disdain for her red hair, she never seemed to feel sorry for her lot in life. It helped me to recognize that, throughout history, lives have been hard. Damn hard. Far harder than mine, even growing up without my father. It taught me to suck it up and find the joys in life.

And, then, there was my all-time favorite author and character.

I watched the movie first — the good one, the 1994 one. (I love Katharine Hepburn, but hers is only second place of the five — yes, FIVE — versions.) It became a family classic. My sister and I will still throw in the DVD on those “off” days we need the comfort of the story and the friends within. Then, in about 8th grade, I got my very own copy of Little Women for Christmas (which, considering the first chapter’s theme, was perfect). Since then, I’ve read it piecemeal every year, or a different LMA work or biography. I have a new copy, but kept the old one. Of course. My dream is to own a first edition (two volumes).

Jo, the second oldest of four March girls, is the epitome of a feisty chick. She feels incredible highs when she’s able to read, write, and act with her sisters and friend-next-door Laurie (um, a guy), and incredible lows when she feels a great urge to be able to do greater things during the Civil War and in her own life, a tad bitter that she wasn’t born a boy with the rights they were afforded. She’d rather run, use slang, and speak her mind than be quiet or prim and proper. She’s a modern woman if ever there was one. I like to think she (in the form of Louisa May Alcott, her alter-ego) would have very much enjoyed and embraced the independence that women have gained, and it makes me appreciate the education and choices I’ve been afforded. Even if I have chosen to get married and have kids. *wink, wink*

Little Women and LMA is one of the reasons that we like to travel to Concord from time to time. I’ve been through her house once (and, honestly, felt like I was meeting a celebrity the whole time) and have learned about transcendentalism, her famous family friends and acquaintances, and every year seem to find out more deeply interesting facts about her family and past. The fact that it’s the site of the shot heard ’round the world…well, for a history freak like me, that’s the icing on the cake. Nom nom.

I think it’s only natural that so many of the independent female writers of today who may see any of these writers or their timeless girls as idols have taken to the interwebs to write their own hearts. The women of yore were romantic but realistic. True to themselves and independent. Hard workers to support their families. Strong as hell in the face of adversity. They helped show us a world outside our tiny little girl lives, inspired us to dream, and taught us to try what we want and work hard at it.

Write away, girls. Write away.

Shave Time, Shave Money

We are nothing if not simple folk. I know some who know us might disagree — we’re not Amish, by any means (and if I’m offending any Amish…what the heck are you doing on the Internet??). But, ultimately we feel that it’s better to live a simple life than a life full of too much stuff, too many complications and too much drama.

So, simple we are.


That said, when the Dollar Shave Club (yes, that Dollar Shave Club, founded by Mike, himself) asked if I’d be up for a “Shave Time, Shave Money” challenge, I was like, “You know who I AM?!” Er. Stay cool, Meg. Stay cool. I was like, “You betcha!” in my best mock Sarah Palin voice. Seriously, I’m a sucker for a challenge, even if it’s failing miserably while attempting it. See also: junior high basketball attempt…and volleyball.

I thought I’d share a handful of ways that we have stumbled upon that have shaved time and/or benjamin-spending from our family’s daily routine. See if you’re doing any of these simple life hacks already or if they’d help you out…

Tea and coffee, coffee and tea. Hot water + plant life that’s been toasted beyond recognition = an item that many can’t make it through the day without.

And know what takes more time than you may realize on a daily basis? Waiting in line for your morning fix. Even if it’s a drive-thru, it takes at least 7 minutes in our neck of the woods (and if you have to go inside? Fuhgettaboutit.). Not to mention the cost. Even a basic $2 coffee (and we all know it’s not $2, especially a soy mochafrappamachiacino) adds up to $10 a week, or $40 by the end of the month. So, yeah. We don’t play that game.


Instead, while we’re running around putting lunches together, we put on the teapot or get the coffee going. By the time lunches are done, our hot beverage is ready for sugar or honey or milk. A big pro here is that we have complete control over the ingredients. Let’s just say that even organic coffee or tea is mere cents a cup made at home vs. $2 at Dunkin’ or Starbucks.

