welcome ... enjoy yourself

Thursday, September 24, 2015

goodbye summer, hello fall

Each year I seem to have different feelings about this time of year.  Some years I can't wait for the arrival of fall so I can snuggle with a cozy blanket and warm cup of tea.  Other years I feel so sad saying goodbye to summer, and I'm not ready for the warmth and sunshine to end.  And other years (like last year), I'm pregnant and nauseous, and all I care about is feeling better. 

This year is one of mourning the end of summer.  I've been associating sickness with autumn because of my intense morning sickness last year, so I really haven't felt super joyful about the change in season.  Day by day it gets a little less intense, so hopefully by November I may finally be feeling pumpkin spice everything. 

One objectively awesome thing this time of year is the lighting.  The sunshine seems to come in at the perfect angle, especially in early morning and late afternoon.  I captured some of these photos during a walk around the neighborhood with Theo last week.  Even if I don't feel great about fall right now, I feel pretty great about these pictures.  

Happy early fall! 

Monday, September 21, 2015

refound jewelry

Refurbished jewelry is basically new(ish), free(ish) jewelry.  And that makes it my favorite kind of jewelry.  I mentioned last week in my tidying update that I had a friend redo some of the broken jewelry I had come across in going through my stuff.  She did a great job and offered an amazing deal, and now I feel like I have all kinds of new pieces that I love -- when really it's all my own stuff that's just been stored away.  

This necklace was a birthday gift from my sister that broke one of the first times I wore it.  The chain was fixed, and now it's good as new!

I wore these earrings my wedding weekend, and I felt so sad when both sets broke because I thought that was the end of them.  These were both updated with new hooks.  

These necklaces both belonged to my grandma.  Both broke several years ago, but I held on to them in the hopes that I would someday fix them.  The thing about "someday" is that it often doesn't come -- unless you read a book like The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up that inspires you to make "someday" today. 

I had been holding on to this little trinket for years.  I've had it for so long I don't even remember where I got it, but I have the vague idea that it might have belonged to someone on my mom's side of the family.  My friend added it as a little charm to the beaded necklace so it makes that piece extra special.  

This necklace was created from a necklace my sister bought me in Mexico about seven years ago.  The string it was on was old and frayed, and I didn't wear the necklace anymore because of that but I still loved that wood piece.  My friend upcycled it using an old bracelet I gave her, and I love how it turned out. 

This last piece was built from a set of earrings I received from a nun who taught me some Swahili years ago.  I loved the wooden earrings so much I held on to them even after one of them cracked.  The intact earring was upcycled into this necklace using some other fun beads and that same bracelet as the one above.  

These necklaces and earrings bring me a lot of joy, and I'm so happy I finally have them available to wear instead of just sitting in boxes.  It's symbolic of the effect tidying has had on me and my house.  I'm rediscovering my possessions and utilizing what I have to great effect. 

If you like what you see, you can check out my friend's Facebook page here.  She's Milwaukee based but ships her creations across the county!  

Thanks for reading.  Look for more tidying updates in the coming weeks! 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

thoughts on motherhood (week 13)

Our boy is three months old this week.  We're done with the "fourth trimester," and Theo has officially transitioned to life outside the womb.  It makes me so proud we've made it this far and simultaneously breaks my heart that he's growing so fast.  Here are my thoughts on motherhood at 13 weeks.

- It's annoying that weeks and months don't match up.  Theo wasn't three months old at 12 weeks, he was three months at 13 weeks and 1 day.  How does that make sense?  

- Sometimes my job as "mom" involves rocking Theo and putting his pacifier back in over and over and over again while we wait for his hiccups to go away.  That boy hates hiccups, but I think he appreciates the company and care while he waits for annoyance to stop.  I think my presence comforts him, just like his does for me.  A good portion of the time, being a mom means simply showing up for your baby.  

- I had the overwhelming thought that no matter how much I try, I won't always be able to protect Theo.  He's inevitably going to get sick, someone will eventually be mean to him (and I'll have to beat that person up), he'll fall down and scrape his knees, he might get stung, or break a bone, or get his heart broken.  And in those times, I'll have to do what I do now when he gets the hiccups - just show up and be there to comfort him while he waits for the pain to go away.  