You can be like my awesome stepdad and measure out the coffee and fill the machine with water to make it easy in the morning to just flip the switch when you’re ready.


Speaking of lunches, prep is key. If you make a conscious decision to make, say, one huge salad on Sunday night, it’ll make weekday mornings markedly easier. I kid you not; stay in bed 10 more minutes. Just store items like sliced tomatoes, sliced strawberries (seriously, don’t laugh, they’re soooo good with feta in a salad), or diced cheese separately to avoid slimy grossness, then just assemble quickly in the morning (or, better yet, the night before).

We’re cool with salads (plus some grilled chicken or varied toppings) everyday; just grab a cup of yogurt, an apple, and a bag of pretzels or popcorn. We throw in a wrap (also made in advance, filled with some of the salad ingredients) or leftovers once in awhile so that the salads don’t get boring. Packing a different flavor of dressing or vinaigrette, or using a variety of ingredients helps, too. We find that a handful of almonds can really add another level of flavor.

Not only does this provide a healthy option, but it also makes it easier to “just say ‘no’!” to a takeout or fast food lunch. It’s definitely way cheaper to do the Ford assembly line method, too.

Is “Just Say ‘No’!” too 80s to reference anymore? Too Nancy Reagan? You can be honest, I can take it.


– This one’s for you die-hard money saving fools out there. We’ve talked before about our decision to switch off the cable, but it’s the perfect time to bring it up again.

We were sick of the high cost of cable and the fact that we only watched, say, 20 of the 70 channels. So, we bravely switched to the 11-station plan. Um, I say “bravely” because we were addicted, and we didn’t know anyone taking that step. (Compared to, say, soldiers…we ain’t brave.) Since then, we’ve adjusted fine and even have a few friends and family cutting back, too.

If there are certain shows you need to, like, exist, don’t sweat. Hit up Google to find out what streaming device will hook you up with your faves and put a chunk down to buy it. Seriously, still way cheaper in the long run.

Luckily, Dave and I love PBS (hellooooo, Downton, History Detectives and Sherlock!), Hadman’s also a PBS lover (Sesame Street and Daniel Tiger!), and we’ve had Netflix streaming on the Wii forever. It suits us just fine.

Share and share alike. What’s simpler than purchasing only ONE of everything? This is a tad different with a toddler around, but the Dorky Daddy and I share a lot of the basics, and it cuts back on extra purchases and makes shopping super easy. We use the same toothpaste, soap, shampoo (I’ve even been known to use Hadley’s), deodorant…yeah. A lot. It’s also helpful to keep an eye out for coupons and know that you’re saving even more. 
But don’t share razors. Ew. If you’re looking to streamline your shaving experience and pay less doing it, try the Dollar Shave Club. For one low monthly price, they send you “f$%&ing great” razors and keep you smoother for cheaper. Seriously, for as low as a buck; what’s cheaper than that? $12 a year?! That’s nothing. Have you BEEN through the razor section of a store lately? Insane.
 
Dude, shop at a grocery store. This may sound weird, but my advice is to shop at a grocery store for your groceries.

*crickets*

Yyyyyyeeeeaaaaahhh. By this…what I mean is…okay. If you’re used to shopping for groceries at a store like, say, Schmalmart, think about how many times you’ve come home with something that wasn’t food or food-related. I’ll wait.

*clicks on Canadian TV station*

*clicks off*

*looks around*

*takes a drink*

Figure it out? Back when I used to shop at Schmalmart, in my glamorous bachelorette days, I spent about the same amount of cabbage that I do today at my local grocery store. While buying just food. For THREE people.

What busted my bill so badly back then? Extra crap. “Oh! $5 t-shirts! Seasonal candles! Clearance flats!” See what I mean? I ALWAYS bought something else — something I didn’t need — when I went grocery shopping.”

Side note: I also bought stuff like bottled water, soda, and a million more processed items back then. We’ve since gone “real food” and while organic is more expensive, the fact that I’m not adding on stuff like that helps balance the cost. Just sayin’.

While I know there are pitfalls of shopping at a grocery store (I do get my dish soap, washing detergent, toilet paper, etc. at the grocery store), it’s mostly food, so it’s harder to fall prey to the “buuuuuuyyyy mooooorrrre” monster. Also, I don’t kill an entire afternoon or a couple of precious hours shopping anymore. 

Make more sense now? Sweet.

Think old. It’s no secret: Dave and I are old souls. We probably over-romanticize the past and long for simpler, wholesome times (without all that bigotry and hatred). To be blunt, I wish we could live in a Capra movie. And it looks like Hadley is on the same track, preferring ’40s big band for dinnertime listening to anything else and he still kicks up his heels to Fred Astaire songs. (It’s like he knoooowwwws.)

But, I’m not suggesting that you take it to our extremes or start dressing all vintage or join a swing dance club. What I am suggesting is that you just take a step back and think about life back then and how you’d like to slow down your modern life a bit.

People grew gardens. People knew their neighbors and said ‘hi’ and sat on their stoops and dropped off cookies for no real reason (except maybe to say ‘thanks’ for watching their kids last-minute the week before). People only owned a handful of outfits, enough to fit into a single armoire. People owned the basics, but knew how to be happy. People were thrifty by nature and it wasn’t looked upon negatively.

How can you fit some of these into your daily life? We try to purge every season (and sometimes more than that) and keep only what we love. We question our purchases. We stop to talk to neighbors when we have a minute. We shovel their walkways when we have extra time. We wave when we drive to or from home.

And the occasional day offline helps you feel more connected with the life around you, a well. Our grandparents were the original YOLO generation; it’s good to look to them as models of a good life.

So, there we have a handful of methods that we like to utilize to “cut” (get it? Cut…) back our money a-spending and time a-wasting. Do you already use any of them? What tips would you add to the list? Did I rise to the “challenge”? Am I the only 30-something who joneses to watch “This Old House” and “Antiques Roadshow”? Answers! I need answers, people!

***Disclaimer: I was not monetarily compensated or provided with free products for my feelings. Dollar Shave Club and I partnered for the topic of this post. As always, all thoughts are completely, 100% my own.***

Moderately Green

Am I the only 32-year-old who’s still trying to find her identity in a super awkward way? I hope that my son can see me as a fun, silly, intelligent, independent, take-no-guff sort of woman. He may be young enough still to naively see that, but I’m scared that he’s going to see me as the un-hot mess that I feel I truly portray on a daily basis…any day now.

Just puttin’ that out there. Am I alone? Maybe. And that’s okay.

To add to the un-hot messiness and my lack of real identity — I don’t identify as a librarian (although that’s technically what I am, in a school setting), I don’t identify as a 30-something most of the time (I’m still 12, right? Or am I 80?), I don’t identify with a million other things; I only truly identify as a wife and mother — I’m green. Er, well, I try to be green. I try as much as my oft-zapped energy will allow. And life sometimes gets in the way of that.
Thing is, seeing the levels of “green”-ness out there, it’s easy to deal with the dreaded green guilt. Actually, this happens in most areas of life these days — competition. It’s mostly a female thing, it gets greater and greater when you become a mom (WHY IS THAT?! As Arrested Development‘s Gob would say, “C’MON!!!”), and it can get overwhelming. Soccer moms. Urban moms. Christian moms. Heck, doggie moms.

“I did *such and such*.”

“Oh, yeah? Well, I did *a such and such deemed greater thing*.” {Thinks to self, “I’m the best.”}

It’s a thing, and it sucks.

It’s not always stated openly this way, but just seeing blogs and Pinteresty ideas and such things, it’s hard not to get dragged down that you’re not doing enough.

Like…for instance…I’ve failed at some of the things that a green mama might use to generally identify herself as a green mama. Our diapering situation never took a turn for the cloth. It just didn’t. I used them a bit, but it never stuck. (We have used eco-friendly dipes all through, but still, I’d have preferred cloth.) Next time around, we’ll do them, I swear. But it just didn’t happen this time.

Baby wearing never stuck, either. Or baby led weaning. Or co-sleeping. Or probably 30 other things that the cool kids are doing. They just didn’t work for us.