- Being a mom is already making me a better person.  When I have desires like "I'd love Theo to appreciate nature" or "it would be awesome if Theo grew up knowing how to cook"  or best of all "I hope Theo grows to be compassionate and loving" -- it means I have to make that growth possible for him.  We'll have to spend time in nature, spend time cooking together, and I'll have to model compassion and love.  Children learn what they live and see, so it means I have to step up to the plate for him.  

- This is one of the absolute best times of my life.  I love being a mom, i love my baby, i love my husband, i love my job -- life is just so good.  I've loved parts of every part of my life, but this just feels extra special.  (And there's a good chance I've said that about many parts of my life.)  

People have asked me since having Theo if I feel like a mom. In a lot of ways, I don't totally feel like a mom yet, but my reaction to the pictures of the little Syrian boy showed me that I've made the transition to motherhood.  I couldn't stop crying at that picture of the boy on the shore.  I had never had that reaction before to a humanitarian crisis, even though I feel passionately about social justice issues.  I felt empathy in a new way for the mothers who can't save their children from poverty, war, migration crises. They have hopes and dreams for their children, just like I have hopes and dreams for my Theo.  

And that's all for now.  Thanks for reading and sharing my journey into motherhood.  It's been quite the adventure. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

tidying check in (number 1)

“Keep only those things that speak to your heart. Then take the plunge and discard all the rest. By doing this, you can reset your life and embark on a new lifestyle.”

I am very proud to be checking in for the first time about my September tidying project.  Proud because (1) I'm actually checking in and (2) because I'm making great progress.  This week I cleaned out/organized the following:

- all of our books (even those hiding under our guest bed)
- some papers (including all my financial, student loan, and medical papers)
- front closet 
- pantry
- tea

The papers are taking forever because I'm a bit of a pack rat when it comes to keeping paper mementoes and what I'll call "art inspiration."  I'm working on organizing all of my art inspiration papers, the cards I've kept over the years, and my photos in one space.  I haven't decided if I'll return to these at the end of the project (mementoes and photos are supposed to be tackled last) or if I'll try to go through more of them this week.   

Next up: 
Finishing my papers.  This will still take a while, but it's been so worth the time I've put into organizing.  I've been dumping papers into boxes for years - which means that I have boxes that accumulate lots of crap besides the papers, and I really have no idea what's in any of these boxes.  Now I'll know where things are and actually be able to access them when I need something.  

If I finish all the papers this week then I'll move onto the miscellaneous stuff: CDs, DVDs, skin care, makeup, accessories, valuables, electrical equipment and appliances.

Some reflections on the process thus far:

- I'm already tidying our house more.  I'm putting basic things (like my clothes, jackets, Theo's stuff) back where they belong right away.  This helps our space feel lighter even though the tidying project isn't finished.  I'm also maintaining a clean house a little better - mostly because I spend less time tidying since I'm doing it in small chunks every day.

- I like sitting in our living room more now.  Do you have room "problem spots" that automatically draw your attention to them over and over and over again?  I had about a dozen, and I finally fixed them.  I dusted, vacuumed, put away clutter that had accumulated, and organized our books.  I like looking at all the books on our entertainment center - I know they all bring me joy (or bring Paul joy).

- After cleaning out my clothes, I love looking at our bedroom closet, and I find I'm wearing a wider variety of clothes.  Thinking about what clothes gave me joy was a little tricky at times, but it was ultimately a successful tool for judging what to keep.  It was tricky because being   twelve weeks out from labor means I'm in between maternity clothes and my old "skinny" clothes.  Being reminded that I couldn't quite fit into my old clothes did not really elicit feelings of joy, but I'm hopeful that the stuff I decided to keep will keep fitting better and better.

- Putting my house in order has inspired me to check a lot of things off my old to do list.  (I find productivity usually leads to more productivity.)  I dropped off all our donations from the things we've decided to give away.  I asked a friend to fix a lot of my broken jewelry (post on this coming next week!).  AND I've started putting all my financial records and accounts in order.  It feels amazing!!