I try not to feel badly about it, and I’m really learning how to not feel “Less” anymore. This really is a HUGE thing for me in every aspect of life. I’ve had self esteem issues f-o-r-e-v-e-r, and saying “I’m sorry!” for everything has become the norm. So, I’m working on apologizing less, taking responsibility only for myself, and not letting the judgments make me feel — you got it — Less than anyone else. That’s capitalized for good reason, by the way.  

Which is why I love contributing to Green Child Magazine. It never feels like work. I’m able to learn about topics that are directly important to me, and can often write the pieces pretty quickly out of sheer excitement. Currently, it’s an unpaid gig, but that’s fine to me. I’m “meeting” (virtually…do we still use that term, virtual?) some incredibly genuine, dedicated, talented, kind women in the process, and what’s better than that? No, really. What’s better? Good people are hard to find.
I mean, what’s better than this article (written awhile back, but still one of my faves), which pretty much sums up the fact that NO ONE’S doing it perfectly. No one’s living the “greenest” life. Whatever we’re doing…it’s good enough, until we decide to do more. At least we’re doing SOMETHING.

So, I’m happy with the things I do. Which, come to think of it, are plenty.

I’ve chatted with y’all about green guilt before. A few times, actually. But, it’s always good to return, especially now that I’m a mama…and green mamas be some of the coolest (yet competitive) ladies on earth. I’m trying just to be “enough” in my own book, and the best I can be for my family and the future of the planet.

Now, off to research essential oils. 😉

Embracing Self Care – Health & Spirituality

Last week, I did a self-analysis for the blog project hosted by The Humbled Homemaker called…

http://thehumbledhomemaker.com/2014/03/embracing-self-care-community-blogging-project.html

Is it weird that I feel a touch of guilt to turn the focus on myself vs. taking care of everyone else? Ack. That’s what this whole thing is about, though; recognizing that it’s imperative to take care of OURSELVES in order to properly care for our families and loved ones.

Anyhoo, back to the task at hand. One of the issues that I mentioned last week is that, thanks to the crazy scheduled, toddler-centric, over-tired aspects of our life, we seem to be out of touch with our spirituality.

*record scratch*

Okay. This would probably be a good time to state publicly: We’re part of that growing percentage of folks who don’t really identify with a religion. Read: We’re non-religious. Not atheist. Not nontheist, even. Just…don’t identify. I like to say that we’re both recovering Catholics, and I think Dave is a mix of atheist with a good dose of Buddhist. And I’m essentially “undecided” on the checklist.

It feels terribly taboo to even make such an announcement, but since this week is all about spirituality, it seemed a good time to mention it. See, I’m not sure the last time I read a blog from someone who wasn’t a known Christian. Not kidding. Most of the homestead-y blogs I follow are run by uber Christians. Even a lot of the shelter blogs I enjoy are run by super religious folks.

And I enjoy them, even when I think to myself, “Huh. I’m a tad uncomfortable that I’m not ‘part of the club.'” Read: I never write about religion because I don’t want to alienate anyone… So hopefully no one’s offended by our current religious decisions. It’s where we are, and I’d rather be honest than mute.

I’m actually quite well versed in the religions (I was very close to majoring in philosophy in college, and as I see it, religion is all about a person’s life philosophy) and have a plethora of priests/ministers on both sides of my family. I’ve been “converted” once [clearly didn’t stick…and my mom flipped, understandably so; I was, like, 10 years old]. I’ve had a love-hate relationship with traditional organized religion and experimented with Eastern religions in high school. (Thanks, Beatles and Peter Tork, for your influence.)

The most “in touch” I ever was with my spiritual side was definitely when I was in about 9th grade and had read A LOT about transcendental meditation. I’ve gotta tell ya…that $%&# is real. Meditation helped me to find myself during a normally confusing, crazy hormonal time. It helped me to recognize the “truth” of life. It helped me learn how to cope with stress and center myself in ANY situation. It helped me to connect with my surroundings and nature in deeper consciousness levels. Heck, I used to be so in-touch with my inner being that I still remember my first out-of-body meditation experience — in a very busy cafeteria during study hall the day of Mr. Hefner’s funeral. How’s that for specific? LOL.

So, let’s just say, I don’t judge folks for their religion if they don’t judge me. Can’t we all just get along? 😀

SPIRITUAL CARE

Needless to say, I’m not centered anymore. The life of a teenager is worlds away from that of a grown up mama. I can still analyze the stress level of a situation and calm myself mentally, but there’s zero meditation. Zero spiritual connection. Zero gravitational pull.

Dave has mentioned an interest in meditation before, but nothing has ever come of it. I’m going to bring it up to him and see if he’d be interested in a) learning how to do it (I’m rusty, but I’ve got a pretty good foundation) and b) actually putting it into our schedule rotation.

Even if he’s not interested, I’d like to be able to add PEACE into each day. Even a minimum of ten minutes spent with zero TV, zero phone, zero internet will hopefully help me start to center. A little at a time. 🙂 And I think that I’ll be able to find some patience to deal with an almost-terrible-twos munchkin and an ability to focus better on Dave and his needs.

HEALTH CARE

On a health note, we also need to analyze our sleep situation. We’ve been going to sleep earlier and earlier, to no avail. We still wake up relatively exhausted. Whuh??

According to this British article (love those!), there are a couple of things I’m doing wrong. Firstly, I hit snooze. Heck, I actually set two alarms on my phone — an initial one, then the “bonus!” one that makes me feel like I hit the ten minute jackpot. Silly girl. No more of that.

Secondly, the thing that makes the most sense AND helps us get in touch with our spirituality (hello, 2 birds + 1 stone) is GETTING OUTSIDE. It’s been one heck of a winter for, um, everyone everywhere, so we’ve definitely gotten in a “sit on our arses” rut. It’s time for us all (as a family) to get a-walkin’.

Remember when we were kids and the first nice day hit? We’d run outside and play with anything that wasn’t covered in cobwebs, or just walk around the block — LOVING that we just had to wear our brother’s hand-me-down light jacket (since we’d only needed it for, like, a week). Didn’t we sleep like babies that night? Of course.

Well, that’s the idea here. I wish we could do it daily, but with P/T two nights and dinner-making, I just don’t think it’s plausible. However, if I make a concerted effort to plan SIMPLE meals and get outside a few times each week, it might help recharge us enough to try it even more. Baby steps. 🙂

How are you doing with your spiritual and health journey? Are you in need of any fine tuning in any areas? Do you ever feel uncomfortable when your religious views don’t align with someone else who wears it on their sleeve? Or is that just me? 😉

Embracing Self Care – Know Thyself

Over the next few Wednesdays in April, I’ll be taking part in a little blogging exercise (hosted by the Humbled Homemaker, woohoo!) by chatting about the different facets of self-care. You know the ones. Things like health and spirituality, finding peace in the home (this encompasses several concepts), and healthy ways to find R and R. Those things we tend to ignore on a day-to-day basis. Remember those?


I absolutely love this theme. Whether you’re a student who is too busy (or too stubborn…hey, I’ve been there) to properly take care of yourself, or a parent who is too swamped and exhausted to think past the rest of the family, or just an individual who has gotten into a rut, anyone can relate to forgetting to take care of yourself.

There are so many more relevant, important things to worry about, right?

Wrong.

This is an underlying, unspoken issue that I see bubble up from time to time in my family. The Dorky Daddy and I are able to compartmentalize — parenthood/family, work, maybe a hobby from time to time (acting or writing or working on our websites). But, those are the only constantly-present “compartments” of our lives.

What else falls to the wayside? Um. Lots. Here are some of my personal concerns:

Cleaning and true organization. Just ask the cake of dust on my bedroom TV. (What? We’re the only ones watching it, and rarely at that. Why clean it often? Ahem. Yeah, I’m wrong.)

Health. (She says as she sits sneezing and nursing a headache while writing this.) But, seriously, this also relates to the fact that a lot of days we find ourselves just so exhausted or fatigued.

Inner peace. We’re not what anyone might call “religious,” but I know we’d both like to get in touch with our spiritual sides better.