- Lastly, I've been thinking a lot about the connection between living simply, having fewer possessions, and environmental stewardship.  My tidying kick is appropriately happening at the same time that I'm developing an environmental retreat at work.  I've been realizing a lot of our environmental problems come from our consumer culture, and I'm seeing that getting rid of things that don't spark joy is a great reset for the need to consume.  I see how much I already have that I enjoy (and how much I have that I don't), and it has helped ease my need to buy more.  For example, I see how many beautiful clothes I own, and literally being able to see them better now has helped me be more creative with how I use them -- limiting my need for adding to my wardrobe and consuming more.  

I'm realizing this whole tidying process is a marathon, and I'm trying to keep my energy going.  When starting this, I really wasn't thinking about how many things we own and how many things I would have to go through and organize.  It's just further inspiration to keep simplifying and letting go so we have less to keep in order in the future.   

Sunday, September 13, 2015

gwen frostic

I'm sharing the last of the Michigan vacation photos, appropriate since we've been back for a month now.  (A month closer to going back next year?)  

One of the most inspiring places I visit in Michigan is Gwen Frostic's home and shop.  Gwen Frostic was an artist, poet, and nature lover who lived in northwestern Michigan.  Her shop is described on her website: 

Tucked away on a wildlife sanctuary in northern Michigan is a shop built of native stones, glass, and wood. A building that brings the outdoors in and blends all nature in its structure. From the display room with its huge fireplace and natural fountain, one can watch as twelve Heidelberg presses print. 

I love the quaint feel of the shop, the sounds of the old printing presses, and how close I feel to nature.  On top of that, Gwen's art prints are gorgeous - simple, colorful, and a reflection of the natural details found in northwestern Michigan.  I buy way too many postcards and prints every year I visit.  Proof: all of the prints I found when cleaning out our guest room as part of my tidying up 2015 project. 

So many beautiful prints and cards! 

I love all the details of this place.  Up on one of the walls are cards Gwen received from all over the world.  Love thinking about all the letters that have been written and sent on her stationary over the years.  Thanks for the inspiration Gwen. 

Saturday, September 12, 2015

glen arbor

I'm catching up on old blog posts today, putting together all my leftover photos from the past couple months so I can be forced to create some new content.  I'm cleaning house at home and here on the blog ... but mostly at home.  Cleaning house here and updating the blog will have to wait until later this winter.  Anyway... back to the post. 

Here are some photos from a day trip we took to Glen Arbor during our family Michigan vacation.  A huge storm had just hit Glen Arbor, and electricity was off all through the town due to huge trees knocking down power lines.  It was so sad to see all those beautiful trees ripped out of the ground.  Especially thinking about how many decades most of them had been growing.  

Many of the downed trees had been pulled off the road but there wasn't an estimate for when the power would be back on.  The town was coming together as quaint small towns always do, and we enjoyed a fantastic afternoon poling around shops and drinking some cherry soda. 

Mom, Libby, and I pushed Theo around, and we just chatted and ooh-ed and ah-ed over the baby.  We just love that boy.  

A quaint little shop that didn't have power like the rest of the town.  Luckily modern technology allowed everybody to use the square ap on their iPads so they could still take orders.  The weather is so nice in Michigan that you couldn't even tell that the electricity was off - the temperature was great and you didn't need extra light in any of the buildings.  

This is where we tasted cherry wine and cherry soda.  Yum and yum. 

A beautiful artists' gallery with some great pottery and glassware.  I thought a lot of it would go great in our house but alas it was too pricey for our house right now.  

And one of the coolest places in the town (and that's saying a lot) was the Cottage Bookstore.  It was like walking through a log cabin covered in books.  In fact that's exactly what it was.  And best of all, it had a well curated book selection.  So great that I plan on getting some book recommendations from them in the future.  

Thanks for a great little visit Glen Arbor.  My thoughts are with all the folks there as they continue to pull things back together, but as we saw they were already on their way.  

Saturday, September 5, 2015

finding joy in tidying up

One of the happiest years of my life was my year serving in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps (it was also one of the hardest, but that's another story).  A big contributor to that happiness was having a tidy, organized house to come home to at the end of the night.  I was living in Syracuse, so all my belongings for the year had been shipped to me - and that coupled with the desire to live simply helped me drastically reduce the amount of stuff I had.  Consequently it was the first time I had ever consistently had a clean room, and it was the lightest I ever felt.  I experienced what it was like to let my living come before my stuff.  The only problem was that when I went back home after my year was over, I was confronted with all my possessions I had left behind.  Gradually these unessential possessions got mixed in with my essential ones, and I was weighed down once again.  