Balance. Okay, for realsies, I’ve heard a lot of folks say that this simply isn’t possible. Well, I’m pretty sure that’s not 100% true. Life is totally a seesaw, and that’s not a bad thing. But it’s obvious when things are tipping far too much in one direction. For example, when Dave was working at his previous job, it didn’t just take the time he was there, but additional work from home, as well as the stressful distraction that it caused for him. His seesaw is now officially WAY more balanced, and it’s a better thing for ALL of us. Side note: We’re still grateful for this DAILY.

“Us.” This is more of a “we need to make a concerted effort to spend time together and HAVE FUN” than a “we have issues” thing. We’ve gotta make some dates and enjoy them. We need to focus on whether or not the other person is doing too much and try to take the load off. We need to discuss openly tasks that we have to work on around the house (or other things they need help with) and actively plan on days and times to work on them. This has all been easy to forget when so much of life revolves around a high-maintenance toddler. We need to take folks up on the offer to babysit more, and find more things that we can do as a trio (not just baby-centric stuff).

My ultimate issue is simply figuring out how to use my time wisely. There’s so much I want to achieve, but getting motivated when I’m exhausted, or balancing the time between family and the rest of life, or ensuring that I don’t let something important fall to the bottom of the list. Focusing on a different topic each week may help me implement a few small, achievable tips — and I’d LOVE to hear any suggestions you have (or even to commiserate a bit about our individual issues).

Remember, our ultimate goal here is to focus on self care.

So, how well do you “know thyself”? What areas do you need to work on?

On this week, we’ll be assessing our needs and our personalities and getting a handle on what kind of self-care needs to happen in our lives. – See more at: http://thehumbledhomemaker.com/2014/03/embracing-self-care-community-blogging-project.html#sthash.USyLHbo4.dpuf

Minimalist Mama

Similar to my zero-waste and French child rearing posts of yore, I’ve found a new inspiring (or frustrating, depending on how you look at it) concept in the cause of living simpler – the minimalist mom. Spoiler alert: I’m pretty sure it’s not something we’re going to adhere to, but stick with me here.

I saw this article on the Today Show’s website which, in essence, talks about a British family who, after the mum lost her job and got slammed with the holiday marketing blitz, vowed to strike out against consumerism by not spending ANYTHING on their son (and now daughter — yes, having a newborn and buying NOTHING for her). This is, of course, aside from any medical costs and food (although she doesn’t buy into the “food marketed specifically to kids” thing). And, after a year, they’re deeming it a success, and even continuing the project (with a monthly “get out of jail free” card).

After checking out the mom’s blog, I get it. The fact that her “rules” on the site go as such —

1) Mama don’t preach. This isn’t about telling anyone else what to do. If you’ve read my blog before, even a couple of times, it should be pretty obvious that I DON’T KNOW. I have no answers. Just a few jumbled ideas and a wobbly will to try to do the best thing I can for the kids. Most of the time. When humanly possible. On good days.
2) Liberation not deprivation. If it turns out that any of us (Johnny, Frida, my husband, me) are less happy, more stressed, less healthy, or just generally flourishing less (wilting?) due to cutting out spending in any area, we’ll reintroduce that thing. This isn’t about being stoic, or even doing without. It’s about blundering messily but happily towards a way of life that makes us happy and content.
3) Honesty is the best policy. I will be honest. I’ll always tell you what’s going on. No sneaking purchases past this blog. Hand on heart.

— is refreshing and lovely. She doesn’t seem to be doing this to jump on the “a year doing *fill in the blank* to get tons of press” bandwagon. She genuinely knows how toxic it can be (figuratively) to have to deal with the constant onslaught of C-R-A-P as parents (and children). I mean, just look at this video:



Adorbs! Doesn’t that just say it all?

Ahh. Stuff. That recurring theme of ye olde blog. I mean, just think of the influx (dare I say FLOOD) of toys (this isn’t including outfits) we received for Hadman’s birthday. Cuh-razy! (We’ve got a buttload more since Christmas, mind you. Le sigh.)

We’re of the mindset that if folks would just give ONE toy (and maybe one outfit, if they get “the itch”) for these special occasions, it’ll make everyone a lot more comfortable (my mother’s officially “scared” to get him ANY toys, and it’s not because of me…simply put, it makes me super sad) and help Hadley to realize that it’s more about showering him with love and kindness and appreciation and to let him know he has true worth. No one is allowed to “buy” his love, as far as I’m concerned, and we’re going to have plenty of family conversations with him about it as time goes by. Y’know, when he starts to understand things better.

We also don’t buy into (ha! Get it?) the “toy of the season” mentality. There’s nothing he “has” to have. Not the latest Elmo thingamabobber. Not everything-Sesame-Street-because-he-likes-Sesame-Street. (Although the Easter Bunny has mentioned wanting to bring one SS-themed toy. Darn him.) Lord knows munchkin HAS more than enough already. If you took the sheer number of toys, he’s reached his life quota. Seriously, that many. And he’s not 2 yet.

Stop the insanity! (Remember that? From the ’90s? Er…’80s, maybe? Susan Powter?)

The items that we get him tend to be creative or pretend toys that will hopefully stick around for years and years of use. Other toys that he has make him feel overwhelmed and bored SO. QUICKLY. Can you imagine? Having two huge containers of toys, literally overflowing, and feeling bored? I can imagine it. Because I see it. (Heck, when I look at all of his toys, I think, “Um, yeah. I’m going cross-eyed. Too much.”) It makes complete sense.

We want him to have an imagination…and to use it. To play WITH him using OUR imaginations; inside, outside, with pots and pans and bowls and spoons, with sheets and boxes and recycled egg cartons. What greater gift is there than that? My best childhood memories are of just these things.
And there’s also SO much to be said for “free play.” You know, going to a park or running around your backyard like a giggling fool or digging in the dirt or…well, you know.
So, let’s meander back to the topic at hand. Could we go a year without buying ANYTHING child-oriented?

It definitely got the ol’ brain juices flowing. I buy him Annie’s bunnies (but I eat them, too, and they’re not necessarily kid-centric…just cutesy), but I also buy the whole milk yogurt that’s perfectly portioned for toddlers (I swore I’d never do it, but saving 5-7 minutes in the morning? Psht.) I don’t buy a lot of clothes or toys for him (family hooks us up on this front, mostly), but we have failed at cloth diapering. (Sad to even admit that.) So, purchasing dipes ‘n wipes is a big one on the list.

Clearly, we couldn’t fully go without getting him ANYthing…plus, I’m too spineless/lazy/imperfect/flip-floppy to do one of those “for a year” challenge thingies. Hey, at least I’m honest. *wink, wink*

However, there’s a lot that I (or we, if you find it appealing) can learn from this experiment. I haven’t utilized Freecycle much…er…at all. Ever. And I should. Same goes for Craigslist. So much of what she says is true, though. There’s definitely a stigma that they have to be playing with the “right things” or wearing the “cutest” stuff. I find myself by nature anti-licensed character clothing. (I think it’s because I didn’t have much as a kid and realized I didn’t really like it; exceptions are the ONE Punky Brewster t-shirt and a TMNT shirt {Michelangelo FTW!} that I owned, and maybe a hand-me-down Betty Boop sleep shirt.) I also find myself turning away those gifts because I don’t want those obnoxious cartoon faces to inundate our own animated munchkin’s face, y’know?

That’s a tug-of-war right there. If it’s willingly given, do you just accept (I actually know for a fact that doing that tends to open Pandora’s box, causing us to receive even MORE stuff) graciously (which, believe me, we ARE truly grateful!) or do we pick and choose what we allow through our doors to better control what he (and we) are subjected to? Like…he’s never seen a full-length Disney movie. (He knows Mickey and the rest from short films and watching his playhouse at Grandma’s.) So…should he have shirts and pj’s with a million images of Lightning McQueen all over them? Then there’s the slipppery slope that we simply MUST own that movie (and a million others). Again, I only owned a handful of Disney flicks, and they were ones we already knew that (as a family) we loved watching over and over again. Not 50. Not 20. A handful.

And I turned out just fine. 😉

Obviously, my head’s still wrapping itself around this concept. I highly doubt we could do a full-blown challenge (even a month’s worth…? Maybe? Maybe not.) like this, but it definitely is good to help consider our needs vs. our wants vs. society’s perceived “you need to want”s.

Whatchya think?