I kept remembering that experience while listening to The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up.  It was a quick listen for an audio book (about five hours), and it really hit home for me.  Author Marie Kondo, a lifelong/obsessive tidier, has a really simple approach to cleaning up your home.  First, keep only the things in your home that bring you joy.  Second, find a place for every single thing in your home to stay.  She claims if you go through every single item in your house one time asking yourself the simple question "does this bring me joy?", you'll be able to permanently put your house in order.  Sounds like a lot of work but also pretty tempting right? 

She says tidying begins with discarding (anything that doesn't bring you joy) -- and to tidy in the right  order as quickly as possible.  The order: clothes, books, papers, miscellaneous, photos/memorabilia.  She recommends going category by category and being pretty ruthless if you don't feel a sense of joy (or at least a sense of very good function in the case of things in the kitchen/bathroom/office).  

I loved how simple and profound this approach is.  I also loved some of these other thoughts of hers.  Would you rather your house be for living or for storage?  It's unnatural to own things that don't bring us joy and that we don't really need.  And one of my favorites -- gifts served their purpose when you first received them (by showing you the gift giver's care for you), it's ok to let the gifts go if you don't use them.   

Marie Kondo talks about how inanimate objects have feelings and you should wish them well on their journey when giving them away - kind of kooky.  I also thought she sounded crazy when talking about storing clothes vertically in your drawers, but I decided to give it a try and it turns out it works really well!  Picking out my clothes is so much simpler and more enjoyable since I can see everything in my drawer at a glance. 

Marie Kondo is a little over the top (I mean she tidies for a living!), but her message was spot on for me.  Listening to this book has inspired me to really clean out and tidy up our apartment - to try to permanently find that light feeling in our living space.  Our little baby Theo is already rolling on his side and looks ready to start running any day, so I know my days to deep clean are limited.  Plus, what better way to teach our son about simplicity than to bring him up in a house that has less stuff?  

Thus, I am dedicating the month of September to cleaning out the house!!!  I started, last week, and I can already feel a difference in the apartment.  Visually it doesn't seem like a lot yet since it's been stuff that's mostly stored away, but that light feeling from my service year is slowly returning.  

This past week I cleaned out/went through/organized the following: 
- All my clothes (in closets, dresser drawers, and storage under my bed)
- My accessories, jewelry, shoes, jackets
- Our pens (super simple, but it feels great to know I only have pens I like writing with in the house)
- Our towels and linens

I've already given away about ten trash bags full of stuff.  It felt amazing loading that stuff up and dropping it off.  I just can't believe how much more clutter and stuff we still have with ten trash bags out of the house.  It's crazy just how much stuff a space can hold.  

I'm coupling this month of cleaning with another challenge of sorts I've been wanting to do for a few years.  I'll be taking a daily photo of our apartment and posting my favorites here.  It doesn't take much effort, and I thought it would be fun to document the transformation of our living space.  My initial favorites are in this post.  

Next up in my organizing project are our household books and papers.  I'm hoping I can post an update next week saying that I've made really good progress in this area.  The key for me so far has been doing a little bit every day and having an idea of what I'll be working on for the next few days so I don't lose momentum.  

I'm hoping to post weekly updates and one final summary of the project at the end of the month.  I have about 50% confidence in myself that I'll stick to that posting schedule with little baby Theo taking my attention :)  

Have you caught the Marie Kondo tidying bug?  Think you have anything that could use decluttering?  

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

empire bluff trail

Sharing more Michigan photos today -- these are from a hike Paul and I took on the Empire Bluff Trail just outside of Empire, Michigan.  This was no normal hike.  This was the first hike Paul and I took as parents, and the first time we went out together since Theo was born.  It felt strange at first, but we gradually eased into the time together.  I think it helped that we were in such beautiful surroundings.  

Can you guess why Sleeping Bear dunes got its name?  Hint: take a look at the shape of the trees behind me.  

And the final view after the quick 3/4 mile hike: gorgeous Lake Michigan.  I'm ready to go back for another hiking date.